Archive for January, 2009

Really Bad Idea: Stop IT Purchases, Try to Make Do {{tag: IT, Selling, Recession}}

January 22, 2009
If a company is going bankrupt, they will have no choice but to stop buying technology items; but for other enterprises who are still an ongoing concern, IT is as strategic as ever. Trying to make do can be penny wise but pound foolish. 
These slides outline eight reasons why an IT department needs to keep their technology fresh and their systems in tip top shape during tougher economic times.  Good luck!

<div style="width:425px;text-align:left" id="__ss_939636"><a style="font:14px Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif;display:block;margin:12px 0 3px 0;text-decoration:underline;" href="http://www.slideshare.net/dealexpert/eight-reasons-buying-it-now-is-critical-presentation?type=powerpoint" title="Eight Reasons Buying It Now Is Critical">Eight Reasons Buying It Now Is Critical</a></object><div style="font-size:11px;font-family:tahoma,arial;height:26px;padding-top:2px;">View more <a style="text-decoration:underline;" href="http://www.slideshare.net/">presentations</a> or <a style="text-decoration:underline;" href="http://www.slideshare.net/upload?type=powerpoint">upload</a> your own.</div></div>

Posted via email from Really Bad Ideas

Promising News for Small Businesses: The Long Tail is Alive!

January 19, 2009

Small businesses keep the faith!  

eMusic released information today proving just how long the "long tail" of consumer tastes is in music , and small Interest businesses can rejoice in their findings. eMusic, a leader in chasing the "long tail" market in music, has proven the business is out there.

The "long tail" is an exciting concept as a consumer, because it promises more variety in the marketplace.  Not enthralled with the pickings at the Macy's jewelry counter?  Fear not, small quantities of unique and beautiful jewelry that tickle your fancy is available via the web, if you can find it.  Not wild about the songs winning Grammies?  No problem, music you would like, no matter how unique your tastes, is available for download.

Data Proves the Long Tail is Alive

The old music industry has been selling you on the Top 40 and charts of the Top 100, and at any given time heavily promotes only a few artists, essentially telling us that "this" is what we want.  It seems that's a story that no longer survives scrutiny, as today eMusic announced that approximately 75% of the some four millions tracks it carries sold at least once during 2008 based on a recent analysis of worldwide sales data.  Let take a minute and absorb that.
eMusic has found that  people will pay money for something like 3,000,000 tracks outside the Top 40.  This is maybe 30,000 artists outside the mainstream that have a paying audience.  That is a long tail indeed.

This goes against the wisdom of the marketers in the old music industry who know what Al Ries woulds tell us, that you can only keep the names of a couple top artists or brands in your mind.  It is not that Al Ries is wrong, its that what people want is not just "music" or "jewelry".  People want things like "late 80's Punk with melodic guitar" or "big earrings with fire opals and feathers".  Consumers' tastes can be very specific.

We allow ourselves to want the most specific objects of our desire as finding them becomes easier, and we are especially compelled to buy them. 

Of course being consumers, you and I,  we knew this all along; the question has been whether business could accommodate our tastes.  The Internet makes it possible and this is fertile ground ripe for small businesses to develop.
Ever been hungry?  Do you make your dining decisions in your home town based on some else's list?  Anyone had this conversation?
I am hungry
        — There are leftovers in the fridge
Lets go out
        — OK, how about Italian food?
No noodles. Maybe Chinese food
        — We could pick up some Golden Flower on 1st street
Their food is a little greasy.  Maybe Thai
        — We've liked the Thai Garden
They have that soup I like, but it is not spicy enough
        — We could order it extra hot
But its got chicken in it, and my new years resolution was to eat vegetarian
        — We can ask them to make it without meat
OK, lets go
There is money to be made connecting the individual consumer to those things they most specifically desire.  This may not be a billion dollar opportunity in many cases, but it is a very real opportunity where people will happily part with their cash.
Postscript note: eMusic is a monthly subscription service for MP3 downloads.  If you're interested in learning about them, check out this Review of eMusic .

Posted via email from Random Eric

Do You Want to Touch Your Computer Inappropriately? Throwing The Gauntlet: Bring Visual Thinking to Computing

January 13, 2009

The Gauntlet: Bring Visual Thinking to Computing


GigaOM posted commentary on the limitations of touch screen interfaces, but it really begs a bigger question. Why is computer interface the way it is today, and is it the best interface for humans?


We actually do almost all computer interface with touch, but not with touch screens. Mostly we touch a keyboard and a mouse, watching the screen to verify our input. Short of voice commands or brainwave interface, touch is all we've got and it is the state of the art. Navigation and commands are usually with a mouse movement ("graphical interface") and input is with words, numbers and other symbols entered via a keyboard. You and I assume this is the only way, natural even.  

Humans are Not Made of Words
That's how we've been conditioned by computer use, but it is a skewed perspective. Here's an exercise for you. Take a deep breath. Relax

Take a moment and remember your last dream
Now remember a piece of art that connected with you
Think about a warm feeling you had about another person
Finally imagine how clouds work

What letters, number and symbols were in your mind as you visualized those things? Were there any, or did you see images?

There is a place for language, but it must not be allowed to limit how we think, and if you're on a computer, it does. You see with all this great technology we're still back in the 70's, we're using a language interface, stuck in a strictly verbal paradigm. Language is like a good lawyer – steel trap logic in the right hands, but it takes you down a certain path and does not encourage looking around, the way a picture will, to consider life and truth, or just other possibilities. Humans are capable of more than language.

Computers are based on Words and Symbols
Computer interface currently drives us to define everything in verbal terms, even though our brains are capable of much more. Go ahead sketch a picture on your laptop and tell me how it responds. Where is the technology to process pictures as logic, as commands, as knowledge; where is the technology to understand the dream or idea or art we might draw?

GUI itself is a misnomer. Your computer does not understand your graphics, only its own.

A (good) picture is worth a thousand words it's said, but we type merrily along, accepting the tyranny of language, ignoring universes of possibility all around us. Language itself started with humans drawing pictures on walls. Now we risk losing the power of visual thinking all together simply because we've built computers around words, and computers are dominating our lives.

The Challenge
Where to start? We need a capable interface for graphical input as standard equipment, first. You can try to draw me a picture with today's mouse (or keyboard!) but it pales in comparison to pencil and paper, so generally we don't bother. Drawing directly on a surface seems to be the requirement, and the whiteboard is the paradigm. If the screen were your paper and an electronic pen your pencil, you could show me a more interesting and open world, you could communicate more freely.

Once we've facilitated people drawing freely on their computers, free form human graphical input will become a data source the great minds of this Internet generation will strive to have our systems understand; your sketches will be the raw material, visual data, with which to design computers which understand the visual. Its likely software thing.

Computing has not come as far as it might have, and I challenge today's great minds to take the leap forward to the next level. Language is for lawyers; but it is insufficient for mathematicians, scientists, lovers and others. We need computers that can keep up with our visual thinking.

Posted via email from Really Bad Ideas

Zen New Years Resolutions for Everyone presentation

January 12, 2009

You know you are a little behind when you realize you never made any new years resolutions. Not to worry. Here are a few resolutions that should work for everyone, and you can adopt them now without shame. These are things one strives for, it’s a best effort thing. Like real life. cheers

ZEN New Years Resolutions for Everyone

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: life contemplation)

Posted via web from Really Bad Ideas

Life is Busy Contemplation #1: How to Set Your Sights on Greatness

January 10, 2009

Life is busy and time to contemplate can get lost in the shuffle.  We know things which sometimes we forget.  I am trying to remember.  Here are some principles that come to mind.

  • We tend to hit the things we aim at

If we're aiming toward a tree we tend to hit the tree, especially rather than whatever is in the opposite direction.  We may not hit the tree, but we'll hit closer to it than if we aim for something else.

Someone that wants to be an entertainer probably is not well served by becoming a policeman, or at least they are less likely to become an entertainer if they focus on something other than entertainment.  In life there are no guarantees, which is what we really want.  We want to know that if we try something, we will succeed.  No such guarantee exists.

Still, we're more likely to achieve something, or succeed in the direction of something, if we focus on it and if we make it our explicit target.

  • The tendency to hit our target gets greater the more shots we take

If one is not already an expert marksman, one cannot expect to hit a target on the first shot.  The first shot will give us an idea of what corrections to make, the second shot will give us a better idea of further refinements, and so forth.  If we miss on either side of the target, they we have it bracketed and we will hit it with adjustments, if we just keep taking shots.

It is completely unreasonable to think we will be successful at something new right off the bat.  Humans are born with limited instinctive skills, but with an amazing ability to learn and adapt.  Success tends to come from the focused targeting and learning as we persevere until we hit our mark.

  • When our egos discourage us from shooting at our target, they do us a disservice

Egos are a social artifact of our personality, a personal manifestation of our status in the group, however they discourage us from taking shots at new things.  Missing a target is generally seen as a failure socially, but we cannot expect to hit a new target on the first try.  The effect of the ego can be to avoid trying things which are new and different. 

When the ego is in the way, the answer may be to be anti-social, pursuing our goals apart from the scrutiny of those in our social circle.  You may go into seclusion and not talk to your old friends for a year, you might share fewer details of your life with your parents during this period, old romantic interests may be avoided.  This may be necessary to keep shooting at your target without emotional turmoil and distraction.

  • Remember we are social animals

While different people are different, Man in general is a social animal, we define ourselves in terms of other humans and human society.  Ultimately we cannot have a meaningful life taking shots for eternity with no one around.  If a person chops down a tree in a forest and no one else hears it fall, it doesn't mean anything.  There is going to be a limit on how long you can shoot for something in isolation, so if we can find a social environment that supports our endeavors rather than challenges our ego, we are in a better position to persevere toward the great goals we have had the courage to set for ourselves.

Perhaps we can be great without accomplishing great things, but striving for great things is part of the human make-up.  We should remember to focus on that we really want to achieve, and know that it takes many attempts and perseverance to achieve great things.  Keeping our ego out of the way may mean we need to avoid relationships that engage our ego during our trial and errors, but we all need people and there will be people out there who can be supportive as we strive for greatness.

This is all stuff that you and I know, but writing it down, or reading it, may help us remember that personal path each of us needs to choose.  After all, life is busy and sometimes there is little time to contemplate.
Lift your head up to look for shore, then get back to paddling your canoe!

Posted via email from Random Eric

Bad Idea #117: Blogging Software That Fails Us

January 9, 2009

This morning at early o'clock I realized the paradigm shift introduced by blogging software has come full circle.  Current blog software no longer serves the market it created.

How did I come to realize this?  By blogging, of course.  I decided to write a piece about David Beckham, the point of which is that he is earning my respect and perhaps even a place as a role model through his workman like effort to play for AC Milan on loan.  Naturally I found interesting quotes, detail, links and a picture to include in the article.  It may even make good reading.  However as I attempted to get the article into the webpage, several things happened:
  1. Every time I published the article, the paragraph breaks were lost.  Thus going back to correct or add to the article mean reformatting the whole thing.
  2. Midway through trying to insert a picture the online software hung, and I lost the entire article.  Luckily I had pre-written a lot of it in plain text in Notepad.
  3. After inserting a picture, I tried to fix the paragraph breaks, backspacing to delete, and with a single backspace the entire post was deleted (again).
  4. Giving up on re-creating all the fascinating links I'd inserted, I published the article.  Upon publishing I see formatting errors, and spelling errors, but I dare not edit the post for fear of losing all the paragraph breaks, or worse, the entire article.
I am not the first person to blog.  In fact there are probably 200 million blogs worldwide.  So other people have figured out how to avoid these problems – presumably, or at least work around any software idiosyncrasies so that they preserve their mental health.  Blogging has become a respected source of news and information, it is the new distributed press of the world.
If a blogger is more than a hobbyist and trying to do a profession job, should they put up with the errant software behavior enumerated above?  I cannot imagine a newspaper of any renown tolerating tools which fail to produce professional looking copy from text and content.
Perhaps the problem lies in the architecture of popular blogging software, or in its extensible nature, or in the fact that the software is currently provided more or less free of charge.  Having created this fantastic information marketplace called the blogosphere, perhaps one or more of those things should change.
Imagine some math: 100 million bloggers wasting 10 hours a month due to poor software.  The billion hours that could be saved with better software would be sufficient to build new pyramids, or perhaps solve some of the world's pressing problems like hunger, global warming, or economic growth.
Perhaps complex professional software should not be written in PHP.

Posted via email from Really Bad Ideas

Nude Burton Snowboards: Edgy & Funny? or Offensive? Will they sell? How do they affect the brand?

January 9, 2009

Burton Snowboards has a new Love line , with interesting graphics resembling a "R" rated Playboy pictorial.  Question: is this good marketing?

It has garnered some press, including with Ad Age and Boston.com [article] Aside from the controversy, do these help the brand?  Will they sell?
This may take someone in the correct demographic to judge, as older generations will perceive this differently than younger generations.  The key seems to be whether the images are humorous.

Representing an older generation, I think Playboy style snowboards are a miss (juvenile, neither sexy nor edgy), but I can imagine why Burton might want to go this direction.  Edgy,fun, or humorous would be attractive brand attributes for younger snowboard enthusiasts, and if this works it could target a demographic very specifically.  Are these edgy, funny, or fun? This seems one of those marketing decisions where good demographic test data would be essential prior to launch.  I'd assume Burton has done that.  

The images objectifying women may work as a joke if young people instantly recognize them as a parody of objectification while older generations and parents at the lodge react negatively, simultaneously gaining a laugh from peers, and sneers from parents.  A joke that only young people get could make the product feel purpose built for them.  I could imagine that result selling well, if it is under 12 year old boys that are driving the product selection.
Are these funny?  Even if they sell, is the apparent sexism a bad move for the Burton corporation on general principle?
Finally, is this good long term for the Burton brand, or negative, or just too risky?

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The focus of brand Random was at risk for lack of focus?

January 2, 2009

I was worried Random Eric might be getting so random that it was losing its focus.  In other words, the blog brand of randomness might lose the essence of its brand by being too random.

It occurs to me now that it probably made no sense, or as my 14 year old might say “That was really random.”

What I did was launch a brother and sister blog on Posterous, which are slightly less random:

  • Really Bad Ideas – which is rather self-explanatory, but hopeful fun and maybe insightful at times, and
  • Eric Walkers Push – which is a chronicle my attempt to go health-impaired to really fit merely by walking and doing push-ups
I hope you’ll check these out and let me know what you think!

cheers

Eric

Posted via web from Random Eric