Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mid-Tuesday morning, the biggest local paper online has, under "Latest Updates" the 11th item "What's open, closed on Ontario Civic Holiday Monday", which was yesterday. Also latest updates: the weather, an article that there is no news on the Heatley hockey trade front, and a one sentence article on a traffic accident, with "more to come..."

Don't put up a paywall just yet folks - get lots of orginal, must-read content first, then work the revenue stream.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The best of 2008 and the Time Machine Effect

It is harder than ever for me to consider what the best of 2008 is. That is because electronics and consumer choices keep giving us more options on when and how to purchase and consume. The net effect is that I have a time machine to the past, where I get transported to content of the past months and years.

As I write this I'm listening to Augustana's All the Stars and Boulevards ("you don't know me, you don't even care…" - that would make a good blog title) - one of my most listened to CDs of 2008 - I purchased this 2005 title sometime in 2007 at a discount price, and got around to first listening it in 2008.

Sitting around the house is the Dark Knight DVD, which I purchased on a Boxing Day sale for $9.99 (I could have bought the blue-ray version for $19.99, which can run off the player on my laptop into the TV, but I find our DVD player that upgrades does a good pretence of 1080p). We will watch it sometime in 2009, but the Dark Knight may stay in the batcave for months.
Thus my best of 2008 list is quite tainted - I haven't seen and/or heard everything just yet.

My favorite live show was the musical The Sound of Music - this new production is visually awesome, to the point it would be worth seeing even if it had no music or dialogue. The amazing set designs deliver the full emotional impact of the musical. We will return to see this again in 2009.

The best set design ever not a big screen, but should be, was Mad Men, Seasons I and II. The costumes were pure eye candy, and it is no surprise this series won awards such as "Outstanding Art Direction", "Outstanding Cinematography", and "Excellence in Production Design". This is the series for HD TVs. The show has endless plot twists, character developments and historical references, making it the pinnacle of TV so far.

Dexter Seasons II and III had strong production as well, and clever writing for Season II, and this show is a must-watch, though some scenes are a must-not-watch, for those who don't like to see a bloodbath. Sadly for this show, one mad man can't surpass a whole set of flawed men and women.

In CD's, from what I've listened so far, here's my top 5:

The Verve: Forth - leave the nursery of Coldplay for real grandeur and stellar thought
TV on the Radio: Dear Science - for some the best CD of the year
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges - get the urge to listen to their concert on Austin City Limits
The Hold Steady: Stay Positive - a very worthy successor to their 2006 "Boys and Girls in America"
Death Cab For Cutie: Narrow Stairs - will be too narrow for some, but worth the climb up

Others worth listening to: Blitzen Trapper, Beck, Brazilian Girls, Duffy, Lil Wayne, Adele, Goldfrapp, Santogold and a whole stack of "comeback" CDs by the used-2B-greats. I guess that the Verve could be put into the last category, but I think they've accomplished something serious here.

And now for a special award: The Musical Cheeseburger of 2008

Now cheeseburgers are not bad at all. They contain many of the important food groups. Combined with the right condiments and veggies, they can be quite a tasteful treat, albeit not gourmet food. In the movie Iron Man (which might be movie cheeseburger of the year), when Iron dude returns to home the first thing he wants is a cheeseburger - as Nickelback would say, "you look better with something in your mouth" - which brings us to this year's winners of The Musical Cheeseburger of 2008 -

Nickelback: Dark Horse

This cheeseburger, produced and partly co-written by Mutt Lange, has all the right stuff - cheesy lyrics with double entendres and buns, sizzling meaty guitar hooks, too-Mutto dubs, let-us sing-along choruses, and every pop-rock greasy production trick known to fry. Mutt Lange (AC/DC, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain) is the cheeseburger king of pop rock, and, having almost everything he has done before, I can tell you he is in top form after his breakup with Shania. You will be hearing this cheeseburger at every fast food music outlet in 2009.

Now this reminds me of Seinfeld's cookie routine on Letterman this year - store-bought cookies come in rows, and when you demolish one row, you are tempted to start mowing down the next. On Nickelback's CD, you keep hitting the taste buds on each track, and soon you've eaten the whole CD. Burp! And then afterwards you start thinking of the cholesterol damage. And you put Dear Science on and everything is good again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Globe and Mail carried a story late this afternoon on "Sick of slow service, customers walk"
....Canadian consumers are abandoning their shopping carts, delaying purchases and leaving stores, public transit stops and restaurants in significant numbers...
The timing was right for me, as I abandoned a Best Buy purchase of cables and CDs due to a long line-up at the cashiers, and walked over to Future Shop. There the store manager noticed a building line-up, opened a new cash, and got my $230 quickly.

The thing is:

a) Best Buy now owns Future Shop
b) It was implementation of Best Buy policies that fixed the long line-up problems that used to plague Future Shop.

However slow service is not the number one problem for our retailers: it is the sick Canadian pricing. The latest CD from The Verve, out today:

$7.99 Amazon.com (US)
$18.99 (2 to 3 weeks delivery) Amazon.ca
$11.99 Best Buy.ca
$13.99 Future Shop.ca

Instead of this, I bought the Brazilian Girls latest "New York City": wonderful, and the track Good Time is the best power pop in a while. I must be one of very last still buying CDs, but my plans for buying an iPhone were screwed by the Canadian pricing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Web 2.0 Inclusion, Web 3.0 Every{what/where/way}

In Web 2.0, we saw the move to "Internet as platform", and pervasive user collaboration, including social-networking sites, wikis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0) , and blogs like this.

There continues to be discussion of what will Web 3.0 be - for example see the limited view of:


My opinion is that Web 3.0 is Every{what/where/way}:

- On a wide variety of electronic devices (PCs, notebooks, PDAs, phones, watches, cameras, TVs, etc.)
- Has everything worth knowing: wiki-maxed

- On every electronic device of $100 or more
- Available anywhere there are a few people or more

- On a wide variety of electronic devices in various forms
- In a wide variety of formats, with many customable views - networked, filtered, visual

Web 3.0 = Every{www} for everyday
Exclusion -> Inclusion

The business models based on exclusion are in ruin, while the models based on inclusion continue to adjust to best advantage.

For the content business such as Music/Books/Movies/TV/Newspapers, the exclusion model was:
- Isolate/select to a few
- Erect and maintain barriers
- Hype/brand the few

It was no wonder that businesses continued to use the exclusion model, as it was:
- Successful
- Manageable, controllable
- Predictable

However the model results in:
- Formulistic, uneven content
- Slow to react/deliver
- Unconnected/divorced from the consumer

In the era of consumer mega-choice, content businesses need to harness the power of crowd content. This is not straight-forward.

Say, for example, we had a TV show called 2 1/2 Friends. Following the Exclusion model we have:
- Shallow pool of potential writers
- Editors to keep consistency
- Return unsolicited scripts and input unopened, unused, avoiding legal and tainting concerns
- Marketing to heighten viewer interest

For the Inclusive model, we consider:
- How to open it up?
- How to use parts of flawed scripts, ideas, suggestions
- Who gets paid and/or acknowledged
- How to filter to find what's best

We could consider an expanded role of agents as intermediaries, and the use of Web 2.0 crowd software with idea gathering/voting. This might then, for a single 2 1/2 Friends show, have:
- Situations for plot line taken from three ideas/mini-treatments contributed by independent sources
- 40 dialogue lines taken from suggestions, and tweaked
- Character development as voted by the fans

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Start-up Failure

It's painful to see a start-up close up its door knowing the financial, emotional, and time investment of everyone involved. All that's left is a sad little notice from the start-up that ends all the dreams.

It may seem that start-ups could benefit from the consumer advocate approach mentioned in the last post, but any start-up would not have reached the maturity necessary for consumer-oriented best practices to be implemented into a proven business model. Instead, a start-up is left fumbling around to find one or more business models that potentially will work, and the focus of the start-up has to be on discarding misleading and flawed models while locking into one or more promising ones.

Thus start-ups need more of a business advocate instead of a consumer advocate approach. Another term for this is the business angel, a guiding force to mentor the start-up executive team. The business angel often will have to turn the start-up away from the initial unsound business model and towards a model that will be successful. This is usually done instinctively, and thus business angels need to have proven track records. Start-ups that don't take advantage of business angels, or advocates, are doomed to stumble around in a hit-and-miss lottery-ticket approach to staying afloat.

Returning to large companies, and the need for consumer advocates, it is interesting to draw a parallel between the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and companies that become primarily internally facing - let's reinterpret the criteria from a business perspective:
  • grandiose sense of importance
  • preoccupied with unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal technology
  • believes company is "special" and unique
  • requires excessive admiration
  • has a sense of entitlement
  • is financially exploitative
  • lacks empathy with consumers
  • is often envious of other companies or believes companies are envious of them
  • shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Certainly a few of these factors could be considered positive if isolated, but the whole package would be a poor placed company for long term business success.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Larger companies might consider employing consumer advocates, to represent the consumer point-of-view when making business decisions.

A couple of examples for interactions today:

HP Canada Shopping: I phone just before 8 pm, stay on the phone ("please stay on the line, your call is important to us") until 8:35 pm, at which point I dropped into a message that says "our office is open until 8:30 pm, please call back during regular business hours or leave a message"). A consumer advocate would recommend keeping some staff on to handle the backlog of calls (i.e. calls placed during business hours) in order not to lose business.

Microsoft: a trial version of Microsoft Office is installed on my computer - when I click to go to buy, I get trapped in an endless circle of web pages telling me about policies and options, but never offering a simple BUY button. A consumer advocate would suggest viewing the interaction from the consumer point-of-view, and moving the consumer quickly through the buy process.

When a company becomes focused on internal considerations (e.g. office hours, company policies) it is beneficial to hire consumer advocates to represent the external concerns.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Electronic hostage taking is interesting as it offers a myriad of storylines for books and/or screenplays. Thus the SF Chronicle story of:

computer network administrator … tampered with the city's new FiberWAN … created a password that granted him exclusive access to the system … may have enabled a third party to access the system by telephone or other electronic device and order the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents … engineered a tracing system to monitor what other administrators were saying and doing

shows the ongoing need for technical oversight of your technical folks. I'll update this blog entry when we find out how this case turned out for the city.