Personal & Professional Hubs for Your Digital Life

1.002The Minneapolis/St. Paul Social Media Breakfast is a surprisingly strong group of creatives, PR, marketing and interactive media enthusiasts, so much so that it’s possible that the Twin Cities could be the social media capital of the world! Thinking back on my days at Apple — and knowing that the base of creative talent in Minnesota made it one of the strongest markets for the company — it probably shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise.

On June 26, 2009 I was privileged to give a talk to, what turned out to be, the largest SMBMSP yet at 300+ participants. Several people emailed me about adding a voiceover to the PDF of the presentation I’d provided and did so. I’ve created it’s own page for the video here so you can view it in HD resolution.

Let me know what you think!

Is Chevron committing an act of treason?

fox-batterySaw this tweet this morning from tech visionary, pundit and publisher Tim O’Reilly, which brought me to this article on “NiMH Batteries, Chevron Patents and the Future of Plug-in Hybrid Cars” and a sudden onset of disbelief and dismay, though after eight years with the Bush/Cheney oil-centric administration, nothing energy related that has favored an oil company (or been allowed to continue unchallenged) should come as much of a surprise.

The next thought was that this country not only needs patent reform desperately, but in the case of a fox (an oil company) guarding the hen house (NiMH battery use which could easily accelerate the building of hybrid cars) we need to find ways to have some form of intellectual property eminent domain so the foxes (like Chevron) can’t control our metaphorical food supply in the form of stored electrical energy.

It says in part, “If NiMH batteries are being used so successfully, why are American manufacturers fixated on Li Ion batteries? Part of the reason is that petroleum company Chevron owns the patent for the Ovonics NiMH traction battery. Under the ruse of saying they have not had sufficiently convincing proposals brought to them, Chevron continues to deny licenses to any company proposing to manufacture new NiMH traction batteries.

As is usually the case in matters of intellectual property, markets and trade, there are undoubtedly complexities involved in this patent and the use of it. It’s altogether possible I’m not seeing some subtlety or nuance that goes beyond what seems obvious on the surface. But come on…can this restraint of NiMH battery use by Chevron be any more obvious?

Where would be be today, right now, with delivering robust and powerful hybrid cars if there weren’t barriers to manufacturing NiMH batteries? It’s one thing for a company to strategically leverage technologies that pose a threat to an incumbents business, and quite another to bury it or place too many obstacles and barriers in front of its use. But when all of us have so much at stake with climate change, national security with oil, and an economy so dependent upon that oil, a disloyal act like this — working at cross-purposes to the imperatives of our nation — can only be described with one word: treason.

“God hit the reset button!”

god-reset-button“God hit the reset button!” a brand manager friend of mine exclaimed loudly as we talked last week about the economy, about how social media was disrupting “damn near” everything he knows how to do and is doing with brand marketing, and he’s struggling mightily with what to do next.

Fortunately for him, a guy that works for the Chief Marketing Officer at a Fortune 1000 company, he has access to big thinkers and thought leaders (and highly paid consultants along with attending key conferences that cost big bucks) but they’re still struggling with how to add value in a day when that is shifting, customer expectations have already shifted, and almost every former way of doing business needs to be freshened up a bit (or a lot!).

I immediately emailed him a link to this article at Strategy+Business, a magazine and website published by the global commercial consulting firm Booz & Company, called “The Trouble With Brands: Most consumer brands are not creating value. The exceptions share a set of “energized” attributes that companies can identify and exploit.

It starts off with this: “Many companies that produce goods and services for consumers face a serious dilemma — quite apart from the effects of the current global economic downturn. For at least the past five years, the tried-and-true formulas to boost the sales and market shares of brands have been becoming increasingly irrelevant and have been losing traction with consumers. Globally, the aggregate value of brands to consumers has been falling steadily, and this decline began well before the recent slump in stock prices.

Why is this happening? For the exact reasons that made my friend realize that someone hit the reset button and that we’ve all got to review, refresh and innovate around how we deliver value to those people we call customers.  Read More

Flash is a Reality, is HTML5 Only a Promise?

rockemsockemThere is a debate underway over the proprietary nature of Adobe’s Flash vs. the open standard, HTML5 (see, “HTML5: Could it kill Flash and Silverlight”). On the one side, Adobe has positioned their platform as being quite open and yet proprietary enough to “provide everything you need to create and deliver the most compelling applications, content, and video to the widest possible audience“. HTML5 is an open standard that will, in part, deliver audio, video and interactivity and is a specification which promises to deliver the core functionality of Flash.

Adobe’s John Dowdell (JD) had an interesting post about this debate and reinforced Adobe’s positioning that their approach with Flash is rich, robust and focused on the delivery outcomes customers want and that HTML5 is immature and, as Adobe’s CEO pointed out on their analyst call, “…it might be a decade before HTML 5 sees standardization across the number of browsers…“. Wow…talk about an insertion of major FUD in to the analyst call.

What strikes me about this entire discourse is the words of Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, who I heard giving a talk at an open source conference several years ago. Describing the phases any new or disruptive technology goes through (and specifically open source) is first it’s “crappy” — and no incumbent pays attention to it — then it’s “less crappy” — and early adopters take to it — and when it’s “good enough” the tipping point occurs and it’s widely adopted.

One could argue that HTML5 is in the crappy-about-to-be-less-crappy phase and Adobe isn’t paying much attention since publicly they don’t perceive it as much of a threat (except Google and Apple are behind it 100%), but I think it matters less “when” HTML5 appears (and what the adoption curve looks like), or even a “proprietary vs. open source” argument. I think what matters is which vendor of tools is going to embrace the standard and empower the ecosystem. Read More

Is “The New York Twitter” the Future of News?

I’ve been in dozens of conversations over the last several weeks about how “blogging is dead” and “Twitter is the future of news” to “people only have time for the headlines” and the inevitable, “Of course newspapers are dying, whose got time to read an entire article?”

Oh really? If that’s the case, we’ve got really big problems kids (and they go beyond accelerating panic and fear about swine flu pandemics). If the objective with all of these new communications technologies is to be able to simply skim over the surface of news and information, then expect to see only the skin-deep stuff, the superfluous, and the inane.

It’s one reason why I gravitate toward those on Twitter who add value through linking to articles or posts. Yep…if something intrigues me I’ll go out and read it. In depth understanding is what I try to gain and maybe go off on tangents finding other opinions, perspectives and relevant information.

I reject those who think that we can truly know something through only the headlines.

Apple “iPad” (or “MacbookMini”) is it *Finally* Coming?

I own an Apple Newton (with the 2.0 software) and occasionally get it out to play with it. The Newton OS 2.0 software finally got the handwriting recognition down so that glaring and funny errors weren’t there for the press to ridicule (Apple’s Newton Reborn: Will it Still the Critics? by John Markoff for the New York Times, from 1994).

For a loooong time I’ve believed that Apple was just moments away from a tablet. I’ve wanted one ever since the Newton was murdered discontinued and have been convinced we’re right around the corner. Fortunately I’m not the only one who missed predicting the introduction of just such a device.

I don’t care much anymore. My hope is that Apple will do it eventually and it will be a lusted after, must-have device just like an iPhone, but my Macbook Pro, iPhone and a netbook suffice just fine for now.

Here are three posts where I was convinced such a device was nearly here, but clearly was way off:

Now the rumors are all over the ‘net that “It’s coming! It’s coming!” from flash memory purchases to rumored production starting up to Verizon being the chosen one for a new, cheap iPhone and a netbook-like device.

I’ll wait until Apple announces something and in the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy this Welcome to Newton video from 1993…

Social Publishing Systems: What about We, the Participants?

We’re living in a time of the greatest shift in human (and machine) connection and communication any of us over 30 years old will experience in our lifetimes. Social media is proliferating, networks of people exploding, self-publishing, microblogging and new communications channels like Twitter emerging, and for the most part, the enterprise isn’t playing in most of these areas.

As a former content management systems (CMS) guy (was with Vignette during the dotcom heyday), I’m in an interesting spot between grassroots social media use by individuals, non-profits and small business and my enterprise clients trying to determine how to play in this shifting landscape. These clients are trying to figure out how to engage all of us connecting and communicating, and just finding more efficient ways of publishing content with a CMS or portal isn’t cutting it.

Social publishing systems are needed.

This morning I read Jeremiah Owyang (Sr Analyst at Forrester Research: Social Computing) who had this post entitled, “Social Software: Here Come The CMS Vendors.” He begins by discussing his oft-repeated theme of the volume of white label social networking providers, and ends with a premise about the major CMS vendors, “I’ve started to notice more of the ‘traditional’ CMS and Portal players that already have deep footprints into the corporate web teams that are inching into this space.

What are the trends, what are CMS vendors likely to do and what should be offered?

Read More

Target: Are you paying attention to social media?

Last time I checked, a search for Target‘s house brand, Trutech, resulted in a post I wrote from May of 2007 (Why you should NOT buy Target’s Trutech brand) being the #1 search result. Today, I noticed that it had fallen to #2 and that a “ Official Site” sponsored link now appears. Perhaps that’s related, but maybe not.

My friend and Minnov8 cohort, Graeme Thickins, recap of last nights Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association social media panel (which I couldn’t attend) was fabulous. Best Buy, Fingerhut, Gage Marketing, General Mills and Target were all represented and had insightful things to say about what they were all respectively up to when it came to social media.

At last evening’s event, Thickins reported that a metric was presented that Target’s Facebook page has 33,000 members. While that’s interesting, that post I wrote has had ~75,000 pageviews (almost all unique visitors) and dozens of mostly negative comments.

I’ve reached out on several occasions to the woman that handles PR for Target’s Trutech brand; tried to connect with the video buyer; and in general reach out. Not to make a fuss, but to see if there is any awareness that they’re selling electronics that — God forbid you break the remote — can’t be operated with any of the dozens of universal remotes Target sells. Seems like something the video buyer might want to know and maybe fix while calming  the Target “guests” down, heh? (just read some of those comments and you’ll see people are quite agitated).

The Minneapolis StarTribune had an article about people posting negative feedback on their Facebook area which Target took to heart and jumped on, but is Target completely clueless and unaware of the tools to scan other social media and to address obvious shortcomings?