Posted on November 9th, 2010 No comments
I was talking with a friend last night about hybrid cars (she is writing a paper on the topic). In the course of explaining how hybrid cars work and what their role is within the automotive and environmental space, I stumbled across an analogy I really liked:
Remember when everyone had VCR’s and you could rent VHS tapes at rental shops all across the country? That is like gas engines… everyone has them and you can get gas every couple miles from San Diego to Maine.
But then DVD’s came out and everybody realized they were far superior to VHS… Now think of DVD as the “car of tomorrow” – perhaps full electric. But you can’t just make the switch, so as Blockbuster started to add one shelf of DVD’s at a time, people started to buy VCR + DVD players (I know my parents did). That let everyone use the technology they were comfortable with and had access to (VHS) while easing into the superior, next-gen technology (DVD).
I think the exact same is true of the Prius. It was the hybrid car that was first to succeed in the market by combining the old techonology people were comfortable with (gas) with the new technology that is better in many ways (electric). Is it the end-game? NO… how many people still buy VCR + DVD players?
Eventually the marketplace will accept and adopt the full transition to better vehicles, but for now… we have to make the most of the formats we have…
Just my $0.02.
PS: This blog comes months after my last one… a slight knee jerk reaction away from social media and the internet happened a while back. I am easing back into things now, but have deleted/ archived Facebook and MySpace… likely the topic of a later blog.
Posted on February 3rd, 2010 11 comments
The launch of Apple’s iPad has already come under scrutiny for everything from it’s name to lack of certain features. Steve Jobs said in his keynote (below) that netbooks don’t do anything better than a laptop or smartphone, but the iPad does and fills the gap between the two.
I will go one step further. I will say this fills the gap between keyboards and Minority Report, the sci-fi flick that employed futurists to imagine how people will interact with computers. So between keyboards of today, and fully interactive heads up motion displays of tomorrow, I see the iPad. The iWork portion of the iPad keynote (below) was the coolest part for me… intuitive creation of simple content for sharing with others. That covers the needs of 90%+ of the computer users out there. And it looked COOL. and FUN. and SIMPLE.
And that last bit made me realize… Had the iPad been around a year ago, my sister, mom, and nephew would all have them instead of their Acer Aspires (mom, sister) and Eee PC (nephew). That is why I think the iPad is creating a bridge in interface technology… it could easily become the entry level option of choice among first time computer owners. What will they demand when going to college or doing some computing heavy lifting? Why would they revert to the rigid nature of keyboard and mouse? I don’t think they will have to; I can’t wait for the iPadPro that will surely be called for (and bought by) the masses in a few years…
Posted on February 3rd, 2010 3 comments
I just wanted to reference two webinars I led while working at Rapleaf. They both discuss marketing applications of consumer social data; in other words, how does a marketer change their message when they know how many friends a person has, or what pages on Facebook a person is a fan of? In short, a lot- we are all moving towards one to one communication and understanding the social components of your audience is a key ingredient.
The first is aimed squarely at automotive marketing:Social Media Research Driving Automotive Marketing
The second covers Facebook Fan Pages, both the ones you own and the ones you don’t, and includes details from my study comparing fans of BMW and Audi. More on that study was posted to Razorfish’s Headlight Blog.
Posted on October 6th, 2009 No comments
So, I GOT A JOB! I had my first meeting on August 14th while my first day was the 17th… Rapleaf (www.rapleaf.com) is an SF-based technology startup that focuses on social media research.
Since starting my gig, I have been trying to figure out my whole work/life balance thing. It turns out, my pendulum had swung very far to the life side during the six months between gigs (and man was it a fun ride). So, fittingly enough, the pendulum hit a hard down swing and the momentum carried me through the first (almost) two months of work. The balance certainly tilted toward work (but really, I have been having a fun ride).
Here I am, figuring it out as usual, trying to keep the balance in check. I think being in the office from 8am to 6pm is about right, hopefully limiting the couch sessions of email/ upkeep to only a couple nights a week. Eating at my desk is out moving forward; it just doesn’t set my afternoon up with the right attitude/ vibe. Coming in early is in… the east coast needs me too. And, odd as it may sound, I am the old guy on the team in many respects…
The team is great, all really smart and excited to be there. Rapleaf is about 2/3 software engineers (wicked, crazy smart software engineers) and the aim is to keep that balance and focus as we grow. The shop is still small enough that all eyes can be on you in a hurry, helping correct a course or congratulate a win. At the same time, our company is big enough that we are getting noticed and revered by big companies across many industries. It was crazy to walk in and talk to some of the holy grail clients of the auto industry within the first few weeks.
As for now, I am having fun and hoping you are too.
Posted on August 4th, 2009 No comments
Where do you want to be when you celebrate your 40th birthday? It’s a big milestone… you likely have a firm grasp on your life, lots of responsibilities, plenty of obligations from every angle…
If you are my sister, that all adds up to celebrating with a long weekend in New Orleans- aka the Big Easy- to do nothing but enjoy the absence of a schedule. Don’t worry, her husband Doug and I managed to replace her normally busy schedule with plenty of great music, fun joints, and late night canasta games. While Dawn claimed victory in the first full game, I managed to snap what seemed a life long streak and take a game of my own during the weekend…
I arrived Thursday (7/30) to join Dawn & Doug, who had arrived the day before. Stepping off the plane at Louis Armstrong Airport, I was immediately greeted by a thick, damp heat that would be rather prevalent throughout the weekend. It served as a great reminder of the weather from my youth… the weather I escaped by moving to San Francisco. Luckily, the continuous heat was occasionally broken by warm-rain storms that lasted about 30 minutes every afternoon… nature’s way of telling you to step into one of the many (MANY) nearby bars to enjoy an ice cold beer and arctic air conditioning set to full throttle.
A big thanks goes out to my oldest brother Cass (side note: I am the youngest of five, Dawn being my only sister) for guiding us to both the Preservation Hall on Friday night and the House of Blues on Sunday morning… both of which easily make this amazing list: the NOLA Top 5 (in chronological order):
Thursday: One more drink at The Blues Cafe – This place lured me in with the sweet sounds of Bill Whithers and we slid into the chairs, one drink minimum in hand to enjoy a great house band and rotating lead singers. From the keyboardist channeling Mr. Whithers on ‘Use Me Up’ to the spandex dress clad Tina Turner lead singer, each front person brought their own energy and style to the stage. The favorite of the night had to be El Sid, the best performer to grace the venue and wow the crowd. ‘One more drink’ turned into both a couple rounds that night and a catch phrase for the rest of the weekend… words can not accurately describe the showmanship and joy we expeirenced, but unfortunately they will have to suffice… I snapped no pictures. Trust me, it was great.
Friday: The Preservation Hall Jazz Masters – A legendary venue that has stood the test of time for more than 30 years of creating jazz history… without redecorating their performance hall once. A room comparable to your living room was the scene of an amazing jazz performance for a small crowd happy to wait well over 45 minutes to check them out (unless you get a hookup from an older brother and walk right in…). We saw the Preservation Hall Jazz Masters, an ensemble crew of jazz pros that were exchanging handshakes and hugs prior to show, comparing stories since the last time they had played together. The whole place gave off a familial vibe, making the jazz that much more a personal experience.
Saturday (afternoon): Electric Ladyland Tattoo Shop – After years of talking the talk, they finally walked the walk. Dawn and Doug got matching(ish) tattoos to celebrate 16 years of marriage and her 40th birthday. I definitely did not talk them into it, but supported teh decision and design process along the way. End result? Dawn & Doug FOR-EH-VER. If you are visiting NOLA and want to find a shop, check this place out and ask for Jason.
Saturday (late): Coyote Ugly (yep.) – On Saturday evening we were sipping our boat drinks at a parrothead bar (who knew?) on Bourbon when Dawn suggested we each pick a spot for a single drink as we bounce through our last evening. Great plan. Doug tried to bow out by saying he picked the Buffett joint. Dawn was in for her perennial favorite Maison Bourbon. That left me remembering my last trip to NOLA with Doug and my brother Lance a few years back… we had a blast at this little place called Coyote Ugly. So off we went to this bar my sister had never heard of… and wouldn’t you know we got three 2-for-1 coupons on the way there? We arrive to a near empty bar with no music… so $5 later I had control of the juke box. We all had our first round in front of us and Dawn was trying to figure the place out. Then one of my songs fit the bill… and a bartender hit the bar, stomping out a great dance with her boots. Then the second bartender took over, picking the best songs for them to dance to, berating guys in the bar that weren’t playing by her rules, and giving out shots to ladies. It went down hill (read: really damn fun and laughably great) from there… competition shots, ladies *ahem* from the crowd dancing on the bar, and some general debauchery all around. I had to promise I wouldn’t post the pictures…
Sunday: Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues – How do you handle waking up early after three or four days of late nights and hard drinking? We opted for the route that included the earliest alarm of the trip, an amazing buffet, and a LOUD gospel band on the stage. The House of Blues itself is an amazing venue full of folk art and just an overall feeling of music-soaked history. And a giant Rolling Stones cover of the Blues Brothers above the main bar. While the champagne served mostly as a reminder of the night before (for some of us, the morning too), the rest of the buffet proved an amazing spread that all three of wish our recovering bodies allowed us to enjoy a bit more.
Posted on July 21st, 2009 No comments
Over the past several months I have been fortunate to have seen a different side of some of my (once) favored brands… their HR departments. As I have waded through the crowded waters of the Bay Area’s funemployed pool of candidates, my resume and always hand crafted cover letter have gone out to a handful of new to me companies as well as some of my tried and true, known and loved brands, the latter of which are the focus of this post. There is a LinkedIn Q&A thread here as well… similar sentiments.
I believe in the simple notion of a Net Promoter Score… basically, if you are a big fan of a company or product, you will recommend or promote it. If you are blah, then it is a wash. If you are less than happy you detract from that brand and likely steer anyone who will listen away.
Some companies I really like did nothing but make me a stronger net promoter (ie move from 9 to 10 out of 10). Others have shown disregard and not even provided a polite ‘no thank you’ email in response to my request. I know they are busy, but really? That busy? They can’t even send a one-liner to an enthusiastic supporter? That is tough… especially when most of them tout an amazing work culture and very supportive atmosphere…
So who got it right? PopChips is a local to SF company that puts out a great product I enjoy… they are also a company that lives up to the fun brand image even behind the scenes. While they politely said no to employment, they turned me on to free samples & coupons (which I have shared) and included me in product surveys for upcoming options. HELL YES this company is cooler in my eyes because of that. HELL YES if they call tomorrow and say, “Hey, still looking for work? We want to hire you.” I will answer a resounding “where do I sign.”
Who else? Zappos, of course. They are basically the ambassadors of strong company culture. It even says ‘Powered by Service in their logo. And they really live it. One of their recruiters spent time with me reviewing interview strategy to look for company culture traits, something very important to me (and them) even though I was not going to move to Vegas and work for them. Further, they sent me a book on their company culture (put out annually), and asked me to go for a scholarship to a culture retreat (which, unfortunately, I did not win). But all that combined make me enthusiastically supportive of their brand.
My hat is off to these two great examples of creating a positive experience even if a new job is not the end result.
Who got it wrong? Lots of folks. Digg hasn’t responded further than an automated ‘resume received’ notification from their application site, even though I followed up directly with them a few days later. Twitter, similar story. I know both of these companies are internet wonder-kids and likely very busy… but come on! They are also alleged champions of dot-com culture and cool, fun work environments. But not just super famous names: Atlassian, a software company focused on WOW customer service? It took several follow-ups to get a one liner several weeks later. A recruiter CONTACTED ME and then couldn’t even tell me the name of the hiring company… NOT EVEN AFTER A WEEK, FOUR MORE EMAILS AND A PHONE INTERVIEW. All I know is that a some software company in Denver is not very comitted to their employees but trying to hire a rep in SF… sorta, anyway. What is this? How is it that a company is willing to leave so many potential enthusiastic promoters (hell, potential employees) out in the cold?
What will the fallout of this be? I think that companies that treat people like people and not a piece of paper to be tossed aside amidst the others will win big… not only will they be more likely to reel in prime candidates, but they will be able to use their HR department to cultivate supplemental marketing by creating supporters of the brand.
Which would you prefer:
“Sorry, John Doe, it doesn’t seem a great fit… but here are some companies we work with that might be better for you. If you know anyone that may fit here (or shop here or buy our widget or whetever), please feel free to send them along. We offer referral compensation! Good luck!”
Have fun out there, I am trying to… ~N
Posted on July 14th, 2009 No comments
If you are like me, you serve not only as a son, brother, and uncle to your family (or the female counterparts), but also as the family IT department. This quick post is about a recent breakthrough in department productivity: do it yourself.
My buddy Ben (same guy from the Iceland trip), also the family IT dept, turned me onto Log Me In. Its a free software that allows you to connect and control VPN style to any computer added to your account.
In 10 minutes, I had talked my Mom through the download and install process for Log Me In. Then in the next 10, she watched as I set up Skype and some firewall settings that had eluded us for well over an hour late last week. I am going to repeat this process a few more times, then I will have the whole family wired to my single account.
Thank you Log Me In, for saving my cell phone bills, my time, and my entire family’s computer related sanity. Oh, and Ben, I owe you a beer. Now I get to video conference with the family any time of the… wait a minute, Ben… maybe you owe me a beer…
Posted on July 10th, 2009 1 comment
One of the first amazing sights when driving to Yosemite from SF is not a natural beauty at all… for me, it is the wind farm just about 30 minutes past the bay bridge, just over the first rolling hills that separate the Bay Area from “inland” California.
While not the best shot, it does show a few of the amazing turbines spinning away on the hill sides. To take in the view really is pretty (dorky &) amazing.
So today I Stumbled Upon something similar, but so very, very different: an alternative wind energy source on a very small scale. Remember those educational films on the Tacoma Narrows bridge? This guy used them as motivation to design a new type of wind energy… watch the video here. Amazingly nerdy and awesome.
So, if you are like me… you thought the video was great… and applications for low cost, small scale energy sources in the third world are amazing.
Have fun out there…
Posted on July 4th, 2009 18,385 comments
I really liked both the write up on the site and the presentation of news sources, even though the timeline is abbreviated… you still get the right idea. I love graphs and images that take a big concept and shrink it to a single, coherent image that just makes sense.
This also spawned a great, quick email conversation with some friends on whether the recent and upcoming years were right: is social going to dominate media? Short answer, yes, content will be coming from a million different places in the next few years and we all have the ability to produce content. I thre in that targeting has to be a bigger piece of the puzzle because all that content will just get crowded. I view social media more as context than content… what is the slant or the framework put around an article more than what is in it. Targeting that social media will make every browsing experience a positive one, rather than wading through endless content.
At any rate… It’s a great graph and great topic of conversation. So, where do you get your news?
Oh, and I highly recommend trying Stumble Upon… it’s a great way to browse the web with your own parameters loosely guiding the way… you set up topics of interest, click a button, and stumble your way through the endless content that other stumblers tagged as things that may interest you. Worth an audition…
Posted on May 5th, 2009 4,434 comments
Iceland was a gorgeous country full of natural beauty and very nice people. While typically one of the most expensive tourist destinations in Europe, the government bankruptcy has doubled the exchange rate in our favor in the past 12 months… so why not capitalize?
It was amazing to see such stark contrast between Reykjavik (REK) and the rest of the country as 200,000 of the 300,000 total residents of Iceland live in the greater REK area. So, while all the pictures from the trip are posted online RIGHT HERE, I will save you some of the trouble of browsing through all 400+ with some highlights posted below.
So who went? I got the call from my buddy Ben (below at left) and one of his B-School buddies, John (below at right) who are making the most of 5 day weekends (yes, class is only Monday and Tuesday).
I started the trip a bit earlier than the others, leaving SF at 8:30am on Tuesday, meeting them for our Icleand Air flight out of Boston at 9pm and then landing in Iceland at 6:30am Wednesday. We found our way to the hotel for a quick turnaround before heading to the Blue Lagoon, the famed hot water springs and spa (and tourist trap)… we figure that was the only proper way to put jet lag and lack of sleep behind us…
After a couple hours of relaxing away our travel, we headed back to REK to gear up for our first dinner in Iceland… what else but Pylsas… the Icelandic hot dog…
A few beers later, we were all feeling pretty good about our decision to take advantage of the improved exchange rate (basically doubled in our favor in the past year).
Day two we headed east along the loop road (which encircles the entire island). Everything was bland and white, with occasional waterfalls or moss covered volcanic rock formations to break up the drive to Jokulsarlson (where the first picture at top was taken). The drive back to REK was a completely different experience… the snow had melted away to show more landscape, waterfalls were swelling with runoff and rain, and the fog/ clouds had burned away to reveal massive mountains and glaciers in the distance. It was hard to believe we were on the same road as the morning.
The rest of the ride home was a bit less exciting… we were all tired, my jeans were soaked through, and somehow, we managed to get a bit lost…
Day three would show us the famed Golden Circle, an area of intense geologic, tectonic activity. I was all nerded up for the Thingvellir area where the American and European tectonic plates are shifting apart (divergent plate boundary). You can actually see the rift between them and they are still moving… which is the primary cause of all the geysers, volcanos, and geothermal water caches all over the island. Being that Ben graduated Mechanical Engineering like me, he was excited to visit the Geothermal Power Station as our last stop of the day… and even though I thoguht it was closed, it was a good call that we went. Interesting learnign experience (they provide hot water nationally and bill everyone monthly, as a separate line item in your power bill).
And with that, it was back to the city, dinner and bar hopping… you know, to get a better understanding of the local culture and morale. For a bankrupt economy, everyone seemed in good spirits. I suppose sunsets at 11pm and nothing darker than dusk before sunrise at 6am will do that…
Our last two days in Iceland woudl be spent exploring REK… so here are some highlights of the amazing city that is home to 2/3 of the country…
And that wraps up the highlights… though my favorite meal of the trip was unfortunately not pictured here… Lobster Soup at (basically) a bait shack… we went back twice. AMAZING.
So, if you go to Iceland, count on the weather being crazy (15 minute rotations of sun, sleet, wind, rain- in that order), the people being nice (but late… dinner at 8 or 9, shops open at 10am), and the country side being gorgeous (I put it second to New Zealand in natural beauty). If I could do it again… perhaps start with Blue Lagoon again, rest up in REK, then 3 days to travel the entire loop road, staying at B&B’s along the way, ending in REK for a big night or two on the town.
Will I go back? If the exchange rate doubles in our favor AGAIN? Definitely. As is, maybe a layover on the way to Europe…