End of year movie tally: 89 of the AFI Top 100
I picked up a copy of the updated American Film Institute Top 100 Movies and am pleased to say that I have almost seen them all. I've seen 89 of the top 100 movies. Here's what's left:
Meanwhile, I will add a few of my own favorites that aren't on the Top 100 list, but are well worth watching anyway. In no particular order: Nine Queens, The Spanish Prisoner, The Battle of Algiers, Bowfinger, The Conversation, Dark City, Dr. Zhivago, Enigma, Good Night and Good Luck, Monsoon Wedding and Rififi. That'll keep you busy too, dear reader, for quite a while.
And Happy New Year to you all too!
Reader question: Are video rental shops doomed?
I received a most interesting email message a few days ago and thought it would be valuable to open this up to wider discussion:
Dear Dave, I own a videorental shop in italy, part of videorental chain of shops and I'm worried about my business.Phew! You list quite a litany of problems facing modern video rental companies, and you didn't mention things like Amazon Unbox (NASDAQ:AMZN), Redbox, a very low cost DVD rental service partially owned by McDonalds (NYSE:MCD) and just starting to spread here in the United States, or the rumored Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes Store movie rental service.
Even with all these options, however, I still go to the local Blockbuster (NYSE:BBI) 2-3 times/month because what I miss with my Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) membership and exploration of IMDB (where I poke around with alarming regularity) is the kinesthetic, the visual experience of browsing and seeing hundreds, if not thousands of movies. There are a couple of facets to this; I enjoy both being reminded of movies I've seen and enjoyed (or hated) just as much as those I haven't seen yet but are already on, or move onto my to-watch list. (Information scientists refer to this as "accidental discovery" and it's a big part of what makes online sites inferior for browsing.)
It's the same reason that I still go to bookstores even though I am almost addicted to Amazon: browsing and the shared social experience of a physical space is still a basic human need and one I cannot fulfill with virtual shopping worlds.
Heck, as I type this, I am sharing a table with a fellow blogger and pal (Amy Gahran) at a café and even though we're typing away in our own little worlds, there's still a social sense to the experience that would be missing if we were in our own offices with our cups of tea, IMing sporadically.
Anyway, back to videos. Yes, you're right that as a "storage facility for videos that are available to rent" video stores are doomed. There are too many alternatives, legal and illegal, and it's clear that as fast as the MPAA creates copy protection schemes other companies figure out how to circumvent then (including both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray).
Let's turn this on its head, however. Instead of thinking about "inventory models", let's think of a video rental store as a place to learn about movies and share your enthusiasm for particular genres, actors, directors, studios, etc, as a social venue, then it all changes. Being at the rental place becomes just as important as what you take with you when you leave, and the process of learning and discovering new films changes dramatically.
I say that, yet I haven't yet seen a video rental place that understands this. The closest I encounter here in the States is actually at Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), where they have large TVs with surround sound systems, comfortable couches, and two or three movies featured on displays within that space. Imagine a video rental place that had a meeting space, had sponsored movie showings every night, served coffee and pastries (and since you're in Italy, it'd be good coffee!) and generally tried to create a community of film lovers, rather than be focused on the crass commercial transaction of a rental.
Imagine working out a partnership with a local movie theater where you sponsor showings of classic movies on the big screen. Viewers who are part of your club get a discount on the admission and everyone gets a discount coupon for a rental. I'd join!
In the same way that specialized private bookstores can reinvent the entire experience of buying books (for example, we have a store here in town that just sells mystery books and has an amazing lineup of author signings in a given month - High Crimes) you could reinvent the entire concept of video rentals and make it far more akin to a store that's devoted to cinema a la Cinema Paradiso.
Otherwise, you're right, you are inevitably going to go out of business as alternative methods of acquiring and viewing movies grow ever more pervasive.
Baggage ban on batteries taking effect!
This is a pretty important bit of news for those of you, like me, who travel fully equipped with gadgets:
"To help reduce the risk of fires, air travelers will no longer be able to pack loose lithium batteries in checked luggage beginning Jan. 1, the Transportation Department said Friday.That's according to the Associated Press. Note the sentence I highlighted, too: we are limited to only two batteries per passenger, so if you're traveling on an extended trip, this could mean you have a problem and might end up having your expensive spare batteries confiscated. Not good.
When did Gmail lose its invite feature?
Just got a request for a Google Gmail invitation after a month or two of no requests of this nature - doubtless because people can just go to the Gmail home page and sign up - and am surprised that there's no longer a "invite sender to Gmail" link:
There's still the "invite a friend" box on the left column, but now I have to actually dig up their email address from the header and - gasp - cut and paste it. So much work. :-)
Did this vanish recently, or has it been gone a long time?
Aloha Social Networking: A Mastermind retreat in Hawaii
I'm currently planning a trip to Hawaii later in March (Kona side of the Big Island, up by Waikoloa) and am fishing to see if anyone would be interested in joining me for a two day mastermind intensive workshop on social networking, blogging, and online marketing. Tentative title of the informal event: Aloha Social Networking.
I'm projecting costs at about $499/person (subject to change) and you'll obviously need to find your own way to the Island and your own lodging, though I'll help with some suggestions. At this point I'm thinking it'll be in the form of a roundtable discussion, though hopefully a few other experts will pop up and join us. I'm talking with a few people, but nothing to announce at this early date!
Anyway, if you're interested, please email me via my contact form and I'll keep you informed as I organize and plan the event. I hope to see you there!
ps: It's worth noting is that this would be a nice way to deduct the cost of a visit to Hawaii as a business related professional education expense... :-)
Engage your audience by having them vote on packaging
Looking for last minute specials at Amazon.com and was intrigued to stumble across a promotion they're running where we, the customer, can vote on the best cover art for the new special edition DVD (and Blu-Ray) release of the brilliant Terry Gilliam / Handmade Films movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
Here are the three choices:
(you can vote by going here: vote for your favorite!)
I think this is a very cool promotion because it encourages customers to engage, to have a commitment to the packaging and release of a favorite older film (Munchausen was originally released in 1988). What they miss, however, is that when you've voted and are seeing the results, they should have a virtual coupon that would let you receive an instant few dollars off the pre-purchase of the DVD when released.
Here's another idea, though, one for the next release of a much-loved classic: why not invite amateur film critics to submit their own commentary on a film, and the one that's most interesting / insightful would be included in the official release as a commentary track? It could be re-recorded in a professional sound studio (or even re-voiced if the commentator just doesn't have a voice "made for radio")
What other ways can you imagine that a movie production company and/or distributor could engage viewers and help convert them into customers? Certainly most of the competitions that modern movies are trying are tedious and boring (cf. National Treasure: Book of Secrets), but then again, most movies suffer from the very same problems, don't they? :-)
For me, a copy of Baron Munchausen on Blu-Ray? Sounds like a five-star winner to me, a perfect match of complicated and intriguing visuals and a high-def video and audio format for home theater setups.
Welcome to the new European Union
A big welcome to Slovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, all due to become the newest members of the European Union and its Schengen zone at midnight tonight. As the BBC reports, "The enlargement will allow passport-free travel across 24 European states, although travellers can be asked to carry documents by any of the countries concerned."
Very impressive evolution of the European Union, a structure that initially seemed totally untenable, and then evolved into seeming to be sucking the very personality and life out of individual nations with its normalization of currency and culture. Today, though, it is clearly a boon to the historically troubled greater Europe, helping to settle centuries-old rifts between nations and offering a great opportunity for this historically troubled area of the world to live in harmony.
Now if we could just see the European Union and its Schengen zone model as a basis for a reinvention of the nation-states of the Middle East, we could perhaps see a greater period of global peace in our time than has ever been before...
Does it make sense to have a jobs site geographically oriented?
"BoulderFreelancers.com is listed on the first page of Google for relevant KW/KP and is a great place for [local freelance consultants] to market their services on the Internet. We also have 3800 freelance jobs listed from partners Jobster and Simply Hired and are working hard to get more "organic" jobs posted."According to his background materials, he has 119 local sites a la Boulder Freelancers, which begs the question: is regional slicing the right approach to this sort of dataset?
The thing about being geographically based is that where someone is located is only relevant if you're looking for a very short term hands on consultant. Need someone to paint your house? It doesn't make sense to fly them in from 1100 miles away. Need a great CSS hacker, though, or Flash animator, and isn't it irrelevant whether they're based in Des Moines or Bangalore?
As I learned all those years ago as a manager at Hewlett-Packard, it's all about results, not appearances (though that's less true at HP than it was in the past. This cultural change is definitely partly due to Fiorina, this "death of the next bench", but that's another story for another blog posting)
If you hire consultants and freelancers based on their ability to deliver, wouldn't it make more sense to have something like FlashFreelancers.com or similar (which might already exist, for all I know) where you're going "vertically" not "horizontally" (who comes up with these wacky spatial metaphors anyway? :-)
Everyone I work with at Intuitive Systems is geographically dispersed, with my main graphics guy in Vancouver, Canada, my systems guy in San Francisco, my IP lawyer in Indiana, etc. The only local people I work with are my general legal counsel and accountant, and for all I know they might outsource basic grunt work and data entry to firms in Szechwan or Sri Lanka. As long as they do the job, and do it well, isn't that all that really matters?
Ah well, if you are looking for freelancers, then there's no question that Jay's umbrella site The Freelance Nation.com is a good place to check out. Just make sure you also have a presence on LinkedIn and any job boards specifically related to your area of expertise and market niche.
Article: Using Social Media to Improve Your Business
[[This article was written for The Association for Women in Communications, Denver Chapter newsletter...]]
Let's start out with a spontaneous quiz (yes, you were warned that there'd be days like this!). How did you meet your current friends and colleagues? How did you bump into that perfect business partner or investor? How did you find out that a certain person was indeed looking to launch a joint venture and that your skills and experience made you perfect for the task? More to the point, how did you ever figure out that Company X was the perfect target for your sales and marketing efforts and then actually track someone in that organization down?
I accomplish these tasks - and many more - on a daily basis by utilizing online social networks. You know what I'm talking about if you've been involved in the business world for the last decade, sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and on and on and on. In fact, there are so many social networking sites that I have reached the point of social networking fatigue and refuse to join any new ones, regardless of who invites me, but that's another story.
What's amazing about being plugged into a professional networking site like LinkedIn is that it's impossible for me to imagine how I ever found colleagues and new partners before I had access to the millions of professionals profiled and linked on the site. It's not a simple database of resumes, though. I don't see everyone on LinkedIn because of its smart implementation of what the Facebook gang calls "the social graph": I only see people who I have linked to, the people they've linked to, and the people they've linked to. Three degrees of separation and that's enough that my "network" encompasses millions of people, and for any of them, I can request an introduction from a shared friend and establish a connection. You need a contact at Disney's Imagineering group, or someone in marketing at General Motors, Qwest or Boeing? Someone in the Department of the Interior or working in an embassy in Africa? No problem, they're all in my network (and if you and I were linked, they'd be in yours too).
LinkedIn, Facebook (a more social and casual networking site than LinkedIn, insanely popular with the college crowd) and MySpace (much more sloppy, but the single busiest site on the entire Internet, mostly focused on high school kids) all demonstrate the value of not just who you know and can memorialize with "links", but who they know too.
An example can make this powerful. Eve Fisher, who asked me to write this brief article, doesn't know that I'm good friends with key people inside some of the venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, and also know a ton of people in the book publishing world too. If she needed to connect with a VC firm or was contemplating writing a book, she might never think to ask me who I know in that space. With automated networking tools, however, she could search for people in her network who know someone at, say, Kleiner-Perkins or Addison-Wesley, and up my name would pop, automatically. Think that's not valuable? Think how many friends and associates all of your friends have already, and how you even knowing those people can dramatically extend your reach and ability to get in touch with the people you need to know so you can take your career to the next level.
Now, to be fair, social networking is like Orwell's "soma" and there are people who are way deep into the zone, spending hours a day fiddling with their social networking profiles, updating their status hourly, adding people, sending bulletins, and so on, but for every person like that, I know two or three that judiciously use these tools to improve their efficiency and effectiveness at their jobs. As with anything, you need to draw the line where you feel the most comfortable and stay within your comfort zone. Yes, there are weirdoes out there on the net and I always counsel that you err on the side of privacy. I should know: I write the #1 blog for parenting (Google "parenting blog" and you'll see me in the top slot) and have done for years, but I never mention my children by name.
The antithesis of all this paranoia, however, is Twitter. I've been a skeptic of this one-line so-called microblogging site for a long time, but a few months ago I hooked up and started broadcasting tiny updates regarding what I was doing, where I was going, and general news bulletins about my daily activities. Amazingly, over 100 people - mostly friends, thank goodness - are now following my twitter updates and I even plan informal lunch rendezvous with the service now. You might not be comfortable having complete strangers know where you are and what you're doing, but so far I have to admit that it does have its [admittedly voyeuristic] charms... :-)
Whether you jump head-first into the Twitter world or just dip your toe into the deep waters of LinkedIn, there's no question in my mind that the more you get involved in the digital world, the more success you'll have and the easier you'll find the transition to "Internet 2.0" and "Business 2.0" as we move fully into the 21st century!
How did CompUSA stumble so badly?
Fascinating to see that in the midst of CompUSA being dumped in a firesale and closed down "in an orderly fashion" over the next few weeks by liquidator Gordon Brothers Group that competitor BestBuy is reporting this to the Wall Street Journal:
"Best Buy's quarterly profit soared 52% amid strong sales of videogame consoles, laptops and flat-panel TVs and less discounting than last holiday season. The company said its profit margin benefited from a "more rational" retail environment, especially in the home theater segment. Revenue rose 17% to $9.93 billion, thanks in part to the opening of 127 new stores. Same-store sales rose 6.7%, which included a 2.5 percentage-point gain from an extra week of post-Thanksgiving sales versus a year earlier. U.S. same-store sales climbed 6.1%."If you've been in a CompUSA recently, you'd know that they tried to sell all three of these categories of products, laptops (obviously), videogame consoles and flat-panel TVs.
First off, many congrats to the team at BestBuy for a strong retail performance this year in the extraordinarily tough consumer electronics space. This sort of report will be sure to invigorate the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show next month.
More curious though is to ask the question of why if CompUSA was indeed selling products in these apparently lucrative categories why it didn't help the company remain profitable and in business? My take, having been there many times, is that the problem wasn't the stock, but the employees. There are plenty of small shops with mediocre selection that do well in business because they have top-notch employees who really know their market segment and genuinely want to help (think of your local independent bookstore). CompUSA never had that and while I enjoyed seeing all the computer gear and gizmos they had, their employees, even their "Apple Center" employees, were generally clueless gits who knew far less than I did about their own product lines, and would clearly push the product with the highest margin (e.g., commission) over superior national brands like Toshiba or Dell.
J.K. Rowling and The Leaky Cauldron: A New Media Success Story
This is just cool: long-time Harry Potter fan size The Leaky Cauldron is reporting that Potter author and extraordinarily wealthy celebrity J. K. Rowling is going to be featured on their next podcast.
As they said post-recording: "Jo's repartee was everything we knew it would be: informative, warm, funny and chock-full of canon revelations as well as statements about the writing and publishing of the series. We had such a great time recording with her and hope that you all enjoy the output!"
What I really like about this story is that the folks who run the fan site never imagined that they'd do such a good job and be such faithful fans that the shining star of their firmament, Jo Rowling herself, would not only know about their efforts, but endorse them in such an overt manner.
This should give those of you just getting started with the world of new, self-produce media great inspiration. If the Leaky Cauldron can get Rowling on their podcast, what might you be able to do in the marketplace or area of your own passion and who might you be able to get involved?
And, needless to say, many congratulations to the team there at The Leaky Cauldron. Pip, pip, hurray!
National Treasure II: Great Movie, Miserable Marketing
I'm in the middle of David Mamet's brilliant and sarcastic book about the movie industry, Bambi Vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose and Practice of the Movie Business. I love his cutting, insightful wit and superb films (see House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner for two of his best) so I was predisposed to like the book anyway, but when I read his explanation of why it's idiotic for studios to have "test screenings" and then hand out long, involved surveys to gauge audience reaction, I couldn't help think of how Bruckheimer and Disney are testing the marketing of the new blockbuster National Treasure II: Book of Secrets...
First off, a comment on the movie. If you haven't seen the first movie, National Treasure, I recommend it. It's fun and very well produced, in a typical, almost cliché Hollywood manner. It's also a good role for Nicholas Cage, even if he does seem to play that same slightly befuddled genius again and again in his motion pictures (cf. Next). I say that National Treasure II will be a blockbuster, but it hasn't actually made it to the cinema as I write this, it's actually opening next weekend, the 20th of December.
Nonetheless, even with a strong lineup of Christmas movies this year (notably including the entertaining The Golden Compass and powerful (and, yes, somewhat scary) I Am Legend) I am sure that National Treasure II will do quite well in the theater and then be a solid DVD sale for years to come. Frankly, Bruckheimer doesn't get involved with much that doesn't end up earning out, or quite a bit more. (even bombs like The Island were, I thought, quite good films)
Anyway, to launch National Treasure II: Book of Secrets, Disney partnered up with a bunch of companies, including Mercedes-Benz. You can see what I mean by going to the movie's web site, interestingly called Worlds Biggest Treasure Hunt.movies.go.com. Watch the opening Flash animation too; it's quite a demonstration of what you can do with this ever-more-sophisticated graphical tool.
On the bottom of every page is a big box labelled Take The National Treasure Survey, which, somehow, I thought might be a little quiz about how well you knew the first movie's storyline or had picked up on hints dropped in the preview.
Oh no. It's a thirty-three screen survey on how effectively the site creates buzz for the movie and whether it makes you want to see the movie when it's in the theater.
Here's the first screen (shrunk down: click on it for a fullsize image):
I mean, a sample of the first few questions includes This Website makes it easy for me to build a connection with this movie and I feel surfing this website is a good way for me to spend my time.
That's just wrong. It's wrong to pull people back into their heads when you're trying to appeal to their hearts, emotions, sense of adventure and excitement, and there's just fundamentally some boneheaded planning here for this sort of survey to be so overtly linked to an otherwise well executed movie promotion site.
Come on, Walt Disney Pictures! Doesn't anyone think through what you're doing in the movie production side any more? This is a bloody tedious survey, one that you might motivate people to complete if you offer something at the end, like a "custom National Treasure screensaver", but as it stands, I posit that the only results you'll get -- if any -- are going to be from movie marketing nerds and it'll be so skewed and statistically irrelevant as to be meaningless.
As Mamet points out in his book, movie companies have sunk to the lowest depths in their marketing angst and that the main purpose of any feedback nowadays seems to be for the companies to exorcise any meaningful drama or storyline from the movie, not to produce interesting or exciting films. In an exactly analogous way, the survey from Disney isn't going to help movie teams make more interesting or exciting Web sites, but simply to dumb them down to pure advertising mechanisms without any hint of personality, character or uniqueness.
A classic psychic collision, really, between the purpose of a product (in this case a Web site promoting a big-budget Hollywood film) and the desire on the part of some members of the company to garner feedback so that they can improve the product next time out. This certainly isn't the only place this turns up, either, but given that I am actually looking forward to the movie, it's just darn disappointing that there's not more control over every aspect of a film's online presence. Or more thought.
Cool... CES has a "Blogger" category for working press now
Very cool, just noticed my registration confirmation from the Consumer Electronics Show early next month has a new category of working press: bloggers. Nice job, guys! Here's what they explain:
Your registration for the world's largest consumer technology tradeshow, the 2008 International CES, is now complete. You qualified for a BLOGGER BADGE. Your confirmation number is [xxxxx]. Please make a note of this number and have it handy if you need to contact International CES Customer Service.Now, do ya think Plantronics will be handing out headsets for those of us that podcast too? :-)
Sometimes being able to buy used on Amazon is a tremendous blessing!
Check this product out:
I surmise that there's an error in the database, but heck, if it's $1444 new, maybe I can buy one of those used books for $9 and resell it for, oh, $700? :-)
Okay, an add-on as this is way too fun:
If only all online purchases had such a steep discount curve!
Press embargoes in the digital age: Westinghouse Digital
Very interesting email message I got this morning from a PR firm:
I wanted to see if you or any of your colleagues are planning any CES stories to break at the show? If so, we can provide you with information on the hot new products Westinghouse Digital will be unveiling at CES 2008.The real question, of course, is how many bloggers and online people will agree to this and then promptly violate it, either directly on their site or indirectly by forwarding the embargoed materials to a gossip site or similar. My take is that most of the tech and business news blogs and new media sites quite frankly flaunt that they don't follow the rules set down by "the man", and while a part of me wants to just say that you can't control the message, get over it, another part understands that plenty of media outlets do have lead times and that agreeing on industry confidentiality is a necessary part of encompassing the entire media world, not just worrying about us shoot-from-the-hip online folks.
Those of you that are bloggers who get press materials, do you think that embargoes are obsolete and pointless? Do you respect them if companies contact you with information and ask you to keep mum until a specified date?
Google experimenting with scrolling AdSense blocks
Here's a cool thing that I bumped into this morning as I waded through my RSS feeds: Google is apparently experimenting with scollable AdSense ad blocks on some sites. As shown here, if your site is part of the experiment, your AdSense block will include small scroll triangles on the bottom:
I think this is very cool, but what I'd also like to see Google experiment with is a multi-page visual metaphor, where there'd be a small curled edge on one corner of the ad block, a region that if clicked would bring up a second page of ads related to the theme and subject of the page. Here's my quick mockup:
What do you think? Would one of these be more likely than the other to cause readers to check out additional ads in the AdSense ad block?
As I say on the Blogoscoped blog, "Now given how AdWords works, the second page / scrolled ads would be less valuable for us as publishers, but still, a $0.03 click is worth more than a $0.00 non-click!"
I rejoined Netflix. Now, what should I watch?
After about a year hiatus, I have rejoined popular DVD rental site Netflix and spent (wasted?) the last hour or so rebuilding my rental queue. But a lot of great movies have come out and been released on DVD in the interim, so tell me, dear reader, what should I add to my queue?
To give you a sense of my taste, my queue includes Foyle's War (brilliant English mystery series set during WWII), High and Low (the superb Japanese director Akira Kurosawa takes on the Noir genre), Double Indemnity (one of the very best in the Noir genre, I've seen it before), Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (because Mystery Science Theater 3000 is no more, alas), Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (on a Hamlet tear, actually, and this is the definitive film version of one of the greatest plays), Munich (this one just passed me by when it was in the theater), Anastasia (always been interested in the Romanov's and the Russian revolution, so this should be a cute film), and Kommissar X (because, well, sometimes stupid movies can be fun).
So what should I add to this diverse lineup?
LinkedIn: Protecting your brand or stifling spin-off innovation?
I'm an active part of the LinkedIn subculture (here's my profile) and a long-time member of groups like My LinkedIn Power Forum, so I was quite interested to hear from Marc Freedman that he'd received a Cease & Desist from LinkedIn and had his account summarily suspended for two weeks because of his MyLink500.com site.
Marc explains: "The LinkedIn attorney wrote that my use of the logo is unauthorized and that MyLink500 encourages users to send invitations to people they don't know."
While most LinkedIn members are free, there's a second echelon of professional paid members, and Marc is part of that group, hence his concern: "I don't deny LinkedIn the right to protect their brand and Terms of Service. What I do object to is the unprofessional way it was handled, especially since I'm a paying business customer. LinkedIn should provide a business-class service that is responsive and doesn't cavalierly turn off service. Suspending one's account is an extreme measure. Some people like me depend on daily access to my account to conduct business. Suspending an account should be the LAST thing LinkedIn does, not the first."
I concur. There's a fine line between protecting your brand and intellectual property and squelching innovation, preventing people from finding new and innovative ways to use your tools for their own business purposes. LinkedIn, you should have handled this with the proverbial kid gloves, not with a rusty shiv...
Why do AdWords advertisers target so poorly?
I'm digging around on Google trying to ascertain where my sister's new site, doll street dreamers, a site that's been focused on doll classes and Googled the phrase "doll classes" to see where it ranked.
Unfortunately, it's not yet on that first page (we'll work on it!) but check out the adverts that appeared on a search for doll classes:
I am not surprised when one or two ads in a set of ads is poorly targeted, but I've never seen a situation where all of the ads are mistargeted for the search!
Note particularly the very last match. Mortgage refinancing for "doll classes"? What on earth is this company thinking??
Big Business "Blog Council" created, business world yawns
I woke up this morning to a lot of fawning messages from people in the blogosphere about the new Blog Council, founded by a dozen big companies that generally just don't have a clue about modern customer relations and marketing: AccuQuote, Cisco Systems, The Coca-Cola Company, Dell, Gemstar-TV Guide, General Motors, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Nokia, SAP, and Wells Fargo.
Let's read their press release (press release about a blogging group?) to get a sense of what they're doing:
"The Blog Council exists as a forum for executives to meet one another in a private, vendor-free environment and share tactics, offer advice based on past experience, and develop standards-based best practices as a model for other corporate blogs."My translation: "we're all clueless, but don't want anyone to realize just how unplugged our organizations have become from the world of "marketing 2.0", so we created a club so our ignorance can be shielded from public eyes."
Alright, that's probably a bit harsh, I admit, but having helped organize the terrific Blogworld Expo last month in Las Vegas, why weren't these companies there? We had over a thousand of the smartest trend-setting bloggers and new media people in the world all neatly in one place. That's how you learn, guys, from talking with the best in the business -- and everyone else -- not by hiring an expensive consultant to have discussions behind closed doors.
The Council is headed by Andy Sernovitz, formerly of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, an organization that also seems not to have realized that the power is with the people, the grassroots, and that "word of mouth marketing" is so darn ambiguous that it can describe just about anything anyone does, including buying coffee for a colleague or giving the boss a ride from the auto shop (I've written about this ambiguity before. See: Bogus word of mouth marketing projections).
Also worthy of note is that the blogcouncil site is ostensibly a blog (it lists "comments" and "trackbacks") but there is in fact no way to leave a comment that I can find, and the trackbacks count is clearly broken since I know of a number of blogs that are already pointing to their entries. Is this modern corporate "safe" blogging? And listing the author of each entry as "blog council" rather than individual contributors? These are worst practices, not best practices.
Don't get me wrong, though. I want to believe. I really do want to support the new Blog Council and do want to believe that large corporations like Coca-Cola should be involved in the blogosphere. I just think that the very structure of modern corporations, with their managing to quarterly results, CYA tactics and massive aversion to risk, is the very antithesis of blogging and any word of mouth anything. They're all conditioned (thanks to business school, and yes, I have an MBA so I know of what I speak) to control the message, which makes it darn hard to have anything interesting to say to the online community.
Indeed, as has been demonstrated time and again, it's Madison Avenue, specifically the small, nimble, edgy marketing and PR agencies that are really the only hope that large corporations have of getting involved in modern social media and the blogosphere in any meaningful -- and interesting -- manner. These agencies might stumble occasionally (as I have written about many times) but they're trying new things and they can afford to take risks in a way that larger corporations, publicly traded entities, simply cannot.
So what do you think? Is the Blog Council going to a milestone in the adoption of blogging and new media by major corporations, or is it a sleeper organization that's going to come and go, leaving behind a few press releases and a Web site that gradually fades away?
New Google iPhone interface: Nice, but...
Along with many other bloggers (hat tip to Mike Arrington, who broke the story on TechCrunch last night), Arik Hesseldahl over at BusinessWeek wrote in his Byte of the Apple blog that Google released a new iPhone interface to its apps last night. I'd have left the following as a comment, but, well, Arik, it appears that the BW blog system is busted (*) right now.
So here's my comment here instead:
It's nice, but they have a major problem in this ".0" release: the preferences don't let me say which of the apps I want to start out within, so every single time I want to get to the improved Gmail interface, I have to tap on "Gmail" on the top nav bar. Every time. Not good, chaps.If you have an iPhone, go to "http://www.google.com/m" for their mobile interface. Unfortunately (and this is another serious problem, chaps, since the iPhone also uses wifi when it can) it doesn't work with "https", so if you are on wifi, you're vulnerable to sniffers and other hacks. I hope this will also change ASAP.
(*) Arik, the error message I'm seeing is "Build error in template 'Comment Pending Template': Error in tag: Can't find included template module 'bloghead'". Not good!
Annoying Mac OS X Leopard Finder Stacks bug
Okay, I have to vent a bit. I download software from the net on my MacBook Pro and while I appreciate that Mac OS X keeps track and warns me before I run anything downloaded, what I don't appreciate is that the icon for the application starts out as a "don't run me" icon that's part of the system.
But, no, that's not the real problem. The real problem is that the system doesn't seem to know when it is safe to restore it to the regular icon, and given the way that Stacks works, it's really lame to have the "don't run me" icon staring me in the face from the Dock. Here, you can see what I mean:
When I click on it, you can more easily see what's going on:
This would be fine, except I've already launched and run VMware Fusion a couple of times, so the icon should have already been restored to its proper state.
Apple? When might we see this annoying bug squashed?
More audio content: I'm on Startup Story Radio!
A week or so ago, I had the pleasure of hanging out at the KKZN studios in Denver, Colorado with Rob McNealy of Startup Story Radio along with fellow guest Brian Baker of Hopscotch Technology, makers of the nifty Bob Screentime Controller.
If you've never been in a radio studio, here's what it looked like:
That's Brian on the left and Rob in the background.
(sorry for the photo quality, the iPhone didn't do so well in the low lighting)
Anyway, I've edited Rob's 50 minute show down to be just my own portion, which you can listen to here: Dave's Portion of Startup Story Radio.
if you'd rather be a purist and also listen to Brian talk about the Bob TV/computer control device, please check out the Clickcaster archive of our show, which aired on 11-24-2007.
Tip: Curious how I edited this audio segment? Check out my AskDaveTaylor entry on editing audio content with Audacity for full details.
Great documentary: In The Shadow of the Moon
Just a quick note for my readers: If you have any interest in the history of the Apollo missions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and what Tom Wolfe so eloquently called the right stuff in the novel of the same name, I can't speak highly enough of the movie In The Shadow of the Moon.
It's not that it's exciting -- in fact, in many spots I wish they'd used more footage (Armstrong taking the first step on the moon) and in other spots I wish they hadn't glossed over other topics (like the problems encountered by the Apollo 13 crew) -- but the focus on intimate interviews with the astronauts really gave me a sense of the excitement, the terror and the amazement of the launch, traveling in space, orbiting another planet and, yes, landing on the moon.
I've always been a supporter of the space program, actually, and in high school was probably one of the very few teenagers who was on the Space Shuttle (they call it the Space Transportation System inside NASA) news list. I also got the newsletters from the Voyager project as it zipped out of our solar system, starting with its launch in 1977. I still have them!
Geeky, I know, but I did end up declining a summer internship at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory when I was in High School because, well, it was too far to drive from our home in Agoura. I also applied to CalTech but ended up going to UCSD instead...
Anyway, if you're even a wee bit of a space geek, I strongly recommend In The Shadow of the Moon. Hearing the reminiscence of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Alan Bean, Eugene Cernan, Mike Collins, Jim Lovell, Edgar Mitchell, Harrison Schmitt, John Young and the rest of the Apollo team is terrific. In addition, Apollo 13 is a great story based around the actual Apollo 13 incident, certainly one that gives you a lot more insight into what happened!
Sloppy PR from Disney, of all companies
As you might know, I also run a popular parenting blog called, ingeniously enough, the The Attachment Parenting Blog, and among the quadzillion topics I touch on sporadically, I have written in the past about Disneyworld and about how much I enjoy the entire world of Disney theme parks, even as I cringe at their price.
Presumably that was enough for the public relations team at Disney's Disney Family.com to find me and send me a message asking me to help promote the new site. I'm a bit surprised to be queried by someone at Disney Internet Group (who knew they had "dig.com"?) but I'm more surprised at how sloppy their communique proves to be...
Continue Reading "Sloppy PR from Disney, of all companies"
Elsewhere in my
Latest Entries at
The Business Blog