But What If It Fails?

(originally posted on the Lithium Lithosphere at http://lithosphere.lithium.com/t5/Social-Customers-Matter/But-What-If-It-Fails/ba-p/33725)

I recently attended the annual Forrester Consumer Forum in Chicago. And, in usual fashion, I came away with a new outlook on my digital creativity.  Oh, I wasn’t in a rut… well, maybe a little.  And, considering the oodles of free time on my hands between 8am to 10pm, I figured I needed a fix beyond more caffeine on what I could do next.

As I was halfway thru the first day, lessons of an older time began to surface out of every conference session—starting, in fact, with the very first keynote.  James McQuivey, Ph.D. ,  Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester, relayed a story about an idea he proposed at an internal research meeting.   An idea that others perceived might not be successful.   Yes, a potential failure.

McQuivey pushed to have an iPad application created.  That certainly wasn’t a new idea.  The entire research team wanted the application, as there’s a general feeling that Forrester clients want easier access to published research on mobile devices and tablets.  The issue was—it had to be more complete…the mobile app team wanted more time, more features, and they needed proper resources to get the app ready.  McQuivey argued, just “get an application out that shows you the last 10 papers you’ve downloaded” (“Yes!” I replied to myself).

But, “No”.  The push-back:  Holy cow…what if doesn’t work?  What if no one likes it?  Read = what if my project is a failure?  McQuivey’s key point was “don’t try to get it perfect, get it out there and learn”.

In today’s hyper-sensitive, time-intensive world, who the heck has time for less than perfect?  Some might even call your project a failure.  It’s not comforting to put ourselves in a position of losing responsibility or even our jobs due to lack of performance, particularly when it may be an external/customer-facing program.  However, it’s a fairly well-known fact that great wins have often come as a result of learning from early losses.

There have been numerous articles on this topic.  One of the most popular articles was in BusinessWeek a few years ago called “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap”, by Doug Hall.  Mr. Hall states, “I am not encouraging you to fail. Rather, I am stating the fundamental truth that you can’t know the answers before you start. It’s foolish to assume you know things that it’s not possible to know.”

We’re not talking about “Enron”-type failures.  Like positioning your entire company’s market value on non-existent assets.  I’m talking about taking that leap into a major initiative to figure out what will work and what won’t.  After all, the worst that will happen is that you’re marketing at the same rate as anyone else.  If I don’t try, you know you can’t get ahead, and you’re limiting your ability to innovate.

THE QR PILOT

At the Forum, Lithium also staffed a booth on the exhibit floor.  We knew that this event would produce a steady stream of great visitors, and it did.  But, along with our sponsorship of the event, we also had an insert included in attendee materials.  So, we came up with the idea of handing out one of our most popular tchotchkes – the “Nation Builder” t-shirts in our favorite pan-tones.

To promote the t-shirt give-away, we included a QR Code on the ad insert (sample in orange).  If you scan the QR Code, it initiates an email with a pre-populated, subject line – “Reserve My T-Shirt, I am a size <enter size>.”

Upon clicking send, the email would go to marketing@lithium.com, and we would be able to identify the exhibit hall visitor using their email address.  The technology worked great.  And, while it would be quite tough to call this a raging success (there were less than 1% of the attendees that scanned and sent us an email), I wouldn’t call it a failure either.  Since there were a few responders, we can now walk away with a clear data point on whether or not this “works” or is even remotely useful for the attendees.

Thus, for every new idea or campaign, we can learn that:

  1. Finding the right way may be by first seeing the wrong way.
  2. A small success can be turned into a big success.
  3. A limited failure may end some ridiculous, time-sucking conversation that’s taken place over the last six months which can finally be put to grave (i.e. you can state this in the meeting without hurting anyone’s feelings—we tried it, it sucked, let’s move on.)
  4. You can make good ground on a major initiative and save the company thousands by not biting off more than you can chew.

THE OPPORTUNITY

If you have that inkling to launch that mobile initiative, create a new conversation lounge for your premier customers, build that partner network, the blog, the iTunes app, the event, the knowledgebase, or the customer experience you’ve stared at, talked about, but haven’t lifted, let’s give it a whirl—with the right dosage and expediency.

Oh, and you could fail and be successful simultaneously, which will always be better than not trying at all.

Warm wishes for your 2012 planning session and new customer experience ideas.  I’m off to flag down my CMO and see if my new campaign will reap a “you’re nuts!” response.  Then, possibly, I’ll know I’m on the right track.

LiNCing Revelations

I bolted from LiNC  (the Lithium Network Conference 2011 in San Francisco).  I’m sure like many others, I didn’t want to leave the LiNC fun, but it was time to get home and daylight was burning.  So, I walked up to Market St. and headed southwest from downtown San Francisco at BART speed.   And, I was overcome by the thoughts of meeting so many great people who are making great strides for their brands and pushing their careers forward.

I had planned a camping weekend with my son. It was with the Cub Scouts, a parent-child weekend at Camp Cutter Scout Reservation in the Santa Cruz Mountains.   I had already packed before I left for LiNC, so now all I had to do was get home and change from business casual to camp clothes.   Swapped out my slacks and dress shoes for blue jeans and hiking boots.  And, off we went on a short 75 miles journey up into the hills between Saratoga and Santa Cruz.

By 6pm Friday night, just 3 hours removed of the modern luxuries of the Intercon, I had traded in my city by the bay view to an immersion of tall pines, redwood trees, twigs, and dirt.   My mobile phone had no service.    My warm comfy bedroom was now a tent with sleeping bags and an air mattress (I did remember that).   And, quickly I found bug repellent for the early eve mosquitos and the eau de Cutters was in full stench.   I went to the restroom, affectionately called a “Latrine”, which was indescribably primitive.   I can tell you that it had a huge trench sink with one temperature control – cold water. Very cold water (more on that later).

boy scout emblem.jpg

After a few campsite games and introductions to other parents and young scouts in our campsite, we marched off to the lodge for dinner.

There was a huge kitchen and mess hall to feed the 100+ scouts under the age of 11 and 100 or so parents.  More adjustments for me…  Gone were the cloth napkins and silverware.  It was replaced with napkins that could barely dry a wet pinky, paper plates, and plastic utensils.   And, from premium bar to completely dry (scout camp rules).   Heck, 2 “dry” days was probably what the doctor ordered anyway.

And, by the time the whole dining hall broke out into a group song, my re-initiation to scouting was complete.  I had left behind the Lithium Nation, and now contentedly succumbed to the Scouting Nation.

Back at the tent after dinner and a small campfire, I played Texas Hold ‘Em with my son in the tent with my iPad (did you really think I’d leave that at home?).   It’s a heck of lot easier to play card games on an iPad, then trying to find a flat area in a tent to stack poker chips.
At promptly 7:45am Saturday morning, I was awoken by reveille.   It was foggy.  The tent was slightly damp and about 46° F outside.   We put a few layers of clothes and set out for a day of activities including BB Guns, archery, canoeing, and crafts. I drank coffee.  I hiked.   I even found a few minutes for a nap.

Each parent had to sign-up for one of the shifts in the kitchen.  I arrived at 11:45am and was handed a mop and bucket. I mopped about 500 sq. foot of the dining hall, washed huge pans, served pudding, and ate watermelon.  I felt good about my contribution and gladly complied with every request.    (I’m sure my boss is wondering what it’s like when I act like a good subordinate).

After dinner Saturday night, the whole camp came out for the ceremonial campfire.  It had been sunny most of the day, but it was really foggy now and becoming more windy and misty.   We were doing everything we could to stay warm.  I was able to convince my son and 3 other kids from our Den to lead one of the campfire songs.  It’s called the “Little Green Frog” song.  With 4 kids at my side, we had 200 people jumping up and down.  I was warm and could feel my toes for about 5 minutes.  I’ll show the song if you want, but you’ll have to do it with me.

After we lay down for the night, it clouded up.  It then started to rain.  Really rain.  Followed by a deep mountain fog.  I awoke around 6am Sunday to find my son and I’s sleeping bags soaked at the foot of the tent.  I had to move our shoes to keep them out of a puddle.   By 8am it was 42° F outside, we had packed most of our stuff and headed to the dining hall for some warm coffee and eggs.  As I was leaving the lodge to go back to our campsite to pack, I found something amazing.

IMG_0040.pngMany, many years ago, as a young scout, I participated in a Western Region conference. This was 10 scouting councils competing for the prestigious “Conclave Award”.   It was my first time at the event and we won, and I remember distinctly how much fun I had be part of a winning team and doing whatever I could.  Simply nailed to the wall near the main door, there it lay.

The winning plaque from 1981.

This was just the reminder I needed about what I had experienced at LiNC – how accomplishment can exceed the elements.  I’m talking about both the accomplishments by Lithium customers and all of the contributions by Lithium employees to make this a great annual event in San Francisco this year.  Along, with the inspirational push from Coach VanDerveer.

Thank you to everyone who came, participated, spoke, questioned, blogged, tweeted, ate, drank…even if it was just for one or two sessions.  This was a highly memorably event and I really enjoyed meeting everyone.   Can’t wait til next year.

For now, back to reality.

Is It Too Late to Post an iPad Review?

I figured since Apple announced there’s 2 Million iPads sold, perhaps it’s time to write a review.  Odd to admit…I now own my first Apple product ever – a 32 Gb iPad (non 3G version).

Yes, I’ve been affected by my iPad ownership.   (1) I’m no longer greeted with the usual “Hi Dad, how was your day”, when I get home from work.  It’s now “Hi Dad, where’s your iPad?”.  (2) I can leave my 6 lb laptop at my desk as I run off to back-to-back meetings.  I have quick access and ability to answer email, see my calendar, VPN, and jump on the internet – way better than having my 3G/WiFi mobile phone.  (3)  I temporarily look hip on BART – no very easy for me to do!  I say temporarily because they will become the norm for BART riders, particularly when the WiFi on BART improves.  (4) I’m no longer envious of Kindle owners as there’s an app for that.

Would the 3G option be nice to have?   Yea perhaps, but I have a 3G BlackBerry that’s of course way more portable and I don’t necessarily want to tow my iPad everywhere.  WiFi is becoming available pretty much everywhere you go, thus it’s totally sufficient.  Even better if you own (or able to obtain) one of the Verizon Broadband/WiFi Hubs.

WHAT I LIKE

Form factor.  It’s way better for after dinner, weekend breakfast table reading and in work meetings.  It’s simply a less intrusive internet appliance.  I predict v2.0 will have carve-outs on the sides for easier hand grip.

Educational programs for all aged kids.  The (free and purchasable) library of reading, spelling, math, science, music, and many other important learning aids makes the iPad an excellent home schooling center, particularly here as the kids start summer.  Set them up with 15 minutes of studying for every 15 minutes of game playing.   And, all aged kids including toddlers will be able to pickup games quickly with minimal instructions even if they are unable to read.  It’s amazing to watch kids figure out the games so easily.  I can’t even keep up with my son on the Snowboard game.

Power – battery consumption.  Very good.   It lasts all day.  Only downside is that based on the family usage, I do need to charge it daily.

200+ Free Applications.  Not all of them have annoying ads, but many do, which I subsequently delete after testing them out.

Newspaper and Media.   I have the free NY Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Mashable iPad applications and use SFGate.com from the Safari web browser.   This is plenty for me to read everyday.    While it’s excellent that so many magazines have made convenient iPad apps, it’s not necessary to buy them unless you already subscribe and you want another mode to read.  Go ahead and kill the home delivery service if you go that route.   Save the environment – the paper and the gas for the paper delivery to get to your house.   I don’t see this as a savior for the magazine and newspaper industry, although I would really like to know when ESPN The Magazine will be available on the iPad.

THE BAD AND UGLY

No Flash.  Come on…this is just silly.  Makes web browsing unbelievably painful.   No hulu.com – which would be an awesome app on the iPad.  Apple is unbelievably lucky that YouTube doesn’t use Flash.  It’s just the running failure of Apple to be so closed-minded about this, and also means it will never be as pervasive and accepted as Microsoft, Google and Linux are.

Price.  If only the iPad came with a quality case – currently a 3-4 week backorder on the Apple and BestBuy web sites and at $40.  I’ve tried the other covers and their strangely insufficient as compared to the Apple one.   If Apple include a quality cover and a $100 iStore gift card, there would probably be 4 million iPads in circulation — just sayin…

Internet Poker.  All of the top properties need a client app and use flash.  No way that iStore can have a gaming app for these offshore enterprises.   US Government is way too stupid to figure out how to manage and tax the online card gaming industry, so they are offshore rolling in un-taxed cash.   And, the iStore can’t facilitate an “illegal” operation.

Apps Store.  I certainly appreciate the fact that someone is building an app and they want to sell/license it.   But, what happens when you buy a $5 game and then stop playing it after a month.  It’s like burning money, and I don’t enjoy that.  Be great if there was a trade-in/trade-up policy.  Unlikely.

Keyboard.  Great for quick notes and entering your password.  Way too incomplete to use for constant typing.   The iPad docking station solves this problem – a mere $69.  Note that I’m wrote this blog from a laptop.

Screen.  You’ll see that after 30 minutes of activity, your fingerprints will be all over it.  After the kids use it, it take a good wipe to clean off.  Of course, screen covers and glare reduction films are now available, but it seems the only ones people like are $30.  I have to clean the screen about 5 or 6 times/day.

Fake Demand.  It’s amusing how Apple seems to act like they’re continually out of stock of everything.  With all the supply chain optimization techniques out there, there’s NO excuse for having a delay to purchase the iPad and a 3-4 week backorder on accessories.  Oh, sure it used to be a brilliant marketing scheme, but you ain’t foolin me.  It’s nothing but an old joke now.

Yes, this $600+ device has changed my outlook on internet appliances and convenience.  I really enjoy the iPad.   If you can spare the cash and keep your kids from fighting over it, you will enjoy it too.   And, you don’t mind dumping another $100 to $200 in accessories  and sought after apps.

Quick Economic Recovery Optimism Wanes

Anyone else caught up in an amazing whirl-wind of seemingly endless new piles of idunnowhat since Jan 4?   Hard to believe a month of 2010 has seemed to just jam on by.

Whether you had the last 2 weeks of ’09 off or tried to polish as much as possible before year end, almost everyone I’ve talked to has seen an onslaught of renewed vengeance into business activity that seemed to be paced with undeniable optimism.  The pains of ’09 are behind us, right?  Er, at least that’s what we thought.   We were all immensely excited to move beyond the last year of the decade.   The holiday season seemed to be filled with hope that at long last the recession was ending.   And, 2010 will be filled with glorious growth and the taste of prosperity.

Brace yourself for more ’09
When Jan 2010 started, it appeared that everyone had quickly forgotten about ’09.   And, for good reason.   Last year was challenging in many, many ways.   A new year brings renewed budgets, a chance to re-start, a chance to reach back to those contacts that said “yea, let’s touch base in January”.   What’s transpired so far appears to be an over-flowing bucket of messages, requests, schedules, deadlines, budgets, and most important — defining and delivering on our target goals.  This is testing everyone’s ability to get organized, to be organized, and the realization that not much has changed.   I am also reminded that at the end of the day our schedules are really dictated by our networks of contacts, family, and business events and rarely by ourselves.  It’s really hard to control.   What ever happened to those days when I had time to blissfully fall asleep on the couch in front of the basketball game?  Those seem like decades ago.  Oh…it was.

Look at what we’ve seen in 2010 already:

  • Federal budget deficit will be worse in 2010.  Now estimated $1.6Trillion.  Up from $1.4 Trillion in ’09.  Disgusting.
  • Transit agencies fighting to close budget shortfalls.   In the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve already heard woes from BART, Muni, and Caltrain.  I’m sure there’s many more metros and cities in the same boat.
  • Layoffs and restructuring.  Chevron, Verizon, Walmart, and Johnson & Johnson have all announced layoff plans in Jan. 2010.
  • Current unemployment rate is 9.7 (December ’09).  There were increases in all 50 states in the last month of the year.
  • Live events canceled, postponed.  2010 will be filled with inconsistencies.  some events that will trigger renewed hope;  Other events  you’ll be caught asking yourself  “how did I ever get involved in this?”
  • The Dow closed the year (Dec. 31) at10,428.05 and NASDAQ was 2,269.15.   By January 31, it’s 10,067.33 for the Dow, and 2,147.35 for NASDAQ.  Investors are not exactly oozing with consistent confidence.
  • There’s still a war in Afghanistan, Mr. President.

OK, enough of the doom and gloom
Yea, I had to dig deep here, but let’s look at some areas that are looking good in 2010.

  • Apple.  Stock (AAPL) at all-time highs.  Cool consumer electronics are continuing to be the rage.  And, for a few hundred dollars, people are willing to try almost anything Apple.
  • Venture capital improving and business results stabilizing.  Upstream has received $75Million in venture capital.   Ford reports strong January sales (could be due to Toyota’s accelerating disaster).   UPS beat expectations, which shows packages are on the move and internet sales are continuing to grow.   Expect more turn-around news in the areas of home purchasing and financing.
  • Businesses are adopting social marketing into their operations and not just using the free stuff.  Real $ being spent, department resources being re-shaped.  This isn’t an after-thought anymore of some rogue employees.  It’s mainstream and if you ain’t doing it or not supporting the efforts, you’re losing out to your competitors.  Big time.
  • Many green businesses are thriving.  Great source of jobs, economic growth, and investment into the future.
  • Microsoft Office 2010 is in Beta – that should solve a few issues, right?   Oh, possibly negated by introducing a million new Windows bugs and 100 security patches.

Personal brain hygiene perhaps
Do you really feel you can accomplish everything on your plate by just coming in and grinding it out like you’ve done for the last 30 days?  I want to suggest a few ideas that might get you back on track.   Sure, it can’t change the deficit or solve the war.   It can’t balance an ill-allocated municipal budget.   But, it will make you feel better and more productive.

5 things you need to do.

  1. Clean up. Take a look at the papers and magazines on your desk.   Shuffle them into 1 neat pile and set it in the corner.   Check back in a week.  If you haven’t touched the pile, recycle it.  You’ll probably never have time to read them this year.
  2. Organize your inbox.  Find a 3 hour window on your calendar next week.   Block it off.   And book yourself a conference room regardless if you live in a cube or an office.  No one bothers you in a conference room — they think you’re in a meeting.  While you’re at it, turn off your mobile phone, and log out of social networks — particularly Facebook and Twitter.  You’ll survive.  At the end of your 3 hour one on one meeting, write down the 10 most important items you’ll work on next.
  3. Plan a vacation with family or friends.   Even if only for 1 nite.  Perhaps you went away at end of December and came back to work and it’s been go-go-go.   You need something to look forward to.
  4. Stay focused on value-add vendors.   This is a two-fold suggestion.  It means #1 – shortlist your vendors that are viable and let the rest go, and #2 – make a decision, sign agreements, generate POs, build a plan, and start executing.   Everyday you postpone is 1 more day you don’t have a solution and won’t be addressing your MBOs.
  5. Attend a seminar outside of your business domain.  Perhaps you have a hobby or new interest.  Find a local event or seminar and make plans to go.  Meet some new people and get your mind on something fresh.

Worth considering?   Any other ideas that are personally helping you?   Or, do you believe 2010 will be way easier than ’09?

I have no doubts we will exit 2010 in a far more prosperous situation than ’09 and way beyond ’08.   Until then, address your own productivity now…it’s only going to get harder.

Time to Pay the Twitter

That’s crazy to pay for free service.  Yes, I agree.  Call it what you will.  But, everyone *and* your mother is on Twitter.  O K, not everyone.   And, not everyone’s mother.  But, high probability the person in front of you at the supermarket is on Twitter.  Meanwhile, the conversation of Twitter’s “service up-time” or lack thereof, revenue model, and competition is on the rise.

I didn’t always think this way.  If you asked many of many friends and business acquaintances, they will tell you that I was once a strong Twitter opponent.  Yes, just months ago I could be caught saying “it’s just a passing fad”, “no one really cares except those deep inside the echo chamber”.   Now, it seems the whole world’s in *that* chamber.  I’ve gone from “twitter is a waste” to “twitter is somewhat useful” to “having a little fun on twitter” to today — “twitter would be better if I paid for it”.

I’m actually telling Twitter “go ahead and charge me”.  I’m not sure if the Twitter founders and advocates are pumping their fists screaming “yes” or “dear god — you’re missing the point”.

Let’s consider a few facts.

  • 90% of Twitters content is generated by 1-2% of the registrants.   The huge mass of folks that tweet less than 10 times (i.e. sign up and tune out) is staggering.  Just do a search on “Patricia Smith” reveals that after you get through the top 20 contributors, dozens of Patricia Smiths with less than 10 followers and haven’t tweeted in months.
  • Spam and follow-bots are increasingly annoying.  15% of Twitter traffic, according to security expert Alexandru Catalin Cosoi of BitDefender, as quoted in The Globe and Mail.  Seeing a new follower like @girliej6j6 who’s following 20 times more people than are following them.  Weak.
  • The number of times Twitter is inaccessible due to Twitter server overload is majorly frustrating.  Yes, you know.  You’ve even tweeted that Twitter is twimbelling.twitter-addicts1249598011
  • More than 40% of all tweets are “pointless babble.” That’s from a study released this past month by San Antonio-based marketing firm Pear Analytics.  The study, co-authored with research firm TNS, also shows that 30% of users are tweeting to interact with family, 30% connect with celebrities, and 24% interact with other bloggers.  Because there’s no fee “per tweet”, to follow a friend, colleague or industry specialist, the model succumbs to “you should try my awesome spaghetti and meatballs recipe”.
  • Anyone ever tried to contact Twitter support.  ‘Nough said.
  • Twittter search stinks.  A royal piece of crap.   Hence, why you’re using third-party tools.  Wouldn’t it be nice if these services were seamlessly integrated?  True plug-ins.  Not apps.   (Think: native salesforce.com Appxchange.)  It would be so much easier and better experience.
  • Instantaneouness.  Yes, a new word for real-time, and where else can you get speedy answers?  Confirm an earthquake or major emerging world or local event.  Get a referral or recommendation faster on the Twitterer network.  And, hence the value differentiator between Twitter feeds, and Google, which is best for searching archives (things more than 4 hours old).   Yes, an indirect plug for why some enjoy Facebook too.

What I find most strange is that Twitter has a value of $441 million to $589 million, according to a report by an independent research firm co-founded by financial world celebrity Michael Moe.  So, it has about a 10x of $55M invested to date.  And, no revenue model.

It’s certainly against the norm for social networks to charge a fee.   Social networks seem to enjoy leveraging the old radio and TV model.  An annoying, content-based ad network.  But, I like satellite and internet, commercial-free radio and I’m willing to pay for it.   Anyone who has SiriusXM knows what I’m talking about.

Twitter isn’t purely a social network.  Maybe it’s actually useful and worth a small fee to improve the service.  Like any other brand, product or service I believe in, I’d like an easy way to impact and improve it.  You know, really be a customer.  When you get something for free, you’re not really a customer.   You are servants to whatever policies are set.  Businesses with paying customers are fixed to higher standards.   Notice how Twitter and Facebook need to keep issuing “terms of use” statements.

So, you would benefit from this model:

  • Everyone would have a verified account.  Twitter would be accountable.
  • User experience would improve with a single interface that has all your favorite integrated tools and plug-ins.  Furthermore, users would have more control over the views, compatibility, and features.
  • Porn (and other stalking advertising-type followers) would be significantly reduced – as they would have to pay to play.   In fact, Twitter could remove those accounts/users entirely.  If they object, put them in their own “room” so to speak and then if you want to follow and be followed by those types of entities, it’s your choice.  Sure, you can add a block to your account, but you still have to review each request for legitimacy.
  • Search would work.  I know there’s excellent third party products, but I’d much rather a self-contained accessible system.
  • Improvements and application usage would be driven by how customers want to use it and ability to provide innovative feedback.
  • Better mobile apps.

Making the brands pay for Twitter won’t work.  There are far too many folks out there with larger footprints than a lot of brands.  And, what it I RT (re-tweet) what my company posted, are you gonna charge for that?   There’s no way to segment the payment model.   I do agree that brand (corporate accounts) should pay a larger fee than individuals, but still advocating payment from everyone.

Twitter has been far from consistent on this topic. Biz Stone recently reiterated that Twitter would not charge users for existing usage habits; but, the company plans to launch a set of premium services, such as more detailed analytics or deeper CRM services, for which companies using Twitter may be willing to pay. See article Twitter to Remain Ad-Free launch a revenue model.   But, CEO Evan Williams stated a year ago that the largest revenue upside will come with brands being charged for access.   Biz Stone now says “it might be hard to tease out who is using the service professionally and who is using it for personal reasons, and then charge them for it. So the idea is to build a set of features that people are willing to pay for.”   Aha.

So, if Twitter costs money, we will all start migrating to a new free system, and Twitter will die a slow, painful death.  Perhaps.  But, the new system will hit the same roadblocks after awhile, i.e. where’s the revenue model.   And, will they be able to raise $50Million to invest in the infrastructure to run it and build technology relationships?   Meanwhile, Twitter can be working on harnessing their true advocates that see value in the connections.  The conversations.  The news feeds.  The recommendations.   Etc.  Etc.

Competition is coming for Twitter.   I doubt Microsoft will sit on the sidelines forever with MSN Networks and watch someone else get market share.  It wasn’t that long ago that MySpace was dominant and seemed untouchable.  Now, we only seem to talk about Facebook.   It could just as easily happen to Twitter.

Yahoo has launched a microblogging service that emulates Twitter. It’s called Yahoo Meme, and it was launched in English in early September.  Similar versions have been available in Spanish and Portuguese for a few months.  Yahoo Meme allows users to post photos, videos, and other content with short descriptions. Users also follow each other in a fashion similar to Twitter. The company says the goal of Yahoo Meme is to allow people to share content without having to join a specific social networking site. However, users do have to be registered on Yahoo.

All I’m saying is that I’m ready to pay $25 or $30/year for a better experience, reduced threats of spam attacks, and protection of my online persona and connections.  Net net.  Something will have to happen. Charging an annual rate for member usage would create instant, recurring revenue, cut down on the “my meatballs are delicious” tweets, and improves the service immensely.  Note the word “service”.

Alternatively, what if Twitter returned their VC money and made it opensource shareware.  With volunteer donations.  We could develop a diverse, superuser community of top social media influencers, which would manage the direction, and put the passionate developers together on one platform.

OK.  Back to more productive online activities.  Like studying up on changes I need to make to my fantasy football teams.   BTW, fantasy sports is another social network I pay real $ to subscribe (and also littered with banner ads that my eyes have been taught to skim over).

In Obsolete Terms

With the kids getting older, I’m now realizing how many things they have access to today that I never did at that age.  It’s amazing to think that whenever they see a computer they assume it’s connected to the internet.  They have email and collaborative internet games like Toon-Town whereby they can play against other connected kids and siblings.   They have hand-held computers they can play in the car that sure beat my car-trip days of finding the A-B-C’s on road signs.

Some technology like compasses and barometers, which have been around for hundreds of years, haven’t been totally replaced.  But, we now use more pleasantly-reliable technology like GPS in-car, mobile phone, etc.   We’ll still use terms like “what direction are we traveling”, so that’s a bit easier to explain.

However, what will be more difficult to explain is how the latest advent of technology replaced something the kids will never know about.  Where terms and phrases will become obsolete.   Here’s a few of my favorites:typewriter

Honey, Where’s the Liquid Paper? – This not only meant for fixing a written word, but also it fixed misspellings on the typewriter (before the advent of IBM Selectric which had an special editing type ribbon to erase misspellings.  Jeez, what an amazing technology that was.  Hours of savings and cleaner, type-written results.  I’m sure if I put a typewriter on the kitchen table (I don’t have one in the house), the kids would scream in unison “what the heck is that?”  Ironically, you can find pictures and the history of typewriters on the internet.

Go adjust the Antenna – Perhaps this is where Ro-Sham-Bo was invited and the loser had to get off the couch and adjust the antenna while everyone shouted out the changes in the reception.  Do you remember get excited about going to Radio Shack and your dad buying a state-of- the-art antenna that you just couldn’t wait to wrap the wires around screws on the back of the TV?   And, then of course the local channels would come in clearer, but you still had to adjust the antenna as soon as you changed the channel — the knob on the front of the TV of course.   When was the last time you saw one of those huge antennas on top of someone’s house?   Maybe only in Des Moines.

I’ll Go Get the Paper – Home delivery of the newspaper has been a staple almost my whole life.  Even in college, I had the Chronicle delivered to my apartment.  Now, I can get the Chronicle on-line and the need to pay for a home delivered paper virtually vanished overnight.  Obviously, no surprise almost every newspaper company is out of business or near bankruptcy as they didn’t adjust their business models fast enough to align with people’s changes in reading habits.

I’ll Bring My Polaroid – Remember about 25 years ago being the life of the party by being able to take instant photos and then passing them around.   Shaking them in your hand to dry after taking a photo and watching the images come to life.  So to speak ’cause no matter what, they’re still fuzzy with mis-matched colors.   Today, of course, it only takes a $20 (or free) mobile phone to take a digital image and send it or post it to anyone in the world.  Polaroid isn’t exactly out of business, but just another vendor in the digital camera market.

rotary phoneCheck Out Our New Rotary Telephone – Do you remember being worried that a number had too many “9’s” in it, or were you excited to whip the entire dial around and watch it spin back.  While we still use the term “I’ll go dial that number”, the word dial has taken on new meaning.  In reality, to dial – means to regulate, select or tune in.   Sure, that’s what we’re doing, but it’s not the result of using a circular device or knob.  I could imagine my kids reaction if we brought a phone like this into the house.

I Got a Deal on These Cassette Tapes – I still remember paying premium dollars to get blank tapes to record my records to play them in the car.  What a pain that is compared to today.  We would spend entire weekends playing albums and writing down the songs on little cards that fit inside the cassette tape boxes.  The iPod changed all that, but so did the ability to cut a CD.  The only thing the kids would associate tape with is an art project or fixing stuff around the house.

As I think of new ones, I’ll add to this post.   What terms or appliances are obsolete in your house?

Bluetooth is Not a Public Restroom Enabler

When your driving your car, it’s important to use a Bluetooth or some type of hands-free device.  Not only a law in many states, but miles safer for all those millions of you distracted drivers.  But, sitting in your car, you’re commuting or doing errands, you can chit-chat on the phone to your heart’s content, chuckle out loud, whatever you wanna say.   Traveling in the car is always a great time to catch up with friends, family or urgent business messages in a private setting.  So, much usefulness there.    And, since you’re alone many times in the car, no big deal to gab away as you weave your way thru traffic. 

Bluetooth headsets do appear lame in restaurants and bars.  Do people feel some uber importance by sitting at a bar with phone hanging on your ear?  If you do, seek help.   No one cares.  Furthermore, no one wants to hear your conversation about your spouse’s inadequacies indoors.   If you *must*, take the call outside.  Please!

Pale in comparison though to the one area I really can’t comprehend  —  someone in middle of a conversation or otherwise using the restroom, yip-yappin’ away on their no-cell-phone-signmobile phone or hands-free device.  You know, this is disgusting…I was completely torn on actually writing  a blog about this.  Not only because of the non-PC nature, but I’m still stunned that people actually think this etiquette is rational and acceptable.

Absolutely not.  In the same vein of  “Shut up and drive” or  “Take your conversation outside”.  Please don’t use mobile phones in public restrooms.  It’s just rude.   While not a safety issue (unless you have a tendency to drop your phone occasionally) and while not in need of any legislation yet, have some courtesy to the person you’re speaking with let alone others using the restroom.   Sure, play games on your phone, listen to music if you have an extended restroom stay (in silent mode or with headphones), but what makes you so damn busy, you can’t take a break from your digital world?   How about a little private SMS – “I’m busy right now.  Call u back”?

If you think public restrooms are an acceptable place for a phone conversation, let’s hear why?  If you agree with me, like to hear from you too!

Either way, perhaps you’ll think twice the next time you need to borrow someone’s phone.