Business News Politics

oh, the horror. (and lack of shock)

At least we’re consistent.

Via Jeff Jarvis, I found this article contrasting media coverage of the Anna Nicole Smith death versus coverage of Iraq. This echoes coverage of the Natalee Holloway ordeal.

The numbers are quite staggering:

On CNN there were 141 references to Anna Nicole and 27 to Iraq.
FOX NEWS weighed in at 112 to 33.
MSNBC took the cake with 170 to 24.

To spell this out: We’re currently in a bloody

Business Marketing

got beer? the federation of domestic beer manufacturers.

Probably like you, I just finished watching the Super Bowl. Among a generally average crop of commercials there were the typically funny beer commercials. But, if you’re like me, moments after you see one, you’ll laugh and then struggle to remember which brand it was for. Therefore I propose that the domestic beer manufacturers give up their individual campaigns, form a coalition and pool their spending into a “drink domestic beer” campaign. Keep the humor, but remove the pretense of it actually selling your brand. Think about it like a “Got Milk?” campaign.

This might not actually be quite as insane as it sounds.

2/27/13 – This might be exactly as insane as it sounds.

Business Marketing

gm & marketing. marketing? what’s that?

I preface this post with the caveat that we’re a huge GM family – both of my cars to date have been GM and almost everyone in my family buys American/GM. So this post is dripping with Love.

GM’s marketing “strategy” makes me want to bang my head into a wall. Strategy is in quotes, because I don’t think there is one.

The problem for American car manufacturers is actually pretty straightforward. GM’s problem is that a very large cross-section of America thinks they make really crappy cars. You say “GM” and they think of “care repairs”. And for good reason: Back in the 1980’s and early 90’s GM stopped

Business Personal

amazon missing the obvious (and important?)

Hi, my name is Surya and I have a problem. I order too much from Amazon. So much so, that all the books now dominate the walls of my apt.

Yet, Amazon also frustrates me to no end. When I buy a present for  for someone, say my 1 year-old nephew, the next time on the site my recommendations are filled with the latest Dora the Explorer and Wiggles items. If you

Business Misc

why is the wii so shocking?

I played the Wii at a friends house on Saturday and loved it. It made me think about why it didn’t come along sooner.

What makes the Wii great?

It’s flat-out fun. It doesn’t have the best graphics in video games. It’s not so immersive that you feel like you’re in another world. It wasn’t about playing others over the Internet. Those are the defining characteristics of the Xbox and Playstation.

Business Personal

why ‘the namesake’ is irritating me.

I don’t know anything about how to market a Hollywood movie. But I like to think I can spot an opportunity missed. Enter: The Namesake, the upcoming movie based on one of my favorite books.So here’s an open-letter to Mira Nair, the Executive Producers of The Namesake, and the marketing executives at Fox Searchlight. (If you know any of these people, please forward my angry missive on!) Begin:

Given that The Namesake is more art film than blockbuster, I get that we won’t see a lot of TV commercials. What I don’t get is why you’re not taking advantage of “social media” to market to the young, connected potential market. I don’t consider the current effort, 10-post-over-7-months “blog”,  as anything of substance. I can picture the executives sitting in their office:

Business Life

the universe revealed: puzzles vs mysteries

This blew my mind with its simplicity:

Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point and Blink) has another amazing article in The New Yorker. I’m calling it the article of the 10-day-old-year. He defends Enron’s ex-CEO, Jeff Skilling, by asserting that Skilling should not have been legally liable because he disclosed Enron’s sketchy bookkeeping in mammoth amounts of financial disclosures. Basically, Enron’s “deception” was hidden in the open and so they didn’t lie. Though the article is about Enron, it really isn’t.

The mind-blowing point is when Gladwell explains the difference between “puzzles” and “mysteries” using a distinction made by national-security expert Gregory Terverton. In a nutshell:

A puzzle just requires more information to solve. The article cites bin Laden’s whereabouts as a puzzle: All we’re lacking is information. The more information we have (for example, what city he is in monumentally narrows down our search) the easier it is to solve the puzzle. Or think of Wheel of Fortune: Each letter revealed makes the puzzle easier to solve.

A mystery requires analysis, judgment and experience. Fundamentally, a mystery has to do with uncertainties. As Gladwell puts it, mysteries don’t have “a simple, factual answer.” His example in the article is “what would happen in Iraq, post-toppling of Saddam Hussein?” 100 different people have 100 different assessments of what post-Iraq would be like. Simple, factual answer? No way. The example that popped to mind was the show House MD. While the information in the form of tests and investigation of the patient’s personal lives is absolutely needed and gathered—it’s the rigorous analysis and experience of House that cracks the nut. And true to form, there is almost always very strong dissent that his diagnosis and/or treatment is wrong and dangerous. That’s because these patients’ disorders are not puzzles, they’re medical mysteries requiring judgment. Medicine is firmly founded on the puzzle premise, which is why House is unique (and good television)—he also solves mysteries.

This is interesting to me, because I think we attempt to turn everything into puzzles– even the mysteries. An example would be any kind of major life decision: we cling to the notion that everything will be solved by one more piece of information. We delay decisions by weeks or months, claiming that we’re waiting to find out about X or Y. Instead, what we should be doing is spending serious time doing some soul-searching (another word for soul-searching: analysis) about what we really want, etc. Based on my personal experience, this is true for me. I’ve pinned my hopes of a clear decision on something a few weeks off or some  milestone. I would have been better off doing the analysis (soul-searching) immediately, because in most cases my decision would have been the same regardless of the new information. But as Gladwell states, we don’t like mysteries because they’re not simple, and like most things in life—we take the easy way out.

2/16/13 – I’m much less enthralled with Gladwell today. While I now find the divide between puzzles and mysteries a bit murky and potentially simplistic  (aren’t mysteries just really complex puzzles that could be broken down into much smaller puzzle pieces whereby additional information “solves” them and once all these puzzles are solved, the mystery is solved?), it’s still a really interesting concept. But, hey, if nothing else – we can watch Zero Dark Thirty and see Maya solve the mystery before our very eyes.

Business Politics Technology

how the Internet will rid the world of all evil…

The Internet will banish evil the world over. Slowly, but surely, it will march along and destroy the evil behaviors of corporations, organizations, governments and even individuals. The Internet saves all.

What am I babbling about? Connection & Emotion. At its most basic level, the Internet connects– connects you to news, weather, reference articles and most importantly, people. We connect through e-mail, myspace, instant messenger, google, flickr, blogs, etc. Connections matter because they have meaning. We care about the things that make us happy and love the most. The reason we care about them is because they have some real connection to our lives. That connection equals emotion.

But today we are without. Today, we’re stuck with facts and black & white. Today, the primary method of good-doing (and ergo, evil-ridding) happens through simple education. Education happens through TV, magazines, newspapers, and now the Internet. So here’s an article that made the rounds a few weeks back. A 41 square mile ice shelf broke off in the Canadian Arctic. That’s not a typo, a chunk of ice bigger than Manhattan. This story captivated public interest and spurred climate-change discussion. So, yeah, you see how it works today…people read this, get educated and than maybe actually change something. Yawn, right?

But the Internet will actually change the world because it will bring human emotion and value to life. That news article was very educational and interesting. But it was cold. Sterile. Detached. Now imagine if you could hear directly from someone who has visited that area a number of times. Who maybe lives close by– someone who has an emotional connection. Would reading the blog entry of someone who is actually harmed by the ice shelf breaking, move you more? Would it change this from a discussion about numbers, possibility and politics and make it a human discussion? If other people posted their personal pictures that really struck/shocked them: of bears drowning or cherry blossoms in NY blooming in winter, etc on Flickr– would that connect with you more?

Now, let’s take it up a notch:

A soldier dies in war. After Vietnam, our government learned that there is nothing that will so quickly turn the tide of public sentiment against a military action as the sight of dead and wounded American soldiers. Now imagine a myspace page of a fallen solider that is kept alive with comments by friends and family about his/her life. Think this keeps the very real human cost of war front and center in Americans’ minds? Imagine if a deeply unhappy solider in Iraq stationed in Iraq was so distraught he committed suicide. We’ve become desensitized to this, right? It might be just another page 10 article in the newspaper to us. But what if he posted his suicide note on MySpace first. Do you think that might strike a chord with the American people more

Business Technology

ridiculously amazing! (and no one cares?)

I want to call this a sea change. But it’s not. It’s more like discovering the sea AND finding a boat at the same time. The, this, that I’m talking about is the Internet and all of the ridiculous ways that it has changed the world. The Internet has allowed the average American (I’m thinking small here) to become someone amazing: the person they’ve always wanted to be. We are as close to the fulfillment of the American dream (the land of opportunity and all that) as at any point in history. Gone (or going away) are many of yesterday’s barriers to the best and brightest bubbling up. But the people who should care (and be exploiting it) the most, haven’t seemed to notice how it affects them.

If you’re amazing, the sky is the limit. Whether your talent is writing, broadcasting, being funny, drawing, designing, building things, teaching or whatever—the Internet has changed the rules of the game for you. Forever. The “game” of course being, how successful and fulfilling your life will be.

Have an eye for design? With millions of new websites popping up everywhere, there’s never been a better time. Take this brilliant guy from Ohio State University (I refuse on moral grounds to use call it ‘The’ Ohio State University). He’s an amazing example of the Internet at work. Ben Bleikamp has an eye for design and so he designed himself a blog. And when he had an idea for another site, well, he made it. He put up a link in case you were interested in his design services. You know where this is going. This 20 year old guy is bringing in cash while attending school full-time and doing what comes easy and naturally to him. It’s beautiful: the ruthless efficiency and power of the Internet at work. Oh yeah, and business is so good that Ben is turning away work. Oh, and he designed this site.

If you’re a writer, you’ve no doubt heard