June 30, 2008

Search: Game Over?

Filed under: Digital Distribution, Information Supernova — Robert John Ed @ 3:36 pm

John Battelle wants to call the fight for search. Google wins.

Well, in the short term he is absolutely right. No one will catch Google in terms of search currently.

The problem is that companies should be built for the long term. Sears and Roebuck was number 1. They started out selling watches to a rail road operator. They revolutionized distribution for the small business after figuring out there was money to be made by direct catalogs. Where are they now? Well they’re a brick and mortar. Brick and mortars everywhere have been undercut by Amazon, etc. A new type of distribution model. This is a cycle. It’s actually ironic that companies such as Sears evolved to build brick and mortars everywhere and were undercut by a new medium, just as catalogs had propped up their model.

The list of companies that had their day in the sun is numerous. Xerox, Apple and a few others have gone up and down. Most companies, once they hit their evolutionary speed bumps, don’t come back. Microsoft, to me, looks like they are facing some huge problems for the next 10-20 years. The internet is still in a very evolutionary time. Cloud computing and freeware are huge issues for them in the long term.

The point here is that nothing is over. It’s never over. No matter how huge your monopoly, no matter how sexy your gadget, share of wallet, mind share, positioning, market share, etc. IT’S NEVER OVER!

Companies realize this. Yet they can’t predict the future. Search will evolve. The way we search will evolve as the internet evolves. It will simplify, manipulate based on our preferences, evolve to be more useful. I’m not saying that Google won’t be on top of this. But they have to be aware that in business, there is no “game over.” It is an unending race with constantly changing terrain. You either have the lead or you don’t.

For now, they’ve got it.


Transitions Within Companies

Filed under: Human Relations — Robert John Ed @ 3:16 pm

I work for a relatively small company (and not for much longer). I’ll probably do some consulting work in terms of web site PPC ads, blogging and a few other things afterward, but it will be minimal. So, literally in a handful of days I’ll be gone. Near completely.

And although I’ll always be happy to help with anything that isn’t picked up on or completely understood, there is a big transition to be done. Chances are things will change a lot. Whether they change for the better is the responsibility of the company and those who run it.

What I wonder about is how many of the things that were in the works will fall through the cracks. What direction does a company take with a new person? Skill sets, whether improved upon, lateral or lesser than, obviously differentiate with any new people. So how can a small company regulate the focus and direction of an upcoming candidate? Is it even a good idea to do so? Would it possibly stifle their creativity and previous experience? Lots of questions.

I think this kind of situation really points out the need for management that has strategic goals laid out very plainly, with tactical initiatives to back them up. It also shows the need for human resources. Good HR people understand the needs of the departments they are hiring for. There are many of people that could be put into a position, but much fewer who will thrive based on what the company actually needs. I think previously I didn’t understand the necessary intricacy of HR; this whole situation is really opening my eyes.

June 28, 2008


Filed under: Digital Distribution — Robert John Ed @ 10:22 pm

The sheer unadulterated joy of South Park:

View all the episodes free.

There is a lot up in the air with this sort of thing. Hulu is looking like it did things right by getting content and building an advertising system around it. That is just one person’s opinion, but it seems obvious to me that building advertising abilities into content systems on the internet is necessary for the content development. Conversely, Youtube can’t seem to make money, despite all of the traffic it garners.

These content providers need to be able to generate revenue. People who use the internet have a misguided sense of entitlement to content, including television shows, movies, music and all kinds of other things. Now I’m not advocating that we should have to pay for the content individually, but a system for monetizing content is necessary for producers.

Hell, even those South Park episodes have advertising at the start of them.

But there is a flip side to the coin. Many artists and content producers are giving away that product as a means to market themselves. Authors, musicians, film producers and the like are all giving away their products on the internet. Where’s the value? Well for musicians, building a fan base of a truly dedicated 10,000 is probably enough to make a good living. And finding the people to populate that number is the hard part. So giving away the music to those who want to hear it can work. Works the same for authors, although it’s much more difficult (last I checked no one reads any more). But does this idea work for video? Maybe for the actors/actresses in the video, but I’m yet to see producers really do well. I’m near positive there are many examples that prove me wrong; but my general thinking is that it won’t scale with video.

Giving away video (although awesome for me) won’t provide the best content in the long run. And so it may be a problem. We will need to monetize internet video, but how? I have no idea. I don’t want to pay for it, though an advertising situation isn’t something I’m completely opposed to. Luckily, as of yet, this isn’t my problem.

June 27, 2008

Last Official Day

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 8:22 pm

Today was my last “official” day at my job. I’ll actually be coming in a few days in July to finish up designing a website, orchestrating a new catalog and a new product launch; but for the whole of it, my time at the first job after college is drawing to an end.

I’m somewhat ambivalent to the whole situation. It is incredibly exciting to be preparing for school once more, there are so many opportunities and things to accomplish. Meeting new class mates, developing additional skills, case competitions, student organizations and studying overseas (sweet merciful awesome let this happen.) There is no doubt in my mind this will be an unbelievable opportunity and life altering experience.

Yet, moving on has some negative connotations for me as well. The company I work for didn’t have a marketing department before I started (or for a while afterward) and so everything that is in place now had to be constructed from scratch. So it occurs to me that I may never have the chance to build something like this again (though it’s certainly not out of the question). Also, I feel like the company is primed for growth and development exponentially in the next few years. It’s a bummer to not necessarily be part of that new growth. Seeing something through to the end is very important to me, and that’s simply impossible in many career situations. People don’t spend 40 or 50 years with one company any more, for good reason.

In a few weeks or months, none of this will mean much. But today, today another thing altogether.

I’ll end with this quote from Anatole France:

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

June 26, 2008

100 Posts. Woot.

Filed under: Blog Explanations — Robert John Ed @ 5:34 pm

So after a glance at yee old dashboard. This post commemorates 100 posts.

Looking over the last three months, it seems the amount of posts is going up slightly, this month will end with more than the first two. Not sure what that means, if anything. I recall when I was in kindergarten and the teacher asked us to make something out of 100 pieces of anything. I chose M&M’s and wrote out the letters “100” in big block form. That day was oh so sweet as we rode the bus home and everyone wished their art was made of candy. I don’t recall sharing.

Is today as sweet? Well, no. I just made a microwave lasagna lunch drown in Culligan output.

But, yeah, 100 posts. :-)

Disposition and Dat Position

Filed under: Marketing Philosophy, Personal Branding — Robert John Ed @ 4:13 pm

Ever more it strikes me the importance of being socially able. I know many, many people who are introverted. They are usually more than cool; but most people will never know.

I was quite introverted at one point as well. At some point during college everything clicked. I realized how that sitting in my room listening to I Am A Rock wouldn’t get me what I wanted. And despite my love of literary pursuits, human interaction far supersedes those novelties.

In marketing, communications are prerequisite to success. Working within the intricate teams, communication is the oil that keeps the motor running smoothly. To be understood and understand others is paramount. It does not matter how intelligent you are. It does not matter that you are a savant gifted beyond all measure.

This is ballet, not golf.

I also think that as a person becomes more successful, they let their tendencies revert to their more natural perspectives. I believe Mark Cuban refers to it as “Fuck You Money.” With good reason. At that point you don’t have to answer to anyone (maybe a boss but this is nominal) except yourself. So keeping that in mind, I think the best time to really judge someone and their true character is after they have “made it.” Do they continue to be outgoing and put forth an affable disposition? Or do they blow you off and stop caring? Money is not everything. In fact, in the end, money isn’t much of anything.

What kind of person are you? Does that fact change as you garner wealth? Worth thinking about.

PS You should be thinking of that awesome Duck Tales theme song by now.. Uh Wooo Ooooh.

PPS WordPress’ picture function isn’t text wrapping correctly. It drives me absolutely nuts even to look at the way the pictures have been formatting in these posts. /*Shudder*.

June 25, 2008

So Easy A Caveman Can Do It

Filed under: Digital Distribution, Marketing Tactics — Robert John Ed @ 1:34 pm

Ah, those lovable losers, the cavemen.

Last night while watching the History Channel (a SWEET documentary on Chinese naval construction and their historical prevalence) a commercial came on. Though it didn’t seem like a commercial at first. It was three minutes long, and starred the caveman from the Geico commercials; but it wasn’t a pure commercial. It seemed more like a sponsorship, and was even self deprecating at times.

It was something of a coop between History and Geico. Check it out:

This was a good tie in. It caught my eye. The reason I bring this up is that I feel that commercials/advertising is going to make big leaps toward this paradigm in the future. Especially with the proliferation of interactive media.

Brand building with sponsorship/ads that pull together the synchronous aspects of the ad and the content may be the way to engage us fickle internet goers.

June 24, 2008

Verifying Theory vs. Applicable Utility

Filed under: Emo (EQ), Marketing Philosophy, Personal Branding — Robert John Ed @ 5:51 pm

A very smart friend of mine, Jesse Kluver (no online presence except Facebook) recently sent me an email with a very good argument about emotional intelligence. I know very well I’ve dealt with this topic copiously in the recent months, but it warrants the attention. Here’s my review of Daniel Goleman’s book. Since then, I’ve had a quick talk regarding the validity EQ with a very smart consultant (the beginnings of which are here) and read some articles on it as well. Jesse is extremely well versed in psychology and philosophy.

What he presented that emotional intelligence (as well as the Mozart Effect and Multiple Intelligences) is argued to not be backed well by empirical evidence by one academic. The link is to a long article, but you can skip to the EI aspect. Then another academic writes that the initial paper is somewhat correct, but misses some empirical studies that have been done more recently.

At the end of this, what I take from it is that Emotional Intelligence is a theory without great evidence to support it. Similarly, MANY different theories within all kinds of sciences are disputed and attempted to be discredited; for good reason. The truth is that even within our advanced abilities, there are no absolute truths.

We also had the following exchange (excerpts):

Jesse Kluver: These ideas carry VERY little weight in academic circles, but they are VERY popular with businessmen and non-academics. Do NOT be fooled. They are deleterious to the practice of psychology however, because they detract from substantive and promising theories (costing businesses and the American economy millions if not billions of dollars annually) and charlatans like Goleman et al. make millions off of non-theory.”

Me: “What’s of note is that my study of psychology, sociology, philosophy and any thing else is usually for two reasons. The first is natural curiosity and the fact that learning is enjoyable. The second is that the information has the potential to improve my ability in marketing and business.

Emotional intelligence is the only of the three “theories” I’ve dealt explicitly with. Reading Goleman’s book was very valuable for me, regardless of empirical evidence. EI is cited in business by many consultants often; I don’t subscribe to consultants or their buzz words. I did realize on reading EI that the way our emotions overtake our cognitive processes and decision making is of HUGE importance to relationships in business and out. The EI model may be too simplistic physiologically in truth; but the concept behind it, that emotional awareness and understanding has great intrinsic value for anyone who has to work with other people, is extremely important. So for me, the veracity of a theory may not necessarily be as influential as the practicality of the concept behind it. I say this with awareness that your vocation cannot accept ideas on such merits. And though that may make me an apologist, it’s necessary to take what works in application to my vocation and disregard the rest; for simple inability to dedicate the necessary time to understanding, verifying and furthering a practice out of my scope of knowledge/career.”

JK: Just because a “theory” or an actual theory is incorrect does not diminish its ability to enlighten or inform. This is why the psychoanalytic school (Freud) is still around. Projective identification is a good example here. All those anti-gay pastors like Ted Haggard or Catholic Priests often project their internal (unconscious) anguish onto others and attempt to identify with the opposite of what they hate MOST about themselves. Although this theory is technically unfalsifiable, it offers a unique window into the human psyche. In business, this sort of perspectivizing (I think I’m making up words) can be invaluable.

Apropos of EI and Goleman’s view, this is also true. There can be a good deal of practical benefit from a non-theory. I should have probably mentioned this earlier but with respect to business (both the intangible stuff like worker satisfaction and the tangible stuff like productivity or sales quotas), it depends on how we intend to use psychology to improve.

An astute former psych major from marketing or HR could pick up a book like Goleman’s, process it, and give one heck of an emotional sensitivity training workshop! And yes, it could be highly effective. We could also do this for cultural awareness training (huge in marketing now as you know with globalization and overseas business), gender awareness training, and leadership training. All of these can be (and have been) somewhat (if not highly) effective. Too often though, there is no rigorous follow-up done to see if the intervention was as successful as it was perceived to have been. So we come into a few problems that I’d like to highlight (which is the origin of my criticism of non-theory).”

Me: “Do I want to know how our body works? Certainly. In fact, I’d advocate the correct/truthful statements of our biological workings 10/10 times; the problem is that we haven’t solved these ideas completely. So you can see that my writing and explanations of psychology/EI/whatever are purposefully based on their utility, not their veracity. Though I don’t want to throw out a bunch of lies and hearsay either.

It’s a difficult line to toe. The real point though, is that understanding and developing emotional recognition and awareness is very healthy for me and others in business. Being able to recognize your emotions before acting on them and adjusting accordingly could have the power to really propel your career where otherwise it would run into trouble. As to the biological validity of the particular theory? I don’t know. But the practical use of being cognizant, extremely valuable.”

So what does this all mean? Marketers are not scientists and scientists not marketers. My eagerness to learn about psych (or most subjects, for that matter) could be described at best as a genuine curiosity to the human condition and at worst as another tactic to manipulate for financial gain. Scientists work in order to truly understand the happenings of the universe and the betterment of man kind. There work is certainly more respectable from a philosophical stand point.

As such, my application of scientific theory is based on the utility derived from applying the theory and not the truth behind it. A much more selfish perspective. Scientists working in the field are much more concerned with reality, or the whole truth of the situation than the application toward another discipline. Both view points exemplify our respective situations.

June 23, 2008


Filed under: Blog Explanations, Book Reviews, Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 2:18 am

Just finished Candide by Voltaire. This was a short and worth while read.

(A quick aside: in the next two months, I see this blog being integrated HEAVILY with ideas on psychology, philosophy, sociology and a general musings as to my transition from work to vacation to school again. Marketing will still be addressed, but being that tangible reading materials deviate from “business” books and toward classic literature and scientific explanation; I won’t make any guarantees.)

The protagonist, Candide, falls for a girl Cunegonde and spends the majority of the book chasing her and attempting to restore their established love. The travels and exploits of the young man is fast moving and enjoyable. And although this is the main driver of the stories within the story line (amidst escaping imminent danger and folly), the point of the book is far more philosophical.

A main concern throughout the work is that of criticizing the perspective of “all for the best” which basically describes our existence as the best possible existence that God could have created (made popular by this guy, apparently). Voltaire does this most fruitfully through countless and unending repetition of horrible problems and situations happening to all the main characters. Candide is a philosopher, as are a few of his constituents, and their dialog frequently centers around that world view and differing opinions. Despite these consistent tragedies, all the characters remain resolute and basically upbeat.

I’ll not ruin the ending, but things are left a bit open. The result is a book that leaves more questions than answers.

A few of those questions: How could an all knowing, all powerful God create a world where such suffering can take place? If he did not intend to, is He either of those things mentioned? Is our suffering “all for the best” in that others can truly gain from such? What perspectives offer their holders value?

I’d like to delve further into this, but want to wait until I’ve read another book on order before going into full blown philosophical meanderings.

Bottom line, Candide was quick and worth reading. It offers deep interpretations for those looking and a shallow adventuresome foray for those less inclined to literary dissection.

June 21, 2008

Hindsight Bias

Filed under: Personal Branding — Robert John Ed @ 8:44 pm

I’m starting to read a text book on Psychology. Text book reading is different than other kinds of reading; it’s difficult to describe, but you can skim a bit more and the chapters often offer reflection and previews for what to look for. I haven’t read a text book in over three years, but it’s easier than I remember.

One of the first of the first valuable concepts the book described is hindsight bias. It’s the idea that humans naturally refer to events that have already occurred as easily predictable. For instance, after the 9/11 attacks, it was very easy to say how we should have saw the warning signs. After Google dominated search and grew to be the most powerful company in the world, it was obvious that search and information organization was going to grow.

To err is human. To say you knew what was going to happen after the fact is all too human.

We all do this in many aspects of our lives and it serves as a detriment to our thought processes. It clouds are ability to understand the correlating factors as well as causative factors. I think poker is a very good place to see this irrationality in people. Regardless of a hands outcome, many players will always say “I knew you had it” or “I knew you were bluffing the whole time.”

This is a simple way to rationalize their decision making after the fact; no one wants to think that their judgment could be off or realize that they are wrong (especially in front of others). This is the reason that so few people actually become professional poker players; they aren’t willing to acknowledge their ineptitudes, regardless of the frequency of occurance, and as such cannot see and improve their weaknesses.

The same ideas are applicable to many facets of our lives, including relationships, work and personal development. We need to allow ourselves the admittance that we do not know what is going to happen. We cannot and will not ever know the future with certainty. We can only study with eyes wide open and attempt to understand mitigating factors at play, then make predictions and be truthful about the outcomes.

That kind of humility is seldom available and could be an incredible asset to those willing to wield it.

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