August 29, 2009

Digg Sponsored Stories

Filed under: Digital Distribution, Information Supernova — Robert John Ed @ 4:26 pm

Was perusing Digg, an interesting consortium of geeky topical news fodder, the other day and noticed that a story was sponsored by threadless.  Turns out, it’s not really a story.  It’s an advertisement.  Check it out, there home page now regularly has “stories” that are actually sponsored ads.  They seem more interactive in nature than typical ads.

Here’s another “story.”

Now, I’m not a huge fan of this type of advertising, it’s somewhat attempting to fool the readers.  But the Digg crowd is incredibly aware of ads (far more so than your average consumer).  What’s more, I think that Diggers get that the site has to be monetized somehow.  We get a great forum for new, edgy internet fodder and in return the site gets our eyeballs and attention.  I certainly understand the costs associated with running a site at this scale, so this is acceptable to me.

It’ll be interesting to see where this all goes and if Digg can really build a profitable model and how they evolve sponsorship.


LULS @ Wikipedia!

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 4:10 pm

I was reading this awesome page on common misconceptions and witnessed the fallacy of an open Wiki page:


  • Warts on human skin are caused by viruses that are unique to humans (Human papillomavirus). Humans cannot catch warts from toads or other animals; the bumps on a toad are not warts.[68]
  • The claim[69] that a duck‘s quack does not echo is false, although the echo may be difficult to hear for humans under some circumstances.[70]
  • The notion that goldfish have a memory of only three seconds is completely false.[71][72] They have been trained to navigate mazes and can recognize their owners after an exposure of a few months.[73][74]
  • Lemmings do not engage in mass suicidal dives off cliffs when migrating. They will, however, occasionally, and unintentionally fall off cliffs when venturing into unknown territory, with no knowledge of the boundaries of the environment. The misconception is due largely to the Disney film White Wilderness, which shot many of the migration scenes (also staged by using multiple shots of different groups of lemmings) on a large, snow-covered turntable in a studio. Photographers later pushed the lemmings off a cliff.[75][76]
  • Bats are not blind. While most bat species do use echolocation to augment their vision, all bats have eyes and are capable of sight.[77][78][79]
  • Mammal blood is bright red or scarlet when oxygenated and a darker red when not oxygenated. It is never blue. Veins appear blue through the skin because of differential absorption of wavelengths of the blood’s color by the overlying skin and flesh.[80]
  • My balls are huge.
  • It’s a common myth that an earthworm become two worms when cut in half. This is not correct.[81] An earthworm can survive being bisected, but only the front half of the worm (where the mouth is located) can survive, while the other half dies.[82] On the other hand, species of the planaria family of flatworms actually do become two new planaria when bisected or split down the middle.[citation needed]
  • According to urban myth, the Daddy Long-Legs Spider (Pholcus phalangioides) is the most venomous spider in the world, but it is harmless to humans because its fangs cannot penetrate human skin. This is false as Pholcus phalangioides can pierce human skin, however, the toxicity of this spider’s venom has just a weak effect on insects, let alone humans.[83] In addition, there is also confusion regarding the use of the name “Daddy Long Legs”, because Harvestmen (order Opiliones, which are not spiders) and crane flies (which are insects) are also commonly referred to as Daddy Long Legs, and share (also incorrectly) the myth of venomousness.[84][85]

August 26, 2009

Getting Smart

Filed under: Personal Branding, Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 11:25 pm

In my estimation, there are two ways to be really good at something, learning about a subject in a formalized setting or just going out and doing it.

The latter trumps the former in most situations. The issue is that any shmuck off the street can’t necessarily just jump in and do a lot of things. Surgically operating on a human being, psychological advice, flying a plane, using a chainsaw to cut down a forest, etc, all fall into this category. The last one is debatable, but you get the point.

Certain practices and subject matters are reserved for experts. They have to be, for the good of society. They take time, sometimes years and in special instances, decades, to perform at a professional level.

Other things, on that hand, are actually better suited for doers, people that would rather experiment and work at it on the fly.  Riding a bike, planting a garden, writing a resume, creating a lemonade stand or writing a book are all these kinds of things.  The same goes for starting a business, I think.  It’s better to just dive right in and work around the rough edges as they come.  Many activities people aspire to often remain aspirations for fear of incompetence initially.  Writing a blog is a good example.  It really isn’t all that difficult if you commit to it.  There are SOOOOO many things people can learn on their own, without a formalized classroom setting or guidance, if they just go for it.

“When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it. — Teddy Rosevelt

Words of wisdom from a guy that gave us national parks, carried a pistol with him in the white house, knew karate and had a sweet mustache.  Gangsterized.

Regardless of what you want to do, there is a big distinction between kinds of tasks.  As such, it’s important for you to understand what you want to do and where that thing(s) fall in the knowledge spectrum.  I like the things I can just jump into more so than the formalized.  But the formalized are more typical of vocational exercise.

Anyway, figure out what you want to do. Then figure out where it falls. Then get smart.

Teddy Roosevelt

Netflix and Business Method Patents

Filed under: Digital Distribution, Information Supernova — Robert John Ed @ 11:28 am

At a party the other night, a group of people started discussing Netflix.  I love Netflix; it costs all of $9 a month to get one movie at a time.  An hours worth of time spent picking out movies and organizing them sequentially allows me to receive a few months worth of movies without thinking about it on the cheap.  It’s especially nice during the winter months when getting outside is more difficult and inherently less enticing.

The read deal Holyfield, though, is that the same $9 gets me access to all their online content.  Netflix has done an AMAZING job with their online queueing system.  There are two very specific reasons.  The first is that it’s quick, it gets licensing and buffers within a minute and you are set to watch the movie.  The second reason is content.  Screw cash, content is king.  Content is half of the market, regardless of who supplies it.  Netflix has that, and they know how to monetize it, unlike most other online content companies.  I’ve been watching the old Heroes seasons lately, they’re good and Netflix’ system makes it a breeze to watch an entire season in a week or so.

Right now, I either turn my 24″ iMac towards the couch and watch instant queue, or I hook up my laptop to the 42″ LCD for company.  Easy, breezy, beautiful.

It’s funny, the tangible DVDs aren’t really that big of a deal to me.  The online streaming is.  That’s what I’m paying for, really.  Certain titles aren’t available online, due to licensing agreements I’m sure, so they are a necessary evil.  Netflix is a big player in terms of future potential for the reason that they know how to monetize digital content on a subscription model, NOT an advertising model.  Big difference.  Looking at the closest competitor (that I know of), Hulu, and the difference in content is remarkable.  I literally have trouble finding a movie to watch on Hulu and the speed is much lower.

Then at the end of the conversation, someone enlightened me to the fact that Netflix has a Business Method Patent, which is essentially taking out a patent on the way you monetize your business due to it being unique and novel.  Apparently, they license this model to Blockbuster.  I found that interesting (and odd) as that is their main competition.  Here’s a graph of how business method patents are growing, something to think about.

August 25, 2009

New Musics: August 09′

Filed under: Music — Robert John Ed @ 1:34 am

Did some Amazon ordering as of late:

Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: This is one of those bands everyone seems to like a lot and I’ve never listened to them. On initial rotation, I don’t necessarily get what all the hubbub is about. Good? Yes. Fanatically endearing? At this point no. Chia like, it may well grow.

Wolf Parade, Apologies to the Queen Mary: This one is really eccentric. Reminds of Arcade Fire vocals and a lot of really eclectic sounds; I have a good feeling about it. Definitely a lot of things on this worth listening to, and an album that will certainly take time to fully mentally digest.

The National, Boxer: Picked this up on a recommendation from a fellow classmate. He was right, it’s really interesting. Chilled out, deep vocals and a somber musical cadence create a very unique sound from this NY band of brothers. Rockable and repeatable.

The Hold Steady, Stay Positive: Another NY band, the first time I heard these guys was on the I’m Not There soundtrack (which is phenomenal, btw). I didn’t really get into their version of “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window;” dude’s voice just didn’t do it for me. It is a very distinct voice. Their full album is a little better, more upbeat, but still not necessarily my cup of tea.


Your People Are Your Brand

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 1:22 am

Marketing folks are an odd lot. Some of us are eccentric, some flamboyant, some methodical, some factual, some salespeople, some happy go lucky and some competitive. There are many different personality types in a multitude of industries.

Certain personality traits are valuable in marketing. Outgoing, gregarious individuals do well for themselves. You HAVE to be able to sell yourself. If you can’t sell yourself, you can’t sell anything. Despite that prerequisite, there are different personality needs for different brands.

Important: If you were running a company, who would you choose to market it?

This question is proportional in importance to the number of people in the company OR the number of people directing marketing. What I mean by that is that a CMO MUST be skilled and have the personality type needed for your organization to thrive, given that the company operates hierarchically. So the levity of the question is higher for that position. The importance scales to other marketers in the organization, but it’s most important at the top.

Conversely, a small business must place similar importance on each employee. Any one employee may have the ability to single-handedly make or break a start up. If they are the only person running the register, the only person answering the phone, the only person working there; they are the business. They are the brand.

Your people are your brand, in their personalities and especially the actions they take.  Choose wisely.  To those people working as marketers (read: anyone working), remember that your actions are what people see the company as.

August 22, 2009

Specialists & Multi-taskers

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 3:53 am

Some employees do one thing really well.  Some do a lot of things well.  There is a certain thought process in the market that if you are a multi-tasker, you can’t be the best in the world at any one thing.  But there’s also something to the idea that you can be the best in the world at working for a company that needs a lot of things done well.

It may not be a great strategy if you want to climb corporate ladders.  I think the specialists are more apt to achieve those ends.  Still, if you want to grow with one company (likely a smaller company), making yourself needed and valuable can be achieved easily by doing a lot of things well.  In fact, I’d argue that small businesses thrive due to a few select individuals who outperform on a bevy of tasks.

“Big Iron” companies aren’t looking for that.  They have specified roles.  Attempting to go above and beyond can be construed as stepping on other peoples’ toes for personal gain.  It’s all very contextual.  Peep the context.

August 20, 2009

Personal Branding Online

Filed under: Blog Explanations, Personal Branding, Writing — Robert John Ed @ 1:25 am

There aren’t a lot of people who blog.  That sounds odd, because there are actually millions and millions of blogs now.  But there aren’t a lot of people that blog.  How many do you know personally?  I can count on one hand the number of people who I know personally that write on an ongoing basis, and I work in marketing.  That says something.

I know a few people that want to write for marketing reasons.  They want to have an established presence online, and they should!  They run into problems though.

The biggest issue is that they won’t put anything out there unless it’s perfect.  And that’s a problem because nothing is perfect.  People want to have a perfect online brand, something that shouts from the rooftop how excellent they are and what they bring to the table.  The height of professionalism.  My opinion is that the web is imperfect and that writing is even imperfecter, especially online.  Volume trumps perfection online.  My opinion is that online you should strive even more to be human, to be genuine.  To point out your own mistakes and speak as though you are in a one to one conversation.  And lastly, to keep writing!  Keep thinking and putting out ideas, even if some of them look bad in a few weeks.

It’s the process; the journey, not the destination.

Free MIT Course: Game Theory

Filed under: Digital Distribution, Information Supernova, Management — Robert John Ed @ 1:23 am

As mentioned previously, I went through some of the free course on Game Theory provided by MIT.  I didn’t spend too much time on it, just an hour or so.  The online content is formalized in very lack luster power points, although still representative of a coherent story.

Game theory is very interesting, it’s basically a mapping of potential outcomes within a finite structure.  Matrices for players are developed (though I only saw this for two sided games, not sure how it’s mapped for more competitors?) with all potential outcomes assumed.  Rationalizing choices is very important, a choice is rational in expectations that all players are acting for their optimal outcomes in increasing value.  That means all players are knowledgeable on parameters of the game and expect the other players to act in a similar fashion.

The result is a road map of expectations given established potential within a static competitive environment.  A game theorist could reasonably map out expected outcomes and recommend choices based on the development.  It gets much, much deeper than this I assume, but it makes sense.  The issue here is that most competitive landscapes are infinite and have far too many intricacies and chances to alter that mapping decisions in matrices and eventually decision trees could prove detrimentally fallible.  But what do I know?  This is just a skin deep analysis.  As a comparison, here is the Wikipedia entry for Game Theory.  Decent explanation

And that’s the real point of this, reading power points online simply can’t replicate being in a class room where questions may be posed and ideas reinforced by a professor who may sense lack of understanding or emphasis behind a key concept.  It leads me to question how much of a students learning is contingent on the supplementary materials (books, lectures, .PPT’s, etc.) and how much is based on the forum where the knowledge is being given.  It’s likely different for every student, but this could be studied relatively easily in a bifurcated trial for students taking a similar course online and in person.  My guess is that the information itself is the majority (60-70%) and the rest is the forum (30-40%).  The only problem is that one can’t apply information critically with a 60% understanding.  I don’t feel confident in speaking on or explaining game theory based on the hour I spent reading the content online, and that’s the issue with content as such.

This is already getting long, so I’ll wrap it up.  The content can be optimized through better illustration, animation and narration.  A company could easily build a business model around creating palpable, intriguing content oriented on a partnership with a big brand (MIT, Harvard, et. al.) This actually raises a question, who is the big brand?  The educator, or the company that optimizes the content?  Anyway, if this was embraced, it could revolutionize education.  The best colleges and knowledge could be procured by anyone in the world.  It scales and builds even MORE wealth for the institutions, the long tail effect takes hold and doesn’t let go.  All of a sudden a complete, three year guide to Astrophysics from MIT is available for $50.

Any of us who have gone to grad school know the costs.  I’m very far in debt for a bevy of knowledge I could acquire with a library card; it just wouldn’t be verified.  In the future, the costs will go down drastically, and it will be verified.  Everyone gets smarter.  We evolve and disseminate intelligence at a rate higher than ever before.  It WILL happen.  I just don’t know when.

August 17, 2009

Robot Love: 27th & Lyndale

Filed under: Meeting Marketers — Robert John Ed @ 10:18 pm

Continuing the small business details, time to point out a small, peculiar art crafts store on Lyndale.  Note that “peculiar” is congruent with “gangster.”

Robot Love is a design store, or at least that’s what it calls itself.  It has a lot of limited edition art paraphernalia.  Really a lot of toys actually.  Toys are good, they keep you young.  I don’t really like their website.  It’s just an online store.  A lot of SEO types will probably tell you to optimize your site to sell on, I think that’s true for the most part when you scale nationally.  But not this time.

This website would be far better off by telling people why the store started and why it has such a fetish for particular types of art.  When you walk into the actual store, there’s a real vibe.  It’s diggable.  I spoke with the owner about business (apparently it’s slow, but they are hanging in there) for 15 minutes or so, really nice guy.  The thing is, the website doesn’t really tell the same story.  The website says “buy our wares.”  Instead of saying “Robot Love is all about the limited and astronomically badass sets of artistically rendered toys, clothing, books and anything else that holds your sensibilities ransom for a handsome stipend of rock.  Yeah you can buy stuff on here, but we’d rather meet you in person, come in and kick it some.”  Because that’s what the store is when you walk in.  It’s cool.  This website is not.  They’d be better off using a basic static page with a link to the store on the back end.  You can integrate both the brand position and a good store, but that’s not the point.

The message is more important here than optimizing the traffic.  The web, for this company, is really a chance to build the brand, not sell a few keychains.  I digress.

Robot Love is different, and worth taking a look at.   Yes, most people aren’t necessarily into this kind of thing (it’s not entirely something I’d expect purchase multiple pieces at) but for the people that are, it’s got what you want.  Worth a look, at least.

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