Tag - business

Wonderful Colorful House iPad app: launched!

It’s with a great deal of pride and satisfaction that I’m able to announce that my iPad app, The Wonderful Colorful House, is now live on the Apple app store.

It’s been a long and winding journey.

The trip started about 15 years ago when I made up a bed-time story for my daughter, Gabrielle. It was about a kid in the great white North, Tullik, who hated cold and hated white, and who was looking for a better — more wonderful — home.  She loved the story, and asked me for it repeatedly, and suggested that I write it down.

Which I did.

And then, more than a decade later, I met Bas Waijers, an amazing New York artist who was the creative director for the project and painstakingly illustrated the entire app. And Nick Dalton, an accomplished technologist who has built many apps, and built the actual app. And we brought on Mark Greenberg, a Chicago-based musician and sound engineer, who created an amazing soundscape, along with many special effect sounds.

Together, we created an app more than 15 years in the making. And we offer it up to you, today.


And SwitchCube's IndieGoGo campaign is now live!

As you may know, I and two partners are starting a coworking space in BC’s Fraser Valley, SwitchCube.

We’ve identified a space and we’ve put some furniture in it, but we need more. And technology for the boardroom, and paint, and, and, and. So we’ve decided to run a crowdfunding campaign, which will also serve a bit of marketing intelligence: is Abbotsford ready for coworking?

We’re looking to raise $6K, and we’re already at $850:

Join us! If you’re looking for a coworking space in the Fraser Valley, there are great options to lock in months at SwitchCube for a great price. And even if you’re not, we’d appreciate any support you’ve love to throw our way.

We have great perks (check them out) and we’re looking forward to kicking off the space when our campaign is successful.


How not to pitch a journalist, method #37

I get 50 million pitches. One that starts like this is DOA:

Huawei, a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider, today unveiled the Huawei MU736, the world’s first WWAN module that is fully compliant with the Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) standard.

Fortunately I know what WAN is, but the second paragraph gets even worse:

The NGFF standard enables a transition from Mini-PCIe Cards to a smaller form factor module in size, volume, and system design flexibility. The MU736 NGFF module is based on Intel’s industry leading XMM™ 6260 HSPA+ modem solution, supporting penta-band operation (B1/B2/B4/B5/B8) for worldwide network coverage, low power consumption, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), and major carrier certifications, enabling easier and more flexible design and integration into end devices. In addition, the MU736 supports all NGFF features to optimize performance, power consumption, and usability.


SwitchCube: open for bidness (almost)

You’ve heard a lot from me lately about coworking in BC’s Fraser Valley.

My business partner Matt Farley and I have been working to found a space for solopreneurs, startups, telecommuters, freelancers, and other home-based knowledge workers to get together, work in a great space with community, a boardroom for client meetings, WIFI, coffee, and no worries/concerns/distractions from the home.

That place is SwitchCube.

And we’ve now launched the SwitchCube website:

We’re just about to sign a lease, but we need our coworking community to come on board. If you’re in our coworking Meetup group or on our Coworking Abbotsford landing page … now’s the time to hit our SwitchCube membership page and sign up.

Now’s the time when I remind me why I bought this print from Hugh at GapingVoid:

I would really like child’s play right now 🙂

Welcome CGA-Canada!

It’s been in the works for some time now, but I’m pleased to be able to announce that the contracts are now signed: I’ll be doing a series of social media seminars for the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada.

We’ll be digging into what social means for CGAs in their organizations, how social media can help both CGAs and their companies, and how to utilize social technologies to both learn and connect with colleagues.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, and I look forward to delivering them soon!

CGAs do, in fact, see more than numbers 🙂


Doxo makes bill-paying fast, mobile, and (almost) painless

(Initially this was going to be posted at VentureBeat, but another writer beat me to it.)

In some magical fairy-tale world, beautiful women and handsome men laughingly pay gas company bills while watching fluffy pink unicorns dance through purple Alpine valleys. In the real world, giving your hard-earned money to the man sucks, especially when the process of paying bills is mind-numbingly complicated.

That’s the world Doxo is trying to fix, using your smartphone or tablet.

Launching today, the Doxo Mobile app for Android and iOS will include doxoPay, integrated bill-paying functionality that will allow users to see, manage, and pay bills, all while riding the bus back home from work.

Currently, it’s not so simple. As Jim Bruene, author of the NetBanker blog says: “Whether the bill is received digitally or in paper form, payment is often a three step process – read the bill when you receive it, open it again to pay it, and then file it somewhere else.” Doxo integrates the steps, simplifying users’ lives.

One challenge: the company you want to pay has to be set up in Doxo’s system. Today that list includes AT&T, Sprint, Kansas City Power and Light, 12 state and county governments, and many more, but it’s not clear exactly how many service providers have joined. To tempt more businesses into signing up, Doxo touts savings of 80% for sending paperless bills, and notes that consumers pay their bills an average of 10 days earlier when using the Doxo mobile app.

But it’s clear that for consumers, having all their bills in one system is going to be a much better value proposition than just having a few, or even most. This is the single greatest problem for Doxo if they want to scale this app to millions or hundreds of millions of users.

However, Doxo is taking the right tack with regard to a single, unified payment app. Other mobile payment solutions exist, but no consumer in their right mind is going to download multiple apps, one to pay each service provider.

One other benefit of the Jeff Bezos-backed payment company: a digital file cabinet integrated with Dropbox or Box in which users can store key documents such as insurance policies, important bills, and statements. Storing all the details of your financial life in one place has the potential to vastly increase manageability. As an aside, it also increases the need for extreme security.

In a statement, Doxo CEO Steve Shivers said: “The Doxo mission is to massively simplify the experience of interacting with providers and paying bills. The new capabilities of our mobile app make bill paying simpler than ever.”

One unanswered question: when will Doxo become an e-wallet that will not only allow users to manage and pay bills, but also make immediate, point-of-sale payments? Given the trajectory of the Doxo app, one has to assume it’s coming.

Now that almost might be worth dancing through purple Alpine meadows over.

Piggy bank and bill images via Shutterstock

SwitchCube Coworking

And it’s out in the wild!

SwitchCube is the name that Matt and I have chosen for our coworking space in Abbotsford BC.

We’re touring a few spaces tomorrow, and look like we’ll be ready to start making some offers on places as soon as next week. At the meetup we held last week, a lot of people were eager to get going soon 🙂

We also settled on our corporate color: purple. (Or some shade thereof …) Thanks to Kuler, we have a palette as well:

New Moo Cards!

It’s always exciting to get new Moo cards. New business cards are cool, but new Moo cards are awesome.

Moo cards are personalized business cards. I’ve loaded mine up with my own photography, which is easily imported from Flickr. This time I decided to get full-size cards – here’s a quick peek:

Notice the nicely curved edges? And, of course, the stunning images 🙂

It’s always fun to give out a card with some personality. And to ask someone to choose which one they want … and then tell them the story of the photograph: where it was taken, when, why, what it is. That makes the act of handing over a business card so much more personal, so much more meaningful, so much more fun, and so much more creative.

And here’s the back:

There’s a pic of me on the back, which matches up with my profile pic around the web. So it should be easy to remember who I am. Notice, however that I messed up and instead of intelligently cropping, there’s only a piece of my left eye showing. I should have either cropped it out entirely, or included it entirely.

Ah well, perfection will have to wait.

So Meetup actually does rock

As you (may) know, I and a partner are starting up a coworking space in British Columbia’s Fraser valley. Specifically, in Abbotsford. We started with just a landing page, but last week, added a Meetup group.

I had some issues setting it up, and immediately after I linked directly to our landing page from Meetup, Meetup actually cancelled the account and refunded my payment. But … we worked out our differences over a beer (actually, not) and I set up the page again, sans link.

And Meetup has been awesome. We now have 18 people in our Meetup group, plus the 20 or so who have signed up via the landing page (there is some overlap). We’re pumped!

If you’re interested in cool flexible office space, with a side-dish of community and networking, please let us know! Join the Meetup group, and sign up on our Coworking Abbotsford landing page. At this rate we’re hoping to be able to sign a lease within a few weeks, and open up within a couple of months.

Need a logo for sparkplug 9 …

Sparkplug9 has been happily logo-less for 8 years. 8 years!

However, since I’ve been consulting more intensely in the past 3 months, I’ve decided that Sparkplug9 MUST HAVE A LOGO. I mean, with a logo, even a solopreneur looks pro, right?

So, I’ve been playing with Photoshop (bad idea) and searching the web for inspiration (better idea). All I can say is: creative commons is a great thing.

So, with a little help from Abdullah Najeeb Photography, who are very gracious to post their photos to Flickr under a Creative Commons license, and a little help from Photoshop, I’ve built a logo. Well, actually, I made a few … all based around a flame from Abdullah’s photography.

Unfortunately, they suck

Next step: find an actual designer 🙂

[ update ]

I’ve posted a project on Guru.com. Three designers have already submitted their proposals, so I hope to be happily logo-fied shortly!

Social Media Marketing: Brian Solis on Beating Digital Darwinism

Brian Solis has just released a new book: The End of Business as Usual, and he’s blogging about it, most recently with a post on beating digital Darwinism.

(In other words: avoiding extinction due to ignoring the rise of social … and the consequent change in customer expectations.)

Solis is a big thinker, and releases books with big thoughts. And I’ve had his blog post in a browser tab for almost a week now, wanting to blog about it but not sure how. Now I know how: simplification. Or, if not simplification, at least short-ification. Because if brevity is the soul of wit, Solis may not be the funniest man on the planet.

So, here are Brian’s 10 trends, shortened:

  1. Social networks & key influencers
  2. Geolocation & social
  3. Crowdsourced deals
  4. Social commerce
  5. Referral & recommendation systems
  6. Gamification of everything
  7. Mobile
  8. Multi-platformization
  9. Holistic branding & customer experience across MANY platforms & networks
  10. New expectations of the modern consumer

You really need to go and read the article, which is great. But I wanted to boil down the essence of why business is no longer “business as usual” in fewer words.

If I haven’t succeeded, castigate me ritually.

Top 10 social media tips for businesses just starting with social media

I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with businesses and organizations that are recognizing the need to do something – anything – with social media.

The why is simple: they want to be where their customers are. The how: not so simple. Where do you start? What’s important, and what’s nice-to-have? How do you enter a social space appropriately, and how do you connect with people?

Here are 10 tips for businesses getting started with social media:

  1. Claim your space
    Domainer squatters are capturing all available domain names. And social squatters are doing similar things. So protect your future interests by automatically claiming your brand on any social media site. You don’t always know which ones will become significant remember Pinterest’s amazing growth) so cast a wide net.

  2. Start by listening
    Just like you wouldn’t show up at a party in a foreign country talking at full volume acting like you own the place, start slow. Start by understanding a social network before you try to establish your own presence. Reddit is very different than Facebook. Twitter is not YouTube. And different communications tactics and strategies work in different places.

  3. Talk to a pro
    If you’re new to social, buy some time from a long-time pro – a consultant who does social for a living. Even if it’s just an hour a week, get some tips, get some strategies, and most important, get some quick feedback on your ideas. A small investment here will save big dollars down the road: especially if you do something catastrophically wrong and create a PR nightmare.

  4. Start a blog
    Participating in social networks is like renting: it may make a ton of business sense, but it’s not on your own turf, and you don’t make the rules. Tilt the field a little in your direction by starting a blog, where you own the land and you set the rules. Everything you do here is an investment in your own property.

  5. Connect with others in your industry
    See what your competition is doing. See what your colleagues are doing. You can avoid mistakes that others have made, and you can learn from successes they’ve enjoyed. You’ll need to travel your own path, but you don’t have to do it in ignorance.

  6. Know your story
    Just like coming to a business meeting for networking, know a few things before you go. Who you are (your brand, your story), and what you want (your strategy). People who don’t know who they are or what they’re interested in can be boring … and the same is true with companies and brands. So figure it out before you open your mouth.

  7. Be able to act on what you learn
    As you engage with current and future clients, you’re going to hear some things that are going to need to be acted on. So have good communication lines with people in your company who manage marketing, production, customer relations, PR, and so on. Nothing’s worse than hearing about a major problem at your company that you can’t do anything about because you haven’t built your bridges first.

  8. Lighten up and have some fun
    Social media is … wait for it … social. So reading from the corporate strategy manual is a non-starter. Selling like it’s a TV ad is a waste of time. And keeping the stiff, formal tones of the annual report is not going to cut it. Social is about people, so talk like a real person. Just like you’d want companies to talk to you.

  9. Be social, don’t just do social
    Social is not something you do, it’s a way you live. So don’t just do social for the company, participate in social media yourself. Get as many on your team and company to do likewise. This will teach you the culture and communication styles of tomorrow’s clients and partners.

  10. Set some goals
    Nothing in your company gets done just to get done. Everything has, or is supposed to have, some kind of strategy – some link to what makes your organization successful. Social’s no different. Establish goals and track progress toward them. And, obviously, align your goals with company strategy … but make them realistic given the character of social networks that you’re engaging with.

  11. And a bonus point: set up monitoring
    Set up cheap/free monitoring with Google Alerts or Social Mention (here are a few more options for listing to your clients). Nothing is worse than being ignored … unless it’s finding out that you ignored a small issue that is now a major one. So listen to mentions of your brand and products, and be prepared to respond appropriately.

Meetup: this is how NOT to treat paying clients

Earlier this week I set up a Meetup group for coworkers in BC’s Fraser Valley. It contained some information about coworking, some hints on the kinds of people who might enjoy coworking, and a link to our current landing page for coworking in Abbotsford.

Today I was informed that the meetup group had been terminated:

Needless to say, I was totally flabbergasted. Our meetup group was for people who wanted to help start a coworking community in the valley. It wasn’t about porn, and we weren’t selling anything. So why were we being closed? How were we not in compliance?

Well, the answer was simple.

For more information you can review the Terms of Service

This is one of those cases where something that is simple is not easy. Here are the Meetup’s terms of service – to the right. As you can tell … there are a lot of terms. And a lot of words. And a long, long, long web page full of reasons why we were not in compliance.

But which one was applicable?

After a lot of reading, I think it was this one: 5.3(b)(vii). Yeah, that’s number 5, section 3, subsection (b), sub-subsection (vii). Which reads under a heading titled “Grounds for removal, sanction, and/or suspension:”

[Posting any material] that uses the Platform primarily as a lead generator or listing service for another website;

Well. Perhaps the link to our coworking signup page violates that stipulation.

Here’s how you should treat that scenario, Meetup
Here’s a wild, crazy idea. I know it’s out of left field, so brace yourself. Be seated. Hold on to your hat.

How about: you send me an email, explain that stipulation, and ask me to remove it?

I know it’s ground-breaking and earth-shattering … but do you think that might be better than arbitrarily booting a paying customer with no reasonable explanation?

No, I didn’t read your terms of service
I’m sorry, but there are 14 pages of TOS, totalling 8319 words. And I have a life.

So no, I didn’t read your TOS. And I don’t think your TOS is reasonable or customer-friendly.

So please …
So I’m asking … please reinstate the group. I’ll remove the offending link (if indeed that is the problem).

Introducing Bobby Lenarduzzi @ the Cultural Diversity Awards

DiverseCity’s 17th annual Cultural Diversity Awards are next week Tuesday at the Four Seasons in Vancouver, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Not only do we get to recognize great lower mainland companies who embody the ethic of diversity, we’re going to hear from Bobby Lenarduzzi, the great Canadian soccer player, coach, and executive. With 47 caps for Canada for international play, including going to the quarterfinals at the 1984 summer Olympics, Bobby is a legend. We’re super-happy to have him as our keynote speaker.

In addition, I’m pretty excited: I’ll have the privilege of introducing Bobby to the crowd. He’s the prototypical “the-next-speaker-needs-no-introduction” type of speaker, but I’m sure I’ll find something to say.

If you’re not already coming, please register online to attend. The awards are Tuesday, April 17th, at 6PM, and will be at the Vancouver Four Seasons at 791 West Georgia Street.

See you there!

The ONE thing you absolutely MUST have when networking

Most people hate networking.

It’s too hard, it’s too boring, it’s too forward. Or, they’re too shy, they’re too stuck in a comfort zone, or just not very outgoing.

Here’s the good news
There is a secret for good networking. And it has nothing to do with how you shake hands or maintain eye contact. It’s not about psyching yourself up, or ensuring you meet X number of people. It’s not about figuring out your story in advance, or scripting your elevator pitch, although those can be good ideas.

Here’s the bad news
Unfortunately, it’s not something everyone can do, either. Only some of us can do it … not because we’re better than anyone else, or smarter, or more outgoing, or more attractive. But it is something that we possess. And maybe you do too. And if you don’t? There are ways to get it.

Here’s the secret
The secret is passion.

Is there something that you’re doing that you are absolutely passionate about? Excited about? Engaged with? Vitally interested in?

Then you can network well. It’s as simple as that.

It IS about others … but also YOU
To be sure, you can’t network by spouting off at every opportunity. If you only use your mouth, forget it. You’re boring, and rude to boot.

But it is ALSO about you.

If you just listen when networking, you’re going to hear a lot, and you’ll make some connections. But those connections won’t be strong ones, and won’t be beneficial, because the people you’re connecting with have no clue who you are, what you’re doing, and why you get out of bed in the morning.

In other words, you don’t fit into a box in their head. And that means you don’t fit in their heads at all. Not good.

Passion is infectious
When a passionate person who listens and asks questions and gets interested in others starts to speak, people pay attention. And they remember.

Now you’ve got a connection. And now you’re networking.

How to cancel recurring Paypal payments and subscriptions

Noticed a drain on your Paypal account lately? Wondering why there’s always money missing?

I recently checked my Paypal account and noticed a subscription and recurring payment for a service that I no longer needed. But cancelling is not terribly simple in the Paypal interface. In fact, you’d almost assume they’ve built the user interface to discourage discovery and awareness of all your recurring payments. Or, at least, made it hard to find and stop subscriptions.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to finding and cancelling Paypal subscriptions:

  1. Log into Paypal
    Then click on the History link in your account overview:
    Find all your recent transactions
    Select the first radio button and pick Last Three Months, which will show you enough history to know for sure which payments are recurring.

  2. Select Subscriptions
    Select the Subscriptions link above the activity listings. Now you should see all your subscriptions and recurring charges in Paypal.

  3. Click the Active button
    While you might reasonably be expecting and looking for a cancel button (!!!) click the Active button:

  4. Scroll down and click Cancel Subscription
    Yes, it’s right at the very bottom of the page …

  5. One more step … confirm the click
    No, you’re not quite finished, now confirm that you want to cancel the Paypal subscription and stop all recurring charges by clicking the Cancel Subscription button on the confirmation page …

Now you’re finished – cancelling your Paypal recurring charges in six easy steps 🙂

Theoretically this should be a lot simpler: Paypal should simply provide a link right on your account for all recurring charges so you don’t have to search for them. And … providing a clear “Cancel” link instead of a somewhat cryptic “Active” button.

Lessons in life and adventure

I follow Chris Guillebeau, an author whose mission is to visit every country in the world. Every. Single. One.

He posted 34 things I’ve learned about life and adventure today – on his 34th birthday. Here’s the ones that resonate most with me … any my own thoughts on each of them.

Deadlines & quotas are your friends
There is nothing that focuses your brain like a deadline. Set ’em if you don’t have them, and use their peculiar psychological power to prod you to greater achievement.

My quota for writing is at least 33 minutes a day, usually first thing in the day. I can do more, but that’s minimum. And that gives me the discipline to be 124 pages into my first novel, No Other Gods.

Helping others makes your own life better
It’s why I coach two baseball teams. It’s how any bad day can be made at least somewhat better. You can’t stay miserable when you’re helping other people – it’s almost impossible.

Love the process
The product – the end goal of any project – is a tiny fraction of the totality of your life. Enjoy the road, the means, the path, if you want to enjoy your life.

Be a believer, not a cynic
This is huge. Just huge. Being a believer might sometimes result in disappointment or misadventure. But the reward is the kind of person you become: warmer, nicer, more positive. The world is full of negativity. Focusing on the positive is your best defence.

I’ll take some disappointments for the privilege. It’s the cost of doing business – living life – happily.

Choose active over passive whenever possible
Also super-important. Doing something – almost anything – is usually better than doing nothing. It feels better, it accomplishes something, it goes somewhere, and, even if only psychologically, puts you in a better position for the future.

Ask a lot of questions
This is the most interesting part about other people: they know stuff you don’t. Learning from others is fun and easy … especially when they’re passionate. Someone who is passionate about what they do has a hard time being boring when talking about it.

Say yes more often than no
I know that design requires choices, and business needs focus. And that Steve Jobs is famous for praising the power of no. But personally, saying yes to experiences, options, opportunities opens you up to so much more. No is the word of stasis, seclusion, retreat. Yes is wanting more of life.

That’s only 7 of the 34. I strongly suggest you follow that link and read all of them.

Social media is word of mouth written in stone

Why does social media matter?

I was recent speaking at a small gathering of sales people. And one of them asked me this question.

They sell marketing services to small businesses – mom and pop shops. Places like your local pizzeria, drycleaners, plumbers, doctors. Why should those busy business owners care about social media?

It’s not like they don’t have enough to worry about. Small business owners, after all, are probably some of the busiest people you’ll meet. Running the business, hiring staff, training, pitching in where and when needed, doing the books, planning marketing, dealing with unhappy clients … the list does not end.

The answer’s really, really simple. Of course, it also happens to be a question. And the question is: does word of mouth matter?

That’s an obvious one to anyone in business or marketing. Or anyone, actually. Word of mouth drive more business (sometimes away) than most major marketing campaigns. Good word of mouth means solid business and increasing client lists. Bad word of mouth means lonely, slow days with dollars flying out but only dribbling in.

Well, social media is word of mouth. But, this word of mouth lasts forever.

Thanks to Google, thanks to rating and review sites, thanks to the internet … everything is saved. Even the idiotic tweets of a horny politician. Certainly the passionate raves and rants of your customers.

And not only is it saved … it’s shared. And spread. WOM 1.0 usually died after a person or two. The words were spoken, they hung in the air, the sound faded. And that was it. WOM 2.0 is much different. They’re saved, they have a life of their own independent from their author, and they can be shared by the author or anyone else to an unlimited audience.

That means everyone in your town, potentially. Everyone who is on your client list, possibly. Maybe even all your friends at the gym.


Word of mouth is a big deal? Social media is a bigger deal. What are you going to do about it?

More on that later …

The Benevolent Dictator

I just received an advance copy of Michael Feuer’s book The Benevolent Dictator. Feuer is the founder and former CEO of OfficeMax, and the book is largely based on his experiences and learnings as he took that company from 0 to 1000 stores in about 15 years.

The subtitle is “empower your employees, build your business, and outwit the competition,” and I found the book intriguing primarily because I’m so immersed in the online/electronic world, and this book is by a guy who’s so bricks-and-mortar.

A couple insights I liked were an emphasis on the mucky side of business success … “discipline and process is the secret.” It’s not attractive – who doesn’t want instant gold – but it’s true. Another was his very kaizen way of boots-on-the-ground managing, leading to almost instant process improvements.

As the saying goes, you don’t make omelets without breaking a few eggs, and I’m sure Feuer broke more than his share along the way. People who say things like “whenever I asked for anything it should be inferred that I said please,” and when he received something “it should be implied that I said thank you” are probably not the easiest people in the world to work for or with.

Feuer is best when he’s recounting a business story that illustrates a point … and weaker when he’s making abstract generalities.

Overall: 7 out of 10.

Connecting buyers and sellers: the coming Action Engine (part 3)

The future of search is found.

That may be a truism … sort of like a classic rock song: an oldy but a goody. But let’s unpack it a little.

I started this series on connecting buyers and sellers a couple of months ago. In the first article, I talked about how companies make money. Mostly, they either:

  1. make stuff
  2. provide services
  3. connect buyers and sellers

The third group, the connectors, have the opportunity to make the most money because they operate across business categories. (Unfortunately it’s hard to successfully layer across too many verticals, which is why Google is now verticalizing search … e.g., boutiques.com)

In the second article, I talked about companies that are working to own layers across the entire web which will enable them to know you, and secondly know a virtual representation of the world (including the commercial world, where money and goods and services are exchanged), and thirdly connect the two … thereby earning the right to “make a piece” (of the action) on every transaction.

I said that:

  1. Google owns the intention graph (what do people want)
  2. Facebook owns the social graph (who do people know/like)
  3. Twitter owns the interest graph (what are people interested in)

And today, I’ve said that the future of search is found. But not really. Actually, the future of search is done … a big red Easy button for life.

Web -> Directory -> Search engine -> ???
In the beginning you had the web. It was cool and good and most excellent.

Unfortunately, there came to be a time when there was just simply too much of it, and you needed a map. Enter stage right: directories … human-edited maps of what was, so you could traverse a neat Dewey-Decimalish system and find what you wanted. Ergo, Yahoo!

Quite astonishingly, the web continued to grow at ridiculous rates, and human-edited directories couldn’t keep track. Enter algorithms, and spiders … automated tools for finding, cataloging, and retrieving all the knowledge that’s fit to post. Hence Google.

Google is amazing, Google is marvelous, Google is incredible.

But Google is not enough.

Action engine
‘Cause it’s not just about finding stuff. Who cares, abstractly, about finding stuff? The reason you do the search for dentists in Detroit is not to find a list of dentists in Detroit.

You search for dentists in Detroit to find a dentist in Detroit, yes. But your actual search intent is only a part of your larger goal intent … and your goal intent is to find A dentist in Detroit (a good one, maybe the best one) and then to get an appointment with said dentist in Detroit … and then to get a root canal, remove an impacted wisdom tooth, or whatever your pleasure might be.

So the progression is as follows:

Web -> Directory -> Search Engine -> Action Engine

So the tools of the future are not about finding you lists of stuff. They’re about actuating desires in your life.

Hence the mention of Siri in the second installment of our little journey through the future (and the past) of commerce. It’s about tools to make our lives simpler. Because we all know about the paradox of choice.

More is less
As Barry Schwarz has shown us, more information is less value. Less value as far as happiness and quality of life is concerned, at least.

More results (millions on Google for everything) means more choices. More choices means more stress … both before a purchase/click initiation (which is the right decision?!?) and after the purchase/click completion (was that really the right decision?!? was there a better XYZ to get/do/use?!?).

So a truly empowering technology will transform intention into action … and manage many if not most of the complexities (quality, reputation, efficiency, effectiveness, etc.) for us.

We’re ready for the Action Engine. Who’s going to build it for us?

Apple against the world

I understand the fury at Adobe over Apple’s moves against Flash development on the iPhone. (And I’m sad that this particularly targeted spat may have incalculable fall-out on the rest of the Adobe-Apple relationship, which will potentially impact both companies’ customers down the road.)

It’s got a bit of the feeling of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, but with one key difference: in this scenario, Lucy never asked Charlie Brown to kick that football. Charlie Brown saw a bunch of other kids kicking the football and thought he could run up and kick it too.

Is it mean for Lucy to yank the football away from ol’ Chuck at the last minute? Yeah, absolutely. But it’s Lucy’s football.

via Apple against the world | Phones | Mac Word | Macworld.

Official Google Blog: A new approach to China

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

via Official Google Blog: A new approach to China.

I'm not in sales, but …

Everything is sales.

When you’re telling your boss what you think should be done, you’re selling. When you’re explaining to your spouse what big-ticket item you want to buy, you’re selling. And when you’re talking to a client and negotiating new features, you’re selling.

So, don’t you want to be good at it? I do, and this article is good enough and a big enough help that I wanted to remember it by posting the key points here:

8 Sales Questions You Can’t Live (and Sell) Without!

  1. The Who Question
    Who’s deciding?

  2. The When Question
    When are you deciding?

  3. The Scenario Question
    Find the needs

  4. The Net Impact Question
    Understand the impact of the needs

  5. The Explain Question
    Get input

  6. The Make Sense Question
    Get feedback

  7. The Removal Question
    Trial close

  8. The Try Question

There’s a lot here, and some of it I’m not sure how I’ll use. But I love (and use) the “make sense” question a lot, especially since I’m often working with people whose native language is not English. And many of the others are great tips.

If you have five minutes, I highly recommend checking out the entire article.

Is Microsoft Distracting Itself to Death?

There were just so many choices for this column. Eventually I went for the one you see above, semi-reminiscent of Neal Postman’s famous anti-TV Amusing Ourselves to Death. But “John Dvorak Writes Good Column; World’s Jaw Drops” was a real possibility.

Dvorak, of course, has been tilting at Macs for some time. Now, apparently, he’s advancing in reverse and shooting some of his outrageous slings and arrows at the second incarnation of the Borg.

To put it simply, Microsoft makes money on Windows and Office, and loses money on everything else. And now … Windows and Office have developed an annoying little cough, are sporting some nastly little red spots, and are complaining of pain in the glutes. Free software on the low end and Mac on the high end are eating their lunch and sticking out their tongue at the former playground bully.

But why the cracks in the giant’s armor? Dvorak, like others, highlights that Microsoft has for over a decade behaved like Hammy in Over the Hedge, a microencephalic squirrel who is distracted and distractible by anything shiny, round, black, white, hard, soft, fat, skinny, blue, or angular … in short, anything at all.

Dvorak’s list is possibly the best-laid-out that I’ve seen, however, and funny besides – it’s certainly worth a read …

Here’s just a few on the money pits he mentions:

  • Years ago in the pre-Internet era, AOL was the talk of the town, so Microsoft had to copy it with MSN. No money was made; no strategic advantage was gained.
  • Netscape was the rage for a while, so Microsoft threw together a browser and got in that business. The browser was given away for free. No money was made; the strategy got the company in trouble with government trustbusters.
  • During the early days of the Internet, new online publications appeared. Microsoft decided to become a publisher too, rolling out a slew of online properties including a computer magazine and a women’s magazine. They were all folded.
  • Computer books became popular; Microsoft began Microsoft Press. After an early splash and success, the company soon lost interest and the division now languishes.
  • Teddy Ruxpin became a hot toy. Microsoft rolled out a couple of robotic plush toys, including the creepy Barney the Dinosaur who sang “I love you and you love me.” The company soon lost interest and dropped the whole thing.

A valid point that might be made is that many big companies start hundreds of projects. Just like start-ups, most fail, but the ones that hit, hit big, and finance future growth.

I’m not sure that Microsoft, however, has hit anything out of the park other than its big core franchises. Which might make Microsoft the next bird to cross Randy Johnson’s path.

Business models: proprietary vs OSS

Valer Mischenko of NLnet is speaking at eLiberatica on free and open source business models. One slide in which he contrasts business models particularly caught my eye:

Proprietary business model: WAR Open source business model: OPEN
– World as battlefield – World as construction site
– Kill competitor – Defend the concept
– Occupy and defend territory – Encourage to join in
– Seal all ways out – Offer new free territories
– Spy (on customers) – Open all ways
– Keep all information secret – Transparent
– Propaganda as important weapon – Keep all information open
– Punish any freedom attempts – Advantages are evident

Interesting! I’ll have to digest this a bit and see if I totally agree.

Entrepreneur? Study yourself!

I already re-tweeted … but I have to post this.

In a great Open Forum post on How to Escape Mundanity (which is actually about how to start your own business), there’s this great quote from Pamela Slim:

If you are in the very early stages of thinking about a business, spend your time getting to know yourself. One of the best things I learned from author Jim Collins is to study yourself as if you were a scientist observing a bug. Pay very close attention to the things that either make you feel great or feel crappy. Note the kind of environment, work, people, topics, industries, schedule, and activities that make you thrive. When you start your business with this awareness, you will feel natural energy and clarity which will make all the next steps of the process like choosing a business idea, figuring out the money, planning your business, identifying your customers, and creating a marketing process a lot easier.

Pamela Slim, you say? Yeah, that’s Pamela escape-from-cubicle-nation Slim.

To me, this quote – and the post – is not so much about becoming an entrepreneur and starting your own business as it’s about finding what you love and doing what you’re passionate about.

That’s escape enough for anyone.