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When Life Gives You Lemons, Invest in Aluminum

I found this post by Jim Cuene the other day.  Part of it really resonated with some of my thoughts over the last year.

Finally, “make something great” doesn’t just mean “make something that exists better”. To me, i still believe that those that have been given talent, resources, opportunities and tools should have ambitions to make the world a better place. “Great” means having a social and historical impact. It’s not cool these days to be nakedly ambitious, but i’ll say it: I don’t want to leave the planet without trying to do something historically noteworthy. Even if it’s just in the company where i work, i want to leave a mark. I believe we should be shooting at making something, something that’s noteworthy, something that people will remember because it had a lot of impact or helped others, something that is great.

Life is all too short to settle.  Find the places where you can effect the most change for your talents.  History is a fickle SOB, so do what’s important to you.  I already know my biggest accomplishments are my children.  Here are my criteria for making a difference with the little remaining time I have left:

1. Does it extend a person’s life?

2. Does it provide a better quality of life?

3. Does it remove barriers for others to accomplish 1 or 2?

I think we all feel, at times, like Sisyphous.  Either you can smash the boulder, or find a different hill without a boulder.  The choice is yours.

Ad Agencies Should Look to Higher Ed for Innovation

Three times in the last year I’ve stumbled across opportunities to collaborate with people from the hallowed halls of higher academia. Each one of these connections was very different, and it got me thinking about the advertising / marketing industry’s relationship with state and private colleges.

The traditional connection between these two industries is recruiting. Many agency professionals either speak to classes, or take on adjunct professor roles. This is a great way for these professionals to spot talent early, foster this talent, and ultimately recruit after graduation. A good example of a more formalized program is Brandlab. This program gives high school students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, access and exposure to marketing and advertising professionals.

The more interesting partnerships could happen at a business development level. Agencies partnering with college departments that have developed intellectual properties that need funding, business strategy, and a place for being, in the commercial market. This is nothing new. Many partnerships exist like this for heath IT, med tech, and pharma.

Is it time for a incubator solution to make these partnerships more of a reality?

Z-Wave Projects July

I’ve already installed Z-Wave door locks, and will be getting the Micasaverde Vera 2 home automation controller next week. This will allow me to control any Z-Wave device in my home via my computer, iPad, or iPhone. I’m also thinking about using my cheap Android tablet for most of these functions. I’ve also found an interesting wireless irrigation controller that will work with the system as well. Shoreview has city ordinances for watering on certain days.

How to Rip Your DVD Collection

Like most everyone else, we’ve accumulated a ridiculous number of DVD’s through the years.  As we transition our home media streaming, it’s just plain weird to have DVD’s laying around.  The thought of inserting hundreds of DVD’s into my laptop or desktop, then waiting for Handbrake, or whatever software to rip our dvd collection, the content started to add up in my head.  Months of work?  Forget it.

A week ago, I was searching for a hardware solution to the problem.  Can I do it fast with an Elgato Turbo H.264 HD USB dongle, maybe, but then I ran across a Sony Vaio product from a couple years ago that sounded interesting.  The Sony Vaio VGP-XL1B2 Media Changer is a 200 disk DVD/CD changer and recorder.  It connects to your Windows Media Center PC via Firewire, and allows you to access your DVD/CD collection from the changer via Windows Media Center.  The best part, it comes with a hard drive, and a few great people put a nice program together to set up auto ripping of the 200 disks, so you hit a button and walk away.

So here is what you probably need to get it done:

  • A PC with Windows Media Center, Vista, or Windows 7
  • Lots of hard drive space.  I’ve got (2) 2 GB hard drives in my box
  • The VGP-XL1B2 (Sony stopped making them, so check eBay or Craigslist)
  • Some patience to load and unload all of your ripped dvds

If anyone has any other suggestions feel free to leave a comment, and best of luck ripping your home dvd collection

SWSWi 2011 Open Data

I drowsily stepped into the office Wednesday afternoon. Eight hours of traveling, on top of, six days of talking, drinking, and learning had left me a puddle of my former self. A co-worker asked; “So, what was the BIG takeaway?”. I uttered; “Open data.”, as I hit my chair.

It’s like a freight train. I spent most of my time watching all the big names of the conference listening for cues. They look like deer in headlights when the topic comes up. It’s like extreme excitement and fear wrapped into anxiety. No one knows what’s next. That was the theme. A huge question mark.

Tim O’Reilly spoke of a startup that is helping to make it happen. Fluid Info is what RSS was for blogging, as what API’s are for the most insane mashups you could ever image.

I love data, especially finding context and meaning in huge data sets.  Prediction modeling is coming, and no one wants to talk about it.  It makes Dante’s Inferno look like Winnie the Pooh.  There are massive moral implications, not just from a marketing standpoint, but health, finance, and every other part of our lives.

Credit companies can already predict if you’ll get a divorce (two years ahead of time) with 98% accuracy based on spending patterns, but they won’t send you a email to tell you.  Zuckerberg can tell you when you’re going to “break up” and who you are going to “date” with a 33% accuracy.  Don’t get me started on genetics, the CDC, and tracking diseases.

Dennis Crowley’s keynote took the cake.  They’re hoarding venue ID’s.  The value is not in the ID itself, but what you can do with it.  The new “Explore” feature is probably a slapped together algorithm right now, but you could see him get excited with the possibilities of tomorrow.

Web 3.0 is the fortune teller.

Cutting the Cable TV Umbilical Cord

Tonight we had a visit from a Comcast employee who was canvasing our neighborhood to upgrade everyone to their “new” services. Really, he was trying to get us into the home phone service. They like to offer discounted prices that are only good for a few months, then the real prices kick into overdrive. Our channel package is pretty robust, but I’ve never had HBO, Showtime, or Starz.

Our home has four televisions. Two are older “non-digital tuner”, and two HD models. We have a Wii hooked up to our living room television which runs Netflix for the kids shows. My son’s room has a larger projection TV which has his Xbox 360 running Netflix. The flat screen in our bedroom has a Mac Mini that has Boxee Beta installed, and the family room flat screen will be reserved for the Boxee Box when it comes out in November. Whew. I like trying different devices for movies and TV.

I figured with a cable bill of around $150/month for TV and internet, I could trim about $80/month after canceling the TV portion, or $60/month if I went back down to basic. That would be a dozen movie rentals on iTunes every month, and we don’t even come close to that number. Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes make up for just about every show I’d like to watch, and a good antenna would allow for local programming.

This decision is getting easier by the month. What are your plans for ditching cable TV?

Casual Content Consumption – The War for Your Non-Attention

Since 2008, my Chumby has been sitting on my night stand. I’ve loaded numerous widgets to check my email, look at weather, view facebook and flickr photos, and even listen to music and radio. I’ve come to love this little touchscreen device. It doesn’t beg me to use it. There are weeks that go by where it’s only used as a clock, but it never complains. It was made for this purpose.

We have a lot of screens in our house. Four laptops, 3 iphones, an Android tablet, a couple TV’s, an iPad, a few portable DVD players, a Zune, and of course, my Chumby. My family consumes hours of media every day. Digital books, games, music, and streaming video. The TV has been long ago been delegated to background noise. Sure, we have our favorite shows, but we don’t use a DVR (yes we have one).

The heavens opened up when someone introduced me to Boxee Alpha a couple years ago. The software was a dashboard for all my favorite content, as well as access to Netflix and Hulu (which has been blocked). I had heard about media streaming devices, and people using Windows Media Center to store and distribute content to their TV’s, but it lacked the elegance that Boxee provided.

Since the time I first installed Boxee on my laptop, we’ve hooked a Mac Mini to our TV, stream Netflix through the Wii, iPad, iPhones, and Xbox 360. I even use my iPhone as a remote. This is the future of entertainment, or is it?

Consuming all this content has made me come to a realization. We’re trained to multitask, and the devices make it easier for us to only give partial attention. Like my Chumby, these devices constantly serve up content, but it’s only background noise until we pay attention. We’re just scanning for the next perfect “soundbite”, and the media has adapted.

Massive Facebook Exodus

leeroy_card

People leave for something better.  I’ve been hearing about the World of Warcraft killer for years now.  There has been none.  People complain, whine, bitch, and moan, but they keep paying their money to keep their account live.  Here’s why:

No one has been able to make a product to appeal to the masses like World of Warcraft.  No one probably ever will.  The era of Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games is coming to an end.  Yes, there will be a couple games that come out that will shake things up, but nothing will eclipse WoW.  It’s like the blockbuster movie, epic book, or pop culture album, nobody cares anymore.

So back to Facebook.  Will it die?  Like everything else, online…yes.  It will be a slow painful death, but you’ll never see anything as large, as everything else that comes after will be much more fragmented.  It’s ok, you didn’t like playing that Orc Warlock anyway.

Online Privacy is an Oxymoron

Businessman with a Briefcase

"Man with Briefcase"

Let’s get this out of the way. You either have an online footprint, or you don’t. If you have used a card with a VISA, Mastercard, Discover, etc… logo, you’re being tracked. Facial recognition technology is so prevalent, you’ll soon get automatically tagged in photos uploaded online. This is not the future, this is today.

Experian and Equifax have a pretty complete profile of you. Marketers only need your first and last name, and zip code to pull over 50 data points like, marriage status, purchase habits, if you have kids, etc… Pair this data with your social graph, and their prediction modeling will only become more accurate.

It’s only a matter of time before online listening tools become sophisticated and inexpensive enough to track individuals in real-time. These tools will alert listeners to mood, likelihood of purchase intent, location, or even predict major life changes like marriage/divorce, pregnancy, and death.

So you have two choices. Start erasing your digital footprint now, pay for everything in cash, and move to the Ozarks, or accept the fact that your personal data is valuable, and even Facebook is willing to sell it to the highest bidder. It’s your choice.

The iPad Review – From a Toddler

I buckled.  I had told people in the office that I wasn’t getting one.  I lied.  Saturday morning came, and I got up, drove down to Best Buy Roseville, didn’t wait in any line, and was out in 5 minutes with the 16GB iPad.  I had left the house with the intention of getting one, if there were any left, for my wife.  I’m more interested in how my wife and kids use the thing, especially my 2 1/2 year old.  She has a lot of experience with our iPhones, so I was really excited to see how she used this bigger screen, and boy was I surprised.

Here’s the thing.  Most of use grew up with using the traditional mouse input.  One hand performs multiple tasks, and at most, two fingers are used.  This is why the iPhone / iPod Touch were an easy transition.  There’s a couple gestures to learn, and you’re off to the races.  The iPad has the ability to throw that all out the door, but the app developers haven’t caught up yet.  We haven’t caught up yet.  My 2 year old, immediately wanted to use both hands, and all her fingers.  No dice!  The SketchPad Pro app is wonderful, but it only recognizes 1 finger while drawing.  To be fair, there are a few other drawing apps that do recognized multiple finger inputs while drawing.  We’ll all have to re-learn how to interface with the computer to unlock the potential of this 9.7″ screen.  It’s going to take some time, some tears, and a little bit of patience.  I can tell you that my youngest children probably will never use a mouse, and it’s about time.

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