Monday, October 25, 2010

Obsolesence - a.k.a Where have all the Noses Gone

Have you noticed the evolution of the smiley face? Allow me to illustrate:

Old Happy :-)

New Happy :)

Why did we lose the nose? My theory is that twitter's character limit killed the nose.

New technology has a way of vaporizing more than noses - words lose their meaning all the time. Here are a few words whose meaning the Internet has eviscerated.


People love video and will always love to consume video. But think about it - do you still say "let's watch TV"? Or do you now say "let's watch a show"? If you have kids under 25, what do they say?

There's a big difference between these two. The term television, or TV, carries meaning around the device on which the video will be watched and the network over which the program is carried. My family ditched DirecTV about a year ago because we decided it was stupid to pay $80/month when we could count on one hand the number of "shows" we watched AND when a large percentage of these same "shows" are available online. The ability to stream Netflix to our living room television set made the decision all the easier. Downside? My wife and I feel a little disconnected because we don't see any TV ads - he said gloatingly :) If you buy this argument, then it may be worth wondering if Google erred when they picked the name GoogleTV for their new living room video entertainment offering.


My brother-in-law and his Brazilian wife recently moved from Raleigh to Sao Paulo, Brazil. We call them at least once a week, but not using the "phone." Rather, we use Skype. "Let's call Uncle Billy and Aunt Bete," my wife will announce, and the kids sprint to my wife's MacBook Pro, jockeying for the prime spot in front of the camera. That's rich, I think.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


This guy is showing up EVERYWHERE these days. Don't you think?
<--Click the image to watch on YouTube - embed was disabled :(

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are you a night clubber, club houser or greasy spoon local yokel?

After an informal audit of my Big Three social network usage - LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter - I was a little surprised to see that I use LinkedIn and Facebook way more than I use Twitter. I asked myself why and the best answer I could muster was that Twitter is just too loud. Thinking some more about it, I concluded that, if these three online hangouts had "real world" equivalents, Twitter would be like that loud pick up joint you frequented in college - fine for meeting new people, but ultimately characterized by superficiality and brashness. Facebook is the greasy spoon diner you went to with your dorm and study buddies at 2 AM for a pitcher of coffee and a Western omelet and LinkedIn would be the clubhouse where you pretend to be important and rub elbows with other pretenders (pardon the cynicism). So, I guess this means that, when it comes to online social genuineness, Facebook is where its at - for me anyway.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finland - Breeding Ground for Race Car Drivers and Community Builders

I've been loving watching Top Gear on Netflix streaming lately, even though it's last season.

In the episode I watched today (embedded below), they sent James May to Finland to learn from Mika Hakinen how to do the Scandinavian flick and other tricks of the trade. I always knew Fins were disproportionately represented in the ranks of elite drivers, but before watching this episode, I had no clue why.

It takes three years to get your full driver's license in Finland. Before the authorities grant it, you must prove able to control a car on a wet skidpad. According to Mika, this means that, by the time a would-be Finish racer takes the track, he's got an innate feel for the car in turns, even at high speed with the rear tires breaking loose.

After learning all he could from Mika, James took the wheel in Captain Fast in some Finnish town's Community Race, which happen weekly all over Finland. Notionally, these community races are very similar to Legends car racing in the US, where the value of participating cars may not exceed a certain dollar value. The idea - there and here - is to keep it fair to emphasize driving skill and not how much money one can pump into their car. What I found very interesting, and cool, about the Finnish version is the way they achieve this end. In the states, being the litigious lot we are, Legends racers are governed by a mile-thick rule book and an army of inspectors. The proverbial space pen that can write upside down.

In Finland, they take a much more practical, and I'd argue, effective, approach. There, after any race, any participant can buy any other participant's car for a set amount of money, and the seller must oblige. The proverbial pencil.

Perhaps this knack for simple and effective rule enforcement explains why it was a Fin who fathered the world's most successful community software project. Like his compatriots who, at age 15, can effortlessly flick a car's rear end loose through a gravel turn at 80 MPH, Linus Torvalds - a man with zero formal management training - has captained the Linux community with uncanny ability.

The lesson I, and I'd bet many Linux watchers, have traditionally drawn from the fact a Fin invented and grew Linux to its present status, is sort of a twist on the World is Flat - so flat that even someone from a tiny, remote place like Finland can invent, and rally many of the world's top developers to invest (time and effort) in, a free operating system that would ultimately undo Sun Microsystems (not that this was the goal, but I think it's safe to say that it was an effect, and a big one). But maybe this is wrong. Maybe the real lesson is that there's something special about the Fins and the flatness of the world was merely a necessary precondition for the rest of us to find out.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm a Broadcaster

I just booked a trip to San Francisco for GDC on Hotwire (fav travel site). I was looking at my confirmation email and noticed that I could give Horwire access to my TripIt account and it would automatically update tripit with my travel info.

Cool! I granted Hotwire access to my Tripit account, bcuz I like Hotwire and trust them. That's it. Now everyone who tunes into the Greg Wallace channel, knows where I'll be next week. And it dawned on me that I am a broadcaster.

This has some pretty major implications. For example, I have come to expect that, if anyone wants to know anything about me, and if I don't mind that you know, you can find it. Which in turn means that I don't have to tell "you" - you, unicast you.

I'll be going to Las Vegas in April for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show. I wonder if I can join NAB as a broadcaster? Why not?

Monday, February 15, 2010

B2B Tech Companies: Market What You Know, Not What You Sell

The idea for this blog entry has been brewing for a while. The genesis for it came in 2008 while I was Director of Marketing at Inlet Technologies. The engineering-heavy video encoding start-up tasked marketing with generating leads and increasing awareness but didn't have a massive budget for PPC/PPL activities. This led me to emphasize online and social media marketing approaches in my plan.

Not long before joining the company, I had read the results of the CMO Council's survey of business technology buyers on the criteria they weighed most heavily when making vendor selections (see image on left). The results validated many long-held beliefs of mine. Namely, that having the most whiz-bang features or the lowest price were less important than demonstrating an unwavering commitment to customer success and a clear view of where the market is going.

Even equipped with what seemed to me to be incontrovertible evidence that the proverbial "speeds and feeds" and "price per [insert relevant speed or feed here]" were less important than support, expertise and commitment to customer success to our target audience, I still faced a baffling uphill climb to get many of the people possessing the expertise - namely the founders, product managers, sales engineers and product developers - to share their knowledge online. There were one or two who "got it" but the social media marketing needs were greater than could be handled by one or two lone "evangelists." We needed broad commitment to participate in social media from across the organization, and it did not come easy.

Since leaving Inlet, I have done project and consulting work for a few b2b tech companies. At one in particular - a small enterprise software company in Europe- the resistance to sharing expertise online was fierce. As I struggled to get these guys and gals to blog, tweet, participate on relevant industry email lists and fora, I came to an important realization about how to sell the idea of social media participation to engineers. I can sum it up this way:
Market what you know, not what you sell.
What really motivated me to actually dedicate the time to writing this blog was reading Steve Blank's Emulating Empathy post the other day. He describes his early career as an engineer in Silicon Valley, and being responsible for "imparting a fire hose of technical information efficiently." Though he doesn't explicitly say so, I figure the topic of the technical information was his company's products. In my experience, this is pretty much every b2b tech engineer's comfort zone.

And so, when marketing goes to product management and engineering and says "blog, tweet, and participate in online fora," I think a primary cause of the resistance is the engineering logic that goes "but all the product detail is already on our web site and in the data sheets and white papers that I've already written." True dat. Very true.

And therein lies the marketing failure to define the task correctly.

Effectively leveraging social channels for marketing results isn't about how accurately and quickly you can recount technical details of your and your competitor's products. In my mind, that's "what you sell" and it is NOT what you need to be sharing on social media. Rather, in order to use social media to generate customer affinity you need to share What you Know.

Example. Inlet's engineers know video unbelievably well. And they know what all the major players in the video distribution ecosystem - new and old - are up to. They are involved, either formally or informally, with all the major industry organizations that set standards, and they have opinions. They are working on solving some of the toughest challenges in new media distribution for many of the largest new media companies on the planet. But these challenges, and the expertise required to overcome them, are not unique to NBC, Major League Baseball, etc. They are shared by every organization that wants to participate in the new media landscape. And these organizations are online 24/7/365 looking for help. Someone will provide it and that vendor will have the advantage in building customer affinity, which will drive top line results.

In closing, it's certainly true that there are often strategic implications for sharing opinions and knowledge online. Which is why the head of marketing needs to coordinate social media participation and have a strategic plan for it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Great Social Media Slides from NRF

James Bickers gave the best presentation at NRF, IMHO. Not just because the content was great, but his delivery was excellent.

Here are his slides: