What a Phone!

pomOver at Rich Gould’s blog, I found this really cool link to a site that describes the amazing about-to-be-released smart phone.  It’s called the Pomegranate and it will blow you away.  Go look at it now, then come back and read the rest of this post.

Really, go look now.


So you now realize that it’s all a joke, and a promotion for the province of Nova Scotia.  But it’s getting huge attention among Webish types, and is a fantastic example of someone trying  to create a viral phenomenon (as opposed to accidentally creating one).

If I didn’t already know about Nove Scotia, and I clicked on the link from my trusted friend Rich, I would think Nova Scotia must be a pretty cool place to make such a funny, high-quality, subversive marketing ploy.  I have a couple of issues with the site’s navigation, and it would take for frickin’ EVER to load on anything but broadband, but overall I say bravo.




50This is the 50th consecutive post with a title that begins with a “W.”  And today is Thanksgiving Day in the USA (Happy Thanksgiving!).  So although I am at work, it is a very stress-free environment because most of the people I deal with are observing that holiday.  So this is going to be a pontification-free post, and will deal strictly with the W title.

Remember Hawaii Five-O?  It was one of the few TV shows that my mother would actually make a point of coming downstairs into the basement rec room to watch.  I think she was crushing on Jack Lord.  I also enjoyed the show.  I just Wikipedia-ed it and was surprised to see that it ran 12 seasons.  That’s more than M*A*S*H!  I betcha that the division line between people who know the significance of the phrase, “Book ‘im, Danno” and those who don’t would be about the same as those who remember dialling  a phone number, or turning the dial on a TV.  But, oddly enough, I betcha that even today’s teenagers would recognize the theme music from the show.  But would they know the source?  Hmmm.

This post’s title also alludes to another long-running TV series, W5.  For those of you outside Canada, it is a newsmagazine show like 60 Minutes, that airs on the CTV network here.  It’s still on, although I haven’t seen it for years.  But when I was young, and watching the TV news was about the most boring thing I could imagine, its story-telling style actually engaged me.  I think that the idea of making the news more entertaining and compelling than when it’s simply spoken from a talking head, was a brilliant marketing decision.

Just thinking about that last thing, I wonder if it’s good or bad.  When you sensationalize and package “news” to make it more attractive and palatable for young boys, perhaps you’re heading down the slippery slope that ends at National Enquirer  or Entertainment Tonight.  (Wow – there’s a theme of long-running TV series developing here.  As an aside, when I first saw Entertainment Tonight, I was amazed at how much of its time was spent referring to itself.  I actually used a stopwatch to time the amount of actual content that was being presented, vs. self-promotion of what was coming up later in the show, or later in the week.  Out of the 22 minutes (commercials excluded), less than 10 were “fresh.”)

Anyway, all of this nonsense is in honour of the number that appears below.


Weiji – The Mandarin Word for “Crisis”

weijiMost followers of corporate management pop psychology – you know, the ones who read Sun Zi’s Art of War, take their staff to team-building boot camps, hire 6 Sigma black belts, etc. – have heard the old trope that the Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two characters, one of which means “danger”, and the other “opportunity.”  The implication being that those who would follow the wise ways of ancient China should embrace times of uncertainty and great change as opportunities to improve their lots.  That the bold and fearless can use situations like the current world financial crisis to their advantage.

First, before my erudite readers do it for me, let me tell you that the whole story about what the characters mean is wrong.  It was originally published anonymously in a small journal, then seized upon by politicians including JFK who brought it to prominence in the ’50s.  It is easy to see how it would propagate, this nugget-sized bite of golden advice.  Like, “Go big or go home,” and, “In for a dime, in for a dollar.”  But many people think its spread has caused more harm than good, encouraging rash decisions in troubled times when perhaps the safer, less daring way would be better.

From a marketing perspective, though, I think the advice has some value.  Doing things the same old, tried and true way that always worked in the past was fine in the past.  But the people we market to are changing and there is currently developing a “crisis” in how we can talk to them.  They’re spreading their attention over hundreds of TV channels, hundreds of millions of blogs, hundreds of text-pals, hundreds of Facebook pages, thousands of YouTube videos, thousands of Twitter tweets, thousands of Sirius and Web-based radio stations, and hundreds of emails a day.  So it is a time of great danger for traditional marketers, but also a time of great opportunity for those who would embrace the new reality and build honest one-to-one relationships with their customers.  Fortunately, that’s easy to do in a bar.


Why It’s Hard to Sell to Bar Owners

In college, Seth Godin tried to start a business selling a discount coupon book program to local student-oriented bars.  He found one of the reasons for failure was that it’s difficult to sell to bar owners.  More details are enumerated at his blog here

I find one of Seth’s points interesting: he feels that many (most?) bar owners aren’t really tying to grow  their businesses.  That must mean that they are content with the current level of income; or they are at their maximum capacity, and don’t want to invest in the extra infrastructure (staff, space, products, whatever) needed to grow.

I can certainly understand both those perspectives.  When I open my bar, I want it to be a smallish place with a steady stream of mostly the same customers.  Of course, I will want to make enough money to cover my expenses and pay myself, but if it does nothing more than break even, that’s OK.  I suspect that a lot of bar owners feel the same way.  I know that most  of the ones I knew in Montréal felt that way, and the few I know here in NB do too.

Sure there are outliers like the guy who ran Studio 54 who was obviously in it for the money (he skimmed millions in cash for himself), but I bet he also enjoyed the scene and his role in it.

Most bars that are successful are successful for a long time.  Most bars that are unsuccessful die off pretty quickly.  Therefore, the odds are that at any given time, most bars in existence are already successful.  So if you are trying to sell something to a bar owner on the premise that it will make the bar more popular or profitable, then you’re making an offer to try and change something that the owner thinks is just fine the way it is.


What’s Your Blog-Gender?

gaThere’s a gimmicky Website called Genderanalyzer that claims to be able to predict the gender of a blogger by scanning their site.  They’re 64% certain that I’m male.  They also nailed Clayton (79%), and Fred (75%).  But they’re 74% sure that Bill is a woman, and also 75% confident Jessica Hagy (one of the most popular female bloggers in the world) is a man.

So my point is not that the thing is accurate, but that it’s even conceived.  This is one of the types of services the Web will be able to do well in 5 years or so – get human-quality impressions of a person or company by perusing their online presence.

The gender of a blogger is, of course, a trivial thing for this kind of automatic analysis to determine.  But what about the kid-friendliness of a restaurant, or the hip-hop friendliness of a night club?  Or the honesty of an online merchant, or the quality of a hotel?  Or, to get back to personalities, how about the compatibility of a potential friend, spouse, physician, lawyer, or golf buddy?


Weekend, Long

No post tomorrow because I’m taking the day off work.  It’s another professional day at school, so we’ll all be home.  I will also be putting the finishing touches on a presentation that I have to give at the Moncton Cultural Forum on Saturday morning.  I will be using PowerPoint.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with my views on PowerPoint, they can be read here.

Here is a screenshot of the “Slide Sorter” view of the PowerPoint deck that was prepared for me to use:


Yes, that is what it looks like.  Seventeen pages of text so thick you can’t even make it out.  I have 15 minutes to present.  I tried reading one of the pages aloud, and it took me 2½ minutes.  Do the math. 

Here is the slide sorter view of the slides that I created to use instead:


Granted, my version will require that I actually speak, instead of just letting the audience read the slides, but, hey – I figure that’s my value-add.


Worse than Chocolate Bars

I am by no means the first person to complain about how schools and clubs enlist children to be door-to-door salespeople during fundraising drives.  But I am now involved (or rather my daughter Bishop is) in an organization that has taken the whole supplemental income effort thing to a giddying height of crazy.

To join this club, we have to pay a fairly hefty membership fee, and had to join the provincial body that governs this activity (another fairly hefty fee).  AND we had to write 3 post-dated cheques totalling $200 for January, March and June.  The reason the cheques are post-dated is that if we can generate enough fundraising cash before each of those deadlines, the cheques will be ripped up.

The way you generate that cash is by buying gift cards from a 3rd party (let’s call them Scamco) and using the cards at area stores.  A certain percentage of each dollar spent this way is collected by Scamco for the club.  The percentages vary from 2 to 6%, I believe.  So, for instance, I could buy a $100 gift card to Canadian Tire (which pays 4%), use that card to buy a tank of gas for my SUV, and $4 would be credited to my fundraising account.  If I do this 50 times, I get to keep my $200!

Of course, there is a ton of administration work that needs to be done by Scamco to manage this whole process, and they’re not a charity, so they don’t give ALL the proceeds to the club.  I’m not sure what this particular deal is, but companies like Scamco usually charge between 40 and 70%, so let’s say half.  So if the club had avoided using Scamco at all, and just got me to pitch in another $100 as part of their membership fee, they’d have the same amount of money.

As it stands now, I either have to do a ridiculous amount if gift card using, or just forfeit my $200 (which is what I’ll probably do).   So I’m out twice as much dough, and the club is no better off.


Wedge of Lemon

I am about to veer radically back into the theme that this blog is supposed to adhere to, as opposed to pontificating about society’s ills as I have been lately.  Today’s post will reveal a secret that has been held by bartenders (and perhaps the Knights Templar) since the dark ages: the cure for hiccups.

The fact that people tend to drink in bars, and the fact that over-consumption of alcohol often causes people to hiccup, means that the ability to cure the hiccups is a valuable skill for a bartender.  Here is the cure that NEVER failed in my 5 years of bartending in Montréal:

Take a wedge of lemon, pile as much white sugar as you can onto it, and splash some Angostura bitters on top.  Then tell the patient to place the entire wedge in their mouth, bite off all the flesh of the lemon (and the sugar and bitters) and swallow it at once.

Let me repeat: in perhaps 2 or 3 hundred instances of administering this treatment, it NEVER failed for me.  If someone asks you why it works, tell them that the sugar rush is “shocking” their diaphram back into normal rhythm.  This may well be true, but I have never seen any reliable source confirm this explanation.  I believe it works because all the hocus pocus and strange tastes simply takes the person’s mind off  their hiccups.  Unfortunately, now that I’ve told you this, the “cure” probably won’t work for you.  (It doesn’t work for me, now that I know the “secret.”)

So to make up for that, let me tell you my 100% effective cure for hiccups that works for the same reason (it takes your mind off them), but that requires no theatricals.  Hold your breath.  Really.  Hold it (with your hand over your mouth and nose so you won’t cheat) until your face is turning blue and you are slapping your thigh.  When your mind and body start worrying more about their next fix of oxygen, hiccups will drop off their agenda.


Weak Post Today…

… too busy with work.

Watch this neat rap video (never thought I’d write that!)


Well-Meaning Parents Go Too Far


Remember the good old days when children entered their schools without the involvement of dozens of official and ad hoc committee meetings, police cars ominously lurking, mass emailings to the entire student body’s parents, traffic cones, instruction sheets, concrete barriers, and email flame wars?  Me too.  That long ago time has come to be nostalgically thought of by me as, “last week.”

My daughter’s school, which is an excellent one by the way, has just implemented a new system for parents who drive their children to school in the morning.  The new system is called “kiss and drop” and involves a single lane of cars crawling through one of the school parking lots between pylons.  At the appropriate spot, you are supposed to plant one on your progeny, eject them from the vehicle, and get the hell out of there before any of the other parents behind you go nuts.

This replaces the old system of “no system.”  The problem with that state of affairs was that there were certain circumstances where a child might have to walk in front of a car.  Now God forbid that any child should ever be hurt in any situation, but for cryin’ out loud, it’s not like they’re crossing the highway – it’s a PARKING LOT!  FILLED WITH PARENTS!  AND TEACHERS!  THE TWO TYPES OF PEOPLE MOST INTERESTED IN CHILD WELFARE!  It was probably the safest environment my daughter was in all day.

It’s another case (like this one) of exacting a burden from a large group of people in the attempt to prevent some highly unlikely bad thing from happening.  An injured child is absolutely an awful thing, but a .000001% chance of that happening is not much of a cost to society.  Inconveniencing hundreds of people every day IS a real cost that adds up pretty quickly.