Monthly Archives: September 2008

Bound to Fail : The 4 Worst Blog Ideas

If any blog pitch fits neatly into one of these categories, you have an excellent chance of failure.

The Expert Blog
In which a company expert (usually an engineer) is tapped to write an insider interest blog. Hard to sustain, boring.

The Enthusiast Blog
In which the company sponsors people to tout the virtue of their product. Inauthentic, easy to spot, no one loves a shill. (see Steve Rubel and WalMart)

The Character Blog
In which a character that represents the brand or product is created and runs a fake blog. Low interest, shallow, ultimately unfunny. (see Captain Morgan’s Blog)

The Product Use Blog
In which people are tasked with using the product and document their adventures. Usually 2 knuckleheads driving across America doing something “real”. Milquetoast, ultimately false.

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Brand Awareness vs. Brand Acceptance

I’m a person who tends to reject most brands.

Not because I’m dicky, I either tend to not care enough to have a preference, or have decided to let one inside.

I’m a Brand Acceptor. Someone who moves beyond awareness or affinity and only has room for a small amount of brands in my world. But the ones that are accepted are part of my life in the way that advertisers probly don’t understand, and couldn’t make happen in their wildest wet dreams.

All of this has led me to a single, and very important, conclusion : The majority of my brand acceptance happens in the bathroom.

Apparently Smarshy had it right all those years ago.. I’m nothing but a big fluffy boy.

iTunes App Store

What’s up with all these so-called industry experts writing advice on how Apple should be running the App Store?

From what I can see all these “Industry Experts” have one thing in common :

None of them were smart enough to put an iPod in millions of pockets or create a storefront that everyone wants to be part of.

Based on that, it’s pretty apparent that the only “Industry Expert” when it comes to the iPhone or the App Store is Apple.

If you’re pissy about getting your shitty little app on the store, go write apps for Android, see how far that will get you.

Summer Listening

Monday is apparently the first day of Autumn. Leaves are starting to fall, the pool is closed, I find myself under the covers more often.

So, I put a close to my summer listening, which looks much less sunny and gleeful than summer should be, but it was a very introspective summer for me.

Here’s the top 20 artists Last.fm tells me I listened to the most often in the last 3 months.
(Not counting vinyl spinning of course).

David Bowie – 686 tracks, mostly from the Berlin Trilogy. I have a great fondness for Low.
The Gaslight Anthem – 359 tracks, pretty much all from their new LP ‘The ’59 Sound’ by far the best album this year.
The Alarm – 206 tracks, mostly from their new album ‘Guerilla Tactics’
Joe Strummer – 178 tracks, mostly from a live bootleg from a 2002 Osaka show.
Poi Dog Pondering – 149 tracks, mostly from their new LP ‘7’
Against Me! – 138 tracks, mostly from ‘New Wave’ the best album of 2007, and their new B-sides EP.
Defiance, Ohio – 135 tracks. mainly from their recent LP ‘The Fear, The Fear, The Fear’ and quite a few listens of the track ‘Pool Hair’ from the Pink Couch Sessions (Link)
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – 120 tracks, mostly from their new compilation “Have Another Ball”
The Walkmen – 119 tracks, mostly from their new LP ‘You & Me’
John Cale – 113 tracks, mostly from ‘Paris 1919’ and his latest ‘Black Acetate’
Brian Eno & David Byrne – 109 tracks, all from their new LP ‘Everything That Happens’
Mercury Rev – 104 listens, mainly from their new LP ‘Snowflake Midnight’
Hifi Handgrenades – 102 listens, all from their grand LP ‘Carry On’
Daniel Lanois – 100 listens, mostly from his recent LP ‘Here Is What Is’
Cloud Cult – 100 listens, almost all from their magnificent LP ‘Feel Good Ghosts’
Glen Campbell – 98 listens, all from his oddly engaging covers album.
The Durutti Column – 95 listens, from his recent LP ‘Sunlight To Blue… Blue To Blackness’
The Who – 95 listens, mostly from ‘Quadropenia’ which is lodged forever into my top 20 albums of all time list.
The Clash – 91 listens, mostly bootleg live shows.
The Grates – 90 listens, all from their new LP ‘Teeth Lost, Hearts Won’

More of this list and more listening habits at Last.fm

Conversion pt. 2

I’ve gotten a bunch of peeps thinking I went way too easy on the conversion post. Here’s a bit more detail.

My 3 successful scenarios

When it has a strong value proposition to the user
The basic rational scenario. It’s always a trade-off. Is the value of the result greater than the effort the user? This applies to commerce, hand-raisers, or information exchange… it’s all the same theory. This is the most highly tweaked approach, and results are wildly different for each use.

When it is a logical step in a user’s mental model
Here is where we earn our money. Understanding a user’s mental model is one thing, but being able to construct and alter a mental model through interaction is pretty awesome. Realize you are always creating a conversation / relationship through every interaction, no matter how small. Being able to engage someone strongly in that interaction, and provide a positive and logical step to conclusion is an art form. See also: Con Men, Ronco and Cults.

When it replaces a real-world task in a better way
The easiest to do, and the hardest to make successful. Renewing your license plates on-line is far easier than standing in line at the Secretary of State (or DMV for non-Michiganders), but the first iterations of that process were so poorly done, standing in line was preferable. It was an excellent case of a great idea with horrible execution. We’ve been through many of the commerce versions of this, and it’s pretty much solidified. Arranging travel, not so much.

I could go on for days on these, but the only way to make any of these successful is to practice patience and continued effort….

Let’s say it all together : BUILD… TEST… REVISE… BUILD… TEST… REVISE… BUILD… TEST… REVISE…and so on to infinity.

Telecommuting

I’ve been telecommuting for over a year now. It’s pretty cool overall. Luckily I work for a company (Versata) that really doesn’t care where the work is done, as long as it’s done and done well.

I don’t believe Versata set out to create a workforce of telecommuters, but I don’t think they care that it happened either. They’re a very progressive company when it comes to outsourcing of work, and distribution of talent, so why not apply that theory to regular employees?

So here is my top good / bad points of telecommuting:

The Good!

  • $4 a gallon gas : I fill up my tank about twice a month, usually less. This makes me happy.
  • Better coffee : I have a Grind-&-Brew and a very nice espresso machine, and the cost has already been negated by the lack of Starbucks over a couple months.
  • Great location, great view… In the summer, there’s a pool.
  • Phone, chat, email keep everyone connected very well. Versata provides a phone with data, I write my DSL and home office off my taxes. We all win.
  • I can play my music as loud as I want, and spin vinyl all day if I fell like it.
  • I walk my kids to school, and have dinner with my family every day.

The Bad!

  • Lonely Andrew! Yes, it can be sort of isolating at times, and the camaraderie and social aspect of an office is lost.
  • Working hours blur a bit. I’m sure, big picture-wise, I’m not working more hours, but when home is the office, you’re sort of always on the clock.
  • Disconnected in small ways. Additional effort to keep tabs, or have tabs kept, is sometimes needed. Compared to the churn of useless information that occurs in an office, and the effort of parsing through it all, the effort is about the same.
  • Motivation! If I didn’t possess such a midwestern work mentality, I’d probly never get much done.

Overall, I dig working remotely and appreciate that I can. I recommend it for those who like to work, but hate the talentless brown shirts that linger around the office, corrupting an otherwise useful day!

When Conversion Works

Conversion. Conversion? Conversion!

Everybody wants it… users know how to avoid it.

Here are three scenarios where conversion will work:

When it has a strong value proposition to the user
When it is a logical step in a user’s mental model
When it replaces a real-world task in a better way

If you’re not fitting into one of those, chances are you’re about to fail.