Project Management Operational Problem Solving Implementation & Change Management Strategy & Alignment

Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Business Blog
This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twitter for Transportation -- Earlier today, I posted about the usefulness of Twitter. Here's another in-the-real-world-of-meatspace example from Jeff Jarvis -- The Twitter flight (well, train) in which he describes using the Twitter community on a train to get out of a transportation jam. He summarizes:
"I've been trying to push for sometime the idea that Twitter and internet connectivity will bring us societies on airplanes. So it happened on a train."
(Jeff - If you read this, any chance of unblocking me on Twitter? It's been a while since our little brouhaha during the Olympics. - @fpatrick)

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Twitter - Not Just Oprah and Ashton -- Some linkage on getting some hits of value and productivity from Twitter...

To Tweet or Not to Tweet? How Twitter Can Further Your Brand:
"So just how does a brand use Twitter to further its aims? A few recent anecdotes can help demonstrate how companies need to think about Twitter and its impact on their brands."
Finding Utility in the Jumble of Tweeted Thoughts - NYTimes.com:
"Individually, many of those 140-character “tweets” seem inane.

But taken collectively, the stream of messages can turn Twitter into a surprisingly useful tool for solving problems and providing insights into the digital mood. By tapping into the world’s collective brain, researchers of all kinds have found that if they make the effort to dig through the mundane comments, the live conversations offer an early glimpse into public sentiment — and even help them shape it."
Six Ways You Should Be Using Twitter (that Don't Involve Breakfast)
1. Instant, Real-Time Search Results...
2. Monitoring Something You Care About...
3. News Updates...
4. Instant Communication with Friends...
5. Twitter as a Productivity Command Line...
6. Ask Questions, Get Answers...
And from Kottke, there's nothing wrong with a bit of trivial diversion now and then...

In defense of Twitter
"...you'd like to think that most of your daily conversation is weighty and witty but instead everyone chats about pedestrian nonsense with their pals. In fact, that ephemeral chit-chat is the stuff that holds human social groups together."
Tweet on, my sweet tweeters. - @fpatrick

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Useless Statistics Refreshed -- Oh, no.

Here they come again with what may be one of the most quoted useless set of statistics. The Standish Chaos Report 2009 is out. And guess what?

More projects than ever are "failing". (There, you don't have to go to the link.)

The mind boggles imagining the flurry of activity in consultants' offices around the world, updating their PowerPoint presentations, websites, and blogs.

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Consideration -- On thinking of not just yourslef, but others, from 5 Tiny Steps to Quit Being Such a Jerk at Zen Habits...
1. Admit you’re not perfect...
2. Place yourself in the shoes of others...
3. Act with compassion and kindness...
4. Practice, practice...
5. Do 5 little things...
These are only the steps. For the explanations, go read the whole thing.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Go Fly a Kite -- Audacious thinking. Saul Griffith: Inventing a super-kite to tap the energy of high-altitude wind


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Monday, April 27, 2009

Zen Habits | Simple Productivity - A new (for me) blog I've added to my feed reader. It's from the author of The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential...in Business and in Life, the tagline of which...
"Do Less. Get More Done."
...sounds real familiar.

Kind of a mantra for me.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Managing Anything --
The first and most important aspect to managing anything - and I mean anything - is to manage expectations.
Sounds about right to me. Read the whole thing to find out what Jeffery at Thinking Faster thinks are the number 2 and 3 most important aspects of managing anything.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Project Management: Multiple Personality Disorder Required -- Good piece over at ProjectSteps: Project Management Paradox, which goes into some of the rocks and hard places that [project] managers find themselves between when doing their thing. It's based on Tom Peters' old book, Liberation Management - a good one - my old copy is well worn. Some of the dilemmas to be navigated include
  • Total Ego versus No Ego...
  • Autocrat versus Delegator...
  • Leader versus Manager...
  • Oral versus Written Communication...
  • Complexity versus Simplicity...
  • Big versus Small...
  • Patience versus impatience...
  • Now go read the whole thing.

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    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Unfocused: Friday Fun: Why Didn't I Think of That Edition
  • Use a Printer to Count Documents

  • SpoonLidz

  • Memory - Silicon & Paper Combo
  • Then, of course, there's the already classic SnugWow!

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    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Ignore Everybody -- Based on chapter titles of Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, by Hugh McLeod of gapingvoid.com...

    There's also the original Ignore Everybody post on Hugh's blog.

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    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    PR is to Publicity as Marketing is to Advertising -- From Seth's Blog: The difference between PR and publicity...
    "Most PR firms do publicity, not PR.

    "Publicity is the act of getting ink. Publicity is getting unpaid media to pay attention, write you up, point to you, run a picture, make a commotion. Sometimes publicity is helpful, and good publicity is always good for your ego.

    "But it's not PR.

    "PR is the strategic crafting of your story. It's the focused examination of your interactions and tactics and products and pricing that, when combined, determine what and how people talk about you."
    If a lot of "PR firms" actually do Publicity, as Godin suggest, then a lot of "Marketing firms" probably just do Advertising, making pretty pictures and websites and getting them out there, but leaving the strategic development of market offers to those who own the offers - the clients. Maybe that's as it should be, maybe not, but should they be calling themselves marketers or advertisers?

    And if you're looking for expertise in getting your message out into the world, be sure you ask your prospective service providers 1) how they see the difference between publicity and PR, and marketing and advertising, 2) what bucket they see themselves in, and 3) what in their service confirms their answer.

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    Unfocused: So Moved - Democracy is Coming to the USA -- From the NY Times, So Moved - And the Pursuit of Happiness Blog. From Thomas More through de Tocqueville...
    "If one aked me to what do I think one must principally attribute the singular prosperity and growing force of this people, I would answer that it is to the superiority of its women." - Alexis de Tocqueville
    ...to a New England town hall and a Bronx student council meeting, Democracy - coming to the USA.
    "It's coming to America first,
    the cradle of the best and of the worst.
    It's here they got the range
    and the machinery for change
    and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
    It's here the family's broken
    and it's here the lonely say
    that the heart has got to open
    in a fundamental way:
    Democracy is coming to the U.S.A."

    - Leonard Cohen

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    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Linkage: Johanna and Esther -- You may have noticed a core group of blogs and sites that I tend to link to. Obviously they are the one's I read. In addition to Glen Alleman, two of my regular go-to gals (so much for PC) are Johanna Rothmann and Esther Derby. Here's a pile of posts from them that are worth your time.

    From Johanna Rothmann:
  • Why Everyone Needs to Manage Their Own Project Portfolio - "...Developers (and testers and writers) need to let go of old work. Their managers need to stop assigning everything that smells like that old thing to those specific developers, and add in the new requests to the entire project portfolio....The key is for everyone to know what they are working on for a short while, and what their personal backlog is..."

  • Measuring Productivity: More Difficult for Managers - "...how to measure knowledge workers. For software project teams, it’s easy: the number of running, tested features over time. The features have to be complete. No partial credit for partially done features. But what about for managers? That’s a little trickier..."

  • Which Kind of Project Are You Working On Now? - "...Especially in this economy, I would do as little as possible on keep-the-lights-on projects, avoid normal growth, and see if I couldn’t transform my business. But that’s my strategy, and fits my risk-taking approach, not yours. Do you know what kind of project you are working on? Should you be?"

  • Partial Commitments to Projects Create Unpredictable Projects - "...Partially-committed projects are not projects you can predict anything about. Yes, they have people assigned to them. Yes, they even make some progress. But how can you predict anything about the project?..."
  • From Esther Derby:
  • Specialists AND Generalists - "...if you have a project with many specialists, you end up with lots of politics as people seek ascendancy for their particular concerns. If the specialists are acting as vendors to a project team, those specialists may not be invested in the delivery goal of the project, only in delivering their part answering their concerns."

  • Three Myths about Teams - "...Teams that are working well together make the work look easy. They work at a purposeful, yet relaxed pace. They even look like they are having fun."

  • Visibly Valuable - "...Here are 10 things you can do as a developer to make yourself more visibly valuable, which may keep you off the RIF list..."
  • They've also got a few books, most of which I've read, and all of which I would recommend...
  • Manage It!: Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management, from Johanna.

  • Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, from Esther.

  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management, from both.

    ...and coming soon...

  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, from Johanna.
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    Monday, April 20, 2009

    You (Don't) Get What You Pay For -- Or maybe "Pay for what you don't get".

    A couple weeks ago, I posted a piece ononline pricing for content or services, encouraging developers of valuable content or services to not shy away from pricing their offerings appropriately. Sometimes, however, setting fees and prices can go a bit too far.

    My friend Randall, a self-described Big White Guy living in Hong Kong, points out an example of what he calls Shameless Avarice at the intersection of the online and offline worlds - a bank charging "a service charge for not using a service."

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    Projector - PM software for the Mac. Just outta beta.

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    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Unfocused: Why Healthcare Costs So Much -- I wasn't sure whether to label this post as "unfocused", i.e., related more to politics, arts, society, science, and culture than my usual management, webdev, and (recently) mobile content. While there is certainly a socio-political aspect to the subject, there's also the fallout of the legacy of the absurd employer-based healthcare we've got in the US that impacts costs unrelated to the actual work at hand. That said, it's a much bigger subject than business. So, "unfocused" it is.

    That said, I just want to point you to a series of posts from Andrew Sullivan's "Daily Dish". Sullivan is a prolific observer of social issues, and his style is partially based on pointing to and quoting from others' work. His blog doesn't have comments, but he does do a great job of editing and passing along emailed responses to his provocations. The recent series, started with Why Healthcare Costs So Much and continuing here, here, and here, so far, is a prime example of his best work.

    Strongly recommend the thoughtful and insightful responses from his readers.

    (And if you don't know him from TV commentaries or elsewhere, here's a good profile of Andrew Sullivan, my favorite Catholic, conservative, gay, pro-Obama, Brit-American pundit.)

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    Rule #1: Don't Let Go -- Nine life lessons from rock climbing...


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    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Unfocused: Youtube Symphony Orchestra -- Wish I picked up on this earlier. Might have dusted off my old clarinet or sax.

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    Benefits of Change -- From Thinking Faster, an increasingly source of blogfodder for me, in a post on assessing costs and benefits, Jeffrey Phillips asks...
    "How do you make sense of the 'benefits' side of the equation?"
    Prior to Jeffrey's question in July, back in June, Jack Vinson wrote a good piece summarizing the TOC approach to assessing ROI...
    The decision process should be simple:

    * How much will throughput increase due to this change (throughput = sales - totally variable costs)?
    * How much will actual costs change due to this change? (Note: saving a man-month doesn't count unless you plan on firing someone.)
    * How much investment will we need to institute this change?
    Things get complex when you start trying to allocate costs/savings/benefits to parts of the organization, be they departments or products. It's best to keep these questions at the organizational level, which is where any "bottom line" exists anyhow. Sure, the answers can be developed via bottom-up analysis of increases and decreases at the department or product level, but the answers themselves only mean anything at the organizational level.

    The advantage of posing the questions in terms of throughput, operating costs and investment is that, unlike allocation schemes like traditional cost accounting and ABC analyses, these pieces can be simply added to arrive at the right answer, while the other methods muddy the water with weightings and other manipulations.

    But I digress. The question on the table is about benefits. It's about what you can do with the results of the investment that you couldn't do before, and whether that new capability addresses some sort of constraint that's impeding you. From Jack...
    Another way to look at this is to use Goldratt's idea that "technology is only beneficial if and only if it diminishes a limitation." I think the statement can be broadened to "an intervention is only beneficial if and only if it diminishes a limitation." Goldratt breaks this further into four questions:

    1. What is the power of the technology?
    2. What limitation(s) will it diminish?
    3. What rules were followed because of the limitation?
    4. What new rules should be followed now?
    The first two questions are about identifying the real benefits, if any - the "why". The last two questions are about "what" needs to be replaced and "how" the new environment needs to be managed to maximize those benefits.

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    Friday, April 17, 2009

    Unfocused: Friday Fun: Miscellanea
  • Jaded Hipster Owls Think They've Seen It All - This "animal picture blog with an attitude" (and with a NSFW name/url) is one of my favorite sources for mental health breaks.

  • The Ascent of Money - Niall Ferguson traces the evolution of money and demonstrates that financial history is the essential back-story behind all history.

  • Mindfuck Movies - "Some movies inform. Some movies entertain. And some pry open your skull and punch you in the brain."

  • Legacy Locker - Some might not consider this a "fun" link, but given how much of our lives are now online, what will happen to those "assets" when you're not around to maintain them. If you care...

  • Losing It: Why Self-Control Is Not Natural - "Group living...takes great self-control; it takes a lot to live with people day after day and not kill them"

  • Hell Explained by a Chemistry Student - "Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?"
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    The Project Communication Problem


    Related to this week's post on conversations and meetings, aka communication, Project Shrink Bas de Baar is working on a series of pieces on the subject, anchored at Solving The Project Communication Problem.

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    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    URL Shorteners - No Free Lunch - Via Jeffrey Zeldman, I've come across an interesting critique of URL shorteners from Joshua Schachter. Services like tinyurl and bit.ly have skyrocketed in use in such text-length constrained environments like Twitter and SMS text messages. However, Schachter brings up some good reasons to think twice before (over-)using them.
    "...The worst problem is that shortening services add another layer of indirection to an already creaky system....

    "...The transit's main problem with these systems is that a link that used to be transparent is now opaque and requires a lookup operation....

    "...The publisher's problems are milder. It's possible that the redirection steps steals search juice — I don't know how search engines handle these kinds of redirects. It certainly makes it harder to track down links to the published site if the publisher ever needs to reach their authors. And the publisher may lose information about the source of its traffic....

    "...But the biggest burden falls on the clicker, the person who follows the links. The extra layer of indirection slows down browsing with additional DNS lookups and server hits. A new and potentially unreliable middleman now sits between the link and its destination. And the long-term archivability of the hyperlink now depends on the health of a third party....

    "...There are usability issues as well...."
    Go read the whole thing, especially for his final paragraph prediction about what is likely to happen with this issue.

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    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Five Things About Mobile -- On ClickZ, Eric Bader considers a few things marketers may overlook when evaluating mobile marketing plans.
  • Mobile Is More Than Cell Phones...

  • Mobile Isn't Just a Digital Medium...

  • Mobile Is a Computer in Your Pocket...

  • Don't Forget About Voice...

  • Apps Are the, um, Killer Apps...
  • Read the whole thing.

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    On Conversations (Meetings?) -- From The Quotations Page...
    "Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of witnesses." -- Margaret Millar
    Reminds me of something I read a few years ago on jroller.com that now seems to be a dead link:
    "Meetings should be for network communication not 1-to-many, many-to-1. Effective meetings seem somewhat ad-hoc, though with defined goals, and no one really "runs" them, though they may be facilitated. If it's just presentation of information, it shouldn't be a meeting."
    But by the way, a sales pitch is not just a "presentation of information"; from Why do we meet? - Thinking Faster:
    "We generally meet to educate, inform, persuade or sell ideas, in which case few people need to speak and therefore few people need to attend, or to generate alternatives, provide different or unique insights or gather data, in which case everyone who attends should contribute."
    On a related topic, i.e., decisions on appropriate means of conversation/communication, back in 2004, Dave Pollard wrote a piece about blogs as great communication media but lousy communication tools that included the following decision tree graphic...


    It's still a good checklist, although it might benefit from some minor updating for the newer social media tools in the final bottom decision block.

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    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Links & Snips
  • How to detect bullshit - Scott Berkun: "Great teams and families help each other detect bullshit, both in others and themselves, as sometimes the real BS we need to fear is our own."

  • Protecting the Workgroup - Fast Company: "...in high-performing groups, the leader 'protects' the group from the larger company, whether lobbying for more resources or shielding the group from company interference."

  • Designing Interactions - Bill Moggridge (Recommended book.) - First sentence: "Who would choose to point, steer, and draw with a blob of plastic as big and clumsy as a bar of soap?"

  • Leading Ideas: Walk the Fine Line - Fast Company: "By definition, if you want to create something extraordinary you've got to leave the majority. You've got to break free from commonly accepted ideas and practices and go out on a limb. The catch, of course, is that you risk your sanity in the process. It's never easy to be a non-conformist, dissenter, or rebel. You end up walking the fine line between crazy and brilliant. But if you want to look back on your life and smile, it's necessary from time to time."

  • The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) - John Maeda: (Recommended book. You can browse it at Amazon.)

  • We specialize in everything - Seth Godin: "It's okay to specialize in being a generalist, of course. By that, I mean that there are many problems...where someone who can see wide and doesn't have an allegiance to a particular solution is exactly the right person to call. I rely on generalists all the time, and so do you. My point is that you never call on these people when there's a better specialist available. And in the old days, a little town could only support one generalist, so it wasn't an issue. Today, especially in high-value situations, that's just not the case. So, yes, generalize. And specialize in it!"

  • iPhone Development: 12 Tips To Get You Started - from the often useful Sitepoint
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    Optimism is the Disease -- Sometimes I worry that, when in brainstorming sessions, I'm not able to keep my mouth shut regarding concerns or obstacles associated with the ideas that come up. Fortunately, I think I know how to express them without sounding like a nay-sayer, and anyhow, if I'm going to be involved in the implementation of these ideas as a project manager, prudent risk management requires such feedback. From Herding Cats: Why We Need Professional Project Managers:
    "Optimism is the disease, feedback is the cure..." is a Kent Beck quote."
    Some time ago, in a post titled "Accentuate the Negative", I wrote...
    Some time ago, I wrote about something similar to this in one of the earliest columns in my Unconstrained Thinking series. Back then, I pointed out that people are great at being negative. We are always willing to talk about our problems -- we love to "bitch and moan." If someone offers a solution, it's real easy to point out what's wrong with it -- unintended side-effects that the solution creates or why it won't really accomplish its objective. And once we've agreed that something might be a good idea, most of what goes through our minds is why we can't make it happen -- obstacles and hurdles. As I wrote in the old piece...
    Have you ever been in a brainstorming session in which the facilitator was one of those "cheerful Charlies" who tell the group that it's against the rules to say anything negative about an idea? How many rounds of ideas went by before you were biting your lip?
    The point is that our problem solving processes should not rely on unnatural positivism, but rather on what people have demonstrated as a common core competency -- the ability to throw wet blankets.

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    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Web 2.0: Opportunities & Risks for Pharma -- Slideshare presentation from Craig Delarge of Novo Nordisk on Web 2.0 in pharmaceutical communications...


    Craig and his company were early adopters with the Voices of Diabetes "patient blog". [Disclaimer: I was heavily involved with launching that effort from the agency side.]

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    Social Media's Only Rule -- Don't be boring!
    "There's a growing conversation about the 'rules of social media' and the consequences marketers face should they violate them. But there's only real rule of social media: don't be boring. So long as you do not bore your audience, you are free to try anything. That goes for individuals and brands alike."
    You'll let me know if I get boring, won't you?

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    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Unfocused: It's Easier to Sneak Up on the Easter Bunny...when his ears are on the menu at el Bulli.


    (via Hungry In Hogtown: Ear-resistible: el Bulli's deep fried rabbit ears with aromatic herbs)

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    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    Unfocused: Losing - It's Supposed to Taste Like A S%!t Taco --


    The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
    Baracknophobia - Obey
    thedailyshow.com
    Daily Show
    Full Episodes
    Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

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    16 Design Tools for Prototyping and Wireframing -- From Sitepoint, an excellent summary of alternatives to the dreaded Visio, however, they leave out my favorite tool for quick-and-dirty work - Inspiration.

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    Friday, April 10, 2009

    Unfocused: Friday Fun: The 1960s Lyric Edition -- Can anyone point to a better line than the first one in the following?...
    I was floatin' in the ocean greased with suntan lotion
    When I got wiped out by a beach boy
    He was surfin' when he hit me but jumped off his board to get me
    And he dragged me by the armpit like a child's toy
    As we staggered into land with all the waiters eatin' sandwiches
    He tried to mooch a towel from the hoi polloi
    He emptied out his eardrums, I emptied out mine
    And everybody knows that the very last line
    Is "the doctor said, 'Give him jug band music
    It seems to make him feel just fine'"


    -- John Sebastian and The Lovin' Spoonful.
    Also... Joe Cocker - close-captioned for the clear-headed.

    And, finally, going beyond just songs of the Sixties - The Archive of Misheard Lyrics offers up their current funniest of the year - from the Eighties: Robert Palmer's Addicted To Love...
    Might as well face it, you're a d**k with a glove.
    (Can't guarantee whether that site has real misinterpretations only, but even if concocted, this one's even funnier when you remember that the song came out around the same time that one gloved Michael Jackson was in his prime.)

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    Why Clients Get Nervous -- A short video on the need to understand what really pushes the client's buttons when pitching an idea.

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    Thursday, April 09, 2009

    Text Dominating College Mobile Communication, But... -- Sometimes I run across a story that points to a predecessor, and when I do, I often try to dig back to the original. I guess it's a matter of editorial decision-making, but in more than a few cases, the original story is, if not distorted in the latter report, occasionally quoted without the full context. Here we've got a case of a text-oriented blog (textually.org: Text Overtakes IM, Email, Voice Among College Mobile Users) quoting a voice/VOIP-based original (Text Overtakes IM, Email, Voice Among College Mobile Users):
    "...99.7 percent of students have a mobile communications device and the rates of sending text messages, e-mail, photos and videos are increasing.

    "Text messaging has overtaken email and instant messaging as the main form of communication for college students, 94 percent of whom send and receive text messages.

    "When using their mobiles to keep in touch with family and friends with 59 percent text, 17 percent call, nine percent send IMs and seven percent use email."
    Sounds real promising for mobile marketing firms; a ready-made audience comfortable with text as a regular communication channel. However, as we at Again Mobile are careful to educate our clients and prospects, considerable care must still be taken in addressing this or any other group via mobile methods like text, as is pointed out by the rest of the Business VOIP piece. Benefiting from reaching these frequent texters may not be the slam dunk that the raw numbers suggest...
    "As lucrative as many believe mobile marketing will be, there are warning signs. The study indicates 52 percent of respondents received ads on their cell phone in the last few months, up from 24 percent in 2005. But a backlash might be building.

    "'In 2005, we found that 30 percent of students said they were annoyed at getting an advertisement, and that has grown to 48 percent in the most recent survey,' says researcher Michael Hanley, Ball State journalism assistant professor.

    "'What good is an ad if nearly half of your target market is not happy about receiving it?' he asks."
    A couple lessons here. One - and this should not really be a new one given our recent passage through a long political silly season - is that you can't always take at face value what someone says or writes, despite how much you want it to be true and relevant. (duh...)

    Another - more specific to the subject of mobile marketing - is that, as in the realm of email communication and other "social marketing", the idea of "permission marketing" is paramount if you don't want your message to be dismissed or vilified as spam.

    And going beyond the recommended double opt-in and frequently offered options to opt out, for the text portion of your campaign to be "sticky" and appreciated, it needs to be designed with benefit for the recipient in mind. It needs to provide what they want or need in the mobile context. Location-specific, timely, incentivized, connective (social), or entertaining content are the primary appreciated uses of mobile marketing. To be valuable for you, it needs to be valuable for your target audience as well.

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    So You Like "Free" -- On the other side of my recent post about not being afraid to charge for things on the web, Chris Anderson provides an interesting summary of the various business models that provide content to users for "free".

    More than a one way to skin a cat. More than a few.

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    Wednesday, April 08, 2009

    Matrix Revisited -- A la xkcd.

    Was it really 10 years ago?

    Whoa...

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    Be Careful What You Measure - You'll Get It -- From Johanna Rothman's Managing Product Development - Discuss Results, Not Tasks...
    "...If you ask people to deliver results, you are likely to get them. If you measure or assess people on how they perform certain tasks, such as yelling at program staff, or how well people work on a task in isolation, you will get what you measure. But it won’t be what you want.

    "Remember to measure what done means, not the tasks people do..."
    One more time...Tell me how you measure me, and I'll tell you how I'll behave. (Goldratt)

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    Radio Interview: Pew Internet and American Life Survey -- A couple days ago, I referenced the Pew Internet and American Life Survey in a post about Ambivalent Networkers. This week's show from On The Media touched on the impact of the internet on society, and also offers up a 28 minute uncut interview with Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

    [Note: If you are reading this via a Facebook note, you may or may not have access to the embedded audio player. If not, you can find it via the "View Original Post" link below, or directly from On The Media via this link.]

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    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Better is in the Eye of the Guy with the Money -- Seth Godin asks What does better mean?
    This is a hard lesson for marketers, particularly technical marketers, to learn. You don't get to decide what's better. I [as the customer] do.
    Like I pointed out in yesterday's piece on Ambivalent Networkers:
    It's important for us to remember that there are others out there who are into the technology not for its own sake but to solve specific problems, and who may not be excited about the possibilities but rather confused or overwhelmed by them.
    There's also the context question, such as the difference in experience and expectations between the "information wants to be free" web and "pay as you go" mobile platforms.

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    Audi A4 Production -- Never thought I'd find watching robotic welders mesmerizing...


    Got me wondering...

    When you think of a auto plant, does what you see in your mind's eye look anything like this clean, well-lit operation?

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    Unfocused: Talking Past Each Other on Evolution -- Interesting observation from Juli Berwald, Reporting From the Front Lines of the Texas Evolution Debate for Wired.com:
    "Maybe evolutionists and creationists can't find common ground because they really aren't even having the same argument. Scientists are fighting to preserve their ability to answer how unimpeded by why. Creationists are fighting to have answers to why, unthreatened by answers to how."
    [via Andrew Sullivan]

    We know somewhere there's a "how", but I'm skeptical about the existence of a "why". Obvious, eh?

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    Monday, April 06, 2009

    Pricing Culture: Mobile vs Web -- A quick link for a slight tangent from my recent piece on web pricing, from a piece in today's NY Times, Micro-Billing Suits the Phone Companies Just Fine:
    [On mobile platforms,] "There’s been no expectation that anything would be free," said David Chamberlain, an analyst with In-Stat, a market research firm. "The telcos have been very careful not to give stuff away."

    By contrast, he said, "a lot of people on the Internet are wondering — why did we let all this stuff go for free?"

    It may have to do with each industry’s origins. "Information wants to be free" has long been the rallying cry for many Internet pioneers. As the mythology goes, the designers of the Internet envisioned it as utopian and open — two words rarely used to describe the phone experience.

    One example of the stark difference between the phone and the computer is the concept of micropayments. Newspapers and other content producers have examined the method — getting people to pay for content with a nickel here and a dime there — as a possible answer to their revenue problems on the Web.

    But the phone industry has had a micropayment system for decades. Ever since the local telephone company charged a customer an extra 35 cents to hear a recorded weather forecast, the phone industry has been charging for content.
    [Thanks, Pam, for the link pointage.]

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    Ambivalent Networkers -- Ben Kunz of Thought Gadgets recently commented on a recent Pew Internet and America survey and analysis of mobile users. One of the interesting cadres were identified as "Ambivalent Networkers". Kunz says...
    "This group represents 1 in 5 of heavy users of mobile internet -- the people who text on phones most often -- and they aren't happy. Pew reports this group feels overwhelmed with the need to stay connected, out of fear they may miss something, and are growing frustrated with the constant variations of social media options to communicate."
    I suspect the "ambivalence" this group feels is probably related to marginal value received from what they feel is "forced participation" in a range of channels. As Ben implies at the end of his post, those of us who live in the world of mobile and interactive have one perception of the experience, getting value from these activities in the form of exploration, entertainment, and excitement about possibilities; "We're still adding icons to our iPhone."

    It's important for us to remember that there are others out there who are into the technology not for its own sake but to solve specific problems, and who may not be excited about the possibilities but rather confused or overwhelmed by them.

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    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    Unfocused: "Science Education" in Texas Threatened Again -- Listened to an analysis of recent Texas science textbook guidelines on this week's On The Media...
    For two decades, critics have argued that the Texas Board of Education's science standards have allowed creationism to creep into public schools and textbooks. Last week the board changed the language, creating the latest arena in the clash between creationists and the scientific community. Both sides explain why the subtle language change may greatly affect how evolution is taught in Texas and the rest of the country.


    Christopher Hitchens chimes in with a piece in Newsweek Why Texas is Right on Teaching Evolution
    "...the state Board of Education, in a muddled decision, rejected a state science curriculum that required teachers to discuss the "strengths and weaknesses" of the theory of evolution. Instead, the board allowed "all sides" of scientific theories to be taught.

    "...by all means let's "be honest with the kids," as Dr. Don McLeroy, the chairman of the Texas education board, wants us to be. The problem is that he is urging that the argument be taught, not in a history or in a civics class, but in a biology class. And one of his supporters on the board, Ken Mercer, has said that evolution is disproved by the absence of any transitional forms between dogs and cats. If any state in the American union gave equal time in science class to such claims, it would certainly make itself unique in the world (perhaps no shame in that). But it would also set a precedent for the sharing of the astronomy period with the teaching of astrology, or indeed of equal time as between chemistry and alchemy. Less boring perhaps, but also much less scientific and less educational."
    One can only hope that a science teacher, when faced with a student who suggests some alternative "theory" that is non-scientific, has the preparation and to point out the scientific weaknesses of any proposed science fiction or fantasy and therefore the reasons it doesn't belong in the science classroom. Hopefully s/he won't cave in to fear of being accused of (or punished for) "religious defamation".

    [Related story: Not just biology, but accepted scientific theories surrounding cosmology could be threatened as well.]

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    Taste for Makers -- Digging through my backlog of blogfodder, I can across this great piece on design. The section headlines...
    Good design is simple...
    Good design is timeless...
    Good design solves the right problem...
    Good design is suggestive...
    Good design is often slightly funny...
    Good design is hard...
    Good design looks easy...
    Good design uses symmetry...
    Good design resembles nature...
    Good design is redesign...
    Good design can copy...
    Good design is often strange...
    Good design happens in chunks...
    Good design is often daring...
    Go read the whole thing.

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    Dirty Dozen -- From Rolling Stone (still relevant after all these years):
    "Meet the bankers and brokers responsible for the financial crisis - and the officials who let them get away with it"
    The Enabler, The Pioneer, The Ideologue, and nine more.

    Get the whole list at The Dirty Dozen : Rolling Stone

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    Saturday, April 04, 2009

    Recent Linkage: Herding Cats -- Not enough time to do these justice with my own commentary, but here's some recent posts from Glen Alleman that I've been sitting on...
    Herding Cats: Making Credible Estimates
    "The art of estimating the cost and schedule aspects of a project a fraught with problems. The primary issue is the belief that estimates are either credible or completely worthless. Both extremes are wrong of course. But a reality check needs to be taken, before understanding how estimates can be put to use..."

    Herding Cats: Status Reports
    "Status reports always seem to be a thorn in the side of many project managers and managers in general. Status reports tend to be "wrong headed" in general. Here's how to fix this and get back to adding value..."

    Herding Cats: Useful Project Management Quotes
    "Many times I'm sitting in a meeting or driving along thinking about projects I'm working on, or even better riding my bike far away from home and a thought comes to me about how to wrap up a complex concept in a simple phrase. Here are some that have come to the surface lately..."

    Management of Projects
    (Definitions of "management" - too short to quote. Click the link.)
    If you're interested in project management but not already following Glen's Herding Cats blog, you should really give it a serious look.

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    Friday, April 03, 2009

    Unfocused: This is for the Birds -- Birdsong Radio - The original tweets.

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    Friday Fun: The Mobile Edition --
    Bring Your Cell Phone to the Opera, Please
    "A coming production of [the Mozart] opera "Cosi fan tutte,"...will ask audience members to vote at intermission for which characters should be married in the opera's final scene."

    - Just turn them off between the intermissions.

    SitOrSquat iPhone/Blackberry App to be sponsored by Charmin
    "According to P&G, SitOrSquat for iPhone and BlackBerry is a Wiki for recording and accessing bathroom information, including data on where to find bathrooms, changing tables, handicap access and other amenities--users may add new content to the service and provide feedback on featured toilets. So far, SitOrSquat has compiled information on more than 52,000 toilets in 10 countries worldwide--in addition, more than 1,600 users have downloaded the app to their mobile device."
    - I guess if you have Yelp and Urbanspoon to help with the input...

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    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    Entrepreneurial Enabling of Entitlement -- [Rant Mode On] I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of people whining about things like the insertion of ads or the possible inclusion of "premium" membership in their (and my) beloved Twitter. And then there are the Facebookers who have freely used Zuckerberg's - and his investors' - expensive servers and tools to share their life stories, but are the first to blindly sign up for silly groups called something like "We Will Not Pay To Use Facebook. Need As Many Members Possible To Stop This!".

    Would you like some cheese with that whine?

    [Rant mode off]

    David of 37 Signals (home of quality - and fairly priced - products like Basecamp, Backpack, Highrise, and Campfire) asks a good question - not of the users who have come to expect everything for nothing, but of the enabling entrepreneurs: How did the web lose faith in charging for stuff?:
    "...the startup culture has caught this disease that there’s something unnatural in being profitable from the get-go. That making money early means you won’t make it big later.

    "It’s depressing and it’s wrong, but I also think it’s going to change. I think the days of the traditional San Francisco startup approach are numbered. It’ll be flushed down the drain along with CDO’s and zero-down mortgages."
    I know that over the years I've happily paid for stuff of value to me - like premium Flickr and Blogger accounts. (Blogger was in the early days, for which I got a Blogger hoodie when they sold out to Google and went fully free.) Also, my contributions to my local NPR station have grown to help sustain all the podcasts that fill my iPod and my commute. And just the other day, a friend ragged on me for buying a particular iPhone app when one with very similar functionality was out there for free. Setting aside a couple differences that beckoned me, there was also something about the willingness to charge that gave me that confidence that there might be more enhancements coming down the line and that the builders were serious about what they were doing. Who knows? Could happen.

    I'll gladly cough up more for online product that I value. And builders of such products and services, if they have faith in the value of their offerings, need to have commensurate faith in their users to find that same value and be willing to accept fair pricing - happily.

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    Wednesday, April 01, 2009

    Small is the New Big -- Continuing the theme started the other day with How Big is Too Big?, Peter Bregman, in Why Small Companies Will Win in This Economy, writes...
    "...The gap of confidence between small companies and big ones is growing. We used to rely on the security of big companies. That's why we worked for them. And hired them. And put our money in them.

    "But with the virtual collapse of AIG, Lehman, Citibank, GM, Chrysler, and many more — now even GE is in trouble — all that's changed. Now it's a risk to do business with the big ones.

    "We simply don't trust companies anymore. We trust people. And in big companies, it's hard to even find a person to trust as we scream "operator" into our telephones only to get transferred to another menu whose options have changed.

    "That gives small companies a huge advantage...

    "Small is the new big. Sustainable is the new growth. Trust is the new competitive advantage..."
    Read the whole thing.

    Hmmmm..."Sustainable is the new growth."

    Reminds me of my old TOC training, in which Goldratt's premise was that the goal of a for-profit company was "to make money now and in the future". The word "more" was not included in that goal, suggesting that staying in business - sustaining the ability to continually satisfy customers and provide employees with security - took precedence over growth for growth's sake. Growth (and "more" money) would come organically if you took care of customers and employees and managed the market and operations according to a constraint-based Process Of On-Going Improvement (POOGI).

    Just rambling here, but maybe the point is that the risks of growth and size include the eventual lack of ability to shift with economic changes, which then threatens employee security and satisfaction, which, as Bregman suggests, threatens customer satisfaction and confidence, which threatens the ability to make money which threatens employee security and so on. Personally, in my career, with only one exception, my own satisfaction seems to have been inversely proportional to the size of the organization within which I've found myself.

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    When Mobile Sites Are Done Right -- This note from Mobile Marketing Watch - CNBC Mobile Traffic Explodes Tenfold - suggests the growth is related more to these current economic news-heavy times, but IMHO, if the site were not appropriately designed for mobile (and limited in functionality compared to CNBC's standard web presence), it wouldn't have garnered that growth.

    I know it probably wouldn't have earned an icon on my iPhone.

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