John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Twittering an Earthquake

About 2:50pm today, I felt an earthquake.  Given that I was sitting in my office in Winston Salem, North Carolina, that was pretty bizzare.  But I also realized the immediate, personal power of Twitter.   I popped open Tweetdeck and posted that I felt an earthquake in Winston Salem, NC.   I felt odd doing that – because the idea of an earthquake in Winston Salem… is like the thought of a purple elephant.  If I saw one, I’d be reluctant to tell anyone, because the very idea of a purple elephant is a bit unnerving and surreal.

Of course,  I immediately found that there WAS an earthquake, centered in Virginia, maybe 75 or 100 miles north of where Im at.  I didn’t learn it by the weather channel, or weather.com, or the local news.  I learned it by the FLOOD of tweets in my twitter stream.   Reports of tremors were flying across my tweet-stream from Ohio, Atlanta, NYC and even others from Winston Salem.   I looked for Google Realtime, which I hadn’t used in several weeks – only to find it had been disabled.

The interesting thing is that I realized the value of Twitter -  To me, Twitter = REAL TIME news. If I need to know something NOW, it is my personal source. Twitter circa 2011 = CNN circa 1990.

That is amazing value and power.  Will Twitter EVER really maximize that?

 

August 23rd, 2011 Posted by | Business, Life, People | no comments

Mobile Explosion

Jon Buscall wrote a nice little blog entry where he called Mobile Marketing “the new land grab” – where if you “dont grab a piece now, you could be in trouble”

If I wanted to fit my thoughts on Mobile opportunity into about 140 characters, Id say something like: “Mobile is a Huge opportunity for sm-ALL business. It is ubiquitous, engaging, locational, demographically strong, growing and underutilized.”

How ubituitous? ENORMOUS Here’s a graphic.
How much is it growing? - try 20% GLOBALLY in the first quarter of 2011.

Whats the demographic strength? Near 100% – and more importantly, 66% of 18-44 year olds would try mobile coupons, and 50% of 18-34 year olds would give their phone number to a business in exchange for a coupon. Small businesses that get phone numbers can establish relationships with customers.

Mobile advertising in 2011 should double from 2010, and keep growing through at least 2015.

Why the explosive growth? Because a small business can target an advertisement to a search result and because mobile advertising puts a customer buying decision into every potential customer’s hand. Whats the RESULT for small businesses? Mobile equals customers, sales, and growth because mobile puts a buying opportunity where a customer wants it when a customer needs it, and make it amazingly convenient.

Here’s an example: I manage two google ad campaigns for a local automotive towing company. They have a web campaign and a mobile campaign. If someone NEEDS a towing company, they may need it because their car is broken down on the side of the road. In that case, the mobile advertisement allows them to call *from a search result* without ever seeing a website. No need for facebook, no need for twitter, no need for anything but search-click-call. Great for customers = great for a small business… and mobile is only getting better.

I was at a business meeting last week. Everyone in the meeting had a laptop, and a cell/mobile/smartphone – split between Blackberrys, Android phones and iPhones. Half of the people in the meeting had tablets. (ipads, Samsung Galaxy, Viewsonic G, etc), and a couple of the people also had Kindles. I was struck with the notion that as powerful as smartphones are, they could mostly replace tablets and netbooks now… as powerful as tablets and netbooks are, they can mostly replace laptops. Given the pace of change, going forward, it will make less and less sense to make a “mobile app” but more and more sense to make a platform-neutral app that works just as well on mobile devices as it does on tablets, netbooks, and pc’s (or Apple Mac’s). Addressing that now could mean that your app becomes your customers *preferred* way of doing business.

It is fair to predict that two years from now, your customers will likely have phones that can do everything that a laptop can do today… As a business owner, a business leader, either you will be addressing customer needs, or your competitors will. That’s your choice.

June 24th, 2011 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Marketing, People, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Technology | no comments

LinkedIn

Dan Schawbel wrote an interesting piece on Forbes this morning.  He says that LinkedIn is about to put all of the job boards out of business.

He includes a link to LinkedIn’s new “Resume Builder” and his article is worth reading just for that… but I missed the logic behind his attention-grabbing headline.

He kind of said that the job boards are going away because recruiters aren’t using them… and recruiters aren’t using them because they’re going away?  He also said that job boards are ineffective because of the sheer amount of competition on them, but LinkedIn has 100 million members and therefore offers… less competition.  Neither of those are particularly good arguments. He also said that  job boards produce 219 resume’s per hire and company sites 33 per hire. That still doesn’t really say exactly how LinkedIn fits in, and it doesn’t specify the compelling factor that will make companies abandon their own job boards for LinkedIn.  Hiring solutions currently generate 43% of LinkedIn’s revenue… so how does LinkedIn avoid becoming just another job board? If the only difference is the linking part, how do they stop their competition from offering a social aspect?

What do you think makes LinkedIn sustainably unique? Is it JUST the link part? Am I missing something?

June 2nd, 2011 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Marketing, People | no comments

The Reputation Economy is Here.

Dan Schwabel has written two posts on his Forbes Blog in the last week. His message is that “the Reputation Economy is Coming.”  Alot of pieces of the Reputation Economy are coming together at warp-speed. Here are a few:

MANY anecdotal stories of people who have been fired, arrested, not-hired,(cisco-fatty, etc).

Millions of people who meet and begin relationships due to *something* online.

Businesses running into serious issues… (Kenneth Cole, etc)

Colleges considering online info during interviews

If Dan Schwabel’s cited research is even close to correct that “80% of HR professionals use online reputation information… and that 70% had rejected a job candidate due to what they found online.”

It seems there is enormous evidence that whether the subject is personal, professional, corporate, or really from ANY perspective: The Reputation Economy is not coming, it is *here.*

What do you think?

March 1st, 2011 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Life, Marketing, People | 2 comments

Attention Span

My attention span is struggling under the pressure. There is a wide gulf between my life, my job and the startup that I’m trying to build.

I’m trying to learn about Quora. I am also trying to balance demands life, my job, my startup with the demands of my Blogs, guest contributions to other blogs,  Twitter, Google Buzz, my LinkedIn contacts,  Twitpic & Yfrog photography, and comments that I make on other blogs.

I want to keep in touch with all of these things because I advise customers who have their own lives, their own businesses and their own interests. To be the expert, I need deep personal understanding – AND the creativity to apply that understanding for my clients.

I think of myself as unique – a passionate, persistent, pragmatic, problem preventer, business and technology enthusiast. Former Marine, Ex Soldier & current geek.  Wrapping that up with my life is challenging because of my attention span.   It has never been such a problem before.   I don’t know if the problem is really MY attention span, or simply that the world is changing so fast. 

I want to improve some things.

I’d love to have a meaningful connection with my son but it takes two people to have a meaningful connection. I’d love to replace my aging Ford Explorer, but it only has 65k miles, and is very useful. I’d love to find a new job but my current job has been dependable since 1999 or so.  I’d love to explode my business because I think it can help hundreds of other businesses instead of dozens.  I’d love to write daily.  I’d love to bicycle about 30 miles a day, 5 days a week… but I can’t find 2 hours to do it.  To fit things in well, my days need another 24 hours each.

My world of information is exploding. Everyone’s world is. Staying on top is like juggling chainsaws and torches while flipping on a trampoline that someone randomly moves beneath my feet.  What sort of attention span can make it all work?  

Ultimately, I will need to set priorities and let things fall to the side. Everyone does. It is a challenge, and I need to find the attention span to make it all work, and make the right selections of what is important, and what isn’t.  

How do people do it? How do you?

January 27th, 2011 Posted by | Life, Other Stuff, People | no comments

Sad Suicide

Mark Madoff’s suicide touched me. 

On the morning of December 11, 2010 — exactly two years after Bernard’s arrest — his son Mark Madoff, age 46, was found dead in his New York City apartment. The initial ruling for the cause of death is suicide by means of hanging.”   I did not know Mark Madoff or any other member of his family. Mark Madoff profited from an enormous Ponzi scheme that his father ran from a business that MARK worked for – for more than 20 years. He profited from his father’s scheme that resulted in the destruction of billions of dollars of wealth, charitable foundations. It was a scheme that has inspired/caused/incited other people’s suicides.  

Mark Madoff and his brother Andrew probably understood or should have understood what was going on. They were educated and experienced.  One had a degree from the University of Michigan and the other a degree from the Wharton School. Both had worked for their father’s firm since the 1980s.   (Ironically, they worked there from around the time that Michael Douglas’ oscar-winning performance as Gordon Gekko who said that “that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” in Oliver Stone’s Movie: Wall Street)

Given Mark’s involvement in the family business, it is amazing that he and his brother turned their father in to the SEC. It is possible, as ABC contends, ‘I’m going to say you knew nothing about it, because I’m seventy years old, you’re forty, you’ve got children. So I will take the fall for this.’  It is also possible that they realized what their father did, and turned him in because they felt ethically compelled to do so.  It seems that their family has been destroyed by their decision to turn in their father.

Mark’s Mother Ruth Madoff – his estranged mother – blames his father for his suicide.

I am saddened by Mark’s death. I know what it is like to lose a parent. I know what it is like to feel pressure.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to have an $80m lawsuit filed against me, to have bankruptcy trustees after me, to betray my father in an act that results in a 150 year prison sentence, and to live with the aftermath.   There’s a small list of people who understand that – probably only one now:  Mark’s brother Andrew.  

I don’t for a second condone what his family did and I don’t think anyone should. Yet his suicide still touched me. I feel sad for his family and for his children. His children will now grow up with a grandfather who is in prison and knowing that their father killed himself, hung himself with a dog leash on the 2nd anniversary of their grandfather’s arrest. In committing suicide, Mark picked a final, sad way out for himself.   I don’t think  are any ethical lessons beyond the WAY obvious ones. There’s no techie thing here, no marketing thing, no business thing – just a human thing.

Mark Madoff’s suicide is just sad – just a sad suicide.

December 13th, 2010 Posted by | Business, ethics, Life, People | no comments

Brilliance in Red Socks

I spent two amazing days last week at the Internet Summit 2010 in Raleigh, NC. I was amazed at the wild collection of brain-horsepower - a group of people that Joe Procopio calls the ”Jocks and Cheerleaders of Nerds”  Who were these people?

There was Paul Lee – who started his discussion by thanking Jonathan Arehart for “tweeting the hell” out of the speakers – and then speaking at length about how game-ifying things provides enormous motivation for people. (Think about THAT: Essentially, he gamed the 1500 attendees into tweeting even more, and particularly about him, proving his point with his own presentation – so smoothly that almost nobody noticed)  He also advised Chip Perry, CEO of Autotrader.com, that when he listed competitors, he ought to consider how Facebook was going to change the game for Autotrader.com. I don’t think Chip knew what hit him.

There was Dana Todd – firey intellect powerfully seeping out to the very roots of her hair – predicting that i-Ads were going to probably dwarf Google, Yahoo & Bing advertising.  If she is correct, Apple is undervalued by at least 200%, and everyone at the conference needs to understand the potential impact.  I’d bet that less than 5% of attendees had considered i-Ads’ potential impact.

Eleanor Hong was calmly riveting with discussion of news, search, and search in news, and – well, how social growth and news ratings interact.  Here’s a link to her presentation. It reminded me a bit of the problem with schrodinger’s cat. If you measure something, the act of measuring it has an impact. News, Media, and Social media statistics, to me, seem to reflect this. An event happens, it is reported, it is blogged, it is tweeted, it is FB’d, etc. It is an endless real-time churn.   Jenny Halasz told everyone about Linked in Signal. When she asked, I am a witness, that not a single person in the room had heard of it. (except perhaps Dana Todd, who had tweeted about it before the summit, but I don’t remember if Dana was there.) That is both a huge compliment to Jenny, and perhaps an eye-opener for Linked-In’s marketing team. (The conference WAS the target audience and NOBODY had heard of Signal.)

There were others who were a bit behind the times. “How many people in the audience have a Facebook account” is really not a valid question for that audience. There were many who were just a wee bit too self promotional. I’m convinced that one of the speaker presented self-promotional information that was either mis-informed, deceptive, or perhaps just plain lying. There were also questions that weren’t asked about every topic. Sometimes the probing should have been deeper. Statistics and sources should be questioned and understood, not glossed over. But these things were sharp in contrast because they were exceptions to the rule of “amazing-informative-powerful” that dominated the Internet Summit. 

And in this bright, shiny intellectual solar system, Bob Young stood out. Bob was pure Brilliance in Red Socks. He spoke with reverence about the people he shared the stage with, a senior Googler, and an IBM Fellow. In the most humble way, he explained how he respected IBM because they put customers first. He explained how he admired Google because he wasn’t smart enough to work there. (Really?) He spoke a bit about his company – http://www.lulu.com - a company that aims to transform media slightly less than Gutenberg did. There was a chart showing how in 2000, there was 1 printing press for every 50,000 people in the world, but now, in 2010, there are 5 devices capable of print for every person.  There was discussion about how 50% of all printed books are never read, and end up in landfills.

Bob impressed as the sort of person who reads business statistics about Amazon selling 24 e-books for every Kindle they sell, and seeing the goodness in saving 12 quarter reams of book paper and a pint of book ink as resources saved for the world… instead of seeing the Kindle as a money printer that will do more for Amazon than it’s cloud services ever will.

So – what did I enjoy most about Internet Summit 2010?  Bob Young in the question and answer section. The unscripted brilliant firey thought, so powerful that his hat couldn’t contain it – so powerful that it ripped right out of his socks.

Bob said:

  • “Before thinking about what’s next, think about what we’ve already done”
  • “Congressmen are not part of “us” – they need to understand … so they might write laws to promote freedom… Freedom is NOT empowered by anarchy.”
  • (in discussing internet fraud) “These guys are evil, but you have to admire it because they do it so well”
  • “good content isnt going to be written unless people are paid to write it”
  • We are raising the most literate generation in the history of mankind- because of technology, not in spite of it.”

Cord Silverstein’s idea is that for next year’s Internet Summit Keynote, just invite Bob, and have him talk about whatever he wants to. He isn’t suggesting that merely because Bob’s Red Socks can be seen from space… and not because Bob’s 64 minute NC State “Leadership in Technology” piece can be seen here…  I think Bob stood out because he wants technology to do good things, humane things, beneficial things, charitable things. Bob’s Aunt may have given “one of the single largest charitable donations in Canadian history“, but Bob is not about money. He is about doing things that will benefit people –  no, rather, he is about doing things that will benefit HUMANITY – things of depth, things of gravitas, things of consequence. 

Bravo Bob! May we all find a way to create a tiny fraction of your brilliance in the work that we do.

November 23rd, 2010 Posted by | Business, Life, People | one comment

Smart Phones Rise

I am at Internet Summit 10 and I have noticed that Mary Meeker’s quote about smart phone numbers exceeding personal computers by 2012 has resonated with everyone.  To refresh, her quote is: “smartphone sales will surpass PC and laptop sales in 2012, with more than 450 million units sold.” So – the panel is talking about technology, infrastructure, net neutrality and how important it is to focus on customers…

Dana Todd  asked, “For marketing people like her, how do they deal with that technology” She meant the increase in smart phones, the changes in how people use technology. She wants to know how the increase in mobile information technology will impact what she needs to do as a marketer.  When mobile users exceed laptops, netbooks, ipads and other personal computer devices – how can marketers best deliver what customers need?

How will Mary Meeker’s projection change what people need? How will it change what people buy, what people use, what people want and what is important to people?  (assuming that people = customers)

These are great questions – what do you think?

November 17th, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing, People, Technology | no comments

President Eisenhower

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

A quote from
President Dwight Eisenhower:
Soldier, General, President.

Hard to me to make any useful comment on something so profound, except to point out that it should not be so completely forgotten.

(Official White House portrait of President Dwight D. Eisenhower from Wikicommons)

October 13th, 2010 Posted by | Life, People | no comments

Kindle is Your Paradise

Killer gadgets today are killer because they let us do everything. Is your newest latest Droid/Blackberry/iPhone a killer gadget? Maybe it is, but maybe not. What about the Kindle that only does one thing? Maybe a better question is, do you want more “killer gadgets?” Or do people need one device that does one thing?

From my perspective, the Kindle is better than a killer gadget. It is a paradise device and a paradise business model. The Kindle does only one thing, really well. That is the point. It is killer BECAUSE it does only one thing. It is paradise because it does only one thing. It can give YOU paradise if you have one, and it is paradise for Amazon. The proof is in this delightful, engaging, brilliant Kindle Ad. Please watch it because it explains everything: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGmRKSds9OY

On the surface, if you have $140 sunglasses and love sitting poolside reading your Kindle, it is an easy sell that your Kindle will work better than other multifunction book-type devices. (iPad) Depending on what statistic you pay the most attention to, Amazon is selling either 143 or 180 digital books for every 100 hardcovers sold.   Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos says it is “astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.”  That is a tipping point!

Back to the Kindle Ad!  The great irony is that Amazon’s Kindle mirrors the most successful single purpose device in the last decade, in every meaningful way – the iPod. The iPod is a singular-purpose device created a billion-dollar digital download store for Apple. (Perhaps $15 billion) Amazon’s Kindle is another killer gadget, but it is better because it is a single purpose killer gadget. The single-price digital music pricing model has simultaneously destroyed and reformed the music industry and it might yet do the same thing to the motion picture industry. Meanwhile, the publishing industry is being pushed and perhaps dismantled by Amazon’s amazing digital sales… driving per-copy prices down way past where publishers want.

So – coming full circle, here is the situation: iTunes drives Apple revenues with a product to be used on Apple’s iPods. Amazon’s delightful advertisement with their Paradise Device is thoroughly brilliant. It takes Apple out of the black turtleneck cool and plops it down. Where? in a the gut of a man wearing a semi-yellowed white-ish t-shirt over wrinkly khakis (1) at a pool with an iPad (2), sitting side by side with a kindled-up bikini girl. Mr. Apple-man is without sunglasses and looking kind of uptight and stressed, but she finds every relaxed way to look simultaneously hot… and very cool. People might not notice in the commercial, but there is a subtle plate of apples in the background (3)   Back to the stress… in this commercial, this alternate vacation reality – it is the iPad that is stressing him. His iPad is not relaxing and is not helping his vacation one bit! It is not helping him find paradise and it sure didn’t help him select his poolside wardrobe.

When you look at these two people, you can tell neither is married. (4) You can tell that she is enjoying her vacation in paradise. She has the shades, the attitude, the smile, the perfect hair, the perfect black bikini, and the perfect device with which to download digital content… and reading. Why is it so great that she has a single purpose device?  Everyone wants the paradise that comes with no deadlines, no meetings, no emails, no texts, no web to browse, no pdf’s, no buzzers, no noise, no distractions, and nothing at all beyond reading. It is only one simple pure function. Yet, nothing is getting between her and her Kindle. It is almost an intimate connection. A bargain that cost less to her than her sunglasses.

In a cluttered world filled with multifunctional device Swiss army knives, the Kindle is a Katana – sharp, purposeful, effective and to enemies, it must seem splendidly frightening in its potential and its execution. In the advertisement, everything in the girl’s vacation is elegant, relaxing and perfect. She is lost in the Kindle, lost in her reading. She has reached that intimate Kindle-paradise and left the stresses of her life behind. It is exactly the moment in exactly the vacation that everyone could use – everyone with lives that are torn by a never ending assortment of multifunction devices that sing like canaries in a mine full of hyper stimulated under-satisfied stress.  Matt Richtel wrote a great piece in the New York Times about how “Digital devices deprive the brain of needed downtime.
So – she is cool… she is hot… she is on vacation… and she can read her Kindle in direct sunlight, with her high-end fashionable sunglasses on. Why didn’t he bring sunglasses? Was he too busy in is iPad world with stimuli hitting him everywhere? Was he really TRYING to read or was he hitting on her? Does he not know how to adjust the brightness and contrast on his iPad? It doesn’t matter at ALL to her. She doesn’t have a care in the world. She is on vacation in paradise. She can relax perfectly with her kindle on her vacation reading her book in her world without interruption. That is exactly what she wanted. She didn’t want the sunlight to blind her. She wanted to be fashionable. She wanted to relax, cool by the pool, and her Kindle is exactly what she needed. Suddenly the Kindle is black bikini cool in a world of drab white t-shirts. It is a single word, a single device with a single purpose, and it is simultaneously cool, hot, functional and inexpensive. Does he need a pair of $150 sunglasses to read his iPad? No, he needs to ditch the iPad for a Kindle. The Kindle is EVERYTHING he needs. The Kindle is singular in purpose and effect. It is the paradise that he seeks, even on a perfect day when he is actually IN paradise.
The Kindle is exactly what Amazon needed. It isn’t perfect, multifunctional, or multitasking. It doesn’t read all the formats. It doesn’t try to make nice with the Nook or other devices. It is a single-purpose device in a world of multipurpose devices that gives people a way to escape all those other intrusions on their lives. The Kindle is the device that wraps an ADHD world into a single stimulus that can draw you in and encompass you the way that an afternoon with a good book could in a world that has gone by, long ago, far away. And for every Kindle Amazon sells to turn your life into a paradise, it will sell, based on current averages, 24 digital books.

Narasu Rebbapragada writes about people who pursue “any machine that does as many things as possible, that’s what I want”  but also talks how  the Kindle “retains the fundamental characteristics of the printed page, (and) encourages deep attention to story.”   Deep attention to a paradise where one device does one thing and doesn’t interrupt itself and you.

Books are to the Kindle as music was to the iPod, and anything more is unnecessary and detracts. You might say that with Amazon’s paradise device, Apple just got Kindled.

September 21st, 2010 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Environment, Life, Marketing, People, Technology | one comment