Saturday, September 5, 2009

White people smell like dogs...

...according to Google anyway. And I had no idea. In my defense though, I have a dog. So I'm probably a little immune to dog-smell.

What concerns me more is how invasive racial stereotypes are, and now....thanks Google's search suggestions...I know. Give it try.

Type "why do [any ethnicity]" into Google and see what pops up. It's a judgmental world.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the Anti-Twitter arrives....welcome Woofer.

I've been a fairly vocal detractor of Twitter's relatively stupid 140 character limit (although I do have to admit that I've embraced it for SOME uses) so the news this morning (via Mashable) that someone has created a much more verbose version is right up my alley. All the more so because of my love of run-on sentences.

Enter Woofer, where your entries are held to a MINIMUM of 1400 characters. Try 'woofing' about what you're having for dinner. I dare you.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009 goes ALL advertisement.

And it works. is one of those websites that I go to out of habit, even though better options exist. Options that haven't sold their soul for advertising dollars (ahem...ESPN) to the point that they embrace pop-up ads. Thank god they haven't figured out a way to make video relevant on their site. (see previous post on how much I hate pre-roll ads here)

Imagine my surprise when I went to today and saw that their entire homepage has been turned into a Toyota Prius Ad, and to great effect. I can't even remember what it looked like before, because all I've ever paid attention to was the search bar. Now I want a Prius.

How long before Bing follows suit, and turns your vacation photo backgrounds into full page ads?


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cash for Clunkers = Jobs

It took a little bankruptcy and a whole bunch of government stimulus, but American automakers are finally reaping the rewards of a transition from gas-guzzling SUVs to more fuel efficient models.

General Motors announced today that it's upping production by about 60,0000 vehicles in the next two quarters and calling 1,350 of its U.S. and Canadian auto workers back to work in direct response to the demand that the Obama Administration's "Cash for Clunkers" program has produced. Ford Motors made a similar announcement about increased production as well.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hilter is way pissed about Facebook Friendfeed takeover.

I hope I'm allowed to find this funny.

Hitler - "The last thing I'm going to do is join Facebook that cesspool of Super Pokes and Mafia Wars"


Monday, August 10, 2009

Congressional Budget Office opines on prevention (at a 8th grade level)

An anonymous high school student, under the guise of the Congressional Budget Office, released a letter Friday to address how the CBO analyzed the budgetary effects of recent proposals to expand "government support for preventative care and wellness services" and to explain their findings.

The findings aim to establish a position that expanded preventative care and wellness services would actually ultimately INCREASE costs, as the expense of expanding the scope of these services would only offset a small percentage of the increased cost of performing them. As an example, they cite a study conducted by the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society which

"estimated the effects of achieving widespread use of several highly
recommended preventive measures aimed at cardiovascular disease
such as monitoring blood pressure levels for diabetics and
cholesterol levels for individuals at high risk of heart
disease and using medications to reduce those levels."

And while the study indicated that these measures would substantially reduce the probable cases of heart attacks and strokes, the savings would only offset about 10% of the increased provider costs.

It's frightening to me that this argument even exists. If preventative care costs exceed the savings that would be seen by avoiding serious conditions (and their associated procedures) shouldn't the take away be that preventative healthcare costs are too high? How expensive can it be to take a patient's blood pressure and give them medication? How are we having this argument at all without any mention of the benefits to quality of life?

The letter goes on to claim repeatedly that expanding government support for preventative care and wellness services would be redundant, as many insurers and employers are already providing those services at little or no cost to the employee/covered. Which is to say that insurance companies and employers have come to the conclusion that those services ARE beneficial (and cost effective) enough to provide. And have also managed to figure out the riddle to providing them, while staying economically viable.

Again, the logic escapes me. It's as if the CBO was tasked specifically with creating an argument against increased healthcare support, and this is the best they could come up with. Even ignoring their own previous findings, like the report they published 5 months ago that found that a bill (H.R. 1256) aimed at decreasing tobacco use (a wellness service) would result in a decrease of "11 percent among underage tobacco users and about 2 percent among adult users" over just a 10 year period. The overall savings involved in those reductions would have to be huge.

I'm convinced that someone assigned a word count to this letter, and said "create arguments and defend them until you've reach 3200 words".


Thursday, August 6, 2009

White House Director of New Media gets it wrong.

White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips is taking heat for a seemingly innocuous blog post Tuesday morning on titled "Facts Are Stubborn Things" in which he suggests that Americans tattle on their neighbors.

His intentions are good. There is a ton of incorrect (if not blatantly fabricated) information circulating on the web about the President's Health Care Reform positions. The White House staff would certainly benefit from getting in front of this disinformation (like claims that the President's reform bill would eliminate current private health plans). But suggesting that if Americans "get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy" that they should "send it to" puts the administration in a very vulnerable position. And the criticism is already coming.

In a letter to President Obama, Senator John Cornyn (R- Texas) raises questions of First Amendment rights of free spee
ch, warns that the policy raises "the specter of a data collection program" and calls for it's immediate end. And he's right.

I've not been shy about the fact that I'm in the tank for the current administration, and I'm constantly encouraged with it's adoption of new media communication methods, but I think Mr. Phillips is missing the boat on the spirit of the "open communication community" which is based on transparency and collaboration...not McCarthyism.

I'd propose that the White House expand their "New Media" department, and use a handful of TARP dollars to hire a dozen currently unemployed, new media savvy "watchdogs" to scour Twitter and YouTube, etc for posts about Health Care reform (or any other issues, for that matter). The White House would be well served to keep a finger on the pulse of the publicly posting public anyway.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yahoo and Microsoft have gotten together.

Announced this morning, Microsoft and Yahoo have signed an agreement to join search forces in an attempt to end their irrelevance in that space. An oddly out-dated looking website has also been created to pimp the agreement here.

Some bullets:

  • The deal extends for 10 years (which seems like far too long a commitment)
  • Bing will drive search, algorithmically, but Microsoft has a 10 year license to integrate any existing Yahoo search technologies. So there's some potential there for a better combined product.
  • Yahoo gets to sell search for both companies (although "premium" partners are specifically addressed).
  • Self-serve customers for both companies will funnel through Microsoft's AdCenter interface, which needs (and should get) dramatic usability improvement.

Ultimately (and assuming the DOJ approves the deal) this is probably good for the public in general. My personal experience with AdCenter results has been pretty poor, but adding all of Yahoo traffic should certainly help (should be approximately 30% of total search traffic). If Microsoft is serious about competing with Google however, particularly in the self-serve realm, they will absolutely need to improve AdCenter. Otherwise this merger just creates larger "also-ran".


Monday, July 27, 2009

AOL and Google have broken up.

Google has sold it's 5% stake in AOL back to Time-Warner
, for about a 1/4 of the original purchase price (the initial investment was 1 billion, the repayment was only 283 million). Not that this is really a surprise, as Google had already written down 726 million of that initial investment.

That repayment puts AOL's value at about 5.7 billion (based on share price).

Not sure what this will mean (if anything) to AOL's search partnership with Google, which has helped AOL command a 3% share of the search pie. The current deal runs until December 2010.

Gates 911 call and arrest report released

It's worth noting, I think, that the caller, Lucia Whalen, seems awfully calm during the call, and never mentions anything to indicate that the alleged "burglers" were black men. Even more interesting, she claims that she never spoke with the arresting (or assisting) officer at the scene.

Whalen's attorney told CNN, "Let me be clear: She never had a conversation with Sgt. Crowley at the scene. And she never said to any police officer or to anybody 'two black men.' She never used the word 'black.' Period."

The arrest record indicates otherwise. In it, officer Crowley claims to have spoken with a woman outside the residence before he approached who identified herself as the 911 caller, and who had "observed what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch" and that they appeared to have been attempting to force the door. It also indicates that Sgt. Crowley ultimately retreated from the residence after verifying Mr. Gates' identity because the "acoustics in the kitchen and foyer" were making it difficult for him to communicate with his dispatch. Gates then, as we know, followed him outside, and was arrested after some additional carrying-on.

Crowley notes that he was "quite surprised and confused" by the behavior Gates exhibited towards him...and I can't really blame him. Upon advising Mr. Gates that he was leaving the residence, and would gladly speak to him outside if he wanted, Gates allegedly responded "Ya, I'll speak to your mama outside".


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pointroll takes grassroots Fatboy promotion to "the streets"

Or the buildings next to the streets, in Reston. maybe there's no connection at all, and it's just some tweeners trying to rebel against their oppressive yuppie parents. But the resemblance is kinda uncanny.


Monday, July 13, 2009

SEO = voodoo

And Google = the Devil/an autocracy/inherently evil

Some anonymous donkey with an obvious anti-Google agenda wrote an open letter to TechCrunch about how Google hates him, and needs to be regulated. It's a fundamentally flawed opinion however, because Mr. Anonymous seems to believe that Search is a Marketing tool. Not a discovery tool.

One of his many complaints seems to be that paid search results are based not solely on PPC bid, but also on click through rate. But, um...shouldn't relevance to the customer be part of the equation? Just because your company is willing to spend $35 to elevate your ad for the "Sham-WOW!" to me doesn't mean I want to see it. He even seems to argue that Google should be required to document for him exactly how he can get his ad to appear (organically and paid search) in the top 3. Which would render Google completely irrelevant to the consumer. Unless the consumer wants to see a "Sham-WOW!" ad everytime he searches.

Mr. Anonymous has a bit of an inflated sense of his own importance. And frankly, that of search in general.

His claim that "search is the dominant methodology for consumers to find what they are looking for" rings absolutely inacurate. Even if you shrink the playing field to just the is just one of many tools. Consumers use Yelp, for example, to find restaurants. Or Tripadvisor to find hotels. Or Travelocity/Orbitz/Kayak for airfare.

He also goes as far as to imply that Google cares SO much about him, that his search results might suffer if they were to find out that he's also engaged with Yahoo and Bing.

I get his frustration. SEM is WILDLY inconsistent. There seems to be little pattern to results for similar terms on Google, Bing and Yahoo. Or even the same term, on the same Search Provider, over different days.

I also like his attempt to make a case that small businesses aren't capable of promoting themselves without the services of an agency. Maybe that's his whole point. Maybe's he the Biz Dev Manager for a SEM company. Otherwise, he's just nuts.

Teens don't like Twitter either.

A 15 year old intern at Morgan Stanley was asked to write a report on his peer's media usage.

According to him, posting on twitter is "pointless". Funny...I've been saying the same thing.

I feel so young.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

social networking and college football

ESPN published the first of a 4 part series yesterday looking at the "impact of online social networks on college athletics", and it's a fairly interesting low-tech peek into how high-tech tools are being used by low-tech coaching staffs. John Calipari, who recently became the Basketball coach at the the University of Kentucky, is a particularly good example. An admitted "technophobe", Calipari is the most followed college coach on Twitter (@UKCoachCalipari) with over 350,000 followers, but apparently doesn't quite grasp the process. So he texts his tweets to his Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations, who then updates the Twitter account.

I think I'll start applying for Associate Athletic Director of Media Relations positions.

It's also interesting to see how slow the NCAA has been to address social networking. College coaches face a mountain of regulations on the manner in which they can contact potential high school age recruits. They are severely limited in the number of times they can make phone calls, or send correspondence through the mail. In 2007, the NCAA prohibited texting. There is no limit, however, to a coaches ability to direct-message on Twitter, and to send private messages on Facebook. Even if those messages are received by the recruit on their phone. And even if, as in Calipari's case, those tweets originated as texts anyway.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Poor Jeff Goldblum.

Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett both died today. Jeff Goldblum did not, although the Twitterverse seems to think otherwise.

So much for all that legitimacy that Twitter picked up during the election unrest in Iran.


Jeff addresses his death on the Colbert Report:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jeff Goldblum Will Be Missed
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Who do you want to tell?"

Remember when Facebook changed their Terms of Service, and everyone complained? Or when Facebook updated the News Feed to be all "twitter-esque" and everyone complained? Well, get ready for the next backlash.
ReadWriteWeb just reported on another update that Facebook announced today, and it's going to be unpopular. In fact, I don't actually understand it.

Here's the deal. When you post a link, status, video, etc on Facebook, you're going to be asked who you want to share it with. Here are your choices:

  • Everyone: Anyone, on or off, of Facebook can see it.

  • Friends and Networks: People you have confirmed as friends and people in any school or work networks that you've joined can see it.

  • Friends of Friends: Anyone who is friends with a friend of yours can see it.

  • Friends: Only people you have confirmed as friends can see it.

  • Custom: Choose any friend or Friend List to include or exclude from seeing that piece of content
Right now, only users who had their profiles and status updates visible to everyone have been included in this beta release. But it's coming to everyone eventually.

What I don't get (and which isn't addressed in the announcement) is who's seeing these updates. Is it only people who have their profiles set to public? So I can set my updates to be seen by everyone, even if I'm not seeing everyone's updates?

Facebook suggests that you might want to share with everyone your post about how nice the weather is today. I'm asking you not to. Please.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

think Google Wave isn't going to be a big deal? (you're wrong)

So I finally watched the really, really long demo (below)...and Wave is hella cool (much cooler than, say...having a 9 inch stick impale your neck and stab you in the lungs).

In a nutshell, Wave is a web application that allows you to build collaborative discussions in real time, in an extremely customizable email/IM/stream format. One of Wave's more ground-breaking functions is that it will facilitate collaborative (and even concurrent) editing and a "playback" feature that will show the chronology of the changes made by everyone involved. It also allows for drag & drop attachments (pictures, links, other waves, etc) and includes neat features like contextual spell-check (which will correct correctly spelled words if they're incorrect for the context of the sentence, like 'two' for 'too').

I'm psyched for it. Although I'm not entirely convinced that it might not be too collaborative. From a user perspective, it seems like there's a risk that information changes too quickly, too publicly. I'm probably just more reclusive then most though.

visual goodness starts roughly at 7:30 ( really is a 2 hour demo)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bing - all about the bids.

I decided to test a search campaign on Bing about two weeks ago, to see if this was more than a re-packaged Live Search. I have to admit, Bing is pretty. I like the interface. Search results actually seem more relevant.

Unfortunately, that's where the compliments end.

The most tragic flaw to my campaign, so far, is that I haven't seen an impression yet. Not one. Granted, this is a small campaign, and my bids are low (is it, I may have mentioned...a test).

MSN support has suggested (twice already) that I increase my bids. In fact, they didn't even LOOK at my account before suggesting I give them more the $10+ range. After I responded a second time that no sponsored results are showing up for my keywords when I search on them, they've gone radio silent. Perhaps it's because they were all at Microsoft's Search Summit last week in Washington. Maybe their customer service staff was cut back to help fund the $100 million dollar advertising campaign MSN is running.

I think the most likely answer is that Microsoft has a minimum bid requirement that they don't advertize, which blocks impressions even when no one else is bidding against you.

Anyone know if there's any truth to that?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Twitter is still lame.

Making fun if it? Decidedly not so.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dear Orthopedic Surgeon,

The next time someone comes to you with complaints of severe localized pain in their legs (which is not resolved with rest) and tells you that they're a runner...please refer them for an MRI. You may find that they have developed stress fractures. What you see may look like the legs below. Notice that the leg on the left is normal, and the one on the right is "all banged up" looking.

You could also give them an x-ray, since you probably have one of those handy machines right in your office. If you do, inspect it carefully, as any injury may not be very noticeable. In which case you might be inclined to tell your patient that he has shin splints. Which doesn't really help anyone, and makes it seem like you received your "specialized training" from a Cracker Jack box.

Certainly don't refer him for a Bone Scan, as nothing but a compound fracture is going to show up. Which might also lead you to tell the patient he has shin splints. Which will result in subsequent unnecessary office visits, which will help keep healthcare costs high, and patient satisfaction at an all time low.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

things you can do with $1500

I accidentally read an article recently in Outside magazine showcasing this summer's sporting "essentials"...a collection of staff picks with obvious advertising origins (there was a full-page Bose sound dock ad a page before one of the editors suggested it was "essential"). I dig subliminal advertising. Even when it's obvious.

What bothered me was that the Senior Editor found it necessary to include his dog in his Fishing Essentials. His $1550 UK chocolate Labrador...breeder website included...length of waiting list included.

The Humane Society estimates that 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters in america every year. Every would-be pet owner that decides to pay a breeder for the privilege of owning a dog helps keep that number where it is by NOT adopting. The objective of this "essentials" article was to encourage the engaged and trusting readership of Outside magazine to take the staff's advice and invest in the products they suggest. Unfortunately, they not only missed an opportunity to make a positive difference in a lot of dogs lives, but they've probably served to increase the demand for bred animals that are already too highly sought after.

I shared my opinion with the editor, but he seemed offended. Sez he has a rescued dog too. Sez they're gonna delve into the issue of "shelter vs breeder" dogs in their new blog. I'd post a link to it here, but it's lame and one sided, and I'm too responsible for that.

Adopt a dog.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor and Ricci v DeStefano

The Ricci v. DeStefano case came to my attention a month or so ago after a friend and I had a fairly lively (and unrelated) discussion about "reverse" discrimination, and subsequently caught an article about it on CNN. It's back in the spotlight today because it ended up in front of our newest Supreme Court nominee in the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit, which ultimately upheld the lower court decision. The case is now sitting in front of the Supreme Court.

Here's the background (from the Second Circuit documents):

In 2003, 118 applicants took examinations for promotion to Captain and Lieutenant in the New Haven (Ct.) Fire Department. 56 applicants passed the exam. There were 15 open vacancies. According to the City Charter, civil servant positions must be filled by individuals with the top 3 scores on the exam, which would have resulted in only 2 minority promotions(both Hispanic). Out of concern that the results might indicate that minority applicants weren't given appropriate opportunity, the results of the exam went before the Civil Service Board to be certified before the promotions could be awarded. The CSB held 5 hearings on the issue, and ultimately split 2-2 on the question of certifying the exam (the 5th member was recused, as her brother was one of the candidates up for promotion). As a result, no certification was approved, and no promotions awarded.

The group of firefighters who filed the suit say they've been discriminated against. The District Court decided that no racial discrimination had ocurred because ALL of "the test results were discarded and nobody was promoted" and because neither the city defendants or the CSB had acted with discriminatory motivation toward the non-minority applicants.

There's not much to glean from the Circuit Court decision about the case itself, nor the particular positions of the judges themselves (of which Sotomayor was one), as it is a simple one paragraph affirmation. Given the relative weight of the issues involved, there is some thought that it was dismissively brief.

Regardless of which side of the issue you fall on, it's a fairly fascinating case. Expect to hear more about it as the confirmation process ramps up.

Friday, May 22, 2009

the midwest is turning beige too

CNN published an article today about a county in Kansas that has become a majority-minority* county, according to numbers released by the the US Census Bureau last week, joining the other 300+ US counties (roughly 10% of the nation's counties) that share the same demographic distinction.

There's nothing new with this trend, but it is notable in that this isn't a county in a "border" state, like Texas, California or New Mexico which, in addition to Hawaii and the District of Columbia, are already non-white majority states (Starr County, Texas for example, has a minority population that accounts for 98% of the county's population).

The Atlantic Monthly published an excellent (if maybe contentiously titled) article on the subject earlier this year in light of the historic election of our country's first black President, which delves a little into what it will mean to be white in an America in which white is no longer a majority. Personally, it just makes me more convinced that I gotta learn Spanish.

It should also come as no surprise, I suppose, that some whites aren't real thrilled with this trend and who, in fact, see it as "the death of America". Do yourself a favor and stay away from their blogs.

* The U.S. Census Bureau defines majority-minority as a geographic area in which "more than half the population is made up of a group that is not single-race, non-Hispanic white".

Thursday, May 14, 2009

can you spot the difference

...between Twitter and MyLifeIsAverage? I'll give you a's intent, and that's pretty much it. The idea behind MLIA is to be as intentionally mundane as possible - a social network as my brother would've created it.

Example MLIA post:

Today I packed a lunch to take to class, but we got done early so I took it home and ate it in my apartment.

See...that's funny.

Example Twitter post:

I'm sitting in the airport/meeting/cafe with Joe/my Dad/a hampster, and really glad it's not raining.

Not funny.

Thanks to TechCrunch for bringing this to my attention. They'd be well served to develop an interactive quiz which presents viewers with a post and asks them to decide if it's from Twitter or MLIA. I bet it'd be impossible.

my already expired sympathy for american auto-makers just re-expired

According to papers filed in bankruptcy court this morning by Chrysler, they will shutter almost 800 of their dealerships in an effort to streamline the company into profitability, and emerge eventually from bankruptcy as a viable company. That amounts to about %25 of the company's 3100 dealerships.

While I sympathize with the owners and employees that will be forced to scramble to realign their businesses, resumes and finances...those dealerships only account for %14 of Chrysler's sales, so this is a decision that was probably over-due.

In fact, if Chrysler ranked all 3181 of it's dealerships based on sales, and closed the BOTTOM 50% of them, it would only sacrifice 10% of their total sales.

I haven't finished my correspondence program at yet, but the fact that those 50% hadn't already been shut down seems like absurd financial negligence.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

a little collateral damage with your recession?

So it looks like my early retirement plan just took a recession fueled hit. A new gov't report released yesterday suggests that the current economic climate has taken another 4 years off of the expected shelf life of the Social Security trust fund, which will apparently be exhausted in 2037. That seemed like a long time in which to plump up my 401(k) until I remembered that it's been steadily heading the wrong direction.

On the other side of the economic progress coin, Exxon continues to make more profit than any company in the world. But they're not hiring.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ted Turner owns way more than you think.

Ted Turner gives away a lot of money. He's also lost a lot (billions, reportedly, just in depreciating AOL/Time Warner stock).

His path to success is well documented. He turned a company billboard business into a cable TV company. And then into Turner Broadcasting which included TNT, Turner Classic Movies, CNN, TBS and the Cartoon Network. Merged that company with Time Warner in 1996, which then merged with AOL in 2001 (Turner was Vice-Chairman of Time Warner until 2006). Bought the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks.

But did you know that he's the largest landowner in the country? The 2 million acres he's purchased over the last few decades is larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined (just one ranch in Montana is over 110,000 acres). Ted's motivation seems to be primarily related to his desire to return the american bison from the brink of extinction, although there are some entertaining theories as to what else his agenda might include, including suspicion that he's attempting to control water resources. And some indignation from ranchers in the west who are routinely outbid by Turner for land.

Help Ted out by having a bison burger at any one of his 57 Ted's Montana Grill restaurants around the county. Bison, apparently, is good. And good for you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Anatomy of a broken healthcare system

A chronic leg injury flared up for me during an attempt two weeks ago to run the first 10k of this young running season and, after not being able to walk all weekend and getting gentle pressure from my wife, I decided to make an appointment to have it looked at. Called monday morning, and got an appointment within the hour...which is were the efficiency ended.

The Dr. sent me to a Radiologist down the street to have x-rays (which would be the third time i've had x-rays done of my legs in the last 3 years) and said he'd refer me to an orthopedic specialist. That was all Monday.

Five days later, the referral came IN THE MAIL, while I spent the week limping and wincing. But when I called that doctor to make an appointment, I was told that they don't take my insurance (Cigna).

So Monday (9 days after the injury) I found a doctor that did, and called my PCP back to make a referral to THAT doctor. And scheduled the next available appointment, which was today (13 days after the injury).

Went to the doctor today, and they couldn't find my xrays on the website that the radiology office uses, so we did that again (4th time). This doctor wanted me to go have an MRI.

Called my insurance company, and asked them if I needed a referral for that (I do). They advised that referrals for MRIs go through a company called MedSolutions, and that the doctor who ordered the test had to call for the referral.

Called the Ortho office back, and they said they couldn't ask for pre-authorization from Cigna until I made the appointment, and that it requires 5 business days for that process to happen.

Called MedSolutions to see which of the list of facilities would be in-network for my plan and got a fax machine.

Called Cigna back to get the actual phone number (after looking, and not finding it on their website).

Called MedSolutions and was told that they can only look up facilities by tax ID#, and that the doctors office should call with that info.

Called the Ortho office back and they said that they still needed me to call first, but happened to know that one of the local facilites honored my insurance.

Called the MRI facility and made an appointment for next Wed (18 days from the date of my injury)

Called the Ortho office back and told them when my appointment was. They advised that they needed five BUSINESS days, and that they couldn't promise me that the authorization would get done in time.

In the end, I'll be lucky if I have a diagnosis 3 full weeks after I injured myself, all the while i've been limping and in pain. And the lesson I learned is that next time, I'll just go to the emergency room.

Monday, April 20, 2009

is the "Oprah Effect" Twitter's death knell?

As has been widely reported (before and after the fact)...Oprah started Tweeting last Friday. Naturally, as a result of her massive reach and appeal, a lot of her devoted audience followed suit. How many? A ton. TechCrunch is suggesting as many as 1.5 million since Friday. Granted, they're using some seriously fuzzy logic to arrive at that estimate, but even if you apply a massive margin of error to that's still impressive.

This is great news for me. I can now use the "mainstreaming" of Twitter as an excuse to visit it less and less frequently. Although honestly, I just think the 140 character limit is an obviously flawed constraint that only serves to impede content worthy of posting publicly.

I might just be 'wordy' though.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

of umbrellas and tea bags

Kids all over the country apparently went to the streets yesterday to the candidate they supported for the office of president didn't win? Or gov't bailouts? I can't really tell exactly (our current administration has had zero effect on the taxes that you and I paid yesterday, so it couldn't be that).

I didn't make it out to any of them, cuz it was cold and rainy, and I'm generally apathetic. That, and I forgot it was tax day.

But someone was good enough to post video from the local tea-bagger party to YouTube. $100 if you can sit through the entire thing.


Monday, April 6, 2009

the new FriendFeed just made my day

The blogs are a-buzzing today with news of the beta release of the 'new' friendfeed site, with it's associated shiny look, feel and features. The common refrain seems to be that it's a lot like Twitter. According to ReadWriteWeb in fact, direct FriendFeed updates automatically copy to Twitter by default...but my experience this afternoon indicated otherwise. Mashable too seems a little overly distracted by the visual resemblance to Twitter, advising that the new FriendFeed "feels a lot like a web-based Twitter client" except that you get to see "your friend’s activities from the dozens of different services that FriendFeed supports."

And it seems the forest is being lost for the twees. (sorry)

That distinction is what makes FriendFeed so impressive, and what separates it from the pack, in my opinion. It's an aggregator, of pretty much everything you use on the web (pix from Flickr, status updates from Facebook, Tweets, blog posts, RSS, etc). It's also now updating in real-time (by default, but pause-able). There's also no character limit meaning that you can post intelligent updates without having to use 'text-speak'.

Honestly, I've been a casual FF user, and mostly through a feed to my iGoogle page. But this new design could pretty easily convert me. The biggest obstacle for me is that I'm not sure if it'll have enough mainstream appeal to convert the masses.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pre-Roll ads suck and no one likes them

I had an interesting sit-down this week with some of the minds over at Washington Post Digital and the subject of pre-roll video ads came up. Or I brought it up maybe. Either way, I found myself launching into a sort of uncensored tirade about how I despise them, their ineffectiveness, etc.

I've never understood why advertisers seem so enamored with video. For awhile I thought it must be that the assets translated somehow from existing TV ad assets, so it was easy for an agency to get online video assets together. Maybe the analytics methods were so flawed that agencies thought that they were reaching an engaged audience. Maybe there was such a glut of video inventory that content owners were giving that space away.

Personally, I can't think of the last time I've actually stuck around to watch an ad, regardless of how badly I wanted to see the video that was to follow. And apparently I'm not alone. Mashable just posted an article about the increasing frequency of pre (and post) roll ads on YouTube, along with an example of some of the user comments, which seem to be directing their anger at both YouTube and the particular advertiser (CBS in this case). I get that YouTube is losing money, but judging by the response so far, maybe they should consider leaving the video alone, and just wallpapering everything else with ads.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Facebook PR faux-pas Part II

Facebook has once again folded to pressure from the masses, and is tweaking their recent (and unpopular) design update. The full apology was posted here.

My position is that updates are ALWAYS going to be unpopular, because most people hate change. And people will ALWAYS complain. But Facebook is now giving those whining voices far too much credibility...

I'm conflicted about these new proposed changes though, because I actually support them. I desperately want to de-myspace my feed, by weeding out all of the application junk (My Redneck Name, My 5 favorite movies, Where should I live quiz, etc). And I expect that I'll like the auto-update feature.

All Facebook needed to do was phrase this update differently, to disguise the changes as improvements that were in the natural development pipeline...not in response to the 300k Facebook uses who signed the "I hate the new FB Design" application. Ultimately, massive public collaboration is anathema to innovation.

I liked it when Facebook was innovative enough to know what was good for me before I did.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

boy meets clippers

Found time this evening to watch HGTV's "A man named Pearl" tonight (I think it originally aired Sunday night) and really enjoyed it. Even though the John Deere product placement and ads were a little obvious. I'm probably a little biased, cuz playing in the yard is my thing, but even with that aspect came across as mostly genuine, positive, and uplifting (if maybe a little saccharine).

Pearl Fryar is a man in rural SC (in the poorest county in the state) who spends his days (and often nights) meticulously maintaining his 3 acre yard. His specific medium - hyper manicured hedges, bushes and trees. Most of his plants he salvages from the junk pile at a local nursery. Doesn't irrigate. Doesn't use pesticides. Drives a John Deere. Has no horticultural education at all.

Not that the story needs a feel-good theme...but Pearl's initial motivation for his obsessive attention to yardwork stemmed from a comment that was made by a potential neighbor in a community the Fryars were house-shopping in, to the effect that "his kind" didn't keep up their yards. I'd never heard that particular stereotype, but I like how he responded to it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Moldy Peaches should definitely sue Comcast

...assuming that they're not at the bank cashing checks for recording Comcast's new commercial jingles. I didn't find any evidence to suggest their involvement though, so I'm going forward under the belief that the following is true:

#1 - Juno was a wildly popular (and cutting edge) movie, which had specific appeal to that uber-coveted 18-49 male demographic.

#2 - Someone at Comcast's ad agency (Goodby Silverstein & Partners) saw it...and bought the soundtrack.

#3 - That fella hired a band to make a series of songs about Comcast's amazing spectrum of services in the exact same vein as The Moldy Peaches 'anyone else but you'. And I do mean EXACT.

The unfortunate part of this is that Goodby Silverstein & Partners did a really good job with the messaging and creative on these spots. They're actually fairly arresting. The supporting micro-site is even more compelling (and impressively robust). Just a shame that there's no one in their building with an equal amount of musical creativity.

In related news (ok...probably not) the giant head behind the curtain over at seems to have given up his quest to destroy Comcast. Must be a Juno fan.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Facebook re-designs again....people complain, again.

Just read a "article" on Mashable which surprised me as much for it's lack of literary sophistication as for the very fact that it was published by what I'd come to think of a reputable industry blog.

The article, in which the author details his displeasure with the recent twitter-esque Facebook re-design, claims that FB has become "a lot less useful" than before, specifically bemoaning the fact that the applications that he (and presumable others) develop for Facebook won't be as viral as before.

Maybe part of his argument is valid. But here's the thing (and the teenagers and soccer moms who have loudly complained about each passing Facebook update would be well served to take notice as well)...Facebook doesn't exist to cater to YOUR idea of how it could, or should, be useful. If Zuckerberg and his minnons decide that they wanna be more like Twitter, then that's what they'd do.

Ultimately, I suppose Mashable is perfectly within their right to print opinion peices. But at the end of the day, that puts it right on par with this blog...and it should really aim higher.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

it's not you, it's me

I think we need to take a break. So I'm leaving you for a little while.

I'll be back in 10 days or so. Tanned, and married.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Michael Jackon auctioning off the best collection of anything ever.

Michael Jackson may be trying to kick his Peter Pan complex. Or maybe he's just in desperate need of money. Either way, he's auctioning off a huge collection of memorabilia in LA in April. The entire catalog is available online for browsing, or purchase. Since the auction is just days before my big 35th birthday, my wishlist (along with starting bids) is listed below.

  • Life-size Han Solo (in Carbonite) $800 - $12,000
  • Life-size R2-D2 $700 - $900
  • Life-size CP30 $1000 - $1500
  • Life-size Boba Fett $800 - $1200
I'd also happily provide a home for any of the hundreds of arcade games.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pepsico listens to the people

Consumers of Tropicana Orange Juice weren't overwhelmed by the recent redesign parent co. Pepsico released, in which the longtime 'orange with a straw' image was replaced by a tall glass of OJ against an otherwise naked background. And they complained about it (I noticed the change myself, and happen to agree with those that thought it looked a lot like what you might expect from a generic store brand). Pespico has announced, as a result, that the old packaging will return. The takeaway here (if you can ignore the massive wasted cost associated with designing, producing, and then canning the 'new and improved' packaging, more on that below) is that the consumer has mad power. And that companies are listening.

Interestingly enough, Pepsico has been redesigning across divisions lately, with new packaging for the Gatorade and Pepsi lines as well. All courtesy of The Arnell Group. The common minimalizm is evident in all three redesigns. While I'm a minimalistic guy when it comes to, say...decorating my living room, none of these passes my sniff test. We'll see if the other two survive.

The cost, by the way...? This Advertising Age release (posted on the Arnell Group website) suggests a million dollar bill just for the agency effort. When you factor in updating ALL marketing materials (think delivery trucks, vending machines, etc) that cost could easily grow to several million dollars.

UPDATE - 04/02/09

This is all far enough in the rear view mirror now that there is some concrete evidence to the damage (and cost) associated with Tropicana's big FAIL redesign. Sales dropped a fairly astonishing 20% after the new packaging hit the shelves, a hit to the Pepsico wallet of approximately 30 million dollars.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why Big Brands Struggle With Social Media

Really good post on Mashable about the challenges big brand companies face in adopting 'new media' as a business channel. The second bullet particularly really resonates (and probably isn't limited to just large organizations). Where does your social media expert fit?

Why Big Brands Struggle With Social Media

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Keeping up with the Joneses (in kilowatts)

Sure, it's probably instinctive to compare your lawn to your neighbor's. Or the condition of the paint on your house. But can the average american's desire to pwn their neighbors translate into motivation to improve their carbon footprint? Counties with serious energy issues, like Sacramento, are hoping so, and are turning to Arlington's Positive Energy to help.

Positive Energy crunches information from a number of data streams (demographic, weather & housing data, utility records, customer behavior) and creates clear benchmarks that mirror each customer's geographic/demographic factors. The customer then receives a report that compares their actual monthly usage to the monthly usage of the "average" neighbor, and "efficient" neighbors. For those of us who thrive on positive feedback, there's even a smiley face rating scale for conservative usage.

Results so far have been positive, with Sacramento reporting a 2% efficiency improvement in customers who received these custom reports. Everyone wins in this equation, so expect this trend to continue.

My last electric bill came today, btw, and it's out of control. Shooting for a smiley face next month.

UPDATE 03/19/09

Got last month's electricity bill today, and it was approx. 40% lower. Obsessively unplugging
appliances seems to have worked. Smiley face for me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Facebook TOS reprieve

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg updated his official blog last night announcing that that, due to the "questions and comments" Facebook received on the TOS changes released Feb 4th, they would "roll back" to the old version. And there was much rejoicing.

Lost in the announcement seems to be the "for now" part. Anyone who thinks that the next version of their TOS isn't going to include similar language is fooling themselves. Facebook didn't change the way they cached your content so that they could keep it (even after you cancel your account)... they were already keeping it. And guess what? They probably still are.

Facebook launched a poll to gauge users reactions, and at of last night, CNet was reporting that 56% of respondents wanted the TOS rolled back. I imagine that a position poll about last summer's redesign would have been far more "anti-change" however, and we all know how that ended.

What really surprises me is how much of Facebook's userbase seems to think that their content on Facebook belongs to them. The original (and now current, temporarily) TOS even says that Facebook may "retain archived copies of your User Content". So was all this uproar just over the fact that they might use it after you've canceled your account?

My position is that this really boils down to semantics, and awareness, and communication. No one reads TOS, and until this colorfully titled article in the Consumerist, I'd wager that very few Facebook users ever really thought about Facebook's intentions for their content. I imagine that the next version of their TOS won't be much of a departure at all, other than how it's worded.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shoryuken indeed.

Today marks the release of Capcom's Street Fighter IV for the Xbox and PS3, some 11 years after the third installment of the series. I've never been much of a gamer, but this is one franchise that gets my support. And not just me, apparently...according to Capcom's own numbers, the Super NES version of Street Fighter II (released in 1992) is STILL their best selling game of all time. Must have hit that ellusive sweet spot between the hardcore fans and mainstream dabblers.

Looks like the IV installment is going for that same vein, with the original cast of characters coming back (plus some additions). Judging from the screenshots on the official website, it remains a 2D game, with what appear to be some 3D effects.

Hard to believe that the first Street Fighter Arcade games were produced in 1987. Is the demographic that this franchise resonates with still gaming?


Thursday, February 12, 2009

as the economy turns for the worse, merchants turn to blogs

Wall Street's displeasure with Tuesday's bank bailout announcement sent the Dow diving to a 3-month low (impressively negative, particularly in today's climate). America's consumers however, seem more optimistic (not to mention proactive) about a turnaround, as retail indicators actually ROSE, after a steady six month decline. Which got me thinking about how much transparent power that select segment of the US population (those who have, buy and/or sell stocks) has as a bellwether of economic trend while we, the consumer, are boldly asked to spend, spend, spend to help the struggling economy back on it's feet.

Small business owners, of course, understand the significance of the consumer's role...and are turning to blogs en masse to reach them, and convince them to spend.

In a release last week by MerchantCircle (the
largest social network of local business owners in the nation with over 685,000 members) they report seeing a 190% increase in merchant blogs in the last year. More impressively, they claim that merchants who have blogs see an "average of 30% more traffic to their website". Traffic that can be monetized, culled for feedback, and turned into longterm customer relationships.

full press release here


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sarah Palin, spokes(mock)person?

Sarah Palin turns 45 today, and I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised that the red letter day would have completely escaped my attention had I not been searching for her specifically on Twitter.

The REASON that I was twitter searching Sarah Palin was not so that I could follow her. Rather, I've been hearing new Jerry's Subs & Pizza commercials on the radio lately that make me want to stab myself in the eardrums, and was curious to see if the twittersphere was all a-twitter with likemindedness. It wasn't, noticeably.

You see...the good Gov and I disagree on just about every issue (shooting wolves from helicopters, drilling liberally in Alaska, etc). While I understand that many people disagree with ME, one thing that most people WILL agree that she's an extremely polarizing figure. So while the majority of radio listeners that hear the new Jerry's commercial don't likely change the channel (as I do) , I still have to question her selection, now that she's faded in (relative) obscurity.

Any one know who their creative agency is?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Facebook turns 5, becomes Myspace

It irks me when people identify themselves as 'early adopters'. Always seems like pointless oneupsmanship. I swear, I've never said it.

When it came to Myspace and Facebook, I was an 'early adopter'. Don't know why they both appealed to me so much, or rather, I can't remember anymore, but I jumped on the bandwagon of both early, and enthusiastically.

I do remember graduating to Facebook though(which just turned 5 today), and rejoicing in the lack of lists and surveys and bulletins and pictures of yourself in the mirror and friend hoarding. I admitted in adult circles that I was on Facebook (certainly never made that claim about Myspace).

I've noticed an alarming trend lately on Facebook though. Everyday, a "25 things about me" or a "25 random songs from my ipod" pops up on my feed. I don't like it. So I'm looking for the next place to graduate to. What's the next big social networking site? LinkedIn? Twitter? FriendFeed to my iGoogle page?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

getting to know your employees - Exxon Edition

ExxonMobil posted $45.2 billion in annual profit in 2008. Not revenue...profit. Which breaks the previous record for annual profit for a U.S. company of $40.6 billion, set by Exxon a year earlier.

How does a company that's constantly paying million dollar fines for environmental damages still post back-to-back record breaking annual profits? My initial guess would be by gouging consumers at the pumps.

My second guess would be this guy, and an untold number of indonesian workers like him. What do you suppose he makes an hour?

woot for the green crowd

I got hooked on woot (the t-shirt version) for a while. I was working at AOL at the time, and we were a pretty hip group (well...with a few minor exceptions). Made the unfortunate decision to set woot as my homepage. I wear a lot of t shirts. My fiance is thrilled.

EcoSteal is kind of like woot for the green crowd, offering "one organic, eco-friendly, or recycled steal at a time". Judging by the discount on today's item, the deals are good. Although I think you DO pay shipping.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Just heard that the SuperBowl last night was the second most watched Super Bowl in history (although I have some friends abroad who perceived a general ambivalence in non US countries). Also heard that there's some measure of solidarity in the sports world that the Steelers record 6th franchise Super Bowl win was in no small part helped by some serious refereeing gaffes.

While I hesitate to play the role of the whining loser, I thought I'd list a few.

1) not having an official review of the last play was inexcusable.
2) santonio holmes' touchdown catch was amazing. his 'lebron james' celebration should have been a 15 yard penalty, no questions asked.
3) roughing the holder? is that even a penalty?
4) bogus roughing the passer call on Big Ben should've been an intentional grounding. tackles is tackles.

In my defense, while I WAS rooting for the Cards, I really just wanted a close game, which I certainly got. I'm also a consistent detractor of refs.

On a slightly more relevant note...word on the street is that Go Daddy cost themselves quite a few customers with this year's commercial (Network Solutions was likely the biggest beneficiary). I get it. Sex sells, but it helps to have a point too.

Animal adoption is an cause that's close to my heart, in no small part due to the rescued pit-bull that's lounging around my feet under the table as i type this. One of the [few] benefits to my current unemployed status is that we've been able to spend a lot of time together over the last few months and, as her adoptive father, it's endeared her to me to a degree i didn't expect...and hadn't experienced before. I'd like to think she's growing fonder of me too.
Our consistent proximity to each other got me thinking the other day about where she came from. I always assumed, for some reason, that my fiance spent countless hours online jumping from one rescue website to another, making untold calls to tiny local shelters in a reasonable driving radius until she finally located her dream dog. Turns out, i couldn't have been more wrong. (a subsidiary of the Discovery Channel) was, even 4 years ago, the one stop shop for pet adoption. They work with shelters and rescues across the country to provide "real-time" access to their available "inventory"
Admitedlly, it's not the shiny flowing resource that today's web 2.0 users (or social media mavens) are looking for. But if you need a pet, it's the place to look.