Archive for June, 2011

CE#354: Google Chrome Experiments With The Wilderness Downtown (TIME/Techland)

It’s about time that someone created a film that enhanced your watching-videos-at-work experience.

Chris Milk’s The Wilderness Downtown is more than just a music video for the Arcade Fire‘s “We Used to Wait.” The HTML 5 project — which can only be viewed on Google Chrome —  turns your whole computer screen into an interactive project using a series of pop up windows.

Using Google Maps technology, the music video takes you through your childhood neighborhood as you (or at least a hooded individual that is supposed to be you) run through the streets. It even allows you to write yourself a letter containing what you wish you knew as a lad or lass.

Are interactive videos the new 3D technology for online clips? It’s too early to tell. Admittedly it’s creepy that Google can easily find where you live, but The Wilderness Downtown is entertaining to view. Now, if only they could make interactive Choose Your Own Adventure streaming videos…

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CE#353: Why Groupon Is Poised For Collapse (Techcrunch)

Imagine you’re a small business owner. You have to choose between two propositions:

  1. You can pay $62,500 for marketing. You’ll get a whole lot of customers coming through your door. No guarantees if they will ever come back, but they’ll come once.
  2. I’ll pay you $21,000. You get $7,000 in about 5 days, another $7,000 in 30 days and the remainder in 60 days. In exchange, you’ll give my customers cheap products for the next year.

I’ve been working on local for a long time and I know it’s hard to get small businesses to spend money on advertising. Really hard. Even getting $200 a month ($2,400 a year) is a high hurdle to meet.

There’s no way a business will sign up for #1. Most merchants would laugh you out of the store if you asked for $60,000.

Except they are. In droves.

Although they sound completely different, #1 and #2 are really the same—it’s the Groupon business model.

Businesses are being sold incredibly expensive advertising campaigns that are disguised as “no risk” ways to acquire new customers. In reality, there’s a lot of risk. With a newspaper ad, the maximum you can lose is the amount you paid for the ad. With Groupon, your potential losses can increase with every Groupon customer who walks through the door and put the existence of your business at risk.

Groupon is not an Internet marketing business so much as it is the equivalent of a loan sharking business. The $21,000 that the business in this example gets for running a Groupon is essentially a very, very expensive loan.  They get the cash up front, but pay for it with deep discounts over time.  (This post applies to Groupon operations in the United States and Canada; it’s different in other parts of the world.)

In many cases, running a Groupon can be a terrible financial decision for merchants. Groupon’s financials also raise questions about its ongoing viability. Buying Groupon stock could be as bad a deal for investors as running a Groupon offer is for merchants.  This is my opinion, but I have some facts to back it up.

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CE#352:How To Block Facebook’s Face Recognition And Tighten Other Privacy Settings (FastCompany)

Facebook seems to be forever pushing the boundaries of what “online privacy” means. Today we see the latest iteration of this–Face Recognition.

By adjusting its interface, Facebook has now enabled “tag suggestions” to many more of its users around the world, which means your friends will get an alert if someone uploads a photo that Facebook thinks contains your image. They’ll be invited to tag it, and then your ID’s associated with that image. Sounds neat in some ways, and there are a few privacy nods thrown in–Facebook notes that only friends can tag you, you’ll get notified of the tag, you can remove tags and so on. But the system is actually turned on by default–which is Facebook’s privacy boundary creep in action. Here’s how to turn it off, with a reminder of how to enable other privacy measures.

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CE#351: How to manage risks of Social Media (SmartBlog on Finance)

By Sean McMahon on June 8, 2011 

Embarrassing photos were posted on your organization’s Facebook page. Your agency’s Twitter page featured a rant humiliating the head of your department. How did this happen? What could have been done to avoid it? If you are in charge of your organization’s risk management, social media present ever-evolving challenges. Legal expert Charles Leitch addressed such challenges during his “Realistic Supervision of Technology and Social Media” presentation at the Public Risk Management Association’s annual meeting.

Leitch said organizations must accept that employees use social media, so they must focus on promoting best practices that protect employees and the organization from embarrassment. Leitch outlined common social media issues that risk managers should consider addressing.

  • Smartphone ownership. Providing a subsidy for employees who use a personal phone for work has become commonplace, but Leitch said the growth of social media makes that risky. Why? Say, a problem arises out of something posted on your organization’s Twitter account. Does your organization have the right to search or seize an employee’s phone to see whether he or she created the post? Leitch suggested owning and distributing work phones to eliminate the gray area of whether your organization has access to a device.
  • Protecting relationships. Many workers opt to connect with clients, vendors and constituents via social media. Is that a good idea? In the public sector, such a move is rife with risk because even the strongest professional relationship can be damaged by social media missteps. Sometimes, a misstep isn’t even the fault of an employee but rather a contact with whom he or she is “friends.” Even within an organization, the practice of connecting via social media presents problems. Did that employee truly want to accept a friend request from his boss? Or did he accept it because declining would make things awkward around the office? Either way, the result is that the boss now has access to the employee’s social media life — for better or worse.
  • Proper training. Developing — and updating — social media guidelines can be a tall task for some organizations, but it is not enough. Employers have to regularly train employees on adherence to those guidelines. With the rapid evolution of social media, “regularly” might mean quarterly instead of annually. Otherwise, any employee in trouble because of social media can put up a defense by claiming ignorance.

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CE#350: Time of our lives – Paul van Dyk

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CE#349: Thomas Newman – Any Other Name (Time Lapse Video)

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CE#348: Nine Things Successful People Do Differently (HBR Blogs)

1. Get specific. When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. “Lose 5 pounds” is a better goal than “lose some weight,” because it gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you’ll “eat less” or “sleep more” is too vague — be clear and precise. “I’ll be in bed by 10pm on weeknights” leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do, and whether or not you’ve actually done it.

2. Seize the moment to act on your goals.
Given how busy most of us are, and how many goals we are juggling at once, it’s not surprising that we routinely miss opportunities to act on a goal because we simply fail to notice them. Did you really have no time to work out today? No chance at any point to return that phone call? Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers.

To seize the moment, decide when and where you will take each action you want to take, in advance. Again, be as specific as possible (e.g., “If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I’ll work out for 30 minutes before work.”) Studies show that this kind of planning will help your brain to detect and seize the opportunity when it arises, increasing your chances of success by roughly 300%.

3. Know exactly how far you have left to go. Achieving any goal also requires honest and regular monitoring of your progress — if not by others, then by you yourself. If you don’t know how well you are doing, you can’t adjust your behavior or your strategies accordingly. Check your progress frequently — weekly, or even daily, depending on the goal.

4. Be a realistic optimist.
When you are setting a goal, by all means engage in lots of positive thinking about how likely you are to achieve it. Believing in your ability to succeed is enormously helpful for creating and sustaining your motivation. But whatever you do, don’t underestimate how difficult it will be to reach your goal. Most goals worth achieving require time, planning, effort, and persistence. Studies show that thinking things will come to you easily and effortlessly leaves you ill-prepared for the journey ahead, and significantly increases the odds of failure.

5. Focus on getting better, rather than being good.
Believing you have the ability to reach your goals is important, but so is believing you can get the ability. Many of us believe that our intelligence, our personality, and our physical aptitudes are fixed — that no matter what we do, we won’t improve. As a result, we focus on goals that are all about proving ourselves, rather than developing and acquiring new skills.

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