Wednesday, 30 May 2007

"Well, Just This One Time"

"Well, just this one time"

should be stricken from the vocabulary of anyone who works in customer service.

This time, the bank. They don't put our three separate notices we gave them for change of address in their computer, and then close our account. They lose the investment that was in there (which can be recovered so they tell us....) and yet somehow manage to track us down in order to tell us we owe them $120 to reopen the account.

After arguing, they tell us, "well just this one time"

Like they are doing us a favour?

Banks. *Argh*

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Building It From The Outside.In

Outside.In a new local social community tool (sorry i made that up - don't know how they are self-identifying) has done something that is really really freakin' smart.

If you put in your postal code and it doesn't exist in their system, then it asks you (similar to how a wiki would) if you want to create that community.

I have seen lots of attempts at local sites and most of them start in a particular city and then broaden out from there. The lack of content is actually a detriment until there is critical mass. Here the lack of content turns into an ADVANTAGE as the first comers get the “cool” 'I started the Toronto"x postal code" community' on Outside.In factor.

It’s not always great ideas that turn things into brilliant companies. It’s the execution.

Building it from Outside.In. Damn that’s smart.

The Search For....


The search for self

Monday, 28 May 2007

LinkedIn And The New Transparent World Of Bio Creation

Four times now, someone I know has sent me someone else's linkedin profile (or blog profile) and said, "hey, didn't you do that?" "wasn't that your title?" "look what so-and-so says they did".

As we all are getting fabulously up to speed with the new transparency, old habits are dying hard and dying very publicly. If it was even acceptable in the first place, now it's completely dangerous to exaggerate anything on your resume that you can not fully and completely take ownership of.

One person who emailed me actually was really pissed off on my behalf and couldn't understand why I wasn't all that much. I just figure, people who should know do, and people who don't know will figure it out once they hire the person.

Besides, half the time I think people THINK they created stuff because great collaborative environments make it such that everyone takes ownership over projects and by the end, no one is really sure who did what. So I take it as a compliment as a Sr. manager.

Net net, it's more important than ever to ask yourself the hard questions as you build out your profiles online. They are public, everyone can see them and anyone can also scrutinize them. If you have misrepresented the truth, everyone will also know.

Transparency isn't only for brands now, it's for you and me and our bios too.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Disagreeing with Wallstrippers on Why CBS Bought Wallstrip - Sorta

So how stupid am I to disagree with the very people who KNOW why CBS bought them but heck, it's my blog so here I go.

In his posting called "The Magic Is In The Process" Rogers Ehrenberg (who was on their board) says that they CBS bought them:

"to get this know-how and to expand it beyond Wallstrip into a provider of leading-edge web video content." (ok I am not disagreeing with this agreement here...) and he points to one article (NYTimes) and two blog posting, Fred Wilson (investor) and VC Ratings (Joshua Jaffe VC) which all talk about how CBS bought Wallstrip for the technology and production know how. (here's where I am going to disagree....sorta)

Everyone seems to want to focus in on the production process for Wallstrip and I certainly get that - figuring out how to do it for less, mastering the marketing of Wallstrip brilliant. But the first time I saw Wallstrip I thought, that smart fucker Howard - look at that...and it wasn't about the production process or even the talent. It was the style. Wallstrip was different than any of the video blogs I had seen because they created more of a micro-TV show. And over time, the actual style of Wallstrip became its brand the same way that David E. Kelly's shows became his brand.

So IMHO, CBS didn't buy only the technology or the production process, what they bought was the Wallstrip BRAND (not content - brand)! And like any good media brand, they are going to now extend it to a bunch of different micro-TV shows that will likely be different than Wallstrip but someone feel like the same franchise.

This isn't about old media meets new. It's about smart media companies getting their business asses in gear and looking out past their quarterly results to build something that will be meaningful for their audiences in the future.

Whew. I am done now. I feel better.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

What Would Tyra Say?

I guess this is what they would call the money shot. Pon pointed out that it's nice he has an Apple on his desk.

Friday, 25 May 2007

New Product Idea

GPS social network for traffic spotting.

When I was in San Fran, my friend Peter Jin Hong had the cool gadget of the day with his GPS screen that slapped onto the window on the car. He just put in our destination and the sultry computer voice with a British accent told him to "keep to the right hand side of the road and turn at the next intersection."

Well, what if i could join a social network for my drive home? What if I could get driving advice and warnings from all the other silly commuters back and forth from Toronto to past Orangeville?

She could say things like "there is a speed trap at the top of the Caledon hill, proceed with caution" or "drivers have indicated that there is extensive traffic to come onto the Gardner Expressway, keep to the right and use the Queensway off ramp"

Apparently There Are No Punks In Heaven

Here's a good story (hat tip to Brendan for the link)


Dr Martens is very sorry for any offense that has been caused by the publication of images showing dead rock icons wearing Dr Martens boots.

Dr Martens did not commission the work as it runs counter to our current marketing activities based on FREEDOM, which is dedicated to nurturing grass roots creativity and supporting emerging talent.

As a consequence, Dr Martens has terminated its relationship with the responsible agency.

David Suddens, Chief Executive"

Hum and as the Sydney Herald put it,

* Kurt and Joey didn't even wear Docs.
* Assuming heaven exists, as it does in the commercial, and we're talking 'heaven' as a Catholic/Christian construct, well, Kurt wouldn't be there. He topped himself. Some would put Sid in the same basket. Do not pass Peter, do not collect $200!
* Strummer would probably rather gurgle cat piss and dog shit than sell his body to a major advertising campaign.

Gotta love that the client (who probably had about 14 people internally over there at Doc Marten approve the creative) fires the Agency. Reminds me of a cartoon I made a while back contributing my own cartoon to someone else's about bad creative client critics...hum...let me repost it here.....

update: Client scapegoats agency and now agency scapegoats some poor sod who works there - from a Saatchi press release:

“We regret that the controversy has led Dr. Martens to terminate the
contract with Saatchi & Saatchi. We are investigating the circumstances and
considering the ongoing employment of the individual who was in breach of
instructions not to distribute the ads further than the original approved
placement in Fact Magazine in the UK.

“While we believe the creative is a beautiful tribute to four legendary
musicians, the individual broke both agency and client protocol in this
situation by placing the ads on a US advertising website and acting as an
unauthorised spokesperson for the company.”

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Cyber War on Estonia

To tell you the truth, while I am half Estonian (my mom was born in Tallin) I have never felt particularly connected to the place. I went once when I was 12 during the Olympics that got banned by the West (we were followed by Soviet police - very James Bond) and then again in my twenties when my mom went there on loan from the Ontario government to help set up the first presidents office.

Probably unfairly, my biggest memory was meeting with the Minster of the Environment (I have no idea why my mom thought that was a good idea....) who razzed me about not coming back to help set up the fatherland and mocked Southern Europeans in front of my Southern European ex-husband. I was like, "guy, it's dark here during the day - why would i move?". Well actually, I didn't say that, I just smiled awkwardly hoping a fight wasn't going to break out between North and South right there on the spot.

But that was then, and this is now. Estonia is becoming one of the most progressive and forward thinking countries in the EU both culturally and technologically with a growing tech sector that rivals many. At the same time as this prosperity has also come tensions between Estonia and the Russian government spurned on by Russians inside Estonia who do not want to see Estonia remain an independent entity. This has gone as far, according to the Estonian government, to the point where Estonia is accusing the Russian government of being behind recent Cyber attacks.

Now warfare has gone in a different direction, and while less gruesome than land warfare, no less dangerous for a democracy in the making.

To read more find Ross Mayfield's blog and the many links within his blog posting

Friday, 18 May 2007

In Need Of A New Welcome Mat: Women & Technology

I got into a blog conversation with a fellow named Graham on the site a bag full of monkeys a while back on the question of why more women aren't in technology. He wanted to focus on girls getting involved early, and I suggested he was being a bit naive about the barriers that women face along the way.

It’s interesting because speaking to a couple women who slugged it out and are still in tech, both of them talked about the overwhelming feeling at their first number of jobs that maybe they just didn’t fit in. They felt like complete outsiders and had to develop very thick and lonely skins in order to remain in the industry.

Well, their anecdotes are now confirmed by a new study:

“For years, word has circulated of a significant gender gap in the technology workplace, where women are greatly outnumbered by men.

The blame is typically placed on low interest on the part of women to pursue computers and engineering, but the actual experience of women working in technology is rarely addressed. A report released May 14 stands to shift this perception by drawing attention to the fact that tech workplaces may not be the most favorable environments for women to work in.”

Sounds like time for a new welcome strategy boys....

Thursday, 17 May 2007

We Aren't Technology Companies We’re Ad Agencies

In his post talking about WPP acquiring 24/7 Real Media, Scott Karp asks the question:

"Do you see the disruption of the ad agency business going on here?"

I think what i find soooo frustrating when I see what's going on in the ad business, is how much warning, how much time they have had to get their collective shit together and have failed miserably to even see any of this coming.

I wrote about this previously here . Agencies owned the relationships with their clients. What really amazes me is the fact that they never saw digital as a means to deepening that relationship. It wasn't just about advertising, it was about the potential for the data to be a platform to drive brilliant communications that could have been more personalized and useful to their customers.

Instead, they outsourced, undervalued, misunderstood and gave away the data to "technology" companies.

So Ad Agencies are clear that they aren't technology companies. And as Scott Karp mentions, Google’s clear that they aren't an Ad Agency.

I’ll just file those statements alongside some others I like:

‘There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq’
‘Read my lips. No more new taxes’
and a friend of mine’s kids all important belief that Santa Clause lives in the North Pole with Superman (I mean that last one makes a lot of sense if you think about it).

Schools Without Borders: Beyond Miles Program DONATE TODAY

Hi everyone,

I am very proud to be on the board of a great organization called Schools Without Borders. Areoplan has partnered up with them (and Doctors Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders, Vets Without Borders) for a special Beyond Miles Program that runs all year. But today is special. For this one day only, Aeroplan will be doubling any miles donated to these organizations.

For more on SWB, check out their blog and these videos about some programs that are on YouTube. In the words of one person from the Blitz Film program

“…better than a gun, this [movie camera] is what you should shoot with”

If you have ever thought of donating your aeroplan miles before but just haven't found the time, today is the day.

Click here to find out more and make sure you hit the donate button on the bottom right hand side.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Digital Design Maoism: Jacob Nielson and Web 2.0

Apparently Jacob Nielson doesn't like Web 2.0 design.

He says:

"The idea of community, user generated content and more dynamic web pages are not inherently bad..., they should be secondary to the primary things sites should get right....The main criticism or problem is that I do not think these things are as useful as the primary things..."

I am all for good design. I just question who gets to decide what good design is. Usability? Sure, if things aren't usable what's the point. But I think if Jacob N had his way, all sites would look the same and behave the same way. Design Maoism if you ask me and I hate the idea.

Read for yourself and see what you think.

(oh and for where I got the title Digital Maoist go read this brilliant and contraversial article by John Lanier if you haven't read it called Digital Maoism and The Hazards of the New Online Collective)

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Deep Brands

Leslie B. and I were talking about branding this morning and the fact that clients outside of the MarCom group seem to continue to trivialize branding when it comes to the core of the businesses and their understanding of shareholder value.

Now, that doesn't mean that they don't realize that brands are worth something. All the studies show it. But I think the issue lies in the fact that branding in the past has been the constructed fiction of mass advertisers. They instilled equities in the brands that they never had to prove. A glossy TV commercial was all it took to start the fantasy and help us believe.

But in this new transparent world of digital that we live in, proving it is becoming as important as saying it. What a company does, their beliefs, their values and the way that they conduct themselves in the world helps to build their brand on an on-going basis. The style of the brand isn’t less important, but like meeting someone who you have never met before, that is only the first impression.

And yet, brands still continue to be built on shallow values that often don't go deeper than the look and feel story boards they are conceptualized on.

I think it's time for deep brands that start with the DNA of the company and expand out multi-dimensionally from that. It’s time operations, finance, IT and marketing came together to understand how they each play a role in building a truly great brand.

(That last part was funny don’t you think? I didn’t even take myself seriously when I was writing it. ;-)

update comment: Peter was wondering if I was having an off day because of this post. As in, yeah, but doesn't everybody know that? I take his point, but just to be clear, my posting was less about evolving and expanding notion of brand and more about the fact that brands continue to be relegated to a MarCom activity and have not graduated to be seen as an integral part of the organization. It's just that fluffy thing they do over there in marketing. Even worse, that fluffy, non-quantifiable thing that can be cut the first time there are budget constraints over there thing.

Monday, 14 May 2007

My Feeds Are Apparently Rather Hungry

Um...I have no idea why, but from time to time, blogger seems to republish random old postings of mine that end up in feed readers. Weird. Not sure if it's a bug but apologies to those that are wondering if I am fixing my myriad of spelling errors (I'm not - I should, but I am not).

Random Acts of Hopscotch

What a great story out of Ottawa.

"Last Thursday, about a dozen children grabbed some chalk and started drawing hopscotch squares that eventually covered four city blocks. One neighbour called to complain about "graffiti" on the street, however, and the city responded by sending in a truck to hose it down."

In solidarity with the kids, chalk messages started to appear all over the city some saying "Play. Live. Dance. Hopscotch". Apparently, one group actually organized in the cover of night, spanning for blocks with a giant hopscotch and a variety of messages that pointed eventually to the stairs of city hall.

Talk about user generated media - now moving from the Web to public spaces. I think we need to start a national movement and in the words of one chalk artist:

"be active on your lunch break, come hopscotch"

Friday, 11 May 2007

If It Quacks Like a Duck: Lessons From M & S

Great quote from this months HBR from the ceo of Marks and Spencer. In his own words

"I was trying to shake up a culture of paralysis. Hiding behind data or precedents to avoid making a decision had to stop."

ok and here's the part I loved!

"If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, you don't need to send it for DNA testing to find out six months later it's a duck. Take a risk, guys. It's a duck."

J1: Final Recap

It's over! Woot! Everyone was so tired (and I don't just mean everyone at oponia, I mean everyone in the building).

The last hour was insane. A few of the booths around us really liked our product and kept sending people our way. We had a great time and I think more than anyone, I was a bit cynical as to what this show would do for us connection wise. Probably I spend too much time in Toronto and sometimes I forget how many people who can help us live here on the West Coast.

Even after day 3 though my favorite moment of the show was from day 1. I forced an editor and chief of a well read technical magazine to come over. He literally rolled his eyes. I was like, come on, start-up, self-funded, be nice! And he was. He watched and you could kinda see his face go funny when we showed him the demo and he turned his head sideways and said, "that's actually really interesting." (don't you love when people use their inside voices out loud?) And he gave us his business card and told us he would definitely review it.

Today we are off to see the sites. I have never been to San Fran and couldn't leave without at least a trolley ride or two.

Final note, I just wanted to thank the many supportive people at Sun. Mike, Mohammed, Henry, Bernard and finally Juan Carlos Soto who was kind enough to spend some time with us yesterday.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

J1: Day 2 "The Apprentice"

I feel like I am on the Apprentice. You know the episodes I am talking about? The ones where Excelsior Corp (or whatever stupid name The Donald makes up) has to sell the most water to avoid the board room.

"Come see my water" "My water is really really tasty" "Best water in the city"

Yeah, kinda like that.

But I have to say we are managing to get people (and some very well connected people) to come over.

We had four goals coming here and we have met three out of the four. The final one involves getting a Java Rockstar to come visit our pod. Mark was totally determined and rumour has it that if he is in the building today, we will might get to do a demo. But more on that later...


Tuesday, 8 May 2007

J1_day1: San Francisco

Day 1 has come and gone. Flight uneventful (and I hate to fly so uneventful = good). Five minutes at the hotel and then off to the conference centre. After a bit of a hassle getting our passes (we have SUN employee passes) we got to see our pod.

We are next to dancing robots! How cool is that? And if I made a paper airplane and had decent enough aim (which for the record i don't) I could hit the person who will be sitting in the the OReilly Media pod chair.

We got to meet the SUN guys finally which was great for Vanessa. She's worked with them virtually for years on JXTA and never seen 'em in person. What strange circumstances technology puts us in.

Speaking of which, we are meeting Mark (Petrovic) today and he is helping us out in the pod. If I have any energy left by the end of the day I'll write a note or two.

over and out...

Saturday, 5 May 2007

oponia Posters For JavaOne

I just had to put these up because I think pon has done such a beautiful job (and let us not forget Tasha who is an amazing artist, concept creator and PM). There was actually quite a team working on the design for oponia including Peter (Munck) as CD, pon as design lead and of course, Alfons UX designer extraordinaire. My job was mostly to sit back and watch it come to life (oh and make them do things they didn’t want to do or agree with - but hey, I am the business chick, that’s what I do).

Thursday, 3 May 2007

An 11 Year Old Questions The Profitability Of Newspapers

Over the holidays I was helping my 11 year old daughter (let's call her CC) with a school project. Her class (she lives in Greece right now) was creating an English newspaper. Since CC is the only native English speaker, she decided to become editor and chief (clearly the apple doesn't fall very far....). She got the kids to all write articles, she aggregated content from her American Girl and National Geographic kids magazines, and she and i created a bunch of Sudukos and crossword puzzles from the net.

In the end, we had 5 pages back and front. The we had to photo copy them which we did at the local Staples for about 7cents a copy costing us 70cents an issue. We made 20 issues for a total of $14 and then of course god love Canada, we had our 14% tax on top for a grand total of $15.96.

CC looks at me dismayed -

"but Mommy, I was going to sell the papers for .50 Euro a paper (that's basically .70 cents Cnd). That means if I have to pay you, I won't have any money left over! And I told the class that we were going to split the money! Why would anyone make a newspaper? This is stupid!"

And now for your reading pleasure linked to from Fading to Black blog, David Letterman's Top 10 List On How You Know Your Newspapers In Trouble

Wednesday, 2 May 2007


Nice little music radio station site Peter found -

They do a whole visual thesaurus thing on it too. Smart interface.

(oh and if anyone is wondering what is with the multiple postings and general wasting time reading the blogosphere - I am waiting for our latest installers to test as we are getting down to the last wire over here. And truth be told, reading tech blogs is better then my guilty pleasure of visiting popsugar to see what Brad and Angelina have been up too)

A Demonstration Is Worth A 1000 Pictures

Having people who work all in different locations can often be a bit of a pain. A tool that I bought to show demos of our product for investors has become my new friend for showing the team what i mean when something isn't working right.

ishowu basically takes a QuickTime of your desktop including your mouse clicks that you can send instead of words.

As they say,

"if a picture is worth a thousand words, a demonstration is worth a thousand pictures."

Social Networking Sites Are Mightier Than The Sword

The CBC radio had a segment this morning on cyber bullying and the use of social networks. They focused in particular on this story of a ThornHill student who was suspended due to his comments on a Facebook site..

There were some things that bugged me in the interview (not the least of which was the attitude of this dad who was more pissed that his kid can't go on a trip to Montreal than his sons actual bad behaviour). But the thing I was the most curious about….

The school had been monitoring the Facebook site in question. They clearly understood that there was room and potential for inappropriate comments to be made. Rather than proactively educating these kids and talking to them about the public dangers when you choose to put your life and opinions online (or even sending out a warning newsletter about acceptable behaviour), they chose to lurk and waited until something bad happened.

That just seems wrong to me.

The teacher in question could a real beef in my opinion with school officials who prefer to “catch” the kids in the act of doing something wrong versus what I consider in part their job, helping kids figure out what’s right in the first place.

In the end, everyone loses. The kid, the school and ultimately the teacher all with the lesson, social networking sites are mightier than the sword.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

What Would Tim Berners-Lee Say Now?

In 1996, Tim Berners-Lee said,

"what you actually see when you look at the Web is pretty much a corporate broadcast medium. The largest use of the Web is the Corporation making a broadcast message to the consumer."

Well, check this out - TorStar has launched a new site called It says its in Beta, it feels like a start-up but it is wholly owned and operated by TorStar (they neglect to mention this in the about us section - you have to go to the terms of use).

Looks like Web 2.0 is going the way of a corporate social media medium (say that 10X fast).

I dunno, maybe it's because I am an entrepreneur, but I like the idea of small companies starting and having users decide what is going to survive before it gets onto Yahoo or the TorStar website.

Having Corporations start their own start-ups? Something just doesn't feel right about that.

Sleeping On The Job Is A Good Thing....

From webworkerdaily via Mr. Petrovic (VP Engineering extraordinaire), a new study that confirms what those of us who work in innovation and creative fields already knew:

"when you’re faced with complex and novel problems, especially ones that require you to fit together new ideas, sleeping on it might turn out to be the smartest thing you can do."

Personally I am also a long walk or shower kinda problem solver, but sleep when I get some, works too.

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