Sunday, December 28, 2008

Social networking can quickly spin out of control

Wow, no sooner had I provided a brief shout out to Room 214, and what they're doing in social media, did they step in their own pile in social networking circles.

To quickly summarize what 'appears' to have happened, one of their employees contacted the owner of the Tweeter username @room214 asking if he would be willing to give it to Room 214. The user then forwarded the request to Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, asking for advice or help or something. Kevin then provided that advice via a posting on Seesmic:

That's when it all exploded, with various opinionistas providing their generally-negative two cents on Seesmic, Digg, and other media, calling Room 214 corporate bullies and saying they're surprisingly clumsy, naive, or stupid for mishandling a social networking situation. James Clark, Room 214 founder, has now gone on Digg and his own blog to post apologies and to try to diffuse the situation. All of this appears to have happened overnight from Saturday night to Sunday morning on a quiet, holiday weekend.

I say 'appears' because, like everyone else not directly involved in the situation, I really don't have all the facts. But in the social networking world, it's quite common for that ignorance to be glossed over in the postings of the aforementioned opinionistas because that would tend to discount the validity of their posted rants.

Because I don't know the accurate details, I am not going to comment on what happened, or did not happen, between Room 214 and @room214. But what I find fascinating about the broader situation is the speed and severity of the response, and the implications for Room 214.

Out of the blue, Room 214 now has a multifaceted challenge on their hands. Not only do they have a bit of a corporate image problem in the social networking community, but the situation presents potential implications for their corporate clientele (not to mention the employee-relations issues with the unnamed original protagonist). James Clark has gone a long ways toward addressing the community, but it's the client relations that I find interesting.

I presume that Room 214 offers to help their clients establish and execute social networking strategies, such as establishing Facebook fan groups, MySpace pages, Second Life storefronts, or various other, more intricate campaigns. Their website lists among their current clients the Travel Channel, the Denver Broncos, Alltell Wireless, and Rally Software. A recent press release announced that the Travel Channel just renewed their contract with Room 214 for 2009.

What should Room 214 say to their current clients about this situation? Should they say anything? Should they wait for their clients to stumble across it?

What about prospects that they're trying to sign? Presumably, these prospects will do a minimum amount of due diligence on Room 214 and are probably more likely to stumble across it than even their current clients are.

Here are my thoughts. I would turn the whole experience into a good, solid case study. James Clark mentioned in all of his postings the need to act humbly and honestly, and a case study is the logical extension of that. Admit that a problem occurred, analyze why it occurred, what was done to resolve it, and how it can be avoided in the future.

The process of creating this case study is valuable for many reasons:
  1. This whole thing occurred for a reason, through some lack of company policy or poor communication of that policy or something. Fundamentally, the cause needs to be addressed.
  2. The process of analyzing root cause of the problem and trying to prevent similar occurrences will be valuable for the Room 214 team, building teamwork and strengthening the firm.
  3. Nothing would be more believable and powerful as a marketing piece for current and future clients than an autobiographical case study that effectively says: "Social networking is a powerful tool that, if not carefully wielded, can cause considerable damage. We know firsthand, and we're better equipped to help our clients because of that firsthand knowledge."
The company has the opportunity to become stronger for having gone through this situation. At some point, their clients or prospects will discover the whole thing. Room 214 doesn't need to proactively tell clients about it, but should at least be prepared with a thoughtful response based on critical self-examination.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Totally Gross

Totally Gross. That's the name of a fun game that Ryan received for his birthday. It's from University Games, and can be purchased in various places.

The boys and I played it this morning and, for a science game, it's pretty fun. Lots of fun science trivia, like the fact that a tick only eats three times in its lifetime, or that frogs close their eyes to help them push food down when they swallow, and just enough actual gross stuff to keep the boys entertained. Good Big Science Saturday stuff.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Have I cursed my kids?

Earlier this week, we celebrated my son Ryan's birthday at a local restaurant. Ryan's turning 10, and we had a small gathering of his friends and family members. Of the gifts that he received, probably 2/3 of them were science related, either science kits or science-related games.

Of course, the reason he's receiving all of these science-related gifts is because of me and my whole Big Science Saturday thing. We've been doing BSS for years, though now it's pretty infrequent. But everybody in the family and everyone in the neighborhood knows about BSS, so they assume that the kids love science.

The truth is, they have no more or less interest in science than any other kids. They're just stuck with a dad that thinks that science, or at least the structured problem solving associated with the scientific method, is a pretty important thing.

So, both the boys get a bunch of science-related gifts. They don't seem to mind, though, and it gives us a bunch of new BSS material for the next several weeks.

And I made sure that his mom and I got him something far more frivolous, a pair of Heelys.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marketing is a conversation (2 of 2)

As something of a counterexample, consider Vitesse Semiconductor. I was with Vitesse for a few of their rockiest years, when the company disclosed that they had been backdating employee stock options and had some past financial accounting problems regarding revenue recognition. (I left the company early this year because my job had moved to California, and I didn't want to move or commute.) This led to the company failing to file public financials for a couple of years because they needed to restate so many of their past financial reports. As a result, the company was delisted from NASDAQ and remains on the pink sheets. The former high-flyer of the late 90s, whose stock price exceeded $100, is now trading for less than $1.

Now, many companies got caught up in the options backdating scandal, and for various reasons most of these companies were not hit has hard as Vitesse. But at the end of 2007, I believed that Vitesse had survived the worst of it, that they were close to restarting public financial announcements and, most importantly, they had a strategy for growth and profitability into the future. So at that time, I bought a bunch of shares of the company at $0.84 per share.

The company finally released public financials at the end of September. Those financials showed what I had anticipated, that the company was on the road to recovery. Yet yesterday, the company's stock closed at $0.18. Even if we consider that the broader market is down say 50% in the last couple of months, that might mean the company would otherwise trade at $0.36.

What's happening? More importantly, where's it all going?

That's exactly the problem, there's no real way to know. The company website only has product releases and announcements of upcoming investor presentations, and not very many of either of those. Yet I suspect lots of things are going on within the company that people would like to hear about. Where's the forum for sharing or discussing that information?

Well, there's always the finance discussion boards, like this one on Yahoo Finance. But these finance boards are just full of people shouting epithets at each other, or pumping the stock. That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm not even talking about financial information, necessarily, but product information, technology and market discussions, application stories, or the company's view of the world. What did they learn at their last trade show? What does the company want to be when it grows beyond this current financial mess? That's all opaque to an outsider.

In that thundering silence, the stock continues to plummet.

There are lots of technical tools available, including blogs, forums, or podcasts. Why doesn't CEO Chris Gardner podcast? Or Tony Conoscenti, VP Product Marketing, Martin Nuss, VP Technology and Strategy, or CFO Rich Yonker? A biweekly podcast would be a great way to demonstrate leadership and reengage with customers and investors.

Vitesse used to be a dominant leader in their space and still has some strong capabilities. By improving their external communications, they could begin to reestablish thought leadership.

There are several marketing agencies helping companies like Vitesse to redefine external communications beyond traditional PR or, more broadly, to establish communities. One local one is Room 214, who appear to be doing some pretty cool community things. How do I know? I don't for sure, but that's the feeling I get from their blog.

Because they're communicating ...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Marketing is a conversation (1 of 2)

I had lunch with a marketing colleague the other day. He mentioned a saying that he's fond of: "Marketing is a campaign, not an event." I agree with that, and would an another: "Marketing is a conversation, not a proclamation."

In a prior post, I mentioned that "My marketing focus was:
  1. Understand customer needs and define the appropriate product or service to meet those needs
  2. Use the appropriate promotional tools to drive revenue growth for those products and services"
If you consider those two points together, understanding customer needs, then promoting, that's bilateral communication or, in essence, a conversation.

More broadly, there are many situations where companies need to have conversations with their customers and other constituents.

For example, SharedPlan had some pretty strong views regarding the collaborative aspects of project planning and management. To help us voice those views, we started a newsletter, quickly growing the readership to about 20,000. At the same time, we provided users a voice by establishing a forum and by providing a repository where users could share project plans. Again, bilateral communication .. a conversation.

At Albeo, we began a similar process. In the lighting market, LEDs represent a completely new model for lighting (with regard to economics, lifetime, light dispersion, light quality, energy use, size, heat, replaceability, you name it). The differences are so dramatic that we couldn't even begin 'selling' until we provided some fundamental education to our customers to enable them to interpret our selling statements. So we started the Albeo LED Academy, an educational resource to provide those basics. The plan was to develop the Academy into a series of webinars or live events that would then enable us to build a user community. That user community would then serve to give our customers a voice to begin a broader conversation. We had some visionary ideas about where LED lighting could go, but until we could hear the collective voice of our customers, we couldn't validate those ideas.

Both of these companies benefited from conversations with their customers and constituents. In the second post on this topic, I'll provide something of a counterexample, a company that could benefit from conversations, but does not seem to recognize or enable that.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Robo-calling rich folks with investment advice?

"Hi, I'm Jim Coleman, and my records indicate you're a qualified investor. If you are a qualified investor, please press 1 ..."

That's the robocall I received on a Thursday morning at 8:30 am. I was getting ready to leave for work and I hung up at "press 1." But then, as I frequently do, I starting thinking about the marketing tactics being employed here.

According to this site, qualified investors are "individuals, trust accounts or institutional funds with at least $5 million in assets to invest." Therein lies my whole problem with this campaign.

I thought to myself that if I'm worth $5 million, do you suppose I got where I did by answering unsolicited robocalls for investment advice? Presumably, I'm either knowledgeable enough to invest on my own, or smart enough to have a real adviser, one that I found through referral or some other more reliable means, not via robocall.

Also, why would they call at 8:30 am when the qualified investor has either left for work or about to do so? Do qualified investors not work? Maybe they're targeting super-qualified investors who don't go to work anymore. But then, that takes me back to my first point: super-qualified investors are even less likely to respond to robocalls from Jim.

That's when it dawned on me. By asking if the call recipient is qualified, then maybe they're trying to target non-qualified suckers who want to become qualified.

It's kind of like Club 33. About 10 years ago, my company had one of the few corporate memberships to Club 33 at Disneyland, and I took my family there several times. The entrance to the club was an understated door with a 33 on it on one of the main thoroughfares through the New Orleans section. To get in, you rang the bell and the host would ask you to identify yourself, then buzz you in.

The sight of my family ringing that doorbell, being identified, then buzzed in, captivated all those around us. A glance back as we walked in showed faces with a range of emotions from curiousity to envy. People wanted to be part of the club because it was exclusive. They had no idea what was in there, they just knew that they weren't in there.

Non-qualified investors want to be qualified, even if they don't know what qualified is. So they "press 1." That's the only thing I can conclude about that campaign. Maybe next time, I'll take the time to press 1 to learn more.

Friday, December 05, 2008

HM has died, but he left an amazing legacy

I heard on NPR that HM (Henry Molaison) died recently. I had never heard of HM before this story, so I read the Wikipedia entry. What a truly fascinating and tragic story. (His story was apparently the inspiration for the movie Memento, although I doubt there was any killing involved with Henry.)

I can't get the story out of my head, how he went in for brain surgery at age 27 to correct an epileptic seizure problem, and was so irreparably harmed that he was institutionalized the rest of his life. Yet if you spoke with him, he would seem completely normal. His speech was normal, and he could remember things from before the surgery, but nothing from after. He could learn new motor skills, but not remember how or when he learned them. He couldn't remember what he had for breakfast that day, or what he did yesterday, or anything from after the surgery. The oddities go on and on ...

One of the people featured on the NPR story is writing a book on HM, who contributed an immeasurable amount to our understanding of the brain. It's incredibly sad though, the price that he paid to provide us that understanding.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm all about revenue growth

Yesterday, I heard a radio commercial (yes, I admit it again, it was on sports talk radio) for the Chevy Volt. I was only half listening to it, but it caught my attention when it said something about "those guys that were so good at chemistry are now working on the batteries for it." It then went on to say that the Volt will come out in the 2010 model year.

I realized that I was listening to an ad for a car that won't be available for a year! This ad is from the same car company that just went before Congress and stated that they won't make it to the end of 2009 without a congressional bailout. So, my first thought in hearing this ad was "shouldn't they be trying to sell the cars they have, rather than cars they don't?"

Then I thought, "maybe they're trying to revise their brand from 'uninteresting, middle-of-the-road cars for the masses' to 'leader in clean automotive technologies.'"

But this post is actually not about GM's advertising, it's about branding. As in, I'm not a branding guy.

That ad made me realize that, for more than a decade, I have been a marketer focused on revenue growth, rather than branding. My marketing focus was:
  1. Understand customer needs and define the appropriate product or service to meet those needs
  2. Use the appropriate promotional tools to drive revenue growth for those products and services
There's nothing in those two items about establishing and building brands. That's because many of the companies I worked for were small, even startup, companies where revenue was King. (Actually, cash was King, but revenue was a very close second, probably Queen.) We didn't have the luxury to invest in establishing a brand.

It's not that I don't appreciate the value of branding and would enjoy the opportunity to establish and build a brand. In fact, if you read several of my past posts on advertising, I am frequently referring to branding. Examples include my recent posts on a couple of radio ads, one discussing Microsoft's new I'm a PC campaign, or the one discussing La Quinta (whose brand apparently is 'hotels for idiots.')

I would love to do some branding work, but at the end of the day I'm a revenue growth marketer.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Love those Discovery Channel shows

A 24-hour bug has been working its way through our house, so last weekend we found ourselves on the couch watching TV. We ended up watching Discovery channel all day. We were already fans of Mythbusters (which we have TiVo'ed for some time now) and Dirty Jobs. On Saturday, we also discovered Time Warp, How Stuff Works, and Prototype This!.

We (the boys and I .. I'm not sure I can include Gina) love these shows! We are clearly in the channel's demographic. Big Science Saturday has pretty much stopped since we started working on Destination ImagiNation this season, so maybe Discovery Channel will replace BSS.

TV can be just as stimulating and educational as science experiments, right?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Another good BSS event

It's not quite NCAR's Super Science Saturday, but there's another fun Big Science Saturday event coming up.

Each fall and spring, the first-year engineering students at CU host a Design Expo to show off their design projects. The projects are judged by working engineers from various companies around the area. For three hours during the day, though, the Expo is open to the public and the public can vote on their favorite project to win the People's Choice Award.

You can find more information on CU's Integrated Teaching and Learning Program website. It's another good opportunity for me to expose the boys to science and engineering in action.

We'll see you there!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brilliant viral video from

Someone just forwarded to me a viral video from that I love. In fact, I forwarded it to about half a dozen people myself. As I write this post, their counter states that it has been sent to 9.2 million people (one can never trust counters like that, by the way).

I love it because it is entertaining and pretty effective, at least in delivering a message. I don't care about the particular political position it takes. I love it because it's a very entertaining way to send a message to people to get out and vote. I would love to see if it actually delivers votes, but I doubt we'll ever know.

I would love to use a viral video like this in a marketing campaign, but there's one problem. The ability to predict the popularity of a video is very limited. The Jib Jab guys never were able to replicate their original success with follow-up videos, and YouTube is a graveyard of attempted viral hits.

As I mentioned in my radio post, home runs are hard to predict. To extend that baseball metaphor a little further, base hits are far more predictable and drive in just as many runs.

Radio ads really work (2 of 2)

On the last post on this topic, I mentioned that one of the reasons that these two ads work is because of sheer repetition, which is required in almost all forms of advertising. We're all familiar with single commercial events that leave a lasting impression, like the Apple Orwell's-1984-with-the-sledgehammer-through-the-TV-screen ad. But the likelihood of an ad becoming iconic like that is less than one in a million. For instance, can you name another Super Bowl ad from that year? I'm sure there were others that spent a lot of money on high concept ads.

The point is, you can't count on single ad home runs, much like you can't count on videos going viral. You can count on repetition, however. But I've already pointed out that repetition isn't enough. While necessary (if you don't want to bet on home runs), repetition isn't sufficient. So what else makes these ads successful?

They're also successful because they're unique. The Lennox Financial owner/spokesperson has a southern accent, speaks with authority, educates when he speaks, and has an attention-grabbing presence. His simultaneous authority and folksiness serve to make listeners pay attending and trust him. Most chief executives do not have screen or radio presence, but this guy does, and they have made the most of his abilities.

The Advanced Tax Solutions ads are equally unique, but in a very different way. There is no company representative in the ads. Instead, all of the ads are read by Irv. Irv's an old guy, a kind of grandfatherly character of whom you're never quite sure if he's still all there. But when Irv's folksy, clumsy delivery is combined with actual customers describing their situations and the company's successful resolutions, it comes across as very believable.

Obviously, uniqueness works well for these guys. Of course, uniqueness doesn't always work. Remember the Quizno's rat-like things?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Radio ads really work (part 1 of 2)

First, a two-part confession:

(i) I have never had the opportunity in my marketing career to use radio as an advertising medium.
(ii) I listen to sports talk radio. Not exclusively, but enough to seriously compromise my snooty, high-brow, elitist literati posturing.

So, I found myself thinking today about two series of ads that I have heard forever on sports talk radio. One is for a mortgage company, Lennox Financial, and the other for Advanced Tax Solutions, a firm that helps people who are in hot water with the IRS.

Here's what I find interesting about these two series of ads: I can tell you the name of those companies off the top of my head.

Not that I'm the market for either of these services, mind you. I have no need for a new mortgage (and I already have a great mortgage guy, Bill Zuetell at Lendmor), and I have been a dutiful citizen with regard to the IRS. I don't think about these services at all. Ever.

But if the need arose, or if someone asked me about these types of services, I am able to come up with the names of these firms and have a good enough feeling about them to call them. That is the definition of effective advertising.

So why do these work? I think there are a couple of explanations.

The most obvious is repetition. These ads have been on for at least a couple of years with the same theme. However, there are lots of ads that have been on the radio for years with the same theme that are not nearly as memorable, so there's something else that works for them.

Each of them has a unique ad design that they have kept constant over the years. The Lennox Financial ad features the company owner describing the current state of the mortgage market and the implications for the homeowner. And he always closes with the same line: "It's the biggest no-brainer in the history of Earth."

Similarly, the Advanced Tax Solutions ads are also a constant, seemingly unchanged over many years. They come on during Irv and Joe and, in fact, are all read by Irv. They always feature client testimonials, with the actual client on the air responding to questions from Irv.

These ads have been on forever, so they should have made an impression in sheer repetition alone. But I'm sure there are other ads that have been on these stations forever that I can't recall as well. Why is that? I'll discuss that in my next post on this topic.

Separate quality control from sales?

Our refrigerator died yesterday. Actually, it didn't die, but it was very sick, with a compressor that couldn't keep it cold enough anymore.

The cost of a new compressor was well over $500, and almost half the cost of replacing the fridge. We decided to replace the compressor, rather than the whole fridge, although someday I'm going to revisit the economics of that decision. For now, it just annoyed me to have to spend SO MUCH money just to keep an old appliance alive. The repairman also was in our home until almost 10 pm doing the work.

Although the repairman was helpful and doing his best to be empathetic, I was in a bad mood about the whole experience and couldn't wait to get this guy out of our house.

After he presented the invoice and accepted payment, he handed me a customer feedback form for me to complete, insert in an envelope, and seal. I took a minute or two to do so.

The first couple of questions were about the quality of service: did the service person explain the problem clearly, was he courteous, on time, etc. I gave the guy some credit because, other than taking longer than he estimated, I thought he did a good job.

Then the next several questions, taking up about 2/3 of the entire sheet, were questions for selling new services:
  • Does anyone in the home have allergies?
  • Dry skin?
  • Does the air conditioning keep the house cool enough?
On and on ...

Was this a quality assurance questionnaire, or a sales questionnaire? There were so many sales questions that it made me question whether the company really wanted to measure service quality at all. I think they couldn't care less. They just want to put me on a mailing or phone list for having my heating ducts cleaned or to have my air conditioning serviced.

At the end, they had a numerical rating scale for their service quality. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would have given the guy an 8, even though I was annoyed with having to pay all this money and have this guy in our house all evening. But after being hammered with more sales questions, I gave him a 6.

Not that they care or that they'll even look at it. They'll mostly be annoyed that I didn't answer any of their sales questions.

While selling should be a regular part of a company's interaction with a customer by any employee, there is one area where the presence of sales is inappropriate. Sales should not be part of quality assurance, other than the implicit message that the customer should want to buy more because the company is so focused on quality.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Missed the Red Bull Soapbox Derby

I just realized that by choosing to go to the NCAR SSS, we missed the opportunity to see the Red Bull Soapbox Derby, which looked like it would be crazy, goofy fun. The boys would have loved it and I would have had the opportunity to show them the wacky, fun side of science. (And, as a marketer, I really respect what Red Bull has done in their market.) Oh well, we can't do it all.

NCAR's SSS was great

The boys loved the event, much more than they did two or three years ago when we went last.

Their favorite exhibits were the velcro wall and the TV weathercaster demo. Here are Maddox and me, just after I threw him at the velcro wall (sorry for the quality .. I only had my phone with me).

And Maddox in front of the 7 News weathercaster green screen reading his cue cards:

And the boys enjoying the final video product:

They also enjoyed the stormchaser truck, the hand-cranked kid train, and the tornado maker. After closing with a visit to Mustard's Last Stand, I have to say it was a terrific day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

NCAR's Super Science Saturday is tomorrow

As you all know, my family has long held Big Science Saturday (BSS). Not to be outdone, the National Center for Atmospheric Research will hold their annual Super Science Saturday tomorrow here in Boulder.

According to a flyer that Ryan brought home from school, they will perform experiments and demonstrations with various energy sources, highlight the sustainability of natural resources, and teach kids about the effects of their energy choices. They'll also have a hand-crank kid-powered train, Segway rides for older kids, and a super sticky velcro wall.

It's no BSS, but I think we'll have to drop by to check it out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I finally finished voting

When I started this blog, I never intended to post about political issues, but ...

The citizen initiatives in Colorado are out of control. I just spent about two hours going through all of the issues on the ballot. On the ballot for Boulder city residents, in addition to the national, state, county, and city candidates, there were:
  • 14 proposed amendments to the Colorado constitution
  • 4 proposed amendments to Colorado statutes
  • 2 Boulder County issues
  • 7 Boulder city issues
Don't we have a representative form of government? Why am I having to decide all of these issues? Isn't that why I elect city council members, county commissioners, state legislators, and governors?

The reason people are putting these issues on the ballot is because they don't like the decisions made by their government, so they're attempting to go around the government directly to the voters.

The problem with that is that voters don't have enough information to make sound decisions. The complete text of the ballot issue is far to complex and dense for the average voter to ever get through, and the summary text and summary arguments for and against each measure can never capture all of the important implications of the measure. (I'll ignore for the moment the dozens of related TV and radio commercials, every single one of which is misleading, generated as a result of these measures.)

This is a recipe for bad laws to be passed that take forever to unwind.

I consider myself more politically aware than the average citizen, and I happen to have a little free time on my hands right now to give considerable thought to the issues, but when I sealed up my mail-in ballot, I had a queasy feeling that I had made some mistake or that I had missed an important consideration. Voting should make me feel like I'm advancing the interests of my state by taking part in the electoral process. It should not make me feel like I just contributed to my state becoming a social, cultural, political, or economic backwater due to silly citizen-enacted laws.

The way to get better laws enacted is to change the people making the laws, not to go around them. Colorado needs to raise the bar on citizen initiatives to make them more difficult to get on the ballot. In that way, only the truly important issues will be considered. This will also require voters to think harder about who they elect as their representative, hold them to a higher standard, and demand more accountability.

Lawmakers get paid to understand and interpret all of the implications of important issues. If your representative still doesn't do what you want regarding an issue important to you, run for office yourself. Don't try to push the decision responsibility on an ill-prepared electorate.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Microsoft finally did something right

I have to say I really like the new Microsoft "I'm a PC" commercials (here is an example), which were created right here in Boulder by Crispin Porter + Bogusky. These have been written and blogged about ad nauseum (including the recent revelation that they were created on a Mac), but I'd like to throw in my two cents just to raise the nauseum level one more notch.

(Full disclosure: I'm a fan of Apple products.)

Building your brand requires that you emphasize your strengths while moderating your weaknesses. Microsoft's strength is that its software is ubiquitously deployed and forms a complete solution, particularly for the enterprise. There are several weaknesses with Microsoft's products, including not seamlessly integrating with different media types, forcing customers into a lockstep upgrade path, and a history of unreliability or instability. Microsoft as a corporation is also seen as a monopolistic corporate bully. All of these weaknesses, and more, have been highlighted in Apple's 'I'm a PC/I'm a Mac' commercials (see them all here).

From Microsoft's press release, they state that the new ads highlight "real people celebrating their connection to the community of one billion Windows users worldwide," and they achieve that by featuring an amazingly broad array of users, clearly highlighting Microsoft's ubiquity.

At the same time, they are moderating some of their weaknesses with their choices of users to feature. They show a hip, urban DJ, thereby implicitly addressing the media integration weakness. They show schoolchildren in Africa, addressing the corporate bully issue. This is great stuff.

Do the Mac commercials do the same (highlight the strengths, moderate the weaknesses)? They certainly highlight their strengths in ease of use, stability, and media capabilities. Some of Apple's weaknesses include lack of enterprise solutions, price, a closed iTunes system, and a narrower set of third-party applications. I just reviewed about a dozen of their ads, which hammer on their strengths, but saw very few examples of effectively addressing weaknesses.

For once, I have to give the slight edge to Microsoft.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hiking with my dad

Last month, my dad and I went hiking in southwestern Colorado. Specifically, we spent one day in Black Canyon of the Gunnison and one hiking Grand Mesa. Dad and I hadn't done a trip together, just the two of us, probably ever. And I learned a bunch of stuff about myself, my dad, and a part of Colorado I had not experienced.

Black Canyon may lack the size of Grand Canyon, but is certainly not lacking in grandeur. The sheer walls of black volcanic rock, cut with pink stripes of quartz monzonite, are striking. My photographic skills really don't do it justice.

The vertical drop is so precipitous that the river bed at the bottom shows no evidence of human occupation, ever, even as the Ute Indians lived all around the canyon rim for hundreds of years.

The only way down to the bottom is down some very steep trails (the park service won't even use the term 'trail' to describe them) with pitches up to 60 or 70 degrees. At one point, they have even installed an 80-foot chain to help you descend or ascend a particularly steep section.

We only went about a third of the way down because we didn't have enough time. That was enough, however, for me to be as impressed with my 77-year-old father as I was by the natural surroundings. That's him working the chain ...

The next day we hiked Grand Mesa, the largest flat-top mountain in the world. Because the mountain top is nonporous lava rock, water is trapped on top of it, forming 300 lakes. Dad grew up in the area and used to go fishing up there.

There are miles of healthy forests, with no sign of the beetle-kill that has ravaged Colorado. And almost no sign of people either. It's quite a treasure that I had never seen before.

As I described in my previous post, Dad was a hiking stud. Those two days of hiking wore me out, and overall it was a terrific four-day weekend with my dad. We're going to have to do it again next summer.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Just keep picking 'em up and putting 'em down

When I was in high school, my dad took me backpacking. I remember it as a great trip, but also a long trek with a heavy, uncomfortable pack. I also remember Dad telling me to "just take it one step at a time" as I grumbled and whined about the load. "Just keep picking 'em up and putting 'em down." It drove me crazy.

Then, a few weeks ago, he and I went hiking (more on that in another post). It turned out to be a long hike, about 5 or 6 hours, and he was telling me a story about leading his Marine squadron on long hikes with 90 lb. packs. You know how he did it? He just kept taking one more step.

So, this weekend, I was hiking with Ryan and he was complaining endlessly about being tired and wanting to quit. I told him that when I'm riding my bike up a mountain, I never focus on the top or how far I have to go. Rather, I just concentrate on turning the pedals over one more time.

Of course, that didn't do any good, and Ryan just kept complaining. I think it really just drove him crazy.

And that made me realize one thing. I realized that, in so many ways, I am clearly becoming my dad.

I think that's a good thing.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Looking for companies that get it

On Sustainablog, a recent posting said:
A North American organization of energy experts issued a report that found that building more green buildings is the best way to cut carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), one of the major contributors to global warming. In fact, green buildings could cut emissions more deeply, quickly and more cheaply than any other global warming mitigation effort.

So what’s stopping the change? The report found that capital and operating budgets are often kept separate, instead of a government or other institution taking into account the lifetime budget of a construction project. This separation creates a disincentive to build green.
This is a problem we deal with every day at Albeo. Albeo's LED fixtures present an opportunity for terrific operational savings in energy, maintenance, inventory, and disposal costs. However, they're relatively expensive compared to traditional lighting, and the investment in the fixtures would be a significant capital expenditure. Getting capital approved for operational efficiencies can be surprisingly challenging. Some companies get it, some don't.

We just need to find those that get it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

As a marketer, am I breaking the Golden Rule?

At Albeo, I'm planning to start a direct marketing campaign that will include direct mail and telemarketing, and possibly some email. Why? Because direct marketing works, and that's my job.

It raises a personal question, however. Since I don't enjoy receiving direct mail or telemarketing calls, am I planning on breaking the Golden Rule by doing unto others what I don't want done to myself?

I get annoyed with all the credit card mailings I receive. I don't like telemarketers any more than anyone else, and always hang up on them. But I also recognize that annoying marketing can be effective marketing.

For instance, as I have been watching the Tour de France on Versus Network this week, there's a Saab commercial that has run several times on each episode. (You can see the commercial here.) It's very annoying because it is very sparsely narrated, but repeats the same line three times:

"For the perfect balance of fuel efficiency and performance, we take energy from exhaust and recycle it.

For the perfect balance of fuel efficiency and performance, we take energy from exhaust and recycle it.

For the perfect balance of fuel efficiency and performance, we take energy from exhaust and recycle it.

Turning repetition into joy. The efficient performance of the Saab Turbo."

The repetition of the main line and the repeated airings of the commercial mean that that line is seared into my brain. Yes, I get it, the turbo provides a mix of fuel efficiency and performance.

It is amazingly annoying. On the other hand, as I pointed out, that line is seared into my brain, which means the marketers did their job. (Of course, there's a point at which they could move beyond message recognition into negative feelings.)

I guess my bottom line is that I recognize that some marketing tools can be annoying, but they're effective, and that's why I'm OK with breaking the Golden Rule.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Conflict resolution at the Earles household

My two sons, Ryan and Maddox, are ages 9 and 5, respectively. They are each other's best friend, which is wonderful to see, but like any brothers, they occasionally fight, and sometimes these fights become physical. It is never very serious, but it's also something that I want to address quickly and effectively before it gets out of hand.

My next older brother is 1 1/2 years older than I am, and he and I constantly fought as we grew up. I have 'fond' memories of him shooting me in the neck with a BB gun, and me embedding a dart in the back of his head. (Just a flesh wound, honest ...) Unfortunately, our little sibling rivalry never mellowed, and grew into an emotional barrier that took many years to overcome.

One of my neighbors has big, oversize boxing gloves that he gives his kids to help them 'fight' in a harmless way and get out their aggressions, but I don't like the idea of my boys hitting each other, even if it doesn't hurt. I'm not convinced that there wouldn't be residual resentment or other hard feelings at the end of one of these boxing matches.

We have tried various means to resolve conflicts between Ryan and Maddox, but the most effective technique is also the most fun: sumo wrestling.


The idea grew out of our unsuccessful experiment with Ryan and Jiu Jitsu. We were looking for a way to help Ryan develop some strength, coordination, and physical self-confidence, so we considered various martial arts. I chose Jiu Jitsu because it doesn't have the typical punching of Tae Kwon Do or other forms; it's much more about grappling and leverage. While Ryan didn't take to Jiu Jitsu, he enjoyed the wrestling aspect of the classes.

About that time, I happened to see some sumo matches on late night TV. The next time the boys had a fight, an idea was born ...

Now when they get into some kind of scuffle, rather than yell at them, we just mark out the circle (dohyo) and have a Sumo match. We have now watched enough sumo on TV that they even know how to set up, performing the leg-stomping, hand-clapping shiko exercise to drive out the evil spirits.

It took us a while to find a competitive balance in the matches, since Ryan is 20 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than Maddox. However, Maddox is strong and Ryan doesn't have great balance, so I taught Maddox to go in low, grab Ryan's knee, and just hold on tight until Ryan falls. They're now pretty evenly match.

I can't describe exactly how comical it is to watch my skinny boys go through this, and this is part of the charm of the whole activity. There is just no way that they can stay angry at each other after sumo. Occasionally, they have even stripped down to their underwear to mimic the mawashi that the sumo wrestlers wear. When they do this in our back yard, which is open to the street alongside our house, we get some very strange looks!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Just when I was beginning to doubt BSS

Reflections on Father's Day ...

Most of the time, the boys love Big Science Saturday (BSS), particularly when we do stuff like rockets or bugs. Sometimes, though, they're not really that into it, and I wonder if I'm really wasting my time.

In my past post about Ryan's rocket birthday party, I mentioned that I didn't really care if Ryan loves rockets as much as I did when I was a kid, but I just wanted him to be exposed to them.

With regard to BSS, I also don't care if the boys go into any kind of scientific pursuit like I did, or have any interest in science whatsoever. When I talk with them about why we do BSS, I tell them that all I'm trying to do is get them to ask questions about their world and to have some structure around how they seek answers to those questions. To me, it's all about curiousity and critical thought.

A couple of months ago, I went to Ryan's science fair. At his elementary school, science fair is only required for fourth and fifth graders, but for our family, science fair is required in all grades. Ryan is not a big fan of this and gets a little grumpy about it, but we came up with an experiment that was kind of fun. We measured how fast Maddox, Ryan, and I went down a waterslide at a local rec center.

Ryan hypothesized that I would go fastest because I was the tallest. That's how the data turned out. However, Ryan was slower than Maddox, although Ryan is taller. As we discussed the results, he could not see the inconsistency in his data. Although I found that a little frustrating, he was quite content with his conclusion and that's what he went with.

So, recently I have been asking myself if it's worth all the trouble and if I'm getting through to these guys. Well, Ryan brought home his report card at the end of the year. It had threes ("proficient") in about 20 categories, had a couple of twos ("partial achievement"), and two categories in which he received fours ("advanced"). One four was in a reading category, something about recognizing words, and what do you suppose the other four was for? "Scientific Process and Inquiry -- Draws logical conclusions and writes about scientific investigations."

I guess his teachers saw something that I hadn't, and I really love that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


(This post looks back a couple of months, but I saw something today that jogged my memory about it. I apologize for the delayed post.)

A few years ago, Ryan and I used to enjoy watching Battlebots on TV together. That show isn't on anymore, but we really enjoyed those compact creations of mayhem and destruction. (According to the Wikipedia page linked to above, the TV show will be returning, for at least one competition, in November 2008!)

One day during this spring break (we didn't do anything special for spring break this year, since we had gone to Puerto Vallarta a month prior), I happened to read about the FIRST Robotics regional competition taking place at University of Denver over the weekend. We went down on Saturday for our Big Science Saturday (BSS) activity, and the kids loved it!

The robots were built by high school kids with corporate mentors. The sophistication of the robots was very impressive, as good as we ever saw on Battlebots. (So much so, that it made me wonder how much design and manufacture was done by the kids, versus by the corporate sponsors.) You could go down into the 'pits,' where the teams were very helpful in describing their robot designs.

The robots were designed to compete on a specific event that involved racing around an oval track and picking up and carrying large exercise balls. It wasn't clear how the scoring was structured, but they seemed to get points for the number of laps completed, picking balls off the racks, and pushing them around the track.

Our favorite robot was one that wasn't even designed to deal with the balls at all. Once the designers abandoned this activity, they were free to design a very specialized little bot that did one thing very well. It zipped around the track three to four times faster than any other bot. It was very fun to watch that little guy.

The boys loved their robot-themed BSS. There was even a demo table there from a Lego robotics club, and the boys talked about finding a local chapter to join. We'll see how that turns out ...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Although it wasn't about sales leads, it was a huge success

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, for Albeo, Lightfair was not about sales leads. It was about our coming out as the only LED light fixture uniquely focused on the hardest problems in lighting: big, bright, efficient fixtures for industrial applications. From the perspective of showing the lighting world who we are and that we’re credible, it was a terrific show.

We had great press and analyst interaction. We had the best press kit in the press room, and appeared to go through more than anyone else. We participated in about press 12 interviews, which should generate 6 to 8 editorial pieces from now through September. I also had a terrific conversation with an LED lighting market analyst. Her firm published a large market analysis report in early 2007 which did not even mention the industrial market through 2012. I made the argument for the market opportunity and positioned Albeo as the one most able to serve that opportunity.

We had great investor engagement at the show. It was interesting to see so many venture capitalists walking the aisles of a lighting show. I'm sure it was the first visit to a lighting show for almost all of them. It was particularly valuable for Albeo to be able to encourage potential investors to visit all the other booths to see if they could find someone addressing a similar market need with the same set of capabilities.

We also connected with some strong reps in regions where we had no coverage (SoCal, New England). These new relationships are already paying dividends.

In summary, it was a successful opportunity to establish strong, clear corporate positioning with customers, competitors, and channels.

Having said all that, it wasn't a bad show for sales leads, either. Our booth was mobbed all three (exhausting) days. We came away with 200 to 300 leads, a mix of end users and potential channel partners, that we're currently going through and qualifying. We have found some valuable nuggets in there.

However, the most valuable aspect of Lightfair for Albeo may not have been raising awareness with customers, editors, channels, or investors, and may not have been generating sales leads, either. The most valuable aspect of this show was all about the team.

We're still a very small company, so putting together this kind of trade show presence, with all of the required products (several new products shown for the first time) and materials, was a huge undertaking for us. Every member of the company helped make this happen, and to have all their hard work pay off in such a big way helps to confirm the value of each individual's contribution. When they also saw how well we were received by the various audiences, it highlights that their continued efforts are likely going to help change the world in some way.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I found it, but a little too late

Back in January of last year, I proposed a business that I wanted to see someone start to help me out with Big Science Saturday (BSS). Wouldn't you know that I finally found it? The Young Scientists Club is exactly what I described, a subscription, home-delivery science kit program that sends you a new kit every couple of weeks.

If I had found this service early on in our BSS, I would have been a lot more consistent about having it. At this point, however, we have done many of the experiments in their program, so it doesn't make sense for us. However, if any of you are just thinking about starting something like BSS, this sounds like a terrific deal.

I can't vouch for the quality, but clearly the concept is great. I'd like to take credit for it, but from their website, it looks like they might have been around since 1999. Great minds ...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Trade shows are not always about sales leads

We're doing our first trade show at Albeo in a couple of weeks. It's a large lighting industry show, Lightfair, that targets lighting specifiers, mostly architects and lighting designers. When I have discussed this show with various people, I frequently find myself explaining that the purpose of our exhibiting at this show is not to generate near-term revenue or sales leads.

There are innumerable reasons to do a trade show, and certainly one possible reason is to generate sales leads. But it is not the only reason, nor necessarily the most important.

For example, I had a memorable trade show experience earlier in my career. We were marketing fiber optic transceivers to the data networking, voice networking, and data storage segments. Similar to Albeo, we were a venture-funded startup, competing mostly with other venture-funded startups like ourselves.

We did two trade shows a year. One year, over all of marketing's strenuous objections, our CEO insisted that we gather as many leads as possible during the show, and follow up on and qualify every lead.

We dutifully gathered several hundred leads, and began calling every one after the show. Not surprisingly, through the first 50 or so, we found exactly zero new, valuable opportunities. Why? Because the characteristics of the industry and our segment were not consistent with using trade shows as a sales prospecting tool.

In each of the three segments we served, there were, at most, eight companies in the world that could generate significant demand for our products. At each of these companies, there were maybe two or three design teams that were responsible for projects that might include a product like ours. In other words, our sales force already knew every possible customer and was aware of every existing project that represented any meaningful revenue. If we weren't working to close those known deals, then we were working on the wrong things.

Then why participate in trade shows, you might ask? One important reason is because that worldwide handful of potential decision-makers wanted to be reassured that they're buying from a market leader and a company that was going to be around for the long term, and a trade show was an effective tool for positioning ourselves as that leader. It enabled us to show advanced, market-leading product or technology concepts, for instance. And the mere implied expense of exhibiting communicated some level of financial stability.

In Albeo's case, any sales leads we generate at Lightfair would represent possible 2009 or 2010 revenue, which is not our greatest concern. Rather, we're launching several new products into a new market segment, and a large trade show like this one represents an efficient way to get the message about this launch out broadly and quickly to multiple audiences. So our most important metric is not the number of sales leads, but rather our success in connecting with the editorial community, the venture community, and some other important audiences. Our success metrics will be around these efforts.

Oh, and did the total failure rate in those first 50 qualification efforts convince my past CEO that it was a futile effort? No, he was convinced we were missing that one golden nugget, so he made us complete the task, which took several days. Let's just say he and I didn't see eye-to-eye on much, and we soon parted ways.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Destination Imagination

Recently, my son Ryan completed his Destination Imagination (DI) project. DI is a creativity and problem-solving organization for kids of all ages. Before Ryan participated, I had never heard of it, but now I love this thing!

The five members of Ryan's DI team chose the "Hit or Myth" challenge to prepare over the course of a few months. With no help from adults, they had to:
  • Choose a myth that they would prove or disprove using the scientific method (OK, that sold me right there)
  • Write an 8 minute play, during which they would perform an experiment, of their own design, to prove or disprove the myth
  • Construct their props out of recycled material
There were several other requirements, as well. The team then performs their play for judges in a big, all-day event at a local school, and the top two teams from each age group proceed to state and national competitions.

I was amazed at what his team of five third-graders came up with. The creativity was stellar. During their play, they proved that a tongue sticks to a frozen metal pole by using a pig tongue and a section of metal pipe that they had stored in dry ice. They wove this experiment into an eight-minute story about Queen's Day in Amsterdam, and had a cardboard replicas of the Amsterdam Palace and tulip fields.

He loved the entire experience, and we're both very excited for next year's DI challenge!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

What's Their Message?

OK, I don't really get the La Quinta ads. (You can see all of them on La Quinta's site.) I had seen two of these on TV, one where a guy's pen leaked in his mouth when he chewed it, making his entire mouth and lips blue, and another where a man forgot his luggage and was forced to wear his coworker's dress. The tag line for these ads is "wake up on the bright side." The leaky pen guy laughs off his blue mouth because it's now the company color, and the guy in the dress brags about how good he looks in it.

So, they're kind of cute and kind of funny, but these situations make these guys, and everyone around them, look like idiots. They don't make me think, "Hey, they really made the best out of a bad situation." They make me think, "Hey, these guys are idiots."

So what's the message conveyed about La Quinta? I can think of a few candidates:
  1. Idiots stay at La Quinta.
  2. Horribly embarrassing things happen at La Quinta.
  3. Embarrassing things happen at La Quinta, but by waking up "on the bright side," you're able to deal with these embarrassing things by being an idiot.
I suspect that none of these is actually the intended message. The message that I don't see is "wake up on the bright side."

The ads are cute, but their message eludes me.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I wish everything were an auction

A few months ago, I had a discussion with John Ives about his startup, Storage Markets, and the challenge of setting price for an unprecedented offering. I'm now experiencing exactly the same thing with Albeo.

LED lighting is dramatically different from traditional lighting. Here's a list of differentiators we use occasionally:
  • Reduced energy consumption; 10 times less energy than incandescent
  • Reduced maintenance costs; 10 to 100 times less maintenance
  • Reduced thermal loads; 10 to 20 times cooler than other lights
  • Longest lifetimes; for 50,000 to 100,000 hours
  • Highly resistant to shock and vibration; no glass or filaments to break
  • Extremely safe; low voltage, no EMI, low temperature
  • No recycling costs; no mercury
  • Full scale control of light level; adjustable from off to full on
  • Smallest form factors
  • Widest range of operating conditions; -40 to 70 degrees C
  • Easy to integrate with electronics; micros and sensors
  • All colors available; high color purity, all whites
Clearly, LEDs provide a very different lighting solution from traditional lighting. However, they cost maybe 10 times more to manufacture. So, how does one price LED offerings?

I'm going through that process now for several new products we're about to launch. Setting price is one of the most difficult things a marketer does. I strongly believe in setting price before I learn what a product costs to manufacture. It is very easy and common to base price on cost, even if one does so unconsciously because he knows the products' cost. However, our customers don't care what our products cost to make, do they? They care about what the products do for them; the value they deliver.

The ultimate way to determine the price is with an auction. Not that I want to sell our products on eBay, but why can't everything be an auction? It would make my job so much easier.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Getting the message right, revisited

A year ago, I posted about Albeo being interviewed by BCBR and us not doing the appropriate messaging prep work to get our story across clearly. Although the BCBR article turned out OK, we were determined to do better in the future.

I recently mentioned that the local TV station, 9News, did a story on us. It came up quite suddenly; they called us at 9:30 and arrived an hour later. (We had to run home to put on our dress-up clothes, since we were looking pretty shlubby.)

Before Ward and his cameraman showed up, we reviewed the key messages we wanted to deliver, and even wrote them up on the white board in the conference room where the interview took place. Jeff (Bisberg, Albeo's founder and CEO) methodically worked them into his responses to Ward's questions, and I was quite pleased as the interview progressed. By the end of the interview I was confident that, no matter what material they chose to use, our messages would get through.

Then, something weird happened. Ward realized that they hadn't yet filmed a 15-second teaser that would run in the half-hour leading up to the news program. Ward and I worked up a two or three sentence script for that while the cameraman set up the shot.

During that five minutes of shot preparation, Ward chatted about some vandalism problems occurring in his neighborhood. He lives out in the boonies on several acres of land with a driveway gate that's not visible from his house. He was thinking about putting a camera out on the gate, in addition to the current intercom, to check out visitors remotely. He remarked that there's not adequate light out there for the camera, and I pointed out that he could install Albeo lights with integrated motion sensors so they would light up as soon as someone came up to the gate. I also noted that Albeo's lights are rugged enough to stand up to potential vandals.

So, what happens next? The cameraman gets the shot set, Ward picks up the mike, throws out the few sentences that we wrote together, and ad-libs the teaser with something about Albeo's "vandal-proof" LED lights. Vandal-proof?! Among our top ten important differentiators, that may be number 25. Seriously, he leads with vandal-proof?

After carefully staying on message for 45 minutes, we slip off message for a few minutes at the end and we get stuck doing vandal-proof lighting. Obviously, we're targeting that huge prison lighting market.

Clearly, the moral of this story is that one must always stay on message. Always.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Looking forward at the next few months

Now that I'm blogging again and have joined Albeo full-time, I have several topics that I think I'll be writing about soon. These include:
  • How solid-state lighting breaks the entire lighting industry product and channel structure
  • Thinking about expanding Albeo internationally
  • Destination Imagination
  • Albeo's first trade show
  • Guitar lessons
Of course, there will be much more that comes up that I'll feel the need to write about. I have to say, I certainly enjoy being back online. I hope you keep reading, although if you don't, I'll probably still post.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Catching up on open topics

There are a couple of topics I left open when I stopped blogging last year, so I thought I'd wrap those up a bit.

Yes, I still do BSS with the kids, although not nearly as frequently. We did get to tour the 9News newsroom with Ward Lucas. Ward had done a story on Albeo (make sure you check out the video), and I was chatting with him between shots, telling him about BSS, among other things. He graciously offered up the tour. Last weekend, we also attended a robotics competition, which I'll post about soon.

I also completed my personal trifecta: the Elephant Rock Century, the Triple Bypass, and the Copper Triangle. I had made a public commitment to the Triple, but privately I committed to the whole package. For those of you not in the Colorado cycling community, these are all difficult events, from 80 to 120 miles, with several thousand feet of climbing, much of it over 10,000 feet.

The experience of doing three difficult events in a season had several positive benefits:
  • I worked myself into my best cycling shape ever
  • I achieved a couple of personal cycling milestones on the side: (i) sustaining more than 20 mph on a closed loop for an hour, and (ii) riding up the world's highest paved road to the peak of Mount Evans.
  • I had an excuse to get ride of my ten-year-old, heavy road bike and get a new climbing machine
The downside of the whole trifecta thing was that it was a tremendous time commitment, particularly when I had little extra time (hence the lack of blog posts). If you're going to ride strong over mountains, then you have to spend practice time riding over mountains.

That commitment played a part in one decision I made, which I will publish here for future reference. I'm not going to do Triple Bypass again. That's just too big of an event for a recreational rider like me. The logistics are complicated, the weather risk is big, and the potential for stomach discomfort is high (you need to eat a lot of calories to fuel yourself for 8-10 hours of hard exercise, even though you don't feel like eating anything). I have proven twice now that I can do it, but I don't get enough from it to do it again.

I think that wraps up any open topics from my last posts. Of course, it's not like these are the only things that happened over the past year, so if I recall anything you might be interested in, I'll be sure to post about it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Did you miss me?

Yes, I'm back. As you can see, I haven't blogged for a year. I know my scores of readers have all put their lives on hold during my hiatus, and I deeply apologize for the resulting national economic slowdown.

So, let me explain why I disappeared for a year. As you know from several postings, I was working with Albeo Technologies when I disappeared, and I still am. However, I was doing so as a volunteer on my 'free time.' I had a day job the whole time, however, which happened to be in Colorado Springs, about 100 miles from my home in Boulder. Between Albeo, my day job, commuting, cycling, BSS and general parenting, blogging ultimately had to take a back seat.

Well, things have changed dramatically, and I am tremendously excited! First, my day employer sold the Colorado Springs division to another company, but retained my products. They requested that I relocate to California to work in the headquarters or at least work from my Boulder home. I decided against those options and agreed to a retention package through today, March 31. This set the stage for me to make a change.

As March 31 approached, another fortuitous thing happened. Albeo closed their first major funding round, which enables me, along with several others, to join full time and really hit the accelerator. I can now focus on executing for one company, rather than having such a schizophrenic work life.

In my next posts, I'll catch you up on other news and take a look forward at likely upcoming topics.

Thanks for sticking with me. I'm happy to be back.