Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Detonators!

I recently professed my love for Discovery Channel shows. As the boys and I were lazing away a snowy Sunday morning watching Cash Cab (they seem to love that show), we saw an ad for The Detonators, a new Discovery show starting January 28.

It appears to be the ultimate show for the boys and I. Why? Because all they do is show how they blow stuff up! Really big stuff!

Sometimes, I amaze myself with my parenting skills.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How much can we infer from inauguration speeches?

My wife and I watched Obama's inaugural address last night, and I thought it had some exceptionally intriguing passages, such as his direct address to the Muslim world, and his several swipes at the outgoing administration. (I may blog about some of the more thought-provoking statements in a subsequent post.) As we all listened to those words, we probably all wonder how much of Obama's presidency is being foretold in his words. Of course, there's no way to know, but I thought it would be interesting to go back and read Bush's first inaugural address to see how much his words presaged his presidency.

I'm no political scientist, much less a presidential scholar, and am not particularly politically active. I have only written three posts, out of over 100, that had anything to do with politics. But for some reason you folks keep reading so I'll plow ahead. I reviewed the transcript and have repeated some of the better statements below:

"It is the American story—a story of flawed and fallible people, united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals." This seems to be a nice swipe at Bill Clinton's foibles of infidelity.

"The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant person was ever born." Although this could be read as an equal opportunity kind of message, I also read this as a message regarding his anti-abortion stance, which guided his actions over his two terms in a few ways. These include his failed effort on abstinence-only education and probably his most significant political action, his reshaping of the Supreme Court. The latter was one of the items in which he noted special pride in during his final press conference.

"The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice and the circumstances of their birth." Another aspect of Bush's legacy was the No Child Left Behind legislation, another legacy item in which he expressed pride.

"And sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country. We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity." OK, this is a meaty one that will require more than a sentence to summarize.

The country had just endured a very divisive and deeply flawed election. Democrats thought the election was stolen, and I don't know that we ever saw as much bitter partisanship on display as we did in the days between election day and the Supreme Court's final ruling. This statement would seem to indicate a willingness to try to heal those wounds and reunite the country into a "single nation."

We now know, however, that this was not a statement regarding reunification; that instead the Bush administration worked tirelessly to create a single nation of enduring Republican majority, rather than a bipartisan reunified nation. Karl Rove, Bush's master strategist, has spoken repeatedly of the pursuit of this goal (and has yet to give up on it, even in light of Obama's victory).

The examples of this pursuit were many. For example, we now know the Justice Department illegally used political affiliation in their hiring practices, although no connection has been made to Attorney General Gonzales or his predecessor Ashcroft. (Amusing side note: the liberal New York Times' article on this government watchdog report doesn't mention that lack of connection, yet the conservative Washington Times states it in the second paragraph. Talk about editorial biases.)

This same watchdog agency has yet to publish their findings on their investigation of the Justice Department attorneys. However, one aspect of those firings that has already been made public is that several of these attorneys had one thing in common, they did not vigorously pursue voter fraud. The aggressive pursuit of voter fraud, whether perceived or real, is one tactic frequently used to suppress minority voter turnout, which could be a component of an enduring Republican majority strategy.

There are other examples of working tirelessly toward a permanent Republican majority, including gerrymandering in Texas, Colorado, and other states, and probably no better example than the Bush's apparent disinterest in crossing the aisle to compromise on legislation.

None of this is anything but politics as usual, and I don't find it surprising that Bush pursued these activities. However, the depth and breadth of it would seem to indicate that Bush went into the presidency with no intention of creating a "single nation" built by reunifying in a bipartisan way, but rather by unifying the nation under Republican rule. Words can sometimes be tricky things, can't they?

"We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American." Bush tried and failed to achieve immigration reform, but he did build a very big wall.

"We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from struggles we have the power to prevent." Bush tried and failed on Social Security, and won a modest victory with the Medicare prescription drug plan. As with immigration reform, he words predicted his efforts, just not his successes.

"We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors. The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom." In hindsight, these words might seem to foreshadow our invasion of Iraq, and there are some that say that Bush had the overthrow of Saddam Hussein on his agenda on the day he entered the White House. Certainly, according to both Clarke and Woodward (and ultimately the White House itself), the plans to attack Iraq began very soon after 9/11, even though there was no connection between the two. Coincidence?

Of course, those same words could have been intended to be more broad and to apply to what he came to call the "axis of evil," and meant nothing more than that Bush was ready to act swiftly and decisively against the threat of WMDs, wherever they appeared.

"Church and charity, synagogue and mosque lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and in our laws." Over the course of his presidency, Bush shifted government funds to faith-based initiatives for fighting poverty and other problems.

So, from several statements in Bush's speech, we can see several concrete examples foreshadowing his goals and intents. And, as can be seen from his statement regarding a "single nation" or possibly his statement regarding WMDs, that foreshadowing can be a little misleading.

What are we to make of Obama's speech, then? One article tries to capture it here and, as I said earlier, I may do a post of my own. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Did Nortel fail because of collaborative tools?

I was surprised and saddened to hear about Nortel's bankruptcy on the radio this morning. Not because I thought they were particularly healthy, but mostly because they were such a big firm, were such an key customer of mine at a couple of past employers, and, most importantly, were such a great equipment supplier for decades.

I read an article about their failure in on, that basically states that Nortel's attempt an innovating away from their past reliance on core carrier equipment was too little, too late and and that they chose the wrong products to develop. One comment caught my attention, however:
Roese used a public blog to communicate with customers and attempt to re-establish Nortel as an innovator.
This is clearly a problem. One key success criteria for this kind of public conversation is credible honesty. I didn't read the blog, so I can't comment on it specifically, but it would have been valid to discuss how Nortel is attempting to reinvent itself and becoming more innovative. Describe that process or journey, and the unique challenges that you're experiencing, but don't jump straight to a presumed conclusion that you have arrived as an innovator.

The 'death' of Nortel happened to occur on a day when we lost another great icon: Khan (Ricardo Montalban). Khan delivered one of the great movie lines of all time in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, when he quoted Melville's Moby Dick:
To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

A little more on social marketing

OK, soon I'm going to jump to another topic, but I just found two more interesting items on the topic. First, here's a fun little video from a German ad firm illustrating the challenges that social marketing is trying to address:

A short history of marketing from Michael Reissinger on Vimeo. (Sorry, but the video that I inserted was taken down from Vimeo for some reason. However, I found it here, as well.)

Second, John Kembel of HiveLive posted his thoughts on what's in store for enterprise communities in 2009. I tend to agree with his comments, but I would add one more trend:

6. Social marketing companies must make money.

In the current economic climate (and related venture capital environment), marginal business models will perish. This situation will not change dramatically any time soon, so social marketing companies must prove that their firms are sustainable. In other words, they must make money. I would not be surprised if half of the social marketing companies currently in existence are no longer around in January 2010.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Social marketing is not dead

A new Advertising Age article is spreading doom and gloom about marketing expenditures. Obviously, I certainly can relate to the d&g. The article states that:
...more than half of the marketers surveyed said their budgets will be cut in the coming year, and another 44% said they'll cut or freeze hiring.
Again, clearly I get that.

It does identify some "Pockets of Optimism," however. But not listed among those pockets are social networking and media. In fact, they state that:

Buzzword fatigue has also set in more firmly on an aging set of digital terminology, including "Web 2.0" (19% said they were tired of hearing it); "social networking" (12%); "social media" (11%); "blog" (8%) and "viral marketing" (6%).

Now, I look at those numbers and see that social marketing only has a little more than 10% of the respondents claiming weariness. That doesn't sound very high to me for trendy items like these. In fact, they go on to state that:

However, that doesn't mean those digital ideas aren't important anymore, Mr. Anderson said. "In fact, each of those ranked as a bit more important this year," he said.

Given that I have already stated that I'm a fan of these marketing techniques, I have to say I'm pretty encouraged that they're growing in importance, even if only modestly, in this environment.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Good wiki app for iPhone?

Gina and I are taking the family to Costa Rica in a couple of weeks, and we have a lot to do to prepare for the trip. Gina suggested that we should create an online collaborative space in which to share ideas and to-do lists. Her idea was to use a wiki.

I currently use a great little application, Evernote, for my own to-do lists, notes, saved web pages, and many other kinds of content that I want to capture, access, and edit later. It runs as an application on my Mac and on my iPhone, and automatically synchronizes the content between the two platforms. I have thoroughly enjoyed using it.

However, for the Costa Rica shared to-do list application, it has two shortcomings:
  1. It doesn't run on Mac Tiger, only Leopard, and Gina's Mac OS is Tiger. (She runs Evernote, but her laptop access is web-based, rather than via their installed application.)
  2. It doesn't allow private sharing. It does allow content to be shared with everyone (and indexed by search engines), but not shared privately with specific individuals or users.
I recently received an email from Evernote describing their feature upgrade plans for 2009, and one of the items involved improved sharing. Here's what they said:

The public notebooks functionality that we launched in 2008 was a timid, first step in our ambitious plans for making Evernote a great tool for sharing your memories and collaborating with your friends and coworkers. In 2009, we're going to greatly expand what you can do with your memories, documents, files, photos and anything else you throw into Evernote. If you're the social type, we're going to grow up from being your external brain to being a telepathic-mutant-super-brain, but with good manners. Of course, you'll always have the option to keep any or all of your info totally private.
Obviously, they're being deliberately vague on their exact upgrade plans, so I built a wiki on PBWiki that we'll use for now. PBWiki is a traditional hosted wiki application, but it doesn't have an iPhone app to allow mobile access.

A search of the iTunes iPhone app store yielded nothing. Any suggestions?