Low tide is noon tomorrow …

And I am going clamming. I need some fresh air after this past week. Five hours and I roll into Cotuit. I need an hour on the rowing machine to blow off some sushi and general jet lag torpitude, reunite with dogs, and start planning an Indian summer weekend on Cape Cod. Perhaps some striper fishing this evening … So many options, so little time before the leaves blow off the trees and Cape Cod turns into a frozen black and white movie.

US vs. Japan cell phone etiquette

The Japanese win the prize for cell phone etiquette. Rarely, if ever, did I overhear a person on their phone. Every train, bus, waiting lounge and restaurant had a sign asking people not to use their phones. Sure, people used the phone for SMS and mobile data, but never, in three days, did I have to listen to someone yak.

Contrast with gate K9 at O’Hare waiting for a flight to Boston. 25 percent of the mob is driving me insane talking about the usual inane b.s. and one frigtard is using a Nextel/Sprint walkie-talkie and making that evil squeak-beep everytime they press the talk button. Over and over and over. Who ever came up with that sound — which I guess passes as some sort of audible brand signature — needs to tortured with it like I am right now.

Honesty in Buzz and Viral Marketing

WOMMA: Word of Mouth Marketing Association

I’m bummed I missed this call by WOMMA to address the issue of disclosure in marketing initiatives focused on social media and viral. Call it the Lonelygirl13 effect, but I think the days of sneaky viral — kicked off by the Subservient Chicken are behind us. Fingerskilz, the Lenovo Tapes are examples of PC vendors releasing viral without overtly tagging it as a corporate campaign. Is that wrong? Would it impede the spread? Probably. But the tide has turned and people are quoting the Who, “We won’t get fooled again.

Those tactics — hiding the origin of a campaign, sockpuppeting, etc. — done.

From the WOMMA notice:

“A foundational building block of that ethics code, which we believe is as relevant as ever to evolving social media, is what is known as the “Honesty ROI.” This includes the following:* Honesty of Relationship: You say who you’re speaking for
* Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
* Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity

We especially call out the “honesty of identity” provision, which speaks most clearly to the new forms of social media that are quickly unfolding. “Disclosure of identity,” the code notes, “is vital to establishing trust and credibility. We do not blur identification in a manner that might confuse or mislead consumers as to the true identity of the individual with whom they are communicating, or instruct or imply that others should do so.”

Thanks to ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com for the pointer. 

Sleepless in Tokyo

Good round of meetings yesterday with the Tokyo team, followed by a subway ride on the Ginza line with a transfer to Akihabara, the fabled Las Vegas of Japanese consumer electronics. If I were a Gizmodo or Engadget writer I’d probably have been jaded, but the insanity of the place, the neon, the noodle shops out of Blade Runner, the pachinko parlors (think vertical pinball), and general Japanese anime/manga weirdness made this the place to see if time is short and a real Tokyo experience is required.

Here’s the random reporter’s notebook:

  • Vending machines: The Japanese use vending machines for everything. Take a stool at a noodle counter and stare stupidly at the staff until it becomes clear that the little vending machine on the wall serves a purpose. Stuff 1000 yen note into machine, press a button (any button) and out comes a chit which will yield a bowl of most excellent soup and noodles. This is not undergraduate ramen we’re talking about. Made me think of Tampopo. I did not see a vending machine with used underwear in it, for you peverts who are bound to ask.
  • Umbrella dryers: racks that stand outside of every restaurant, hotel, and shop. Stick a wet umbrella in it, and it gets dried while you are inside.
  • Subways: I half hoped for the sardine experience where the platform guard wedges people in like a football nose guard, but no, it was very civilized and efficient.
  • Cell phones: When I was at McKinsey working with the mobile commerce initiative, I coined the term “Idle Moment Applications” to describe the appeal of mobile phone content to people waiting in line at the bank or commuting on trains. Every, and I mean every Japanese rider on the subway was glued to the little screen of their cell phone doing the DoCoMo thing.
  • School girl uniforms: Okay, so they wear uniforms to school. But at ten at night, in high heels in Roppongi? Also, the racier stores are big on selling these weird pinafore uniforms out of anime cartoons. I don’t get it.

  • Cartoons: The whole anime, Hello-Kitty, thing is everywhere, from pictures of little Pokemon creatures getting crushed by subway doors as a warning not to let your Pokemon creature get crushed by the closing doors to inexplicably big-eyed creatures plastered on everything. Cute?
  • Blade Runner: My favorite sci-fi movie. An evening in the rain in Tokyo, with wet streets reflecting the waterfalls of neon; elevated highways buzzing with traffic and trains; dark skies and scurrying crowd of umbrellas. I expected a replicant in a sex shop to come crashing through a window at me with blazing rail guns at any second.
  • Food: Sushi on the conveyor belt the night of arrival. Easy, no language barrier involved in picking up a plate of raw fish as it rolls by, but last night me and two colleagues went to a place with no English capabilities and got into a picto-gram order fest that involved pointing at pictures and hoping for the best. I had one hand-roll that I swear was made with Ban Roll-On deodorant and seagull droppings. It was, hands down, the worst thing I have put in mouth that didn’t carry a phone number for the National Poison Control center on it.
  • Wasabi: They don’t serve wasabi with sushi. The chef evidently feels he’s done his thing with his wasabi.
  • Napkins: Forget about it. Not part of the program.
  • Jamaicans: Yep, the sidewalks of Roppongi are cluttered with Jamaican barkers who try to press cards into your hand and tell you in “hey mon” accents that there is a titty bar inside. How did they get here? Why did they come?
  • Plastic Food: The Japanese are the masters. Scary stuff some of it. This was my favorite. Ice cream weirdness that looks like baby aliens.

  • Phone poles: weird to see ugly utility poles all over the place. Makes me think of the sets of Godzilla.
  • Thinkpads: They are everywhere. All over Akihabara. Old ones though, not the latest and greatest.
  • Office hours: People work until 8 or 9 at night. They arrive later than Americans (I hit my desk at 6 am most days), say 9 or 10, but they leave a lot later.
  • Dress code: this is the land of the suit and tie. I am underdressed in my usual dot.com uniform of khakis, button down, loafers and Brooks Brothers blazer. Next time I bring the kick-ass pinstripes, the Hermes bow-tie, and the Bally cordovans.


I found my Halloween costume.
A full day of meetings today, dinner with the Japan marketing team tonight, morning meetings tomorrow, then off to Narita for the long haul back to Boston.

Good Ratcliffe post on Demo Fever

Mitch R. blogs about preparing for BuzzLogic’s debut at Demo. The ringleader of Demo, Chris Shipley, used to sit on the other side of the cubicle wall from me at PC Week and we became very good pals as a result of mutually overheard conversations. Now she’s the doyenne of the start up and Mitch is sweating the six-minutes his baby gets in front of a very discerning crowd. Jim Forbes, former ringleader of Demo Mobile, and yet another PC Week alum, blogs on his tips for making it through.

Mitch writes:

“Preparing to present at DEMO is a psychological marathon. You get six minutes, including all the time you have to get up onto the stage after Chris Shipley introduces you, getting your product to do its dance and explaining it to the audience, as well as gracefully wrapping up the presentation. Elevator pitches are chimp work by comparison, because you can expect an interruption, to have the pitch turn into a conversation, even for a moment. But at DEMO you get your shot, then it’s over.”

Good to see BuzzLogic get some buzz from Dan Farber and elsewhere. In fact, I should start a track on their buzz and influence maps right now …

Tokyo Toilet Humor

Beware of toilets with “STOP” switches. Stop what? This baby turns on a fan when you sit on it — an alternative to the courtesy flush — and looks like it has functions that I for one, do not intend to explore. I am dying to know what the difference between a “shower” and a “bidet” is.

Ate sushi next door to the hotel with my buddy Ajit. It was one of those mechanized conveyor belt places that sends an infinite loop of fish on rice around and around. Stack the plates and get charged by the color of their rim. Perhaps, if the uni turns out to be bad, I will get to explore the multifunction toilet later on.
I have jet lag bordering on dementia at present. Boston to London to Tokyo without a bed is nasty. JAL seats turned into quasi-beds (“quasi” because they were exactly two inches too short of me) but a Restoril took care of that in now time. Now it is time to stop dicking around with Powerpoint and fretting over to-dos happening 12 hours away and crash.

Blogging over the English Channel

I’m a sucker for stupid blogging tricks, and paying Boeing $27.00 for eleven hours of internet access while winging from England to Japan is stupid … but what the heck, I have to get some work done (note the shameless need for justification of the business expense) and I can either continuing replowing through Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose (arguably the best novel ever written about the American West), wait for the JAL hostess to bring me my dinner, or watch insipid seatback television until I throw in the towel, chow a Restoril, and go into la-la land until 5 pm tomorrow Tokyo time (it is “now” 6:37 am on Tuesday in Tokyo).

Anyway, I’ve blogged in a helicopter, now I’ve blogged in a 777, not nearly as cool as the blogger who watched his Slingbox via a Connexion connection, but still, cool enough for me. It is amazing how a little internet connectivity can while away the hours of desiccated, recycled air, wailing babies, and Japanese news shows on the cabin monitors. And now that Boeing has pulled the plug, I figured I’d get airborne and online at least once until someone else figures out airplane connectivity.
(Aside: how cool are runway cameras on planes? I only see them on foreign carriers, I guess American airlines are too cheap or too concerned they’ll freak out Ma and Pa Kettle to show them what it looks like to hurtle down at runway at a gazillion mph).

BuzzLogic — Very cool blog monitor tool comes out of stealth mode

Last winter, shortly after joining Lenovo, an old friend, Mitch Ratcliffe, pinged me to see what I was up to in the role of VP of Global Web Marketing. A lot of former journalism colleagues were surprised to see me join a “vendor,” but most, like Sam Whitmore, saw the point that everyone is media in this day and age.

Mitch, who is a perpetual fountain of cool ideas (Audible, On24 to name a couple), asked if I’d be interested in checking out his latest project, a tool for monitoring blogs. Being more a blogger than a blog monitor, I was mildly interest, but had arrived at Lenovo with blog management — both our own and the sentiment externally — in my portfolio of responsibilities. As I’ve blogged before, I monitor blog discussions about Lenovo and ThinkPad through a simple RSS feed on those terms out of Technorati into Bloglines, doing the same with Google’s blog search. This is cheap (free) and powerful enough that I can satisfy my curiosity many times during a day without waiting for an analyst or third party to alert me.

The crucial thing in blog monitoring is to get everything, not just what someone else feels is critical, but the whole feed, all the time so one can make one’s own decisions.

Mitch was involved with a Bay Area startup called BuzzLogic. I signed onto the beta program, was briefed in a teleconference by the execs,and given an account to start tracking things with.

Buzzlogic does a few things differently. First off, I won’t go into a tedious description of blog search. That topic has been pounded to death by others and crawler and spider technology doesn’t interest me very much. What does capture my attention is cartography and dashboards, both of which BuzzLogics delivers on top of a very capable blog search mechanism.

Mapping a discussion is a very interesting and powerful tool for tracking down the spread of an online meme or rumor. Tracking back to the source of an original concept isn’t very easy. Example: I may detect in a regular blog search, a post that quotes or references a news article or an original blog post. Getting to the source — where the idea was born — isn’t easy, not very precise. But more interesting is the role that “amplifiers” play along the way.

Amplification is an interesting concept, but one that is very important as you try to ration one’s finite resources in paying attention, and in some cases, reaching out to bloggers with an audience and a platform to spread a meme. Amplifiers may not make the news, but they can give it legs, and in many cases are as important as the original source poster, who may not have the audience and reach, but has the original meme. Case in point, Boing Boing — if Boing Boing points at a blog post, as it did this morning with a blogger who reverse engineered his favorite New York Pizza — they essentially hold up a megaphone to a small voice and instantly turn it into a very loud one.

Buzzlogic’s mapping capabilities allow one to graphically map the interconnection of posts, trackbacks and comments and follow that spread, over time, through the blogosphere. Right there they have a winner.

But place on top of that a dashboard that permits an operator to encapsulate a blog event and build from it a report suitable for forwarding to a busy exec who needs an at-a-glance window into an incident.

I used BuzzLogic to identify Rick Klau’s problems with his ThinkPad, reached out to him based on the hit, but was able to follow the aftermath as he posted about his experience and that in turn was picked up by other bloggers.

BuzzLogic has a winner, one that promises to do for brand communications and customer satisfaction, public relations and press relations what web metrics has done for online advertising. It builds amazingly precise and quantifiable measures of impact and influence into a world once characterized by clipping services that delivered stacks of “press” hits to PR managers.

I think BuzzLogic is the first blog monitor with the capability to truly enable my vision of proactive customer relations — where the operator can use the discoveries from the tool to drive change internally and externally in nearly real time. I wish them the best of luck with their debut at Demo this week, I think this is a service with a strong, strong potential for success.

BuzzLogic is seeking other beta testers. You can apply here at buzzlogic.com

[full disclosure: I am not paid by Buzzlogic, have received no consulting fees, options or shares.]

[update: Dan Farber at ZDNet has better details.]