Marketing Darwin Award Nominee

Cape Cod Times: Breaking News Updates
“BOSTON – At least nine electronic devices, planted at bridges and other parts of Boston as part of a marketing campaign for a late-night cartoon, threw a scare into the city Wednesday.

The reports forced the temporary shutdowns of Interstate 93 out of the city, a key inbound roadway, a bridge between Boston and Cambridge, and a portion of the Charles River but the devices were quickly determined not to be explosive.”

As Brian says in the comments — as a viral campaign you couldn’t get a much better result than paralyzing a city for an afternoon. The details are this: illuminated LED signs pointing to a Turner cartoon — Aqua Teen Hunger Force — have been up around the city for sometime. Under bridges, on overpasses, etc. The Boston Globe this morning has an interesting sidebar which asks the question: is viral marketing a generational thing? One generation’s viral baffles another?

“The episode exposed a wide generational gulf between government officials who reacted as if the ads might be bombs and 20-somethings raised on hip ads for Snapple, Apple, and Google who instantly recognized the images for what they were: a viral marketing campaign.

Among many in the young generation, reaction to the scare was smirking. “Repeat after me, authorities. L-E-D. Not I-E-D. Get it?” one 29-year-old blogger from Malden wrote on his website, contrasting light emitting diodes with improvised explosive devices.”

The horror of the new on-hold music

Where I work we live on conference calls. When a company is spread across all possible time zones then the phone is the central nervous system of the corporation, the place you just spend a lot of time on, the original Second Life.

Certain forms of etiquette are practiced on these calls — one person more astute than I noticed the grateful practice of saying someone’s name clearly a few seconds before asking a question of them, eg. “I was speaking to Glen last week. We were going over the TPS reports. And Glen said the TPS reports were better than the TSP reports. Glen, what you think?”

If Glen was listening then the first mention of his name would snap him out of email, and give him time to go off mute. Everyone goes on mute when they aren’t talking. Mainly so they can furiously Instant Message the other people on the call like gossiping teen-agers. The fun part is when the question gets asked and the respondent talks to the mute button, popping on after a really pregnant pause, usually with the apology: “I was talking on mute.”

I live in terror of not being on mute and saying some career threatening statement in one of my quasi-Tourette moments. Sometimes people forget to hit mute and a call with thirty people in Asia, Europe and America will be treated to the sounds of someone pecking away on their keyboard. This leads to the call cops calling for everyone to go on mute. This makes everyone who has been writing email, instant messaging, or staring out the window, start accusing other people in Instant Messaging to cut it out. And then there is the echo call — the one where someone phones in on a tin can with string and everyone sounds like a reenactment of a bad Acid trip. The moderator has to either page the conference operator — who magically “isolates the bad line” — or, if they are like me, just ignore it and spend the next hour yodeling into the cavern.

My colleague who pointed out the etiquette of saying someone’s name before bushwhacking them with a question — who is annoyed with me because I named him once in a post and now finds that my blog is the first result returned on his name — is also fascinated by dog barks during conference calls. He tries to match the bark to the owner. After a while you get to know who has the basso profundo dogs and who has the yappers.
I think my brain has been altered by the on-hold music. McKinsey’s was pretty bad — this really annoying flute solo that made think of men in tutu’s doing ballet in a flower field. Seven, eight calls a day, and seven or eight flute solos. Always the same flute solo. Now, I don’t expect amusing on-hold music like ScissorFight’s Kancamangus Mangler, nor do I expect Schubert’s Trout Quintet as performed by Yo Yo Ma, but the worst, absolute worst is the new Lenovo on-hold music which sort of sounds like the guitar solo from Steely Dan’s Reelin’ in the Years, the Elliott Randall solo which Jimmy Page once called the best guitar solo of all time, only it’s not. It’s sort of the Muzak version and it’s fifteen seconds long and then recycles. Sort of the eternal bridge.

Someone needs to write a touch-tone song book — oops, they did — so I can while away the on-hold time playing my own tunes, on my ’07 Avaya-caster.

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs – RIP then Back Again

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs

The funniest blog of them all closed its doors earlier this week is back. Fake Steve Jobs opened a new genre of online humor, crossed the line so many times I had to wonder if there was ever a line in the first place, and gave us new words like “frigtard.”

“Well my friggin lawyers are advising me that I will have to shut down this scandalous old blog. Details not worth going into here. Someday I’ll be able to explain. Maybe I’ll write a book or something. Maybe a really beautiful e-Book that you can carry in your pocket and which will be sleek and elegant and shiny, with rounded corners and an extremely hi-res touch screen and only one button. Anyhoo, I’ve really enjoyed having this naked conversation with you, and I hope I’ve managed to restore a sense of childlike wonder to your life.”

The string of sad comments on the final post say it all — this was, for many people, their best source of Silicon Valley news.

[update:  and now is back again, the second time FSJ has started, stopped, and started again]

Writer’s block

My drafts folder has over a dozen posts started, reconsidered, and then parked for various reasons.

Either it is an indication that there is too much going on in my life, or I can’t find the courage to press the publish button. So randomly —

  • I’ve been asked to lead a Wellness Initiative. Readers of this blog will find this quite risible given my annus horribilis due to bike accident, back injury, and the tick over the past year. It is motivating though, and I no longer take the elevator but run up and down the stairs in our new office building feeling quite virtuous.
  • Speaking of new building. Anyone who has remodeled their home or built a new one, knows that there is a punchlist which has to be worked with the contractor to work out the inevitable bugs. Aside from that, there was one design decision which has lead to a very interesting maneuver I will call the “Lenovo Crouch and Peek”. Every conference room has a tall vertical slice of glass that has the middle third frosted for privacy. The problem is that when you want to enter a conference room for a scheduled meeting you don’t want to barge in on any prior meeting, so you have to crouch to look for evidence of feet. Then you have to ask yourself if those feet belong to the people in your meeting or are feet belonging to the previous meeting which is running late.  Inside, you see shoes outside of the glass (note to self, get shoeshine) and wonder if you are forcing the next meeting to wait …. Anyway, I have seen at least six people in two days do the “Lenovo Crouch.”

Lyme disease

So two weeks ago I wake at 3:30 am to make a 6 am flight out of Boston to RTP and in the grog-state of the shower I realize that something hurts in my right armpit. [It starts to get gross here, but bear with me] In my dark o’clock stupidity I keep showering and think, “My armpit hair is tangled.”

Right. Rocket scientist. So get out, dry off, head to the sink and decide to inspect. Aha. Little thing the size of sesame seed. I have a passenger.

Now what? First thought it get it off NOW!! I hate the creepy crawly — but I also know if I botch the removal I could aggravate the situation. The entire time the words “Lyme Disease” are rolling through my mind. Abnormally warm weather, beach walks with the dogs, one of which sleeps in bed next to me … This is not a common Wood Tick, this is the itty-bitty one (that’s a dime up there for size comparison), the kind that lead to a massive world of hurt if they leave behind their spirochete which sparks a nasty bout of neurological disease that, if undetected and treated, can literally ruin your life.

Richard Gerstner, brother of ex-IBM Chairman, Lou Gerstner, lost an equally promising career after his Lyme Disease went untreated. A lot of people in New England have suffered, and now it appears the little buggers have settled into Cotuit, if they haven’t been here for years already. Some places, like Naushon Island, are veritable Lyme Disease epicenters.

Anyway, back to the bathroom: so I grab a pair of tweezers, tug, tug harder, tug harder still, and bang, off it comes, saved in an envelope for future identification. This is bad, I think. And while waiting for a connection four hours later at JFK, I text message my college buddy the plastic surgeon for advice.

“WAIT TWO WEEKS. WATCH FOR RASH. THEN ANTIBIOTICS”

So, I calm down, my armpit hurts, and then this past week, right on schedule, I get a rash. A real doozy. Right on my face. Feels like someone took a belt sander to it. So, off to the Web for some self-diagnosis and yep, I have a case of Erythema migrans.

Back to my doctor buddy and I am on antibiotics for three weeks.

The Wikipedia yields this astonishing “fact”: Lyme Disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in the United States. it’s in 49 states, so my initial thought that this was a southern New England phenomenon is dead wrong. The Wikipedia entry on the disease also indicates there is a big debate going on about how to treat it.

Let’s hope I caught it in time. And the dog will continue to sleep in the bed.

One Week of Crackberry — initial thoughts

I thought I would hate the Blackberry experience — I always pitied those poor people huddled over their clunky devices, email being forced upon them wherever they went — so I resisted and was just as happy as can be with a Treo for past three years.

I’ve been plagued with Notes as my corporate collaboration glue since 2000 when I joined McKinsey (I have yet to work for a Microsoft Outlook/Exchange enabled organization) and at IDG my Treo was supported by some third-party synch software that permitted me to pull my mail from the corporate servers when I wanted to.

I viewed Blackberries as electronic leashes, a true get-a-life tool for people who think it’s cool to check email while on vacation, who check their messages while at social events, in short, workaholic losers. I sort of cheered when RIM was getting sued, feeling it was a partisan position to be in the cooler camp with the Treo.

Alas, Lenovo’s IT department does not support the Treo, so I muddled along for a year with no mobile Notes capabilities. Last weekend, driven in part to get a true quad-band GSM service so I could roam internationally, I switched myself and the family to Cingular (now AT&T), returning to the GSM provider I used from 2001-2003 when I was in Switzerland and last needed good international coverage. Back then I couldn’t get an AT&T signal in the house — a bit of a problem — so I was eager to dump them and go with a provider that could.

But I digress — I got authorized to enable my Notes account on a Blackberry Pearl — the high end, candy-bar form factor phone, with a tiny trackball pointer interface (that looks like a pearl). After a fairly bureaucratic set up procedure I finally was pulling email by Wednesday.

Here’s the quick review:

  • If I don’t use the phone constantly it goes into auto-lock and requires me to pound in my eight-character Notes password (an alpha-numeric combination). This is an utter and complete pain in the ass. A colleague beefed about this onerous “security” requirement and told me when he beefed to the IT Gods that he could use his phone in his car, he was told he wasn’t supposed to use his phone in his car.
  • Getting email and calendar updates is a good thing and makes me less itchy when I am AWK (“away from keyboard” in World of Warcraft parlance)
  • The phone is ergonomically the best I have owned
  • It’s Bluetooth is vastly superior to the Treo. The Treo had a three foot radius, the Pearl is more like 30 feet.
  • The camera is better than the Treo
  • The web browser is weird
  • I can’t figure out how to enable my Churbuck.com and GMail mail into it.
  • I need to set up voice dialing so I can use it in the car.
  • I still hate cell phones and look forward to a disconnected retirement.

[I’d post a picture of it, but RIM has decided not to make any pictures available from its Flash website. Nice site guys, but if you want bloggers to shower you with love, consider a simple assets page with all your product imagery, video tours, etc. available under a CC license)

Proud father

My daughter was just accepted, early decision, to the University of Virginia, her first choice. Aside from being glad she can breathe a deep sigh of relief and relax a little bit (she’s been grinding hard on her studies and is a high honors student), I am just as pleased as can be.

User Un-Friendly « Magnosticism

User Un-Friendly « Magnosticism

Rob O’Regan has posted something that should be printed out and handed to anyone running a service operation. This is amazing.

“Some companies don’t understand the crap they put their customers through. As part of a general tech meltdown I’ve been experiencing lately, an external Maxtor hard drive I used for backup zonked out on me after eight months. Since it was still under warranty, I foraged online for details to return the unit for a replacement. A few clicks on Maxtor led me to Seagate warranty support, because “As of December 9th, 2006 warranty services for all Maxtor products are now fully supported through Seagate’s warranty services.” Forty-five minutes later, following multiple page time-outs and resubmissions of my product information, I was plopped into a return system that was clearly designed for Seagate’s high-volume channel partners and corporate customers.”