Chewing a ball of aluminum foil – Another “Oh-No!!!” moment for the Lenovo X60 Tablet – Your Tablet PC and Ultra-Mobile PC news source

Why is it that when I read about some poor soul dropping their notebook I immediately cringe and feel a pit develop in my stomach? This came up in my morning scan from

“While hanging out (in bed) this past Saturday morning, checking out the latest posts at my favorite tablet PC and UMPC news source,, it happened again. Yes, to the very same Lenovo X60 tablet. I was enjoying my coffee in bed, checking out the latest news/posts and answering a few emails when the phone rang. Just like I have done soooooo many times, I carefully put the coffee down, and reached over to my wife’s side of the bed for the phone; that’s when it happened. A quick scuffing sound, and then BBLLLAAAAMMMM! The X60 slid off the lapdesk and onto the floor from about 3 or so feet. From the sound of it, I just knew I had just ripped off the display, and destroyed not one, but two hard drives. I was so preoccupied with the crash, I can’t even remember who called or if I even answered the phone.”


Tribe recognition comes at a cost (February 17, 2007)

I live in a village on Cape Cod next to the town of Mashpee, an interesting place that was regarded as somewhat backward when I was young in the 1960, a run down town without a high school or much in the way of development, just a lot of scrub pines and oaks, ponds and bays, with a big high end golf community on the oceanside.

As I grew older I learned that Mashpee was the Cape home for the “praying Indians”, those members of the Wampanoag tribe that had converted to Christianity in the 17th century. Their church, or meetinghouse, is about two miles from my house. In the 1920s, one Red Shell, “Cape Cod Indian Historian” wrote a series of historical articles in a local newspaper. Of the meetinghouse he wrote:

“Shearjashub Bourne, a white man, purchased from Chief Quachatisset of the Mashpee village in 1684, a tract of land which is now Mashpee Centre. In payment, he agreed to construct a house of worship in the fashion of the white man for the Wampanoags of Mashpee. He built the church at Bryant’s Neck; near Santuit Pond. The Wampanoags of the upper Cape offered prayer there to the Great Spirit until 1717, when it was moved to Indian Hill, where it has remained ever since. There is an open register within the church where tourists from all parts of the world have inscribed their names and the dates of their visits.”

While the church has stood there since 1717, the descendants of Chief Quachatisset have not been recognized as members of the Wampanoag tribe until this week.

I won’t go into the history of Mashpee. I feel it is outrageous the way the tribe and its descendants have been treated over the past three hundred years, caught up in court and screwed in the typical cliche of land screwings that seem to bedevil every native American tribe.

Well, now they are official, and that means they are, in fact, a sovereign nation. Now the neighborhood is holding its breath, concerned that a casino could come into town sometime soon, a reasonable fear given that this piece of information in the Cape Cod Times this morning:

“Herb Strather, a Detroit real estate and casino developer, is leading the pack of outside investors. Strather has given the tribe $15 million since 1999. It’s not known exactly how the money has been used. That’s one of the reasons prompting a lawsuit filed by four Wampanoag, who are suing the tribe to make financial records public. In particular, the plaintiffs want to know exactly how much money Strather gave the tribe to help secure federal recognition.

Strather’s contribution to the tribe doesn’t come without a price.

”It certainly forces the tribe to give up some of their economic sovereignty to some degree,” said Gavin Clarkson, an assistant professor of Native American studies at the University of Michigan.”

Stay tuned.

Ratios and Leading Indicators – what drives me

Every industry has a specific, almost canonical metric it pays attention to and benchmarks its participants against one another. I wanted to take a few seconds to think out loud about the basic ratios that guide me on a daily basis.
Some business cultures emphasize one financial and operational ratio over another. In Switzerland and Asia, inventory turnover is a big deal. In NASDAQ-listed tech stocks its price-earnings as a measure of value and expectations (P/E). In other industries it’s revenue per employee, while others focus on average revenue per user (ARPU), and then there are operational, specific ratios such cost-per-click.

I live in a world of expense-to-revenue, or “E2R“, expressed variously as “e:r,” “e/r,” and “e|r.” As a relatively green marketer, I assume this is the prevailing canon for measuring marketing effectiveness and efficiency: for every dollar spent in market, what revenue is received, and what budget should be fenced off based on the top line to support a marketing expense. In dummy terms, “How much did I spend to make $X?”

A 1:1 e-to-r means I spend a dollar to make a dollar; that comes out as a 100 percent E/R. We can call that a wash. A negative E:R is when I spend two dollars to make one dollar. This is a 200% E/R and means I’m looking for a new job. A good E:R is when I spend one dollar to make five, a 20% E/R, or as Warren Buffett would say, buying dollars for twenty cents.

This applies in interactive marketing on ad tactics and assumes perfect insights into the purchase of an impression (based on cost-per-thousand impressions, or CPM), yield click-throughs (measured by click-through-rates or CTR), and ultimately ARPU, or average revenue per user (or unique visitor). If I am able to track the user from the first purchased impression to the final checkout, then I can credit the tactic with the sale.

Still with me? This is predicated on that user accepting the tracking beacon, or cookie, from my metric system, a cookie that the user gets when clicking on the search term or the banner ad I’ve purchased for N. If the user permits cookies — in my case one deposited by a script on every page of our website that will permit our metrics tool, Omniture SiteCatalyst to follow that user across multiple visits — then, if our commerce guys have successfully done their job, the user will buy something and I will be able to credit the original marketing tactic with the sale.

Sounds hard and imprecise? It is, but compare it to a newspaper ad. If I buy a full page ad in the Daily Planet and it is seen by a theoretical 100,000 readers, and sales from the zip codes where those 100,000 readers live goes up by 10 percent can I declare the ad a success?

This is the old handgrenade-and-horseshoes school of marketing — the famous I-know-half-of-my-advertising-works-but-which-half” school of marketing.

So back to what I worry about, which is interactive advertising: the interesting thing in assigning expense-to-revenue ratios to a particular tactic is knowing what the intent of the original message was, and second, knowing what it yielded.

Those tactics are pretty simple. Search engine marketing, which is very precise in that I am purchasing clicks through an auction model, but which is usually promotion driven by non-brand tactics like “cheap notebook” or “fast PC.” Then there is display advertising — banners, buttons, IAB standard graphical units — and that is arguably either pure branding or can be pure promotion, but generally are a hybrid of the two. Success in assigning an E/R ratio depends on accuracy in following a customer through multiple visits to my store, because in my market, where I am selling products for $500 to $3000, the customer is researching, comparing, and considering before hitting the purchase button.

We can do this, the rest is pure optimization, arbitrage, and discipline. It’s actually kind of cool and very fun, and a nice feeling at the end of the week to say, “I bought a dollar for twenty cents.”

Cotuit in Winter

The harbor has been frozen for two weeks, I’ve been invited ice fishing twice, and trying to find a set of new ice skates is impossible. While this winter started slower than any others, setting early January records for warm temperatures, February is colder than usual.

So yesterday afternoon, as the sun was setting, I took a tour of the waterfront with my cousin. It was 23+, but the wind was howling and who knows what the windchill was.

It’s not often you can walk on salt ice, but as my cousin says, people have been doing it for years in the Arctic. I won’t do it — something too flaky about harbor ice to tempt me out there.

I stay on solid ground, like this jetty sticking out into Nantucket Sound. The tide was extraordinarily low, I believe it is called a “neap tide” and a lot of sand bar and spit was exposed and covered with ice cakes.

This is what happens if you decide to leave your boat in the water. Not good. This is the same cove shown in the header image of the blog — Ropes Beach. In four months I’ll be swimming here.

Skype spam

This just popped up in my Skype chat. This is a first — instant message spam with a twist on the usual 419 Scam — instead of money stuck in Nigeria this is about tsunami victims and the added novelty of customizing the name of the deceased with my last name.
“Dear David Churbuck,

My name is Clifford Benson, an attorney based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A deceased client of mine, by name Mr. Alfred Churbuck, who were in after shall be referred to as my client died together with his family in December 24-2004 as a result of the Tsunami Disaster.

I have contacted you to assist me in claiming the money left behind by my late client before it is confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this deposit valued at $6.5 million United States dollars was lodged.

The bank has issued me a last notice to contact the next of kin, or the money will be confiscated and his account closed. My proposition to you is to seek your consent to present you as my late clients next of kin and beneficiary of the funds, since you have the same last name, so that the proceeds of this account can be paid to you in your country. Then we can share the amount on a mutually agreed percentage.

All legal documents to back up this claim as my real late client’s next-of-kin will be provided. All I require is your honest cooperation to enable us see this transaction through and transparency during process.

The process and transfer will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you and myself from any breach of the law.
I must use this opportunity to
implore you to exercise the utmost indulgence to keep this matter extraordinary confidential, whatever your decision, while I await your prompt response.Please contact me at once to indicate your interest. I will like you to acknowledge the receipt of this e-mail as soon as possible via email this transaction will be treated private with absolute confidentiality and sincerity.

Please contact me at once to indicate your interest via email giving me your contact number for faster communication.When i get your reply, i will send you a detailed explaination and my full contact information.
However if this business proposal offends your moral values,do accept my apology.

Best regards,

Clifford Benson, Esq .

The Vomit Comet

Tom Wolfe, in The Right Stuff, disclosed the astronaut nickname for the converted cargo plane the Air Forces uses to induce temporary weightlessness for the training of astronauts.

I rode in one last night courtesy of JetBlue.

On the approach into Boston, into 40 mph howling arctic winds, the Embrauer was … very interesting. So interesting that I started to wonder how many times you can flex the wings of a plane before they tear off. I tightened down my belt, noted the reassuring presence of the barf bag in the seat pocket, closed my eyes and went into full Swami mode, meditating through the weightlessness and re-swallowing my stomach contents about ten times. Yummy.

Those who have fished with me know that I am usually the first to get seasick, but that I instantly recover, rally, and am fine for the rest of the trip. The art of seasickness is getting it over with quick, staying above decks with an eye on the horizon, and swigging ginger ale. Airplane rides are not so easy. Open up the air jet full blast, try to find the horizon out the window, and practice deep breathing

I have yet to use the doggy bag and am determined not to.

When I finally got off the plane and staggered through the terminal, I thought of getting it over with, but no, hung on.

This morning I still feel nauseous. Maybe it’s a flu. I dunno.

Like an acid flashback … paid versus free

I was pinged by Charles Dubow at who pointed out this post by Mark Potts at Recovering Journalist re-arguing that there is indeed a viable market for paid content and publishers who charge for their content in print should have every right to do so online.

Charles sent the url under the subject: “What do you think?”

He asked this because I went to the mat in 1995 to make a free online publication, arguing in the face of Dow Jones’ decision to go out with a subscription model for the Wall Street Journal that traffic and scope beat restricted and paid. certainly wasn’t the first free online presence, but it resisted registration and a subscription model for the five years I ran it. Today the site is a traffic monster, with its CEO predicting it will overtake the print parent in revenue sometime soon.

So, 12 years after its launch, should (or any free and open version of a paid print publication) convert to a paid subscription model? Can a publisher take back what was given away and start charging for it?
My argument for a free model comes to a single word: fungible. 

Fungible means interchangeable. My fungible test is this: take a story, say an earnings report for a major corporation. Get the versions written by Bloomberg, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, etc. Print them all out on ordinary paper with no logos, no bylines, nothing that would identify their source.

Then show them to an educated reader and ask them to identify which version came from which source. What value does Reuters offer over Bloomberg for straight forward news? Value in news comes from accuracy, clarity, and speed. Let’s assume they all get to the glass at the same time, or close to it (and for traders they are always going to pay for realtime, so let’s not infer that web media models should follow financial feed models)
If  news is a commodity (something a veteran journalist like Potts should rail against), then there is always a probability that some low-cost or no-cost provider will come along and undercut whatever fee another publisher may try to charge. This is occurring, to some extent in print, as free metro/commuter rags begin to compete with incumbent print products, but it was and still is a massive issue with online products, where availability of the low cost/no cost alternative is but a click away.

So commodity news is not a strong basis for a paid content model. Therefore, let’s look at unique content, such as opinion/op ed type of content, the sort of thing the New York Times is charging for behind the Times Select cost wall. Potts says this is a success. On what basis?  I subscribe to the print version of the Times and get to read Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd the way the Sulzbergers wish I would. I am annoyed, to no end, that I need to verify my print subscription to get to the online versions. The Times has become, as was once said of the Wall Street Journal (whose online version I have subscribed to since it launched) irrelevant, and find myself subconsciously avoiding them altogether, continuing my subscription primarily out of lazy inertia and automatic renewals.

As I avoid them, their traffic lags the free fungibles. So Dow buys Marketwatch and tries to have their cake and traffic too. Yet in this day and age of splatter marketing, large numbers beat niche numbers as long as banners and other online ad units deliver horrific performance numbers measured in basis points. This is why I left online media — until a better ad model is developed — both the paid and the free sites are going to suffer.
The proper question is not whether a paid content model is viable. Sure it is. Porn proves it. And I am not being glib. The bigger question is whether a new generation of readers — the college students of today — are going to pay for the mainstream media brands their parents learned to respect in a paid print model and were willing to pay for on the glass? I doubt they will and that a fungible alternative will always be a click away.

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