Often, when I’m speaking about social media to a group of business-owners, some of them start to talk about how technology has basically shut people off from each other. They worry about how people have become utter zombies praying to the altar of technology and Tweeting or Facebooking 10 hours a day. They worry about how technology is going to effect their networking efforts offline if they seem too “plugged-in.” Therein lies the Great Social Media Myth…that technology is killing human contact and communication.

A myth is called a myth because its derived from the Greek word “mythos” which means “story.” This is a story we tell ourselves. I’m guessing the story comes from an actual unfounded fear of technology.

The truth is that social media is actually bringing people together who would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Its a study in how humans actually crave connection. The world is literally getting smaller and people are communicating ideas and opinions more than ever before. Tweets, LinkedIn answers and Facebook posts are going out to all corners of the earth with one click of the “enter” button. This is really an amazing time for humankind.

It also proves that we’re actually meeting more people in the real world. Get togethers called Tweetups (http://www.wordspy.com/words/tweetup.asp) are forming all over the world which are bringing people together physically who connected first on Twitter. Conferences are fraught with people hugging one another in enthusiasm because they are finally meeting offline and feel they already have a close connection based on their online experiences with each other.

Facebook is connecting people who haven’t seen each other in years from elementary school, high school and/or college. These are connections which may have never happened for our parents or grandparents (for better or worse!).

Job hunters are finding positions on LinkedIn. Business owners are sharing their expertise with people across the globe answering topics in LinkedIn Answers and gaining business in places they would have never had the opportunity to connect in before.

I read an Australian study recently that stated that people are actually more productive who use social media and technology. I also read that these friendships help us live longer lives.

There will always be those people who will continue to write-off social media as a trend or as the great “dumbing down of society.” I think our connections online will continue to enhance and improve our offline connections and bring the world even closer together. Hey, I’m hoping for world peace! One can dream big, right?

Johnson & Johnson’s response to the Tylenol tampering case more than two decades ago set the standard for crisis response and taught companies to take swift action, running to the light, rather than from it.

Following the Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco accounting scandals, Sarbanes-Oxley legislated transparency.

And this week, with the Domino’s viral video, we have arrived at yet another watershed moment. Once again, the cheese has moved and business as usual will no longer suffice. Companies can no longer wait – even 24 hours – for the stone tablets of traditional media to alert them to reputational risk. They must have their fingers on the pulse of public opinion – and that pulse beats online.

The critical lesson for corporations is not to evaluate Domino’s reaction as a bystander, but to change their own digital crisis strategy – and do it now. 

Companies know how to promote their brands online, but most are still struggling with how to protect them in the digital domain. Brand marketing managers and crisis communications professionals must work in unison, prior to any crisis, to implement strategies that integrate online brand building with digital brand protection.

Dominos’ travails this week have put Corporate America on notice – the ability to monitor and engage the digital and social media realms during crisis is no longer novelty; it is necessity. And the sooner that companies adapt to the new reality, the better.

For a more in-depth analysis of what the increasing power of social media means for companies in crisis, click here to read an op-ed I published in Directorship.

[This article originally appeared on bulletproofblog.com]

It pains me to write this. A widow and her 16 year old daughter, through circumstance and events beyond their control, will be homeless tomorrow.

Tonight Elizabeth Hughes and her sixteen-year-old daughter Katy are packing. They have to be out of their Santa Clara, California apartment tomorrow. They have nowhere to go. They have nowhere to store their belongings. They’re about to be homeless. Again.

On December 17, 2008, Elizabeth Hughes and her daughter Katy were evicted from their apartment. They had been managing to scrape by on Social Security survivors benefits, but when Katy turned 16 they were reduced to less than $900 per month and couldn’t keep up with their rent. According to Elizabeth, the apartment they had been living in had many problems including bugs, mold and they hadn’t had water in their kitchen for about a year. But it was a roof over their head.

Mom, daughter and two dogs ended up living in their car. Thanks to an auction held by an author and some gifts they were able to get a motel room for a few weeks, and finally found help from a homeless shelter that provides one-time rent deposits and promised the help of an employment specialist. A month after becoming homeless Elizabeth and Katy moved into an apartment, but they never heard from the employment specialist.

“We never heard from them once we moved in,” Elizabeth wrote, “Then that person was let go. So now we are back where we were before we moved into this apt. We are basically facing living in the car again. It is very frustrating, and heartbreaking. It is very hard for me to even ask for any help like we have been doing. It is very embarrassing and humiliating for me. It makes me ashamed. I have always been able to provide, but once my daughter turned 16 last May, I lost my portion of the Survivor Social Security and that is where things got extremely hard.”

According to Hughes, she does not qualify for public assistance because of the Social Security survivors benefit and other agencies won’t help her because she is not working. “I have put in hundreds of applications for employment just in the past few months. I am a good employee, work hard and try to do the very best I can,” she wrote. But so far she hasn’t been able to find a job.

If you, or anyone you know, is near Santa Clara, California, please pass along this story to them. Elizabeth’s resume includes employment by a drug store, a semiconductor manufacturer, and the U.S. Department of Defense. She can be contacted via email to hugheselizabeth@rocketmail.com.

The world of new media – widgets and social applications – looks like a beautiful marketing hunting grounds. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Imagine people flocking to Web 2.0 locations where they blog.

They upload/download audios/videos of specific interest to them. They congregate at business/special interest web sites to gain information and be entertained. They twitter. They gather daily/nightly in online communities to exchange information, news and just hang out.


Communities Abound – On the Internet today it is literally impossible to think of a subject or idea that doesn’t have an online community where people share information, ideas, news and thoughts. The key concern for marketers is how to become a part of this community with their products/services. Source – USC Annenberg School

They leave a digital fingerprint of who they are, who/what they like/don’t like, what they do/don’t do, where they go/don’t go and when they do all this stuff.

As Jason Bourne noted, “It’s easy. She’s standing right next to you.” Once you’re on the web nothing is private for them…or you. The profile can be so finite you can pick any prospective customer out of the mob and hit him/her with your message with little or no collateral damage.


They Know You – Once you’re on the web privacy sort of ends. Suddenly people – good and evil – can learn everything about you – what you do, where you go, likes/dislikes and more…much more. Photo Source – Universal Pictures

It’s no wonder companies of all shapes, sizes, product/service categories will drop an estimated $1.4 billion on social media advertising this year.

Social Spending

By 2012 the investment should double. There are billions of reasons for the interest beyond being the most direct means of reaching most likely customers. It’s also the most undiluted, most direct and most cost-effective means of learning about customers – business and consumer.


Direct Contact – Today’s social media has enabled companies large and small to reach the consumer in a very direct and personal manner. The new Web 2.0 tools make it possible for firms’ engineers and marketers to not only learn more about the customer but also gain an insight into future product needs. Source — Ipsos

The challenge for marketing is really understanding what social media is, how it works/interacts, which avenue(s) do you use, how do you measure social media results…and what are the downsides.

Social media:

  • provides an unfiltered view of consumer perceptions so firms can see what will impact the future of their business
  • word-of-mouth is having a tremendous control over perception and acceptance
  • user community sites and blogs provide valuable (if studied analytically rather than emotionally) user experience feedback
  • can generate effective viral campaigns for products
  • is an arena dominated (by a factor of five) by early adopters (revolutionaries)
  • will become increasingly significant in influencing companies and products according to the revolutionaries
  • provides a unique opportunity to connect with contemporaries and customers to gain feedback and learn from it


Social media is all about people. It’s where people share opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with others. The demand, the interest, the need is growing in leaps and bounds. Chicken Littles from time to time forecast the death kneel of the Web, a victim of its own success. After all Internet traffic will quadruple by 2010.


Busy Pipes — While you often get the feeling that email is overwhelming you, it is minor compared to the volume of content that is being streamed, pushed and pulled across the Internet. In addition, emerging country users are adding their workload to the demand for more and more broadband capabilities. Source – Cisco

You may complain about the volume of email and spam you have to deal with every day but baby you ain’t seen nuthin yet!

Traffic Growth

ITV has gained a lot of traction in the past two years and is rapidly expanding. VoIP shows considerable promise. And as the MPAA and RIAA are quick to point out, peer to peer sharing is growing so fast they can’t hire enough lawyers to stop the flow. As Abbott/Cox said in the Bourne Supremacy, “That sounds ominous. Let me check my schedule.”

A short time ago blogs were to be the fast, meaningful, effective, cheap way to reach customers. Today the hot button is Tweets. The 140 character chats are the new marketing/sales/communications breed of choice.

The dynamics of ‘business as usual’ have changed so dramatically – internally and externally – that management has lost its traditional chain of command control of messengers and messages.

Blogs, Tweets, Wikis, business/social nets gives everyone in the organization the tools to work/play more efficiently, more effectively. Work/leisure, colleague/competitor, customer/prospect people move in/out of the networks forcing us to rethink org charts and work/information flow. It’s organic, its supermarketing, supercommunications in a realtime world.

The proponents of each avenue claims unbridled marketing success but precisely pinpointing value and ROI in traditional metrics is difficult, if not impossible because it is impossible to find the beginning and end points. Landy (Joan Allen) explained it best when she said, “The objectives and targets always came from us. Who’s giving them to him now?”

As huge and as effective as email, posted communications/opinions and file transfers are, their demand on the Internet and their use is miniscule in comparison to the bandwidth entertainment will consume in the years ahead. For most individuals and businesses it is the online video opportunities that track the most interest and the most attention because the ability to attract and identify eyeballs is…HUGE!!!

Online viewing is changing one of the entertainment/marketing communities most traditional (and profitable) means of reaching the “market.”


Viewer Shift – The Internet is really turning the movie and entertainment industry on its ear as people increasingly expect to be able to view any content they want whenever they want to watch it. Their key concern today is how to monetize the new entertainment outlet. Source – eMarketer

Some – primarily companies in this segment and their VCs – are proud to say that online video viewing will quickly eliminate conventional TV as rapidly as they killed print media.

Traditionals Live

They love to deride traditional media – print and TV. But these “ancient” forms of communications, news and entertainment are still important in building brand awareness. Firms that choose one over the other don’t understand or acknowledge the dynamics of traditional media and how it integrates with new media.

For example:

  • Media synergy is important. Three media were better than two, and two media were better than one
  • The combination of TV and print provided more lift than TV plus online
  • TV and magazines produced the greatest awareness and each contributed more impact than online
  • Print the most effective in increasing purchase intent
  • Including a URL address in ads significantly increased web visits
  • Offline media perform well in driving web traffic and search, often better than online media
  • Each medium influences online behavior differently and plays a distinctive role
  • “Qualified” search offers quite different and informative results than “total” search results


What management often overlooks is the fact that widgets and social media weren’t prepared for them to control their message to unsuspecting prospects. Or as John Nevins explained, “Locked it down? No, no… this is… this is Italy – they don’t exactly ‘lock down’.”

Ads may get consumers to your web site to learn more about the product but their next stop in the purchasing process is to surf the web learning about people’s customer-service experience.

Straight Scoop

Use any search engine to find out about any product and thousands of online social media references appear instantly!


Credible Source – Increasingly when people are considering the purchase of a product or service they will ask not only friends and family but they will also search on the web for support issues and problem resolution. People will accept the fact that there will be issues and problems. The deciding factor is how the company addresses and resolves the issue for the customer. Source — Ipsos

People who purchase note that:

  • 74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer-care experiences shared online
  • 72% research companies’ customer care online prior to purchasing products and services at least sometimes
  • 84% consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company
  • 84% consider the quality of customer care in their decision to do business with a company at least sometimes
  • 81% say blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care, but less than 33% say they believe that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously

Bite the Bullet

Firms like HP, Amazon, Dell have found that leveraging social media to address customer care issues is just good business. And Dell learned the lesson the hard way when they first tried to manage and control their messages/communications their way.

Just as Pamela Landy said, “If there’s something you’re not telling me I want it now before I send that girl out there, do you understand?”

Knowing from first-hand inputs can save marketing people from a lot of sleepless nights — or worse. The tough part is listening, responding (appropriately) and improving products and processes. They may like your ads but they make their purchasing decisions based on peers.


Decision Makers – Ads may interest consumers and even help them focus on two or more optional solutions. But when it comes to parting with making a purchasing decision, the tendency is to have the experience of others be the guiding light. Source — Jupiter

According to BIGresearch, instant messages, blogs and other social media have a greater influence over PC and CE product purchases. To paraphrase advertising luminary David Ogilvy, “Advertising lights the fire, public relations fans the flame and widgets/social media whip it into a fire storm!” Ignoring the influences that the company can’t control is foolhardy. The key to survival is listen…respond…improve.


Turn On You – Web 2.0 tools are exceptionally effective at being able to reach specific prospective customers in the crowd. The only problem is consumers also have the capability to reach out to other prospective customers just as effectively. Suddenly…you’re in the crosshairs. Photo Source – Universal Pictures

As Bourne said, “We don’t have a choice.”

I few weeks ago I ‘met’ Sarah Stanley (@sarahstanley) on Twitter. She was talking about her upcoming 50 mile run. At first I thought it was a typo, but as it turned out she indeed planned to run 50 miles.  With her BlackBerry, and tweeting along the way.

sarah blackout 1 

I don’t think I could run 5 miles, and if I did manage to pull it off I wouldn’t be in any shape to hold my BlackBerry, never mind type. Out of curiosity I followed links to Sarah’s blog and found,

“I run 50 miles to inspire someone to run or walk 1 mile.”

I was out of town the weekend of the race, but I checked in on Sarah from the hotel, and there she was, running, tweeting and uploading occasional photos from the course.

Sarah’s a entrepreneur from Washington, D.C. She’s been running for about fifteen years, and this 50 mile event was her second ultramarathon.  She’s on a mission to help others find health, fitness, and happiness.  “I’m passionate about health and wellness,“ Sarah explained, “and every day I ask myself, ‘How can I be a blessing to someone, somehow, someway, somewhere.’”

If you want to improve your level of fitness, Sarah’s advice is to make a plan and keep it achievable.  She also welcomes questions via her blog or email to sarah@sarahellenstanley.com.

So what’s in her future?  In addition to running, Sarah is working on a country-wide tour to help others find their way to health, fitness and happiness. In the meantime, she’ll be on Twitter providing inspiration to all. 

I’m inspired.

When it comes to children and the Internet, there is no substitute for parental supervision. It’s certainly not wrong to use parental control software, but parents must understand that software is intended to assist, not do their job for them. The problem is that many vendors don’t seem to appreciate the difference. Thanks to Norton, that’s changing with today’s launch of the OnlineFamily.Norton service.


According to Jody Gibney, Group Product Manager of OnlineFamily.Norton, many parents don’t understand what their children are doing online and only about 20% of parents with kids aged 6-18 use technology to help.

It should be no surprise to parents that kids do a lot online:

  • They consume, create, and share web content.
  • They socialize one-on-one and in groups.
  • Kids who use social media have an average of 145 online friends.
  • They often have multiple complex online identities.

It’s no surprise that parents have a hard time keeping up.

Parents also may not realize where the real dangers lie.  While pedophiles have lured children across the Internet, such occurrences are very rare. Much more common is, as Jody put it, “plain kid-on-kid meanness.”  Social media sites allow kids to post hurtful words, images and videos that can result in real-world embarrassment. Parents need to know what sites their kids are using and decide if and how they should monitor it. Rather than simply prohibiting access to sites, Jody suggests that parents negotiate age-appropriate solutions with children.  For example, a teen may be allowed to use Facebook on the condition that they ‘friend’ Mom so that she can see what is being posted.  If the child sets up a second Facebook account, it’s important that Mom have a way of finding out about it.


Some elements of Norton’s approach, like categorizing web sites and reporting on use, are similar to other products, but their philosophy is different.  Norton’s service is designed to encourage dialog and negotiation between parents and children. For example, Norton encourages parents to log in to OnlineFamily’s web-based interface with their children and discuss the various choices and options. The selections made for each child become “house rules” and include web site categories as well as rules relating to the use of instant messaging, what times the Internet can be used, for how long, and what happens when rules are violated.

Most rules and limits can be configured as hard or soft. Hard time limits log the child out after giving a 15 minute warning, while soft time limits simply report the activity. Similarly three options exist for web sites: Monitor use but don’t block, warn the child first but let them proceed to blocked sites, or actively block access to sites that violate the house rules.

Norton’s approach, Jody explained, is to “understand intent, guide online behavior and discuss online activities.” When a web site is blocked, OnlineFamily gives the child options that include “Oops, I made a mistake! Let me go back.” and “I want to tell my parents why I tried to go to this Web site.” There is also an option to dispute the categorization of the site. When a child researching a homework assignment is prevented from accessing a site, he or she can explain why they want access and the request is sent to parents in real-time.

I’m often concerned about the ethical implications of monitoring software and I believe that spying on family members can erode trust and damage relationships. OnlineFamily avoids that issue completely. Not only does it display a notification every time the child logs on, but the child can also click on the application’s icon and display a summary of house rules, including information on what types of activity is being monitored.


Last week I created an account on OnlineFamily.Norton.com while it was still in beta. I downloaded the program and installed it on our family computer. Then I logged into the OnlineFamily web site, added my daughter as a family member, identified which computer account she used and sent an invite to my wife giving her ‘parent’ access. Next I set the rules and explained the system to my daughter.  Overall, I’m impressed. I did run into a few rough edges with the beta, but by the time you read this they will have been fixed.

OnlineFamily.Norton is the first product in this space to actively involve parents and that makes it a winner. It officially launches today at http://Onlinefamily.Norton.com and is free until January 1, 2010. Norton hopes to receive feedback from parents and say they will consider it carefully before deciding on the future pricing model.

Some ideas are so outrageously offensive that they should never see the light of day. For example, the ‘game’ that appeared on the Apple iTunes App Store earlier this week from a company called Sikalosoft. The objective of the game?  Shake a crying baby to death.

In response to complaints, Apple removed the application from the store, and according to a history of site activity on the Sikalosoft site, someone named Alex Talbot deleted ‘”Baby Shaker” on Wednesday evening.

I think we can safely assume that whomever is behind Sikalosoft now realizes that they did something incredibly stupid.  I only hope that it was some kid who really didn’t appreciate the consequences of their actions and will learn something from the experience.

Apple, on the other hand, doesn’t have any excuse.  It should have taken them about 15 seconds to turn down this application.  The fact that the program made it through Apple’s screening process defies logic.  I hope some of them are busy updating their CVs.

Social media gives people the ability to connect with other people and businesses throughout the world with technology that allows us to interact and share ideas.

Social media’s operating word is the word “social.”  We live in a world where businesses are being forced to be more transparent and interact with their customers. This phenomenon is quickly changing the game of business. If your business is interested in using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn (the three most popular formats), you must follow these three rules of the game: 

  1. Social Media is a Dialog, Not a Monologue. If you are afraid to interact with others and open yourself up to rich dialog including possible criticism, then social media isn’t a space you want to play in. Transparency is key and companies like Dell, Kodak and Ford are in the game. These companies are providing great information on their products, customer service and general company news via Twitter. Dell created a Social Media for Small Business page on Facebook which allows small businesses to interact. Dell has several Twitter handles for new product information, customer service and how to find cheap Dell computers around the world. This would have been unheard of even 3 or 4 years ago. 
  2. Be Valuable. Offer information to your clients that will help them perform their job better or learn something they can share with others. Think about the last 10 questions a potential client asked you about your business or your industry and share the answers. If one person asked then its a great possibility others are struggling with the same question. We have the ability to engage people in ways we didn’t have before and reach thousands. If you share good valuable information, people will follow you and become “fans” of your company/brand.
  3. Have fun. When you’re having fun with this medium, people notice. You don’t have to post business information all day. Be real. Sharing funny anecdotes throughout the day is interesting and puts a human element into your online presence. Just keep it to a minimum and use common sense. Don’t post what you ate for breakfast (unless it was somethin really unusual). Don’t post information that is too personal like your address or problems with your significant other. If you can make people laugh, they will remember it, but keep snark out of the conversation. Wisecrackers don’t get very far, especially when it gets ugly.

Businesses today have some of the greatest tools to communicate with customers, potential clients and vendors than we ever had in the past. Knowing the rules of the game in social media will help your company go farther faster than ever before. If you continue to share good, solid, trustworthy information and have fun while doing it, you will find social media gratifying not only for business, but personally as well.

As I watched the launch of VMware vSphere 4 on Tuesday I was torn.  Part of the event was more corporate group hug than product launch, and in many ways vSphere is a logical extension of the company’s existing products. But a little voice in my head told me, “This is something big.”

Some technological leaps seem clear, especially when viewed historically. For example, we speak of moving from the mainframe to the PC – from centralized to distributed processing – as if it happened quickly.  But in fact it took years and there were several steps and stumbles before PCs replaced “dumb terminals” in numbers.

For the past ten years VMware has been developing leading-edge virtualization technology.  In the early days it was primarily used by developers and geeks.  Then more powerful servers appeared on the market, RAM prices plummeted, and virtualization moved into the datacenter. The business case for server consolidation can be simple: Less hardware, fewer racks, and power savings. 

But virtualization is quickly moving beyond simple server consolidation. VMWare provides the ability to move a running computer between physical boxes without any downtime.  A new feature allows a running “computer” to execute simultaneously in lockstep on two different physical machines — if one fails the other simply takes over.  Security products will defend each virtual machine against attacks.  And this will all work with existing operating systems and applications.

This year VMWare is bringing true cloud computing to the enterprise, and with it comes the ability to implement highly available systems and solid disaster recovery. We’re about to witness the next major jump in computing technology.  Hold on tight, it’s going to be an exciting ride!

It came as a rude shock to our son…he was no longer one of the most sought after people on the planet – the hardcore gamer. It dawned on him after watching his sister and Mom play their Wii musical instruments, exercise with the system and do a little Dancing With the Stars.

While he and his comrades were busy shootin ‘em up, bustin ‘em up; the gaming industry had discovered there was a brave new market existed beyond teens…beyond boys!

We sorta, kinda knew it back at the beginning when worked with the Tramiels to introduce the 7800 console and Lynx. We just didn’t admit it. The game industry was in its infancy and only accounted for a few hundred million bucks. Today the market is huge and serious. In good and bad times the game industry has grown steadily.


Steady Growth – Since the development of the first video game in the early ‘70s hardware and software have had a steady increase in sales despite the ups and downs of the economy. The only shift has been who’s hot, who’s not. That’s the serious part of the industry. Source — NPD

Action games like GTA (Grand Theft Auto), Gears of War, Call of Duty and MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) like World of Warcraft get all the media attention and arguably a strong sell-thru. But with very little fanfare or heated play-by-play discussion, a long list of non-adrenaline/testosterone games have earned a strong customer base.

Have you seen the latest Nintendo DS racing and math challenges of mid-20s folks?

Seen the top iPhone apps downloads?

Normal folks are taking center stage. There is no longer a stereotypical gamer.The market has broadened and has become embedded into our daily cultural and social fabric.


– 65% of American households play computer and video games

– Video game hardware/software sales were up 28% in July of this year

– 87% have a video game console

– The average game player is 35 years old

– One out of four gamers is over age 50

– Women age 18 or older represent a significant portion of the game-playing population (40%) than boys 17 or younger (18%)

– 41% of Americans expect to purchase one or more games this year

– 94% of parents are present when games are purchased or rented

– 88% of parents always/sometimes monitor children’s game play

– Casual games will generate in excess of $2.25 bln this year

– Video games will generate $48.9 bln by 2011

Game hardware/software/play ecommerce is experiencing record growth even as other categories have lowered their expectations.


Online Demand – The sudden shift of finances for most families has impacted retail stores and ecommerce sites. Games and gaming aren’t growing as rapidly as industry experts projected the first of the year but demand continues to remain steady. It’s a great way to get some relief after a tough day at school or the office. Source — Ipsos

Family interest in game play can be attributed to a number of very real factors:

– tight family budgets have forces families to spend less – and more carefully – on entertainment such as sporting events, theater tickets, weekend trips opting instead for staycations (stay at home vacations)

– because of outside stress, families to do what Faith Popcorn calls cocooning – coming home, locking out the world and bonding/sharing

– new family-oriented, interactive or friendly challenge games that anyone in the family can enjoy such as Wii Play, Music, Fitness

– Entertainment games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have encouraged folks of all ages to turn off the TV and have fun no matter how much talent they have

The high visibility games are only the tip of the iceberg. The range of game types has gone well beyond the blow-em-up mayhem to games that are just plain fun that can be as simple or complex as the players want.


Full Menu – While speed and mayhem games gain most of the editorial attention online and offline, the big volume sales and play seem to come from the less adrenaline drive games…puzzles, sports, strategy. Source – Pew Internet

While World of Warcraft is by far the leading MMOG for men and women, the number of ways people can spend their money and time online has grown steadily. By 2012 Ipsos projects online revenues will exceed $1.5 bln annually.

Game play has grown because let’s face it the graphics are totally sophisticated and realistic. Now there are games that really appeal to men/women, young/old.


Cross Segments – While male game players still hold a slight edge over the female gamers the numbers continue to shift. And even though we think of younger kids as the ones who are playing for hours on end research shows that people of all ages enjoy the challenges of the games. Source — ESA

Video gaming has become so popular that today players under 18 represent only one-quarter of the total audience. The new wave of systems, games as well as portable unit and smartphone games have hooked parents, seniors, moms/dads, young/old.

According to the hardcorers, games like The Sims were a waste of time, money and effort. Bummer because the game has sold more than 100M copies.

Spore — the follow-on? One million copies in three weeks. Hardcore gamers may spend more on their hobby. But there are more casual gamers out there and they’ve helped Nintendo eat Sony’s and Microsoft’s lunch.

We have read accounts of senior executives who travel a lot taking their daughter’s pink DS system to relax on their flights. That’s getting embedded into day-to-day life. The video game industry has really tried to be blind to the differences between boys/girls, men/women.

Games in the beginning were sexually neutral. Pac-Man, Pokemon, Sonic, Tetris, Super Mario and hundreds of other successes and failures were just ways to waste time. The problem was that game reviewers and hardcore gamers were guys. You know…geeky, teenage, socially awkward dudes who spent hours locked in his darkened, musty bedroom.

In addition, the female market (young and old) was more difficult to quantify, tougher to reach, harder to win over. And it still is!

The early feminizing game efforts had pixies thrown in, Barbie traipsing around.  The didn’t build much of a following. Lots of gals liked Lara Croft. Our daughter enjoyed playing and kicking the crap out of every guy she came up against.

Mobile games, handheld games, casual game portals, casual MMOGs, online games and social games have finally given women (young and old) options. And they’ve grabbed ahold! Wii helped women in general and moms in particular build demand for casual gaming.

Suddenly game developers found the fundamental difference between male and female gamers: Females like variety! They move from sports to music to role playing to shoot-em ups to war games almost seamlessly. Women are much more comfortable today with technology. Computers aren’t some geek guys’ plaything.

The fun and fervor of the game seem to be easier for the female to work through because they synapses are somehow just wired better than the male’s. It’s no wonder that 40+% of the gamers are female and their interest is growing across all age groups.


Female Challenge – It is often difficult for guys to think of women (young and old) being into the challenges of video games but studies show that females not only like game play but they are also very good. Interest – as with males – covers all age groups. Source — comScore

Whether it’s racing, puzzles, rhythm, adventure, strategy, MMOG or virtual world adventures the difference between male and female is seldom more than a few percentage points. The new games and platforms offer something that appeal to the entire family.

When budgets are tight, it’s great to know there are gifts can be bought, given, used, enjoyed by everyone. Christmas 2008 wasn’t very rosy in a lot of market sectors and 2009 doesn’t look much brighter. But at least you can go home this evening to play a game online or offline that blocks out the worries of the world…till tomorrow.

It is a little humiliating though when you play your best and at the end your daughter smirks at you and repeats Gin’s (Catherine Zeta Jones) statement…“oh come on! Ask me how I did it.”

They just take all the masculine fun out of the game…

Last week Symantec released their 2008 Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR).  The report provides an analysis of worldwide Internet threat activity, vulnerabilities, malicious code, phishing, spam and activity on underground economy servers.

The ISTR contains a lot of interesting information and I’d encourage you to read it — I’m certainly not going to repeat all the findings here.  But if you’re an average Internet user wondering what’s going on, here is my greatly oversimplified summary:

Criminal activity on the Internet continues to increase.  Criminals are targeting your personal information, especially your credit cards and logins to your financial institution. They’re doing so mostly by compromising the web sites you visit and installing nasty stuff that downloads to your computer.

There are a lot of things you could do to protect yourself.  But the real question isn’t what you could do, it’s what should you do.  Here are my top five recommendations:

  1. Ensure your anti-virus software is up-to-date.  If you don’t have an AV package, get one.  AVG, BitDefender, Kaspersky, McAfee, Nod32, or Norton/Symantec.  (In alphabetical order if you’re wondering.)  
  2. Update your operating system and unless you have a very good reason not to, set it to update automatically.  A lot of systems are being compromised even though a fix was issued more than 6 months ago.
  3. Back up data you don’t want to live without. Use removable media (CD, DVD, USB Flash drive, USB Hard drive) or an automatic Internet backup service like Carbonite.
  4. Avoid the darker side of the Internet like gambling, porn, pirated software, illegally distributed movies, etc. They’re a haven for malware.
  5. Don’t let your kids play on your work computer.

The vast majority of intrusions into personal computers are preventable.  Following these five simple recommendations dramatically reduces your risks.

For business readers, here’s an excerpt from the ISTR:

“Web-based attacks are now the primary vector for malicious activity over the Internet. The continued growth of the Internet and the number of people increasingly using it for an extensive array of activities presents attackers with a growing range of targets as well as various means to launch malicious activity. Within this activity, Symantec has noted that most Web-based attacks are launched against users who visit legitimate websites that have been compromised by attackers in order to serve malicious content. Some of the common techniques used by attackers to compromise a website include exploiting a vulnerable Web application running on the server (by attacking through improperly secured input fields), or exploiting some vulnerability present in the underlying host operating system.”

Sixty-three percent of vulnerabilities documented by Symantec in 2008 affected Web applications. The message to web application developers is clear: Many of you are not paying sufficient attention to security. As a profession, you are failing your customers.

I realize that’s a harsh statement and that in many cases web developers are responding to downward pressures on price and unrealistically short development timeframes.  But as a profession it’s time to step up to the security challenge and start designing web applications that resist and even tolerate some intrusions while still protecting sensitive information and users. Those users, after all, are your customer’s customers.

We must start paying more attention to security throughout the software development lifecycle.  That includes ensuring security requirements are identified along with other functional requirements for new applications.  In fact one of the problems is that we still consider security requirements somehow separate from ‘functional’ or ‘business’ requirements.  They’re not.

Perhaps this is one space where the open source community could play an important role.  Most web applications have common requirements like user account maintenance, authentication, priviledge management, session control and input validation.Yet every application developer seems to create their own and many make the same mistakes. Perhaps it is time for an open web application framework that handles these critical functions…and does it right.

Peter Dennis has two problems.  The first, according to a Canadian Press article by Colin Perknel, is gambling:

“According to the unproven statement of claim, Dennis, of Markham, Ont., blew about $350,000 between August 2000 and May 2004 on various slot machines. His health declined, he became depressed and anxious.

After an 11-week, $59,000 binge, he signed a self-exclusion form at Woodbine Racetrack on May 23, 2004. Officials took his personal information and photograph.

Nevertheless, he continued going into gaming facilities and gambling, leading to another $200,000 in losses.

Ultimately, lenders foreclosed on his two houses and he was fired from his job at a data-management company for failing to pay back money he borrowed from a client.”

But his second problem shifts my sympathy to derision. Instead of facing his addiction and taking responsibility for his own behavior, Peter launched a $3.5-billion class action suit against the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation because they didn’t stop him from gambling.

I’m glad that the OLGC tries to help people with gambling problems, but it’s ludicrous to believe that one can sign a ‘self-exclusion’ form and transfer financial responsibility for one’s addiction to the OLGC.

If Peter really wanted to to excluded, he’d start by not going to the gaming facilities.  If that wasn’t enough he’d cut up his credit cards, burn his cheque books, sign over his bank account to his wife, and notify banks and credit bureaus not to lend him money.  And he’d seek professional help.

But blaming others is more fashionable these days.  It’s easier to blame the OLGC for not stopping him.  I presume that he also blames the Liquor Store for selling alcohol to alcoholics and pharmacists for dispensing potentially addictive drugs.

Peter, I have two words for you:  Personal Responsibility.  Be a man and take responsibility for your actions. Until you do, no amount of money will help you.

If there is any sense left in our judicial system, this suit will die a quick death.  And if there is any real justice, Peter Dennis will be paying everyone’s court costs.  I hope his lawyer asked for payment up front.