How does technology impact our life when it comes to fitness? For some, it can hinder their life. For example, sitting behind the computer for hours on end, playing video games or interacting only on phones! While all of these gadgets are great (I will be the first to admit that my Blackberry is everywhere I go), they can interfere with our fitness, our health and our happiness. How do we make technology a positive part of our every day life? Here are 3 easy ways to start!

1) Online support friends/groups 

There is nothing better than knowing other people are watching what you are doing. Make a commitment to tell someone online like Twitter or Facebook your workout plan for the day or week ahead. Then when you feel like you can’t make it to the gym or get your workout in, you know that you have people who are watching to see your results. It makes it hard to back down then!

2) Track fitness goals/workouts

Besides paper & pencil, use online tools like http://runningahead.com to track your progress. It is free and a great way to keep all your workouts, reps, races, etc in one place!

3) Find races and area events 

Use http://active.com or http://runnersworld.com to find area races. Make sure you sign up for races a few months ahead of time so you have a goal to go after!

By implementing one of the above ideas, you can have a positive tech FIT life 🙂

Marketing people have done an outstanding job of convincing senior management:

  • We know the right people
  • We need to launch a product with a big bang
  • We need to do a 1:1 meeting with just the right editors/writers/reviewers
  • We need an editorial tour
  • We need four-five star reviews
  • We did it all for them

 We carefully spend truckloads of money to convince consumers – business and individual – that tomorrow is here…it is better…it is time to make the move…NOW!

Then we point with pride to the positive reviews, the three-four awards.

Marketing people constantly develop plans and programs all designed to convince “the market” that if they don’t get on the horse and ride they’ll be left in the dust.

Good marketing and communications people are creative and smart.

In today’s instant news, constantly connected world we all realize that for the products to succeed in the fast changing PC/CE industry we have to tap into and leverage consumer behavior.

There’s only one thing missing.

We only give lip service to our best weapon…best marketing tool…most credible tool…customers.

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Can’t Get Enough – Innovators and early adopters can’t gobble up new and different technology fast enough. Fortunately there are a lot of them around the globe who are first in line to buy. They do it again and again, casting off yesterday’s products before the price tag is cold. Source – NY Times

You know the guy/gal in your neighborhood or company who is always on the bleeding edge of technology.

You know those innovators and early adopters that “everyone” turns to for information and recommendations.

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Figure 1 – Big Jump – The challenge for most products, most companies is leaping across the small break in the buying cycle to reach volume sales and profits. Source – Geoffrey Moore’s “The Chasm”

If the products don’t jump Geoffrey Moore’s Chasm fast enough marketing failed so they advertise more…add features…introduce new versions…lower the prices.

The promotion options are almost limitless.

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Figure 2 – Reaching the Masses – In the rush for sales volume and “acceptance,” marketers and PR people use all of the communications tools at their disposal to send out their controlled message. Unfortunately word of mouth is seldom aggressively pursued because PR people can’t control it and it lacks “sizzle.” Source – DoubleClick, ROI Research

Companies will do almost anything to get visibility for their new products. They want the press coverage, the reviewers’ praises, the analysts’ reports, all of that buzz that makes products fly out of the warehouse and off the shelves. But leveraging word-of-mouth (WOM) is hard, dirty work.

Talk to and work with the customer on a real 1:1 basis? Are you out of your mind? That requires time…requires effort…requires patience…requires painful “self analysis.”

Increasingly the post-Chasm crowd relies on word of mouth – face to face, blogs, company review sites, community interest/networking sites – for their purchasing information and ideas.

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Figure 3 – Personal Recommendations — While broad searches of the Internet help people garner general information about their hobbies and their work, it is the recommendations of people you trust and feel have specific hands-on knowledge that carry the most weight in your consideration to buy. Source – GFK Roper

In today’s iNet world; word of mouth information is almost instantly available to consumers in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas, Middle East.

With very little effort anyone, anywhere can easily tap into this trustworthy information — customer insights/opinions/recommendations.

If this resource has become so broadly consulted by prospects, it has to become an integral part of firms’ public relations strategy. It is not something that can be relegated to inexperienced or junior communications folks or shoved over to the company’s support organization.

It has to be at the forefront of activities because this is where the rubber meets the road, these are the real use reports that can make or break a company’s/product’s success!

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Figure 4 – 1st Hand – When people are looking for new products, new services, new ideas they read every source and resource they can. They check the reviews of professionals they have come to trust and respect. They pour over features/capabilities charts. They turn to other users to get what they feel is an honest assessment of the product/service they are considering. Source – Avenue A/Razorfish

Unfortunately most communications people focus 80% of their efforts on high visibility reviews, big ads, glossy mailers, breathtaking email campaigns…avoiding WOM.

Why?

Oh yeah…

  • It’s time consuming
  • It requires patience…lots of patience
  • It isn’t as much fun as meeting with editors/reviewers/analysts
  • It demands that you look at the product/service from the customers’ perspective not what research showed you were the key points
  • It means you have to look at the users’ views, opinions, ideas in a non-defensive manner with an understanding that the user – the real user – might know more about what he/she wants, how he/she wants to work than engineers, programmers, designers (translation – sometimes the king may not have any cloths on or he simply has mismatched socks)
  • It requires cold, hard analysis of what was said – and not said – and delicate handling of the feedback to the people who nurtured the product from concept to introduction. Trust us…no one likes to be told their kid is ugly!

 Some firms are giving these undiluted user inputs, ideas and recommendations the attention they deserve even when it hurts…a “little.”

Dell is one of the latest to closely examine and mine these inputs and unbiased opinions for ways to improve policies, programs and products.

Michael Dell has finally gotten his head around the fact that consumers – channel partners, corporate buyers, individuals – trust the opinions of other consumers.

In less than a year the company has gone from one of the most berated firms in the computer industry to one with an excellent and open relationship with customers – large and small.

Today, individual online reviews and blogs are being posted and trusted by other consumers on a daily basis.

Getting in front of the situation isn’t just important…it’s vital!

The challenge is two-fold.

We all know that ticked off customers are the first to post their complaints and tell others. Ten to 15 years ago that wasn’t a huge problem. The dissatisfied customer would probably only complain to 10-15 people.

Today he or she posts his/her complaint and BAM! it is instantly out there for 10-50 million people to read…and pass along.

The other challenge is inspiring happy consumers to help spread the positive words…the praise…the good news.

Do it wrong and they’ll get the idea you’re trying to con them, turn them into shills.

Not good.

Do it right.

Very good.

There are millions of passionate, empowered consumers out there in special interest/user groups. These are individuals who are more than a little favorable toward brands/products that they like/use in their work, hobby, home.

These people spend hours at work and late into the evening scouring the iNet, chatting on uselists, searching web sites, devouring blogs and sharing information and ideas with people who are just as passionate about their interest area.

Some have regular meetings to exchange information and “tricks” to do things better with their products. Most special interest groups have web sites where they review products with varying degrees of expertise for anyone/everyone to read.

And read them people do!

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Figure 5 – Experience Counts – When all is said and done and people have read the news, studied the companies literature, evaluated the pros/cons of the various products/ services that are available prospects turn to other people’s reviews and analysis to make their purchasing decisions. Source – Deloitte & Touché

More importantly, consumers looking for advice and assistance find these groups, these sites, these reviews extremely credible because:

  • They share something in common with the reviewer
  • The reviewer talks in usage terms the reader can identify with…where the rubber meets the road

 The problem for most marketing and communications people is that influentials are only important to them when they want to sell something.

The influentials and their sphere of influence are a pain in the behind when they:

  • Need assistance with their web sites/publications
  • Seek support for special events, educational activities
  • Are interested in guidance and ideas to develop a more organized effort to expand their membership, their numbers

 Too bad.

According to eMarketer there are about 26.8 million influencers (people who are regularly asked for advice) in the U.S. today and 58.7 million worldwide.

Most are not only first in line to buy, they actually enjoy the responsibility of providing others assistance.

When they spread the word…influencees buy.

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The Wise Innovator – The really smart innovator grabs everything he/she can get his/her hands on that is new, special, unique. Then…they find someone who’ll lug their stuff around for them while they stay out of the rain.

It’s true.

It isn’t as sexy as a thoroughly researched/crafted PowerPoint presentation, well rehearsed media presentation or highly crafted news release.

You know those tools of the trade that tap into the very deepest reaches of the consumers’ behavior.

But those geeky, weird, passionate influentials do a lot better job of grabbing more customers…and keeping them longer than the presentation, the release, the “fun” press event.

Organic growth may not agree with you but don’t wait for management to ask the question…

Listen to the whisperer.

TECHLife Post is closed Friday and Monday as our staff enjoy an extended long weekend.  Happy Victoria Day and see you on Tuesday!

To continue the theme of social media bringing people together both in person and in online collaboration instead of driving them apart as some folks attest, I will present the following evidence to the former:

  1. This week, I hosted our first local Tweetup (nounA real world meeting between two or more people who know each other through the online Twitter service.) here in Woodstock, GA where I live. We all have met virtually through Twitter and decided it was time to take it to another dimension, offline. We had 15 people show up and 1 little boy (belonging to a couple). There were people from all types of businesses and walks of life, engineers, marketing, real estate, software developers, web designers and even three guys from a company which sells the energy their company saves for retailers back to the energy companies. It was a remarkable mix and all of us were able to put faces with avatars. Some we recognized immediately and some we didn’t. It was a lot of fun and everyone left asking when the next one would happen. (more on Tweetups here http://tinyurl.com/d7774d)    

  2. I found out about a new business being started by two guys I know from the Tweet Chat http://www.sbbuzz.biz I attend each Tuesday night from 8 to 10 pm ET. Bradford Shimp (@bradfordshimp) and Neal Rohrbach (@nrohrbach) have decided to get together and start http://www.ideaanglers.com. They have worked for weeks online to coordinate and put together a website and business plan. Through a series of tweets, it went from a germ of an idea, to a domain name being registered, to an ongoing collaboration and a business being formed. Pretty amazing stuff for a medium people say will drive us all apart. (Press Release here: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dfr5mrzb_3d7gfbjgw)    

  3. I was invited by Aronado Placencia (@aronado) from http://www.startuplucky.com to talk about internet marketing and all things social media on his live internet show this week. My PR gal, Rebekah Lovell (@renown) who I met via Twitter and who also lives in Woodstock, GA set this up for me. Now @aronado will be on my own podcast and we’ll collaborate on a blog post together in the future because of this online meeting. Heck, I might even go see him in Colorado if invited so we can do the show live in the same room! (Wouldn’t that be interesting?) This opportunity to collaborate was simply because Rebekah was able to find him and reach out via Twitter.

These are great examples of how social media put people together who might have never met otherwise. I would love to hear more examples. Please share your experiences with all of us in the comments below.

Last week, I mentioned the word ‘happy’. But how can we be happy? What does happy mean to us? 

Is it chocolate ice cream? That daily cup of coffee? Or that donut?

Or whatever makes you feel good instantly?

I wonder if we would replace coffee with taking a walk. Enjoying just looking at the sky instead of staying inside. Taking ten seconds to hear the birds sing. Happiness is created from within yourself. It doesn’t come from things or food. Those ‘happy feelings’ found in food or things are only temporary. Being happy starts with yourself inside. I know when I do any of these things, I feel great AND happy right away. Try them for yourself!

Here are 3 ways to be happy TODAY

  1. Take a walk
  2. Call a friend!
  3. Smile!

To YOUR healthy, fit AND happy life,
Sarah

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“Son derriere noir… c’est formidable!”Hilary van Doren, Fame 1980, MGM

Command Performances – Everyone it would seem loves to perform and be in the spotlight. That is certainly true with the noise that surrounds the “gotta be on” approach people have taken regarding Twitter. Problem is even though thousands join each month, only about 40 percent of them stick around after a few days. The thrill of talking to yourself in a crowd seems to get old real fast according to most studies. Photo Source – MGM

We see the value in Earth Day. We recognize the importance of World Peace Day. In deference to our wife we think even Mother’s Day is OK. But Twitter Day?

Somehow Oprah coming online and saying “Hello Twitter World.” (or whatever) is not quite up there with the wizard of Menlo Park (Edison) calling one of his assistants for help!

For the most part, we don’t really care that Oprah, Shaq, Parris, Kutcher and a lot of other folks are thinking about or talking about. Yet a million or so folks have signed up and track their every 140 character utterance.

Our son — who has an account but is too busy instant messaging with his smartphone and Skyping on his notebook – made the observation that if you Twittered in the real world instead of on the Internet you’d be arrested for stalking. Heck we have people following our updates and all we have is a Twitter account…and we thought we didn’t have a life! But there is a growing Twitter population. In just a couple of years it has grown to well more than 10 million according to comScore.

As Domino Pizza, Amazon and other firms are quickly realize the mob mentality can be a force to be reckoned with. In the old days you used email, the phone and if you wanted to use the wayback machine you sent a letter.

Hum of Noise

Today people young and old can’t stand the vacuum of silence and we rush to take advantage of every personal and social networking tool that is available.

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Always Connected – It used to be there were only a few ways for people to communicate. Today the tools and services available to us to talk – even if no one is listening – are mind boggling. People not only use the social networking services, they are becoming more savvy in their application. Source — IDC

Twitter and other microblogging tools caught the attention of people everywhere when terrorists attacked the hotel in India and when the US Air plane went down in the Hudson River. Instantly people around the globe could see the news first hand. News media incorporated the citizen journalists’ inputs with their coverage seamlessly. The interesting fact is that Twitter was adopted by older users (35+) and that the younger crowd is less likely to Tweet.

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Adults Rule – Finally there’s a social networking activity that “adults” dominate. Either they were there first or kids found it just too dumb to use and master. Maybe it wasn’t such a hot idea after all? Source – Nielson Research

The 35-44 year olds also spend a lot more time Tweeting than the younger crowd. From the personal contact perspective Twitter, Yammer and the other microblogging services deliver a valuable tool for people to get in touch, stay in touch in our hectic, sometimes chaotic world.

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Staying in Touch – If calling someone is becoming old hat, we’re fortunate that there are a growing number of social networking options for people to use. Individuals and companies are learning how to leverage microblogging to stay effective and in touch. Source – Pew Research

Fortunately we didn’t have to learn a new language when we started using Twitter because most of the IM “words” are used to keep folks’ messages under the 140 character cap. The brave new microblogging world already has its own dos and don’ts guidelines if you want to stay out of the line of fire from other short statement people who are online.

For people who want to get business done rather than simply chat at the world, services like Yammer are much better.You simply carry on your specific project or activity and yet exchange information, ideas and concepts in a virtual/conversational manner.

Yammer is proving to be much more efficient and effective than email because people can have conversations with fellow employees, consultants, suppliers. It allows a profile and group list that you can check, post to and check from your computer or phone. The near-realtime environment lets you add photos, documents, videos to keep business moving.

Company Microblogs

Firms like Cisco, HP, Xerox and companies large and small have found that the instant messaging is a valuable work tool. It’s a lot better and safer than working together online with the rest of the world looking over your shoulder and kibitzing.

Hundreds — if not thousands — of companies around the globe have taken the Twitter plunge to talk with customers, sell products, improve customer support. Dell earned a few million last year selling used equipment from their Tweet corner. The same is true of HP. FedEx, JetBlue and hundreds of other firms including Whole Foods Markets have climbed aboard the microblog wagon because it is another – ultra cheap – way for them to improve and enhance customer relations activities.

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Customers Count – Technical and customer support organizations have found that microblogs and social network tools are very effective in not only delivering service but also enhancing and expanding the customer relationship. Most of the social activities have been adapted and adopted to improve service and lower costs. Source – Society for New Communications Research

There are some very sound business reasons for individuals and organizations having Twitter accounts and following recent events the best reason seems to be…defense.

The online outcry that Dominos experienced with the video that a couple of really dumb employees posted on YouTube.

Then there was Amazon’s “mislocation” of book titles produced an early warning system for businesses and organization’s in all sectors. In this instance someone claimed he had hacked Amazon’s system and eliminated the books (so much BS but…).

In both instances, individuals stepped forward to claim their 15 minutes of Fame. The difference between them and the movie by the same name was that the cost of entry was almost nothing and for a short time they were thrust into the global spotlight.

It didn’t really matter that in both instances – and in countless more that will occur in the months/years ahead – that the stories were false. The Internet and Web 2.0 social networking tools has helped produce a mob mentality that feeds the monster bent on damaging individuals, companies, brands.

People have no problem Tweeting again and again what they wouldn’t say in face to face encounters with others. And in today’s net driven world companies don’t have to make a wrong move or make a wrong decision to get people fanning the flames.

So while most firms are exploring and using all of the social networking tools to touch, assist and learn from their customers, there is also that gnawing concern that someone, somewhere will make an innocent or malicious statement and …BAM!!!!

Or as Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

Damage Control

The organizations that are social media involved at least have a community foundation they can use to correct things as quickly as possible. They may not know exactly when, where or why the “challenge” will occur but they also know developing a plan of action while folks are lobbing their Tweets is a helluva strategy.

We’re not really into having a mob of Twitter followers all to ourselves. But fortunately there are a growing number of Tweet tools (we know we made that up!) that will allow us to keep track of what people are saying about our friends, family, products and us.Then again, sometimes you just don’t want to know what people are saying about you…

As Fame’s Montgomery McNeil said, “Never being happy isn’t the same as being unhappy.”

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Aaahh…we’ll have to Tweet you on that. Right now we’ve got to get back to our Twitter tools to stalk the stalkers. As we said most ain’t that interesting. But on the Internet their thoughts, statements, claims, counterclaims will live forever…somewhere.

Who said Fame was fleeting ?

There’s a great poster over at Despair Inc. that reads,

“It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.”

In the security field we strive to keep our employers and clients out of that category.  However, reality is such that we often learn best from our mistakes and those of others.  As any parent can attest, even the best warning about the potential danger involved in a childish act of stupidity doesn’t come close to the educational impact of falling, or watching one’s friend fall, flat on their face.

Last week I wrote about a security breach at Twitter that resulted from a poor security design.  The kindest thing I can say is that Twitter managed to ignore more than thirty years of security knowledge and made a design error that I would expect a junior security consultant to pick up in a matter of minutes.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m a huge fan of Twitter.  The basic concept behind their service isn’t new, but their timing, marketing and some of their technical decisions are brilliant. But, as much as it pains me to say this about any company, they are making the same critical mistake that has plagued many startups in the Internet space: They obviously lack competent security expertise.

I’m sure that they mean well, and I’m sure Twitter has some very talented developers that really want to do the right thing.  I’m sure that they have considered some aspects of security.  But they need more.  They need a security pro sitting around the development table.  They need to critically examine every aspect of their system from a security perspective.  And they desperately need a good security risk assessment.

Take, for example, my experience with Twitter last week. On Tuesday they announced the ability to send updates via SMS to Rogers phones. I found out because my phone suddenly started getting SMS messages. I replied with “off” and it stopped.  Wednesday the exact same thing happened again.  “Off” worked, and I logged in via the web to make sure it was really turned off. 

Thursday morning it was back with a vengeance. I was driving to the office and a flood of messages began.  Having worked on an SMS project, I knew that mobile phone companies require systems that use SMS to honour the ‘stop’ command.  As soon as a mobile phone subscriber sends ‘stop’ the service provider is supposed to reply with an acknowledgement and not send any further messages.  So I replied with ‘stop’.  Twitter sent an acknowledgement, but messages continued to flood in.  At first I assumed there must be a queue somewhere, but an hour later I was still being flooded with so many messages that my phone was almost useless.

I logged into Twitter and tried to turn off the SMS updates.  But the system gave me an error and continued to show the updates as ‘on’.  Next I tried to delete the phone.  Given that the Twitter ‘Devices’ page displayed my mobile phone number, that should have been easy.  But in response to the ‘delete’ button Twitter replied that there was no valid device to delete.

I opened a support case and while waiting found that the ‘sleep’ function would still work. I temporarily managed to get messages under control by telling Twitter that I sleep 23 hours per day.  About 10 hours into the incident, I received a reply from Twitter support indicating that they couldn’t resolve the issue and had escalated it.  Some time after that they managed to delete my phone from the system.

From a security perspective, a few things went wrong.  First and foremost, the system is clearly not designed to gracefully handle database inconsistencies.  I don’t know how Twitter’s database works.  Presumably it’s large and complex due to the sheer volume of data it handles.  But if the system can display your telephone number and not delete it, sometime is very wrong.

In a perfect world, databases maintain internal consistency.  But we don’t live in a perfect world, and all sorts of strange things can happen in a database.  From a security perspective (as well as an operational one), we need to accept this fact and design for it.

When it comes to any type of communications system, we must recognize that system failures do occur.  For example, radio systems often have timers to shut down the transmitter in the event that a person, computer, or stuck microphone attempts to transmit for a long period of time. When designing an SMS gateway, we similarly need to recognize that database issues or queuing problems could potentially result in a large quantity of undesired messages being sent to a mobile phone.  To protect both both the organization and the user, the system should be designed to tolerate these failures gracefully.  And when the user sends ‘stop’, the system must ensure that the messages do indeed stop.

Then there’s the helpdesk issue.  Twitter is a free service, and we all understand that free services can’t always provide immediate technical support.  But Twitter doesn’t give the user any way to indicate the severity of the issue.  A ten hour response time to most support requests is fine – but when Twitter is malfunctioning and slamming a user with SMS messages it is woefully inadequate.

Part of a security risk assessment involves asking difficult questions about internal and external threats.  It requires considering what can go wrong and determining the potential consequences. It involves exploring scenarios like, “What happens if one of our executive’s email accounts is hacked?” and “What could cause the system to go berserk and start flooding users with messages?”

Good security is about much more than checking a user’s password.  It’s about achieving a holistic understanding of the system’s confidentiality, integrity and availability properties.  It’s about understanding what can go wrong and how to design and operate  the system to minimize the risk. And ultimately it is about protecting the organization’s bottom line.

If Twitter wants to avoid serving as a warning to others, they need to start taking security much more seriously.  They need to find about $50,000 in their budget for a proper risk assessment.  Then they need to start incorporating security requirements into their software development lifecycle. Investors may be desperate for a good start-up these days, but they understand that security breaches, especially those that reveal questionable security competencies, are bad for business. And in the fickle word of social media, they can be fatal.

Our editor, Eric Jacksch, is a huge Twitter fan.  But if you want a good example of why I’m not on Twitter, just ask him about this week.  He might not be a fan much longer.

According to their blog, on Tuesday Twitter announced that Rogers customers in Canada can get their Twitter ‘updates’ through SMS.  Jacksch says he noticed because they suddenly started showing up on his phone.  So he turned them off.  Wednesday they started again.  So he turned them off again.  Thursday the ‘updates’ started flooding his phone but he couldn’t stop them. “I even tried deleting my mobile phone from Twitter,” Jacksch explained, “but the same page that displays my mobile phone number says ‘We couldn’t find a valid device to delete’ when I click the ‘delete’ button. Twitter is badly broken.”

Apparently the twits over at Twitter have a major bug in their system.  Jacksch says he repeatedly sent the ‘off’ and ‘stop’ commands.  Twitter acknowledged them each time but continued to flood his phone with ‘updates’. He opened a ticket with Twitter support and even emailed their public relations people – to no avail. They’re as useful as the south end of a northbound horse.  He finally used Twitter’s ‘sleep’ function to temporarily stem the tide.

I thought I’d call Twitter and get their side of the story.  They’re not in the phone book. Twits.

So many of us struggle with the dreaded phrase: Weight loss. Why do we battle this? How can we make it a victory and not a battle?

Here are some ways to do just that:

  1. Make “weight loss” a mindset rather than a temporary change. Change your habits for life, not just for a small period of time.
  2. Instead of turning to food to celebrate, celebrate with a healthy activity. Take a hike, go to a park or go to a library and get a book.  Live!
  3. Be happy! In order to fight off the pounds, you need to be happy first. If you are happy, you will be less prone to eat that pint of ice cream at night! I know that once I “get happy” my life perspective changes. When I am racing or training and I face a tough part of the course, instead of thinking of how awful it is, I think happy thoughts. It’s all about your mind set!

Be inspired!

Let me know your thoughts!

On any given day you will find a group of engineers or programmers huddling in the back room, sitting in the corner of the coffee shop, or gathering around the most recently divorced individual’s kitchen table to plan the next major new company built on breathtaking technology.

The hard fact is that we really don’t need more technology. What we do need is better application of the technology we have.

In fact, it would be fair to say that we probably have enough sound technology available to last us for the next five to ten years. What we need are people to make the technology usable for the rest of us.

Technology is important, but what is needed even more is sound marketing/market understanding, ability and practice. We rush insanely great technology/products to market, we get them reviewed/talked about by bleeding edge media techno-writers and the din of noise fills the media. Print, web, blog, radio, TV all cover the insanely great solution and we forecast fantastic hockey stick sales and insane profits.

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Figure 1 – Rough Ride – There’s an ideal scenario for every new company, new product, and new service. There’s a lot of noise and excitement in the media. People look and buy and then they tell friends who also buy and the sales rocket upward. Unfortunately the reality is the modified Gartner Technologies Cycle of widespread expectations, disappointment and slow acceptance.

Instead of the product sweeping the globe in a year – or two – it trundles along with respectable growth but nowhere near the hyped numbers we read. Obviously the product is a failure and we’re certain it was the product failed…not the consumer.

As time goes on product — slowly and by now without the insane profits we envisioned — sales grow and the product is absorbed into our daily lives.

It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t the consumer epiphany. Manufacturers/retailers didn’t convince the consumer that he or she had to have the product. Instead it was Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm product lifestyle discussion. His book hit the street in 1991, established Moore as a visionary, people read the book and most returned to the same old technology/hype/failure practice.

 

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Figure 2 – Jump – Geoffrey Moore helped industry management understand that products can quickly penetrate the innovator and early adopter market segments. However, it takes a long time for products to achieve broad marketplace acceptance.

Industry history proves again and again that no one listens to the consumer because in the U.S. and around the globe penetration took time.

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Figure 3 – Tangible Proof – The computer/consumer electronics industry is the poster child example for how rapidly products spread throughout the marketplace. Products that we feel have been here “forever” or were rapidly understood and purchased actually took many years to produce 50 percent household penetration. Source — CEA

Consumers aren’t stupid but the industry does a disservice by not putting all of the marketing tools behind the product to give people a reason to buy!

Rather than listening to engineering on “what the marketplace really needs,” marketers go out and talk with customers and prospects. Then they tell engineering and manufacturing to produce a product that meets those criteria.

Next, the company builds a legion of early adopters and “puts them to work” spreading the word, advancing the technology across the marketplace.

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Figure 4 – Spheres of Influence – The growing popularity of blogs and social networks have made it possible for ideas and products to quickly spread around the globe. The concept that everyone is no more than six degrees apart has shrunk to three degrees or less according to most industry market research analysts.

According to a Forrester consumer adoption study:

  • 83% of respondents got their information from friends/acquaintances
  • 75% from product/service reviews
  • 63% from a known “expert”
  • 52% from user reviews on a content site
  • 50%from online consumer opinion sites
  • 49% from editors on content site
  • 37% from online chat rooms, discussion boards, user forums
  • 30% from blogger reviews

Tech-based CEOs, cold-number CFOs and marketing staffs often dismiss the importance – and value – of these individuals in helping products/services cross Moore’s Chasm more rapidly.

Rare Mixture

There are some excellent (but rare) heads of marketing in the industry who understand finance, economics, selling and R&D as well as how to determine and anticipate the market’s next-generation product requirements. These men and women want new, additional products to sell. They also want products that will fit specific market segment/niche requirements.

They understand the importance of packaging and presenting these products so that they appeal to their target markets. They understand the value of good marketplace relationships and promotion.

Smart management doesn’t make a decision to introduce a new product without the facts in front of them — facts that tell them their chances of success with the ultimate consumer. They hone their promotional messages not on the engineering “facts” but rather tap into the wants and needs of their buying publics.

Successful marketing people realize the importance of promotion that makes their customers feel a little uncomfortable. They understand that people need to be dissatisfied before they’ll make a change from status quo. Marketing must provide the catalyst for change in order to stimulate the purchase of their product(s).

The also understand the importance of helping, working with, supporting and relating with the early adopters, reviewers, bloggers, podcasters, site managers handle, use, discuss and champion the products.

Success with them isn’t absolutely necessary we suppose. What the heck if they ignore the product because they can’t get it in their hands to talk about. Or if they take potshots at the product, no big deal — they’re only one person.

The problem today is that lousy little potshot is heard around the world.

 

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Figure 5 – Frustration – Once early adopters have accepted the product, manufacturers and developers tend to move on to the next generation of “killer” solution. By this time producers are confident that “everyone” knows about the hardware, software or combination and how to use it. Adoption is a little more difficult for mainstream users.

Battle Lines Drawn

When Robert Duval muttered those immortal words in Apocalypse Now, “God, but I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” he wasn’t talking of death and destruction. He was talking about the excitement and challenge of battle.

While the battles of one-upsmanship between engineers and designers will probably go on forever, those small skirmishes don’t win the big, bottom-line battle.

And, while engineers may mutter under their breath that marketing is squelching their technical advances, they also have to admit that their efforts are not driven by profit motives.

To stay in business, every company has to be pushed, pulled and dragged to make a profit. The only people who are in a position to accomplish this are the rare  — very rare — marketing people who can rally the organization and its outside resources to do more than simply sell some product.

Instead, they sell the product to a market segment again … and again … and again.

Marketing should focus all of their resources and efforts on helping the marketplace help them capture market share.

Finance, engineering and product design should be figuring out how to give the company the tools and products they need to get the firm’s unfair share of the market before the competition realizes what is going on.

True all of this isn’t absolutely necessary. Insanely great products and services will sell themselves. But the black holes of space are filled with great innovations – hardware, software, service – that weren’t led by intelligent, competent and empowered marketing.

 

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Figure 6 – Swallowed Up – While PC/CE technology seems to move at the speed of light, firms often fail to understand the importance of drawing in and involving the consumer and having him/her help spread the word on the product’s/service’s strengths and benefits. As a result the technology streaks across the sky like a comet and quickly/quietly disappears in the black hole of space. Source — NASA

Twitter was a buzz again last week due to another security breach.  In summary, a criminal claims to have obtained access to a Twitter administrator’s Twitter password by guessing the secret question to reset the administrator’s password on a Yahoo e-mail account. Twitter confirmed that the intruder gained access to information on ten accounts including those of some celebrities.

My question is this:  How many passwords have to be compromised before we all finally come to the consensus that passwords are a really bad idea?

There are three ways to authenticate someone:

  • Something they know (a password);
  • Something they have (a physical device); and,
  • Something they are (biometrics).

Each of these ‘three ways’ is called a factor. If you want to ensure that someone is who they say they are, simply use two of the above factors for a strong authentication. For example, have the person type in a password and something else, like insert a smart card or type in a 6 digit number that proves they have a specific peice of hardware with them.

The problem with passwords is threefold:

  1. Passwords alone are single factor authentication, and by definition that authentication is weak.
  2. We let users choose their own passwords, thereby increasing the likelihood that others can figure out the password.
  3. Since people forget passwords, we build mechanisms to let them find out their password or reset it.

In other words, we take a weak authentication mechanism and make it worse. And then we act surprised when it fails.

For years we’ve been telling people to choose complex passwords that can’t easily be guessed.  But most people don’t follow that advice.  And even those who do may be subject to attack because of the poor authentication used to reset passwords.  A good authentication mechanism should not not allow each user to determine the strength of authentication.

Effective alternatives are available.  Among them are key-chain size authentication tokens from RSA and Vasco.  In summary, as part of your login to a site you have to type in the 6 digit number that appears on the device, as well as your username and password (or a PIN).

While it’s easy to understand that Twitter may not want to provide users with authentication tokens (it is a free service after all!), at minimum they could, and should, require two-factor authentication for all users with administrative access.  The amount of damage that could result from an intrusion into a Twitter administration account warrants two-factor authentication.  If Twitter had conducted a risk assessment they would know that.

Security professionals have been pointing out these exact problems with passwords for years.  Is anybody listening?

There are two parts to a newspaper:

  • Content (stories, photos, ads, features, etc.)
  • Mechanics (the newsprint, the typsetting, the printing, bundling, delivery, and of course recycling)

The good newspapers spend a lot of money on content, and they spend almost as much – if not more – on the mechanics.  The rest of the world has discovered the Internet, notebooks, netbooks, Blackberries, iPhones and Kindles. Yet newspapers still cling to some very outmoded and outlandish myths.

About a year ago, the publisher of a major newspaper in the Tampa Bay area outright rejected the idea of an electronic system to put the issues the reader would like to see first, on the front page of an Internet edition of the paper.  She told me that the newspaper’s front page design was important, that it showed what the “brain trust” of editors thought was important.

That’s nice. Last month, the newspaper  laid off a lot of the folks in that brain trust, they’ve downsized the newspaper itself and they’re in financial trouble.  As TV’s Dr. Phil would say, “So, how’s that working for ya?”

I don’t mean to denigrate the “brain trust” of the paper which consisted of many bright competent people.  But in this century some of us know what we want and have limited time to find it.

Other, more enlightened publishers have done wonders. Their competition across the bay does it differently. They put nearly all of their content online. They’re so good that I’d love to be able to pay for the content but there’s no mechanism to do so. All I can do is subscribe to their dead tree product, and then be stuck with having to recycle the product all the time.

We don’t want to have to pile up old newspapers, nor save clippings when we can search for what we want, or even bookmark it. We want convenience. I want to be able to read my newspaper anywhere in the world.

Work on that, newspaper industry, and you just might be able to survive.