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Tavern History

March 1st, 2012 | On Blogs & Blogging, Social Media & Marketing

The More That Things Change. The More They Stay The Same.

Plus A Blogging Tip For WordPress Bloggers – Timing and Scheduling Blog Posts

The Original Digital Tavern Blog - Hosted By Radio Userland 2001

The Original Digital Tavern Blog - Hosted By Radio Userland 2001

I’ve been writing about blogs and blogging for ten years. Before “social media” evolved to its current status as an overused and mostly misunderstand “word or phrase du jour”, I was espousing the benefits of using blogs as a business or corporate marketing too. And to dive back into the archives while we celebrate ten years of The Digital Tavern and blogging, my series on blogging as a business tool is still relevant. In 2003 I wrote “It’s Time For Marketing To Embrace Weblog Concepts & Technologies“. This created a stir in the blogsphere back then as business tried to grapple with the burgeoning, and still yet to be ubiquitous, internet as media or communication channel. To further bring clarity to my view, I wrote:

“…the visionary CEO would better serve his internal and external audiences through leveraging what make blogs so tasty and addictive — the human element and the regular updating. Top that off with two-way feedback mechanism (commenting, trackbacking etc.). The result is a tool that strengthens relationships, fosters communication and creates a kind of bond…”

Yeah. Social media. Things have evolved, but the goals and objectives of business remain the same. The tools have changed. The channels have changed. A couple years ago, business was trying to figure out if and how they should use Facebook. Before that, Twitter. Today, it’s Pinterest. Today I sit on a social media committee of the National Speakers Association(NSA). I’ve been asked to deliver a series on simple but effective social media tips—applicable to business and professional speakers. Because blogs and an important component in a social media (or any) marketing mix, my first tip was delivered from the sunny beach of San Diego and focused on blogs. Whether or not you blog, I think you’ll find the post and use of video as a social media tool to be interesting. Enjoy.
Enjoy this social media tip and the digital marketing advice and tools provided in these regular updates.

Digital Marketing & Social Media Tip of the Week w/Allan Karl

Digital Marketing & Branding Strategist with clearcloud digital and Keynote Speaker WorldRider

This Social Media Tip provided for the National Speakers Assocation ePEG Social Media Group

March 1st, 2012 | Good Juice, Mac My Day, Marketing & Messages

After Ten Years – Time To Change – New Design Coming

The highly anticipated iPad 3 will be released on March 7, 2012 in San Francisco

iPad 3 Media Announcement

This year The Digital Tavern – For The Sake of Clarity – celebrates its 10th birthday. It’s fun to look back at the old posts still archived here. Nobody knew what a blog was back when I started this exercise. Today, some might argue that blogs provide more accurate news and commentary than the old school media. For me, The Digital Tavern is a great creative outlet. And though I’ve lapsed on consistent updates, this tavern has a place in my heart.

But like most ten year olds, The Tavern is growing up. And soon there will be more changes. It’s funny. The digital tavern has only undergone one major makeover in 10 years. The most recent just in 2008. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to shoot photography at the great Oregon Brickhouse Estate — which makes some of the best pinot and chardonnay on the west cost. But it’s the Brickhouse vineyard and its iconic classic red pickup that graces the design of this blog–and a reminder that in life there are truly no strangers, only friends you haven’t met.

We’ll update the Tavern later this year. But you don’t have to wait for design updates. Because next week one of the most anticipated updates in modern product marketing will be revealed. And I love the the simplicity of the media announcement, which I share here for your pleasure.

December 27th, 2011 | Travelogue, WorldRider

Going to South America

This is a quick update that I am doing via my iPhone using Siri. For some of the words may not exactly get translated. But I’m sitting here at Dallas Fort Worth international airport awaiting for a flight to Argentina. I will be joining my friend Rob Rill and going to Argentina, Chile and Peru. Rob is competing in the legendary Dakar rally race.

I will be blogging on this website and my world rider website. I look forward to sharing video, photographs and stories about this grueling but in credible and impressive race.

Last year some 400 cars started the race. Only about 30 to 40% of those who start finish. So once again this is a race that my friend only hopes to finish let alone the wind. That is, to win is to finish. I will be landing early tomorrow morning in Buenos Aires in Argentina and I will be updating from my travels down there.

I am not actually racing in the race car, but I will be joining the assistance route as a press official.

I look forward to reporting from the travels in South America once again I look forward to visiting the compliment that grab my heart just a short few years ago while I rode through there on my motorcycle.

October 28th, 2011 | Creative Pursuit, Culture, Inspiration

The Baseball That I Remember


As a boy growing up in a Connecticut suburb of New York City, nothing mattered more to me than baseball. My father, my brother Bob, my grandfather, my uncle, my other brothers — all of us passionate about America’s pastime. Perhaps before I was swayed by those passions that emerged and strengthened as I grew older, like girls, music and photography, nothing mattered more than the New York Mets, my little league and Babe Ruth baseball teams, and the neighborhood whiffle ball championships that provided our neighborhood with competitiveness that often defines desire to strive to succeed. Rooting for the Mets, I was an outcast among the dominating Yankee fans. I believed. And I still dreamed.

As the years passed, dreams of baseball faded: the great baseball strike of 1981; the era of Steinbrenner buying championships; the sad cancellation of the 1994 World Series— the result of yet another player strike—to me baseball was no longer America’s pastime. It had turned into big business—business built on and profited from the dreams of young American boys. The bad taste in my mouth from these events still lingers. Where there was once a day I knew every player on every team, and could quote world records for every baseball milestone, the thrill and passion of baseball never returned.

Sure, I love to watch a good game of baseball. And I’m always drawn to an exciting World Series. But Baseball has never been the same for me since those early days of my childhood. And this is sad.

This year’s postseason of baseball captured my attention now and again. Secretly, I hoped the Tigers would have made it to the series. Not because I like the Tigers or have ever liked the Tigers, but with an economy stalling and a city once home to the world’s largest company, I felt that Detroit deserved hope.

This year’s series has been spectacular, from a pure baseball — the game — point of view. Any time any world championship goes down to the line, and where underdogs upset, it’s exciting. Though I must admit, I didn’t care which team won, I do like a good game.

Tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals capped an amazing season what could only be called a miracle, to the chagrin and tearing eyes of the Texas Rangers, and won the 2011 World Series — the 11th time in their long history. I congratulate the team and tip my hat to the city  —  which perhaps deserves hope as much as Detroit.

Yet, what inspired me to write about this tonight is a great story of passion, perseverance and hope. While the high paying recruits and headline grabbing players certainly played great ball and contributed to a fantastic win for the Cardinals, it was a local boy that really captured me and my imagination: David Freese. As a young boy who grew up in the shadows of the St. Louis ballpark, and always a good player, he gave up on the game several years ago because he’d lost the passion. He gave up on a baseball scholarship and began to pursue other interests.

It didn’t take long, but Freese returned to baseball—because he did miss playing the game.

Wow! He sure played the game of baseball this year — especially in the post season — like nobody else. He lived the dream. Playing for the team that he rooted for since he was a little kid. Tonight he walked away with the MVP award for the 2011 World Series. In many ways Freese was an underdog, perhaps overshadowed by bigger names on the ball club. But he’s a local boy — doing what he loves—because he loves the game—not because it’s what he’s paid to do.

Watching Freese accept his MVP award tonight was a humbling moment to watch. And for a moment, I stepped back in time and relived, albeit briefly, the ideal and the reason why I loved baseball—once America’s greatest pastime.

Congratulations David, you’re the man!

October 24th, 2011 | Creative Pursuit

iPhone 4S Siri – Meet Your Digital Assistant

iPhone 4S Siri - Meet Your Personal Digital Assistant

The Apple iPhone 4S may not look like a new phone, but the power is within. I put iPhone Siri Digital Assistant, now a crucial part of the iPhone 4S through its punches and converse, command and chat with Siri.

Siri can be your personal digital assistant. In this video I speak in common language proving that there’s no need to use a command language or to learn how to control virtually every aspect of the basic operations of the iPhone 4S with simple voice commands.

This is the second in my quick reports on the Apple iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4S Siri Digital Personal Assistant. Check out the video for complete information.

 

Here are a few highlights of the iPhone 4S Siri Digital Assistant

  1. You can use normal language and are not required to use a preset list of voice commands. That is you don’t need to say “yes,” you can say “sure,” or “okay.”
  2. There is no need to use multiple steps on many commands, such as text message. Simply say “send text message to my brother, dude I’m running late see you in 15.” Siri will ask you which brother if you’ve ‘informed’ her that you have several brothers and will compose the email complete with text.
  3. You can set alarms within the next 24 hours: “Set alarm for 7:30.” The alarm will be set for the 7:30am if you set this after 7:30pm etc.
  4. While Twitters is well integrated into iOS5, you can’t ask Siri to “Tweet this”
  5. Siri will compose emails and ask you for the subject, then the message. But Siri will not be able to review your message, like she can with text messages.
  6. Ask Siri to “read me messages” will have her read your text messages.
  7. You can ask Siri to find email messages from my brother and she will display a result of all email messages from your brother that are in the inbox.
  8. Showing your appreciation with Siri will prompt interesting responses.
  9. Telling the iPhone 4S Siri Digital Personal Assistant that “I Love You’ will make you smile when she responds. Watch the video to see what happens when you tell the iPhone 4S Siri Digital Assistant “I Love You”.

There’s so much more, so watch the video and get your own “Siri” and play with her yourself  :lol:

 

If you haven’t watched my unboxing video or checked out the gallery of sample iPhone 4S Camera images or HD video, please check them out.

Please comment on this post with your own Siri or camera experiences. Feel free to include links, pings, trackbacks etc. so we can all share our experiences with the iPhone 4S Siri Digital Assistant.

October 20th, 2011 | Creative Pursuit, Mac My Day

iPhone 4S Camera & Sample Photos / Images

iPhone 4S Camera: Samples & Siri Digital Assistant

Have you checked out the new iPhone 4S camera? Just about a week after the phone became available, I was happy to see the FedEx guy walk up to my door and hand me my new iPhone 4S. For the last few hours I’ve been putting it through the punches and testing both the Siri digital assistant and the new highly touted iPhone 4S Camera. Check out the silly unboxing video here.

After restoring my previous iPhone settings, Apps, images and more, I was disappointed that my WiFi password wasn’t retained and a few of my email passwords need to be re-entered.

I’ll do a video this weekend of my experience with Siri the iPhone 4S digital assistant. In short, I’m blown away and will find this extremely useful, especially when I’m on the go.

The iPhone 4S Camera

It’s the iPhone 4S camera that I was eager to test and generate sample photos. I met my friend Rob for a coffee a few hours after receiving the camera, then on my way to my next meeting I stopped at the local grocery store and then to the beach. I’m happy to share some of those test images here. Most of these images were taken using the HDR feature of the iPhone 4S camera. I also played a bit with the zoom, variable focus points and some iPhone 4S HD video as well.

These sample photos are right of the new iPhone 4S camera. It was a very grey and gloomy, if not eerie day today. So lighting is flat and you won’t see much shadow detail except on the interior shots. Check them out and comment or ping me back with you sample iPhone 4S photos. Not sure if they made the grade, but on a handful I used the build in edit function for enhance and one image I cropped (of Rob looking at his iPhone) so I post the original and the cropped so you can see the resolution and quality of the iPhone 4S camera.

A note on creating this gallery on WordPress. I used the original full resolution files from the iPhone 4S. Though when viewing them on my Mac, the auto rotation or image orientation was correct. But the original files uploaded didn’t inherit the orientation. Especially troubling is that the default orientation of using the iPhone 4S camera is with the volume buttons down. However, to take advantage of the new shutter trigger, it’s commonly accepted to have the shutter release on the top and to the right. Images I took using the volume button as shutter release imported upside down, requiring me to rotate all those images online. Those images I took using the usually “screen” shutter release were oriented fine. I would think that the images should retain the proper orientation when using the iPhone 4S camera with the volume button (up volume or right button) when imported to your desktop or mobile device. I’ll continue to experiment with this. If you have any thoughts please share them in the comments here.
Click on the images for full-size resolution. I guarantee you’ll be amazed. So check it out!)  The quality of the iPhone 4S camera is stunning no question. Also, because I chose to shoot in HDR mode, there are some blurring effects in some of the images.

Please note that clicking these images will open a full-size 5 megapixel image in a lightbox. You can click through each of the images, but they are very large and may take up your whole screen depending on how you are viewing these. Simply hit escape to get out!

Here is a sample unedited HD video taken with the new iPhone 4S camera.

Sample HD Video taken with iPhone 4S Camera

October 3rd, 2011 | Creative Pursuit

Social Media Faux Pas – Direct Message New Twitter Followers

DM from Twitter Bad Decorum

Don’t Send Automatic Direct Messages To New Twitter Followers

Okay. I’m getting on my soap box. Watch out! But for a good reason. After more than 200 times, I’m fed up. If you’ve done it, you’re alienating and abusing your followers.

Why is it that Twitter users feel so compelled to auto respond to new followers? Usually when I get the annoying direct messages that are clearly generated by bots and have no personality and are so transparently promotional, I usually brush it off as reasonable because I naively believe that the Twitter user set up the auto-reply before anyone was seriously using Twitter.

But things have changed. There’s no excuse anymore.

Today I decided to follow an excellent travel photographer whose work is stunning and creative (though looking through his portfolio of primarily buildings, scenics and still lifes; read: barely any people so perhaps social skills aren’t his/her forté) I just can’t imagine someone this good would resort to something so transparently indulgent and self-serving. Have I ranted enough? Not that I care, but there was no auto-follow of my Twitter account, clearly an indication of something, wouldn’t you say?

Okay. I’m done with the photographer. I apologize for isolating this particular Twit(terer), because fact is, this happens once a week or so. Thank god not as often when I first started tweeting back in 2007.

Word to the wise and less initiated, it’s okay to make mistakes and learn by doing so. But you don’t need to thank every new follower, publicly or through direct message (DM). Really, you don’t. And if you feel so compelled to use the Direct Message, which is a right one earns when a Twitterer decides to follow you, be sure your Direct Message is relevant, earnest and personal. This is social media after all.

Another tip: you don’t need to follow everyone who follows you, either. I watch my new followers before deciding to officially follow them by keeping an active column in TweetDeck that lists my most recent followers. Because I don’t want to miss out on anything, do I?

So if you’re still auto responding to new followers, unplug the thing—will you? It’s intrusive, annoying and bad decorum. If you want, send me a personal message so I know it’s really you. I guarantee you’ll get a warm welcome rather than a raging rant.

September 22nd, 2011 | Creative Pursuit

Around The World Alone — On A Bicycle.

Ok. So you know I traveled around the world for three years alone—on a motorcycle. And I really didn’t see everything. There are still plenty of places waiting for my visit. Or at least I’d like to think so. Truth is, there are a lot of places I’m waiting to visit. But that’s besides the point.

I was in Ethiopia on my motorcycle sometimes in the Spring of 2008. On a desolate stretch of a dusty dirt road between Gondar, Ethiopia and the Sudan border, I ran into to bicyclists from Finland. Though our meeting was short, our time was rich. Sometimes connections are made in seconds, sometimes connections take years to be real. Jukka, then a 30 year old bicyclist with nearly 2 years traveling experience around the world, and I connected.

Three years later he finally makes it to the United States and takes me up on my lifelong offer to put him up and share time here in Southern California.

In August he and another world-riding Finnish bicyclist planeed to rendezvous in Southern California: here in Encinitas at my cottage by the ocean.

Our time was rich again. And we shared stories, photos and great food and conversation. Before these two legends returned to their bicycling journey, I pulled them asisde in my studio for a one-of-a-kind podcast. In this hour-plus long interview I ask the hard questions. And I’m surprised, yet comforted by their answers.

Take the time to listen to Jukka and Lukas discuss traveling, motivation, being away from home and loneliness. I think the insight is inspirational.

[powerpress]

 

Check out their websites for further inspiration, too!

 

Jukka: jukkasalminen.com

 

 

Lukas: safebiking.wordpress.com      

September 18th, 2011 | Creative Pursuit, Good Juice

Corks. Love ‘em. Hate ‘em. You?

Wine corks Spottswoode, Treana, Bedrock Wine Company, Pride Mountain Vineyards

What do you do with your old corks?

What do you do with your old corks?

Like many wine drinkers I do have a love-hate relationship with corks. Like so many crafts, there are some beautifully created corks, and there is a slew of mediocrity. Some years ago I showed up late to a personal  wine tasting at a tony Napa Valley winery. The winemaker explained that our time would be cut short, because she had to catch a flight to Portugal where she would be inspecting corky bark for the next vintage of her wine.

That’s passion. Like the architect or designer who flies to Italy to examine the marble quarry to choose the exact color and vein symmetry of marble for a new building or home, some winemakers are so incessantly passionate about every detail of their wine, or should we call it art. I think so. That’s the difference. Passion and commitment to quality.

Then there are others who are just happy to mull in mediocrity. Some do this because they can’t see or understand the difference. Others simply because the dollar is driving their decisions.

When it comes to corks there is no question of the controversy. First, because cork is once a living thing thing and then harvested to be used as a closure for wine, it is subject to all those natural things that can happen to a living organism. Some corks unfortunately get tainted due to bacteria or other nasty things that only scientists can truly explain. When this happens the taint finds its way into the wine resting in the bottle that is secured by the tainted cork. This is particularly troublesome and disappointing for those who open a bottle of wine they have been saving for many years, only to have their eager anticipation and excitement suffocated by a corked wine.

Some wineries try to do everything to prevent corked wines, even traveling to Portugal and France where they carefully choose the ideal batch of corky bark. That stats on corked wine are also controversial. Perhaps information and misinformation propagated by cork producers, screw top manufacturers, composite cork companies and plastic and alternative closure companies. But some stats show that 10 percent of all wines secured with real cork are tainted by bacteria. That’s a lot of wine.

Do you love corks? Hate corks? Prefer screw tops? Screw caps? Plastic?

Does quality matter in corks?

And that’s why there is such a movement toward screw tops and alternative closures. These alternative solutions get those passionate winemakers, wine collectors and the wine elite into a fervor. Arguing that the porous quality of real cork allows wines to slowly oxidize over time and thereby provide the environment that truly will age and change a wine over its lifespan in the bottle. Others think this is hogwash. Still others are unwilling to change because they feel that a screw cap or other closure takes the romance out of opening a bottle of wine. Perhaps that’s where I fall. But I’m not one to stick to “the way it’s been done for hundreds of years” simply because it has. I guess some people still write real letters and lick stamps and go to the post office. But I’ll bet that they use e-mail too; or text? There’s a time for writing a personal letter and mailing it, for sure. And I still cherish and save in a shoebox stuffed in my closet those letters, old and new. But I don’t get many traditional letters anymore.

I do buy bottles of wine secured by composite corks, screw tops, plastic corks and new-fangled glass stoppers with a plastic or some composite type of o-ring. Virtually every gallon or liter of wine made in New Zealand goes into bottles secured by screw tops. It’s virtually impossible to find one with a cork.

Some will argue that because it takes decades to grow a cork tree, that the environmental consequences of thinning out the cork forests spell doom. I love the redwoods, too. But I believe managed forests and a powerful cork lobby will continue to argue for corks. And I’m sure my friend the winemaker in Napa Valley will find an excuse for a European excursion to examine her corky bark and probably a lot more.

All this is maybe why I have bags of old corks sitting around. I used to save every one. But now I’m picky. I’ll keep the ones that perhaps seem to be of the higher quality, perhaps personally selected by a passionate and committed human being. And that’s something that I admire.

I took the picture used in this post last night. Which corks look like the passionately selected, and which look like they were churned out in a factory?

What do you do with your corks?

August 31st, 2011 | Mac My Day, Marketing & Messages

Apple Slammed With Lawsuits & Apple Slamming Lawsuits On Copycats

I don’t expect that most readers are as interested in the ongoing patent wars that involve Apple, Google, Motorola, Samsung, Nokia and others. But I’ve been following the Samsung conflict with Apple. The issues of the lawsuits and the patent disputes are well beyond any discussion here. For those of you interested feel free to browse the links following this post.

What motivated me today to write this post is a simple graphic that shows Samsugn products before there was an iPhone, and Samsung products before there was an iPad. You be the judge. Do you think that Samsung’s design team was moving in the directions that its current product offering exhibits?

 

Samsung Has No Breath of Innovation And Copies Anyone and Everyone

 

 

Wall Street Journal Article on Apple Suing Samsung

Wired Magazine: Samsung Stop Stealing Our Ideas

Washington Post: Samsung Galaxy Blocked For Sale In Australia

Engadget: Germany Blocks Samsung Galaxy Tab Sale

 

From my point of view, the copying is obvious in this case—based on the images above. While the nitty gritty of patent lawsuits is more than I care to stomach, as many of these are frivolous and simply designed to extort dollars from truly innovative companies and products, when it comes to clear and blatant rip-offs, I get disgusted. In the end, lawyers of losers win, but winners and innovators, I truly hope, prevail.

Look at the photos. What do you think?

August 30th, 2011 | Mac My Day, On Blogs & Blogging

Web Apps, Apple Magic Mouse and Safari Gestures: A Bad Combo

For Mac users that have upgraded to Lion and are using any web-based applications such as Basecamp, WordPress, Tungle or just about any webpage with a form, I’ve got a personal pet peeve.

Apple Magic Mouse Is Much To Sensitive Gesture Multi-TouchI use the Apple Magic mouse. Essentially the surface of this mouse mimics a touch or track pad (taking advantage of the Apple branded Multi-Touch interface), like on a MacBook or the screen of your iPhone or iPad. You can use simple one, two and even three finger gestures to scroll, swipe, zoom and so on. The problem I have with the mouse is it’s just too sensitive. The Magic Mouse sensitivity makes me feel that if I breathe on the mouse my page is going to scroll or I’m going to swipe backward to a previous webpage that I viewed.

I’ve long had issues with the magic mouse and its hypersensitivity. It’s been annoying and sometimes downright frustrating. But like many things in life, I adapt, move on and occasionally mutter a profane slur at the shiny and well designed mouse with its oh so subtle grey Apple logo.

Now, however, I’m almost at the end of my rope. Frustration has turned to anger, annoyance to serious work interference. But I can’t blame it entirely on the mouse and Lion and the ability to swipe, rather than click, back to previously viewed pages. I’ve always had issues with web-based applications—or, for those feature rich and monthly subscription based tools (Basecamp, Salesforce, etc.) that are referred to SaaS (software as a service) applications. We are relying more and more on using the internet and a browser to get our work done.

Problem is, and this is where the mouse comes in, if I’m writing an article, formatting a website page, updating status or messages in my project management app, and my hyper sensitive mouse decides to swipe back a page, I’m screwed. I’ve lose my data. Sometimes I might get luck and the form still contains my content. But that’s an exception, not the norm. WordPress is particularly bothersome to me. Check out the screenshots here. You can see as the page begins to swipe, there are two WordPress page editing forms visible. This happens on a lark. Sure, maybe my lazy finger barely moved to the side, or some other motion. But once the page slides off the page and the previous page is revealed, my content is gone.

Is anyone else experiencing this problem? Used MagicPrefs?

Voila Capture6

To be sure, I don’t often use the WordPress interface to do my writing. I prefer to use traditional writing tools, or a Blog Editor like Ecto or MarsEdit. And as a side note, it should be mentioned that Ecto development has stopped. The forums are stale and there is no response from the new owner of the software. It is not usable under Lion. Makes me sad, too. Used to be THE best blog editor on the planet. I’ve now resorted back to MarsEdit, and am writing this post in the latest update. At least the developer of MarsEdit is keeping current and committed to the continued development and improvement. And for people who don’t want to get caught losing their precious data due to a Magic Mouse swipe and WordPress (or other blog or compatible CMS), get your hands on a trial of MarsEdit and let me know what you think.

But if you’re involved in web design and development, or use any of the other SaaS tools, the risk of this volatile combination of Safari and Magic Mouse is high. Though perhaps I can disable that swipe feature, I just haven’t checked.

To be fair, Safari warns you in some instances that by moving the page (even accidentally) you will lose data and it gives you the option to stay on that page. Problem is, every time I select Stay On This Page, I just end up with a blank page and the spinning page load icon.

I like the ability to use gestures on my desktop Mac. I don’t particularly like Apple Magic TrackPad, either. The mouse is too sensitive. So until this is ironed out, I’m going to be annoyed and frustrated and likely uttering profanity whenever I must succumb to using a web-based app.

August 17th, 2011 | Inspiration

Wake Up & Smell The Coffee Beans

Does Starbucks Recommend Excessive Amount of Ground Coffee for Brewing?

My love for coffee started at an early age. That is, I loved coffee ice cream. With all the flavors in the world, I was consistent and always chose coffee ice cream.

These days I don’t eat much ice cream, though wandering through the hilltop towns of Tuscany I am easily persuaded to indulge in a scoop or two of gelato. Yum.

It wasn’t until many years later did I acquire the taste for a good cup of coffee. And I mean good. You see, my dad loved coffee. But back then, I learned many years later, he had it all wrong. His morning ritual was instant or freeze dried coffee. Sanka. Or was it Nescafe. I can’t really remember. In just a generation the taste buds and expectations of coffee drinkers have changed dramatically. While my dad’s tastes have evolved he still can’t get over the $2.00 cup of coffee. I don’t know, perhaps that was the cost of a whole jar of instant ‘back in the day.’

The first cup of coffee I ever truly indulged in was poured by one of my first bosses once I graduated college and migrated to California. “Here’s your first cup of coffee,” Glenn, a husky built mid-westerner said as he placed the cup on my desk. He assumed I liked coffee and would start my day with a fresh cup. “And that’s the last cup of coffee,” he quickly chirped, “that I’m every going to make for you.”

So my path to addiction began. I discovered espresso and cappuccino before Starbucks opened a store in Orange County. The french bakery store next to the post office where I retrieved mail from my P.O. Box became a regular stop. It was nice too. On my motorcycle I would be forced to simply enjoy the cup of coffee and slowly ease into the day. Those rushing about and eager to jump into traffic would grab their cup to go and head into the wild. I’d sit and watch and learn.

These days I grind fresh beans and use a french press to brew my morning coffee. After a late Tuesday evening (saw ex-Blasters guitarist and legendary songwriter Dave Alvin play at the Belly Up Tavern in Solano beach last night) I woke to an empty canister of coffee. No beans. Uh oh!

A short drive to my local Starbucks and I picked out a pound of the Caffé Verona, a bold blend inspired by the Italian espresso. With the morning line nearly out the door at the Starbucks and my battery dead on my iPhone, I killed the waiting time by reading the small print on the bag of coffee beans. When I noticed that Starbucks recommends “two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.” I wondered how much I used in my daily pot of french press. I do prefer a strong cup of coffee and choose bolder beans or blends over those that are more mild.

My french press holds about 30 ounces of water. If I follow Starbucks recommendations, I would need to use 10 tablespoons of ground coffee in order to come up with what Starbuck’s would agree were acceptable results for a brewed cup of coffee.

With new beans loaded in the grinder, I ground up about the amount of coffee I usually do in the morning and then measured the ground coffee. To be sure, I always eyeball and approximate the time for grinding. I use a grinder that stores beans above the grinding mechanism and uses a timer that winds and spins down and shuts off when the cycle is complete.

Guess what? I seem to use about five (5) tablespoons (maybe sometimes six) of coffee to brew my morning french press pot of coffee. That’s 50% less than Starbuck’s recommends. Believe me, my coffee is not weak. My recent guests here at my cottage commented on the strength of my morning coffee.

I understand that Starbucks needs to sell coffee. I’m not sure what percentage of its business comes from the sale of beans (at its stores and in grocery stores), but I can’t help thinking that this is a tad excessive. I wonder if they use this same measure for brewing standard drip coffee at its stores? Does coffee brewed using a french press require the same amount of ground coffee as a drip coffee maker?

What about you? What kind of coffee do you brew at home and how do you measure beans or ground coffee?

August 10th, 2011 | Inspiration, Social Media & Marketing, Speaking & Speakers

Can Social Media Be A Bridge To True Connections & Real Relationships?

Can Social Media Relationships Be A Bridge To Something More Meaningful?

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile - Are Your Social Media Relationships Superficial?

Last week I attended the NSA (National Speakers Association) national conference in Anaheim. This was the second consecutive year I attended the event and though this year’s program was much different, I came out of the conference energized and excited.

As I mentioned last year, the spirit of the professional speaker community is refreshing. Speaking professionals are eager to help and share with each other and there is no sense of competitiveness, other than harmless boasting. Though it’s a long standing joke that the boasting is exaggerated.

Hey, but at least there’s boasting. And lots of smiles. Given the weeks leading up to the conference much of the media and conversations around the watercooler and the tables at Starbucks has been about the government and our national debt, it was also refreshing to find a group of people so upbeat, motivated and smiling. Then again, I would expect nothing less than a group of motivational and inspirational speakers.

To be sure, the speaking industry, which is tied closely to the meetings/conventions and professional training industries, has been hit hard and has been extremely slow to recover, like the rest of the economy. There are fears that these industries must face the unwanted reality that the business will never be the same.

It’s not only the economy that is disrupting the industry. It’s also transportation and technology. For starters, air travel is more difficult and time consuming than ever before. It’s also more expensive. Hosting a meeting in Hawaii, Vegas or elsewhere interrupts business, which is also speeding by at a much faster rate than before, is more difficult and costly.

Groups can meet virtually through tech tools that make collaboration simple, easy and cost effective, such as GoToMeeting, WebEx, AvayaLive and Fuze. Also, many speakers are offering free and bonus content through teleseminars and webinars. Enhanced content is also available for a nominal fee. Even better, for these programs attendees don’t need to watch or listen in real time. Often the content is “evergreen” and available for online or offline viewing at a later date.

Speakers that aren’t leveraging their proprietary content and new technologies are going to be challenged to increase or even maintain their business. Then there is social media. Many concurrent sessions at the NSA conference focused on the use of social media to create awareness, brand or drive traffic and generate leads. For those that get it, like the many that were tweeting tips, news and happenings around the conferece, this is a no brainer. But judging by the glazed look in many of the eyes of the attendess I saw roaming the halls between sessions, this is a major challenge to professional speakers.

While I am a huge fan and user of technology and have embraced and followed social media trends and technology since 2001, I can’t help but think that in a business where professional speakers, trainers and coaches are hired to connect with people—to help them lead, think, sell, grow and be more inspired, motivated and productive—is moving further and further away from truly connecting. We are being distanced by technology while at the same time getting more productive by using these tools.

What is the likely outcome? Well beyond the professional speaking profession, relationships are distancing too. We now follow, friend or become fans. And we court relationships looking to be followed, friended or attract fans. But are these social media relationships real? True?

What is happening is there is a hole growing in society; an emptiness that is causing us to yearn for personal connection—with people. As human beings we cannot survive on virtual relationships alone. Professional speakers, trainers and coaches can repurpose their content and package their expertise for consumption online, but I’ll guarantee effectiveness will wane. We need to connect. Especially in our technological and fast-paced personal and business lives, when we do connect and create real relationships, these will be much stronger and more important.

Look at how online dating has expanded the universe for the single and the lonely. But the successful relationships that result from online dating are nurtured and grown away from the screen of computers and mobile devices. I believe that social media and fan, friend and follower relationships can be a bridge to a more meaningful and real relationship—whether that’s in business or in the personal lives of people. And if we are committed to building true customer, business and personal relationships, all of us will need to change the way we’re looking at and using social media.

So the next time you log into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ don’t be afraid to cross the bridge and truly connect with someone. When you do, you’ll find something special and you will feel better and whole.

Ping Ping

July 26th, 2011 | Mac My Day

Mac OS X Lion. 10 Important Impressions After One Week.

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I jumped in head first. I bought the latest update to Apple’s OS X operating system the day it was released. Though this can be a risky move because OS X 10.7 (aka Lion) is a major upgrade and, as such, incorporates a number of dramatic changes to the code as well as the staple applications that make up Apple’s operating system. Plus, the chances are high that some of the software installed on my computer will not be compatible with the new system.

macm I didn’t have a life jacket either. I reasoned the change was worth the risk. I might have problems, and these problems would take time to solve, time that I need to put toward client work and other projects. I was confident, though, in my gamble.

Today, after one week of using the new system, I’m happy to report my initial impressions. If you haven’t made the upgrade yet, I share with you some things to look out for as well as some thoughts on the fundamental changes Apple made to the way we will interact with our machines in the future.

— Installation —

1) Download Only. No Install Disk

201107262157.jpgThere is no install disk. You must purchase the system update from the Mac App store. If you never upgraded to OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) you’ll need to purchase and install this first.

I found that after purchase, download and restart that Lion didn’t simply install automatically for me. Perhaps because I have several start-up items and there was a dialog box that waited for my response. No problem. In my applications folder I found the installer titled “Install OS X” and launched that and the installer performed the operation flawlessly and quickly. Total time about 1hour after download.

2) SpamSieve Users Beware

201107262158.jpgIf you are using SpamSieve, the client-side email SPAM filter for Mac OS X and mail.app watch out. SpamSieve works as a plug-in to Mail.app and through the software update had already updated. However, during the install process that plugin is deactivated. The problem with this is that the mail “rule” that SpamSieve uses to filter and then file all mail it rates as “JUNK” or “SPAM” somehow is changed so that the rule reads after install “File All Mail As Spam (or Junk).” Imagine my surprise after OS X 10.7 Lion updated the Mail.app database, that all of a sudden I was receiving no mail. That’s right. All of my mail was marked as SPAM and filed in a SPAM folder.

The fix is easy. Just launch the SpamSieve app from the application folder and restart Mail. For most people this might be a minor inconvenience, but for this user with several mailboxes and a very heavy volume of mail, it took a couple hours to sort through the SPAM folder and find the real mail.


— Operational Changes We Must Get Used To —

3) Scrolling. What’s Up is Down and What’s Down is Up.

201107262200.jpgIf you haven’t already heard, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion has changed the scrollbars and the way we scroll. Taking a cue form iOS (the system running iPhones and iPads) to scroll down a page you must gesture or scroll up. While Apple is quick to note that the metaphor it uses with this logic is that of a piece of paper on your desk if you push it with your fingers up then you’ll see more of the text that is written on the bottom of the page. To those of youwho’ve been using Macs or PCs for years and are accustomed to the opposite, this is really not new. I don’t expect many of your to remember, or even have used in the past, typewriters, But in the old days of typing, when a piece of paper is inserted into the machine (carriage) the move to advance the paper would be a push of the paper advance upward—just like Mac OS X 10.7 and just like your iPad or iPhone apps.

It’s the use of one, two, three and four fingers in various combinations (what Apple calls gestures) that represent the biggest changes to the new operating system. Scrolling is the biggest.

4) Horizontal Moves. Scrolling

I was boggled that the familiar right and left arrows on the Safari browser tool bar were more or less muted, or provided less contrast than in the past. Accustomed to moving back to review web pages previously viewed and forward again to the “current” page, I wondered why Apple dumbed down the interface and stripped out much of the contrast and contour. That is until I realized that a simple swipe right would take me to the 201107262153.jpgprevious page, and another and another. Swiping left would bring me back. This is absolutely an incredible advancement to web browsing.

However, if you have been a mouse user and haven’t upgraded to the newer Apple mice (Magic Mouse) or have never used a laptop and Apple’s TouchPads and therefore haven’t had a true experience with Apple’s Multi-touch surface, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Or perhaps you’re like the several friends of mine who I just learned did not realize that sculling and other gestures can be done using this multi-touch surface. It’s time you take a break and understand that things are getting much easier.

I have a Magic Mouse. And I have a MacBook Pro with a Multi-Touch surface. I also have a Magic Trackpad. All of these can be used with Apple’s Multi-Touch Gestures. There’s no reason to use scroll bars anymore. Hasn’t been for a few years. But now with Lion, the gestures (like those we use on the iPhone and iPad) have come to our desktop and portable computers. And the best implementation is this ability to swipe back and forth through webpages.

5) Exposé & Spaces. Gestures & Mission Control

201107262151.jpgOne of the coolest features of Leopard and Snow Leopard is the ability to have multiple desktops. Apple calls this Spaces. It’s a remarkable cure for screen clutter and it helps those of us with multiple monitors manager our ‘screen real estate.’ But like Gestures, many Mac users don’t leverage the productive advantage that Spaces offers. I don’t blame them, because it hasn’t been very well implemented or easily understood. With Lion however, and the use of Gestures, I’m confident those who’ve blown off using Spaces will take another look. More on this in a bit. The other features that perhaps has been more widely used in the previous operating systems is something Apple calls Exposé. This is simply a quick zoomed out view of all the open windows and in-use applications. If you’re like me, I have 10-15 applications open at all times. Navigating through these and finding the right window or application you need can be daunting. In the past tapping the F19 key brought a zoomed out view of everything ‘active’ on your computer. Simply point to the window you want current and the system zooms that window forward.

Exposé became more complicated with users leveraging the previously mentioned Spaces. So Apple, in many ways, blended Exposé and Spaces together and made it easier and more intuitive to interact with both by using Gestures. Now simply use three fingers and push up on your Multi-Touch device. This brings up Mission Control. You can access this through your Applications folder or your Dock as well. Not only will Mission Control show you what current applications and windows are open on your current “Space” it allows you to move them to other spaces and vice-versa.

There is one oddity in Mission Control, however, and that’s the concept of Dashboard. I’m not exactly sure what this Dashboard is, other than in the past where previous Apple systems allowed the use of mini-applets (or Widgets) for common quick tasks such as Weather, Dictionary, Stock Quotes and more. However, I can’t help but think this Dashboard Widgets are old and in the way. Let’s move on.

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6) Launchpad.

Not much to really say about this new Lion App other than it brings the look and easy of use to launching applications that we’ve learned from the iPhone and the iPad. Simple layout grid of all your applications. Organized by pages that you can swipe with gestures or click through with your mouse. I haven’t spent much time using it as I have grown comfortable with my Dock, especially since it’s available at any time regardless what Space or App I’m using. This could change. Check with me in a month or two.

7) Full Screen Apps.

201107262149.jpgOne of the big features Apple is hawking and the Mac Bloggerati raving about is Full Screen Apps. To be sure, because the new OS X Lion system is so new, many developers haven’t had a chance to implement the advanced features into their Apps. So to truly understand the relevance of such features requires a “wait and see” attitude. But Apple has been working. The Apps included in OS X Lion such as Mail as well as its suite of productivity Apps, iWork, are taking advantage of these new features. At question is just how useful is this “Full Screen” capability? I’m not sure. Yes. In the earlier days of the PC wars when Microsoft Windows was shoveling dirt on the grave of the Apple Mac, I found that the interface among different PC apps were different. There were some full screen Apps. Yes. The menus were in different places and it became difficult to move from one App to the next. The Apple OS has always managed to keep a tight grip on the user interface. As such, menus are comfortable, recognizable and intuitive. With the advent of a fullscreen App capability I only hope that the door doesn’t open to confusing interfaces. The full screen mode has already been available in iWork’s Pages app, but with OS X Lion we now have full screen Mail. Does this help me? Not really. I guess on a single screen system and portables the ability to view only one app and focus is good. But didn’t we have that features with “Hide Others” in many previous OS’s? Let’s wait and see how useful this feature is.

8 ) Resume & Autosave

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Two of the features that perhaps have been available as ‘plus-ins’ or 3rd party apps are AutoSave and Resume. I like these. Briefly, these new OS X Lion features mean that those Apps that are leveraging the new features will save versions automatically. You don’t need Time Machine to go back in time and if your system somehow crashes, you won’t be dreaded the angst of lost time. And Resume is simply a great feature that brings your desktop, screen and just about anything you were working on back to life the next time you reboot your computer. Of course, these features are user controllable so if you don’t like autosave or resume, simply set them accordingly.

I’m to going to get into other features like the Lion Server or AirDrop because i haven’t used them. I do want to briefly note some things that I’m not yet comfortable with.


— Outside My Comfort Zone. Things that Aren’t Better in Mac OS X Lion —

9) Mail.

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- Search.

Have you tried the search in mail? I was just reading a productivity expert who espoused the fact that there’s no need to organized archived mail into folders or whatever scheme a user is comfortable. Just file it off the server, the expert said. “With the power of search you don’t need to keyword, tag or file mail into specific folders.” I thought that is a great concept. I have dozens of folders and painstakingly try to keep my mailbox (Inbox) clean and file those messages that might be important to me later. So the concept of just moving from server (IMAP) to a generic folder seems great. Then I tried the new search function in Apple OS X Lion. In the previous version I could simply type a search term and the system would give me the option to search for that term in: 1) the subject; 2) the To field; 3) the From field or; 4) Sent Mail; 5) Current Mail box or 6) ALL (the entire message). Cool

Well that seems to have changed as the options I see available are 1) Inbox; 2) Drafts; 3) Sent; 4) Notes or 5) Flagged. Granted I have options to search specific Mailboxes with each of these (I have 4 email addresses and all coming into Mail so it’s nice to have this feature) However, I might want to search only the From field or To etc. What happened Apple? Searching mail has become less useful than before.

- What happened to bounce?

There used to be a menu item user message that would allow you to simply bounce a message back to the sender. This was a great features that I used often when people mistaking sent me a message when they intended to send it to another. Saved me time from saying hey dude, wrong guy. I don’t have time to send heath onto f these guys a personal message. The bounce would at least alert a sender that his email didn’t go through. Sure, some people wouldn’t even bother replying or ‘bouncing’ the mail. But I feel it’s the right thing to do. Especially since some of the messages are often very personal. The new version of Mail in OS X Lion doesn’t have the Bounce option. Not sure why not.

-Contextual Menu – To Do?

One of the great features of the integrated Address Book, Mail application and iCal was the ability to quickly set a To Do item based on an email message. Viewing an email message in Snow Leopard (and Leopard) I could control-click (or with the Magic mouse Right-click) and set a To Do for the Mail Item. This would allow me to set alarms and add notes etc. This was incredibly useful as I didn’t need to go to the iCal app and create a To Do item. Now with the new Mail.app in OS X Lion I cannot set a To Do from a simple contextual menu command on an email message. This is a step backward in my opinion. Apple seems to think “Flagging” and email with multiple colored flags is more important and seems to have sacrificed the To Do feature for the Flag waving feature. Come on Apple! Bring back the To do!

10) Command-Tab Application Selection

Remember, I’m running many applications concurrently when I work on my Mac. The best quick key (or keyboard shortcut) for selecting and chaing the current active application has always been through the keyboard combination of command-shift. And by lifting your finger off the shift key and then selecting the shift key in sequence a user can progressively select the next application. Release the keys and that application comes to front. If you found yourself confused and looking for the desired application and simply lifted your finger off the tab key and then pressed it again and held it there, the selection indicator (an outline around the application icon) would simply continue to move and move and move. On and on. With the new OS X Lion Apple has figured this out and at the end of a sting of many applications the selector indicator just rests at the last application. I think this is a good enhancement, albeit very obscure.

These are just a few of my immediate observations on the new Mac OS X Lion (10.7) operating system. I’m excited about Lion and look forward to seeing how things operate in the next month or two. Check back as I will periodically share further notes and observations.

In the meantime, what have you noticed that is helping you? Or what don’t you like?

July 21st, 2011 | Creative Pursuit, Inspiration

The Most Precious Gift.

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Those who know me well have heard me say this time and time and again. The most precious gift you can give anyone is your time. Likewise, time is the most precious thing someone can give you.

Simple, right? Yet sometimes the idea and value of giving and receiving time is forgotten or unrecognized. Think about it.

Of all the things you value in life virtually everything, within reason, is unlimited. You can always make more money, buy more flowers or get more food, wine or followers or friends on Twitter or Facebook. But time? It’s a rare gem that should be coddled and used wisely.

Nobody has a crystal ball. But if you live beyond 80 years old, you’ll have lived about 30,000 days, or abut 700,000 hours. That’s it.

No need to dwell about this, it’s a simple fact. And it’s a reminder that when you’re fretting about finding the right gift for a loved one, or trying to figure out just what to give your team, assistant or staff for a holiday or birthday, think about giving them the most precious gift you have: your time.

Do think they would appreciate your time more than a bouquet of flowers, box of chocolates or, good lord, a gift card? When a friend is down or in need would a phone call or get together over coffee or a drink be better than a sympathy card or an email? Think about it.

It’s about time. And it’s about time we all recognize and share our most precious gifts.

Take the time and make the time. You can.

July 16th, 2011 | Mac My Day

Vintage Steve Jobs

201107160009.jpgI was happy to find that Gizmodo reprinted (posted) an interview from Playboy Magazine with Steve Jobs from sometime in the mid-1980steve-jobs-young.jpg ‘s. I guess there is some controversy as to the actual date of the interview. Suffice to say this interview took place just before Steve Jobs turned 30 years old. It won’t take long, but you will see that his vision and his idealogical mind was well formed and, I have to admit, outpaced any other company or visionary at the time.

Take a moment and read the interview.

July 13th, 2011 | Creative Pursuit, Marketing & Messages

The Ethics of PR, Freelancers and The Media

Ever read David Pogue? You know, the New York Times leading techno-geek. Yeah, the guy who reviews all the cool gadgets that you’d like to toy with if you like toys and are equally geeky, or the gadgets you will run backwards away from holding your index fingers in a cross as if you’re warding away the devil or your self-inflicted demons. You either love Pogue, or you’d wish he’d go away. But he’s here; he’s there at the New York Times.pogue.jpg

Did you know he’s a freelancer? I’m not sure if the Times is just trying to keep costs in check so they don’t have to pay his social security, unemployment insurance or any benefits for that matter. Or maybe it’s Pogue who wants to enjoy a bit of liberty. Not sure.

If it was the latter, then Pogue’s plan backfired. He’s become so ubiquitous when it comes to the New York Times tech reporting that even as a freelancer he must abide by the Times code of ethics (TOE) or as so love in the tech world, perhaps, Terms of Service (TOS).

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For those of you in the PR, advertising and marketing industry you know in detail how the business of public relations, big business public relations, works. You pitch. This isn’t Roy Halladay kind of perfect pitching, but if you listen to Pogue he might tell you how you can pitch like Roger Clemons—that is, with a little help.

Seems that Pogue spoke recently at a PR industry conference. His speech, entitled “Pitch Me” afterwords was repurposed as a downloadable video (you’d have to pony up $179 to see it). In his speech he tells PR professionals how to pitch him, and others like him. He provides, according to Art Brisbane of the New York Times, information on the dos and don’ts. He also admits that the majority of his stories and reviews come from pitches by professional PR people.

When the New York Times got ahold of this they yanked the cord on the sales of the video and slapped handcuffs on Pogue preventing him from every speaking at an event where PR professionals pay to attend. Pogue was paid to speak at the event.

To be sure, the modern media, already dealing with shrinking staff, reporters and newsrooms must rely on outside support in order to be current and bring ‘news’ to its readers. That’s where PR professionals can help. But the help is a double-edged sword where one side is trust, credibility and truth and the other is whoever can get my attention, make my job easier and let me get home to be with my family earlier wins. Some big companies pay $250,000/month or more for such PR. The small struggling start-up or hardworking entrepreneur might have a budget of $20,000/month—or less. Who’s going to get Pogue’s attention?

“Save me Time, Don’t Be A Robot.”

David Pogue’s advice to PR professionals pitching him with tech or new product story ideas.

Pogue has been freelancing for The Times for more than 10 years. His ethics and conflict of interest have come to light, or question before.

The Times pulled the plug on Pogue’s recent speech because they say it violated the Times ethics policy. Saying that “Staff members may not advise individuals or organizations how to deal successfully with the news media (thought they may of course explain the paper’s normal workings and steer outsiders to hte appropriate Times person)…They should not take part in public relations workshops that charge admission or imply privileged access to Times people….” But as I said, Pogue isn’t an employee, but because of the fact he’s generally associated as a staff writer for the Times, the publisher felt it was right in its action so to protect the integrity of the paper.

Pogue could be lazy. I don’t know. We all need help. And as a marketing/PR professional I want my best shot. But at the end of the day it’s about the product. Tips don’t only come from PR people. They come in all sizes and shapes and flavors. Imagine if a political journalist only took stories from PR professionals (uhhhh lobbyists?) the backlash would be huge. Certainly my post is a week after the blog floodgates unleashed and pounced on Pogue. But now that the dust has settled, I think it’s time we see some new blood at The New York Times. Sorry, David.

July 12th, 2011 | Marketing & Messages

When Price Is All You Can Sell, Your Value Will Spiral Down the Deep Abyss

Last night over a good glass of wine, food and a dose of marketing and sales brainstorming with a client and friend the conversation headed down the road of fees, costs and pricing. My client has been battling a sales force already battered down by a sluggish economy that wants to make deals or downward adjustments in pricing in order to attract more business. And he was almost willing to give in to the whining and noise of the sales force. I think our conversation helped him realize that there are better ways to compete than simply on price.

When a company makes price the ultimate marketing or sales tactic, it simply diluting its brand and setting itself up to fail. Once a product or service is sold solely because it had the lower or best price, that’s the stake in the ground. All future negotiations with current and new products will always be price driven. With lower prices come lower margins. With lower margins the company is pinched in a way that future innovation, service and products will be compromised.

Worst, in the mind of the customer, you are simply a “go to” for a lower price. Is that what you want?

When companies resist the crying of sales people to cut deals and lower prices and focus on building and creating value, the image in the mind of the customer is much different.

“But we need this customer,” I’ve heard salespeople trying to persuade their managers, “if we just get this one deal, we’ll have a loyal customer,” they’ll reason. But how good is a customer that will only buy from you because you are the low price? Sounds like a relationship that will ultimately go south when another low price company wants to lure and reign in a customer ‘it needs.”

I told my client perhaps the best thing he could do with his salespeople is to announce a new pricing structure—one that has higher prices. If you could’ve seen his expression as he nearly spilled a fine 2001 Napa Cabernet all over my dining room table. I caught the glass, but he didn’t catch my drift—right away.

I explained that he needed to start selling value. “You get what you pay for,” is an adage we all know — and perhaps despise. But it’s true. Instead of lowering prices, how about fixing prices to value? I’m not talking just raising prices for the sake of raising prices. I explained that it’s important to not be the lowest price bidder, but it’s not so bad to be the highest, either, though it’d be better to be in the top third in pricing. In the mind of the client the highest price has a certain draw, or even mystery. Think about it. The price doesn’t have to be so much higher that it’s ridiculous. Rather it should be within 10-20 percent. The customer would likely want to purchase from the high price, but in the name of prudence and discipline, he or she cannot pull the trigger on the high bidder without good reason.

But if the customer pulls the trigger on the low cost bidder and something goes wrong, chances are the cost to recover will be far greater than the difference in price between original high and low bidder. No customer wants to fall into the trap of buying low but losing due to lack of service, quality or delivery. The low price bidder is in a losing position always.

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Whole Foods is a national specialty goods retailer that focuses on service, quality, diversity and unique product availability. When other grocers are publishing weekly sales fliers highlighting steep price discounts, Whole Foods focuses on the customer experience and unique products—value and customer needs over pricing.

Higher fees, pricing or costs do need to be justified. That’s where building a stronger brand and with it value and equity. So the next time your sales team wants to compete based on price, resist the draw to fall into the trap because you’ll fall and keep falling and find extreme difficulty in getting out.

On the other hand, here are a few ways to build value and justify higher costs:

Five Ways Build More Value And Avoid Cutting Product/Service Prices

  1. Bundling. This is nothing new, but instead of deducting dollars off pricing, simply add value by offering a bonus product with purchase, one of your products. Or provide extra value by bundling a suite of products at a discount. Never discount a single product.
  2. Delivery. Free delivery is the rage, but you get what you pay for. Don’t offer free delivery, how about an upgrade from standard (read: long time) shipping to expedited shipping: overnight or two day
  3. Gift With Purchase. The cosmetic and fragrance companies have this down to an art. Sure the aromatic oils costs $500/oz, but look at gifts we’re giving you handbag, lotions, creams, etc. Today the rage is offering a free iPad with purchase on bigger ticket items. But you can offer gift certificates, airline tickets. a discount coupon on future order. All these things keep your pricing standard but provide a promotional angle to lure your customer away from lower priced bidders.
  4. Upgrade. If you have a good, better, best or extra features, support or maintenance packages, use these as a free upgrade so the customer gets more value for the same price. Plus, you tie a customer in tighter to your company and its offerings. And you’ve given the customer something the competition cannot.
  5. Use Loyalty/Affinity Programs. This is a no-brainer. If your product is a recurring purchase for your customers, set up a frequent buyer program and use rewards to thank loyal customers. Another good reason to buy from you. If your product works with other products or benefits from related services, set up affinity programs with partners and other businesses. With the purchase of your product the customer is enrolled in an affinity program that gives them access to discounted products/services. This one requires additional marketing support, but can be a way to build value and differentiate your offering from others. Be creative and establish strategic relationships that provide incentivized cross-selling programs.

Bonus: Five Ways To Sell On Value Without Promotional Consideration

  1. Product quality
  2. Customer Service
  3. Delivery
  4. Access to senior level managers
  5. Customization
  6. …etc.

My client called me after his sales meeting this afternoon. Most of his sales team gets this. Some just don’t, and likely will never understand the importance to holding firm on pricing but working on strengthening the customer relationship and experience through value and commitment. For those, perhaps there are other places in the organization better: perhaps purchasing.

Each company, product, service and individual is different. Key is to look closely at what you have and develop a strong message platform for sales that focuses on value and relationships. With this in place you shouldn’t have to compete based solely on price—ever.

Let me know what your company does to sell and deliver on value, rather than price.

July 6th, 2011 | Creative Pursuit, Inspiration

Everything Must Change–> 20 Reasons Why Change Is Good.

Why is it that so many of us have difficulty in dealing with change? Change comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors. Whether your job has been eliminated, a competitor just outflanked you with a new product, you’ve had a personal loss or rules have evolved as have the way you do things, it’s how you choose to look at and deal with change that matters most.

Fact is, most people feel change will have an immediate negative impact on their life or career.

In communication and language, the word change is often used in a threatening manner. “If things don’t get better, we’re going to make some big changes.’ Or how about, if you don’t change your attitude right now you’re going to your room.” Even when we say, “If he gives up another hit, we’re going to the bullpen and changing pitchers.”

So I beg you to think of change more positively. When we say “This is a game changer,” that connotes something good and positive. And yes, it’s okay to “change” your mind.

Why all this sudden obsession with change? Well, just a few weeks ago I was booked to speak to an industry group. They wanted me to weave a theme about change in the context of my three year around the world motorcycle journey. Our conversation was spirited and my client perhaps was surprised at my passion about this subject. At the time of my journey and through the two years of planning, I was going through an incredible amount of change and transition. syria21.jpg

Another reason I thought I should share is about a change a very close friend is going through. Sadly, his marriage is ending in divorce. This wasn’t an abrupt change. He saw it coming over the past couple years. While he tried to pick up the pieces and put it back together, he recently had to face the sobering reality. My friend is a successful businessman, an accomplished athlete and father to three beautiful children and in many ways a wise old sage who is not shy when sharing his opinion or providing the comfort of an old friend or business consultant. But he’s taking this very hard.

Yes divorce and relationship-ending situations are difficult and very emotional. I find that it does take a strong person to weather such change. And I believe he can. He’s just taking it too hard and being too hard on himself. The transition and change in his life may make no sense today, but I am confident that in time he will find himself in a better place—one without pain or regret.

Though it’s often difficult to see when you’re in the middle of it, change is good. So I thought I’d share a few things about how important change is in business and life. And without getting into an entire treatise on change, change management or transition, I opted for a more simple approach. I hope you enjoy Allan’s 20 facts about change you need to understand. =

20 Reasons Change Is Good For You

  1. Without change, things stay the same and ultimately will stagnate and die.
  2. Most people are afraid of change because it forces them outside their comfort zone. (go there it’s not that uncomfortable)
  3. Without change there is no adventure in life.
  4. It takes much more energy and effort to resist change than it does to accept it.
  5. It’s much easier to embrace change than to fight it.
  6. Since most will resist change, successful people will use this fact to their advantage.
  7. Change is learning. Learning is growing. Growing is living. So live.
  8. When you complain about change, the energy you’re wasting will turn you into a curmudgeon. (is that what you want to be?)
  9. Change is opportunity.
  10. Status quo is boring and gets you nowhere.
  11. Change is exciting and forces you to move.
  12. Change can be scary and uncomfortable only when you look at it that way.
  13. Fear of change is a feeling you can change.
  14. It’s okay to change your feelings.
  15. People resist change because it brings feelings of fear of the unknown.
  16. The unknown will be uncomfortable unless you shift your position.
  17. Change is a harbinger of possibilities.
  18. Everything must change.
  19. When we change we adapt and move forward, when we don’t we move backward.
  20. The weather will change, so don’t worry about it and stop talking about it!

Take a moment to comment on this post and share your thoughts on change and how you’ve been able to adapt and embrace it and move forward.

Photo note: When I rolled into Damascus Syria in May 2008, it was hot and traffic unbearable. I rounded the corner in the hectic downtown area when suddenly my rear tire went flat. I new I’d have to find some shade and get the energy to change the tire or tube. That’s when the manager of a 4 star hotel spotted me and proceeded to roll up his sleeves and help me change my tire. That was perhaps the tire change of my entire trip and I made a friend forever, as did he. Now I look at what’s happening in Syria and hope that both the people and the government can agree that change must happen. Good change must happen there and I’m hoping for the best.

July 2nd, 2011 | Music

Dave Alvin Pleases and Delivers on his 11th Solo Release

I can’t remember how I was turned onto the music of Dave Alvin. I liked the rockabilly and catchy music of the Blasters, the band he and and his brother Phil founded while growing up in the eastern Los Angeles community of Downey. I never saw nor bought any of the roots music recorded by the Knitters, an ambitious alt country/folk project Alvin participated with John Doe, Xene and others from the LA punk band “X”.

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Dave Alvin performing with the Gene Taylor Blues Band at Casbah in San Diego in December 2010.

But all this doesn’t matter. It’s Alvin’s solo career that has captured my attention and turned me into admirer. Not only for his excellent songwriting prowess, but his fine guitar work. At once driving and rocking, and at other times grooving and contemplated, Alvin commands the electric and acoustic six-string instruments like anyone comfortable in their space. A few years back I saw him play a very intimate venue called Acoustic San Diego and have a few videos posted on YouTube from that show.

This past winter I connected with Dave and saw him play the stale beer reeking downtown grunge bar The Casbah in San Diego. Packed into a tiny space that offers about 100 or so fans standing room views of local bands in an intimate if not claustrophobic space. Dave joined with ex-bandmate Gene Taylor, for a series of shows in California in December and January.

But what truly brings me to this music-reflecting post is the release of Alvin’s latest solo album, Eleven Eleven. According to Alvin’s liner notes on the CD (yes, I actually purchased the physical CD) he named the disk largely due to his brief contemplation of numerology. That is, this is Alvin’s 11th solo release, the disk was released in 2011 and there are 11 songs on the disk. Perhaps most interesting, Dave Alvin was born on November 11th. Though this makes me wonder why he didn’t wait to release the album on his birthday this year: 11/11/11. Ahhhh, but this disk is titled: Eleven Eleven.

Moving from the Americana folk-inispired releases of West of the West, King of California and his 2009 disk Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women , Eleven Eleven is a rocking driving and blues-inspired journey into Alvin’s life on the road. From the saucy blues guitar licks of Harlan County to the feedback intro and rhythmic Bo Diddley-esque pounding of percussion that forms the bed for Alvin’s deep resonating vocals and classic story telling on Run Conejo Run, Eleven Eleven doesn’t fail to inspire or satisfy. Sure he pulls back for a few acoustical diversions with Manzanita and No Worries Mija with its heart-felt and whimpering accordion and pedal steel guitar, but the spirit of this release is the driving energy that once help define the Blasters. And for the sake of Nostalgia, Alvin recruits brother Phil to join him on the aptly titled What’s Up With Your Brother.

If you haven’t heard of Dave Alvin or checked into his music lately, take a moment and check out his music. I’m sure there’s something there to satisfy most musical tastes. And if he happens to roll into your area and you have a chance to see him at a dive bar or small venue, you should take advantage of the opportunity to see a true professional whose passion and commitment to his art and craft is evident in every minute of the more than two-hour sweat-building performance he’ll deliver. Maybe I’ll see you there!

If you’re a Bob Dylan fan you’ll be blown away by his version of Highway 61 Revisited, the cut he chose to record for the Uncut Presents Highway 61 Revisited – Revisited songs of Bob Dylan. Check it out.

April 29th, 2011 | Good Juice

There’s Alcohol In That Wine You’re Tasting. How much? Reviewers now drink & tell!

It hit me some years ago when while tasting and reading a bottle of Turley Zinfandel. I nearly dropped the bottle when I realized the alcohol level recorded on the label indicated 17%. That’s nearly port, I thought. Since then the alcohol levels of wines beyond zinfandel have been steadily climbing. So much so that some restaurants and collectors are refusing to offer or consider tasting wines with alcohol levels higher than 15%.

To be sure, some wines at 15 to 16% are very balanced and where I would never guess the alcohol percentage to be so high. Others scream at me “hot”. And that’s offensive. I found a California cabernet sauvignon recently to be listed at 16%. The actual alcohol percentage could be much higher. Ask any winemaker. It’s an ongoing joke that the alcohol level, which must be reported to the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) authorities is often random and nary close to reality.

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Call the fire department, Denner Vineyard’s Dirt Worshipper clocks in at 15.6% alcohol, it’s actually probably closer to 17%!

Why? Because for wines over 14% the authorities permit a tolerance of 1% over or under what’s actually printed on the label. For wines under 14% an even greater latitude is allowed—1.5%. That’s why you’ll see many wines labeled “alcohol 12.5% by volume”— that wine could actually be 14%! To be sure, it is virtually impossible to accurately pinpoint the final alcohol content before bottling, and wine labels are printed well in advance of bottling. Most wines are stored months, or even years before release. During this “aging” period evaporation is likely to occur. So what is the alcohol level of the wine you’re drinking tonight? Don’t rely on the label. It’s likely 1-1.5% or more higher. Most wineries use equipment that is either imprecise (vinometer) or expensive (ebulliometer) to measure wine.

IMG_1003 - Version 2.jpgAs climate change (or global warming) wreaks havoc on farming, the hot climates of Paso Robles, Australia and southern Spain (Priorat) and elsewhere bring about extremely ripe fruit and with it, high levels of sugar. This in turn translates to high alcohol. In the past, winemakers eager to charm and seduce the critics, especially Robert Parker who tends to lean toward heavy, extracted and high alcohol wines, keep pushing sugar levels and use other techniques in an effort to get a high rating. High rating means higher prices and quick turnover in inventory.

So it was interesting to note that the anti-alcohol movement now has publications such as Decanter Magazine and The San Francisco Chronicle now making policy to include alcohol level in critical wine reviews.

“It’s not just a question of the alcohol’s impact on the taste of the wine,” writes Adam Lechmere in Decanter Magazine, “There are also health issues at stake, drink-driving limits to consider, and the simple issue of intoxication.”

Check out the photos of a couple random bottles I pulled from my cellar at home. The bottle of 1994 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon (I know, the cork on this one should be pulled soon) sits at 13.5%. The bottle of the 2008 Denner Vineyards Dirt Worshipper sits at a whopping 15.6%. Even more interesting is that my bottle of Denner received a stellar 97 out of 100 points from the Wine Spectator late last year.

Check out this play-by-play panel discussion at the Word of Pinot Noir wine event held last earlier this year on California’s Central Coast about alcohol levels and balance in Pinot Noir.