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May 8th, 2012 | Creative Pursuit

Is FEAR replacing FREE as the most powerful motivator in advertising & marketing?

With my gift already packed, shipped and on its way to Mom for this weekend’s annual honor for those women that nurtured and raised us, I was surprised and put off by a marketing offer I received this week from big box warehouse giant, Costco. While the e-mail offer highlights “Mother’s Day Flowers with a full-width banner ad, the product that commands all the attention sits under a headline with bolts of lightning through it: “Be Prepared For The Unexpected.” While monster sized and excessive package quantities are not unusual for Costco, it seems that the warehouse giant and Goal Zero are over the top with this survival kit that includes “food for 4 people for 9 months.”

For the big weekend celebrating mothers Costco decides to market a 9-month survival kit? I can imagine the choice of “9-months” must be a hat-tip to mothers, but really?

The ad promoting this “emergency food storage supply” not only commands more ad real estate than anything else on the page, it suggests and positions the product as a an “Escape Power Kit”. Get this, it’s also referred to as a Chef’s Banquet—a full pallet of 36 buckets. Reading the copy as face value, it would appear that in suggesting its customers be prepared, Costco and its vendor partner defines the “unexpected” as an extended getaway or a 9 month escape for 4 people. Escape? Would you like to escape with a pallet of 36 buckets of survival food? Not me.


First, the fact that such a product would be mass-marketed by a leading retailer is scary. I would expect something like this in a fringe publication or website. Have we as a society expressed so much fear—or are so afraid—that we look for products that would allow us to hole up for the better part of a year — just in case? Or, is Costco instilling fear in its customers by urging them to prepare for the inevitable apocalyptic disaster? I do know this, many chef friends would hardly call this product a banquet. Even if you a pregnant mother, do you need to cocoon with others for 9 months?

The more afraid we are, the more likely we will look for solutions to mitigate that fear. During my keynote speeches, I suggest to people in business and personal life, to step outside the comfort zone, take chances and trust—trust themselves and trust others. Fear is the blocker, the party -crasher and parade day storm. When we are afraid, we don’t take chances. We don’t grow, either.

Costco doesn’t care. They seem bent on preying on people’s worries, fears and insecurity. Look deeper into its recent email. Beyond that pallet sized survival kit, Costco throws another whammy: IDENTITY GUARD. That’s right, something else you need to worry about. This product not only targets those afraid someone might walk away with their identity, it throws another punch: “Find out what your creditor’s see.” For a retailer that succeeds by selling army-sized packages of toilet paper, ketchup, cleaning supplies and other products we don’t know we need until we find ourselves wandering aimlessly around warehouse racks while dodging forklifts, it is evident that Costco finds fear as a powerful sales tool. So, be careful!


By marketing these products, the eighth largest retailer in the world, Costco shows it isn’t afraid to try. Costco is taking a chance with these fear-based products. Or does it know something more? Will these products be successful? Or, will Costco fail to reach its sales objectives? Hard to tell. One thing is sure, through its Mother’s Day week email blast, it seems Costco is trying its best to put the fear of god into its customers.

When was the last time you took a chance? Accepted risk? Or, were willing to fail? Fact is, those who are afraid to fail will wallow in some superficial feeling of success — only playing it safe as a method to guarantee that success. Failure is our best teacher. Fear is our worst enemy. Our comfort zone is something we all need to step out of and leave behind—often.

My friend and fellow speaker, Jeff Salz, PhD says in his book “The Way of Adventure” that greatness belongs to those who are unafraid to fail, mediocrity to those who insist on always succeeding.”

Success is measured by how many times you have fallen and failed and got up and tried again. Legendary basketball hall of gamer Michael Jordan says “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”


What are your fears? Let’s try this: face them and embrace them. Take a moment and write down what you are afraid of on a physical piece of paper. Write as many things as you can. Now stand up and read them aloud. When you finish, tear up that piece of paper into as many little pieces as you can and flush them down the toilet. Now go try to do something you’ve never done, eat something you’ve never eaten or call a potential customer you’ve never talked to. It’ll be a lot easier now that you’ve flushed your fears away.

Do this again tomorrow.

March 28th, 2012 | Creative Pursuit

How Pink Slime Caught This Company On The Wrong Side of Social Media.

Why Beef Products, Inc. Was Blindsided By Jaime Olivier, ABC News, Social Media & The Pink Slime Epidemic

Today ABC News ran a follow up segment to its reporting on Beef Products, Inc.and the extra-lean ground beef product it markets, that Jaime Oliver coined as “Pink Slime.” Also today Beef Products Inc. (BPI), who had long been silent about the controversy stirred by Oliver on his ABC program Food_Revolution last April.

Butcher Shop in the Souk In Aleppo Syria

Butcher Shop in the Souk In Aleppo Syria. Would you have an issue purchasing beef products here? Photo by WorldRider

Pink Slime is a process invented by BPI that recovers and removes fat from trimmings and other parts of the cow. It does this by sending the trimmings through a centrifuge and then eliminates any chance of macrobiotic organisms existing such as e coli by treating it with an ammonia gas. Oliver in his charming British accent unleashes several profanities (which gets bleeped out for air on network television) when referring to the the resulting meat product, which gets added to extra-lean ground beef. Later he simply refers to it as Pink Slime.

To demonstrate his distaste for the product and process Oliver takes meat trimmings and pours household ammonia, complete with the skull and cross-bones on the label, onto the meat trimmings and then runs them through a meat grinder. Though he admits he doesn’t know the “formula” for the process, the demonstration is effective. In reality, however, the process used by BPI is 180 degrees from what Oliver espouses to his wide audience on national television. The demonstration is misleading and, in my opinion, unfair.

Though Oliver isn’t the first person to bring the world’s attention to BPI’s process and pink slime, but he’s certainly the most visible. The pink slime moniker was originally given to BPI’s beef by Gerald Zirnstein, a former U.S.D.A. microbiologist in a 2002 e-mail sent to his colleagues. Along with Oliver and with the help of social media and investigative reporting by ABC News, pressure mounted against  major grocery chains, fast food restaurants and schools to identify and label this beef, or stop selling it altogether. This intense pressure let to the top fast-food chains and and grocery stores to decide to stop carrying the product. This week the country’s two largest grocery chains, Kroger and Safeway, announced they would stop selling the beef and Wal-Mart & Sam’s Club will give consumers a choice — meat with or without pink slime. There will be a price difference.

So today in a national press conference, BFI announced that it will temporarily close 3 of the 4 plants that make the so-called “pink slime” and offer its employees full pay for 60 days. Afterward, it believes that consumers will be educated, have a better understanding of the product and then demand will return and it will call these employees back to work.

(Re) Acting Too Late: Classic Public Relations & Social Media Fiasco

Whether or not all the fuss over this treated beef is warranted or not, this case is a perfect example of a company that underestimated the power of social media and ignored the snowballing effect it had on public opinion and its business until it was too late.

At the press conference, Regina Rother, BPI owner and wife of pink slime process inventor, Eldon Roth said it was time the company fought back.  “We got to attack just the way it was generated [the awareness], and that is through that social media world,” Roth confided. “It is not a world I’m particularly familiar with,” she admitted. “I never thought I was going to have to. But it’s out there, it’s how it spread,” Roth realized. “There’s so much misinformation and all we can do is try to arm them with the facts, do it in a rational way, do it in a respectful way.”

As a major supplier of hamburger meat to the largest fast food chains and supermarkets, BPI should have mounted its attack and response long ago. Currently hundreds of jobs are at stake, and if you believe the latest media, the supply of ground beef will shrink and prices will rise.

It’s evident that BPI finally engaged the support of a PR firm and is working hard to dispel the negative perception that has grown since Oliver first poured household ammonia on meet trimmings nearly a year ago. For a company that has a stellar safety record in food processing and according to consumer and industry experts and watch associations, runs the cleanest plants in the business, it’s too bad that BPI didn’t see this coming.

This is a perfect case-study example of a business not prepared and nor engaged in social business and social media. I’m not sure if BPI will ever fully recover or if its employees will return to work any time soon. I do know that last April it should have started an integrated social media and PR program.

Seven Ways Social Media Messages Could Have Helped Beef Products Inc.— A Year Ago*

  1. YouTube. Establish a YouTube Channel and several layers of video content including:
    – Engaging fun video program series that is people oriented that focuses on product safety and health benefits of reducing fat content in meat
    – Produce a very basic science class exploration of its patented process that produces pink slime
    – Create a documentary film that enlists third-party experts from the fields of academia, science, industry and government
    Reposition the name Pink Slime and rebrand it as enhanced or safety meat or something that focuses on the benefit (safe and healthy), not the process. (Note: BPI did create a YouTube channel but content to address the current crisis was first  posted_just_two_weeks_ago, or nearly a year after Oliver’s program aired on ABC.)BPI or industry insiders coined a rather unfriendly term for the product as “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB)
  2. Build Trust. Open Up. Extend a public and open invitation to Jaime Oliver, other culinary stars, the media and influential food bloggers to visit its factory. Focus on the safety benefits of its ammonia gas process and highlight chemical differences between it and what Jaime Oliver used and demonstrated. It’s likely that Oliver would not accept the invitation, but the opportunity to talk to bloggers, media and other highly visible chefs would have provided significant content to distribute through major social networks. Also, invite industry watch-guard groups, bring them to the factories, demonstrate the process. Build trust and be open.
  3. Take Chances. Challenge the experts. Since Oliver says pink slime is not beef, challenge scientists, chefs and others to test and compare. Drive interest through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  4. Be positive, not negative. Offensive, not defensive. Focus on positive messages. Safe meat is healthier meat. Over the past several years there have been a number of highly visible food recalls related to sanitary and other conditions. If true, focus on track record and compare against other industry recalls and bouts with bacteria including chicken, eggs and cheese—have processes developed by BPI help control potentially lethal problems stemming from Mad Cow disease, e coli, bird flu or others? If the safety record of BPI is clean and perfect, it must take this message and and use it as an advantage. Instead of defensive communications, it must remain positive and highlight consumer benefits.  Note: Just two months ago BPI posted its first video (that I can identify) on YouTube. It tried to address this message, but it ignored the Oliver problem and instead tried to focus on safety. This video was rather sterile, academic and not interesting or engaging.
  5. Blog. BPI should have used its own blog and blogs of key employees to communicate in a voice that it otherwise cannot use in traditional corporate PR — like its current campaign. It could have called attention to the inaccuracies, misinformation and the problems with the Oliver and ABC reporting. Through blog it could counter the effect of mounting public opinion without appearing defensive. It should have created micro sites to communicate key messages about the quality of the beef, health and safety messages and address any inaccuracies in reporting and opinion through fact checking and polling.
  6. Visible Commenting. It could have established a comment program allowing it to address false information and calling attention to content that propogates misinformation—blogs, YouTube videos and major media outlet websites.
  7. Engage Locals & Employees. Show that BPI is community focused and get them to admit that they work with BPI and know the process inside out and communicate the fact they feed their family and children Pink Slime enhanced meat without fear or worry.

Sure, this is all in hindsight. However, if BPI had its eyes and ears on social networks and observing the social media activity about its company, it would have spotted a trend and could have implemented a number of these social media tactics to counter the misinformation, negativity and barrage that has occurred.

Learn Crisis PR & Social Media From Apple

In other words, it could have attacked the problem inasmuch as Apple did with the mounting attack on workers, conditions and human rights violations that were lodged against it by Mike Daisy and in a series of articles in the New York Times.


Disclaimer. I am no expert on pink slime, BPI or the process invented by the company. The purpose of this post is to highlight classic errors made by a company caught in a crisis. Without a handle on social media, networks and its public affairs, BPI is suffering from its own communications negligence. Also, I have no opinion on BPI products. I haven’t had a hamburger or consumed ground beef in more than six months.

March 26th, 2012 | Inspiration

The Effortless Way To Improve Your Appearance, Your Success & Your Health

It’s so easy. It takes no effort. And it works. So why, you may ask, doesn’t everyone do it — all the time?

I’ll bet you’re not doing it right now as you read this post. So take a moment and stick with me. Turn off the phone, close your email, and smile. That’s right. Smile. Why, you ask? Why not?

This morning when I walked into my local Starbucks for that daily injection of caffeine, I stepped into the line of about 6 or 7 like-minded coffee fans. One of the Starbucks employees, who was busy tending to the hot breakfast sandwiches, she looked up at me and in that brief moment of familiarity and recognition and said, “Hi, wow—you are always smiling. Why are you so happy?” And though the sky was grey and with the slight drizzle dampening the tables and chairs outside, I said “because it’s an outstanding day.”

Her reaction caught me off guard for a moment, but it made me feel good. First, she recognized me as a regular customer. Then, my smile triggered her memory of me smiling. Perhaps she’s never seen me any other way. Because I do smile, a lot. Even when I have reasons to dwell on problems, conflict or disappointment, I find reasons to smile.

Too often we are guarded, fearful or simply too drawn into ourselves and our activity — and our iPhones — that our concentration prevents us from smiling or enjoying the simple pleasure of being. Some of are simply waiting for a push or external event to make us smile. While I walked into the supermarket next to Starbucks, I noticed a woman walking toward the entrance. Her head was buried into the iPhone that she clenched in her hand along with her purse. She looked slightly tense and moved with purpose. She wasn’t smiling. Then as she tapped the screen of her phone she smiled. At that moment she seemed relaxed and her pace of purpose changed to one of rhythm and cadence. That simple change, her smile, positively impacted her presence. Yet it was prompted by something she saw or read on her phone.

Smile. Imagine if we all smiled — all the time.

Sure, it’s a bit optimistic and many of you will say unrealistic, but it’s worth a try. Maybe you can do it 75% of the time. Think about it. Think and smile. How about 50%. If that woman and her phone was smiling before she looked at her iPhone, I’ll bet her reaction and the feeling she experienced from that visual would’ve been even more powerful — impactful.

Even better, when we smile at people — at strangers — we have a positive impact on them. Most often, if you smile at anyone, they will smile back. It’s contagious and natural. It works. When we smile, we feel better and we make others around us feel better too. When everyone is feeling better, it’s easier to work, to play and to be.

When I review photographs from my journeys around the world, while the impressive landscapes and natural beauty leave me in awe, it’s the photos of people — smiling — that moves me most. The beauty within and the essence of these subjects is defined by their smiles. Yet one must be open, available and smiling in order to capture such beauty and essence. Spreading smiles is easy because smiling is contagious. Try it.


In every way possible, smiling makes you and others feel and look better!Are you smiling yet? Still? Another reason to smile is for your health. Smiling is good for you because it actually lowers your blood pressure (the woman with the phone?). Smiling actually reduces levels of stress-inducing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and increases levels of endorphins, the primary mood-enhancing hormone. In his legendary TED talk, Ron Gutman, CEO of HealthTap, shows proof through example that people who smile live longer than those who do not.

A couple of years ago I was interviewed for a Podcast on my three-year journey around the world alone on a motorcycle. In this interview, as in many others, I am asked what kind of weapons I carried, or what tools were important. Check out my response in this short clip from the interview below — I think you’ll get it even more. If you want more, you can watch the full interview here.

So improve your health, your looks and appear more open and competent. Smile.

For the ladies, smiling attracts more attention than sparkly eyeshadow or manicured nails.

Follow Allan Karl on Twitter | Follow Ron Gutman on Twitter

March 23rd, 2012 | Marketing & Messages, Social Media & Marketing

Five Keys To Building A Social Media Plan & Strategy

Most Social Media Experts Don’t Know The Difference Between Tactics & Strategy

Social Media Planning, Strategy & CommitmentVery few businesses get it. More and more so-called social media experts don’t get it. Participation in social networks and the occasional social media contribution doesn’t make for making business social nor is it a substitute for understanding social business or the emerging (should I say ubiquitous) social community. That is, just because you’ve planted your stake in the ground and developed a Facebook business page, created a Twitter account and hired a “social media manager” doesn’t mean your business is social.

Things take time. Social media and understanding and using social networks requires more than just a tactical approach. Doing isn’t participating nor engaging. According to Forbes Magazine about 1%of business has optimized and leveraged social media strategically and optimized how it integrates into the organization.

How do you describe your social media and networking activities? Here’s Forbes breakout of businesses and how involved they are today in social business:

  • 60% – Ad Hoc
  • 30% – Awareness
  • 9% – Integrated
  • 1% – Optimized

There’s no question that social media and the social networks are changing the way we do business. And as Mark Fidelman noted in Forbes, “neither Rome nor a Social Business was Built In a Day.”

“We must first move towards a new business culture, informed by purpose, mission, objectives and the business environment, both economic and social. Realizing a new business culture requires a strategy.”

Before any company can impact or change culture, it needs to look at the basics. Much like business planning or home building, to optimize and ensure success you better have a plan and build a solid foundation. In this short video I share the basics: Five Keys To Building A Strong Social Media Strategy and Plan.

If you’re merely reacting or doing, it’s time to start thinking.

So for my digital marketing and social media tip of the week, I’m pleased to give you a basic overview of what you need to do to develop a strategy and plan so you can build a foundation that will help you build a socially optimized business.


Follow Allan Karl on Twitter  |  Follow Fidelman on Twitter

March 17th, 2012 | Creative Pursuit, Mac My Day

Sample photos from new New iPad 3: teaser of what’s next

Spring Flowers Come Alive With New iPad Camera & Retina Display

I’ve had my new iPad with its amazing retina display for a scant 12 hours. I’m working on a review complete with sample photos, video and content generated, edited and created on the iPad (read: no accessories or apps).

But this will consume most odd the weekend and then some. In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you a couple random photos shot with the new camera on the new iPad. Yet, I assure you that they won’t look as good as they do on this new retina display – unless you’re reading this on your new iPad.

Note: this entire quick post was created on the new iPad and using moly built in apps, save the WordPress app I’m using to post this blog.

Watch for more photos, video and commentary next week



March 16th, 2012 | Mac My Day

Blood Spilled Over New iPad – iPad 3

I never planned to do another silly YouTube unboxing video. However, as I was waiting at the end of my driveway for the airport shuttle to pick up my friend Michael Yacavone, who visited from the East Coast for a few days, the UPS driver pulled up.

As Tony, my UPS, driver headed into the back of his truck, I threw Michael my camera (I always have a camera ready!) and asked if he’d start shooting. So what started as a quick video to capture the moment—the delivery of the new iPad at 10:14am on Friday the 16th of March—turned out to be a lesson in how dangerous technology, and the new iPad can be.

So in this exclusive new iPad (iPad 3) unboxing video, you too can learn from my experience and see exactly how blood spilled on my new iPad and how it earned its nickname “The Bloody iPad.”

March 15th, 2012 | Marketing & Messages

How To Ruin Your AdWords Campaign

Gadget maker ZAGG ignores best practices and commits a sinful faux pas with its Google AdWords Display Network ads.

Gadget maker ZAGG ignores best practices and commits a costly faux pas with its Google AdWords Display Network ads.

There’s no question that for many businesses a Google AdWords campaign can be an effective component of a marketing or advertising campaign. With powerful targeting tools, incredible metrics and insight and when finely tuned, Google AdWords can be very cost-effective and provide significant ROI. So when I stumble on an advertiser that ignores some of the basic tenets of online advertising I can’t help but wonder, per chuckle about, what the advertiser is doing.

The Biggest Mistake You Can Make In Your Google AdWords or Google Display Network Campaign

I know that perhaps this isn’t fair, yet I can’t help but bring up a specific example of an advertiser that could be smarter and ultimately increase the effectiveness of its ads and lower its cost per click. So in today’s quick post I target Zagg, an iPad and mobile device accessory and gadget marketer, and how they seem to have ignored best practices when it comes to developing an effective Google AdWords campaign. In short, they committed the most serious Google AdWords faux pas an advertiser can do. I happen to notice this on Appleinsider.com, an Apple news and rumor site, after clicking on its ad.

According to its press release boilerplate: “Zagg is a leader in innovative mobile device accessories that protect, personalize, and enhance the mobile experience. The company designs, produces, and distributes branded screen protection under the invisibleSHIELD® brand, keyboards, keyboard cases, earbuds, mobile power solutions and device cleaning accessories under the family of Zagg® brands.”

Zagg is running ads on the Google Display Network, which allows advertisers to display ads on over a million websites worldwide. These contextual ads appear when content on the website page is relevant to the advertising message or advertiser keywords—or when the site visitor had previously responded to an ad or visited an advertiser website.

What did Zagg do that’s so terrible? I’m not going into a deep analysis of its campaign, the ad, the copy, the colors or anything else. Zagg’s mistake comes down to simple strategy, planning and best practices: Zagg is not using a landing page.

A landing page is simply the page a potential customer “lands on” after clicking a text or graphical link. When it comes to using Google AdWorlds or other PPC (pay-per-click) advertising campaigns, well designed and simple landing pages that contain relevant information and reinforce the ad that was clicked are proven to perform better than linking to a generic website. Plus, Google considers landing page content when determining Ad Quality Score: “Your landing page quality affects not only your Quality Score, but also your advertising costs and ad position.”

This means ads with high ad quality scores actually cost less per click than ads with lower scores and they receive priority placement.

So in the case of Zagg, its ads are not only getting dinged by lower response or conversion rates, but they are likely paying a higher rate per click. This is funny. Because even it is moderately increasing sales and awareness, in reality, the Zagg advertising campaign is costing the company money.

Now maybe ZAGG is betting on the fact that those who click on its ads, will be interested in its vast offering of gadgets and accessories — for the iPad and more. I would question this approach and point to dozens of case studies that show target and content specific landing pages will outperform generic and general sites and lead to lower PPC costs.

Gadget maker ZAGG ignores best practices and commits a sinful faux pas with its Google AdWords Display Network ads.Five Simple Steps To More Effective Google AdWords Campaigns & Lower Cost PPC

1) Use landing pages

2) Make sure the content on your landing  page is relevant and related to the ad

3) Design your landing page to be easy to navigate and includes a strong call to action

4) Provide easy to find and clear contact information

5) Be consistent: reinforce the ad offer and message by using graphics, color and message points on your landing page


Premise Landing Pages Made EasyJust by taking these simple and easy to implement steps, you can reduce Google AdWords and Google Display Network advertising costs while increasing effectiveness and earning a higher ROI.

Want to see Zagg’s faux pas in action? Here’s a 2 minute screencast of a bad contextual display ad and a good display ad with relevant landing page:

March 8th, 2012 | Marketing & Messages, Social Media & Marketing

“Social Media Is A Waste of Time.”

Is Social Media Worth The Time, Resources & Money Invested?

Allan Karl WorldRider Keynote Speaker and digital marketing branding guru at clearcloud shares his social media tip of the week

Allan Karl WorldRider Keynote Speaker and digital marketing branding guru at clearcloud shares his social media tip of the week

If I had a buck for every time a client, associate, friend or passing stranger revealed to me their sentiment and belief that time spent on social media is wasted and counter productive, I’d be able to comp or buy everyone in the early morning line at my local Starbucks for a couple of weeks or more.

I’m able to be compassionate and understanding their feelings. I could also provide strong arguments in an effort to persuade them to rethink social media. Truth is, most social media users and non-users alike have no idea if the effort and resources invested — or not — pays off. Why? Because most people and organizations are not measuring either the time and resources spent or the effectiveness of their efforts.

Social media measurement and analytics is becoming, if not already, big business. Today, it’s mostly the big brands or smart marketers that are investing in analytics and using it to tweak and optimize social media efforts, campaigns and investment. But business – big and small – and individuals, freelancers and community organizations can measure results and determine if its efforts are paying off and worth their time.

In my latest “Digital Marketing & Social Media Tip of the Week” I quickly explain and show how to use a few simple tools that will help you monitor, measure and determine if your efforts with social media are a waste of time. And for those who haven’t invested anything in social media? I challenge and dare you with this warning: You won’t ever know, unless you try. And measure.

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


What are you doing to determine whether your social media investment is providing your return on investment?

For you Facebook business page users and administrators, there is another built-in tool that will provide you with raw numbers and basic analytics that you can add to the mix of tips I provide in the video: Facebook Insights. If you’re not looking at them yet, it’s time you start.

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  😆


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.



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