It’s a Twitter Reality

Do you twitter?

No I’m not a perv.  For the uninitiated, twittering is the next/most recent incarnation of communication.

How does one explain twitter?  Have you ever been to a party or a gathering and had a multitude of conversations going on around you and been following and participating in them too?  Imagine doing that with a much larger group of people all over the world in almost real time.  Twitter allows you to follow or be followed by anybody who uses Twitter.  As a user, you make small posts in 140 characters or less that provide some form of update, question, comment, response, etc…  You can post your updates from a mobile phone using text messaging, or a mobile twitter client. You can also submit a twitter update (called a tweet) from the Twitter website or a desktop twitter client on your computer.

In a nutshell, Twitter is cool.

Twitter provides you with an ability to reach out and to interact with ANYONE famous or otherwise.  For example, some of the famous people I follow on twitter are:

I have sent messages to many of them and in some cases have received a response.  I don’t expect a response from celebrities because of the sheer number of people who may be responding to them at any given time so it’s pretty cool when I do get one.  By following a celebrity you have ‘unlisted’ opportunities to interact with them.  Recently Levar Burton was waiting for his plane in Phoenix and posted a tweet to anyone who was available and in the airport that they could join him for drinks.  Unless you were following Levar on twitter, you would not have that opportunity.  Kind of like a secret club.  That’s cool

Twitter also allows you to ‘meet’ all kinds of people in your area whom you may have never met otherwise.  By following some people that my friends follow, I have been able to build a unique twitter feed of some very dynamic and interesting people.  My world has been expanded by simply following what these people talk about and seeing what they do.  There are only a couple of degrees separating us all and I feel like I have grown simply by being able to participate in their communications.  I have been able to lend ‘quit smoking’ support to someone I have never physically met.  I originally typed strangers but they don’t seem like such strangers since I’ve been interacting with them.  Looking at you brundle_fly 😉

Twitter has also illustrated some interesting ways of connecting the dots on who knows who.  I had an opportunity to meet Tom Purves at a social ‘x-camp’ gathering last year.  Being in the wireless industry, it was great to meet the guy behind Wirelessnorth.ca.  Late last year, I received an email about an event being hosted a Ontario College of Art and Design for the launch of the Mobile Experience Innovation Center (MEIC) but was unable to attend due to short notice.  I was able to find out that Michelle Perras was the co-ordinator for this initiative and started communicating with her via email and phone.  I have never met Michelle in person.  I follow both Tom and Michelle on twitter and was able to connect the dots that they both live with the same dog.  A very cute dog named Dingo.  This type of connection may have eventually come out during a conversation far down the road but by following the threads on twitter it presented itself with very little effort.  That’s cool.

Twitter has also provided an opportunity to discover and see the birth of some very exciting grassroots events organized by some pretty motivated and smart people.  A couple of these events/initiatives are listed here.

There are many other events that are ad-hoc or focused in nature and by participating in twitter with some of these people I have been able to watch them emerge.  HOHOTO was a hugely successful event last Christmas that went from ideation to full event execution in a matter of weeks with an initial goal of raising a few thousand dollars for The Daily Bread Food bank but with an ultimate total of $25000 raised.  This event was started entirely on twitter and participation was voluntary and the efforts of the many participants helped to organically pull together a massively successful event in record time.  Twitter provides an opportunity to expand your perspective that otherwise would not have been possible or at the very least, a difficult endeavor.

What do you/will you twitter about?

Who do you/will you follow?

Who follows/will follow you?

What are you waiting for? First Hit’s Free. (it’s always free)

  • Twitter.com – The main twitter site where you can register for your free account.
  • tweetdeck– Desktop twitter client
  • twhirl– Desktop twitter client.
  • spaz– Desktop twitter client.

You can follow me on Twitter here

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Freedom Boxes

Do you know anyone who is the proud owner of some shiny new Freedom Boxes?

There is no easy way to prepare for being laid off.

It just happens and all of a sudden you are without work.  Sure, they try to make it better for you by saying things like “It’s nothing personal, we had to make some tough decisions.”

It starts with a simple “can you come into my office?” and there is someone in there that you have never met looking a little too comforting. “Please close the door, Have a seat” then the rest goes by in the blink of an eye.  BLAM! Blindsided.  You have been voted off the island and before you know it you are back at your desk with your new ‘Friend’ from the HR services company who is giving you your Freedom Boxes to pack up your stuff.

This has been happening around our offices over the past couple of weeks and there have been a lot of people laid off. In our department alone, of about 60, we lost 8 ppl.  The morning it happened, we could tell who had been affected because there were 2 neatly stacked Freedom Boxes at their desks.  Kindly placed there by the HR consultancy people who are managing the whole process.

It is a horrible thing to have happen and to see happen.  It’s kind of like the death march when your co-workers are summarily walked out of the building after they have been given an opportunity to pack their new Freedom Boxes.  It is rather embarrassing for all concerned.   Especially for the person who has been let go.

It would be very easy to wallow in self pity for the next few days, weeks, months… but the reality is that if this has happened to you, then you have been given a chance to start fresh.  This is your opportunity. It is not often in life that you have an opportunity to have enough money to live on for a number of months with no specific work obligation while you explore the opportunites that you have been ignoring for so long.

While this is of little solace to those of you still in the self pity phase, take solace that in these unfortunate times you are not alone and the social stigma of losing your job is not as significant as it would be if financial times were all bread and roses.  There are people you know who are in the same boat as you.  People you know directly, people you know through friends, through friends of friends, etc…   The point is that you are not alone.  If you sit in your pity pool too long then you will be alone because all your friends will be out looking for new opportunities.

“What do I do?” you ask.  Well, I put it to you, What would you do if you had no obstacles?  You are in an obstacle free zone right now.  Take advantage of it.  This does not give you the opportunity to take a vacation.  It does not give you the opportunity to buy that new big screen TV.  It does give you the opportunity to take a course.  Go back to school, learn to weld, become a carpenter, learn how to sell on Ebay, master your Knitting skills, etc…  Whatever you have been wanting to do in your life for a long time but felt your job and the obligations of work were holding you back, well now is the time.

Break free.

Many people feel that there is a universal energy.  (I’m going to get all metaphysical on you here so bear with me for a minute.)  You get what you want.  I can hear you now. “What the F#@& does he mean by THAT!” I mean, that if you put out the message that you want to move on from your job then that is exactly what will happen.  That is the message you are sending to your co-workers, your managers, your boss, the universe, to yourself.  This will be reflective in the way that you work.  You won’t be putting your full effort in. You will be biding your time until you either quit or get fired.  This has been a message that I have personally seen over and over in friends and co-workers.  When asked afterward about how they felt, a good many of them said they felt ‘Relieved‘ because they were thinking about quitting anyway and this just forced them to move their ass.

This is the Universe, Life, Kicking you firmly in the ass and telling you to do something that means something to you.  It does not have to mean anything to anybody else but you.  If your life dream is to be a street sweeper then go and be the best damned street sweeper that you can be.  If you have always wanted to become a widget maker then follow your dream.  Be the best damned widget maker that the world has ever seen.

At the end of the day, they only person you have to answer to is you (and the minister of domestic affairs) so be the best that you can be and the rest will fall into place.

Tell the Universe what you want and with a little luck, the universe will deliver.

Embrace your Freedom Boxes

Canadian Tire FAIL

With very little fanfare or notification, Canadian Tire, a Canadian Institution for going on 87 years, put a notice on thier website that they would be ceasing all internet sales activity on January 29th 2009.

On it’s own, this is a non-remarkable announcement.  Put into context of the current state of the global economy, the trend to move toward internet sales and the sheer massive distribution capabilities of this home service giant, this becomes a rather remarkable announcement.

From where I sit (and this is my blog so I can sit wherever I want) I see massive loss of opportunity here that Canadian Tire seems to be giving up.

I’m sure they have had a long and hard look at the numbers and the effort required to run an online shopping experience.  They probably had a lot of high priced consultants come in and run various scenarios and advise that there was limited opportunity given the current economic downturn in the marketplace and that the best option was to abandon the online store (because someone on high really ultimately wanted to hear that message).

Lets take a look at some of the outsiders viewpoints and see if they make any sense shall we?

Managing product in a warehouse or via drop shipping is a more cost effective means of managing margin.  There is no need to do massive distribution chain to stores for products sold online as they can be shipped from the warehouse or direct from the manufacturer if the model allows.  Look at Amazon.  Do you think they keep millions of copies of titles in stock?  Nope.  They keep a few in stock and request more from the printer or publisher when they are required.  They have centralized distribution and warehousing to facilitate easier pack and pick operations and aggregated shipping.  Now I’m not saying that Canadian tire is Amazon but there are opportunites to learn from the likes of Amazon to build a more efficient distribution model for online sales.

Canadian Tire did little in the way of driving customers to the website.  A little footnote at the bottom of the page on a flyer is insufficient to advise subscribers that they can buy online.  There was also no incentive to purchase online.  I can’t recall ever seeing a “Web Only” deal that required a customer to purchase an item through the website to get some great deal.  Most successful online store have a daily door crasher that can only be purchased from the web.  Dell, Newegg, Home Depot, The Source, The Bay, FutureShop, Best Buy, etc… It keeps people coming back for more.  Canadians love a good deal and with Canadian Tire’s penchant for taking that 3000 piece socket set that you absolutely must have and marking it down by 75% to the low low price of $67.95 there had to be some opportunity to leverage this daily deal mania.

Canadian Tire also did something that most people (at least in the online community) feel is an act of cowardice.  They did not issue a press release or notify the media, they simply and quietly put a page on their site advising anyone who happened to click on it that this action was happening in a matter of weeks.  This type of approach to online marketing and treating your online customers with little respect is probably the main reason that the online store concept failed at Canadian Tire.  They just didn’t *get* the opportunity.  They assumed, like most noobs, that if you put the page up, people will automatically flock to it ‘For Great Justice’ (sorry, got a little ‘All Your Base…’  there).  This is a rookie mistake and one that should have been dealt with a little more effectively by a company with the pedigree of Canadian Tire.  They didn’t give the online store the proper care and feeding that it required to flourish and become a great presence in Canadian Online Retail.

There are many opportunities for companies with an online presence to advertise such presence via traditional media to drive traffic.  The old guard at Canadian Tire forgot to include the online presence in these media spots when placing the million dollar ad buy’s.  I guess that Canadian Tire did what so many Canadian companies are so great at.  They built a great product/service but didn’t tell anyone about it and then stood by scratching thier heads wondering why it was not a great success.

Here is my view of this act of cowardice as told by the fine cast of Zero Wing . The names have been changed to include… You 🙂

Computer: Main screen turn on.
You: It’s you !!
CT.com: How are you gentlemen !!
CT.com: All your base are belong to us.
CT.com: You are on the way to destruction.
You: What you say !!
CT.com: You have no chance to survive make your time.
CT.com: Ha ha ha ha ….

Sorry couldn’t resist.  It just seemed to fit.

Matthew Ingram said it best on Twitter today ‘I love how Can Tire tries to sell it “You’ve told us how great we are… so we’re making our site even less useful”

For those of you who are interested, Here is a screengrab of the impending shutdown notice.

Captured from Canadian Tire Website Jan 21, 2009

Captured from Canadian Tire Website Jan 21, 2009

have to go and see how I’m stocked for Socket Sets.  I think I’m running a bit low.

Update Jan 21:added image of Can Tire message. fixed typo’s

They Just Don’t ‘Get It’

Research is a beautiful thing.  Software research is an ongoing effort by all educational institutions and is carried out in earnest by the big 3 internet service companies.  Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google.  They all have sites dedicated to the research that is being performed and freely invite the public to participate and provide feedback on these activities so that they can learn and better their efforts to provide solutions that mean more and are more beneficial to the ultimate end users.

This past week, Microsoft started publicizing their efforts around a new software product from Microsoft Research called Songsmith.  It’s a program that automatically generates appropriate background music based on the vocals that you sing.  From the initial demos, this is a very cool piece of software that has some great potential.  It is available as a free download from the Microsoft Research site.

This is where the concept of software research labs goes slightly off the rails at Microsoft.

The software that these research efforts produce is good software at various stages of development often being at Alpha or Beta stages but always being in a non-productized state.  This typically means that there is no formal support model in place and you are requested to provide feedback and bugs that you encounter to help troubleshoot the software before it makes it’s public product release.  You are also expected to participate in a user forum that allows the users and developers to learn from each other.  In all instances that I have ever seen where software was available from these services, the software was provided without restriction and at no cost.

Now comes Microsoft.  Songsmith is a Free download and you can use it unrestricted for 6 hours.  That’s it.  If you want to keep using it you need to Buy it.  That’s right.  You are required to actually purchase a non-productized, largely unsupported, non-commercial piece of software that is still in the research labs.  While I don’t have a fundamental issue with purchasing software (Talk like a Pirate day is not until September 19th so save it), I do have an issue with paying for software that is in active development that has not been formally productized.

Microsoft needs to take a page from the playbook of Yahoo and Google when it comes to research software.  Until a product has a formal support process in place and has been moved to the production product phase it should be provided at no cost to the end user.  Provide it with a kill switch that can be remotely activated, provide it with a time bomb that activates at a specific date, provide a limited set of keys that restrict the use of the software, have a closed beta or an invite only mechanism to manage growth.  Google has managed to do this repeatedly with all of their products.  Granted, Google has a major aversion to charging for their efforts but they use the software they develop and freely provide to gather various pieces of information to help further their dominance in the various technology fields that they operate in.  (See link below)  Yahoo does research in various areas that lie outside of the consumer space all with a goal for advancing the technology that we use on a daily basis.  Microsoft goes so far as to have research teams dedicated to online services and a separate group dedicated to ‘Advancing The Frontiers of Computing’  (See links below)

Oh yeah, they have a REALLY STUPID COMMERCIAL.  It completely undermines the products potential reach to parties that may benefit from the product.

Have-Be-Do

It’s odd how the same message keeps coming up in life.  It’s the universe’s way of telling you that you have not yet learned the lesson.

One of the consistent things that re-occurs for me is the need to totally own your obligations or responsibilities with a sense of clear direction.I have great difficulty in establishing a clear vision.  There is vision there, it is just not clear.  Having a clear vision is needed if you are to experience great success.

This clarity of vision is a trait that has been demonstrated time and time again by people who have had great success in their lives.

  • Richard Branson
  • Bill Gates
  • Steve Jobs
  • Barack Obama
  • Michael Phelps
  • Ted Rogers
  • Walt Disney
  • Tiger Woods
  • Michael Jordan
  • and countless others…

The consistent theme with all of these people is that they had a clear sense of purpose and they owned it.  They did not let anyone stand in their way on the way to success.

The difference between most people and these wildly successful people is clear vision.  Successful people have a clear vision and they know what they want.  Most of us don’t know what we want and we meander through life just experiencing it as opposed to shaping it to be what we want it to be.  Life is not some linear existence that we are destined to follow.  Life is a fluid, moldable, experience that is meant to be defined by each and every one of us.

Think about the times in your life when you have had success.  these times probably coincide with a clear and focused objective or goal.  You probably didn’t let anyone get in your way and you followed through to completion.  These were times when you defined the road and took charge to shape the outcome for whatever part you played in the success.  We all have the ability to experience these smaller goal based periods of clarity but tend not to apply the same tools for major life altering goals with huge lasting impact.  Your goals do not need to be world changing for millions of people or solve world hunger of bring world peace but they do need to matter to you.  If the things that matter to you are life changing at a global level then step up and take charge.

Here is an exercise for you.  Write a Have-Be-Do list.  This is a list of 100 items that you want to have, be or do.  Take all obstacles, real or imagined, out of the equation.  There is no limit to what you can put on the Have-Be-Do list.  You must list at least 100 things.  Do it without guilt and with a sense of total deserving.  Silence the chattering monkeys in the back of your head that keep telling you that you can’t do it or that you are not worthy.  You will find this a very difficult task as it is uncommon for us to come from a place of total selfishness.  This list is for you.  Write it for you.  Do not write it with any other person in mind except you and your wants.  If your wants include another person then so be it but do not allow your list to be shaped by outside influences such as your job or your finacial situation or you inability to speak a language or any other obstacle that can be overcome.

Oh yeah, in the immortal words of Yoda “Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.

Any list item that begins or contains a phrase like ‘Try to …’ does not count.  Be definite in your Have-Be-Do list.  Instead of ‘Try to make more time for xxxx’  change it to ‘Make more time for xxxx’.  It has a more definite and empowering phrasing that give you strength to follow through.

Once you have that list, Start to do those things and cross them off as you complete them.  You will be amazed at the power you find and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you start to achieve success based on a clear goal no matter how small.

Feel free to share or not. Ask questions or don’t.  The answers will be there when you need them.

How Do They Tell You?

How does your company handle layoffs in this economy?  Do they blame it on tough economic times or do they just come out and say that you are not cutting it?

Where I work, the email just came out advising about the coming year and what it means for the company and it’s employees.   Salary freezes, bonus reduction, organizational re-structure etc… All affected in some manner or another.   I have to say though this line was masterfully crafted.

As we have in the past, we will make targeted adjustments to our employee base to reflect ongoing priorities of the business and operational improvements.

I love a beautifully crafted phrase or message that has a significant underlying meaning and this is a doozey. It could have been cold and impersonal such as

Some of you are doing better than others, but due to the tough economic times, we have to let some of you go

or reality based such as

Team 2, got nothing for you, head back to camp and we’ll see you at tribal council where some of you will be going home.

So I put it to you, what are some of the ways in which you have been advised of a coming employment storm at your workplace or how did you find out about the storm?

Post in the comments.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start cleaning my desk.

Voice?

Over the past number of years in wireless there has been a steady decline in Voice ARPU in relation to overall revenue.  This has many wireless operators in North America concerned.  There are many pundits who have various points of view on the subject and I will leave it up to them to sound off and claim superiority.

Today while watching ‘teh twitter’ Jevon was asking about 3G Data only devices. There were the replies and comments for devices such as Nokia 800/810, Peek Mail, Sony Mylo and a few others but none of them seemed to cover the whole need of what consumers are using or want in a mobile communications device.  Doesn’t anybody talk anymore?

I’m not too sure about the defined need for a dedicated data only device outside of a vertical market application such as something used by UPS or Purolator for mobile package tracking.  Certainly for the comsumer market there is a defined and proven need for a communications device that includes voice service.

As we move further away from the analogue age and further into the digital abyss, operators need to understand that voice services of yesterday are not the voice services of tomorrow.  VOIP anyone?

Perhaps it’s just us getting older and not having a need to actually ‘speak’ to anyone.  I know for sure that the 18-28 demographic has no issue with actually speaking to someone and do so whenever they have the opportunity.

Now if you’ll excuse me I should call home.