Category Archives: new media

Scanning your Life

It is not often that someone shows me something in tech that makes me go “WOW!, that’s cool”.  I had such a moment recently when I met Jonathan Bulkeley, CEO of ScanBuy.  Regular readers of this blog know that I rarely promote products and services, but rather just give my “guy on the street” views.

Unless you are George Bush Senior, you know that there are barcodes on everything.  There are the ubiquitous  1-D UPC codes that you see in the supermarket and a host of new 2-D barcodes.  With the inclusion of barcode readers in smartphones (my Android is very capable in this area) you can go to a store, scan the barcode and be linked to product information websites, Google shopper, Amazon, etc.  You can do instant online price comparison in a store, and if you like purchase the product.  It seems that stores are catching on and are starting to put there own barcodes on products that then links back to their own website, not a competitor’s.  This is not the “WOW” part.  I’ve been doing store scanning  for some time.  Its fun and seems to thoroughly annoy sales staff (and sometimes my wife!)

The company that Bulkeley runs is the one that produces the Android app that I use to scan barcodes.  You can think of a barcode as a web url that directs the application to go to some specific website or activate an application.  You can imagine that the directory service of linking codes to a website is an interesting business area.

Now for the “WOW” moment.

When I was talking to Bulkeley,  he showed me his business card that had a 2-D barcode on the back.  He said, “go ahead scan it”.  When I scanned it, the application opened up the contact manager on my phone and auto-populated all of his details and asked me to confirm.  That was WOW.

You see ScanBuy and its consumer facing ScanLife website gives you the opportunity to have your own personal 2-D barcodes that link to a website or launch a contact application.  There are codes you can make for websites, phone numbers, SMS, Twitter, and even a menu of items.

Here is my contact 2-D Barcode:

And here is another that links to my personal Website:

And yet another that I made to link to my favorite Youtube video. I bet you can’t guess which one?

You can even change the destination website of any barcode on the ScanLife website.  If you have a smartphone with a ScanLife application, you can scan these codes directly from your computer screen.

He told me his daughter has a barcode on her dorm door and changes the website with her mood and likes.

I could envision a whole new market in fraternities, sororities and dorms.  No need to put a piece of clothing on the door knob as the signal of an “overnight” guest.   Just make sure your roommate scans before he enters!

But as they say – Wait –there’s more to this story….

A day later I was taking the train back to New Jersey from New York.  The train was full and I was sitting alone in two facing seats.  Three others came to occupy the other spots.  There were two young women – maybe 22 – one with bright purple hair and lots of interesting body art and the other very blonde and pixie-like.  Their androgynous boyfriend rounded out the group.  Needless to say, I did not have much in common or much to say as the went on about their art exhibits and music performances.  This was not the “Hey! how about those Yankees?” crowd. And I was not up on the latest exhibit in the Village.

This all changed when Miss Pixie took out her Android phone.  Ah!, now something of a connection.  We had a long discussion on apps and her favorites. Her two interesting friends also had Androids, but older models (at least 6 months) and seemed behind the curve.   Pixie liked the same apps I did.  I am not sure what to conclude from that, so moving on…..

She had Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Skype and Google Navigation.  Her really favorite “cool” app was, you guessed it –  ScanLife.  She did not even know the name of the company, just that she could use it when she shopped.

At this point her rather purple,  pierced  and tattooed friend perked up and said , “I always wanted to get a barcode tatoo.”

Not wanting to waste a good promotion opportunity for Mr. Bulkeley’s company, I explained how she could have her own personal barcode that linked to something that she could pick, and even change.  She was delighted and copied down the info.

For this group of avant-garde artists, it was one more cool thing to adorn their body with , and something they could scan with their phones.

The train pulled into my stop and my new friends, who were brought together by our Droids and barcodes, parted ways.


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Filed under advertising, android, Apple, Droid Incredible, E-Commerce, facebook, Google, iphone, mobile, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, mobile games, new media, New York, Rangers, sex, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, social networking, Twitter, wireless

HTC Incredible – The Bright Side

After getting lots of comments on the frank discussion of my new Droid, I decided it was time to give the other part of the story.  In general, I really like this new superphone.  Yes, I’m still having battery issues.  I  recently had a day in NYC, away from my home office, and I was down to 15% by noon.  But lets not dwell on that.

I have downloaded about 30 free apps for my phone.  I have kept about half of them and trashed the rest.  My advice is to stick to brand name content and carefully reviewed apps.  If you just browse and download whatever you like, you will have many apps that don’t work or worse…

While the HTC Friends widget gets lots of publicity, the individual Facebook and Twitter Apps are better for me.  For the record I use “Peep” for Twitter.  The Foursquare app works well, the LinkedIn app – not.

Many of the most useful apps are targeted at managing your Droid phone.  Among these I recommend “Lookout”.  This is a combined virus scan, backup and lost phone locater – and is presently free.   As I mentioned in my first review a Droid is more like a PC.  When you download  “Caveat Emptor”   For the lost phone feature, you can locate your phone on a Google Map on the Web and even have it emit a siren sound.  Warning- don’t give your web lookout password to anyone or you will likely have a siren in your pocket at the worst possible time!

The widgets that come prepackaged for managing Bluetooth, WIFI , GPS and mobile networking are very useful in managing battery life.  Just keep everything off that you really don’t need.  I have found the GPS is a particular battery hog.

For syncing music, I finally got SallingMedia to work.  The trick is to create playlists for anything you want to sync and then to just sync those lists.  For video you can just drag an mp4 into the video folder on your phone.

One of the pleasant battery surprises was that I was able to watch a 2-hour movie on my phone and still have over 50% battery left!  There are a couple of decent free video players in the app store.  You should try mvideoplayer or stream media player. ( A free shout out to anyone who correctly guesses which movie I debuted on my droid –  there is a hint in this article)

A key to the usability of my Droid is mastering the notification pull down.  Just slide down your finger from the top Verizon logo and you bring down a list of recent emails, messages, program alerts, etc.

For sheer fun there are many “soundboards” in the app store.  These soundboards provide famous sound clips for many movies and TV shows.  I downloaded several and keep them in a folder.

Another app that I like is “barcode”.  It is a build in barcode reader that auto generates a search and shopper price comparison.  Don’t know if I ever will really use it “in real life”- but it’s pretty slick.

I also downloaded “SkyDroid”.  This is the one paid app I have.  It cost 99 cents.  It provides a GPS function linked to golf courses.  I am playing a round on Friday, so I’ll let you know how it works.  The website has a nice interface to map out any golf course that is not yet in their database, and of course it uses Google maps.  It took me about 30 minutes to enter the local course.  I am sure it will not help my golf game, but it is a cool thing to have.

There are apps that are un-Verizon-like in the store.  These include porn, a way to download “free” mp3s and a program to turn your Droid into a broadband modem for your laptop.  The former is surprising for the normally protective Carrier, the later 2 are ways to violate your contact TOS and bypass Verizon’s own broadband connect service.  The world of openness has its consequences.  You have to exert personal responsibility – just like the real world.  Just be careful if you give one of these to a minor.

Lastly, my absolute favorite feature on my Droid is the voice recognition with speech to text.   This is really great.  I thought my biggest issue would be with the virtual keyboard – however I respond to most messages and emails by speaking into the phone.  Imagine – a phone you can speak to!  What a concept.  The voice recognition can be used for almost any text input field. I have used it for emails, SMS, Google searches and contact searches.  Its accuracy is very good – although it needs a little work on its Yiddish!


Filed under blackberry, Droid, Droid Incredible, E-Commerce, HTC Incredible, iphone, Ipod, location based services, media, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, new media, New York, Open Network, opensource, porn, reviews, sex, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, social networking, Twitter

Appvertainment from Jobs-Apple and the iAd

The announcement of iPhone OS4 changes the Smartphone  world – yet again.  As Steve Jobs described the 7 tent poles of the new iPhone/iTouch/Ipad OS, it was clear that the tent was not quite large enough for everyone. The center pole of this tent is clearly– iAds.

The raison-d’etre  for the much heralded multi-tasking feature is Appvertainment.  (e.g. iAds).    Do not be distracted by the fact that he introduced multi-tasking first and iAds last.  They are intimately linked.

Apple is pursuing their app centric  vs. search (Apple vs. Google) strategy for smartphones  through the introduction of their own OS integrated  ad serving technology.  Multi-tasking is the key component in this ad strategy to permit a user to return to an app after an ADHD moment is fulfilled by playing with a cool appvertainment.  Without multitasking you lose your application state/status and have to start over again.  Jobs is trying to change user behavior and reward users for clicking on an ad with an engaging experience, instead of punishing them by having them have to re-start their app.

Appvertainment targeting was not discussed. The social  and geolocation information that the host apps maintain on users will most likely be used for targeting purposes.  The Apple social game network API will no doubt  be used for providing this targeting information for game hosted appvertainments .    Apple is betting that App hosted ads will be valuable than Internet style search ads.

Jobs boosted that the Apple platforms would be capable of serving 1 billion app-ads per day by the summer of 2010.  Even if we cut that number in half and apply a modest $10/CPM ad rate – that represents daily gross appvertainment revenue of  $5M.  Apple’s vig on the ad revenue is 40%.  This is easily approaching a $1B+ annual revenue opportunity for Apple.

Click for full commercial

Another interesting aspect of this strategy is that Apple is clearly focusing on large brands and advertising agencies – in other words, the folks with the largest budgets.   This clearly makes sense.  The cost of an appvertainment production can easily be in excess of $250K+.  The inclusion of integrated and compelling video with engaging interactivity is not the domain of amateurs, but rather professional digital agencies.  The examples that Jobs demonstrated during his presentation (Nike, Disney and Target) are all major national brands with large budgets and big Madison Avenue agencies.

As I watched the presentation another thought came to mind –  “Is this legal?”  What would happen if Microsoft integrated a proprietary ad serving system in their OS and demanded 40% of the revenue of every ad served on a Windows machine?  This topic will clearly be discussed in the blogosphere and perhaps courtrooms in the future.

Did anyone hear a mention of sharing ad revenue with Mobile Carriers?

Another  “pole” of significance is the enhanced suite of enterprise features. Corporate CIOs have had a set of killer issues that prohibited the iPhone from significant corporate sanctioned and supported utilization.  Apple is trying to remove these roadblocks with OS4.  In addition to the enhanced  security and email capabilities is device management.  Device management includes the feature of permitting corporations to load their own private apps on the iPhone.    The execs at RIM should be concerned about their Blackberry franchise.

Apple would not be investing in enterprise features while maintaining an exclusive relationship with AT&T.  OS4 changes Apple from the Trojan Horse of a sexy consumer device on AT&T to a machine poised for world domination.

The competition between Google and their Android platform and Apple will only get fiercer.  Nokia is the only other global player who can play at this level.   Palm, RIM and even Microsoft will fight for the leftover niches.  It is a battle of the controlled and planed eco-system of Apple vs. the Open-Source world of Android.

The Apple tent has room for enterprise applications, has a new revenue source for app developers, and embraces big brands, ad agencies and publishers.  Adobe (no Flash support) and Google are outside the tent of OS4.  Microsoft got the biggest slight in this announcement as their mobile efforts were ignored as though not relevant.  And what about the mobile carriers?  Do they exist in the Apple world? Continue reading

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Filed under advertising, android, Apple, AT&T, Beezag, blackberry, facebook, Google, iPad, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, location based services, management, microsoft, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, mobile games, netbooks, new media, Newspapers, Open Network, opensource, pirates, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, social networking, Steve Jobs, Twitter, Web2.0, widgets, wireless

Verizon FIOS Execs – Please Read – It’s Not Me, It’s You

vonage-logoToday I made the jump, the leap, to Fios. For the record my previous home technology stack had been Vonage for voice, Comcast for Internet and TV. I have had VZW for mobile since the days they actually called it a “car phone”.

Since I was working from home today, I was able to observe the FIOS tech as he went about his business in my house. He arrived promptly at 9:00 and greeted me like the chef at a Japanese steaks house. “Okay, Mr. Spencer, you have one Triple-Play, three sets, two with, one without, HBO , Internet and Phone….correct?” Should I have ordered the soup also?

He told me that installation is an 8 hour job and that he would be in and out all day. No Problem. I went about my business, we went about is.

After a couple of hours I took a break from my work to see how Verizon guy was doing. He was busy6-18-08-fios_installerattaching the “ONU” (Optical Networking Unit) to the side of my house. I found it interesting since during my early days at Bell Labs, in the 1980s, my department had worked on the Darwinian ancestors of the ONU. Back then the evolutionary process was first called FTTC (Fiber to the Curb), the unfortunate acronym -Far Access Remote Terminal, and lastly FTTH, Fiber to the Home. These were all technologies that were decades ahead of their time.

verizonfiosbackupHe then proceeded to install a battery backup for the phone service in my basement. The phones I use are all cordless and my family has 5 mobile phones. The battery back will not help my cordless phones and a blackout should not impact my mobile phones. This is a pure expense for legal air cover should the power go out and -GFB- I need to call 911. For such an advanced service, very backward thinking in 2009.

After buzzing out the phones, the Internet came up quickly and then the last pulling and tugging of cable to get the television service going. All went smoothly to that point. Just like the commercials, he sat me down and demonstrated my remote (without a cable guy glaring in from the window). Total effort was the advertised 8 hours.

As soon as he left and we started to use the service, the quirks emerged.

Firstly the Verizon set up disk only works on a Windows machine. I had to morph my Mac with a VM to fire up Vista. The setup program executed, updated and churned for 45 minutes. The only think useful that happened, through all the screens, T&C’s and other useless info, was that I got a Verizon email. One that I will never use.

I then tried to register at Verizon.Net. I tried several times and continually got a message that said “We cannot register you now”. This seemed strange. Then it hit me. Verizon has nothing that supports Mac, even Safari browser. So, I switched to Firefox and the registration worked perfectly.

Next task was to set up my personal and work email using the outgoing email server at Verizon. I prefer to use my ISPs outgoing service so that my free personal email with my own domain does not have ads on the bottom.

Everything seemed to work with just one small problem. The test emails that I sent to myself never arrived? I connected to the Verizon server just fine. The email was accepted by the server and then got lost.

This could not be a Verizon issue. After all, when I leave my house I have that nerdy guy with glasses and 300 of his friendssplash_verizon_crowdfollow me around to make sure my service is ok. Having served Verizon as a vendor for most of my career I appreciate that they take 99.999% reliability seriously.

I checked and double checked all the passwords, permissions etc. I stopped and thought about this and then I remembered another strange occurrence about 4 months ago.

I had just started a new job and was configuring my corporate email account on Google. Like most people (I assume), after you set up an email account you send yourself some test emails to make sure it works. I had the same problem with Google. I struggled with that one for a couple of hours. Next, I checked some bulletin boards and found out that Google mail was in the middle of a significant outage! Three hours later, without touching anything, my service was up and working.

I wondered. Could I be that unlucky? Could Verizon be having an email problem the exact moment I tried to use my new Verizon service? I checked the Verizon user self-help bulletin boards and…..Bingo!….. Verizon was experienceing hour plus delays in email delivery due to server outages.

I put email aside and next tried to tackle voicemail. There was nowhere on a Verizon support site or any piece of paper or booklet that I got from Verizon that instructed me on what to do to set up voicemail. I know that Verizon has some portal somewhere to listen to voicemails online and send yourself alerts, but they certainly like to keep it a secret.

Since I’m not exactly new to the telephony world, I just dialed my own number and walked through the VM set-up. But, I still wanted to find this portal. I figured it was accessible through – a logical guess. I had previously registered on and thought that user name and password would allow me into Verizon.Com. no such luck. I tried to register at (with a non-Apple browser, of course!) and still no luck.

Now its time to call Verizon. I have to say one of the reasons I left Comcast was because their customer service was , well, sucky. Verizon, with my nerd friend and his army of techs clearly have their act together, right? Wrong….

I called customer support, waited 10 minutes with really bad music, and spoke to a lovely lady with a heavy Indian accent. I explained that I was trying to find the Verizon voice mail online portal. I am not sure exactly which word she did not understand, but I guess it was everything after the word “Verizon”. I gave here my address and phone number twice and she said, “Oh my, you have fiber optic voice service!” Bursting with geek pride I said, “Yes I do!”. I figured I must now be in line for some very special VIP treatment.

Her next words were, “I can’t help you , I will transfer you to Fios” , The line went silent and then I was put on hold with music for another 10 minutes. At this point another guy answered the phone, asked me for all the same information and gave me the same line – “I can’t help you, I will transfer you” click, ring, music, another 10 minutes.

The third person I spoke to understood what I was looking to achieve. He also told me that he could not help me but said the “e-desk” is the place for “you”. Frustrated and wanting to have a little fun; when he asked me if there was anything else he could help me with , I said yes. “The Verizon email? Does it always take an hour to deliver an email? Is that standard?” He launched into the tech support speech that I call “you are a dumb person with technology and let me tell you why….” He went on about how Verizon can’t be held responsible for the whole Internet and that was obviously the problem. After he finished reading from the prepared speech on his PC (obviously not a Mac) . I asked him , “If that’s the case, why did my email stall in a Verizon server for 67 minutes?” I gave him the server name and the IP address. I am not sure what I gained by that, so to that Verizon CS guy…..sorry.

He then connected me the e-desk. Finally some satisfaction? I got a recording that the e-desk ‘s hours of service had ended two hours ago. Click, disconnect. Oy.

Hey Verizon, I could have gotten this treatment from Comcast!

In this change over of home technologies I had to cancel Vonage and Comcast. This is almost as frustrating as my Verizon help desk run around.

First Comcast:

comcast21After working my way through the automated phone system I finally got to they “cancel service” option. I nice upbeat guy answered and I told him I was cancelling my TV and Internet Service. He told me he was “Shocked” to hear that. That I was such a good customer. (paid my bills?). Then he starts to launch into the “Save this customer “script. These scripts can last 15 minutes. Once he launched into all of the new special offers and services that Comcast could bring me, I asked him to stop, jump to the last page of the script where you give me my cancellation confirmation number. He was “deeply saddened”, and asked Why would I leave?
I told him “Its not you, It’s me” and I promised to still be friends.

Next breakup call was Vonage. The guy on Vonage was “amazed” that I was a Vonage user for 5 years. I was one their longest tenured customers, practically a celebrity. I also asked him to skip the next 10 pages of script and just give me my cancellation confirmation number. He decided to read the next 10 pages anyway.

I also told Vonage , “Its not you, it’s me”, and my new BFFL Verizon. He could not believe I would leave Vonage. I even asked him if he wanted me to put Mike, the Verizon tech on the phone? Now, that’s a good Verizon commercial in the making.

So – To Comcast and Vonage – Bye, Loved it while it lasted, but we grew apart and you are not a match for Fiber.

And to Verizon, Please get your CS act together. Just because you provide the same services as cable companies does not mean you have to provide the same customer service experience! It takes your tech 8 hours to install your service, you need me to stick around for awhile to re-coup those kind of costs.

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Filed under Apple, Fios, Google, Love, MAc, new media, relationships, Verizon, wireless, wirless

Apple Beware? Or Not

Two consumer electronic giants are challenging the Apple iPhone momentum. 

I will not use the popular cliche term iPhone killer.  The only way the iPhone will become extinct is if another Asteroid hits our planet.  Lets all settle on the less violent – iPhone competitor.

Here are the competitors:

These companies dominate their respective home product markets and now have designs on the iPhone.

Let’s size up this fight and make the predictions.

Nokia 5800 "Tube"

Nokia 5800 "Tube"



In one corner, weighing in at over 100M mobile phones per quarter and a recent announcement that their new touch screen “comes with music” phone, has sold over 1M units, a dominate 40% market leader in all major worldwide markets, is Nokia.

 (European whistles, and polite Finnish cheering)


In another corner, weighing in, and weighed down by Vista, with over $60B in yearly revenue, over 30% market share for desktop and laptop computers, with extra muscle in the enterprise space and an e-commerce website that ranks in the top 150 of all sites, worldwide – The Maven from Texas – Michael Dell and Dell Computers. 

(Yelping and waving of cowboy hats!)


Now entering the ring, the reigning touch screen champion.  They have sold nearly 14M iPhones, with 4.4M last quarter.  They have generated over 500M application downloads and have corporate revenues of about $10B quarter.  Ladies and Gentlemen welcome Apple.

  (Audible humming from Lycra clad Apple-philes on yoga mats)

Before I get hate mail from Blackberry users asking why I did not include them, I have to state the obvious.  Have you seen the Storm?  If you have, you know that the Blackberry product, while good at what it does, is not yet a threat to iPhone. Let’s move on.

(Boos, hisses, and lot’s of Tim Horton Donuts thrown into the ring, ehhh?)

Pre-game analysis:

If anyone is going to pose a serious challenge to Apple and iPhone it will be Nokia.

Nokia is the world class, world leader in mobile devices.  They have a competency that approaches Apple for usability.  They already have achieved massive economies of scale.  The Nokia  “Comes with Music Service” launched in the U.K. in 2007.

This service allows users to download as many songs as they want from the Nokia Music Store for 12 months after they have purchased a compatible Nokia handset.

Users may keep all the music that they download.  Songs are available from all of the major record labels; Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music Group artists.

There have been bumps in the road for Nokia.  Their learning curve is taking some time.  With the introduction of the 5800 touch screen handset (the sexier name of this phone is the “Tube”), and over the air music downloads, they are getting close to getting it right.

With the kinks being worked out in the U.K., market expansion is expected in 2009.

Another big advantage that Nokia has is that the music industry wants a competitor to Apple and ITunes.  I give Nokia a better than 50/50 chance of being the significant 2nd place market chaser to the leading iPhone product.

Dell is a different story.  Dell’s Smartphone plans, or lack thereof, were chronicled in today’s New York Times.   The “paper of record” was less than kind to Dell’s prospects in the Smartphone arena.   The reasons for pessimism are simple.

3248Firstly, Dell is only barely in the handheld computing business.  Their handhelds have been product and market failures.    Both Apple and Nokia have huge successful handheld device product lines. Strike One.

Secondly, Dell is not known for software and user interface design.  They are basically a hardware commodity manufacturer.  Both Nokia and Apple are device software and usability leaders.   Strike Two

Lastly, Dell has no phone design experience.  To be fair, Apple did not have a resume of phone design expertise prior to the iPhone.   Apple has fixed many of the early phone issues with the Iphone. Nokia has forgotten more things about phone design and marketing, than Apple or Dell will ever learn over the next ten years.  Strike 2 and a half.

The strengths of Dell are in manufacturing, web marketing, enterprise accounts and sheer volume of PC boxes.

So, Dell enters this fight strategically and tactically handicapped.

Nokia, on the other hand, has better worldwide marketing clout in the mobile segment; tremendous handset design and manufacturing capability and partners who really want them to succeed.   An example of the Nokia thought process for communications design is the inclusion of a second camera on the front of the phone to facilitate video conferencing.  The “Tube” is powered by Symbian software and has borrowed from the iPhone in certain look and feel aspects

This will be the battlefield for touch screen, music enabled phones for the next several years.

So what should Apple do to compete with Nokia?  Simple, just be Apple.  Change the game every 6 months and out innovate Nokia and everyone else.  Nokia may compete in the music download feature, but Apple will define the product as something much broader.  The Iphone platform will out game, out video, out cool, the Nokia devices.

Nokia will try to out produce and provide their devices at a cost advantage to the iPhone.

While the outcome of this looming market battle will not be as exciting or definite as Santonio Holmes’ last minute catch in the Super Bowl, for wireless pundits it will provide enough material to fill a thousand blogs, and hundreds of trade mag articles.  The initial impact for consumers in the U.S. will be some increased price pressure on the iPhone, with a drop in its contract price to below $100.

Let the games begin.

Iphone and Tube

Iphone and Tube




Authors Note:

By popular demand, I will start a lighthearted “DotMania” blog to relate all of the truly wacky things I have witnessed over my years in big and small companies.  In most cases I will change the names to protect the innocent, the guilty and everyone in between.  Watch for it on Fridays.  If anyone wants to contribute their stories to this regular feature, just send me an email with the details.  See you  on Friday’s at


Filed under Apple, blackberry, Dell, Google, iphone, mobile, Music, new media, Nokia, Smartphone, wireless

America 2.0

In a historic sense, we have officially begun the era of America 2.0. Many political pundits and Presidential historians will make a living for the next generation with analysis of what the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama will mean for our collective futures.

obamaMy angle is simple and parallels the major technological force that is reshaping our society, Web2.0.

In Presidential terms, there have been a few major inflection points in our history. If you doubt this just ask a grade school student.

There was Washington and the creation of our nation, Lincoln and emancipation and the Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt for the New Deal, World War II, and the Great (first?) Depression, Lyndon Johnson for civil rights, and Reagan for the the fall of the Soviet Union.

In each case history can be starkly categorized in a before and after view.

In communication technological terms we had similar points of demarcation such as the invention of language, use of written alphabets, scrolls and books, the printing press, mail service, libraries, telegraph, radio, television, telephone, wireless communications, computers, the Internet and now Web2.0.

President Obama came to power in the midst of, and partly because of, the changing societal norms in the way we all communicate.

Franklin Roosevelt with his fireside chats,  mastered radio as a communications vehicle. John Kennedy mastered the medium of television and Ronald Reagan combined television with a mastery of the pulpit at Evangelical Churches to communicate his message. President Obama is the first Web2.0 President.

The real message here is that we have now passed the tipping point for Web2.0. This is no longer an election story, but one that will be commonplace in how we move forward as a society.
Web2.0 will be part of all future marketing campaigns as well as political movements. The 10’s of millions of “friends” in the various Obama social networking groups do not cease to exist on January 21, 2009. Social Networks live on. These lists will grow, will influence, will be influenced, and will become the number one asset in the inevitable re-election campaign of 2012.

With a new found appreciation for the power of Web2.0, marketing organizations, brands and other organizations are jumping into this medium.

Here are my Web2.0 examples from the inauguration:


How compelling was it to watch the inauguration on CNN’s web page with all of your Facebook friends scrolling their comments, compared to “Katie Couric 1.0” on one-way, non-interactive broadcast television?

Facebook Postings:

During the Inauguration I got recommendations from a relative in Israel, in real time, to befriend someone who was posting their reactions and photos, live from the Washington Mall by way of Facebook.

Falcons 1976:

My high school class recently started a virtual reunion on Facebook. This class was very much shaped by the titanic forces of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war. We had an integrated school district with busing in a community that was largely segregated. To share the joy and amazement of what we witnessed this week with some long lost schoolmates was fantastic.


Twitter, MySpace and Youtube were all a buzz with a constant flow of words, photos and videos.

We are all connected in a way that has tipped the political landscape.

During his speech, President Obama stated that the old rules no longer apply. There are many ways to interpret this statement. One way is that we are so connected with Web2.0 that the old rules of controlling mass public opinion are just that, old.

Social networks, whether formed for political purposes, commercial marketing or high school reunion’s organically exist, grow and feed amongst themselves. They are the new medium for mass communication.

The important lessons from history are that this change, this inflection point, is not inherently good or evil, it just is. Its power is in how it influences our real lives. In the case of President Obama, it has affected all of our lives and perhaps the future history of the world for the next generation.

It is up to us to determine the uses.

Will it continue to empower self expression and sharing of ideas or become an even more powerful mechanism for controlling public option?

We are now sitting at a point in history that will be written about for the next 100 years.

The choice is how we use this new communication medium is ours.

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Filed under America 2.0, facebook, inauguration, mobile, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, new media, politics, President Obama, Presidental History, Social Media, social networking, Twitter, You Tube

Yes Virginia, Santa does TXT!


When I was leading Upoc we would create “Themed” social networking groups around different holidays.  We had particularly interesting groups, and results around Thanksgiving, Valentines Day, New Year’s, Hanukah, Kwanza, MLK’s Birthday and Halloween.  The most interesting, and memorable group was the Christmas group of 2007.

Each social network had a particular question that the members were asked to answer and comment upon.  For Thanksgiving the question was simply, “What are you giving thanks for this year?”  For Christmas it was, “What do you want from Santa this year?”

These social networks were created from the existing Upoc community.  We used our in-house tools to invite members to join.  When a network reached a critical mass of between 500-1000 members, we had a vibrant group.  Since I enjoyed the social networking, group psychology, and the pure fun of these networks, I was often the group moderator and owner.   The majority of the messaging within the group was done via SMS text messaging.  It was not unusual for one of these group to generate millions of messages during its life.

So you probably guessed by now.  I was “Santa”.  I would watch the group discuss their  various needs and wants, and then once or twice a day, as “Santa”, I would interject some pithy (hopefully) comment.  My username was “Santa”.  As Santa I would also boot from the group anyone who wanted nothing more than carnal contact with Santa!

This pattern continued for about a week, when a particularly classic desire bubbled up from a member.  She was a single Mom, with another baby on the way.  She lived in a very rural section of a Southern State.  To protect her identity I will call her “Virginia”.   Either Virginia thought she was text messaging with the real Santa, or she was really good at role-playing.

She texted Santa and said she “really believed in Santa”.  We had several text conversations about her living situation and she would ask about the reindeer.

After communicating with Virginia for two days I decided it was time for Santa to practice some real  holiday spirit . I messaged her that if she really believed ielf_poster1n Santa, then she would get a call from one of Santa’s helpers, “Charlie the Elf”.

In terms of full disclosure,  “Charlie” worked in our customer service department and was eager to play the role of an Elf.  Charlie called Virginia and got her address.  She was a little curious why Santa did not already have her address since he visits every house on Christmas Eve, but we and she let that one slide.

Once we had her address, I went to the web page of the real Santa helpers – Toy’s R Us.  I purchased various items to brighten her holiday- some toys, books, and baby clothing.  These items were shipped directly to her home.

After I made the order I checked out her home on Google Maps.  Using the Satellite view I discovered that the address was in fact a trailer on a secondary dirt road, connecting to the main dirt road, that connected with what may have been a paved road about 5 miles away.

toysrus-logo-high2Santa sent a message to Virginia to tell her that her package was on the way and that it would come from Toys R Us.  She messaged back asking why Santa needed to use Toys R Us.  I thought about sending an explanation about outsourcing and the global flat economy, but instead just told her that Santa needs a little help in reaching the most rural

As Santa, I used another of Santa’s helpers – UPS- to track the package.  When the UPS service send me a message that the package had been delivered, I texted Virginia to ask her about her gifts.   She got back to me and messaged that there was no package by her door.   I went back to the UPS web page and it informed me that the package had been left behind the carport.  Santa then messaged Virginia to look behind the carport.  She messaged back in a couple of minutes, totally amazed that I was able to tell her exactly where to look.

If she did not believe in Santa as a magical figure before that, with the help of text messaging, Charlie the Elf, Google, Toys R Us and UPS, she was clearly a believer now!

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