Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mashable: 5 Minute Guide to Social Media Job

Mashable: 5 Minute Guide to Social Media Job

Mashable posted an infographic: 5-Minute Guide to Getting a Job in Social Media. The most important recommendation is "Be Familiar With the Need-to-Know Programs", specifically a collection of the everyday tools required to create content. The ability to produce Social Media content from the ground up - actually creating a blog, editing content and images, and trouble shooting HTML cannot be underestimated. 

Example from Real-Life

One of the people I follow on Twitter had a WordPress problem. Text was displaying around the banner image, and it was unclear what was causing the problem. End users, those that blog via a GUI or other interface, may not be comfortable working directly with HTML. If you want to be the expert, you need to understand various GUIs and the underlying HTML. 

To solve the text problem - I navigated to the page, right-click, view page source and then scanned for problems. In this case and URL pointing to an image had wrapped and broken the ALT text. While it was obvious in the HTML, the GUI was probably not providing enough information. The hardest part of the solution was describing what actions the user needed to take in the GUI to resolve the problem in the HTML.

Bottom Line: 

The last recommendation in the Mashable article puts your best foot forward: "Help a Business Out Pro Bono". Share your knowledge skills and expertise with your friends, learn about engagement, negotiation and problem resolution. 

Technology will continue to change, managing relationships and meeting your commitments will set you apart.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Netbook is Dead... Long live the...

The Netbook is Dead... Long live the...

TechCrunch reports: Dell kills the mini-10.  
"Dell is reportedly shifting focus away from the inexpensive notebooks. A company spokesperson confirmed with The Verge that the product line is indeed finished and Dell doesn't have plans to release products on future Intel platforms. Instead, Dell will focus on “thin and powerful” notebooks, a not so subtle nod towards ultrabooks even though that description can fit a few of the company’s current notebook lines."

A Day (Year) Late and a Dollar Short

In September of 2010 I worked up a beautiful chapter arguing against the Netbook (of any flavor). The rest of the work was caught in turbulence as different free applications became paid applications and mergers and acquisitions clutched many good apps into the bosom of the tech emperors. Good ideas are few and far between - and are fleeting.

Bottom Line: 

The Netbook was destined to be squeezed out by the smart phone and cheaper laptops. The Mini-10 and the Streak suffered from excellent market differentiation - for a market that perished before the products could gain traction.

Now, let's see if Intel and the commodity (under $500) laptop producers can scale down to compete with the tablets. 


Thursday, November 3, 2011

OccupyWallStreet OWS Utopia and Scarce Resources

OccupyWallStreet OWS Utopia and Scarce Resources

Mises.org sets the stage in thier article Two's Company: The Basics of Property

"Let us hear David Hume describe such a condition, in which
"...nature has bestowed on the human race such profuse ABUNDANCE of all EXTERNAL conveniences, that, without any uncertainty in the event, without any care or industry on our part, every individual finds himself fully provided with whatever his most voracious appetites can want, or luxurious imagination wish or desire.
"Hume went on to suppose that in this situation every person's natural beauty is such that he has no desire for adornment, that the weather is so mild that he has no need for clothing, that all around him wild plants bear in abundance the most delectable food and natural springs spill out in profusion the most delicious beverages."
"Hume argued that in such a paradise, the human conventions of property and justice would be entirely useless:
"For what purpose make a partition of goods, where every one has already more than enough? Why give rise to property, where there cannot possibly be any injury? Why call this object MINE, when upon the seizing of it by another, I need but stretch out my hand to possess myself to what is equally valuable? Justice, in that case, being totally useless, would be an idle ceremonial."

Do we have Global Surplus?

If the world has a growing population of ~7 billion, no sane person would answer "yes". So how does this example apply?

Imagine growing up in a time of great surplus, like the 1980s and 1990s in America. Food, shelter, recreation, all provided by Mom and Dad in the greatest utopia imaginable, the middle class american home. Everything "free", everything easy, everything provided by somebody else. Student loans just happen to be the first real expense in their life - a harsh yoke to the government ox cart. 

By contrast, the Arab Spring is about the oppressed class (slaves by many measures) rising up against their masters.

OccupyWallStreet (OWS) Does Have a Message: 

Property rights are bad, give us your stuff.  

It is the same message that OWS rebuffs when the homeless (those evil homeless moochers) announce, "we are hungry and we want OWS food". The OWS menu provides a clue to the surplus: "organic chicken and vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, and roasted beet and sheep’s-milk-cheese salad" (cite: FoxNews Article). 

While OWS strains under the restrictions of sanitation, fire safety and public decency, I am sure that no other OWS protesters in the world enjoy such luxurious meals.

Error of the 53%

The 53% seem to think that logic and reason will convert the OWS mob. Nothing is further from the truth. If the 53% want to work three jobs while going to school and raising their kids, the OWS mob is willing to harvest the fruits of the 53% labor. Will the 53% wake up to the challenge?

Bottom Line: 

Ignore the cacophony of unfocused leadership and unfocused messages. When the conductor arrives and taps his baton, the OWS orchestra will come together in a form that we will all recognize.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Diffusion of Innovations - Social Media Impact

Diffusion of Innovations - Social Media Impact

New comments about Rogers' Diffusion of innovations (Wikipedia)
"Within the rate of adoption there is a point at which an innovation reaches critical mass. This is a point in time within the adoption curve that enough individuals have adopted an innovation in order that the continued adoption of the innovation is self-sustaining. In describing how an innovation reaches critical mass, Rogers outlines several strategies in order to help an innovation reach this stage. These strategies are: have an innovation adopted by a highly respected individual within a social network, creating an instinctive desire for a specific innovation. Inject an innovation into a group of individuals who would readily use an innovation, and provide positive reactions and benefits for early adopters of an innovation."
"The rate of adoption of interactive media such as email, telephones, fax, and teleconferenceing often displays a distinctive quality that we here call critical mass... The interactive quality of new communication technologies create interdependence among the adopters in a system." Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition By Everett M. Rogers (p.343)


Two Ideas Deserving Emphasis

  • Can innovation occur without the profit motive?
  • Can Social Media make and break the adoption cycle?

Communication is Key

First, rural sociology from 50 years ago is not a likely place to discover cutting edge discussions of change driven by technological innovation. But, with minor substitutions of SMS (texting), Blogging, and Social Networking (ie.  Facebook, Twitter, et. al.) the relevance of Rogers' observations is still true. Adoption is driven by communication from innovators to early adopters to the average user until critical mass is achieved.

Modern social media is touted as the fast lane to business success as product and service differentiation for the individual consumer takes focus. In fact, social media itself is migrating along its' own adoption curve with innovators and early adopters looking for the proper influence to push Social Media into critical mass. Advertising and marketing represent the displaced innovations - Social media proponents claiming that neither are able to effectively engage the customer.

But, what if...

But, what if the innovator is not profit motivated? 

Does the Rogers' Curve accurately represent adoption of free or very low cost (subsidized) goods and services? An example is the adoption of free internet based email services and free News via the internet. If there is no cost to adopt, does the curve apply?

Worse, what if profit is the only motivation? 

Does the Kim Kardashian narcissistic model of influence - driven solely by the need for profit and providing nothing of substance to society (beyond comic relief) break the Rogers' curve? Is there a nuance to the Kutcher model or the Oprah model?

Even worse, what if the modern consumer thinks everything should be free, that the producers of whatever product or service do not deserve compensation?

Do the recent examples of Netflix attempting to change their product offering and fees and the example of Bank of America changing the fee structure of debit card processing lend good examples for this discussion? Neither company provided an improvement in their offerings, only a change in pricing. Airlines charged for bags before (it was buried in the ticket price), but now catch scorn for being (more) transparent on their prices. Newspapers charged for their content, then gave it away for free, and are now faced with creating a pay model that will keep them from extinction.

How does business react when that same communication channel, that key group of influential early-adopters  turn against your product or service? Rogers' model is driven by farmers' economic choice to become more efficient and more profitable. Without that catalyst, the profit motive, why would anyone be concerned about crop-yields or delivering the news, or handling baggage? How do you take intellectual property and distribute it free without regard to the content creator?

How do companies avoid the social media firestorm when prices change from free to anything else? And, what happens when a company loses the ability to manage their margins and profits (like Netflix) due to consumer backlash, or government mandates? Is a hyper-efficient social media an ally? See Austin Business Journal for an example.

Bottom Line: More Questions Than Answers

  • If personal networks are powerful enough to drive adoption to critical mass, are they just as efficient at imploding the critical mass? 
  • Does the Government have a role in Innovation and driving adoption, or is it exempt from the curve? Does exemption create other problems?
  • Finally, does the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement as a leaderless and agenda-less entity create a new dynamic, or is it simply awaiting the evolution from the innovator category to early-adopter category? 

Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation creates a framework for discussion that is as relevant today  as it was 50 years ago. Now to find people with the motivation for exploration. 


Thursday, October 27, 2011

OWS - The Euthanasia of the Saver - More on Currency

Robert Hibbs chimes in with a timely review of Keynesian thought in The Euthanasia of the Saver | The Beacon:
"In chapter 24 of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes laid out his screwball idea that capital might soon become, or be made to become, no longer scarce; hence no payment would have to be made to induce people to save, and that condition would be splendid inasmuch as it would entail the “euthanasia of the rentier.” This stuff really must be seen to be believed; here is the meat of Keynes’s discussion in his own words:"
Quoting Keynes:  
"Now, though this state of affairs would be quite compatible with some measure of individualism, yet it would mean the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital. Interest today rewards no genuine sacrifice, any more than does the rent of land. The owner of capital can obtain interest because capital is scarce, just as the owner of land can obtain rent because land is scarce. But whilst there may be intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of land, there are no intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of capital. An intrinsic reason for such scarcity, in the sense of a genuine sacrifice which could only be called forth by the offer of a reward in the shape of interest, would not exist, in the long run, except in the event of the individual propensity to consume proving to be of such a character that net saving in conditions of full employment comes to an end before capital has become sufficiently abundant. But even so, it will still be possible for communal saving through the agency of the State to be maintained at a level which will allow the growth of capital up to the point where it ceases to be scarce.
"I see, therefore, the rentier aspect of capitalism as a transitional phase which will disappear when it has done its work. And with the disappearance of its rentier aspect much else in it besides will suffer a sea-change. It will be, moreover, a great advantage of the order of events which I am advocating, that the euthanasia of the rentier, of the functionless investor, will be nothing sudden, merely a gradual but prolonged continuance of what we have seen recently in Great Britain, and will need no revolution. [pp. 375-76]"
Should we economically-bomb ourselves back to the stone age?
If currency (credit and capital) are the lifeblood of Capitalism - is currency needed when Capitalism dies? What is the next best economic model to follow (Euro-Socialism?)

What is the correct leadership framework for a data-centric economy and how would you recognize that leadership? 
"Influencers"? "Klout score"? "Followers"?  "Committee Meetings Decisions"? "Mash-Up output"? "Crowd-Sourced Imagineering" "Team Ideation"? 

Bottom Line: 
I do not want my surgeon to have a high Klout score, I want my surgeon to be an expert, with plenty of education and experience. I am willing to pay for those skills (assets).

I'm still not sold on the imminent demise of currency or capitalism or the ability of OWS to precipitate either. See: Minyanville article by Conor Sen   

OWS - Occupy Wall Street - The End of Money and Free Museum Visits

Conor Sen of Minyanville gives a new view of a possible OWS output:  

Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Museums' Anti MoMa Protests, And The End Of Money As We Know It | Data As Currency | Museum Of Modern Art Protests | Business News | Minyanville.com
"Is the notion of "data as currency" so absurd? We've been paying for products with data for years. Just ask Google (GOOG), Facebook, and LinkedIn (LNKD). Up until now we as consumers have mostly been giving this data away for free, letting companies use it for their own economic gain with very few consequences in cases of abuse (hey, look, there's Facebook squirming over in the corner). This will surely change in the years to come.
"But that's part of what our societal angst and Occupy Wall Street are about -- intangible goods and data are rising in value and power while the pillars of the last century, money and credit, are fading in importance. Policymakers are fighting this because they don't understand the changes that are occurring, and would consider them inane just as the 1920s-era central bankers would guffaw if you told them the world's monetary system would function for decades without a physical commodity-backing currency. This promises to be an incredibly volatile and challenging period, but one that I believe will ultimately be a huge boon for those outside the financial elite.
"It'll be a great time to be an influencer in the world of people and data -- and increasingly a less-great time to be Mr. Burns."

I think Conor makes a fatal leap of faith in his analysis. Many companies that have benefited from giving away data (free or very cheap) have struggled with ways to monetize or raise rates on the data. Somehow Netflix did not make the short list that was presented above. The rise in the importance of data does not diminish the need for currency.

As far as MOMA entrance fees: 
Art is a luxury that is enabled by economic surplus. You don't spend time painting on the cave wall if you are hungry. You shouldn't spend time in MOMA if you can't afford it. 

Bottom Line: 
Data is critical for business success, but currency - capital and credit, and the people and institutions  that control it, are not going away. 

After all, I can state a fact (data) "I am hungry", and that does not make food magically appear...


OWS Occupy Wall Street Kitchen Slowdown

Occupy Wall Street kitchen slowdown targets squatters - NYPOST.com
"The Occupy Wall Street volunteer kitchen staff launched a “counter” revolution yesterday -- because they’re angry about working 18-hour days to provide food for “professional homeless” people and ex-cons masquerading as protesters.
For three days beginning tomorrow, the cooks will serve only brown rice and other spartan grub instead of the usual menu of organic chicken and vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, and roasted beet and sheep’s-milk-cheese salad.
They will also provide directions to local soup kitchens for the vagrants, criminals and other freeloaders who have been descending on Zuccotti Park in increasing numbers every day."
OWS will fail because protesting about stuff is hard without organic chicken and sheep's-milk-cheese salad. Oh, and the weather changed in Austin, so OWS-Austin is already in decline (the temperature dropped below 70 degrees - which is too cold for the flip-flop and t-shirt crowd). 

So, it's OK to redistribute from the wealthy (1%) to the 99% as long as you can exclude vagrants, criminals and other freeloaders??? 

Is it OK for one freeloader to hate another freeloader?

OWS - Occupy Austin "We are the 99%, 98%, 97%..."

OWS - Occupy Austin "We are the 99%, 98%, 97%..."

Austin Business Journal, Date: Thursday, October 27, 2011, 7:03am CDT 
Occupy Austin protest numbers shrink - Austin Business Journal:
"The Occupy Austin movement began nearly three weeks ago and the number of protesters at Austin City Hall are beginning to drop.
Taxpayers are paying overtime for police and extra cleaning costs for grounds while the occupiers who are left depend on food and water donations."
The weather is changing rapidly from mid to high 80s all the way down to the mid-60s!

Is it hard to be dedicated to a non-specific movement with non-specific goals and non-specific leadership?

Starve the beast. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Toshiba Thrive Road Trip

My recent road trip was the first where I left my Dell laptop at home and took my Toshiba Thrive instead.


The weight difference was amazing. Lighter than my Dell E6400, the Thrive also let me shed the laptop bag and all of the bits and pieces inside. The only accessories that made the trip were a power cord and a couple of stylus. It certainly made TSA screening, storage, and access better on the trip. The Thrive went everywhere with me... the laptop might have stayed in the hotel room on coffee runs and quick errands.

Disadvantages/User Error

The biggest problems were due to user error (that would be me). Since the Thrive offers easy access to data on SD cards I keep most of my music on a 2GB card. This keeps my drive space free and lets me manage my music from my home workstation. Multiple SD cards are simple and easy to use. 

Of course, if you leave your SD cards at home… (oops). 

I do have some music on the internal drive so all was not lost. And, as far as the cloud based Google and Amazon music solutions – they really don’t work without internet connectivity.

The second issue was my failure to carry an HDMI cable. My hotel room had a beautiful LCD TV with a perfectly accessible HDMI port. No cable – no big screen movies. The hotel did supply a standard VGA/VGA cable - but VGA is about the only adapter missing on the Thrive This is one of the few places where the laptop would have worked better.
Android has an irritating behavior when connecting to new Wi-Fi networks. The Thrive would see and connect to new networks, but would not allow data transfers. A simple reboot resolved the issue every single time, but who wants to reboot every time they add a new network? The good news is that it does “remember” networks very well, so the second and third re-connects do not require the reboot. 

The Thrive offers the ability to disconnect from Wi-Fi at the same interval as the sleep function for the screen saver (in my case – 2 minutes). I had a "Guest Login" that forced me to re-enter my password with each reconnect. It was one of those system generated, complex passwords like “G91xe47#9G” —which is the equivalent of the expletive I muttered each time I had to retype the password.

Finally, the Firefox browser for Android Gingerbread (3.x) does not allow the viewing of Amazon Prime movies. Ok, the base Android browser does, but why is the Flash plugin for Firefox so lame? And, until Wednesday the 19th, Netflix was not available for Gingerbread. I arrived home to Round Rock to find it in the Android Store… just  a couple of days late.

Lessons Learned

  1. Carry an HDMI cable (Amazon has a huge selection under $10).
  2. Make sure to have SD cards (music and/or videos) because Wi-Fi is not quite everywhere. Example: my hotel room charges for internet access were $14.95 a day. I could have skipped that charge entirely with a little more planning. Also, 2-3 hours on a plane is perfect A/V time.
  3. Make sure to download Kindle books, or other cloud based media that you want to read or access.
So, a little learning curve for the user… and the Thrive proved to be a great travel companion.


Praising the One Percent, 1%, OccupyWallStreet in Wrong Place

George Riesman writing in the Mises Daily,
"In Praise of the Capitalist 1 Percent
"...all of us, 100 percent of us, benefit from the wealth of the hated capitalists. We benefit without ourselves being capitalists, or being capitalists to any great extent. The protesters are literally kept alive on the foundation of the wealth of the capitalists they hate. As just indicated, the oil fields and pipelines of the hated Exxon corporation provide the fuel that powers the tractors and trucks that are essential to the production and delivery of the food the protesters eat. The protesters and all other haters of capitalists hate the foundations of their own existence."
He continues: 
"Capitalism — laissez-faire capitalism — is the ideal economic system. It is the embodiment of individual freedom and the pursuit of material self-interest. Its result is the progressive rise in the material well-being of all, manifested in lengthening life spans and ever-improving standards of living.
"The economic stagnation and decline, the problems of mass unemployment and growing poverty experienced in the United States in recent years, are the result of violations of individual freedom and the pursuit of material self-interest. The government has enmeshed the economic system in a growing web of paralyzing rules and regulations that prohibit the production of goods and services that people want, while compelling the production of goods and services they don't want, and making the production of virtually everything more and more expensive than it needs to be. For example, prohibitions on the production of atomic power, oil, coal, and natural gas, make the cost of energy higher and in the face of less energy available for use in production, require the performance of more human labor to produce any given quantity of goods. This results in fewer goods being available to remunerate the performance of any given quantity of labor.
"Uncontrolled government spending and its accompanying budget deficits and borrowing, along with the income, estate, and capital gains taxes, all levied on funds that otherwise would have been heavily saved and invested, drain capital from the economic system. They thus serve to prevent the increase in both the supply of goods and the demand for labor that more capital in the hands of business would have made possible. They have now gone far enough to have begun actually to reduce the supply of capital in the economic system in comparison with the past."
Bottom Line: 
The 1% is the US Government. The protesters like the media spotlight of New York. Rather than OccupyWallStreet they really should be OccupyWashingtonDC where a few hundred people wield significantly more power.

Yes, economics is hard. Being ignorant or stupid takes much less skill.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Student Loan Debts Crush an Entire Generation, Occupy Wall Street

Crushing Debt

Alex Pareene (@apareene) makes the following observation on Salon.com in an article titled "Student Loan Debts Crush an Entire Generation".
"Some people have noticed that “student loan debt” comes up a lot among the Wall Street Occupiers and the members of the 99 percent movement. Often, older people, who either attended school when tuition was reasonable, or who didn’t attend college at all in an era when a high school diploma was enough of a qualification for a stable, middle-class career, tend to think this is all the entitled whining of spoiled kids. They don’t understand that these kids accepted a home mortgage worth of debt before they ever even had a regular income, based on phony promises, and that the debt is inescapable, regardless of life circumstances or ability to pay.
"Thanks to the horrific 2005 bankruptcy bill, one of the most nakedly venal modern examples of Congress serving the interests of the rentiers and creditors over the vast majority, debtors cannot discharge student loans through bankruptcy. The government is shielded from the risk, and creditors are licensed to collect by almost any means they deem necessary, giving no one in charge any real incentive (beyond basic human decency) to fix the situation.
"In other words, this is unprecedentedly awful for an entire generation of young people just entering adulthood."

Pareene identifies most of the list of OWS culprits: Congress, Banks, For-Profit Colleges. He omits, for some unknown reason, public and private Universities and the students that take on the debt.

There are many symptoms to the problem. But at the root... Government price supports are generally created to benefit their supporters (supporters of the government official that is). And, whenever the government guaranties a price the product will be over-produced. This rule applies universally to corn, or milk, or cheese, or houses, or college classrooms. 

NPR asks the question "Why is College So Expensive?"

"If you are a veteran of a public university, the jump in tuition at your alma mater might be downright jaw-dropping. Tuition at the University of California, Berkeley, was about $700 a year back in the 1970s. Today, U.C. Berkeley students have to fork over around $15,000 per year. That's a 2,000 percent increase.
"There's a simple explanation, according to Sandy Baum, who teaches at George Washington University. "States are paying less of the cost than they used to," Baum says. She adds that as state budgets shrink, the students' share of paying for education goes up.
Competing for Talent
"Berkeley's tuition increase is unusually large, but most public schools, which educate 80 percent of all college students, have seen dramatic increases. Private schools don't rely on state subsidies, and their prices have gone up more slowly in recent years. But they are still rising faster than inflation.
"In the past decade, tuition and fees at public four‑year colleges and universities increased at an average rate of 5.6% per year beyond the rate of general inflation. Costs at private schools, adjusted for inflation, have actually decreased."

Bottom Line 

Emerging Myth: Gaining a College degree is a ticket to the good life. 

The Government has morphed from direct subsidizer of schools, to primary lender -- with no escape clause for the borrower. The government has been managing the ability for students to pay the price (for a college degree), but not the cost (to finance the degree). 

How gracious of our government to remove the banks from the Student Loan process - why cut-in a middle man on such a sweet deal?

This Faustian Bargain has a Very High Cost

Handcuffs created by government, supplied by banks, slapped on by the Universities... subjugating those that voluntarily take on the handcuffs, the yoke, the chains and shackles of student debt. Voila, the creation of a voluntarily indentured class.

More on the Occupy Wall Street - Student Loan discussion (Link and Link)

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Media Literacy Requires Critical Thought

Josh Cantone on Mashable discusses Why New Media Literacy Is Vital for Quality Journalism
"In today’s media-saturated world, the concept of literacy is again changing. According to [Nichole] Pinkard, kids in school today may not be considered literate in the future if they don’t fundamentally understand new forms of media — things like blogs, Twitter and streaming video.
"To be truly literate, though, you also need to be able to think critically about media, discern fact from fiction, news from opinion, trusted from untrustworthy. These issues have always been thorny, but the explosion of self-publishing has only made media literacy more vital to the preservation of our democratic society." 

New Media Literacy Requires Critical Thought

Salisbury University has a quick summary of "7 Critical Reading Strategies".

Of course, the Xolotech blog as part of the "new media" would be remiss if it didn't point the reader to:  

Adler, M. J., and; Van Doren, C. (1972). How to Read A Book (Revised Edition (August 15, 1972) ed.). Touchstone. The New Yorker

"It shows concretely how the serious work of proper reading may be accomplished and how much it may yield in the way of instruction and delight."

Bottom Line:

The availability of information, in whatever media format, does not relieve the reader or viewer from using their brain. 

Miles Monroe: "My brain! It's my second favorite organ." ~Woody Allen, Sleeper

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

OccupyWallStreet, Student Loans, and Nontrepreneurism

ABC News Reports: Student Loan Payments Cripple Borrowers
"We work with our customers experiencing financial difficulty to find ways to help them remain successful," said Patricia Christel of Sallie Mae. "This can involve switching to a different payment plan and a review of their financial situation to see whether they could be eligible for a temporary period of lower or no payments."
Taking a break from payments via deferment or switching to a longer payment schedule could result in paying much more in the long run in interest.
"It doesn't make any sense when people don't care what the car costs, they only care what the payment is," said Jones about many of the options borrowers have to lower their monthly payments. "But so many people are desperate they will do whatever they can do."
"Bottom line is that we want to hear from our customers and work with them to find a way for them to be successful," said Christel. "Nobody wins — not the customer, not future students who depend on student loans for access to college, not the school and not the lender — if someone defaults.""
SmartMoney discusses the aftermathFor Student Borrowers, a Hard Truth

"What many people may not realize, however, when taking out a student loan is just how different it is from other kinds of debt. Credit-card debt, for example, can be wiped out in bankruptcy. Mortgages can be discharged through foreclosure.
For borrowers with crippling student loan debt, financial failure offers no such fresh start. The loan still must be paid off, and often with new collection costs tacked on, making it much more expensive than before. On top of that, up to 25% of a person's wages can be deducted until the loan is paid back in full. (Private lenders must get court approval for wage garnishment and the amount they can take varies.)
With federal loans, the government can also keep your federal and state income tax refunds, intercept future lottery winnings and withhold part of your Social Security payments. "Defaulting can be completely devastating to a family's finances and sense of well being," says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and Fastweb.com."
[Author note: broken into 3 paragraphs for readability, emphasis added.]
Finally a quote from Peter Reilly at Forbes.com about an OccupyWallStreet example
"A typical, although on the extreme end, grievance is from someone who went $150,000 in debt to obtain a masters degree in Minority Womens  Studies.  She received an excellent education and is now extemely frustrated that no one is willing to hire her based on the important things that she has learned.  Now some even among the 99ers, who have posted, would put the blame for that squarely on her shoulders..."
Bottom Line: 
Just say "Maybe" to student loan forgiveness. Nontrepreneurism Part 2 and Nontrepreneurism Part 2a

Just say NO to Nontrepreneurism (Part 1), Warren Nontrpreneurism 
(See also: Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and the Plugerville Example)

Just say YES to Entrepreneurism

P.S. Yes, there are options to avoid Student Loans entirely. See: UT Tuition and Checked Baggage, and 10 Most Affordable Colleges

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Freemium Games? How Much For Lawyer Upgrade?

Freemium Games - How Much For Lawyer Upgrade?

Who Spends The Most Money In Freemium Games? | TechCrunch
"At a quick glance: while you probably shouldn’t go all out and make the goriest, booty-filled freemium game the world has ever seen (if only because Apple would give it the boot in a heartbeat), it might not be as important to be as overly kid-friendly as smash hit freemium games like Smurfs’ Village might lead you to believe. If you focused on making a game that the 18-39 year old crowd would dig, there’s plenty of potential to walk away with quite the cash pile."
AppAdvice Reports "We Are in Love with Freemium Games":

"In the past 12 months, the majority of revenues from the App Store have shifted siginifcantly from premium to freemium apps. As such, there have now been 57 million purchase transactions across a set of freemium iOS and Android games that averages over 2 million daily active users.
"Most surprisingly, most of these purchases are for those items that are depleted when used, so called consumables. These in-app purchases include upgrades, add-ons, virtual goods, and the like."

How About Kids?

Apple learns their lessons quickly - the Smurf's Village Smurfberries fiasco was resolved and fixed. But GLUMobile (NASDAQ GM:GLUU) and the Android Marketplace was not paying attention. The Android Marketplace asks for the user to leave a credit card on file to facilitate purchases. That business practice allowed my six-year old to charge up several hundred dollars on "upgrades" for in app purchases within GLUMOBILE game.

So here are the (less than pretty) details. 

My credit card account has email notifications enabled for transactions. My email box started spinning as multiple purchases were made over a several minute period. Imagine your kid playing a game that rewards success with points and allows the points to be applied to upgrades... (practically every game they play). In this case the upgrades cost money, and my card was on file... so GLUMOBILE and/or the Android Marketplace rang up the charges

Apple and the Amazon Appstore for Android resolved this problem by forcing the user to enter a password to purchase, download or upgrade an app. 

No problem, right? 

Called home, got the kid off of the Android, then went to the GLUMOBILE website to locate customer service. Ummm, no. Their website clearly states that purchases are "confirmed" after a very short 15 minute period - nonrefundable, tough-luck. I'm not sure how that works since their app is free to download, offers no registration, and requires no login or password (authentication). I'm not exactly sure how they "know" who is playing their games or who is authorizing purchases. 

Ok, so called credit card company to contest charges. They took all of my details, no problem, it should be resolved in 6-8 weeks. BTW, the credit card company added cool feature to their dispute site. The customer can upload documents and attach them to the complaint. Very nice and very smart; why mail, scan and PDF when the customer can do the work?

Next, back to GLUMOBILE to try to work out the problem. We called the 800# several times and in addition to never getting to speak to a real person, we kept being dumped into voice mail purgatory. Since I'm not inept at Social Media I went to LinkedIn to find real people so that I could use the company directory at the 800# to locate a real person. No luck, tossed into purgatory once again. 

The good news is that Google Voice tracked all of the outbound calls (date, time, number called, length of call), and I pulled the card from the Android store. I suspect (deep in my heart I "know") that the forms submitted on their web site met a similar fate, probably assigned to a different bowge - specifically for email. 

So, the next step was "old-school" with a letter to customer service, explaining the issue and outlining the Apple experience - with a cc to the company lawyer (she was listed in LinkedIn). We just wanted a refund in a timely manner. 

Less than three weeks later our Credit Card company posted a "resolved" message online and stated that they would send us the details in the mail. I was able to confirm that the charges were removed from my account. A letter came in the mail a few days later.

So, What Actually Happened?

  1. GLUMOBILE customer service realized the problem and extended a refund.
  2. GLUMOBILE legal recognized a problem and extended a refund.
  3. The Android Marketplace realized the error and extended a refund.
  4. The credit card company reversed the charges since they were clearly unauthorized.
  5. None of the above. 

The Correct Answer is: 

5 - None of the Above!

Since the Android Marketplace and GLUMOBILE did not respond to the credit card company inquiry, the charges were "temporarily removed", pending a final resolution date in November.

I have no resolution right now, but the lessons outlined above should be shared, since the problem might apply to other in-app purchases from the Android appstore. 

In the meantime (for any GLUMOBILE employee that might read this blog), the law firm that handled the case against Apple was clearly identified in several articles - try Googling the term "Smurfberries". 

GLUMOBILE and the Android Marketplace may want to revisit the purchase, upgrade, enrollment and authentication processes, you may want to improve your customer service experience, and you may want to review your customer complaint process with your customer service team and your legal team. 

Bottom Line (for the companies): 

You should never blatantly copy the competition... nor should you ignore the important lessons that they learn. 

And, when a customer gives you a chance to do the right thing... you should try very hard to. 

Bottom Line (for the consumer):

If you really need to have a credit card number on file, consider the new American Express pre-paid card (Serve) with a very low balance. Exposing your bank debit card or your credit card is not a great idea. 

Also, the GLUMOBILE games are pretty solid, but this horrible experience overshadows the games. 


Friday, September 30, 2011

Amazon's Kindle Fire Being Sold at a Loss

Amazon's Kindle Fire Being Sold at a Loss

The Register: Amazon's Kindle Fire being sold at a loss
"But if IHS's preliminary analysis is correct, Amazon is more canny than that old thigh-slapper might suggest. IHS believes that Amazon is willing to make only a marginal profit on the Fire plus a relatively small amount of digital content that users will buy per tablet, because the online retailer is using it as a loss-leader to get customers into its online store where they'll pay good, high-margin money for gadgets, gizmos, and gewgaws.

A reasonable argument, but Amazon may have more than mere enticement in mind. Digital content – warning: prepare for a "well, duh!" statement – is the wave of the future."


Well, duh... indeed. 

All Nurses Central reports on the competition (which might explain just why HP is attempting to bail on hardware):
"I read an article back in August by Brooke Meyer titled “Who Made Your Notebook?” Mr. Meyer’s article so interested me that I wanted to share some of it with you today. You can keep up with Brooke Meyer’s reporting on technology by browsing to his website called Brooke's View.
According to Mr. Meyers, the answer to the question he posed is:

"Not the company whose name is on it. Why? “…competition for orders is also expected to further lower notebook makers’ gross margins in 2011 from 4% in 2010.”
  • After the OEM/ODM 4% profit, “manufacturers” like Dell make 5% and HP earns 9%.
  • Apple’s profit on each iPad ranges from 40 to 55%. (Who makes iPads? FoxConn.) Selling 2 million units each month, Apple wins.


If the Amazon Kindle Fire adds nothing to the bottom line... 

How much profit does Amazon make on a digital download of a $9.99 eBook or album?


Amazon Fire: Media Mis-Fires on Announcement (pt 2)

Amazon Fire: Media Mis-Fires on Announcement (Update: Part 2) 

My best ideas come to me at 1:47am. My previous post talks about media response to the Amazon Kindle Fire (Media Mis-Fires). 

Another key question: What about the impact on the Nintendo DS and other handheld players? 

On my personal blog, where all of my deep-inner thoughts and unprofessional rants are posted, I ask if the Amazon Kindle Fire is a better choice for the kids than an Apple iTouch.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amazon Fire: Media Mis-Fires on Announcement

Amazon Fire: Media Mis-Fires on Announcement - Part 1

Here are early media themes about the Amazon Fire:

Yahoo News: Kindle Fire may force Android tablet makers to cut prices.
"The pricing is critical to gain traction in the tablet market... Rival manufacturers have failed to attract consumers as they have matched the iPad's price point without matching its content offering," said Adam Leach, an analyst at research firm Ovum. "Amazon's retail-based business model allows the company to subsidize the device on the premise that consumers will buy more from Amazon, be that physical goods or its digital content."
Yahoo Finance Can Amazon Really Bruise Apple?
"However, the main focus of the day is the Kindle Fire. At a price of $199, it could present a real challenge to the iPad, something that past companies such as Motorola and Research in Motion have been unable to do. Microsoft is also preparing to re-enter the tablet market (after past failures) with its Windows 8 in the near future. Analysts were expecting a price of about $250 for the Kindle Fire. At a price of $199, analysts are now expecting Amazon to subsidize the low price tag. However, Amazon has an advantage that past tablet challengers were lacking, a massive library of digital and physical goods. The Kindle Fire will make it easier to buy Amazon’s products, including everything from books and movies to sports equipment.
Simit Patel of Seeking Alpha: Amazon's Tablet Marks Start Of Media Companies Disrupting Hardware Businesses
"Amazon is blazing the trail here. To minimize its costs, the firm's tablets will be built atop a forked version of the Android operating system. Indeed, building off existing open source software as a foundation will be a key part of how media companies create hardware products at minimal cost. On top of this, though, is the fact that Amazon is pricing its tablet at below cost; rather, the company is expecting media sales to make the venture profitable for shareholders. "
Eric Schonfeld of TechCrunch: The Kindle Fire Will Have A Whole New “Cloud Accelerated” Mobile Browser Called Amazon Silk.
“The so-called split browser essentially has two homes: on the Kindle Fire itself, and in Amazon’s EC2. Basically, when a user pulls up a webpage on their Kindle Fire, EC2 handles all the rendering to optimize it for the Fire’s screen. Images are resized on the fly, and what’s more, it tracks user’s behavior. Users who visit TechCrunch all the time, will notice quicker load times because Silk detects that pattern of activity and pre-caches the site.”
Sarah Kessler has poll results from Mashable Readers (whom feel empowered to judge the Fire with little hands on experience. Amazon Kindle Fire: iPad Killer or Ereader Substitute? [Poll]

Mash Poll

Why are these themes misplaced?
  1. Apple’s price point is not remotely critical to the other Android tablets. Users want content, and Apple and the iTunes eco-system provide content. Apple enjoys huge double-digit margins while other manufacturers are scrapping by in the low single digits. The Amazon Fire comes with Amazon content, but conversion of the Amazon “reading” and catalog retail audience into movie streaming, music playing and (most important) paying customers is still an unknown.
  2. Margins are less important to Amazon Fire. The “razor and blades” model is well established at Amazon. A more interesting question is how the $100 HP and the $200 Fire will impact the low end readers and Android tablets. After all, those users will still need to collect content. This same dynamic is playing out in the Apple iPod product line as prices continue to fall on products with more features. I predict that the iTouch and a new sports-oriented Shuffle (water proof and shock resistant) will be the lone survivors.
  3. Amazon Fire will likely impact readers and low end Androids. But, the better question to ask: Is there a viable Android market that remains to be tapped? I posit that the Enterprise Android (see the excellent Toshiba Thrive) and the “rugged” tablets will continue to be profitable at the $500+ price range. The first Android to be picked up by a major Corporation will take on gravity. In my opinion this is where the Dell Streak was supposed to play. And, until Microsoft gains traction this area is still open territory for Android.
  4. Silk and the split browser. Very cool, very slick. I predict that Silk will get much more press after the end user community can validate the experience. Content distribution and caching built a company called Akamai. The ability to offload the wait time of the dozens of TCIP calls required to render a page may prove more significant than price or content. The X-ms response delays needed to collect data from different servers linger for all users. As more content is seeded into the cloud and spread across servers, datacenters, and continents, Silk might be the moat that Amazon needs for its’ cloud strategy. Silk, even without link pre-cache or pre-fetch, might be the big winner in this release. 
  5. 42% iPad fanboys responded to the poll to support what hypothesis, that they still love their iPad?