Awareness is Everything: September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Awareness is the Key – Lessons on the economy

While contemplating what to write about, I cannot seem to get my mind off of recent events occurring within the economy. I don’t think there is a way to get around the recent turmoil with headlines across all major news sites such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. I guess what has intrigued me the most is just how little I really knew about what truly has been going on with the economy over the past 70 years.

In many ways our economy has been taking a turn for the worse for years. The government has been passing policies and manipulating the market so that it seems that up until recently our economy has been great. However this is not the case and our economy has been on a path (though a slow one) to where we are today.

So what is my point with all this you ask? I feel that it is important that we be aware of the economy, what is going on and the underlying issues that have lead us up to the point where we are now. Therefore, I thought I would offer up a link to several educational videos from Chris Martenson, an ex-professor and VP of a fortune 300 company now turned author.

The reason I chose this series of videos, is that they go beyond what the current news is reporting and gives a history of the economy and how policies and/or actions have shaped it over the last 100 years. Martenson does a fantastic job of breaking a complex subject down and explaining in an easy to understand manner. The videos cover how the economy interacts, where the economy has slowly gone wrong and implications for the future that go way beyond just a couple of major bankruptcies that are happening today (although this number continues to rise).

Remember “Awareness is Everything” and being aware of what is going on in our country and our economy is very important. What other content have you found beneficial to furthering awareness of the economy crisis?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why the web matters and will still change everything.

Yes, the web matters - duh. But, its major impact is yet to come. Currently it has democratized (somewhat) information, changed the way we share, communicate and learn - along with about a million other things. However, the large scale social, psychological and economic ramifications have not happened...yet.

Let's leave out the psychological discussion for now (does having 500 "friends" on Facebook increase closeness, dilute actual bonding with family? what happens to a generation that grows up sharing video, photos, private moments with Dear@www - how does a 1:1 relationship, be it marriage or parenting stack up to or compare? and so many others).

What is really interesting right now is the tapping of the collective wisdom of crowds, social networks, starfish theory, desire for fame, money, social capital - whatever you call it to find serious solutions to major global problems.

The big case in point here is Google with their Project 10^100. According to Google "Project 10100 is a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible." Seems like a perfect use of some of their money, brand equity and the web.

I, for one, am very excited to see what comes out of the project. My guess, some amazing mind blowing ideas, game changers and a few "smack me sideways - why didn't I think of that" ideas.

Google video is below - and go post your ideas!

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Clean Advertising, Clean Planet

I was reading last months Creativity magazine when I came across a beautifully simple and earth-conscious project called “The Reverse Graffiti Project”. My interest was instantly sparked because I’m actually a huge fan of well-done graffiti. Wondering what ‘reverse graffiti’ was, I visited the site – I found that this is a project powered by Green Works– a spin off from the Clorox Company that’s producing plant & mineral based biodegradable cleaning agents. As soon as I read that, it hit me what they were doing— they were cleaning dirty, smut-caked walls in cities in order to make earth conscious, artistic advertising! BRILLIANT! However, it made me somewhat question the reasoning behind it all— is Clorox really trying to help the planet? Are they just trying to make an extra buck or are they just trying to offset the damage they’ve already done to the planet with their normal line of Clorox products?

After reading a little more about it, watching the videos and rolling the concept of ‘clean art’ around in my head, I decided to focus on the positive instead of questioning the motives of Clorox. I came away from the site with two main ideas to take from this project: #1– Use of advertising that actually HELPS the environment instead of destroying it; #2– Make something “new” out of something already existing– a form of recycling, if you will. The basic ideas of ‘clean art’ have been around for a while and probably exist in many different forms. The most recent example I can think of was an email I got a while back about ‘dirty car art.

I went on thinking about the 'clean art' concept and wondered how it could be applied to other means of advertising or life in general. Seems like a lot of individuals and companies are starting to become more interested in 'earth friendly' alternatives to just about everything. I'm glad people are starting to finally wake up and realize just how much we impact the health of our planet. So, the questions still stand– how can these ideas be used to make something 'new' out of something pre-existing for use as an advertisement? What are other people already doing that's recycling pre-existing objects and making them into something new?

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Online tools for parents

As some of you may know I have been on maternity leave for the last 3 months. My days (and nights too) have been consumed with feedings, changing diapers, trying to keep up with the endless amount of laundry (who knew someone so little could produce so much laundry), and staring in wonderment at this amazing person. Now that I am back to work and my former life at Sentient has resumed I am spending my days talking to clients, writing proposals, reviewing reports, and managing projects again. Two very different roles. And as many working parents before me I am learning to manage and balance work and family. So how do we manage it all? Fortunately for me I work for a company that is my “village” so to speak and has been very supportive, generous and accommodating during this time of adjustment. In addition to working for a great company, I have discovered a plethora of online tools (many of course sponsored by brands) to track, answer, remind, and verify my every parenting move, question, task and concern.

Here are a few of my favorites. – everything from mommy and baby horoscopes, to baby milestone videos, community blogs, development calendar, recall finder, deal finder, and much, much more. – Their tagline is “Family Life. Simplified. This tool is a multimedia organizer for busy parents. The tool keeps track of calendars, shopping lists, family journal postings and pictures and you can coordinate it all from your desktop, notebook, phone, or PDA. You can sync your outlook and cozi calendars, send or leave a message to a family member (dinner at Hula Hut at 7pm!) or send your shopping list to your cell phone. See a tutorial here. – a widget that lets you customize your own pregnancy countdown so you can watch your baby grow from a tiny dot to a full grown fetus. Check it here.

These online tools and forums were not available to my parents when they were raising me. They had to rely on more archaic means…like calling their parents in a panic in the middle of the night to find out how to treat a fever and of course there was and is always Dr. Spock (he is online now too). So as the diffusion of parenting information evolves, I wonder what tools my child will use when she becomes a parent. What’s next?

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Friday, September 12, 2008


Arrived at work this morning, and my boss wasn’t in yet. It took me a minute, and then I remembered, he’s volunteering today with LifeWorks. One of our work benefits is that we get one day a year to volunteer for something that pulls at our heartstrings.

What sort of impact does this have on our business? Having been involved in volunteer organizations, my reaction is: volunteering has a big, positive impact! It builds interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, increases patience and flexibility, among other things. And then there’s just that feel-good high you get from helping another human being.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one that thinks this. According to the 2008 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, companies are paying attention to volunteering.

“Not only does skills-based volunteering provide much-needed support to local nonprofits, but it also helps foster meaningful business and leadership skills among employees.”

What are your thoughts? How has volunteering impacted your skill set, career or business?

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity to use and build your skill set or portfolio, check out AustinProBono, a site that connects businesses that want to help with nonprofits that need help.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Platform Thoughts

I ran into an interesting article today on CNET, titled “"Should software developers fear Facebook, Apple?" In summary, and I’ve dumbed this down considerably for the sake of brevity, the author feels Apple and Facebook’s quality control maintained over third-party applications developed for their respective platforms is excessive to the point of stifling growth in the software development industry. I agree, productivity will be limited by their actions, however I don’t like the causation implied – i.e. larger software developers using their “weight” and influence to force Apple/Facebook to suppress smaller ones.

I tend to skew closer toward this thought. Apple and Facebook may be slightly stifling innovation, but they may be doing so to stay out of court and on the legal side of copyright laws, etc. In my opinion, they’re ultimately raising the standards for the developer community. As this platform continues to grow, I’m hoping we’ll soon see a chasm between allegedly copyright/trademark infringing developers versus the innovators. With current platforms developing and new ones continually coming to fruition, original and useful applications will be recognized as such and widely adopted, period. We’ve reached the point of application saturation in which truly only the “cream” will rise to the top.

What do you think? Does it make sense for Facebook/Apple to control applications or should they be more of a platform? From a brand perspective, was Scrabulous hurtful or helpful?

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008


More money is being spent online, serving up ads and an ad revenue model continue to be the driving force behind new start-ups, Microsoft purchases (or planned ones) and Google product development such as the new browser Chrome - built to further deliver targetting for those that buy via Google and potentially shut out others like Microsoft from lucrative profiling data The big question becomes how do you measure such terms as "immersion", "product placement", "gaming", "social media" and so forth.

One interesting idea we came up with at Sentient was in regards to measuring brand interaction in virtual worlds for market research (at the bottom of this post). How are you measuring brand interaction on emerging platforms?

Virtual Worlds activity is measured with specific metrics that are different from web metrics

These are the areas it makes most sense to measure:
– Sim Traffic
Sim = server
Sim traffic is the total amount of users that have visited the respective presence in a given time frame

Currently virtual worlds can accommodate 65-100 users per sim
– Concurrency
Average number of users on a sim at the same time

– Sustainability
Average time experience per user (in hours)

– Experiential Value (EV)
((Total Traffic/(Concurrency/10))*Sustainability= VE ratio

Benchmark - WBHV, 12/12/06 launch - ((200/(40/10))*40 = 533.33
– WBHV Rave Party was considered a success by Second Life standards

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