Thursday, June 28, 2007

I see you!

Was watching HBO... ran into tv spot with url.

Went to site... watching it now...

Sweet online application of video technology...

Wooo, what did she just do?!

This is some cool stuff!

Oh damn, what!? I missed something.

Argh, gotta go, gotta keep up with the stories! TTYL!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More is not that much

Certain words in the marketplace stand out like chocolate cake at a fat camp. Words like "Sale", "Free" and "Unlimited" grab at your attention and try to elicit the kind of spending that can only be described as Pavlovian. "Unlimited" in particular has been an industry changing term. Netflix used it to change movie rentals. In the world of talking, counting minutes becomes obsolete with Vonage and Boost plans. In music, Napster opened up 3 million songs for the taking. With the sweet whisper of "Unlimited", marketers have shifted our culture beyond buffet aficionados and towards the sinister promise of absolute entitlement. Probably not since French royalty has any group felt like they deserved so much.

The problem with all this is that unlimited is an illusion. Sure, there is the obvious fact that there is no such thing as unlimited. If you do your homework, you soon realize there are only so many movies in the library, so many minutes in the day and that there are limits to the unlimited. But even beyond this obvious fact, unlimited is actually quite a bit less than those upper reaches.

We live in a world where everything can be comfortably bracketed by statistics. I don't have to know all that much about you to be able to predict how you'll behave. I may be wrong on individual cases but statistically, I'm probably going to be right much more often than not. When marketers throw out the word "unlimited", they absolutely know that they are not in danger of everyone suddenly gorging them out of house and home. The fact is, there may be short term spikes as we get collegiately drunk on our new found freedom but after time, we behave pretty predictably. As long as the marketer has priced their offering correctly, they have no concerns of everyone going nuts. All hail the power of statistics.

When we sign up for "unlimited", surely we know that we won't be breaking any records in terms of consumption; so what makes "unlimited" so appealing? It's actually very simple. When we buy "unlimited", we are buying insurance. We are buying the safety and ease of mind that we won't get stuck with a giant bill if we so happen to go a little crazy. I feel the same way each time I get in my car.

I bring this whole thing up because I was recently working on a project that required me to think of different ways to promote an offering. Unlimited was a tempting choice. It also seemed to be the most twitchy-reflexive choice too. There has to be something more interesting, I thought. What kept coming up was this: I may have mentioned this before on Branded Newb but I truly believe the next evolution of provider and consumer relationships is one that takes a cue from investing.

The principle of investing is simple. Find something you believe in, spend money on it and if it does well, you get paid for your commitment. We are starting to see some of this on sites that share revenue from user-submitted contributions. We've also seen this at outdoor retailer REI, whose members actually receive dividends if the company does well during the year. This type of relationship is where we're headed. It has all the trademark goodness that the Internet provides:

  • Transparency - The company is trying to make a buck but so are you.
  • Exclusivity - Consumers that join set themselves apart in a community.
  • Collaboration - Everyone is working towards the same goal.
  • Entrepreneurship - Let's not kid ourselves, we want "this thing" to be huge.
It's scary to say but "unlimited" is not enough. As a consumer, I want more than what I'm statistically going to actually consume. As a business, I want more out of the consumer than the "monthly fee". We have to (and will) begin establishing closer ties to each other to really shake things up.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dude, TeeVee is so 90's

Imagine combining YouTube with Red vs. Blue and way too much time on your hands. You'll get GeeVee. It's a social network video site that allows users to upload their game videos. Amateur game footage was never so... amateur.

Ahh, the niche social content site. Like those cable channels you never watch: you're not interested but you guess someone has to be if they're still on the air. I don't foresee this being a significant trend, you just can't beat the pull of YouTube. When you go niche, you dilute the surprise of exploration and the flavor-injected goodness of variety. You gain the perception of being the place to go to for your niche content. The problem is that this doesn't always work. The eBay clones, you know, the jewelry eBay, the car eBay... all couldn't survive because they were probably too niche. How do you build up a reputation if you only sell one thing every few years? How do you go big if your intention is to be small?

The Internet is a funny place. You can be rewarded for being very specific, covering something that no one else covers or you can be rewarded for being a one-stop shop. Nothing survives in between. Why? I'm not sure.

My theory is that if you're niche, you have to be consistent, like McDonald's fries. A niche site that gets noisy with other stuff is going to fail. Someone else is going to do that other stuff better. My advice to GeeVee (and their users) is to stick with a small menu; maybe just machinama based on Broadway musicals. Now that's a site worth coming back to.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Big is an understatement

via MarketingVox, via Times Online

The latest installment of Tomb Raider can quite possibly be one of the most significant milestones in game history. Not because of the game's content but because of its delivery. Tomb Raider Anniversary will be split into downloadable episodes, available at Xbox Live Marketplace. This may just be the Columbus of digital game distribution, you know, the big event everyone remembers even though there were plenty of prior accomplishments that were more legit and less small poxy.

Anyways, good to see Xbox embracing a digital distribution model for a top franchise. (Wii fanbois need not remind me of those downloadable Classic NES games, they don't count)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dead Zones

Currently, there are two known locations on the continental United States that do not have a mobile signal nor any broadband Internet access. One of these locations is so remote, you'd have to dog sled to a negative visibility airstrip somewhere in Minnesota, look for a siding-patched trailer, drop kick the door and begin to compel not only the guy inside, a twitchy pilot named Shuka, but also your surviving dogs to join you in the single prop Cessna parked out back. Next, you'd have to fly (if you can call it that) over two peaks so high you'd get brain freeze just by looking at them and then, swoop over crevasses wedged with the middle-aged bodies of adventure-seeking Orange County accountants. Finally, you'd land on a frozen lake. As you hike towards the middle of the lake with your cell phone in hand, you'll start to see and feel the modern world drift away from you, one painful bar at a time. Yes, welcome to the first dead zone.

The second one is in Montgomery Bell State Park, just an hour away from Nashville, Tennessee. You get here by leaving your very comfortable apartment in Playa Vista, CA (where there is so much unsecured wi-fi, an erection is probably all you need to check email), heading to the airport and plopping down in the "B" line, all the while, promising yourself never to book on an airline named after only one direction. At some point, after being toss fed a creative mix of snacks that you're pretty sure never involved someone with a culinary degree nor would ever be titled "Springtime Variations on the Vendings of My Youth", (though wouldn't it be great if they were) you land. You drive through roads that your GPS TomTom doesn't even know and it starts to say to you, "Are you sure you want to turn right here? I saw a movie once and it didn't end well if you turned right here." But you still turn right and left and before you know it, you reach an outpost of humanity that some people call a State Park. This is the type of place people like having family reunions because if you and your family end up killing each other, no one outside would ever find the bodies.

And so here I am. My cell phone lays stubbornly exhausted on the night stand, not quite able to accept the realization that there are no bars to be found. There is not a LAN outlet in site. Around here, you'd be more likely to find a bear kissing a wolf than a wi-fi signal. I am truly and sadly in a dead zone.

Earlier this evening, in an act of desperation, I yanked the cord from the room's phone and plugged it into my laptop, feeling like I just stole an old lady's wheelchair to joyride down the hill. I post now after spending nearly 2 hours signing up for NetZero dialup. As I type, the NetZero Taskbar application mocks me from it's "always on top" throne in the upper right of my screen, reminding me of my servitude.

What can I say? I'm nothing without internet access.

We're going where?!


This weekend, I'll be at the Montgomery Bell State Park in the good ol' state of Tennessee. You see, there ain't no thing likes the en'dars'net over dar so... I'll be out of touch for a while. Not that I haven't been out of touch. You know how it is.

Anyways, I appreciate the visit and I'll see you next week. In the meantime, you appreciate your connectivity to the rest of the world, savor it... enjoy it like the last little morsel of sweet chocolaty goodness that it is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Was working with a colleague today and started chatting about life (non-work) stuff. As I like to consider myself a gamer, I mention my passion for games when opportunities like this present themselves. After some apprehensive pauses and a caveat of "Well, I haven't played in ages", it turns out that my co-worker is a fan of KOTOR. Now this took me by surprise. When people say they haven't played in ages, it usually means the last time they took up the "sticks" (as my neighbor, who is much cooler than I, calls controllers) was for Super Mario Bros or some variant of Madden. KOTOR, well, KOTOR is in a different league entirely.

If you play through a Star Wars RPG, you're a gamer. I don't care how you spin it. You've firmly entrenched yourself into gamer geekdom, case closed. Now, I didn't actually bring this up to him but I became acutely aware that he was very self-conscious about this revelation, as if this was the first time he came out of the gamer closet.

Sure, this story probably isn't unique. You probably run into people you'd never guess could kick your ass in Halo or blindside you in AOE 4. The thing is, why aren't these people more open about their gaming? The dreaded gamer stigma? Perhaps... that would be the obvious explanation.

I have an alternate theory: Let's call it the lonely gamer syndrome. There are very few titles out there that make it easy for people to talk to each other. Unlike watching Lost or Heroes, there's a lack of a common but disassociated experience. Sure, games have story lines that we could talk about but I think there's a problem with game story lines. When we play games and we assume the role of the protagonist, we internalize the story. There's just no good way to say, "Well, when I decided not to kill that guy, it was a poignant moment." That just doesn't work for me. Sports games are the same. "Dude, I was 2 points down with only half a second to go and I made this killer dunk that shook the house!" I can't quite put my finger on it but it sounds weird.

Would we get more social acceptance of games if we had more games we could talk about openly without that weird feeling described above? Are games, as a form of interactive entertainment, doomed to forever help us escape but not relate?

Monday, June 11, 2007

This Garlic Naan is Really Heavy

So last night I ordered some Indian food from a local place. It took about 1.5 hours to get here. That's not the story, I'm the patient type. The story is... at 90 minutes, I got a call on my phone.

"Hi, delivery." said the delivery person.
"Hi" said the hungry Ken.
"Are you at [### Rd]?"
"Yes, are you lost?"
"No, I'm here, can you come down and get the food?"
"Is the gate code not working?"
"It works but can you come down?"

At this point, I'm thinking, "Wait a second, if the code works and you're not lost, why aren't you actually delivering to my door?" Get your lazy ass up here! Now you might be thinking: diva much? But I'm usually a nice guy, full of "thank you's" and "yes, that is a very generous tip, thanks for noticing." This particular delivery was different, it irked me.

"No, I can't, I'm busy right now. Please come up"

But of course, as soon as I say that, I feel guilty. Why couldn't I meet him half way? I mean, maybe he's running late or has a tough time figuring out elevator buttons. I should have just gone down to meet him.

Argh! I put on some pants, find my keys, and head out the door. As the door swings shut I suddenly remember that I was supposed to be busy. So I head back inside, grab a few paper towels and wet them. A busy person has wet paper towels, it's a well-known fact.

I head to meet the guy halfway at the elevator. On the way, I go through my repertoire of available faces: "Concerned Friend" No. "You stole my parking spot!" No. "Does this look infected to you?" No. "Is that 13 items in her cart?!" Perfect!

I reach the elevator and almost push the button but then I think, "Wait a second, why am I out here? I'm not going down. Screw that. I'm paying for delivery not half-delivery."

The delivery goes down as one would expect, eventless. As I walk back to my place, I run through the possible things he could have done to the food while in the elevator. I tell myself I don't like Indian food that much anyways.

This whole episode got me thinking. You can go 90% of the way with customer service but if you give up at that point, you might as well have not started. How much responsibility do we have as customers to meet you half way? Do we have any at all? Should I have gone down in the first place?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The universe balances itself

Few days ago, Sony let go of several employees. Today, rumors that because Nintendo is moving from Washington State to Northern California, many employees will not be joining. Sounds like when Nintendo lands in Foster City, there'll be a few qualified candidates looking for jobs.

For those stuck in Washington, well, I know a guy at Microsoft...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

When I'm not blogging...

I'm working. In the interest of shameless shilling towards some of the projects I've been working on, I bring you these helpful tips:

  • Visa pays for your 10th meal at Burger King
  • Use your Visa and get a chance to win a trip to Disney
  • California's Flex Your Power shows you how to save energy and maybe the world
  • Love your dog? Feed him Pedigree
  • Get fit with really big hula hoops from Hoopnotica
  • While we're on the topic of fitness... Play some games, it'll do your reflexes some good
  • Still want to save the world? Buy green products from Earthscreen
Yeah, I know, a sad excuse for a post. At least you know the kind of stuff that's going on in my life right now.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Random question

How is it that those "Text to Win" sweepstakes during TV shows like Deal or No Deal (and just about every other reality show) don't get shut down as illegal gambling? You pay $0.99 to play and you have a snow angel in hell's chance of winning; sounds a lot like the lottery to me.

Spatial advertising invasion

I was playing around this weekend on Google Map's new Street View function. It allows you to see the map location you're looking at as if you're sitting on top of a minivan. It's nothing new, Yahoo was teasing this stuff about a year ago. So if you ever wanted to travel virtually to San Francisco, check it out.

Myself, I revisited the Sir Francis Drake hotel. I stayed there a few years ago and one of the memorable things was seeing Tom Sweeney, the Beefeater doorman. He's apparently the "most photographed person in San Francisco" and has been standing there for decades. I find it very appropriate that in the Google Map street view image, you see Tom there, greeting some hotel guests (look closely behind the red van). Can you say great ad?
Speaking of ads. Can you start to see the potential of this thing for ad placement? Imagine if you will, a couple years from now, when Map functions are completely 3D virtual with real life skin overlays. While you're looking for directions to the nearest dry cleaner, you're flying in this virtual space. On the way to the dry cleaner from your home, you pass by billboards. Except, these billboards don't show what's there in real life, they show ads by Google, recommending a new dry cleaner. That, my friends, is the future of local ad targeting. Taken to the extreme, you can imagine ads on roads, on buildings, in place of actual store fronts and their signage. When the real world limitations on ads is lifted, there's no telling where they'd pop up or if you'd even know they're there.

Remind me to up my stocks in Google.

Friday, June 01, 2007

It's not like it was 20 years ago

Remember Tamagotchi pets? Those little egg devices with an animated pet you'd feed and take care of? Well, Reuters says that the movie based on these toys is about to come out. The toys were released in 1997, ten years ago.

In what reality does a ten year old novelty item get a movie today? It's not far enough in the past to qualify as retro chic and just far enough to be irrelevant. I'm so confused. I'm pretty sure if the movie were a Tamagotchi, it'd be long dead by now. Why? WHY?!