What’s Your Information Lifecycle

A critical decision for every person and organization is how long to keep information out there in the physical and cyber realms.

Delete something too soon–and you may be looking in vain for that critical document, report, file, picture, or video and may even violate record retention requirements.

Fail to get rid of something–and you may be embarrassed, compromised, ripped off, or even put in legal jeopardy.
It all depends what the information is, when it is from, and who gets their hands and eyes on it!

Many stars have been compromised by paparazzi or leaked photos that ended up on the front page of newspapers or magazines and even government officials have ended up in the skewer for getting caught red handed like ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner sexting on Twitter.

Everything from statuses to photos put on social media have gotten people in trouble whether when applying to schools and jobs, with their partners, and even with law enforcement.

Information online is archived and searchable and it is not uncommon for parents to warn kids to be careful what they put online, because it can come back to haunt them later.

Now smartphones applications like Snapchat are helping people communicate and then promptly delete things they send.

With Snapshot, you can snap a photo, draw on it, even add text and send to friends, family, others. The innovation here is that before you hit send, you choose how long you want the message to be available to the recipient before vanishing–up to 10 seconds.

Snapchat has sent over 1 billion messages since July and claims over 50 million are sent daily–although forget trying to verify that by counting up the messages because they have self-destructed and are gone!

Of course, there are workarounds such as taking a screenshot of the message before it vanishes or taking a photo of the message–so nothing is full proof.

Last year, according to The Atlantic, the European Commission proposed a “Right-To Be Forgotten” as part of their data protection and privacy laws. This would require social media sites to remove by request embarrassing information and photos and would contrast with the U.S. freedom of speech rights that protects “publishing embarrassing but truthful information.”

Now, companies like Reputation.com even provide services for privacy and reputation management where they monitor information about you online, remove personal information from sites that sell it, and help you with search engine optimization to “set the record straight” with personal, irrelevant, exaggerated or false information by instead publishing positive truthful material.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (7 Feb. 2013), “Ephemeral data is the future,” but I would say comprehensive reputation management is the future–whether through the strategic management of permanent information or removing of temporary data–we are in a sense who the record says we are. 😉

Cafe Barbie Debuts 2013

What an awesome idea for a cafe that can appeal to girls and women worldwide–a Barbie Cafe.

It opened in Taiwan last week and it is licensed by Mattel the founder of Barbie dolls (1959).

At 7,100 square feet and with $1.7 million dollars of investment, you get a lot of Barbie ambience–especially plenty of pink and frills (and calorie counting).

While some women may be turned off to the girlie stigma of a Barbie Cafe, there are probably many others who are enchanted with the dreamy image it bring from childhood and the ability to express a certain femininity, the Barbie way.

My prediction–in the near future, there is going to be a Ken Cafe opening up right across the street. 😉

Dyson Vs. Dirt Devil

Vacuum

For those of you neat freaks out there, you probably have been sold on the King of Vacuum cleaners–the Dyson!

Dyson, a British company has built a vacuum cleaner (and fan and hand dryer) empire with 4,000 employees and $1.5 billion in sales.

For a number of years now I have used Dyson including their super powerful (and expensive) “Animal” bagless cleaner–this thing actually ate up one of my phone cords and tore it to shreds.

I’ve also had other Dysons and my experience has been that while they look really nice in their bright yellows and grays, and sort of sleek for a vacuum, but they tend to break down–especially the motor for the brushes that work on the floor that I find accumulates hair and dirt around the spinner until it stops working.

The other thing that I’ve found with the Dyson is they come with so many annoying attachments, many with no place to actually attach them all–I think it is overkill for most people’s basic cleaning needs.

After going through a number of Dysons, I finally got fed up with paying so much and getting so little, and we decided to stop “investing” in short-lived Dyson vacuum cleaners.

Instead we said let’s get a simple, cheapo, Dirt Devil for like 50 bucks and run it into the ground. If it stopped working we could replace it 6-10 times for the cost of a single Dyson!

We purchased the Dirt Devil, and my expectations were very low–I actually considered it an experiment in purchasing this low-tech machine, and just seeing what we would get.

Well, it’s been about 3 months and I can’t believe the amount of vacuum you can get for so little money with the Dirt Devil–it is bagless like the Dyson and without scientifically measuring the amount of dirt it picks up, I’d say it is almost equivalent in getting the dirty job done.

Additionally, the Dirt Devil–doesn’t come with all the useless attachments–a case where more is less–and it weighs only around 8 pounds, which is 1/3 of what the Dyson weighed–so it is much easier to use around the home.

Similarly, when I look at the cool Dyson fans without blades, it seems almost magical how they actually work, but frankly who cares if it cost $300-$450 and doesn’t work as well as a basic floor Vornado that sells for about $120.

My opinion is that Dyson is generally overpriced and underperforms–but at least you’ll have the image of innovation and performance, even if not the reality at the price point.

Anyway, If I had a vacuum cleaner dream, it would be to one day get one of those “commercial” vacuum cleaners that you see being used in the huge buildings–almost non-stop use–and they may cost a little more, but they actually give you more as well. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Molly DG)

TED For Everyone

The New Yorker (9 July 2012) has an article on TED Talks.

TED stands for Technology/Entertainment/Design and is a conference venue for some of the most magnificent speakers.

Just looking at some of TED’s “most popular this month”–turn to TED if you want to hear about:

– Information being collected about you on the web
– How through vulnerability, we can empathize, belong, and love
– Whether through evolution our kids will be different than us
– Ways to prepare for Alzheimer disease
– New ideas for cleaning up oil spills
– How schools kill creativity
– The talents and abilities of introverts
– How to inspire and be a great leader

TED is literally a world of information and it is presented in a high quality way.

Almost anyone would be floored by the honor to present at TED.

Talking at TED means not only that you have something important to say, but that you can pull-off saying it the right way.

What makes TED lectures great though (and viewed 800 million times so far) maybe also makes them more than a little sterile.

Firstly, the 4-day TED conference itself is only for special people–admission starts at $7,500 and no that does not include lodging and travel, and you have to have an “invitation”–posh posh–to attend.

Then, the actual presentations are “closely governed”–speakers are carefully sought out and vetted, material that is counterintuitive is of interest, and “TED’s eye for theatre…[with] vigilance about immersion and control” are a strong part of the showmanship.

However, while on one hand, these things perhaps are a hugh part of the TED success–wash, rinse, repeat–on the other hand, it also makes for a feel that is very scripted, uniform, almost molded.

The New Yorker article even describes how the speakers practice again and again–repeating their monologues hundreds of times and to whoever will listen. There is essentially nothing impromptu, ad-libbed, or in a sense real about the entertainment-aspect of what you are watching and listening to.

While the information seems to always be great–the presentation with the speaker, sound, lights, slide show, audience shots, etc.–comes across like a row of identically-built houses in a development.

Each “house” (or presentation in this case) may be filled with interesting people, things, and love, but on the outside, as one of my friends says–they are identical, so that coming home after a long day at work, you almost don’t know at times which row house is yours anymore.

If TED ever did a lecture on how they could improve TED. these would be some of my suggestions (and there is no gloss here):

Open it to everyone–Restricting TED to invitation-only is elitist and maybe worse. Opening TED to more people to attend, learn, and enjoy–let’s everyone have an opportunity to benefit–regardless of who you are or where you come from.

Diversify the speakers–It is nice to have scientists and entrepreneurs and stars present at TED, but it would be even nicer to have regular, common people too. Everyone has a story to tell–whether or not you have a Ph.D. or run your own company. While it is great to learn from the “experts,” it would be fascinating to hear from everyday people on their challenges and how they deal with them and overcome them or not. Just as an example, regularly, I see an incredible homeless lady on the street in DC–yes, well-dressed, talkative, polite–and I would want to hear how she ended up where she is and how she copes and survives her experiences on the street everyday. The point it that every person is a world onto themselves and worth hearing about–the key is how to get the experiences, the feelings, and the lessons learned.

Genuine, less scripted speeches–Part of good entertainment is making it real, but when it is just another (over-)rehearsed performance, the speakers seem almost robotic. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear human beings talk in a more relaxed and yes, genuine-way about very important human topics of significance to us all? Right now, people crave information –heck, it’s the information age and nice informative lectures are racking up the views, but at some point soon, people are going to want and expect more.

Shake it up with the venue–TED is conservative extraordinaire. The one (or occasionally two or three) speakers on the stage, the dark background and spotlighted speaker, the PowerPoint or Prezi presentation, the dangling microphone, the opening applause, the slow and methodical speech–yes TED is “ideas that inspire,” but it is also a venue that bores. Perhaps, if you are an avid conference attendee and like the routine, copy-cat set-ups, you feel at home in TED.  But why not let people talk here, there, and everywhere–let someone speak on the street, in a park, on a ship, or even parachuting off a plane.  How about someone on the International Space Station?  Or on the front lines in a major military engagement. People have a lot to say and where they say it–says a lot about them and adds to their message. A stage is a stage. Even a snake-oil salesman has a soapbox.

Not to be confused with TED, there are TEDx events–“TED-like” that are organized by volunteers on a community-level, a “do-it-yourself TED” that is occurring at a “global rate of about five per day”–and these come closer to the open ideal, but still more can be done to make TED itself an organization where truly ideas come from all people, for all people.

While TED’s brand is exclusive and valuable–perhaps more important is education that is valuable for the masses.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Juhan Sonin)

Goldman Sachs Reputation Sacked?

Sacking_of_rome

When Greg Smith published his editorial in the New York Times (14 March 2012) on the alleged debased culture and greedy exploits at Goldman Sachs, this was far from surprising after the many misdeeds of Corporate America over the last decade that saw the rise of Sarbanes Oxley in 2002 and the massive financial bailouts in 2008, which does not represent who we really are and can be.

It’s not that Corporate America is bad, it’s just that they frequently get rewarded for doing the wrong things.

All too often, promotions, corner offices, year-end bonuses, and stock options are the rewards for racking in profits, but are not necessarily tied to innovation and/or customer satisfaction.

I believe over the years this has taken many word forms from snake oil salesman, charlatans, spoilers, and many others.

Greg Smith who worked for a dozen years at Goldman–in of all things “recruiting and mentoring”–described the venerable Goldman Sachs as a place where:

– “Interest of clients continue to be sidelined”

– “Decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to it’s long-term survival.”

– If you make enough money for the firm…you will be promoted.”

– At sales meetings, “not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients.”

– Leaders callously “talk about ripping off clients” and call their clients “muppets,” a British slang terms for “idiots.”

The funny-sad thing is that after all these horrific accusations, Goldman has not come out and full-on-full repudiated these claims.

On March 15, the Wall Street Journal reported “Goldman Plays Damage Control” saying that “it will examine the claims.” 

Rather than denying the accusations in specific ways and pointing out their true moral fiber, the Chairman in a memo to employees chose to downplay the accuser calling him only one “of nearly 12,000 vice presidents” of 30,000 employees. In other words, this is just the opinion of a lone wolf.

More generally, the Chairman wrote coyly that this does “not reflect our values,our culture, and how the vast majority of people at Goldman Sachs think of the firm and the work it does on behalf of our clients.”

In another article, in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (19-25 March 2012), it states similarly that “Goldman Sachs would have you believe it’s learned from the financial crisis. Don’t be fooled.”

The article goes on to list a scathing history of scandal from Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation that “blew up” after the stock market crash of 1929 to Goldman’s settlement with the SEC for a whopping $550 million in 2010. Further, it describes a current conflict of interest case with El Paso and Kinder Morgan that they call a Goldman “heads-I-win, tails-you-lose approach.”

While I have always respected the likes of Goldman Sachs for their unbelievable brainpower and talent,the accusations against them and by extension against others in Corporate America is very concerning.

The notion that customers are but idiots for Corporate America to pillage and plunder is not democracy and capitalism, but greed and evil.

When we no longer value a creed of service above pure profiteering then moral bankruptcy is just a prelude to financial bankruptcy.

No company can stay afloat and be competitive over time, if they do not work to strengthen their balance sheets, income statements, and cash flows.

However, at the same time, no competitor can thrive for long on a culture of greed and duplicity that sees people as victims to spoil, rather than as customers to serve.

While I do not know the details of Greg Smith’s accusations, this last part I know in my heart to be truth.

(Source Photo: here)

Love To Love You Dunkin’

Dunkin_mocha

This is my dream drink.

Dunkin’ Donuts Mocha Iced Coffees.

Two a day, yay!

This town really does run on Dunkin’.

Starbucks, you got great ambiance, but your coffee ugh!

(Even though we disagree in the family on this one :-|)

There is no IT in coffee, but I don’t care, I love you anyway.

(Photo Source: Andy Blumenthal)

The Soul of A Shoe

I took these photos today of a cross section of a shoe.

I was surprised that this was all there was too it.

So what costs $140???

A little cowhide on the outside, a little cushion on the inside, and a some rubber sole on the bottom.

Add some eyelets and laces, and some stitching to hold it all together.

While there are certainly lots of styles, colors, and sizes out there, most are sort of commoditized, boring, and non high-tech.

Where are those jet-powered rocket shoes they promised when I was a kid.

Come on Nike–“just do it.”

People Watching

Mime

Over the holidays, I was fortunate to be able to spend some time in South Florida–one of my favorite East Coast vacation spots.

Between the sunshine, the ocean, the palm trees, and more generally the beautiful flora and fauna–I am one happy camper!

This time, we actually saw a couple of pretty large iguanas just casually walking along the causeway…not something I see everyday in D.C.

When I’m down in Florida–aside from working out and having a good time–one of the fun things for me to do is just to “people watch.”

People come from all over the world–the “Spring Breakers” who party hearty, the South Americans investing in real estate market, the Europeans still enjoying the strong Euro, and of course, many U.S. family “snowbirds” who come for Disney and the other attractions in the warm climate.

In Florida, it is hard not to notice the wide discrepancy between rich and poor–I saw what looked almost exactly like the TV image of an extraordinarily rich man in the open collar and blazer and women in fancy hat and scarf in a Rolls Royce with a little white dog sitting on the lady’s lap–these two were just “perfect” and apparently had the perfect life going on.

At the same time, there are so many unfortunate people walking around in tattered clothes, eating from the garbage, and so on, it is heart-breaking and scary.

When the Occupy movement rails against the 1%–I think this is sort of what they must mean.

Then there are the proverbial weirdos–nothing personal–but these are the folks who are do things either for the attention, a little extra cash, or because they may just be at the other end of the “normal” spectrum (would that be a political correct to say it?).

There is the guy who bikes around town with a live chicken on his handlebars, the mime lady in white (head to toe) who stands like a statue all afternoon and evening for some pocket change, and then this guy pictured on the blog who walks around in a pink bikini and red handbag (yes, quite a fashion statement, indeed!).

I wonder whether back home, there are equally strange and interesting people all around, but I’m just not noticing them the same way, because I’m busy with daily life, in “work mode” and not sitting around on vacation just “taking it all in.”

It’s good to stop a while and “smell the roses” and see the variety of beautiful and interesting things all around us–even if they shouldn’t be wearing that bikini in public!

They’re Not Playing Ketchup

Heinz_and_h-p

I wouldn’t necessarily think of Heinz as a poster child for a company that is strategic and growing, and was therefore, somewhat surprised to read an impressive article in Harvard Business Review (October 2011) called “The CEO of Heinz on Powering Growth in Emerging Markets.”

Heinz, headquartered out of Pittsburgh PA, is ranked 232 in the Fortune 500 with $10.7B in sales, $864M in profits, and 35,000 employees. They have increased their revenue from emerging markets from 5% a few years ago to more than 20% today.

Bill Johnson, the CEO of Heinz, explains his 4 As for success–which I really like:
1) Applicability–Your products need to suit local culture.  For example, while Ketchup sells in China, soy sauce is the primary condiment there, so in 2010, Heinz acquired Foodstar in China, a leading brand in soy sauce.
2) Availability–You need to sell in channels that are relevant to the local populace. For example, while in the U.S., we food shop predominantly in grocery stores, in other places like Indonesia, China, India, and Russia, much food shopping is done in open-air markets or corner groceries.
3) Affordability–You have to price yourself in the market.  For example, in Indonesia, Heinz sells more affordable small packets of soy sauce for 3 cents a piece rather than large bottles, which would be mostly unaffordable and where people don’t necessarily have refrigerators to hold them.
4) Affinity–You want local customers and employees to feel close with your brand. For example, Heinz relies mainly on local managers and mores for doing business, rather than trying to impose a western way on them.
Heinz has a solid strategy for doing business overseas, which includes “buy and build“–so that they acquire “solid brands with good local management that will get us into the right channels…then we can start selling other brands.”
Heinz manages by being risk aware and not risk averse, diversifying across multiple markets, focusing on the long-term, and working hard to build relationships with the local officials and managers where they want to build businesses.
“Heinz is a 142-year old company that’s had only five chairmen“–that’s less than the number of CEO’s that H-P has had in the last 6 years alone.
I can’t help but wonder on the impact of Heinz’s stability and laser-focus to their being able to develop a solid strategy, something that a mega-technology company like H-P has been struggling with for some time now.
If H-P were to adopt a type of Heinz strategy, then perhaps, they would come off a little more strategic and less flighty in their decisions to acquire and spin off business after business (i.e. PCs, TouchPads, WebOS, etc.), and change leadership as often as they do with seemingly little due diligence.
What is fascinating about H-P today is how far they have strayed front their roots of their founders Bill and Dave who had built an incredibly strong organizational culture that bred success for many years.
So at least in this case, is it consumer products or technology playing catch-up (Ketchup) now?
P.S. I sure hope H-P can get their tomatoes together. 😉
(Source Photos: Heinz here and H-P here)

>AOL DNR

Aside from the new digs, AOL has put a long-whiteboard along the hallway with the phase “AOL is cool.”

But as the article says “Nothing is less cool than professing one’s coolness, of course, especially if you’re an Internet dinosaur evoking a bygone era of dial-up modems.
AOL was one of the hottest tech stocks in the 1990s, only to go down in one of the worst mergers in history to Time Warner.
AOL’s market capitalization peaked in December 1999 at $222 billion and now is at $2 billion.
In 2002, AOL Time Warner was forced to write-off goodwill of $99 billion–at the time, the largest loss ever reported by a company.
Let’s face it, AOL is not the same company it once was–it has become a shadow of its former self.
And it is flailing, trying desperately to reinvent itself, most recently with its purchase of The Huffington Post.
In my mind, one of the big problems is that rather than recognize that AOL is over, dead, kaput, and that it taints whatever it touches, it just keeps reaching out to more and more victims.
AOL needs to shut down as its former self and restart under a new name with a new identity for the new technology world it is entering a decade later!
If it really wants to “expunge the ghosts and start fresh” then it needs to relinquish the past including the AOL moniker and become a new company for a new age.
Dial up modems are long gone and not missed, thank you.

(Source Graphic: Wikipedia)