OUR BLOG

Featuring marketing tips, tech news, digital wonders, some personal things and everything in between . . .

A Meta Discussion of the Metaverse


Thursday December 23, 2021

Reading Time: 14 minutes

Into the Metaverse

Imagine a world where all of your dreams become reality. Where you’re not bound by your appearance or your location. Where you can fly, perform on stage for thousands of people, or find love at a digital speed-dating event. That’s the promise of the metaverse.

This year, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will become Meta: a platform dedicated to building that online universe. Through a combination of immersive 3D experiences and virtual interactions, he hopes to redefine the worlds of entertainment, fitness, gaming, education, commerce, and work. The resulting digital ecosystem, the metaverse, will become the confluence of social media, emerging tech, and online living.

We’re sure you’ve got questions. Here’s what you need to know.

 

What Does Meta Mean?

Before 2021, meta was a term with a few different uses. This Greek prefix means “beyond” or, more frequently, “about its own category.” (Example: metadata is data about data.) This definition eventually expanded to describe a self-referential work.

With Facebook’s rebrand, Meta has taken on a whole new meaning. All of its apps will combine to create the metaverse – “meta-universe.”

 

The Metaverse Explained

Was all of this Zuckerberg’s idea? Not exactly.

The concept of the metaverse isn’t a new one. It was first explored by Neal Stephenson, an American author, in his 1994 novel Snow Crash. He defined it as a virtual alternative to reality. Before Meta’s advent, there were several attempts at creating the metaverse: IMVU, Second Life, and Google Lively are good examples. These 3D experiences sought to immerse users in exciting, customizable environments. While they all fell short, Meta is trying to get it right.

By acquiring dozens of tech companies, Meta seeks to create one shared metaverse: the most popular option in the space. In practice, this will be a group of communal virtual environments. This 3D setting will be a place to attend red carpet events, socialize with people from around the world, and play games – all in the form of your own digital avatar. You can customize your appearance, purchase land, and do whatever you want. As a result, you’ll be in the virtual space instead of scrolling online.

 

What is Meta?

Meta is an international tech company based in California. It’s the new name for the parent organization of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and many other brands. (You can read the full list of Meta’s holdings here – at the time of writing, there are 92 in total.) Meta seeks to combine the services of these very different companies for a futuristic online experience.

The three components of Meta are:

  • Social Media: Connecting with others to learn, collaborate, and share.
    Example: Facebook.
  • Virtual Reality: Exploring new, shared experiences with friends and family.
    Example: Oculus’ Quest 2 headset for gaming, fitness, and online events.
  • Augmented Reality: Enhancing in-person experiences with virtual effects.
    Example: Instagram filters.

 

If I Have Facebook, Do I Also Have a Meta Account?

Meta isn’t a platform in and of itself, so no, you shouldn’t automatically have a Meta account. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp will retain their names for now, and you will continue to log into their sites the way you usually do.

You can think of Meta like Alphabet: the multinational tech conglomerate that owns Google and its subsidiaries (DeepMind AI, Google Fiber, Waymo autonomous driving, Wing drone delivery, Intrinsic robotics, and more).

If you want to participate in existing immersive metaverse offerings, you can try out Decentraland, The Sandbox, or Meta’s own offering: Horizon Worlds.

 

Why Are People Excited About Meta?

To some people, the metaverse represents the hyper-futuristic vision we used to have for the 2020s. Meta’s proposition feels like something you would see on The Jetsons: an all-in-one resource for gaming, fitness, knowledge, and socializing. One you can access without even leaving your sofa.

Here are a few of the metaverse features people are buzzing about:

  1. Learn interactively. Instead of reading about the pyramids, you can use virtual reality to walk around them. Instead of watching a documentary about the first World War, you can sit in on a virtual seminar with immersive graphics. Think of it as an educational video game perfect for visual learners.
  2. Work from anywhere in the world. Would you like to work from a sandy beach? From the top of Mount Everest? The metaverse offers that opportunity. Users set up their own workflows, with features and aesthetic trappings curated to their preferences.
  3. Enjoy far-off entertainment. Millions of people are already meeting for virtual concerts on various apps; thanks to Meta’s augmented reality capabilities, you may soon be able to beam your avatar to shows on the other side of the world.
  4. Participate in the world’s newest economy. The metaverse will soon be home to the largest digital economy in history. NFTs and cryptocurrencies have already captured the world’s imagination, even as theoretical concepts. Their adoption will have real applications in the very near future.
  5. Make new friends from other countries. This new innovation expands upon the interactive possibilities of existing social media. We’ve gone from reading each other’s forum posts to walking in a virtual park together, speaking on headsets. You can dance, explore new locations, and get to know people from all around the world. All of this takes place in a fully immersive online setting.

 

Why are People Scared of Meta?

Of course, we should consider the other side of the Meta coin. The moment Zuckerberg made his announcement, skeptics labeled the metaverse “something straight out of Black Mirror.” Why exactly are people scared of Meta?

  1. Privacy concerns. Meta’s associated apps have been investigated for privacy concerns multiple times, with Facebook being the biggest offender. While all big tech companies collect information about users, Meta has access to a trove of identifiable, personalized data – and they’ve misused it before.
     
    At the same time, the metaverse involves mixed reality technologies, which can track your eye movements, facial expressions, hands, and even your whereabouts. They would know all of the anecdotal information you’ve provided, including your Messenger conversations and Instagram photos, along with biodata like your heart rate, walking patterns, and more. As a result, many people hesitate to trust Meta with their personal information.
  2. Screen time. We’re already concerned about the use of smartphones, tablets, and computers; the metaverse may present yet another tech addiction for young people. Research continually links social media use with deteriorating mental health, for example. (Facebook’s own research, leaked this October, indicates that the social media giant has known about this for years.) Experts have expressed concern that Meta’s new platforms may worsen this problem.
  3. The Meta monopoly. Even when Meta was Facebook, they experienced serious pushback from antitrust litigators. This is because of their alleged “buy or bury” approach. Either Meta acquires an app with unique features, or they replicate those features on their own apps. The resulting investigations made headlines as recently as this August.
     
    This is the reason for concern about “the Meta monopoly.” Users and government officials are concerned that when only one company corners the market on the metaverse, innovation will be stifled, and participants will have few options for their online experiences.

 

Is the Metaverse Taking Over the World?

Yep! Well, not now, but soon. Metaverse technologies have already begun to play a role in our daily lives. Consider the meteoric rise of decentralized cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and virtual events (like online concerts and fundraisers).

Gaming is perhaps the best example of Meta’s potential. Gamers already spend real money on digital currencies and assets while playing together in 3D environments. As a result, this industry’s revenue far exceeds the total sales of the music industry and Hollywood combined.

No matter what your stance, the truth is that the metaverse will soon become a fixture in our lives. Here’s hoping that’s a good thing.

 

Webconsuls is a digital marketing agency based in Nashville, TN.

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the bystander effect (syndrome) and how it can be applied to the Internet. I am not referring to the darker side of the Internet, I am talking about a typical website/blog that is designed for commercial e-commerce or business to business (B2B), personal/informational blog, news, government or a non-profit organization promotional site. Our society has been talking about the bystander effect for almost 50 years, and yes I know it is usually applied to life and death emergency situations, not unlike the Good Samaritan that died in New York City on April 18th.

But back to the Internet and the bystander effect. I started down this path about six weeks ago when I saw a tweet from Chris Brogan which said basically: “People of earth, I know my site has been hacked.” I think this was Chris’ urgent way of telling his 135,000+ Twitter followers to stop sending him messages. I am almost positive that Chris really appreciated the first few tweets or emails from his followers, because one might be a fluke but multiple messages validate the condition, and besides I think Chris would do the same if he came across something that was broken (my assumption, but his stated principle to “be helpful”). I think Chris is lucky that so many people want to help him. More often than not, a site viewer will see or come across something that is broken or obviously incorrect and yet they won’t take the time to tell the site owner, whose very livelihood might depend on this “head’s up.”

Let me give you two current examples, both involve $1,000,000:

  1. On May 21, Zappos.com announced that their sister site 6pm.com’s pricing engine capped all prices at $49.95 for six hours. It cost them a loss of $1.6 million dollars. Is it possible that over the course of six hours not one regular returning customer of 6pm.com took the time to send a message to say “Hey, something looks screwy on your site!”? I hope you will read the whole article, because you will see that it was a programming error that resulted from bad code. Read all the comments about pricing engines, 6pm.com took the high road, but I would love to know if they received that one email that alerted them. (I learned about this story from Jodi Henderson’s blog )
  2. On May 29th, I read a tweet from Jorja at Beyond the Pale that said: “RT the lonely world of blogging, comment anyone, anyone, buehler? comment, anyone?” and it linked to Savor the Ride (be sure to read all the eventual comments on this post, it will allow you to see how the story unfolded). I decided to see what this blog was all about. Guess what? The blogger, Ridgely Johnson, was offering $1,000,000 to the first commenter, as her last 20 blogs had received not one comment. A few tweets went back and forth between Jorja and me, finally I sent an email to Ridgely which said: “I happened over to your blog because @beyondpalegal (Jorja) tweeted about you. Not that I expected to win $1,000,000, but I cannot figure out how to leave a comment on any of your posts. I tried in IE8 and FF…no place to comment. Am I missing something, maybe this is why no one is commenting?”Today is Memorial Day. It is a solemn day, but I thought that maybe I could leave you with a scene from the wonderful 1986-1993 television series “Designing Women.” This YouTube video is dedicated to Dixie Carter (Julia) who passed away April 10, 2010. Julia asks the proverbial question: “Why didn’t somebody tell me?” Watch the whole episode, you won’t be disappointed.


Designing women season 3 episode 15 by Mixedseries12
If you are having trouble viewing Season 3, Episode 15 “Full Moon,” you can view it here.

Over this Memorial Day weekend, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith have been writing about “frames and assumptions.” The stand out message is this from Julien: “Always be testing. Never stop questioning things you think are true, no matter how solid they may seem.” This, of course, applies to all aspects of our lives, but particularly to our websites/blogs. Things happen, hacking occurs, links break, you hit a wrong button and you disable comments, no one tests your site in varied browsers (can look great on an Apple in Safari, and scream “Help” in IE8). Many bloggers are not technical and they cannot afford on-going technical assistance, so don’t assume they know about a problem with their site. Don’t be a bystander, speak up! Remember this is social media. Be social. Help a “friend.”

I would love to hear your thoughts about all of this.

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Nasa pleiades
A visualization of the Ares-1’s main engine plume interacting during a type-4 stage separation with the Interstage, created at the NASA advanced supercomputing facility. The facility’s current top-end supercomputer, known as Pleiades, is the sixth-fastest computer on Earth, measured recently at 973 teraflops–or 973 trillion floating point operations a second.(Credit: Goetz Klopfer, NASA Exploration Systems MissionDirectorate)

People are always talking about the times that they can vividly remember where they were when it happened. Significant events that shaped the world, moments that signified and let people know, as Bob Dylan would say, “The Times They are A-Changin”. Sometimes beautiful and other times ugly, there are definitely moments in my life, that as it was happening, I said to myself, “the world will never be the same”. I remember as a young child hearing stories from my parents about times in their lives that changed the world as they or anyone for that matter knew it. I would think to myself, and ask if one day something even close to comparable to the events that my father and mother lived through would happen in my lifetime.

I was born into the age of computers, despite the Internet being a relative baby, there were people who understood even back in 1984 that computers were going to revolutionize the way we live. I am not sure my parents understood it back then, but there were people that were the same age I am now who knew that they were walking into uncharted territory. I have to imagine that my grandparents felt the same way about the idea of people going into Space and eventually to the moon, as the people in the 80’s felt about computers and eventually a world wide web. My generation is the generation of space and Internet combined, one could say almost Universal; with computers, we can create here on earth, environments and occurrences that only happen in the vast expanses of space. I think about what my grandparents might have said about going into space, or what my parents said about the possibilities of the Internet, and what my generation will say about what is to come?

Just what kind of computer does NASA use to achieve the impossible? The advanced supercomputing facility at the Ames Research Center is the home of NASA’s flagship computer they have named Pleiades; Pleiades is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. NASA Pleiades, not a star cluster, it is the sixth fastest giant computer in the world – with a current rating of 973 teraflops – or 973 trillion floating point operations per second. This computer, along with five other similar computers around the world, are bigger and faster than anything ever imagined and they are allowing us to consider possibilities we couldn’t have even dreamed of.

Super computers are only getting faster and more efficient allowing the world of science to explore and examine the furthest reaches of space. I look forward to the day when I will look back on an historic monumental event in my lifetime short of terrorist attacks and war. The universe is 99.99 percent unexplored, computers like Pleiades will help us explore and understand much more.

Reading Time: 5 minutes
google's eye
Greenville, South Carolina recruited citizens to spell out Google with color coded glow sticks.

Last month Google announced its plan to provide a Fiber Optic network to a select group of cities. This fiber optic network would be 20 times faster than residential fiber optic services that are available now in select areas. This is big news and there are a number of cities that would love the opportunity to harness the full power of Google. Immediately after Google made its announcement, cities around the country started making attempts to catch Google’s eye. You may ask yourself: what does it takes to get the attention of the biggest company in the world? Let me tell you the great lengths cities have gone to: Topeka, Kansas renamed its city ‘Google’ for the month of March, Mayors signed proclamations, city employees were forced to sing and dance, jumped into freezing lakes, etc.

Google will provide the network free for the city that wins, (consumers using the services will be charged). The speed will be incredible, 1GB/sec fiber, 100 times faster than the average American’s Internet speed. Digital communications and measurement firm Steketee Greiner and Co. analyzed over 90 cities across the US to determine which city was trying the hardest. Not an easy task, according to Tech Crunch, “through measuring activity around online conversation, digital syndication, presence, involvement and activation, to determine which city will come out on top. At the moment, Steketee reports that Duluth seems to be in first place, with Grand Rapids taking second, Topeka coming in third place, Fresno in fourth place and Sarasota rounding out with the fifth spot”.

digital syndication graph

Unfortunately, I live in a city that did not make as much effort as the others. I submitted a request here in Eugene, OR for the opportunity to experience Internet the way it was intended, but, I fear there were not many here who did the same. Oh well, perhaps in the future we will have the ability to partake in the experience. At the end of the day it makes me happy to know Google is encouraging other Internet providers to offer the same kind of services. Internet should be in every home, whether you can afford it or not, live in the country or city, there is no reason why you should not be connected to the world.

Reading Time: 3 minutes
google chinese
Screen Shot of Google.cn

Back in February I created a post which discussed Google’s problems with censorship in China and how they may pull out of China completely if China didn’t bend a little. Google has a lot invested in China, so for them to pack up and leave China would have a devastating impact on Google’s advertising partners in China. Since Google’s announcement, their partners have yet to receive word regarding Google’s intentions which has caused much anxiety; this has prompted 27 of those firms to come together to draft a letter to Google. According to CNET, “the letter, which was signed by 27 partners, was sent Monday via e-mail to John Liu, vice president of sales for greater China and was posted to the Web site of Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The letter states that the partners’ businesses are at risk of failure and demands to know how they will be compensated if Google shuts down Google.cn”.

According to a Financial Times report last week, Google is now “99.9 percent” certain that it will shut down Google.cn. It’s not surprising that companies that stand to lose millions would be a little weary right now as to their future without Google.cn. Google’s dream for free-speech on the Internet will be a costly dream. Google business partners have been warned by the Chinese government to ready themselves for the day they can’t use Google services or use Google search bars on their websites.

Nothing is set in stone, but, it seems likely that Google is on the way out of China! What are your thoughts?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Google is struggling to find its place in China amongst heavy censorship, evaluating its future with the Chinese people. “We like what China is doing in terms of growth…we just don’t like censorship. We hope that will change and we can apply some pressure to make things better for the Chinese people,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Just two weeks ago Google dealt an ultimatum to China, unless Google was allowed to offer an uncensored search engine in China, it would no longer provide a censored search engine and would consider pulling out of China entirely.

China which has historically been known for its closed doors, keeping western ideals out of China seems to be the goal. Censorship is extremely thick, the Chinese people are forced to use censored search engines or use proxy servers to access the Internet in other countries which is illegal. Google obviously has a lot invested in the Chinese economy so to pull out completely would never happen; Schmidt hopes that he will be able to meet China in the middle. At the end of the day China will have the final say in this matter.

“We like the Chinese people. We like our Chinese employees … we remain committed to being there”, Schmidt stated last week on Google’s fourth-quarter earnings’ call. Something interesting to consider is that on the same day that Schmidt made those statements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended Google for fighting censorship; Internet companies have a “shared responsibility” with the U.S. government in assuring free access to the Internet wherever you are in the world. Unfortunately, that is not an easy task and governments will want to decide for themselves what the people are exposed to.

Will Google succeed in changing Chinese censorship laws? Probably Not! Even if Google shuts down Google.cn, Schmidt is exploring its options in China. Google could still operate a software-development or research presence in China. I guess Google’s battle with censorship in China will continue into the future!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The world of Socialnomics has taken over and it is clear that Social Networking is not just a phase that will be over soon. The fact is that social media has a life of its own and it grows automatically, replicating itself like a virus. Just about everyone on the planet with access to the Internet has some kind of social networking account, and everyday that goes by more people sign up. The Internet is the voice of the world and it’s calling out to us, this is the world of mouth revolution. It cannot be stopped and the statistics will back up that statement. People do not want directions they want conversations, everyone wants to feel like they are a part of this world that continues to get smaller as networks grow bigger. for yourself!

Reading Time: 17 minutes

Forty years ago this month I entered the real work force. A real job with Wells Fargo Bank. I was all of 19, recently married and had dropped out of the University of San Francisco. This real job had the same grade and pay of a teller, but the Human Resource Officer who interviewed me thought I might be better suited to a desk job with limited “face to face” contact with the public! I was paid $370 per month. (Let me save you some time, that computes to $2.13 per hour.) I was assigned to the Monthly Payment Loan Center as a Payoff Clerk and my desk was located on the 3rd floor of the Wells Fargo Bank World Headquarter’s building at 44 Montgomery, San Francisco, Ca. The building was new, completed in 1966 and it was the tallest building in San Francisco between 1966 and 1968. While my blog today is somewhat personal regarding my resume, I want to dedicate it to Lilly Ledbetter. We should all thank Lilly Ledbetter for her relentless pursuit of justice which resulted in the eventual passing and signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. It has been a long 40 years!

If you are not familiar with Lilly’s case against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, then I invite you to read about it. After the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed most Americans probably felt protected by the law, but for women in the work place there has been an undercurrent sometimes barely noticeable, nevertheless palpable. Let me explain how this phenomena works. When you are hired by a large company, a well established company (Wells Fargo was founded in 1852), there is a presumption of trust. After all this is a bank and we all know that the basis of banking is that of a fiduciary. So is a 19 year old woman suppose to see red flags when in the interview process she is asked what kind of birth control measures do you use? Should the 19 year woman question why as an employee of the company she has no maternity insurance coverage, but the wives of male employees do? Should the 19 year old woman question her manager (a man) when he reminds all employees that they will be subject to termination if they meet with union leaders?

By 1972 I did start to ask questions, but I didn’t have the time or money to fight for the cause…so I resigned from Wells Fargo and returned to college full time. By 1974 I received my B.A. in Social Work and went back into the work force, only to find myself once again in the banking industry. In 1978 I was hired by Crocker National Bank and by early 1979 (at the age of 29) I was an Assistant Vice President of Consumer Loan Administration. I worked in the Crocker Bank Tower located at 611 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. By this time, no one questioned my birth control measures (except my immediate Vice-President when he promoted me to AVP and then said with a chuckle: “Now, don’t get pregnant!”), women employees now had maternity coverage, and unions just never came up in conversations.

crocker national bank

In late 1980, I gave birth to my first son, Aaron. I resigned from Crocker Bank in the Spring of 1981 and it was purchased by Wells Fargo in 1986. I did not return to the banking industry until October 1985. By then I was 36 years old and we had just relocated to Conway, New Hampshire, with our two young children. Dennis and I met with a Commercial Loan Officer of Indian Head Bank North to discuss purchasing a country inn. After reviewing our business plan and resume, the gentleman looked at me and said: “Can we set this loan application aside and talk about hiring you?” He had me! After all, we were new in this community and if one of the most prestigious banks in the state was willing to offer me a job as a loan officer, two blocks from our home with medical benefits for the whole family then why not accept it?

I worked for Indian Head Bank North, was promoted to Vice President, and continued there even after we purchased Cranmore Mountain Lodge in 1986. But in 1988 Indian Head Bank was purchased by Fleet Bank and by 1989 most of the senior officers had been offered a severance package. I resigned my position in November 1989. Fleet Bank was purchased by Bank of America in 2003.

What you need to understand is that I always suspected that I did not receive equal pay for equal work in the banking industry. And now you are probably wondering why didn’t I pursue it. The answer is complex: First, most companies use what are referred to as pay grades. According to Wikipedia a “Pay grade is a unit in systems of monetary compensation for employment. It is commonly used in public service, both civil and military, but also for companies of the private sector. Pay grades facilitate the employment process by providing a fixed framework of salary ranges, as opposed to a free negotiation. Typically, pay grades encompass two dimensions: a “vertical” range where each level corresponds to the responsibility of, and requirements needed for a certain position; and a “horizontal” range within this scale to allow for monetary incentives rewarding the employee’s quality of performance or length of service.”; Secondly, in most large companies you are subject to termination if you discuss your compensation level with other employees. So there you have it in a nut shell, put the woman in a pay grade that is the same as the men performing the same job, but start her in the bottom of the pay range and then make it clear that if she discusses her compensation she will be fired; Third, if you really want to keep her in tow, then give her a title, like Vice-President. It is all about TRUST!

Tonight I had the opportunity to read about Lilly Ledbetter’s suit. As I read through the history of the case, I finally came to the Supreme Court’s ruling against Lilly. Again, according to Wikipedia: “Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the court. The Court held that according to Title VII, discriminatory intent must occur during the 180-day charging period. Ledbetter did not claim that Goodyear acted with discriminatory intent in the charging period by issuing the checks, nor by denying her a raise in 1998. She argued that the discriminatory behavior occurred long before but still affected her during the 180-day charging period. Prior case law, the Court held, established that the actual intentional discrimination must occur within the charging period. The Court also stated that according to those prior cases, Ledbetter’s claim that each check is an act of discrimination is inconsistent with the statute, because there was no evidence of discriminatory intent in the issuing of the checks.” So basically, they ruled against Lilly because she did not file her complaint within the 180-day charging period.

As I read this decision I immediately thought of the standard operating procedure for most companies, you are subject to termination if you discuss your compensation level with other employees. That being the case how could one ever hope to meet the requirement to file a complaint within the 180-day charging period?

It took the only woman on the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to point out the idiocy of this ruling by presenting the dissenting argument. Quoting from Wikipedia: “Justice Ginsburg dissented from the opinion of the Court, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Breyer. She argued against applying the 180-day limit to pay discrimination, because discrimination often occurs in small increments over large periods of time. Furthermore, the pay information of fellow workers is typically confidential and unavailable for comparison. Ginsburg argued that pay discrimination is inherently different from adverse actions, such as termination. Adverse actions are obvious, but small pay discrepancy is often difficult to recognize until more than 180 days of the pay change. Ginsburg argued that the broad remedial purpose of the statute was incompatible with the Court’s “cramped” interpretation. Her dissent asserted that the employer had been, “Knowingly carrying past pay discrimination forward” during the 180-day charging period, and therefore could be held liable.”

So here’s to Lilly. She fought the fight and she won the battle (not necessarily the war). On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (With the revised statutory language, the majority opinion’s interpretation referenced above is no longer valid, and the law now conforms to the interpretation advocated by Justice Ginsberg in her dissenting opinion). Lilly will never be financially compensated by Goodyear or any government agency. She led a fight for all of us and for that we should be thankful.

P.S. Today’s image is a collage of some more of my business cards from over the years. What a hoot…great titles, with almost always unequal pay! And for the record, over the years I fought many battles with my employers over equal treatment. In 1989, I refused to sign my severance package under threat of non-payment. The reason? It contained a clause that I was not allowed to discuss the terms of the agreement with fellow employees. I wonder why? Could it be that the packages were not equal? I knew they were not, I didn’t sign, but they paid me my severance. To think how the battles might have been waged differently with the Internet, YouTube, Facebook, Blogs, Twitter…dare to imagine!

business cards

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, I for one will break from work and watch as Barack Obama takes the oath as the 44th president of our United States. I expect it to be a hope-filled day, one that I will share with my husband and children. We as a family and nation will be passing the torch on January 20, 2009. As I write these words it occurs to me that there are very few inaugurations that I clearly remember. Some I was too young to remember (Eisenhower-1953), some I choose to forget (Nixon-1969, 1973; Bush-1989, Bush-2001, 2005), some I cannot forget (Johnson-1963; Ford-1974), and one that will always “light the corners” of my mind (Kennedy -1961).

Last evening I re-read John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address from January 20, 1961. Most of us know some of the memorable lines like “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans”, but how many of us remember the rest of this passage? I am sure not many, so let me share them with you here:

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans-born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage-and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”

Videos of Kennedy’s speech are remarkable to view.

President Kennedy’s strong hopeful words are still applicable today, sans “born in this century”, as now we are in the first decade of a new century. On Tuesday I will listen carefully to President Obama and I will hope that somewhere in his speech there will be inspiring words that my children will be able to remember and quote 48 years from now.

Yes, there is a lot of excitement about President-Elect Obama’s inauguration. Newspapers, magazines, radio, network television, cable television, the Internet, YouTube, My Space, Facebook, Twitter are all participating in this magical event, cashing in on “hope.” Yesterday I learned that Microsoft is partnering with CNN to “photosynth” the inauguration and they want your assistance. You can be part of history by submitting your captured photos.

The torch is passing to you, to our new President, to our future. Let’s make the best of it!

P. S. This post is dedicated to my father, Joseph Raymond Eagen. He was born January 17, 1918, eight months after John F. Kennedy(May 29, 1917). Like President Kennedy, my father was born to first generation Irish Catholic Democratic parents and he served as a Naval Officer in WWII. It occurred to me this morning that the very first time I posted for this blog I wrote about my father as being an original social marketer. Daddy, Happy Birthday!

Reading Time: 7 minutes

What do you know about geocaching? I know very little, but have you ever thought about why we have odd and even house numbers? I have to admit I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this concept, but the other evening I happened to be watching the History Channel about Napoleon and the commentator mentioned that it was Napoleon that came up with the idea of odd numbers on one side of a street and even numbers on the opposite side of the street. No big deal, you might say. But think about how this simple idea impacts your daily life: mail delivery, GPS, visitors, emergency support…the list goes on. OMG, could Napoleon be the father of Geocaching?

I am not going to bore you with a whole history of street numbering, but it occurred to me that I have lived long enough to remember life before Zip Codes (pre 1963) and I have lived in enough different communities to know how challenging life can be when you don’t have a numbering system. In today’s world this is akin to not having order in the World Wide Web. Order is what makes the Internet work and allows all of us to stay in touch.

The first time I learned about life with mail delivery placed in a road side box was in Anchorage, AK. It was 1983 and we were transferred to Alaska. Our house address was 15040 Platinum Circle; however, our mailing address was SRA (Star Route Assignment)Box 460, Anchorage, AK 99507. Just when I had all of our friends trained to send mail to the SRA address, the USPS decided that we had to start using our actual street address for mail. Hmmmm…wouldn’t you know that was the year that I was president of the home owners association and we had to build a whole new series of postal boxes which needed to be identical in every way, clearly marked with our street addresses (as opposed to the SRA addresses), and all 20 boxes had to be attached to a sturdy metal pole system. (Thank god a number of the neighbors were engineers that worked on the North Slope – read not Dennis).

In late 1985 we moved to Conway, New Hampshire. Now one would think that since New Hampshire was one of the 13 original colonies, street numbers would be old hat. WRONG! 90% of the homes and businesses did not have street numbers, for that matter, most roads were not clearly marked or had many different names for the same road. For example, Main Street in Conway Village was also known as RT16/RT113. I worked for Indian Head Bank North which was located on Main Street. Vendors would ask me for my business address and I would simply say “Indian Head Bank North, Main St, Conway, NH 03818”. The vendor would repeatedly say what is the street number and I would simply say “we don’t have street numbers!”

By late 1986 we purchased our country inn on Kearsarge Rd, Village of Kearsarge, Town of Conway, Carroll County, New Hampshire. We did not have a street number. Our mail went to P O Box 1194, North Conway, NH 03860 (only because for marketing purposes more people recognized North Conway, as opposed to Kearsarge Village, which had its own zip code, 03847). Are you confused yet? In late 1996 Conway Town Officials decided we all needed to put street numbers on our homes and businesses, because if we were to dial 911 the fire, rescue and police needed to know how to find us. You don’t want to know how many properties burned to the ground in the old days when buildings had no addresses and we depended on volunteer fire departments. So in 1996, Cranmore Mountain Lodge received its street number: 859 Kearsarge Rd, Kearsarge, NH 03847. 175 years after Napoleon’s death(1821)!

So today when you are searching for an address using the Internet, your GPS navigation system, your iPhone, or GeoCaching…thank Napoleon for being so practical. For fun here is a YouTube video called Geocaching Napoleon. I have no idea what it is about, because I don’t speak French, but maybe it is fitting.

Reading Time: 11 minutes

What is a Kindle?

A Kindle is an portable reading device which connects to the internet. The Kindle can download books, blogs, magazines and newspapers wirelessly.

I enjoy playing with new devices and having worked with DAISY books, a digital format created for accessibility purposes, I was very curious about this product from Amazon. The following is a list of pros and cons from my user experience. It is not an exhaustive list but one from my direct experience with the device.

What the Kindle Excels at:

  • The Kindle is great if you like to burn through lots of paperback books and general reading material. Paperback novels, books with very few illustration and not too much organizational formatting are ideal for this device.
  • The Kindle is the ideal device to use for casual reading while traveling. When I do occasionally travel I never know what book I am going to want to read. A Kindle enables you to have over 200 titles and only one 10.3 ounce device to carry.
  • Kindle books are generally cheaper than their traditional version. Best Sellers and New Releases are $9.99 unless marked otherwise. Currently 105 of the 112 New York Times Best Sellers are available on Kindle.
  • The Kindle is very immediate. You can download a novel from the online store in seconds and be reading. Finish the book you brought, visit the Kindle store right from your device and pick a new read. Amazon was not being foolish when they enabled this device with full time internet access.
  • Want to take a peak at a book. One of my favorite treats with the Kindle is being able to download the first chapter of any Kindle version for free. You have a sample of the book to try before you buy.
  • Kindle books are saved and could be made available if you ever accidentally erased or lost your Kindle.
  • The Kindle is a wireless internet device with no monthly fee. You can access your email, your social networks and browse the internet all from your Kindle.
  • You can subscribe to newpapers, magazines, and blogs and have them delivered to your Kindle.
  • A built in dictionary looks up words with a push of a button. I love this feature and wish I had it when I read the book “All the Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy.
  • The Kindle is also a full encycolpedia. Access to Wikipedia.org, your online encyclopedia, comes with your Kindle.
  • An easy to read screen which excels in the elements, especially bright sun and wind.The Kindle’s screen is “electronic paper” and does not glow like a computer monitor. The screen of a Kindle is more like the etch-a-sketch of the my childhood. The “digital ink” is magnetic. The electronic ink is easy on the eyes and reads well even in direct sunlight. Reading the humongous and unweily New York Times in a slight breeze is much easier on the Kindle.
  • The text size is adjustable.

Drawback that I found

Sharing
The downside is that if you are accustomed to sharing your paperbacks with other readers you can’t really lend or trade your Kindle books as you would a dogeared paperback.

Diagrams
The Kindle is not great for books which contain diagrams. I read a lot of “how to” books. The most recent book I purchased was on photography. I would never even considered buying the Kindle version as the color photographs and illustrations would not be shown full size or in color. Computer instruction and technical books don’t render well for the same reason.

A book in the hand …
When I start a book I read all the front material, the table of contents, all the back material, then I start the book. A Kindle book will display all the same material but it just never feels as easily contained as a book in your hands. Call me old fashioned but I do find comfort in that tangable property of books.

Availability
Not everything has a Kindle version at the moment. There are more than 190,000 titles. You should be able to find something.

Can Kindles replace books?

Kindles and electronic devices can create digital copies of the text in books. Where the representation of the straight text is all you need the Kindle serves its function well. Will it replace books? Not in my lifetime and not for me.

There are the books that you carry around from childhood. I lost my original copy of my beloved book “Happy Horsemanship”. A copy of my favorite book on the Kindle would be a poor substitute. There are the books you have given to you by your parents. My copy of “Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson”, the inside cover contains my Mother’s handwriting “to Lisa, Love Mom and Dad, Christmas 1984” or “My Dog Skip” given to me by a friend and past student are not only stories but mementos. Another favorite and useful book never far from my desk “Reader’s Digest Family Word Finder”, a thesaurus of sorts, but one that is actually intuitive and immediate to use. I have turned to this resource for help since junior high school. Paging through this reference that I have had for so many years, even the breaks in the binding serve as bookmarks to pages I have referenced repeatedly. Kindles can’t do that.

On the other hand … I can’t access my email with my copy of Emily Dickinson.

There are books you will keep forever. There are books you want to touch and pour over. There are books you want to just consume with one read. The Kindle is for the later.

In my opinion and experience the ideal Kindle candidate is one of two people, a traveling bookworm who frequents the best seller section and devours newspapers and/or the gadget infatuated individual who will thrive on squeezing every functionality they can out of an internet device that happens to also read books.

Will you buy a kindle for a gift … well not right now because they are currently sold out. There are Kindles available for resale on ebay, but some of those are asking for as much as twice the retail prices. OUCH!

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Recently I received an Amazon.com gift certificate as a gift. I am an avid reader and an avid kindle reader so I am sure that is what my in-laws had in mind.

I have come to rely on Amazon.com for far more than just books. This particular transaction was representative of how social media is molding the customers’ experience for the better and I feel compelled to share the story.

Once people were quite wary of ordering online. Giving their credit card information over the internet to people unseen seemed scary and just not wise. Years later I make most of my purchases online. What is not to love? You can order exactly what you want. There is no trip to the mall. No walking up and down the shopping center corridor looking for that store directory while hoping for one more chance to find the exact brand and model so you can go home.

First it starts with how I select my purchases. I am a review reader and a very specific shopper. I generally know exactly what I want and why I want it. I don’t necessarily come up with these answers myself, but I have trusted experts, think of them as “authority sites”.

I wanted to get a few items for the kitchen. For cooking and kitchen equipment my two top sources are Alton Brown and America’s Test Kitchen. Alton Brown, of Good Eats and Iron Chef America fame, has won me over again and again with his creative and campy show “Good Eats”. His advice and elementary scientific explanation of why things work fascinates me and turns the once mundane chore of cooking dinner into a fun and creative thing to do at the end of the day. His show “Good Eats” is a family favorite in our house. I frequent his website for quick recipes and tips. Alton is welcome at our house any day. Here he is with some Thanksgiving tips.

America’s Test Kitchen is my other authority. They judiciously test equipment and recipes. They recommend good solid equipment and explain why they favor one model over another. I have their family cookbook and it is where I get all my “Mom answers”.

So with “my authorities” suggesting what makes and models are the best purchases I take a cursory look at Amazons’ online reviews and as long as I don’t see any glaring descrepancies in the reviews I make my purchase.

Amazon follows up and makes sure your purchases arrive on time and there is a link so you can track the delivery right to your door. Not everything is actually purchased directly from Amazon as they are the dealer for other merchants and resellers.

This time my entire order arrived within days, except for the pie dish. I had specifically chosen this pie dish for its deep well, perfect for a really deep apple crisp. It turned out that I was not the only one eying this lovely deep pie dish from the reseller unbeatablesale.com as it was sold out. My account was never charged. A few days later I was asked to review my experience. I couldn’t give the transaction 5 stars as I didn’t receive my purchase. I did comment that the item was sold out and while I was disappointed it would certainly not prevent me from shopping there again.

A store representative emailed me as a result of my less than 5 star rating and offered a gift certificate to use in their online store worth twice the amount of my initial attempted purchase.

They listened to my review. They care about the ratings. They care about the rating because the ratings from social media are going to affect their future sales. I am going to shop their because it is convenient and I am heard. If I am not satisfied they are going to remedy the situation.

No hassles. No buyers remorse. I like it.

Social Media improving the customer experience.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Writing a Weblog is one thing, writing a good one is something else altogether! Some people write a blog for themselves and others write them to appeal to a particular audience. It is the latter which I am concerned with, reaching out to the people so they will read what you have to say; when people finish reading your post you want them to have a desire to come back for more. Know Your Audience! Seth Godin says “You only get one chance to make a second impression”.

The key to blogging is choosing a topic, once you have chosen your platform you need to reinforce it with good content. One’s topic and content should appeal to a targeted audience in the field of what you are trying to sell. Most websites today, especially business websites, have a blog affiliated with their site. It gives companies the ability to reach out and have a conversation with their consumers. It is what I like to call “injecting life into your website”. What was once inanimate is now animate, people can get involved in the conversation like never before; this gives the consumer a “it’s all about you” feeling, and by giving the consumer the feeling of involvement you can go a long way .

Whats good for the blog, is great for the website! Once you have created something worth reading you want to make your blog’s presence on the internet greater; in other words you want your audience to be able to find your blog even if they have never read or heard of your blog before. The thing worth noting is that blogging is a means to an end; when people find your Weblog (the means), they also find your website (the end). Google rewards you for a good blog and they reward your website even more for one!

Blogs are the perfect ingredient to making a high page rank in Google! Blogs are updated more often then websites which allows them to be “spider’d” more often by search-engines. Coupled with great topics and content, loyal readers equals high page rank. Keeping search engines in mind is the key to people finding your blog, and thus finding your website; keywords and key phrases are of great importance because ultimately it is those which allow search engines to find your blog and place it where it belongs for your target audience to locate your information. Create a list of keywords you want to be found for and incorporate them into each of your blog posts. The title you assign to your post is the most important place for you to implement your keywords/phrases; search engines place all lot of value on the title of your web page; therefore, how you title your blog post is of great importance for the fact that your blog is a web page in itself.

In summation I believe that there is not one right way to go about creating a Weblog, but there are definitely wrong ways. You will not become an expert blogger overnight and patience will be in order to become successful. As long a you update your Weblog often while always keeping in mind rich content that directly relates to the topic at hand you will succeed. It is completely acceptable to refer to other blogs for guidance as far as ideas and content; look for what’s worked for other people and find a way to make it work for you and your company. Blogging is the voice of your business…it is your billboard on the internet highway!

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Genuine intellectual curiosity is the attribute established brands need to be successful in the blogosphere.
– Geoffrey Moore

With every second that passes the world changes, something new and exciting is created or an idea is set into motion that will forever alter how human beings live their life and interact with each other. In the past sixty years a flood of, what would seem to most, irrational ideas have been used as stepping stones to create the most rational and useful technologies that we enjoy in our life. Radio started the information age, followed by television, and now the world world-wide-web; but, kindred spirits either join together or they kill each other, leaving yesterday’s trend behind.

I believe the biggest complaint about television is the lack of interaction in every respect; both commercial and entertainment aspects of television have a human element missing. Human beings have a drive to be involved in everything they lay their eyes on. Internet has provided the ability for the consumer to have a say in what they see and do, the Internet is a means for people to be a part of a growing network with limitless possibilities. It was hard to see at first with the early Internet, but the possibility has always been there waiting to bloom; for a long time the Internet (WEB 1.0) was like T.V., it was just something to look at with many more channels. WEB 2.0 is a totally different ball game, we the people are the players and the umpires – It’s About You!

Social Media is what the Internet is all about, a global village of people sharing ideas, information, and art. Not only individuals, business’ (large and small) are working towards going interactive; through blogging and social networks the world is getting smaller and the possibilities are becoming greater. This revolution has forced television to jump on the train or be left behind; the fact is that people can meet their communication and entertainment needs from one central location. The Internet has given everyone a voice and audience to listen, companies can advertise, sell, and interact with the consumer in a way that T.V can’t provide.

Today, your computer is a portal for all of your day to day media and communication tools to connect with the web. The time has come to join up with social networks and blog circles, this will increase your presence and network; whether for business or pleasure, I believe it will be worth your time to move with the Internet and not against it. Experience the world in the way that you want, at your desired pace; the Internet is no longer growing with you, transversely you’re growing with the Internet. The Internet has already started anticipating your next move and remembers what you are interested in; your computer is no longer an extension of you, rather you are an extension of your computer!