24 September 2008

Books 4 Barack

If you're looking for a good book to read, check out some signed copies from various authors for a good sampling. $250 donation to the campaign nets 10 books in thanks. Republicans must surely be gnashing their teeth in conflict over whether they should take such a good deal.

23 September 2008

Biznology: Search Keywords: Have a Demographic and a Smile

A new article of mine was published yesterday by Mike Moran on his Biznology site. Check it out at Biznology: Search Keywords: Have a Demographic and a Smile. This one is about regionalisms - words in common use in one part of the country but unknown or little known elsewhere - and their suitability within a search engine strategy. Share and enjoy.

22 September 2008

Search keyword selection

Search Keywords: Have a Demographic and a Smile

Coke and a smileby Eva Lyford

Does your Web site marketing speak to customers where they live? Can your customers or prospects connect with the content based on where they're from--or is your content too generic and trying to talk to the whole nation at once (or too specific to your home office)? Most sites might vary content based on the visitor's past transactions or clickstream. But if you don't have that to work with, starting with geographically based targeting may provide an edge over the competition.

I grew up within a few miles of the Illinois-Wisconsin border, in a rural community where the highlight of a summer's day for a kid could be a trip to the corner store for a soda. A few years later, I was at Cornell University and stopped in a store to get a soda. They said they had none when I asked, so I left, puzzled by the fact that they had a Coca-Cola sign but I couldn't get a drink. I did figure out later that if I asked for a "soda" in Ithaca, folks thought I wanted an ice-cream float; to get a carbonated beverage, I had to ask for a "pop." I doubt the bean counters in Atlanta ever noticed the hit to the general ledger, but I noticed how important dialect and context could be for business transactions.

Targeting geographically requires that you be able to tell from where your traffic originates. Geographic location can be derived from IP address via geo-targeting, with certain limitations. Sometimes the IP address location might not reflect the user's actual physical presence, but instead shows the location of their ISP's server. That might still be pretty darned close, or might reflect an affiliation that is still relevant for targeting. ISP geographic associations might be fairly broad and certain IP addresses might not have known geographic associations. Even with these limits though, the geographic targeting is useful, certainly enough so that you could serve dynamically variable content to your site visitors.

Tie that geographically-specific content to Google Adwords, which enables targeting on a variety of geo-specific criteria for even more lift to your conversions. That way, you can market your "soda" in one market and drive that to the soda-specific page and market the "pop" in another, driving to a pop-specific page. There are hundreds of examples of this--for example, baseball hats are called ball caps in Tennessee; and "ball caps" returns a pool of hits only 38% of the size of the "baseball caps" pool. That's a much smaller segment in which your product or service can rise to the top.

Perhaps some more subtlety is called for in your product than would be needed for mere beverages or can happen just by using regional dialects; can your product or service be positioned differently based on personalities? In Richard Florida's book, Who's Your City?, he outlines in one chapter the results from The Place and Happiness Survey that show how personality types cluster in certain geographic areas, as shown in the following map. So one could market to the areas based on that personality profile. Note that these Big Five personality traits should be understood in the academic psychologist's context from whence they came (again, you have to understand people based on their place).

The ethanol marketers seem to be starting along this path. In the speed-oriented town of Indianapolis, ethanol's long association in racing is touted. Head out of town, though, and the midwestern heartlanders are appealed to based on the benefits of ethanol production to communities based on farming. Exit the midland flyover country, and the marketing skews towards the environmental protection benefits and energy independence anticipated from ethanol use.

So what does this mean for you? Let's go back to beverage basics. I like the wacky flavors of Jones Soda and their unique, quirky marketing focused on beverage individualism. "Soda" is my term of choice for this, so I don't have any mental incongruence searching for Jones soda. But what if I'm from upstate New York, trying to find out where I can get that funky Green Apple Pop that I had on a business trip out West. If I Google "Jones pop", I see "Jones Soda" results. Am I looking for an ice-cream float? No, so I skip it, perhaps. (Now, in reality most Americans are much more aware of the soda/pop/coke synonym than was that soda-jerk I met years ago.)

But if your product or service goes by different names in different markets, check it out and see if you can customize some pages or ads towards that distinctively geographic name. Can you position your faucet as a spigot? Your gym shoe as a sneaker? How about selling your bag as a poke or sack? Try it, then measure the conversion rates and let the numbers tell the story - the tools are there with geolocation and local advertising to target the customer and lead them to a customized landing page.

also published at http://www.mikemoran.com/biznology/archives/2008/09/search_keywords_have_a_demogra.html

20 September 2008

Comedy legend Bill Cosby to open IU Auditorium season: IU News Room: Indiana University

Hello Friend! I saw Bill Cosby at the IU Auditorium on Friday night. It was pretty neat for me to take along the boys to a family-friendly comedy event, and they enjoyed it a bunch. Cosby's humor is not age specific, and doesn't need editing or too much interpretation to be enjoyed by all ages.

Cosby returned throughout his monologue to the themes of college and parenting a college student, appropriate given the venue. Also he covered the comedy monologist's standard of male-female relations, from a biblical perspective. There was a lovely bit about his wife and he as empty nesters.

To punctuate his punch lines and theorizing, Cosby would occasionally 'vogue' at the audience, striking an hugely exaggerated facial expression and freezing it until he audience silenced again. At times it seemed overdone; but mostly, it was amazing to see how much his facial expressiveness had progressed beyond the early days (see below for an example of that).

Cosby finished off with the Dentist routine, faithful to the standard routine, but also refreshed and still funny as ever.

19 September 2008

Flip flop review of the iphone 3G

A few friends asked me for my opinion on the iphone 3G when it came out, and I humbly admit that the opinion I gave them was wrong. “Just get the ipod Touch,” I brashly declaimed. “Why would you want to pollute a lovely music player/internet browser with a bunch of telephony clutter?” My initial opinion of the Apple/AT&T partnership was that the only merit was that it was easy to alphabetize the partner’s names. I even went so far as to acquire an iPod touch for the monk of the house, and he has been quietly content with it. Then again, his cell phone has more miles on it than my mom’s Honda, and is fairly frequently left in the charger at home anyway, so he probably wasn’t the best test case.

But, seeing his joy in it, I became jealous and got an ipod touch for myself. And became very frustrated, very quickly – all those secured wi-fi networks, taunting me with offers of connectivity and then spurning me when I didn’t whisper the correct password. I got the 8 gb model, and the downshift from my old ipod was traumatic. “What? No Ummagumma? What if I have an urgent need for unintelligible lyrics today?” It felt like Sophie's Choice every time I had to pick which favorite songs to sync and which to abandon to silence on my home computer.

With reservations, I sold the ipod Touch (twice, but that’s another story) and headed to the AT&T store. The wait was a bit long, but once I got through the line to deal with the rep, it went smoothly and I was assured that they would keep my idiosyncratic account configurations intact. (Thanks Lucas!) They had to order the new phone, it arrived quickly and I was set up – again, after a wait – and all worked well fairly quickly (Thanks Troy!), The next day, I had to call in and get help because I wasn’t getting Visual Voicemail or 3G connectivity – after I got to the right person, she analyzed the problem, put in a fix and had me powercycle the phone to resolution – a 5 minute fix (Thanks Kia!), after a 30 minute transfer-and-hold process. All in all, AT&T didn’t do too badly, as awkward as it was, except for being egregiously understaffed and needing 3 contacts to set me up. My past experience prepared me to be hypercritical of the phone company, but they handled the situation about as well as any company might.

Here are a few items that came up as I made the leap into iphonetopia:

  1. My Volkswagen is no longer a compatible accessory. I know, how typical, I’m an Apple Fanperson and a Volkswagen driver. I can’t be held entirely to blame though, since the VW Golf was merely part of the monk’s dowry. (Although that doesn’t explain my nascent R32 desires…) The VW’s ipod adaptor was installed at the dealership and works fine with my old 30 GB, the husbands ipod photo, 1st gen ipod nanos… but not the iphone. I did get a chuckle out of the iphone’s egotistical designation of my car as an ipod accessory.
  1. It is about the socks. Those who know me well won’t be surprised to hear this; they know I have survived anti-sock tyrants before. I’m not thrilled with the available options for the iphone cases, so I repurposed Apple iPod Socks. It fits great, acts as a screen cleaner, and is tactilely distinct enough from the other bag clutter that the iphone is easy to find.

  2. Anti-smutz factor. Previous to the iphone, I’ve used a Blackberry, a MotoQ and various and sundry Nokia devices. The Blackberry was good, but I got thumb fatigue easily (arthritis probably didn’t help). The Moto Q was interesting, but whatever the screen is made from was a magnet for smutz – oil, grease, goo of any sort stuck to it and required a concerted effort and solvent to remove. The ipod screen doesn’t attract smutz like the others do.

  3. Ending typo tyranny. When entering text on other dataphones any typo could be a cause for angst, as editing was so difficult. Apple makes editing a breeze with predictive text that actually seems useful, and a handy magnifying glass that appears unobtrusively when needed so that the cursor can be positioned precisely. For those of us who respect the rules of grammar and spelling even in chat, tis s rly kewl.

  4. Some features I don’t plan to use often get my admiration. In portrait mode, the calculator is the generic 4x6 keypad with display. Tip to landscape, and a full scientific calculator comes into view. Excellent use of the multimode feature, accessible with merely a twist.

  5. The calendar app is actually making a sensible presentation out of my schedule. I can see all my schedules – kids, work, home, home biz – and manage them together. I can also see a segregated view. Although there are still some kinks to work out with exchange.

  6. Favorite iphone applications: twitterriffic, facebook, linkedin, air sharing and granddialer.

  7. Favorite mobile websites: Google talk and NPR.

  8. Forgivable glitches – My exchange mail account nicely syncs deletes with the server, but the other mail accounts don’t. My Bluetooth headset isn’t the default for the iphone when a call is received; I have to select it each time. Where is a quick-silence feature to decline a call or switch immediately to vibe mode? Each of these complains might represent a user device error, I note; I only list them to indicate that these items fail at the seamless ease of use that is apparent for 98.6666% of the remaining features.

  9. Future feature: XM radio? Even as I write that I found rumors of Satellite Radio iPhone aps coming soon. Stay tuned when I try to tune into XM on my iphone. In the meantime, the iheartradio app fromt he itunes store is decent, although it lacks BBC radio and NPR. I do have hope that it is possible and will happen soon.

01 September 2008

If you read dense statistical works for fun, you may have a problem

9 out of 10 bloggers agree that 10 out of 100 scientists have interesting things to say about research 6 of one and a half dozen of the other times that you ask for information. If you can parse that sentence, then you may also enjoy Bausell's book Snake Oil Science which is jammed chock-a-block with detailed analyses and statistical reviews of research studies concerning alternative medicine, and he writes a fair bit better than my leading sentence would indicate. Bausell is well positioned to address the question; as a research methodologist, he has to go into bed with statistics on a regular basis, and keep from falling asleep.

His dissection of the science is careful, exacting, and step by step eviscerates some of the most beloved of alternative therapies leaving proponents of these therapies no basis for their confidence in the treatment other than faith. He does also prove, again with a direct approach and clear evidence, that placebo effects are strong and very real. His position in the book is to compare the CAM therapies with the placebos, to see if the therapies are better than the placebo. In only one case can he find a measurably better effect of the CAM over the placebo - green tea. And in that case, the effect is only that it lowers cholesterol, not that it is the panacea that some claim. Note also that Bausell does point out that even this study may be suspect, as it was paid for by industry funding.

I read the book hoping to find some substantiation of some treatments I'd been considering for persistent back pain I've had - having tried chiropractors, ultrasound therapy, physical therapy without relief, and I'm open to other options. And I did find that there is something out there that is non-toxic and economical - placebos. Now I just have to figure out a way to trick myself into believing. I did learn a lot more about the strength of the placebo effect, and how profoundly it can influence an improperly constructed study.

For further information on placebos, check out this presentation from Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational.