31 October 2008


Thanks to Blogdesignblog I heard today on twitter about a neat concept proposed by fellow twitterer cwestbrook : How You Can Help End the Problem of Blogs With Great Content and No Readers. It seems like a complementary idea to crowdsourcing with a collective action twist; cwestbrook is looking to develop a horde of bloggers who will commit in serial fashion to reading a selected blog of the group's for two weeks, and then move on to another. This reminds me of crowdsourcing, but in a twisted way - perhaps it is sourcecrowding? Where instead of throwing a problem out to the receptive masses for a solution to be generated, the seeking masses go roving around looking for a place to contribute. Almost like following the grateful dead from venue to venue, but way more geeky, like halloween socks complete with red flashing lights.Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

cwestbrook describes the benefit of this best in his own words:
"Imagine how it would feel to have those numbers and those people looking at your blog after it’s been frustratingly quiet for months. It would be tremendous. That blogger would be permanently bolstered, and it would all be because of the strength of their content, and anything that allows bloggers that focus fully on content to succeed is great for the medium."
I'm optimistic enough with a positive perspective on human nature to think this would be great.

Round crowd image by alex itin.
But those feet are all mine.

30 October 2008

Cream filled center of the marketing ├ęclair

Yesterday I attended the American Marketing Association Conference on Digital Centered Marketing. It was a smaller group than attended the last such event on search engine marketing, but as such the group was very active and participatory instead of just being quietly receptive. That was pretty neat.

Featured speakers included:
  • Bill Flitter, Founder of pheedo.com - Bill led a great discussion about how to leverage from one social site to another using connector sites, and explained persuasively why that was the right tact. He also provided an excellent case study re: Kryptonite locks and the power of social networks along with a very real dollars-based quantification of the impact. (One small criticism: his handouts made me feel a bit guilty - lots of 24-point font sentences on 66 pages of single sided paper. It presented well on screen but the handout wasn't designed as a handout, it was just a print of what was shown and not therefore as effective. I feel like I need to go plant a tree to make up for the gratuitous paper usage. Often presenters should consider providing multiple-slide per page layouts on double sided printouts to be more ecologically minded.)

  • Toby Bloomberg of Bloomberg Marketing - great material on how to sell what social marketing is based on building relationships. She covered the basic netiquette of getting started in the social marketing arena. One helpful take away she provided was information about corporate blogging policies; see her post on this, Corporate Blogging Guidelines for further info.

  • Dana VanDen Heuvel of MarketingSavant - Dana got closest to addressing the holy grail I was questing for by coming to the conference: how do I value social marketing efforts? Unfortunately, I don't think the medium is mature enough yet to start pricing it - or, the data is lacking for the analysis I want. Dana will be someone to check back with later though as I expect he'll take a swing at addressing this someday.

I twittered the event. Here's most of my tweetstream for the Digital Centered Marketing Event, excepting those posts I forgot to tag. Quick twitter lesson for online marketers - use the hash mark and a phrase to tag your tweets to group them for later indexing. (Hey twitter or twitter-analogues I have a feature request: how about an auto-tagging widget tag summary type tool?

  • The conference today was good, the AMA gives good Hot Topics. Thanks to the presenters! #AMADCM about 2 hours ago from web

  • checking out slide.com #AMADCM about 5 hours ago from web

  • now in the lab portion, we're assessing how today's lessons could be applied tomorrow. #AMADCM about 5 hours ago from web

  • talking about the book Groundswell #AMADCM about 5 hours ago from web

  • Currently Browsing: http://www.digitalcenteredm... is the event website. I love electronic handouts instead of paper. #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • I won a book in a corporate bingo - Citizen Marketers. So, now I have another book to review. Thanks Dana! #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from web

  • Ok, I can hook this site to that and the other for updates. But what if one hook goes under? Better to keep the hub in house. #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • Social Marketing analysis of the Obama campaign - very topical insights, kudos Bill. #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • how to use rss to tie all the social networking sites together now. Write once post many. #AMADCM about 6 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • thinking about product images on flickr and google images. How'd they get there? How do I get more up and promote the brand? #AMADCM about 7 hours ago from web

  • Anyone else remember the the kryptonite blogstorm? Makes a good case study. #AMADCM about 7 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • there is a fan for every product. But does it make sense that hot wheels has a market cap higher than GM? about 8 hours ago from web

  • wondering whether the wii internet channel will support ads. Hmm. about 8 hours ago from web

  • Bill Flitter, founder of pheedo now presenting http://www.tinyurl.com/AMAD... #AMADCM about 8 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • wolfgang puck serves an awesome business lunch. #AMADCM about 8 hours ago from web

  • word of mouth recommendations from an person on the take is only 63% as effective as unbiased recommendations online. about 10 hours ago from web

  • Social marketing gives you answers to questions that you never asked. Yes, but how to separate the wheat from the chaff? about 10 hours ago from web

  • reviewing a recommended article http://tinyurl.com/trustand... #AMADCM about 10 hours ago from web

  • Now speaking at the AMA digital centered marketing conference: Toby Bloomberg of Bloomberg Marketing about 11 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • Over 63% of reviews on Amazon.com are positive. Maybe I shouldn't be so cynical. #AMADCM about 12 hours ago from web

  • A recent verified study for a Christian Women's group found only 3% of women age 33-50 were social networking. #AMADCM about 12 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • "We're in the beta economy." Awesome quote, given market conditions. about 12 hours ago from TwitterBar

  • doing digital centered marketing right requires a solid CRM strategy too. Well, of course! about 12 hours ago from web

  • there are 7000+ variations of the my coke rewards program emails, varied by behavioral heuristics. Dang. about 12 hours ago from web

  • Dana VanDen Heuvel of MarketingSavant is now presenting re: Assessing the impact of new media. I want numbers. about 12 hours ago from web

  • Jupiter research says: social network users are 3x more likely to trust peer opinions over advertising in purchase decisions. about 12 hours ago from web

  • Today I'll be live tweeting from the AMA conference Digital Centered Marketing http://www.tinyurl.com/AMAd... about 12 hours ago from web

  • Awake in Chicago. about 14 hours ago from twitterrific

I won a book in a corporate bingo (caught Bill saying 'target market' - ha! The book is Citizen Marketers by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. So, now I have another book to review soon. Dana said they selected it as a good review of the evolution of the 'everyone is in the marketing department' idea. Thanks Dana!

I learned of a bunch of interesting sites I will soon check out. Top on my list is the digital centered marketing event website. I am very, very impressed that this was available immediately after the event with the slides and references. There was some great discussion going on with fellow students in the class; I wonder if that discussion will be able to continue on the site?

The majority of the sites discussed are bookmarked at http://delicious.com/digitalcenteredmarketing. And of course I will have to dive into their list of 24 books on digital centered marketing that they recommend.

29 October 2008

DailyLit and the Art of War

I recently subscribed to DailyLit based on a recommendation from fellow book blogger Sharon at Ex Libris. I'm starting out with a feed for Sun Tzu's the Art of War. I've never been able to connect with the text before, as I found the list approach to be stilted. But somehow it seems to fit very well as an rss feed. Just as Sun Tzu intended it, I suppose. It just goes to show that good content can work in any media.

One issue I'm having with it is that I usually post my progress status in the sidebar with a snippet of javascript such as showing how far I've read as a simple percentage of pages read. But the feed from dailylit doesn't let me do that easily; they do say how many episodes there are in a book, but I've no idea whether those are each of equal length or not. So, for example, I've read 2 of 16 episodes of The Art of War but I have no idea if that means I am 12.5% of the way through or not. My quantitatively oriented gray matter is quivering with frustration at this obvious oversight.

Photo of book by Nuno Barreto

28 October 2008

Choice Architecture and search engine marketing

Another article of mine was published yesterday by Mike Moran on his Biznology site. Check it out - When I grow up, I want to be a choice architect.. This one is about Choice Architecture, and offers a way to score your search engine marketing according to some principals laid out in recent book by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge (which actually has nothing to do on the surface with search engine marketing).

Share and enjoy.

27 October 2008

Nudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Choice Architect

Nudge bookby Eva Lyford

Does your Web site nudge visitors towards the path you want them to take? If your abandonment rate is high, your prospects might be overwhelmed by too many options. If you aren't seeing the traffic volumes you used to, maybe your site is being grouped in with some bad company. There are proven psychological phenomena which explain these effects that you should know in order to improve your results.

A recent book by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge, offers many prescriptive suggestions for implementing choice architecture constructs to improve health insurance selection, 401k participation, and school vouchers. Choice architecture refers to the context in which one makes a choice. The idea is that by controlling that context, a choice architect can help people make better choices, improve decisions about health, wealth, and happiness and will make the world a better place. They do so by mitigating against some common problems that are faced when making a choice—procrastination delays, information overload, and stress reactions amongst others.

But when someone helps people make better choices, for whom are they better? The preferences of the choice architect influence the design of the choice mechanism, but can a choice architect be counted upon to design something that is truly in everyone's best interests? The choices that come out of such a scheme will be clearly better for the choice architect—whether they improve other people's lots in life is debatable.

Fortunately, marketers need face no such qualms: our job is to increase revenue. So we can leave the ethical questions of whether governmental choice architecture is a good thing or not and instead ask, "Can choice architecture help my search marketing plan?" And, joking aside, a positive revenue stream means a good employment forecast, and most agree that this is a good contributor to health, wealth and happiness. (If you do want to find out more about Thaler and Sunstein's 'libertarian paternalism' and government interventions as described in nudge, I recommend Taming Your Inner Homer Simpson by Dahlia Lithwick on Slate.)

So with that in mind, score your latest SEO or SEM effort against these factors and see how you rank (1 point for each yes):

  • Anchoring bias is a mental crutch used by people to project unknown values based on known values. Thaler and Sunstein use the example of a person trying to guess the population of Milwaukee: one who starts guessing based on the population of Green Bay ends up with a very different guess than someone who starts extrapolating based on the population of Chicago. Big box retailers have mastered this by placing their store brands right beside the name brands to encourage customers to use the name brand as their point of reference. Placing your search ads into results that anchor them favorably will benefit you. For example, promoting your low-carb whole-wheat pasta alongside search results for the carb count of white pasta induces people to compare your skinny pasta to the full-figured version. Consider instead what might happen when advertising your pasta alongside carb-free search results; now it doesn't compare so favorably. Does your search marketing help your target market start from your preferred basis as a point of reference to your product or service?
  • Availability bias works to magnify the importance of nearby events and minimize far away events. This is the same principle that guides newspapers to lead with the story of the school bus accident and put the foreign airline crash deeper in the paper. (For younger readers: newspapers are those large paper documents printed daily with ink and photos on them that detail some but not all nearly current events.) Does your search marketing relate to the local market, or is it so abstracted that your target audience can't connect to it?
  • Representativeness bias is the tendency of people to assign the common characteristics of a group to individuals that they infer as being part of that group. At its worst, this results in racial profiling. Marketers can use this for a halo effect to garner favor through association (or a horns effect, which results in disfavor through association). As mother said, people judge you by the company you keep. Search engine marketing that places your air purifier product ads amongst other allergy abatement products might convert better than placing it amongst the results for the allergens. Does your search marketing avoid association with unsavory sites and marketing practices, or better yet position you within spaces that give you a positive association?
  • Unrealistic optimism is the tendency of individuals to misjudge the likelihood of positive or negative outcomes for themselves. Thaler gives an example of having a class of MBA students judge in which decile their grades would fall; generally less than 5% expected to be in the lower median, although obviously half of them will be below average for the math to work. Online dating sites show great competence in this area, doing well even as 50% of marriages end in divorce. Does your site help prospects to maintain their optimism by, for example, avoiding overlarge disclaimers and confirmation activities?
  • Gain apathy and loss aversion bias refers to the experimentally demonstrated aversion that people have for loss and the relative unlikelihood they have to move from inertia in order to access a gain. One experiment which demonstrates this bias involved giving out free coffee mugs to half of a group of students. The free mug receivers wanted roughly twice as much money to sell their mug as the non-mug receivers were willing to pay. Any conference attendee recognizes this phenomenon—just try bartering with someone who got the screaming monkey slingshot. They can't be parted from the freebie. (But are you willing to spend an hour listening to the pitch to get one yourself?) Amazon.com makes use of this with their "gold box" offers: the item is yours at that price for a limited time, and they play on your aversion to losing it if you don't act right away. Does your search marketing make an offer that is easy to get and painful to lose?
  • Status quo bias describes the well-known general tendency of people to stick with their current situation (explaining, perhaps, why 50% of marriages don't end in divorce). Traditional direct mailers banged their heads for years against the difficulty of getting recipients to take the call to action. Search marketers have it easier in that our audience has already taken the first step to be actively looking for us—their status is "actively seeking" and they are likely to stay there, unless you can move them along. "Default options thus act as powerful nudges. In many contexts defaults have some extra nudging power because consumers may feel, rightly or wrongly, that default options come with an implicit endorsement from the default setter," say Thaler and Sunstein, and it is true in my experience. Driving your search marketing towards an already configured device with a full complement of accessories—instead of to the configuration tool—thus builds on the status quo bias which inclines the prospect to make the purchase with the default options. Does your search marketing use defaults to move your target market from prospecting to action?
  • Framing bias reveals that individuals are more likely to accept recommendations stated positively and reject actions that are stated negatively. Telling a friend that 9 out of 10 seat-belt wearing people survive a car crash is much more likely to get him to start wearing his safety belt rather than telling him that 1 out of 10 seat-belt wearing people die in a car crash, even though the quantitative information is identical. Does your search marketing strategy frame your options properly to account for framing bias?

Your grade:
0-1 Time to rethink your approach.
2-3 Perhaps you're just getting started, or are you dealing with legacy choices?
3-4 Nice job! Refine your program and reap the rewards.
5-6 Great work—keep it up, and enjoy your leadership position.
7 Get in touch with Mike, perhaps you'd like to write for the Biznology blog?

Now you've got your score and some ideas for re-examining your search engine marketing activities. Don't forget that ethical marketing is good business sense. Don't take any of these ideas to a ridiculous extreme if it leads you into questionable practices. Thaler and Sunstein recommend a simple guiding principle for determining whether your nudge crosses the line or not: transparency. You should be willing to explain (or defend) your nudge in a public forum if it comes to that. This "headline ethics" standard is that if you wouldn't want to see your name publicized widely in association with the tactic, don't do it.

also published at http://www.mikemoran.com/biznology/archives/2008/10/when_i_grow_up_i_want_to_be_a.html

24 October 2008

The narrator is wrong at the end.

A stained glass window. Beautiful painted canvases depicting scenes from the classics. A woman whose love has been banished, and another who doesn't trust the accounts of who she is. Tales from the classics, and classical museums. Corruption in caring for the helpless. Love that lasts from beyond the grave, and even beyond sanity.

Carol Goodman fills the pages of The Drowning Tree with enough themes to last for a trilogy, yet brings the tale together into a neat conclusion within the span of one novel. Her characters are manic, frantic, melancholy and pragmatic in turns and in ways not unlike one finds in real persons.

An excellent plot summary for The Drowning Tree is provided on the author's website, so I won't repeat that. I will say that one tactic of the authors that I found very interesting was that the narrator seemed to be left believing a falsehood about her friend, when all evidence indicates otherwise. I can't say I know of many books where at the end the narrator's concerns have been resolved but they are still mistaken about fundamental truths in their life.

19 October 2008

My Grandmother's Chest

When I was a teenager, I first noticed an old linen chest that my grandmother kept in the basement with a few potted houseplants atop it. The chest was interesting to be because of the elaborate combination lock on the front and the heavy solidity and history of it - I used to imagine that Houdini could have used it for one of his acts, had he been able to lift it. The wood is heavy, difficult to move around, and dangerous in that there is no guard to stop the lid from crashing down on one's fingers.

Even so, I've always liked the piece and it has usually found itself in a prominent place in my home. Unfortunately, the damage to the wood veneer from Grandma's zealous houseplant watering left some unsightly blemishes which I covered up with a cushion. I always wanted to get it repaired, but estimates were way too costly and I wasn't sure who to trust with the piece. I have no other heirloom pieces, so if this one was lost or ruined I'd be out of my furniture heritage entirely.

Fortunately, Paul at Paul A Howard custom furniture set me up nicely by upholstering the top with some nifty brass tacks adorning the new leather. It coordinates nicely with the house, and the leather is grainy enough that even with everyday use it should hold up well. Thanks Paul!

12 October 2008


I picked this one up over at fidoknits. The fact that I regularly read a blog devoted to knitting when I've never knitted one... knitlet... could count as a quirk, but I'll give that one as a freebie.

Here's how to play:

1) Link to the person who tagged you (yup)
2) Mention the rules (if you can read this, then yes, I've mentioned the rules)
3) Tell six quirky yet boring, unspectacular details about yourself
4) Tag six other bloggers by linking to them (I follow the precedent set by fido, above: please self-report your linkage, if such applies to you. Honesty is its own reward.)
5) Go to each person’s blog and leave a comment that lets them know they’ve been tagged (I hereby faithfully swear to execute the office of recursive tagger, should you henceforth post a comment that you've done your quirky duty).

So now that the preamble is over... Here's Eva's list o'quirks:
1. I played the alphabet game a lot as a kid on car rides, and still lapse into it as an adult when I'm traveling by car.

2. I really like my beagle's big floppy ears, they are so goofy and soft. If could find a way to do it that didn't involve animal cruelty, I'd make a blanket out of beagle ears.

3. I refuse to throw out even the most hideous and sickly of houseplants; if it is alive, it can stay and fight for another day.

4. I rescue spiders and crickets from inside the house and release them outside. Mosquitoes, millipedes, and moths are summarily executed.

5. I have a wide variety of socks, in various seasonal and color assortments. This includes a pair for St. Patrick's day, flag day/memorial day/independence day, Halloween and of course Winter Solstice. Plus a variety of striped, fuzzed, bedazzled and toe-socked varieties. Ok, not bedazzled (that would be weird).

6. My sleep habits are easily upset.

10 October 2008

Lunar the Coonhound available for adoption

One reason I love dogs is for their philosophy of life - no matter what happened yesterday, each day is a new day and most dogs will easily move on and put their past behind them. Lunar certainly needed all of this attitude to make it as far as he has - when we got him, he was extremely thin and weak. With some extra feedings and TLC, he has come into his own rapidly and is just the funniest ungainly hound, so eager to please you that he tries to sit up for a treat even though he falls over each time.

'Lunar' has a blog on indypaws.com too - check out Lunar the Coonhound's blog.

If you'd like to help Lunar find a new home, please feel free to print out and hang the Bluetick Coonhound flyer at any place pet pals gather - the vets, the dog bakery, or agreeable pet supply stores. And thanks for the help!

07 October 2008

Musiciophilia or, your brain on music, an owner's manual

Imagine for a moment that you take your car to a mechanic, and find out that s/he has never actually taken apart a fully functional car engine. The only experience they had was in tinkering with broken engines, the machines the owners had complained about, or motors they had found for themselves, left unrecoverable in some junkyard. It seems strange, doesn't it, to imagine a world in which these mechanics would be considered acceptable - yet in the world of neurology, it seems that is the usual case. It is rare that a doctor has deep experience with normal physiology. Too often they learn only from the extreme outer edges of the bell curve, where the case history is detailed but strange. Oliver Sachs has this difficulty too, yet somehow he extricates some profound insights about how the brain works even with - or sometimes because of - his access to profoundly neurologically injured or impaired persons.

The most interesting information I got from the book is that the brain has actual physical connections running retrograde from sense organs to neurological processing centers. In other words, sense organs do not have a one-way corridor of input to the brain. The brain can signal back to the sense organs to dampen or sharpen input, or to fill in gaps in an input stream. Taken to an extreme of sensory deprivation, these channels from the brain can manufacture sensory input en toto and with such authenticity that the input channels perceive the sense input as being external. In this way in particular sound hallucinations can occur. Sachs then is able to argue convincingly that these thoughts we experience in relation to sense stimulus are triggered based on physical neurological reactions, and not from some mystical or ethereal process.

Individuals who have experienced brain trauma (eg a concussion or injury) often experience such hallucinations. In fact, this explains an incident from my own childhood about which I have argued with my mother over time. When I was approximately 5 years old, I experienced a concussion. Fortunately, family friends who were nurses along with my mother took turns monitoring me and checking in with my pediatrician so that I did not have to be hospitalized. During that time, and to this day, I can distinctly recall that a girl who lived in the neighborhood (Ludy Trevino, if you're out there in the blogsophere say 'hey!') played her violin for me. I didn't see her, but can still vividly recall the music. My mother has always insisted that this friend did not play for me then, especially since it was overnight and the girl herself was not at our home but much more likely sleeping in her own bed at her home. After reading Sacks' accounts, I am convinced that it is much more likely that I was experiencing musical hallucinations brought on my the head trauma. I've never had any other hallucinations since, and the veracity of the musical experience was striking - to this day, I can remember it as though it happened.

One very interesting segment of the book concerns earworms - those viral musical fragments which can occupy one's mental space and take some mental floss to remove. Sacks discusses this in a video available on Youtube:

And, also on this note (don't mind the pun), I've heard that there will be an excellent installation art exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art on Earworms . Catch that for yourself for more on this wacky phenomenon.

The publisher offers an audio excerpt from Musicophilia:

Check out Oliver Sacks's website for more details.