Thursday, December 30, 2010

20 years ago...The Web, the Internet's "Killer App" and Mosaic, the Web's "Killer App"

Well it was 20 years ago today,
Sargent Pepper taught a band to play...

The web as we know it is less than 20 years old. 

Using concepts from earlier hypertext systems, English engineer and computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, now the Director of theWorld Wide Web Consortium, wrote a proposal in March 1989 for what would eventually become the World Wide Web.[

1] At CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, Berners-Lee and Belgian computer scientist Robert Cailliau proposed in 1990 to use "HyperText ... to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will",[2] and publicly introduced the project in December.[3] [Wikipedia]

The web exploded. But only in 1993 after a young team (notably including Marc Andreesen) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, began developing Mosaic - the first popular graphical browser for the World Wide Web. And from that time forward the universe that is the Internet and the Web has continued to expand at a rate that seems, at times, to approach the speed of light. This was the Internet's Big Bang.

What is happening at this very moment that in 20 years may be comparable in scope to the revolution brought on by the Web?


----------------
Tom Higley
303.570.8888

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bye Bye to Books (as we knew them)

In ten years or less, books will be gone. Not completely, of course. A few will remain. The poor will have them. And the rich will have them as well, for very different reasons. The poor will have them because they won't be able to afford to carry around the devices that most people use for consuming content. And the rich will have them as collectors items. Beyond that, a few printed books will still turn up here and there, but the industry and the experience as we knew it has joined the "walking dead."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Aspen Live 3: Tie Your ___ Shoes!

Just Tie Your Shoes.

Day 3 of Aspen Live unfolded a bit differently than the previous 2 days. We assembled in the fireside lounge of the St. Regis, and Jim Lewi began the proceedings. Someone had missed the intros of a previous day, so we did that again. (Don Strasburg embraced his bestowed title of "scariest guy in the room.) When the intros were out of the way, Lewi began . . . . 

We heard these past two days that '
talent is overpaid.' We've heard that before.
We heard that tickets are overpriced. We've heard that before.

At this point, Bob Lefsetz stepped in. Taking control of the meeting, he seemed determined, as moderator, to get more specifics from people in the group. He began interviewing group attendees, one at a time. This was great in a couple respects. It got people talking who might not have been willing to speak out, and Bob didn't always settle for the "soft" response. He pressed people to provide real answers to the questions. 
  • You just signed with Average Joe Entertainment; did you get an advance?
  • If you didn't get an advance, why did you sign with them?
  • Response: because they really understood the artist, and they had real assets that we could use. 
Of course that sort of prodding has always been a part of Aspen Live. A promoter will say one thing, and an agent will jump in with a vocal objection. An agent will say another thing, and a promoter will chime in with "WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, come on here, you're missing the whole point!!!!" while the agent pleads, "Let me finish!" That's part of what makes these things interesting. 

And that's part of what made the systematic approach a bit problematic. The culture of the group may be the most important thing here. And I'm not looking for a more sanitized, well organized experience. That just isn't who we are. The trick for future Aspen conferences is going to come down to growing the base (slowly, carefully) and managing the process without choking off the character (and characters) of the proceedings.   

This time, I'm not going to share the details of the conversations, but I will mention a proposal we discussed. The idea put forward was that we try, as a group, to select an artist or two or three that we would agree to support. (Dan Steinberg of Square Peg Concerts pointed out that we can't even agree as a group on where to go to dinner [at least not without Jamie Loeb's help].) We'll see. I'm not persuaded that this is how we function as a group. I think it's more about relationships and learning from each other.  

The afternoon session ended with these words of simple, common sense: "Just tie your shoes." Before you start to run, before you get all excited and get carried away, just tie your shoes. Of course, since this is Aspen Live, it isn't quite that simple. Because we are who we are in the music business, it's not so much "Just Tie Your Shoes," as "Just Tie Your F*cking Shoes."

Since the conference ended, I've been thinking a lot about one thing. This business of music - built during a particular time, based on particular sets of circumstances and conditions - is operated at the top by experienced people who learned how to make things work. And they're still learning, still paying attention to things that are affecting the environment - disruptive changes that range from technology to legal to demographic / cultural. Still, it seems to me that the only thing that keeps this part of the business from going the way of the recorded music industry is the "live" and "in-person" nature of the experience. And this is fortunate for the folks who built this business from the ground up, the promoters, agents, managers and artists that played to the baby-boomers and reaped the rewards of larger rooms with much higher ticket prices.    

As a rule, those who run significant businesses are wary of change. And that makes a certain kind of sense. You don't want to be the person responsible for destroying or losing a business that took decades to build. But sometimes change whacks you upside the head. It is almost impossible for players in an established industry to adapt to disruptive change. Read Clayton Christensen's "Innovator's Dilemma." 

Just when you've finally learned to tie your f*ing shoes, someone invents the damn loafer. 

 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Midemnet Lab unveils International and Innovative Music Startups - and Next Big Sound is Included!

This is wonderful news. Just last year, Next Big Sound was a young, up and coming TechStars company. Now with Midem's announcement, they've begun to find a place on the world stage.

This line-up, which brings together some of the most promising digital innovations of the moment, covers every aspect of the music sector and forms a palette of services responding to the music industry’s changing needs. The selected companies will pitch their activities to a respected panel of judges of industry experts, Venture Capitalists and digital media during the five days of MIDEM. Following the pitch sessions, a winner will be chosen by each of the three judging panels.

-------------------------------

Tom Higley
President & CEO
Pavlov Games, Inc.
415.488.5040 (w)
303.570.8888 (m)

TechCrunch: World-Map of Social Networks Shows Facebook's Ever-Increasing Dominance

Aspen Live! Day 2. Google and Facebook and Apple, Oh My!

Yesterday, at Aspen Live Day 2, we talked about MTV doing things online again. Innovative, interesting things. Some of the thoughts expressed at the meeting:

  • If you're good, really good, people will find you wherever you are
  • Fans have to have someplace where they can talk about the problems they're having with you or your service
  • Some of marketing services - Constant Contact was mentioned, along with ReverbNation - are driving people completely nuts with their persistence and spammy characteristics
  • "I think filtering is the big challenge"
  • "We're advertising an old prodcut." (Our James Taylor TV spots still show James Taylor with HAIR!)
  • TV can work if its good. (But much of it suffers from bloat - stuff that gets added that no one (other than Roger Waters) seems to be able to say "NO" to any longer.
  • Artists are now selling a show out as far in advance as possible. (And the ad budget isn't up to the task, at least here in the US, but the Europeans have it wired!)
  • What's the mix of your marketing budget, how many ways is a $1.00 split and in what proportions, and how is that changing?  
  • We're moving away from a web based world to an app based world. 
  • There will soon be an app for everything we want to do with the fan - promotion, ticket sales, etc.

Don Strasburg talked about turning his Facebook page into a forum for promoting. It's still personal, but instead of becoming upset about all the people who want to be his friend, he's opened the floodgates. And he said he's always been an admirer of Crazy Eddie. He wants to do things that are different, interesting. Stuff that gets people's attention. And he doesn't think AEG's customers are like Michael Rapino's - attending an average of 1 or 2 shows a year. "People we do business with go to a lot of fucking shows."

One of the artist managers asked whether Facebook would go the way of MySpace. Don't bet on it. MySpace, as Goldstar's Jim McCarthy pointed out, was never what Facebook has become. 

Don Strasburg voiced a strong complaint seconded by others: the first thing you see when you type Bon Jovi tickets is StubHub. Sometimes that's right. Don asked me if I'd talk to the group as the "Internet expert." (I might well be the group's startup expert; I'm probably not it's Internet or SEO expert, but I didn't quibble.)  I talked briefly about the three parts of a current search result: 

  • the paid results in the shaded portion of the main search (these are paid listings, and they are not determined based on Google's page rank algorithm); in the example below, TicketsNow.com, TicketLiquidator.com and TicketZoom.com bought their way to the top. 
  • the main search results (determined by Google's page rank algorithm); and here Ticketmaster comes out on top followed closely by Bon Jovi's own site and StubHub. 
  • the key word search driven ads (which is less about SEO, search engine optimization, and more about SEM, search engine marketing.  


But the main point I wanted to make to the group was this. We tend to be fighting last year's battles. Google created a powerful tool that everyone uses. As you use the web, it's often far faster to use Google to get to a site - even if you already know its URL - than to type it in yourself. Google solved a huge problem by giving us almost instant access to anything we're looking for just at the time when nearly all the things we might want to look for were beginning to turn up on the web. 

The next wave of value for the consumer - and the next opportunity for those at Aspen Live - is more about leveraging friend networks, particularly Facebook. And this is not just about advertising on Facebook. It's about understanding and using social tools to create powerful communities of co-promoters. 

If you still have doubts about whether Facebook matters in the music space, check out "Facebook Director Of Platform: Spotify *Is* Facebook Music

When asked on stage today whether there will ever be a “Zynga of music” i.e. a company that leverages social in order to disrupt the music space Director of the Facebook Developer platform Ethan Beard said that Facebook is in fact in the music business.

Spotify is Facebook Music,” Beard said, revealing that when Spotify, which has not yet launched in the U.S., integrated social features into its own site, traffic increased 4 times. Facebook is now the Spotify’s number one referrer of traffic.

Beard emphasized that there is a lot of room for growth for music companies that integrate Facebook’s social features as well as Spotify has. “We want to focus on building out the building blocks of the social graph so companies can build on top of it,” Beard said.

The much buzzed about Spotify has been talking about a U.S. launch for well over a year, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Aspen Live! Day 2. Google and Facebook and Apple, Oh My!

Yesterday, at Aspen Live Day 2, we talked about MTV doing things online again. Innovative, interesting things. Some of the thoughts expressed at the meeting:

  • If you're good, really good, people will find you wherever you are
  • Fans have to have someplace where they can talk about the problems they're having with you or your service
  • Some of marketing services - Constant Contact was mentioned, along with ReverbNation - are driving people completely nuts with their persistence and spammy characteristics
  • "I think filtering is the big challenge"
  • "We're advertising an old prodcut." (Our James Taylor TV spots still show James Taylor with HAIR!)
  • TV can work if its good. (But much of it suffers from bloat - stuff that gets added that no one (other than Roger Waters) seems to be able to say "NO" to any longer.
  • Artists are now selling a show out as far in advance as possible. (And the ad budget isn't up to the task, at least here in the US, but the Europeans have it wired!)
  • What's the mix of your marketing budget, how many ways is a $1.00 split and in what proportions, and how is that changing?  
  • We're moving away from a web based world to an app based world. 
  • There will soon be an app for everything we want to do with the fan - promotion, ticket sales, etc.

Don Strasburg talked about turning his Facebook page into a forum for promoting. It's still personal, but instead of becoming upset about all the people who want to be his friend, he's opened the floodgates. And he said he's always been an admirer of Crazy Eddie. He wants to do things that are different, interesting. Stuff that gets people's attention. And he doesn't think AEG's customers are like Michael Rapino's - attending an average of 1 or 2 shows a year. "People we do business with go to a lot of fucking shows."

One of the artist managers asked whether Facebook would go the way of MySpace. Don't bet on it. MySpace, as Goldstar's Jim McCarthy pointed out, was never what Facebook has become. 

Don Strasburg voiced a strong complaint seconded by others: the first thing you see when you type Bon Jovi tickets is StubHub. Sometimes that's right. Don asked me if I'd talk to the group as the "Internet expert." (I might well be the group's startup expert; I'm probably not it's Internet or SEO expert, but I didn't quibble.)  I talked briefly about the three parts of a current search result: 

  • the paid results in the shaded portion of the main search (these are paid listings, and they are not determined based on Google's page rank algorithm); in the example below, TicketsNow.com, TicketLiquidator.com and TicketZoom.com bought their way to the top. 
  • the main search results (determined by Google's page rank algorithm); and here Ticketmaster comes out on top followed closely by Bon Jovi's own site and StubHub. 
  • the key word search driven ads (which is less about SEO, search engine optimization, and more about SEM, search engine marketing.  


But the main point I wanted to make to the group was this. We tend to be fighting last year's battles. Google created a powerful tool that everyone uses. As you use the web, it's often far faster to use Google to get to a site - even if you already know its URL - than to type it in yourself. Google solved a huge problem by giving us almost instant access to anything we're looking for just at the time when nearly all the things we might want to look for were beginning to turn up on the web. 

The next wave of value for the consumer - and the next opportunity for those at Aspen Live - is more about leveraging friend networks, particularly Facebook. And this is not just about advertising on Facebook. It's about understanding and using social tools to create powerful communities of co-promoters. 

If you still have doubts about whether Facebook matters in the music space, check out "Facebook Director Of Platform: Spotify *Is* Facebook Music

When asked on stage today whether there will ever be a “Zynga of music” i.e. a company that leverages social in order to disrupt the music space Director of the Facebook Developer platform Ethan Beard said that Facebook is in fact in the music business.

Spotify is Facebook Music,” Beard said, revealing that when Spotify, which has not yet launched in the U.S., integrated social features into its own site, traffic increased 4 times. Facebook is now the Spotify’s number one referrer of traffic.

Beard emphasized that there is a lot of room for growth for music companies that integrate Facebook’s social features as well as Spotify has. “We want to focus on building out the building blocks of the social graph so companies can build on top of it,” Beard said.

The much buzzed about Spotify has been talking about a U.S. launch for well over a year, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Venture Money Flows to Games and Gamification

VentureBeat's "GamesBeat" featured a post today by Gabe Zichermann, the author of Game-Based Marketing and organizer of Gamification Summit 2011.

Gabe had this to say:

 

In the last twelve months alone, over $10 million in seed capital has flowed into a series of disruptive, gamification-centric startups, over $25 million additional capital has gone to businesses betting big on gamification as a core customer strategy, and at least one $100 million fund dedicated in part to gamification has been launched. (Last year, more than $600 million was invested in game companies).

 

Read more at: http://venturebeat.com/2010/12/10/vcs-level-up-with-gamification-investments-...:+Venturebeat+(VentureBeat)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Music? It's alive and well at Aspen Live

Every year a small group of music business people get together up in Aspen. It's more conversation than conference, and it's rarely dull. [Images: Don Strasburg, MGMT, Skrillex, Bob Lefsetz, Jamie Loeb.]

Some may come to Aspen Live just for the skiing. But most come for the give and take that develops between promoters, managers, ticket sellers, marketers, tech people and more. Jim Lewi, who organizes the event, is a always good for interjecting lively elements into the mix, and the cast of characters includes everyone from the notable blogger, Bob Lefsetz, to the outspoken AEG promoter, Don Strasburg. This is a great cast of characters, that includes the former manager of the Doors, the VP of Marketing for Nederlander Concerts (The Greek, The Grove) the manager of MGMT, the owner of the Belly Up here in Aspen, and many more, and everyone has an opinion. Or two. So what were the big topics of conversation on Day #1?

Goldstar and Discount Ticketing

MGMT's manager asked if we wanted to talk about ticketing. No one responded. At first. Then things began to warm up a bit. To kick this segment off, Jim McCarthy, the CEO of Goldstar and Editor of the Live 2.0 blog, talked a little bit about his company. Goldstar has a membership list of 1.3 million people who are interested in attending live events. What do the members want? They want to know what's going on, what's available, and they want a great price. Most of Goldstar's ticket selling business is in sports, theatre and performing arts. Live music has been a more difficult nut to crack. But the company has grown consistently and now has a substantial presence in LA, San Francisco and eight other cities, and they expect to enter 10 new markets in 2011. 

Godstar's deal is pretty straightforward, and while it's not for everyone, it has proven to be a real winner in some contexts. The ticket normally costs $100? With Goldstar, you get that ticket for $50. Why would a promoter do this? If those tickets weren't going to sell anyway, it's better to sell them at a discount (and have people come to the show, buy a beer, pay for parking, etc.) than let the seats go empty.  

One of the things I love about this group is its willingness to listen to input from those outside the music business. They're not closed - at least not initially. They may be a bit skeptical at first. But if anyone has a useful perspective to bring to the group, they are welcomed and encouraged.

Pretty early in the conversation, Don Strasburg talked about the problem of "the middle." The seats in the front sell quickly because they're great seats. The seats in the back sell because they're cheap. But the middle, that's a different story. The middle is hard. Many others agreed. 

What's the average number of shows a person goes to each year?

Jim McCarthy did a good job addressing this one. He compared it to the average height of a basketball team. That number might be 5'6" - but it obscures the fact that the key players on the team are 6'10," 6'7" and 6'3." So it is with the live entertainment business. Some people don't go to any shows. Some go to more than 10 a year. Goldstar's goal is to move everyone up just a bit - to get the people who went to 10 shows last year going to another 2-3 shows this year; to get the people who went to just 2-3 going to 5 or six; etc.

How much do you spend to promote a show?

One notable promoter: we spend 8% of the gross proceeds on promotion. Another prominent figure in the industry: "That's not enough! You've got to spend at least 10%! The first promoter: "We actually think that in some cases 8% might be too much." Another: the figures for marketing budget in other parts of the entertainment industry - e.g., film - are much higher - 25%.

What works today in terms of reaching fans?

Radio still seems to have significant life left it in. It isn't what it used to be. But Jamie Loeb from Nederlander sharted the data: a surprising number - 50%+ - of respondents to a survey (all under 24) said they discovered new music via the radio. And this was terestrial radio. Internet radio came in as the source for discovery among 14%.

Interesting artists were the subject of discussion, some of them new and not yet wideley known, some far more established.. Passion Pit, Zac Brown Band, Skrillex, Phoenix, Boombox. How did they get their start? The manager for the Avett Brothers: a great artist with a great show generates word-of-mouth. 

And we talked for awhile about electronic music and the growing popularity of more DJ-driven shows with younger audiences. 

Someone noted that younger audiences can't afford tickets to classic rock shows. (To which one of the participants responded: "[Even] I can't afford a ticket to classic rock shows!")

What about compensating the fans themselves for promoting the shows? 

Don Strasburg talked about compensating fans for promoting shows. He looked at me for a moment and said "Remember that idea?" He was making reference to a conversation we had many years about about starting a new legitimate, but "Napster-like" P2P service. The idea: the record stores are no longer needed. The new model in the new digital world would allow us to compensate the fan directly for the digital redistribution of great music. I thought long and hard about building a company to do that and decided against it. (Another company, Passalong Networks, did try to make a go of this, but it closed up shop a few years ago.)

The reason I rejected the model was pretty simple. I didn't like the world it would create. If a fan is urging me to listen to the latest recording of Artist X, I want to have some confidence that the fan isn't on the take. 

So I reacted pretty strongly to the idea that we should compensate fans for promoting a show. Same problem. But I am not suggesting at all that fans are unimportant for promotion. Quite the opposite. Friend-based promotion is becoming more and more valuable by the day. Given what we're doing with Pavlov Games, I strongly believe there is a way to harness fan-driven promotion without, in effect, "killing the goose that lays the golden eggs."  The right way to do this, I argued, is to make sure that we reward fans in ways that boost their credibility within their online and offline communities. 

By the way, you can get a feel for what goes on at these conferences just by reading Bob Lefsetz's newsletter; go ahead, subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fun Inc.

"One of the most profound transformations we can learn from games is how to turn the sense that someone has failed into the sense that they 'haven't succeeded yet.'" Tom Chatifield, author of Fun, Inc.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mr. Anonymous Addresses Growing Attention Deficit - Personally

This morning I invited Mr. Anonymous, AKA "Jeep" from The Samples, to talk with me about Mr. Anonymous, attention and promotion. 

First, an introduction from his website: Mr. Anonymous is a.k.a. Jeep Macnichol. 

Jeep started his music career as founding member and drummer of the Colorado based pop/jam band The Samples. For a decade, his musical journey included 6 national album releases, national touring for 9 months a year in every venue imaginable in every state, sharing the stage with Sting, Dave Mathews, Steel pulse, Flaming Lips, The Wailers, Sonic Youth, Blues traveler, the Horde tour, and a performance on the Jay Leno show.  After 10 years, Macnichol decided it was time to follow new creative endeavors and dive into his love of Jamaican dancehall and reggae music. 

This in turn has spawned a flurry of activity, including two album releases under the Mr. Anonymous name, a radio show, numerous performances and more. 

Since Mr. Anonymous seems to be everywhere lately, I wanted to ask him a few questions about how he thinks about promotion. Some of the answers are what you'd expect. Others are surprising. 

He started the conversation by talking about what he doesn't do. He's old school. He doesn't text. 

Tom: So, you seem to be everywhere these days. What are you doing in terms of promotion?

Jeep: 

"Facebook is my #1 thing," he said. Of course I also use my mailing list - from my website - and a bulletin I send out regularly. I try to keep things short and simple. People appreciate short, simple emails with no art. They don't want to work. They have a short attention span. That's why the title is so important. The other thing I've learned: making it personal. It comes from me. 

The biggest feedback I get on promotion is from the radio station. We ask them to login now, tell their friends. And we can see the results! It's almost as if we were playing a video game, watching the numbers rise! 

I owe all of this [success with promotion] to the band Pretty Lights. Their music was free. And Mr. Anonymous has taken the same approach: more people are buying now that it's free. 

Tom: In terms of promotion, what has changed the most for you in the past 5 years?
Jeep:

I basically feel like the combination of YouTube + Facebook has caused most people's attention span to decrease from 10 seconds to 1 second (or less). And you want people talking about what you're doing. I think of my fans as my record label. They're the promoters. 

Tom: What do superfans of Mr. Anonymous want from you?  
Jeep: 
A personal relationship. 

Tom: That sounds a lot like that notion of "authenticity" we were talking about. But it seems like you might have a little trouble scaling that over time . . . 
Jeep: 
Grins.

Tom: Anything else?
Jeep: 
Well I have my music on CD Baby. I'm sure you know Derek Sivers. I learned a lot from him and his "Leadership Lessons from a Dancing Guy."

A plug for Steven Blank and His Blog

I'm a Steven Gary Blank fanboy. Why? Because so much of what he describes in his book The Four Steps to the Ephiphany and writes about in his blog rings true with my experience as an entrepreneur. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The 50 Million Milestone

We've passed the 50 million mark. That's right. The iggli invite button has been deliverec more than 53 million times. 

 

Taming the trolls

Get Satisfaction - taking it to the bullies.

-----------

Tom Higley
President & CEO
Pavlov Games
303.570.8888


Begin forwarded message:

From: "Get Satisfaction" <noreply@getsatisfaction.com>
Date: November 30, 2010 11:18:38 AM MST
To: tom@iggli.com
Subject: Webcast tomorrow: Taming the trolls
Reply-To: noreply@getsatisfaction.com

Get Satisfaction
(877) 339 3997
 

WEBCAST TOMORROW

Community College: Managing Sentiment & Preparing for Negativity

 

Just a quick reminder about our webcast tomorrow (Wednesday):

 

 

Community College: Managing Sentiment & Preparing for Negativity

 

How do you deal with criticism? How do you tame the trolls? Learn how to set the tone for a positive customer community and when negativity shows up - how to deal with it effectively and constructively.

Wednesday, December 1st
@ 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern

Half hour session

 

https://www.gotomeeting.com/register/466803614?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonuqvMZK...">Register now for this free session...

 

. . .

 

Monthly Maintenance Window: The first Thursday of the month is in a few days, which means our monthly maintenance window is almost here. We're estimating the downtime will last for 4 hours beginning at 10pm PDT on Thursday December 2nd and we'll be sending progress updates from our status account on Twitter, http://twitter.com/GSFNstatus?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonuqvMZKXonjHpfsX77u0oX7H...">@GSFNstatus.

. . .

Did you miss our past webcasts? They're on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/getsatisfaction?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonuqvMZKXonjHpfs..." style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; line-height: 20pt; font-size: 11pt; margin: 0pt; text-align: left; vertical-align: text-top;">Driving Traffic to Your Community

http://www.youtube.com/getsatisfaction?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonuqvMZKXonjHpfs..." style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; line-height: 20pt; font-size: 11pt; margin: 0pt; text-align: left; vertical-align: text-top;">Encouraging New Member Engagementhttp://www.youtube.com/getsatisfaction?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonuqvMZKXonjHpfs..." style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; line-height: 20pt; font-size: 11pt; margin: 0pt; text-align: left; vertical-align: text-top;">

Have a great holiday!

 

The Get Satisfaction Team


http://getsatisfaction.com?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonuqvMZKXonjHpfsX77u0oX7Hr08..." style="color: #71277a; text-decoration: none;">getsatisfaction.com

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This Year's Aspen Live Conference

It's that time of year again. The next Aspen Live Conference is slated for December 9-11, 2010. A huge thanks to Jim Lewi for pulling this together!

Let me know if you're planning to attend, and we'll schedule some time to get together.

 

 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Consumer Complaints: Better Than SEO For Google Promotion

This Sunday's New York Times featured a fascinating piece by David Segal, "A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web."

From the gist of the article, it seems that from the perspective of web marketers, any attention is good attention. Evidently a particularly sketchy Brooklyn web marketer, Vitaly Borker, has discovered one of the best ways to improve his standings in a Google web search rankings: insult and threaten customers and encourage them to complain via Get Satisfaction. 

SHOPPING online in late July, Clarabelle Rodriguez typed the name of her favorite eyeglass brand into Google’s search bar.

Michael Falco for The New York Times

Clarabelle Rodriguez said she had several frightening exchanges with Vitaly Borker, after complaining about a purchase from his site.

Readers' Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

In moments, she found the perfect frames — made by a French company called Lafont — on a Web site that looked snazzy and stood at the top of the search results. Not the tippy-top, where the paid ads are found, but under those, on Google’s version of the gold-medal podium, where the most relevant and popular site is displayed.

Ms. Rodriguez placed an order for both the Lafonts and a set of doctor-prescribed Ciba Vision contact lenses on that site, DecorMyEyes.com. The total cost was $361.97.

It was the start of what Ms. Rodriguez would later describe as one of the most maddening and miserable experiences of her life.

The next day, a man named Tony Russo called to say that DecorMyEyes had run out of the Ciba Visions. Pick another brand, he advised a little brusquely.

“I told him that I didn’t want another brand,” recalls Ms. Rodriguez, who lives in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. “And I asked for a refund. He got rude, really obnoxious. ‘What’s the big deal? Choose another brand!’ ”

With the contacts issue unresolved, her eyeglasses arrived two days later. But the frames appeared to be counterfeits and Ms. Rodriguez, a lifelong fan of Lafont, remembers that even the case seemed fake.

Soon after, she discovered that DecorMyEyes had charged her $487 — or an extra $125. When she and Mr. Russo spoke again, she asked about the overcharge and said she would return the frames.

“What the hell am I supposed to do with these glasses?” she recalls Mr. Russo shouting. “I ordered them from France specifically for you!”

“I’m going to contact my credit card company,” she told him, “and dispute the charge.”

Until that moment, Mr. Russo was merely ornery. Now he erupted.

“Listen, bitch,” he fumed, according to Ms. Rodriguez. “I know your address. I’m one bridge over” — a reference, it turned out, to the company’s office in Brooklyn. Then, she said, he threatened to find her and commit an act of sexual violence too graphic to describe in a newspaper.

It turns out "Tony Russo" has a few aliases, but his real name is Vitaly Borker. Borker figured out that by leveraging the negative comments he (and his company, DecorMyEyes) receive on Get Satisfaction, he'd climb in the Google search rankings and thereby generate more sales. 

By then, Ms. Rodriguez had learned a lot more about DecorMyEyes on Get Satisfaction, an advocacy Web site where consumers vent en masse.

Dozens of people over the last three years, she found, had nearly identical tales about DecorMyEyes: a purchase gone wrong, followed by phone calls, e-mails and threats, sometimes lasting for months or years.

Occasionally, the owner of DecorMyEyes gave his name to these customers as Stanley Bolds, but the consensus at Get Satisfaction was that he and Tony Russo were the same person. Others dug around a little deeper and decided that both names were fictitious and that the company was actually owned and run by a man named Vitaly Borker.

Today, when reading the dozens of comments about DecorMyEyes, it is hard to decide which one conveys the most outrage. It is easy, though, to choose the most outrageous. It was written by Mr. Russo/Bolds/Borker himself.

“Hello, My name is Stanley with DecorMyEyes.com,” the post began. “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”

It’s all part of a sales strategy, he said. Online chatter about DecorMyEyes, even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. He closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: “I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven.”

I'm a huge fan of Get Satisfaction and its CEO, Wendy Lea, and it will be interesting to see how the company responds to the New York Times article. While the article could prove problematic for Get Satisfaction (e.g., if it prompts a spate of Borker copycats trying to leverage negative Get Satisfaction reviews to drive traffic), I huge opportunities for Get Satisfaction.  One possibility: encourage Google to begin to provide a companion link to Get Satisfaction to get a much clearer picture of the web marketer or distributor - a picture that Google itself can't or won't provide. 

 

Yesterday's Lessons

Given the long weekend, Saturday and Sunday were atypical days. I took our dog, Quincy, in to the vet to have his foot rebandaged (post-surgery for removal of a growth). I met with a friend I haven't connected with in a long time. And Nanette and I had dinner last night with friends, a couple who is relatively new to the area. 

I learned a few things. Here we go:

  • Increasing the dose of antibiotics by 1/3 might stave off the inflamation and possible infection Quincy's dealing with
  • Moore's law & Metcalfe's law - taken together - seem to outstrip our ability to understand and appreciate the pace of change (and the implications of that change)
  • Moore's law: the number of transisotors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years. The trend has continued for more than half a century and is not expected to stop.
  • Metcalfe's law: the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). First formulated in this form by George Gilder in 1993,[1] and attributed to Robert Metcalfe in regard to Ethernet, Metcalfe's law was originally presented, circa 1980, not in terms of users, but rather of "compatible communicating devices" (for example, fax machines, telephones, etc). [2] Only recently with the launch of the internet and Web 2.0 design did this law carry over to users and networks as its original intent was to describe Ethernet purchases and connections. [3] The law is also very much related to economics and business management, especially with competitive companies looking to merge with one another. 
  • A friend has undertaken a deep dive into Bob Dylan. He recommended Biograph. I love it.
  • Another friend talked about net-neutrality policy issues and a move to create a Broadband Technology Advisory Group that screens issues before the FCC sees them
  • Moving all my music/business book library from the second floor to my basement studio requires about 5X more time than I would have predicted. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Checking in to weirdness

I'm walking down the street in San Francisco, looking at Facebook Places as I walk, and suddenly all manner of wonderful weirdness is made visible. It's only by exercising great personal restraint that I manage to resist "checking in" - via Places - to all manner of weirdness. It's easy to imagine making a game of it. I think it'd be cool to compete for the "strangest string of check-ins."

Mini Zamboni at Union Square

Download now or watch on posterous
IMG_2710.MOV (1442 KB)

Untitled

http://www.efrodriguez.com/home/2010/11/14/gamecamp-boulder.html


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Tom Higley
President & CEO
Pavlov Games
tom@pavlovgames.com
303.570.8888

Ideas vs. Operation/Execution

In a meeting this morning in SF with a friend and venture capitalist, I heard this question:

"Which do you think is harder to come by today, ideas or operational ability?" The question was rhetorical. There's no shortage of ides. Taking this a step further, there's no shortage of really good ideas. So he wanted to know - given my operational history/background - why I didn't just step into something I could run, something far less risky.  

Ponder that a moment. Why would I care whether I was executing against my idea or stepping into an operational role to execute against someone else's vision?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Let's Be Honest: One Way to Get Attention

Candor can be hard to come by. Maybe that's why it's so refreshing when it pops up.

 

In the course of exploring The Beatles Rubber Soul and White albums during the past 48 hours, I read up a bit on George Martin, the legendary producer of all but one of the Beatles albums. It turns out he wasn't immediately persuaded of their abilities and their appeal. At their audition for Martin in studio three of the Abbey Road Studios in 1962, he quite liked John's and Paul's voices, but he didn't think much of their original material. Still, Martin wanted to know what the Beatles thought, was there anything they personally did not like?

 

. . .  George Harrison replied, "Well, there's your tie, for a start." That was the turning point, according to Smith, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay that made Martin think that he should sign them to a contract for their wit alone.[Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography. Little, Brown and Company (New York). ISBN 1-84513-160-6, pp318-319]

 

If you're wanting to stand out from the crowd, speaking your mind might be something to keep in mind. It can definitely get people's attention. 

 

Rubber Soul

I just downloaded Rubber Soul (and The BEATLES, aka the White Album) from iTunes. Why? Because it's an album that I never purchased and that never received the time and attention from me that it deserved. When it was released in December of 1965, I was 11. In those days, 11 year-old boys weren't buying many albums.  

I still don't use P2P services to get music. I now use Rdio or Spotify almost exclusively. But I wanted to "own" these tracks and be able to access them across multiple devices.  

Drive My Car. The whole things kicks off with "Drive My Car." Their raw rock'n roll from the Hamburg-club-era comes through, and it's easy to imagine them performing this one live to a screaming audience. The structure of the song is mostly familiar, the piano riff sounds like it could have been recorded at Motown studios, and the guitar solo is stuck in an earlier era - before most lead guitar players discovered the beauty of "11" on a distorting amplifier with tortured speakers pushed to their limits. Clapton, Hendrix and Page hadn't yet taken center stage in the popular music of 1965. Yet you can almost hear Jimi Hendrix in some of the guitar sounds here. there are interesting surprizes here too.  Lennon and McCartney are pushing boundaries from the start. The harmonies are purposefully dissonant and evocative. There are surpising melodic and harmonic choices. And the edge and timber of the lead vocals is brilliant - pointing the way to successive generations of singers including Joe Cocker, Steven Stills, and much later Ray LaMontagne.

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown). Sitar! The first use of a sitar in a recording by a rock band.    

You Won't See Me. A great pop tune! Written by Lennon & McCartney. This seems almost to be a throwback to the stylistic conventions of their earliest recordings - Please Please Me (1963), With The Beatles (1963), A Hard Day's Night (1964), and Beatles for Sale. 

Nowhere Man. Now we're looking at the future. The a capella beginning sounds nothing like the band's earlier work. The innovation seems to be in the vocals, lyrics and songwriting rather than in the revolutionary combination or introduction of other sounds or instruments.  

Think for Yourself. Nice! This one's a real combination of older and newer sounds and directions. "Do what you want to do. And go where you're going to. Think for yourself 'cause I won't be there with you."

The Word. Great vocal harmonies. Great vocals from both Lennon and McCartney. It often seems to me that Ringo just barely holds it together here and elsewhere on some of his drum fills.

Michelle. This is just brilliant songwriting - melodic line and chord changes - and superb vocal performance. No wonder this has become a standard. 

What Goes On. Country music! Big time! Ringo gets his turn at the vocals. It's not very sophisticated musically or lyrically. 

Girl. Really nice melodic line and harmonies. Feels quite French influenced. 

I'm Looking Through You. It's difficult to listen to these songs and not be blown away by the incredible vocal abilities - particularly of Lennon and McCartney - and in this case McCartney shines. He shines on the bass here as well. 

In My Life. Wikipedia indicates the "harpsichord" solo is actually a piano played by George Martin, recorded at half speed and doubled to match the songs original tempo. 

Wait. Nice vocal harmonies and a cool changeup on the core rhythmic interplay between verse and choruses. 

If I Needed Someone. Classic Beatles beginning: deep bass, arpeggiated guitar. The vocals almost feel like CSN&Y and McCartney plays a great pedal point ostinato in the bass as the chords change.  

Run For Your Life. The guitar lick that kicks this off calls to mind much of George Harrison's work in other contexts - Paperback Writer, Ticket To Ride, etc. Again, the tone of the lead guitar is that thin sound that harkens back more to the 50s that what was soon to come. 

 

 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The BEATLES (AKA The White Album)

For whatever reason, the ablum cover artwork that appears in the iTunes version of the song places the title (The BEATLES) slightly askew. It's sort of funny to compare the two. 

Back in the U.S.S.R. This is just blows me away! It all starts with the plane! Then Paul plays some of the most extraordinary Jerry Lee Lewis style rock'n roll piano. The guitars here have started to acquire some of that thicker, heavier crunch that comes from testing the limits of your amps and speakers. And the rhythm guitar bits are quite interesting. It absolutely rocks! The transition to the Beach Boys immitation -  "The Ukraine girls really knock me out. They leave the west behind." is just phenomenal and hilarious. The lead guitar sound - though still thinner than what will come later - wails. And as they repeat "back in the US, back in the US, back in the USSR," the underlying rhythm guitar riff is awesome. During the course of the song, the Beatles have managed to channel Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beach Boys and Chuck Berry and still make it all fresh and original.

But it's the lyrics that really take center stage here. First there's the concept: Back in the USSR?  Who else would have started with such a notion and delivered on the promise with such irony, facility and wit? And how about these lyrics:

Oh, show me round your snow peaked Mountain way down south

Take me to your daddy's farm

Let me hear your balalaika's ringing out

Come and keep your comrade warm

I'm back in the USSR

Hey, you don't know how lucky you are, boy

And just as you're up and dancing around the room the last chords fades as the plane takes off and the strains of acoustic guitars introduce . . .

Dear Prudence. 

Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play.

Dear Prudence, it's a brand new day.

The sun is up. The sky is blue.

It's beautiful, and so are you. 

And it's the contrast between the finger picked guitar and the very deep bass that feel like something very different than anything you've heard before. John is said to have written this for Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence Farrow, who became so wrapped up in her meditation practice that she stopped nearly all social interaction. 

Glass Onion. Probably the Beatle's most self-referential tune. In the course of a single song, they recall bits of lyrics from Strawberry Fields, I Am the Walrus, Fool On the Hill, and Fixing a Hole. There's the reference to the whole "Paul is dead" hoopla: "Well here's another clue for you all. The Walrus was Paul." You can just imagine Lennon having a friggin' field day with this. The instrumentation and feel of this tune is pretty interesting. By now The Beatles, with George Martin's help, have become pretty facile with including fully integrated string sections. Even as the music begins to rock, the smooth strings come in and add a completely different dimension to the sound.  

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Can there be any doubt that this is a Paul McCartney tune? There was a time when I couldn't tell the difference between Paul's and John's tunes or songwriting. Part of that is because they were often so powerfully complementary. But Paul is a melodist. And he can't resist those infectious melodies. Sometimes they're pretty sing-songy: Rocky Racoon, Maxwell's Silver Hammer, When I'm Sixty Four. Sometimes they're utter gems: Michelle. Later, post-Beatles, his melody/lyrics combinations often became cutesy: Uncle Albert. This is pretty cute. But it works. 

And The First Shall Be Last

Apple and The Beatles have now confirmed that much of The Beatles catalog is now available for download via iTunes. This shouldn't be momentous. During their reign as the supreme rulers of transformative and powerful popular music, they were often among the very first to explore and introduce us to new ideas, different cultures new ways of thinking. Psychedlica, Meditation, the Sitar, musical mashups. But somehow they managed to get stuck in protracted legal, business and relational struggles and essentially go missing entirely from the largest, fastest growing legitimate channel for digital music distribution. And so, by virtue of their enormous influence and their very apparent absence, The Beatles took the stage once again, and have again captured our attention. Not that everyone was happy about this. Here's an excerpt from Chicago Reader:

 

The Beatles acquisition was probably the least exciting of the rumors going around, especially since Apple still hasn't done anything with Lala, the music-streaming service it acquired late last year, which could potentially revolutionize the iTunes experience. The response on music and tech blogs has largely been along the lines of "Who gives a shit?" The addition of an already ubiquitous band (whose albums any halfway educated BitTorrent user could find in downloadable form in seconds) isn't a big deal, the argument goes. And seriously, how much longer are boomers going to keep insisting that they're the center of the universe?

It's a perspective I completely understand, but it misses one major point. Being able to buy the Beatles through iTunes might not mean much—pretty much everybody who wants the band's music already has it on a hard drive somewhere, either thanks to BitTorrent or because, you know, you can import the songs from discs. But looked at from another angle, this could be a big deal. Steve Jobs may have just finally killed the CD.

 

Do you remember where you were when you first heard them? Were you alive when they began to utterly transform popular music, beginning with their initial rise to fame in the UK and their subsequent domination of America in what became known as first British invasion?

We saw them on Ed Sullivan, me and my sister. (My younger siblings were too young to remember any of this.)  Hysteria reigned. 

During much of the next decade, The Beatles ruled. They transitioned from one of the most talented popular musical performing acts in the western world to candidates for "most innovative and influential artists of the century" (and perhaps of "all time").

When we were younger, not yet in our teens, we kept them at a safe distance. The Monkees were parentally sanctioned. The Beatles were...well, dangerous.  

Eventually, I came as much under their spell as any kid growing up in the late sixties to early seventies. Their creative direction and output were astonishing. To go from "I Want To Hold Your Hand" to "Day In the Life" or "I Am the Walrus." Really?

Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come. 

* * *

Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye. 

* * *

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower.

She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah. 

I missed some of this transition. It seems to have begun in earnest with Rubber Soul. 

 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

At the Fox!

-----------
Tom Higley
President & CEO
Pavlov Games
tom@pavlovgames.com
303.570.8888

Friday, October 29, 2010

Untitled

-----------
Tom Higley
President & CEO
Pavlov Games
tom@pavlovgames.com
303.570.8888

"If people run naked, we'll be prepared."


"If people run naked, we'll be prepared"

Deputy Chief Greg Testa

And what does one do to prepare for naked, running people? Or, more particularly, what will Boulder do?

"...Boulder will be ready - by staffing additional police, making SWAT officers available and closing the parking garages to keep crowds from getting too big." (Boulder Daily Camera, October 29, 2010)

 

 

Political Emails - Unsubscribe, but Please Vote!

I have somehow managed over the course of the past five years to get on 50 or more political mailings lists. Democratic Party, Obama, Jared Polis, Michael Bennet, MoveOn.org, John Kerry, Bill Clinton, and many many more have me in their sites. And within this past month, the frequency  and number of these emails has begun to parallel the national growth rate for mortgage defaults. 

So this past week I fought back. I discovered the unsubscribe tool (Gmail) and installed it. I searched out the "unsubscribe" button on the bottom of every offending political email. 

And I blew them all away. Every one I could find. Today a message slipped in from the Boulder County Democrats, but I am now very nearly off the political grid. 

Heaven must look a little bit like this. Peaceful.

Rally to Restore Sanity (in Denver too)!

Rally to Restore Sanity in Denver Too!

Hi all,

Join Jon Stewart's call-to-reasonableness! If you can't make it D.C. on Saturday- head to Denver.

There will be a simulcast event in Denver, Oct. 30,  9 a.m-3 p.m. at Civic Center Park, to coincide with Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's rally in Washington D.C,. Rally to Restore Sanity/Keeping Fear Alive. The simulcast will take place from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

See the website for Rally to Restore Sanity:
http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com/

Also, the Denver event on FB:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=155882584440694

And the local denver website:
http://www.sanitydenver.com/

Rally on!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ingrid Michaelson at Boulder Theater October 25, 2010

I saw Ingrid last night at the Boulder Theater. She tore it up.The most interesting thing was her approach to the audience. She writes great songs. She has a unique vocal style. Her theatre background is very much in evidence. She has great talent as a musician. But the big thing about Ingrid is the nature and depth of her connection to the audience. She talks 2X more than most performers. And yet, it makes perfect sense. She seems to have an infinite number of stories to share, and they are all quite unique.

She's a complete piece of work. Which is why the show was so much fun. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Boulder Shouldn't Be a One Horse Town

Forbes ran an article the other day about the "TechStars Boulder’s Foundry Group Signaling Problem." In brief, they called attention to the problem faced by some TechStars companies at the end of the program. The problem? The Brad Feld or Foundry Group problem. It goes something like this: since Brad/Foundry ostensibly have their pick of the litter, if you're the founder of a startup not funded by Foundry Group, you have some explaining to do. Why? Because nearly every sophisticated investor (angel or VC) in the country will want to know two things: "What does Brad think about your company?" and "Why didn't Foundry Group invest?

Now let's be clear, this isn't a problem exclusive to TechStars companies. It's an issue that bedevils many of the startups in Colorado - even if, and sometimes particularly if, those startups are headed by seasoned local entrepreneurs. And why is this problem unique to Colorado? Because at the moment, Colorado is not crawling with alternative sources of capital. Sure, there are other VCs in town. It's just hard to find a VC that has any money to invest. Some local ventures firms have faired poorly, and have therefore been unable to attract new investment. Others have done reasonably well, but were still unable to raise a new fund. Foundry, in contrast, has "hit the ball out of the park." The first fund has performed so well, that a second fund of $225 million was recently raised, in record time. 

Incidentally, this is not a problem of Foundry's or Brad Feld's making. Brad has probably done more than anyone to put Boulder on the map from an entrepreneurial perspective. From the moment he arrived in the mid-90s he was connecting people and creating an environment that would ultimately lead to Foundry Group, TechStars, Boulder / Denver New Tech Meetup, and more. And Brad has probably been more generous in his support of other local venture capital firms than anyone could have expected. But even if this wasn't a problem of Brad's making, it can still be a problem if you're an entrepreneur, and you need to raise money.  

So what do you do if you're a TechStars company or a serial entrepreneur based in Colorado, and it doesn't look like Foundry is hot for your deal? You have three options. First, you can position your deal as one of those that lies well outside the bounds of the sorts of deals that Foundry Group funds. Look closely at Foundry's investment themes. You don't see how your deal fits into those themes? Lucky you. Tell that to the world and to every investor you talk with. Will that do the job? Probably not, but at least you'll create a basis for reasonable doubt in the mind of the prospective investor. (Remember, when Foundry didn't do your deal, the presumption for most investors looking at your deal went negative: "Hmmm, there must be something wrong with this deal because if there weren't, Foundry would be all over it.")  The other thing you should do is this. Point out that Foundry is not a regional firm. They can (and do) invest in companies that are based in Colorado. But their pitch to their investors has been that they will source deals from all over the country. And that is exactly what they do. What this means is this: there will be good companies, probably even great companies, based here in Colorado, that Foundry will not be able to fund. That represents significant opportunity to investors outside the region who are willing to fill the gap created by Foundry's (and Colorado's) capital limitations. 

Second, you can work to pull together an investment syndicate that is led by significant angels. They care far less about what Foundry does or doesn't do than most of the VCs.

Third, you can relocate. Yup. Why would you do this? Because most other places that will support startups offer more than one source of financing. The Bay Area is an obvious choice. But even Seattle and New York offer more alternatives than Colorado. Do I want to see any good entrepreneur leave Colorado. Absolutely not. But if it comes down to funding the company or coming up dry, that may be your only remaining opportunity to keep the dream alive. 

None of these alternatives is pleasant if you think you've got an incredible new tech startup that requires more than $1 million to get off the ground and you and your team are based right here in Boulder. 

I'm bullish on Colorado in general and Boulder in particular. We'll get it figured out. If you've been thinking about this problem - as I have - for the past three or four years and have come up with some new ways to solve the problem, please let me know. I'm all ears, and I'd love to help if I can.