Toolbox

In the last few weeks, I’ve come across two tools that I thought I’d share that are pertinent for those of you who are using WordPress, or if you are a brand.

1. TodayLaunch is a pretty neat social media monitoring platform. It allows you to monitor several Twitter streams, Facebook Pages, even WordPress sites for comments and other interactions. It gives a unified “inbox” mentality, so you can easily glance to see what’s going on in relation to your particular brand. What’s really nice is that it doesn’t stop with that. It also gives you the ability to set up some monitors. These are keyword (or hashtag) dependent searches across other people’s content. It’s pretty slick. And free. And pretty.

That being said, it’s not perfect. It has the ability to schedule posts for any and all of the linked social accounts, but the process is more about creating content, rather than making it easy to share. Right now, I use BufferApp to do most of my scheduled posts. What I love about it in comparison is how easy it is for me to go through my RSS feed in the morning, then with one browser-extension click schedule posts linking to a particular page. In general, I can get a few days worth of content scheduled, just by browsing and clicking on the browser extension. Plus, it links to my bit.ly account. Now that used to be more valuable before bit.ly decided to make their UI horrible…

2. BlogVault.net is a neat little service (with a monthly fee) that manages and automates both backing up and restoring WordPress sites. I heard about it through a friend of mine, and tried it tonight. It is particularly useful when you built a site in a beta environment, and then want to move it to the production environment. A few clicks, and it migrates everything from contents to tables over to the target destination.

Being that I manage or help manage a handful of WordPress sites, and I’m constantly building variants, this seems particularly useful. The downside is the monthly cost. Plans start at $9/month for one site – or $19 for three sites, and onward. If I were in an environment where I was hosting my clients on the Amazon cloud, or something else that has a tendency to go down occasionally, it could be worth it. And having a good backup really comes down to how much your time is worth – if $19/month and having to use it once is less expensive than the time it takes for you to recreate the whole site, then I suggest you take a gander. Lucky for me, no one actually reads these posts, so I don’t stress about the thought of the site imploding someday…

One very interesting point about TodayLaunch, is that it is built by a company out of North Dakota who specializes in marketing, and has this software (and other software) as a feature. I wouldn’t be surprised if they learn quickly that their software is their main business, or if they/it get acquired in the relatively near future.

I think there is a seismic shift coming to the marketing and advertising community. More and more companies in this vertical are becoming software companies. And for good reason. Software, and SaaS in particular (software-as-a-service) is becoming more and more valuable as a differentiator. Look at the impact of “big data”, and how having more information doesn’t mean much unless you can actually gain insights from it. A good example of this merging of tech and marketing is over at Three Deep Marketing, where they’ve come up with a  product called Crossfuse. It helps provide true analytics and insights to the craziness that is lead generation. Another example is a few years older, but still one of my favorite (and earliest) examples: Colle + McVoy‘s Squawq. It’s a Twitter digester, for lack of a better term. I’d love to see this continue to grow as a tool, as it’s been a few years and not much has changed.

I’ve said it before, but I think the marketer who understands the software (and technology) world is one who has a big advantage right now.

 

Baby June. My Version.

My wife posted a very moving and wonderful rendition of our newest family members birth.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how I remember it.

Let’s rewind a bit. When my wife let me know we were pregnant again, naturally I was very excited. My first thoughts of it however were very different than hers. She thought “Hey! I want a photographer there, so we can remember it forever!” To which I responded (in my head) “there are some images that will always haunt me, why on earth would I want an actual copy of it?”

At any rate, I’ll spare you the in between for now, but 9 months later, and just ovet two weeks ago, baby June was born.

7lbs, 3oz, 20 inches long.

At 7:33 am.

Yeah, that’s right. 7:33am. If you’ve had kids before, or know someone who has, or really just paid attention during sex ed class, you’d know that labor isn’t generally a short process.

It was a Sunday, and we woke up, made breakfast and tried to figure out our plan for the day. My wife wanted to go see The Hunger Games, and I was honestly too exhausted to care. So after breakfast, we thought we’d get ready slowly and give it a whirl. After all, we weren’t due for another two weeks.

Now, around 8-9am, I noticed that Mary was wincing about every 9 or 10 minutes. “Ah shit. Pack the bags, and especially the iPhone charger” I thought.

With our first daughter, it was about four hours of labor, then about 15 of pushing and active labor. The doctors (and our mothers) all warned us that it’d go faster this time around, so “don’t be stupid” is what I think I was told at one point. Naturally, I wanted to NOT have a baby in the house or in the car, so I encouraged Mary to move a little faster (BAD idea and impossible – gentleman, take note). And thinking that we were going to the hospital, of course she wanted to take a shower and shave her legs. Who wouldn’t?

My wife claims my distain for having a kid at home was to protect the hardwood or our furniture. Surely, if you’ve ever visited our house, you’d realize that the floors need an excuse to be refinished, and I’d be happy to reupholster about 99% of our furniture. I just know I’m no Doogie Houser and pass out at the side of blood. Yeah, having a baby at home sounds like a wonderful idea – just not for us.

So shortly after she was able to clean herself up a bit, my mom who was awesomely on-call, showed up.

Now, to be fair, I did make Mary sit on a towel in the Jeep. ‘Cause it’s the Jeep. Even with the big dent by one of the wheels (thanks, Wells Fargo ATM post), it has a better interior than our house some days.

So we scurried to the hospital, to arrive at my favorite time. It was “you can’t park at the ER door because there aren’t any spots, it’s time for the ramp you have to pay for” time. We parked the car, walked up to PETU. PETU stands for something about Pre-labor, but all I remember is that it’s called PETU in my phone’s address book.

We got there, and contractions decided to continue to be around 7-8 minutes apart. Thinking that we were having a baby shortly (mind you, it’s about 11am on Sunday), I sent a text to Mandy of Glimpses of Soul Photography. She was who Mary wanted to take pictures of the whole shebang, and me being a good husband, chose not to argue. Mandy was waiting for the call, and ready to go whenever we told her, she was about 15 minutes away. I waited a bit to see how things were going to progress. And waited.

Fast forward about four hours, and it was decided to move us out of PETU and into a Labor and Delivery room. That was fine with me. I knew from previous experience that they had better chairs.

Making the move, we decided to let Mandy know, and invite her to join us. We thought it’d be no time. Holy crap were we wrong.

Mary was uncomfortable – who wouldn’t be – so our nurse ran a bath, and thought it would help her relax a bit. Boy howdy did it. I kid you not, she fell asleep between contractions.

Guys, think about this. Go do something so intense for about 30-45 seconds (every six or seven minutes) that you fall asleep between each moment of intense action. It’s insane. And honestly, fairly comical to watch – but do not laugh. That will end poorly.

Unfortunately for us though, Baby June really liked her time in the tub. So much so that the contractions slowed significantly.

So we waited. And hoped. And starved. When you go to the hospital to have a baby, they don’t feed you until after you have the baby for fear of nausea and vomit. Trying to be the empathetic husband, I said I wasn’t going to eat until she could. She was starving. I was starving. And I was just being stupid.

Then, an epiphany.

Sort of.

The nurse told me that Pizza Lucé delivers to the hospital, and they’re open till 2a for deliveries.

So, if you’re keeping track, we got to the hospital around 11am, moved rooms to L&D around 3ish, and I finally caved (as per Mary’s insistence) and ordered a pizza at about midnight. We’d been there 11 hours at that point. Mandy, who with every passing moment grew more appreciative and respected, had been there for seven hours.

Photographers take note. Imagine a wedding shoot where absolutely nothing happens for about seven hours while you’re there, and the ceremony still isn’t in sight. Crazy.

Speaking of food though, Mary was starving and at some point our nurse realized that the rate of contractions was not quick enough to have the threat of immediate active labor offered her some food. For some reason, Mary had a hankering for some peanut butter toast. The nurse oblidged kindly.

About 30 minutes later, as predicted, I was holding Mary’s hair back as she tried throwing up said toast into a wastebasket on the floor.

Now at this point, I hope you realize how different my wife’s beautiful story is from mine. But there’s an important correlation. Both tell the same story, and that story continues and culminates only a few hours later (ok, another seven hours).

At about 7am, after a long night sleeping on and off (on a window sill bench – pro-tip: fathers bring your own pillow, even if you go in at 11am), we could tell sweet baby June was fed up.

Within about a half hour, the number of people in our room quadrupled wearing all sorts of protective gear. I swear, one was wearing a clear visor that reminded me somewhat of a hockey mask.

Mary had an incredible urge to push. With every urge, I lost a little bit of feeling in my arm. Her nails dug deep, and pulled me as close as possible. I know that my level of pain was a fraction of hers, but another pro-tip for fathers: wear long sleeves and never complain about how much it may hurt.

Now at this point, my wife turned from the in-pain-sane woman into what could only be described as one of the scariest versions of my wife I have ever seen.

Gentleman, you’ll get yelled at during your marriage. But nothing compares to that of child birth. Sure, it is loud, but it’s the deep, from the gut, “I WANT THIS THING OUT OF ME” and “IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT” that are the hardest to bear.

Lucky for me, it only lasted a few passing moments.

And during that time, at some point, every father must feel that little sense of scared-relief. A moment in time where you realize that it’s really happening. Something impressively awesome is about to occur. And even though it scares the shit out of you, knowing that it is truly partly your fault makes you feel amazing.

Our daughter, Tigger Two, The Moose, Baby June was born at 7:33am on Monday the 26th. She was healthy, mom was healthy, dad was happy. There’s no greater joy I have than writing this post, because as comical as it may be, having kids is more Magical and Revolutionary than any iDevice in existence.

I love my wife. I love my Lucy. I love my June. All in no particular order.

Anyone want a cat, though?

Campaign I’d like to see: We are the 99¢.

Ok. Just a random thought/post.

Not to belittle the whole Occupy movement, but I’m waiting for someone to come out with a “We are the 99¢” campaign to promote their latest dollar menu.

I imagine some more creative folks than I could have some fun with this.

Odd, I know. Usually I have verbose posts that have a point. This one, however, does not.

#end

The Meow of the Mountain Lion

Originally posted at the day job: http://fndtn.com/2012/02/16/mountain-lions-first-meows/

 

Today, Apple announced that there would be a new version of the Mac operating system released in late summer of 2012.

For some, the update has said to be yawn worthy. We disagree.

That being said, no, it isn’t a gigantic jump like going from XP to Windows 7. What it does provide is an ample opportunity for something else. That something else is what may be dubbed as the greatest iPhone/iPad accessory ever: the Mac.

This release in particular is bringing more and more of iOS to our desktops and laptops. Some may think that statement means “less computer like”. To those doubters, I ask how much you love your iPhone or iPad. Mountain Lion’s release has several interesting features that are making us rethink what computers, and peripheral devices are supposed to do together.

Message

This is probably the most talked about feature of Mountain Lion so far. It is truly a unified ecosystem of communication. If I start a conversation on my iPhone through iMessage, how great would it be to pick that same conversation up when I’m on my computer? Apple has even been so kind as to release a Beta version here: http://www.apple.com/macosx/mountain-lion/messages-beta/

AirPlay Mirroring

Projectors and VGA adapters no more. I’ll take an AppleTV please. With AirPlay Mirroring, a Mac running Mountain Lion can stream its desktop over wifi to a TV. Wirelessly. This is a huge opportunity to look at in the business world. Imagine if instead of paying a few thousand dollars for a new projector, you bought a nice television and an Apple TV. By now, there’s a good chance you have a TV mounted in your conference rooms as it is. For $99, it’s an easy bet –  especially when it’s this easy to set up.

Game Center

Sure, you may not think that it’s a big deal. But give it time to sink in. Again, Apple is providing another way to let the experience of a game translate to whatever device you are in front of. No nasty “Save” or “Load” (or heaven forbid “Export”). It just works. Games have never been seen as a big selling point for a Mac, but when the majority of apps for iPhone and iPad are games, there’s no reason not to port that across platforms.

Gatekeeper

This little gem is probably the most underrated of all the features. It didn’t even get a nod in the promo video (here). Gatekeeper lets the administrator of the computer add a layer of protection from malware. The security is such that you can allow only apps to be downloaded from the Mac App Store, or authorized developers based on their Developer ID. Don’t fret if your favorite apps aren’t in the App Store – all the big players (and plenty of the smaller ones) have fully qualified Developer IDs.

This is huge. Malware’s root cause is based on the idea that you get tricked into downloading and installing a “bad” application. By qualifying who made the application, it guarantees that Apple says the app is OK.

Mountain Lion is new, and improved Lion. It helps those who have iPhones and iPads immediately identify with how the Mac works, and helps round out a seamless experience between devices. Zack Morris’ phone was just a phone. The Commodore 64 was a computer. The internet brought things together, but Mountain Lion and iOS 5 continue to break down the barriers between devices, data, and sharing.

We’re excited to see what happens this summer, but for now, we’re busy downloading the Message Beta.

————————————–

From a marketing standpoint, another thing that I noticed was that no where that I could find was it referred to as Mac OS X 10.8. Just an interesting observation.

Also, updates for China were specifically called out. Apple, and Tim Cook see China as the latest land of opportunity, and I expect them to do quite well (as long as they stop getting sued).

The SOPA Effect

Well today was an interesting day.

I tried to do my part, but there were several who did some really creative things. Wired, Google, Reddit, and The Oatmeal.  Several local local companies showed their frustrations on their sites, Twitter, or Facebook.

 

 

 

For those uninitiated, you should check out @herpderpedia It’s a hilarious curation of content that is from folks who didn’t know what was going on.

But if you’re looking for content on the Why, check out http://mashable.com

The bottom line is this:

We need to keep it up.

There have been 13 Senators that no longer support the current bills.  But we have short attention spans.

No matter your politics, I beg of you to pay attention. To participate. To vote and be heard. Social media and the internet (as it sits today) is a place to be heard, but alo a place to read. Don’t be afraid of typing more than 140 characters; but know it can start there.

Don’t just do this for politics – make it part of what you do.

Want to succeed at work? Participate. Want to have safer roads? Drive better. Want to write a book? Start typing. Want to have a better relationship? Pay attention.

No more bullshit. No more excuses. As Nike says, Just Do It.

So You Want to be a CMO?

Scratch that.

So you want to be leading a team in marketing or advertising?

Then I’ve got some homework for you.

I recently had a brief, but great, exchange with Chris Schermer, head of SCHERMER  – an ad agency in town that has a great reputation for their business to business focus.

The quick tweet-off was about the future control of marketing spending. It started with this:

Which led to:

 

Interesting thoughts to say the least. I am privileged to be square between technologists and advertisers on a daily basis, and actively get to play both roles. There is no arguing that technology – be it the Internet, mobile, social, new platforms – will continue its effects on how we market, and how we shop.

With that, my piece of advice to anyone who is interested in the field of marketing or advertising, do yourself a favor and participate.

By participate I mean a few things.

1) Play Farmville. Yes, I said it. But if you haven’t experienced Farmville or any other crazy game on Facebook or elsewhere, then you are doing you and your potential customers a disservice – because you don’t know what it is (other than a game). I’m not saying that you should implement a Farmville strategy here, I’m merely saying it is a good example of knowing what is out there. Are you on Pinterest? How about Instagram? Do you know what Spotify is? These aren’t small audiences, and by participating, you may be able to apply some of the thought patterns and principles to other aspects of your business.

2) Go back to school. Ok, not as in school school (but I’m sure that’d work too). Sign up for Codecademy right now. You’re already behind. Seriously. Codecademy is a program that is free – to help you learn and understand what it is that coders do on a daily basis. I’m not saying become a programmer, I’m saying participate in the process. If you can speak to code, then you can learn the boundaries. And, potentially how good your partners are at breaking them. Plus, it is also a great exercise in logic. If ___ then __ else___.  ===. Sign up here: http://www.codecademy.com   and do so now.

Sure you can be a good advertiser/marketer/whatever without these, but I bet you’ll be better by doing them.

Participation is key.

 

*To note, SCHERMER is also a client of mine at my day job – we provide them with IT support.

How the Nook Could Win

Ok, maybe not win, but I’ve got an idea to make the Nook better.

Barnes and Noble has the unique competitive advantage of having a physical book store to parallel its ebook platform.

I really enjoy taking the time to read a book. I am not exactly the fastest of readers (I’d argue that to be my wife), but I do manage to squeeze a dozen or so books in a year. I’d love to read more. The problem for me is portability. Having an iPad now, I find myself reading eBooks a little bit more. In fact, it was decidedly the only way that I would read the Steve Jobs biography.

That being said, I much prefer my hardcopy books. For example, one of my favorites (for content and personal meaning) is Onward. Part of my problem though, is that it is riddled with great inscriptions. I get uneasy reading it or leaving it out for our toddler to destroy. In that case, I double-dip and bought the ebook as well.

Herein lies the rub.

Barnes and Noble could (and should) allow for digital downloads for hardcopy purchases through their retail stores. Yes, I would pay an extra $5 for the digital copy of a physical book if it were an option. It’s just hard to pay another $14.99 or more.

But how on earth would that work technologically, you say? Well, simply printing redemption codes in the books would be horribly inefficient, as then I could just walk in, type the code in to wherever and not buy either. Lame. In that model, you could shrink-wrap each book, but again, that’s looking at it with old-school eyes.

Ideally, it would print out on my receipt a unique URL for any downloads that are available. Or (gasp) a true link in my emailed receipt.

That’d be great for me as a consumer, but also for Barnes and Noble. Then, you have my email address (again), and another way to encourage me to buy more stuff.

Or, perhaps, make this a benefit of being a member. If I buy a book, use my membership card, then let it act as a 75% off coupon for a digital copy of any book I have physically purchased.

Sure, I guarantee that there would be people who take advantage of this and return the physical book to only get the digital copy, but that’s life. It’s part of doing business. Plus, you got a small amount of money from the heathens, which is more than you’d potentially get by not-doing it. By doing it, you help me read more, which means I buy more, and more importantly, I buy from you – with my membership – where you can mine that data and give me great suggestions as to what’s next.

So, what’s next?

An Unrequired Thanksgiving Post

Today is Thanksgiving.

Usually, that means we gather with family to celebrate life and those most important to us.

Today, that is not the case.

My wife and daughter have been sick the last few days, and are far from 100%. Instead of visiting with our family as generally prescribed, we thought it prudent to stay home and wallow in our puke-pails.

Today, we find what thanks is all about.

We may not be with our family, but it is when we realize that we are without, that we are more thankful for what we have. Both my wife’s and my parents are still actively involved in our lives. We’ve been given the gift of a daughter, and another child on the way. We have a cat whom I hate, but sometimes love. We have a house, employment that is enjoyable, friends that are indispensable, and the internet. For these things we realize today that each are more important than we think.

Being without family today is hard, but realizing that we are never without family makes it worth it.

I am thankful today (and every day) for:

A wife who puts up with me, feeds me, listens to me, loves me, and helps to inspire my creativity (whatever that reveals itself as). She puts up with my sarcasm, and provides me with enough great stories for a book (….hint). Without her, I have no idea what I would do.

The opportunity to be a jungle gym for our daughter. She surprises me every day. She is now two and I have no idea how that happened. She talks (yells), laughs, gives kisses, and throws the best temper tantrums. She could be the worst child and it wouldn’t matter. Luckily for us, she is the best child.

Family who constantly support us. They’ve always been available, loving and willing to bend the world for us. What is amazing is their ability to actually do so. Repeatedly. 

Friends. You make me laugh. You make me laugh at myself. No matter how long it has been between get-togethers, it always seems like yesterday.

Pixar movies. Without you, I would not stay sane. (Except Cars 2. I’m not sure about that one yet.)

Squirt bottles. Without you, I think the cat may have had a trip to “the farm”.

And of course, the Internet. Because, honestly, who doesn’t love it?

Thus far, our day has entailed half of a bag of goldfish crackers poured onto the carpet, a bobby-pin that “might” have been swallowed, the first attempt at a home cooked turkey, Cars 2, and Lucy helping the cat escape through the window (yes, the window).

I wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. May you be healthy, happy and hopeful that your team wins.