I'm a little late to this post - we're halfway through May, and it's National Bike-to-Work month. With the seasons (finally!) shifting toward warmer temperatures for the next few months, there’s plenty of opportunity left to take another look at your commute.
How long do you spend in your car looking at bumpers? Like many in the Pacific Northwest, I live about 20 miles from our Redmond office, as the crow flies. Sprawl is made more complex here in Seattle by lots of “water features,” and while a 5am commute takes about 25 minutes, a commute anywhere between 7am and 10am (or between 5pm and 7pm) is going to take from 45 minutes to more than an hour. For me - someone who hates sitting in the I-5 parking lot - this was a no brainer. For work-life balance, anything was better than driving. I bus a lot, but also bike once or more a week all year round.
Sounds hardcore, but I’m no spandexer. I have an entry level mountain bike, and wear street clothes. Until the last couple of months, I was even biking on flat pedals (prior to the fancy clipless ones I inherited from a friend). Very little gear is required, and I highly recommend those that have less than 10 miles commute trying this once or twice this summer. Here’s what you need:
You can get fancier than that, but the complexity of “stuff” can outweigh the enjoyment of just getting on the bike and pedaling. Add equipment like pedals, slick tires (if you’re riding a mountain bike), fenders (for rainy riding) when you decide you’re ready for it. If you don’t want to sweat, I’d suggest planning on keeping about an 8-10mph pace (a quick division calculation using the miles to your office as the numerator can tell you how much time to budget). Depending on your local humidity, your sweat threshold may vary.
My own history: I started bringing my bike to work in 2007, when I worked in downtown Seattle. I would take the bike on the bus, and then ride home at night. Took about an hour and twenty minutes, but two or three times a week meant I exercised a minimum amount during the week, and the green trails took me almost door to door with no traffic stress.
I upgraded my commute options when changed jobs and started commuting to Redmond. The Sammamish River Trail took me straight from Shoreline to Redmond with zero traffic. In my second life as a contingent staffer at Microsoft, I also have access to showers and lockers on the Microsoft campus, a block from our Redmond office. This means I can log almost a couple of hours of exercise a day without taking significantly longer than hopping in my car. Bike down, shower, work all day, bike home. And the views!
Hope to see you out on the trail, and if you’re in Seattle, sign up for the Group Health May commute challenge – you can follow my progress here.
Tags: work life balance, commute, national bike-to-work month, cycling
General | Randomness | Social Media
While I don’t consider myself a “creative” by profession, I did earn an English degree in college, and I’m using it (thankfully) more than I anticipated. I guess this sort of puts me in that creative arena; creative writing and copywriting are definitely part of my role as corporate marketing manager. That said, I go through phases of how I feel about my writing; some days I feel extremely confident about what I’ve written—be it web or email copy, or a client presentation. Other days I feel like I have no business ever writing again. The latter is an extreme, and won’t ever happen, because I truly enjoy writing. Often times, I use writing as a way to express emotion and think through issues in my personal life. Actual handwriting…typing is far from therapeutic. If I’m struggling with something, I write about it—free form, and most of the time, I feel much better after getting it down on paper. I do have a specific writing style and voice, and sometimes it’s challenging for me to step outside of those—but this is often necessary, especially as I write for different audiences and purposes.I came across a couple of validating articles recently which helped me to see that perhaps my struggles are normal for writers. Ali Luke is a writing coach with a popular blog called Aliventures. She shares some inside information on the writing world, in her post “Eight Secrets Which Writers Won’t Tell You.” Ira Glass is a National Public Radio personality, famous for his involvement with This American Life. He offers the following about the creative journey:
Creative | General | Randomness
Refrehing the list or some other item in user control from child window is easy. All you need to do is wire up the child_closed event for child window and that s it. How about refreshing the list in another user control from this child window? There is no relation between the child window and the user control that we want to update. So, we cannot use child_closed event for that user control. Let s talk about the scenerio,
- Assigned Activites (User Control 1) , child window: CLM Activity
- Unassigned Activities (User Control 2)
- Activities ( User Control and it hosts UC1 and UC2)
What we want is, when we click ok button in "CLM Activity" child window, we will refresh UC1 and UC2.
- In Order to that,first, we ll define an event in assigned activities
- Then wire up this event to child window as follows. Child_Closed event is no longer need to be used
- Define OnPopupClosed event in assigned Activities user control. So, once the child window is closed, this event will be raised and Activities are refreshed in assigned activites screen.
- In Activities which is the host user control for the others, We ll wire up the same event handler for assigned activities.
- This event is also raised as well as OnPopupClosed event in Assigned Activities when the child windo is closed. RefreshSelf method refreshes the list in Unassigned Activities user control.
These are the steps to refresh the user control (unassigned activities ) from the other user control (assigned activities).
Exsilio Homepage | Software Development
Google is rolling up its sleeves and investing more in local search. Next week they will launch Google Business Photos. To start they are offering business owners in select cities the opportunity for Google to take free photos of a business’ interior space. In the US, proprietors in the San Francisco Bay Area, Orange County, Phoenix, San Antonio, and St. Petersburg, FL, can apply for a free photo shoot. Additional cities will be added in the future based on demand. Right now Google is focusing on restaurants, hotels, retail shops, and other storefront businesses.
The photos will be used on Google Places pages like the Sonic Boom one below to beef up the search engine’s local listings. Currently with Google Street View you can scope out the exterior of a business, but with this new feature, you’ll now be able to snoop around a shop or hotel without leaving your computer.
Google faces some tough competition in local search with the likes of Yelp, Facebook, and Foursquare, and Google Business Photos is clearly an attempt to seize more market share from these competitors. Adding these new photos definitely makes Google’s listings more robust, and the more rich the listings are, the less likely users could be to seek out other local search sites for additional information.
Tags: Google, local search
Marketing | Search
I recently ran across this interesting TED talk by Dan Cobley, director of marketing at Google. He draws some great parallels between physics and the world of marketing. For all you marketers out there, physics can teach us a few things about how we can better manage our brands. Here are some of the insights that Cobley shares.
Newton’s Second Law
Newton’s second law of motion states that Force = Mass x Acceleration (F = ma). Based on this law, the larger a particle is, the more force is required to change its direction. How does this relate to marketing? The bigger a brand is, the more force is needed to change its positioning and reputation in the marketplace. Cobley offers the examples of Arthur Anderson choosing to launch Accenture instead of trying to convince people that Anderson could stand for anything other than accounting, and also Hoover having a hard time convincing consumers that it stood for something other than vacuum cleaners. This is one of the reasons companies like P&G and Unilever keep their brands separate instead of having one big parent brand.
The Scientific Method
You can’t prove a hypothesis through observation but you can disprove it. You can collect data to support your hypothesis and it will strengthen it, but you’ll never be able to conclusively prove it. However, one solid, contrary data point can easily disprove your theory. This can easily be applied to the marketing discipline. A brand can spend decades building a stellar reputation with consumers, but one company misstep can easily destroy all those years of perceived integrity. A couple recent examples are BP and Tiger Woods. BP spent years marketing itself as a pro-environment company only to have that reputation shattered by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. And before all of his dirty laundry was aired to the world in 2009, Tiger Woods was seen for many years as the quintessential brand ambassador and one of the most admired professional athletes in the world. After having a reputable image for years, both BP and Tiger Woods have been permanently damaged by their scandals.
Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
This theory asserts that you cannot measure the exact state, position, or momentum of a particle since the act of measuring it by definition changes it. In marketing research, it is a challenge to get completely accurate information from consumers. With the act of observing consumers, it changes the behavior of consumers. Cobley offers the example of a group of mothers who would never admit in a focus group to feeding their kids junk food although it’s well known that McDonald’s sells millions and millions of Happy Meals every year. He also mentions that when people are asked if they view porn online, very few people admit to it, although it’s the most common search on Google. The marketing lesson here is that you should try to measure what people actually do rather than what they say they do, and fortunately this is becoming easier to do.
I’d recommend watching the full video if you can. If you’re not familiar with the excellent TED talks, I’d also suggest checking out a few of them. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to “ideas worth spreading” in the areas of design, entertainment, business, science, and global events.
Tags: science, physics, marketing, TED
Exsilio Homepage | General | Marketing
In the past about a month, I have been working on a windows 7 phone application. And I found a couple of unexpected cool little done for you features built in to the windows 7 phone that made my life so much easier. First of all, I was trying to put in an animated splash screen at the application load, and I was really pleased to find that it is already automated, you just need to replace the SplashScreenImage.jpg in the project root folder, and wala the splashscreen is done. To change the default application icon, and the tile when you have the application pinned on the front page, all what you need to do is to replace the ApplicationIcon.png and the Background.png in the project folder. Of course, then you will have to create some cool images to get people’s attention… since I am a developer, not much of a designer, Thank God for my creative team with great and awesome talents to make my app look beautiful.
For most apps, you would need to use the ApplicationBar with ApplicationBarIconButton for settings, navigation and such. Coming from a .net, css background, I was expecting to animate it in Silverlight so it would have the press state and hover state. And surprisingly, I found out, you just need to create an image that is 48x48 with transparent background with white/color on the icon, and reference it in the ApplicationBarIconButton as iconUri. At runtime, the program would replace the white with black and also transparent with white when you press on the button, and also it has a nice round circle with it, so you don’t need to create an icon that has a round circle with two or three states. But in order for the image to show up in the emulator and on the phone, you need to go to the property for each image and then change the Build Action to Content and Copy to Output Directory to Copy Always. If not, it will always fall back to the default application icon. There are also some default icons that came with the SDK, so you don’t need to have them custom created, and you can find them at:
Once you find out what the file name of the icon that you want to use. They are mostly formated as appbar.xxx.rest.png, then in the IconUri, you can just simply reference them as IconUri="/Images/appbar.xxx.rest.png". then you don't even need to add them into your application's images folder for the icons to work.
Tags: Windows Phone 7, mobile, applications
If you log onto server using Remote Desktop Connection and need to execute the
Just simply change it to end and it will work as expected
General | Randomness
As a sort of addendum to Jason Bennet's post about client expectations from cloud services, I wanted to mention the PlayStation Network. PSN has been down for six days now, the last update mentioning only that Sony doesn't "have an update or timeframe to share at this point in time."
There are differences between Amazon Web Services and PSN, of course, the primary being that AWS is a paid service. However, the initial MSRP of the PlayStation 3 was $600, an extremely high price for a console. One of the features on the box, and a feature that continues to be noted on the home page of the PlayStation, is access to the PlayStation Network. So regardless of the lack of subsciption fee for PlayStation Network, there is a client expectation that they have paid a premium for the physical product with the understanding of 24/7/365 access to the free service.
Unfortunately, Sony's handling of this disaster has only exacerbated the problem. On April 20th, Sony took down the PlayStation Network. Their initial statement said, in toto, "We’re aware certain functions of PlayStation Network are down. We will report back here as soon as we can with more information. Thank you for your patience." The next day they said they were "investigating the cause of the Network outage." The day after that they mentioned an "external intrusion," and said they took down the network themselves, back on the 20th. Many of their customers and game journalists understood "external intrusion" to mean the hacker group "Anonymous" who had recently gone after Sony. After the hacker group vehemently denied responsibility, Sony didn't mention it again. Officials at Sony have said they don't know if customer account data, including credit card numbers, have been compromised. Their blog includes only 3-4 line updates once a day, where they mention things like "Our efforts to resolve this matter involve re-building our system" with no estimated date or time for when something that sounds so monumental might be finished. There has been no explanation as to why this is happening. Rumors have swirled, none of which Sony has directly addressed. Games that depend on PSN for full functionality aren't getting sold. Products available for sale ONLY through PSN are obviously not getting sold either. Many of these titles are the lifeblood of indie game companies.
Compare this to XBox Live troubles 2 years ago after Christmas - Microsoft's Major Nelson stated the exact nature of the cause (Christmas rush led to a huge usage spike), possible work-arounds, estimates, and at the end of it, customers got a free XBox Live Arcade game and 1 month of free service. The whole busines was soon forgotten.
It's highly unlikely that will be the case with Sony. In all, their network disaster has turned into a credibility disaster, and the repercussions are bound to affect not just Sony, but many companies in the PlayStation environment. Sony has blogs, twitter feeds, facebook pages, and none of those are being used to communicate anything meaningful to their customers. The lesson here is a simple one - don't just have a plan for disaster prevention, have a plan for disaster recovery that includes customer communication and marketing. Because day six of the outage of your 24/7/365 network is too late to come up with a plan.
Update: Since I posted this initially, Sony has admitted that user accounts were compromised. Again, this is six days after the initial breach. User IDs, passwords, and credit card information are all at risk.
Tags: Cloud, Disaster Recovery, Infrastructure, PlayStation Network
Business Consulting | Client Relationship Management
photo by Origamidon on Flickr
Early yesterday, Amazon's cloud offering, Web Services (AWS) had widespread failures and latency issues, effectively blocking Amazon's clients from serving up online services. This effectively blocked companies like Reddit and Hootsuite users from their main services. Hootsuite was completely shuttered for the day, and Reddit blocked logins to the site. With this reminder of the risks associated with heavy investment in the cloud, it's worth surfacing a couple of terms to think about when considering a cloud offering.
High Availability. This is the idea that moves beyond mere uptime for all of your servers, and focuses resources to make sure high-business-impact components are not just up, but have multiple systems of redundancy. No failure allowed.
Points of failure. Again, server uptime isn't sufficient for discussing problems that arrive 1 or 2 hops away from your customers. Diagramming the network points between your services and your customers can identify weak links that won't surface in mere platform uptime analysis.
The irony in Microsoft's recent "all in" cloud messaging is that the for businesses focusing on online services, supplying "brick and mortar" customer service argues the vice versa of traditional disaster recovery. The message is still the same - hedge your bets on platform and network, investing in solutions that deliver 24-7 global services that customers demand.
Tags: Amazon Web Services, Cloud, Infrastructure, Disaster Recovery
Business Consulting | Virtualization | Client Relationship Management
Clients often come to us with a fixed timeline, budget, rough objectives in mind. It can be a challenge to respond to a customer who only has a vague idea of what their looking for, and wants a quick estimate. Offering good/better/best options can be a simple way to present a tiered range options, where one is more likely to meet the customer's needs and price point. It helps convey features and tradeoffs in a way that’s straightforward for your customer to understand, and narrows down options and scope to start a deeper conversation around one option. It also makes it easier for your customer to present and justify costs to a manager approving buget, which can often be the case.
Good: lowest price; standard features. This option should always include your standard SLAs – if you have value-added services as part of your SLA, those should be included too! Better: mid-tier price; added features and benefits included. Present your standard option with some recommended features. Depending on the range between your “good”and “best” option, among other considerations, there are times where you'll actually want to avoid offering a “better” mid-tier option. Best: highest price; has the most features and benefits included, plus add-ons that the client may not have thought of. Even if you’re aware it’s beyond your customer’s budget, consider this as a chance to present your best recommendation. It’s an opportunity to inform and showcase your full capabilities, and exhibits thought leadership and creativity – the outcome of which can lead to prospective engagements (not now, but maybe next time… or, not now, but talk to this other person who may be interested).
In other words, make it easy for the customer to differentiate between the good, better, and best – in a way that the benefits vs. the tradeoffs of each are immediately recognizable and understandable. Make it an easy "yes" decision. And, most importantly, don’t gloss over the “best”. Don't just show them what they asked for, show them what they could have. I’m coming from the perspective of a vendor-to-client scenario, but this can also be applied in marketing and selling products to end customers. Products that come to mind are car service packages, mobile phone plans, restaurant prix fixe menus, booking hotels, super value meals. Do you have a positive experience you can share as a customer, choosing between different levels of service? Or, as a business, offering your customer a choice of different levels of service?
Tags: Tips, Marketing theory
Client Relationship Management | Marketing
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