Archive for January, 2007

Smile If You Have Teeth

Do you believe RJ Reynolds or Philip Morris should have a right to advertise on a billboard across the street from a local school to promote their tobacco products?

I suspect the answer to that quesiton will largely determine if you read on.

In Marketing 101 they hammer home, know your demographics and lure them in as job #1. When you are limited by competitors or anti smoking laws then you do the next best thing and find a new generation of customers. RJ Reynolds or Philip Morris are doing just that. SNUS is a smokeless, spitlesss chewing tobacco substitute. Camel is running trials of SNUS in Austin, Tx and Portland, Or. RJ Reynolds product is called Toboka.

SNUS/Toboka are tiny dime sized bags filled with tobacco. The tobacco is steam pasturiezed, not fermented like most chewing tobacco, so users don’t have to spit out the juices. The small and tidy pouches are sold 20 to a tin and come in 3 flavors (spice, normal, frost). I’m sure the chewing gum conincendence is just that…

No-one from the tobacco industry would ever go on the record stating an intent to position and sale their product to kids. Rather, it’s a “young adult marketing strategy” and we want those hip young adults using our products. Targeting 20 somethings does waterfall down to the 16 year-old wanna-be-hip-ster youth.Chewing tobaccos, including SNUS, are safer than cigerettes, but can cause mouth and throat cancer and heart disease. I’m sure there will be a debate if the product can help you reduce dependence on cigerettes or adopt less-bad habits.

I grew up in a smokers house and remember blue-hazed filled automobiles and during the holiday’s you couldn’t see the Christmas tree let alone catch a breath. I have a bias, but I watched my father spend years doing the stop/start routine. After 25+ years of smoking he finally quit the nicotine habit which we were all very proud.

I’m a bit conflcted about a Tobacco Billboard advertisement. I don’t believe it should be visible from a school. A product that doesn’t look like tobacco, doesn’t smell like tobacco, can be used and nobody will notice is either brilliant or devious in targeting the youth demographic. I’m suspicious as these are the same companies that put 50+ carcinogenic compounds into cigarettes and we’re to take it on faith that SNUS is somehow a healthy product — That’s not logical.

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I’m really liking the name of Segate’s new technology.  It promises to deliver 10-20 GB of wireless storage in an accessory smaller than most slim-line mobile phones — about the size of a centimeter-thick credit card.  Using Bluetooth or WiFi connections, it is designed to store, play and share digital files on mobile phones, PCs, and other wireless-enabled devices.

DAVE is to cell phones what PC Virtualization and Storage System products provided by Ceedo, Mojopac and U3 are to PCs.  Those applications transform an iPod or other USB (2.0) storage devices into a portable PC.

DAVE will change the way we store data and it opens up the possibilities of your mobile phone being able to hold all your music, video and digital images in one device when your on the go.  For photo buffs it could be the must have product.

DAVE along with the Palm announcement of killing it’s LifeDrive is just another sign that the Smartphone market has killed unconnected PDAs.

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The Lives of Others…


I don’t want to scare you, but lately it’s getting a bit to frisky around here… Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications (not publicly available) released poll results which shows that gay, lesbian and bisexual people use social networks more often than straight people – 27% of the GLB group visited YouTube for “one hour or less” per week, compared to 22% of heterosexuals. The stats for Craiglist show a bigger gap – 20% of the GLB group compared to 13% of heterosexuals.

On MySpace, 33% of GLB users visit once per week, compared to 28% of heterosexuals. On Friendster, the numbers are 11% and 4%. Facebook has the dubious honor of being the “least gay” social network in the study – 11% of both GLB and straight people surveyed visit at least once a week. That might be partially explained by the fact that GLB users are on the web much more often – 32% are online between 24 and 168 hours per week, compared to 18 percent of heterosexuals. Meanwhile, 24% have visited personal blogs, compared to 12% of straight people. Most crucially, gay, lesbian and bisexual users are more positive about ads on blogs: twice as many feel positively about blog advertising (22% vs. 9%).

I’ve posted about demographics in this space previously, but in light of all these very active users of social networks, here are a few NEW sites getting ready to or have launched.

GLEE – A “social and professional networking site” for the LGBT community. It’s a product of Community Connect, which already has more than 16 million users on its niche social networks BlackPlanet, MiGente and Asian Avenue. The company conducted a survey of LGBT people who actively used social portals and found that 76% would prefer a gay social and professional network to either generic sites like MySpace and Friendster or existing gay dating sites. Community Connect already has a partnership with with Monster.com, which means they offer targeted job opportunities through the site.

OurChart – A social network spin-off of the Showtime series The L Word. The name “OurChart” derives from a chart in the TV series created by the character Alice, who uses it to map her relationships. Users will be able to create their own charts, as well as setting up a profile page. The founders include cast members Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey.

Olivia.com/connect – Is also a spin-off of sorts – it’s being released by the lesbian travel service Olivia Cruises and promotes itself as the “new online destination for lesbians”.

SocialButter – This gay and lesbian social network is set to launch in mid-January, providing a platform for “online socializing and real world connections”. It’s the work of one developer and powered by Ruby on Rails.

And now on the lighter side there is BrokeBack Future.

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My photography stretches back far before the digital era, and many of my photo memories are etched into the emulsion of slide film. I was late to the digital party, but soon became enamored with all the information these cameras would record for me, like a diligent research assistant. My first digital camera recorded the date and time, image dimensions, and a few other features. As I bought new cameras and the Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) standard improved, more and more information was added that I had been too lazy to record.

The EXIF data records almost all the information, ranging from the obvious information of time and date, to the minute details such as the f-stop and shutter speed. There was, until recently, still a big gap in the EXIF — place or position. Now, Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled cameras will close the gap.

As a hiker, I’ve been interested in outdoor location-based photography and the GPS technology. I’ve watched the evolution of GPS photography, from the earlier Kodak cameras, gradually evolving to what is available now. Only a few cameras on the market today support direct recording of GPS data to EXIF—the Nikon D1X, D2X, and D2Hs; the Ricoh RDC-i700G; and the SurveyLab ike300 unit. For example the Red Hen Systems requires a consumer GPS unit and there are still cabling issues.

But, Ricoh just raised the bar. The new Ricoh 500SE is one of the first true GPS embedded/equipped digital cameras that I’ve seen. Very cool! The camera was specifically designed to optimize map-based workflows and includes built in Bluetooth or Wi-fi capability. There are bolt on units for the Nikon high-end cameras, but this is one of the first true GPS cameras I’ve seen with it built-in. The Ricoh 500SE captures “geo-images” or “geo-video” files, they are transferred to a PC, they are automatically converted to shape files or merged into geo-databases for instant integration into Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Points representing each file’s position may be hovered over to display a thumbnail of the file, or clicked on to access the original image or video.

A very positive trend and one I’m sure will accelerate more manufactures to come to market with GPS-ready cameras.

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A Cinnamon Dolce Week

I think I have an addiction to coffee. Not so much the substance itself, although I have my issues with it, but with Starbucks and all the trappings that comes along with the experience.

I laugh at people who pay a hundred dollars for a HDMI cable, or who are convinced that they need a $2,500 dollar Viiv PC to send e-mail to grandma, but show me a $4 Cinnamon Dolce Latte and I’m tempted to upgrade to Venti size.  Speaking of,  here’s the bucks scoop on the calorie content.

NUTRITION FACTS (venti size):
Cinnamon Dolce Latte with Sugar Free Syrup – no whip
Total fat….14g
Cholesterol …45mg
Cinnamon Dolce Latte with Sugar Free Syrup – with whip
Total fat….23g

NOTE TO DIABETICS OR SUGAR WATCHERS: The CDL with sugar free syrup still has as much as 24g of sugar!

So yesterday I ordered up a CDL, added a new Five-fruit Banana Muffin treat (it contains whole grains), picked up a new winter-themed mug, a Starbucks thank-you Card and a CD…paid $37 with the VISA which wasn’t max’ed out from the holidays and smiled out the door.

In the past 15 years I’ve gone from drinking whatever is in the break room — with cream-imitation, dairy dust — to grinding beans and speculating about how much better it would be if I brewed them in a Japanese/French press for exactly four and half minutes.

What I’m trying to say here is that it all started when I first sampled the Indonesian Archipelago Sumatra at a Singapore coffee shop in the Ex Pat district.  I give up. I am a slave to the premium coffee industry, paying for the privilege of waiting for my Arabica lover to come and have its way with me. Clearly I’m going to be buying whatever they sell me, so here’s what I think my coffee ritual needs to be:

Step One: Roasting

Buying beans from Starbucks is so last year.  Now I must experience the pleasure and satisfaction of selecting the best coffee beans online from all around the world and roasting them myself. I’ve ordered a commercial home roaster to set the beans on an appropriate journey.

Step Two: Grinding

Current coffee grinders dice coffee beans the same, without acknowledging the specialness of each individual bean. The Indi-Bean 3000 allows me to insert one bean at a time, then analyzes the surface of the bean with blu-laser technology and uses a diamond blade to carefully carve it into symmetrical chunks. The chunks slide down a Teflon coated chute, and it’s ready for the next bean. It takes 30 minutes to grind enough coffee for a 12-ounce cup, but wow, can you taste it in every sip.

Step Three: Water

For this I’ll need the perfect spray-mist for each morning’s cup, based on the bean, the outside temperature, the barometric pressure, and a host of other environmental factors. Some days I might be drinking melted arctic glacier water; the next, slightly filtered river water from the mouth of the Columbia. I’ll be in coffee heaven.

Step Four: Brewing

There are lots of ways to gently inject the water mist into coffee, but they all relate to time and temperature without giving much thought to setting a proper mood. The JavaStar 2200sx not only combines the grounds with the mist at a perfect 210 degrees Fahrenheit, but it provides the perfect romantic mood to get the coffee and the water ready to mingle in a most intimate manner. Sade plays directly into the mixing chamber and no coffee can resist the seductive power of this outrageously expensive device.

Step Five: The Cup

I don’t know about you, but I think coffee tastes best when served in a new winter-themed mug.

You’re likely asking about the beans themselves? You’ve probably heard about kopi luwak, the coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a civet cat. Rest assured, I’m not going so far as to purchase cat excretions. Yet!

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Los Angeles area Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts have a new way to earn an activity patch — there’s a new “Respect Copyrights” activity patch offered by the LA area Boy Scouts and the MPAA.

I find this industry intervention creepy. I have no problem with Scouts being instructed in copyright law, but I’d bet a paycheck that the MPAA won’t be giving them an accurate description of the doctrine of fair use. So their badge isn’t going to signify a knowledge of copyright law so much as a knowledge of what the MPAA thinks copyright law should be.

This is about the money!  The motion picture industry is a major economic engine.  It contributes about $38 billion in revenue to the state of California alone.  $34 billion of that revenue goes directly to Los Angeles County where the movie industry is the third largest job producer having created more than 246,000 jobs in 2005 alone.  The worldwide motion picture industry, including foreign and domestic producers, distributors, theaters, video stores and pay-per-view operators estimated a loss of $18.2 billion in 2005 as a result of piracyover $7 billion of which is attributed to Internet piracy and more than $11 billion attributed to hard goods piracy including bootlegging and illegal copying.  We all know that motion picture piracy hurts more than the motion picture industry, and results in lost jobs and wages for American workers both inside and outside the movie industry and lost tax revenue for all levels of government. 

I find this MPAA shallow attempt at fighting piracy, and rooting out pirates in the Scouts to be the lamest thing ever…they should give this patch out right after the ‘I can think for myself’ badge!  I think consumer advocates should pull together and develop a “Respect Fair Use” activity patch.

The 52,000 Scouts in Los Angeles will not be required to act as spies to earn their badge, although snitching is not discouraged.

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Everyone has chimed in on how the Apple iPhone will fail to translate into sales in the business sector — and even Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer, laid into the iPhone during an interview which starts with a laugh reminiscent of the Howard Dean barbaric yawp . Then there’s Ballmer InformationWeek interview:

I don’t think this would be a very interesting announcement if anybody else had announced exactly the same product.

Oh yeah, let’s all continue to sip the haterade until June, at which point we’ll all run out to buy iPhones (Ballmer included). Need more haterade juice? Check out:

– This Engadget article
on the iPhone’s profit margins
– This ComputerWorld
article on how Steve screwed up
– This InformationWeek
report on the iPhone in IT
– and the
interview with Steve Ballmer

  So for a little levity just know that the iPhone will and can do it all.

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