Monthly Archives: October 2011

Can Charisma Be Taught?

Steve Jobs’s death opened the door to curiosity and attention. People are talking and writing about his legacy as a business leader more than ever. While alive, everyone seemed to be waiting for the latest Apple product; now people seem to be very interested in finding out about Steve Jobs’s ability to encourage teams to create these amazing products. Steve Jobs was not the easiest to deal with, but one thing that people saw in him and respected him for is the charisma he had from the very start. His words, energy, and style were unique.

Many wonder if charisma is something you are born with or if you can actually learn how to be charismatic. Some naturally possess an abundance of social and emotional skills, but charismatic authority can definitely be taught. Charisma is “extraordinary power and appeal of personality; natural ability to inspire a large following”; many doubt this can be learned, but under the right influence, it is possible.

John Leonard on the blog The Five O’Clock Club offers 10 tips on how to become more charismatic:

  1. Build up your self-esteem and self-confidence. Take an inventory. What do you want to improve or change about the way you interact with others? Try to make only one change at a time.
  2. Set goals for yourself before every interaction. Know what you want. Think about how the people you will be meeting can help you reach those goals. Then decide how to approach each person accordingly.
  3. Be proactive. Take the initiative. Be decisive. Let the other person know exactly how he or she can help you.
  4. Treat each person you meet as if he or she is truly important. You’ll be amazed how this works.
  5. Give a firm handshake; look the other person straight in the eye. Practice both of these. Train yourself to notice something you like or find attractive in the person.
  6. Listen! Listen! Listen! Teach yourself to develop good listening skills. Learn a way to remember the other person’s name.
  7. Visibly respond to the other person. Smile, nod agreement, and address him or her by name.
  8. Pay more attention to the other person than to yourself. Are you responding to what may be going on in his or her life? Don’t filter out bad news. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Be caring.
  9. Use sincere flattery. People do respond to flattery. But if you don’t feel it, don’t say it.
  10. Sum up or restate often to make sure you understand what has just been said. This allows the other person to correct wrong assumptions right away, and lets him or her know that you are processing new information and are on top of the situation.

What do you think––can charisma be taught?

Author: Marina Kaljaj

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How Limitless Is “Unlimited”?

How Limitless Is “Unlimited”?

Starting in the ’90s and continuing into the “aughts,” certain key words that once denoted extreme or ultimate conditions were beveled down through overuse into markers of the mundane. “Awesome,” for instance, is no longer reserved for the Grand Canyon—or photos of nebulae sent down by the Hubble telescope—or that big-as-all-get-out mothership sliding into view over the mountaintop in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In its current, flattened form, “awesome” equates to “interesting,” or even something approximating “Good—I’ll see you then.” The word “magical” was used so routinely in Apple product launches that it became something of a finger-quoted meme among the technoscenti.

Similarly, especially in the realm of marketing, use of the word “unlimited” is now presumed to be hyperbolic rather than literal. Example: A while back I found a great price on a rental car, requiring only a short train hop from Manhattan to Jersey City. Along with a weekly price well under $200, the listing boasted “unlimited mileage.” In fact, virtually all car rental ads use this phrase. But according to the rental clerk, “unlimited” in this case meant how many miles one could reasonably rack up in a week tooling around New Jersey, with a possible road trip to New York or Philly thrown in—in other words, a few hundred. Anything over a specific, easily achievable odometer figure, the contract stated, would cost me $5.00 a mile!

When I explained that I needed the car to attend a family reunion in Indiana—about 600 miles each way—and that I’d booked with him because of the phrase “unlimited mileage,” he relented and penciled in “1300” on the contract. But clearly this was a caveat emptor moment, more or less deftly parried into a minor carpe diem victory.

The same slippery definition of “unlimited” can be found throughout the Internet Service Provider (ISP) realm. We’ll focus here on the mobile carrier sector. In their own ads, providers crow about streaming all manner of media and raw data to and from “the Cloud,” even while tightening the screws on ever-more-onerous bandwidth caps and larding on overage fees for the unwary—like tax collectors in the days of Robin Hood.

It’s difficult to see how the dream of mobile, storage-less streaming terminals can come to fruition on this playing field. It may be telling that some industry observers suggest the real reason for CEO Reed Hastings’s herky-jerk, aborted Netflix/Quikster binary fission attempt was not, as many thought, to spin off and and eventually fire-sale his antiquated disc delivery system, but to jettison his painted-into-a-corner movie/TV streaming effort.

So, which carrier(s) actually offer(s) truly unlimited service? The answers are hidden in anecdotal murk, marketing happy-talk, and Terms of Service legalistic spin. In TV spots, Sprint claims it offers the only truly unlimited plan and accuses T-Mobile of claiming to provide the same but in fact “throttling” the data feed from 3G speed to 2G once the hapless customer moves more than 2GB of data in any given month. This defamation appears to hold some water:

AT&T and Verizon, the dueling giants of the industry, both offer “unlimited” plans. AT&T charges $69.99 a month for unlimited voice calling, on top of which the client must choose from a smorgasbord of data options ranging from $25 for 2 GB to $45 for the maximum, 4 GB of up/down data transfer. Anything over that can, and will, cost the vic—er, customer beaucoup buckage.

The story on Verizon is murkier still. The field’s biggest player is said to be transitioning to a tiered system like its archenemy AT&T, but hasn’t done so yet. Verizon currently offers all-you-can-eat unlimited at $89.99 for voice and data (plus tax and the usual mystery surcharges), but—at least in the fine print—has set a 5 GB cap, to be used at the carrier’s discretion.

Per a Verizon service contract: “Unlimited Data Plans . . . may ONLY be used with wireless devices for the following purposes: (i) Internet browsing; (ii) email; and (iii) intranet access . . . Examples of prohibited uses include . . . continuous uploading, downloading or streaming of audio or video programming or games; (ii) server devices or host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing . . . Anyone using more than 5 GB per line in a given month is presumed to be using the service in a manner prohibited above, and we reserve the right to immediately terminate the service of any such person without notice.

Hmm . . . sounds not dissimilar to “unlimited mileage, as long as you don’t leave New Jersey”!

My own service is with Sprint, the self-professed sole carrier of the “true unlimited” torch—who is rumored in the forums to have its own 5 GB weapon of last resort secreted away in the end-user license agreement briar patch. Assuming it exists, I have thus far not given Sprint cause to deploy—but the ease of getting into dangerous territory is clear. Note the spike in July and August 2011, when I installed Netflix and Google Music apps on my phone and began occasionally streaming content. At 2,340,399 KB (2.3 GB), I would have been in deep doo-doo come bill time had I been on AT&T’s popular 2 GB plan. With a tablet—fundamentally an interactive media consumption device—using anything other than free coffee-shop Wi-Fi would be like writing a blank check to the the carrier for anyone stuck in a tiered system.

Possible Conclusions:

  • Per online lore, a number of Verizon customers have gone regularly, significantly over the legendary 5 GB limit without any repercussions. Possibly Verizon’s secret weapon is indeed meant only as a recourse against the hacker who tries to pull networking juice through his phone to light up a home or office loaded with computers . . . or runs a file-sharing server via his mobile account.
  • Or it may be that adding stick-brandishing “Achtung!” verbiage to the end-user license agreement is meant to appease hysterical, politically connected Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Hollywood forces—while in reality, carriers have little intention of shooting themselves in their collective foot by dumping paying customers.
  • It may even be the case that tiered billing systems are advantageous to mobile users who spend less than average time online.

Are data caps necessary/justified/inevitable? Like everything about this subject, it depends on whom you ask. “Inevitable” might be a safe bet in any case. The easily accessible “Data Usage” app included in the just-announced Google 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” unified phone/tablet OS tells us for whom the bell tolls.

The blurring of absolutes we’ve been examining may or may not indicate our gradual descent into an era of diminished expectations, but one thing is certain: As consumers, we’re cheap dates—and ideal targets for marketing. Most of us are ready to accept almost any claim, since the superlatives have been rounded off for easy digestion. Sure, it’s not as great as they’re saying—but how bad can it be? Given and despite all that, an FTC definition of the term “unlimited,” along with unpleasant consequences for misuse of same, would hardly constitute restraint of trade or free speech, and indeed appears long overdue.

Author: John Wehmeyer

Communication Arts Releases Winners of Its 2011 Design Annual

Communication Arts just released the winners of its 2011 Design Annual. Over 4,000 pieces were submitted, and only 174 winners were selected. A team of five judges had the seemingly impossible task of narrowing down the finalists.

Project categories like trademarks, letterheads, posters, packaging, and annual reports were included in the competition.

With today’s economic woes, it’s becoming harder and harder for design firms to keep up with the Joneses technology-wise. It was clear that this year’s designers were able to bring back old-school techniques and produce quality work.

Take a look at the gallery to get a glimpse of some of the winners. If you want to see all the concepts, though, you’re going to have to sign up for Communication Arts’ subscription plan (lame!).

Author: Eric Swenson

Can Apple Trump Hallmark With Cards?

John Carew wrote a few weeks ago about the release of the new iPhone 4s coupled with the updated software, iOS5. Along with this new operating system comes a new app called Cards. Cards, developed by Apple, is used to design, print, and mail out cards from your iOS device to anyone in the world. Those of you now thinking to yourselves, “Apple is getting into the printing business?” will be shocked to know that Apple has been offering printed materials since it launched iPhoto in 2002. Since then, Apple has offered printed photos, books, calendars, and other materials that you can generate with one click from iPhoto. But Cards is different––it’s simply Apple genius innovation to make our lives easier and more beautiful at the same time.

So what is Cards? Cards is an application on your iOS device that allows you to send out a tangible card to anyone in the world. But, it’s not just any card. These cards are beautiful, letterpress-printed shells made of 100% cotton. You can pick a photo from your photo library and place it on the front, personalize the message on the inside, place the address on the envelope, and Apple will pop it in the mail for you. You can go from taking the photo to submitting the order in less than a few minutes. I tried it out myself––sent a picture of my daughter to my mother––and the reaction was priceless. Needless to say, my mother will keep this card for the rest of her life, and will most likely start sending out her own!

The coolest part about this app is the thought that went into the process. One, Apple uses the best materials and printing processes known to man to create the product. Two, Apple allows you to personalize the card to your liking in a quick and easy way. Three, Apple integrates the IMB barcode on each piece so you get a notification of when the card will deliver. And best of all, a card costs less than the average Hallmark card! Apple cards will cost $2.99 domestic and $4.99 international. I don’t know if I will ever send another Hallmark card through the mail. You can practically send a card anywhere in the world for less than you can pick up a generic card from the Hallmark store.

So, only one question remains: When will you send out your first Card?

Author: John Mehl

Lytro Lives?! Photographic Innovation Enters the Room

Physics is said to rule the world, and whatever flavor you fancy––classical, relative, or quantum––the modern method of capturing photons in an oriented manner, aka photography, hasn’t changed much over the years. There is a relatively short list of technologies that haven’t changed since their “mainstream” adoption, and photography has remained on that list for some time. Digital photography was an update to the capture method associated with the capture of light, but for the most part, film was replaced with a sensor and the light converted into data. The mechanics of the single-lens reflex (SLR) camera have remained fundamentally the same: lens, aperture, shutter, film, and focusing mechanism. The system was based on the sun sending photons toward earth, objects on earth reflecting or absorbing those photons (depending on the composition of the objects), and an observer capturing those photons in an oriented manner with film or a digital sensor. The photons bounce off all the contours of an object, and a subset of the photons that bounce back to the observer arrive at the eye of a human (or the aperture of a camera) at different angles (vector directions). This is why different types of lenses are used to enable various quantities and angles of photons to reach an image sensor or film. The vast majority of the modern lenses on SLRs require some function of focus, or the selection of the point in the image at which all photons meet uniformly, thus making one area of the image in focus and other areas blurry or less sharp. The concept of focus has been fundamental to photography, but there has been little innovation on this front.

Meet Ren Ng and his company, Lytro. The Lytro camera captures all light in the light field (think all possible reflections of photons from a given object and the angle of each photon) and enables the user to select focus after the image is captured. As explained on Lytro’s website, the camera’s “light field sensor captures the color, intensity and vector direction of rays of lights.” Capturing the direction of the light is the big innovation in the imaging technology used by Lytro.

The after-the-fact focus aspect of Lytro images has seen its share of scrutiny among both techies and photogs, but this development means a change in the mindsets of both worlds. The company approached a traditional system of photography, took the concept of the light field (the amount of light traveling in every direction at any given point), and developed an image-capture method that could exploit the main benefit: control over focus after image capture.

Lytro demonstrates the power of the image sensor and algorithms associated with the processing of those images and their application in traditional photography and 3D imaging. The design of the Lytro camera is inspiring, with only two buttons and a touch screen––the square aspect ratio adds a level of intrigue.

Consider Lytro’s camera to be a major innovation in photography. As a competitive product, it could change the trajectory of the photographic industry, which is closely linked to modern technology. Also, add “living image”––an image captured with directional vector data––to your vocabulary.

Author: John Carew

Apple’s 10 Most Memorable Commercials

People around world are mourning the loss of Steve Jobs, and many are looking for ways to communicate how he influenced and transformed their lives.

“Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve,” Apple’s board of directors said in a statement.

In honor of Steve Jobs, I’d like to share Apple’s 10 most memorable commercials.

We are speechlessly thankful for all he has done and wounded by his early death. How did Steve Jobs change your life?

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Facebook to Die Under the Knife of Magazines and Newspapers? Your Crystal Ball Is Malfunctioning.

Who doesn’t want a piece of the multibillion dollar US advertising pie? No one! According to a Kantar Media report, 2010 US ad spending topped $130 billion. Outspoken marketing and publishing veteran Bob Sacks, aka BoSacks, is “prepared to predict the death of Facebook. It’s lost its way … Over-commercialism and abuse will kill it.” That is why Facebook is moving toward what some are calling “the dark side,” abandoning its user-centric methodology for one where it can cash out and exploit its relationship with users to sell the most advertising.

Newspapers and magazines have struggled for over a decade to determine which strategy will bring them some, if any, long-term success. Between pay wall construction and destruction and various implementations of paid content, which future strategy will win: the gated newsstand (e.g., Apple or Amazon) or the app model (The Daily) or, better yet, some other combination with social integration?

The first big-league tablet experiment was News Corp.’s The Daily, with daily news delivery to mobile technology, i.e., the iPad. The Daily is an experiment in applying a news model to mobile technology with a subscription-based service. Rupert Murdoch claims that The Daily, first launched on the iPad in early 2011, needs 500,000 subscribers paying $0.99 per week to be profitable. As of October 3, The Daily publisher Greg Clayman reported only 80,000 subscribers. Murdoch’s experiment was on one hand a massive win for tablet proponents, who see this path as the future, but on the other a strategic failure. Applying broad-reaching, mass media to what is essentially a hyper-local online ecosystem where the social level drives the most relevant content is a fundamentally flawed approach. Staci Kramer of paidContent.org covered the basic accounting associated with The Daily and figured that, based on the first year’s figures with the current circulation, it cost a whopping $375 per subscriber to produce. It is not uncommon for a magazine title to take several years to mature to profitability, yet this venture sets an intriguing (and cost-prohibitive) precedent. More recently Courtney Boyd Myers of TheNextWeb.com reported that the app has been downloaded 800,000 times but has brought a loss to News Corp. to the tune of $10,000,000. On a side note to be filed in the “DUH” record books, UK online trade pub MarketingWeek reports that a recent qualitative analysis by Ipsos Mori of UK’s biggest women’s weeklies suggests that titles that reply to readers via social media gain more long-term interaction. While studying the business model and its successes and failures is interesting on an academic level for understanding how the news is evolving, the indicators for the advertising world and its link to new technology should be of more interest.

John Mehl covered the strengths and weaknesses of digital editions earlier on Utterly Orange. The bottom line is this: As long as competitive forces––like print magazines and social networks––exist in the marketplace, the print-gone-digital model for news and magazines is going to be a hard sell. The market was splintered with the entry of the i-era: the iPad and iPhone, the mobile and smart devices.

In August 2011, Utterly Orange discussed the technical challenges that Condé Nast experienced in its ventures into digital publishing formats. Applying a traditional, editorial business model to an electronic workflow is fundamentally flawed. NYU Professor Scott Galloway sees magazines “on the verge of a massive double dip.” Galloway points out that brands like Burberry, Gucci, and Chanel have positioned themselves as “innovative” front-runners in the world of social media. Facebook competes for eyeballs and more importantly lets anyone introduce content that can trump the magazines any day. Which model will win? Not sure, but you can bet on this: Social media is critical to the future, and Facebook probably won’t be the long-term winner.

Author: John Carew