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Current Events

Tesla drives coast-to-coast

Tesla supercharger network

Elon Musk announced last night that by the end of this year you will be able to drive a Tesla across the United States for free stopping every 200 miles for a 20 minute charge. More details on the Tesla Supercharger page.

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Current Events

LinkedIn Mobile Splash Page

Every time I start the LinkedIn mobile app, I always wondered about the city street featured on the splash page. I took a screenshot of it and tried Google Image search to look for something familiar. No avail.

Leave it to a Finnish developer friend to fire back a hit to my crowdsourced query. Mystery solved! Thanks Jyrki!


LinkedIn mobile splash page

LinkedIn iPhone app splash page and Google Street View.

LinkedIn Android App

LinkedIn Android App marketing creative

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Current Events

Advertising Hacks – Pele in Puma

I love Quora. So many good stories.

Puma paying Pele to tie his shoes in the middle of the field seconds before the kickoff of the World Cup final in Mexico (1970)… The camera made a close up and the whole world realized that the best player back then was wearing Puma shoes… Life changed for Puma after that event…

Roberto De Leon

Pele in Puma

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Current Events

Time Travel

old-telephone

Leave it to the Lutherans.

100 years ago, on April 22, 1913, the Ladies Aid Society and the First Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City sealed a time capsule which has been sitting under a grill set into the floor of the church. Last month, the Century Chest as it was called, was opened. The contents were in pristine condition and included newspapers & periodicals, a brand new telephone, a straw hat, clothing and correspondence, all in mint condition.

Oklahoma Century Chest

Several letters and objects were addressed to future descendants of local families. Imagine handing your youngest daughter or son the package above and telling them it was from their ancestors and addressed specifically for them.

Further reading:

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Office

Advertising, paywall or a bit of both?

GigaOM posted the audio to a fascinating session at last month’s paidContent Live conference. In it, there’s a great insight/throw down by Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB, Advanced Media. Right around the 15-minute mark Bob calls those that read metered sites such as nytimes.com without subscribing, rooting around their 25 articles/month limit are, “professional freeloaders” of no interest to advertisers. He goes on to state that mlb.com gets 4X the CPMs for ads served to their paid subscribers than the CPMs served to free, logged out users.

Bob’s argument is that media sites that have a paid audience are more valuable to advertisers. While the audience of subscribers may be smaller than the audience of drive-by readers via the social web & Google – it is the subscribers, the true fans, that are more valuable to a media company. While CPMs on non-paywalled sites are driven downwards by the infinite number of impressions on the public web, subscription audiences get better CPMs because advertisers know that subscribers have a relationship with the site on which they are running their ads. There is an opportunity to further increase CPMs by taking an editorial interest in making sure the advertising compliments, not competes, with the editorial, making the advertisements even more relevant.

Screenshot from Recurly, popular subscription management service.

The challenge for a subscription site is how to gain new subscribers. You will always have churn so you need new subscribers to come in and replace those that are lost. Free sites do not have this challenge. Paid sites always have a bar that new readers will have to clear to read their content and the broader question is how much do you show before you require a potential reader to pay? Give too much and they don’t realize the value. Give too little and they never scratch around enough to try.

WSJ on Jaguar

One innovative method a desirable subscription site such at the wsj.com can try to bring more potential subscribers in the door is to have the occasional open house where paywalls are dropped and the public invited in to poke around. According to the presentation from where the slide above was pulled, advertisers have been pleased with the campaign delivering 126% of the impressions anticipated. While the profile of those that see those impressions may not be as well-defined as the logged in subscriber, they are still an attractive segment of aspirational readers and therefore suitable proxy for the core audience. I have not heard of other publications using this same tactic and how effective it is in gaining new subscribers. A paidContent piece written about the Open House concept suggested that the benefits may be primarily for advertisers but I’d be interested to hear how effective they are in gaining new subs as well.

Christina Hendricks & Johnnie Walker

I watched Mad Men last night and as I DVR’d through the latest three episodes it struck me that the regular spots of Lincoln and Johnnie Walker featuring Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway blurred the lines between content and advertising. The brands are as much a part of the identity of the series as the characters. The two compliment each other perfectly so it makes perfect sense to have them underwrite each episode in just the same way it fits that Jaguar would invite me to enjoy 24 hours with The Wall Street Journal.

Something to watch.

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Current Events

Skateboarding in the 60s

From a series of photos taken in New York City by Life Magazine photographer Bill Eppridge.

Click to see thru to see more from the series. /via TEDR

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Home

Finca de Mike

In the late 80’s, while in university, my girlfriend and I took a backpacker trip to Central America. This was not a well-planned trip. We took an old copy of The People’s Guide to Mexico, a hammock, and a day pack to hold a few spare changes of clothes. Our plan was to travel clockwise from Mexico City, the Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala, and then back North.

We traveled on the cheap. Flying into Mexico City on a rainy Christmas Eve we caught an overnight bus down to the Yucatan peninsula on Christmas Day. I still remember the bus rocking back and forth violently trying to sleep as we careened down the mountains towards the coast. There was a plastic Jesus on the dashboard blinking from a series of LEDs along his arms and legs. I awoke early in the morning when the driver slammed on the brakes to roll slowly past the scene of a fatal car accident. A bus and a car had collided head on and there were bodies being dragged out on the shoulder – the fog was heavy, the vision was dreamlike.

Later, we hit the coast and got off somewhere to put our feet into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. After so much rain, Northern California rain, Los Angeles rain, Mexico City rain, it was good to finally get some sun. We hit the tropics and shed raincoats and jeans for t-shirts, shorts, and huaraches.We bopped down the Eastern edge of the peninsula and then crossed over into Belize. We wanted to avoid the tourist traps so we stayed away from the beaches and headed inland towards the border with Guatemala.

Once in Guatemala, we traveled by colorfully painted secondhand school buses. These “chicken buses” (called such because they usually carried local farmers along with their livestock) were by far the cheapest (and most fun) way to get around. The buses traveled through the smaller towns, so there were more buses and routes removing the need to stick to any schedule or plan.

Bus in Guatemala

The roads were mostly dirt and I would spend many hours looking out the window at the passing landscape. Sometimes I could see the shadow of the kids riding up on top, some would be standing, arms outstretched, as if surfing. Occasionally the conductor would lean out the door and shout to those on the roof to watch their head, everyone would duck as we drove slowly under a tree branch.

Tikal was a must see. This ancient Mayan ruin is truly not to be missed. The photo in the header is from a day spent wandering the ruins with a guide who snuck off to spend a day with us, clambering up and down the pyramids, showing us secret passages, and memorably getting high and playing chess with us while we sat on top of on our very own 2,000 year old Mayan pyramid. It was only late in the day that we discovered that our friend was actually playing hooky. A shout from someone who clearly was his supervisor put a quick end to our fun and we were back on our own.

Following Tikal, we headed West a bit and got into a conversation with some British travelers who told us we absolutely had to visit Finka de Mike (Mike’s Ranch) near the town of Poptun. The bus we were on would take us there and arrive in the evening.

Arriving at Poptun, it was too late to ask the only business, a small restaurant, for directions to the ranch. It was closed. One of the farmers that got off the bus with us was kind enough to show us the way. Our limited Spanish figured out that he would take us to the ranch and that we only needed to follow him. We began to walk down a narrow path into the woods.

It was pitch black. There wasn’t any moon and it was overcast so the stars weren’t much of a help either. Our guide was walking at a brisk pace and we were getting deeper and deeper into the woods. Both Kathi and I started to hang back a bit and began to look for signs of an ambush or other foul play up ahead. I fingered a pocket knife in my pocket.

We must have walked a good couple of miles and I think it was close to 9pm. Just as we were beginning to get really concerned, the farmer turned to us and gestured to a set of lights on the other side of a field. “A que” he says pointing, “Finca de Mike” and before I could dig something out of my pack to thank him, he was gone. Back the way we came. He just walked four miles out of his way.

Kathi and I walked across the field and into what seemed like the main house. Candlelight lit the room dimly. After traveling native for a couple of weeks, surrounded by Spanish, it seemed strange to creek open a door and hear English conversation. We asked if there was someone to check in with and were told by the other guests that the Ranch was run on an honor system. There was a spiral bound notebook on the kitchen counter and guests would just write in what to took from the pantry or refrigerator and the total number of nights they stayed. This would all get totaled up by the owner upon departure.

It was very comfortable there. When we met Mike and Carol, the owners, we learned Finca de Mike covered 400 acres and we learned their story. Back in California they had the dream of owning a ranch but were unable to afford one. They sold everything they had and traveled south until they came to Guatemala in the late 60’s and bought the land for almost nothing.

Since then, they had turned the ranch into a self-sustaining farm. All the vegetables and meat were raised on site and all the guests worked together to cook the evening meal. Mike said that friends would often come down to visit and bring their friends. Before long, Finca de Mike became a regular stop for not only for friends of friends but soon, as word got around, new guests too. Mike devised the spiral notebook system as a way to defray some of their costs.

Two macaws flew freely around the ranch, heading off each morning and returning right around sunset, in time to hang out with everyone as we drank beer on the porch of the ranch’s beautiful, handmade pine wood house. The ranch was surrounded by curiously shaped hills until it dawned on me during that sunset that these were not hills at all but Mayan pyramids that had yet to be uncovered, overgrown with jungle to look like hills. We were staying on the grounds of an ancient Mayan city.

On the third or forth day I grew restless. People had spoken about a cave several hours walk to the East. As I asked around for others that might join me, someone suggested the “Cave Trip” advertised in the kitchen. I signed up Kathi and I on a simple sign-up sheet taped to the refridgerator. It said to show up by the main house at 6am to get ready.

The next morning I walked up to see a convoy of pack horses getting saddled up with gear. I asked why so much gear was necessary and was told we were going to visit a new cave, one that had never been explored. But this one was two days ride away. Even better!

The only New Mexican I know

There were six or eight of us on the trip, including Mike and a guide to cut thru the jungle with a machete. We were traveling along a trail cut by the rubber farmers and we often passed trees with the telltale cross-hatching on them.

The first evening we spent in a shack for farmers that would hike to remote fields in the mountains and stay for several days as they farmed their crops. There was some dried corn available which our guide used to make fresh tortillas from scratch with nothing more than the top of an oil drum as a pan. In the cold, morning mist, I still remember these corn tortillas as the best I have ever tasted.

We explored several caves including one, its floor covered with pottery shards, that was later featured in National Geographic (which I now learn was Naj Tunich, a potential UNESCO World Heritage site). We arrived even before the explorers. I remember learning from Mike how to co-exist with the jungle. It was not the dark, scary place my urban mind was telling me it was. The Guatemalan people were amazing. The kind man who walked four miles out of his way to show us to the ranch, the guide at Tikal who played chess with us. Everyone we met had an inner light of goodness.

Guatemala was amazing and Finca de Mike was a highlight. Here was someone who was carving out life on his own terms and being the change he wanted to see.

Contrast this with the shock I felt when I read two years later in a Berkeley cafe that Mike DeVine, the owner of the ranch, was found brutally murdered – his head nearly severed clean. Suspicions about the motive were many including the story that he stumbled across a unit of the Guatemalan Army loading drugs for a shipment up North and the CIA-backed goons that were in on it murdered Mike to protect their business.

The ripples continued. Military aid by the US to Guatemala was cut off as a result of Mike’s murder and only recently, more than 20 years later, have relations improved. The motive of the murder is still shrouded but clues are starting to crop up, including a cryptic declassified government document.

Finca de Mike is still there. Known as Finca Ixobel, you can visit today and Carol Ann DeVine will be there to greet you where the memory of Mike lives on. I have never been back but would love to hear how things are today and if the region has recovered from this terrible tragedy.

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Office

Is Goldman Sachs the Canary?

As reported in today’s New York Times,

Bloomberg said the functions that allowed journalists to monitor subscribers were a mistake and were promptly disabled after Goldman Sachs complained that a Bloomberg reporter had, while inquiring about a partner’s employment status, pointed out that the partner had not logged onto his Bloomberg terminal lately.

Privacy Breach on Bloomberg’s Data Terminals

There is no excuse for what the Bloomberg reporter is accused of doing, but it doesn’t surprise me that Goldman Sachs was the one to complain. Back when I was a Product Manager of Factiva.com, a news database where Goldman was one of our clients, I remember an IT person at Goldman telling me that they would run 100 different searches against our database, throwing all but one which was what they were really interested in. The other 99 were chaff.

There’s no doubt that the lines are fuzzy when a media company (including my employer, GigaOM) reports on the news while also running a website where they can see who is reading what. Secretive companies involved in funding, acquisitions, and IPOs have every right to be paranoid. Several times the product team at GigaOM has been briefed on upcoming features that we were under NDA not to tell our colleagues on the editorial desk. In this new world where lines are blurry, your honor & word are all that’s left to keep that ethical line straight and true.

I remember thinking, when the GigaOM Principles were published, that I’d hate to have Om invest in my company because that means that he would never write about my company. But it’s the right thing to do, there’s no other way to look at it.

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Current Events

Sprinkling Pixie Dust at Disney

My good friends over at PechaKucha redesigned their site months ago and I have been remiss in pointing out what a great place it is for inspiration. Think of it as an archive of narrated slideshows – 20 images, self-advancing every 20 seconds – six and half minutes to tell a story. Like Twitter, the limitations of the format bring out the best in people.

Today’s featured presentation tells the story of someone who spent time working with Disney’s “guest services” with some great snippets about Disney’s attention to detail and customer service.

Enjoy.