I’ve Become One of “Those” People, and You Guys Can’t Drive

I like to think that at my advanced age, I have the ability to shift opinions. To change my mind. To “evolve,” as it were.

For years, I did not understand the concept of riding a bike to work. I found it non-sensical. Foolish and childish even.

But then about 3-4 weeks ago my doctor explained some things that were going to happen to me in the coming years if I did not lose a fairly significant amount of weight. And he wasn’t saying things like, “Wow you are going to feel great!”

So I left his office, went to the bike store, and bought myself a new way to commute to the office. I’m now one of “those people” who are in the way when you are driving to work.

What I’ve learned

Now I’m in no way an expert yet. I’ve maybe done the Wallingford to Downtown Cannonball Run about 8-10 times. But here are some initial impressions.

1) You people can’t drive. I never noticed it before, but there really is no consistency from one driver to another. You make crazy left turns out of nowhere, pull over in bike lanes (it doesn’t matter if your hazards are on, I still can’t jump over you), block interceptions at red lights, and nose your car out into the middle of the road. Bring on the driverless cars.
2) Texting and driving is seriously dangerous. There aren’t a lot of things a biker finds scarier than seeing someone in a car with their face buried in their cell phone. We have no idea where you are headed, if you see us, or what you are going to do.
3) We need more bike lanes. On my way in, I zip down Stone to 34th to Dexter to Bell to 2nd and it’s a breeze. On my way out of town, inexplicably you can’t head back UP 2nd very far. So I have to weave through buses, cars and/or pedestrians on 3rd and Blanchard to get back to a safe path.
4) Some bikers are really decent humans. Contrary to my previous belief about bikers being traffic-causing, egotistical, stubborn jerks, a lot of bikers are pretty nice. We usually end up in a nice little pack around stop lights. There’s safety in numbers and we’re all more visible when we’re traveling in a flock. Usually everyone is following traffic rules, being courteous to drivers, and being safe.
5) Some bikers are total jerks. Nothing is more frustrating to a rookie biker like me than seeing some yahoo zipping through traffic, slinging between lanes, ignoring street signs and signals, and generally creating chaos. For the record, I’m the guy following every rule, doing everything like you’d expect the guy on the bike to do. Bikers who flaunt the fact that they are on a bike scare me because they make you unpredictable.
6) The time is comparable. On an average day at rush hour, driving 6 miles downtown plus parking takes me about 25-30 minutes door to desk. On a bike, 30-35.

Ok, I’m a cheater
So here’s the thing. I’m not in good enough shape to get up Stone Way. And I don’t like the idea of being stuck at 8mph in traffic. So I bought an electric bike. I’m an absolute believer in these things.

The electric bike is great because you really only use it up hills, or if you need to maintain a consistent speed of 15-20 mph. You can shut it off if you’re by yourself and can go at your own pace. And maybe one day when I’m in better shape I’ll be able to keep it off altogether. But if you are considering becoming a bike commuter, look into the electric bike. It will help get you off the fence.

So there you go
So I’m a convert, at least when I can be. It’s still totally impractical for anyone who needs to wear a suit or pick up the kids after work. But there might be a good number of you who could pull it off.

And try that electric bike.

If You’re Going to Spam Me, Just Get Close

I’ma marketing guy, so I’m ok with targeted spam. I get it. It’s hard for sale people to get good leads, so blasting the heck out of potential customers, with a relevant message, in hopes of stumbling across someone looking for your services, well that doesn’t offend me all that much.

And I’m even ok with auto-email programs that insert my company’s name into a generic email to make it look like they were specifically looking for me.

But the key word up there is, “relevant.”

Best described as, “opposite of relevant,” this email doesn’t make any sense at all.

vindicia

“Subscription companies like University of Washington have a common issue, churn due to failed credit card transactions. Most of the time these failures happen at no fault of your customer.”

Well I had no idea. Thank goodness someone finally figured out the issue plaguing universities across the country – the students are churning out due to bad credit cards. I thought it was a decrease in state spending, an excessive amount of tenured professors or a drop in donations. Turns out it’s the credit cards. Who knew?!

It’s too bad I don’t know the person at the UW who is in charge of keeping all the parents’ credit cards on file. Seems like we could solve some real problems.

Addendum:

For example, here’s some spam that actually could be relevant.

ForClass

A Theory About Donald Trump

Let’s pretend for a moment, that a man worth several billion dollars, who lords over a global real estate empire and produced a popular TV show for nearly a decade, ISN’T a complete moron. For the sake of argument, let’s also assume this mogul is not certifiably crazy.

With that as context, we have to ask, “Why is Donald Trump saying so many dumb and offensive things in a bid to run for President of the United States?”

Here’s one theory that is probably wrong but fun to think about.

We’re pretty sure the man has no real shot at winning. And we know for a fact that he loves loves loves loves being the center of attention. And he’s never cared what anyone thinks of him.

So suppose he’s creating a new benchmark for the rest of the Republican candidates to be measured against? Trump goes out and makes ridiculous, evil, mean and insulting comments, and both the RNC and group of candidates get to say, “Hey, Trump is way out of bounds. He should really stop saying those mean and insensitive things.”

For as long as I’ve been alive, the Democrats have been positioned as the sweet Uncle and Aunt who want to take care of you, while the Republicans have staked out the ground as your evil older brother trying to trick you out of your allowance.

So maybe the Trump train wreck is a purposeful campaign to change this perception. Republicans get to disagree with Trump and look more sympathetic to a key block of voters, without having to actually change any of policies or agree with Democrats. Trump gets to be on TV every day, and the rest of the Republicans build up positive perception by disagreeing with him. It’s basically a “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” political strategy.

One argument against this idea is that Trump is actually leading the field at 17%, implying the strategy is backfiring. But the other way to look at those stats is that in a crowded field of interchangeable and indiscernible candidates, 83% of people think Trump is to be avoided. In that case, the strategy is working.

Just a thought.

Saving Greece and Soccer at the Same Time

In case anyone wonders, this is a completely facetious comment. I don’t honestly believe this is a good idea… But in a make believe world, here’s how you could save Greece and International Soccer at the same time.

Qatar buys Greece.

Think about it. It’s win-win-win-win.

Win 1: Qatar gets the recognition it desires.
Qatar has a ton of money that it can’t spend. They want to change their image and have a larger presence in terms of global awareness. By buying Greece and renaming it “North Qatar,” they get all of the history that comes with it. Just like Gary Payton is somehow the leading scorer in Oklahoma City Thunder history, North Qatar would be where the Olympic games originated. Zeus and the rest of the Qatari gods lives on Mt. Olympus in North Qatar. And where would the world be without the contributions of famous Qataris such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle?

Win 2: Greece pays off its debt.
The banks want to get paid. The Greeks don’t want to pay anyone back. Qatar has dump trucks of cash sitting in gold plated garages. Let’s redistribute some of that cash and keep the country – and Europe – from collapsing.

Win 3: We don’t have to play soccer in 120 degree weather.
The 2022 World Cup can stay in Qatar – it’s just going to be played in North Qatar. (Except they’ll make Germany and the U.S. play their games in South Qatar out of spite.) Tourists will now want to attend the games. And Qatar can send all those poor abused migrant workers home.

Win 4: FIFA moves to North Qatar
Nothing significant in the world can happen without it benefitting Sepp Blatter in some way. This works for him. Qatar can revoke any extradition treaties it has with the U.S. and FIFA can build a 200,000 square fit office complex overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Could it happen? Of course not. Should it? Hmm….

The Problem With Expectations

Today is a day for long-time Mariners fans to do some reflecting. Yesterday seemed like a re-run of something we have seen before. A game against the Yankees, that we should have been won, and yet somehow turned into a loss.

Let’s look at the Mariners record since 1977 and then this year:
+ Going into 2015, the team was 2,822-3,209. That’s a winning pct of .468 which gives them an average of 76 wins per year.
+ In 2015, the Mariners are currently 24-28. That’s a winning pct of .462, which would project them to win 75 games this year.
So by all accounts, the 2015 Mariners are performing ALMOST EXACTLY in line with the 1977 – 2014 Mariners. And yet this season feels like a failure.

So why did this defeat feel so much worse? Why did this loss feel like the end of a season?

It’s simple really. Expectations.

I think you can break the Mariners into 3 eras. Pre-Lou. Lou. And Post-Lou. Lou was the Manager from 1993-2002, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to start the “Lou” era 2 years after he got to Seattle (to account for the time it took for him to make his impact) and end it the year after he left (to account for the residual effect he may have had.)

Pre-Lou (1977 to 1994) – Record: 1,215-1,595 (.432). Avg record: 70-92
Lou (1995 to 2003) – Record: 802-637 (.557). Avg record: 90-72
Post-Lou (2004 – 2015) – Record: 829-1005 (.452). Avg record: 73-89

So if you became a Mariners fan after 2003, your expectations are nil. I mean you *may* remember 2009 when they rang up 85 wins, but more likely 2014 was the first time you realized their season actually extended into September.

But if you were here from 1995-2003, well there are EXPECTATIONS. We had 4 playoff runs in those 9 years and were over .500 every year except two. Making the playoffs 4 out of 9 years seems about right for a team with the best pitcher in the game, a beautiful ballpark and access to a ton of cash.

So many people hoped that with last year’s results, the Post-Lou era could be officially closed. We could make 2014 the first year of the new “Cano” era. 2015 would be EXPECTED to improve upon the last.

And thus last night felt like the end of that hope.

The Mariners can play 24-28 baseball the rest of the season and perform in line with the average history of the franchise. But this year the expectations were bigger – that the team had broken out of the Post-Lou funk. And thus this year’s “average” performance will bring with it disenchantment and disappointment. That’s the problem with expectations.

One Human, One Block, One Year: An Idea for Solving Homelessness

So file this under pie in the sky, hopeless ideas that have no chance of coming true.

Unless, that is, one person tries to get it going.

NPR published an interesting article the other day about Homelessness in Seattle. One stat stood out: “According to the latest count, in January, more than 3,700 people live on the streets of King County. The number of people sleeping outside shot up by 20 percent in just the past year.”

3,700.

Via NPR

That number sounds enormous when you are thinking about how a government agency could fix the problem. And the government has proven it can’t do it. Here’s another stat from the article, one that should make you pretty mad. “All told, under a 10-year plan put together a decade ago by a public-private partnership called the Committee to End Homelessness, roughly $1 billion has gone to the cause.”

$1 Billion spent in 10 years. 3,700 homeless. At $100 million spent per year, we could just pay every homeless person an annual salary of $27,000 and just close down whatever services are trying to solve the problem.

But 3,700 is also a really small number.

King County has 2.044 Million people. For every 1 homeless person in Seattle, there are 550 non-homeless. This is the math I use to think there’s an opportunity at fixing this problem.

One Human, One Block, One Year
The idea is simple philosophically. Homelessness stops being a macro issue that we need “leaders” and “organizations” to try to solve. Homeless people need to stop being nameless, anonymous shadows that we can easily ignore on the side of the on ramp.

Let’s make homelessness a neighborhood cause. And not just a neighborhood cause, but a block cause.

I’m going to guess that almost every city block contains the following things:
– A house with an unused shed, mother-in-law attachment, garage or other structure that could be fitted with a simple bathroom. (And if not, a group of 20 people who’d split the rent on an apartment for someone.)
– At least one if not more people who hire part-time help.
– Someone who is or knows a psychologist, therapist or life coach.
– A teacher.
– A retired person willing to occasionally give someone a ride.
– Someone who’d spring for a bus pass.
– Neighbors with extra clothing they can give to a specific human.
– People who will donate money to make sure someone they know is well fed.

When you think of the idea that 550 people working together could help a single person get off the street, it seems almost mathematically insane that we have homeless people in the first place.

Now yes, I know that there are gigantic holes in this idea. Addiction, dementia, stubbornness, safety. These are all issues that would have to be dealt with. Then you’d have to get through the government red tape of permits, zoning, etc…

But doesn’t it seem doable? Doesn’t it seem like if everyone who lived on your block assembled for two hours one Sunday afternoon, you could come up with everything you need to get someone a home, a part-time job, a wardrobe, counseling, a bus pass, some education and tutoring, addiction treatment if necessary, and most of all – friends in a neighborhood. Friends who want to see their guest succeed and move on to successfully re-start their own life in 12 months.

That’s my utopian idea. One human, being helped by one block of neighbors, for one year.

Join Me at the American Ad Federation Seattle This Thursday

Well this should be fun. You’ve seen it before. We get 4 people who know everything there is to know about a topic and I ask them a lot of questions for 90 minutes. And try to throw in a joke or two along the way.

Here’s the scoop for this Thursday from the AAF website:


FORTUNE Magazine recently published a survey of the world’s most respected brands. The Seattle area boasts 6 in the top 30.

As marketing and advertising professionals that call the Seattle area home, we are global stewards for the brands by nature of our profession. Join AAF Seattle as we continue the discussion around diversity and multiculturalism from the perspective of driving brand engagement, both from the agency and brand perspective.

We’ll touch on such topics and questions as:

How prepared are we to support billions of consumers that share the Great Circle of the Pacific Rim?
What are the key insights we can share on how to optimize the brand experience and messaging?
What role does multiculturalism play in our ability to connect with consumers?
What works (and may not work so well) when it comes to strategy to addressing diversity in your teams and your advertising message?

Who are the experts? A really strong group.
Ben Rudolph – Director, Sales Evangelism, Worldwide Retail Channel Marketing, Microsoft
Natalie Rouse – CEO, Southern Cross International
Ken Cho – Co-Founder and CEO, People Pattern
Shelly Kurtz – Executive Director, NBC Universal, International Media Distribution

Hope to see you Thursday. Email me if you have a question or topic you want me to sneak in.

How Tidal Goes Against All Current Product Development Theories

I’m not an expert in the music industry. I have no idea what the future olds for Pandora, Spotify, iTunes and now Tidal, Jay-Z’s new streaming service that describes itself as, “Introducing the first music streaming service that combines the best High Fidelity sound quality, High Definition music videos and expertly Curated Editorial.”

However, I have spent some time in the last 4 years teaching some classes on marketing new products. I lean heavily on the insight of Steve Blank, because, well he seems like a really smart guy. And Mr. Blank espouses a product development process that leans heavily on the following:
1) Finding a problem that customers have.
2) Developing hypotheses on how the customer wants that problem solved.
3) Testing that solution with as many customers as possible.

You’ll notice that all 3 principles of the process include the term, “customer.”

Tidal seems to use a completely different theory. Summarizing bullets from the Washington Post, Tidal’s offering is based on the following:
1) Consumers will develop a sense of ethics, i.e. a willingness to see musicians actually make some respectable royalties from music streaming, which they currently do not.
2) People will want exclusive content and hear directly from artists.
3) Those who subscribe to the premium service will receive higher sound quality.

Let’s compare the Tidal plan to the Steve Blank plan.
1) Is my problem that I think musicians are underpaid? Do I really care what musicians make on each song I listen to? Probably about as much as I worry that the 1st Associate Director on House of Cards can afford her rent. Or that the Copywriter on AT&T’s Barles Charkley commercial is being paid fairly by his agency.
2) And honestly, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.2 billion bands in the world. if Taylor Swift or Jay-Z stick their music someplace I can’t get it, will I even notice? What problem is being solved by taking music away from my channels of choice?
3) I’d love to see the research that says, “When Andy is at work listening to music on his headphones, what he really wants is higher fidelity music for $250 a year.” Even if this is true for some people, how many? How good can music sound? And won’t I need a pair of $800 headphones to even notice?

This isn’t a bash on Tidal. It’s simply an observation. They are taking avery non-technology product management approach, and that puzzles me because I live in my own little Seattle technology bubble. Obviously with the star power they’ve assembled, the deck is stacked in their favor, so they can skip some of “Lean Startup” type principles. They’ll have great marketing, get lots of exposure and be able to test the product in real time.

More choices for music is better than less, so I hope they do well. It will be interesting to see how their product development plan works out.

Quirky Has Become My Favorite Product Site

I was talking about Quirky.com to a few people this week and was shocked – shocked I say – to hear they hadn’t heard about it.

How to describe Quirky… Imagine every crazy idea you ever had for a product was suddenly being built and you could order it for a pretty good price. Doesn’t that sound like a good deal?

You should visit Quirky. You should buy stuff from Quirky. You should sign up for their newsletters and vote on what products they are going to build next. And then you should take your latest, greatest idea and submit it to them.

Quirky