Max Kalehoff http://www.attentionmax.com Peeling the onion Tue, 20 Jan 2015 12:29:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The U.S. Does Not Dominate (Exclusively) Consumer Digital Platforms And Innovation http://www.attentionmax.com/u-s-not-dominate-consumer-digital-platforms-innovation http://www.attentionmax.com/u-s-not-dominate-consumer-digital-platforms-innovation#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 15:43:05 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8798

Three years ago I hired an intern from China, an undergraduate student at Columbia University. She is one of the best college interns I’ve ever had — focused, smart, analytical, service-oriented, a clear communicator and kind. She did the heavy lifting in deploying our marketing automation software with our CRM (customer-relationship management) system. She since has graduated, and […]

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Three years ago I hired an intern from China, an undergraduate student at Columbia University. She is one of the best college interns I’ve ever had — focused, smart, analytical, service-oriented, a clear communicator and kind. She did the heavy lifting in deploying our marketing automation software with our CRM (customer-relationship management) system. She since has graduated, and spent a few years working at a major IT consulting firm in developing social CRM solutions.

She recently moved back to China and posted one of her first experiences to Facebook. Considering her recent immersion in U.S. digital platforms (i.e., Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, etc.), I was blown away by her reaction to WeChat, one of China’s leading consumer digital platforms. She gave me permission to repost here:

Been back in China for 3 weeks – day by day I’m truly amazed by how powerful a product (but really a platform) WeChat has become. I begin my day reading tons of subscription channels on WeChat, use WeChat to pay for almost all my bills, make appointments at various gov’t agencies, get discounts and offerings from shops, enjoy all kinds of customer services via texting, hail cabs, buy movie tickets and even get cash without bringing the physical card with me…let alone all the people I need to connect from business (yes WeChat is the new business card) to personal are all there – talking about all in one. What’s more, the technologies it uses to realize all these features are diverse and creative. Highly recommend whoever’s interested in products to try it out in every aspect.

Many Americans view U.S. technology innovation as an area no other market can compete with, including Internet platforms. The U.S. is truly a hub of technical innovation, but, as my former intern describes, it’s not the only one. And when it comes to social media and consumer services and infrastructure, there some serious non-U.S. players.

This sparks an important memory: a former colleague five years ago visited family in China. In order for him to post to Facebook during his travels, he had to circumvent Chinese firewalls and censors — he was a hacker and succeeded, yet was monitored closely.

This raises all sorts of questions around norms, conveniences, courtesies and laws in the quest for technological innovation and progress.

It’s an interesting global Internet society we’re progressing into.

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Costco’s Viability For Single-Item Convenience Purchases http://www.attentionmax.com/costco-viability-for-single-item-convenience-purchases http://www.attentionmax.com/costco-viability-for-single-item-convenience-purchases#comments Sun, 04 Jan 2015 20:25:44 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8791

As a suburban dad of three small children, including an infant, I’m compelled to share this life hack and end this debate… Most people think of Costco only as a big-box retailer — good for suburban expeditions in the minivan to stock up on industrial-sized quantities of household staples at competitive prices. Costco is great for that. But it’s also great […]

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As a suburban dad of three small children, including an infant, I’m compelled to share this life hack and end this debate…

Most people think of Costco only as a big-box retailer — good for suburban expeditions in the minivan to stock up on industrial-sized quantities of household staples at competitive prices.

Costco is great for that. But it’s also great for single-item purchases both big and small, such as televisions, stereo systems, eye glasses, automobile tires, patio umbrellas, tulip bulbs and more. It’s even great for typical convenience purchases, like gasoline, a box of baby diapers, coffee beans, a book of stamps, a case of beer or a bag of chips.

“But Costco doesn’t have an express checkout lane, so small convenience purchases just aren’t worth the hassle,” say naysayers. 

That’s true, but it doesn’t matter. Science proves that express checkout lanes are less efficient than regular ones, anyway. Second, Costco checkout lanes are like fast-food order lanes in that they are extremely efficient. Similar to scratching an itch, progressing swiftly in an efficient checkout lane is actually satisfying.

But if you really can’t stand to wait in a checkout line, full-cart Costco shoppers usually are sympathetic to single-item shoppers. I was one of those good Costco members on a recent Saturday morning with a lady who wanted to purchase a single bag of pita chips (pictured here).

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From This Kayak, The Party’s Not Over http://www.attentionmax.com/kayak-party http://www.attentionmax.com/kayak-party#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 12:17:10 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8784

Long Island Sound — and especially its coastline — can be as delightful in winter as any other season. And one great way to experience it is in the water, in a kayak. And these final December 2014 days have been mild and excellent for kayaking. You really notice the little things when you’re sitting in the water alone on […]

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Long Island Sound — and especially its coastline — can be as delightful in winter as any other season.

And one great way to experience it is in the water, in a kayak. And these final December 2014 days have been mild and excellent for kayaking.

You really notice the little things when you’re sitting in the water alone on days when everyone else avoids it.

Yesterday afternoon, paddling through New Rochelle Harbor and around David’s Island and Huckleberry Island…

The wind was light and variable, and the water calm. The sun ducked in and out of the clouds, causing the temperature to fluctuate between slightly warm and slightly chilly. This give-and-take intensified throughout my ride as my jacket sleeves dampened from occasional splashes.

Most boats now are covered on land for the winter season, and the final blues, stripers and bunker baitfish have departed. The water was clearer and therefore surfaced more of the muddy bottom, and human remains, like empty beer bottles. All signals that the party’s over.

While there were no other boaters and or gamefish in sight, the resident swans, ducks and seagulls kept me company.

From this kayak, the party’s not over.

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Remember To Say “Thank You” http://www.attentionmax.com/remember-to-say-thank-you http://www.attentionmax.com/remember-to-say-thank-you#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 02:28:19 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8777

We’ve been expanding my team at work and interviewing lots of candidates. We interviewed one candidate who seemed perfect for a certain role — one for which we received nearly 1,000 applications. This candidate was smart, articulate and a cultural fit. Her experience and focus made her likely to succeed. Despite being our frontrunner, we eliminated her candidacy because of one small detail: with the […]

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We’ve been expanding my team at work and interviewing lots of candidates.

We interviewed one candidate who seemed perfect for a certain role — one for which we received nearly 1,000 applications.

This candidate was smart, articulate and a cultural fit. Her experience and focus made her likely to succeed.

Despite being our frontrunner, we eliminated her candidacy because of one small detail: with the exception of me, she neglected to send any teammate she met with a thank-you note.

That omission told me she ignores details, doesn’t respect peers, or isn’t passionate (even though she followed up persistently).

It was frustrating, because we invested so much time and energy in her. We really liked her and needed her, and wanted her to succeed.

But that omission left a unanimous, sour feeling in our stomachs.

The good news is we encountered soon a star candidate, who demonstrated incredible experience, skills, passion and etiquette.

If you are thankful for an opportunity, remember to say “Thank You.”

Photo: John

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Future-Proofing Your Digital Existence http://www.attentionmax.com/future-proofing-your-digital-existence http://www.attentionmax.com/future-proofing-your-digital-existence#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 20:41:39 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8767

“I’m back,” announced David Churbuck in the headline of his latest blog entry. He just recovered from a blogging hiatus and software meltdown that took his site down for a month. I’m glad to have him back because he’s a good writer and I enjoy his rants on technology, religion and New England life. His absence is a perfect […]

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“I’m back,” announced David Churbuck in the headline of his latest blog entry. He just recovered from a blogging hiatus and software meltdown that took his site down for a month. I’m glad to have him back because he’s a good writer and I enjoy his rants on technology, religion and New England life.

His absence is a perfect demonstration of how a blog (or any sort of digital app) will erode if you walk away — whether a short hiatus, a long one or an indefinite one. That’s because of the ongoing technical administration required for hosting, versioning and security. Without attentive administration, the existence of a weblog in the long run is doubtful.

Which is why we need a nonprofit foundation that will future-proof our digital existence and our work. We need this service not only for self-hosted weblogs like this one, but for commercial ad-supported ones like Tumblr and WordPress.com. That’s because few for-profit businesses last a really long time.

I want my weblog to remain an open legacy once I go down for my dirt nap. Though I guarantee this site will not last, unless I find a solution.

Photo: Alejandro Castro

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14 Of The Worst Resume Mistakes Ever http://www.attentionmax.com/worst-resume-mistakes-ever http://www.attentionmax.com/worst-resume-mistakes-ever#comments Sun, 26 Oct 2014 14:36:59 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8761

Our marketing team is hiring actively for a variety of roles. While I receive recruiting support from our HR/recruiting team, and other members of the marketing team, I try to keep close to all stages of the talent recruiting funnel. (A key responsibility of leading a brand is understanding the talent your brand attracts.) This post is about the “top” of the recruiting funnel — the resume […]

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Our marketing team is hiring actively for a variety of roles.

While I receive recruiting support from our HR/recruiting team, and other members of the marketing team, I try to keep close to all stages of the talent recruiting funnel. (A key responsibility of leading a brand is understanding the talent your brand attracts.)

This post is about the “top” of the recruiting funnel — the resume submission stage. And I’ll cut to the chase: I’m shocked by how many educated, experienced and outgoing candidates fail on resume fundamentals.

If you are a candidate lobbying for a marketing role, please avoid the following worst resume mistakes:

  1. Creating a logo out of your name and using Web 2.0 reflection effect
  2. Including a headline that states you will be either a marketing professional or a menswear designer within five years
  3. Getting too artistic with your resume, like using crazy fonts and colors and angling the text at 45 degrees; it may stand out, though I don’t want to angle my head to read your qualifications, and recruiting softwares won’t properly scan your details
  4. Including a full-spread background image of yourself, behind all the resume text
  5. Featuring your religion in the first sentence, or at all (unless you are applying for a position with a religious organization)
  6. Embedding a headshot in your resume
  7. Saying you are a candidate for a degree for May 2014 when the date of your application is October 2014
  8. Saying your goal is to “be a leader in the financial industry,” if you are applying for a role in another industry
  9. Writing resume introductory statements that take up an entire page
  10. Submitting resumes that are more than one-page, if you are applying for a non-technical role
  11. Including irrelevant facts and experience, especially if you have other highly relevant experience and knowledge to share
  12. Featuring grammar mistakes in the first line of your resume; perhaps the most common violation is ignorance of compound modifiers
  13. Talking about yourself in the third person, then the first person, then the third person, in your resume’s intro statement  (assuming you need one to begin with)
  14. Making grammar mistakes when you are an MBA graduate from a top 15 MBA school

I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, or state the obvious, or post another “resume mistakes” cliche article. But if you avoid these pitfalls, you’ll increase your chances for success.

Photo: Juliana Coutinho

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World’s Best Hot Sauce Recipe http://www.attentionmax.com/worlds-best-hot-sauce-recipe http://www.attentionmax.com/worlds-best-hot-sauce-recipe#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 15:07:58 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8751

I love chile peppers. I have eight varieties growing in my garden. I cook with them and eat them straight. I also love hot sauces. We keep about eight different kinds on a tray on our dining table, like Sriracha, Cholulu, Thai chile, Frank’s and so on. So you can understand I enjoy concocting hot sauces as well. I have a few good […]

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I love chile peppers. I have eight varieties growing in my garden. I cook with them and eat them straight.

I also love hot sauces. We keep about eight different kinds on a tray on our dining table, like Sriracha, Cholulu, Thai chile, Frank’s and so on.

So you can understand I enjoy concocting hot sauces as well. I have a few good recipes, though I invented one which is undeniably everyone’s favorite. We’ll call it Max’s Hot Sauce.

The response is always the same: “Complex flavors. Balanced. Strong heat yet not overpowering. Delicious. Can I have the recipe? You should bottle and sell this.” I’ve yet to sell it, but I do bottle it — as much as my garden will produce in peppers each season.

I went camping with my older son’s Cub Scout Pack last weekend and I brought a bottle for the campfire cookout. A few of the dads asked if I would share the recipe, and that made me write it down for the first time. I’m sharing it here so more people can try it (and hopefully enjoy it).

Understand this recipe for Max’s Hot Sauce is “directional” — as I always tweak it based on what peppers and herbs come out of the garden. Each batch will be similar, though with nuances that surprise and delight — the beauty of handmade things.

  1. Slice a large onion and caramelize in a large iron pan with some olive oil. Don’t burn…just slowly work out the sugars to achieve a rich caramel.
  2. Then add a head of sliced garlic to the onion and add a little more olive oil.
  3. Then add two cups of rough chopped chile peppers to the onion/garlic mix. It can be a mix of whatever you have, though I often use serrano and jalapenos, with a smaller ratio of habaneros. Drizzle a little more olive oil and continue to cook over low medium heat for about 30-45 minutes. Add a nice ripe tomato as well, preferably fresh from a garden.
  4. Add fresh herbs. I tend to put in a bunch of fresh thyme, parley and oregano. Also add some dry oregano, as well. Salt.
  5. After the mixture is nice and caramelized and pasty, transfer the contents to a blender (high speed, professional one is better if you have it).
  6. I then add a cup of olive oil, and cup of balsamic vinegar.
  7. Blend, add the same ratio of oil/vinegar, and salt to preferred taste and consistency. You could also use some plain white vinegar as well, if you don’t like the sweetness of the balsamic.
  8. Bottle it up and eat.

Enjoy.

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It’s A Boy! Meet Marlon Kalehoff! http://www.attentionmax.com/boy-meet-marlon-kalehoff http://www.attentionmax.com/boy-meet-marlon-kalehoff#comments Sun, 21 Sep 2014 15:17:08 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8745

Our nerves were shot. Laura had “laughing contractions” during dinner on Thursday, seven days past due date. We drove to Mt. Sinai Roosevelt Hospital, and our new baby boy came out a couple hours later. No drugs, all natural, just some labor hypnosis podcasts. Enter Marlon Norbury Kalehoff, born 12:12am on September 19, 2014, weighing 7.7 pounds. Laura […]

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Our nerves were shot.

Laura had “laughing contractions” during dinner on Thursday, seven days past due date.

We drove to Mt. Sinai Roosevelt Hospital, and our new baby boy came out a couple hours later. No drugs, all natural, just some labor hypnosis podcasts.

Enter Marlon Norbury Kalehoff, born 12:12am on September 19, 2014, weighing 7.7 pounds.

Laura and I thought the name Marlon was cool. We decided to honor his great grandfather Norbury with the middle name.

He has a huge appetite, and is sleeping through the night (so far, knock on wood).

His brother and sister think he’s really cool. They like to wheel him around the hospital floor, and he likes it too. It puts him to sleep.

Now it’s time to pick up Laura and Marlon from the hospital and bring them home.

We’re so lucky!

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Kayak Fishing http://www.attentionmax.com/kayak-fishing http://www.attentionmax.com/kayak-fishing#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 23:26:24 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8738

Since I was a toddler, I’ve fished Long Island Sound waters most seasons from an outboard runabout. Common catches include bluefish, striped bass, flounder, fluke and (undesirable) sea robins. I always wanted to try reeling in bluefish and stripers from a sea kayak with light tackle. It seemed like a more immersive and vulnerable thrilling method of fishing. […]

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Since I was a toddler, I’ve fished Long Island Sound waters most seasons from an outboard runabout. Common catches include bluefish, striped bass, flounder, fluke and (undesirable) sea robins.

I always wanted to try reeling in bluefish and stripers from a sea kayak with light tackle. It seemed like a more immersive and vulnerable thrilling method of fishing. You can drift naturally right at the surface, and maneuver easily in shallow and rocky shorelines.

I also liked the idea of quickly strapping a light, seaworthy vessel to the top of my car at a moment’s notice, and launch from almost anywhere. We go camping a few times a year, usually near water, and I always thought we were missing out by not having kayaks.

So after paddling some rentals with my kids during a camping trip this summer, we went onto eBay and purchased some ocean kayaks. We got a Necky Dolphin for me, and a Perception Prodigy XS for my seven-year-old son. Both are discontinued classics.

For our maiden trip on Sunday (not Saturday) before Labor Day, we paddled all around New Rochelle Harbor on the southern side of Glen Island, adjacent City Island, Orchard Beach and Pelham Bay Park.

We learned a few things about kayak fishing:

  • You need to develop a little more coordination. Kayaking is a workout that requires coordination, and kayak fishing more so. Alternating between paddling and casting takes some getting used to, but becomes natural after a while.
  • Slightly more addictive. Fishing is fun, and addictive. Doing it from a kayak made it more so. On our first day on the kayaks, we started small with some Kastmaster fishing lures, and quickly pulled in a bunch of snappers (baby bluefish). We casted and reeled them in like Pavlov’s dog.
  • Fish feel bigger. Kayak fishing is more immersive because you’re on a tippy platform inches from the water. Even snappers feel bigger from a kayak. And when walls of bunker (baitfish that bluefish and stripers crave and corral into frenzied schools) are jumping all around you, they will occasionally land on your kayak, or potentially on you. Hooking a fish 10 pounds or higher is thrilling. I haven’t caught anything bigger…yet. (A great white shark demonstrated recently to two Massachusetts women that fish can eat you when you’re in a kayak.)
  • Dangerous boaters. You have to watch our for idiot boaters. The only thing more vulnerable than swimming in open water is being in a kayak in open water. You can easily get run over and crushed (which is why kayaking fishing with kids ages six and seven requires another level of coordination). Busy weekends like Labor Day mean lots of intoxicated boaters, most with little experience handling their boats. Yellow and orange are the best colors for kayaks and gear to ensure you stand out against the water.
  • Scuppers and guts. My Necky Dolpin is a sit-on-top kayak with scuppers in the footwells, seating area and rear storage well, to drain water that comes in from waves, paddling or rain. There’s a fishing benefit to this: I can snag bunker , fillet them and bait my hooks right at my feet, then quickly wash away all the blood and scales with seawater. It all just drains away so I can stay neat and get on with fishing.
  • Storage wells hold kids. Another benefit of my Dolphin kayak is the rear storage well, which is shaped to hold a scuba tank. It’s great for carrying little passengers, or climbing up on after you jump in the water for a swim.
  • Two kids require two kids kayaks. Getting one kid-sized kayak when you have two kids was a mistake. I figured we’d get one to see how they really liked it. They fought over it all day, and the subsequent days we went out.

So far, it’s a blast.

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USPS Paddles The Scenic Route http://www.attentionmax.com/usps-paddles-scenic-route http://www.attentionmax.com/usps-paddles-scenic-route#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:24:57 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8728

When you think of paddles, you think of scenic outdoors while traveling efficiently and elegantly through water. Though this is a different sort of paddling trip. Last weekend, I ordered online a paddle for my ocean kayak, and it was shipped via USPS Priority Mail 1-Day. I’m not an efficiency expert. I don’t know much about shipping and logistics. Yet the route my paddle […]

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When you think of paddles, you think of scenic outdoors while traveling efficiently and elegantly through water. Though this is a different sort of paddling trip. :-)

Last weekend, I ordered online a paddle for my ocean kayak, and it was shipped via USPS Priority Mail 1-Day.

I’m not an efficiency expert. I don’t know much about shipping and logistics. Yet the route my paddle took just doesn’t look right. At four days (and counting), the delivery didn’t meet the “1-Day” promise.

Here’s a screenshot of  my paddle’s tracking information, posted online by USPS:

USPS Delivery Tracking

USPS Scenic Route: 113 Miles

I plotted a likely route on Google Maps, given all the recorded stops. It started at a warehouse in Brooklyn, NY; then went East to Bethpage on Long Island; then West through the Bronx and across the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey; then South on the New Jersey Turnpike to reach Kearny; then Northeast through New York City to Westchester, where I live.

Google Maps Screenshot

Direct Route: 21.5 Miles

Conversely, I plotted the paddle’s trip if it went directly from Brooklyn to its final destination.

Google Maps Screenshot

I’m sure there’s a great reason why my paddle had to travel more than five times the distance it needed to over the course of several days. A shipping algorithm probably linked various established routes that would get it where it needed to go as cost-effectively as possible.

But if I’d known that, I would have driven 35 minutes to the Brooklyn warehouse to pick up the paddle myself. I’d be out kayaking with my son now on this gorgeous Labor Day weekend. Instead, I’m writing about the prolonged scenic route it took through the New York City metropolitan area.

Regional shipping algorithms should factor in unwieldy routes and give receivers the option of picking up items at closer points.

Modern world  problems. :-)

Photo: Antoine Gady

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Whatever Pleases You (On Your Personal Blog) http://www.attentionmax.com/personal-blog http://www.attentionmax.com/personal-blog#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 11:32:39 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8720

“There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you.” That’s according to Fred Wilson, in an essay about a New York renaissance in personal blogging. I agree. I write on this website about things that please me — my work, my family and interests like sailing, […]

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“There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you.”

That’s according to Fred Wilson, in an essay about a New York renaissance in personal blogging.

I agree. I write on this website about things that please me — my work, my family and interests like sailing, farming, cooking and Costco. Shakeshack Singles please me, so I chose to include one as the feature image of this post. Sometimes I decide to switch the visual themes around.

Sometimes it pleases me to do or publish nothing (which is often).

While I can do whatever pleases me — technically — I also respect the public accountability that goes along with doing it in the open.

You take greater care and hold yourself to higher community standards when it all comes back to you.

(Quite the opposite of Secret.)

Photo: Lucas Richarz

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Cockroaches and Pop-Up Ads http://www.attentionmax.com/cockroaches-pop-up-ads http://www.attentionmax.com/cockroaches-pop-up-ads#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 01:19:15 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8713

The Atlantic published recently some great historical (as of this writing) essays about two staples of the Internet: pop-up ads and email (aka “cockroach”). They’ve come with some great quotes as well. The first, on the beloved pop-up ad: Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: […]

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The Atlantic published recently some great historical (as of this writing) essays about two staples of the Internet: pop-up ads and email (aka “cockroach”).

They’ve come with some great quotes as well.

The first, on the beloved pop-up ad:

Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: the pop-up ad…Specifically, we came up with it when a major car company freaked out that they’d bought a banner ad on a page that celebrated anal sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.

– Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and principal research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab, and formerly a programmer at Tripod.com, where he wrote the code for the first pop-up ad. Read story.

The second, on beloved email, which is not dead:

Email—yes, email—is one way forward for a less commercial, less centralized web, and the best thing is, this beautiful cockroach of a social network is already living in all of our homes.

– Alexis Madrigal, deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. Read story.

Cockroach Photo: Jeremy Page.

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No, We Are Not Finding Out The Sex Of Our Unborn Child http://www.attentionmax.com/why-were-not-finding-out-the-sex http://www.attentionmax.com/why-were-not-finding-out-the-sex#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 12:53:53 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8706

“Do you know what you are having?…Girl or boy?” That’s the first question I get when I tell people we’re expecting a newborn, or when they see Laura’s bump. It is so predictable. Laura and me? No, we are not finding out the sex of our unborn child. We didn’t find out the sex of our fist two babies until they were […]

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“Do you know what you are having?…Girl or boy?”

That’s the first question I get when I tell people we’re expecting a newborn, or when they see Laura’s bump. It is so predictable.

Laura and me? No, we are not finding out the sex of our unborn child. We didn’t find out the sex of our fist two babies until they were born. We’re holding out for our third. I believe we’re a minority, and there are fewer of us today versus five years ago.

I think learning the sex of your baby at birth is one of the best surprises in the world. A birth is exciting no matter what, but adding “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy” makes it more so climatic. There’s a raw joy and innocence that accompanies the surprise, a feeling you experience less as an adult. There also is a lot of fun in anticipating the what-ifs of either sex — name debates, activities, looks, traits.

Many parents and soon-to-be parents tell me they just couldn’t wait to know. Some say it’s more practical to know so they can decorate the nursery with the right color scheme and wardrobe. Some say they need to let other little siblings get used to the idea. That’s fine. I respect other people’s preferences.

Me? Life is full of surprises — some you like and some you don’t. Learning the sex of your baby at birth is one I like very much.

P.S. Early September looms. We’re on high alert.

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When Malice Prompts Forgiveness http://www.attentionmax.com/malice-prompts-forgiveness http://www.attentionmax.com/malice-prompts-forgiveness#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 01:25:37 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8692

I battle continuously hackers seeking to embed hidden backlinks in my website code to game and gain Google search engine visibility for various e-commerce websites. Since I launched this website in 2007,  these invasive parasites have cost me countless hours engaged in malware removal, cleanups and Google restitutions. They’ve forced me to pay a subscription to a malware monitoring and security […]

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I battle continuously hackers seeking to embed hidden backlinks in my website code to game and gain Google search engine visibility for various e-commerce websites.

Since I launched this website in 2007,  these invasive parasites have cost me countless hours engaged in malware removal, cleanups and Google restitutions. They’ve forced me to pay a subscription to a malware monitoring and security service — like a tax for making this website and my writings public to all.

Google’s SEO webspam team doesn’t like these characters, either. And that’s becoming more obvious as companies reach out to me, pleading for me to remove the fraudulent backlinks they installed, for fear of penalties from Google. (Apparently, I still have a few fraudulent backlinks, for which I’ll need to speak with my website security service, Sucuri.)

Here is the latest request from a company to remove malicious backlinks:

Hello Site Owner!

My name is (Andrew) and I am reaching out to you as a representative from *********.com. We are all at the mercy of Google, unfortunately.

As Google updates their algorithm we are forced to adapt and adhere to their quality guidelines. We understand the stress this puts on webmasters, and we apologize for that inconvenience, but for our own best interest we cannot ignore Google.

We have recently completed a full backlink profile audit on our site’s and have found links that were once valuable, may now have a negative effect on our internet presence. We found the following backlinks from your site:

http://www.attentionmax.com/my_new_car_shopping_experience

http://www.attentionmax.com/my_new_car_shopping_experience/feed

 

Please remove the above links as well as all other links ********* .com
These links were created by a former SEO company with whom we no longer have a relationship with. We were not aware of this link building scheme and apologize for their actions.

We want to highlight the fact that this is not only an attempt to improve our website, but this will have a positive effect on your site as well.

We also do not participate in paying to have links removed, as advised from Google’s webspam team. Feel free to view Google’s advice on paying for link removals here.

Again, we are deeply sorry for this inconvenience. Please let us know if you are willing to help us help you and remove the links listed above.

We greatly appreciate your time and attention to this matter. Thank you very much!

Best,
Andrew

The author of this email, whose email domain is from the e-commerce site in question, claims to be an official representative of that company. The author fails to provide a full name or any substantial contact information, though claims to share in the unfortunate “mercy of Google.” Further, the author of the email assigns full blame on the malicious backlink activity and my “inconvenience” to a “former SEO company” with whom they have no further relationship. I’ve been sent this exact letter multiple times, which indicates it is a form letter that has been sent not only to me, but to many other websites.

When malice prompts forgiveness, it means that Google’s webspam team is doing its job.

Photo: Nikita Kravchuk

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Whose Job Is It? http://www.attentionmax.com/whose-job http://www.attentionmax.com/whose-job#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 12:12:30 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8665

See something that doesn’t look right? Wondering whose job it is to make it right? Don’t stand around asking while the problem gets worse! If you’re a leader, a team player, or just a descent person, you make it your job!

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See something that doesn’t look right?

Wondering whose job it is to make it right?

Don’t stand around asking while the problem gets worse!

If you’re a leader, a team player, or just a descent person, you make it your job!

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Pay Phones Do Still Exist http://www.attentionmax.com/pay-phones-exist http://www.attentionmax.com/pay-phones-exist#comments Sat, 21 Jun 2014 12:51:07 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8658

I published recently a post about smart phone apps needing better offline modes given the poor reliability of wireless signals, especially in major cities like New York. I featured an ironic photo of a pay phone graveyard. I lamented subtly the days when, from a street corner, you could get a solid call connection. In the back of my mind I was […]

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I published recently a post about smart phone apps needing better offline modes given the poor reliability of wireless signals, especially in major cities like New York.

I featured an ironic photo of a pay phone graveyard. I lamented subtly the days when, from a street corner, you could get a solid call connection.

In the back of my mind I was assuming that pay phones don’t exist anymore. But as you can see from this post’s feature image, they do. My son took this photo from a KOA camp ground in Saugerties, New York.

A working pay phone booth was such a novelty for both of us that we ended up taking several pictures of ourselves in it. I also loved the sign to remind callers to dial 911 in the case of an emergency.

Pay phones do still exist.

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Well Compensated Employees Foster Superior Customer Experience http://www.attentionmax.com/well-compensated-employees-foster-superior-customer-experience http://www.attentionmax.com/well-compensated-employees-foster-superior-customer-experience#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 01:20:53 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8648

I’m delighted to see my favorite retailer, Costco, rank second in Glassdoor’s latest poll of the Top 25 Companies for Compensation & Benefits. Costco was the only retailer on the list, and ranked only behind Google, and ahead of Facebook. Google and Facebook are two other companies I admire tremendously. But let’s go back to Costco, because, […]

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I’m delighted to see my favorite retailer, Costco, rank second in Glassdoor’s latest poll of the Top 25 Companies for Compensation & Benefits.

Costco was the only retailer on the list, and ranked only behind Google, and ahead of Facebook. Google and Facebook are two other companies I admire tremendously.

But let’s go back to Costco, because, unlike Google or Facebook, it’s a company where direct customer-to-employee interactions comprise a HUGE part of the customer experience.

If you’re a Costco regular, you know that its employees — from the highest execs to the checkout attendants who draw happy faces on the back of your receipts — tend to be happier, more dedicated to their jobs, and more attentive to customers versus employees at other big retailers.

Good compensation and benefits foster employee satisfaction, and that fosters employee engagement, and that fosters a superior customer experience.

See Glassdoor’s full list.

Photo: Clint

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The Intensifying Firehose of Customer Satisfaction Surveys http://www.attentionmax.com/firehose-customer-satisfaction-surveys http://www.attentionmax.com/firehose-customer-satisfaction-surveys#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 15:12:07 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8635

Customer satisfaction surveys are saturating e-mail inboxes with each customer experience. Out-of-the-box survey collection softwares and tools are making it too easy. Couple that with ubiquitous adoption of email marketing, and every customer with an e-mail address now is drinking from a firehose of customer satisfaction surveys. If I responded to every customer satisfaction survey that lands in […]

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Customer satisfaction surveys are saturating e-mail inboxes with each customer experience. Out-of-the-box survey collection softwares and tools are making it too easy. Couple that with ubiquitous adoption of email marketing, and every customer with an e-mail address now is drinking from a firehose of customer satisfaction surveys.

If I responded to every customer satisfaction survey that lands in my inbox, I would do nothing all day but respond to customer satisfaction surveys. As a result, I find myself allocating feedback (and valuable time) to companies, products and services with at least one of two characteristics:

1. Significant Past Involvement. Companies I have had significant involvement with — such as a large purchase, very good or very bad experiences. I feel compelled to inform companies whether they delivered on their promise. Yes, great! No, here’s a rant!

2. Significant, Anticipated Future Involvement. Companies I expect to have significant involvement with in the future. Usually motivated by loyalty and occasionally mandated by some other force, I feel compelled to inform companies not only whether they delivered on their promise in the past, but what they need to change in order deliver on their promise in the future. I want companies I intend to (or have to) do business with in the future to know exactly how to satisfy me.

On recall, I can tell you I responded to satisfaction surveys in the past few weeks from Amazon, JetBlue and Enterprise. I even responded to surveys from Facebook and Twitter about their user experiences. I admire these brands, spend a lot of time and money with them, and plan to do so in the future. I like them and want them to succeed and have a relationship with me.

Conversely, I land on about three or four websites a day where I’m intercepted with a customer feedback survey, but I now can’t recall which companies they are. I only remember that I was annoyed by them, and that’s a bad place to be! :-)

Toilet Satisfaction Survey Full

 

What does all this mean? More Exacting Customer Feedback Responders

Customers in every industry must be more selective with their time and attention when it comes to giving feedback. They must choose which surveys they’ll respond to amidst a growing volume of choice. By law of physics, response rates will continue to go down on average, and respondents will lump into more defined segments based on their more exacting survey selection criteria.

You might say that survey participation has always been a challenge, and that’s why market researchers use incentives. That may be true, but incentives typically lure a small subset of poor-quality, professional survey takers, who seek monetary rewards — especially in mass-market consumer goods and services. Incentives will have to get better, yet that will only intensify more exacting selection criteria.

The Future

By definition, satisfaction feedback comes from more engaged customers. However, I predict that feedback will come increasingly from only the most engaged customers with a significant stake — not casual ones. This is a generalization, to be sure. But based on the number of surveys people are getting, they’re going to have say “no” to a lot more. People just don’t have mouths or stomachs big enough to drink from the customer survey firehose.

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Photos: Jason Garber and Heather McQuaid

 

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Why Pay For Software When You Can Get It For Free? http://www.attentionmax.com/pay-software-free http://www.attentionmax.com/pay-software-free#comments Sun, 18 May 2014 21:29:43 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8629

I’ve been using Personal Capital‘s personal-finance account aggregator and dashboard. It’s a lot like Mint, but for grownups who invest, and it’s awesome. Personal Capital helps me keep track of financial accounts, including savings, checking, brokerage, mortgage, loans and other assets. It keeps track of every transaction, and has useful reporting, trends and analytics, like investment planning, modeling and […]

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I’ve been using Personal Capital‘s personal-finance account aggregator and dashboard. It’s a lot like Mint, but for grownups who invest, and it’s awesome.

Personal Capital helps me keep track of financial accounts, including savings, checking, brokerage, mortgage, loans and other assets. It keeps track of every transaction, and has useful reporting, trends and analytics, like investment planning, modeling and fund-cost calculators.

Not surprising, I received recently a promotional email from Personal Capital describing its growth:

Thank you for being part of Personal Capital’s incredible growth story. We are now managing over $500 million for our clients, have over 500,000 registered users, and are tracking over $70 billion in assets on our free dashboard. And we keep growing 10% month-over-month. With this growth, we’ll be able to do even more to improve your Personal Capital experience.

Personal Capital doesn’t cost anything, but it’s not quite free, either. Users exchange their finance data, which the company uses to qualify prospects and sell them financial advisory and brokerage services. I am one such qualified prospect and have received a few cordial calls from one of their sales guys in the past six months.

I’ve researched the brokerage service and it looks like a great alternative to traditional brokers — lower cost, more efficient, more effective and transparent — with the benefit of the Personal Capital reporting dashboard. But it’s not for me.

That said, I absolutely would pay for the Personal Capital dashboard, and I told that to the sales rep who calls me. He said I’m not the first person who’s said this. Then he asked, “Why would you want to pay for the dashboard if you can simply get it for free?”

First, it’s fair to pay for products I value. Second, if I were to pay for the dashboard, then Personal Capital would be incentivized to innovate faster, and make the dashboard the best self-serve finance tool in the world, for that reason alone. Despite amazing capabilities, the dashboard now sustains based on its effectiveness on generating sales leads and engagement for other  paid services.

Personal Capital: Thank you for your amazing software. Now consider this an open offer for a relationship based on licensed technology.

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7 Strategies To Keep Executives In Touch With The Front Line http://www.attentionmax.com/7-strategies-keep-executives-touch-front-line http://www.attentionmax.com/7-strategies-keep-executives-touch-front-line#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 09:50:31 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8615

“The higher up you go in an organization, the harder it is to stay in touch with what’s really happening on the front lines,” says strategy consultant Douglas Wilson. “And the bad news—if you hear it at all—is presented only in the best possible light. How do you get the real truth about what’s happening out […]

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“The higher up you go in an organization, the harder it is to stay in touch with what’s really happening on the front lines,” says strategy consultant Douglas Wilson. “And the bad news—if you hear it at all—is presented only in the best possible light. How do you get the real truth about what’s happening out in the field?”

Wilson suggests in Harvard Business Review blog three questions that executives should ask front-line workers:

  • How can I help you?
  • Why are we doing it this way?
  • How are we doing in living out our values?

I like these questions. They’re pragmatic, probing and open-ended — they force thoughtful responses. However, I don’t like Wilson’s premise: An executive in a top-down workplace environment where important information does not naturally percolate up from the front-lines where execution happens. That’s a really bad place to be disconnected from! And it’s a problem that can happen not only with senior executives at large companies, but with managers and direct reports at small companies. Regardless, this is one thing that separates managers from leaders.

The way to keep important information flowing up, down and across (as organizations often are matrix) is to create a culture that will make that happen deliberately. In my experience, here are a few of the basics to doing that:

  1. Create and Communicate Purpose. The more an employee understands the larger business purpose and opportunity — and how it connects to her work — the more engaged, productive and impacting she’ll be on the front lines. Leaders must ensure purpose and opportunity are communicated and understood all the time.
  2. Keep A Hand In The Front Lines. Want to know what’s going on out of the office? Don’t be too “higher up” to immerse in the front lines. Costco co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jim Sinegal was famous for traveling to each location every year, to inspect them personally—a task that virtually all major retail chain leaders delegate to subordinates. Costco is one of the most successful companies in the world because its managers keep a hand in the front-line execution. Executives who only do strategy are lame dinosaurs!
  3. Empower Decision-Making. When you instill decision-making with localized, front-line workers, you instill pride, accountability and collaboration. Empowered decision making on the front lines requires a definitive operating playbook, training and reporting systems. Shared values matter, too. Trust and autonomy will ensue.
  4. Hire the Right People.  Hire top people not only with the right skills, but people who believe in your purpose and opportunity. Hire people who will adopt and live out your playbook in their execution. Talent is compounding: if you hire the best people — to begin with — they’ll tend to hire more top players like themselves.
  5. Be An Open, Trusted Sounding Board. Maintain an environment where workers up, down and across feel comfortable sharing and probing for information. That means you actually have to listen to what they say, and respect them and the importance of their intelligence. All workers need to do the same with one another, and common practice begins with the behavior of leaders.
  6. Maintain a Manager-Employee Communications Framework. Define the key intelligence you need on an ongoing basis — and formally collect it. It could be a simple weekly memo, required of front-line workers or direct reports, that includes: weekly goals; progress to goals and milestones; and big opportunities. A great item to include is “executive discussion topics”…
  7. Surface Executive Discussion Topics.  There are three things an executive or manager should know from direct reports or front-line workers: 1)What is going really well? 2) What is going really poorly? 3) What decisions can we make to be better? If you can maintain an open, ongoing conversation with workers that addresses these questions all the time — and a culture that does the same — then you’ll end up with an organization where there is greater consciousness of  the things that matter most. That way you can act on them. :-)

Thanks to Douglas Wilson for his thoughts, which prompted mine.

Final question of the day: How do you keep your head out of the sand and connected to the front lines?

Photo: Peter

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We Need Offline Smartphone Apps Because Wireless Data Service Is Not Good Enough http://www.attentionmax.com/offline-smartphone-apps-wireless-data-service-not-good-enough http://www.attentionmax.com/offline-smartphone-apps-wireless-data-service-not-good-enough#comments Sat, 10 May 2014 15:12:48 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8599

The excitement of mobile computing suggests a utopia with always-on cloud connections, and apps that don’t need to function offline. I spend a lot of time in the Bay Area, where a lot of smartphone hardware and apps are designed and built. My perception is that wireless data connections there are much better. People there also have less appreciation for how bad […]

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The excitement of mobile computing suggests a utopia with always-on cloud connections, and apps that don’t need to function offline.

I spend a lot of time in the Bay Area, where a lot of smartphone hardware and apps are designed and built. My perception is that wireless data connections there are much better. People there also have less appreciation for how bad things are in places like…New York City.

No Cellular Data Network

I live in the New York City suburbs and commute daily into Manhattan. That includes trains and walking, both above and below ground, around buildings, people and trees. If there’s one thing my commute proves, it’s that wireless data service in New York is not good enough to support the most important apps on my smartphone.

The spotty data service around New York’s geographic nooks and crannies affects not only standard voice-call quality, but makes key services unusable, like most news readers, streaming music players (Songza and TuneIn), fitness trackers (Fitbit), and voice and texting applications (Google Voice). The connection quality also severely erodes the experience of social networking and email apps (Gmail).

On a related note, I use the Pulse newsreader because it has a good offline reading capability. Many online publishers offer only partial news feeds — a short summary with a link to the full story on the website. They do this in order to drive page views for advertising. The problem: no mobile data connection, no story. That’s one reason why I love — and read much more — quality business and tech news sites that offer full RSS feeds, like WSJ’s CMO Today and Re/Code.

Finally, sporadic wireless data service can make your smartphone deplete its battery faster, and even more so when you’re attempting to use apps that require data connections. All the more reason for me to just give up on using my smartphone during commutes.

Until wireless data service becomes more reliable and ubiquitous, smartphone manufacturers and app developers must design better for offline use cases. Smartphones and apps need to do a better job of anticipating data and content requests; fetching, storing and buffering; and creating interface and user experiences that make the best of sporadic connections and data time-outs.

Thankfully, my Kindle works great. I use the Push To Kindle app, which lets you send web articles from your desktop computer or smartphone to your Kindle app or device for offline reading.

Happy reading.

Photo: Dave Bledsoe

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Meeting Guidelines http://www.attentionmax.com/meeting-guidelines http://www.attentionmax.com/meeting-guidelines#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 02:25:52 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8587

Workplace meetings are contradictions. On one hand, they are fundamental components of interaction, collaboration and problem-solving. On the other hand, it is difficult to manage their abundance, frequency, duration, planning and execution. Because time and energy are scarce, and opportunities are so high, I have a few personal guidelines for the incredible investment we often disregard as “meetings”: The default […]

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Workplace meetings are contradictions.

On one hand, they are fundamental components of interaction, collaboration and problem-solving.

On the other hand, it is difficult to manage their abundance, frequency, duration, planning and execution.

Because time and energy are scarce, and opportunities are so high, I have a few personal guidelines for the incredible investment we often disregard as “meetings”:

  • The default should be to avoid meetings, given their frequency and abundance of invites.
  • Invest in meetings to connect and collaborate with others, particularly when tackling strategic, creative or technical problems.
  • Status updates are a waste of valuable meeting time, and should prompt abrupt meeting endings.
  • When a meeting is necessary, the default duration should be 25 minutes — enough time to state the meeting purpose, engage in small talk to establish social position, and  tackle one to three issues, preferably decisions.
  • If a meeting includes formal interaction, discovery or problem-solving — like a business lunch or brainstorm — then the meeting can go for one hour (the limit of most people’s mental stamina).
  • The meeting organizer should always facilitate necessary preparation, including an agenda (thanks for the reminder, Pauline Ores) and venue, and communicate expectations of participants and outcome.
  • Meetings are valuable interactions, and should be respected by arriving alert, and fully engaging and focusing (no devices) throughout. And no Powerpoint (thank you for the reminder, Jay Bryant.)
  • The organizer should articulate the meeting conclusion and necessary actions.
  • Closing a meeting means completing your notes and leaving your physical or virtual meeting area in as good — or better — shape than you found it.
  • Conducting effective meetings is a craft, and leaders should always be searching for ways to improve their craft.

How do you make your meetings matter more?

Photo: Nathan Jones

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The Predictability Of Bob Ross http://www.attentionmax.com/predictability-of-bob-ross http://www.attentionmax.com/predictability-of-bob-ross#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 11:25:04 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8576

I enjoyed FiveThirtyEight’s statistical analysis of the paintings of Bob Ross. It’s a novel analysis, and I’m glad it was done. Though it didn’t really produce any big surprises. It confirmed what we already knew. Ross tended to paint natural landscapes, with no people. Among the paintings in his TV show, 91% had at least one […]

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I enjoyed FiveThirtyEight’s statistical analysis of the paintings of Bob Ross.

It’s a novel analysis, and I’m glad it was done. Though it didn’t really produce any big surprises. It confirmed what we already knew.

Ross tended to paint natural landscapes, with no people. Among the paintings in his TV show, 91% had at least one tree and 85% had at least two — yes, Bob wanted his happy trees to have friends.

The big insight in this analysis came not from statistics, but from Annette Kowalski, who founded Bob Ross Inc. with the painter and remains the steward of his work. She said, “The majority of people who watch Bob Ross have no interest in painting. Mostly it’s his calming voice.”

Taking that idea one step further, Bob’s calming voice reflected a simple persona. Bob’s voice was calming partly because of his tonality, but also because his words were so predictable. There was little mystery with Bob, at least in his TV persona. Including the consistent application of his painting technique, you always knew what to expect. Calming, like a visit to a spa.

Perhaps that’s why a comprehensive statistical analysis of his paintings — a reflection of his predictable persona — revealed so little.

(Photo: Bob Ross Inc. via Wikipedia.)

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Wawa http://www.attentionmax.com/wawa http://www.attentionmax.com/wawa#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 19:11:34 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8570

When in Pennsylvania, I always stop at Wawa for a coffee, and sometimes a breakfast sandwich. Wawa is like the Costco of convenience stores. The food and drinks (particularly coffee) are good, the employees are happy and friendly, the prices are fair and the experiences are consistent. I wish Wawa would come to the Westchester, […]

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When in Pennsylvania, I always stop at Wawa for a coffee, and sometimes a breakfast sandwich.
Wawa is like the Costco of convenience stores. The food and drinks (particularly coffee) are good, the employees are happy and friendly, the prices are fair and the experiences are consistent.
I wish Wawa would come to the Westchester, New York area.

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Winter’s Cruel Joke http://www.attentionmax.com/winters-cruel-joke http://www.attentionmax.com/winters-cruel-joke#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:58:20 +0000 http://www.attentionmax.com/?p=8562

The year 2014 brought one of the worst Northeast winters in decades. There was a persistent cycle of snow storms, thaws and bitter freezes, resulting in layers of ice. Temperatures in the fahrenheit single digits were too common. That winter just played another cruel joke on us. My son and I prepped our garden patch last […]

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The year 2014 brought one of the worst Northeast winters in decades. There was a persistent cycle of snow storms, thaws and bitter freezes, resulting in layers of ice. Temperatures in the fahrenheit single digits were too common.

That winter just played another cruel joke on us.

My son and I prepped our garden patch last weekend, as the temperature exceeded 70 degrees. We are proud of our 10’x25′ pile of dirt and manure, as it will foster many vegetables and herbs from late spring through late fall.

During one of our myriad supply trips to Home Depot, we remarked how many people were stocking up early on seedlings and potted annuals to get their gardens started. It was a bustling scene, with potted plants filled as high on the outdoor shelves as you’d see on any late spring day — and just as many weekend warriors loading them into their orange shopping carts. It’s as if these poor fools were doing anything to escape the winter doldrums and rid themselves of cabin fever. I remarked to my son how risky it is to plant seedlings this early after such a ferocious winter.

Sure enough, this week brought more snow and freezing rain.

Before:

Garden Bed Prepped - April 10, 2014

After:

Garden Bed Prepped, With Snow - April 10, 2014

I’m not into winter gardening.

When will this winter ever end?

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