Archive for March, 2006

If the numbers fit…

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Interesting article. Various economists weigh in on the cost/benefit stats to the United States of allowing immigration to continue. Some say it’s a wash. Some say it’s a small benefit, but very small and not worth it in the other costs. Others say it doesn’t matter until the first boomers reach official retirement age (2011).

Given the furious debates about immigration going on at mulitple levels of government, the article is timely. I’m hard pressed, though, to think that a) we could actually close our borders (without coming off vaguely like the former East Germany), b) closing our borders would actually stop those desperate enough, or c) that Americans are about to go out in great numbers to pick lettuce–no matter what the pay.

Around my office in Chicago, nearly 50% of my neighbors are Hispanic, many from Mexico. Did you know that in a Hispanic grocery store you will find 30 kinds of cheese you probably never heard of? Did you know that rice pudding is one of the most heavenly desserts ever invented?

As 77 million boomers retire, we’re going to need people to fill the workforce. We’re going to need people who have an education. We’re going to need people who speak English and know about hard work. Why would we stop the people who could fill that vacuum from coming here and learning English and getting educated?

Seems to me if the numbers are close to a wash, we ought to consult a higher authority–our hearts. I’m all for practicality and in this case, I think the smart thing matches perfectly with the kind and loving thing.

Employee-owned newspapers–let's hope they "get" blogging

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

Lots of back and forth on the good vs. bad of employees owning newspapers. My first thought was, hey, they’re going to learn what it’s like for bloggers who manage to make their blogs into revenue-generating activities–Small Business Trends is a great example of a blog-that’s-become-an-ezine-that’s-become-a-business.

But then I thought, no, that’s not fair. Newspapers are so much more complicated than the one-person world of a blog, where you control everything that happens, including which and how many ads will appear. Newspapers require advertising to pay their overhead–equipment, multi-shift workers, etc. Subscription fees could never cover those steep requirements.

But those employees will be ahead of similar others if they start a blog to complement their news writing.

Magic: speech without talking

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

This augurs well for business people, writers, students, and lots of other people who would like to take notes but don’t want to write but can’t speak out loud. A Ph.D. has invented a mechanism for reading the electromagnetic current that comes from your throat when you’re just thinking about saying words. It’s called subvocal speech recognition and I can see the future: people dictating notes to their computers or talking on their cell phones without disturbing anyone else, even in a crowded meeting room or a bus or airplane.

One guy in Japan is even working on a subvocal cell phone that works by putting sensors on your fingers and thumb against your face. And I just saw on Animal Planet that they’ve inserted a piece into a deaf dog’s skull and attached a hearing device to it–the dog can hear again. I remember joking last year that one day we’d be exchanging thoughts through metal plates in our heads.

Judging by this stuff, that day’s not far off.

Is your website ready for mobile?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

You know the day is coming when wireless Internet connections will be ubiquitous on cell phones, and more people will be looking for information while they’re on the move. The challenge for all of us is to make sure our website (or at least an optimized version of it) is easy to read and makes a strong impact on the mobile browser screen.

Here comes a group that’s hoping to hurry the process along. They’ve set themselves up as official registrats of a new domain extension–.mobi–that will be (they hope) used for lots of sites optimized for tiny screens. While Google and Microsoft have already bought into a .mobi address, their streamlined sites appear automatically when someone on a mobile device types in the dot-com address. That’s what you should set up yours to do, too.

And as the Internet explosion of business online continues, it’s going to matter less and less in the future what your extension is. It’s all about user-friendliness and valuable content–like it’s always been. It’s only the venue that’s changing.

State investigates private business for road care

Monday, March 20th, 2006

If you’ve ever driven in Pennsylvania, especially around the Pittsburgh area, you know that many of their roads are less than delightful to drive on. I lived in Pittsburgh for nearly 4 years and can tell you that, between the frequent potholes and the frequent occurrence of inadequate/absent/incorrectly placed signage, driving in PA can be a miserable experience.

Happily, the state is looking into the possibility of privatizing and adding tolls to its roads. Having to pay a toll to be able to drive on a safe, smooth, well-marked road is a small price to pay. I say, go for it, guys.

Cellular courtesy: Business people must lead the way

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

We are constantly barraged with ads for cell phones. Everybody has to have one today.

Unfortunatley, we haven’t yet established protocols for proper–read: courteous–use of these modern communication tools of our great society. And a lot of people aren’t applying even common sense when using theirs in public. An Information Week writer laments about the lack of manners when using cell phones during flights. And here’s a guy writing about some of the damages that inappropriate cell phone use causes on the golf courses of the world.

There’s no escaping it. Business people must set the standards–we have to keep our priorities in order so that business calls don’t take precedence over respect for polite social interaction. That deal isn’t going to die if you wait 15 minutes or an hour before you take or make that call. Really, I can’t think of anything in the world that can’t wait until you have a bit of privacy to address it. I like the phrase “forced into the role of unwilling eavesdropper.”

Hey, even though the government knows everything about us, that doesn’t mean that John Smith and every other passenger of Flight XXXOO needs to know, too. Let’s show the world how to keep respect and privacy in balance with business needs–and maybe we’ll have a new golf champion come out of nowhere… ” )

Blogging as a tool for direct marketers

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

Well, that’s what this blog is all about–how blogging connects with business. And today I’ll be in Cleveland to facilitate a panel of experts on the topic.

The Northeast Ohio Direct Marketing Association is a hard-working bunch of people in the direct marketing business–which means marketing directly to people as opposed to putting ads on television or in mass circulation publications. Direct was traditionally done through snail mail, but these days it includes email–one of the most powerful means of reaching your audience available today–and now, increasingly, blogging as delivered by a technology called RSS web feeds.

We’re going to talk about the people side of blogging (social networking), the tech side (RSS) and the money side (how to use blogs to make it). It ought to be interesting.

If you’re a rank beginner and want to ground yourself, read some blog terms here.

Top Ten searched tech terms

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

You know, when I was interviewed on the Small Business Trends radio a couple of weeks ago, I pointed out that “blog” was the number one searched term of 2005. And guess what–it and its cousin “blogger” are still hogging two of the top-ten-term slots at TechWeb.com (related to InformationWeek).

Blog and its derivative sit up there with user-type terms such as USBdrive, plug-in, HTML, and WindowsVista. And these terms are mixed in with more-hard-core-tecchie terms like EULA, Drive-by Download (now, who the hell do you think made that up and who’s looking it up?), RFID, and dual core.

Either way, if you bookmark this page, you’ll be able to regularly feel the pulse of business minds regarding questions about technology.

It’s rather amusing to see “blog” still such a curiosity when you’ve been writing about them, recommending them, and publishing them for 3 years.