Friday, April 30, 2010

Wired Flowchart Identifies Where You Should Chat Online

We get this question a lot, and finally Wired has answered us all. You can check out the original here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Boston Globe's Take on PowerPoint Making Us Stupid: When bullets miss their targets

Ok, the Globe's headline is much better than mine. (Though mine was part of an ongoing series looking at technology that makes us stupid.)

Check out "PowerPoint: When bullets miss their targets," which does a nice job of summarizing -- in bulleted form, no less -- the problems and benefits of PowerPoint.

The issue:
■ Ubiquitous Microsoft presentation software now a fixture of high-level military planning efforts. Junior officers spend hours distilling complex issues into PowerPoint. Top commanders skeptical, NYT reports.

■ Pentagon = tip of iceberg. Military’s use of PowerPoint pales next to corporate America’s.

The case for PowerPoint:
■ Radically simplifies decision-making.

■ Offers ready alternative when elegant prose, hard numbers, clear thinking are in short supply.

■ Ideal format for identifying “paradigm shifts,’’ “synergies,’’ “value-adds.’’

The case against PowerPoint:
■ Radically simplifies decision-making.

■ Erodes etiquette. Endless litany of eye-glazing slides in darkened room promotes antisocial behavior — i.e., texting, napping during meetings.

■ “i hate powerpoint’’ —> 1,040,000 Google hits

■ Creates illusion of progress. When in doubt, add more slides!

Lessons “going forward’’:
■ “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.’’ — Brigadier General H.R. McMaster

■ Discard laser pointer. Just talk to people.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Does PowerPoint Make You Stupid?

I've recently wrote about an article that makes the case that e-mail makes us stupid. I do think that e-mail can, in fact, make you stupid.

Next up: PowerPoint. According to a front-page New York Times article, "
We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint."

The point of the article: PowerPoint makes us stupid.

The proof: this slide from a presentation made to American and NATO commanders.

Now I've written before about PowerPoint (Death to PowerPoint?). Here's a group of people who could actually make it happen.

Actually, I'm wondering if we're going to see more articles claiming a different technology tool makes us stupid.

Google? Of course because you used to have to know things. Now you just Google it.

Twitter? Of course, because we're limited to one thought.

iPhone? Sure, because you used to have to interact or keep yourself occupied while waiting in line. Now you can ignore everyone because you've got to check email or download an app.

BlackBerrry? Kind of a combination of Twitter and iPhones. Playing BrickBreaker means never having to interact with other people except through your CrackBerry.

Let me know what you think. I'll even accept e-mail responses and PowerPoint attachments.

Friday, April 23, 2010

How Many NPR Stations Does Boston Need?

Good article in the Boston Globe: "To listeners, line blurs between WGBH, WBUR."

It presents a good look at how two NPR-affiliated stations are competing in one market.

Both stations are working on answering the question: How many NPR stations does Boston need?

On the other hand, how many classic rock stations do we need? Or pop? Or country?

The real issue comes down to advertisers and donors -- and getting the former to buy time and the latter to donate to one station over the other.

How many overlapping stations does one market need?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Should Newspapers Get Rid of Anonymous Posts?

There seems to be growing momentum -- among print journalists, as least -- that newspapers should no longer let readers post anonymous comments to articles online. The idea is that too many anonymous posters hide behind their nom d'online to "spew venom instead of presenting a well-reasoned argument," as Taffy Brodesser-Akner complained in today's New York Times article, "E-Playgrounds Can Get Vicious."

This follows a Wall St. Journal column taking issue with anonymous posts, which I wrote about earlier this week, WSJ looks at "Internet Civility."

I don't see what's gained by allowing anonymous comments. I think with some accountability we will only lose some of the "gratuitous nasty comments" that just don't engender a real dialog or debate on a topic. So I vote yes -- change the system, hold those who comment on articles to be accountable for their comments. Even radio call-in programs have a moderating to pre-screen comments; why shouldn't online newspapers have the same.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Front-Page New York Times Article Validates Another Prediction

The New York Times validated another one of our predictions, this time in a front-page -- though below-the-fold -- article, "Recession Adds to Appeal of Short-Term Jobs."

In Prediction #5: The Top Dozen Business & Technology Stories in 2010 Will Include..., we identified the following topic as one the business press will cover a lot this year:

  • The freelancing of the US workforce -- or how we'll all be contractors or "perma-temps" in the future (especially given the jobless nature of the recovery).
The Times did not use the term perma-temp, but the article described exactly the phenomenon we predicted.

At the end of the year, we will tally what trends we got right, and which ones we got wrong.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

WSJ looks at "Internet Civility"

Of course we all know that old New Yorker cartoon: on the Internet, we're all dogs.

That seems particularly true when it comes to anonymous comments to newspaper articles. I wrote about it last year, citing Virginia Heffernan's column in the New York Times Magazine: "Reader comments are key part of online journalism. So why do they disappoint?"

L. Gordon Crovitz' latest column ,
"Is Internet Civility an Oxymoron?," looks at the same issue.

Apparently. he's shocked, shocked to find "uncivilized and uninformative" comments posted to articles.

What's interesting about his article is that Cravitz lists several ways that sites are addressing the problem of the comments section.

  • Some sites let readers rank the reputation of comment writers.
  • Gawker list comments based on readers' rankings.
  • Some don't permit any postings at all.
  • The Wall St. Journal permits people to review posts by paid subscribers.
  • The Washington Post will soon rank "trusted commentators."

In the end, these are just compromises. The solution would be to reduce the ability of people to hide behind usernames. I think that people would think twice about posting something negative if they had to use their real name.

Why don't sites just require people to use their real names when posting?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Does E-mail Make You Stupid?

It's not that I'm looking for an excuse, but I do think an article from last month's Entrepreneur makes sense.

According to "E-mail is Making You Stupid," "The research is overwhelming. Constant e-mail interruptions make you less productive, less creative and--if you're e-mailing when you're doing something else--just plain dumb."

The article is written by Joe Robinson, who has a vested interest in believing e-mail makes us stupid because he sells a CD called "The Email Overload Survival Kit."

But the point is that constant interruptions do slow us down, do disrupt our thinking process. While I think it is important to take an occasional break from heavy-lifting-type work, the constant demands of e-mail is too much. I'm thnking of implementing some of the tips that Robinson suggests:

Climbing Out of the Inbox

E-mail multiplies like rabbits, each new message generating more and more replies. Want fewer distractions? Send fewer e-mails. Here are some helpful rules.

• Turn off all visual and sound alerts that announce new mail.

• Check e-mail two to four times a day at designated times and never more often than every 45 minutes.

• Don't let e-mail be the default communication device. Communicating by phone or face-to-face saves time and builds relationships.

• Respond immediately only to urgent issues. Just because a message can be delivered instantly does not mean you must reply instantly.

• Severely restrict use of the reply-all function.

• Put "no reply necessary" in the subject line when you can. No one knows when an e-conversation is over without an explicit signal.

• Resist your reply reflex. Don't send e-mails that say "Got it" or "Thanks."

• Use automatic out-of-office messages to carve out focused work time, such as: "I'm on deadline with a project and will be back online after 4 p.m."

I was gonna write more about this, but because I heard the e-mail sound that Outlook makes, I got distracted and forgot my next point.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Forbes Validate Prediction #5 (Again) with Cover Story about H-P & Its the Battle of the Tech Titans

It sounds like a book my kids like: Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse or Hewlett-Packard and the Plan to Win the Battle of the Tech Titans.

Ok, so the latter title is a bit long.

But in writing about the "The Battle of the Tech Titans," in its April 12th issue, Forbes wrote about another story that we said would generate a lot of coverage in 2010: Google vs. Apple vs. Microsoft and EMC vs. HP vs. Oracle vs. IBM.

It's the second time that Forbes has written a story from our list of the 12 top stories in 2010: Prediction #5: The Top Dozen Business & Technology Stories in 2010 Will Include... Just a few weeks ago, Forbes wrote about 3-D TVs, too. (Forbes & Times Validate Prediction #5 by Writing about 3-D TV.)

Of course, they've written about the iPad, but we won't toot our horn too loudly about predicting that story angle; that was a given.

Let us know if you think there are other story angles we missed, that should be included in our list.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fast Company on the Future of Podcasts

Will podcasts replace radio? Fast Company's current issue profiles Adam Carolla in "How Adam Carolla Became a Podcast Superstar."

Interestingly, the article claims that Carolla is making money through his podcasts yet ends the article by quoting Carolla as saying:
"I would have a hard time calling myself a pioneer, sitting around talking while Donny records it and puts it on the Internet," he tells me on the ride back to his house. But the outsidery angst that his fans adore is part of the equation. It's tough to be first. "Think of all those guys who played for the NFL in the '40s and '50s," he says, looming perilously close to a rant. "They made $7,000 a year and had to work at car dealerships in the off-season," he says, pulling into his driveway. "Maybe we'll spend a bunch of money and time, and 20 years later... ." He pauses, does the math. "Ashton Kutcher will get rich off what we thought of. I don't know."
So is Carolla making money? Will podcasts replace radio? The shuffle music format seen on some stations like MikeFM in Boston, Lansing and other markets. in which they play everything, seems like it could be easily replaced by hooking your iPod to your car's radio. If you do that, then podcasts could attract listeners who otherwise might listen to radio.

I'm still a believer in (and a listener of) radio. But I'm not sure if my children will be. I think podcasts, like other online content, will have to charge subscriptions because advertising revenue alone won't support podcasts. But I do think radio stations will have to consider charging for online content they provide.

In the meantime, check on the sidebar to the Carolla article, "A Look at the Ever-Expanding Podcast Universe." It provides a good overview.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Opposing the Editorial Page Can Help Land Letters to the Editor

A new study found that editorial pages were more likely to give space to opposing viewpoints in letters to the editor and to op-ed articles. Published in American Politics Research. the Yale University study, which I read about in the Boston Globe, sought to test the bias of newspapers editorial pages.

The results: "Newspapers were more likely to express interest in a letter if it went against the position expressed by their editorial page, which explains the greater interest in pro-McCain letters, since Obama was endorsed by more of the newspapers. This suggests that editorial page editors are driven more by a desire for balanced and contrarian reporting than sheer bias."

So it seems that organizations are more likely to get coverage if they write in with a letter that opposes an editorial than if they write in to support an editorial.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Some Words You Shouldn't Use in Press Releases

Randy Michaels, CEO of Tribune Co. recently identified 119 words that he banned WGN-AM reporters from using on-air.

A lot of those words were journalistic cliches.

George Carlin, who identified the "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television," and also made fun of journalistic cliches (and here) would have approved, I think.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of PR cliches that that I would like to ban even as sometimes we have to use them, namely:
  • Defining a company as "a leader," a "global leader," or a "leading provider of"
  • Quotes that include the words "We're pleased..." or "We're excited..." Of course the organization is pleased or excited -- if it weren't, it wouldn't be issuing the press release.
  • Describing a product, service or company as "innovative" and "revolutionary."
  • "Mission-critical"
  • "Out-of-the-box"
  • "Award-winning"
Of course, those don't include business cliches like "9 Business Speak Cliches to Abolish."