Sunday Afternoon Bike Ride in Nashville (photos, video)

With my bicycling friend, John Darwin, who also enjoys riding his bike in-town, I often head out on a Sunday afternoon looking for things I’ve never seen in Nashville. These days, that likely means a new real estate development or some area of town I’ve heard about, but have never seen.

As the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four is in Nashville now (the championship game is Tuesday night, April 8), we decided to include a ride by the area of downtown where events are being staged. While that was out of the usual, the other things I ran across made me feel like I was experiencing an episode of Portlandia with a southern accent.

If the gallery that’s embedded below does not show up on your screen, you can see it on Flickr.

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Amazon Dash: Reinventing the Cuecat, 2014

CueCat2Starting over ten years ago, a long-running joke on this blog has been my fascination with (and mockery of) the recurring need inventors (including those who work for huge technology companies) have to re-invent the Cuecat. For those who don’t recognize the term Cuecat as the punchline of a joke, I suggest a rapid glance at its Wikipedia entry and the wonderful one-liner by the late Debbie Barham, the comic and humor writer who said the Cuecat “fails to solve a problem which never existed.”

A couple of years ago, I referred to the repetitive reinvention of the Cuecat as the
Cuecat Conjecture, based on what must be a shared hypothesis among a small group of inventors that human beings have a primeval desire to own a personal barcode scanner they can hold up to anything in order to buy it from Amazon.com.

cuecat-flowThe most recent Re-Cuecats have been from Amazon.com, itself. My November, 2011 post described the Amazon iPhone app released in 2011 called Flow (that’s still around) as an attempted Re-Cuecat. The app was met with a yawn, however, three years later, in November, 2013, Amazon ported Flow’s Cuecat feature over to an app people actually download, The Amazon App.”

With Amazon’s introduction of Cuecat-like features into apps during the past few years, the term “showrooming” has been used to describe what Amazon is actually encouraging shoppers to do with such technology: Research while shopping in a physical store, and then order from Amazon. (See, also: webrooming as a buzzword to describe the opposite of showrooming.) While showrooming sounds like something that could be done with a simple barcode or QR code scanner, the technology that started with “Flow” can also recognize photos, logos or other patterns that make up the graphics of a book cover or product packaging. Amazon is seeking to circumvent QR/bar codes as big box retailers have demanded their largest suppliers to provide unique QR/bar codes or sizes that do not match precisely Amazon SKUs. By using packaging labeling rather than standard codes, Amazon can update its databases to recognize any packaging unique to chains like Target or Walmart.

Amazon Dash

Cursor_and_Amazon_DashLast Friday, Amazon introduced the Amazon Dash, the most recent update (refresh?) of the Cuecat. At first, I was convinced that it was a belated April 1 joke, but no, the new Amazon Dash is for-real. Presently, it is an extremely niche device and is not available for purchase, it’s free (which was also the Cuecat business model). It is a device currently tied to Amazon Fresh, a grocery delivery service available now in Seattle, San Francisco and Southern California. (I’ll skip the history lesson on Web Van.)

slide2-image._V340762974_The Amazon Dash is a hand-held wand you can use to scan all of the items you need to add to a shopping list (because using an app to do that would be so, well, 2013).

The Amazon Dash clearly fits within the context of Amazon technologists’ belief in the existence of the Cuecat Conjecture (human beings have a primeval desire to own a personal barcode scanner they can hold up to anything in order to buy it from Amazon.com).

It will also be next in line of Re-Cuecats that fail to solve a problem which never existed.

Confession: I’m beginning to cheer for the inventors.

(Thanks to my friend, Jay Graves, who convinced me the Amazon Dash wasn’t related to April Fool’s Day.)

 

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Social Objects, GE & Bonnie Raitt

4_3_2014The 12 readers of this blog will recognize some themes in the essay about social objects appearing in the current Hammock Idea-Email.  Also, thanks to my friend Hugh MacLeod for giving us permission to use his illustration to accompany it. More importantly, thanks to Hugh for introducing me to the idea of social objects several years ago.

Quote:

Social objects come in a wide variety of forms, from cartoons to blog posts to 4-photo tweets. They are the hard currency of the internet, the beginning of a social exchange that creates and fosters conversations that lead to long-term, people-to-people relationships among those who go by such labels as buyers and sellers, shoppers and merchants, creators and collectors.

(Sidenote: Each issue of the Idea-Email contains one 300-400 word essay on an idea we believe will be helpful to a senior marketing executive. You can see an archive of past issues and subscribe to it here.)

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Advice to web advertisers: Dial back the retargeting

A few months ago, I posted an explanation of what advertising retargeting is.

In it, I wrote:

Say, you have an interest in bicycling and you spend a few minutes on a Saturday morning visiting some online retailers to see what they have related to something you’re thinking about getting. Later, you notice that everywhere you go on the internet you see ads that look like the ad below.

what is retargeting?That’s advertising retargeting.

I believe good advertising is a good thing. Good advertising can help us discover things we might otherwise miss. And the revenue from advertising helps keep lots of content free to the user.

But I’m not sure advertising retargeting, as it is being practiced today, is good advertising.

Advertising retargeting (also called behavioral retargeting) must be effective, for it’s everywhere I go. For example, a month ago, I visited the website of a security camera that was mentioned in a post on SmallBusiness.com. Over the following weeks, ads for the camera appeared  on random websites I’d visit, dozens of times each day.

So, retargeting must work–at least in the way that 2 out of 100 click-throughs are twice as effective as 1 out of 1oo click-throughs. But what about the 98 people who don’t click at all? I believe that some of them are being inspired to learn how to opt-out of retargeting — and other forms of advertising, altogether.

Retargeting is especially offensive during any gift-giving season, I wonder how families who share a computer (who don’t know how to avoid retargeting) are responding to the way retargeted ads will be show up when the person you’re shopping for is using the same web browser.  (Tip to keep your gift shopping a secret: Shop from an “Incognito window” if using Chrome,  ”Private Browsing” in Safari, or “Private Window” in Firefox. In those modes, tracking cookies can’t be downloaded to your browser.)

I believe the use of retargeting has reached the point at which it can be so intrusive and random it will encourage people to adapt their usage of browsers to avoid such ads, altogether. In doing so, they will lose some of the personalization and customization features of a browser that can be helpful.

Too often, marketers tend to forget to think like customers. Too often, they don’t realize when they’re killing geese who lay golden eggs.

Helpful links:

Google Ad Help (allows you to adjust the types of ads you see)
NAI (National Advertisers Initiative) – A self-regulatory approach major advertisers and ad-serving networks are providing that provides consumers a single dashboard to control the types of ads they see.

 

 

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Review: All the Way starring Bryan Cranston

Cursor_and_All_The_Way_Broadway

I rarely do reviews of any type on this blog, and rarer still (perhaps never?), review Broadway plays (although, here’s one for an off-broadway show from 10 years ago). However, I wanted to get on the record that the limited run (scheduled to close at the end of June) of the drama All the Way, starring Bryan Cranston, is a great show to see, if: (1) You’ve become a big fan of Bryan Cranston via Breaking Bad and would like to see him do something that, while impressive and intense, is totally devoid of any hint of Walter White. (2) Are a hopeless political-history wonk who regrets not being able to see Ralph Bellamy play FDR or Frank Langella as Nixon. (While he’s great, Cranston is no Bellamy or Langella, sorry to say.) Or, (3) wonder if there was ever a real President who wielded DC power like that portrayed by Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood (House of Cards).

The play is closer in plot structure and focus, even subject, to the film Lincoln than the Broadway bio-plays that made it to the films that I linked to above: Sunrise at Campobello or Frost/Nixon. The focus is the back-story drama that led up to enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on July 2 of that year. Whether it is great acting, staging or writing, I’ll leave up to the pros. I will only say it is, for those who enjoy such things, three-hours of world-class Washington wonkishness.

While Cranston’s accent will, at times, grate on the ears of Southerners, especially Texans, in the audience, his portrayal of LBJ is impressive. Despite being his first Broadway show, he carries the lead with ease — or, not exactly ease perhaps, as he seems to be shouting at people most of the play.

(Sidenote: Writing this made me think of one of the more strangely-titled films I’ve ever seen that involves the power-plays of a U.S. President (in this film’s case, Andrew Jackson), The Gorgeous Hussy, starring Joan Crawford. If you can find a streaming source, it’s worth a look to see a 1936 House of Cards.)

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