Friday, December 31, 2010

Choosing Sides: Facebook Versus Twitter

Twitter logo initialYou’ve heard it:

Twitter is the new facebook.

Facebook is moving in on twitter’s turf.

Everyone is vying for their share of our attention using social media, and why not? According to a recent Nielsen study, in the United States we spend 906 million hours a month on social networks. And social networks are attracting more of our online time – Nielsen reports a 43% increase year to year (June 2009 to June 2010).

So there’s a war between facebook and twitter and one of them must win, right?

Not so fast…

What these tools have in common is that they are both classified as social media. Beyond that, almost everything else is different, and both large and small businesses would do well to recognize those differences.

Facebook is the place to grow and nurture communities. It gives you the ability to know who is interested in your products and services (because they have opted in) and allows you to target that community. You can share detailed multi-media information and have discussions – with responses appearing right under the original update, making this a great conversational tool.

Twitter is all about messaging. Messages go to your followers, but are easily accessible by everyone. Twitter is a goldmine of information and there is no need to ever send a tweet to leverage the data in twitter. Small and large businesses alike can benefit from “listening” to what their customers are saying about them on twitter. While tweets are limited to 140 characters, it’s a fallacy to believe that twitter contains only short messages. Twitter is used by many as a teaser, to drive the reader (via link) to a longer message, blog, article, or website.

Twitter and Facebook are both good at what they do. Twitter is like Times Square on New Year’s Eve – noisy and open to all. Facebook is more like a party invitation with an RSVP. Where would you rather go?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How Not to Measure Success

Vancouver International Airport (YVR/CYVR), Ri...Image via WikipediaThe phone rang at 4 am.

“We’re calling to notify you that your flight has been delayed until 8:30.”

We had planned to leave on a 7:15 am flight, connecting through Atlanta to Las Vegas. The automated voice notifying me of this change also let me know that our connecting flight would remain the same. Hmm, how can that be possible, we only had a 45-minute layover. But in my early morning daze I let the thought go, choosing instead to re-set my alarm so I could sleep an extra hour.

But it didn’t matter – I was awake.

Two hours later as we were leaving the house the phone rang again.

“We’re calling to notify you that your flight has been delayed until 8:30, and your connecting flights have changed…”

Here it comes… Instead of a second flight to Vegas from Atlanta, Delta Airlines had re-booked us through Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. We now had two connecting flights instead of one. We would arrive in Vegas at 4:30pm instead of the planned 12:30pm. Our afternoon in Vegas was lost.

When I chose the flights, the two-connecting flight option was available at a lower price, but I chose to pay a little more and arrive sooner. And when I chose the flights, I checked the flight data; that first flight had an on-time arrival rate of 80%. That’s a ‘B’, not bad, right? And the connecting flights they re-booked us on have on-time rates of 100%. Averaging the three flights together that’s a success rate of 93%, or an A-minus. Delta executives should be happy with that, right?


Measuring individual flight rates doesn't tell the whole story. We arrived late. Four hours late. And we had to take an extra flight to reach our final destination. My report card for Delta for this flight is something closer to 60%, or a D-minus. My perception as the customer clearly does not match the company’s published metrics.

Ironically, the only one of the five flights we traveled on for this trip that was truly on time was the last leg, from Detroit to home, on the return trip. That flight has a published on-time rate of 78%. Because our flight from Vegas to Detroit was an hour late (due to a mal-function which caused us to sit at the gate in Vegas for an hour), we had to sprint from terminal A to terminal C in Detroit, and caught the attendant just as he was closing the door to our flight, five minutes before it’s scheduled departure time. We were out of breath, but we did make it home safely.

Do you have an example of how not to measure success? Share it here.

If you’re flying this holiday season, I wish you a safe on-time flight. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Galleon Net Widens – Insider Trading or Witch Hunt?

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21:  Danielle Chiesi, an e...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeIt started on October 16, 2009, when six individuals were arrested for securities fraud and conspiracy. Those accused included executives from New Castle Partners, IBM, Intel, and McKinsey, who have since pleaded guilty.

At the center of the Galleon insider trading ring are Raj Rajaratnam, Galleon founder, and Danielle Chiesi of New Castle Partners. Chiesi is said to have formed closed personal (and sometimes intimate) relationships with executives to gather inside information. Rajaratnam alledgedly used that information illegally for business and personal gain. These two have pleaded not guilty, and will face trial in 2011. Bloomberg reports that Rajaratnam’s trial will start February 28th, while Chiesi’s trial starts April 25th.

Of particular interest in this case was the use of wiretaps by the Feds to gather evidence against the defendants. Lawyers for Rajaratnam and Chiesi were trying to get the wiretap evidence thrown out, but on November 24th, NY Times Dealbook reported that the judge ruled that the wiretap evidence was obtained lawfully, and would be allowed in the case. Score one for the good guys.

Those same wiretaps have been instrumental in leading to further arrests, including the arrest of Don Chu, a consultant at Primary Global Research, on securities fraud and conspiracy charges. Primary Global Research links corporate executives and industry insiders with investment managers. At least three hedge funds, including Diamondback Capital Management, Level Global Investors, and Loch Capital Management are also being investigated. These financial institutions need a market research arm, like the services Chu’s firm provides. But are they doing anything wrong?

It seems there is a very fine line between research and conspiracy. One man’s due diligence is another man’s fraud.

Consider this discussion as reported by the New York Times, with experts Jay Fahy and Michael Driscoll. While the speakers are careful to state that the prosecutors must believe they have a solid case, Driscoll notes that these kinds of investigations are cyclical in nature, and that the pendulum is swinging towards more scrutiny of the financial industry.

While those who have followed my coverage of the Galleon scandal know that I have taken a hard line with respect to punishment for those guilty of sharing confidential secrets, I do wonder – are we so desperate to find villains that we are willing to hang anyone who works in the financial industry?

Have the insider-trading investigations gone too far? What do you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The End of An Era – Mourning the Loss of the IBM Country Club

A letter arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago, notifying us that the Casperkill Recreation Center in New York’s Hudson Valley would be closing its doors at the end of this year. The Poughkeepsie Journal also reported the closing triggering a flood of nostalgic memories.

You see, before it was the Casperkill Recreation Center, it was the IBM Country Club. In the sixties, seventies, and eighties, IBM prided itself on being family-oriented. The company held annual family outing days, provided Christmas gifts and holiday parties for children of employees, and provided a recreation facility for families to gather and spend their summer days. IBM employees in the Hudson Valley were automatically members of the IBM Country Club. This was a class-blind facility, not just for managers and executives. Every employee and their family members could use the facilities, free of charge.

The IBM Country Club was where my kids learned to swim, and where my youngest first went off the diving board at age three (he always loved the water). It’s where my kids spent many weeks at summer camp – usually sports camp – while I was working, and where my son worked as a lifeguard in his teen years. It’s where I first met my husband (although he will argue that we actually met a couple of years earlier in an IBM meeting). It’s where I played softball, volleyball, and basketball in the IBM sports leagues with my new colleagues when I first joined the company. I made some friends for life through those activities.

The IBM Country Club was a benefit that most of us took for granted as employees, and some may not have appreciated it until it was taken away.

Over the years, changes were made to make the club more self-sustaining. First, employees were asked to contribute to their annual membership; this started as a modest fee (I recall less than $10 per year) that jumped to a couple hundred dollars per year over time. But IBM couldn’t afford to keep the facility.

We watched as things changed.

The golf course was sold to Ginsberg Development company, and continues to operate as the Casperkill Golf Club, a private membership golf club considered one of the best in the Hudson Valley.

In 2004 Bright Horizons purchased the recreation facility and expanded the daycare and summer care programs. The recreation facility, now owned by Bright Horizons, continued to operate as a private membership club, open to the entire community, with fitness and pool memberships available, but has been unaffordable for Bright Horizons to maintain.

For sale for the past few years, the recreation facility has had potential buyers, and the Town of Poughkeepsie even considered purchasing the facility but that fell through last year. Now, after many years, the recreation facility will finally close, reminding me once again that Corporate America is just not quite what it used to be.

Photo by Harry Yudenfriend

Friday, December 3, 2010

Specialized vs. Multi-purpose Tech Devices, Who Will Win?

I’ve been writing a lot about technology in recent weeks, as I am fascinated by the new markets that have blossomed in the past few years. We now crave technology that most of us never imagined could exist, and we are consuming that technology at a ferocious pace.

The market for handheld and portable electronics is sizzling hot.

Google says that searches on Android phones more than tripled in the first half of 2010, and on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Google VP Marissa Mayer said on October 5th that there are more searches on Android powered devices than online.

According to the Apple Insider, Apple expects iPads to outsell Macs in 2011, estimating 21 million iPads to be sold next year.

Amazon says that more Kindle e-books now outsell hardcover books.

Voice, music, video, print – we have so many choices on how to consume data, and these choices are likely to continue to evolve at a very speedy pace.

Of course consumption is made possible by affordability. Today it’s possible to purchase a smart phone, a tablet, an e-reader, and an MP3 player for less than half of what I paid for my first personal computer in 1984. And consumption is made practical by portability. I can carry them all around in a handbag.

We can choose between dedicated devices that are specialized for a single task such as book reading or music, or we can buy a device that does it all. It’s the age-old question that we have seen in the server industry for decades with the debate between mainframes versus distributed/dedicated servers/blades: Do I buy individual devices that are truly great at one thing? Or do I go with a single device that meets all my needs, but is not optimized for a single task?

Nowhere has the debate between specialized device versus multi-purpose device been clearer than in the e-book market. The specialized devices (such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook) are optimized for what they do, but now readers also have options to read on their smart phones (such as the Motorola Droid or Apple iPhones) or tablet computers (such as the iPad).

Who will win?

I think both can win. The market for both specialized technology devices and multi-purpose technology devices will go nowhere but up. I’m not likely to take an iPad to the gym to listen to music while I’m on the elliptical machine; I’ll use an iPod Nano for that. On the other hand, if I’m traveling or on-the-go, a tablet or a multi-purpose smart phone rules.

Technology manufacturers will be best served by focusing on what they do best. For the dedicated device manufacturer, the goal is excellence, improved user-experience, and reduced cost. For the multi-purpose devices it all about the applications, operating systems optimized for multi-tasking, and – you guessed it – reduced cost.

Your turn – what’s your take on portable technology devices?