Mind Grapes

and then things get awesome

Can not be contained!

Job Description – Be Awesome

I sat down the other day and thought about writing a description for a position we have open at work. I realized we already had a version of the description (PDF here) I wanted to write so I began to contemplate how I should update it or modernize it for what we want today. It made me wonder “what do we want?” I thought about some of the things I say in interviews…

“We’re looking for someone awesome first. Someone that will like what we do here (digital marketing) second. Then everything technical after.”

I also thought about the typical questions I get in an interview. A popular one is “what does the day to day look like?“. In a small fast growing digital agency no two days are the same so we usually answer that question in a round about way telling the candidate of the types of things they may be doing and the people they may work with.

I looked back at the original and wondered if it said/asked those simple things. It doesn’t really, or at least not in a simple, straightforward way. So I grabbed a note pad and tried to figure out how to tell a candidate what I wanted and what they would get in the simplest way possible. As I jotted lines down I noticed the difference between the casual handwriting vs the traditional form letter and realized I would rather work at a place with the former. That made me think that a job description, if more visual, should also give a hint at the company culture.

I took all of that and decided to try something new. Check out the alternate version here, or below.

In an ideal world I would have had a designer create this, maybe with some custom illustrations. However, I didn’t have the time and our creative team didn’t have space in their schedule. The output is, of course, the none professional version but does give a succinct outline of what I’m looking for and some of the things you may get through working with me. I’m obviously not the first person to do a visual job description but it was a first for me and this type of position (it may not work with every position).

Oh, and if this is a job you are actually interested in then please let me know:

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1 + 1 = 3 Marketing

[originally posted on the BrightWave Marketing blog]

I recently watched this video (below) where Ken Burns talks about what makes great storytelling and it made me think the same thing applies to great marketing.

Maybe I should back up a little bit…marketing is storytelling.

Ken Burns mentions that great storytelling is when 1 + 1 = 3. That something extra that goes beyond the “2” you would expect and that manipulates the consumer*. The manipulation isn’t bad or disingenuous, it’s just something that moves the person. It’s a motivation.

When I tell the story of a brand I know I need to tell the facts (1 + 1 = 2) but I hope I do it in such a way that motivates consumers to act. Not always “buy”, but act. The goal is getting them passionate enough about your story (brand) to want to do something.

*There is a point in time in this video that Ken implies that storytelling is akin to lying, or at least has aspects of lying. That is one area where marketing and storytelling differ.

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What TV Shows do you watch?

[originally posted on the BrightWave Marketing blog]

For the last 6 years or so I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of multiple companies that were in high growth mode. This inevitably leads to an increase in staff which in turn means several interviews, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 – 4 interviews per hire. At this point in time I’ve interviewed several hundred people in the digital marketing space. Also know that I get easily bored and don’t like to say the same thing twice (which is why I think gravitate to positions like COO). If you take both those points into consideration you could see how I might lose interest in interviews even though it is one of the most important things a services agency can do.So, I came up with a question that would keep me entertained while still being useful: What TV Shows do you watch?*

After asking this to hundreds of people I realized how much information I could get out of this question. Although there is no wrong answer (even, “I don’t watch TV”), it’s a personality test, it’s an honesty test, it tells me at least one way you keep up with pop-culture (we are in marketing after all) and in general it just reveals a little about who you are. Aside from giving me information about you, it helps ease tension, gives you a question you weren’t expecting (till now), and 9 times out of 10 opens up a point of commonality (we’ll have at least 1 show in common) between you and one of the two people interviewing you (I like 2 on 1 interviews best). Oh, and I just love TV shows (or episodic video) because it allows the viewer to build a relationship with the characters in a way movies don’t.

I’ve learned that in many ways this ends up being the most important question I’ll ask, along with favorite hobbies (yikes! gave away another one). This question usually opens up the conversation to who you really are as a person and who we really are as a company. It turns out that it’s more important that everyone likes each other and gets along than it does how awesome you are at PhotoShop. Don’t get me wrong, the technical skills are important and you probably didn’t make it that far in the interview without them, but knowing that you can work well with the team AND have a common vision is the real significance.

Why is this important? Because you spend more time with people at work than anyone else in your life. Because great companies rally around a common vision. Because I don’t want to work somewhere where people don’t like coming in to work, and clients don’t want to work with those types of people either.

We don’t all need to be the same, there are strengths in our differences. We have just as many “History Channel” watchers as we have “Robot Chicken” watchers, but they all work together and have common ground. Keep in mind common ground (everyone wins) is different than middle ground (everyone compromises).

BrightWave is hiring. What does this mean to you? If you want to work here we want you to enjoy working here and make us enjoy working here more. We expect you to add something to the mix and we expect to give you something in return. You have to be passionate about what you are doing in addition to being smart, savvy, and skilled.

I can’t tell you why we are different or better than anyone else, you’ll have to meet us to find out. But if you don’t think we are different and better then we don’t want you to work here. We focus on serving (we even have a reverse org chart), educating ourselves, and doing our best. If that isn’t you then no worries, if it is then please tell me your favorite TV shows.

Here is where we put job openings when we have them, http://www.brightwavemarketing.com/employment.php

Oh yeah…
Surprisingly, only about once in five times do I get asked what my favorite TV shows are. I usually say that it’s not a fair question because I watch all TV shows. I really do subscribe to several shows and keep up with them when I can but I won’t name them here. One thing I hate (too strong?) is when someone was told that I ask that question and tries to name TV shows they think I will like (someone once said their favorite TV show was “Star Wars”**).
I will say that most BrightWavers watch “Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. It’s definitely not a requirement and in some ways may be a plus if you don’t. I suspect most of us watch it to feel better about ourselves 🙂

– RT

*This is a big reveal for those coming to interview. I’m giving away all my secrets so I’ll have to come up with additional questions now. However, this is a reward for anyone who has done their homework and found this post 🙂
** Nerd Note: This was before Clone Wars was a series


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Xoom Xoom -OR- How I bet against iPad 2 and won

So, I was one of the people who went out and got the Motorola Xoom on the first day (last week). I’ve kept it quiet till now because I knew I should have waited till after the iPad 2 announcement to make a decision (although there is a 14 day return policy). Now that it is out I’m trying to discern whether my gamble paid off, and I think it did.

I bet against the iPad 2 and I think I won. Now keep in mind that I’m a huge iPhone fan and will get the iPhone 5 in the first few days it comes out, but for a tablet I wanted to take a different route. Below I’m listing the reasons I think I made the right decision… for me. I still think the iPad is the better route for most people. It has zero learning curve if you have an iPhone, and almost zero even if you don’t, not to mention most of us have bought a lot of apps on the iPhone that will work on the iPad (I’ll have to repurchase on the Android). There are definitely a few more things you could put into the “pro” iOS column, but in these [below] other categories the Xoom wins.

iPad 2 specifically? OK, 65,000 apps vs 100… and this cool new cover/case thing… other than that iPad 2 doesn’t have a whole lot going for it right now. This is what I was banking on, only a slight upgrade in features and a decent hardware upgrade. The rumors of iPad 3 launching in the fall is what pushed me over the edge in thinking that the iPad 2 would be a layup.

Reasons I personally like the Xoom over the iPad (1 or 2) in order of significance:

1. Flash – Ok, ok, I know this has been delayed but it works on other Android devices and Adobe says it will be ready for Honeycomb soon. This wouldn’t have been a big deal for me in the past and isn’t an issue on my phone, but I’m using SlideRocket.com more and more so on my tablet I want to be able to edit presentations (for which Flash is required).

2. 4G and tethering – This was actually huge for me and what made me walk into the Verizon store the first day. Again, it won’t come till April or May but the Xoom will have 4G connectivity and allow you to tether other devices. I’ve been wanting a 4G device ever since I tested Clear last spring.

3. Resolution – I love the retina display on my iPhone 4 so much that I now have a hard time going back down. I also want to read more on my tablet. So, I need the highest resolution possible. If I thought iPad 2 would have had the retinal display then I would have gotten it without question, instead I bet it would have the same resolution so went with the Xoom that beats iPad (1 or 2) by 20% of so in this department. Not that much, but my standard is so high now anything helps.

4. Widgets – This gets into the Honeycomb vs iOS debate, but simply put, the “desktop” widgets in Honeycomb are designed for tablets. I get all the info I need using up the right amount of space on my home screen.

5. Width (for typing) – The Xoom is wider in landscape and narrower in portrait than the iPad. I like having a wide landscape for wide movies, but I like the narrower portrait for easier thumb typing.

6. microSD Card – I really like the option of having external memory. I can fill up one card with kid shows and have a separate card for my stuff.

7. Overclocking – Ok, this is a tech nerd thing. I’ve been reading about how people are overclocking (speeding up the processor) for gains of up to 50%. That’s huge and from what I can tell it’s relatively easy and relatively safe. That being said, I will probably wait some time before I try this out of fear of completely destroying Xoomy (that’s what I call him now).

8. Google Integration – I put in my Gmail username and pass at the Verizon store and now everything just works. All my Google life is integrated on the tablet and I think it even backs itself up to Google. This is a big advantage for a heavy Google user such as myself.

9. Google Products – Google has a habit of developing some cool new app and releasing it on the Android first and making everyone else wait. Google Goggles was on Android months before iPhone, Google Sky Map is now on my tablet and came at just the right time (my daughter was learning about constellations in school last week).

10. More file formats – It’s much easier to play almost any kind of video file, any kind of music file or any kind of ebook (and comic book) file than on Apple Products.

11. No button… ok, has a button, but I hardly ever have to use it. I’m always worried I’m going to wear out my home button on the iPhone and have seen other people have issues with the button. On the Xoom you have one on/off button, but the home and task switching are virtual touch buttons on screen.

12. Pattern Lock vs Pin – I like locking down the device since it has important information. It is much easier and only slightly less secure to use the pattern lock vs a pin #.

13. Voice Typing. Built into the keyboard.

14. File management, easier to hack, more open source, blah, blah, blah… all the nerdy open-endedness of the Adroid Platform is attractive because it will allow me to customize the device to my needs. Most users won’t do some of the modifications and such that I will eventually do so this is definitely only a “pro” for tech geeks.

If you are interested in the price debate or Honeycomb vs iOS 4.3 then please let me know in the comments. I could have kept going on those items but am trying to keep this brief.

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Nook for the win?!

So I have a new mobile device (more on that later) and was looking for ereader solutions. I figured I would end up using the Kindle app since most of my e-books are on our Kindle at home, not to mention that the Kindle has been the leader in the space for a while. I was enticed by the Google Books app, and looked at many third party ereaders but didn’t even think about the Nook till today.

I had only two main criteria for the ereader, assuming it displayed the text properly, 1) the ability to adjust the visuals (change text size, color options, etc.) and 2) its ability to manage the library (file structure, folders, search). I added a third criteria after researching that hadn’t come to mind but is now higher on the list, fast loading pages.

I ran into another issue though, I could not find a way to import any of my ebooks bought outside of the service (Kindle only took Kindle purchases, Google took Google, etc). Even all the third party apps I found either had a hard time with multiple formats, misread some formats, or failed at my first two criteria. I was even willing to convert the books I had to the native format of the reader, still no luck. Then someone on one of the forums pointed me to Nook.

Nook? I’ve always thought of the Nook as the feeble attempt to play catch-up with Kindle, or a poor substitute for the iPad or something. Didn’t even cross my mind to try it out, but I was desperate. Turns out it works pretty well and did what I needed it to do. In hind sight I shouldn’t be so surprised that the #3(?) player in the space would have a decent app. Once I converted my mobi files to epub files and dropped them into the Nook folder it read (and formatted) them correctly. It has good viewing options, file management, and fast loading pages. Not sure if it will be my go to app from now on, but in the short term it is surprisingly (to me) the best solution.

Probably only a matter of time till Kindle and Google Books get upgrades that puts them back on top for me, but for now I guess I’m a Nook guy.

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OnLive, phenomenal cosmic powers! ..Itty bitty living space.

Sorry for the title, I just recently watched Waking Sleeping Beauty and now have images of the mega-Disney movies from the early ’90’s in my head. You’ll hopefully recognize the line from the movie Aladdin which fits my thoughts on the new OnLive console, if you can even call it a console…

I’ve been using OnLive, the new cloud-based gaming system, for a few months now. I have been amazed at how fast it loads, how smooth it runs and the quality of the graphics. However, the most amazing feature is the ability to play a game on my wife’s run-of-the-mill PC and then play on my 17″ MacBook Pro with little to no difference in quality. Also, I can pick up a saved game where I left off. There are many other features that have made OnLive attractive like not having to download each game title, the ability to pay to play for a limited time (3 day pass), the ability to watch other people play, and even the fact that OnLive has an iPad app. The iPad app is currently only for viewing, but this video from E3 shows someone playing a game which looks like it is the same quality as what I have on the MacBook Pro. Amazing. It’s the promise of the cloud.

Like most cloud-based endeavors, the people at OnLive realized all you need to play a video game is the picture (and sound) of that game and a way to control the picture. If all you need is a picture and a way to send control commands somewhere else then you don’t need very much hardware on your end. Basically all you need is a decent internet connection and an output to your monitor that can handle the HD stream. So, OnLive introduced their “MicroConsole” a couple of months ago with a introductory cost of only $99 (plus you get a voucher for a free game included). During the week of CES they dropped the price to $66, still including the free game voucher. Some games are $50, which means you are really only paying $16 for the console and controller (at least that was what was on slide 5 of my “Buying the OnLive MicroConsole ROI” PowerPoint presentation I gave to my wife). I ordered one and this is what I got:

Very nice packaging for an item that cost $66

I was impressed with the quality of packaging and what I found in the box. At first glance it would seem as if you aren’t getting a lot for $99 but I think it’s a good deal and even better at $66. They really want to get the user base up to attract better game producers and eventually advertisers.

MicroConsole and 1 Wireless controller

You get the MicroConsole, 1 Wireless controller* that seems to be as nice (from a material quality & feel) as an XBox controller, an HDMI cable (that would cost you $10+ alone), a USB cable (for the initial controller sync), 2 AA batteries [Duracell], a NiMH rechargeable battery pack, and an Ethernet cable (that looks like the most high quality Ethernet cable I have ever seen).

That's my actual hand for scale

Setup was a breeze. Just plug the MicroConsole into your TV via HDMI, turn everything on, and sync the controller (20 secs or less). After you are hooked up and logged into your account all your games are instantly available to you. I can now turn on my TV and the MicroConsole and get from zero to playing a game in under a minute (individual game load times may vary).

How is the game quality? What you would expect, this tiny box performed just as well as my MacBook Pro because in reality neither one of them is running the game, some OnLive super-computer-server-farm-thingy (“cloud” for short) is. I’m not the biggest “gamer” ever so I’m not a good one to judge gaming systems. What games I do play are almost exclusively PC based** over the years and I only own a console (Wii) because of the kids (or that was my excuse). That being said, if you are a PC gamer who is always frustrated that you can’t play the latest titles at the top settings without upgrading to the latest graphics card or adding more memory, then you will be as impressed as I am that this little box can out perform any computer I have ever owned and will theoretically*** always out perform any computer I will ever own in the future.

I think this is exciting for me not because I’m a huge gamer, and not because it’s something we didn’t see coming, but because in some ways I see this as the beginning. The gaming and entertainment industries have traditionally pushed technology to the edge that eventually makes it into the rest of our lives. This represents the next step (which we knew was coming but can now feel) of everything we do moving to “the cloud”. I think we all want more than just file-sharing and note taking, and this is a step in the right direction. If I can currently remote access my PC at home from my Mac at work, and OnLive can run the most hardware dependent apps (games) through a tiny box, then it won’t be long till I can have that cloud-OS I’ve always wanted (seriously, since I saw Penny’s “Computer Book”). It’s also just good to see someone has actually made a real and useful “cloud” device.

*Comes with 1 controller but you can sync more. Also has USB ports so that you can plug in a keyboard and mouse.
**I’ve been using Steam for years now as my sole repository for games. I think it’s the best thing going as far as PC games go, but OnLive could take them if they can increase their library.
***I’m sure when we start to see “Super HD” TVs, or whatever the next jump in resolution will be, then I’ll have to upgrade but until then this system should keep up.

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iAd Producer, finally

Apple finally launched software to help individuals and agencies to create rich media iAds. Apple launched iAd earlier in the year around the launch of iOS 4. Until now Apple forced advertisers to use its own services to produce campaign creative, with the launch of iAd Producer things will change. This is, of course, a response to low usage in iAd inventory that they should have done since the beginning. Apple, being Apple, wanted to control the quality of interactive ads that ran on their platform but it would seem like  actually running ads is more important than quality control at this point in time.

I installed iAd Producer this morning and played around with it a bit. I had an ad developed in less than an hour and was pretty impressed at how easy it was to manipulate the different aspects of the ad. If I flew through the tutorial I probably could have had the ad up in 15 minutes or so.

Opening Screen of iAd Producer

iAd Producer has a nice clean interface that lets you choose your platform from the start. I chose the iPhone just to keep things simple but definitely want to go back and play with the iPad options.

Layout shows all the panels

Here I get to layout all the “pages” of the ad. Simply clicking on each component allows me to go in and edit. Each view in iAd Producer allows you to pull in the appropriate material, from objects, to templates that are built in, to assets you add to your own library.

iAd Producer made it very easy to set up transitions, video and maps. There are a ton of other features to add as well as adding commands that interact with the accelerometer and gyroscope. I just put together the basics to show how easy it is to get up and running with video and maps.

Below is the ad just to show how good the HTML5 animations look, not the graphics I slapped in there…

OK, so mine is not as cool as the one below [Tron iPad iAd] but you can start to see how complex you will be able to get with these:

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Hello world!

This is my blog [formerly “Bob Loblaw Law Blog”]. I’ve been fighting it for a while but now is the time. I need a repository for things floating around in my mind grapes. Sure, I’ll talk about digital marketing but I’ll use obscure TV/movie references and other things I find funny, you’ll like it. (and I’ll end sentences in prepositions, so deal)

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