John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

The Reputation Economy is Here.

Dan Schwabel has written two posts on his Forbes Blog in the last week. His message is that “the Reputation Economy is Coming.”  Alot of pieces of the Reputation Economy are coming together at warp-speed. Here are a few:

MANY anecdotal stories of people who have been fired, arrested, not-hired,(cisco-fatty, etc).

Millions of people who meet and begin relationships due to *something* online.

Businesses running into serious issues… (Kenneth Cole, etc)

Colleges considering online info during interviews

If Dan Schwabel’s cited research is even close to correct that “80% of HR professionals use online reputation information… and that 70% had rejected a job candidate due to what they found online.”

It seems there is enormous evidence that whether the subject is personal, professional, corporate, or really from ANY perspective: The Reputation Economy is not coming, it is *here.*

What do you think?

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March 1, 2011 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Life, Marketing, People | 2 Comments

Attention Span

My attention span is struggling under the pressure. There is a wide gulf between my life, my job and the startup that I’m trying to build.

I’m trying to learn about Quora. I am also trying to balance demands life, my job, my startup with the demands of my Blogs, guest contributions to other blogs,  Twitter, Google Buzz, my LinkedIn contacts,  Twitpic & Yfrog photography, and comments that I make on other blogs.

I want to keep in touch with all of these things because I advise customers who have their own lives, their own businesses and their own interests. To be the expert, I need deep personal understanding – AND the creativity to apply that understanding for my clients.

I think of myself as unique – a passionate, persistent, pragmatic, problem preventer, business and technology enthusiast. Former Marine, Ex Soldier & current geek.  Wrapping that up with my life is challenging because of my attention span.   It has never been such a problem before.   I don’t know if the problem is really MY attention span, or simply that the world is changing so fast. 

I want to improve some things.

I’d love to have a meaningful connection with my son but it takes two people to have a meaningful connection. I’d love to replace my aging Ford Explorer, but it only has 65k miles, and is very useful. I’d love to find a new job but my current job has been dependable since 1999 or so.  I’d love to explode my business because I think it can help hundreds of other businesses instead of dozens.  I’d love to write daily.  I’d love to bicycle about 30 miles a day, 5 days a week… but I can’t find 2 hours to do it.  To fit things in well, my days need another 24 hours each.

My world of information is exploding. Everyone’s world is. Staying on top is like juggling chainsaws and torches while flipping on a trampoline that someone randomly moves beneath my feet.  What sort of attention span can make it all work?  

Ultimately, I will need to set priorities and let things fall to the side. Everyone does. It is a challenge, and I need to find the attention span to make it all work, and make the right selections of what is important, and what isn’t.  

How do people do it? How do you?

January 27, 2011 Posted by | Life, Other Stuff, People | Leave a comment

Sad Suicide

Mark Madoff’s suicide touched me. 

On the morning of December 11, 2010 — exactly two years after Bernard’s arrest — his son Mark Madoff, age 46, was found dead in his New York City apartment. The initial ruling for the cause of death is suicide by means of hanging.”   I did not know Mark Madoff or any other member of his family. Mark Madoff profited from an enormous Ponzi scheme that his father ran from a business that MARK worked for – for more than 20 years. He profited from his father’s scheme that resulted in the destruction of billions of dollars of wealth, charitable foundations. It was a scheme that has inspired/caused/incited other people’s suicides.  

Mark Madoff and his brother Andrew probably understood or should have understood what was going on. They were educated and experienced.  One had a degree from the University of Michigan and the other a degree from the Wharton School. Both had worked for their father’s firm since the 1980s.   (Ironically, they worked there from around the time that Michael Douglas’ oscar-winning performance as Gordon Gekko who said that “that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” in Oliver Stone’s Movie: Wall Street)

Given Mark’s involvement in the family business, it is amazing that he and his brother turned their father in to the SEC. It is possible, as ABC contends, ‘I’m going to say you knew nothing about it, because I’m seventy years old, you’re forty, you’ve got children. So I will take the fall for this.’  It is also possible that they realized what their father did, and turned him in because they felt ethically compelled to do so.  It seems that their family has been destroyed by their decision to turn in their father.

Mark’s Mother Ruth Madoff – his estranged mother – blames his father for his suicide.

I am saddened by Mark’s death. I know what it is like to lose a parent. I know what it is like to feel pressure.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to have an $80m lawsuit filed against me, to have bankruptcy trustees after me, to betray my father in an act that results in a 150 year prison sentence, and to live with the aftermath.   There’s a small list of people who understand that – probably only one now:  Mark’s brother Andrew.  

I don’t for a second condone what his family did and I don’t think anyone should. Yet his suicide still touched me. I feel sad for his family and for his children. His children will now grow up with a grandfather who is in prison and knowing that their father killed himself, hung himself with a dog leash on the 2nd anniversary of their grandfather’s arrest. In committing suicide, Mark picked a final, sad way out for himself.   I don’t think  are any ethical lessons beyond the WAY obvious ones. There’s no techie thing here, no marketing thing, no business thing – just a human thing.

Mark Madoff’s suicide is just sad – just a sad suicide.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Business, ethics, Life, People | Leave a comment

Smart Phones Rise

I am at Internet Summit 10 and I have noticed that Mary Meeker’s quote about smart phone numbers exceeding personal computers by 2012 has resonated with everyone.  To refresh, her quote is: “smartphone sales will surpass PC and laptop sales in 2012, with more than 450 million units sold.” So – the panel is talking about technology, infrastructure, net neutrality and how important it is to focus on customers…

Dana Todd  asked, “For marketing people like her, how do they deal with that technology” She meant the increase in smart phones, the changes in how people use technology. She wants to know how the increase in mobile information technology will impact what she needs to do as a marketer.  When mobile users exceed laptops, netbooks, ipads and other personal computer devices – how can marketers best deliver what customers need?

How will Mary Meeker’s projection change what people need? How will it change what people buy, what people use, what people want and what is important to people?  (assuming that people = customers)

These are great questions – what do you think?

November 17, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing, People, Technology | Leave a comment

President Eisenhower

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

A quote from
President Dwight Eisenhower:
Soldier, General, President.

Hard to me to make any useful comment on something so profound, except to point out that it should not be so completely forgotten.

(Official White House portrait of President Dwight D. Eisenhower from Wikicommons)

October 13, 2010 Posted by | Life, People | Leave a comment

Kindle is Your Paradise

Killer gadgets today are killer because they let us do everything. Is your newest latest Droid/Blackberry/iPhone a killer gadget? Maybe it is, but maybe not. What about the Kindle that only does one thing? Maybe a better question is, do you want more “killer gadgets?” Or do people need one device that does one thing?

From my perspective, the Kindle is better than a killer gadget. It is a paradise device and a paradise business model. The Kindle does only one thing, really well. That is the point. It is killer BECAUSE it does only one thing. It is paradise because it does only one thing. It can give YOU paradise if you have one, and it is paradise for Amazon. The proof is in this delightful, engaging, brilliant Kindle Ad. Please watch it because it explains everything: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGmRKSds9OY

On the surface, if you have $140 sunglasses and love sitting poolside reading your Kindle, it is an easy sell that your Kindle will work better than other multifunction book-type devices. (iPad) Depending on what statistic you pay the most attention to, Amazon is selling either 143 or 180 digital books for every 100 hardcovers sold.   Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos says it is “astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.”  That is a tipping point!

Back to the Kindle Ad!  The great irony is that Amazon’s Kindle mirrors the most successful single purpose device in the last decade, in every meaningful way – the iPod. The iPod is a singular-purpose device created a billion-dollar digital download store for Apple. (Perhaps $15 billion) Amazon’s Kindle is another killer gadget, but it is better because it is a single purpose killer gadget. The single-price digital music pricing model has simultaneously destroyed and reformed the music industry and it might yet do the same thing to the motion picture industry. Meanwhile, the publishing industry is being pushed and perhaps dismantled by Amazon’s amazing digital sales… driving per-copy prices down way past where publishers want.

So – coming full circle, here is the situation: iTunes drives Apple revenues with a product to be used on Apple’s iPods. Amazon’s delightful advertisement with their Paradise Device is thoroughly brilliant. It takes Apple out of the black turtleneck cool and plops it down. Where? in a the gut of a man wearing a semi-yellowed white-ish t-shirt over wrinkly khakis (1) at a pool with an iPad (2), sitting side by side with a kindled-up bikini girl. Mr. Apple-man is without sunglasses and looking kind of uptight and stressed, but she finds every relaxed way to look simultaneously hot… and very cool. People might not notice in the commercial, but there is a subtle plate of apples in the background (3)   Back to the stress… in this commercial, this alternate vacation reality – it is the iPad that is stressing him. His iPad is not relaxing and is not helping his vacation one bit! It is not helping him find paradise and it sure didn’t help him select his poolside wardrobe.

When you look at these two people, you can tell neither is married. (4) You can tell that she is enjoying her vacation in paradise. She has the shades, the attitude, the smile, the perfect hair, the perfect black bikini, and the perfect device with which to download digital content… and reading. Why is it so great that she has a single purpose device?  Everyone wants the paradise that comes with no deadlines, no meetings, no emails, no texts, no web to browse, no pdf’s, no buzzers, no noise, no distractions, and nothing at all beyond reading. It is only one simple pure function. Yet, nothing is getting between her and her Kindle. It is almost an intimate connection. A bargain that cost less to her than her sunglasses.

In a cluttered world filled with multifunctional device Swiss army knives, the Kindle is a Katana – sharp, purposeful, effective and to enemies, it must seem splendidly frightening in its potential and its execution. In the advertisement, everything in the girl’s vacation is elegant, relaxing and perfect. She is lost in the Kindle, lost in her reading. She has reached that intimate Kindle-paradise and left the stresses of her life behind. It is exactly the moment in exactly the vacation that everyone could use – everyone with lives that are torn by a never ending assortment of multifunction devices that sing like canaries in a mine full of hyper stimulated under-satisfied stress.  Matt Richtel wrote a great piece in the New York Times about how “Digital devices deprive the brain of needed downtime.
So – she is cool… she is hot… she is on vacation… and she can read her Kindle in direct sunlight, with her high-end fashionable sunglasses on. Why didn’t he bring sunglasses? Was he too busy in is iPad world with stimuli hitting him everywhere? Was he really TRYING to read or was he hitting on her? Does he not know how to adjust the brightness and contrast on his iPad? It doesn’t matter at ALL to her. She doesn’t have a care in the world. She is on vacation in paradise. She can relax perfectly with her kindle on her vacation reading her book in her world without interruption. That is exactly what she wanted. She didn’t want the sunlight to blind her. She wanted to be fashionable. She wanted to relax, cool by the pool, and her Kindle is exactly what she needed. Suddenly the Kindle is black bikini cool in a world of drab white t-shirts. It is a single word, a single device with a single purpose, and it is simultaneously cool, hot, functional and inexpensive. Does he need a pair of $150 sunglasses to read his iPad? No, he needs to ditch the iPad for a Kindle. The Kindle is EVERYTHING he needs. The Kindle is singular in purpose and effect. It is the paradise that he seeks, even on a perfect day when he is actually IN paradise.
The Kindle is exactly what Amazon needed. It isn’t perfect, multifunctional, or multitasking. It doesn’t read all the formats. It doesn’t try to make nice with the Nook or other devices. It is a single-purpose device in a world of multipurpose devices that gives people a way to escape all those other intrusions on their lives. The Kindle is the device that wraps an ADHD world into a single stimulus that can draw you in and encompass you the way that an afternoon with a good book could in a world that has gone by, long ago, far away. And for every Kindle Amazon sells to turn your life into a paradise, it will sell, based on current averages, 24 digital books.

Narasu Rebbapragada writes about people who pursue “any machine that does as many things as possible, that’s what I want”  but also talks how  the Kindle “retains the fundamental characteristics of the printed page, (and) encourages deep attention to story.”   Deep attention to a paradise where one device does one thing and doesn’t interrupt itself and you.

Books are to the Kindle as music was to the iPod, and anything more is unnecessary and detracts. You might say that with Amazon’s paradise device, Apple just got Kindled.

September 21, 2010 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Environment, Life, Marketing, People, Technology | 1 Comment

Rinse and Repeat

Your hair is dirty today, so you will probably wash it. You will probably use shampoo and conditioner, and on both bottles, the label says “rinse and repeat.” Social media and Search Engine Optimization are two arts that you can think of as Shampoo and Conditioner. They are mutually supportive, like shampoo and conditioner, and both do well with a continuous process of improvement- that you can think of as Rinse and Repeat.

That might or might not be good advice for conditioner and shampoo, I’ve always suspected the reason for that blurb on the bottle was to get people to use more shampoo, or perhaps for people who wash their hair weekly. Regardless for the shampoo directions, everyone should realize that “rinse and repeat” is thoroughly outstanding advice for both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media.

Social media and Search Engine Optimization are two arts that you can think of as Shampoo and Conditioner. They are mutually supportive and both do well with Rinsing and Repeating.

I read two nice articles today: “7 signs that you ignored your social media plan” on Outspoken media, and “How to optimize your site for search” in Inc. magazine.

I read the Social Media Plan article in Outspoken Media, and realized that Rinse and Repeat is critical to social media. When a person or company contributes no unique content and no other value to social media, there should be an expectation of *no return on the non-investment.* To get the best return, a company has to produce and add unique content, invest thought, words, communication, time and perhaps even some money. Thanks Lisa for a great guide to “what not to do.”  The important thing is DOING. It is important to rinse and repeat. Social media requires a continuous and constant care and feeding. If you did not do it today, do it now. If you did not do it yesterday, do it today. The value of social media as an element of your marketing plan is DIRECTLY related to how much you contribute to social media.

As I was reading the article on SEO, I realized there a considerable number of things in common between SEO and Social Media. The two arts both require rinse and repeat. They both thrive when tended to. SEO results and Social Media results are positive or negative in proportion to the resources that are devoted to both of them.  Both are elements that are built-in. SEO is built into each page, and Social Media is built into the culture.  Both are hard to quantify. Both benefit from evaluation of efforts, results and the relationship between effort and results, and both SEO and Social Media benefit from an approach that involves a cycle continuous improvement.  Call that Rinse and Repeat for SEO and Rinse and Repeat for Social Media – but the analogy from hair care goes further:  Social media benefits SEO & and SEO benefits Social media in the same way that conditioner works well on hair that has just been shampooed.  Social Media and SEO are mutually beneficial.

That’s something to think about when you rinse and repeat. 

What do you think?

September 13, 2010 Posted by | Continuous Improvement, Marketing, People | 3 Comments

7 Skills to Unemployment-Proof

I read an interesting article at Computerworld this morning: “Ready for 2020? Advice for every career stage.” 

It discussed the differences between different ages of technology worker, and the different interests and abilities. I thought the article had an interesting conclusion: that different workers had different challenges to face. It went on and on about how recent graduates don’t have experience and certifications, and how cell phones are more important, etc. That is obvious. Another article I read recently in Think Big Be Big showed that mobile DATA traffic exceeded cell phone PHONE/VOICE transmission traffic every month in 2009.
Data and Voice

It is a wired world and  I recognize the differences in the newest texting generation, but I completely disagree with the conclusion of the article.

Since I started working with technology around 1982, there has been a constant drumbeat of change. Every piece of technology impacts business. Someone needs to communicate it. It changes constantly. The points where technology creates advantages moves instantly and frequently. Those change elements are constant.

The offshoot is that technology professionals have to keep a relevant skillset, develop skills for whatever is coming next, understand when, where, why and how “their” technology provides value, and understand how to communicate all of that.  That means that with a common set of skills, technology professionals can be unemployment proof. These skills are the ones that provide value no matter what the flavor of the month is.

Here are 7 skills that will help unemployment-proof a technology professional:
1) A love of learning and willingness to learn.
2) An understanding of the impact that technology and business have on each other.
3) A willing acceptance of change in all its forms.
4) An ability to communicate and translate business and technology.
5) A professional willingness to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done.
6) An ability to demonstrate and showcase your skills.
7) An ability to learn from mistakes and use that learning to prevent new ones.

If you have these, your personal professional competitive advantage will ensure you are constantly employable and constantly employed.  I’m not saying that a short sighted company won’t downsize you. I’m just making the point that with this skillset, you will have other companies ready and eager to onboard you if that happens. You will provide value across the technology and business spectrum. That’s a formula for unemployment proofing.

Can you think of other things? Do you disagree?  Let me know

August 23, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, People, Technology | Leave a comment

4 Solutions

If you are working for someone else, anyone other than yourself, your job is temporary. It may last 30 years, but it is temporary because you are working for someone else. You may lose your job.  You would need a crystal ball to know when your job.

Given this challenging economy, and the fear that comes from having a temp job in a difficult time, you may ask yourself, what can you do?  This is a complex question because it is really several questions:

  • What can you do to keep your current job?
  • What can you do to get your next job?
  • What can you do to get a new job at your current employer?
  • What can you do to have the most job security?

I don’t like asking 4 questions without answers, so here are some answers to these questions. Here are my 4 brief solutions:

What can you do to keep your current job? You can be so valuable that you your employer cannot do without you. You can become the best known, the best educated, the best qualified for your job, and as long as you are not the CEO of your company, you can become trained, certified, educated and experienced at doing your boss’ job, your co-workers’ jobs. But there is more to it than that. You need to help your managers and executives KNOW that you are the most well qualified, the smartest, the most creative, in short, you need to make sure that the people responsible for hiring and firing YOU, know that you are the very best at everything that you are the best at. 

What can you do to get your next job? First, figure out what and where your next job will be.  Figure out what you want to do, and who you want to work for. Find out what that person or company needs, and figure out what YOU can do to contribute to their success. When you are looking for a job, it is NOT about you, it is about what you can do for someone else. Know what that company needs and be the person who can do what is needed.

Hired!

What can you do to get a new job at your current employer?  Here is an important thing to remember. The company that you already work for is likely to be the best place to find a new job. There are two great reasons for this. The first is that they know you. They know your performance. They know your skills, your abilities. They don’t have to figure out anything about hiring a new employee, adding a new person to their payroll, onboarding a new person.  The second reason is that for you to get a job at a new employer, your package of knowledge, skills and abilities have to be so overwhelmingly positive that you are worth the risk.  Look where you are at, talk to people. Find your opportunity!

Which brings us to my 4th solution. 

What can you do to have the most job security?  The answer to this question is simple. Work for the one person in the world who would NEVER fire you. WORK for YOURSELF. Find a passion, develop your abilities, learn something unique and valuable, start your own company. Provide something new, something great, something unique, something creative. Figure out what gives you your own unique and personal professional competitive advantage, and figure out a way to profit from it. Charge what you are happy receiving, work at what you are proud of and carve your own niche, whether it is microscopic, or enormous.

If you know what you CAN do – your next question is, what SHOULD you do?  That is an answer for another day.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Life, Marketing, People | Comments Off on 4 Solutions

Metrics and Life

We track what we care about – We track metrics that matter in our lives. If we care about something, it is important to HAVE metrics that we can track – metrics that measure improvement or not.

I had a doctors appointment yesterday. For the most part I just wanted to get some renewed RX’s, but as part of every visit, my doctor’s office checks weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and temp. My BP was a bit high, probably because I worked past 3am the night before, and started at 7am yesterday – probably because I’ve got 3 dozen projects simultaneously in need of care and feeding – probably because I was stressed about trying to get to the doctor’s office on time.  For the slightly elevated BP, I have rationalizations.

But I was also up 11 lbs since my last doctor’s visit, and that was only 3 months ago. scale I was shocked. For many years, I’ve made it a practice to check my weight daily. I’ve checked it in the morning, checked it in the evening, checked it randomly almost every day.
When I look at the results – the bare measurement – and the factors involved in reaching those results, I am left with 2 emprical findings:

1) I stopped measuring my weight
2) My weight went where I didn’t want it to go

These two things are connected. As a whole, in life and in technology, people measure what they care about.  Everyone watches their 401k, their annual salary… Everyone watches metrics about things in their life that are important to them.  The first big company website I managed increased its traffic over 500% in the first year that I managed it. I know that particular statistic because that metric was one that I cared about.

Over the last two months, I’ve sold a house, bought a house, moved from one house to another… I’ve painted 4 ceilings, 3 rooms, and climbed on the roof to blow leaves out of gutters 3 times. I’ve also started a new gig, gained several hundred twitter followers and gotten my latest business almost ready to launch.  The weight metric has escaped my monitoring because everything in my life has overwhelmed my time-limited and adhd-rattled attention-span.

I treated my weight as if it was less important.

We track what we care about – We track metrics that matter in our lives. If we care about something, it is important to HAVE metrics that we can track – metrics that measure improvement or not.
My point is – when you care about something, when something is important to you, make sure you have some measure of it. Make sure you have some metric that you can measure and monitor to ensure the thing that you care about is going in the direction you want it to go.   Monitoring that sort of measurement, that sort of metric is the best way to correct course when things aren’t going your way.

This morning, before I started work, I stepped on the scale.

What do you think? Do you have metrics for things that matter to you? Do you monitor and manage them?

December 9, 2009 Posted by | Business, Continuous Improvement, Life, Other Stuff, People | Leave a comment