Category Archives: Web/Tech

Use Your Marbles: Buy a Beer Company and Learn to Ride a Bike

Normally I would share web sites via Twitter, but I have three to share – totally unrelated to each other except for mangled headline that I just came up with and didn't feel like cobbling together three Tweets.

First of all, if you happen to be looking to own a beer company – or at least part of one – here you go:  Please take note all you Pabst Blue Ribbon fans out there!

I love really clever uses of technology, and this is one of the neatest uses I've seen in a while.  A very simple concept being put to good use to teach kids how to ride bikes: Gyrobike

Last but not least, is this cool new store that is based out of Chicago but that I can see going national very easily, called Marbles.  Keeping an aging population's brain well-tuned is going to be a continuing theme for business everywhere,  and this addresses is directly. 

Cultural Shifts Among Coffee Shops, Newspapers and Shoppers

A few articles related to our everyday culture caught my eye today:

First, a very short article about the widening generation gap when it comes to "buying American."  I will admit that the idea of "Buy American" is a bit foreign (interesting choice of words) to me.  I didn't grow up in a household that was "always buy American" (we usually had a Honda or something in the family to go along with our GM or Ford), so I didn't have that influence growing up.  I remember when Walmart first started to expand nationally and started to come into the Northeast, their big thing was "American-Made Goods."  As that positioning fell away in favor of "always low prices," it is ironic that Walmart's push for lower cost goods is part of what has driven so many companies to switch to overseas manufacturing.  

However, separate fromthat influence, sales of foreign-made goods have obviously been growing for years, to the point where I think those of "generation y" and younger don't really think twice about buying something made in another country.   We don't remember a time when goods made in an Asian country meant something that would fall apart.  In many cases, we now equate it with a higher level of quality than many American-made products.  And when it isn't, we equate it with being cheap enough to just throw out and get a replacement.  When all of the Star Wars toys you played with growing are stamped with "Made in China" on their little plastic feet, you don't really think twice about buying a radio, TV, or car made in Asia. 

In addition, we live in a more globally connected world, one where you can easily speak with someone in China, India or Japan - not just over the phone, but via video conference, Skype, IM, or email.  Someone who is over 55 may remember when the only way of getting to the Far East involved slow moving ocean liners.  Now we can get there in under 24 hours on high speed jets that fly several times a day.  When you can overcome the geographic distance between people so easily, the thought of holding a physical object in your hand from that same country isn't as bewildering.  You don't question the technology that allows you to communicate or visit with them, so why question the fact that you're using a product made in that country? 

The second article is about the banning of laptop computers in coffee shops.  What struck me most about this article is not about the controversy over whether or not these cafes are doing the right thing for their business, but rather the fact that the articles refers to out-of-work professionals shacking up in these cafes so that they can use the wi-fi connections for the things they need to do: look for a job, pay bills, etc.  We've become so strongly connected to the Internetthat we simply can't operate without it.  What do you do when you do all of your on line "life management" using your work's internet connection, and then you suddenly don't have a job?  You're sitting there in limbo with no connection at home and unable to afford one, and in the meantime you've gone "paperless" with every company you do business with.  Where do you go? 

We may be creating a new type of homeless – those who have someplace to live, but no place to connect.  The "wandering netless" we could call them.  Forget tent cities and a 55-gallon drum filled with scrap wood for warmth under the overpass; we may see former professionals huddling around a router, vying for a sliver of bandwidth.   How long until the stories of widespread "hi-jacked WiFi signals" start to appear?  Perhaps it is just a matter of time until the local soup kitchen offers food, winter coats and free WiFi.  I don't mean to sound flip, but rather pose a serious question – as we become more connected (which most would say is a good thing, unless you want to buy American) how do we survive when we can no longer connect?

Last, but not least, and probably not completely unrelated to the above, is this analysis on what is killing the newspaper industry.  I admit that as net-centric as I am, I still love the traditional newspaper, especially the Sunday paper.  I like the tactile sensory experience of it, and the intellectual nature of paging through, browsing the news and feature articles.  With all the newsletters and web sites I read through during the course of a week, I still find new and interesting information in the newspaper whenever I pick it up. 

So basically, I have a soft spot for the traditional newspaper, and it makes me sad to think of it dying the slow, painful death that it is going through right now.   I agree with the analysis, even if I never thought about it in the way it is described: newspapers weren't in the business of delivering news – they were in the business of delivering ads right to the doorsteps and into the living rooms of their customers. 

As time and technology marched on, far more efficient and specialized ways have replaced that expertise, and in response, newspapers dug in their heels, and shed off some of the thing that made them unique in the first place.   They were able to keep making money by cutting costs and consolidating, but didn't keep their eye on the long game. 

I don't think the analysis offers up a lot of useful advice on turning things around, but I hope that someone out there reads it and figure out a way to save an industry that can be important… especially when you are carrying around your Japanese-manufactured laptop and can't find a place to get on the internet for the latest news!

Social Networking News

So I have this blog (obviously).  I also have another blog where I review hot wings, and another that I don't attend to that much which tracks my barbecue experiences.  I also have my main domain name, which is simply a holding place for most of my links.   Then of course I have the obligatory Facebook profile, and I even still have a MySpace profile (that no one has done anything with in about eight months thanks to Facebook).  I've got my profile up on, and for more professional-related endeavors, I have my LinkedIn profile, and one on Plaxo, plus a few others that sites have cobbled together for me, with mixed results, which is interesting – social networking that I don't even have to interact with – is that called anti-social networking or social anti-networking? I recently joined on the Twitter bandwagon with an account there, which I find myself using far more than I thought I would.  Part of the reason is because I have it linked in to my Facebook profile, which uses my Tweets to update my status.   I also have my Yelp! account and Digg account linked into my Facebook profile.  Which means my Yelps, Diggs and Tweets are showing up here on this blog and on my Facebook profile. 

If you followed all that, then you should read this article about "Time Saving Social Networking Strategies" which makes me look like a rank amateur.

With all this online networking, it is bound to lead to some off-line meet-ups, and sure enough: Forrester is hosting a "Tweetup" in Boston in July, and there's even a new company dedicated to it called Tweetnetworking.   Do people Twitter about being at a Tweetup?  Do they Twitter while there? 

Remember when the Matrix movies seemed like a real head trip?  The whole alternate reality thing seems kinda tame now that we're in the world of Web 2.0!

Are you “App-Noxious”?

I admit it…  having a "smart phone" I have been known to whip it out in the middle of a conversation to look up some obscure fact, whether it is what movie some random actor was in or which album a deep cut was on. 

Thanks to the iPhone (which I do NOT own) and their Apps, there is now a name for people like me… "app-noxious."  Welcome to the new world where everyone is a know-it-all.. and we can double check our facts!

Two Things for the Foodies Out there, and One for the Music Fans

Three web sites that I recently learned about and wanted to share:

Livekick – First for the music fans… I'm always on the lookout for ways to track when your favorite artists are coming to town for a show, and this is another site that has joined the fray that already has Tourfilter, Sonic Living and others.

Drink A Better Brew – Pretty aggressive concept here.  Not only are they putting on beer and food pairing dinners that the public can join in, but if you can get 10 friends together, they will bring the party to your house.  Kinda like one of those Tupperware/jewelery/kitchen stuff/naughty things-type parties that the gals usually have, but geared towards beer geeks.

Foodzie – A shopping site for foodies.  Nothing is cheap, but there's some interesting things on there.  If someone tries Q tonic water, let me know if it is really worth almost $60/case!

In the meantime, hopefully I can find someplace to buy aged provolone.  I tried it for the first time this weekend and it is the first time I've had a cheese that is actually tangy in a good way.   Very rich, flavorfull and this biting tang at the end that made it almost refreshing.

Thursday Morning Web Giggles

First of all, the best t-shirts I've seen in a while…  Band Geek Hero.  I know what you're thinking: "Finally!  I can get a Glockenspiel Hero t-shirt!  If only they will come out with the video game now!"

Second: Sexy People Portraits.  Regrettable portraits of people in the past.  Tread with caution, lest you find yourself in there. 

Last but not least, The Dairy Arch, a blog put together by my actor/comedian/performer/blogging cousin.  It gathers together some of the funniest stuff (according to him… but I trust him) out on the web.

Cool Web Sites

Want to share a couple of web sites that I’ve recently found and thought are interesting enough to share: – A great foodie site, in a traditional portal format, with links to lots of other great food and drink-related sites and articles

First I heard about True Mom Confessions which led to True Office Confessions and True Bride Confessions and True Green Confessions. The blog roll on the front page makes for quick, easy, and addictive entertainment on all of them.

My bride-to-be and I are starting to think about cleaning up and cleaning out our old stuff, trying to sell off whatever we can, and any old electronics are probably going to be sold via Second Rotation.

And last but not least, to satisfy your inner paranoid freak in all of us, visit 72 Hours which helps you with planning for an unexpected disaster.  Of course, if you’re planning for it, is really unexpected, and wouldn’t it be better to have all the information in hard copy format, since if a disaster is really hitting, chances are you won’t be able to get online to view the site…  The site is actually San Fransisco-focused, but the information is good for anyone.

Technology Update

Among friends, family and co-workers, I have gained a reputation as a tech-savvy person; someone who is always in on the latest gadgets and technologies.  I admit that I do like technology and I tend to be pretty comfortable with it, and I do like gadgets, but I’m hardly an "early adopter" or obsessed with technology.  Most of the time I just want my computer to not crash, my laptop to start up within a reasonable amount of time and the GPS unit to send me to the right hotel.   Other than that, I’m not all about upgrading everything every year. 

However, in the last few months, I’ve acquired a few pieces of technology that have greatly impacted my life and my entertainment options.

First was an iPod.  I know I"m a few years behind on this one, but I’ve always put it off for a few reasons: first it was because of price and because the iPods weren’t big enough to hold my music collection.  Then their storage capacities got bigger and it because an issue of price and being frightened by how long it would take for me to rip my music collection (1500+ CDs) to iTunes.  But I always wanted one, and finally I was given one for Christmas and I haven’t stopped using it since.  I use it on planes and in hotel rooms while traveling and listen to it nearly all day long in my office through a small speaker system.  And even with XM Satellite Radio and a CD player in my car, I find myself using it there as well.  I knew it would have a major impact on my music habits, but even I underestimated how much the brilliantly simple device would change how I "consume" music.  I’ve listened to a wider variety of bands than I have in years, since I don’t have to haul around so many CDs.   Getting all of my music collection onto it continues to be a daunting task, but I am picking away at it and enjoying getting to reacquaint myself with old albums that I had forgotten about.

Shortly after the iPod came the Nintendo Wii.   Let me start off with a little context: up until last spring, the last video game system I bought was the original NES.   Then after a little taste of Guitar Hero, I found myself in possession of a PS2.  However we never moved any further than Guitar Hero – in fact, with one exception of about two hours when a neighbor brought over a Spider-Man game, I don’t think any game other than Guitar Hero has ever seen the inside of our PS2.  So basically, it is a Guitar Hero console.

Then this past Christmas came when we got to try the Wiiat my fiance’s family’s house and after about 30 seconds of playing with the controller, we made the decision that we had to get it.  It ended up being a present to us, and it has become a true entertainment center for us: from playing games to creating Miis, it has quickly become part of our regular routine and a primary "entertainment option."   Super Mario Galaxy is the best video game I have played in years and nearly each game we’ve played on the Wii makes use of the Wii remote and/or Nunchuck in such an intuitive manner that just about anyone can quickly pick up a new game and start having fun with it.  I recently read an article where a Nintendo marketing executive said that the major insight for the Wii was that there were more people out there who DON’T play video games (Nintendo’s Blue Ocean Strategy) than those who DO, and the Wii is designed for those who aren’t hard-core gamers, which I was never one (at least not since Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out).  They wanted a FUN, easy-to-use video game system, not one that could render the splattering of blood in Call of Duty 4 with the greatest realism. The strategy worked: its fun and we’re hooked.

The most recent technological development – one that is only a few days old – is TiVO.  Yeah, I know, I’m even more behind on this one – the iPod came out in October of 2001, the Wii in September of 2006, but the TiVo launched in March 1999!  Nearly 8 years later, I feel like I wasted a lot of time running around with VCR tapes and actually trying to be home when a TV show is actually on.   If you don’t have a TiVoor a similar DVR, and you watch more than 2 TV shows on a fairly regular basis, you really need to get one.  Just last night, we were able to clean up after dinner while the Simpsons were paused and then come back and catch up with the show after we were done. 

So that’s my tech update.  Check back with me in anywhere from 2 to 7 years to see if I’ve jumped on the Blu-Ray bandwagon!