Can You Hear Me? Radio interview at ad:tech

speakerAs you can see from the lack of recent posts on Cobbsblog, things have been particularly busy this month. My November started out with a trip to a trade show in New York called ad:tech. This event brings together a very interesting mix of companies that are in some way or another related to digital marketing.

Digital marketing is one way to describe what my work for Monetate is all about, so I was at the show checking out the digital marketing scene and looking to learn whatever I could. (Quote du jour: "A real expert always looks to learn more and does not always try to look like he's learned everything.")

Judging by the huge crowds, digital marketing is doing well these days. For all our sakes I am hoping that the larger-than-expected attendance bodes well for the economy in 2010.

Shortly after I fought my way through the check-in lines and gained entrance to the exhibit hall I was interviewed for WebmasterRadio by marketing guru Bryan Eisenberg. Here is a link to the interview. (I apologize for sounding out of breath but I had to shout to be heard above the crowd--the sound engineers at WebMasterRadio did an amazing job of filtering out background noise but they couldn't change the fact that I was shouting.) Oh, and here's a link to Bryan.

Anyway, if you take a listen to the interview you will get an idea of what Monetate is about and what my role as "evangelist" for the Monetate technology involves. (If you can't listen to the audio right now, the short answer is that my role as an evangelist is to get people excited about what the technology can do.)

I carry out my role by communicating across multiple media, most of which don't charge for participation. Over the years I have learned how to do this out of necessity, often working for startup companies that did not have a marketing budget to speak of (or we had a budget but it got eaten by engineering, or product delivery, or something else that was deemed a priority over marketing at the time).

Starting from back in the days when this type of thing was called guerilla marketing, I have pioneered the idea that if you offer up free content that is also valuable content, people will find that content, consume that content, and give some respect to the content creator. So when I created a web site back in the mid-nineties that was full of high quality computer security information, people who had read the content would call up looking for security advice, which we sold as security consulting, creating a blue ribbon client portfolio that became very valuable and was eventually snapped up by a much bigger company that paid us a premium for it.

A dozen years on and I am working on marketing a marketing product, finding that a lot of people have twigged to this strategy, so things are not quite so easy. But the strategy is still sound and I will keep persevering, adding new tactics like social media (an umbrella term for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs) to my arsenal. And of course, radio interviews whenever they present themselves.

You Can't See My House From Here: And I'm okay with that

Having written several posts in the past about Google Street View, including one featuring the house in which I was born, I thought I would post a Street View picture of where I live now:

Cobb Hill on Google Street View

As you can see--or rather, not see--the Google Street View camera vehicle did not get very close. In fact, it drove along the state highway near us, but that was it. Street View does not extend to the county road on which our 'official' address is located. And I'm okay with that.

I remain ambiguous about Street View in light of it's potential for abuse as a scouting tool by burglars and perverts. This has been widely discussed, particularly in the context of English cities where the narrowness of streets can put the Google camera very close to living room windows. But past discussions have focused on urban street views. Now Google is photographing rural roads, adding a new dimension to the potential for abuse.

It is no secret that farmers and ranchers don't always store their tractors and trailers in barns. In fact, putting all the equipment away at the end of every day, or every time you left the homestead to go to town, well that would be hugely unproductive, not to mention being a major pain in the butt. It's also common knowledge that some farms are located close to, sometimes bifurcated by, state and county highways, as seen here on Street View.



But common knowledge and specific knowledge are two different things; keeping them apart may keep some light-fingered city types from pillaging trusting country dwellers. Now Google Street View is bringing them together. Who knows who is surfing the hinterlands looking for easy targets?

A Tale of Intrigue & DNS: See HughesNet “blocking” my blog, now on YouTube

I have just uploaded my "HughesNet DNS Fail" video to YouTube but you can watch it right here. To be honest it is not my most polished video work, but I think it gets the job done. I have another one in the works that might be more effective. The plot goes like this: At times when HughesNet refuses to show me my own blog--yes, this very blog that you are reading--I can reach it via my iPhone over the AT&T Edge network. One of these days I am going to get really calm and centered and call HughesNet support with iPhone in hand and try to explain the flaw in their DNS ways one more time before I call in the sharks.

Genetic Hemochromatosis or Haemochromatosis? Neither one is good news

I did not know, until someone commented yesterday on an earlier post about genetic hemochromatosis, that the English spell it haemochromatosis. So I thought I would create this post to let other people know, and to link the hemo posts together (if you click on that link it will take you to a menu of the blog posts here that are about Genetic Hemochromatosis or Haemochromatosis).

In case you are new to this blog, genetic hemochromatosis or haemochromatosis is a condition in which the victim's body does not handle excess iron very well, resulting in long term and potentially fatal organ damage (liver, heart, kidneys, adrenal glands, pituitary, thyroid, etc.). Sometimes called iron overload disease, it is technically a condition and not a disease, but it can be pretty bloody miserable if you have it, whatever you call it.

A stunning percentage of doctors know less about this disease than you can read on this blog, and a surprising number of doctors and victims don't know about the Celtic genetic connection of the condition, which you can read about in the other posts and the links I have put there.

Finally, this blog is not devoted to iron overload, it is my personal blog about anything that interests or concerns me. Because my life partner of nearly 25 years has this condition, iron overload concerns me. I would like to help other people know more about it (if my partner's condition had been diagnosed sooner, she would not have been so badly disabled by it).

Most Worst Recession: Most worst copy editing?

ap-logoYesterday, I was stunned to read an Associated Press story that cited "more evidence that the most worst recession since the 1930s was losing its grip on the global economy." Here's one example of the story.

I was stunned, not by the idea that the recession might be ending, but by the lack of copy editing. Since when did the AP give up on correcting egregious errors like "most worst" anything? I have a lot of respect for the AP and I sure as heck don't want to annoy them by pointing out their flaws. If you've done any work in PR you know that AP stories frequently get repeated in hundreds of newspapers and on thousands of sites all over the Internet. Getting your product or company mentioned in an AP story is a PR milestone.

But it's this mass replication that worries me when it comes to declining standards in copy editing. Right now a Google search for "most worst recession" returns over 51,000 hits and I'm betting most of those hits are that AP article. How long before students routinely refer to the current recession as the most worst?

Cobbsblog on YouTube (via Stagecoach not Satellite)

This is a quick post to highlight the video I just uploaded to YouTube. Probably not my finest mixed media effort, it's a quick screencast to demonstrate the fact, oft-mentioned to friends and colleagues, that the $80-per-month HughesNet Satellite Internet service which I get at my house "blocks" access to my blog.

(10/2/2009: Video link updated. For the video, click here.)

In fact, even as I write this, I am being forced to eat a veggie pannini at Stagecoach Coffee in Cooperstown so I can use their free WiFi to get to my blog to post this on my lunch hour. As you can see in the video, accessing my blog via HughesNet  "normally" results in a DNS Lookup Error. However, there is nothing wrong with the blog, as can be demonstrated with DownForEveryone, which I demonstrate in the video.

I have reported this problem to HughesNet but they tell me it must be a problem with my web site or web hosting company. Obviously the problem is NOT with my web site or host. I am pretty sure the problem is HughesNet DNS. I even demonstrated this to HughesNet by running Anonymizer which, as shown in the video, intercepts the HughesNet DNS and makes my blog accessible over the very same HughesNet connection that said "DNS Error."

My speculation that this problem occurs because I am frequently critical of HughesNet, on this and other blogs, is indeed speculation. But you don't have to be ultra-paranoid to think it mighty strange that my HughesNet connection, which can reach Google.com but not Cobbsblog.com, is fishy. It certainly stinks.

Healthcare Reform: Where I stand

I think some of my friends are beginning to wonder why I have resisted blogging about the current healthcare debate in America, given that I have--as they know all too well by now--a lot of opinions on the subject. The truth is I cannot afford to get drawn into this one.

Why? I am way too busy holding down a job and patching up the hole in the roof and generally doing the things necessary to get by, like figuring out how to pay off the mid-five figure medical bill my wife's current illness has run up, so far (a task made even more challenging now that my credit score is getting perilously close to my IQ--and no, I don't think I'm getting smarter as I get older).

This state of affairs is unfortunate in more ways than one (or two or five). For a start, I feel that I have a useful perspective on healthcare reform. I was born and raised by socialized medicine. It served me and my family well. When my father died of cancer at 50, the family's grief and loss was not compounded by fears that his illness would bankrupt us. We never saw a bill. We never paid a penny, except to send flowers to the nurses who cared for him so mercifully in his final hours.

Since moving to America in 1976, I have observed what damage fate can do to a family through accidents and ill health compounded by the absence of any systematic approach to caring for the less fortunate. Yet  during that time the prevailing American attitude to healthcare appeared to be:
"I will take my chances. Whenever I see someone brought low by pain and suffering and medical bills I will pray for them, maybe make a donation, then remind myself "There but for the grace of God go I."

When I decided to make a new life in America I knew that it was a gamble. Work hard and you can do well. You can rise high and fast. The risk is that you can fall even faster, and way further, than in most "wealthy" countries. The only insurance against all eventualities in America is to have a lot of money in the bank, I'd say high eight figures at a minimum.

About 12 years ago I heard a doctor, who was also a U.S. congressman, describe, in a public speech, the prevailing American sentiment on healthcare:
"I've worked hard all my life. I didn't party in high school, I studied. I went through years of grueling college and post-grad education so I could make a good living. I have earned, and I deserve, better healthcare than the guys who come to mow my lawn every week."

As I said at the outset, I cannot spend much time on this. I can't do the lobbying and blogging and networking that I would like to do in order to change, or at least try to change, this point of view. About all I can do is present my own view on healthcare, stated as a general principle :
"The total bill for providing systematic and equal care to all members of society should be born equally by all members of society and paid by all members, according to their means."

I cannot think of a single reason why a caring and compassionate person would argue against that. Dozens of countries have adopted this principle and made it work. I cannot think of a single valid reason why America cannot do the same. That's where I stand on healthcare.

How to Lose Customers: A one-act, two-scene play performed in three tweets

Here is the original form of the play, a short blog post:

How to Lose Customers (USPS sinking)

Act I, Scene I: A United States Postal Service office.

Me: I want to send this package to England.

Postal Clerk: You can't send it like that, you have the wrong tape on it. And this paperwork's not complete.

[Me exits building, walks down the street carrying package.]

Act I, Scene II: A UPS shipping office.

Me: I want to send this package to England.
[Hands clerk the same package seen in Scene I.]

Clerk: No problem, just write your name here and the address it's going to. We'll do the rest.

[The End]

This play was recently performed as a series of three tweets on Twitter, as shown below. Literary scholars will note that, as posted live, the original tweets said "Me exists" where it should have said "Me exits" thus prompting speculation as to the playwright's state of mind at the time.

Tweet 1. How to Lose Customers: A one-act play in 3 tweets. Act I, Scene I: A United States Post Office. Me: I want to send this package to England.

Tweet 2. USPS Clerk: You can’t send it like that, you've got the wrong tape on it. And this paperwork’s not complete. [Me exits, carrying package.]

Tweet 3. Scene II: UPS office. Me: I want to send this package to England. Clerk: Write your name and address it’s going to. We’ll do the rest. [End]

And the Damage Done: Hemochromatosis recap

ironThe following is a recap of things I have learned from my partner's experience with hemochromatosis, a.k.a iron overload. I wrote this up for a support forum which is private, but I thought it would be helpful to make it available to anyone looking for information on this insidious condition. BTW, the circle+arrow symbol on the left is the alchemical symbol for iron, and yes, it is the same symbol that is used for the planet Mars and for the male of the species (I'm not going to touch that one, I have a hard enough time avoiding "ironic" puns when writing about this stuff).

[Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Seek medical advice before acting on, or drawing conclusions from, anything I say here. By all means Google this stuff, but do so sensibly (check the bona fides of the folks writing what you read, distrust any site that is selling a cure, and look for the HONcode which is a good sign).]

When blogs or online forums mention hemochromatosis, also known as iron overload, they often leave you with more questions than answers. This is not surprising because hemochromatosis is widely misunderstood (and widely under-diagnosed e.g. if you know someone who has been diagnosed with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia you really should check out hemochromatosis--if untreated it can kill).

You often hear "hemochromatosis can be treated" as though that was the end of the story. Not so...

Hey 19: Things to do when promoting a cause or company, product or person, band or brand

hey19This is a quick attempt to put into one place various bits of advice that I've been giving out to various people over the past few months with respect to raising the profile of a person, place, or thing.

The idea is that you have something you want to publicize. It could be a band, a brand, a product, a company, or an indie film; or it could be you.

Before you go out and hire a PR agency or pay for a press release, you might want to try these things. They are free, except for your time and an Internet connection. In the old days they would have been called guerilla marketing. Now it's called Web 2.0 marketing or New Rules marketing. The strategy is to create interest--in whatever you are promoting--by being interesting. You want to draw people to the object of attention rather than subject them to a message. I will try to post something later on how to be interesting. The following are 19 things to get started with. I've broken them down into 3 phases: