Giving Away the Collective Iowa "Farm" for the Google Server Farm

There's a googolplex of reasons why the state of Iowa is gushing over a new Googleplex being built within its borders. There are about 100 articles/posts hitting the wires every hour about it.  Here's a post at InfoWorld on it.

But has anyone done the math on this project with the tax credits, sales tax exemptions, and alleged jobs this facility will produce?  Does Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) have so much "star power" that legislators are willing to sell their souls to the "do no evil" Googolopoly?  I wonder if some GAAP accounting applied properly would yield that the cost to operate and build this facility is net zero for the next 20 years...just in time for an exit? 

I'm going to head out to Council Bluffs and do some investigative reporting a la Stone Phillips to get real resident reactions, etc. 

Are you nervous about Google and their continuing global domination...or are you concerned with them terraforming (or Googleforming) another colony here in the heartland?  Or are you just happy to have your city in the paper in a positive way?  More reports from the field to come.

New Godaddy E-mail feature

If you use the free email service like I do (forwarded to gmail), then you might find this interesting.  I've forgotten twice now to check that email box only to have it fill up and start rejecting messages.  There's no reason to check it if you're living in gmail of course...but until now, there was no easy way to remind oneself that I knew about at least.

Well, now there's a new "auto-purge" feature that will dump messages older than XX.  You simply right click on the INBOX, select AUTO PURGE, and select the frequency.  I don't really need them to be saved at all but I feel that it's a fail safe against some kind of non-delivery by gmail.  One never knows.

Anyway, I know that a few of you use this and it can sure save some missed emails and technical faux pas.


RSS Made Simple

I actually expected some claymation in this video :)

There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don't. This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don't know where to start.

Posting From Word 2007

I just read the Typepad blog and they have just highlighted the fact that one can post directly to a blog from within MS WORD 2007.  I had just finished typing a post in that program so I gave it a try.  It's VERY clean except the TAGGING boxes that most of us have set up (technorati, typepad key word, etc.) are not there.  Thus, a visit back to the post on typepad is required to execute on this.  I usually find my self using word to create posts when I'm on a plane only.  In general, it's probably good practice since I've lost numerous killer posts to a "time out" or something that cannot be explained while using typepad on line.

Twitter Dee Twitter's Dumb?

I still haven't signed up at the Twitter site.  I guess I'm not looking for what I feel (at this early stage) to be yet another distraction. Maybe I'm just not getting it yet...but I really don't have much interest in hearing a constant blow by blow of what a world of others are doing in that instant.  Is it that I feel connected to the "real" people enough that I don't need the random community friends?  It's probably a great tool to build yet more awareness for one's personal brand, (is it?)...but at what cost for interruptions,etc.

I find it very difficult to get into the "zone" of creative "flow" type thinking where I can crank out quality content, think through multi-layer issues, and really produce with the interruptions that I have now.  I'm still attempting to scale back the things I do (number of feeds that I read, projects in the air at once, periodicals I read, etc.) so on the surface, Twitter offers me nothing I'm seeking.

As we keep building tools, widgets, and disruptors that sap our analytical "long term" thinking, I think it may become very easy to stand out in the crowd say for jobs or in school.  I'm already skeptical of what our education system could become if we abandon writing entirely for example...since after all, who uses a pen anymore?  Will the good writers be hailed as intellectual goddesses and luminaries because they can put a 1500 word opinion piece together with non-wikipedia evidence? 

I already find myself skipping punctuation on emails to "save time".   I also use w/John to communicate "With John" in emails to save 2 strokes.   Add in the 2500+ marketing messages that bombard us daily  and what will result?  I'm not suggesting that we squelch development of these technologies...but I am commenting on their long term affect on human mental development.  Short term thinking which I like to call "Media Crisis" thinking, breeds panic, wild eyed solutions to complicated problems, and the kind of politicians and electorate we seem to have cultured today.

Perhaps the human brain will adapt and become more powerful that we can possibly imagine.  Or, we may just atrophy the parts of our brains that let the skin on our knuckles heal.

RSS Primer

This fantastic introduction to RSS feeds is well produced and digestible for novices as well.  Odds are, if you're reading this in a feed reader, you may be past this "grade level".  This has been linked so many times that giving credit is impossible so thanks all for pointing me to it.  Viral marketing at work in blogLand.  I'd suggest a subscription to the blog to get the future training episodes if you're at all interested in RSS and what it means to you and your business (tip:  you should be interested).

Get A LIFE Bloggers!

I hope the headline has captured you and left you wanting more.  When you read this post, please keep in mind that I'm not attempting to discredit the internationally known author and speaker involved...rather I'm trying to make some observations about the fit of blogging into marketing tactics for any business. 

I recently participated on a panel discussion and presentation on heavy equipment GPS monitoring and tracking at the American Rental Association show in Atlanta.  My session immediately followed one on Guerrilla Marketing for the Rental Industry presented by Orvel Ray Wilson.  Mr. Wilson has authored many books and his "hit hard and hit fast and be different" approach is awesome.  His company is called the Guerrilla Group and I recommend you explore what his company could do for your business.  His seminar was by far the best I saw, full of energy, humor, and valuable marketing advice.

The equipment rental industry is somewhat old school...but the perfect playing field to stand out and be different right?  Mr. Wilson's discussion had included only a mention of email marketing...but had zero mention of social media or blogging.  Anytime someone stands in front of me and ignores something that I believe to be incredibly powerful, I feel obligated to discover the big "why".   

I approached and asked the question below and I'm paraphrasing the best I can recall based on notes taken immediately afterward.

The Chat
Doug:  "I didn't hear you mention anything about blogging during your discussion, what role do you believe it plays in the guerrilla marketing equation?"
Mr. Wilson:  "Ahhhh blogging...well I don't blog...basically because I have a life...(chuckling)...I mean there's a million blogs out there and there's a lot of garbage.  You have to know how to write...write editorial copy...and write well....(he got busy and began doing some other tasks).
Doug:  "Interesting...I really wanted to see your take since blogging is a powerful tool for some."

Mr. Wilson was busy cleaning up his laptop, etc. from his speaking session and was interacting with many of the A/V staff so I stopped asking questions and tried to take in what I'd just heard.  Of course, the first thing that fired off in my brain was, "This is going to be a good post for discussion among my readers". 

So I'll leave you with a few observations and questions that are still resonating in my travel fogged head.

The Takeaways

  1. The belief that blogging is something for only good copy writers is a serious miscalculation.  Blogging exposes the writer's true voice and reveals their style, tone, and method doing business very often.  Anyone that reads my blog "already knows me".  They know my positions, my pauses, my emphasis and my passions.   Many of my top 10 marketing blogger friends around the U.S. often use "real language" to communicate their vision/passion/point.   Editorial blogging is typically as boring as "mainstream media" know the media that folks are paying less attention to.  Although many bloggers write well and with clarity, others destroy the English language and its grammar and do just dandy.  Should everyone blog?  I'm sure there are reasons why some shouldn't...but one of those reasons should not purely be the editorial quality of the writing.  Should everyone read blogs or have searches automated to see what folks are saying about them?  Yes.  In fact, Mike McLaughlin who wrote Guerrilla Marketing for Consultantsblogged on this same topic a while ago.  Interesting.  Mike says, "If the purpose of a business blog is to reach your targeted audience, it’s best to know someone out there would want to read your stuff. Any one of us could rattle off a number of industries where blogs are still an oddity, not a fixture."  No and Yes.  How would I have ever known that finding a certain part number for an internal air card on my Dell laptop could help so many people around the world? happened, because I blogged on it.  I had absolutely no idea that anyone would find that valuable...but they did, by the boat load.  In the heavy equipment rental space, I bet there are few blogs if any.  If yours was the first and you blogged with even a modicum of skill in tagging or linking, you'd be found.  Trust me.  Why must the only value in your blog come from your direct industry?  I've achieved higher search engine rankings and first page results on many key topics that I blog about often like customer service and relocation.  In many cases, my more popular blog entries show up well ahead of the company's intended marketing message.  Old school business models may benefit from a blog more than more high tech businesses.  There's more cutting edge technology and marketing taking place in some seemingly old school segments than one would imagine.  GPS technologies and telematics are taking this industry by storm and allowing equipment rental companies to provide an unparalleled level of service. I'd bet that within 90 days, I could place higher than most when searching for "equipment rental" if I put my blogging efforts toward it.
  2. The belief that blogging is relegated to those that don't "have a life", is putting it lightly...ignorant.  AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I received a phone call from someone that knows Mr. Wilson suggesting that his comment about "not having a life" was likely geared towards his own personal schedule...meaning that "He'd not have a life if he were to try and blog". I have updated my post to reflect that I can see this point of view.  I had been quite fair that the comment was probably just a passing commentary lacking much context, but the rest of my post stands on its own and I hope the larger point is still the overriding one)  I'm pretty sure that Mr. Wilson's comment wasn't meant as a direct derogatory commentary on me, Seth Godin, Brad Feld, Tom Peters, Mark Cuban, and Guy Kawasaki.  Likely it was a humorous off the cuff remark that we all make from time to time.  I could list a thousand other blogs written by not so known names but the point holds.  We have a life.  In fact, we've taken on blogging as a means to communicate in an unfiltered way with our customers, potential customers, and casual observers.  We're using our real mojo and experiences in the life-business ecosystem to provide value for others.  We've all simply put a priority on understanding a new technology and new media platform.  It's the platform that our future employees are very familiar with.  It's the platform that can bring thousands of visitors scrambling to see what you think about the business trends and emerging issues.  Undoubtedly, this post will reach Mr. Wilson because of linking and tagging, and will probably be forwarded to him by a blogger with a life. 
  3. At the very least, interpret "blogging" as maintaining automated blog searches and tag searches to find out what people are saying about you when you're sleeping.  Nothing is more powerful than receiving an unsolicited "Thanks" or "Ooops" from the CEO of a company because they were paying attention.  If you're paying attention you have a serious competitive advantage vs. those who aren't.  Leverage that and odds are, you'll do better than "the rest".  Period.

The essence of guerrilla marketing for me is doing what isn't normally done, doing it cheap(er), doing it different.  Blogging is the pinnacle of cheap, different, and REAL.  It's worth an hour long workshop to understand the basics.  Then, if the CEO can't seem to put a coherent thought together, then find someone in the organization who can or hire someone. 

I think next year, you'll see a seminar by Doug called, "Social Media and the Heavy Equipment Rental Industry:  How To Get A Life Through Blogging!".   I invite your commentary.

My telecom nightmare

I moved to Iowa about 13 months ago. Upon arrival, I was welcomed and really hooked up by Mediacom, the cable company presently embroiled in a battle with Sinclair Communications. I've posted on that deal before.  At the end of the day, I'm at the nexus of the perfect storm regarding my whole telecom infrastructure:

  1. I no longer have Fox (24 being the main issue) so I cannot DVR it and must switch over to rabbit ears to see it in scratchy low def.
  2. All of my discounts just expired.  I now have a $180/mo bill for internet, phone, and cable.  That does include a $20 discount on phone.  Mediacom seems to have no interest thus far in keeping me as a customer.  They must be trained with shock therapy to not even flinch when you say, "I'm going to take all of my services elsewhere unless you sharpen this pencil."
  3. My wife wants to keep a local 515 Des Moines, Iowa phone number (now with Mediacom using their excellent unlimited VOIP.  I'm in favor of ditching regular phone all together.  Our cell phones are CA area codes and must remain that way for another reason not worth explaining.
  4. I have Vonage for business already in the house
  5. I have a skype account and skype IN phone number but they don't even offer 515 area code for that nor does Yahoo Phone.

My buddy forwarded me a link to Grand Central where you can use one 515 phone number and it will ring to any phone you want it to ring on (cell, office, etc.)  It's free right now but probably wont be forever and it's a bit clunky.

Anyway, I'm anxious to hear someone's suggestions if they have them..but I'm pretty sure I've covered every conceivable way of doing this..and that I'm left with bending over for Mediacom and living with rabbit ears, or going the DirecTV / Qwest phone/DSL route.      

Mediacom Subscribers: Prepare to Get Jack Bauer On Someone's #$%#@$%

Istock_000000129461xsmallMediacom (our humble Midwestern cable company) has been in a lasting dispute with Sinclair Broadcasting Group)  Apparently, Sinclair wants more money than Mediacom is willing to pay to get the content.  A full article appearing in USA today about the subject is here.  The bottom line is that in Iowa, that means that Fox (NFL, American Idol, 24, etc.) will be gone. 

In an effort to keep customers, Mediacom is offering customers rabbit ears!  Granted, you CAN get the signal...but in our TIVO on demand world, rabbit ears don't help me.  VCR?  Yeah right.  What a ridiculous situation.  DirecTV is offering mega rebates that make it even MORE worthwhile to switch to satellite.  I'm entrenched so far because they're giving me 5MB upload and 10MB download Internet for $30/mo and I have my local phone and obviously TV through them.  I really only care about 24 and will probably end up buying them on itunes or something...but I'm still blown away by being offered something I haven't used since...ummm...??? to tune in my favorite show.  I know you can pull in HD via the airwaves these days...but I don't pay $$$$ for metal bits protruding up the back of a 52 inch DLP HDTV.  Figure it out Mediacom/Sinclair.  Or I will become frustrated and jettison your services...and tell the world about how I was welcomed by the competition.   

Results from collaboration software case study

On December 14th I posted this entry stating my intent to take a "cob web" page and give it some life.  I focused on the PRESS AND MEDIA and PRODUCT SUPPORT pages.  My intent was to use Central Desktop wiki pages to enable quick changes, uploads, and "edit-ability" to the marketing staff.  You wont be impressed since there's really nothing new there...but the infrastructure is completely different. Instead of static pages requiring someone to upload them when they can, etc. this is a fully rights controlled wiki page that can be edited in a snap.  I'm using a custom template within Central Desktop that allows my wiki's or workspaces to look and feel exactly like my web presence.  They helped me with this and it took about 30 minutes.

My biggest source of pride is the impact of spending about 15 minutes on the PRODUCT SUPPORT page.  This page used to have a list of phone numbers of people to contact...that's all.  Now, it has a searchable knowledge base, case submission screen, and of course, the relic phone number page.

The main point that I'm trying to convey here is that I (non tech head) was able to use "auto-generated html code" from, plug it directly into a wiki page, and have these items live and operational in less than 60 minutes. The company went from having  phone only support to self help  and self submit in no time flat.  I don't know about you, but my first attempt at getting answers to questions or support issues is ALWAYS to hit the web first.  99% of the time I can be satisfied by seeking the answers on my own time and on my schedule.

I'd like to reiterate that I've not attacked and solved a tech support infrastructure issue here.  What I've done is solve a chronic problem for SMB's...that is:  Setting up a website that gives you a "presence" on the web that dies a slow and painful death due to inattention.  See most companies set up a site and give the ability to update it to those who created it, usually a web master or IT staffer, or God forbid...the outsourced company that created the site that charges you for each word, color, or font change! I've given the power to update, maintain and freshen a web site to anyone in the company who 1) has permission and 2) who has the skill to use email.

The net net:  60 minutes total time spent between me and the support staff at Central Desktop.  Anyone in the company with permission can add press releases or announcements on the fly.  The company now has a support infrastructure (case management and knowledge base) if they should decide to use it.  Of course more time would be needed to customize, paste in existing content, set up the rules and work flow for tech support, etc...but now it can be executed by far more people in the company and on a moment's notice. 

This is the empowerment and immediate results that SMB's must have to compete today and what I derive great passion from delivering.

Next step:  Get the company's blog (brand new) to look and feel like the website using typepad advanced templates.  Mike, your phone is about to ring. 

A case study in collaboration technology usage

Alrighty.  I'm am going to embark on a small case study and report the results here in the blog.  I am going to take a company's "cob web page" and literally plug in powerful case management (issue tracking or tech support software) , RSS feeds, and wiki pages to allow full power and control in record time. 

The test pages are this product support page and this press release/news page.  Notice the the product support page doesn't allow any knowledge base searching or issue submission? Also, where's the press?  Does anyone even know how to post something to this site without "doing a favor for the developer?"

Each page will get a dosage of affordable web hosted power products from and a pinch of wiki/RSS/collaboration technology from Central Desktop.  My hope is that we'll all take away how easy this is...knowing very little about HTML, WIKI, RSS, etc...

I'll track the time spent on this by all parties and we'll learn how to supercharge your website with tools that will make the big web development houses cringe.  This stuff is NOT hard and shouldn't be the first big investment your company makes. 

CTU 24 Ring Tone

Here we go again!  As reported by the Madison Avenue West Blog, is offering free ringtones.  I don't play around with ring tones very much...but I have sought out a few KEY tones that really change my mood when the phone rings in a positive way.

What do you think is the number one ringtone downloaded?  Of course, it's the CTU 24 Ring tone that I've posted about before. 

This is your true geekdom entry point.  The CTU 24 ringtone used to be very difficult to find and to get working.  I've posted a version of the ringtone here that thousands of people have hit.  However, you can simply sign up for's service since for now, it's free.

I've just added the X-Files theme for a change. gives you the html to embed the tone into a page like this below.

This service seems easy to use and everything happened the way they said it would when I downloaded and set up my latest ringtone.  Thus, without further is the holy grail of Jack Bauer vicarious living. (Drum roll please).

Wikipedia & Google: Antibacterial soap for historical cleansing

I'm getting nervous.  It's not over the climate or human rights or the safety of our universe.  It's over Wikipedia and Google.  Nick Carr at Rough Type has written about this and much better than I, but think about how Google is gathering the collective knowledge of the world (books too) into a historical record...a record that is only as "valuable" as its component's relevance or "click frequency". 

Wikipedia editors are passing judgment daily over what's important or not.  Our children are using what's "out there" as the gospel truth and the foundation of all historical knowledge.  Heck...why do we even have libraries anymore right?  In a few more years, once all old books have been cataloged...we're home free since everything new is electronic first.

Can you remember something that has "become truth" or the common story after so many years of misinformation being published? 

Today the "truth" has become a subjective relevance quotient...with it's own CPM rating.

At our current pace, is it unreasonable to believe that within 50 years our history will be rewritten and edited...cleansed by the Illuminati and a Bradburian fashion until we have no real history (who would know anyway since we all use the same source) or that it will be ripped from us by the wiki-police? 

I hear the fire trucks coming now...gotta run.   

Dualing web cams

After a year of sitting on my desk, the Mitchgroup web cam II is up and running. Now I will likely leave the stationary home office cam in place and move the other around to different spots.  I know some of you actually DO check back often because when the cams are down...I get emails!


I've also reduced the size of video window so both will fit nicely on one page.  It should also help with loading speed and video quality.

It took another support call with DLINK that went very well.  Good job DLINK.  It helped that I had the same router brand as the cameras. 

Marketing & Customer Service Fumble and Recovery: Mediacom

It seems like I'm attracting customer service incidents these days.  I'm a walking trouble ticket apparently.  I'm really not trying, but as an advocate, watch dog, reporter, blogger, dad, concerned netizen, value conscious consumer and evangelist...I must do my duty.

A few days ago, I received a very impactful direct mail piece from my cable company Mediacom.  This piece was shiny opalescent light blue and had the words "Open to explore your VIP benefits".  I'm hugely in favor of being treated well by them since I get my TV, Phone, and Internet service from them...resulting in a monthly bill upward of $120.  I shrieked like a school girl and ripped the envelope open with eager anticipation.  Then I read this....see below.  Read the sentence marked with an arrow at least 2x and get yourself in the state that you get in when you're given something pretty darn cool..absolutely FREE!

I was about to actually PAY FOR THE UPGRADE to the higher bandwidth about a month it was being handed to me as a VIP!  I was told back then, "It would be $59.99/mo (versus the $29.99/mo I am paying now) and that my equipment had to be upgraded along with an installation fee. (I have a VOIP Aeris telephony modem)....Now all costs were to be waived...oh joy! 

I decided right away to visit the special web site that had been created just for me!
Wow, my very own special place.  Notice that there's an 800 number just for me too.  I figured the website would likely answer all of my questions and allow me to upgrade at will (after all, cable companies are big into "ON DEMAND").  I typed in the URL and found this:

Not good.  I tried again and again...and at the time of this posting, the website still doesn't work. 
Next I called the 800 number.  It's nice to have your own "hot line" and I let the website issue slide.  When I dialed in, there was nothing special about the menus or the options.  It was simply (so it seems) a generic 877 number created to track response to the direct mail piece. 

Fine.  So I reach a human.  He was very kind and I explained my new VIP status and asked for my free upgrade.  He had no idea what I was talking about.  After 5 minutes of explanation, he put me on hold for about 5 minutes (not feeling much like a VIP now).  He came back on the line and proceeded to explain that actually, what automatic free upgrade means is that my price is going up to $59.99/mo and that Mediacom is only waiving the "fees to upgrade".  When asked what's involved, he said he said he simply "changes a setting in his software" and my speed is upgraded those "installation fees".  Even though I've cropped the letter in this post...there are NO fine print sections and no small * sections explaining that free is actually quite expensive.  For once, I really thought I had scored big.   After reading my letter verbatim and having the rep politely say that he checked with 2 supervisors and 2 managers and that I was wrong and he was correct...I informed him that I would not be taking my "free upgrade" today.  (He did refund a pay per view movie that I had purchased quickly and efficiently that had awkward pauses in the audio recording on the DVR).

After two days of stewing in my own juices and discussing this offer over and over again with my lovely wife, she said, "The way I read it, you don't even have to DO ANYTHING!" rather this upgrade should just happen.  After another 10 reads...I concurred! 

I called back my VIP hotline again and a nice woman answered the phone.  (A+ for politeness).  This time I took a new approach.  Instead of being verbose (my curse)...I simply said, "I'm calling in for my VIP free upgrade to the faster internet connection" and shut up.  The woman proceeed to handle the change and when asked about why I'd been derailed a few days earlier..she told me explicitly that this offer was not explained to anyone there and that she had peformed the same customer service labotomy on a few people before realizing that this offer was REAL and had been sent to potentially thousands of subscribers.  She (like the other rep) had to go through many layers of management before getting to the truth.  The upgrade was requested and I was a happy customer once again. I did have to email after 48 hours since tests confirmed that I was still at the slow speed.  By morning, a tech had replied and apologized that things didn't happen the way there were supposed to but it was done.

Here are some lessons that I would have thought were learned a long time ago by big highly profitable companies:

  1. If you send out a direct mail piece with a marketing offer, make sure your people actually know about it.  I don't care if they're trained directly...but at least have this in the "intranet or customer service wiki (yeah right) so the reps can access the details and find the "codes" they need to authorize things.  Nothing is as embarrassing as having no clue, then confirming with 4 different supervisors that you really don't have a clue, nor do they.  Goodness.
  2. When you publicize and send out a URL for VIP's make sure it works!  Marketing 101.  Don't buy the super bowl commercial and give the phone number and URL...when the website doesn't work and the phone number is piped to a single line somewhere in Peoria.  Companies don't often get a second chance so get it right the first time.  I guess cable monopolies get two chances..but I was within 48 hours of switching to DIRECTV or DISH.
  3. If you say it's a special toll-free number, make it so.  I want to be acknowledged for my big check every month...not the subject of a direct market "response percentage".  I was very disappointed and expected to reach a human upon first ring since I'm their "golden child"  Where's the gravy?

I'd like to personally thank Jill at Mediacom for making this upgrade happen.  My video conferences are flying now and I'm on top of the bandwidth world!  Close call Mediacom...but you still have me.