Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

Golden Rule Goes Both Ways

When we think of The Golden Rule, we think of it as a proactive thing – a rule to keep us from offending others, to keep them from offending us.

Try to remember, though, that it’s also a reactive thing – not jumping all over someone when they make a mistake keeps us from making the situation worse and stops us from shaming someone who may have offended us by accident.

Knee-jerk anger is cute for sitcoms, but if you want to actually make the situation better you need to be ready to knee-jerk-react with humility and forgiveness and grace.

ugh…Olympics.

I know it’s silly, but my dislike for the Olympics was born in a time when there were only three channels on the television and Olympic coverage meant three weeks of missing all of the best shows on t.v. so we could have exhausted half coverage of obscure sports we had never hear of before. Not being a sports-oriented person or a person who bases success on a comparison with anyone else (it’s not fair to say I’m not competitive, I just only seek to constantly outdo myself), I really only care about sports for more than 10 minutes if I am in them or they are happening directly in front of me.

That being said, hearing the phrase “Russian Women’s Beach Volleyball Team” this morning made me smile from ear-to-ear.

Russian ladies ballin’. Image borrowed from http://tinyurl.com/cltk5m4

Corporations are people. Money is speech. The Supreme Court is not corrupt.

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins

Look at all that speech! (Photo credit: epSos.de)

I’m not suggesting anything, I’m literally just asking for clarification…

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people and money is speech. If that’s true…

  • Is purse-snatching and pick-pocketing now a Federal offense since it’s a violation of the victim’s first amendment rights [stealing money = stealing speech]?
  • Philosophically speaking, is a credit card company [person] loaning you their speech? Is it really fair for them to demand that you pay back more speech [interest] than you use? If so, shouldn’t interest rates on speech at least be something determined by the government?
  • If someone walks into a McDonald’s and kills all of the employees, are they guilty of murder? I mean, they would have been using speech [bullets bought with money] against an infinitesimal portion of the company [person]. Really, in a company that size, the offense would be less than cutting off someone’s fingernail.
  • Companies registered in America, but completely owned by foreigners have more right to decide what goes on in government than any number of citizens with less money to give to politicians, correct?
  • If you boycott a company that you have a history of buying from, are you taking speech away from them?
  • If you bribed a government employee, you’d really just be ‘speaking’ to them, right?
  • Would a government employee using your money in a way you have not approved of be in effect abridging your speech and therefore guilty of [at least] fraud or [more likely] treason?
  • If you use money to hire a political assassin, you can’t be prosecuted, right? You would just be making a statement with your free speech.

Does it all seem absurd? Of course it does. Because companies are not people and money is not speech. We all know these things at the core of our being and only someone motivated by greed would say otherwise.

In a world where money is speech, government employees don’t just have permission, they have a responsibility to favor corporations and the wealthy over anybody else because they have more speech. This, despite the fact that one of the fundamental purposes of a representative government is to ensure that the people — the ones with bodies and souls — have an advocate against any and all threats, foreign and domestic.

If you support any PAC other than WOLF PAC, you’re part of the problem.

# # #

Need a laugh?

BEST NEW MEDIA: Flattr.com

Image representing Flattr as depicted in Crunc...

Flattr.com is a great way to support online media. Image via CrunchBase

Those of us who dabble in new media have a problem.

We have a lot of great ideas for podcasts, blogs, podiobooks, music and everything else. So we start our projects out of our house, we know how to generate an audience for them so they gain popularity, so we put more time and our own money into them (sometimes as much as adding another full-time job to our lives), and they grow, and this spirals until we have a wealth of artists with thousands of global followers and fans.

That’s not the problem. The problem is that online advertisers only pay-per-click or pay-per-performance, so unless the audience goes to the artists’ sites and clicks through their links daily, they can’t generate any money for their art.

By the way, can you imagine if advertisers only paid-per-performance for TV, radio or print advertising? All pre-internet media would disappear within a month. But that’s another discussion for another time.

The problem is that an online artist can entertain more people globally in a week than the hottest street performer sees in three months, but the guy on the street can live comfortably on his tips and the online artist may never see a penny in return.

But there’s good news! There are a lot of people out there on the internet that want to throw tips to these online artists. We know this is true because they do become paying subscribers of shows when they can. We know it’s true because they do buy Kindle books from indies. We know it’s true because they buy music from indie artists.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that you, me, and everybody else in the world only have a limited amount of money we can share, so when we run out some of our favorite artists get missed for no better reason than the fact that they weren’t in our faces at the moment when we had cash.

Enter Flattr.

Flattr is the closest thing to the realization of a thought many of us have had for years. That thought is, “If I could budget to support all of the things I like online in one place like I do with my phone or cable or magazine subscriptions, I would do it in a heartbeat.”

It works like this:

  1. You set up an account with Flattr
  2. You put money in your account and tell Flattr how much you want to spend on Flattrs every month.
  3. You find online content-creators (like job-creators, except they actually do what their name suggests) that you want to donate to on Flattr’s site and click the button to Flattr them (you can choose to do it on a one-time or recurring basis).
  4. At the end of the month, Flattr divvies your budget amount between all of the people/sites/etc. you Flattr’ed and the next month starts anew.

“It’s perfect Mat! What’s the downside?” Well, there are a couple.

  • People you Flattr will probably not make as much money from you as they would if you subscribed to them directly. However, if a huge mass of users join this system, the beneficiaries will have the potential to draw in MANY more subscribers. I won’t say quantity of donations trumps amount of an individual donation every time, but in my experience, that’s usually the case. Look at apps, for example. Look at WoW or Farmville. Look at public television.
  • Not everybody you want to give money to has a Flattr account to receive it. However, it does let you message them a request that they join via Twitter. If they get enough of them, they’ll join.

The final analysis: the success of Flattr hinges on the number of users, both on the giving and receiving sides. If you’re inclined to give donations to the people online that give you as much enjoyment as all of the other media you pay for without thinking, I encourage you to sign up and to encourage the people you patronize to as well. Even if your budget is set to only $5 per month, their share is money they would not have had otherwise. And if all of their patrons do the same, they’ll get what they need to bring you more and better content.

As of Right Now – an ode for the 99% and #ows

Occupy Wall Street Chihuahua 2011 Shankbone 3

Image by david_shankbone via Flickr

As of right now: we know who’s guilty and we’ll give them time to make it right.
As of right now: those mental midgets might just pull it off in time.
As of right now: there are solutions that could save our country’s struggling life.
As of right now: we wait and beat our drums and rhyme.

But if you wait too long this boiling kettle’s gonna scream.
The many marching feet will shake you to the ground.
We’ve cowered far too long beneath your kicking, stomping feet.
It’s time we seized the wheel and turned this car around.

As of right now: we’ve been complacent and we’ve followed all the programming.
As of right now: we went to school and sunk ourselves so deep in debt.
As of right now: we work long hours, get no raise, never complaining.
As of right now: we trusted that our time would come, we’d give then get.

We play the game but you’ve paid off all of the referees.
The rules have changed, you left us here with no defense.
We’ve got one play left — no one gets out, everybody bleeds.
You play for keeps, but we will not be empty-handed in the end.

As of right now: the clock is ticking. We’re assembling in your city streets.
As of right now: the one percent should prob’ly not invest in hats.
As of right now: you took our money, now we’re coming to your house to eat.
As of right now: we’ll all be grabbing souvenirs on the way out.

I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

WRITING: What Adele is really saying

This is one of the most depressing songs written in the past 20 years. Not depressing because of it’s meaning or tone — it’s depressing that some record company executive thought it was a worthy thing to share a 13-year-old girls’ psychotic obsession with the world, as if we haven’t all dated this creepy chick at one time or another. I link the song here for clarification. I have translated the true meaning below, feel free to sing along:

“Someone Like You”

I heard that you’re settled down

That you found a girl and you’re married now.

I heard that your dreams came true.

Guess she gave you things I didn’t give to you.

Old friend, why are you so shy?

Ain’t like you to hold back or hide from the lie.

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited

But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.

I had hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded

That for me it isn’t over

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you

I wish nothing but the best for you too

Don’t forget me, I beg

“I’ll remember”, you said,

Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.

Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead,

Yeah.

You know how the time flies

Only yesterday it was the time of our lives

We were born and raised

In a summer haze

Bound by the surprise of our glory days

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited

But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.

I had hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded

That for me it isn’t over, yeah.

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you

I wish nothing but the best for you too

Don’t forget me, I beg

“I’ll remember”, you said,

Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.

Nothing compares

No worries or cares

Regrets and mistakes

They are memories made.

Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you

I wish nothing but the best for you too

Don’t forget me, I beg

“I’ll remember”, you said,

Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you

I wish nothing but the best for you too

Don’t forget me, I beg

“I’ll remember”, you said,

Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.

Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.

Translated

You’re gone and you’re having fun

And you’re not alone crying and calling everyone.

Why aren’t you bitter and pining for me?

Carving my name in your arm like I said you’d be?

I guess I should go outside.

Don’t need to be here, ’cause you won’t come back to me cryin’.

It’s prob’ly a safe bet that if you call for my booty

Even if it’s 3AM and you’re drunk and you’re bleary.

You’ll find me waiting at the door in a neglige and ready

‘Cause I’m that sad and desperate.

Don’t worry, I won’t judge you

Even if you get married we can bang too.

‘Cause I’ll always be here

Thinking of you with sobby tears

Some chicks demand real love, but some just get obsessed.

Some chicks demand real love, but some just get obsessed.

Yeah.

Your wife caught me in your tree

I was spyin’ you and she called the police.

When they tazed me down

In my wedding gown

I wet myself and writhed all around

Now your restraining order is a joke, I can’t abide it.

And I’m off to kill the judge for daring just to write it.

Then we can be together, there’s no real need to fight it.

My psychosis goes deeper.

In my shrine I light a candle for you.

And submerge it in chicken blood too.

If I just make the right sacrifice

In no time I’ll be your wife

Sometimes you know your in love
but sometimes voodoo can help

I’m outside your house

unbuttoning my blouse

Your neighbors all stare

but I couldn’t care

I’ll strip myself nude but
damn it, the cops are here again

When I get out, I’m coming for you

With a tranq gun and lots of rope too

You’ll be in my cellar in chains

‘Til you learn to love me the same

Sometimes you fall in love but
sometimes you get convinced

BEST NEW MEDIA: Podcamp

The must attend event for people that want to be worth anything in new media

Podcamp Pittsburgh is coming up, and if you’re within five-hours’ drive and involved at all with new media for work or personal use, you need to be there. It’s a free conference that was created as a way to teach everyday people about podcasting, but because the independent podcaster is also his/her own marketing team, they have moved over the years to encompassing a lot of social media learning. It’s still mostly kids and amateurs attending, but there are more business people discovering the secret every year.

Some folks may remember that I had the privilege of speaking there last year about building an online community and I was shocked at the quality of the information being shared. NO JOKE — what you can get at Podcamp for free is equal to or greater than what businesses spend thousands just for tickets to get into an eTail or Internet Retailer conference. This is one of the rare cases where you get way more than you pay for and if you snub it based on the false assumption that nothing free can really be that good, then you’re the only one losing out. Think about it: new media was started by individual users. Not only that, but because the basement broadcaster has to be everything for himself, he also knows the best ways to market online for zero budget. If nothing else, companies should be scouring the halls of Podcamp looking for people to employ to head their online marketing teams. What the executives that preach at paid conferences spout comes from people like the ones at Podcamp. You can get it distilled through a moron and pay for the privilege, or you can get the info fresh from the source.

It’s true, there aren’t as many sponsors and salesmen wandering around, so there aren’t as many free stress squeeze balls being handed out, and you have to put up with speakers that are rarely over 25. But these are podcasters that get bigger audiences from their basements for $0 than many/most companies do with big budgets and marketing agencies on retainer. I know, because I was one of them, and in four years, there were only three or four corporate-sponsored shows that out-performed us in our genre, and most of them paid tens of thousands of dollars to do what my partners and I did for maybe $10k total (and could have done for far less if we had chosen).

My personal friend and arguably student-turned-master Michael Sorg (mikesorg@gmail.com / @sorgatron) is one of the organizers of Podcamp Pittsburgh. Contact him about attending or speaking if you have questions, or just go directly to their site and do it for yourself here: http://podcamppittsburgh.com/

Most importantly: go. If you want to learn about new media and rub elbows with the kings and queens of it, go. You can’t do better.

WRITING: Shoot the Neighbors

When I went to NerdRage in Philly last month to see my long time friends in Scrub Club, I had the pleasure of talking to King Pheenix for a long time about many things. Among them he hinted that he and Madhatter would be working on an album of political rap in the near future.

King Pheenix from Scrub Club Records

King Pheenix from Scrub Club Records. Image borrowed from scrubclubrecords.com

I’ve been a bigger fan of political rappers (Public Enemy, KRS-1, etc) for a LONG time, so I was tickled to hear this was coming down the pike. Unfortunately for you, it also has me thinking in rhymes now, which means there will probably be bad political poetry appearing here more frequently. Who knows, maybe KP or Hatter will find something among these they can use or that inspires them to something better.

Anyway, here’s your torture for today…

Let’s go shoot the neighbors / they knocked down our tree / we could just call the cops / but what fun would that be?
Let’s go shoot the neighbors / they’re way out of line / I loaned them my chainsaw / to get Jim’s tree, not mine.
Let’s go shoot the neighbors / and if their neighbors cry foul / we’ll be lobbing grenades / over there in an hour.
Let’s go shoot the neighbors / until they see things our way / or just kill them all / they’re not like us anyway.

Shoot the neighbors! Raise your guns to the sky!
Shoot the neighbors! Hold ’em up real high!
Shoot the neighbors! Don’t warn ’em, just aim!
(and) Shoot the neighbors! ‘Cause peace is so lame!

Let’s go shoot the neighbors / you gettin’ lippy now Bob? / You know you have to drive by here / to commute to your job.
Let’s go shoot the neighbors / Chuck, I need to use your yard / to get over to Steve who / thinks he’s all big and hard.
Let’s go shoot the neighbors / I’ll shut down this whole street / until every last one of you / swears allegiance to me.
Let’s go shoot the neighbors / and whoever makes it through / can come to my yard / for beer and barbeque!

Pricing yourself out of your market

Image representing YouSendIt as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

I wish I could understand the way online companies come up with their pricing strategies. I mean, that’s true in general, but in particular today I’ve got on my mind companies that offer a service to everyone online for free and then also have a paid version. I think about this all the time since I’m an online-business-thinking guy, but it was YouSendIt that sent me pondering today, so I’ll use them as the example here.

I love YouSendIt. It is simply the best way to send large files to anybody who does not have their own FTP. YouSendIt is the only service of its kind that I know of where the free version will let you send files to someone without also sending them a bunch of “ambush ads” — ads that are designed to look like the button your supposed to click to begin your download. They’re fast, easy and even have downloadable software so you can send a file without opening email or a browser window.

Did I mention I love YouSendIt? I use it often, and while I could do the same thing other ways, it’s so much easier than the other options and it’s FREE! I love YouSendIt so much that I would pay for it even though 99% of what I will ever do with it can easily be done in the free version. I would pay for it, but because of the previous sentence, I can’t justify their subscription rate of $50 per month.

Let me state that again: my options are to suck the free teat for as long as they offer it, or pay $50 per month.

How about a membership level where I can donate whatever I want through PayPal to thank you for your great service? How about a $5 or $10 per month level that offers me your free service plus a once-per-month sharing of an enormous file or allows me 10 downloads of what I share instead of 5? Why are my choices free and crazy expensive?

I think there is a huge revenue-generating opportunity being missed here and it’s not just YouSendIt, it’s Dropbox, it’s Livestrong, it’s about 90% of listener-supported podcasts, it’s the American Cancer Society (I’m still chapped about that $10 minimum donation), it’s the whole music industry, it’s so many online services that people want to support but who price themselves right out of it.

I know you send out Madison Avenue marketers and research firms to poll people and figure out what the market would bear. I’m sure they do a great job for the insane rates of money they charge you. But let me offer this thought: while they’re polling to find out what people who need your service will pay for it, are they even considering what your non-essential users would consider putting in your hat? I know they’re not your target audience. I know the idea of supporting them is for beta testing and name-recognition so that when their companies need a solution you’re the one they recommend. But I think you’re missing a great opportunity to make a little money and build a community. Don’t want the money? Set it aside and use it to throw a party in as many locations as possible to thank people for their support. Collect it and donate it to a charity. Maybe consider giving it to me — I’m just saying…

The thing is, people want to support you and thank you for your good work. Letting them do so makes them feel included and helps build a community around your product. It’s great PR, it’s great brand-building, it’s a great way to pull recommendations for your advertising, it’s a super way to find beta testers, and it costs you virtually nothing.

Think about it. Think about offering a “Supporter” or “True Believer” level subscription to your service. The ROI may be priceless.

IDEA: How would America really vote?

Idea

Image by annais via Flickr

DISCLAIMER: I post ideas here as they come to me with the thought that somebody else may see them and express an interest in developing them or working with me to develop them. Of course, there’s nothing to keep you from going off and developing an idea on your own, but you should know that this blog tracks the times and dates of my posts and updates to them, which could be considered my copyright. All I ask is that if you like an idea you read about on my site and you want to pursue it, you make an effort to include me in the development as much as I want to be –which may be not at all. If I had time to develop every idea that came to me, I would do so instead of posting them here. 😉

Background…

Technology has come to a point where it would be possible to create a true democracy: one without representatives, one in which every person has a vote on every issue. Obviously, there are a number of reasons why this is not practical even if it is possible, but don’t you sometimes find yourself looking at how our representatives vote on something and catch yourself thinking “there is no way that vote represents the feelings of the bulk of the people in my state”?

You can’t trust polling services because their sample population is always too small. You can’t trust politicians because the surest way to know someone in Washington, D.C. is lying is to hear them speak a number. Jon Kyl‘s recent proving of this was both horrifying and hilarious.

So here’s what I propose…

  • Let’s create a website that anybody can join. Most information on the site would be available to all members, some would be only available to paying members as a bonus for their contribution.
  • On this site, we will have a daily posting of all of the issues being discussed in the House and Senate with special attention being paid to anything being voted upon that day. Each issue will have it’s own thread that will include a summary of the proposed legislation, links to the legislation for site viewers to review and a count of each of the members of congress and how they voted on the bill.
  • Members of the site will be able to enter their own vote (Yes/No/Abstain/Put this aside until later), which they will be able to change up until voting is finished in the House and Senate for the bill.
  • As site members vote, their votes will be compared to the members of congress and site members will be able to see how their representatives stack up against them personally.
  • Similarly, site members will be able to see stats on how often the actual vote was similar or different from that of the site members; how individual congress member’s votes stack up next to the votes of the site members.
  • We will invite essays from pundits on all sides of an issue for consideration by the site members.
  • There will also be daily polls for issues not being discussed in either branch of congress (What do you think the yearly salary of a senator/representative should be? What do you think is the most important issue for congress to address today? etc.)

What do you think? What would you change/add? Want to help me build it? Please comment below. I have been thinking about this project for a long time and would have done it myself if I had 1/8 of the technical skill needed to pull off something this complex. My intent would be to invite donations from site members to keep it going plus some limited advertising (like if one of the essayists has a book out, we would link to it on Amazon so we could get a cut of sales from our members), and I would gladly split any profits with any and all team members for the time they are involved in the project.

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