All Grown Up

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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Your time is worthless…until you’re told otherwise

In the past couple of years an incredible phenomenon has occurred in the online world: gaming. Yes, there’s always been PC games that have “revolutionized” the industry, but I’m talking about this new gaming…within sites like Facebook, made by companies like Zynga. This games aren’t like anything that you see anywhere else. Seriously, watch about twelve seconds of any video gaming convention, or read any game review for a game released on the PC or a console and the descriptions of these games and what makes them good is nothing like what you see in social gaming. What makes console games good, you might ask? Well as a relatively involved gamer I look for: content (plot strength, gameplay depth, etc.) and graphics. Content is important because it is how the game is played and how enjoyable it is. Better graphics = better game is a huge myth in the gaming industry, but is an almost universal one. Now look at social gaming…can you think of even a handful of games that tout their amazing graphics or incredibly deep story? No. It doesn’t exist. While the offline and console gaming industry is evolving graphically and technologically, the social gaming industry is reverting back to old-school Nintendo style graphics and strategies. And it’s working!!

The most amazing/unbelievable things about social gaming is that it offers games that require constant repetition and boring, monotonous grinding in order to increase your level or improve your character (or farm, just to throw it out there). What is the attraction with this? I recently watched a video of Jesse Schell presenting on the absurdity and unpredictability of social gaming, specifically within Facebook. Watch it right here. Skip to about 9:25 and he talks about the psychology behind games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. What makes millions of people willing to spend millions of dollars on virtual goods that can’t benefit them beyond minor bragging rights? Basically it’s all about how the consumer views their time, and how valuable it is. Roughly, this is the thought process of a social gamer who pays money for a game:

Step 1) My friend is playing this game, I’m going to join.

Step 2) My friend is better than me, I MUST GET BETTER

Step 3) How is this game worth my time? Oh yeah, because I’ve already spent a ton of time playing it.

Step 4) Hell, I’ve played this game for weeks, might as well pay $20 to boost straight past my friend instead of grinding for any longer

Step 5) Only an idiot would pay for a game then not play it, so I have to keep playing

Step 6) Start cycle over from the beginning (if there’s another friend), or from Step 3 otherwise.

Farmville: 4 months in

This is a vicious cycle but I’ve seen many friends get drawn into it…I have as well. I have never paid a cent for a game, but I’ve spent so much time that is apparently worthless (since I didn’t actually spend my money) on these games and I think it was foolish in hindsight. But just to humor myself, and the gaming industry…why haven’t they taken it to the next step? Take out the “how much time am I wasting with this, and how valuable is that time?” step and just tell the consumer exactly how much it’s worth…then the $20 the spend to gain a level will seem insignificant.

What I propose is this: When a user joins up on a game…keep track of how long they play. Don’t tell the user because they may realize just how much time they have spent growing and selling strawberries, but just keep the amount of time recorded for each specific user. When they hit a certain milestone (5 hours of playtime, etc) reward them with virtual currency. Get even more specific, give them a badge or other visual reward for being dedicated to growing a certain crop. The user gets a reward, then also has to spend more time catching up all of their other crops in order to earn the specific reward for that crop…it’s a never-ending cycle of constant play that would generate even more revenue.  Set up the rewards given for time spent on a certain task or goal on an variable-ratio  schedule (the same type of schedule slot machines are on) and people won’t be able to stay away for long. Yes, this idea was being thought up as I was writing this post and is very unpolished and could be fleshed out more. But the point I am trying to make is…make users know exactly how valuable their time is by rewarding them for the amount of time they spend in an application, not just by how productive they are.

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Over 100 views in my first week!! Thank

Over 100 views in my first week!! Thank you readers!! Much, much more to come in the near future. http://tpallgrownup.wordpress.com/

Quora.com: The Social Wikipedia

Personal Profile on Quora

I recently was linked to the site Quora.com and told that I should check it out and form a first impression. I went on the site and spent about ten minutes browsing and testing the functionality, and I was honestly impressed. The site is rough around the edges, and disorganized at times, but the core purpose is obvious. Quora is a question and answer site that allows each user to create a profile and then answer questions from other users, about anything and everything. Answers and topics can be endorsed by users, adding credibility to that particular user. The more users that join up and use Quora, the more answers provided as well as a higher chance of a credible, reliable answer will being given. To put it into perspective, I view Quora as a hybrid of Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers, with a strong hint of the KGB text messaging question/answer service added in. Any question can be asked, as well as answered…once again, the more users means the more information available on an infinite number of topics.

I could go more in-depth on the potential Quora has, and how well it may play with the big guns like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. but I’ll instead post the answer to a question from the site itself. Keep in mind, this answer is only one from one person, but it is logical and does show the upside of a site like this. The question asked was “Should Twitter Be Worried About Quora?” The answer can be seen here: http://www.quora.com/Should-Twitter-be-worried-about-Quora as well as below. It was provided by James Hritz, the VP Strategy & Biz Dev for Fox Audience Network.

Absolutely! Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and anyone else in the social networking space should be worried. Very worried.

If you think Quora picked up an $80M+ valuation to just build a better Q&A site, then you are not seeing the big picture.

Yes, today Quora is a totally different tool than any of these aforementioned sites, but once Quora has perfected the technology around helping users easily find the right expert at the right time, reaching back and implementing technologies like real-time communication, status updates & photos will be trivial. A question of time & money rather than any hard thinking. Quora will stand on the shoulders of everyone who has already climbed the mountain.

A Quora-based social network will have profiles that are built organically and based on social proof and credibility. Think about it. Of course you followed the company you work for, eventually you will answer questions about your company and you will start to gain endorsements when you provide answers from your firsthand experience.

What type of profile will you come to trust more? A profile on Quora where a user has said he worked at company x and has 100+ endorsements for his answers to various questions on the topic, or a LinkedIn profile where the user essentially cut-and-pasted his inflated resume? Yes, maybe that user has a few written recommendations, but a LinkedIn profile grows stale over time and just like resumes, no one ever really reads them.

By comparison, profiles built organically over years on Quora will have a depth and dimension that will be much like comparing a Facebook profile to a MySpace profile. I think the term “living document” applies.

Quora is unearthing the intellectual capital market. A market that is based on users making exchanges of value based on what they know. This happens in real life everyday. The Quora system has created a way to make this scalable and the best part is the race to generate impact will not be based on “popularity,” but the true value of a person’s accumulated experience and knowledge. In a very real sense, Quora has subtly implemented a social game mechanic not unlike what you see in Farmville or other social games.

While I love Twitter and I am an active user, Twitter and Facebook (to a smaller extent) is a pure popularity contest. Just keep tweeting and friending and you will have lots of contacts whether you are legitimate or not. Hence the spam problem. The only reason Kim Kardashian has millions of followers is because she has access to money and tools of mass media. I can guarantee Kardashian will not be able to get the same traction in a Quora based social world as a Twitter or Facebook world.

On the business model front, Quora will monetize either by being an SEM resource or selling data about questions people publicly ask. For example, every person who asks a question about which car is better than some other car is a potential automotive lead. This is incredibly valuable and the best part is Quora never has to show a single ad to users on the site, nor do they have to hire a massive sales force or beg ad agencies to work with them.

I’ve had a chance to watch the Quora debate for a couple weeks now and I am stunned to witness how myopic some of the smartest people I know and respect have looked at this product and can only see a Q&A site. Its almost as if the combination of the mediocre economy and the undeniable success of Facebook and Twitter has killed their imagination.”

If such a response doesn’t at least intrigue you, then maybe Social Media is not your forte. I can entirely support such a response but I do think that there is an unpredictability to the internet that is also uncontrollable. Success on the internet is more often a lucky streak turned bandwagon scenario that can be adapted and changed to suit the users. Look at any of the most popular YouTube video fads (Numa Numa, the evolution of dance, star wars kid, etc.), or the drastic shift from MySpace to Facebook that occurred in only a couple of years. The internet is a relatively make-or-break environment and if you have something good, it only betters your chance of making it. I believe that Quora does have what it needs to succeed and has a new outlook on social media that hasn’t been tapped into. The idea of an organically growing profile that provides both credibility and popularity is a great idea that, if implemented well, can be the next huge internet success.

The social media buzzkill?

When looking back at my childhood, specifically the overly complicated and emotional early teen years, I seem to remember one glaring observation I constantly had: My parents were so DUMB! I wanted nothing to do with anything they had to say or do and I was absolutely positive I was right about everything. Obviously my point of view has changed since then, and changed dramatically. As I embark on my own job search I realize that my father actually knows quite a lot about certain things…the industry I want to go into for example (advertising). I’ve also learned that my mother is also someone beyond the (inferior) Scrabble player that I know so well.

One other thing that I do remember so well is that if my parents wanted to get involved with anything I was doing…it was less fun for me. Parents are a buzzkill. I apologize mom and dad, but it’s true. Not so much in the present since I am grown up and “mature” but I certainly knew that they could not possibly have any social skills, at least when they were around my friends.

The reason for this recollection is some research I recently did at work the other day. I was compiling, in a nutshell, a data dump on mobile usage (demographics, mobile social media, bridging online and offline worlds, etc) and a consistent finding in most studies and papers was that baby boomers (see: my parents) are currently undergoing a huge increase in social media and mobile usage. The responding question from me is: How is the younger generation going to feel and react to their parents being a part of something that was strictly for the younger generation only a couple of years ago. For example, Facebook was restricted to college students at first, then all students, and now it is open to anybody with an email address. This includes the older generations like the Boomers. I remember the first time I got a text message from my mom, it was almost surreal. Looking back on it now I have no idea why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that the means of communication that was reserved just for my friends up until then, was being invaded. Then again, when my mom started using emoticons (for all you technologically not-so-savvy readers that means smiley faces) I was similarly weirded out.

Check out this data from a recent eMarketer study, about a quarter way down the page: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-differences-among-teens-boomers-and-moms-new-study-findings/

Does the introduction of my generations parental figures joining our scene mean something for the future? Are we going to get too freaked out by our parents popping up in our news feeds, getting Facebook chats from our grandmothers, and having yet another way to be monitored by our families constantly? I personally think that the attitudes of kids will approach this new situation differently. The onset of social media usage by all generations is/was (is it in the past now?) inevitable and I feel that there are still plenty of ways to put distance or separation between oneself and certain people. Facebook has its privacy settings at this point which do help a lot; family members are constantly telling me how much they want to see my wall, pictures, etc but they can’t because of my privacy settings.

The most difficult problem with families all using social media is the line between one’s social life and family life, which used to be completely separated, is now extremely blurred because parents and other family can see exactly what you are doing, who you’re doing it with, and all of the completely appropriate *snicker* activities that are documented almost daily from users. This blurred line is disappearing but I think will always be there.

Facebook is always evolving, to the chagrin of it millions of users who hate the random and unexpected new profile layouts, but it will continue to evolve and address the different “markets” of people on its site. Does this mean it will have different settings for corporate users (conference call features, business oriented apps, etc.), younger kids (apps and games that are age appropriate, better friend/community oriented services), and middle generations (job help, college appropriate settings, etc.)? This could happen, and I think it would help users stay more involved with the website and stay on the site longer if it catered more specifically to who they are. Right now the clean-cut, universal layout is perfect for people to easily learn to use, customize (to a limited extent), and get used to but I people need reasons to stay on the site after a while. The setting needs to change, to keep users interested. Something will need to change to keep users happy, so they don’t move on and a MySpace-esque exodus occurs.

So what do you readers think? If you’re my age, or close to it, is the presence of parents good or bad for Facebook and your own personal interests? If you’re a parent, do you even give a damn what your kid thinks? Are you on Facebook to be on the bandwagon or using it for business purposes? Comment on it or vote in the poll.

China Blog redux

I figured that since I don’t have many posts at the moment, and none that are naturally lighthearted, I should post a previous blog entry that I wrote in my travel blog that documented my summer in China from the summer of 2009. This post is one of many, but is the concluding post from the trip so I feel that it is a fitting repost for whatever reason. The trip was an…experience to say the least. Highlights include the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Swine Flu quarantine (yes, I got quarantined for 5 days because some ass who sat behind me on the plane over got sick), many Jade and silk museums, and an earthquake (see below). So here is the final entry in my travel blog from my summer trip to China:

THIS TRIP ROCKS MY WORLD (LITERALLY)

I’m sitting in an internet cafe just outside of the “Old City” inLijiang. It’s this great city up in the mountains of western China, and about 8.5 hours from Kunming.

It’s been awhile since I last posted and I just want to get out that the earthquake that many of you have most likely heard about didn’t affect us in any major way, it just interrupted dinner. We are all fine and only felt a tiny shake, but enough of one to make the title of this entry relevant.

I am getting ahead of myself, however, since events occurred even before that. Firstly, since Mt. Tai and that trip we have all graduated from Tianjin University and got our diplomas and such. It’s pretty cool actually and I’m glad I have it. The exams weren’t difficult and I think we passed with flying colors. We are definitely glad to be out of the university…but at this point I’m missing it. Almost as much as Facebook actually, which is COMPLETELY BLOCKED in all of China at the moment and a huge hassle. If you are trying to reach me on fb…send me an email instead so I can actually reply.

After graduation we went out to Hank’s again because we had to celebrate Marcella’s birthday, and because we wanted awesome food again. It was great, of course, and we met Hank and talked to him a bit. He’s now “Uncle Hank” to us, through his permission. After Hank’s we went to KTV which is karaoke and tons of fun. We were going to go to this one incredibly nice place right near Hanks but they tried to confiscate “beverages” and so we bounced. I personally wanted to stay because the experience is worth more than a bottle of liquor, but it wasn’t my birthday. We went to this other place instead that wasn’t half-bad and had a good time.

We are now traveling around Western China and our first stop was in Kunming which is a “small” (really big but small-ish when compared to cities in China) city in the countryside. We took a cable car up a mountain and got some nice pictures of the whole city from up there.

That night we went to dinner and I got to experience my first earthquake. I actually didn’t notice it at first until someone else mentioned something but then I saw the chandeliers swaying and felt the ground moving. It was absolutely surreal and something that you can never prepare yourself for. We just chilled outside for a couple of minutes until it stopped and continued with our meal.

The next day we woke up early and we headed onto a bus to come here to Lijiang for a two night stay. We stopped in Da Li for lunch and a tour of the Three Pagoda temple which was really beautiful. It was based at the foot of a large mountain that had clouds covering the top and everything looked amazing. Some great photos were taken there and a milestone occurred. I had my first squatter…as in, squatting while going to the bathroom; talk about a workout *whew*.

We hopped on the bus for another 3.5 hours and got to Lijiang without a hassle. Except for the damn couple sitting in front of us who I swear are vampire cannibals. They seem to be eating/sucking each other’s faces off at every opportunity and take things beyond the level of PDA; we all want to sock them in the face at this point. When you can hear the slurping, things need to lighten up a bit. Lijiang is a great city that starts off not looking like much. We walked through some alleyways lined with shops (like Jerusalem or all of Mexico) for 30 minutes until we hit the center of the old city. It’s beautiful here with warm lighting on the wood structures that lights everything up in a great way. I’ve restrained myself from buying anything because it’s all insanely overpriced but I’m having a great time.

The most hilarious thing about the old city as that as you hit the biggest courtyard you turn left and…there he looms, the one and only Colonel. Yes, literally on the edge of the old city in plain sight. It’s hilarious but also inviting because so far I’ve eaten four bowls of rice today with some potatoes. I kind of get turned off from the food when they give us a fish…seemingly plucked out of the pond, smacked on the head, and placed in the bowl with soup. It’s an entire fish that looks completely unchanged from its more livelier days. It’s been a nice night though, and I’m glad I found this internet cafe because I am finally figuring out my living situation for school and then Facebook shuts down preventing me from quickly conversing with people. But it’s time to go back to the hotel because we have a somewhat early morning tomorrow. I’m also exhausted from sitting on my ass all day (I don’t know how, so don’t ask).

OH! So here’s a little tidbit. I have a new top 3 favorite book. It’s called The Last Oracle and written by James Rollins. It’s make a great movie, but it’s an incredible book. I read 400 pages of it in the last two days just because I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. I suggest it to anybody and everybody because it’s just so damn good.

But it’s time to peace, so keep it real. Until next time…

Convenience vs. Independence: 3…2…1 FIGHT!

Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners Inc., recently posted in his blog about the iPad, and it’s greatness (read it here: http://tinyurl.com/26yf9lu). A quick excerpt from the post reads:

The iPad *Yaawn*

“[The iPad]’s too easy. Too accessible. Both too fast and too long-lasting. Certainly there are some kinks, but nothing monumental. For the most part, it does everything I could want. Which, as it turns out, is a problem.”

You might be saying to yourself…nothing he says can possible be a problem. Well first, read the damn blog, and second, realize that he is completely right. The iPad is one of the most recent, but just one of thousands, of new technological developments designed to have as many people looking at screens as possible (kidding…obviously it’s intent is to have everything you’d every want at your fingertips).

[A ready-made topic for a future post: Adults need to realize it’s not just their kids having too much screen time.]

The question is: Does having technology like the iPad, or smartphones, or any technology making things easier really help us out in the long run? This is debated below. Let’s meet our fights: INNNNNN the red corner, we have Convenience!!! and in the Blue Corner, Independence!!!! Let’s see what each side has in store for us tonight.

Convenience: What would the world today do without technology? It is possible to be sitting in your house at 7pm, bored with nothing to do, and be out of the house fifteen minutes later knowing where the party is at, the first and last names of every attendee (as well as the maybes), what to wear/what the theme is, and who to pick up on the way. While heading there you can find out exact directions where to go, how long it will take, any traffic you might encounter, and the best detours around said traffic. Need to stop and get some booze? You can find the nearest liquor/beer store and what brands they sell. Oh yeah…this is all done on your phone. How can life be any easier? Technology makes the world easier, more efficient, more streamlined, and just plain faster. The convenience technology provides is incredible and can make life so stress free and easy to manuever through. In something that is able to fit in your pocket you have access to all of the information in every library in the world, every restaurant in your city (as well as their menus, contact info, pricing, and if they have valet parking or not), and every book you could ever read that isn’t in any library. Oh yeah, and you can…ya know, call people sometimes too.

Moving away from portable electronics, imagine the technology that can hold trillions of byte of data on a single compact disc, or a card or chip that holds all of your medical records in one convenient place. Technology is sweet isn’t it? Anything you have ever wanted is within reach, or a click away. How convenient is that?

Well let’s just see…

Independence: I recently had a conversation with a friend about our phones, and the fact that the iPhone is also your iPod came up. He thinks that’s terribly convenient and I think….hell, if  I lost or broke my phone, I would also lose all of my music. Yes, it’s backed up on a computer but the device I use to listen to it is now broken. The phrase “2 birds with 1 stone” comes to mind. In today’s world…there’s no longer just two birds; break your iPad or smartphone and you potentially just kicked an entire damn flock. Imagine in one fateful and heart-wrenching snap you lose your media player, computer, phone, camera, and alarm clock. Now you’re going to be late for work, can’t be contacted or call anyone for help, you’ve got nothing to document your helplessness with, and you can’t put said documentation up on Youtube because your internet access is gone too.

Where’s the fun in that? Yes, I get the pros of convenience and all-in-one products…but there is so much risk involved. I stand by what I say when I claim that I will never combine my media player and phone into one. If I got an iPhone, I would still have another iPod. The convenient nature of combining all forms of connectivity into one device is appealing but the risk is staggering. Imagine the businessman who loses his Blackberry and suddenly misses out on all of his emails about important deals and loses a ton of money because he has no other form of email access except for at the office?

As a race, human beings have become to dependent on technology and the convenience it brings. Read any article about a major power outage (here’s a good one about the huge regional blackout in 2003: http://tinyurl.com/2cpums). Read the excerpt below and fully understand our dependence on technology:

“The outage stopped trains, elevators and the normal flow of traffic and life. In Michigan, water supplies were affected because water is distributed through electric pumps, a governor’s spokeswoman said.”

Read that again…focus on these words “The outage stopped…life.” This is strategically singled out for the most dramatic effect but understand the words will still printed and the message is still there. When we lose electricity, life stops; the message is clear. Am I suggesting a Fight Club scenario not just focused on Credit Card companies and banks? Of course not, but it does make one think twice about becoming so dependent on things out of most of our control.

I will admit, I have a smartphone that I use for internet, a camera, contact book, alarm clock, etc…and I am typing this now on a computer that keeps me connected to everything and everyone. But I also have the highest insurance available to make sure I don’t lose what I have invested in because I realize that if I lose one of them, I could lose a lot more than just the hardware.

One last thing. I do realize this is a very extreme view of both the convenience and lack of independence that comes with advances in technology. Society evolves, and we all need to accept the evolution instead of fight it because it can lead to great things. But it also worries me that people rely more on machines and surgeries to be healthy than just playing outside, going for a jog or swim (while listening to his or her iPod/iPhone of course), and eating right. Every time I see someone get red in the face and screen at their computer or phone because they just got disconnected…it makes me wonder, why get mad? There’s risks involved with these conveniences, and you must know that before involving yourself with them.

Whoo! That’s a doosie and my hands are tired from typing…so this is an abrupt end, but I promise more lighthearted and hopefully hilarious topics in the future. Goodnight!

Hello world!

I figured I’d keep the title WordPress gave me for my first official blog post…it’s only fair since they do this kind of stuff for free, right?

I never realized exactly what social media was capable of until the last few months, as my never-ending job search continues and has taken a path towards social media and marketing online. The doors it opens, and the information becomes accessible at the click of a button is astounding, and apparently limitless. I was the definition of a MySpace kid: extremely flamboyant profile with a ton of html coding that made the background do crazy things, surveys galore, all of my personal information available for the hundreds of millions of users on the site at any given time. Not only was I naive and completely careless in my use of MySpace, I had never realized that it might have advantages beyond making it into my friends “Top Friends” or becoming friends (finally!) with whatever girl I happened to like that week.

I was a late bloomer to Facebook as well, not joining until sometime around my junior year of high school. I relished in the idea that I believed I was never going to jump on the bandwagon that most of my friends and classmates had already become a part of; a bandwagon, I might add, that now has a population larger than most nations in the world, including the United States. Facebook started off very simple but has evolved at a staggering rate to become something that is nearly essential to be a part of in order to stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues.

The Bandwagon

The popularity of sites such as MySpace and Facebook have spurned a revolution in online media and has completely reshaped the virtual world. Within just the past couple of years has the world seen the introduction of the world’s most popular ADD-promoting site, Twitter, as well as countless other social media options such as Foursquare, LinkedIn, and Flickr. These sites have not only made it easier to stay in touch with everyone you’d want to have the pleasure (or pain) to deal with, but millions more beyond them. As I said, it is only within the last few months have I really accepted the direction connectivity has taken and joined the surge towards a virtually-dependent lifestyle; this surge has it’s negatives, but they are overridden by the necessity to stay involved, and evolved, in order to be apart of today’s technologically advanced world.

I decided to start a blog of my own for many reasons, one of which is to simply voice ideas, information, lessons, and observations that I find either incredibly interesting and possibly important as well as things more sophomoric in nature and are just stupid and/or funny (more commonly “and”). Another reason I started a blog is because it is how many professionals have begun to show their worth, talent, and knowledge to others around them and I feel that anyone has the capability of displaying his or her own talents…including myself. Lastly, I started this blog because it is an outlet. An outlet of emotions, of thoughts, of frustrations, of anything that anybody could ever want to voice to the world. It is impossible to know what may be the next great idea in the world, the next great “thing” that catches on and may become the next evolution, or revolution, in the world. If there is even the slightest chance that something I discover, feel, or learn about can change the world in some way, I would want the world to know about it.

Though it is titled “All Grown Up – Lessons Learned” much more than lessons I’ve learned or taught myself will be posted here. Some blogs have a theme, some blogs have a specific purpose; All Grown Up has none of these, it is simply meant to be a place to relay anything and everything that I feel is worth relaying. So enjoy, subscribe, and continue reading!