Is Nook a Kindle Killer?

Analysis, Uncategorized

In a word. No.

Barnes and Noble execs (hopefully) know it, Amazon knows it. Everyone except for PC magazine knows it. But I don’t blame David Coursey’s cursory commentary, after all someone had to write the obligatory five reasons why… list.

Silicon Alley one of my favorite blogs has a good list of reasons explaining why ‘Nook is toast’ if you need a good logical reason.

But of course I’ll tackle this from the notsocommoncents perspective.

Slow M&A process leaves Sun eclipsed

Analysis, In the news, Uncategorized

Solar EclipseWhen I first heard the news Oracle – Sun merger, I had high hopes that given a quick transition there would be some interesting disruptive effects.

This immediately threatens IBM who for years have used less expensive, home-grown hardware to propel sales in higher margin enterprise software. Oracle not only acquires the hardware to implement an end to end solution, but it acquires a very extensive software platform with the crown jewels being Java and MySQL, a technology that has propelled many companies looking to expand online. Oracle also acquires Solaris/OpenSolaris and thus fulfills its needs to own its own flavor UNIX based operating system which will no doubt further antagonize Microsoft and more importantly leave Oracle less dependent on the excessive churn in the myriad distros of Linux. — Justin McDowell — Jabian Internal Blog

While the DOJ has approved the merger the European Union recently launched an antitrust investigation that will grind the close of this merger to a slow walk. IBM, HP, and Dell have been using a serious ground and pound game to lure customer scared that their platform/server of choice will not be supported by Oracle, and for good reason. Oracle has been known to raise licensing rates after a successful acquisition – and kill products not in it’s core strategy. Developers have been forking projects and exiting the building in droves.

I still think all is not lost. Oracle will still have Java, MySQL, Solaris/OpenSolaris, and Xen. I think the question we should be asking ourselves is what else in the “stack” does Oracle need to acquire before it could theoretically run your data center top to bottom, and have a significant desktop software footprint (i.e. OpenOffice). IBM, HP, and Dell might be winning in the short term sales but none have made the strategic investments to be a single source provider.

A notsocommon prediction: Oracle still wins, but not by as large of a margin if it could have closed this merger in July.

A principled approach – Part 1

Notsocommon Ventures, Uncategorized

This will be a two part blog series on some exciting news and future blog topics

Welcome to The Resume Lounge

As you can see Mikal and I have been grappling with this notion of aligning our personal and professional goals to fundamentally engage and help people in a transformational way. Every day on the news we hear about the meltdown in our financial markets and the grim housing market reports. Many of my friends and business associates have lost their jobs and health insurance at a time when they can least afford it. I can no longer sit idle in good faith and conscience and watch as unemployment hovers near 10%. I feel compelled to take immediate action.

Today I would like to announce that I am boldly taking a first step.

I have partnered with a very good friend, James Augustus Jr, to form The Resume Lounge, and we have been running dark for some time…

The Resume Lounge is a grassroots 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that offers donation based resume education to job seekers who wish to advance their careers. The organization was founded in 2009 to tackle the underlying cause of unemployment across the nation, deficient resumes. As the national unemployment rate nears double digits, this growing problem has given way to mass
confusion and frustration.

It is hard enough to look for a job in the best of situations, but many people and their families are hurting. Trying to search for a job without knowing the basic rules of crafting an accurate, value-based resume, can make an already tough situation seem impossible.

Our goal is to help people facing tough economic realities by educating them on how to create a competitive resume. This often neglected document holds the key to boosting a job seeker’s confidence, opening the door to more opportunities, and taking them from a once ‘impossible’ situation to a place of hope.

We only want to bite off what we can chew, and in this case it is helping people better compete with an effective resume. If you would like to help you can do so in many different ways.

  1. Donate! Your donation helps us help more and more people get professionally re-written resumes. Consider that for-profit services usually cost anywhere from $100 -$600 per resume. In these difficult economic times many people simply can’t afford this. As always, all donations are tax deductible.
  2. Volunteer! We need all sorts of help, we can’t do this alone. We can use resume writers, designers, copy writers, recruiters, corporate sponsorships, and social media help. Fill out the contact form and we will get back to you.
  3. Spread the Word! Follow us on Twitter, join our Facebook Group, attend our events, network, and be informed.

Now for the notsocommoncents perspective. I will be periodically blogging about our successes and our struggles as a small non-profit startup. I’ll be sure to highlight all aspects of our operation, and will probably pay special attention to the social media aspects of community building for a specific cause. Sprints and Marathons indeed.

– Justin F. McDowell

The Goal – Do you know yours?

Analysis, Uncategorized

Building on Justin’s post: Who are you working for?

“No, that is not your problem,” he says.”Your problem is you don’t know what the goal is. And, by the way, there is only one goal, no matter what the company.”

That stumps me for a second. Jonah starts walking toward the gate again. It seems everyone else has now gone on board. Only the two of us are left in the waiting area. I keep after him.

“Wait a minute! What do you mean, I don’t know what the goal is? I know what the goal is,” I tell him.

By now, we’re at the door of the plane. Jonah turns to me. The stewardess inside the cabin is looking at us.

“Really? Then, tell me, what is the goal of your manufacturing organization?” he asks.

“The goal is to produce products as efficiently as we can,” I tell him.

“Wrong,” says Jonah. “That’s not it. What is the real goal?”


Wait a minute, I’m thinking. That’s it!

Technology: that’s really what it’s all about. We have to stay on the leading edge of technology. It’s essential to the company. If we don’t keep pace with technology, we’re finished. So that’s the goal.

Well, on second thought . . . that isn’t right.

The Goal, Eliyahu M. Goldratt p32

In life it’s easy to lose sight of the goal. Without acknowledgement of “The Goal” interesting things become important things – important things become critical things.

If you can imagine for a moment – the above conversation taking place but instead of proposing “technology” or “products efficiently” as the goal instead “Six Sigma” or “Brand” or better yet “Employee Morale” might be cited as “The Goal.”

Think about it though – why is it we do the things we do? In life my goal is to make the world better by having lived vs. how it would be had I not existed. The more I make the world “better” the better I’ve achieved “The Goal.”

The saying is raison d’etre it’s not raisons d’etre, and the reason is when it boils down to it there is only one target goal. I’m of the belief that while the goal may not necessarily be the only measure of success, it is most definitely the measure of failure.

How I go about my goal may be through learning, through impacting the business world, and by striving to be a good friend and family member. But in the event I no longer have friends or family (heaven forbid), I can no longer retain new things, or I no longer have the chops for the business world – my goal lives on. Therefore my goal is not to learn – learning is just a core element for how I go about my goal.

When I think about my goal and to continue along with Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, the process to attain the goal and the barriers/bottlenecks to that goal, I get clarity around the things I should be doing, when and why.

What is your goal?

What is your business goal?

And how do your actions of today drive yourself and business to those goals?


Analysis, Branding, In the news, Uncategorized


It’s good to be back!!

Yesterday I had a very informative conversation with a client of mine with a deep marketing background. The topic centered around “Web 2.0” companies and could small to midsized, non “Web 2.0” companies, borrow some of the same concepts to grow market share and brand awareness, social networking, and focused marketing strategies leveraging social networks. What immediately came to mind was “Web 2.0” companies have attitude, and tons of it.

These companies have bold refreshing websites, take a strong position, will call out the big dogs or have an enemy in mind, and have attitude for days. They usually make it incredibly easy to connect with customers, other companies, and recruits. These companies tend to make extremely good limited feature products that are incredibly easy to use. Personally when these characteristics are exhibited, I am attracted like a moth to a flame. In these recessionary times, I actually want to patronize these people.

Here are some examples taken from some of my favorite companies right now…

Web applications today are too limited. They’re hard to use and don’t play well together. They’re also incredibly difficult to build. We want to change that. — 280North

Balsamiq Studios LLC is a fresh little software company, focused on adding flavor to your Web Office suite.
Life’s too short for bad software. Most applications have too many buttons, are ugly and boring. We focus on small problems, so that we can solve them really well.

The entire About us page at MailChimp.

Here are three examples of attitude presented in a tasteful manner that instantly separates these companies from the umpteen millions of large and small companies and firms that all seem to want to provide value, and are focused on customer service. When is the last time you heard AT&T talk about how they were focused on providing a kickass telecom network and customer service to support their myriad of consulting services. Can you even find out what consulting and data center hosting services they offer in less than 1 minute?  Thus it is no surprise that large companies and mid-sized companies that want to be large corporate titans are having a difficult time using social networks to spread the word about their brand. It’s kinda hard to get twitter followers if your boring and monolithic. Luckily there is help, but I wonder how dynamic can you really be when your’re so large and can’t shake the irresistible urge to be conservative.

Here is an example of a marketing services agency that got it right.

Social Media isn’t a gimmick. It isn’t a fad. It’s not going away.
Social Media presents new and exciting opportunities for brands to
better understand and connect with their customers online. At Spring
Creek Group, we help our clients monitor and analyze their brand equity
online, develop their social media marketing strategy, and build their
social media brand presence and customer engagement programs. — Spring Creek Group

Talk about a tightly focused, strong position, introductory statement that really draws you in. It really isn’t that hard to do.+10 points for this description of their team:

Our team at Spring Creek Group consists of a growing group of Project Leads, Analytics & Measurement Leads, and Engagement Leads. Our titles don’t map to traditional marketing and advertising agencies, because our services and business model are quite a bit different than typical agencies. We are organized from the ground up to focus on our clients’ needs and driving brand insights and awareness in the social media channel.

You know who else is showing tons of attitude in a very engaging ad campaign…. Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery, a subsidiary of FEMSA (NYSEFMX) and better known right now for Dos Equis. “The Most Interesting Man in the World” advertising campaign is another great example of a larger organization showing some attitude using the social networks to their advantage, and getting results for their brand. At this point who isn’t a fan of Dos Equis on Facebook? Who (unless you’ve been living under a rock) hasn’t seen those commercials on TV or YouTube.

However, to be fair, there are some large entities showing plenty of attitude in the midst of a downright brawl. Apple and Microsoft have been slugging back and forth for awhile now and their ads are indeed entertaining. In fact Microsoft has been showing a bit too much attitude because apparently Apple wanted the Laptop hunter ads to be removed. I’ll save my comments for later about what I think of Apple’s course of action on this, but it is worth noting that these two companies are definitely taking a stand and their attitude and fight are showing in their ads. I literally joked with Mikal that the “I’m a Mac” ads were a sucker punch to the head by Apple, and I was curious to see what the retaliation would be. It took a while, but eventually Microsoft came back swinging. That’s attitude, that’s where the web and popular culture is going, and people need to get on board.

What other “traditional” aka non Web 2.0 companies are showing some attitude either on their websites, or as a part of their marketing strategy?

— Justin

The Gold Rush Fallacy: Why Yahoo Will Never Recover

Analysis, Uncategorized

A few weeks ago I came across an article by 24/7 Wall St titled: Why Yahoo! (YHOO) WIll Never Recover.

I fell for the hyperbole and read through the article.

What I uncovered was more notsocommoncents.

The general premise is that since Social Networks are challenging Yahoo in page views, and Microsoft has the money advantage in search (BING!) – Yahoo is lost and stuck in its low margin business of only $121 million on $1.82B Q1 revenue. Some excerpts:

Yahoo! has not developed any effective strategy to have any presence in the fast-growing social network sector. The same can be said of Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG). Each company may regret its lack of success in entering the the online world created by MySpace (NWS), Facebook, and Twitter. Because of its size in relationship to Microsoft and Google,  Yahoo! can least afford to let major opportunities pass. It is still questionable whether social networks will make money…

Yahoo!’s most important strategic blunder is likely to be the refusal of CEO Bartz to form a search partnership with Microsoft quickly after taking the top job. The industry has known for months that Microsoft was about to launch the next generation of its search product. Bartz and many experts believed that Microsoft did not have the product development and engineering expertise to build a highly competitive search engine. This turned out to be an underestimation of Microsoft’s resolve, its willingness to invest great sums of money on risky ventures, and the prowess of its developers.

The fundamental flaw with this analysis is the assumption that there are only two potential ways to generate profit online, social networks (though their profit potential is unknown) and search. The fact is when you apply unproven present day constraints to the future outlook of an opportunity- you severely limit the way you see opportunity.

Lets call this: the gold rush fallacy.
When the California gold rush wound down, everyone who went there searching for gold probably was thinking: now what am I going to do to get by? The gold rush is over, all the ways to make real money are lost.

Yet for Levi Strauss the gold rush had just begun. So while everyone else had given up in despair- “woe is me the gold rush is over”, Levi Strauss was just digging in building a gold rush on the back of what were then, present day needs.

The fact is that each wave of new products and services we introduce into our life introduces a new wave of needs, be it sociological or physiological. Therefore The Gold Rush never ends.

Let’s take a look back at the Gold Rush Fallacy. After the dot com crash there was a Gold Rush Fallacy with regard to online advertising. Gold rush is over the bubble has crashed, there was no way to generate enough advertising revenue to sustain a tech business.

Along came Overture (And Subsequently Google Ad Words) – Illustrating that there was in fact a highly profitable billion dollar business to be had with online advertising, even after the “Gold Rush.”

Looking at this from an asset based thinking point of view: Yahoo has the top homepage of the internet, a top photo community, No. 1 in email, and No. 2 in messaging – world wide. Couple this with a technology portfolio that is rivaled by few companies, and probably the number one Question and answer communities in Yahoo Answers, not to mention their well recognized brand. With these assets, how could one really believe the gold rush is over?

I wish Yahoo much luck in uncovering additional business models, I specifically hope they ignore the wise business minds which would only encourage them to believe their opportunity to strike gold is over.

“What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders,” Michael Dell speaking on Apple’s prospects in 1997

The Gold Rush is only over if you believe it so.

Conversely the business models, products, and services that are economic drivers, will one day sunset to give way to another gold rush. But don’t take my word, ask Levi Strauss:

“In the old days, people used to risk their lives in India or in the Americas in order to bring back products which now seem to us to have been of comically little worth.”

– Levi Strauss

Who are you working for?

Self Realization, Uncategorized

squaresWhile taking a mental break this morning to read my new favorite blog Coding Horror, I came across Jeff’s post about UNIX turning 40 years old. While I digested his points about the different closed source, open source and mixed source flavors of *NIX, I was pleasantly surprised when a quote from Joel Spolsky in Jeff’s post resonated with me so deeply in a completely different direction than it’s original intent. Let’s take a look:

What are the cultural differences between Unix and Windows programmers? There are many details and subtleties, but for the most part it comes down to one thing: Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers. This is, of course, a major simplification, but really, that’s the big difference: are we programming for programmers or end users? Everything else is commentary.

So when I read this quote my mind immediately went elsewhere… I began to grapple with a more fundamental question. Are we programming working for programmers work’s sake or end users to help someone else? I mean, not just making a product or a service that helps someone do something, but really helping people grow, transform, and enable them for success while getting the job done every day.

How does thinking about the people you’re helping – change how you work or what decisions you make? Think about it, if you’re a consultant hired by another company, your client isn’t just the company that hired you, but it’s the people impacted by your clients business and that interface with the client.

This train of thought was initially started by taking several managerial assessments and discovering among other things that my Social/Altruistic aspect of my natural style is almost off the charts when compared to the national average. Continuing on that train, I think one of my favorite quotes is in order.

“Every person must decide, at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive
selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ’What are you doing for others?’” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 11, 1957

I’d love to hear your comments on how this alternative view impacts your outlook on work, I’m still contemplating the impact on my own.

By the way, Happy Birthday UNIX.