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


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 Brand Mason’s Peer Review: 7 Common Cents Naming Insights

Branding, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by The Brand Mason (Steven Mason), a marketing, communications and naming artisan. Follow on twitter: @thebrandmason
Over the past 22 years, Steven has been a marketing executive at—and consultant to—public and private Internet security/networking, enterprise software, B2B platform, e-Business firms, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) firms, as well as a teacher of subjects as diverse as compiler (computer language translator) design and English grammar, mechanics and usage.
Here, he revisits the
7 Common Cents Insights for Brand Naming by adding clarity, context, and an alternative viewpoint. Contact The Brand mason at steven [at]

In his previous post, Mikal offered 7 Common Cents Insights for Naming Your Product/Company:

  1. The product is what matters
  2. There is no best way
  3. A name is just one component of a brand
  4. Do a competitive analysis
  5. Don’t commit any fatal errors
  6. Consider tying to something already understood
  7. A great name will help you, everything else is incremental

This post will function as an open peer review of the concepts presented.

1. The product is what matters

I would express this idea a bit differently. First, a great name can launch a bad product, but the product is unlikely to engender loyalty. If it depends on repeat buys, it will fail. If it’s a one-time, one-trick-pony, on the other hand, this may work. (I’m not endorsing this, because I think the modus operandi is a fundamentally dishonest one: I am simply making an observation.) Second, I advise looking carefully at the authenticity of the attributes/qualities suggested by the name. There must be a direct connection between what the name suggests/evokes and the ability of the product/company to deliver on same. Listerine used this very effectively: the name intentionally sounds medicinal; everyone “knows” medicines taste bad; therefore, they used a negative attribute which “proved” bactericidal effectiveness. My view is that the lack of a clear, strong nexus between a name (and tagline) and the benefits of the product/company is one of the biggest problems in naming.

Where I would disagree with you is that I view a name as an overarching concept that integrates all salient aspects/attributes of the brand, rather than as a component of the brand. The name is the “word that stands in” for the brand—i.e., an invented concept that must be reified to be made useful. Metonymy in action.

(continue to read The Brand Masons take on the six other naming insights)

It hurts to ask, or it doesn’t … Wait? Wha?


Seth Godin has a new post up positing that it doesn’t hurt to ask, unless it does.

I’ve voiced a bit of my opinions of Seth’s business advice previously, so I was a bit surprised when I found myself in agreement with his post.

His post begins:

“It doesn’t hurt to ask”

Actually, it does hurt. It does hurt to ask the wrong way, to ask without preparation, to ask without permission. It hurts because you never get another chance to ask right.

And continues:

If you run into Elton John at the diner and say, “Hey Elton, will you sing at my daughter’s wedding?” it hurts any chance you have to get on Elton John’s radar. You’ve just trained him to say no…

He concludes with some reasonable recommendations for not having asking hurt you, but he also adds:

Every once in a while, of course, asking out of the blue pays off. So what? That is dwarfed by the extraordinary odds of failing.

This is where I disagree.

I think too often we fear of failing. In fact – there are many successes I’m sure I’ve walked away from simply because I was afraid or unwilling to ask. Conversely a small start up I’ve helped is led by someone always willing to ask for help and who is candid about what he can and cannot give in return. I’m in awe at the opportunities presented to him simply because he had the courage to ask.

So my thoughts… ask away. Seth’s recommendations: Do your homework, build connections definitely apply, I think there is a social EQ you need when you ask away. You need to be respectful of other people’s time and tuned in to when someone is uncomfortable with your request (though discomfort can often lead to opportunity).

And while Seth recommends making a reasonable request, I disagree. I say you ask for what you need. Couple that with your homework, your connections, and preparation, you may get a no but more than likely you’ll at least get insight in return.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I’d rather have the problem that I’m willing to ask for too much, than have the problem that I ask for too little.

Of Sprints and Marathons


“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best”

– Michael Johnson

Priority 1

So we’ve done it. We’ve disturbed inertia and finally have notsocommoncents up and running again. Great. Except now we need to rebuild traffic. But to get traffic we must have content – and to get content takes time.

I do know that I’m not alone in this struggle.

I’m honest enough with myself to know that I don’t blog frequently enough to compete with other blogs for the daily news cycles or even worst – hype cycle; in fact the hyper news cycle and blogosphere ADD were things I took issue with during my first foray into blogging.

So I’ve decided to take a different route this time, instead of focusing on the current news topics of the day. I’ll most often swim in the exact opposite direction. As a DJ – I dug in the crates of my record collection (and record shops) to find hidden gems that I can introduce to a new audience. As an author I’ll do the same. Reading and digging through journals and business profiles both past and present (because lessons should transcend time) to mine information and nuggets to present back to you my reader.

I aim to do one solid post a week.

Since priority one is increasing readership – we’ll have to see if this works we’ll enough to garner links, or even captivating enough to keep your attention.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sprinting through a marathon of projects that have come from all angles. In addition to updating this blog with Justin and Brandon, I’ll be updating our twitter with business nuggets each day, and I’m lined up as a guess author on The Ideators Journey. Who knows maybe more projects coming soonish.

Some questions Im thinking about regarding increasing blog traffic. Outside of reciprocal links what are your tips? Outside of daily business news – what type of content do you find compelling?


An Introduction of Sorts


There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of time. But it was a beginning.

— Robert Jordan

I knew I wanted to bring notsocommoncents back to life when I found myself blogging about the disruptive trends in business and technology on my company’s SharePoint. Somehow, I had finally become comfortable expressing my opinions to others outside of my trusted circle. Adding to that, the notion of bringing back a blog that I wasn’t originally a part of was mildly presumptuous of me. However, I couldn’t resist the siren’s call. It was time to start documenting the conversations that Brandon, Mikal, and I were having about various topics in business, technology, and the Corporate America culture in a format that would allow for greater feedback and new ideas from others. Where I differ from Mikal and Brandon is that I do not have a formal MBA education. I have a background in Engineering, Physics, and a business degree by osmosis and association.

So how did I come to straddling the fence?

I started having a dual track education by interning at Arthur Andersen as a Business Consulting intern just before high school graduation, and going to college to study electrical engineering. “Uncle Arthur” showed me the value of strong management’s ability to open doors and I greatly appreciated their desire to make sure I spent my time productively (i.e. no coffee runs, no photocopies.)

I would bounce back and forth from business to technology all throughout college, gaining practical lab experience and doing voluntary consulting work for a state agency. Arthur Andersen was going down in flames right while I was about to graduate, the dotcom bubble had burst, the job market was tight, so I decided it was best to go to grad school. There I studied Astrophysics and Computational Physics. After an intensive focus on the deepest levels of science and math (Quantum Field Theory anyone?), I quickly realized that I was able to make meaningful connections between the three disciplines and I was able to communicate them to people who did not have the background in one or the other.

I found my way back into Consulting after grad school and immediately went to work applying sound engineering principals to understand people, process and technology, at an enterprise scale. I’ve spent the last few years reading lots of books and papers on Software Design, User Interface design (though you may not be able to tell from our templateJ), Applied Finance, Minimalism, and Online Marketing. As an IT Consultant I am often a firsthand witness to a lack of innovation and corporate dysfunction, groupthink, (insert your choice descriptor here), etc. I seek to shine a spotlight on these practices, point out their disastrous effects, and discuss alternative solutions.

I will seek to connect the dots, to dive into the details, and concisely synthesize and summarize.You can expect me to draw on some constructs and conclusions from other disciplines to offer insightful commentary, particularly if it is about something disruptive to the status quo. I will also focus on pointing out why we should stop spending time doing unnecessary process and work activities and spend more time “Getting Real” and “Ship It”. Mostly you can expect some good old fashioned commoncents. I also expect and will enjoy learning from the readers and their commentary. I truly believe you can learn from anyone and I look forward to growing with you.

– Justin