Archives for the month of: July, 2009
Kindling by Flickr user oskay

"Kindling" by Flickr user oskay

Last week, a story was circulating through social media platforms that illuminated a real bonehead move by Amazon. It was deleting copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from people’s Kindles without their knowledge.

Turns out the books being deleted from the popular e-readers were unauthorized editions, and in the Kindle terms of service it is made clear that Amazon is within their rights to do such a thing . . . but still. The passionate community of Kindle users (our household owns two) was up in arms.

Of course, the irony of going Big Brother to delete 1984 was not lost on most commenters.

Amazon made a quick announcement admitting the mistake, but it was pretty generic. It wasn’t enough.

So yesterday Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos issued this statement:

An Apology from Amazon

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO
Amazon.com

Often, when a CEO is forced by circumstances (or her or his own boneheadedness, or other events) to issue an apology, they don’t go all the way. It’s a “mistakes were made” kind of statement that satisfies no one.

If you are telling me you are sorry, I want to know you are truly remorseful.

This statement is the clearest, most forthright, most constructive corporate apology I can remember. It takes courage, as a leader of a public company, to stand up like this.

Many of my friends (both in-person and on Facebook) know that a couple of months ago I bought the strangest looking shoes you can imagine: shoes with toes. They’re called Vibram Five Fingers.

Before I told you what I thought of them, I wanted to wear them for a goodly period of time, to be fair. I wanted to get past the novelty factor as well as the strangeness of wearing shoes with toes.

Here’s my video review:

Vibram Five Fingers Shoes — Review from Brad Rourke on Vimeo.

Bottom line: They aren’t for everyone, but I really love them.

At a minimum, they are incredible conversation starters! Everywhere I go someone wants to talk to me about my feet.

P.S. Sadly, I shot the video in 16×9 and somehow it ended up 4×3 . . . so I am all squishy. You will just have to deal.

Somehow I have gotten on an “Internet marketing guru’s” email distribution list. I typically just archive the notes without reading them, but for some reason (I think because it came in on my Blackberry) I read the latest one.

It was touting a free “telesummit” which is a fancy word for a conference call. It was arranged like a conference agenda, with a series of speakers. Each speaker had clearly thought deeply about how he wanted to portray himself and what take-aways the audience could expect. Even though the subject is not my thing, I could see how someone might get something out of each specific session.

But add them up and the effect was dramatic. After this conference call, I will have learned:

  • 9 “step-by-step” methods for something
  • 12 “keys” to other things
  • 13 methods, processes, or strategies
  • Two “ways”
  • Two “myths”
  • Two “secrets”

This is an interesting and important thing to remember: When building agendas, the overall effect is often less than the sum of the parts.

Just something to keep in mind when making plans. There needs to be a coordinating force.

I have recreated the agenda below:

Agenda by Flickr user Dinocom

"Agenda" by Flickr user Dinocom

How to Exploit the Power of Free Giveaway Events to Generate Hundreds and Even Thousands of Hungry Leads

  • Unlock the top 3 step-by-step techniques to make your giveaways profitable
  • The #1 secret to getting joint venture partners lining up at your door
  • How even “newbies” can begin creating a successful targeted email list quickly
  • Learn a tried-and-true way to begin building a huge list of subscribers through partnerships
  • The secret “Win-Win-Win” formula for giveaway event success

Lead Gen Secrets of an Unknown, Behind-the-Scenes, Lead Generation Guru Who Turned $50 Into a Multi-Million Dollar Lead Generation Company

  • The step-by-step method to turn $50 into a million-dollar lead company
  • The #1 secret you must know to be in the 1% of successful lead generators
  • A fool-proof way to identify leads and turn them into cash
  • A paint by number process to lead generation that will leave your competitors in the dust
  • 3 vital steps for fail-proofing your lead generation process

Powerful Methods of Using the Internet to Automatically Generate a Flood of Qualified Leads With Little to No Experience

  • 3 key lead generation strategies to building strong lists online without much effort
  • 3 crucial ways blog content can sway your readers into signing up for more
  • The single biggest online money making myth and how to keep it from infiltrating your success
  • 5 simple outsourcing techniques that will create less work and more leads
  • 3 “must-have” lifetime customer strategies to maximize the power of your first sale

A Step-By-Step Formula that the Average Person Can Use to Instantly Generate Leads In ANY Niche of Your Choice

  • 5 simple step-by-step ways to gain targeted leads quickly
  • Discover the biggest mistake businesses make when trying to obtain leads
  • Find out 3 vital keys to creating an effective landing page that 98% of your competition is not doing
  • 3 cost-effective techniques to boost your visibility and bring in more targeted leads
  • The #1 proven method to grab the attention of your target market

See what I mean?

My friend Adam Pagnucco, who writes the indispensable Maryland Politics Watch, scored a coup last week as Kathleen Miller, a real-live “msm” reporter, agreed to describe a day in the life of a reporter in five installments.

People often hold a number of assumptions about journalists, including:

  • They only like to cover negative news
  • They are not thoughtful about the consequences of how they report
  • They only care about getting the story
  • They are in collusion
  • They purposefully kill stories that would expose high-level corporate wrongdoing

This excellent series, which had me riveted, puts the lie to all of that.

One passage in particular moved me. Kathleen discusses the controversy that ensued when an editor proposed that reporters start inserting their own voice into stories when they know that something that a source says is untrue. This is a deeper question than you might think — there are strong journalistic norms of staying out of stories. This discussion is quite thoughtful:

It’s an interesting concept. I think it’s both smart and dangerous. If you’ve covered an administration or an issue for years like [the editor] or many of his team, you are probably an expert in your own right and deserve the power to call it like you see it.

You can’t use that style every day, in every story or on every topic, however, or you risk editorializing. There are some topics – for me, environmental policy – where at this stage of the game, I have no business calling BS or cutting through the clutter. I’m too green, (yikes – pun unintended) to take on that role. In others, like local immigration policy or WSSC drama, I feel like I’ve been in the weeds enough to cut through the crap on occasion.

I urge you to read the entire series here.

I can’t tell if they are mocking me, poking good-natured fun, or are serious.

Back in April, I recorded a video that outlined my note-taking strategy. Over the years, lots of people have commented on it in meetings and have been curious about how it works. I’ve got the video embedded down at the end of this article.

The basic idea is to draw a box in the upper right of your notes pages, in which you put key ideas. The important thing is to think ahead of time about your purpose for taking the notes so you know — during the meeting — what to record.

But now, three months later, Last night I noticed this odd flurry of comments on the video. They are a strange mix of praise, jest, and sarcasm:

Thank you very much! This system has really expanded my post-meeting analysis. I’ve also expanded on your technique by adding an extra box in the lower left hand corner to record random thoughts unrelated to the subject of my meetings (such as what others are wearing or the types of pens they use, etc). Though somewhat recently I’ve been considering using a rhombus because my style of note analysis may be described as oblong or semi-circular. What are your thoughts on other shapes?

And:

I think we would get along well because I use graph paper too! Do you ever doodle when you take notes? I confine myself to the lines of the paper, so my doodling comes out looking like something made on an etch a sketch.

And:

thanks! now i can tell if somebody is a virgin or not just by looking at his notes!!!

Yes, I get that they are making fun of me. It’s just the all-over-the-map tone is sort of interesting to me. I kind of like it. Lately I have been getting a bunch of quite nasty comments on Rockville Central, the local blog I run, and these comments are pretty fun and refreshing.

The thing is, if I squint a bit, I can see how that “rhombus” comment might be meant in earnest.. And if that is true, then what about the others?

Anyway, I am just glad some folks found the video again! (It’s one of my more-viewed videos; people seem to come back to it every few weeks.)