Social Search Engines

Concerning social media, many marketers and advertisers are currently paying for what I’ll call “push” advertising. They’re buying ads on social networks, and putting them in front of people, not fully knowing if the people they’re reaching actually want to see these ads or not (I’m speaking generally. Obviously good targeting, data, and user feedback play a role here.) Some social networks are better than others, but in many instances advertisers are basically sitting ads on a counter in a room in which they know someone will inevitably walk into at some point. The person on the receiving end of the ad has very little, if any, input into what ad they see, and may or may not pay it any attention since they weren’t looking for it to begin with. 

What if these data rich social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) were used as search engines as well though? Instead of advertisers just “pushing” ads to consumers where, even with good targeting, some will inevitably fall flat, what if users of the social networks could actually “pull” ads based on their own search terms. Social networks, taking a page from the book of Google, could then charge advertisers for visibility of their content (ads) that users happen to actually be looking for (pulling).

I personally would like to be able to find relevant posts on social networks that could be filtered by the data that lives within them. Location, time, terms, etc. An aggregation of both user generated content and purchased advertisements that fall exactly within the scope of my search. Though I can’t, at this point, tie the user generated piece directly to revenue for social networks (that’d purely be for my own enjoyment), I do think that advertisers would be willing to pay for increased visibility in these search results.

If I want pizza, for example, I think being able to search “pizza” within x miles of my current location, and allowing paying advertisers to buy digital real estate within that search, could be valuable for everyone involved. The social network makes ad revenue, the advertiser drives engagement/traffic and hopefully purchase, and the user is served the content they’re looking for. 

As an aside, I’m not against social media advertising in its current form. Yes, I’m served many irrelevant ads on any given day, but sometimes the ads I’m served are spot on. Instagram’s “push” ads, for example, have been really good to the point where I log on sometimes with the sole purpose of seeking out ads. Whatever targeting mechanism they are using seems to be working pretty well. I do, however, think that building up social search would strengthen the value proposition and utility of social media for the user, while also opening up a new stream of revenue for social networks.  

My Perfect Twitter

Anybody who knows me knows how big of a fan I am of Twitter. I use the product daily, and I think my friends are probably tired of hearing my evangelize for the platform. As much as I've grown to love (and frankly depend on) Twitter,  I do think a few changes could take the platform to another level. Here are just a few of my suggestions:

Acquisitions:

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have witnessed my many suggestions of companies that Twitter should acquire. From Foursquare to Circa to Soundcloud. Some might have been a little bit more off-base than others. But THIS one, I think really makes sense: Flipboard. I know there had been some chatter several months back about Twitter considering buying Flipboard. The buzz around this idea has since died down, but I think this acquisition would fit really well into the existing product, and add value to "power users" and newbies alike. 

The consensus among Twitter users seems to be that they use the platform to stay informed. Whether its a sporting event, a tech conference, an award show, or just new happenings, users want up-to-the-second content (and archives of content) to keep them abreast of what's happening around the world, and in spaces aligned with their own interests. For this reason, I see Twitter's competition less as other "social networks" in which the focus might generally be sharing and discussing personal milestones, but instead, I see the competition as other platforms where being informed is the focus. Oh, hey Flipboard.

Flipboard has a clean and intuitive interface that is built for informing. Twitter has a talented product team, and I think buying Flipboard and building it into Twitter would bring tremendous value by allowing the act of "following" to stretch beyond its current frame of people and publications, to enabling users to also follow things, subjects, and events. This would cause for a positive, but potentially drastic change in the way people use Twitter, which brings me to my next point:

Algorithm:

I have been starkly opposed to an algorithmic Twitter for a long time. I always thought that the free-flowing, reverse chronological nature of tweets was what partially made the platform attractive. While I haven't completed departed from that line of thinking, I am having a slight change of heart. 

I only follow about 300 accounts on Twitter (which I think is a relatively small number) and I find it nearly impossible to keep up with all of the tweets in my timeline. I could only imagine that someone following upwards of 1,000 accounts only gets to see a small fraction of their timeline on any given day, and misses tons of good content. I've resorted to using the list feature to help slim down my pickings. I have multiple lists, but one in particular that takes precedence over my timeline most days. I usually go straight to this list when I fire up the Twitter app. It consists of about 20-25 of the accounts that I feel give me the content most relevant to my interests. On my busy days, even this list is hard to keep up with. Mainly because of the redundant tweeting nature of many publications. Naturally, they want users to have access to the most important content throughout the day, so they tweet the same story multiple times, and I'm forced to try to vet out new tweets from tweets I've already seen. This can get pretty difficult and time consuming. 

I think an algorithm helps this. An (optional) algorithm that bubbles the most important/relevant tweets to the top. An algorithm that knows what I like, and that knows what I've already seen on Twitter so that I don't see it over and over again. This is probably much easier said than done, but I think a streamlined approach in which users had the option to slim down the free-flow of tweets to only give them the most relevant, timely, and new content would be beneficial. 

Video:

Twitter is probably better positioned than any of its peers to win at video due to the suite of products it has to offer. The combination of Niche, Periscope, and Vine gives them extreme leverage, in my opinion, in the video arena. 

I don't have stats, but I would imagine Youtube still dominates on what I would call long-form (a couple of minutes or longer) and/or cached (does not disappear after a certain amount of time) video. I'm still developing my thoughts on this, but I think Twitter might benefit from expanding its video suite to include videos that are lengthier than Vines, and have a longer shelf life than Periscopes. Right now, a lot of the long form video links I click in Twitter direct me to YouTube. Probably 90% of them. What if Twitter users had the ability to create/share/discuss these long form all within the Twitter platform? Not only would this open up the functionality (and probably the user base) of Twitter, but this also opens the door for increased advertising revenue for the company. 

With all of that said, I am LONG (very, very LONG) Twitter. I think Twitter in its current state is great. As I said I earlier, I use it daily and am dependent on it. It's my primary source for information. My suggestions are only ideas for making the platform even better than it already is. 

I'm watching closely to see who Twitter chooses to lead its company going forward. I have a feeling it will be Jack (though I'm not sure how The Street would feel about him running two companies). I'm also keeping an eye out to see who will be Twitter's first CMO. I think a strong tandem of CEO and CMO will prove valuable to Twitter as the company moves toward organic growth of both active users and revenue. 

Thoughts? Leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter

Media, man.

Not to be mistaken for Meteor Man

I recently watched an interview of Gary Vaynerchuk where he discussed a myriad of things, but what caught the lion's share of my attention were his comments on media/content. 

Gary mentioned that every person (including you) and every business is in the media business. I agree. We're entering an age where it could prove costly for businesses to not to have a shoe-in in the media/content game. The (financial) barrier to entering the media business is very low, and learning curves on content creation are growing increasingly flat everyday. Not only are we seeing a rise in the demand for content among consumers, but we're also seeing many major media outlets (producers, publishers, etc.) and/or advertisers rely on user generated content for their own broadcasts and campaigns. 

Gary also spoke  of a nearing time when we'll begin to see media make it's way to C-Suites in the form of executives focused on the success of their respective organizations hinged on media/content. We're seeing this shift happen now. 

Just over the past couple of weeks, we've seen some key changes in leadership from organizations that see the value in content. Snapchat just hired Sean Mills as Head of Original Content  and BuzzFeed brought on PepsiCo vet Frank Cooper as it's first Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Content Officer. The BuzzFeed move is particularly interesting to me. Between Buzzfeed's prowess in creation of original content along with its superior analytic ability, and Cooper's marketing expertise with a knack for delivering strong brand partnerships, I see this new union creating even bigger waves in the content game. 

I think where BuzzFeed could really separate itself concerning content is by figuring out how to provide detailed metrics on ROI of branded content. Organizations with deep pockets might see no issue with allocating marketing dollars to content marketing efforts where the ROI is not as clearly defined, but smaller, more cash-strapped brands and businesses will likely be more reluctant. If BuzzFeed can leverage it's existing data tool and build a layer on top that can better correlate investment in content to real results (revenue, brand engagement, brand advocacy, etc.), I think they'll be in great position to be seen as the undeniable go-to for content in the near future. 

Micro-Advertising

5 seconds. That's how long most web-advertisers have to make an impression on a viewer. After those 5 seconds are up, the power is shifted into the hands (finger) of the viewer and it's up to them to decide whether to click the "Skip Ad" button, or to prolong the delay in watching the content they came for in the first place. The overwhelming majority choose the former. Despite this 5 second window, in some instances ads are not skippable at all. 

I'm okay with force feeding some advertisements to viewers by making them non-skippable, but I think in those instances the ads should at minimum be:

  1. Proportionate in length to the content 
  2. Relevant to the viewer

I recently clicked into a video news clip found on Twitter, and was forced to watch a 30-second spot about living room furniture before I was able to begin watching the 48-second news clip. The ad was irrelevant  to me as a viewer, and also disproportionately long in comparison to the actual clip.

Relevance - I'm still at a loss for how irrelevant the ads are that I'm served sometimes. With all the information people are willing giving up about themselves, you would think it would be no major task to serve ads that were somewhat relevant to the viewer. Just using the basis of the content being consumed to determine type of ad to be served could be a plausible first step. If I'm watching a video of sports highlights, maybe an ad from a relevant adjacency makes sense? Sneakers? Rehydrating beverages?  I think Foursquare is off to a good start with fixing the relevance issue. 

Proportion - There should not be a barrier, in the form of a 30-second ad, sitting in front of a 48-second news clip. I would have skipped it, but skipping was not an option. For ads that are non-skippable, why not just use micro-ads? 6-second long advertisements before, during, and/or after the video content. I think there's plenty that can be accomplished in 6 seconds and I think a 6-second ad is much more appropriate for a piece of content lasting only 48 seconds. We've seen many brands and influencers alike garner mass attention from the 6 seconds allotted in a Vine. Why not put Vine-style ads (or maybe just Vines themselves) to work in these situations? Extend the standard viewing window from 5 seconds to 6 seconds, replace disproportionate ads with 6-second non-skippable ones, and allow for the entire 6-second ad to be played all the way through every time it's served. 

YouTube makes no money on an ad that's skipped prior to being played in it's entirety. When ads are skipped, nobody wins. The advertiser has not engaged nor inspired any action on behalf of the viewer, the viewer's experience is still slightly compromised, and the host makes no money. Seriously addressing relevance and proportion of ads could change this for the better. Though 6-second ads obviously would bring in less marginal revenue (i.e. they'd be cheaper to the advertiser), I'd imagine the hit rate would increase exponentially (1 : 1 ratio of ads watched to ads served) and have a positive impact on ad revenue and brand exposure. 

This could work, right? Leave a comment, or tweet me your thoughts. 

My 2 cents on #Meerkat

Meerkat has been moderately polarizing. While lots love it, some others don't see the point. I think Meerkat has much potential. I also think its functionality has room to grow. Meerkat has a very long runway for success, and it'll be maximized should they build on their current offering.

Due to Meerkat's ephemeral, "now" nature, I think its capabilities are somewhat limited as it stands. If I'm not on twitter or near a device when one is streaming, I totally miss out. I think that creates a barrier for the overwhelming majority who are NOT using their devices at any given time, and can not immediately dedicate attention to the stream. If I'm driving down the highway, sitting in a business meeting, or going for par of the 18th hole, I've automatically been reduced to only hearing about whatever may have been streamed at a later time instead of actually watching it myself.

I believe Meerkat has more up its sleeve. People want to be able to access content after the fact. Twitter wins this way. Even though Twitter operates within a "real-time" capacity, the content on Twitter lives forever which creates prolonged value for users. When Kanye ran on stage at the Grammys I went straight to Twitter to see the "instant replay" of it. Within minutes, Twitter users had aggregated an extensive offering of GIFS, memes, videos, and other content surrounding the incident. If/when Meerkat introduces similar functionality, I think it's reach grows exponentially. I think it'd be hugely beneficial for Meerkat to transform itself into a two-pronged application where users could enjoy live video when they are available, but also have access to a cache of streams even if they had a finite shelf life. Maybe taking a page from Snapchat's playbook where the content does not necessarily live forever, but users have the ability to cue it on their own time. 

I think Meerkat could open up an entire world of new opportunities for brands and advertisers. I could see this summer's music festival season being transformed through Meerkat even in its current state. Festival-goers could have unprecedented, live access to their favorite artists before their sets begin. Brands could leverage Meerkat to essentially create live branded content. I think Meerkat creates a really big lane for brands to drive in.

I'm watching closely to see where Meerkat goes. I have to assume they have a stockpile of features ready to roll out and enhance the user experience. They're giving it to us little by little. This has been the case with nearly all of our sharing platforms, right? Meerkat will be just fine in it's current state, but I think the impact will be even greater once users are able to control the viewing window of content. 

Update: Periscope. That is all. 

 

#SB49 Ad Review

I was pretty impressed with the ad selection for this year's Super Bowl. Naturally, some were stronger than others, but I thought there were fewer duds than there have been in previous years (yes, there were some glaring exceptions). Here are some of my favorites (in no particular order). Youtube links are included in all of the the ad titles if you want to check them out. 

"Wisdom"
Advertiser: Dodge
Agency: The Richards Group

I really liked this one. Different from any ad I can remember seeing. I thought this spot was well crafted and memorable. It was like a crescendo to me. It had a semi-climactic edge of drama, and plenty of quotables with "Don't bitch." probably being my favorite. Strong spot. 

"Newfangled Idea"
Advertiser: BMW
Agency: KBS

Another one of my favorites. I thought this one was good because it started with a bit of nostalgia that was inevitably going to lead us down a path toward something a bit more modern. I really liked how they were able to re-create the mood of a 1994 Today Show broadcast with Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric inside a new BMW i3. They were just as dumbfounded at the fact that a vehicle had no engine in 2015, as they were with the Internet in '94. Nostalgia, when done correctly, is always a hit in my book. Well played. 

"America at Work"
WeatherTech
Agency: Pinnacle Advertising

Surprised to see this one? WeatherTech really lacked the grandiose of a typical Super Bowl ad. There was no crazy story line, no catchy jingle, and nothing extremely memorable. After all, it was an ad for car mats. Their spot was relatively straight laced, clean cut, and...regular. It looked like an ad I'd see during the commercial break of a sitcom. Not the Super Bowl. Even with all of that said, I liked it. I think this was a really smart move by WeatherTech. Reason being?? Beyond getting national exposure for a small(er) business, none of their competitors showed up. This was the only ad I can remember seeing in recent history (even beyond the Super Bowl) about car mats. WeatherTech is now top of mind for me and many other consumers if/when we enter the market for car mats. I'd have a hard time naming a single other car mat manufacturer besides Weathertech right now.  Not to mention, the spot got the point across. Homegrown and quality made product. 

"Pay with Lovin'"
Advertiser: McDonald's
Agency:  Leo Burnett

I saw this one before the Super Bowl, and have tweeted about it a few times, but this was another one of my favorites. I like that McDonald's is putting their "I'm Lovin' It" mantra into play here and using it to drive action by their customers. Do > say. My only question is, how does Mickey D's decide who gets to pay with lovin' vs. who has to whip out their plastic? I think a lot of people, including myself, will be paying McDonald's a visit soon with this expression:

 

Overall, I was satisfied with the ads this year. There were many more than these that I enjoyed. What were some of your favorites? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

Reflect

To reflect means to cast back. 

Whether you're staring at a reflective pane of glass or a muddy puddle, what you're seeing is the crystallization of all past occurences that have culminated in the you-of-now. This you-of-now is being mirrored back into your own span of vision. Unlike the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day grind in which you become enveloped in all the matters of the world and everyone else watches as you briskly pass, you now get a chance to see yourself and remember how you became this individual. 

image.jpg

Though 2015 has already begun in many parts of the world, as the remaining ticks and tocks escape us here in America, I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to see yourself. Reflect on yours highs and lows of 2014, celebrate your successes and failures, and prepare yourself for a new chapter in which I wish you all wealth, health and prosperity. 

2015. 

Urban Sprawl

What do you think of when you hear the word "urban"?

A recent tweet by Web resurfaced this question for me. 

I think the word "urban" tends to be misused at times. This is only one example. I recall a time where I saw the word "urban" used to describe a style of clothing in a major department store. The clothing in that section included brands such as Trukfit, Hustle Gang Clothing, Rocawear, and others. You also wouldn't be hard pressed to find an "urban music" title at many of the large record labels.

I never really thought much of the word until I began to hear Steve Stoute challenge users of it. He professed that the word "urban" should be used to define a geographic space akin to how one would use the words "suburban" or "rural". I have to agree with him. If you look up the word "urban" you'll see a host of definitions, most of which serve to define the word with relation to a city or town. An urban area.

So then, if this is how the word urban is to be used, how did it evolve into a word that is used to describe certain genres or music and styles of dress? Are we then saying that those who live in suburban and rural communities don't identify with the things we label as "urban"? Are we saying that things labeled as "urban" are reserved specifically for people from the inner city?

It seems to me that the word has become an acceptable and politically correct term used to describe a culture many would correlate to the African-American and/or Hip-Hop music communities. I think a more broad and encompassing phrase for this culture would be Black Culture. Black Culture isn't by any means limited to people of only African descent. I hint at it in an earlier blog post, but I do believe much of what ends up becoming mainstream from a music and fashion perspective stems from Black Culture (others too) and that those things are enjoyed (and also created in some instances) by an extremely wide range of people from different ethnic backgrounds (any you can think of) and geographic spaces (global).

My points in saying these things are:

  • It's not always politically incorrect to  just call something what it is. If it's Hip-Hop, Rap, or R&B music, then let's call it that. If the clothing we are referencing is street wear, then let's refer to it as such. I think we'd be hard pressed to hear the creators of any of these things referring to them as "urban".
  • Embrace how big culture is. If the intent of the use of the word "urban" is to say that the consumers and creators of such things are only from the inner city, this is incorrect. I would venture to say that the things typically labeled as "urban" are enjoyed equally as much and just as frequently by those living outside the city lines as those inside. Culture is much bigger than any geographic confines.

Just some food for thought. Leave dessert in the comment section (or my mentions).

Talk to Strangers

I spent a week in August traveling through Central America (Guatemala and Belize). Let me start by saying it was a great experience. I met people from all over the world, ate some great food, experienced many things for the first time, and acquired some new knowledge. 

In all of the greatness that occurred over my 7 day adventure, there were some key lessons learned as well as some realizations. 

Cash is King : I was able to visit Tikal National Park (which was an amazing experience. Our guide, Edgar, was phenomenal. Check him out if you ever visit) during my time in Guatemala. Upon arrival, I was informed that though my payment for my hotel stay, meals, etc. had been processed via my Visa card just fine, entry fees to the park would be accepted in cash only. Well...I was out of cash. It was surprising to me that in the year 2014, at a place as popular as Tikal, that an instance of non-acceptance of credit would have occurred. The nearest ATM was 30 miles away and would cost me $60 USD shuttle there and back. This brings me to my next point...

Talk to Strangers : In the midst of the cash conflict, a man stranger whom I'd had a conversation with earlier at the airport came to rescue. He asked what the situation was, and I explained that I was unable to pay our park entry fees due to the park not accepting credit. He asked for a moment to consult with his spouse, and ultimately was able to let me borrow $300 quetzals (about $38 USD). Had it not been for the small talk at the airport, he might not have even offered in the first place. Thankfully, I assured him that I'd pay him back as soon as possible. But how? 

Technology Saves the Day :  PayPal! Thousands of miles from home, I was still able to whip out my iPhone, open my PayPal app, and send a payment. I intended to send him $50 USD for the trouble. Only one problem...no Internet. 

World Wide Web : The place I stayed at Tikal did have Internet, but they only turned on the electricity for 5-6 hours a day. At that moment, we were in one of the off-peak periods when the electricity was turned off. No electricity = no Internet. I patiently waited for the residence to be re-electrified. Though the Internet connection was frustratingly slow, I ultimately was able to process the payment. This experience made me realize how dependent I am on electricity and high speed Internet. Those two luxuries had become things I'd taken for granted and grown to expect. It also made me think...though I'm frustrated with speed of the Internet, there are still many people who don't have Internet access at all. How long before Zuckerburg & friends make the Internet available to everyone, all the time? I think this will further revolutionize the way we communicate.  

Universal Language : I was fortunate that many Belizeans speak English, but not so lucky in Guatemala. Though there were a substantial amount of English speakers, the primary language in Guatemala is Spanish. I know a few key Spanish phrases, but not nearly enough to hold a conversation. When my lack of fluency failed me, and I lacked a strong enough internet connection to use google translate, smiles helped my case. 

Talk to Strangers (again) : Upon crossing the border from Guatemala to Belize, I was made to know that a road sitting on the major bus route was being blocked off by a group of protestors. This was affirmed in walking passed a pile of what looked to be burning tires and a large assembly of picketers. It was then I realized that the 126 kilometers  between myself and Belize City might be a bit of a hurdle. After about 20 minutes of walking, and another 20 in a taxi, I made it to San Ignacio. San Ignacio had a bus station and sat on the route to Belize City. It was still early afternoon, and I should have had plenty of time yet to catch a bus to Belize City. Not today. The bus routes had been cut short because of the protest, and I watched the last bus to Belize City ride off into the distant (and figurative) sunset just as my taxi arrived at the terminal. What to do? As I contemplated the next move, a man stranger pulled up in his vehicle, rolled down his window, and asked if everything was okay. This man was a Belizean local whom I'd crossed paths, and exhanged a few words with on my trek passed the protestors earlier. He offered a lift using his own vehicle to the bus terminal in Belmopan (his hometown) which was far enough from the protest area that I'd still be able to catch a bus to Belize City. Strangers prevail again. About an hour later, I had safely made it to Belize City. Utlimately destined for Caye Caulker, all that separated me from the final destination was a rather large body of water. It was smooth sailing from there.  

I thoroughly enjoyed myself on this adventure. I came back to the States with a fresh set of eyes, an enhanced sense of humility, and a renewed spirit.

All in all, great trip. Ask Jaren

 

The New Normal

What is culture?

To me, culture is a set of things (behaviors, thoughts, actions, etc.) that are accepted amongst a certain group of people, whoever that group of people may be. Things that separate one group for another. The way we dress, the way we talk, the music we like, our political affiliations (or lack there of), our favorite hobbies, our religions. The list could go on forever. Culture consists of the elements that categorize groups of people. 

What does it meant to shift culture?

The idea of “shifting culture” is one that I’ve heard repetitively in interviews over the past year or so, and I started to think about what it really means. What do people mean when they say “shift the culture”?

After some deep thought and internal deliberation, the answer is simple. Fostering change, inspiring patterns of thought, and introducing the New Normal. Allowing those within our circles of influence to understand and acknowledge things previously foreign to them, and ultimately to encourage them to accept those things as attainable, familiar, and/or normal

We (people) should take it as a paramount obligation of our own to develop a sense of “new normal” amongst our peers, juniors, and seniors. To not lose sight of what culture has been built before us, but to understand it is our responsibility to enhance it going forward, and to leave it in better shape than what we found it. 

We should be developing a sense of normalcy around things previous seen as far-fetched or not-normal. Political power, wealth, healthy lifestyles, robust retirement, international exposure, entrepreneurship, education, among a long list of other things. 

So how do we establish what the new normal is? Build a following. Make yourself a fixture in your community. Be a role model. Humbly share your experiences. Give back. Mentor those looking up to you. 

Kudos to those helping to usher in what I hope to be the New Normal:

Travel Noire (international exposure), Bevel (grooming), Magic Johnson (ownership), Black Girls Code (diversity in technology) Rob Wilson (financial clarity), Management Leadership for Tomorrow (corporate diversity). These are just a few of my favorites. Who do you think is helping to bring about the New Normal?

Feel free to engage in the comment section, or hit me up on Twitter

10 Ways to Win (as told through Rap Genius annotations)

Be born, according to Birdman

Want it, according to Freddie Gibbs

Don’t wait around to lose, according to SK Laflare

Be motivated, according to Snoop Dogg

Be right within, according to Ms. Hill

Work, according to Wale

Have energy, according to 50 Cent

Risk something, according to Dom Kennedy

Lose some, according to Jay Z

Don’t stop, according to Lupe

Bonus: Follow me on Twitter

Tanning of America: Brand Assassins

Hip-hop isn’t just the music, it’s the culture. It’s a living breathing thing. -Andre Young

Last night concluded the 4-part docu-series of Steve Stoute's Tanning of America on VH1. The series centered on the impact Hip-Hop culture had on economies, as well as American culture at large. Much of the program discussed Hip-Hop's ability to breathe life into fledgling brands, create it's own brands, and also help recognizable brands tap into markets that they had not yet realized themselves.

These blurbs on the brands of 90’s past got me thinking about all of the brands that have fallen from grace, as well as those that have stood the test of time. Too, those that are still utilizing elements of the Hip-Hop culture to lease customers from the more reputable names associated with it. 

FUBU - The FUBU brand was a huge staple of Hip-Hop culture in the 90’s. Arguably the biggest. Damon John’s ability to place his product on the right celebrities, at the right times, with the right avenues for promotion proved to be the perfect storm for making FUBU a fixation of the culture. But what happened? FUBU had a drastic fall from grace. I can’t pinpoint where exactly FUBU’s descent began, but I think brands have a tendency of sparking decline when they try to be all things to all people. FUBU should have stayed away from shoes. They made great clothing, but I can’t remember anyone ever rushing out to get a pair of FUBU shoes. Also, accessibility. Seeing FUBU sold in a big box retailer is an easy way to dissuade the young brand consumer from buying your product. 

ADIDAS - Adidas has always been a middle-of-the-road brand for me, though they undoubtedly make quality product. Steve talks in Tanning about how Run DMC’s endorsement of the Adidas shell-toe sneaker sky-rocketed it’s sales. Adidas is still hanging around, but has never reached the brand recognition that some of it’s counterparts have. I think they are gaining some steam from the recent partnerships with 2Chainz and Big Sean

FILA - Fila had a pretty good run in the 90’s. Having athletes on their team like Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse helped their case. I’m not sure they ever TRULY caught on as a fashion staple. They made a brief come back in the early-mid 2000’s with the F-13 sneaker, but the imitation Pradas were just an all around bad look. 

TOMMY HILFIGER - Hilfiger was another popular brand during the 90’s. Tommy’s walking bilboards in Snoop Dogg, Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, and others allowed an opportunity for the brand to tap into a new market. Still today, it’s no chore to find Tommy draped on the racks of your favorite department store, but many constituents of the Hip-Hop culture later abandoned the brand after a false rumor began to swirl about the racist attitude of Tommy himself.

NIKE/JORDAN - The Nike/Jordan brand seem to have found the fountain of youth. Years and years later, Nike and Jordan still have managed to be some of the most named checked brands there are. Nike has made it seem an easy task to land the biggest athletes as it’s clients which in turn bolsters the already glowing reputation of the brand. A fresh pair of Air Max 90's are still my shoe of choice. I think Jordan in particular has managed to maintain it's luster by staggering it's releases of retro Jordans, and also making them in limited quantities. It's no easy task these days to just walk into a shoe store and pick up a pair of Air Jordans. High demand. Recent partnerships with artists like Drake show the brand is still paying attention to the culture and evolving with it.

Rocawear, Sean John, Enyce, And1, Ecko. Just a handful of the brands we all used to love in the 90’s. What were some of your favorites? Let me know on Twitter

Optimist Prime

The relationship between smoking and lung cancer is the same as the relationship between optimism and happiness.

-Leo Bormans 

Is your glass half full or half empty?

The age old question to gauge which way one tends to lean on the spectrum of optimism and pessimism. 

The optimist in me always has a glass half full. Never half empty. The analytical part of me wonders (but does not harp on) what happened to the other half. Did I ever have it to begin with? Did I spill it? Did someone take it? The optimist in me then swiftly returns and I immediately begin to see the future of a glass overflowing and plot on how to make the vision a reality. 

Someone, somewhere has a glass nearly empty and may be witnessing what little they do have left to be evaporating at the hands of the overbearing blaze of their own doubts and negativity. Others are whole and content with their glass half full. There are then those who realize, hmm….maybe I just need a different sized glass. 

Which are you?

Beats Beats Spotify?

My first thought upon touching the Beats Music app last week….wow! I was extremely impressed. The user interface was extremely clean and free-flowing. I was enthralled by the precision of the curated playlists. The “Gangsta Rap” playlist hit the spot on impact, as did the “Behind the Boards: Just Blaze” playlist. (How do I find these playlists again? I didn’t save them! Help!)

I don’t think Beats can quite replace Spotify for me just yet, but it absolutely can supplement it. Beats is missing some key features that would make me a full time streamer:

  • Radio 
  • Ability to save and quickly find my favorite genres
  • A place where I can see all music posted by the curators I follow

I do think Beats is a step ahead when it comes to genuine discovery. I’ve re-discovered songs that I remember riding with my dad to when I was about 8 or 9 that I haven’t heard since. It’s also made for some prime opportunities for new music discovery that I might not have had without it.

The Sentence feature is pretty cool, and also is a great supplement for discovery, but sometimes you want a more focused and streamlined curation of music. I think a genuine radio feature would come in handy here. Spotify’s Jadakiss radio has yet to disappoint. I’d like to see some form of a radio feature integrated into the next version of Beats Music. Sentences have been hit or miss for me thus far. 

The Highlight feature hasn’t done much for me yet. I’m pretty open-minded musically, but I’m not overly enthusiastic about the ‘Britney Spears Workout Mix’ sitting atop my Highlights tab right now. Maybe the Highlights tab will grow closer to my interests as I begin to ‘like’ more songs. 

Going forward, I think my music streaming will be a combination of both Beats Music and Spotify. The question then becomes, which one do I pay for? Both service sit at a $10/month price point, though Spotify does offer a free version that forces you to shuffle albums and playlists out of their original order, and includes ads. I think for now, I’ll pay for Beats, and see how tolerable the ad infused version of Spotify is. 

For me, Beats Music deserves a chance because of what the entire brand stands for. Beats has made it appear simple to sit at the exact cross-section of premium sound, a fashionable product, and willingness eagerness to continue propping up the culture. And for this, I don’t mind being a paying supporter. 

-My Latest Sentence-

I’m Sick Of Being Cold

& Feel Like Saving The World

With My Entourage

To Hip Hop

Anyone want to take a guess at what I’m listening to based on this sentence? ……..”Thong Song” by Sisqo. :-(

Hit me up on Twitter

Long (Live) Bitcoin?

By now, most reading this have at least heard of Bitcoins before. If not, here’s some reading material on it. Bitcoin (BTC) is essentially peer-to-peer payment system and math based cryptocurrency that has sparked tons of conversation about e-payments, credit fraud, a decentralized financial system, and lots of other things within a stones throw away from it.

I’m by no means an expert on BTC or cryptocurrencies, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it?

Economically, I think Bitcoin is the same as anything else deemed valuable. It follows the rules of pure economics which center around supply and demand. Bitcoins are “mined”. Miners can uncover more Bitcoins as a reward for essentially tracking and monitoring Bitcoin transactions. There is, however, a finite supply of them. At some point, there will be no more Bitcoins available to be mined.

The demand for Bitcoin is still (in my opinion) relatively low in comparison to where I see it potentially being in the future. I see it increasing in value once more retailers and merchants begin to accept it as a form of payment. Overstock and the Sacramento Kings were some of the early adopters. 

With tapered demand for it currently, BTC is more susceptible to extreme volatility (See: People’s Bank of China and Silk Road). Should a major retailer, say…Amazon or Walmart, bring on BTC as an acceptable form of payment, I see the value drastically increasing. As it stands, I think BTC better serves me personally as a means to cover a small debt owed to a friend over dinner. 

I finally opened up a Coinbase wallet today. I only put in a small amount of money. A small enough amount that I wouldn’t be heartbroken if I lost it all.

There are tons more questions that could be asked about Bitcoin:

  • What will it take for more major retailers to accept BTC as payment?
  • Is it really as secure as it’s described to be?
  • How quickly can BTC be transferred from P2P? (could it rival paypal?)
  • Who becomes the arbitrator in a payment dispute since BTC is decentralized?
  • Will BTC be used as a true currency? Or will it’s infrastructure be used as a secure exchange medium?
  • What would happen to the value of BTC should an attempt be made to regulate it?
  • Are more people currently using BTC as a form of currency? Or treating it as a stock and trying to buy low/sell high. 

I’m super interested to see where it goes. I think it has incredible potential. So am I LONG $BTC? I don’t know. I can’t really say. I’d like to think that in the future the value could increase dependent upon the widespread adoption of it as a currency. Adoption of it’s infrastructure as an exchange medium could give it some power too. I also don’t think it’s farfetched for it to tumble in value as a result of an attempt to thwart it in one way or another. I suppose only time will tell. Tell me what you think on Twitter

Resolution Revolution

What was your New Year’s resolution for 2013? What progress did you make over these past 12 months? Did you lose those pounds you’d hoped to lose? Stop drinking? Save money? 

I’m not here to disparage anyone’s “New Year, New Me” goals, but I’d like to share my stance on resolutions and personal improvement. 

I personally gave up on New Year’s resolutions some time ago. My thoughts are, if I recognize a gap between my current-self and hopeful-self, or if I happen to spot an area with particular need for improvement, why wait until next year? Why not start now? Is there anything standing in your way?

What happens if you fail at your goal for the new year? Do you have to wait until the following year until you can try again? After all, it is a New Year’s resolution…..

When you tie your behavioral change to a specific date, you rob yourself of an opportunity to fail and recover, to “fail better.” If you believe that you can only change on the New Year — the inherent message of New Year’s resolutions — you will have to wait a whole year before you get another shot. -Jessica Lamb-Shapiro

I agree with Jessica’s point. Failure is inevitable. As humans, we will all fall short of a personal goal at one point or another. How do we recover? The short answer is, try again. Do it better this time. Find out why you failed last time, and refuse to make that same mistake again. 

In addition, I think planning is key. Simply waking up on January 1 with the new year in front of you won’t predicate the life changes that you’ve elected for yourself. Have you budgeted the savings you hope to achieve in the new year? Have you purchased foods to go along with your new healthy diet? It’s very easy to procrastinate when you don’t have the necessary tools and mindset readily available for you to start your quest. 

What are your personal goals? Have you put a plan in place to achieve them? Will you wait until 2014 to begin? There’s still time in 2013…make haste!

Nothing is Stopping You

In August of this year, Big Sean dropped his sophomore studio album entitled, "Hall of Fame"

I personally didn’t think this was Sean’s best work (I’m partial to Detroit), but I did find some enjoyment in several of the tracks on this LP. Namely, the opening track, “Nothing is Stopping You”. <——-Give it a listen (excuse the language). 

On this track, Sean gives us several gems that I think we could all learn from, and apply in our own lives:

Support System

Toward the end of the first verse, Sean gives a tidbit of the story of his first run-in with, arguably, one of the world’s biggest celebrities, Kanye West. Kanye was at a Detroit radio station doing some promo work, and Sean was encouraged by a friend to go show off his rapping ability for the hip-hop mogul. Reluctantly, Sean obliged. In short, Sean taking advantage of this opportunity resulted in him landing a record deal, and an eventual platform to launch his music career on a global stage. 

The message here is that a solid support system is invaluable. It pays to have people in your corner who not only support you, but recognize potential opportunities, and encourage you to pursue them. 

Pay it Forward

Later in the song, Sean raps about an instance where he was at a radio station doing some promo work of his own, and he was stopped by an aspiring rapper on his way out. The story is oddly similar to his own experience with Kanye. Running late for his next engagement, Sean still agrees to listen to some bars from the young emcee. The rapper’s lines were less than stellar, but Sean reflects to his own similar experience, and realizes that his raps may have been less that stellar in his exhibition for Kanye, too. Sean then agrees to give the aspirant his email address, and notes that if his song is worthy, then he’ll reply. 

No details are given about what may have later happened to the young aspirant, but I think the message here is still that Sean paid forward the same opportunity that was given to him by Ye. He took time from his busy schedule to give someone in a lesser position a chance to prove himself.

It’s important that we never forget where we’ve come from, or the obstacles that we had to overcome to get to where we are. Always take advantage of an opportunity you might have to help someone trying to travel down a similar path as you. 

Positivity

Sean’s final line on the song is: “All the faith that I have just ain’t all the faith that I need. I’m sorry.” The track then cuts to audio of Sean’s mom scolding him for his negative energy. She emphasizes to her son that he should shift his negative energy toward the positive end of the spectrum, and that the easiest way to do that is to be grateful for the things that he did have, as opposed to focusing on the things he did not.

You’ll hear me say this over and over, but I am a huge proponent of maintaining a positive attitude. As difficult as it can be sometimes, I think it makes all the difference. Seldom do favorable results come out of an unfavorable mindset. 

Tons of others gems in this song, but these are the few that stood out to me. What are your thoughts? Feel free to drop a few “bars” in the comment section, or on Twitter.

The Snooze Button

The snooze button is a Ponzi Scheme.

It’s an investment (you’re investing your conscious/awake time to LaLa Land, $LLL), that you will probably never see a return on (I’m rarely ever more rested, or more productive after I awake from the second, or third, or fourth alarm-here’s why). Only with a real Ponzi Scheme, there is a potential to realize an increase, only to be funded by a subsequent investor. Time doesn’t quite work this way.

Someone else investing their time, in place of the time you wasted snoozing, does not necessarily mean a positive return on the time you lost (unless you have a really high power secretary who knows equally as much as you, and is able to work at a faster pace, yielding equal or better results. Not impossible I guess). All in all, once YOUR time is gone, it’s gone. 

Maybe Social Security (for those under the age of 47) is a better example.

I’m 25. Social Security is deducted from my bi-weekly paycheck, as it is for the vast majority of you, as well (if you are the exception, do share). Estimates say that the Social Security trust fund will likely run dry by the year 2033. You’re not eligible for your full SS benefit until age 67 (if you were born after 1960). Math was never my favorite past time, but based on these figures, it looks like there’s a strong possibility that I’m funding an account from which I may never see a single red cent.

How is this any different from the snooze button? Those precious minutes you so kindly spend with your pillow, not only do not produce any increase in productivity for you, but essentially decrease from it as you now have fewer minutes to spend on something worthwhile, and will probably be more tired than you were to begin with. 

You set your alarm at a certain time for a reason. Whether it’s to get into work early enough on Monday to finish open items from Friday, to hit the gym before you make it to the office, or to have enough time to walk the dog and read the paper. Whatever your reason is, the reason hasn’t changed because you’ve hit a stride in your REM sleep. I’m weening myself off of the snooze button. Who’s with me?

A Little Privacy Please?

In light of Apple’s iPhone announcement last week, the webosphere has been in a frenzy over security concerns regarding the new fingerprint scanning technology embedded in the iPhone 5S. It seems that many perspective 5S users are concerned with the idea of handing their fingerprints over to Apple, especially as a result of recent news regarding NSA’s PRISM Surveillance Program, and it’s participants. 

Contrary to many, I’m not particularly concerned with security breaches at this point. Actually, in some regards, I feel a bit more secure with this technology than I have with others in the past. Reason being:

It’s your own unique fingerprint that no one else within a galaxy of you shares. This is one form of ID that is unique to only you, and only you, and is not quite as easy to be duplicated as others. 

There is foresight of this fingerprint scanning technology being used as a method of monetary exchange, which is a bit alarming to people. I get that. 

Let’s say for some reason we later find out that Apple told half-truths, and does in fact keep a database housing unique fingerprint IDs. Then, let’s go a little further to say they have a security breach allowing a rogue hacker to access this digital safe of prints. Ok…then what?

We’re still talking about a fingerprint that’s, well…on your finger. This isn’t a plastic credit card that’s used as a medium of exchange through unidentifiable kiosk swipes, and could be easily poached, or a social security number that can be intercepted in a verbal or typographic exchange. This is YOUR fingerprint, that’s on YOUR finger, on YOUR hand, connected to YOUR body. 

Now this isn’t to say the technology will be completely fool-proof. But I think we are a ways away from criminals being able to not only obtain your fingerprint, but also create a replica of it that’s life-like enough to scan it (whether on your phone, or a futuristic pay station), and go undetected. 

What are your thoughts? Are you concerned that this new technology will create an enhanced ability for thieves to steal your identity? Will you be upgrading to the iPhone 5S?

Feel free to engage in the comment section, or on Twitter

Deadly Comparisons

Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success. -Clayton Christensen in "How Will You Measure Your Life?"

All of us can envision ourselves 5, 10, 20 years down the road, and see the lives that we hope to have. I see mine nearly everyday. But seldom do we consider the work it will take to reach this cloudy imagery of ourselves, or the road blocks we will encounter before arriving at our hopeful destinations. To the contrary, very frequently do we see someone who has the “perfect” life, who has everything we (think we) want, and seemingly who had to put in much less work to get there. 

My advice in this situation is as follows:

  • Don’t Envy - Who knows what this person actually had to go through to get to where they are in life? Everything that glitters isn’t always gold. Being upset, or envying someone else won’t help accomplish your idling goals. Use their prosperity instead as your own motivation.
  • Stay the Course - Don’t allow someone else’s success to deter you from your own dreams. Focus on exactly what it is that YOU want to accomplish. Do you even really know what you want to accomplish? Think about it. 
  • Ask for Advice - Ask this person how they got to where they are. Apply pieces of their story to your own life. If they are not accessible, do your research on them. The Internet is powerful. 

I received some good advice from Warren Ballentine at a conference a couple of years back. He advised to always maintain these 4 people in your life:

  1. A seasoned veteran (to show you the forthcoming potholes in the road)
  2. An equally achieving parallel (someone you can relate to)
  3. A struggling parallel (to  help you appreciate what you do have)
  4. Someone younger (pay it forward; teach them what you’ve learned)

Do you have these 4 people in your life? Do you know exactly what it is that you want to accomplish? Don’t be so quick to answer. Give it some thought. 

Feel free to dialogue in the comment section, or on Twitter

Peace.