iPhone 5: Why “Meh” is Sometimes Great

Voila Capture452


Well another iPhone announcement has come and gone. Already the Triple-A (Anti-Anything Apple) crowd has been remarkably vocal that Apple is merely playing catch up to the industry. I’m seeing predictions of the impending doom of the company. Proving once again the one thing more annoying than an Apple Zealot is an Anti-Apple Zealot. 

I guess it’s time to give investors their money back and shut down the company.


We could have a rational look at the new phone. 


For many it’s simply a case of playing the specs war again. It would be important to note that this is a battle that Apple has never participated in. Android users are the new “PC” in the PC vs Mac crowd, holding up specs as the primary reason why their platform is better than Apple’s. This is a complete waste of time, because as satisfied iPhone users and Apple will tell you, it is about solutions, not specs. 

For Apple, the phone itself doesn’t matter as much as what you can do with it, and you can’t simply condense that down into a table of numbers. 

A recent commenter I read on one site said:

“Still no Flash support.
No editing files on the go, everything has to be done through iTunes.
No SD memory slot.
Still have to use 3rd party hardware to do things Android phones do for free like DNLA-compatible device streaming.”

This is a prime example of the “educated” Android user. 

Let’s dissect:

No Flash Support…really this again? Apple isn’t the only company not supporting Flash, Adobe itself has moved away from Flash for Android devices, announcing support instead for HTML5.

Editing Files on the Go…I’m not sure what that means or what it has to do with iTunes. I can buy any song or stream any song from iCloud. I can do the same with documents. My iPhone backs up to the cloud. In fact I can’t remember the last time I connected my phone to iTunes.

The always missing SD Slot. People (non-iPhone users) have been complaining about this since the first iPhone. It reminds me of the naysayers predicting the downfall of Apple because they killed off the floppy drive. The SD card slot adds bulk and cost to devices, and for what purpose? More storage? These days, almost everything is cloud based, so local storage on my phone becomes relatively moot. I store almost no actual music on my phone these days. The number one use of storage on my phone has become photos. However, my entire photo library on my computer going back 7+ years is only 60GB…I have a 64GB phone, and I don’t carry my entire photo library with me. I delete rented movies after I’ve watched them, same with TV shows, and half the time I’m using my iPad not my iPhone to watch video. So why do I need an SD card slot?

As for DLNA, this doesn’t really affect me or a lot of iPhone users. Most devices coming out these days support AirPlay and DLNA, Bluetooth, or have other input options, like docks. My phone works well as a remote control, but I could care less about streaming audio from it. My music library is 110GB and I certainly don’t need the entire thing with me when I can stream a large portion of it.


iPhone Meh

The new iPhone seems underwhelming to some as they see it as playing catch up with what’s out there. As I already mentioned, I think you’ll find most iPhone users care about complete solutions, not just hardware specs. Personally, I think this is a great update.

Here’s why:

I like that Apple is further refining the iPhone design. I don’t care if it’s radically different in form factor or not, as I’m quite happy with the current design. I do love that what they are doing with the iPod Touch and iPhone. Watch these two devices carefully, as they are on a path of convergence. Apple is clearly making refinements for thinner and lighter devices, not simply adding larger screens at the expense of making it a two-handed device. 

They continue to experiment with new manufacturing processes and materials. It shows a trend of careful thought and planning to where Apple is heading. Each iteration of the iPhone is not simply thrown out there to see what will stick (unlike Samsung’s 64-ish Android devices). Apple is learning from each release about manufacturing, chip development, battery design and placement, energy usage, tactile and sensory feedback, etc. Most Anti-Apple zealots see this iteration as playing catch up, however they simply look at a spec sheet and compare numbers. They lack the critical vision to see beyond their own hatred. 

While Anti-Apple folks look at devices, Apple users look at solutions. One thing that’s amazed me about my iPhone over the years is that my phone as hardware tends to vanish as an object and instead becomes more about the experience. It’s the magic of this experience that Apple is pursuing. This is something Apple does with all their products (desktops, laptops, towers, operating systems).

Here’s a personal example of solutions over device specs. Since the release of the first iPhone, I no longer carry either of my point and shoot cameras. Because of that, one spec that is important to me are improvements to the optics and how quickly the iPhone can take a photo. In February I upgraded to a 4S since I was going to be on a trip overseas and I wanted the better camera. I walked into an AT&T store, bought the new phone, logged into my iCloud account, and walked out with “my” phone. The new 4S had restored from my last iCloud backup earlier that day. It was painless and didn’t require tethering to any computer. My iPhone isn’t model specific, it’s solution specific. My phone is an identity that transcends the device itself.  

Apple’s hardware refinements further support this. It’s about who I am on the go much more than what device I’m currently carrying in my pocket. 


For awhile I thought we were past the spec wars. I thought people no longer cared about pushing and highlighting meaningless and sometimes misleading numbers. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 both have V8 engines, both go from zero to 60 in under 5 seconds. However, there is a huge difference between what’s on paper, and the experience of driving. One is definitely a supermodel, the other was given a makeover. 

Startup is the new Hipster



While technically my first startup was somewhere around 1991, I first joined the ranks of the Internet revolution and that emerging startup culture in 1994. I joined a very successful company with a rotund 20-something-year-old CEO who once challenged a 120lb programmer to a drinking contest. He won of course and after winning, proceeded to urinate on said programmer as he lie passed out on the ground. One of many bizarre experiences at that company, and simply the start of a career full of them.

I’ve always worked on the fringe of technology, quite often joining companies that were so far ahead of their time, that even 10+ years on, I’ve still not seen the full potential of what they represented come to fruition…but knowing it will. My career has been historically one of great ideas and bad timing.

These days, I feel that something is missing in startup culture. A fire, a passion, a desire…a need to transform from where we are to where we could be. We were once stepping onto truly unknown territory, but now some of what we see today is predictable and blasé. I feel we have reached a point of acceptance over what we have instead of a need to do something completely unexpected. Each new social media project to me, seems like a play off of the one launched just 2 months before it.

In my mind much of startup culture is broken. It seems to be trend and fad driven and makes me desire for something more tangible, lasting, real.


I’ve been thinking about these ideas for some time, and today I read a clever site/post/illustration that perfectly encapsulated a lot of these concepts. Liz Fosslien has really captured the spirit of how unimportant and unoriginal everything feels these days…how we’ve somewhat lost the magical feeling of the truly wonderful times we live in.

Startup is the new Hipster

The Self Hating Troll


In my time at the Discovery Channel, I dealt with a lot of difficult online personalities. And when I say a lot, I’m referring to hundreds of thousands of passionate people who don’t always see eye to eye. More often than not, it required a little hand holding to keep the pot from boiling over into complete chaos. So basically it was a daily affair of rage management.  

I’ve handled celebrity PR scandals, bullying, stalking, and threats of all kinds. In fact, during one incident, I had my own life threatened to the point where the Discovery legal department had to get involved. The one thing scarier than an insane online troll is a pack of Discovery corporate lawyers. 

Over almost three years I saw people from all political spectrums call each other every conceivable name to the point where terms like “nazi,” “fascist,” “socialist,” “commie,” and the like became meaningless and comical.

Good times.

Suffice to say I’ve learned how to handle everything from the horribly vile to the insanely annoying while keeping not only my cool but my own sanity. I’ve thought about writing a short book on this subject, but in the meantime, why not share just a few things 

Online, There Is No Such Thing As Shame

I’m sure I’m not the first person to suggest that one of the best things about the Internet is also the worst thing about the Internet, which is the perception and sometime reality of anonymity. Since people typically don’t have to actually post their real identities online, there’s a tendency to feel a sense of unfiltered freedom which allows them to basically express their deepest hidden feelings. These are things that in polite company, a person would never admit to. Online it comes out as an expression of deep seeded inner rage. Most of the time you’ll see this manifest itself as some form of prejudice. 

Difficult People

The problem with difficult people is that they disrupt and derail conversations. This also causes good standing members of a community to leave. In the beginning I would try to reason with difficult people, yet it becomes apparent that their disruptions were part of a psychosis that was beyond something you could simply rationalize with them. What ends up happening is that initially you think you can turn them around, talk them back to sanity, and bring a calming zen to your community. You realize over time, this is impossible, and if you are smart you recognize disruptive behavior and simply ban it immediately. 

There are many types of difficult personalities one encounters online, but here’s an example of one of the worst. 

The Self Hater

This person has some deep seeded hatred of themselves that manifests online into some nihilistic hatred of everyone and everything. They always take a contrary position. They can’t have any honest discussion because all they want to do is tear everything down through name calling, vile comments, intimidation, and derision. They look for the weakest members of any community, latch on, and destroy whatever they care about because they derive pleasure from the pain of others.

You simply have to ban this type of personality immediately. You cannot rationalize with them because they don’t want to participate in any discussion, they want to ruin it for everyone. However, if you are a member of the community, and not a moderator, there are several ways to handle this type of person. Here’s three:

1. Ignore them – easier said that done, but if everyone simply ignores them, they lose interest quickly and go away. If you are well vested in the community, you can generally get others you know to follow your lead. 

2. Do not show you are upset. The moment you show emotion, is the moment you lose. Typically what happens is that you’ll get caught up in some long argument hoping that there will be some middle ground or consensus between parties. This never happens. You waste a lot of precious time, while on the other end of the conversation, the self hater is simply looking at your arguments and analyzing them for way’s to turn it all upside down and get you to react on an emotional level. Once that happens, they’ve got you. Keep your emotions in check.

3. Sticks and Stones – one of my favorite ways to handle self haters is to give a little bit back to them, like a credit card rewards program. Remember their goal is to get your goat. Once you show anger or frustration they win, and they’ll keep going. I recently had an exchange with a Reddit commenter who came into my discussion with the following (referring to an upcoming book I’m releasing):

“I guess if people would waste their money reading homo erotic shit like “The hunger games” or “the Holy Bible” they might pay for this crap too.”

Now if you research this gentlemen you’ll find he regularly posts inflammatory comments because he gets a lot of fun out of it. Now I could flag him (which might get his comment removed – in time), or I could ignore him (in which case someone else might egg him on), or I could engage him on his level. Self hater’s cannot handle being fed their own garbage.

I engaged him and here’s how the conversation went down. 

Him: “I guess if people would waste their money reading homo erotic shit like “The hunger games” or “the Holy Bible” they might pay for this crap too.”

Me: “I guess you’d know.”

Him: “Is this supposed to be funny? I bet your a mormon”

Me: “It’s totally cool whatever you are into…Mormons, Hunger Games, Biblical Erotica, Furries. I’m not judging. If you are looking for more homo erotic reading, you might try leaving your parent’s basement, hop on the bus, and head over to an adult bookstore.”

Him: “Are you asking me to join you in the Big Black Gay cock section? Try not to be so pushy, it makes you seem desperate and kind of creepy”

Me: “Funny…that’s the same thing I said to your Dad.”

And he’s gone. Not to mention it entertained some of the other commenters who were also tired of his bs. Is this the mature way to have a discussion? No, but then this type of person has no desire to participate on any level of maturity. He wants to derail the discussion and start a war. Simply mirror his behavior and he’ll typically leave because there is no fun in having your ass handed to you. 



Twitter: Signal to Noise



I just plunked down $50 to support the new App.net project to build a crowd funded competitor to Twitter. The idea? A social media platform you pay for is potentially better than one you don’t.

I agree with this premise.

As someone who has helped run several social media platforms/strategies for very large and small companies (in addition to my own online identities), I’ve found with almost no barrier to entry and no vested interest in the platform by participants, the amount of pure noise has become nearly impossible to sort through.

Twitter is getting almost impossible to get a handle on. Promoted tweets that aren’t relevant to me pop up everywhere. Organizational tools to help me make sense of it all are non-existent. Gimmicks to get followers and re-tweets are rampant. The operational metaphors have become stale. Most importantly, it is becoming more and more difficult to find information that’s important to me. The cream no longer rises as much as it falls quickly to the bottom.

The state of Twitter, in my mind, is a company that has outgrown it’s ability to innovate. 

I’m ready for something new, something that makes communication easier, but also gives me more power over what I want to say and how I present it. Twitter has been a wonderful experiment in communication. It’s now time to take what we’ve learned and try to approach it from another direction…we don’t need a company trying to desperately hold on to an idea, but new people who are willing to let go and for better or worse see if it falls or flies. 

Fingers crossed on the latter. 

How your site reflects on your food brand

As the Director of Marketing for an online food company I’ve been pushing internally for a site reboot and refresh. I decided to run a survey of customers to gauge just how powerfully a website and overall social networking strategy reflects on a food brand. I asked people to rank their answers based on how strongly they felt, and then plotted the answers into charts. Not scientific, but the results still interesting, if not surprising.  

The first question I asked as a baseline, was whether or not they made food purchasing decisions based on what they saw on the web. 




With the advent of all the food porn sites (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, photo sharing, etc),  it’s no surprise that the internet and apps are a huge influencer of what people are purchasing in stores, simply because they’ve seen something that was shared. 

However, what about a brands website? Does it really matter what your site looks like? How it functions? If you sell gourmet products, does it need to reflect that view? If you make candy, should you capture the whimsey inherent in the product?

So I posited a simple statement, “A poorly designed website reflects poorly on a brand and makes me question the quality of their product.” 


Can the way you present your brand online, specifically your website actually make someone question the quality of your product? With 76% in agreement, it seems like you should put a lot of effort into how you reflect and project your products and values to potential and existing customers.

As for social networking:

“A brands social networking participation is important to me”

95% agree

4% disagree

“I like brands that are more fun and engaging other than constantly promoting their products”

33.3% Strongly Agree

66.7% Agree

No dissent

“I follow more than one brand on a social networking platform”

91% Yes

  9% No

There are countless articles out there which will tell you the importance of a website to your brand. There are countless articles out there that will tell you the value of social participation. What I found interesting is hearing from our own customers just how integral our online presence (site and social) was to them. 

So you might want to consider asking yourself in the future, does my online brand truly reflect my actual product? Like it or not, these days what you do online is directly linked to how you are perceived offline.



To Lower Expectations Yahoo! Changes Name to Whoop De Doo!


If there ever was a visual metaphor for the state of Yahoo! today, it might be this photo of two fruit flies drowning together in a glass of wine. We’re dying, but we’re enjoying it. 


Seven years ago I was interviewed at Yahoo! (let’s dispense with the “!”) for a marketing position. In the interview an executive (who is likely still there – judging by the site) asked me how I would describe Yahoo as a brand.

Now I had been working in technology and writing about technology for what seemed like a lifetime at that point, so I knew full well all of Yahoo’s properties, acquisitions, landing pages, etc. But if you asked me to describe Yahoo, I would be hard pressed to give you a proper description in less than 2,000 words. The smartass answer would be to say:

“Yahoo is like three different Swiss Army knives held together with scotch tape.”

What I actually said in the interview was I really had no idea what Yahoo did or what it was about. I went on to describe that as a visitor myself, I never really got past the front page news headlines. Never used it for search, didn’t use email, didn’t use the Auto’s section, didn’t use games, horoscopes, jobs, messenger, real estate, and on and on. I went on to say in the interview, that to increase the marketing success of Yahoo, I’d ditch the current strategy/look (which seemed tired and circa 1999), retire about 70% of the noise, double down on things like the acquisition of Flickr, and focus on partnerships more and search/acquisitions less. A tighter, more refined set of products and services which allowed you to say:

“This is Yahoo.”

I did not get the job. 

What Yahoo did since then was continue to acquire and develop products/services that no one really wanted or could find better options elsewhere. It’s always a game of “me too” with companies like this.

If you go to Yahoo’s site today and look at the About Us section, you’ll find something I believe is intended as their mission statement or description of what they are about:

“Yahoo! is the premier digital media company. 

Our vision is to deliver your world, your way. We do that by using technology, insights, and intuition to create deeply personal digital experiences that keep more than half a billion people connected to what matters the most to them – across devices, on every continent, in more than 30 languages. And we connect advertisers to the consumers who matter to them most – the ones who will build their businesses – through our unique combination of Science + Art + Scale.”  

What the fuck does that mean and who wrote that shit? Tell me that’s not endemic to the problems at Yahoo?


I still visit Yahoo once a day to glance at the headlines (I do still use Flickr and host this site there), but that’s it. I’ve never found Yahoo any more compelling that I’d want to scratch the surface. 

I do not envy Marissa Mayer’s new role as CEO. Tough decisions have to be made, some serious soul searching needs to be done, and some new blood out-of-the-box-non-Yahoo-culture thinking is required. Bring on the mass firings and I think you might just be able to save it.