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Being in Business is a Lot like Driving in Los Angeles

I hate to admit it, but I have a bit of a Starbucks addiction. Although, I ALSO have to admit that my addiction wouldn’t really exist if a drive through location wasn’t within a 5 block radius of the office.  What can I say, there’s just something about convenience that fuels my hunger for Black Iced Tea.  But the drive through, today, taught me an unintended lesson about business, perception, and life.

Well, that’s probably a bit overkill.  But it did spark an epiphany.

You see, this particular drive through is nestled away on an awkward corner of a six way intersection, right near the entrance to not one, but two freeways.  If you’ve ever driven in Los Angeles, you’re probably aware that this equates to madness.  To boot, right behind it (closest to the actual entrance to the drive through), is an alley way and an entrance to a very bustling, popular church (weird, I know–but hey, it’s LA).  Adding a bit more to the confusion, the parking lot is incredibly small, which almost always causes a traffic backup.  So all in all, you have three main entry points, and massive amounts of impatient, selfish Angelenos all trying to get their cup o’ joe on the way to their day jobs.

(See diagram)

I almost always opt for the main street entrance, usually because it’s the safest.  Everyone else, of course, usually opts for the alley, because they’re massive tools.  This particular morning was no different.  I pulled in, rounded the corner, and was happily expecting a safe, smooth trajectory to the drive through speaker.  Unfortunately, one of the aforementioned selfish Angeleno’s decided that his coffee order was more important than mine, pulled in to alley entrance number one, and rounded his car towards the drive through entrance without even looking.  I nearly t-boned him.

(See diagram 2)

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a New Yorker, and I have pretty bad road rage.  My window was down, and since I hadn’t yet received my cup of joe, the expletives spewed out of my mouth incessantly.  I went on a good solid minute or two rant about how much of a selfish jerk he was, and once I was finally out of frustration and hot air, I threw my hands up in exasperation.  The older gentlemen that cut me off decided to stick his head out the window and ask me “what my problem was,” incredulous as to why I was so angry.  His ability to act seemingly surprised at my anger made me angry again, to which I was forced to reiterate that “he was my problem,” “that he was selfish,” “that he should learn to drive,” and “that he didn’t even look before he cut me off and nearly caused an accident.”

Now many of you will probably think that my reaction was overkill, and I’m certain that it indeed might have been.  I probably did not need to make such a big deal about the situation, but I was angry.  Luckily, this is where my grand epiphany started.

I’ve owned my own business in Los Angeles for the last three years, and as most entrepreneurs can relate–I’ve had moments of brilliance, and moments of lacklusterness.  Particularly in a big metro, it’s easy to become bitter and disenfranchised about the way people treat you–particularly as a young female in an industry full of older shark-like individuals.  So you know how I learned to handle those situations?  I learned to stick up for myself.  And sticking up for myself was what I did today.

Whether right or wrong, I felt this man had done me an injustice–and instead of just sitting back and letting his selfish driving tendencies boil beneath the surface and ruin my day, I voiced my dissatisfaction.  Loudly, and repeatedly.  I’m certain he didn’t like it, or appreciate it–but there was one thing guaranteed about this situation: he knew that I was unhappy.  I made sure of it.

After calming down a little, I finally got through to order.  When I approached the drive through window to pay and receive my deliciously scrumptious breakfast, the teller ready to take my money leaned over and said:

Excuse me, ma’am.  The gentleman ahead of you paid for your order.  He said you guys had a bit of a tiff in the parking lot, and that he felt bad about it.

Wow.  Not only was he aware that I was unhappy, but unlike most people in this day and age, he actually did something about it.  Whether he felt he was right or wrong, he recognized the squeaky wheel and gave it grease.  And to his point, it increased both of our karma levels, if you believe in that kind of thing.  It also made me thankful that not everyone ignores problems, that some people really are “man enough” to take responsibility for their actions.

And this is where the world comes full circle.  No matter who you are in life, sometimes you’re the person that cuts someone else off and ruins their day.  And sometimes, you’re the person that gets cut off.  As a whole, most people fall into one of those categories more than others, even though they may or may not wish to recognize it.  Either way, it’s important as a businesses owner to stick up for yourself when people try to get one over on you, no matter how painful it may be to address the situation.  Equally, it’s imperative as a business owner or a customer, to admit when you’re wrong and try to remedy a situation.  It’s always about healthy boundaries.

So whether it’s a client, an employee, a vendor, a partner, or just a person on the street that’s taking advantage of you, I encourage you today to fight for what you believe in.  Or, if you’re taking advantage of one of those people, and failing to admit it–I encourage you to be a little introspective today finally admit that you’re wrong–and do something to fix it.  You’ll feel much better about it, guaranteed.

And to the man that cut me off at Starbucks–whoever and wherever you are–thank you.  Thank you for not only being an upstanding citizen and putting up with my road rage rant, but for remedying a situation and owning up to your error.  You made my day.

Google+, Facebook, & The Future of Human Interaction

Iced Cranberry Chai

Iced Cranberry Chai from Silverlake Coffee Company

It’s a lazy Sunday here in Los Angeles. Most people are at the beach, wallowing in their margaritas, volleyball games, and sun tans. I, taking post as the effervescent entrepreneur, however, opted for the coffee shop to do work instead. Not surprisingly, the trip has led me to a few curious questions regarding our future as a society in this evolving ‘social networking’ world.

Upon arriving at said coffee shop, I meandered to the counter, surprised by how utterly packed the place was. There wasn’t a seat in the house, at least on the inside, and I was deathly afraid of having to sit outside in the unforgiving heat. While waiting for my delicious Iced Cranberry Chai, I peaked around at the clientele, and I began to notice a thought trend that followed me to my table outside:

It’s eerily quiet here. Almost every single person has a computer or an iPad, and if they are one of the rare folks that do not, they have their nose buried in a book (people still buy those?). There is no talking, no introductions, no smiles, no wandering eyes. It’s almost as if someone literally superglued their eyeballs to the screen (or paper) in front of them.

Are we so engrossed in our digital worlds, that we literally do not want to exist in the physical one around us? I’ve been in many discussions with friends about this, who can’t even make it through a lunch or dinner without picking up their smart phone for a text or email (we’re all guilty, don’t even try to fight it). But what do the growth (and death) of popular social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and the new Google+ show us about human interaction?

In case you don’t know or conveniently forgot, MySpace was the true beginning of social networking. In college, it was the only place for college bands to create a destination for themselves that didn’t cost you $10,000 (remember when a simple website cost that?), and was a great way for young college kids to find friends/dates. And then “The Facebook” came out. I was happily introduced by my geeky friends at Ivy League and Tech schools that were lucky enough to be part of the initial group of colleges allowed to join. Back then, it was something built by college students for college students, and it caught on like wildfire because of it.

(Author Note:  If you’d like to read more about the real evolution of Facebook, I highly suggest you check out David Kirkpatrick’s “The Facebook Effect.” )

The caveat? Not only was it exclusive, unlike MySpace, but it was a way for you to list your classes, find your fellow classmates to study with, or to finally get an excuse to say hi to that cute boy you were to afraid to say hi to in person without the fear of rejection. It was an extension of everything that college stood for: socializing, parties, and education (sometimes). It was a way to extend your interactions with people you already knew, or to get access to the people you wanted to know. And what about MySpace? Well, they failed to innovate because they didn’t understand the human condition. People want to expand their world, and while meeting new people is cool–connecting with old friends or getting to know an acquaintance better is far cooler.

And as social networking has grown, so has the need to monetize it to make the VCs happy. There’s been a lot of debate on the appropriate way to go about this without offending the membership base. The reason Facebook’s advertising platform works is because it’s based on friend’s recommendation engines, on keywords you post about, and can be targeted to a specific demographic. MySpace, on the other hand, whores their advertising out to whoever will pay them more money, which is why they lost so many member numbers in the first place. You can’t alienate your audience, or they’ll leave you. That’s the lesson MySpace taught us.

Now, last week, Justin Timberlake put up some money to own a significant stake of MySpace. Can he turn it around? Perhaps, but perhaps not. I think that if he focuses on making it a destination for music instead of trying to make it compete with Facebook directly, he will be successful. And the reality is, he is an entertainer, he is a musician, and he knows the business of making things cool fairly well. Going back to the beginnings of Facebook, where it was a platform for college kids built by other college kids, the future looks bright for the Timberlake/MySpace creation. Justin Timberlake, however, also likes to sell out (have you seen his website lately? Try going there without an ad popping up in your face every five seconds, and I guarantee you won’t return again unless it’s for a damn good reason).

Regardless, this isn’t a battle between MySpace and Facebook anymore. It’s not even a battle between Google and Facebook. It’s the battle between our interactions, and their future. You want to know the reason why Goole+ has a chance at kicking Facebook’s proverbially ass? It already has users and products that are solutions to every aspect of a person’s life. Google Docs, Calendar, Gmail, Flickr, YouTube, Blogger. You name it, there’s a platform for you to use made by Google that you’ve already been use to for five to ten years. While Google+ certainly hasn’t worked out all of the kinks yet, nor has it even reached or perhaps even realized its own potential, given the right direction it could take over the way we do things entirely.

For instance, a dear friend of mine and I were “hanging out” in the “hang out” of Google+ yesterday. During our chat, I introduced him to one of my co-workers, and he, being a Microsoft employee, was jazzed that only 20 minutes earlier, he was also introduced to several new people through his other friends in various Hangouts. It was like being at a party without the awkwardness or the hangover in the morning. And these introductions were all from people he trusts.

(P.S.  If you don’t know what Google Hangout is, check out this video.  There’s also an interesting article about why Skype should fear Google Hangout, which is even more interesting considering Facebook just announced a partnership with Skype last week.)

So will Google+ kill Facebook? That depends. It depends on if Google is smart enough with the execution of its vision, if people really want the product, and if it makes things faster or easier. If Google were smart, though, they would find a way to integrate with Facebook. It’s funny that Mark Zuckerberg has the most friends on Google+, so maybe they’re already thinking in this direction. Regardless, it’d certainly make the takeover faster, and make the battle irrelevant. What would the world look like if Facebook and Google were partners? Frightening and exciting thought.

Regardless, though, this brings me back to the original musing that got me here in the first place. What do these things say about our future as a society, and about the way that we interact? Will we continue down this path of getting lost in our devices, or will we break free and remember what it feels to actually talk to one another. What about our children? They don’t even know a world where Facebook and cell phones don’t exist. Will they know how to have conversations with one another? We’ve already lost our handwriting, will we also lose our interpersonal skills?

Food for thought, what are yours?

Why I love my HTC Android Thunderbolt // iPhone vs. Droid

For any of you that know me, you are blatantly aware of how much I love my Droid, which is especially true if you’re one of my many friends that has an iPhone shoved insofar where the sun doesn’t shine that you fail to recognize more convenient technology because your Mac elitist behavior won’t let you.  In fact, I’m fairly certain that if you own an iPhone, we’ve probably gotten into a fight about it at some social setting, in which we’ve had to agree to disagree that our relevant phones are better than the other because I get tired of wasting my breath on someone who reasons like a 12 year old that still believes in Santa Claus. Example of this behavior can be found here: http://bit.ly/muxsXM.

Convenient for me, however, was a nice little post that appeared today on my favorite social news outlet, Mashable.  The article talked about the latest news from Google/Droid Chief, Andy Rubin, who boasted how Google now has over 500,000 new activations per day.  If you dig a little deeper, it will not only share that the Android platform has surpassed Apple as the number one mobile platform in the US for quite some time, but that there’s no way (iPod Touch and iPad included) that Apple could ever recover those statistics.

The broader question, however, is why?  Why is Apple losing marketshare for a device that many of my iPhone friends will say to the death is the “best phone ever invented?”  Well, here’s my take:

  1. Shoddy Craftsmanship.
    Yeah, I said it.  It’s not well crafted.  Aside from the typical antenna bumper issues, dropped calls, and everything else my friends always have wrong with their phones but will never admit that it’s an actual issue,  the reality is that dropping a phone is inevitable.  Our friends at iFixyouri did a few drop tests on the iPhone 4 and its glass durability claims, and they shattered, quite literally. After only two drops from 1 meter, the phone failed to respond to commands. Don’t believe me?  Check it out here

    Contrast that with my personal experience, where a few weeks ago, I dropped my Droid from the bleachers at a Roller Derby match over 30 feet high.  The screen shattered, but it still works like a charm.  There’s not a single area that didn’t respond to touch, and the casing had absolutely zero cracks, bumps, or bruises in it.  Now this is a well built phone:

  2. The Apple Marketing Machine.
    Apple products, overall, are incredibly innovative.  However, releasing a new product every few months with a new feature that is barely worth a re-issue is nothing more than a marketing ploy to get brainwashed constituents back in the store for the next shiny thing on the shelf.  And let’s not mention the overly expensive coverage and training forced on you by salesman that are starting to model after a used car lot. 

    Don’t get me wrong–it’s genius capitalistic marketing, but a far cry from what Apple used to stand for, which was taking care of the customers.  Now, we’re just another number.  Maybe you like that, but I don’t.

  3. Proprietary Technology.
    We all remember the massive battle between Apple and Adobe.  Apple refused to find a way to use Flash on its devices because it “used too many resources” and bogged the system down.  You can debate the real reasons all day long, but I find their involvement in pushing HTML5 to be skeezily intriguing.  Whether you side with Apple or Adobe, the reality is that they can only piss off developers and constituents for so long before they abandon ship.  You should really read this article on VentureBeat, if you want a deeper look into the strategy behind Apple’s fight with Adobe and how it effects developers and the future state of the industry.
  4. Apple’s Way or the Highway.
    Apple only makes one iPhone.  They release different versions of the phone, but they manufacture it.  You can’t unlock it, and until recently, you could only use it on AT&T (which we all know is terrible).  You can’t use the OS on a different phone platform, and you’re forced to use the phone as they planned you to use it.  And that’s exactly how they want it: their way. 

    This is not the way the Android platform was built, which is why Google, in my humble opinion, did it the right way.  Instead of limiting their OS to one phone manufacturer or one mobile carrier, they worked with multiple.  So no matter what, if I like slide out keyboards or touch phones, I can find one on the network I want (especially important because I will never leave Verizon).   This is the primary reason why the Android OS is up to 500,000 activations per day, while Apple is fizzling in numbers.

  5. In-Efficiency.
    As much as Apple says it’s about ease of use and efficiency, any one who has ever used a Droid and an iPhone will point out rather quickly that the Apple OS is incredibly cumbersome.  Let’s say I’m in my Mail app, and I want to change my signature.  Instead of just being able to select that application’s menu while I’m in it, I have to go back to the home screen, find the settings icon, find the application within the settings menu, change it, and then find my way back to the application I was in.  By the time I’ve changed one stupid setting, I’ve probably forgotten what I was doing in the first place. 

    I don’t need to do that on my droid.  I can change my settings or configure options within each individual app within one or two clicks.  Also, because I can customize my home screens (all six of them) to display the exact content from widgets that I configure, I don’t have to waste time searching or reconfiguring my application icons.  My data is there, where I want it, and when I need it.  This gives the droid the ease of use and simplicity of the Apple OS with the customization of a Windows OS.  Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too?

  6. The Apple Ego.
    Apple has started to believe its own hype.  Like many of the major record labels, film studios, and social networks over the past decade, they’ve begun to think that their “innovation” and “superiority” is unbeatable (*cough* myspace *cough*).  Unfortunately, as MySpace taught us with Facebook, if you don’t bend and merge to your customers and the marketplace, you won’t continue to grow and succeed.  Apple is winning insofar that they’re pushing users to buy in to all of their iProducts, but forcing consumers in a down economy to repurchase every few months for little innovation, forced sales, and no customization, which will ultimately lead to their downfall. But as Google releases more of its technology, and merges it with things people already use for FREE (i.e. Gmail, Google Docs), Apple fandom will start to wane.  Just like it did for MySpace because Facebook had a better offering that gave people what they wanted.  Apple customers just have to realize there’s something better out there, first.  Maybe if Google made things sexy in chrome, perception would change.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still love Apple products, but I refuse to be a part of their machine.  When they truly innovate and create another great product, I will certainly give it a shot.  But pardon me if I exercise a bit more scrutiny in the products and companies I’m willing to put my money into, and so should you.  Apple is not God (nor is Google, or any company).  We live in a world where amazing technological innovations occur every single day.  That means that there are better options and solutions that are more cost-effective and that solve our problems better and faster.  We just have to get over ourselves and go look for them.

Oh, and just so you know–just because I love my Droid, doesn’t mean I won’t be looking for the next great innovation in mobile technology. That’s a piece of advice to my Apple friends.

So–iPhone, Droid? Why do you love your device? Comments welcome!

Humble Beginnings

Well, it’s about that time.  I’ve been meaning to get around to blogging for a while now, considering my company is at the three year mark.  Unfortunately, as I’m sure my fellow entrepreneurs know, finding time to do things you ought to do amongst the constant barrage of client, business, employee, and life needs is much more difficult than it looks.

The biggest hurdle when starting any blog is answering the age old question of “who really gives a (insert favorite expletive here)?”  There are a million and one bloggers in the world, of which a small percentage are actually any good, and an even smaller percentage that actually have a consistent reader base.  So what am I going to tell you that others can’t?

Well, I guess you’ll have to read to find out. :)

Just kidding.  In all seriousness, this blog is about the things I’m passionate about:  social good, technology, psychology/sociology, entertainment & media, social media, and marketing.  On a daily basis, I get requests from friends and colleagues to help them with a multitude of items:  from websites to social media, branding to video, or just advice on helping increase their ROI.  As most of my friends and colleagues know, I’ve always been the person that knows a little about a lot of things, and if I don’t happen to know, then I have a pool of great experts and resources that do.

The reality is, I used to be able to do this effortlessly and still fit work and life into my day.  Now, with an influx of requests and a growing business beneath me, I just don’t have the time to be able to answer every question or request.  So, I’m going to offer up my advice, tips, and musings in a blog, and share my answers and insight with the masses.  Hopefully it will provide my ego with a little boost from professional philanthropy while also giving you an interesting take on this social entertainment industry that’s evolving beneath our noses.

That said, if you’ve got some questions, comments, or anything else you’d like to say, go ahead and email me or leave me some comment love.

Catch you on the other side, friends!

<3_tk