External Hard Drives Looks iCloudy

We need Internet external hard drives, Internet storage, the “cloud,” whatever you want to call it.

Apple's iCloud comes at the right time, when mobile and Internet have intersected to allow consumption from anywhere.

Right now, I'm testing out Amazon's cloud services for my music. It works. So does Google music cloud. But I want Apple, that's why I've been waiting for the iCloud.

There's been conflicting reports about iCloud in it's ability to host owned music that can't be matched in iTunes. This will be a serious setback if this feature gets excluded.

As you can see, I want to dump my files, especially my music files, and I want to do it on Apple's servers. Simply said, iTunes is still the best music jukebox around.


SMS is Dead

Dump your SMS plan, you no longer need it.

iMessage is coming out this week.  GroupMe, Kik, Facebook messenger, and BBM are already viable alternatives.

The record labels know this:  you can't fight free.  And the providers know they can't just raise the data plans to accomodate for billions in lost text dollars.  Bad customer experience risking backlash.

Traditional texting is over, move on without it, and force everyone else to come along for the ride.

One Social Networking Language

China is shaping social networking simply because of its mass and exploding mobile phone use.

Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, has already hit 200 million users.  Even George Bush's brother is microblogging in Chinese on Weibo. I'm thinking of starting a Weibo account myself, using Google translate to put my words into Chinese.

At some point, both English and Chinese networks will connect seamlessly.  I'll be able to publish in English on Twitter, on my WordPress and Tumblr blogs, and have it disseminate to the world of English and Chinese speakers.

The Internet flattens previously disparate social networks to the point of synthesized and instant global communication.  The Internet will feel like one global social networking language.

3 Benefits of Digital Education

When I graduated college, digital education was just expanding. Sure, there was the usual suspects who were already offering degrees online, Devry, Phoenix, etc. But digital education has really gone mainstream and everything from classes to the way we learn have changed.

Learn From Home

Today, you can learn in your underwear and get a superb education!  The best schools in the world offer classes online, including Harvard and MIT.  I took Online Music Marketing With Topspin 2 years ago and boosted my marketing knowledge.  The course was just like any physical course, extensive reading was required and there were forums to interact with students and the professor.  It was like being in class.

Of course, technology changes so rapidly a professor could easily use Hangouts on Google+ and have a full class discussion.  Discipline and student control is another issue.  If you act off, you should be deducted points, and if you participate and add value to the discussion you should get points, just like the show Around The Horn on ESPN.  Millennials love to acquire points thanks to social gaming apps Foursquare.

Holistic Learning

VC Fred Wilson recently wrote about the potential interlinking in digital books.  I call it the ‘learn more' feature.  For example, upon reading a book on your Kindle or iPad, you should be able to hover or highlight a word and learn more about it.  If a book mentions Charles Darwin, I can pop out of the book and look at his bio or if it mentions a theory like Survival of the Fittest I can click outside the book and gather more information.  These quick answers expand our knowledge and pique our interests.  Interactive reading is the future and it's coming soon.

Apps That Encourage Learning

The best part about digital technology is that it can be used to take notes and enhance learning.  Just yesterday I saw a young girl using Simplenote while listening to a podcast.  I asked myself:  Do future students even need to learn how to hand write?  There's also digital flashcards, which makes foreign language learning and all that rote memorization more convenient and fun.  iTunes just released a plethora of Back to School apps this week.  Teachers and students need to utilize the latest tools to encourage learning and studying.

But the best part apart the digital revolution is the information access and interconnectedness we now have.  You can stay atop of your interests simply by subscribing to blogs of your favorite niche.  You can even email or direct message experts if you have any questions.

Despite the online revolution, some of us will remain old school.  I still believe in showing up and meeting people face to face, whether it's work or school, and taking notes with a pad and pen to map out ideas and brainstorm.  Plus, confident leadership comes through real interaction just like in sports.  And you can't play sports digitally, at least yet.

Back to Square One

I used the Square app for the first time yesterday. It worked like a charm and it was easy to email the receipt. I'm still waiting for the money to hit my account.

The Square makes everyone feel like an Apple employee. When you buy from the Apple store, they use iPhones to swipe your card for payment.

Square technology is what I call a “temporary technology,” a new advancement that points to the future while having not completely solved the present.

I have the same feelings about Square as I do Turntable.fm, the potential is there but the concept needs to be marketed and perfected.

Welcome Apple. At some point, Apple is going to embed buying/selling into the iPhone, becoming a feature not an app. Apple is the king of liberating people into creative professionals, making it easy for the passionate to become a musician through Garageband or make a sleek presentation through Keynote. The belief is that everyone should have access to the same tools.

Behind every niche idea is an even bigger company that can blow it up. The best companies back research and development coupled with high marketing expenditure. Give a lot and get a lot back.

Have you ever used Square? Drop me a note or tweet me about your experience.

To Ramble on China, or To Gamble on China

One just has to read The New York Times today to get a sense of China's rise and America's demise.

On economics and wealth, Chinese Investment Grows in New York City

On travel and Sinocization, As Chinese Visit Taiwan, the Cultural Influence Is Subdued

On freedom of the press, China Releases a Blogger, Ran Yunfei, With Conditions

On military, China Tests First Aircraft Carrier at Sea

Meanwhile in the US, Financial Turmoil Evokes Comparison to 2008 Crisis

What we're seeing is eerily similar to the rise of Japan in the 80s (so I've studied) and that we should fear for US primacy.

Bu I'm more interested about the rise of China in a Smartphone driven, hyper connected, and social media world.

I think increased digital communication tools and global platforms enhance globalization and in the case of China, force it to be more open.  BUT when it comes to raw power, military strength and intelligence, I believe that realism still exists underneath the guise of globalization, and that when it comes down to it, nation states compete and will throw their weight around the world as needed.

China is rising in a world of contradictions:

  • China enjoys communist rule, the West cherishes democracies
  • China is a communist economy, the West praises capitalism and openness
  • China supports rogue nations, the West disdains terrorists and potential nuclear nations
  • China saves, the West spends

Marketing forces will change China as it emerges from a quiet state that was once was the world's oyster to number 1, which will force it to show political, economic, and military maturity.  In short, it should be more like the West.

Social Media Does It Again

London is the latest city to witness the speed of social mobilization. If the Middle Eastern countries are able to spark protests despite limited bandwidth and a crackdown on social networks, imagine a Western city with Internet freedom, smartphone and Internet ubiquity. The London riots spread quickly through Facebook, Twitter, and BBM.  Increased communication and coordination creates its own firestorm through technology. BUT, as rapidly as word spreads can also be the reason actions come to an abrupt end.  It works like this:

  1. Social media sparks the event.  Mobilization travels quickly.
  2. Social media discusses the event through pictures, words, and videos.  People show care, even Wayne Rooney.  The news goes global.
  3. Social media puts an end to the stir by calling up mobilization of a counter measure, aka the police.

And now, thousands of volunteers are using social media to help clean up the streets.  The ability to market and mobilize people for action, good or bad, is now easier than ever because social networks hit so many people.

Nothing New, TV Ad Revenues Up

The major networks including NBC, CBS, and ABC are confident about television ad revenues despite the bad economy.  Current profits justify the optimism.

But I don't think TV revenues are up because TV advertising necessarily works.  TV revenues are up for three reasons:

  1. Because Internet television is still in its infancy.  Hulu can't sell enough ads quickly enough.
  2. Because advertisers feel like they KNOW TV, getting awareness and proven measures for money well spent.
  3. Because advertisers are used to it.  The thought goes why spend money on print media with less circulation and Internet media which is pricey and still unproven.

TV works because advertisers know how to do it and can see the awareness impact on sales.  Nothing is a mirage.  But TV on the Internet analytics will improve and online TV spending with grow with it.  It has to.  We live in an attention economy where computer screens and mobile phones reign.

Think Global, Not Local

Yesterday, The Economist started a new debate on where the next big idea will grow.

It wrote that the next great innovation won't originate from Silicon Valley but from outside America.

I disagree.  I still think Web 2.0 entrepreneurship will thrive in America while Europe continues to contribute the occasional catchy technology like Skype and Spotify.  The VC firms, the best schools, and the pioneer attitude thrive in the US.

But it really doesn't matter where the technology emerges.  What matters is that new technology increases communication and makes integrating our lives and our content online easier.

It does bug me however that Chinese companies like Diandian replicate Tumblr and Zhihu copy Quora, merely localizing those sites in Chinese.  At least change the look and feel of the platform!

Technology innovation should be celebrated and used across the world.  Naturally, which country it arises in matters for politicians and nationalists trying to promote jobs and growth, but INTERCONNECTIVITY is the goal.

Free Is Complicated

Giving away content for free is a complicated issue. If you're an established author with a decent sized fan base, you should charge for your book, even make limited edition and bonus versions.  If you're a new writer, you should give your stuff away for free online to get exposure, no strings attached.  Sometimes well known authors give away freebies and new authors charge. BUT you should be wary of free for 3 reasons:

  1. Free devalues your art.  If you're willing to give it away for free, you make your work seem unimportant.
  2. Free doesn't necessarily mean people will take it.  You still need to make good content and have at least 1 person out of 10 talking about your work with others.
  3. Free challenges you to keep making more free content, with no guarantee that you'll one day profit from it.
Here's 3 reasons why free works:
  1. Free is a great way to get people to taste your work.
  2. Free may give you the exposure you need on review sites.
  3. Free may lead to other stuff like talking events and a legitimate deal with a publisher.
I've always believed that the best way to use free is to get something in return, an email, a Facebook fan like, or Twitter follower.  Free enables you to build a tribe, whom then become your promoters when you decide to release a paid item.
The Internet's massive distribution system, manufacturing ease (there is none!), and social networking tools make free attractive.  But just because it's easier to ship and promote doesn't mean it'll work.  Many of the rules are the same:  you need someone pitching your story, you need people whom believe in you, and you need to continue perfecting your craft.

Succeed in China, the Apple Way

Google and Facebook make intangible web products that are easily replicable.  Baidu is the leading search site in China, which also has many Facebook and Tumblr look a likes that are growing users in the millions.

Apple makes products, hardware, that you need to touch and feel.  The iPhone, iPad, and Apple computers are virtually impossible to replicate.

The difference between Apple and web companies like Google and Facebook is the difference between success and failure in China.

As a company/brand, you need to do three things to succeed in China:

(1) Make a product that can't be easily copied.  Chinese consumers will place a premium on legitimate items they can't find elsewhere.

(2) Make a product that doesn't threaten China's Community Party.  China's government controls information, any network that facilitates information like Google and Facebook is therefore a menace.

(3) Make a product that is universally understood.  Apple's icon is a fruit, Google and Facebook have logos embedded into their names.

Apple is a respected worldwide brand known for quality of product and customer service.  If you want to beat them, you have to join them, simple as that.  And that's exactly what the Chinese government is doing, forcing fake Apple stores in China to close down while Apple opens up legitimate new stores.

Apple is more powerful than a search and social network, and it's got record breaking revenues to prove it.  Story short, if you want win in China, make an irresistible physical product that can't be reproduced.

Day One App

Journalling takes consistency but you first need the right platform and the willingness to write, every day.

I've battled journal platforms throughout the years, debating whether or not to use paper or my computer or smartphone to record my thoughts and memories.

I've purchased a few Moleskins, encouraged by famous users, only to be discouraged by blank empty pages that remind me I didn't record my thoughts the night before.

I used a private Tumblr page to record my thoughts, only to be scared that one day it'll be hacked.

And then the Day One App came along.  The app is available on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.  I own the iPhone version.

The app makes it simple to record your day and publish it securely to the web, saved and synced via Dropbox.

The app's simplicity also propels you to keep your journal entries brief, no more than 2-3 sentences.  I usually just type in my highlight of the day and also note some encouragement or future wish.

One day, I simply want to scroll back or search and read upon that entry.  I want to save my memories to see how far I've come and where I need to go.

Digital Retail

Digital retail is about abundance.

Anyone can make a product and put it into the store for download.

Abundance makes it more difficult for you to spread your word.

To stand out, you either need to have the marketing prowess of a major publisher or label or you need to have had an initial hit or major buzz.

Physical retail used to sell itself.  If you made it to the shelf, chances are you are ‘professional’ enough to be there.

But all that’s going away.  Digital marketing is a different animal.

If I had to give a piece of advice, I’d say start building up your social network followers now.  Sharing content is the new king.

Education in the Social Media Age

2010 - July - 27 - NodeXL - Twitter - birthconf

Facebook and Twitter encourage people to speak up.

Why?  Because text conversation is a safer way to get across what most people really think or have questions about.

Some people aren’t great speakers, or at least they think so, and fear vocal criticism.  Other people just don’t care to speak up at all.

Integrating Facebook and Twitter into the classroom  is sure to lead to a more insightful conversation.  No one really likes it when one brainiac or teacher’s pet dominates the conversation anyway.

Social networks, if used properly and teacher-controlled, can give the quieter students a voice, quiet down the voice hogs, and boost overall enthusiasm for participating in classroom discussion.

Photo:  by Mark Smith