Happy New Year! Feliz Ano Novo!

31 12 2009

A great 2010 to all of you!

Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from The Green T





Drawing with SketchBook Mobile on the iPhone

29 12 2009

For a limited time, Autodesk SketchBook Mobile is on sale for $1.99. I just bought it, and I’m really impressed on how easy it is to draw with SBM on the small iPhone screen. This is my second drawing (the first one was horrible, so I promptly deleted it). Of course, I’m cheating a bit here: I took a picture of a magazine ad and draw over it using the layer feature. But for a 10-minute, it’s not too bad: it took me longer to type this on the phone than the whole sketching process.

Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from The Green T





Harry and his bucket full of gibberish

27 12 2009

I’m experimenting with Posterous, and this is my first cross-post (I tried to automate it but didn’t work):

Many people say that English is one of the easiest languages to master, as grammar is relatively simple, you don’t have to learn accents, and verbs are typically limited to a handful of variations. True, but English also happens to be a very tricky language when it comes to pronunciation. In Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Japanese, you can learn how to pronounce most words just based on a few rules. In English, that’s rarely the case: “go” and “do”, “cough” and “though”, “over” and “cover” are all pronounced very differently, notwithstanding their spelling similarities.

But if you learned English as an adult, nothing compares to listening to songs and trying to figure out what they are all about. Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong were probably among the few singers I could understand without any kind of supporting material.

My son loves watching “Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs”. I’ve been watching that with him for months now, and the only thing I could get from the opening theme was actually the part where they say “Harry and HIs Bucket Full of Dinosaurs”!!! I tried to turn the closed captioning on, but nothing came out (not sure if it’s a broadcasting issue or wrong TV/cable setup one).

Today, that mystery was solved as I found this captioned version of the theme in YouTube:

How on Earth am I supposed to understand this song??? You probably need a degree in both English and Palaeontology to grasp the just of it. I can’t wait until my son is 7 and starts teaching me English.

Here are the lyrics, if you also have a pre-schooler and, like me, need a cheat sheet:

Stegosaurus, Pterodactyl, Tyrannosaurus Rex
Scelidosaurus, Apatosaurus, Triceratops is next
Taury, Patsy, Sid and Trike
Pterence, Steggy, what a sight!
It’s Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs
To get on board the magic ride
All we do is jump inside
With Harry and His Bucket
His bucket full of dinosaurs!

Update: The title of the post had a problem (it became “401”), so I changed it to something more meaningful and applied some minor edits.





Itu 400 – Part 1: small town, large ambitions

19 12 2009

If you are not from Brazil, you probably never heard about Itu. Itu is a small city about 100 km from São Paulo, known by many in Brazil as the city where everything is exaggeratedly big. Well, not everything. I was born there, so all the 1.67 m of me (5’6″, generously speaking) are genuinely from Itu :-) .

Of course, everything being big is a marketing ploy to attract tourists, started by a local comedian in a popular TV show in the late 60s. That notwithstanding, that meme was so sticky that even today people in Brazil still call anything too large as being “from Itu”. This is my son last month, amazed by Itu’s public phone:

Here are some other X-Large oddities:


Traffic lights


Popsicle ad and chair


Popsicle ad, chair and another phone

The list goes on and on: you can get pacifiers, combs, hammers, pencils, paper clips and even condoms (!) as Itu-sized souvenirs. But there’s much more to Itu than that (in my naturally biased view, of course). On February 2nd, 2010, Itu will be celebrating its 400th anniversary:


Countdown to Feb 2nd, 2010

Founded in 1610, Itu is one of the oldest cities in the Americas. I wish I could be there for the big party, but since I can’t, I’ll settle for writing a few more blog posts about this beloved town over the next 44 days.





Buying cheap laptops

15 12 2009

Back in October, my wife and I decided to buy a laptop for my mother-in-law – who lives in São Paulo, so that we could have video conversations over Skype. Brazilian customs allow each passenger to bring goods not exceeding USD 500 in total value without incurring any tariffs, so my target price was about CAD 540.

A week before our trip, we found the HP Pavillion laptop below (with Windows 7) on sale for – guess how much – CAD 538.99! Regular price was CAD 649.99.


HP Pavillion G60-538CA

Our plan did not work very well due to some logistic problems, so we brought the laptop back to Canada, and it’s now our secondary home computer, at least for the time being. And since I’m not a Mac, nor a PC, having both at home is actually a good thing. I do run Windows XP on my MacBook using VMWare Fusion, but that feels a bit like trying to fit a foot AND a hand inside a shoe: they go better separately.

How can they make it so cheap?

I guess that, to some extent, you get what you pay for. I have no idea why HP designers decided to have the key with the vertical bar (pipe) and backslash available on both sides of the Pavillion keyboard. All the other computers I had to date, Macs and PCs, had a large left shift key beside the “Z”. I keep typing the backslash every time I try to press the left shift key :-( . Also, the vertical enter key takes a bit to get used to. Just compare the keyboards of the HP Pavillion with the one from the Thinkpad T600 that I use at work:

HP Pavillion keyboard

Thinkpad keyboard

Also, the Conexant Pebble High Definition SmartAudio microphone was unusable with the original driver and configuration. I had to upgrade the driver and change the setting to “2 channel, 16 bit, 48000 Hz (DVD Quality)”. It’s still not great, but Skype no longer requires screaming.

Finally, the DVD drive is very sensitive to scratches in the media. It was not able to read some of my DVDs, even though they ran smoothly on the Mac.

Are there any positives?

Overall, I think it’s been a good purchase considering the cost-benefit ratio.

Windows 7 is pretty good in my opinion. I still find Mac OS X better overall, but the gap is narrowing. My wife has never been a big fan of the MacBook, especially the Finder and the way Mac OS X deals with special characters. Just try to type “bênção” (blessing, in Portuguese) in your Mac. It did not help that I never bothered getting MS-Office for the Mac. NeoOffice is OK, but not a substitute for a commercial suite yet. I also rely a lot on freeware, and having 2 operating systems always running gives you more choices.

HP support was also surprisingly good. Earlier this week, the Pavillion went completely dead. I visited the HP support website and found that they provide support via chat:


HP Canada Support Website

I clicked on the “chat online” link and in a few seconds was already talking to their support rep. In about 5 minutes, everything was solved, with courteous and efficient service. In case you’re having a similar problem, here’s what I did:

  1. Disconnect the AC adapter and remove battery
  2. Press and hold down the power key for 1 minute
  3. Connect the AC Adapter to the notebook
  4. While turning on the laptop keep tapping F10 key… See More
  5. You’ll see the “Windows Resume Loader” screen
  6. Press ENTER to “continue with system resume”
  7. Shutdown the computer properly this time
  8. Put the battery back in
  9. Turn the computer on again

I suspect the problem was not because the battery was faulty, just a loosely connected plug, but I’ll keep an eye on it.

Finally, my son loves the CyberLink YouCam that comes with the Pavillion. It’s like the Mac’s Photo Booth, but by default it’s integrated with your other applications using the webcam. So, you can talk over Skype using all the special video effects like this:

CyberLink YouCam

Calling home on Christmas Day will be much more fun this year!





The joke, the circus and the soap-opera

14 12 2009

A few people who saw my Enterprise 2.0 Anti-patterns presentation at SlideShare asked what I meant by “the joke, the circus and the soap-opera”. That came from a post I wrote for Biznology a long time ago, on Sep 15, 2008. It’s old news now, but for the sake of completeness I’m republishing it here. I updated some of the broken links and also moved the “I work for” disclaimer from IBM to RBC :-)

What role do timing and duration play in your Web 2.0 strategy? Marketing experts have long emphasized the importance of media selection and scheduling decisions, but seeing how traditional companies have been exploiting the Internet over the last few years shows that there are still lessons to be learned in that arena.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it doesn’t always pay off when it comes to your online marketing strategy. All the hype around Web 2.0 and User Generated Content a couple of years ago initially led to some embarrassing attempts of letting regular folks to create ads. The Chevy Tahoe Apprentice challenge in 2006 is probably the most prominent example of how to not do it: even after GM wiped out ChevyApprentice.com, a search in YouTube for “Chevy Tahoe Apprentice” brings plenty of ads that should have never been created in the first place, a sobering reminder that having an exit strategy established up front is a must in your Internet experiments. Eventually marketing teams got it right, and the success of the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl competition in early 2007 led to several others companies to jump onto the UGC bandwagon, with varying, but mostly diminishing, levels of returns.

Another case in point was the creation of online places for your customer base to hang around and discuss subjects that take a front seat in their lives. HSBC’s Your Point of View was launched in October 2005 and generated a lot of buzz for quite some time. However, three years later, it has lost its freshness and novelty, giving the casual observer the impression of a failed experiment, when it could have been considered one of the most successful stories of a traditional company building a site based on the architecture of participation. Vancity’s “community powered” Change Everything, launched in September 2006, suffered from a similar problem, but had a longer shelf life, and people still contribute with comments to this day. One of the major differences between the two services that may explain the varying longevity of two similar offerings is that the Vancity experiment established itself as a social networking site, while the HSBC one stayed away from forming an online community and keeping user profiles. Change Everything is currently announcing a complete revamp of the service, so I’m curious to see what’s coming next.

What’s clear in the examples above is that timing and duration play a crucial role in the success of your online initiatives. This might sound obvious, but it’s often ignored in many of the initiatives we see online. Being too early might prevent you from understanding the dynamics of a new approach, but being too late can just position your company as a me-too player. The sweet spot, of course, is hard to determine, but recognizing these patterns can help you to sniff the right moment. Or you might be better prepared to fail gracefully from the get-go, not as an after-thought.

Influenced by a conversation I had with my colleague Bernie Michalik, I started thinking about three metaphors that highlight the importance of duration in your online strategy. Some initiatives work very well when applied exactly once, as it was the case with the Doritos Super Bowl commercial. Like telling a joke, the second time around people get bored and disengaged.

Other initiatives work better when mimicking a circus pattern: you come, raise your tent, run your dog-and-pony show, and then leave after a week or a month. One or two years from now, you can do it again, but staying there on a continuous basis would never work. This is how RBC approached its Next Great Innovator site. In the first edition, back in 2006, they defined up-front that it would be a time-boxed experiment, so that when they were done a few months after, retiring the site was perceived as the conclusion of a successful experiment. Every year since they keep coming back with new features, but still positioning it as a time-limited event (full disclosure: I work for RBC).

The IBM jams are another good example of how the circus pattern can be efficiently used to your advantage. Besides helping clients to deliver jams, we eat our own dog food and use them as one of the tools in our innovation strategy. If you are wondering what the jam looks like, the next round begins on Sunday, October 5th at 6 pm EDT, and participation is open to IBM clients.

Over the last few years, many marketers have started using microsites to drive marketing campaigns, as opposed to relying on the main corporate site. One of the advantages here is that microsites can be changed—and retired, if necessary—more easily than the company’s main Web site.

Finally, some of your initiatives might actually work well as a place that’s always open for business, pretty much like a never ending daytime soap opera. This typically works well for services that drive a steady number of clients, or whose audience is recycled on a yearly basis, like college students or pre-teens. Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop site is a good example of that, as the site serves an audience that has a continuous relationship with them. I often see initiatives that would operate better following the joke or circus patterns defaulting to the soap opera mode. Despite their initial huge success, they become victims of not selecting the appropriate duration for their endeavor.

When devising your next online initiative make sure you think about which of those patterns best fits your offering. Timing and duration might end up being the key determinants in how that incredible new site you conceived will be perceived a few years down the road.





Brazilian football: a disregard for the impossible

13 12 2009

(…) regional tournaments are not economically efficient, as small football clubs benefit from revenues without generating them, due to their lack of followers.

(…) to solve several problems in Brazilian football (…):

1. Reduce the importance of regional tournaments, which would include from now on only small clubs on a “promotion and relegation” system.

2. Integrate the national and international tournament schedules (…)

3. Solve the economic issues of football clubs, and consequently, the issues of Brazilian football as a whole.

If you thought the excerpts above were written by Juca Kfouri or some other present-day Brazilian sports writer, think again: they were taken from the first issue of the weekly news magazine Veja, published on September 11 (!), 1968:

Veja No 1 - Sep 11, 1968

Forty one years later, the administrative problems of Brazilian football are still pretty much the same. Despite of the perpetual mess that is the CBF (the national football association), or perhaps because of that, Brazil has won 3 more FIFA World Cups after that article was written, and has been a staple at the top of FIFA rankings since its inception.

As anything else in the world, the success of Brazilian football in the international arena can’t be linked to a single factor. The diversity and the size of the population, the tropical climate, and the popularity of the game across all social-economic classes, all played a significant role in the development of that sport in Brazil. That’s all nice and logical, but I would argue that chaos and uncertainty were no smaller contributors there.

Where else in the world you would find:

On the other side, football is not a conventional team sport. To win the FIFA World Cup in its current format, a team does not need to score a goal or win a single game in regulation or extra time. Chile qualified to the knock-out phase in 1978 with 3 draws, and theoretically could go all the way to the finals by the means of just winning on penalty shootouts. Furthermore, bad refereeing seems to just increase the interest of fans, to the point that football remains one of the few team sports today where modern technology is off-limits. I suspect this kind of logic is unfathomable to the typical sports fan in North America. If the sport itself is so counter-intuitive, maybe being disorganized, irrational and implausible end up being competitive advantages :-) .

Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Product and User Experience at Google once wrote:

Creativity loves constraints but they must be balanced with a healthy disregard for the impossible. (…) Disregarding the bounds of what we know or accept gives rise to ideas that are non-obvious, unconventional, or unexplored. The creativity realized in this balance between constraint and disregard for the impossible is fueled by passion and leads to revolutionary change.

I can’t think of a better description for the jogo bonito. Of course, being creative and fancy is not necessarily the road to success (Netherlands in 1974 and Brazil in 1982 come to mind), but from time to time, that passion for the unconventional gets us gems like these:

Note: This post was updated after its initial publication to add the screenshot of the news magazine and for clarity purposes.








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