Pulled the Trigger on the iPad 3G – WOOHOO!

OK…so I got the nod from the CFO, yes…my CFO is the wife and she gave the nod that it is cool to drop the dough on a glorified gadget that can be justified as a business expense! After a month of deliberating, hemming and hawing about the idea of purchasing it…I pushed the “Pre-Order” button on the Apple website.

I did spend sometime thinking, researching, and wondering if this was a good decision. Here were some of my initial thoughts:

  1. If I was going to purchase the iPad, it had to be the 3G version. Simply because there are so many times I am in a non-wifi zone and will need to send emails, download something, or just be online. I have contemplated getting a AT&T card for my MacBook Pro, but this makes sense. I know I have my iPhone, but need something a little more to finger scale.
  2. Tired of carrying around my 17″ MacBook Pro to meetings in a big ole bag. I have a “Producer” bag that I can throw the strap around my shoulder yet I spend so much time avoiding knocking something over with the bag and the contents.
  3. Want something small and mobile that is not another laptop.
  4. Price compared the iPad to purchasing a MacBook and the pricing was similar. But then I thought, why do I want another laptop for just searching the web, answering email, and other related web related items.
  5. Liked the idea of a “bigger” iPhone concept…seriously! So many times I have my iPhone as I lay in beg catching up on email or searching the web for stuff…and would like something bigger yet not the size of a laptop. Opening a laptop is a process.
  6. Excited about the opportunity to download books via the iPad…this will be new and cool experience!

So after weighing these thoughts…I pulled the trigger. So this is what I purchased:

  • iPad with 64GB of memory with Wifi & 3G Capabilities
  • iPad Keyboard Dock (so I can type on a real keyboard, if I so choose)
  • iPad Case (I am clumsy so figured I needed to protect my investment)
  • iPad Camera Kit (so I can upload pictures straight from a SD card)
  • iPad VGA Adapter (so I can connect to a screen or projector to show presentations, pictures, and videos)
  • Apple Care for iPad (once again, I am clumsy and this protects me from me)

All in all…I am pumped, the only thing now is that I have to sit back and wait. The expected shipping date for my iPad 3G/Wifi is late April! I am hoping it gets here before my vacation trip where Wifi is non-existent.

Now, once again my gadget life is complete with one more gizmo. Yes…now I can go over to my grandfathers house and wow him with a cool new gadget!

What is next for GoogleOnMain? Standby and Listen!

Well…it has officially happened and now nine days after the big event ( tons of local, regional, and national press) and finally with a big wrap-up party at the Warehouse Theater, it is time to say…what is next? First off…it needs to be noted that Aaron von Frank and all those who made this event a success should be proud. But now, what is next and what happens after the hype. Well, for starters…sit back and wait to here what Google is planning on doing.

The whole purpose of this event was to publicly solicit the opportunity to be one of the chosen cities for Google to invest billions of dollars into a fiber infrastructure. Now, while they are still doing their due diligence, Greenville, SC is sitting back and wanting more. This little idea that turned into a big idea has now built a community of innovators into a community of believers…”We can get the attention of a big group like Google.” Now is not quitting time….it is actually time to keep on pushing forward and taking the nicely branded idea “We Are Feeling Lucky” (nice job btw by Spike Jones) to the next level…continue building on this momentum and grow the community at large around an idea of innovation.

Thinking back as I was flying in the helicopter over the event, I was not only looking down and capturing an image of 2200 hundred people forming the words “Google,” but actually capturing the image of 2200 stories, 2200 ideas, 2200 reasons why Google should consider Greenville, SC. There is not just one story for Google to hear, it is more than “We Are Feeling Lucky,” it is 2200 different stories why each person thinks Google should come to Greenville, SC.  Define through each of the 2200 individual stories as 2200 supporting arguments why Greenville, SC could use such an innovative pipeline of technology.

Imagine of the next several months (through the rest of the year), each of those 2200 people that formed the human wave of Google could articulate their story, their reason why they personally could benefit from this technology.  Each one would be a different perspective ranging from small business owner, family member, large organization, government leader, entrepreneur, etc…all with a vested interest to make Greenville, SC a hot bed for innovation and thought leadership. Imagine if we could capture each story, and funnel them through the WeAreFeelingLucky.com website using video, text, audio, images, etc…capturing the hearts and minds of a community, building a larger case supporting a technology initiative.

I would image that many of the cities have stopped campaigning for Google’s attention, feeling that they have met their burden and thinking “now it lies in the hands of the organization to hand down a decision.” But the energy felt tonight in the Warehouse Theater auditorium showcased the desire to keep on campaigning, not just for Google technology but for a bigger cause…bringing a community together with a common goal, to build a bigger and brighter Greenville, SC. What a tremendous case that could be made if we could continue this mission, capture those stories, display them everyday on WeAreFeelingLucky.com and show the world that Greenville, SC has more in store…not just a one time event that happened on March 20, 2010.

***Photo courtesy of Michael Bergen of AidJoy.org

Will the market bear more education?

Over the last few months I have been thinking about how the educational system here is South Carolina  is changing and being forced to change. For the past few years, state funding for higher education has continued to drop substantially, each year forcing institutions of higher learning (that depend on state funds to operate) redefine how they support the demand. Well, there are two scenarios to this business proposition, raise the cost of a public education and/or seek more and more private funding. But before going down that thought process, I want to back up a few minutes.

Currently, my wife and I have been put in a position to support (both financially and parentally) my wife’s younger sister Susanna. She is a rising junior at the College of Charleston studying history. For the past two years, after Sarah and Susanna’s mother died of breast cancer, we have been helping Susanna navigate this convoluted financial-aid maze. From applying for expensive and inexpensive student loans to finally being eligible for grant monies, there is a serious conversation concerning “return on investment,” picking a educational path that is going to yield a direction post graduation that provides either a job paying a good wage or moving on to a graduate level education. But what is the ROI on a history degree? That conversation is soon to come.

We are just one of many families having this conversation right now, educational dollars spent should be taken just as seriously as a house purchase. When it is all said and done, one family can spend or borrow close to $7K – $10K per semester. These dollars add up and can come close to a $50K-$80K investment for a four year education. There is a serious business model behind providing loans for those to get a “quality” education. Think about it for a second…it is a like a revolving door behind the rising costs of education and the educational tracks being offered, but…are those tracks market driven?

As a side note, this blog post comes after a Saturday morning conversation with John Warner, he made me think more about market driven education.

More and more degrees are being offered, more and more dollars are being borrowed, more and more institutions are getting fatter, and now we have educational institutions moving away from market driven education. Each day I walk into another Panera Bread where the cashier working is a recent college graduate with a marketing degree and no job. Take a look at my wife’s MA in Professional Communications, she has yet to find a job using that degree. She worked in Manufacturing for close to five years becoming a strategic buyer and then became burned out and now teaching pre-schoolers. She was sold this degree track right out of undergrad at Lander on the fact she would find a high paying job, yet no one helped her in finding that job. It was not market driven…at the time. Side note, she and I graduated with our MA’s right after 911, the market was rock bottom.

So what are we seeing, educational institutions are starting to get back to basics. They will begin doing a couple of things. Identifying market driven degree programs that make sense and begin cutting programs that basically have no funding. As funds continue to decrease from the state, institutions like Clemson, USC, and other state supported schools will begin moving closer and closer to privatization. Now they will not become “Private” but they will be supported by private sources that have a vested interest in the types of programs that will be offered, supported with a pipeline of talent educated to fit that market need.

Clemson University was founded to provided the “Common Man” of South Carolina a technology and mechanical education to solve the agricultural problem in the state.

From Thomas Green Clemson’s Will
“My purpose is to establish an agricultural college which will afford useful information to the farmers and mechanics, therefore it should afford thorough instruction in agriculture and the natural sciences connected therewith — it should combine, if practicable, physical and intellectual education, and should be a high seminary of learning in which the graduate of the common schools can commence, pursue and finish the course of studies terminating in thorough theoretic and practical instruction in those sciences and arts which bear directly upon agriculture, but I desire to state plainly that I wish the trustees of said institution to have full authority and power to regulate all matters pertaining to said institution — to fix the course of studies, to make rules for the government of the same, and to change them, as in their judgment, experience may prove necessary, but to always bear in mind that the benefits herein sought to be bestowed are intended to benefit agricultural and mechanical industries.”

What type of education is necessary for the “Common Man” of South Carolina today? One of the “new technologies” is automotive innovation as seen with the creation ICAR. What other innovative, market driven, educational tracks will be created and be supported through private funds? This will be decided because in 2011, the federal stimulus money provided to subsidize the short fall for the 2010 academic year will be gone, and the fat will have to be trimmed and the deficit will have to be managed. You can read about the impact on Clemson in President Barker’s Blog.

Over the past 50 years, especially during the rising and falling economies, their has been an upward trend in expansion of higher education degree tracks. More and more diverse educational opportunities were created either by the market or a vision. More and more dollars were spent by families in a competitive battle between educational institutions. Now, we will be getting back to basics. Degree programs that have a path. General education requirements will be re-evaluated and the new professors will be ones of innovation, entrepreneurship, and educational economics (bring true business value to the classroom).

There was at one time in this great nation the opportunity to get a law degree or a medical degree without a four year bachelorate education…why not today. Is it time to reconsider the four year track for a BA or BS and combine with graduate level education? How can we put value back in the education we pay dearly for and work hard to obtain. Right now, some of it is not worth the piece of paper that it is printed upon, but rather the interest it is accruing for those student loan payments we pay each month. We are paying ours each month as Sarah walks into the daycare classroom each day.

What about my sister-in-law working on a BA in History? It is our hope she will keep on studying to become a librarian after getting a Masters from University of South Carolina. That separate degree was not created for the job market but for the institution’s margin. They are in that cyclic process of creating new degrees just to make money.

The higher education system in South Carolina is fat and needs some trimming, not only from a degree offering stand point, but also from a market position. There is a need to critically examine the type of high dollar education that is being taught and figure out what is really necessary to provide a market bearing education.

So on this line of conversation, there are groups that are wanting to capitalize educationally with this current market. Take Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. Here is a group that makes money off of transactions. They are a company of IT professionals and they build their systems on COBOL. They are in a position to aggressively seek the next wave innovators to fill positions that are being vacated through attrition. The problem, it is not cool to go into “IT” anymore and the educational systems are not teaching COBOL. So Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina has teamed up with educational institutions like University of South Carolina, Clemson, and others along with IBM to re-shape the perception and educational tracks for the world of “IT”. There is a market need and there is value in teaming up with high education to shape curriculum so that the Blue Cross Blue Shields of the world can capitalize on the new emerging talent. This entity is know as the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management and is based in Columbia, SC. This group is a marketing engine working with groups to change the face of “IT” and educate and recruit the new talent but educate and reshape our educational system from K-12 to higher education.

So ask yourself, if you had to do it all over again…what would you study? Would you study your passion or what the market would bear. Maybe it is a combination of both, but it is time to shift that conversation back to where there is a need in the market for job opportunity and growth. Or…is a higher education truly standardized just for jobs or theoretical education? The pendulum is swinging back and it is time to figure out what is up next for our new leadership. That leadership are those students, our children, our future, our legacy. Remember, it is up to us to help shape our future…the decisions we make now will shape how we, our children, and our children’s children will live one day.

Finding your sphere of influence?

As I get ready to go speak to a group of college students during their weekly organization meeting, I sat down and thought for a few moments, jotted some notes, and pulled my ideas together. About a month ago, I received this email from one of my former students to speak during their regularly scheduled meeting:

“Hi Bobby,

I hope you are having a great semester so far. I know that Grace and I gained so much from taking your class this past semester and I was wondering if you would be willing to come speak to the rest of oursorority. Beyond the experience from planning an event, I personally gained the most from learning how to pitch myself and networking to buildbusiness relationships. I feel that these skills are extremely importantfor those who are starting to interview for jobs and internships. I thinkthat the women of Sigma Kappa could greatly benefit from learning theseskills as well. Sigma Kappa is having a chapter meeting on Sunday, March 28th at 7 p.m. and I was wondering if you would be willing to come speakfor about 30 minutes. Please let me know if you are interested.

Thank you for your time.

So as I sat today to bring my thoughts together…I wondered, how am I going to give them something relevant to walk away and ponder? Here we have a collection of students from freshman to seniors, those who are just happy to be in school and enjoying the joys of college to those who are sweating if they will be employed in a few months. But it comes down to this, it does not matter if you are a freshman in college, a senior in college, in graduate school, looking for a job, have a job, entrepreneur,  home body, nobody, somebody, CEO, or man on the street…it is all about relationships.

So here are my notes for tonight’s little chat…in the form of questions and discussion:

  1. Why am “I” here today?
  2. Why do “we”join groups?
  3. Where do “we” want to be in five years?
  4. Where do “we” want to be in ten years?
  5. Who is in your room of “influence”?
  6. Who have you met “new” today?
  7. How can “we” leverage those relationships?
  8. What are “Our” dreams?
  9. How do we turn those “Dreams” into realities?

Here is the actual presentation…I used Prezi to put this little talk together!

So what do you propose? What is your alternative healthcare reform?

So on Tuesday, March, 23, 2010…President Obama signed into law the new health care reform bill. In the months, days, and hours leading up to this bill becoming a law, there are LOTS of voices in complete opposition to this piece of legislation. There are even people in agreement there is need for reform, but this is not the best piece of legislation to achieve the goal at hand. There are states currently working overtime trying to pass legislation to block this federal law.

So here is the context, I am a thirty-six year old husband who owns a house, small business owner, helping a 23 year old pay her way through college, shopping to afford healthcare. This piece of legislation speaks to me…provides me some sense of hope. But, there are so many that believe this is not the correct path. But I have not heard one time, one suggestion that would be an alternative to this plan. Seriously, for all those who do not like this legislation, who are screaming out loud against this new law, what is your plan? What is your recommendation? What is your alternative?

So…here is your chance to let me know what you would propose. I want to be educated. I want to know what you think is the alternative? The current system is not working…I want reform. What is your reform. I want you to use the comment section to sound off with your alternative. I will approve all who write legitimate ideas, not party bashing ideas…real, legitimate ideas that provide people like me an opportunity for healthcare. I want to see if you can live up to the screaming and articulate a proposed solution. No foul language, no party bashing, no slanderous accusations….a real idea with real vision. Prove it…back it up.

Let’s see what you have!

Get this Google – GoogleOnMain was a SUCCESS!

So I was asked to shoot aerials of the GoogleOnMain event and capture the tremendous turnout for the event. Here is a short part of all of the footage that was aquired during the event!

I want to extend a big ole “hats off” to Aaron von Frank with all of his efforts to bring this event to fruition. Aaron along with Russell Tripp at Infusion Web &Video  will be putting together a final presentation/proposal to submit to Google. This aerial footage will be a part of the package.

Check out the website for this campaign! http://www.wearefeelinglucky.com/

A story with layers: My Great Passion

Meet my friend Ron Gattis. I am not sure where Ron is now, but I know one thing…he is passionate. His passion is infectious, so much I decided to follow him for three months to tell the real story of Ron Gattis. There is a story within this story…one of passion, heart-ache, and hope. This one has many layers connected, one with a single red-string…he wants to sing again on the “Big Stage.”

These are the stories I want to tell, to find, and bring to audiences. Imagine finding stories like this within organizations, ones with layers, ones with something that provide a connection with so many audiences. Thanks Ron for sharing your passion. This story was produced in 2005.

Am I “Mayor” of my own Social Media message?

With the awareness and interest raised for location based Social Media platforms/technologies like Foursquare and Gowalla, I have jotted down and exploration of thoughts. These thoughts and questions I have to think through myself; I have to answer these questions critically before moving forward with the use of these new location based platforms.

Some Thoughts I have been pondering and synthesizing:

  • Social Media outlets added to the “open source” movement that gives “small” people and organizations a voice.
  • Social Media transformed us (small people/organizations) as “thought leaders” to drive Internet traffic to our “motherships” for information.
  • Social Media platforms provided the “small” people/organizations an opportunity to create robust web properties competing with “big box” organizations.
  • Social Media platforms provided the awareness necessary to create a “mothership” portal where the majority of the marketing messages “flow” through driving traffic to engage with a consistent message.
  • Social Media technology and open source platforms allowed and empowered “small” people/organizations to compete in the messaging landscape with “big box” organizations.
  • Social Media has allowed those to use technologies to build “Tribes” creating movements to distribute a message around a community.

Some questions in my head personally and professionally:

  1. Why must “small” people/organizations be willing to use Social Media technologies to disclose locations?
  2. Does Social Media technologies disclosing locations hurt/degrade the value of the brand of the “small” people and organizations…or reinforce the brand of the “big box” organizations.
  3. Does location based Social Media technologies reinforce the “small” people/organizations as “thought leaders” empowering the reinforcement of the “big box” organization?
  4. Does location based Social Media technology reinforce the small individual people and organization “thought leaders” as “thought leaders” since they are proportionally the influencers for “bog box” brands?
  5. Have small people and organizations using Social Media platforms and location based technologies created a paradigm shift in perception transitioning those “small” people/organizations onto the same platform as “big box” organizations. Where does the influence lie and where will it lie in 10 years?

Who are the thought leaders?

Who really maximizes the true benefit of these location based platforms? Is it the groups publishing where they are located or is the organizations that are being recognized where this constituency base has chosen to locate and ultimately publicize? Some organizations are providing “rewards” for those soliciting their location using these technologies, but who is the thought leader here? Or do we care? Or is it just fun to say we are going to a movie and then to another place for a milkshake?

Organizations like hospitals might frame the benefit from these platforms with their marketing support staff providing their location especially for small doctors offices that lie under the umbrella of services. This is where organizations, “big box” organizations could benefit from internal staff providing location based advertising and raise awareness both from a public (business to consumer) and internal (business to business) position, informing other internal groups where and what is offered internally.

So what is the story behind these location based platforms? How are you using them? Are you doing more that just adding to the fad of saying what you are doing and where? Have you thought about the true marketing implications of these technologies and platforms? Are you telling your story or helping others with a bigger message? What are your thoughts? And will this become another place like Twitter where people get excited and then the honeymoon stage drops off like a bad relationship?

Time to explore the universe beyond Flash!

So it is my goal this year to look beyond the my current universe and begin to find other avenues beyond Flash video. Yes….for the past two and half years, I have been using Flash Video (FLV) to compress and distribute video content. Why did I start using it?

Well, at one time we were using WMV (Windows Media) as the primary platform, our current Director of IT had us on a windows platform and it made sense. It was clean, flexible yet we were missing a major target audience, the Mac World. From a user standpoint, Flash Video had a bigger penetration rate plus it looked real clean with HDV content. So off we moved to Flash video. The downside, the compression time TAKES FOREVER! WOW! But, it was flexible and had many robust player options, and every developer under the sun was creating so many options for Flash Video.

With the advent of the iPhone and other mobile computing devices (including the upcoming release of the iPad), Flash video is barely supported. It is funny, I moved to Flash to reach the Apple users, now those same Apple users are going to force me away from Flash video. So, now it is my goal to deliver high-quality video outside of  Flash Video…for the sole reason of reaching mobile audiences.

How are we currently reaching mobile audiences, well there is this great new place called YouTube. Yes, god bless these souls. They are the work around. Upload the video content to your YouTube channel, then grab the readily available embed code for your web page, and SHIZAM….you can have most of the mobile devices access your video content. Yes it is a Flash player, but since they have contracts with major mobile platforms like the iPhone, you can play video embedded into your website if it is hosted on YouTube. The problem, once you upload the content…it is no longer your content, it is owned and operated by YouTube. Yes, this free distribution channel doesn’t want to be liable if their servers take a big ole hiccup and your audience can’t watch your favorite video of Uncle Al busting his ass coming down the stairs or your corporate video that needs to play in front of investors.

So really, this year is dedicated to more than just moving away from my technological dependency of Flash video, but also my hosting/contract dependency of YouTube. I want to find a place to store my content, distribute it to the targeted audiences, and maximize the quality my clients pay me dearly to provide. Now, thanks to H264 codecs…this is possible.

So far, I have only found one place that makes sense….I think, Sorenson360. I have looked at Brightcove, Ooyala, Veeple, and Kaltura….but Sorenson360 has my vote right now. This is why…pretty simple. I set-up a trial account, uploaded an H264 Quicktime (.mov), it asked me if I wanted to distribute to the web and mobile (I said yes), it gave me a simple embed code, I dropped it into my blog, pulled out my iPhone, and behold…my video play instantly on my iPhone. ***Side note, Brightcove and Ooyala have harassed the snot out of me since i signed up to check out their trial area. Actually Brightcove was very nice, but not Ooyala.***

I am looking forward to HTML5 and the opportunities it will bring. But I am a one man type of show. I can hire some developers to create a platform to upload, compress, and distribute content for my clients…but Sorenson360 did this within a matter of minutes.

Video distribution should not be what limits us to provide a message to an audience, it should enable us to reach larger audiences. It should provide a pathway to reach groups of individuals regardless of the “technology” they use to access information. It is my goal to embrace technologies to reach these groups. The same is true for Social Media technologies, they are a tool and it is up to us as practitioners to use them if it meets the needs of the audience.  We have a story to tell!

BTW…I already know how to host, compress, and distribute video content on dedicated or virtual servers. I understand the ROI for the use CDN’s and the Amazon’s Cloud to encode and distribute video content. But, I am one man that likes to focus on telling stories, not managing a server network. It is time focus on my core competency…telling rich stories.

Why I love math! Visual storytelling is fun!

So many people ask me what I studied as an undergraduate while at Clemson. Yes…this creative person has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics…YES. I also studied statistics and art and architectural history. How in the world did I end up doing creative work telling visual stories. Hmm. If you sit back and think about it for a second…math, art, architecture, and even philosophy are interrelated. I also have a Master of Arts in Professional Communications where I studied audience analysis, usability testing methodologies, and classical rhetoric. This all plays together…in some twisted far off universe called Bobby’s world!

I am a visual storyteller. When I pull out the camera, I assess the audience. When I look through the viewfinder, I look at the screen in proportions. The eye is attracted to perfect numbers. That is why you see cathedrals using the rule of thirds and even sevens. The screen to me is divided into thirds where this “theatre” allows the eye to flow naturally top to bottom, left to right (in the western culture).  If what is on the screen is not appealing to the eye and the senses, then you have lost the first battle in engaging the audience. I try to avoid centering the main focus of the screen, I try to either left or right justify. I also like to edit shots together in sequences of thirds so that the cadence reflects the natural tendency to think in thirds.

A visual storyteller uses sound. When I pull out the expensive camera, I use the expensive microphones and headphones. I like to “shoot for sound”. When I am acquiring an image, I am listening to my surroundings looking for the opportunity for the sound to enhance the image. When I am “shooting” a waterfall, I want the microphone to get as close as possible to the waterfall to capture that crisp image. Then I like to edit these sounds together in a cadence of some logical sense. Sometimes with quick actions, I will edit a sequence together using sound in a series of threes. In order to have an effective sequence for the audience to follow, the sound must be crisp. ***Rule of thumb, if editing together a sequence does not work visually, use some type of sound during the point of the visual edit to distract the eye.

When I create a video, I want to create a visual experience. I want you to forget that the editing process has happened and you are guided through this little documentary. Using proportional shots with sound editing provides a clear path to engage the audience. People want stories, people want an experience, people want rich media…but this media can only be acquired by the audience only if you can make them forget they no longer have their peripheral vision. Think of the best movie you have seen in the theatre. If you are really enjoying the movie, you forget your surroundings. Your peripheral vision has been “forgotten” for that brief period. You have engaged with the story-line. What made it go away?

You only have one shot to engage today’s audience. User-Centered Design tells us that audiences are jumping through online content faster than the synapses in our brain can tell us to click somewhere else. What allows the audience to engage with that piece of rich media. What makes our bounce rate go down? We have only one shot, just one shot to get it right. People will click away. So we have to create media with the same creative fashion we create beautiful pieces of fine art. We have to use the knowledge we have of the human eye and senses. We know the eye likes warm images, images that keep you from looking away. Fine proportions and and clean images that seem so natural to be unnatural.  We have to use rich sounds that feel crisp enough to flow right next to us in our seats. We have to edit in a parameter that lends to a cadence that appeals to the visual cues the eyes and ears desire.

Using math is fun. Creating rhythm is fun. Telling a story is fun.

FYI…if you want to learn more about how engineers and mathematicians came up with 16×9 widescreen television, here is an article: CLICK HERE.