Kenneth Cole is early favorite in Biggest Marketing Mistakes of 2011 competition


Really? You really thought this was funny? Really? Actual humor would have been, “Anderson Cooper was beaten up because people thought he was our new spring collection.” No, wait… I wasn’t intending to make light of a serious situation. Why is it I can’t put “Anderson Cooper” and “serious situation” in the same sentence with a straight face?


Ronald McDonald rings opening bell on Wall St., then threatens to cut insurance for 30K workers

These two items appeared in rapid succession in my Twitter feed:

screen-shot-2010-03-17-at-12403-pm2 9:26 AM — @CNNLive ‘Ronald McDonald’ rings Wall Street opening bell. Live:

9:29 AM — @WSJ McDonald’s says it may drop health insurance for nearly 30,000 workers unless a new requirement is waived


In case you are wondering, you can follow me on Twitter at CurseYouKhan.


Image is from Logorama, which won the Oscar last year for best short animation.


Facebook worth more than $XX billion, say people with a vested interest in Facebook

Quiz time: Facebook  is worth how many billions of dollars?

  1. 3.7
  2. 9.5
  3. 23
  4. 33

facebook_dollar Different people have given all of the above answers and a lot of other places have published them as fact, even though these numbers are are self-serving and cannot be verified. The first two are by Facebook itself, in February and November of last year. The third is from Forbes and the last one is from the Financial Times – and all of them are totally, completely untrustworthy. Why? Well, let’s look at how Forbes’ Steve Bertoni put it: “Recent private equity investments in Facebook valued the firm at around $23 billion–more than triple its 2009 value of $7 billion.” Now why would anyone who had invested in a company possibly say that company is worth far more than previously reported? Hmmmmm. 

Facebook is a private company, so no one outside of a select few really know how much money – if any – Facebook is making. But even it’s self-reported numbers don’t sustain valuations that give it a market cap of between $23B and $33B. By way of comparison, eBay’s market cap is $32B. As Mashable so ably puts it

Facebook is still a private company that hasn’t completely figured out the profit equation. While it should surpass $1 billion in revenue this year, its infrastructure costs are also high. eBay, while not as sexy, brought in $2.215 billion in revenue during just the second quarter of this year.

What is appalling is that how many business publications are willing collaborators in this absurd deception. I am glad to see that the Wall Street Journal seems to have learned its lesson about this (see Twitter valued at $1 Billion say people with a vested interest in Twitter). H.L. Mencken had a simple rule of thumb for reporting a story like this: “It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.”

Twitter valued at $1 Billion say people with a vested interest in Twitter

Hysterical story in today’s journal headlined: Twitter’s Value Is Set at $1 Billion

The lede:

Twitter Inc. is nearing a deal for as much as $100 million in new funding that would buy the fast-growing Internet-messaging company more time to figure out its business model, according to people familiar with the situation.

But the punch line comes in the 3rd graph:

The investors are valuing Twitter – which has yet to generate more than a trickle of revenues – at more than $1 billion, according to people familiar with the plan. That’s more than triple the valuation Twitter received during its last round of capital raising in February, underscoring how quickly the company has grown.

twitter_fail_whale So let me see if I understand, the companies who are giving $100M to Twitter say Twitter is worth more than 10 times that amount. Hmmm. Well they are certainly an unbiased source.

By the way, is worth more than $10 million so you should want to buy it while the price is still this low, say people familiar with my bank account.

So we now know it takes about 10 years to forget the lessons of a bubble burst. Remember the .com bubble?



Companies with no way to generate actual money were suddenly worth absurd amounts because … well … because. As far as I can tell Twitter’s business model is to be bought by Google. To date Twitter has proven to be a very popular supplementary application. People use Twitter and all there other methods of communicating. It isn’t supplanting either email or blogs AND (this is big) it is NOT popular with the teens to 20s demographic, which means it doesn’t have a future.


This just got added to the WSJ site:

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)–Micro-blogging service Twitter Inc. said Friday it had closed a "significant round of funding," a deal that will give the wildly-popular startup more time to develop a business model.” Twtter said investors included Insight Venture Partners, T. Rowe Price (TROW), Institutional Venture Partners, Spark Capital and Benchmark Capital.

There’s gotta be a pony in there somewhere, right guys? Hey, anyone seen my messenger bag?


Amazon unveils homophobic computer software

Over the weekend Amazon seems to have broken through the Turing barrier and unveiled an artificial intelligence that is predisposed to homophobia. At least that’s how I read their explanation for why the sales rankings for books with gay, lesbian and other non-heterosexual “adult” topics.

“We recently discovered a glitch to our Amazon sales rank feature that is in the process of being fixed.  We’re working to correct the problem as quickly as possible.”

That’s one highly selective glitch. As Peter Kafka (who is skeptical of both sides) points out: “Amazon’s listing for Annie Proloux’s “Brokeback Mountain” doesn’t have a sales rank. But the author’s newest book does have one.”

The story of the glitch or suppression is one of those twitter-nightmares marketers now live in fear of. #Amazonfail is the #1 trending topic there at the moment.

While the sales rank for Brokeback had been restored by this morning( #18,894 far ahead of “The Shipping News” which I love), the damage has been done and it’s going to be interesting to see how Amazon tries to fix it. As yet no official press release from them on the topic.

If this was an attempt to hide gay content it was doomed to fail. The High School Musical DVDs are the top 6 bestselling DVDs for tweens on Amazon. Nothing could counter that.

What Twitter can’t do

Twitter* has hit the mainstream with a vengeance. The final sign of this was yesterday when John McCain – who during the campaign admitted his own computer illiteracy – did an interview (called a “twitterview” YUCK) with George Stephanopoulos. I guess they both wanted to show how “down” they are with all the latest hep-cat cool jive.

Many people are hailing this as some sort of breakthrough for the media. They also point out how much faster news is reported on Twitter than via other mediums – including the non-Twitter web. These writers seem to be implicating (or maybe I am inferring) that Twitter is supplanting or showing up regular news gathering/disseminating organizations.

While I doubt it is true, I also believe that if it is true we are all totally screwed. Twitter is good for distributing information that people need to know. I get updates from the Boston Police via Twitter – just one of many cop shops now Tweeting.

Twitter is good for the headline, not the actual story.

  • “AIG giving out million$ in bonuses.” Yes.
  • “Rep. Maxine Water’s husband gets bailout funds from Treasury Dept. for bank where he is a boardmember and bank would never have gotten the bailout money unless he was husband of a Dem. on the House Banking Committee.” No.

You can make the claim that Iraq is getting radioactive material from Nigeria on Twitter but you can’t refute it or give it any context.

It is hard to think of a technology less suited to interviewing than Twitter. If you ask me a question and we both know I am limited to a 140 character answer (or can act like I am) I can evade, obfuscate and spin like a maestro.

“Why do u oppose this plan?”

“It will put people out of work (or make America less safe or whatever…”

“But you voted for a similar plan b4?”

“That was totally different in what it was trying to do.”

Etc. Etc. (For a great example of why Twitterviews are an absurd source of information see this post by Derek Showerman.)

As Jon Stewart made clear with the (professionally) late Jim Cramer, you want to give your subject enough time to respond in depth. We call it “giving them enough rope.” It is not just rope to hang themselves with – it is also information that will tell you whether your questions/information are on-base or not.

Another thing  –as any good reporter knows — when interviewing people the long, awkward silence is your friend. Ask a question. Listen to the answer. If it doesn’t seem complete then wait. People don’t like dead air. It makes them nervous. After a while, they start to say more. Try doing that with a 140-characters.

Finally, my favorite derisive comment about Twitter v. Media is that twitter has stories faster than other news sources. Case in point – the airplane landing on the Hudson. Speaking strictly in terms of time-to-dissemination you’ll find no argument here. BUT, as I twittered earlier today (oh irony)

CurseYouKhan people surprised twitter reports faster than Media on some things. DUH! Media needs to get facts. takes time to try & get it right.

Somebody tweets there’s an earthquake in Melbourne – which he knows because he feels the earth shaking beneath him. A reporter CAN’T write a story about this even if he is standing next to the person who just tweeted. Reporters have to find out how big the earthquake is – if it’s a small tremor and I’m standing at the epicenter I am likely to overestimate its strength. Or if it’s the first earthquake I’ve ever been through then I am even more likely to overestimate its impact.

No one ever mentions the false or misleading tweets that news orgs research and disprove. It would be great to track those but you can’t. There is no way to know how many times the media has been offered (or thought it had) a story that was totally false or a misinterpretation and then found out the truth with further reporting. Sadly, that’s one of the press’s most essential functions and one that will never be appreciated.

*What is twitter? It’s a cross between a blog and a bumpersticker. Say whatever you want in 140 characters or less (surprising how much you can get into that space, really.) And have a channel to see what everyone else you are following is also saying in 140 characters or less.

Motrin gets headache from viral moms video

Motrin has just found out that moms are pretty thin-skinned when it comes to what other people say about moms even if it’s something the moms themselves say all the time.

In the beginning was an understandable idea: Sell more Motrin. To do that meant finding a market that might buy more Motrin.  After undoubtedly copious research Motrin decides: Moms! The method: a video called Motrin Moms. I’m pretty sure the next part of the plan was not: sit back and hide from a firestorm. But that’s what Motrin got once moms started watching the video.

The video is all text and voice over and starts with what I’ve always considered a very funny line: the observation that babies seem to be the latest fashion accessory. (Full-disclosure: I’ve been the stay-at-home parent, i.e. a mom, for most of my kid’s life.) Then it talks about all the ways of carrying a baby there are — front-loaders (my preference until he hit 20 lbs.), back-loaders, slings, etc., and how they can be a strain on your back hence the need for the product.

It also talks about how despite the pain we (moms) do this anyway because its probably good for the kid and certifies the bearer as a certified member of the mom club. Then came my favorite line: “So if I look tired and crazy people will understand why.”

There is a look that parents shoot each other — a look of total sympathy and understanding as the kid is going through his or her 13th major meltdown of the morning. I have been on both ends of that look. Receiving it has helped me keep my sanity, sending it has helped me bond with and I hope helped someone else keep their sanity.

But apparently that is the truth-that-dare-not-speak-its-name. Or maybe it’s the whole thing about babies-as-fashion-accessories. I’ve certainly thought it, but clearly I am surrounded by those who are without that particular sin.

The most interesting thing about this is that the fire seems to be spreading via Twitter, the first such time Twitter has actually had any impact that I am aware of. You may follow the posts here and it won’t take long, remember Twitter is what you get when cross a blog with a haiku.

Some of the comments are smart and some are achingly stupid: Like the person who said of negative reaction to the video, “What happened this weekend went from smart, powerful activism to Palin-rally lynch-mob.

FYI: Lynch mob is one of the two words/phrases to avoid at all costs in a discussion. The other is Hitler/Nazi. As soon as you use them the conversation is over and the shouting has begun. Adding the modifier “Sarah Palin” will not help either.

Not only do these words end a conversation but they also do a very real disservice to the victims of the actual lynch mobs and Nazis.

NASA brings the Brave Little Toaster to life … and death (sniff, sniff)

OK, so today is like the last day of my new dear personal friend, the brave and accomplished MarsPhoenix rover.

Like so many of my online acquaintances, we’ve never actually met. I followed his courageous actions around the surface of Mars from a distance … to put it mildly. The MarsPhoenix has a feed on twitter. For those of you who don’t know Twitter — it’s a cross between haiku and blogging. You can say whatever you want — in 140 characters.

Mrs. CollateralDamage tipped me to twitter — which I use despite not having a clue what it’s good for. I have yet to see any explanation for a practical use of it. Be that as it may. Mrs. CD also told me about this feed from the MarsPhoenix and how it was goofy and fun. “The MarsPhoenix” posted a series of items about its daily activities and answered questions and, while you really knew it was someone at NASA, it worked.

When the damn thing won a “twittie” award (by, for and about twits is all I can guess) it posted:

3 Twitties? Wow, I’m overwhelmed, especially being up against so many other great nominees. Thank you all for your votes, I’m very humbled.

Wondering if @twitties can afford the postage to send me the award plaques? And deciding on which wall to hang them… 😮 Uh oh…

My team has a good plan to keep me going even as power levels drop. Bits of me will have to turn off, starting today.

The heater for the arm will have to turn off to save power. So I’m parking the arm’s needle-like probes into the dirt before then.

Not sure how soon arm will freeze after 1st heater is turned off. Depends on the weather. But saving that power (250 watt hrs/sol) is good.

Whoa, so much sadness about the heater turning off. Thx, and I hope to hang on several more weeks so you will be hearing more from me 🙂

I’m not mobile, @gjain81, so here I’ll stay. My mission will draw to an end soon, and I can’t imagine a greater place to be than here.

I should stay well-preserved in this cold. I’ll be humankind’s monument here for centuries, eons, until future explorers come for me 😉

I may go to sleep soon, @lordavon . But my “Lazarus mode” might allow me wake up now and then for short times during next few weeks.

Many questions about next Martian summer and will I wake up? It is beyond expectations. But if it happens you’ll be among the 1st to know.

In case we don’t get this chance again, thank you all so much for the questions, comments & good wishes over the mission. It’s been awesome.

Take care of that beautiful blue marble out there in space, our home planet. I’ll be keeping an eye from here. Space exploration FTW!*

I’m not sure MarsPhoenix passed the Turing test as much as I failed it.

And now a little good news

I was feeling a little glum about the state of the world this morning. Then I got a twitter from Michelle Riggen-Ransom, a fellow Rhode Islander and author of the great blog Social Media For Social Change, alerting me to AfriGadget. AfriGadget is a blog about African inventors, engineers and whomever and the ways they come up with to deal with issues much more substantial than “stock market go down.”

Today’s post is about a traditional home that makes use of discarded USAID bags as a covering.

This is more important than the damn stock market.

This is more important than the damn stock market.

I cannot recommend AfriGadget highly enough. Buy their swag. Spread the word.

BTW, to follow Michelle on Twitter it’s mriggen. I am Curseyoukhan.