Adding Fuel To The Fire: With Water

He we are the day after when the “Storm of Storms” has hit the eastern seaboard of the U.S. with the devastation rivaling the asteroid believed to have hit the Yucatan millions of years ago and wiped out the largest lifeforms of the planet.

At least that’s the way Sandy has been portrayed across the media. She’s causing distress and hardship yes, but as of this morning her trail of destruction seems more inline that she’ll fall more into a nuisance based aftermath rather than the death and destruction equivalent of a Mayan apocalypse.

So here is where things begin to just not add up. When the tragedy of September 11th, 2001 happened one of the first concerns regarding the markets was to ensure in the event of any similar events; the markets could operate, operate correctly, and efficiently.

We were told at great lengths from all the powers that be both past and present not to worry because – contingencies were now in place. Shorthand for: “Don’t worry, be happy. We got this.” It would seem like all of that has had cold water (salty as a matter of fact) thrown all over those reassuring statements.

I understand the need of not having or needlessly placing or putting anyone in harms way. However, what I don’t understand is this: If you had contingency plans in place to handle disasters and keep people safe. You mean to tell me you those plans can’t or won’t be implemented because one would need to put people at risk to implement them? Really? I mean…Really?

Maybe I’m not that smart (but I did stay at a Holiday Inn® once) but it would seem to me that you actually didn’t have a plan. Which is exactly what adds fuel to the fire of the markets are both broken, rigged, and Joe and Jill public are on their own. The very same people the market needs.

It seems every time one turns on the television or radio to see exactly what protections were in place to protect participants in the markets after some event we see exactly the opposite of what we thought we should.

Scandal after scandal shows the protective bodies seemed more concerned on protecting their own derrieres rather than the public they were entrusted with.

We have glaring examples such as Bernie Madoff running a scheme for decades as the bodies to ensure such a thing couldn’t happen run around screaming to anyone who’ll listen (or print); “This was so sophisticated we can’t be to blame. We need better tools.” I think it became apparent there were just maybe a few too many “tools” that caused this debacle.

Just when that seemed behind us we get headlines one after another along the lines of “Rogue trader loses BILLIONS” or “Hedge Fund Illegally Uses and Loses All Their Customers Money” and one of the latest “The Algo’s Turn on Their Creator Nearly Collapsing Firm.” Yet we are supposed to feel safe because a boatload of agencies containing more acronyms than a warehouse of alphabet soup was eying the horizon for any storms. Maybe the scope was fogged. Or worse, someone pulled the prism.

All the above is just touching the surface of problems one has witnessed at far more of an alarming rate than one is comfortable pointing out. Not to mention the scandals within the scandals that you just can’t help shake you head at. i.e.: The MF Global scandal of using customer funds only to find out Mr. Corzine will be exonerated to some extent because of some legal technicality where we seem back to what the definition of “is” is. I bet the poor traders, and others that lost their money and lively hoods don’t have any alternative definition for how they feel where their money was supposed to be.

What part of “Don’t Touch” needed to be clarified exactly? Oh, and by the way in case you haven’t heard. It’s rumored he’s considering starting another hedge fund. I feel safer already.

Which brings us around on a slow row boat to today. The markets in an unprecedented move are closed for a second straight day. While at the same time there are rumblings on whether or not they will be open tomorrow. Here’s where this once again looks and feels down right squishy and fishy.

How could the electronic markets be closed all day Monday when Sandy was off shore not due to reach landfall till near 8pm EST. Closed all day Tuesday when Sandy had passed and the aftermath apparent. Yet the switches are turned on at 6pmEST Monday night while Sandy was actually overhead wreaking havoc, flooding subways, businesses, and more. Only to watch the electronic markets operate what appeared as flawlessly overnight through all that destructive may lay causing massive blackouts and wind damage leaving millions of people without power.

And yet not as much as a blip. The only blips on the screens (or lack there of) seems to be caused by the continued hand wringing of whether or not to open Wednesday. Something just seems wrong with the reasoning given.

So to throw even more water on this smoldering pile I can’t get out of my head an interview that happened Monday morning with Charles Gasparino on Fox Business® channel with one of the heads of the electronic agencies.

As I stated earlier one of the reasons given why they didn’t want to turn on the electronic only systems was out of concern for the people who were needed to man the actual technology centers. OK, but I’ll say it again: You made a backup system that in order to protect people from danger, you have to put people in danger? Something is wrong with that answer, and for me sounded alarm bells.

One of the suggestions why they weren’t opening eluded to by Mr. Gasparino was that he was hearing from his sources that it was the HFT players (High Frequency Traders) that were up in arms about the exchanges opening on some form of emergency backup system. Whether true or not it makes a thinking person ask if it were true: Why? What would be the reason? How would that hurt them, or worse hurt the markets?

Then it hits you like the first wave of a storm surge. Maybe it’s because the emergency system that runs the markets are exactly where the HFT players are not. At an undisclosed location! The problem with this scenario is it fuels conspiracy theories because it makes sense if you like the dark alleys of conspiracy as much as the exchanges love their dark pools.

It’s been well reported and documented elsewhere that these menacing machines have been placed as close as possible to the actual servers the exchange uses to route their order as to enable them to front run or what ever else they do. The closer they are, the more of an advantage these algo’s have over anyone else. Including each other.

Could it be that the markets were actually closed not because they couldn’t operate but rather that the HFT computers couldn’t operate because what they rely on for their advantage would be gone? i.e., Their proximity.

If the algo’s lost their advantage of order execution they would be at the mercy of efficient markets. You know, that thing they always say they’re responsible for. Heaven forbid there would be a Bid and Ask not generated by them with the ability to be pulled in nano seconds. Rather by an actual order placed with someone willing to actually Buy at said price or Sell. Oh the humanity if that is the case.

Would the markets themselves also have a stake in making sure the illusion of “deep markets” was perpetuated? Imagine if the markets opened and to what is normally reported 70% of all the markets trading didn’t show up because the HFT computers couldn’t play? Would something like this almost be more frightening to the markets than the chaos currently being dealt with in the aftermath of Sandy?

The longer the markets stay closed, the more fuel this smoldering pile lives on. Just when you think water puts out fires, you find out it just might fuel it more. Or put another way: The emergency system can’t be used because it may cause an emergency.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

The iPad Mini Event: And Why The Experts Are Blind

This week Apple® announced the much-anticipated iPad® Mini. Almost from the get-go grumblings were everywhere. Everyone had some remark why they believe Apple missed the boat on this device. Or why Apple for the first time looked like they were playing catch up offering a “me too” device in the 7″ inch category.

I believe if you focused only on the “Mini” – you along with everyone else missed what was really transpiring. It’s not about that particular device. It’s about the future of everything we interact with that’s technological. And I’m not trying to use hyperbole – I mean it. Let me explain.

Although the event was primarily focused as some form of debutant ball of the iPad family. I believe the coming out party was more of a sideshow to the bigger picture for Apple.

In my mind it was the dichotomy that hit me. The launching of a product Job’s himself was opposed to, while simultaneously you could see in stunning detail the manifestation of Job’s mantra “Dent the Universe.” I could see the world of technology changing once again.

Personally I don’t think it was intentional by Apple. I’m just relating why I believe the roll out was bigger (and more eye-opening) than most others saw – or realized.

First things first. You can’t discuss anything about the new launch without the overhang of “Well, Steve was against such a device.” Well, that’s not entirely true from my view.

If you listened carefully when he discussed such things, it wasn’t really about size. It was about the technology not having the ability to allow use of your finger as the end all-be all interface with such a sized device.

At the time of iPad 1st gen. such a device would require a stylus to fully operate. It’s the stylus that Job’s was adamantly against – not the size. In just 2 years time that hurdle is now gone. And Job’s is well-known for changing his mind on anything if a prior technological barrier was broken.

With that said I believe the implications for the Mini’s is not about you or me.
It’s about kids.

The original iPad is relatively big in a kids hand. The Mini is not. I believe you put this device into an adolescents hands – and you’ll never get it back. None of the other sized devices will come close in my opinion. They’re all made (including interface and programing) with you or me as the user. The Mini is the only one that can serve all generations at this time.

Put every 7″ device made today on a table and give a kid the choice of keeping any one they want, and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts the Mini gets picked 100 to 1. Besides, what parent isn’t going to buy their 10-year-old a Mini at $329 if it keeps them from asking (or taking) their $500 or $800+ iPad with all the data from work and elsewhere? Let alone realizing for $329 – the child will get more use, be far happier, while less likely to break it than any cheap laptop.

Cheap laptops get expensive when no matter how many times you tell a kid not to use it or leave it on a pillow or bed because the fans can’t work, and will kill the laptop or worse – start a fire. Only to find that’s exactly what they’ll do. Over, and over, and over again.

It doesn’t take long where one changes their opinion from “No. they’re too expensive, and your just not old enough.” into “I am so sick and tired of repeating myself. Wait – $329 an I’m done? Merry Christmas Honey!”

At the event were the products most should have really paid attention to. The new Mac’s®. I personally found the overtones of criticism similar in tone to the snickers when the iPad debuted.

All the jokes about how thin it was were reminiscent on the naming of iPad. Again here is where I believe everyone missed it. The new Mac Pro® is about us.
Us – the ones with the money to spend , and who will spend it.

The teachers, doctors, lawyers, musicians, traders, writers, and more. All of whom currently have an iPad and use one constantly as their primary desktop/laptop alternative.

Anyone that currently has one wishes they did “just a little bit more” in ways more akin to their laptops or desktops with full software capabilities and such. Sometimes I just need the full use of a program, not the iOS abbreviated edition, and or need a real keyboard. But I want the feel and freedom the iPad delivers at the same time. The new Pro is going to fill that void while simultaneously closing the door on any PC based alternative.

If you’re a person that works on the road (or like so many – the couch or bed) and currently has an iPad. You’re already quite aware of the versatility using it while laying in a hotel bed, or behind the wheel of your car. (parked I would hope) I need not remind you that before its debut, doing the same with a laptop su_ked. But there was no alternative.

The new MacPro I believe closes that need for settling or having to go without. It’s the true morphing hybrid for this new evolving tablet – laptop world. More than it’s just a new version or upgraded laptop in my view. I think this is the device that changes the game once again.

If anything will be dropped from the product lines I think it will be the Mac Air®, and the iPad 2. The Air was the laptop bridge between power and convenience, but now the new Pro does both. Again, unattainable in power and design just a few years ago. It’s a true melding of the iPad with a fold down keyboard in shape, scale, and with all the power longed for.

Will it cannibalize iPad as the “smart crowd” warns? Maybe. But it will far more make up for any with new customer integration from the PC world in my opinion. If a PC customer now needs to learn a new operating system such as Windows 8®. What will they get for all that imposed disruption?
Does the PC world offer something viewed as “cool” as anything compared to Apple?

Some will say: ” Yeah, but what about Microsoft’s new Surface®?”
My answer: “Yeah, what about it?”

One glaringly obvious flaw in the design from my view which shows their understanding or use of design is way off base is evident in the very thing they’re heralding as some game changer: The keyboard.

When I want or need a full-sized keyboard I don’t want to move, or feel the need for some table or other flat surface in order to use it if I’m laying in some hotel bed, or behind the wheel of my car, or sitting on my couch or chair, etc, etc.
So exactly how exactly does that keyboard help me? It’s about as flimsy as the rubber cover its intended to replace.

The whole point is not just about having a full keyboard and power. It’s about having it with the ease, and ability to use it anywhere, everywhere, seamlessly. The Surface is the equivalent of the Zune®. I can hear many now saying what’s a Zune? Which is exactly my point. It was Microsoft’s answer to the iPod®.

I have no idea what will happen with Windows 8®. All I can tell you is this. I made the switch away from everything PC 2 years ago out of utter frustration with PC’s. I had it up to my eyeballs with needing a degree in software coding to use programs that were showcased as “User friendly.”

Although many are die-hard PC. I feel there are many more like me, and they are growing in numbers. The new Windows won’t keep them or give them reasons to stay and learn a new operating system if the devices currently offered are still challenged. If they have to learn or start again from new. They’ll be more inclined to go where the better devices currently are also. This point alone should cause the most concern for Microsoft, and the others.

As for the workhorse of any home or office it’s the desktop. And once again the iMac® itself was updated. Was there something special here also? Well, maybe the only way to make this point is with a question:

If you were to hire an interior designer to redecorate your home or office with an unlimited budget. How would you feel when you viewed the finished project and found they chose to put a brand new Dell® or HP® desktop running Windows 8 on your desk. When for the same money they could have put the new iMac?

As to what a share of Apple stock might be worth. I haven’t got a clue.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Understanding Why Most Delegations Aren’t Working

Today one of the buzz words growing in prominence is – delegation.

The more companies we see downsizing, the more people will express to me they’re delegating this responsibility or that. Then as night follows day complaints begin to emerge as they begin having “issues” in their delegations such as no realized work load improvements.

The problem isn’t in the delegating. The problem usually results from not understanding – they aren’t delegating anything.

Far too many confuse delegation with dealing out some form of unsupervised tasks or assignments. The two are not the same nor equal; however many use one, but call it the other. Below is my description of true delegation.

  • Delegation is to give an assignment or task to an individual or department which is empowered with the tools, or authority necessary to complete the assignments without needing approval or oversight from the executive.

The key word of that statement is – empowered. And empowered means just that. Let me repeat: “with the tools, or authority necessary to complete the assignments without needing approval or oversight from the executive.” Period.

The only communication that should be required between the executive and the delegated should fall along the lines of a predetermined time or date for updates, and or a debriefing at completion. Within these parameters you have the basis of true delegation.

What happens in most cases is some form of chain linking a multitude of unsupervised task assignments where the delegated needs to ask permission, and or guidance to proceed.

If a subordinate has to ask for permission or guidance every time a decision is needed, or can’t fix simple issues that might arise – that’s not delegation. Below are a few examples:

  • If you delegate the responsibility of running a department within your organization, the delegated party should not need to ask permission if they can hire, fire, or replace personnel within their department as they see fit. If they do – there is no delegation.
  • If you delegate the task of building a new store display, the person or team assigned should have access to the tools, equipment, and personnel to complete the task without any oversight. If the team has to call to get the keys to unlock the tool shed, permission to use the tools, and so forth daily. There is no delegating going on.
  • If you delegate a subordinate to handle the “customer service” counter, and they need to have a manager sign off on every step including using the restroom. You haven’t delegated anything.

What you’ve really done in the examples listed above is no more than assigned people or departments to completing some form of unsupervised tasks – yet called it “delegating.” This is why so many say to themselves: “I’ve delegated responsibilities yet I feel no relief. Why?” This sometimes not only results in frustration, but in some cases actually increased their workload!

Here’s another way to make this point. You didn’t delegate the task of grocery shopping if:

  • For them to get to the grocery store they need to ask to borrow the keys to your car – call you while driving for directions – call you when they get there – call and ask what brands you want as they’re in the aisles – call to ask if they should use cash or credit, paper or plastic. etc, etc.
    Only to find out when they return you tell them they also should have topped off the tank with gas because they passed by 2 stations even though the tank is almost 3/4’s full.

Sounds crazy, however many do the equivalent of this when they express they’ve “delegated” something to someone.

Actually delegating this task would resemble having an initial discussion stating the person was now responsible for groceries, and to get to the store they had use of your car. Were told what brands were preferred, but which had no substitute. (as in go without – or find another store) Were to use a company card, petty cash, or would be reimbursed. And not to allow the gas gauge to get below 3/4’s of a tank. Then you would have delegated.

Misinterpreting the two, or using them interchangeably can not only frustrate. But can lead to the exact opposite of what one is trying to accomplish – which is working more efficiently.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

The Prose Series: Episode 2 (Repost)

I’ve had some people ask what were the videos I removed that I was talking about in one of my posts. So I’ve posted one again since we have many new visitors coming to the blog that haven’t seen one. This blog is now visited and read in over 40 countries and still growing. And I want to take a moment to thank every single one of you for making this possible. Thank you, and there’s more surprises to come.

Below is part of a series of ideas we were working on a while back. I only did a couple.

An enhanced Audio Podcast presented in Video format.

The quick hitting no holds barred series based on “Mr. Engineer, please hit the record button and let’s go!”  Unique for its forget about edits and retakes format.

This episode features Mark’s column:
Team Building 101, Dump the Committees

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr in Assoc. with StreetCry Media. All Rights Reserved

(Can’t see the player in your Mobile device? Click here)

Two Falls of Grace: One Into – One Out Of

I can’t think of a time in recent history where falling could be used as both an inspiring metaphor while at the same time describe a spiraling ride to shame, and dishonor. Both have been stunning.

Of course I’m talking about Felix Baumgartner, and Lance Armstrong. Both of these men achieving stunningly detailed, and witnessed falls. Yet, one is the absolute polar opposite from the other. Once again I can’t think of such ever happening like this before.

Heroes and the need for them is part of the human experience. Sometimes in our own trying hours we’ll look for guidance or inspiration where one can say; “Yeah, you did and so will I.” Sometimes we find it spiritually. Sometimes from a fictional character in movies or books. However most times it’s an actual person in pursuit of some quest. Whether they ever achieve it or not isn’t always the end all be all. Sometimes it’s the effort that matters more.

The problem that arose in the case of Mr. Armstrong is not so much in the results that we found out he actually did the things that were accused. It’s in the case that for so long, after all the denials, the court cases, and more. They were never able to prove it. So many like myself and others rooted for him.

We discussed at water coolers how it was just the jealousy of nationalistic judges just wanting to dishonor the accomplishments. After all it has been nearly 10 years, and never so much as a misdemeanor type charge ever stuck. The more he fought, and accused all comers as players of an inquisition; the more people stood beside him.

The difference with this case as opposed to the baseball steroid fiasco was this: Once the show trials started you pretty much knew from the get go what transpired. With Armstrong it had all the signs he was in the cross hairs of jealous inquisitors hell-bent on damaging his repute for spite’s sake. The more they accused with no proof, the harder we defended him. Most were “all in” only to find 10 years of defense crushed in a near week.

It wasn’t as if after years they finally proved say in 2001 he used some borderline substance that could be argued legal or illegal at the time and lost his argument. That would be inconsequential for most. The issue is that we learned in near stunning detail collaborated with team mates, eye witnesses, doctors, emails, financial records, and more. It was all a lie. Not them, but from Lance himself. That is what turns a hero into a pariah. No more hero-worship to be bestowed. Now just scorn, and branded as a disgrace to sporting itself. My my how the mighty can indeed fall.

On the other hand we have Felix. His fall into grace was captured live on both the web, and television with breathtaking results. The details that are emerging on what this man had to do, and the unknowns he faced, is nothing more than what heroes are truly made of. Simply amazing.

Just two facts that in of themselves are bewildering. One: They had no idea what would happen to him or his suit once he broke the sound barrier. Two: In order to reach the altitude of 128K plus feet he would need to endure nearly 3 hours strapped into a capsule the size of a dog house. All the while wearing an all enclosing suit, and helmet. Why so impressive? He’s claustrophobic! The only thing more impressive would be: Oh yeah, and he’s afraid of heights.

Today we look at two heroes. One we’ll scorn and lost everything in which it seemed he would do anything for. And did. The other we’ll look, cheer, and hold in our highest regards as challenging the unknown and being brave enough to risk it.

However in the case of Felix Baumgartner, many will only be further impressed if we find he stood on that platform 24 miles above the Earth ready to jump, and wasn’t on any drugs.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Google and the Algo’s: Welcome To Our World

The headline sounds like it should be said by some aging disc jockey on a classic hits station. However it’s probably the newest phenom that Google® itself never envisioned happening to them. After all, if you’re the crowned ruler of the algorithm machine (some might call it more of a monster) then you never think the robots can turn on you.

But these bots don’t belong to the Google kingdom, nor do they answer to their servers. Just like Google, they can’t be reached by phone or seemingly anything else if you disagree with what they’re doing – or what they’ve done. Regardless if it cost you money, time, reputation, or business disruption.

I do want to say Google has been a fantastic enabler, and disruptor for both people and companies. We all take for granted what we can do today for free with Google of what previously cost us exorbitant amounts of money. But now Google faces a beast just as powerful, disruptive, ruthless, or enabling of the algorithm world as itself: High Frequency Trading aka HFT.

Many have had issues with the heavy hand of some platforms. For many like myself, I have had issues and felt the impersonal hand (and hammer) of Google’s algorithmic side. Dealing with any issues is more akin to talking to a wall or worse.

A while back I had an issue with YouTube™. Personally I never liked the YouTube format for my own content. Then there came a time I was experimenting with some different ideas, and I thought; “Hey why not?” So I put a few things up.

A few weeks went by when out of no where I received a notice stating someone had accused me of copyright infringement. Yet not to worry. They were going to allow me to leave my material up with one caveat: The accuser was now allowed to put commercials on my material, and there was basically nothing I could do about it.

I can’t tell you how taken back I was about this accusation. Reason being I actually instruct people how to be aware and respectful of copyright, trademarks, and others. The insult to injury was: “Who were they (Google) to give anyone the right to make money using my copyright material without my permission? For what ever the reason!”

Immediately as instructed (you get a hyperlink to click on) I emailed to state this as a mistake and stated my case. I received an email a day later that the accuser didn’t agree. (No kidding?) The problem was they had no idea of what they were claiming infringement for. However the “algo’s” flagged my material as a possible infringement so they assumed they must be right. After all the algo’s must always be correct. That’s why they’re algo’s!  Which is what many misinformed people think.

It’s a long story, and you can read it here if you wish. But the issue and accusation was frivolous. Yet, there was nothing I could do except try to resolve it using the impersonal “reference” sections within the Google machine. All the while someone else has control of my material.

I even went as far as filling out the so-called “legal” form that by all intent and purpose alerts everyone involved that you are taking this serious and willing to push this into court if needed. The response? I still haven’t received one to this day. (I closed and pulled all my material within 48 hours of no response.)

The algorithms don’t care what you say, what you think, if you’re right, if you’re wrong. They don’t care – and seemingly neither do their owners. And they have made it near impossible to not deal with anything other than – the machine. Even if the machine is at fault. Remember, there is no phone number. Just send an email and wait-and wait-and wait-and wait-and…

On Thursday of this week Google by way of someone elses algo’s lost nearly 10% of its total market cap. (about $25 BILLION) in mere minutes. Why? Because of an earlier than scheduled release of their earnings. The algo’s saw the info – flagged the info – and executed on that info. Regardless if it is correct, wrong, mistaken, or anything else one can conjure up.

And just like Google itself there are no phone numbers to call that a mistake was made. No one to complain to that the information was not handled properly. No one to plead their case to that something erroneous happened. No, just the same helplessness one faces if mistakenly wronged by the algo’s.

Later this same day Google released its earnings at the originally scheduled time. We heard Mr. Page himself make claims, and assertions that everything was great and will only get better. Yet the algo’s don’t seem to care. As of this writing the stock is not only falling farther – it seems the algo’s don’t care for the reasoning why they shouldn’t continue. After all, they are in control now of Google’s material (stock) and they can do with it what they wish. In their world, they are judge and jury. Google is just another user like us.

Maybe Google should look on the HFT sites as for the proper forms (or F.A.Q.’s page) to fill out if they feel wronged. After all, that’s what you do on their site if you have an issue, or you’ve been harmed by a possible mistake by the algo’s.

I wonder if they’ll be a question to answer on the form like: “Did this answer help you?” Because if it’s anything like mine. I’m still waiting for an answer.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Audio Podcast from Mark’s “Prose Series”

Sales Is A Dance – Not A Wrestling Match


This podcast and more available in iTunes®

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr in association with

StreetCry Media. All Rights Reserved

The quick hitting no holds barred series based on “Mr. Engineer, please hit the record button and let’s go!” Designed and delivered to be thought provoking and unique for its forget about edits and retakes format.

How To Monetize Mobile: Stop Being Idiots

On the subject of advertising unlike most, I’ve actually been in the conference room making my case to one of the countries definitive ad agencies whom represented not just a regional or national corporation, but international. While simultaneously trying to convince both them and the company they represented on a new untested marketing campaign.

Not only was I successful, that campaign has grown both exponentially, and is still in force today nearly 25 years later. So on this subject I believe I have a legitimate stand to voice my opinion.

First off; if eyeballs are considered as the be all – end all, touch stone, holy grail,  coveted metric that’s pushed down the throat of anyone that questions a platforms effectiveness for a ROI. (return on investment) Then why are Facebook® shares down?

They just crossed 1 Billion users last month. Yet, as much as they wanted it to be a headline with staying power; it was met with little more than a yawn. It seemed only the people holding shares (which are still underwater and as of this writing sinking deeper) were trying to keep the story afloat with a chance for rescue. They couldn’t.

Just for the record Yahoo® still has 700 MILLION monthly users that continue for what ever the reason to stay. Yet, the ad industry, financial channels, and most other media guru’s look upon them only through the lens of a has-been. What, eyeballs don’t apply here? I have yet to hear 1 person (or ad agency) trying to find the reason why users have shown loyalty to that platform in the face of such egregious mismanagement. Maybe someone should start looking there for clues first, rather than who is the next IPO darling.

Facebook and all the others (Zynga® or fill in the blank) are the equivalent of sinking ships until they can do one thing: Monetize mobile. And their views on how this should be done by means of their track record shows, “They know Nothing!” to paraphrase Sgt. Schultz.

Look at banner ads or pop ups. Are these effective traffic and profit generators for advertisers? These were heralded game changers for the ad industry, and the platforms they dominate. For about 10 minutes. Now you can buy placement of a banner ad by the million for mere pennies with a possible conversion rate of Zero success into a single sale. I will contend you have a better shot of a conversion into a sale today with a fax machine. No, I’m not kidding.

So what do the wizards that now control or run these giant companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, and others subject one to? Double, triple, or ad infinitum banner ads, pop ups, or yet the even more creative emails telling you, “you have notifications pending.” Is this not the lamest take on “You’ve got mail.” What corporate executive or ad “genius” came up with that ploy? Hope their bonuses aren’t tied to stock options.

When you or anyone else is on a mobile device, what is the last thing you want happening? (or what makes you want to throw your device across a room) I’ll contend it’s this: Waiting for some pop up commercial to finish before you proceed. Or if you’re in the middle of something when a pop up covers anything you’re looking at.

This isn’t intrusive advertising. It’s offensive behavior from amateurs with no other ideas than “Oh Shite! Do something! Anything!” Even if it’s proven useless.

Computer and mobile device viewing are not a different version of television or radio engagement. They are different in far more complicated ways than most understand. (or will admit)

Although some believe that the audio of a television commercial maybe transferable or useable on radio. They make grave errors of assumption when they believe they can transfer effectively over to the computer or mobile device. Which is what nearly everyone is trying; while getting it worse than wrong in my opinion.

Most so-called “advertising professionals” have no clue or understanding in areas such that a person will tolerate a static burdened picture on television as long as the audio is unharmed. However reverse it as to the audio is static laden yet the picture is perfect, and people will near immediately turn the channel.

The more one tries to shoehorn (or butcher) commercials from one medium to another without first understanding the premise that 99% of them won’t work. Not only will potential customers continue to tune out, but so will the very same advertisers currently spending today’s precious ad dollars.

All major companies have some part of their ad budget put aside for speculative advertising. They may not know what to do, but they’ll throw something at the space because they understand the potential. That is what is transpiring today in my view.

However, when that part of the budget runs dry with no meaningful results to show for it. Facebook and all the others can say goodbye to getting at the real budget. The real money only gets spent on result proven campaigns. Period. And once that ends, anything having its earnings tied to mobile sales conversions will be toast.

It won’t be long (if it isn’t happening already) they’ll get to the point of not answering the sales calls from the likes of Facebook and the others. Or start treating these IPO darlings in the same fashion a mobile user treats an ad. “Just how can I make this thing go away?”

If I channel my inner David Ogilvy, I keep coming to the same conclusion: The reason why no one has yet been able to monetize mobile is the people running around and selling advertising have no idea or understanding what the mobile user wants or doesn’t want; let alone what they may or may not put up with. What is currently taking place is nothing more than amateurs hurling vapid ideas against the proverbial wall. Their answer to this dilemma? Throw more.

The ads, the way one pushes an ad, or the way a company presents itself to a mobile user with real success has yet to be discovered in my view. This abomination of using techniques from one media of advertising to mobile shows not only a lack of creativity, but a pure lack of vision and understanding on what makes a customer buy.

This notion of how many eyeballs are viewing an ad as its reason for existence is nothing more than a crock for trying to sell their ad space to the uninformed. The sole purpose of an ad, any ad, is for enticing a potential customer to view the advertisers wares with hope and intention they’ll open their wallet and purchase the advertisers product. If 10 Billion people view it, yet not one buys; it’s an abominable failure. Period.

Someone needs to get the guts and scream at their next ad meeting: “This ain’t working!” However don’t wait for someone in the “coder” crowd to be the one to start shouting. This will take someone with true creative vision. Most likely it will come from someone on the outside.

The mobile ad space is just as new of a territory to be discovered as the silicon chip was to the vacuum tube in my view. And no vacuum tube manufacturer made the switch successfully (or admitted its validity.) So forget eyeballs as the holy grail metric. Concentrate more on how to entice those viewers into opening their wallets. The person or company that gets that realization at its core will not only break new ground, they’ll own it!

And just for the record those thinking, “Yeah but what have you done in mobile?” Well I was one of the lone voices to say the iPad® would not only be a success but revolutionary when everyone from print to television was pontificating how smart they were by stating how dumb the iPad name alone was. I was also one of the first to have a personal dedicated app for my writings before anyone else. And just for good measure as of this writing over 2/3rd’s of all the apps available have never even been downloaded. Mine still routinely does, and is still available at iTunes®. That puts me in the top-tier of all apps to date. It’s all in my archives, and the creation date of my app in iTunes proves my assertions. Just for the record.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

The Problem With Human Resources Today: No Humans

If there is one subject that just gets in my craw when I get into discussions with someone it’s this one. The arguments normally coalesce around one theme: The bureaucracy, and the defense of that bureaucracy – for the bureaucracy’s sake.

The term human resources always bothered me. What was wrong with the term “Personnel?” Was that not a better descriptor than the now accepted “HR” acronym? Does HR actually deploy resources to departments as it sees fit? Or does it merely get assigned the task of “filtering” what another department head desires?

In a world of extraordinary competition for talent (and yes I regard employee’s as talent) one would think the first job of some department labeled HR would be to seek the best of the best – as best it could. However that seems far from anything that resembles HR today.

Case in point: Just who in their right mind would put as a prerequisite for a position in sales the requirement of a degree to apply? Furthermore, knowing all the while that any applicant submitting a resume will inevitably have their resume put through some computer scanner that will kick it into the circular trash file before it is even had a chance to be seen by a human. What might be just as idiotic is the management that knowingly allows it to take place.

Whenever I talk to someone in charge of a company of any size I ask this question to put front and center just how much they’re not paying attention to details. Regardless of how much they like to tell me they are. It goes something like this…

“If you had the opportunity to hire a salesperson with a track record of stellar performance across multiple industries, with a track record of opening new markets that were before unrealized which later became those industries most profitable along with much more; would you like to at least interview them?”

The answer 10 out of 10 times comes back; “Of course! I would be nuts not too.”

That’s when I follow-up with; “Well you know who I am and my record, and that’s just touching the surface of my career as you know. However you would never have the chance to interview me or someone like me based on your process for applicants to apply to your company. I don’t have a degree, and many like myself don’t either. Yet you’ll put out in your Help Wanted pitch (or your HR will) some variant form or declaration of “If No degree – You Need Not apply.”

Sales is the (and I mean THE!) most important department in any company. Without sales, you don’t have a company. Period. So why in the world would anyone shut the door by means of an algorithm access to that talent?

If the process now is for humans whether HR or the management they report to allows the process of selecting human capital (or talent) by way of machines and algorithms. Then why is there a need for a department of “Human Resources” in the first place? Could not that department itself be replaced with the machines they employ?

If HR wants to live up to its title. It had better start actively pursuing real talent by means of interviewing and looking over resumes that fit the need of the company themselves rather that subjecting them to fit into an algorithm. Far too many these days in HR think it’s beneath them to subject themselves to this. (the horror!) Which only exacerbates the problem of acquiring talent.

If HR is allowed to continue the practice of computers picking the talent – why does one need a dedicated department for HR at all? Because if history is a guide. No significant mover in the coveted Fortune 500® ever promoted the head of the HR department to CEO.

I wonder if management uses an algorithm for that choice. Just Saying.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

The Problem With Kids Today: They’re 26!

Every generation as they grow older looks at the ones coming up with a jaundiced eye. They look and say “In my day we walked to school – barefoot – in snow – uphill – both ways!” However there seems to be something quite different today. Everybody’s still in school.

Although many will pile on that kids are different today because of this or that, I’ll contend there is one over arching reason for the problems that plague most of them: Most never had the ability to learn or start adulthood early as many like myself did.

We started becoming self-sufficient at about age 13. For those trying to put the age to a year. I was born in the early 1960’s. So that’s my time frame for this discussion.

When I was a kid we had very little. My father left and child support was something akin to unicorns. I had relatives that helped when possible, but basically money was tight.  So if I wanted something I had to work for it. The difference between then and today is this – I could. By the age of 12 or 13 a kid could find work one way or another. Today that world is as ancient or as mythical as Aesop’s fables.

People of my ilk worked a myriad of jobs growing up. One example not just in my town but nearly everywhere were local grocery stores of one size or another. You would go in and ask the owner if he had anything you could do. This usually came back with a yes. Then you would find yourself doing the most disgusting, gruesome cleaning of some corner or backroom that the owner just never had the time (or guts) to clean themselves. So if you wanted to make money, there you’d go.

But we did it. Why? Because you needed to earn or you went without. There was no alternative. Did they take advantage of us? Well – yes, and no. Some paid better than others. Some you never went back to, and some you could end up working there steady part or full-time. However if you wanted clothes, arcade money, bicycles, or (heaven help you) a car. You did what ever was available. Period.

Those opportunities no longer exist. Today an owner can’t take the chance of hiring a kid for fear of being called before a committee on child labor laws. And God forbid that kid ever received so much as a paper cut. The parents would have a midtown lawyer suing you faster than one can bag groceries. (I believe you have to be 18 today to do that also)

Another way to earn was you could always get a route delivering newspapers. We all had one at one time or another. Some had more than one, and you could earn substantial money for a kid if you were good. All you needed was your feet and back. No barrier with age. If you could do the route, it was yours whether 12, 13, and so on.

Another great difference is this. When we were 16 or 17 most of us wanted nothing more than to be out of school and working so we could run our own lives. Every single person I knew wanted to get a job and move out on their own. Personally I was out of my mother’s home at 17. I was not an outlier. So were most of the people I grew up with.

The effect of starting so early for us was that by the age of 26 we were far away from anything that could ever be called a kid. Today’s generation looks upon their 20’s as a reason to still live at home, stay on mom & dad’s insurance, and continue going to school. The antitheses of everything we were just a short time ago.

Just for context. When I was 16 (and skipping school) I Finagled a job at the local bar to clean. By 17 I was a bartender. (Drinking age was 18 then) At 19 I was the manager, and had an apartment on top of the club. At 23 I made upper management in the meat business, and by 25 conducted my first leveraged buyout and became a CEO. (that’s just a thumbnail sketch)

Today far too many “kids” are living in their parent’s basement or attic. Today those areas are finished with game rooms, bathrooms, separate entrances or more. For us, there wasn’t any of that.

If your parents owned a home in the first place the attic or basement was for storage only. It was used that way because it was either smelly, mildewed, nasty, or all that combined. No place you were going to spend a night let alone live. Yet, a broken down drafty studio apartment of you own with barely any furniture was like paradise because – it was yours!

The take away from all this was our exposure to a work ethic, and we gained early insight into life’s truths that if you wanted something; you had to go out and get it yourself.

However there’s also another side of all this that doesn’t get talked about: The knowing or learning just how hard some jobs were, and how difficult it was for the people who filled them. Many of us that worked in places whether they’d be factories or something else saw just what a real “hard days” work meant.

I remember when I was working in the mills pushing an 1100 pound rolling lunch wagon through the floors of the local textile mills. Right where people were working at their stations making shoes, clothes. leather, and more. You saw up close and personal what the term “work” meant. You also instinctively knew if you didn’t want that for yourself – you had better start getting on the ball with your own life because if you didn’t – life was going to be getting on with you.

That kind of stark reality is not available to today’s youth. I mean truly, what is considered a tough job for today’s “kids?” Flipping burgers? Working at the mall? That would be seen as gravy work compared to some 14-year-old kid cleaning out grease traps in a local grocery store. However you can’t flip a burger till you’re about 18 today because of insurance fears. Which again is the main part of the problem.

The biggest challenge to “kids” today in my opinion is this:

As they continue considering what they want to do with their lives, the adults that are ahead of them with decades of learned experience look and feel healthier than the “kids” that are now half their age.

And coming up behind are the other 26 year old “kids” that skipped the whole school thing and now have nearly a decades worth of real work and life experience while they may have also simultaneously taken night courses.

So whom do you think will be more valuable in today’s turbulent workforce? The ones that went to work 10 years ago now toting a near decades worth of work experience? The healthier adults of this day and age with decades of real experience? Or a “kid” just out of school with some degree at 26 living at home with their parents?

Think about it. Because life doesn’t think – it does.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr