Thursday, August 30, 2007

Glacier Surfing Alaska

Picture the scene - cold Alaskan days, debris floating all around, (keep in mind that everything in Alaska is over sized), melting glaciers, deceiving calm water, sudden avalanches of ice and rock falling into the seemingly calm water, mini tidal waves and ..........................surfers? Love it! This is breaking new ground.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Can You Hear Africa?


"Art Over Lunch" is the subtitle for a frequent installment that you will see on my blog. This section of my blog will feature artists that move me in some significant way. I thought long and hard about which artist I would open with and decided that Peter Beard would show first.

This is one of so many amazing works from Peter Beard, titled "Elui With Tusk". Having spent several months in Africa including Botswana, Peter's version of the red continent helps me make sense of what my experience was there and how if effects me still.

Aside from the beautiful yet tragic photographic image shown front and center, pay attention to the detail surrounding the photo. Follow this link to see an enlarged version of the work. Once here go ahead and rotate your head so you can follow the graphical storyline that unfolds around the photo. Here you will see typical overtones of sexual energy, violence, beauty and chaos - all elements that reign in Africa today. Peter's works move me because he captures the constant push and pull that Africa, its people and its wildlife struggle with everyday. Peter's chronology is filled with glamour, fame, models, dignitaries etc. but I what I value most is the voice he brings to Africa and the help he has offered me - and no doubt countless others -in trying to understand the forces on the red continent.

help needed in a book store

While traveling recently I was of course delayed in the airport. (See worse airline summer since 2000 - courtesy NEWSDAY). I wandered into the book store as did thousands of others that day. When I walked in to the book store inside the terminal, the choices were daunting to say the least. At that same moment I heard 2 ladies speaking to each other – they were *saying* the same thing I was* thinking.* They were saying things like “I wonder if this book is good?”, “Do you think I would like this one?” Besides a few metrics like the NYT Best Seller List, Oprah's Book Club List or seasonal selections made by staff there was really no way for these ladies to put the myriad of titles in any general or personal context while in the store. The only real systematic help comes from the store’s section labels that tell you what section you’re looking at. Hearing these ladies trying to make sense out of the thousand of choices staring back at them made me think of our mission here at Outbrain.

For the sake of comparison if you think of online articles like the books in the bookstore, we are working feverishly to help you sort through the myriad of online choices presented to you daily to find and float the good stuff that you will like. Going back to the ladies in the book store, just picture how different their experience would have been if there was a widely used rating system on books. Think what their experience would be if the books carried personal ratings that helped them find books that matched their personal preferences. This has been deployed online and with good success at sites like but that still strands millions of book buyers who are in the aisles every day. I know that this game of hunting for a good book is part of the brick and mortar experience, but as the younger generations keep coming up, my feeling is that burning time hunting for a good book will not be as acceptable.

Although I couldn’t help the ladies in the bookstore or myself for that matter, I do take great pride in knowing that I am helping to build out the plumbing for an online rating system that shows what the crowd thinks of an article - before your read it - and even better - how you may like it from a personal perspective. I guess the bottom line here is that you may still have to spend more time in the aisles looking for a good book, but hopefully we can save you some time online by finding the good stuff for you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

we need “Initial Brand Experience Directors”

What kind of title is this – many will ask. Is this a joke? Actually it’s hardly a joke, and actually a real need. Think about how many times you opened the box of a new product or downloaded a new program, or signed up for a new service and you had problems. This is the worst experience as a consumer and one that makes us the angriest right? Just looking at my world, this has happened to me twice in the last several days with a highly reputable software product and a leading laptop manufacturer. In reality problems are rampant with consumers when they interact with the things they buy for the first time. Most companies do not pay much attention to what happens at the point of initial experience. Yet everyone knows how important first impressions are. People do not go on dates or meet people for the first time and not pay close attention to the first interactions. People learn very fast when they make others feel uncomfortable, disappointed or unhappy on a first impression.

So why don’t companies feel the same? I think they should. If they were paying attention to the initial brand experience – or first impression – then they would start to take notice of how people are reacting to their brand from the very start. What’s worse is that if you ignore the initial reaction, then you are not able to monitor or measure a very powerful metric – the voice of a disgruntled consumer upon a negative or disappointing initial brand experience. We have all been there – the initial excitement of a new purchase is instantly replaced by anger and disappointment when something goes wrong or you feel confused. What do you do next – like most people you tell anyone who will listen. Does this hurt a company’s brand? Absolutely. No company intentionally wants their new customers to feel disappointed but few try to minimize it at the initial point of impact.

This type of negative work of mouth damage can be controlled and actually turned around. The first step is to recognize that the initial brand experience of your customers is worthy of monitoring and critical to overall net long term health of your brand. How do you go about it – appoint an “Initial Brand Experience Director.” My prediction is that within the first few months, the right person can correct many of the obvious causes that make first time buyers upset. I know such a person can help the two companies that I had issues with by simply asking a few basic questions. We all know that companies want happy buyers – but to complete the value equation we consumers want to stay happy once we interact for the first time with what we bought. Maybe a new social network can spur this movement with suggestions on how companies can improve their first impression.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Helping to float the good stuff...

This is the official first post for my blog titled "An Upwelling." I am proud to be contributing to the blogosphere and look forward to future interactions with you. As for the name, I have always been amazed at how the ocean currents mix to essentially bring the good stuff upwards to the surface. Like ocean upwelling, I plan to do the same here on my blog by floating up some good stuff of my own.

You can expect to see thoughts on the internet, specifically in areas that concern discovery and personalization. In between the digital musings will be postings on art and artists that catch my eye as well as many water related items. Fishing, surfing, ocean conservation and awareness, boating, kayaking and more will all make appearances.

Here's to the first of many that will surface.......