E-mail Marketing Monday, Jun 26 2006 

According to some experts, less can sometimes mean more. Especially when it comes to e-mail marketing. In a BusinessWeek interview with Karen Klein, Chris Baggot and Morgan Stewart of ExactTarget, an e-mail marketing company, aruged that smaller e-mail lists can be more beneficial to companies. By breaking their lists into segments based on their customers’ interests, companies can ensure that their clients are receiving e-mails that are relevant to their situation.

Baggot and Stewart explained that companies can conduct research to determine what segments their clientele fit into. They can do this by monitoring their clients’ purchasing habits or by conducting surveys asking customers about their interests/concerns. By targeting e-mails to specific audiences, the company can ensure that those individuals who may be interested in a particular event/product will receive their message. This can mean more business for the company.

Individuals are more likely to pay attention to e-mails they believe are tailored to their specific interests. Baggott gives the example of one company that he rarely receives e-mail solicitations from but he knows we he gets one, it’s relevant to him so he pays closer attention. My own personal experience with e-mail marketing proves this point. There are several companies that are always sending me e-mail messages. Some companies send more than three e-mails per week. I stopped reading the messages after awhile because they do not tailor to any of my interests or concerns. Now they go straight to the trash can. I am sure I have missed some messages that I may have found useful but since the companies haven’t taken the time to figure out which segment I fit into, there’s no need for me to waste my time going through each message. Therefore, I am in agreement that companies should target certain audiences in their e-mail marketing campaigns. Especially since they are usually competing with messages from other companies, friends, family and colleagues. They have to find a way to stand out and get the reader’s attention.

Smart Mobs Sunday, Jun 25 2006 

Rheingold coined the term smart mobs to describe a group of intelligent individuals who are using technology to build their social networks. Technology is evolving in a way that is allowing these individuals to build such networks. Reingold first experienced this new phenomenon in Shibuya, Tokyo. He noticed that teenagers were heavily immersed in a practice called texting, using their "keitai (mobile telephone)" to send short messages to other keitai users. He was so intrigued by this practice that he decided to further study this phenomenon.

Texting is a popular practice among teens in Tokyo. Some clothing provide special pockets specifically for keitai. Teens who text have been given the nickname "thumb tribes" because texting requires use of the thumb to punch characters into their keitai and these teens have mastered the strategy. Some are able to punch characters without looking at their keitai. One of Rheingold's interviewees claimed that she sends over 80 text messages per day.

Why is texting so popular in Japan? Mizuko Ito, an anthropologist who has studied Tokyo's youth use of keitai, argued that mobile phones gave youth a privacy that is hard to achieve while living at home with parents and other relatives. Unlike the home phone, it is harder for parents to monitor their "children's relationships." These children can have relationships with individuals and their parents may never know. Texting is popularly used to set up social gatherings and to share other information with peers who share a common interest. Rheingold argued that "texting made it possible for young people to conduct conversations that can't be overheard."

Although texting is popular in Japan, it actually emerged in Finland in 1995. According to Rheingold, "by 2000, Finns were exchanging more than a billion text messages annually." Therefore, this phenomenon is also popular in other parts of the world.

Why isn't texting as popular among Americans? Rheingold argued that one reason is that carriers do not allow the sending of text messages to people who do not subscribe to the same carrier. This is no longer the case, however. One of the more important reasons he mentions is the cost to send messages is higher in the United States. He also argued that Americans tend to have more privacy because of the larger amounts of space they may have in their home. Japenese youth, on the other hand, usually do not have as much space. However, texting does seems to be popular among hip-hop fans who use two-way pagers and young professionals who "favor the Blackberry wireless pagers."

Overall, Rheingold's assessment of smart mobs and the evolution of technology is insightful. Chapter one was particularly interesting because it discussed the trends in different parts of the world (Japan, Finland and the United States). Chapter two started strong with the explanation of the sociology aspect of technology. The explanation of common pool resources (CPRs) and how individuals work together to ensure these resources are not abused by "free loaders" was interesting. By the end of the chapter, however, I found myself wondering, "what is he talking about and how does this relate to technology?"

Some of Rheingold's arguments are consistent with those made by Dan Gillmor in We the Media, and John Battelle in The Search. All three authors argued that technology is changing the way we communicate and conduct business. Gillmor and Battelle specfically argued that more consumers are turning to the internet for news and other entertainment. Rheingold argued, "tomorrow's fortunes will be made by the businesses that find a way to profit from these changes, and yesterday's fortunes are already being lost by businesses that don't understand them." In this statement, Rheingold was referring to the evolution of technology.

Rheingold and Battelle also gave similar examples of where they believe technology is heading. Rheingold argued that technology will make it possible to "point at a book in a store and see what the Times and your neighborhood reading group have to say about it." Battelle predicted that an individual will be able to go to a store such as Whole Foods and compare their price of a bottle of wine to their nearest competitor by using a smartphone to scan the barcode.

It was particularly interesting to see how instant messaging (IM) is as popular among Americans as text messaging is with the Japanese. I believe that this phenonmenon can be attributed to the fact that it is less expensive to use than text messaging. With the price of PCs going down, more Americans are able to afford having computers at home and are likely to have internet service. Downloading an IM service is free and it doesn't cost to send messages to other individuals with a compatible IM service. With text messaging, on the otherhand, the individual usually has to pay for each message.

Carriers are beginning to offer plans that include a certain amount of text messages for a certain rate. For example, Sprint offers unlimited text messaging for $15 a month. This may not seem like much, but this is a cost on top of whatever the individual is paying for their minutes to talk. Therefore, even with text messaging packages, instant messaging is still cheaper. It will be interesting to see if text messaging will increase in popularity as the price for mobile devices are going down and more companies are offering packages for text messaging. I sent over 600 text messages this month. In January, I sent less than 20. This can be attributed to the fact that I just purchased a smartphone that makes texting easier and also purchased an unlimited plan. Of my friends who text frequently, most of them also use smart devices. I think that this is a phenomenon that is catching on with younger Americans.

Protecting Consumer Privacy in an E-Commerce World Tuesday, Jun 20 2006 

Google announced today that they are joining the Consumer Privacy Legislation Forum.  This group, consisting of other companies such as eBay, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems is "calling for federal consumer protection legislation."  The Forum believes that there should be a uniformed consumer privacy legislation that will protect consumers from improper use of their personal information.  The are arguing that a uniformed law would make it easier to handle cases of abuse regardless of the state in which the crime occurred.

With the rise in concern about identity theft, it is important for companies to focus more on safeguarding individuals' personal information.  Many people are still afraid to conduct business online because of the fear that their information will fall into the wrong hands.

 In April 2001, The Federal Trade Commission, as well as other federal agencies with consumer protection jurisdiction, joined 12 other countries to form econsumer.gov.  Their mission is to:

Enhance consumer protection and consumer confidence in e-commerce.  Using the existing Consumer Sentinel database (a database of consumer complaint data and other investigative information operated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission), the incoming complaints will be shared through the government Web site with participating consumer protection law enforcers.

Although the countries do not pursue individual complaints, if a number of people complain about a particular issue/company, law enforcement agencies can spot this trend and choose to take action.

Has the RIAA Gone Overboard? Tuesday, Jun 20 2006 

According to a Project Opus report, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) plans to challenge YouTube for the use of videos in which amateur dancers are shown "hamming it up to popular songs." The RIAA is arguing that since these videos do not seek clearance, they are in violation of copyright laws. Needless to say, this has the blogging community talking.

In a blog post on Searchblog, John Battelle argued

Good f'ing lord, RIAA. Wake up. This is how we use music in the real world. Get over yourselves.

There are valid arguments that can be made on both sides of this issue. Of course it seems innocent, these are just amateur videos of kids having fun. Why pick on them? Let them enjoy themselves.

On the otherhand, it is copyrighted material being used without the permission of the copy right holder. Shouldn't the RIAA have the right to protect its property? If individuals or companies are profitting off the use of someone else's material, doesn't the owner have the right to be compensated? Tricky, Tricky!!!

The Search Monday, Jun 19 2006 

In The Search , John Battelle discussed the rise of Google as the world's most popular Internet search engine. Battelle starts by asking the question, "why is search important?" In it's early stages, the Internet was a universe of unconnected documents used by individuals in the academic and technology fields to store documents and other useful information. An individual had to know "the exact machine address and file name" to retrieve this information. This was before the invention of "Archie," the first search engine. Archie was not very user-friendly and was therefore used only by those in the academic and technology fields.

Although Google was not the first search engine, it developed a business model that made consumers view it as the most reliable, trustworthy and user-friendly search engine. Larry Page and Sergey Brin came up with the concept of Google when they were graduate students at Stanford University. Page was intrigued by the web's link structure. He discovered that there was no way for sites to determine their backlinks ("what pages were linking back to them"). He thought it would be beneficial to be able to track what sites were linking to each other and why.

Battelle compares this concept to the practice of citation and the importance of peer review in published academic papers. A published paper is deemed credible not only by the informaiton it provides but also by "the number of papers they cite, the number of papers that subsequently cite them back, and the perceived importance of each citation." The way Google's search engine operates is based on this concept of "rank and authority." The more sites that link to your site the higher your rank in Google. This is because the index reads the site as an authority in that particular area and it is therefore deemed relevant to the search query.

Page and Brin went from scrapping to find enough hardware to support their system, which was growing larger each day, to becoming the world's most reliable search engines. Battelle gives an insightful view of how the two founders learned from the mistakes made by their predecessors, such as AltaVista.com and Excite. This is more than just a profile of Google. Battelle explains the evolution of Internet search and how Google helped transform the industry. He explained how webmasters were not pleased with "the audacity of a rank system," but they eventually realized that ranking high on a search query in Google should be their priority.

Battelle takes an unbiased approach in explaining the evolution of Google. Although it is apparent that he views Google as a valuable resource, he cites arguments from both sides of the spectrum. He quotes individuals who believe Google is the best thing since sliced bread, and those who believe that it's only a matter of time before the arrogant company alienates even its loyal costumers. This unbiased approach allows the reader to reach his or her own conclusions about the company and its value to the market.

Similar to Dan Gillmor in We the Media, Battelle argued that more people are turning to the Internet for news. Both authors argued that offering more information online and deep linking ("allowing others to link to their sites and linking to other sites") is crucial to media's survivial in the Internet age. Battelle further argued that "many people will pay to subscribe to a site that is continually being pointed to by sources they respect – be they friends sending links via e-mail, blogs, or other news sites." Those outlets that can offer such a service to its subscribers will continue to thrive.

Google Having Second Thoughts??? Tuesday, Jun 13 2006 

According to a blog post by Rebecca MacKinnon, Google’s Sergey Brin may be having second thoughts about their decision to launch a censored version of Google.com, Google.cn.  He argued that he is not sure it was the right thing to do.  According to a International Herald Tribune article, Brin told reporters:

We felt perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference.  Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense.

This seems logical…right?  Couldn’t the government tell Google, “it’s our way or the highway?”  Then Chinese consumers will suffer from the loss of a valuable resource.  I don’t understand why all the pressure is being placed on Google when competitors such as Yahoo are also adhering to censorship rules.  I can understand why citizens are frustrated but it seems that their anger is a little misdirected.  Google should not be the only company taking a stand against censorship.  It will take a united front to win this battle. 

Google could, however, set an example and allow the pressure to shift to their rivals who will then be forced to take a stand.  It seems obvious that as long as these search engines agree to censorship, the situation will not improve for Chinese consumers.  In the current situation the government has nothing to lose.  So why should they concede?

Social Networking May Be Used Against You… Monday, Jun 12 2006 

MySpace users beware! According to a NY Times Article, famous social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are being used by recruiters as a background checking tool. What a genius idea?!! Although some may argue that this information should not be used against applicants, I say "why not?" A recruiter has the right to know if an applicant is capable of making responsible decisions. Posting your picture on a website and proclaiming to the world "I AM A POT SMOKING SLUT," does not scream responsibility. I do not blame recruiters for wanting to know if this is an individual they want representing their company/university.

I am not against these social networking sites, however users should be more cautious about the information they share. It's a shame that most of these kids are probably doing this in an attempt to look cool among their peers. We have all probably been there before. I know I have…I was smart enough not to post it on a website…until now 🙂

Being turned down for a job or denied admission to a university is a hard way to learn the lesson of oversharing, but it is obviously a lesson that some teenagers need to learn. As Scott Karp said:

Young people may be naive but they are not stupid. The generation just hitting puberty will watch the class ahead of them get screwed out of college admissions and job offers as a result of too much online social networking. And they won’t make the same mistake.

We the Media… Friday, Jun 9 2006 

In “We the Media,” Dan Gillmor discussed how the Internet and the growth of modern technology have helped change the face of journalism.  He argued that the new phenomenon called weblogging has given citizens a voice beyond just writing letters to the editor.  He defined a weblog as “an online journal comprised of links and postings in reverse chronological order, with the most recent posting appearing at the top of the page.”  He argued that weblogs (popularly know as “blogs”), “were the first tool that made it easy – or at least easier – to publish to the web.”  So instead of writing a letter to the editor and hoping their voices will be heard, citizens can now post their thoughts on topics of interest to their own blog.

Senator Trent Lott was one of the first to discover the affect this new phenomenon would have on journalism and the community as a whole.  When Lott made his infamous comment during Storm Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration, it did not create much buzz amoung the mass media.  It was those individuals in the blogging community who brought this issue to the media’s attention, which eventually led to Lott’s resignation from his position as Senate Majority Leader.

Public officials are not the only ones to see the impact of this new medium.  According to Gillmor, Joe Nacchio former CEO of Qwest Communications also had an unfortunate experience with blogging.  Nacchio in a speech at a PC Forum in Phoenix, he complained about “difficulties in raising capital” for his company.  Gillmor was in the audience taking notes and publishing this information on his blog when he received an e-mail from a lawyer in Florida, Buzz Bruggeman.  Bruggeman had been following Gillmor’s blog and ran across information that Nacchio had cashed in “more than $200 million in stock while his company was going downhill.”  Gillmor posted this information to his blog and the mood of the audience at the forum suddenly changed to pure hostility toward the CEO.  Nacchio later resigned.

These two examples show that blogging has important implications to those in the public eye.  Big businesses are learning that this is a new medium they should follow.  Really Simple Syndication (RSS) has made it easier for blog readers to follow their topics of interest.  By setting up a RSS feed, individuals can “have their computers and other smart devices retrieve information they care about.”  More businesses are therefore making information available for RSS.  This information includes press releases and information regarding their products.

Gillmor gives good examples of how the internet and its growth in use is changing journalism.  This book is a valuable resource for every journalist, business professional and citizen who is striving for success in their field.  There’s a popular saying, “two minds are better than one.” Gillmor makes the argument that if journalists and business executives open their minds, they will see that everyday citizens can offer valuable information.  I agree with his argument that those who do not follow the new online medium will be left in the dark…much to their chagrin. 

Welcome to My Blog!! Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

Tonight I am learning how to post information to my blog.  I am a beginner so please be patient!!

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