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When Big Data becomes Bad Data

The subject line in today’s email from United Airlines was friendly. “Alan, it’s been a while since your last trip from Austin.”

Friendly, yes. Effective? Not at all close.

Alan, you see, lives in northern California, not in central Texas. Alan rarely goes to Austin. Alan has never originated a round trip from Austin.

My most recent trip to Austin was from SFO to AUS on Feb. 13, 2011, returning on Feb. 15, 2011. The trip before that? In 2007.

Technically United is correct. It indeed has been a while since my last trip from Austin. Who cares? Why in the world would United News & Deals — the “from” name on that marketing email— think that I would be looking for discounted round-trip flights from Austin?

It is Big Data gone bad.

We see example of this all the time. A friend loves to post snarky screen shots of totally off-base Facebook ads, like the one that offered him ways to “meet big and beautiful women now,” or non-stop ads for luxury vehicles. For some reason, Lexus finds his demographic irresistible. However: My friend and his wife live in Manhattan. They don’t own or want a car.

Behavioral ad targeting relies upon Big Data techniques. Clearly, those techniques are not always effective, as the dating, car-sales and air travel messages demonstrate. There is both art and science to Big Data – gathering the vast quantities of data, processing it quickly and intelligently, and of course, using the information effectively to drive a business purpose like behavioral marketing.

Sometimes it works. Oops, sometimes it doesn’t. Being accurate isn’t the same as being useful.

Where to learn that art and science? Let me suggest Big Data TechCon. Three days, dozens of practical how-to classes that will teach you and your team how to get Big Data right. No, it’s not in Austin— it’s near Boston, from April 8-10, 2013. Hope to see you there— especially if you work for United Airlines or Lexus.

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Hurricane Sandy can’t stop the tech from Microsoft and Google

windows-phone-8It take a lot to push the U.S. elections off the television screen, but Hurricane Sandy managed the trick. We would like to express our sympathies to those affected by the storm – too many lives were lost, homes and property destroyed, businesses closed.

Microsoft and Google had scheduled tech events for the week of Oct. 29. Build took place as scheduled on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash. Google cancelled its New York City launch event and offered its products rollouts via blog.

The big Microsoft news was the release of Windows Phone 8, with handsets from HTC, Nokia and Samsung set to go on sale starting in November. This follows, of course, the rollout of Windows 8 and the Surface with Windows RT ARM-based notebook/tablet device on Oct. 26.

Everyone that I know who has talked to who has used a prerelease Windows Phone 8 has been impressed. (I have a Windows Phone 7.5 device and find the Live Tile apps to be quite usable and exciting. I look forward to installing Windows Phone 7.8 on that device.) Through a strong program of incentives for app developers, there are many flagship apps for the phone already.

There are three compelling messages Windows Phone developers:

  • You can use Visual Studio and familiar tools to build apps for Windows Phone 8.
  • Windows Phone 8 is almost identical to Windows 8, so there’s minimal learning curve.
  • Windows Phone 8 is a reboot of the platform, which means you’ll face few competitors in the app store, called Windows Phone Store.

Of course, the downside is:

  • The installed base of Windows Phone 8 is nonexistent, compared to gazillions of iOS, Android and even BlackBerry OS.

If I were an entrepreneurial mobile app developer, I’d give Windows Phone 8 a try.

Google’s news was much more incremental: More hardware and a minor rev of Android.

The new hardware, announced in the Google Official Blog, is a new phone called the Nexus 4 and a 10-inch tablet called the Nexus 10. The big tablet has 2560×1600 display – that’s the same resolution as many 27-inch desktop monitors, and I’d love to see one.

Google’s seven-inch tablet announced during the summer, the Nexus 7, came only with 16GB of RAM and WiFi. Now you can get it with 32GB RAM or GSM-based cellular connections using the HSPA+ mobile standard. These are good hardware upgrades, but aren’t “stop the presses” material in the weeks surrounding the launch of Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8, Surface and Apple’s iPad Mini. Heck, the tablet doesn’t even have 4G.

The operating system update is Android 4.2, which is still called Jelly Bean. There are plenty of consumer features, such as a spherical panoramic camera mode, and a smarter predictive keyboard. The ability to support many users is a good feature, and one frankly that is long overdue for these expensive tablets.

Expect to see more about Android 4.2 at AnDevCon IV, coming up Dec. 4-7, 2012. Maybe someone will bring one of those 10-inch tablets so we can see the screen.

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Fight back against the ugly ‘brogrammer’ trend

I don’t like the trend toward ‘brogrammers’ – that is, a very chauvinistic, juvenile attitude that seems to be creating a male-centric, female-exclusionary culture in software development departments – and across IT. It’s time to put an end to the put-downs, pin-ups, constant sports in-jokes and warfare metaphors, management by belittlement, and insulting locker-room attitude.

When I was a student studying math and computer science, nearly all of my fellow students, and nearly all of the faculty, were male. Although my idol was Admiral Grace Hopper, there were few Grace Hoppers in our profession to serve as role models for young women — or men.

Change came slowly. In the 1980s, nearly all writers of technical articles in computer magazines were male. Nearly all readers were mail. Nearly all attendees of technology conferences were male; the females at the show were almost exclusively marketers or booth babes.

Much has changed in the past few decades. For example, while the demographic research shows that most SD Times readers are male, the percentage of female readers is rising. The same is true of the technical conferences that our company produces. While female faces are still a minority, that is becoming less true every year, thanks in part to organizations like the Anita Borg Foundation.

That’s a good thing. A very good thing. Our fast-growing, demanding profession needs all the brainpower we can get. Women, we need you. Having female programmers on your team doesn’t mean that you need to buy pink mice and purple IDEs. It means that you have more top-notch architects, coders and testers, and you will create better software faster.

That’s why the so-called brogrammer trend is so infuriating. Why don’t managers and executives understand?

A few days ago, a female techie friend wrote to me in anger about a new website called Hot Tech Today which features short technology stories allegedly written by attractive young women posing in bikinis.

Disgusting.

We are better than this. We must be better than this.

Let’s put our resources into changing the brogrammer culture. Let’s make our profession not only safe for females, but also inviting and friendly. That means ditching the inappropriate language, curbing the stupid jokes, stopping the subtle put-downs of the women in your organization, and having a zero-tolerance rule to anyone who creates a hostile work environment for anyone, regardless of gender, race, national origin or anything.

Brogrammers. Just say no.

For more on this nasty trend, see:

The Rise of the Brogrammer, by SD Times’ Victoria Reitano

Oh Hai Sexism, by Charles Arthur

In tech, some bemoan the rise of the ‘brogrammer’ culture, by Doug Gross

In war for talent, ‘brogrammers’ will be losers, by Gina Trapani

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Fast cars! Fast phones! And a new developer conference!

Toys, toys, toys. I love to read about new toys, especially sleek sports cars and nifty computerized gadgets. This week has been a bonanza – from two different directions.
You might think my focus would be on the big annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Actually, I’ve been more keenly following the happenings at the North American International Auto Show, which kicked off January 9.
Dozens of exciting cars and concept vehicles were introduced at the NAIAS, which is also known as the Detroit Auto Show. They include a smokin’ hot Acura NSX super car (pictured), the futuristic Lexus LF-LC, a new Mini Roadster, the four-door Porsche Panamera Turbo R, the fast-looking Mercedes SL550, the BMW i8 electric car… the list goes on and on.
A big part of the news from Detroit overlapped what was also talked about at the Consumer Electronics Show. Sure, CES features lot of “ultrabook” lightweight notebook computers, incredibly thin televisions, high-definition digital cameras, three-dimensional printers, even electric razors. But automotive computers were very much front and center.
There’s a lot more to computerized cars than iPod jacks or even streaming Pandora on a 28-speaker Bose sound system. Companies like BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz are integrating phone applications with vehicles’ onboard computers. The smartphone sends the car email and text messages. The car sends back real-time diagnostics. I’m told you can even make phone calls!
Soon, you will update your car’s firmware as often as you update your smartphone’s apps.
To change the subject only slightly: Let’s talk about developing smartphone software. You know that BZ Media – the company behind SD Times and News on Monday – produces developer conferences for Android and iPhone/iPad developers. We are proud to announce support for another platform at WPDevCon: The Windows Phone Developer Conference.
WPDevCon is coming to the San Francisco Bay Area from Oct. 22-24, 2012. We are currently assembling a full slate of workshops and technical classes, and the program will be ready in early March. However, we invite you to check out the website, www.wpdevcon.net, and of course, mark your calendar if you or your colleagues are interested in attending.
Want to propose a class? See the Call for Speakers and then drop me a line. Interested in exhibiting? Contact my colleague email hidden; JavaScript is required.
Which is more interesting to you, the latest cars at the Detroit Auto Show or the snazzy gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show?
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Rent-a-model for Interop?

In case you’re wondering where booth bunnies come from, here’s an e-mail I received from “Barbie” at The Élan Agency.

It came because we’re exhibiting at the Interop (not “Interopt”) conference at the end of April in Las Vegas. Have fun checking out their model search engine: They have men, women and children, all available for your trade-show extravaganza!

Greetings:

The Élan Agency is a top of the line model and talent agency in Las Vegas and – first – want to welcome you to our city, in advance. We would also like to offer the agency’s services to your company while here in Las Vegas. We have some of the most beautiful and professional narrators and models for your trade show needs. We have spokespersons, demonstrators; we even have entertainers and guest speakers for the entire company’s enlightenment, as well as a complete event planning department. We can schedule shows, meals, even your airline tickets.

Please let us know if there is any way we can assist you at Interopt Las Vegas 2008, and have some fun while you’re here.

Thank you,

Barbie

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Should you talk to men and women differently?

I received this pitch today from Event Management Services, a self-described “publicity firm.” Frankly, it’s too amusing not to share with everyone. This is a verbatim cut-and-paste, with phone number and e-mail addresses removed.

Note that the the e-mail pitch itself was a rich HTML file with lots of colors, bolding, italicizing, centered text, larger text, underlining etc., which I don’t feel like replicating completely.

This is clearly a company that buys mailing lists — they sent it to many addresses at our company, including our info@ and letter@ addresses. The subject line was, “Should You Talk to Women Differently About Your Product?” What do you think about this pitch? -A

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Should You Talk to Men and Women Differently About Your Product?

You probably chat with both men and women just about every day, right? But are they hearing you in exactly the same way?

And when it comes to the selling of your products or services, would it pay to speak to them… well… differently?

That’s what marketing experts, like author Martha Barletta, believe. Owing to the way we’re made up, the way we’re raised, men and women can process information very differently. For example…

“Consistent with men’s inclination to simplify and strip away extraneous detail, they believe in starting with the main point and supplying specific detail only if the listener asks for it,” Barletta observed in her bestseller, Marketing to Women.” Conversely…“To women, the details are the good part: what he said, why she answered as she did, and what was the significance of that event. Women want the full story.”

There’s probably more truth in Barletta’s observations than we care to admit. And if your product specifically targets men or women—and you’re out there doing TV or talk radio interviews—it’s a good idea to pay attention to how you talk to them.

Consider, for example…

“Report Talk Versus Rapport Talk”

Along the lines of the above “outline versus detail-rich” way of speaking I mentioned, women place great value, according to Barletta, in personalizing conversation. Men apparently don’t.

“When male and female students in a communications class were asked to bring in an audiotape of a ‘really good conversation,’ one young man brought in a lunch conversation with a fellow classmate that included lots of animated discussion of a project they were working on together. The women students were puzzled because there wasn’t a personal word on the whole tape. You call that a conversation?”

Barletta labeled the way men speak “report talk,” while women use “rapport talk.”

Use This in Your Next Interview

Assuming that’s actually the case, how could you use this in media interviews or even your marketing? Well, if you’re targeting women, you might try telling more stories of how people respond to your product or service or how a person’s life was improved by it. You might also tell your own story, particularly if it was challenging, moving or heartwarming.

Conversely, if you’re targeting men, you might focus on the “nuts and bolts” of your product. How things work, why they work and their future usage—things like that.

And what if you’re speaking to both men and women? Just blend the two approaches. Personalize your information and give out the nuts and bolts in your own particular style.

I’m Marsha Friedman, CEO of Event Management Services, one of the country’s only Publicity and Advertising firms that offer a “media guarantee”. There’s a lot more on this subject of talking to men and women differently that I will share with you in future emails. For now, let me leave you with this: The difference between men and women extends to the way we hear things…and you should be prepared to address that.

If we can help you obtain national media exposure for your products or services, call me or Steve Friedman today. Find out why New York Times bestselling author Earl Mindell said, “Event Management is the best in the business.”

Best,

Marsha Friedman, President
Event Management Services

P.S. I mentioned the value of personalizing things for women? Barletta wrote, “To women, personal ties are a good thing—in fact the best thing.” Maybe you could use that tidbit in your next interview, too.