Call me names!

Tech break in the Hilton bar

I was listening to the Quick ‘n’ Dirty podcast in the car yesterday, hosted by Aaron Strout and Jennifer Leggio. It’s becoming one of my favorite social media podcasts. They cover useful topics, have great guests and have a nice interaction between the two of them that makes it fun to listen to. Plus, they seem to mention Kyle Flaherty on nearly every episode. Highly recommended.

Aaron and Jennifer were having a conversation about some fairly in-depth social media topic. I think it may have been location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla (I would go find it in the podcast but I’m writing this while The Boy is napping, and every precious moment counts). At one point, one of them said, “Yeah, we’re dorks,” and the other repeated it. “Yeah, we’re dorks.”

I’m used to hearing “geek” uttered proudly these days, and “nerd,” of course. (Mike Schneider sent a tweet announcing the arrival of his flight to Austin for SXSW that said something to the effect of, “The nerd bird has landed.”) I use both geek and nerd in my short bio.

When I was in high school in the ’80s, you didn’t want to be called a nerd or a geek, and certainly not a dork. Obviously things have changed. This isn’t going to turn into some sort of linguistic or sociological treatise. I do not intend to cite Revenge of the Nerds (Dir. Jeff Kanew. Interscope, 1984.)

I just find it increasingly fascinating that the future of corporate marketing and communications is being written by the geeks, nerds and dorks. When I started my first serious business-related job in the early ’90s, if you were going to compare stats with a business contact, it was the final score of last night’s game or your golf handicap, not the size of your hard drive. (I would say “how much RAM you have” but I can’t remember if we had RAM back then.)

Marketing used to be the domain of the firm handshake and the elevator pitch. I met a lot of marketers in the ’90s who were probably ex football players. These days, at least at social media events, I meet a lot more people who were probably in the AV club.

In the age of search engine optimization, Web analytics, targeted email campaigns, widgets and iPhone apps, it pays to be comfortable with technology. If you’re the kind of person who likes to play with gadgets and spend Saturday afternoon on the computer instead of on the links, you’re more likely to respond positively to Facebook or Twitter, or the next thing that comes along, or the thing after that.

Of course, this is only a bubble. We’re deep into a period where technology, communications and marketing are becoming intertwined. There are people at the cutting edge and others being left behind. But in a few years the holdouts will have retired, the baseline will have been raised and the new people entering the profession will take the technological nature of marketing for granted.

And high school students will have to find some other basis for making fun of one another. I have no doubt they’re up for the challenge.

I’ve stopped waiting for my hover car, but come on…

I’m not a big fan of the Oscars, but The Mrs is. In fact she just said, “I realized tonight that this is my Super Bowl.” When we cancelled our cable TV about four months ago, I think the prospect of being without a reliable source of supply on Oscar night seemed like a dim and distant danger.

We spent most of our non-parent time this afternoon trying to find someone streaming the actual ceremony. ABC in conjunction with Facebook streamed the red carpet ceremony (and Wayne Sutton was there tweeting for Kodak – go Wayne!), but nobody in the US was streaming the actual ceremony. The Mrs was getting a little panicky by around 7:00.

I did a Google search for “Oscar live stream” and got a lot of useless junk and nearly picked up a Trojan horse virus. Twitter came to the rescue. I did a search for “Oscar stream” and in and among the ill-informed retweeting of a misleadingly-titled Mashable article I found an actual live stream of the Oscars, from Sky Movies in the UK via Justin.TV. We kept our fingers crossed in the final minutes leading up to the 8:30 start time as some middleweight celebritainalists who we might not know even if we lived in England waffled on with the typical pre-Oscar waffle.

Now, at 8:34, The Mrs is relieved to see that they are, in fact, streaming the actual ceremony. Hopefully it lasts. Who knows how many international laws, copyrights and test-ban treaties they’re violating. I have no idea how it’s actually happening. It might be somebody in his mum’s basement in Barking with a disassembled cable box and a soldering iron. It doesn’t look like a webcam pointed at a TV screen, but it doesn’t exactly look totally legit, either.

Anybody remember this Qwest TV commercial where a guy is checking into a motel and asks the morose twenty-something clerk if there’s any in-room entertainment? She responds with, “All rooms have every movie ever made in any language anytime, day or night.”

What happened? That was a decade ago. When will that happen?

How soon until you can just go ahead and watch all the stuff that’s streaming all over the world, no matter where you are? I suppose for a while it will continue the way it’s going now: the companies that own the rights will continue to try to control the dissemination based on geographic, political and economic boundaries that mean nothing to the Web. And the people who like to subvert that kind of thing will keep trying to find ways around them.

Thirty-eight minutes in, and the stream is still streaming. So far so good.

I wonder how we’ll be watching it on Oscar Night 2011?

:::UPDATE::: It’s Monday morning and Jean just told me the pirate stream cut off just as things were getting interesting, so I guess it must have been discovered by Sky TV or U.N.C.L.E. or Interpol or whoever looks out for that stuff.

Come to think of it, it might actually have been Interpol.

The unkindest cut was that it happened just as she got a glimpse of Oprah. So cruel.

photo from

Marketing to the unborn

I’ve worked for a lot of different kinds of companies and organizations, run my own business, and been laid off by a big company. I know what it means to be a loyal employee and also to have that loyalty crushed. When I heard SAS’ CEO Jim Goodnight say he would accept lower profits this year so as to avoid layoffs, I thought, "Maybe this really is a company I could stay at the rest of my career."

That got me thinking about the rest of my career. I’m 43 now, so my career might go another 20 years or so.

At SAS we try to reach lots of different audiences – not just C-level execs who make the purchase decisions, but IT managers, programmers, statisticians, recent grads and students.

That means the majority of the people I’ll need to reach and influence in 20 years are somewhere between zero and 30 right now.

Some of my future audience isn’t even born yet.

So does anybody really think those people, in 20 years, will be going to static web sites and entering their email addresses to download white papers? Reading emails? Even sitting in offices looking at monitors?

The people who will determine whether or not I get to retire comfortably or work until I drop are today’s early adopters, the digital natives, the people who most of us in our 40s now find either fascinating or terrifying. If we let them get out of sight, we’ll never see them again.

We spend a lot of time now asking "What’s the ROI?" and "What are our competitors doing?" and "What are the industry best practices?"

The people we’ll be marketing to in the next 20 years are putting pictures of themselves on Facebook that would get us fired and would have gotten our dads arrested.

They’re not thinking of the reasons not to do something. For better or worse, they’re doing it. And as uncomfortable as that might make us, those who are accustomed to cost/benefit analysis and SWOT and 12-month budget cycles, that’s the attitude those people will bring with them to the marketplace our tired old selves will be trying to influence.

It won’t be about figuring out what to do. It’ll be about doing it and seeing what happens. Or trying to figure out where everybody went.

Originally published on Conversations & Connections, my SAS social media blog