Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Lionel Loueke, Regattabar, Cambridge, MA, 10.11.12

Lionel Loueke is an astonishing guitar player and I would like to call the performance I saw last night at the Regattabar “virtuosic,” but that wouldn’t quite cover it.

It woudn’t cover it because, while Loueke is undeniably a virtuoso, the music I heard last night, really, the act of continuous, protean, phenomenal creation to which I bore witness, seemed less a testament to or the pinnacle of human achievement, as virtuosity often is, and more like the act of a god.

And yet, of course, Loueke and his accompanists—the ecstaticly focused Michael Olatuja and the nerdily spectactular Mark Giuliana—are mortals. For this reason, their performance reminded me instead of the infinite possibilities of music, the unending invention of which the musical mind is capable, and not simply that in music there are, on the one hand, the gods, to which these gentlemen would be unquestionably numbered, and on the other, everybody else.

The scope of the music they played was very broad, encompassing everything from jazz and blues to mathy prog to funk to Juju and other west African traditions. At times, it sounded like a more melodically and harmonically rich version of James “Blood” Ulmer’s early 80s work, with the bass and drums tumbling over each other while Loueke showed just how many sounds a guitar could make and how varied a Klangwelt one could conjure with electricity, wire and wood.

At other times, the music was perplexing in its vorticism, its unbridled chaoticism, a maelstrom which caused the bewildered listener to wonder at the apparently telepathic connection between the players (an overused trope in jazz criticism, I know) and, ultimately, to question all assumptions about what music and, in fact, the world could be.

And, at other times, the music was simply beautiful, joyous and entrancing.

I love seeing music that is amazing, surprising and inspiring and last night I was amazed, surprised and inspired not only by the incredible, overwhelming musicality of what these mortals, if that’s what they were, played, but also by the sheer, visible delight with which they played it.

If you like music, you have to see and hear Lionel Loueke.

Sean Parker, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Size of Numbers

Mark Zuckerberg by Mathieu ThouveninIn a recent interview with the Googliest leather-clad author around, Paul Coelho, Napster founder Sean Parker called The Social Network “a complete work of fiction.”

While I could write a book about that last statement, the thing that jumped out at me in the Mashable write-up just referenced was a quote attributed to Mark Zuckerberg.

Apparently, when asked if he liked The Social Network, Zuckerberg responded by focusing not on its fictionalization of a reality that he has supposedly lived but rather on the size of its audience saying, “We build products that 500 million people see… If 5 million people see a movie, it doesn’t really matter that much.”

Let me just repeat that last line: “If 5 million people see a movie, it doesn’t really matter much.”

Is that true? Can it really “not matter much” if 5 million people all engage in the same activity? Of course it could be true given that 7 billion humans live on this planet. I mean, how much can the isolated actions of .07% truly matter?

If human beings are merely ciphers—numbers, eyeballs, data points—then I guess we can play a purely quantitative game and determine what really matters by simply doing the math. Billions of people have looked at McDonald’s hamburgers (most following this period of observation with the act of consumption), so they must matter more than the hundreds of millions who have looked at Facebook, right? In fact, the Facebook-seers are basically a subset of the hamburger-seers, so, if we want to understand the world and how it works, we ought to by rights spend more time focusing on the latter instead of the former.

Of course, numbers are themselves merely ciphers. They don’t have a meaning in and of themselves nor does the comparison of any two numbers have any particular meaning in itself. What meaning might be had from such comparisons depends less on the counting than on what got counted.

As far as the what behind the numbers goes, how much sense does it make to compare the number of people who have “looked at” Facebook to the number of people who have looked at a particular movie? Wouldn’t it make more sense to compare it to the number of people who have looked at movies in general? I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I would wager that many more people have seen movies than have looked at Facebook (and that all people who have seen Facebook have seen movies, while the opposite certainly does not hold). Does that mean that Facebook “doesn’t really matter that much”?

The answer to that question has to be, “No.” Facebook is more important and will have a more lasting impact on our culture than the relatively well-made feature film on its origins (which is not to say that Facebook will have a more lasting impact than movies, generally speaking). Why? Because Facebook is a medium, like film, and not a mediated object, like a movie (though, to stick with a strictly McLuhanesque taxonomy, we’d have to acknowledge that Facebook too is a mediated object insofar as it is accessed via a meta-medium like the Web).

For the same reason, I believe that the printing press has had a more lasting impact on human culture than any book printed on it, even though many more people have seen said books than have ever actually seen a printing press.

Image Source: Mathieu Thouvenin.

The Big Takeaways Sesh at the MProfs B2B

Bob Knorpp of the Cool Beans Group kicked things off with “pay attention to the keywords you are using in social status updates.” If you are looking for additional SEO power and buzz, focusing on these status updates can have an impact based on the way these things are indexed (with an emphasis on the first six words).

Dave Thomas of SAS focused on the power of content and especially the importance of re-purposing the content you produce. He referred to Kirsten Watson’s (Kinaxis) practice of producing a white paper, first, then using that to produce blog posts, then creating a deck from that for Slideshare, and finally, interviewing the author to create a podcast. An audience member then told people not to forget about images which are, of course, indexed as well.

Stephanie Miller of Return Path recalled the advice that you should never test just to test, but always to use testing to prove out particular points.

Bob Knorpp shared the lesson that you should listen to your sales force to find out what kinds of content bring the best leads, then optimize for that content. It might sound obvious, he said, but it bears repeating because it gives you something very concrete to work with. (I found “improving the relationship between sales and marketing” one of the sub-themes of the entire forum.)

Dave Thomas echoed several speakers saying that it’s ok to take a hybrid approach and integrate your “traditional” marketing techniques with all the emerging tactics now available.

Stephanie Miller, finally, recalled an exercise used in one session where the speaker took the marketing messages of several competitors and showed that you could not tell the companies apart solely based on these messages, which were essentially the same. Compare your messaging to that of your competitors and prepare to have your eyes opened!

As part of a discussion about getting more people in your organization involved in social media, Bob Knorpp cautioned first that it may not be the case that everyone is actually going to be good at it (blogging, for example). So you should take people’s strengths into considerations before asking them to do something. He wanted people to remember that, frankly, if your organization is listening, then that is already a win.

There followed a discussion about the loss of control brought about my social media. It was acknowledged that this loss of control can certainly make some people nervous, and that this is a natural response in some cases, but that our role needs to be one of educating people on how to use these tools. In fact, we can create whole plans around it so that we have a framework within which to judge and evaluate our efforts.

The conversation then returned to the publishing metaphor especially in the context of Kipp Bodnar’s suggestion that your goal should be to produce the best-read magazine in your industry. Bob Knorpp took issue with the publishing metaphor and suggested that we use, instead, the “theme park” metaphor. “When people go to Disneyland, they don’t rave about the brochure, they rave about the experience,” as he put it.

Finally, I said that my big takeaway was that all this isn’t about the technology; it’s about the “soft stuff.” Marketing automation, lead management, social media engagement all boil down to human interactions. It’s these interactions that produce the processes that you automate, build trust between marketing and sales, and, ultimately, determine the role you play in the lives of your customers.

“Lead Management Automation Systems” – MProf B2B Forum Sesh

The question central to this session was, “How can marketing automation help produce higher quality leads and foster a better relationship with sales?”

The format involved Laura Ramos asking each panel member, all of whom represented marketing automation vendors, to respond to a specific scenario that she had cooked up. As the panelists responded to the challenges, here’s some general insights and thoughts that surfaced.

  • Lead automation tends to be primarily about new customer acquisition but good marketers use these systems to manage the entire customer life-cycle and look for up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. (Jon Miller, Marketo)
  • It’s not about automation per se. It’s about automating good process. (Kristen Hambelton, Neolane)
  • Along the same lines, creating a lead scoring system is an iterative process. Additionally, the automation system itself has to be easy to use. (Parker Terwin,
  • Testing and optimization (of subject lines, landing pages, etc.) is key to effective marketing and your automation system should help you do that. (Jon)
  • On the ROI front, the emergence of the SaaS model has really changed how marketers need to think about the investment (cap ex vs. op ex), but it is also changing the conversation from one focused on ROI and one focused on TCO. (Jon and Kristen).
  • This led to a broader discussion of ROI in which Brian Kardon of Eloqua pointed out that, for a marketing automation implementation to work, a lot of marketing processes have to change and, therefore, the conversation shouldn’t necessarily focus on the investment. Instead, you really need to uncover whether or not the organizational will is there to see this process through.
  • It’s not hard to accumulate a lot of data, the question is, what do you do with it? Ideally your systems will talk to each other so that you can see the data and act on it all from one place. (Kristen)
  • On that point, Jon talked about the power of integrating the insights from your analytics and automation tools actually show up where your sales people are looking.
  • When integrating the various tools with, you need to make sure that changes to your implementation don’t break the connection with the marketing tool and that you aren’t asking your sales people to learn how to use a new tool.

An audience member (from Daxko) asked each panel member to say something positive about the other panelists’ products. Kristen said that Marketo has helped increase adoption of automation. Jon said that has pioneered automated response. Parker said that Eloqua is the Cadillac of solutions. Brian said that Neolane is a good product with a lot of happy customers.

Of all the things I heard in this session, the one that really stuck with me was this one made by Brian Kardon: It’s not the technology that’s the problem, it’s the soft things.

Three Paths to Social Media $ucce$$!!!

money equals success and success equals moneyThe way I see it, there are three paths to social media success.

1. Invent a Popular Social Media Platform

Marshall McLuhan once said something like, “Media owners don’t care what’s on TV, as long as everyone is watching.” To put it another way, the people who own what everyone uses, are the big winners. Unfortunately, becoming an owner is easier said than done and it just gets harder over time.

Facebook, for example, may have displaced MySpace – as MySpace displaced Friendster – as the center of the social media universe, but it’s hard to imagine what will displace Facebook. It’s user base just keeps growing and it really has become part of everyday life for millions. Same goes for Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn,  and YouTube, among others.

One possibility, I guess, is creating a meta-tool that allows people to aggregate their disparate online personalities and communities, but that didn’t exactly work for FriendFeed (and plus Facebook is kind of headed in that direction already) though it is kind of working for Apple (if you know what I mean).

2. Become a Social Media Celebrity

Mass media like television and radio have always been platforms for celebrity and the social media are no different, to a degree. Certainly people you have never heard of, such as Fred, have become “famous” by launching programs on YouTube, but that’s because YouTube is basically an open, explorable space.

You can explore Twitter but, generally speaking you are only paying attention to the folks you’ve chosen to follow and only really get noticed by them what follow you. In any event, it’s a lot easier to be a famous person. such as Oprah, Ashton, or Conan, who chooses to use Twitter than it is to become “famous on Twitter” (not sure who counts in the latter category aside from maybe Brogan and Vaynerchuk).

Finally, the rules of engagement on Facebook make it so utterly closed that, at best, it may allow you to become “better known” to your friends and acquaintances. You will never, however, become “well known” via Facebook.

3. Use Social Media to Do Something

Aside from being the easiest way to achieve “social media success,” this is the only way that the words “success” and “social media” ever make sense together in a sentence, as far as I’m concerned. The social media are tools and tools are only meaningful in their application to this or that situation.

This is one reason that I don’t believe it makes sense to have a “social media plan” for your business or one person there who is “responsible for social media.” Social media will only help you achieve your objectives – that’s what “success” means, right? – if it is integrated into the plans and programs you’ve undertaken to achieve them.

So incorporate social media channels in your PR strategy or figure out how to leverage social media in support of a product launch or make social media an important component of customer service. That way leads to success and, specifically, success via social media.

Everything else is just pipe dreams and pyramid schemes.

Image Credit: / CC BY 2.0

Secret Teachings of the Botnet Masters, or “Have You Had Your Daily SQL Injection?”

2942203842_59f1e655b2_mDid you know? “[Infected] URLs have really and truly become the most dangerous force in the world of cybercrime.”

Well guess what? One method used for corrupting them is called “SQL Injection.”

I learned about SQL Injection while exploring the weird world of botnets: vast networks of “zombie” computers used to produce spam (“90 percent of all e-mail worldwide is now spam“) and steal information from people. Turns out computers are enlisted into these vast zombie armies via websites that have been infected with malware (sometimes called “badware“) using technique’s like SQL Injection.

(On the continued use of this rather mature hacking method, Matt Hines wrote, “Once again we’re seeing that when it comes to online malware and data theft, attackers seem to have little motivation to create altogether new breeds of assaults, as well-known practices such as SQL injection remain so effective.”)

I did not realize that there were people on Earth known as botnet masters (as in the phrase “the topologies used today by botnet masters“). Nor did I realize that there are competing botnet developer kits and that descriptions of them, such as this one from Damballa‘s Gunter Ollman, read surprisingly like rather typical techie on-line reviews:

Zeus is an interesting DIY malware construction kit. Over the years it has added to its versatility and developed in to an open platform for third-party tool integration – depending upon the type of fraud or cybercrime the botnet master is most interested in. Along the way, many malware developers have tweaked the Zeus kit and offer specialized (and competing) major versions of the DIY suite (for sale). As such, the “Zeus” kit has morphed and isn’t really even a single kit any more. You can find Zeus construction kits retailing between $400-$700 for the latest versions – dropping to “free” within a couple of months as pirated versions start circulating Torrent feeds.

I think I understand how the sales process works for these kits (which go for between $400-$700). What I don’t understand is how the marketing function works for them.

For example, is there a hard division between sales and marketing in these organizations? Do the kits have product managers? What kind of market research leads to the final decision to go with this or that set of features? Is there after-sale support or is that all community based? And so on.

Can anybody out there give me some answers (without, you know, assimilating me into a botnet)?

BTW: The botnet masters have found a novel business benefit for social media: they use it to avoid detection. Marketers take note.

Arthur the Talking Trash Can

Yesterday I was to meet with a fellow, Charles Hamad, so naturally I Googled him.

Among the treasures that Google served up was this article from 1974 describing Hamad’s work as a graduate student on a talking trash can named “Arthur.”

Here’s a clip from a spot the BBC did about this novel application of behavioral psychology to the problem of environmental pollution:

Enabling a trash can to talk in an effort to curb litter reminded me of the more recent work of BJ Fogg in the area of persuasive technology.

More importantly, it reminded me also that technology can be used for good, and not (just) evil.