Friday, December 31, 2010

Things Not to say to your Boss in 2011

In your career, you will inevitably end up saying some dumb or regrettable things to your boss. We all do it to varying degrees at one time or another. The following list of such things is by no means exhaustive, but if you can avoid saying them, you will be doing yourself, your professional persona and your boss a tremendous service.

So, keep these top 10 things to never say to your boss in mind the next time you’re chatting him up by the watercooler.

No.10 “Impossible – that can’t be done.”

This is the kind of shortsighted thinking no boss wants to hear about. It suggests both indifference and a lack of effort. Unless you follow it up with a solution or an alternative, it’s neither proactive nor even helpful to say such a thing.

No.9 “This is the best they could do, huh?”

Whether said in response to new office phones, computers or the banquet hall at a family-style restaurant rented for a Christmas party, this is one of those smart-ass comments that indicates to your boss and to others that you have a deluded sense of entitlement. It also belittles the efforts someone — possibly your boss or even his boss — has made.

No.8 “That’s not my problem.”

Be that as it may, this presupposes the existence of a problem and, more than likely, a frustrated boss or coworker in need of some assistance. At the very least, your boss is looking for someone to take responsibility of the solution to this problem — even if it wasn’t yours to begin with. That means he already knows it’s not your problem, so you can spare him the reminder.

No.7 “That isn’t in my job description.”

In one of the many great courtroom scenes in A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise asks a witness to point out where in the U.S. Marines manual the mess hall is indicated. Naturally it isn’t in there. The point is, a lot of things aren’t detailed in your job description, including e-mailing your friends from work or surfing the web, but you probably do those things anyways, right? So when the boss asks you to do something a little out of the ordinary, don’t take offense, and never say to your boss that it’s not in your job description to do it.

No.6 “Does it really matter if I get this finished?”

A strictly educational environment might promote the idea that there is no such thing as a dumb question, but this isn’t true at the office. To know the difference a good question to ask yourself is: “Will this question waste someone’s time?” No boss wants you to spend an hour doing a project incorrectly, but asking about the relevance of a project is time-wasting and insulting to both of you.

No.5 “That’s a no-brainer.”

As a tired cliché, this statement is offensive enough; however, delivered with just the right patronizing tone, it becomes an insult. Your boss doesn’t hear “no-brainer” as much as he hears, “The answer is obvious — how dumb are you?”

No.4 “We should totally hook up on Facebook.”

No, you shouldn’t. Ever. Your boss knows this and he might be a little disappointed that you don’t. Extending a request like this puts him in an uncomfortable position. He may be too nice to say no, or foolish enough to say yes. Either way, social interactions with your boss should, almost without question, be discouraged. We don’t mean you can’t mingle with him at office parties, but try not to plan weekend getaways with him and his family anytime soon.

No.3 “I got so trashed last night…”

You might just be jawing over the prior evening, but to your boss this could be a hint that you plan to be especially unproductive that day. It might also inform him that you have difficulty keeping your work and private lives separate and that you don’t have much discretion at all. This, in turn, can be a signal that you shouldn’t be trusted with additional responsibilities.

No.2 “I don’t get paid enough for this.”

Ninety-nine percent of the time you’ll be wrong when you say this. Furthermore, such a statement packs so many ready-made responses. Most potent among them might be, “Then quit, and fulfill your great untapped potential elsewhere.” All told, this kind of statement serves no other purpose but to b*tch and complain — which you do not want to do in front of, to or around your boss. Save it for people who might actually think you’re right, like your mother.

No.1 “Sigh”

The passive aggression and frustrating ambiguity of a sigh are what land it at the No. 1 spot. It can be delivered in response to the full range of requests from your boss, and it seems sufficiently open to interpretation to allow you to deny even having sighed at all.

But this is as true to you as it is absurd to your boss. We all know very well what a sigh means: It’s the official theme song of being annoyed and the national anthem of imposition.

The year in business: 2010

By Martin Webber Business Editor, BBC World Service

Over 600 estates lie unfinished across Ireland, where land is among the most expensive land in Europe

You have to go back four years to 2006, to the find economic policymakers in the West in an upbeat, confident mood.

Since then they have been battered by waves, ranging from collapsing banks to frozen financial markets, culminating in 2009 with the first drop in world annual output since the 1930s depression.

During 2010 there has been a return to overall global growth.But sceptics say the world's politicians are simply papering over the cracks, and the big fault lines in the global economy remain.

China's big trade surplus and fixed currency system appear to be unreformed, Americans continue to spend money they do not have, while in parts of Europe the situation is still worsening with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) being called in to provide emergency loans, first in May to Greece, and then to Ireland.

Supporters of the banking status quo insist that the complex multi-purpose banks and their financial derivatives trading desks are necessary to ensure that cash is invested in the most productive places in the world.

“If the euro fails, Europe fails. ” Angela Merkel German Chancellor

That particular argument wilts somewhat if you travel to Ireland. While many parts of the world desperately need basic infrastructure, Ireland simply has far too much of it. Vast so-called ghost estates built in the boom times now lie empty.

According to reporter Henry McKean, "Ireland won the lotto and everyone wanted a property portfolio". Houses were built in isolated parts of the country. "County Leitrim in North West Ireland has 21 ghost estates and an oversupply of 401%," Mr McKean says. The money to fuel Ireland's property boom came mostly from the banks. But were they solely responsible for the rush to build new homes across Ireland? Councillors and planners are to blame, but you also have to acknowledge that there was blind greed on behalf of builders and landowners around the country.

The blame game

Critics of Europe's single currency system say the euro was at least partly to blame. Ireland was unable to dampen its property boom by setting its own interest rates because its rates are set by Europe's Central Bank, which has to consider conditions across 16 different nations. Some wondered if the answer might be to allow the stronger euro economies to split from the weaker ones, allowing countries such as Ireland more economic freedom, while many in Germany became increasingly angry that they were footing much of the bill to rescue Ireland, as well as Greece which was bailed out earlier in the year.

But Germany's leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, reiterated her commitment to the euro. "If the euro fails, Europe fails. But if we avert this danger, the euro and Europe will come out stronger than before," she declared. The UK coalition government announced a stringent budget to tackle the debt crisis. Even in the boom times, most governments in Western Europe spent more than they collected in taxes. Now, after a severe recession, public finances everywhere are stretched and in the UK, a new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government announced sharp spending cuts in the coming years. The age of austerity had arrived.

Banking on reform

But what about reforming the system that produced the boom and bust?

The big banks were targeted by US President Barack Obama in January as he upped the rhetoric by announcing a new levy to claw back money from institutions which had been bailed out during the financial crisis. "My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed and my determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people," he said.

Then bank shares tumbled after President Obama turned for advice to the former US central bank boss, the 83-year-old Paul Volcker. Goldman Sachs is not interested in America, Goldman Sachs is interested in Goldman Sachs” Peter Morici University of Maryland

The President embraced Mr Volcker's view that banks holding cash deposits from ordinary Americans should be banned from so-called proprietary trading, where the banks take big bets in financial markets. "I'm proposing a simple and common sense reform, which we're calling the Volcker rule," President Obama announced."Banks will no longer be allowed to own, invest or sponsor hedge funds, private equity funds or proprietary trading operations for their own profit, unrelated to serving their customers."Some reform of the banks was eventually passed in Congress with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, although the Volcker rule was watered down.

So did the reforms go far enough? Peter Morici at the University of Maryland thinks not and says that "until we separate the banks from the investment banks, so that banking is again banking, as opposed to trading, the banks are going to be much more interested in trading than banking, simply because they can make a lot more money that way."Goldman Sachs is not interested in America, Goldman Sachs is interested in Goldman Sachs."“If you are looking for aristocrats that should be beheaded, they are probably on Wall Street” Peter Morici University of Maryland

But Goldman Sachs has clever people and are doing very clever things and at the end of the year, they make a profit. So what is wrong with that?"Well, they did clever enough things to thrust the entire global economy into the great abyss," says Mr Morici. "Bank of America and Morgan Stanley made profits every day on trading in the last quarter - they didn't have a negative day," he says. "Unless you think traders are perfect there is something wrong with the information that they are getting," he maintains.

However, when somebody gains, somebody else is losing.

"Americans are losing. The ordinary stock holder is losing. They are not creating wealth on Wall Street, they are trading on it," Mr Morici asserts. "If you are looking for aristocrats that should be beheaded, they are probably on Wall Street, though I wouldn't do it using a guillotine, I'd just take their toys away."

Eternal hope

The spotlight was diverted from the big banks for a while when an explosion at a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico led to 11 deaths and created the biggest offshore oil spill in US history. BP set aside $40bn to cover the cost. Google had its own issues with Beijing - this time over censorship. It moved its China web search to its Hong Kong site in March.

And the hopes of the US seed firm Monsanto to introduce genetically modified crops into India were dashed, when the Indian government blocked the plan after protests from environmental groups and some scientists.

The US stock market overall rose around 10% in the past year, although historically American share prices have made no overall gains at all in the past 11 years. By contrast, gold has soared over that period, leaping from $300 an ounce to $1,400, with this year's rise for gold being 25%.

There is always money to be made somewhere in the global economy.

Effect of various drugs on driving

Effect of various drugs on driving- This one does not need to be in English to be effective.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The top CEO departures of 2010

By Helen Coster,

Jeffrey Kindler, the head of Pfizer, announced in December that he was stepping down. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)On Sunday, Dec. 5, Jeffrey Kindler, who ran Pfizer for four and a half years, surprised his shareholders by abruptly announcing that he was retiring immediately from the company. He issued a statement saying that he wanted to "recharge his batteries, spend some rare time with his family and prepare for the next challenge ahead."

As companies regain their footing in the wake of the economic crisis, their chief executives continue to leave at a steady pace. According to the outplacement recruiting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 1,127 chief executives have announced their departures so far this year, almost exactly the same as the 1,122 who had announced by this time last year. Government and nonprofit organizations have seen the heaviest turnover, with 189 CEO departures among them.

"During the recession many companies kept their CEOs, because they felt that it was risky to change leadership midstream," says John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "They kept those people waiting until they had a little more time to move." Today, says Challenger, companies are beginning to turn to new leadership to guide them to profitability. We may see a bigger number of turnovers next year.

Many media companies, their industry in tumult, have been looking for new chief executives with fresh ideas. In August Time Inc. announced that it was replacing eight-year veteran Ann Moore with Jack Griffin, who had been the president of the National Media Group of Meredith, which publishes Better Homes & Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal.

NewsCorp had hired Owen Van Natta, a Facebook veteran, to turn around MySpace, but in February Van Natta stepped down after just nine months. He was replaced by two co-presidents, Mike Jones and Jason Hirschhorn; the company's revolving door continued to spin when Hirschhorn left in June.

At General Motors a $50 billion government bailout led to an initial public offering and a new CEO. Edward Whitacre's departure from GM coincided with the company's $23.1 billion public offering. He stepped down as CEO on Sept. 1 and will vacate the chairman's spot at the end of the year. He's passing on both jobs to Daniel Akerson, who, like Whitacre himself, was selected by the Obama administration. Whitacre had retired from AT&T, where he had been chief executive.

"Retiring" can mean different things for different executives: Our top-10 list includes three CEOs who claimed to be retiring from their posts this year. Omnicare's longtime chief executive, Joel Gemunder, surprised shareholders when he announced his retirement in early August. He had led the firm, the country's largest provider of pharmaceuticals for the elderly, for 30 years. Omnicare's board tapped James "Denny" Shelton, a company director and former chairman of Triad Hospitals, to serve as its interim chief. Gemunder had faced criticism for his compensation, worth $14.08 million, in 2009, but that amount looks like peanuts since he landed a $130 million retirement payout.

HP, BP replace leaders

Tony Hayward, shown here in June, said there was extraordinary engineering in response to the Gulf of Mexico crisis, though it appeared bumbling. (Reuters)The appearance of impropriety and the mishandling of an ecological disaster led to turnover at Hewlett-Packard and BP, respectively. HP's board ousted its chief executive, Mark Hurd, after he filed, or had someone file, inaccurate expense reports that HP believes were intended to conceal the extent of his relationship with a female contractor.

The woman's lawyer had contacted the company in June, charging Hurd with sexual harassment; an independent investigation by HP found no merit to the sexual harassment claim. Directors discovered the expense reports while investigating that charge, and then pressed Hurd to step down. HP replaced Hurd with Léo Apotheker, a former CEO of SAP.

At BP chief executive Tony Hayward displayed a shocking lack of empathy and a propensity for public gaffes while the Deepwater Horizon rig was spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Hayward dismissively told The Guardian newspaper that the Gulf is a "very big ocean" and later described the spill's environmental impact as "very, very modest." He famously complained on the Today show that he'd "like my life back," and he luxuriated in attending a regatta on the Isle of Wight just two days after being questioned by a U.S. congressional committee. In late July BP replaced him with Robert Dudley.

Hayward had landed the top job at BP when his predecessor, John Browne, resigned after a personal scandal and a series of accidents. As ever, one executive's crisis was another's opportunity.

Read more:

What's wrong with work? Five tips for coping

Work. We all moan about it from time to time. But why? Leading executive coach Blaire Palmer offers five tips to help you cope with everyday office life.

Waste-of-time meetings, poor leadership, office politics – all three can be reasons why workers end up getting frustrated in their jobs and want to move on. But the grass isn’t always greener somewhere else. After 10 years coaching and consulting in businesses large and small, I can guarantee that these frustrations exist in almost every workplace.

Don’t despair though. You can change your work without changing your job. Here are five tips for improving your current job, without the need to look for roles anywhere else.

1. Waste-of-time meetings

We spend approximately 60 hours a month in meetings and most of this time is wasted. If meetings were more effective your whole working week would be more fulfilling.

The best meetings are those where competing opinions are aired. Look at the agenda for your next meeting, take out any items which are purely intended to update the chair and focus on exploring the conflicts instead.

If you can’t influence the agenda, you can influence whether you attend. If you don’t add value or get value from attending, agree that you will not be there.

2. Poor leadership
About a quarter of people merely tolerate or actively dislike their boss, according to research. Perhaps you feel this way about your boss. Equally, maybe you are a manager yourself, wondering if this statistic applies to you.

Understanding what drives those above and below you in the hierarchy improves relationships and gives you more influence. If you know that your boss has more of an eye for detail than you or that a direct report is more introverted you can adapt how you communicate and what you expect from them. It’s much less frustrating than doing what you’ve always done and expecting it, suddenly, to start working.

3. Lack of vision

The majority of employees want their leader to be visionary. If you manage people, you need to give them a direction. If you don’t, invent one for yourself. Having a challenging and meaningful target, area for professional development or clear set of priorities helps us feel connected with our work.

4. Silos

Competition between different offices in the same company or even downright hatred between teams certainly doesn’t help you get things done every day. Silos get in the way of our best efforts.
Create a plan of the people (or the job titles if you don’t know the names) who would be valuable for you to know. Now schedule a coffee. Sharing knowledge through your network means you make better decisions, develop allies around the business and have someone to sit with at lunch.

5. Unfairness
Most of us want the workplace to be fair. But how do you judge the fairness of your own behaviour?
One test is to ask yourself whether you would mind if your actions were printed in the national press. If you could not justify the decisions you’ve taken – given that you are often choosing between a rock and a hard place – you may need to rethink your position. Alternatively, ask whether your Mum would approve.

Addressing any of these five areas of frustration can help you make your job work better. But I recommend you start today. Instead of complaining about it, take a bold, decisive action. Not only will you feel more in control of your professional life, it could improve the professional lives of the people around you too.

Blaire Palmer is an executive coach and her new book “What’s Wrong with Work? The five frustrations of work and how to fix them for good”, is out now, priced £12.99. To take part in the debate about work visit Ms Palmer’s blog or

China cuts 'rare earth' quota 11%

Asian power supplies 97% of world supply

China said Tuesday it is reducing the amount of rare earths it will export next year by more than 10 per cent — likely to be an unpopular move worldwide since the minerals are vital to the manufacture of high-tech products.China accounts for 97 per cent of the global production of rare earth minerals, which are essential to devices as varied as cellphones, computer drives and hybrid cars. Countries were alarmed when Beijing blocked shipments of the minerals to Japan earlier this year amid a debate over disputed islands.

Concerns about China's grip on rare earths has led countries on a hunt for alternative sources. A number of companies in North America — notably Molycorp Inc. in the U.S. and Thompson Creek Metals Co. in Canada — are hurrying to open or reopen rare earth mines. Two Australian companies are also preparing to mine rare earths. Numbers released Tuesday by China's Commerce Ministry show export quotas of the rare minerals will be down 11 per cent next year as compared to the same period this year. China usually issues a second batch of quotas during the year, and it is not known how the figures will change later in 2011.

The new numbers say China is allocating 13,105 metric tons of rare earths among 31 companies. China allocated 14,790 metric tons among 22 companies in the first batch of quotas this year.China has been reducing export quotas of rare earths over the past several years to cope with growing demand at home. A Commerce Ministry spokesman has also said that China is cutting its exploration, production and exports out of environmental concerns.

Earlier this month, state media reported that China plans to raise duties on some rare earth exports starting next year, but it did not say which minerals would be affected or how much the tax would be.A state media report Tuesday said China is preparing to set up a rare earths association that would include nearly all of the country's leading rare earth companies, and could help them to co-ordinate their negotiating positions. The report posted on the Sina Corp. portal said the association should be set up in May.The United States last week threatened to go to the World Trade Organization with its concerns over China and rare earths. When asked for comment during a regular press briefing Tuesday, China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu declined to answer.

But China has had to address the global concerns numerous times since the spat with Japan."China is not using rare earth as a bargaining chip," Wen Jiabao, China's top economic official, told a China-European Union business summit in Brussels in October.

Read more:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Are more Affluent People Hard Hearted?

Maybe Scrooge Couldn't Help Being Hard-Hearted. That's because affluent people, despite their generally higher level of education, are less able to read the emotions of others, a new study suggests.
Researchers conducted three experiments designed to test how well participants could judge how others were feeling. In all, participants who considered themselves of a relatively lower social class more accurately gauged the emotional responses of others.

The differences were small, noted study author Michael Kraus, a postdoctoral fellow in health psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. But they're enough to suggest that the wealthy could use a few lessons in empathy. "What we find is people who were of a lower class and people who have lower educational attainment are better able to read emotions than more affluent people," Kraus said.

In the first experiment, researchers asked 200 adults who worked in a range of jobs at a university to identify emotions in photographs of human faces. Women judged emotions more accurately than men, as did people whose personalities were rated as "agreeable," according to a personality test. Those whose education stopped at high school were also better at guessing emotions than the college educated.
In the second experiment, researchers asked 106 university students to take part, two at a time, in a mock job interview. Interviewees were asked questions such as "What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?"

Participants were also asked to rate their family's social class on a ladder that had 10 rungs, with "those who are the best off, have the most education, most money and most respected jobs" at the top and "those who are the worst off, have the least education, least money, and the least respected job or no job" at the bottom. Participants were then asked to rate their own and their partner's emotions during the interview, using terms such as amusement, anger, compassion, fear, happiness, hope, surprise and worry.
Students who rated their families as lower on the socioeconomic ladder were better able to gauge what their partners were feeling during the interview process, according to researchers.

In the final experiment, 81 students were randomly assigned to a rung on a ladder they were told represented their social class. They were then shown photos portraying faces experiencing different emotions, including nervousness, hostility and playfulness. Participants who were told they belonged to a lower social class judged the emotions more accurately than those told they were at the top of the social ladder.

"Being in a wealthy, affluent environment makes you less perceptive of others' emotions," Krauss said.
The study was published recently in Psychological Science.

Why might affluence breed insensitivity? Researchers theorize that lower class people generally have more at stake in reading people's emotions correctly and are therefore more attuned to other's feelings, whether it's reading the boss's mood or assessing threats in their environment. " Lower class people need to be able to understand others' emotions better to see when potential threats are coming and when potential social opportunities are coming," Kraus said. "Upper class people have more resources and are more easily able to rely on themselves or hire people to do what needs to be done. When you are wealthy, your individual capacity is enhanced."

Sara Konrath, an assistant research professor at University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, said it makes sense that social class would impact social interactions - and that those with relatively less power would pay more attention to how those with more power react as a means of self-preservation. "People from lower power groups are wise to vigilantly observe the facial expressions of those from high power groups, because if they don't, they are in trouble," Konrath said. "So, if a study finds that working class people, or women, or people of color, are better able to read others emotions than rich white men, should we be surprised? Not necessarily, since rich white men happen to control a lot of resources in our society."
Yet this greater ability might not mean they are more empathetic, since empathy means not only being able to understand another's perspective, but also to care about it. "Empathy and emotional recognition may overlap at times, but not all the time," Konrath said. And, she noted, being rich doesn't necessarily mean you're a Scrooge in the making. "There are plenty of rich people who are empathic and poor people with low empathy. Research psychologists examine group averages, but sometimes these averages can mask the variation that naturally exists within groups."

For more on empathy, go to Stanford University

Solar forest in a parking lot

Solar power is one way to the future but everyone wonders where we will put all of the collectors. Here is one solution:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chinese conundrum - Perspectives

America has lost many manufacturing jobs and the US unemployment rate is still nearly 10%.

“If you look at some of the big companies that have grown so strongly in the US in the past 20 years, a lot of it has been because of the ability of the US to import from China” Jim O,Neill Goldman Sachs Mr Morici is pretty angry about that too. "Certainly, there are things that China should be exporting to the US because of its cheap labour," he says.

He believes, however, that it would not be cost effective to make certain things in China, but for the fact that its currency is 40% undervalued. "The idea behind free trade is that it be in two directions so that we each get to specialise in what we do best and we grow from there," he says."But China is exporting products where it has a comparative advantage and protecting those where it doesn't." He points out that China has enough surplus labour to replace all the manufacturing workers in Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. "Do we really want to live in a world where everything is made in China and the rest of us just borrow money from the Chinese?" he asks.

Jim O'Neill from Goldman Sachs has an alternative perspective. He is not responsible for the company's trading tactics - his job is to forecast accurately and he has a great record of correctly predicting the rise of China and the rebound of the euro after earlier troubles. Mr O'Neill says the US trade deficit with China is now falling sharply."The US current account deficit year-to-date is running about half what it was before the crisis and the Chinese trade surplus is not much more than 3% of GDP."

He believes, however, that due to the rather emotional atmosphere in Washington, such data seems to be completely ignored by Congress.

"It is slightly scary because they are talking about things which are a little bit out of date," he says. Job losses in the US have included white collar workers as well manufacturing positions."I've come across people that quite bizarrely - in my judgement - blame China for the loss of every manufacturing job in the United States in the past 20 years and that is ridiculous," he says. "If you look at some of the big companies that have grown so strongly in the US in the past 20 years, a lot of it has been because of the ability of the US to import from China - WalMart being a particularly good example," he explains.

"The unemployment situation linked to the US economic cycle, and the weakness of the past two years, is very severe and of course it is understandable that not only US politicians, but also workers, blame other people - and China seems to be a convenient scapegoat," he says.There is also criticism that job losses have gone too far in America because the Chinese currency is not at a fair "market clearing" value, but Mr O'Neil has no sympathy with that viewpont. "The Chinese currency has risen by over 20% the past five years. Chinese import growth is rising at over 40% - in the year to date, Chinese import growth has been close to $400bn.“You also have to acknowledge that there was blind greed on behalf of builders and landowners round the country”

Many people would argue that such figures are mainly due to the import of raw materials."No it is not," says Mr O'Neil. "Look at countries that are really good at exporting, like Germany.Some of Germany's top companies are employing people on overtime purely because of exports to China."

He points out how many branded goods companies around the world, Louis Vuitton being a particularly good example, are literally being transformed by the strength of Chinese demand and Chinese imports.

The World Wide Web was 20 on Christmas day

Happy Birthday, World Wide Web

CBC News

Christmas Day marks the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web.

It was on Dec. 25, 1990, that Timothy Berners-Lee, with the help of computer scientist Robert Cailliau, published the first website. The occasion marked the first successful communication between a web browser and server via the internet.

Little did we know that this single act would change forever the way people communicate. It would also spawn a new way of life, with instant access to friends, family, co-workers and strangers, and placed instant access at our fingertips. Connectivity to work, home, information, online shopping, voting and even dating would be available at our fingertips.

Today, some 20 per cent of the world depends on the World Wide Web. And according to, a site that tracks the daily size of the web, the Indexed Web contained at least 13.99 billion pages as of Dec. 24.
In this interview, Barbara van Schewick, a Stanford Law School professor, talks about her new book, Internet Architecture and Innovation. In it, she explains why the internet has been effective in fostering ideas, and why online innovation is at risk as the internet's architecture changes.
Read more:

Digital McCarthyism

It has been one long battle for WikiLeaks merely to exist on the Internet since it started publishing the U.S. diplomatic cables. The cat-and-mouse game that it has had to play to retain an accessible address in cyberspace is the result of a virulent attack launched by right-wing lawmakers in America and their supporters, and commercial entities such as Amazon, which caved in to the pressure. But more fundamentally, the WikiLeaks saga represents the acid test for free speech. With each tranche of documents published online, the world is witnessing the total loss of dominance of secretive governments over information. The backlash has come swiftly, with bellicose American Senators engaging in plain intimidation to get commercial entities to stop offering services to WikiLeaks on the ground that it is distributing material it does not own. Some politicians have made a jingoistic pitch and called for the execution of the source of the leaks. This is nothing but Digital McCarthyism. Were it not for the threat it poses to the free Internet, it would even appear amusing. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama was ‘troubled' by the cyber attacks on Google, which were said to originate in China, and wanted those responsible to face the consequences. The more freely information flows, the stronger society becomes, he had said during an earlier visit to China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also strongly critical of Internet restrictions in China. Now the boot is on the other foot. Concern for free speech is nowhere in evidence as extra-legal methods are deployed to deny Americans their First Amendment rights.

The campaign against WikiLeaks is a clear move to censor political material on the Internet and, potentially, on other media. The first moves made by lawmakers such as Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, have no legal foundation and yet have succeeded with Amazon and PayPal. What has followed is shockingly repressive and obscurantist. The Library of Congress blocked access to WikiLeaks across its computer systems, including reading rooms, and Columbia University students aspiring for diplomatic careers have been advised not to comment on, or link to, the whistleblower website's revelations. It is doubly tragic that such concerted attacks are securing support from countries with a progressive legacy such as France. The intolerant response to WikiLeaks is a potential threat to all media and must be fought. Senator Lieberman and other lawmakers have introduced legislation that proposes to make the publication of an intelligence source a federal crime. Already, U.S. law allows the shutting down of some Internet domains managed in that country on grounds of infringement of copyright. The threat to the publication of inconvenient material, even with responsible redactions, is all too real.

Island disputes reveal Asia's evolving powers

By Jonathan Marcus BBC diplomatic correspondent

The Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute has aroused tension in China and Japan

Over recent weeks some of the island chains that punctuate the Pacific Ocean off the mainland of Asia have provoked a series of diplomatic rows.Japan has been at the centre of the disputes, falling out first with China in the wake of its arrest of a Chinese fishing captain near the contested islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Then it fell out with Russia; Japan protesting strongly this week over President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to the Kuril Islands, which Japan refers to as the Northern Territories. These were seized by Soviet troops in the closing stages of World War II but are still claimed by Japan.

A range of other island disputes flare up from time to time, notably in the South China Sea.

The motives are sometimes complex; economic concerns about competition for undersea oil or mineral rights are important in many cases; grand strategy plays a part too; and good old-fashioned nationalism is also often a factor.

Naval power

But behind the headlines, larger forces are at work. Countries in the region are trying to adjust to the reality of an ever more assertive China. The United States is eager to reassert its role as a Pacific power; and Russia too, though in some ways a less central player, is also eager to remain part of the Asian equation.
China, of course, is the great changing presence in the region. Its economic rise has been dramatic. Its future trajectory, though, remains uncertain. Until now a rising China has pursued a rather muted foreign policy, seeing its engagement with the world as a means of ensuring its economic success. It has, for example, built a network of relationships around the globe to ensure that it has the access to the raw materials that its hungry economy requires.

However, now a new tone is creeping into China's engagement with the world. With success has come a new self-confidence; some might call it a new assertiveness. And this plays most strongly in its own backyard. Its row with Japan focuses on the Diaoyu/Senkaku island chain which, in strategic terms, acts as a barrier or choke-point channelling the Chinese Navy's access to the wider ocean.Beijing has made it clear that its maritime ambitions will not be contained in this way. It made it clear that Japan had to return its arrested sea captain straight away and Tokyo's rapid climbdown worried many other countries in the region.

China's growing naval power is a potent factor here as it develops a capacity to mount operations ever further from its own shores. Dmitry Medvedev's recent visit to the Kurils stoked tensions with Tokyo. Indeed, the fact that Beijing appeared willing to employ an economic weapon in its row with Japan - the interruption of the supply of rare earth metals (though Beijing denies that it employed its economic muscle in this way) caused further unease, and not just in Asia.

This new Chinese assertiveness explains the efforts of President Barack Obama's administration to bolster its regional role. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been doing the rounds of key capitals in the wake of the East Asia summit in Hanoi and this is only a prelude to an increasingly important trip by President Obama himself this month.

Japan in particular is eager to bolster its maritime alliance with Washington. China is equally eager to limit US engagement, pointedly turning down a US offer to mediate between it and Japan over its latest high-seas spat. The rising tensions in the region pose all sorts of problems for Washington.

It wants to reassure traditional friends and encourage new alliances, while not seeking to explicitly isolate Beijing. This would be a nonsense given the close integration of China with America and the wider global economy.We are still far from the world suggested by a spate of thriller novels perhaps a decade or so ago which saw an inevitable path to superpower conflict between Washington and Beijing.

Nonetheless the tensions are there and managing them will be a growing challenge for diplomats on all sides.

Friday, December 24, 2010

U.S. Approved Business With Blacklisted Nations


Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government has allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism, an examination by The New York Times has found.

At the behest of a host of companies — from Kraft Food and Pepsi to some of the nation’s largest banks — a little-known office of the Treasury Department has granted nearly 10,000 licenses for deals involving countries that have been cast into economic purgatory, beyond the reach of American business.

Most of the licenses were approved under a decade-old law mandating that agricultural and medical humanitarian aid be exempted from sanctions. But the law, pushed by the farm lobby and other industry groups, was written so broadly that allowable humanitarian aid has included cigarettes, Wrigley’s gum, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment sold to the institute that trains Iran’s Olympic athletes.

Hundreds of other licenses were approved because they passed a litmus test: They were deemed to serve American foreign policy goals. And many clearly do, among them deals to provide famine relief in North Korea or to improve Internet connections — and nurture democracy — in Iran. But the examination also found cases in which the foreign-policy benefits were considerably less clear.

In one instance, an American company was permitted to bid on a pipeline job that would have helped Iran sell natural gas to Europe, even though the United States opposes such projects. Several other American businesses were permitted to deal with foreign companies believed to be involved in terrorism or weapons proliferation. In one such case, involving equipment bought by a medical waste disposal plant in Hawaii, the government was preparing to deny the license until an influential politician intervened.

In an interview, the Obama administration’s point man on sanctions, Stuart A. Levey, said that focusing on the exceptions “misses the forest for the trees.” Indeed, the exceptions represent only a small counterweight to the overall force of America’s trade sanctions, which are among the toughest in the world. Now they are particularly focused on Iran, where on top of a broad embargo that prohibits most trade, the United States and its allies this year adopted a new round of sanctions that have effectively shut Iran off from much of the international financial system.

“No one can doubt that we are serious about this,” Mr. Levey said.

But as the administration tries to press Iran even harder to abandon its nuclear program — officials this week announced several new sanctions measures — some diplomats and foreign affairs experts worry that by allowing the sale of even small-ticket items with no military application, the United States muddies its moral and diplomatic authority.

“It’s not a bad thing to grant exceptions if it represents a conscious policy decision to give countries an incentive,” said Stuart Eizenstat, who oversaw sanctions policy for the Clinton administration when the humanitarian-aid law was passed. “But when you create loopholes like this that you can drive a Mack truck through, you are giving countries something for nothing, and they just laugh in their teeth. I think there have been abuses.”

What’s more, in countries like Iran where elements of the government have assumed control over large portions of the economy, it is increasingly difficult to separate exceptions that help the people from those that enrich the state. Indeed, records show that the United States has approved the sale of luxury food items to chain stores owned by blacklisted banks, despite requirements that potential purchasers be scrutinized for just such connections.

Enforcement of America’s sanctions rests with Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which can make exceptions with guidance from the State Department. The Treasury office resisted disclosing information about the licenses, but after The Times filed a federal Freedom of Information lawsuit, the government agreed to turn over a list of companies granted exceptions and, in a little more than 100 cases, underlying files explaining the nature and details of the deals. The process took three years, and the government heavily redacted many documents, saying they contained trade secrets and personal information. Still, the files offer a snapshot — albeit a piecemeal one — of a system that at times appears out of sync with its own licensing policies and America’s goals abroad.

In some cases, licensing rules failed to keep pace with changing diplomatic circumstances. For instance, American companies were able to import cheap blouses and raw material for steel from North Korea because restrictions loosened when that government promised to renounce its nuclear weapons program and were not recalibrated after the agreement fell apart.

Mr. Levey, a Treasury under secretary who held the same job in the Bush administration, pointed out that the United States did far less business with Iran than did China or Europe; in the first quarter of this year, 0.02 percent of American exports went to Iran. And while it is “a fair policy question” to ask whether Congress’s definition of humanitarian aid is overly broad, he said, the exception has helped the United States argue that it opposes Iran’s government, not its people. That, in turn, has helped build international support for the tightly focused financial sanctions.

Beyond that, he and the licensing office’s director, Adam Szubin, said the agency’s other, case-by-case, determinations often reflected a desire to balance sanctions policy against the realities of the business world, where companies may unwittingly find themselves in transactions involving blacklisted entities.

“I haven’t seen any licenses that I thought we should have done differently,” Mr. Szubin said.

Behind a 2000 Law

For all the speechifying about humanitarian aid that attended its passage, the 2000 law allowing agricultural and medical exceptions to sanctions was ultimately the product of economic stress and political pressure. American farmers, facing sharp declines in commodity prices and exports, hoped to offset their losses with sales to blacklisted countries.

The law defined allowable agricultural exports as any product on a list maintained by the Agriculture Department, which went beyond traditional humanitarian aid like seed and grain and included products like beer, soda, utility poles and more loosely defined categories of “food commodities” and “food additives.” Even before the law’s final passage, companies and their lobbyists inundated the licensing office with claims that their products fit the bill.

Take, for instance, chewing gum, sold in a number of blacklisted countries by Mars Inc., which owns Wrigley’s. “We debated that one for a month. Was it food? Did it have nutritional value? We concluded it did,” Hal Eren, a former senior sanctions adviser at the licensing office, recalled before pausing and conceding, “We were probably rolled on that issue by outside forces.”

While Cuba was the primary focus of the initial legislative push, Iran, with its relative wealth and large population, was also a promising prospect. American exports, virtually nonexistent before the law’s passage, have totaled more than $1.7 billion since.

In response to questions for this article, companies argued that they were operating in full accordance with American law.

Henry Lapidos, export manager for the American Pop Corn Company, acknowledged that calling the Jolly Time popcorn he sold in Sudan and Iran a humanitarian good was “pushing the envelope,” though he did give it a try. “It depends on how you look at it — popcorn has fibers, which are helpful to the digestive system,” he explained, before switching to a different tack. “What’s the harm?” he asked, adding that he didn’t think Iranian soldiers “would be taking microwavable popcorn” to war.

Even the sale of benign goods can benefit bad actors, though, which is why the licensing office and State Department are required to check the purchasers of humanitarian aid products for links to terrorism. But that does not always happen.

In its application to sell salt substitutes, marinades, food colorings and cake sprinkles in Iran, McCormick & Co. listed a number of chain stores that planned to buy its products. A quick check of the Web site of one store, Refah, revealed that its major investors were banks on an American blacklist. The government of Tehran owns Shahrvand, another store listed in the license. A third chain store, Ghods, draws many top officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

The licensing office’s director, Mr. Szubin, said that given his limited resources, they were better spent on stopping weapons technology from reaching Iran. Even if the connections in the McCormick case had come to light, he said, he still might have had to approve the license: the law requires him to do so unless he can prove that the investors engaged in terrorist activities own more than half of a company.

“Are we checking end users? Yes,” he said. “But are we doing corporate due diligence on every Iranian importer? No.”

A McCormick spokesman, Jim Lynn, said, “We were not aware of the information you shared with us and are looking into it.”

Political Influence

Beyond the humanitarian umbrella, the agency has wide discretion to make case-by-case exceptions. Sometimes, political influence plays a role in those deliberations, as in a case involving Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and a medical-waste disposal plant in Honolulu.

On July 28, 2003, the plant’s owner, Samuel Liu, ordered 200 graphite electrodes from a Chinese government-owned company, China Precision Machinery Import Export Corporation. In an interview, Mr. Liu said he had chosen the company because the electrodes available in the United States were harder to find and more expensive. Two days later, the Bush administration barred American citizens from doing business with the Chinese company, which had already been penalized repeatedly for providing missile technology to Pakistan and Iran.

By the time Customs seized the electrodes on Nov. 5, waste was piling up in the sun. Nor did prospects look good for Mr. Liu’s application to the licensing office seeking to do an end run around the sanctions. On Nov. 21, a State Department official, Ralph Palmiero, recommended that the agency deny the request since the sanctions explicitly mandated the “termination of existing contracts” like Mr. Liu’s.

That is when Senator Inouye’s office stepped in. While his electrodes were at sea, Mr. Liu had made his first ever political contribution, giving the senator’s campaign $2,000. Mr. Liu says the timing was coincidental, that he was simply feeling more politically inclined. Records show that an Inouye aide called the licensing office on Mr. Liu’s behalf the same day that Mr. Palmiero recommended denying the application. The senator himself wrote two days later.

Mr. Inouye’s spokesman, Peter Boylan, said the contribution had “no impact whatsoever” on the senator’s actions, which he said were motivated solely by concern for the community’s health and welfare.

The pressure appears to have worked. The following day, the licensing office’s director at the time asked the State Department to reconsider in an e-mail that prominently noted the senator’s interest. A few days later, the State Department found that the purchase qualified for a special “medical and humanitarian” exception.

The license was issued Dec. 10. Two months later, Mr. Liu sent the senator another $2,000 contribution, the maximum allowable. Mr. Levey said he could not comment on the details of a decision predating his tenure. But he noted that sanctions against the Chinese company had since been toughened, and added, “Certainly this transaction wouldn’t be authorized today.”

Curious Exemptions

Mr. Liu’s license is hardly the only one to raise questions about how the government determines that a license serves American foreign policy.

There is also, for instance, the case of Irisl, an Iranian government-owned shipping line that the United States blacklisted in 2008, charging that because it routinely used front companies and misleading terms to shroud shipments of banned arms and other technology with military uses, it was impossible to tell whether its shipments were “licit or illicit.”

Less than nine months earlier, the licensing office had permitted a Japanese subsidiary of Citibank to carry out the very type of transaction it was now warning against. Records show that the bank had agreed to confirm a letter of credit guaranteeing payment to a Malaysian exporter upon delivery of what were described as split-system air-conditioners to a Turkish importer. Though the government had yet to blacklist Irisl, sanctions rules already prohibited dealings with Iranian companies. So when the bank learned that the goods were to be shipped aboard the Irisl-owned Iran Ilam, it sought a license.

The license was granted, even though the Treasury Department’s investigation of Irisl was well under way and the United States had reason to be suspicious of the Iran Ilam in particular; that summer, the ship had attracted the attention of the intelligence community when it delivered a lathe used to make nuclear centrifuge parts from China to Iran, according to government officials who requested anonymity to speak about a previously unpublicized intelligence matter.

Mr. Szubin said that since the blacklisting of Irisl, his agency had forced banks to extricate themselves from such transactions. But at the time the Citibank license was issued, his agency regularly issued licenses in cases like this one, where at the time of the transaction, the bank had no way of knowing that Irisl was involved and where the shipping line would be paid by a foreign third party anyway. To depart from the norm, he said, risked facing a lawsuit charging unfair treatment and tipping Irisl off that it was under investigation.

But if the government has sometimes been willing to grant American businesses a break, some companies have recently decided that the cost to their reputations outweighs the potential profit.

General Electric, which has been one of the leading recipients of licenses, says it has stopped all but humanitarian business in countries listed as sponsors of terrorism and has promised to donate its profits from Iran to charity.

As Joshua Kamens, the head of a company called Anndorll, put it, he knew from almost the minute he applied for a license to sell sugar in Iran that “it would come back to haunt me.” Although he received the go-ahead, he decided to back out of the deal.

“I’m an American,” he said. “Even though it’s legal to sell that type of product, I didn’t want to have any trade with a country like Iran.”

A Marketing Lesson in Reaching the Heart of your Audience-Coca cola Christmas Trucks

Coca cola Christmas Trucks

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Maybe advertising's past wasn"t so glorious

China has defended its economic and trade relations with African nations.

My take on China's Africa policy is that as a culture China values its autonomy greatly and thus accords the same respect to other nations. Their policy of non interference is welcomed by the African nations it chooses to do business with and thus they often look more favourably on Chinese bids than American.

In the first policy paper on the subject, Beijing said China-Africa co-operation helped Africa to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals, and boosted common prosperity and progress. China is now Africa's largest trading partner. Bilateral trade grew more than 43% to nearly $115bn (£74bn) in 2010.

But there has been strong criticism of China's resource grab in Africa and its "no strings" approach. Chinese direct investment in Africa has jumped from less than $0.5bn in 2003 to more than $9bn in 2009.
China needs more natural resources such as oil, gas, and minerals for its rapidly growing economy, while Africa needs more investment in basic infrastructure to develop its potential.
China plans to expand the relationship to "a larger scale, broader scope and higher level", according to the policy paper released by the state information office.

Political reform

However, the growing Chinese presence on the African continent has attracted a mixed reaction.
While some Africans welcome the Chinese practice of separating politics from economics, others have expressed concern that Beijing's deepening involvement in the continent's development may worsen the level of corruption and the human rights and environmental issues there.
The key question for many African countries is whether they should adopt the Chinese model of growing the economy at the expense of political reform, rather than developing their own model.Interestingly, the policy paper lists as good practice the China-Africa Co-operation Forum, which has been eagerly copied by the European Union and India. Meanwhile US diplomats have shown some unease at China's growing influence in Africa.

China offers support to eurozone

Jiang Yu said Europe would become a 'major market' for China's foreign exchange investments Continue reading the main story. China has offered its support to eurozone countries to help them through the debt crisis that has gripped the region.
"We are ready to support the eurozone to overcome the financial crisis and realise economic recovery," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.She added that the eurozone would become "a major market" for China's foreign exchange investments.Some eurozone countries are struggling with high debt levels.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with the European Union (EU), has pledged tens of billions of dollars to bail out Greece and the Irish Republic. Earlier this year, Greece accepted a 110bn-euro aid package, while the Irish were forced to ask for an 85bn-euro package last month.There are fears that Portugal may also have to ask for assistance, while some commentators have even suggested that Spain may need help.

China has massive reserves of foreign currency, predominantly in US dollars.
Ms Jiang's comments suggest that the country will buy more euros in the future.Earlier this week, China's Vice-Premier Wang Qishan said he supported the efforts of both the IMF and EU in providing assistance to struggling eurozone countries.

Mergers, acquisitions down in 2010

The dollar value of Canadian mergers and acquisitions is expected to fall in 2010 from the level in 2009, but will rise in 2011, KPMG said Wednesday. "M&A results for the year 2010 continue to disappoint," the consulting firm said in a news release. KPMG expects that there will be 1,800 deals this year involving Canadian companies as buyers or targets, with a value of between $115 billion and $119 billon, based on data from Thomson Reuters SDC.

Last year, there were 2,110 deals valued at about $130 billion.

However, one deal that was killed by the federal government — the nearly $41-billion takeover of Saskatchewan's PotashCorp by BHP Billiton — would have pushed this year's total above the 2009 level.
Canadian companies were buyers in seven of the 10 biggest deals, and eight of the 10 were in the mining or oil and gas sectors. Kinross Gold Corp.'s acquisition of Red Back Mining for $6.9 billion was the largest Canadian deal of the year.

The pace of deals picked up in the last half of 2010, so the full-year statistics "can be deceiving," said Peter Hatges, president of KPMG corporate finance. That suggests there will be continued growth in deals in the first half of 2011.

The M&A data prepared by Toronto investment banker Crosbie & Co. and the Financial Post newspaper reached the same conclusion, showing a 40 per cent increase in the dollar value of deals in the third quarter, compared with the second.

Mining, materials most active sectors

Hatges said "the improvement in the last half of the year is a direct result of improving equity and debt capital markets and more involvement by private equity firms," especially late in the year.

The turmoil in European markets presents an opportunity for Canadian companies, strengthened by the strong Canadian dollar, Hatges said.

The Crosbie report noted that pension funds, such as the Canada Pension Plan and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, have been big players in international takeovers.

KPMG said deals in the mining and materials sector were the single bigest group, accounting for more than a third of the total, followed by energy and industrials. The three sectors accounted for more than 60 per cent of 2010 total.

The strength in mining is not surprising, "given strong commodity prices driven by the continued and increasing need for commodities from emerging economies," said Brian Imrie, KPMG's head of mining and metals.The consultants noted the drop in Canadian mergers and acquisitions this year stands in contrast to the booming economies of India and China, where there were increases of 117 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively.

Read more:

Emerging nations more upbeat on 2011 than G7: survey

People in the UK were more negative about the future than the global average

Power and prosperity are shifting to the east and to emerging economic nations, a new global poll says.
The survey of economic prospects for 2011 suggests the biggest number of optimists live in countries like China, Brazil and India.The survey, conducted by leading pollsters associated with Gallup International, suggests the most downhearted country is the UK.

The survey questioned 64,000 people in 53 countries.It measures levels of optimism about personal well-being and the state of the economy in the coming 12 months.Globally, opinion is evenly divided about whether 2011 will be a year of prosperity, with 30% saying Yes and 28% No, while 42% believe it will be unchanged.

UK gloom

BBC World Affairs Correspondent Adam Mynott says there are marked differences between the Bric countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - and the rich G7 of the US, Canada, Germany, France, UK, Italy and Japan.

"The global economy will certainly recover in 2011, provided we remain optimistic and hardworking”

The survey team has drawn up a Global Barometer of Hope and Despair. People in 19 of the countries are generally optimistic about their well-being next year and 34 countries are pessimistic. Our correspondent says it is striking to note that most wealthy countries are firmly in the gloomy sector.

The UK was particularly downbeat in four key questions.

• Will 2011 be a year of prosperity? UK - 8% Yes; World average 30%

• Will unemployment rise? UK 37% Yes; World average 17%

• Will you find a job quickly if you become unemployed? UK 17% Yes; World average 31%

• Will 2011 be better than 2010? UK 23% Yes; World average 42%

Gallup says its findings suggest: "While wealth is still concentrated in Europe and North America, there is a shift in power and prosperity from the West of the 20th Century to the East".
The economies of the Bric countries - with the exception of Russia - tend to enjoy rapid growth rates, with gross domestic product expansion of 10% not unusual in China.. In contrast, the developed economies have largely struggled back into positive figures as the credit crisis of 2008 has receded.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Experts on Advertising

Jerry Shereshewsky, GrownUpMarketing “Biggest trend: The marketer as content publisher. . . Curating and creating content for search optimization and social media are now crucial components of an online marketing platform. No longer can we buy ads in someone else’s content, we must be the content creators to have a voice in the digital domain, which frankly, for most brands, is where the war is won in the 21st century.”

Susan Bratton, CEO, Personal Life Media, Inc. “One of the biggest trends is location and mobile…mobile devices (phones, tablets) are becoming the dominant device for consuming content and advertising. And everything on that device – from SMS alerts and ads you receive, to local search to your contacts and social activities – all will be made relevant for where a consumer is and when they are there.”

Alistair Goodman, 1020 Placecast  “Scale and Content are making a comeback. While Data is important, the ability for common content providers to finally deliver scale of their audience and facilitate media buying will be a huge factor for more dollars to shift online. Data will increase value for ‘performance’ focused media but content will regain its place as the focus for advertisers. Our online world will be represented by major networks, just like TV/Cable.

More publishers will bring “agency” type functions internal to their organizations. Larger Publishers are going to leverage their scale and utilize their internal agency ability for custom engagements. The acceleration of “exchange driven” media buying will transform our industry forever but will also create numerous opportunities for those collaborate publishers that blend content with advertising.”
Chris Hanburger, aiMatch

“Publishers MUST diversify and actually become marketers. Conde Nast CEO recently said that they were revamping their strategy. Selling advertising was only one revenue stream…and they wanted to grab more money from their relationships thru e-commerce initiatives. This was smart as they are moving from just a media owner to a marketer. You will see more and more publishers doing the same as the line continues to blur. American Greetings started a content e-zine yesterday. Actually it was pretty good.”
Jaffer Ali, Founder, Vidsense

“It’s arguably now easier for a retailer or brand to monetize content than a publisher. Probably not true (yet) of broadcasters. But, the cost of producing and distributing content has effectively fallen to zero. If marketers want to gain people’s attention, they have to say something worth hearing. Most marketers do not yet understand this. Most still operate from the mistaken assumption that attention is a commodity that can be bought. As Alvin Toffler said in Rethinking the Future, ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.’ There is a lot of illiteracy in marketing today.” Tom Cunniff, Combe Incorporated

“Advertising has fundamentally changed well beyond the obviousness of media fragmentation. Audiences are more experienced with advertising messages and have greater access to information, which has provided them with a healthy skepticism. It is no longer sufficient to say ‘new and improved’ because consumers have real-time access to determine if products truly are new and truly are improved.
This healthy skepticism is even more powerful given that consumers have the ability to share their opinions at an exponential rate and while this may seem scary on the surface, it is also quite compelling if you are a company with great products and a focused message — earned media is real and it is powerful.

Brands can no longer preach from the hilltop about themselves. There are too many ways for audiences to tune out the message or simply ‘call bullshit.’ The message now should be customized for more granular audiences and should reach them in more targeted, honest and authentic ways. That’s not to say that a core brand message and broadcast advertising are completely antiquated, it’s just that they are diminished in importance.” Jeff Rosenblum, founding partner of Questus

“I believe the ‘advertising’ era – golden or not – is in its last days if it hasn’t expired already. The term advertising has come to represent everything consumers don’t want and marketers don’t value. These are the golden days of marketing, however, but it’s unclear which players will effectively drive this era. The breakthrough will come when someone switches on the light and everybody realizes their stuff is gone and they don’t know where their cars are parked. Change has already happened; it’s the realization that always lags. And will when the next wave of change comes, too. The role of the media owner, media aggregator (network), agency and marketer will continue to blur. The agency as we know it feels the most downward pressure during this era.”Doug Weaver, Founder, Upstream Group


“Until the dawn of the internet as a medium, advertising was centered on ‘the big idea’; a few words or an image that was incredibly memorable, certainly intrusive and that had the chance of becoming vernacular (still true to a degree, WazzUp as an example). But doing great ‘advertising’ today goes far, far beyond the big idea. You need one, of course, but you also need an entire ecosystem that includes sub-species like a Facebook and YouTube strategy, your ability to respond to emailed customer inquiries in internet time, your ability to create and activate brand ambassadors and a whole lot more. It also requires a way more sophisticated understanding of the variety of media available and how to maximize the impact and value of each.”Jerry Shereshewsky, GrownUpMarketing
“Perhaps the biggest change is in the people that develop advertisements. In previous generations, agencies were incredibly homogeneous. Women were kept below a very low glass ceiling, which literally cut the talent pool in half. Now, great agencies thrive on diversity. Also important is the overall structure. The private office environment of the characters in Mad Men serves as a great metaphor for the way that agencies operated — silo’d and separated. Now, the lines between technology, insights, media and creative are blurred. Great ideas can come from anywhere and great results come from building synergies across disciplines.” Jeff Rosenblum, founding partner of Questus

“Biggest difference is the fragmentation of media outlets and the shift in media consumption patterns. In the 60’s you basically had only a few mediums to reach consumers: Newspapers, TV, Magazines, Radio, Outdoor, Yellow Pages and Direct Mail… Now think about today: according to Piper Jaffrey (The User Revolution) there are over 60 different ways that consumers now consume content – with newbies like Twitter and Facebook achieving the equivalent reach of TV in less than 5 years! (It took TV 38 years to get to 150 million users).” Alistair Goodman, 1020 Placecast

“The whole reason we love Mad Men is that it’s historic and represents all those things we can no longer do– drink martinis at lunch, philander, smoke, drive without seatbelts and channel creative ideas into a fixed and constrained media landscape. The 1960s may as well be the 1760s for all the relevance they have to what we do today.” Doug Weaver, Founder, Upstream Group


“I don’t think they ever were at the leading edge of cultural anything. They were always reflective of the world in which they lived. They had to be. Making a brand incomprehensible to the audience offers no value to anyone (except perhaps a production company).”
Jerry Shereshewsky, GrownUpMarketing

“I don’t believe agencies have ever driven culture. The best creatives have always been those most sensitive to the cultural shifts and the quickest to hold a mirror up to them. And in case we haven’t noticed, some of the best and brightest agency creative minds are leaving the agency model behind because they find it too constraining. Alex Bogusky, for one, is voting on that question with his feet.”

Doug Weaver, Founder, Upstream Group

Interviewing is a flawed science

Not all managers know how to get the best and most relevant information from candidates.
Interviewing is a flawed science: be prepared to steer it in a direction that reveals your skills and talents.
Interviews in the private sector vary from the well-planned assessment day, with group tasks and a panel interview, to a more hurried, informal chat with your potential line manager. Watch out for unpredictable factors that can influence the outcome.

Your interviewer might not be trained

Interviewing is often part of a manager's responsibilities, but they aren't always trained in techniques such as competency-based interviews, where questions about past behaviour in particular situations are used to predict how candidates would act if they were doing a particular job. Don't assume your interviewer has prepared thoughtful, probing questions that will elicit a compelling picture of your abilities and potential. Guide the interview if necessary, to ensure you effectively demonstrate your suitability.

Thorough research and preparation help you counteract even the most unprepared or untrained interviewer. Focus on the challenges of the role, and give examples showing that you have the skills and experience to succeed. Use a 'CAR' story-telling format (describing the challenge, your action and the result) and provide figures proving the impact you've made in similar situations. Weave in four or five of these relevant stories during the interview.

Be ready for standard questions such as asking about your strengths and weaknesses. Prepare specific examples of where you add value. In the live Q&A on Acing your Interview, Rowan Manahan said: "Do some work on what you excel at – what has made the difference in jobs/projects in the past? Build a list and then, when you have an interview coming up, start mapping your identifiable, provable skills against the interviewing company's needs. The subtext to the strengths question is: "What are you good at that's going to make life better right here, right now in this company?" The subtext to the weakness question is "Do you have self-knowledge? Now you have this awareness of a chink in your armour, what are you doing about it?"

Interviewing is a flawed science

The best person doesn't always get the job. Some candidates are better at presenting themselves, while interviewers are also prone to making errors of judgement, such as giving preference to candidates who are similar in background or personality, or taking the score from one aspect of a candidate's performance and applying it to all aspects.

Work this to your advantage. Pick up on any hints of shared experience, which move you from being an outsider to a known quantity. Listen attentively for what the interviewer wants from the ideal candidate. Address these concerns directly and reply succinctly, checking you've answered in sufficient detail.

Never underestimate the personality factor

In Job Interview Success, Be Your Own Coach, ( Jenny Rogers says that likeability, motivation and social skills are crucial. In addition to job-related competence, show you're easy to work with (or manage) and that you would fit in.

Give the interviewer a reason to like you. Be enthusiastic about the role and the company, and appear motivated about how you can contribute to its success. Don't complain about your previous boss, avoid confrontation and be pleasant without being obsequious. Ask about the working culture to reinforce the impression you'd slot in easily.

It's hard to overturn a negative first impression

What you wear – too much aftershave or perfume, your posture or handshake – these seemingly trivial things count. Any hint that you're not the poised, polished professional can irreparably damage your chances.

If you show you've made an effort, you can score points. An experienced interviewer, Denise Taylor, said, "When you see a well-put-together outfit, you're drawn to the candidate. They still have to give effective answers, but you warm to them."
Get a trusted friend to give you a critique of your entrance into a room. Do you come across as assured, arrogant or apprehensive? Meeting people at formal and informal networking events can also help improve your social confidence.

China bans English words in media

China's state press and publishing body says the use of foreign words is eroding the purity of Chinese Continue reading the main story

China has banned newspapers, publishers and website-owners from using foreign words - particularly English ones. China's state press and publishing body said such words were sullying the purity of the Chinese language.

It said standardised Chinese should be the norm: the press should avoid foreign abbreviations and acronyms, as well as "Chinglish" - which is a mix of English and Chinese. The order also extends existing warnings that applied to radio and TV.

China's General Administration of Press and Publication said that with economic and social development, foreign languages were increasingly being used in all types of publications in China.
It said such use had "seriously damaged" the purity of the Chinese language and resulted in "adverse social impacts" on the cultural environment, reported the People's Daily newspaper.
If words must be written in a foreign language, an explanation in Chinese is required, the state body said.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Michael Dell still believes in his creation

 Dell founder buys another $100m of shares in company

Founder Michael Dell said some investors did not value his company highly enough The founder of the computer giant Dell Inc, Michael Dell, has bought another $100m of shares in the company.The company confirmed the move, which was made on Friday and filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The purchase, of 7.37 million shares priced at $13.57, gives him 263 million shares valued at $3.5bn and makes him the company's largest shareholder. In an interview earlier this month, Michael Dell argued that some investors were not valuing the company enough.

Dell's shares have fallen 7% this year.
Shares in the company closed down 2.1% on Monday.

Dell's latest results, released a month ago, showed third quarter net income rose by 144% rise to $822m (£511m), thanks to falling costs and a post-recession wave of IT upgrades.Revenues in the three months to September rose 19% from a year ago, driven by corporate orders.
In contrast, the computer manufacturer reported only a 4% rise in takings from consumer clients, as household spending on laptops and PCs remained weak.

.Three reasons the U.S. economy is ready to roll

The United States could finally find its economic footing in 2011, and surprise analysts with strong growth, independent investment firm BCA Research predicts.

Here are three key reasons why:

Consumer awakens
After the financial crisis brought the U.S. economy to its knees in 2008, consumers sent the country’s savings rate soaring, while subsequently slowing consumption. But the savings rate has since settled at 6%, and BCA says it now believes the time is right for the U.S. consumer to start spending again.

Spending growth, however, will have to come from income growth, says BCA. The investment firm predicts that a natural growth rate of real income could be around three to 3.5%.
If the current savings rate of 6% holds, BCA says consumers will have slashed more than US$2-trillion in debt in three years time. “All of this says that consumer deleveraging has passed its most chaotic and vicious phase and has entered a steady state, which will allow growth in consumer spending to resume,” BCA says in its report.

Businesses start spending

While businesses lost a big chunk of their capital base in 2008, the past two years have seen enhanced profits due to cost cutting and squeezing out productivity.
But BCA says that approach is no longer feasible, and capital spending will have to increase for companies to remain competitive.
“Our model projects a strong upturn in capital spending this year,” says BCA in its report. “This is not surprising, given the fat profit margins, improving economic outlook and extremely low borrowing costs.”

Exports continue to pick up

With a significantly weakened U.S. dollar, BCA points out that American manufacturers and exporters are working on a much cheaper cost base, which has led to somewhat of a revival. BCA says there is room for that revival to be even stronger, however.“Perhaps the dollar has cheapened enough to allow Americans to re-industrialize themselves and to reorient the economy away from excessive consumption toward producing goods and services for the rest of the world,” BCA says in its report.

Of course, there are a few caveats to keep in mind when it comes to U.S. growth, says the research firm.
For starters, housing remains weak, and might take years or even decades before it recovers to its old strength. Meanwhile, if job growth again disappoints in 2011, weak income growth and spending could halt economic growth.

But BCA remains optimistic.
“Despite all the potential risks and uncertainties, our baseline forecast is that U.S. private sector demand is more likely to strengthen than weaken next year, and that the public sector will add some fresh stimulus to the system, ensuring the recovery continues to gain traction,” says BCA

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Location-aware services: Are they worth the effort?

By John Bowman, CBC News

If you're on Facebook or Twitter, you might have seen posts from friends using a service called Foursquare telling you that they're at a particular bar or restaurant, or catching a hockey game. And you might have thought, "I bet these places just love the free advertising."The Foursquare application is shown on an iPhone in front of a Starbucks in San Francisco. Starbucks has offered discounts to the Foursquare "mayors" of some of its locations. (Russel A. Daniels/Associated Press) It's just one of a number of "location-aware" services for smartphone users that offers potential marketing opportunities for savvy businesses.
Foursquare is a game and social network where users "check in" to a location using a smartphone app to let people know where they are and what they're doing. Depending on your privacy settings, your check-ins could be seen by anything from a small group of friends to everyone on the internet. If you're the person with the most check-ins at a certain location, you become its "mayor." Foursquare also offers badges for completing certain tasks — checking in a certain number of times in one night or checking in from a boat, for example. These badges appear on a user's Foursquare profile.

"It's a social network, so you're 'narrowcasting' this location-based information to your friends, your network," said Sidneyeve Matrix, a media professor at Queen's University who specializes in digital culture and marketing.Foursquare is the most popular geo-social network, but there are others. Gowalla offers "pins" instead of badges and allows users to collect virtual gifts dropped off at various locations. Twitter allows users to add location data to its posts. Facebook recently launched its Places feature in Canada.

Of course, businesses big and small are already trying to take advantage of these location-based services to promote their products. Starbucks offers the "Barista" badge on Foursquare for checking in to five different Starbucks locations. Starbucks also partnered with Foursquare last spring to offer the mayor of certain Starbucks locations a dollar off a frappuccino frozen drink.
"The mobile phone is the new loyalty card," said Matrix.

There are growing pains

Unfortunately, attempts to market using geo-social networks do face growing pains, and they can backfire if not done properly. The staff at Matrix's local Starbucks in Kingston, Ont., for example, had never heard of the Barista badge promotion — or Foursquare, for that matter — and refused her the dollar off. Matrix says she was accused of faking the coupon. Matrix described the refusal as "humiliating" and said it "certainly killed the joy and the novelty of the digital coupon." She took to Twitter and her blog to complain about the refusal and to write about Starbucks' social marketing "fail."

Within an hour of Matrix's tweet, the official Starbucks account on Twitter replied to try to make things right. The loss of reputation to Starbucks was worth more than the dollar coupon Matrix was trying to redeem, she said. "What is the value of the word of mouth promotion Starbucks just lost?" Matrix wrote on her blog.A woman walks out of a Gap store in San Francisco. The company recently gave away 10,000 pairs of jeans to people who checked in to their store on Facebook Places. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press) "The take-home lesson is if you're going to do something innovative, you have to make should that you communicate that right down to the shop floor," said Matrix.

Communication with customers is key, too. The Gap partnered with Facebook to give away 10,000 pairs of jeans at its U.S. locations to people who "checked in" to a Gap store using Facebook Places.
While Fast Company deemed the promotion a "huge success," tech news site GigaOM found that many Facebook users were confused about how the promotion worked, some of them just writing "Checking in" on The Gap's Facebook wall.

Different uses for Foursquare

Other companies are using Foursquare in different ways. Clothing retailer Lululemon has a series of tips on its Foursquare page, directing customers to local yoga studios and gyms, places where they could wear their products. "Lululemon is encouraging check-ins among staff and clients," said Matrix.
The idea here is to promote a business through a person's network of Twitter followers and Facebook friends.

Small businesses can also use the "events" feature of Foursquare, said Matrix, following the lead of the NHL, which partnered with Foursquare to promote the league's opening day in October.
"If you're having an event, if you're having a sale, people can check in and access additional information about the [event] that's going on at the location," said Matrix.

The NHL also added tips for each of its venues, posting hockey trivia or helpful hints for each arena.
"There's lots of scaffolding on the Foursquare site for small businesses that want to set up local promotions right away. You can do it in an hour," said Matrix.

Realistic goals needed

Businesses must also have realistic goals for geo-social network marketing projects. Foursquare is the most popular geo-social network but it still doesn't have as many active users as other more established social media sites like Facebook, for example, so businesses expecting a quick payoff could end up feeling frustrated."Geo-social networking is certainly not your first activity if you're looking for social media marketing, because very few people are actually using it," she said.
"It depends whether you want those early adopters — if you think that that's your target market, that they're going to be the ones that will amplify your message to the right people because they're true influencers," said Matrix."It's not quite the experiment that works for a small, little business like us," said Tony Sabhewal of the Magic Oven, an organic pizza restaurant with five locations in Toronto.
"My experience is that you're rewarding the people that are anyways coming to you," he added. "We're not quite an everyman's pizza place so we're not looking for every guy walking across the street to make a beeline just because he gets a free beverage or a free desert. I experimented with it, but it didn't quite go the way I like it to.

"My experience has been average, at best, in terms of bringing in new people."

On the other hand, Sabhewal says the company's presence on Facebook has been valuable to him. "I really think that it's a very worthwhile presence. I get feedback from that presence that is much more valuable than any other emails I get."

Building mobile marketing apps

A small business doesn't have to develop a presence on Foursquare to take advantage of the opportunities that location-aware smartphones provide. Many established companies and tech startups are building mobile marketing apps that allow mainstream social media users to search for deals and promotions close to their current location.

Even Google has said its strategy in mobile computing is focusing on location-based advertising and coupons. There are Canadian startups in this new field, too, including Geotoko in Vancouver and Clip Mobile in Toronto.
Clip Mobile has created a "location-based mobile coupon network," said its founder, Dave Offierski. The app, available for free on iPhone, Android and Blackberry, "uses the GPS in the phone … to find where the user is and does a 10-kilometre search based on their location to reveal merchants or locations with offers, deals, promotions, coupons, discounts," he said.

Unlike Foursquare, the app doesn't require users to check in or make their location public. Clip Mobile is basically an alternative to direct mail, the traditional medium for getting deals to consumers."It's actually quite specialized. It has a very defined purpose: 'Where am I, what's around me and … where can I get a deal?'" said Offierski.

"Why are we wasting all this energy and these resources to cut down trees, to print, to deliver to mailboxes with a redemption rate of about two to five per cent?" he adds.Offierski says his service allows merchants to track how many people look at the offers and how many actually redeem them, which allows a company to fine-tune its marketing message.

Future of geo-marketing

Ever since phones with GPS were introduced, marketers have speculated about a person walking down the street and receiving a text message from the store they just walked past, advertising a special deal — a scenario Offierski called "the holy grail." The trouble is, says Offierski, technology — and consumers — haven't caught up to that marketer's dream.
Many smartphones don't allow an app to run in the background, Offierski pointed out, so keeping a location-aware app running while you're walking down the street hasn't been practical. And his research suggests that consumers perhaps don't want to have deals "pushed" to their phones in this way."At this point, we haven't seen that consumers want to be pushed things based on their proximity," said Offierski. Simply, proximity is a great way to sort or profile information that I'm looking for, not to trigger alerts."
"Yet," he said.

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