Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Poised to Help Science

The Economist's Oct, 13, 2013 cover story, How science goes wrong, touches on the value of sifting through data for patterns: "A start would be getting to grips with statistics, especially in the growing number of fields that sift through untold oodles of data looking for patterns."

We agree. Our new patent-pending technology for analyzing related data sets seeks to address the problem of finding needles in data haystacks. Users would be more inclined to work directly with charts and graphs than with raw data sets. Give users tools do their analysis through the charts themselves, rather than with the raw data, and the pace of analysis becomes greatly accelerated.

In the coming weeks we will be sharing more details with you about this technology, and we hope you will find it as exciting as we do. 



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A new idea

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” 
— Albert Einstein
We feel passionate about well-designed user interfaces, and we get excited by data. With this in mind, we have been working hard to bring you something truly new.

Data on devices begs to be made interactive. And yet we have seen relatively few useful examples of data made interactive. Drag to move forward and backward through a timeline, that's useful. Roll over a data point to get an informational bubble. Mildly useful, but really just saving screen real estate. What other useful ways could we interact with data? And by useful I mean facilitating comprehension, not merely making data cute, gee-whizzy or legible.

The more you want to analyze a data-set, the more likely you need a degree in data analysis. Ever try to use a chart wizard? Maddening, and that is just for an unrelated data set!

What if you could analyze related data without degrees or wizards? Show me your survey respondents' pie charts: age, gender, annual income, and whatever other questions you asked them. Give me no other interface than each pie chart, and I should be able to click from chart to chart and slice to slice, and let the computer make a new chart for me, based on what I clicked. That's it. Want to know if low-income young women or men are more likely to own an iPhone? Click the "18-24" slice in the age pie chart. Click the "Male" and "Female" slices of the gender chart. Click the income slice(s) you care about, and lastly click the "What phone do you own currently (if any)" question. That is all you should need to do to tell the computer what chart you want. The boss needs some other question figured in to your analysis? No problem, just click the new question to add it to your existing chart!

We have been quietly working on this technology and we are proud to say it is patent pending. We think making data analysis this easy will be a game changer. We are eager to bring this to the world... stay tuned!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Hacking WordPress Themes

A couple of years ago, we created a WordPress site for a client. We found a third party theme that we liked, but we wanted to make some changes to it. The theme author did not expose, in the WordPress interface, the kinds of things that we wanted to modify. Undaunted, we hacked the author's theme until it matched what we wanted.

Fast forward to this year— a WordPress update caused the theme to start generating errors. The errors were not the result of our hacks, but were in the original theme. The theme author gladly supplied me with the latest error-free version of his theme, but because I did not document all of our hacks, we would essentially have to start over.

Lesson 1: Never hack a WordPress theme. 

Lesson 2: If you ignore lesson 1, copiously document every change, because you may need to re-apply all hacks in the future.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Can you spot the gorilla?

NPR’s article, Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight discusses the excellent work by Harvard Medical School attention researchers Trafton Drew and Jeremy Wolfe; but perhaps there is a broader message here.

Focusing on "process and procedure" can make us miss important things. Adopting practices to break routines helps you spot the gorilla in the room. Try it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Visualizing Incongruity

Can you guess what is missing from this webinar email promoting the value of Google+ over Facebook for small businesses? Hint: look at the row of social sharing icons above the headline.
First impressions are important. Sure, Brad has little control over Verizon's choice of social sharing links promoting his webinar, but that makes it no less embarrassing. I did not sign up for his webinar– congruity matters.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting Pissed Off Is Not A Plan. Seize The Moment.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a colleague, Ramsey Poston, who was fortunate to be mentored by Jody Powell, Press Secretary to President Carter. He said Jody had 10 great sayings, but his favorite had become a way of life for him.  "Being pissed off is not a strategy. Help clients get from anger to something more productive."   Ramsey actually improved on Jody's message, simplifying it even more "Getting pissed off is not a plan".  This is now one of my favorite mantras, and one I will pass on to my friends and business associates, when they lose focus on what is important in life, and are stuck in the moment.

I was fortunate to have been adopted/mentored by Mrs. Rosa Parks.  The biggest lesson she taught me was to “seize the moment”.   Utilize every breathing moment you have, in carrying out your message and mission in life.  Although Mrs. Parks and Jody Powell's lessons are seemingly different, they are both remarkably simple.

Achieving your goals, whether personal -- or with your brand -- is easy if you keep these simple words, in your mind’s eye, always:  Getting pissed off is not a plan.  Seize the moment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Bad Reviews Are Good For Business

I run several business. One is a restaurant. In the past year, we have received some bad reviews on the internet. While many of them are from vendetta driven fired employees, when the bad reviews are real reviews, meaning from genuine customers, I am actually quite happy.

Why would getting a one, two or three star review make me happy? Because knowing enables change. So many times in life you think things are great, because you choose not to look at them -- or you are too busy to see them. Unhappy clients force you to re-evaluate who you are, where you are going, and who you want to become! I embrace every bad review as good. That's the key to positive evolution. Our restaurant business has improved because we listened and acted on the bad reviews. We have even gone so far to ask people who have given us bad reviews for clarification and suggestions on how to make things better. Their feedback has been fabulous and productive.

So embrace bad reviews, learn from them, and utilize them to your advantage!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In Memory of Steve Jobs

Here I sit in front of my iMac, with my wireless keyboard and trackpad. Also in front of me are my iPhone, iPad, Magic Mouse and my MacBook Pro. In the living room is the AirPort Extreme, in the kitchen the AirPort Express to stream music. My wife has her MacBook Pro, her white iPhone, and her postage stamp-sized iPod. Since we started buying computers, our household has owned at least 6 Apple computers. In my basement is a Mac Classic.

I use built-in iChat screen sharing to troubleshoot other people’s computers on a daily basis. I use built-in videoconferencing to talk to my son while I am traveling (and I have FaceTimed with my wife, her dad, my brother and my co-workers, all sporting iPhones). We capture countless pictures and videos on our phones, that we will all have to share from now on.

My 7 year old son installs more apps on my phone and iPad than I do.

I have used AppleScript to automate many of the tedious repetitive things I have to do at my job, so that I can push one button or issue one voice command and my computer will do for me what it used to take me many steps to do. I use these a hundred times a day, no exaggeration.

I’m not one to watch a movie more than once… it needs to be great for me to want to watch it again. We have a half a dozen Pixar DVDs that we have each watched many times over.

It is truly difficult to understate the impact Steve Jobs has had on my life.

Steve, where the rest of your industry saw things as “good enough”, you had the awareness to know better, the brilliance to imagine how things could be, and the drive to make it so. May we all learn that lesson.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Secret Motive Behind Proprietary CMS Packages

My professional purpose is to help our clients make money. In this vein, PIR leverages technology to improve businesses, not to take advantage of them.

Agencies that deploy proprietary CMS packages for their clients have all the power in the relationship -- that's why they push them. It's their security blanket; your bottom line is not their concern.

Agencies that deploy open source CMS packages for their clients are committed to empowering their client rather than ensuring on-going dependence on them.

Beware of an agency that only offers their own proprietary CMS packages, rather than an economical, and cyber safe open source CMS package for three big reasons:
  1. You have no power when negotiating fees, timelines or deliverables.

  2. If you decide your agency is not delivering what you need and you want to part ways, you are at their mercy because proprietary systems means there are no outside developers you can ask to take over their tasks. You likely have to rebuild your site from scratch, all over again.

  3. Technological innovation is not a nice to have for your company — it is a need to have. Companies like Polaroid, Blockbuster, Palm — and soon RIM— failed because they did not keep up with technology trends, why not learn from their mistakes?

    Proprietary CMS systems means future functionality and technology upgrades will slow to a crawl. No agency can keep up with the rapid feature development occurring in these massive open source initiatives. For this reason you should be cautious when considering proprietary CMS packages.

While there may be many talented and well-intentioned developers within an agency that know better,  there is likely a money guy behind the scenes insisting that they only offer their own proprietary system as a solution.

However, if your agency is a true-blue partner, and comes to you and says: “We believe you should drive your business toward open-source CMS systems because...” Listen to them — and stay with them. They have your best interests at heart, and truly care about your profitability.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Social Couponing - When Is It A Good Idea?

The social coupon craze has hit a fever pitch with companies like Google, Yelp! The Washington Post -- and every Tom, Dick and Harry getting in on it. Although the back end is expensive to build, once launched it is a pure profit phenom. Jumping on the bandwagon as a business is easy BUT, is is good for your business? 

Though it appears on the surface that these offers are FREE for your business because there is not an upfront cash outlay don't be fooled. It's NOT free.  

So, when should you consider making an offer?

When you need a loan:
If you are in need of a quick infusion of cash, you might consider running a deal of the day. You get the cash up front, which is helpful when you need it. However, your business will pay later in the form of service to your customers and product costs (we had a client that sold over 6,000 meals). Be aware you can actually lose money if your deal isn't priced to incorporate the 50% that goes to Groupon, LivingSocial or other coupon vendors... AND your 50% discount offer on top of that.  

When you want to increase your customer base
Though it is not easy to do, it is possible to increase your customer base with social "couponing". In order to increase your customer base, you need to custom tailor your coupon/promotion in such a way that it will interest potential new customers more than the general social coupon audience that is just looking for a one-time deal.

Consider your deal carefully before you create it:
1. Is your deal too appealing to bargain hunters? 

2. Does your deal cater to people who really “get”your business?
3. Does you promotion lend itself to potential customers coming back?  

If your goal is to create the most appealing offer to interest bargain hunters, then consider your deal a high interest loan.   

If your offer is crafted with options 2 or 3 in mind, then you stand a chance of growing your customer base. 

Our advice is to think about your pricing strategy -- before embarking on any coupon  promotion.

When you want to test a new product or service
Given that these services tap into large audiences with broad appeal you might consider trying out a new offering on them (think, affordable focus group). Some of these coupon services offer feedback mechanisms for the merchant so they can understand how the purchaser perceived their experience. This information can be enormously helpful in tailoring your product or service for the future. 

Final thoughts you should consider before you jump in
Will making an offer taint your current customers? Some of your customers might decide not come back until you run another special, which could melt away your loyal bread and butter clients — so, be prepared.

The key to running successful daily deal promotions is in the preparation -- before you run your social couponing deal. Goodluck!