My moral dilemma at Mashable #smdayjlm

Last night I had the privilege of moderating a panel of three brilliant marketers in front of about 150 attendees at Mashable's Social Media Day event in Jerusalem. About 25 minutes into the panel, I noticed one of the event organizers signaling for my attention. When I glanced at her laptop, my heart stood still. Our three missing teenagers had been found dead and discarded in a ditch.

As the words ברוך דין האמת (the prayer over tragedy) left my lips, I was faced with a deep moral dilemma.  

We weren't even halfway through the hour long event. Should I announce the news and effectively end the panel and the event? Should I allow the panel to continue as if nothing happened? 


My Considerations

On the one hand, the organizers and contributors invested a great deal of effort into this event. The attendees had taken time out of their busy schedules to learn and enhance their own efforts. The panelists had driven in from across the country. We were here to share our information and experience for the betterment of our industry and society overall. In a time of darkness, we were bringing light into the world. Would it be morally better to leave the people in the room in uninformed bliss, to give them a few more minutes of life without this tragedy on their shoulders? 

At the same time, how could we continue as if nothing happened? 


What I Did

I decided to let the panel continue, but to try and direct the questions and discussions towards positive topics such as cause marketing and the value of hashtags in starting or joining a movement. I also tried to prepare the room a bit by asking the panel for their perspective on sharing personal views, politics and beliefs on personal accounts when the public identifies them as brand ambassadors.

As the discussion continued, I noticed the faces of attendees as they caught news of our loss on their tablets and phones. One attendee buried their face in their hands, another's face turned dark red as they let out a deep sigh. 

As the panel was drawing to a close, I realized I had to say something. I left off with the following message:

Social media has the power to bring people together. It connects us as people, on a human level. Social media has taught businesses that speaking at people is not enough, but real dialog and discussion on a human level is necessary for success. 

Five years ago, I began planning my aliyah (immigration to Israel). I started by reaching out to strangers active in the Israeli tech scene. Using Twitter, Facebook, blogging and LinkedIn, you all helped me network my way around this industry. With the help of the many friends I made along the way, I found a number of fantastic career opportunities. 

We have suffered an incredible tragedy. The world tonight has become a little bit darker. As we leave this event, lets not just think about the business applications of these discussions, but the many ways we can use these same tools to bring a little bit of light back into the world.


And then I bid my farewell, got into a cab, and finally broke down in tears.

May we never see such tragedy again.

Amazon Fire Phone: the phone your mom has been dreaming of

Fire phoneAmazon got a lot of things right with their first mobile phone. While the phone's specs may be last generation, Amazon knows that most Americans don't know or care about processor speeds. Most people will choose a phone based on two minutes of trial in an AT&T showroom or the phone's star rating on Amazon. The general public has never heard of The Verge, let alone watched an unboxing. 

The Fire Phone is built for this massive market. And it promises to make Amazon a great deal of cash and loyalty along the way.

  • Retail Ready:
    The "dynamic perspective" feature will make for an incredible retail showroom experience. This feature may not offer much long term value, but it will sing on the sales floor.

  • Prime:
    This phone is built for Prime subscribers. Not only does it include one year of free Prime membership, but it promises to deliver the best Prime experience with Firefly. There is no better way to keep someone addicted to your services than by locking their most-used screen into your ecosystem.

  • Newbies:
    I love my mother, but she cannot find her way around a Nexus 4. Mayday's instant, live support is a breakthrough smartphone feature and a huge selling point for technology laggards. The phone has a dedicated camera button for G-ds sake. And photo backup is automatic. It couldn't get any easier.

  • Brand:
    Amazon is a trusted name. Amazon isn't in the news for screwing their customers, and people already trust them with their credit card information. Whereas Google is occasionally in the news for "big brother" scare stories, people trust the Amazon brand.

I don't know that Amazon's first phone will sell out minutes or that they will sell 10 million units in the first three months. But it wasn't designed to, nor does it need to.

The Fire Phone is positioned as the best phone experience for the mainstream Prime subscriber. And it will get the Prime subscriber even more addicted to Amazon. That sounds like a win/win to me.

Hashtags, yellow ribbons and flags

Hashtag flag

You have a yellow ribbon on your tree! Then I'll stop attacking your military... said no one ever.

But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't hang a yellow ribbon, use a hashtag or wave a flag. These are all symbols of something greater than ourselves, icons of self-identification that join us together and rally others to our cause.

We don't hang ribbons to conquer the enemy, at least not directly. We hang them as a reminder to ourselves and to everyone we encounter that this cause is close to our hearts. We hang ribbons to generate momentum for our movement, to amass goodwill and ultimately garner political support for our cause.

Using a hashtag won't get the enemy to lay down their weapons. Using a hashtag won't pressure guerrilla groups or terrorists into action. But every army has a flag. And the flag of our generation is the hashtag.

Convergence: The mistake we all made

From about 2002 to 2012, there was a great deal of conversation about a future world, where we would live in the nirvana called convergence. We couldn't have gotten it any more wrong.

We all assumed convergence was about the one device, the one ecosystem, the one platform that would rule the world. 

Our phones are now the convergent devices we dreamed of, so why do we still have cable tv, set top boxes, home phone lines, wearables, watches, fitness trackers, tablets, and so much more?

Because great innovations adapt to the human experience rather than demanding that we change our behavior to enjoy the innovation. Because tech has gotten so good and so quickly, that we no longer focus on speed, but on experience. We no longer focus on the specs in the device, but the price point and the way it feels in our hand. Because it's all about the way services and technologies adapt to meet our needs.

Yes, in the future we will live in a converged world. But devices won't be at the center of this world. People will. Successful businesses don't sell technology, they sell solutions.

Focus on the game, not on the tools, and you've got your winning strategy.

Facebook Recommendations are coming, and they will be ama$ing

Last year we saw Outbrain explode in popularity across publishers large and small. But their rise to fame is nothing compared to Facebook's next big move - better, smarter, pervasive but not invasive personalized and contextualized recommendations. Facebook has nearly a decade of experience optimizing and personalizing our feeds. They know what we read, watch and listen to, what we are interested in, who our friends are, what and so much more. Facebook has the experience and scale to turn this data into a goldmine.

Facebook content recommendationsAnd I'm pretty sure they are already testing this product.

Check out the screenshot beside this post. When I right clicked on Professor Jeff Jarvis's post, Facebook dynamically loaded the box below his with video recommendations. It would be quite simple for Facebook to add a sponsored video to that feed. It also wouldn't be a big leap for Facebook to make this unit available for publishers for inclusion below their content. With a ratio of 15% sponsored recommendations to 85% organic recommendations, publishers would see this unit as a win-win and users would be very likely to engage. Publishers would see page views (and ad revenues) rise and Facebook would recognize the sponsored content revenue. Over time, larger publishers would likely have the option to remove sponsored content for a negotiated fee, further increasing the revenue to Facebook while increasing the data they collect.

And here's why this is a goldmine.

These recommendations will work as well on desktop as they do on mobile. And they will work as well with videos as they do with music, books, magazines, apps, products, restaurants and so much more. This is the next generation of performance media, driven by engagement rather than interruption while monetizing the forgotten white space - below the fold. Facebook Recommendations will be like AdSense for the connected age, amplified by the exponential reach of connected devices and engagements. 

Welcome to Facebook Recommendations.

Facebook needs a Matt Cutts

Cutts Facebook
Facebook needs a Matt Cutts. 

Matt Cutts is the high priest of SEO for Google. Matt guides the public on all things SEO, an industry just a shade more misunderstood and misrepresented than social media. Matt participates in the industry dialog, posts to YouTube, does panels, podcasts and conferences. He provides more than just the rules of the road, he embodies and communicates the principles by which Google Search operates. It is extremely rare to find an SEO professional complaining about being burned by Matt's advice, because his core principles rarely change. And when there are major changes, he shares a clear and cogent reason why these changes were needed and what you can do to help your business. The public trusts Matt because Matt has a proven track record, and because Google has a track record of standing behind him. 

Facebook needs a Matt Cutts. 

Businesses large and small have collectively invested billions of dollars in advertising, content and human capital building their communities on Facebook. Facebook actively courted these businesses and for better or worse, Facebook has changed the rules of the game. Unfortunately, I have not seen very much explanation around these changes from Facebook, leading to an incredible amount of anxiety and anger.

Facebook needs a real person to serve as the authority on building communities and businesses on Facebook. Beyond sharing do's and don'ts, this person must provide core guidelines that will not change. And if they do change, he must present acceptable reasons and actionable advice. This person must embrace dialog with the industry and demonstrate real understanding of it's complexities. And Facebook needs to stand behind this person for the long haul.

Facebook is no longer a bright and shiny innovation, and they deserve to be more than a talking point or a box to check. Facebook needs to be more than too big to ignore. To accomplish this, Facebook needs to take a page from their own playbook and become a a partner at the table of every customer, not just the big ones.

Without a Matt Cutts, I fear Facebook may grow a systemic cancer, a blindness to the market. This wouldn't just be a loss for Facebook, but a loss for society. Facebook has the potential to radically change the discipline and craft of marketing, to give a stronger voice to the user and revolutionize communications at an unprecedented scale. This opportunity is to big to ignore.

The time has come for Facebook to behave like the leader they have become. Facebook needs to give this industry a Moses, a figure to explain what has happened, what will happen and how to build for the future. Facebook is better, and smarter than the basics mistakes they have made. And in partnering with businesses, they have everything to gain.

When the world doesn't think they need your product, create it

InnowhatLast week I ran into an old friend. He asked me what I was up to, and I told him about this new doohikey I'm working on. He asked, Does the world really need another doohickey

Honestly, no. The world does not need yet another doohickey. But that's why I'm working so damn hard on it.

Few people recognize, anticipates or expect disruptive innovations. If anyone knew what the next disruptive innovation would be and how it would work, then they would be building it.Great innovators work tirelessly to build things the world don't expect to see.

Few people thought that the world needed a better smoke detector or thermostate. This giant market was sleeping. Along came Nest and gave the industry the scare of their lives. Nest introduced innovations that nobody saw coming in a tired, sleeping market.

No, the world does not think that they need another doohickey. The doohickey market is already crowded by the big names, most of whom haven't made any major moves in years. And that's exactly why I'm in it.

There's no better way to take on a giant, than to climb right past him while he sleeps.

The magic of waiting

FetusThere's something magical about waiting. A great pause makes a punchline twice as funny and a 1/2 note rest makes an epic song that much more powerful. Personally, I was never one to appreciate the pauses in my life. I never enjoyed waiting. Until this week.

At the end of this week, my amazing wife Rina is expecting our third. For the past nine months we have been watching and waiting. We had the usual scares and concerns, all of which naturally turned out to be nothing to worry about. And now, we're just waiting.

I hate the waiting. I hate the uncertainty. It's emotionally and physically draining. My knees are sore from tensing up every time my phone vibrates, waiting for the message that it's time to come running. I hate not knowing if tomorrow will be the day.

But I love the anticipation.

Every baby I see reminds me that there is this incredible part of my future sitting right on the verge of entering our lives, teasing me every day that maybe today will finally be the day. I'm loving our last few days as a family of four, the last moments when we will have with only two little ones driving us nuts at 6 in the morning. I find myself noticing every little cute thing they do. I'm appreciating their funny little morning rituals. I'm appreciating my time with them. I'm appreciating how big they have gotten. I'm appreciating how clearly our three year old speaks and the maturity of our six year old as he manages our household (or tries to). I'm appreciating how they walk and run. I'm appreciating how they deeply they breathe when they sleep. And I missed them the minute they walked out the door to school.

New beginnings allow you to re-see and re-appreciate all the amazing, wonderful things you forget to celebrate. 

To our newest addition, thank you for making me wait. I can't wait to meet you.