Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I attended a masterful sales presentation yesterday. Stores Online is a company that helps an individual build an Internet business. They have a good system, great tools, and moreover they were completely open and honest. It was billed as an Internet Marketing Workshop and they delivered. As far as I can tell, they never lied, stretched the truth or did anything shifty. They laid everything out, said every time they showed a website that was theirs, they'd inform us.

What I'm about to discuss is not a slam on Stores Online. They have an excellent product, offer great support, and they are very reputable. All I'm discussing is the sales technique, which was impressive.

Understand that their target market is aware of the Internet but not web-savvy. The people who buy in are people who would NEVER be able to do this without them. Their prices seem a little high, but not excessive. It's a good company.

Without ever hiding the truth, this is what they did. To the average non-tech person (and I'm not all that advanced, but I've got a little knowledge) they set out to overwhelm you with information. They told you that's what they were doing.

Many of their tools are actually free websites they don't own. They just link their Merchant Services to them. They did not say it wasn't their website (remember, they said they'd identify which are theirs, not which are not, so they were totally fair and open). They even gave us the website addresses - the uninitiated wouldn't know it was not their website. There was only one tool that was proprietarily theirs, but it is an analysis tool that you can do yourself in the same amount of time, and if they have it now, someone will offer it free in a year.

Whenever they talked about building websites, links, embedding keywords, they called it "programming" which it is, but it's a perjorative word (programming sounds difficult). They were totally up front that you had to provide your own graphics, without mentioning that graphics and design are the hard part (it's okay, they provide tech support).

And it was overwhelming. A couple of us, in our own informal private groups, dismantled it into key parts. None particularly hard to do, you just had to know it and do it (easier said than done). For every person there who bought, the thought running through their head was "I could never do this on my own, it's too hard, too much." And they were probably right.

Further, the company owners never hyped it. They gave you cold facts, well presented, and had a customer do the bulk of the instruction and he did some hype (but always balanced it with truth). All testimonials were at least 4 years old, an eternity on the web. Could their success be copied now? Maybe, probably not - at least not in those areas.

It was masterful, ethical, honest and fair sales work. People outside their target audience saw the man behind the curtain, but the buyers didn't. It was a little bit like watching an illusionist who tells you what he's going to do, does it, but you don't know how. Those taken in don't see the wires; those that do, don't buy.

Equally impressive is that they knew who was who. They didn't waste any time on Bill H. or myself, or the people we were sitting with. A questionaire I'd filled out before with very mild questions "do you have a product, a current website, did you build it yourself, are you experienced with the web?" Yes to all and I wasn't bothered by anyone. I'd even signed up for a consultation, but they didn't call me down.

Even so, they delivered what they said. I learned a lot, it was worth my time, and I wish them and their clients well. I'm sure many of them will make a lot more money than I ever will on the web.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sorry, this simply has to be said:

Bowling is not a sport.

All those reports saying bowling is the fasting growing sport in high schools around the country are wrong. It. Isn't. A. Sport.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with bowling. I'm sure setting up and knocking down pins is at least as much fun as watching cars drive around an oval. (And, yes, NASCAR is indeed a sport.)

Bowling is a game. For it to be a sport, the other player would have to stand on the lane and try to stop the bowler from hitting the pins. Which might actually make it more interesting to watch.

Golf is a game. Chess is a game. Ballroom dancing isn't even a game, let alone a sport, so why it's in the Olympics, I couldn't tell you.

Track and field events are "athletics" but they aren't sports either. Tennis is a game. Ping-pong: game. Darts: Game. Poker: Game.

A sport must have a defense as well as an offense, otherwise it's just a compitition; may the better player win. In sports you must overcome the other player not just obtain the objective faster or better. It's mano-a-mano (or womano-a-womano, I suppose). It isn't enough to achieve, you must prevent the other guy from achieving as well.

Sports are the offspring of war. Games are the offspring of whatever the noblemen were doing when they weren't making war.

It had to be said.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Illusionist

Now this was a good movie. Great complicated script, great complicated directing, wonderful acting... I know you're all waiting for the other shoe to drop, but nope, I really liked this.

The director made a couple of wonderful choices that made the movie work exceptionally well: Eisenheim wasn't flamboyant and it wasn't his story. The cop was the main character, the protagonist, the one who changes. While I saw most of it coming (wouldn't be much of a movie if it went anywhere else) it was still a great show.

My only complaint is with the DVD extras. I'm assuming the consulting magicians didn't allow the practice sessions to be filmed, but it would have been great fun to see Edward Norton learn sleight of hand. Most of the illusions were digital tricks, but he had some real sleight of hand in there as well. I'd also like to know if the illusions could be, in fact, be done without camera effects. They had the compelling problem of normal magic tricks being ho-hum to the sophisticated viewing audience, and without the flamboyant persona, regular tricks that would still thrill an audience back then, wouldn't now. So they "pushed" the tricks further digitally. Or so I assume; can modern magicians do these tricks? I don't want to know how they were done, but it would be cool to see "real" magicians do the same tricks for the extras. Edward Norton wasn't even in the extras.

Really good stuff. Lynette even liked it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why is it the sound of crickets that suggests there's nobody out there? Why not mice tittering or owls hooting? How about the little man in the moon whistling a long mournful wail at being alone... all alone... so very, very alone...

Hark! Was that a tree falling in the forest?

Here I stand, clapping with one hand...




Thursday, January 11, 2007

No regrets - well, not many...

Okay, folks, come clean. If you could go back and learn something as a kid that you didn't the first time around because you didn't think it was worthwhile, what would it be?

For me, music and math.

I would have stuck with the trumpet, keyboard, bas and guitar that I only flirted with (ok, keyboard was actually a full-blown relationship for three years, but then I quit and now I can't play a note. Same with bass; I was in a garage band that was truly awful, but a lot of fun when we weren't fighting).

And drums. Drums are the height of cool. You can even wear a British flag diaper and look cool playing drums (ask your Dad, Sherlock... and no, it wasn't him...) I can't help but think worship would be a whole 'nother experience if I could be playing as well as singing badly.

As for math, if I hadn't been lazy, worthless and all around shiftless, I would have applied myself and learned the kind of math you don't do on your fingers. Nothing worse than sitting in your college Chemistry or Physics class, realizing that this was the way to understand the universe... then getting hopelessly lost when I found out a mole wasn't only a blind, black mammal tearing up the front yard. Science, my first love... the class that never even hinted at math in High School, is founded in the math I couldn't understand because I never pushed myself to learn anything difficult. Could have, but didn't.

Children, take note!

Friday, January 05, 2007

So sorry, more political stuff...

I've been reviewing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and I've come to a few conclusions. Probably not popular ones, either.

Both the Left and the Right are correct. Both of them.

The Left believe we should never have gone into Iraq. They figure we don't have real reasons to go in (nevermind that everyone thought they had WMDs). We should go it, they say, because the whole Middle East is a powder keg. Once you go in, you can't get out. There is no exit strategy. They're right.

The Right says let's get in there and take out an evil man. Let's establish a beachhead of democracy in the Middle East and see what happens. They are correct, also.

Saddam H. was an evil despot. His sons were worse. He SHOULD have been taken out, he was, and it was us who did it. It was the Correct Thing to Do. It may not have been politically correct, but it was CTtD.

Now we're stuck there, the Middle East is still a powder keg waiting to explode, and you know what? That's okay, too. It's taking longer than expected to bring the Iraqis to a place where they can take care of themselves, but as soon as they do, we should step out.

It's a little bit like teaching another person's child to walk. The parents haven't, the child is arguably ready, so you hold their little hands up and when the kid thinks, "okay, I can walk now" you let go. The kid may start walking or he may fall on his butt. You gave him the opportunity he wasn't getting, maybe the parents have learned something and maybe they haven't. You aren't obligated to help that child any further.

There are native people who want democracy in the Middle East. We've held their hand and when they're ready to give it a try on there own, it is not our responsibility to make sure they succeed. Get this, IF DEMOCRACY FAILS IN THE MIDDLE EAST IT IS NOT AMERICA'S FAULT!

We should have gone in there Because It's The Right Thing To Do. When we leave, we can do so with clean hands, in my opinion. If Iraq ends up falling to a Civil War, that's their fault and their problem. If the Middle East doesn't take this opportunity to join the Civilized World, that's their problem, not ours.

The kid analogy falls apart because Iraqis are not children. They're adults and responsible for their own choices. If they don't like freedom and give it away, it's on their heads, not ours. They were given a platform, by us, to make a free decision (inasmuch as I don't believe in Free Will, of course).

If they make the wrong one, no skin off our nose. Really.