Category Archive for: ‘Featured’

Time to Re-Address Address Bloat

Have you looked at a colleague’s business cards lately? Once pristine, with a simple name and mailing address, today’s business cards feature a litany of links and social networking connections.  Some of them have forsaken the physical address, replacing it with a list of every social network in existence. Others, who can’t let go of the physical, have business cards that are approaching War and Peace-like length. For example:

Name - Address - Company - Title - Email - Personal Email - Phone - Cell Phone - Twitter - LinkedIN - Facebook - IM

And on it goes. It’s no longer a business card, it’s a biography. And who’s that important that they need to be contacted seven ways come Sunday?

But, besides being a sensory overload, the biggest bother about business cards that go on ad nauseum is that they’ve stymied most attempts to automate their entry into a contact database.

Here are a few of the options I’ve tested:

Electronic signatures using cut and paste: Slow and tedious. You mark the signature information in the email, copy to the clipboard and paste into a contact manager. Then you manually stick the correct information into the correct fields.  Accurate but painstakingly slow. EHow offers some good tutorials on variations of the cut and paste theme.

Business Card Scanners: I use an early version of Neat Receipts. The problem isn’t with the scanner; like with most card scanners, the scanned image of the business card is pretty good. The problem is parsing the information from the card into your contact manager. Most card scanning software understands a name/address and phone number, but from there the results disintegrate. You wind up fixing many entries manually.

Mobile Phone Apps: I use CamCard to take photos of business cards with my Andorid mobile phone. A free Lite version of the program gives you 10 scanned cards followed by 2 per week. You can upgrade to the full version for $11.99. Once you use your camera to snap a photo of the business card, the image goes into a special CamCard database. The database is pretty smart: you can decide to email, look them up on LinkedIn, IM, map the address, look up the contact on the web, or heaven forbid, actually give them a call. The downside? You can’t sync this with other databases easily.

Gwabbit App (and PC versions): With email signatures, I use Gwabbit. I’ve used it since the day it launched and it keeps getting better. Gwabbit works with Blackberry and Microsoft Outlook. It sits on the toolbar and with a single click it captures the signature information and organizes it into your Outlook address book. If it messes up an address – say it doesn’t recognize a Twitter or Facebook – you can go back to the signature, manually highlight it, and click. This usually remedies the problem. The company says it’s at work on a new version of the program that will be better at parsing weird addresses.

Gist: Gmail users tend to like Gist, an add-on that lets you bring your contacts from all of your social networks and email into one place. But that assumes your contacts have already found your way into these lists.

And to get your contacts out of your social networks and import than into your contact database is pretty simple. Just export your database into .CSV file and then import it into your contact database.

Hoping the next generation of contact managers gets smart about complex addresses and taking info from multiple places.

How Social Networking Wrecked My CES Events

I am not a newbie – I’ve been at CES for an eternity, as the emcee and creative force behind the Last Gadget Standing and the Mobile Apps Showdown – two events at CES that both rely heavily on the people’s vote to decide on a winner.

There was a time when the people’s vote meant something. Either it meant you trusted the company, you had a passionate interest in its product, or you simply thought it was a cool idea. Why else would you show up to vote?

This year will mark the end of a decade of trusting in the people’s vote and it’s all because of social networking.  Today, the winner of the people’s vote is content-free; it’s a cross between a popularity contest, a shouting match, and a hacker’s club.

This year’s popular vote for The Last Gadget Standing and Mobile Apps Showdown made Florida’s hanging chads look like child’s play. Here’s how we noticed that our world had changed. A product that hasn’t even been announced yet starts to get thousands of votes on our people’s choice voting page – so many votes that our servers  crawl to a halt.

Suspicions heightened, I make a call to the company asking how it’s possible for them to have such a strong lead. They proceed to tell me the story of the ShayTards – evangelical followers of a guy named Shay Carl, whose disciples hang on to his every blog. “He’s our spokesperson,” the company tells me, “his people will do whatever he tells them to do.”

Who knew? Now, I call a few other companies to see what they’ve been doing to garner votes and it runs the gamut from email blasts to hiring professional bloggers. The comment fields for each product are filled with useless endorsements like “Cool product”  at best, or “I was told to vote here” at worst.   Meanwhile, the website is nearly at a standstill and my office is under siege from voters complaining about not being able to access the site.

A quick call to our hosting company results in an upgrade to more space. No improvement. A second call results in a second upgrade. Like the kid who keeps getting detention in school we start to realize we’ve got bigger problems than server space. Turns out there were 40 “denial of service” scripts running against our voting page. They made it impossible to vote and they were equally impossible to track down to a source.

Finally we moved our vote to a hosting company that’s probably one level below DOD clearance (at great expense, I might add). We believe that we’re back on track. But who knows?

The point of the story? If you’re naïve enough to believe that crowd sourcing is really indicative of what the crowd thinks, or that the people can be trusted to vote thoughtfully based on real information…think again. I used to believe that the people knew best; now I believe that they’ll do whatever it takes.

Last Gadget and Mobile Apps will continue, but you better believe that the rules will change.

For now, we’re still honoring the people’s vote. Head over to Mobile Apps Showdown or Last Gadget Standing and do your civic duty.

Trendy 2011: Tablets Up, 3D Down

Industry watchers like nothing better than to observe as trends come and go. A site that I love, The Crystal Ball Society, started by Jesse Schell, lets you record these predictions for posterity. A good thing,  since most of us will forget our own predictions  in matter of days.

Sometimes predications are a matter of WHEN not IF. As mom always says, if you wait long enough, anything can happen. So where do the next few trends fall on the predication radar screen? Beep…boop…beep…boop…


3D – By all measures except perhaps kids’ movies in theatres, 3D has been a bust. Nintendo’s 3DS made a weak showing. Much to the dismay of the industry, very few of us are sitting in front of our TVs with glasses affixed to our noses, watching things reach out to try and touch us. Glasses-free, glasses-less, universal glasses…it doesn’t seem to make much difference. Until the ecosystem of content and delivery gets a shot of adrenaline, 3D will remain on the fringe.

The Internet of Connected Things – Lots has been written about the Internet of Things, where every appliance in your home from TVs to fridges to toasters has its own IP address and can be controlled remotely from anywhere. Smart appliances like LG’s lineup get toted out for display each year but never seem to sell particularly well. Controlling your oven remotely is a recipe for a fire drill, though new models like Connectio are on the horizon.


The Minority Report – There will be no more passwords, as increasingly powerful phones and sensors will store your personal biometric information, enabling machines to automatically know that YOU are YOU. Most professional laptops already have finger swipe security and many are beginning to look at face recognition.


The Internet Connected Car – Two forces are at play against each other here: the need to be always connected and entertained at the same time, versus the need to be safe. Sadly, the entertainment part of the Internet Connected Car (Bluetooth, iPod hook ups, internet in the car) is progressing faster than many of the safety devices. Toyota Entune, BMW/Mini Connect, Audi Connect, Hyundai BlueLink, and Ford Sync AppLink are all showcasing connected entertainment systems. Onstar-like devices, drowsy alerts, and parking/vision aids are few and far between. At this year’s International CES there will be a bevy of car companies though few in the safe drivers-tech zone. Read more here.


Translation Engines – Like autocorrect, translating a website from one language to another was the butt of lots of internet jokes. The ability to translate a site, or an email, using free tools like Google Translate has made the world a smaller, closer place.

The Mobile Revolution – There’s no going back now: phones, tablets and new ultra books have made it possible to live the truly un-tethered life. Cloud storage, for the most part, is a pretty easy transition for  consumers used to sharing photos, music and other media from “somewhere out there”.

On the Prediction Horizon for 2012

Body-Monitoring Tech – Monitoring our vital signs from blood pressure to weight, from miles walked to heartbeats per minute will provide an increasingly accurate picture of what we’re made of. What we decide to do with all of these monitors, that’s another story. We’ll become increasingly convinced that life is a game. You’ll get points for shopping, exercising, eating well and lowering your carbon footprint – all redeemable for stuff you like. Wearable technology will become increasingly real, but lead by companies like Adidas, Columbia Sportswear and other outdoor-minded leaders. Skinner would have a field day with this stuff, but ultimately this will be the year of “a better you” because of tech.

Happy Techy New Year!

The 11th Annual Last Gadget Standing Preview

What do a baby stroller, an iPhone controlled sphere, an innovative camera, and a new gaming machine have in common? They’re all in the running in the final weeks of the Last Gadget Standing competition. Last Gadget takes its cue from the exhaustion of trekking through miles of CES trade show floors to find the winning products. In a large ballroom (or in the comfort of your own home online) we give you the best products you may have never heard of and ask you (not the journalists) to vote for the product that will stand the test of time, and change the way we use technology.

Here are a few of the highlights of this year’s competition.  Voting begins on Monday. For a complete list head to the LGS page.

  1. Origami Stroller (4Moms) – This stroller has headlights and a cell charger, plus it folds itself. High tech for the 2 month old.
  2. Sperho (Orbotix) – A rolling ball controlled by cell phone. Sort of a cross between a video game and an MIT robotics course.
  3. Lytro light field camera (Lytro) – A truly revolutionary camera that captures light in such a way that you can actually re-focus the captured images. Who would have thought it was even possible. Goto the web site for amazing demos.
  4. Telcare BGM blood glucose monitor – A cell-enabled glucose meter.
  5. Looxcie – This head-mounted video camera can stream live, while skiing, cycling, partying, whatever. It’s about the size of a Bluetooth headset, and has full motion video.
  6. eers custom fit headphones (Sonomax) – Go to a retailer, and the headphone is molded to your ear, for the perfect fit. And a perfect fit means better sound at reduced levels.
  7. Perch – A charger reminder-device that plugs in between your cell charger and the wall – it beeps if you unplug your cell phone, reminding you to take that charger home from the hotel.
  8. Swivl – A holder for a cell phone or small video camera that follows your movement, so you can be a one-person videographer, or you can set it to follow your kids as they play.
  9. Calisto 835 (Plantronics) – A computer communication device, styled like a phone dialpad, that makes it easy to use pc-based communication systems, as well as your mobile phone and home or office phone all from one spot.
  10. Basis band – A band for your wrist that measures blood flow, acceleration, temperature, and more, to provide a full view of your personal wellness.

Robin Raskin talks about going back to school

Robin Raskin talks about going back to school

Internet Thought Leaders Address CE Week Audience

CE Week Internet Safety Tools and Strategies

Come on, ‘fess up: Each of us knows someone that’s done something really regrettable on the Internet. Maybe it’s not on the Anthony Weiner scale, but a wrongly-worded email, unintended recipient, infidelity, or a rant about the boss can have huge consequences for kids and adults alike.
At the recent CE Week event, we brought attention to the some of the new issues and the new tools designed to help create a safer (and less regrettable) experience…
  • See a demo of, a program that makes use of facial recognition to keep kids safe inside their community.
  • Learn about Ohanarama, the first intergenerational social network for grandparents and their grandchildren.
  • Explore WhyVille, a decade-old social network for tweens, and see how they solve problems collectively while having fun.
  • Finally, meet Wayne Green from Intel, and find out how Intel views a kid-safe PC as an entire ecosystem. McAfee’s Stanley Holditch shows how education and tools combine to combat internet trouble.
Despite the creative solutions, the plot thickens. Hemanshu Nigam, a former prosecutor with the Department of Justice, leads a riveting discussion about sexting, what it is and why people do it.  He’s joined by danah boyd, from Microsoft Research, Jack McArtney from Verizon, and Michelle Chisolm from Sprint, who offer some tremendously important insight on how we need to manage this issue so that we’re not convicting minors for sexting, since they are the very people we seek to protect. This multi-part video explores the youth culture, it’s attraction to celebrity, and how that interplays with the rise in risky Internet behavior. ( part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5).
The outcome of debates like these affect all of us and all of our businesses. A misspent moment on the Internet should never ruin your day, week, or life, and our industry needs to make sure that we’re doing our part to optimize the good outcomes.

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