Show your Mo, win $120 towards your fundraising.

So a week ago I wrote how I am not going to do Movember but I will donate newly minted $20.00 Canadian bill to the person with the most impressive 2 week growth, or most ridiculous! I could sway either way on those criteria.

Well much to my surprise, Rudy Jahchan pitched in to offer $100 of his own cash for whom ever I pick as the winner. So, if you want to win $120 towards your Movember fundraising you just have to tweet me a pic of your Mo on November 11th by noon EDT. I’ll make the decision then and let the world know via this blog and twitter. If anyone wants to up the kitty feel free to jump in.

Note: Rudy – and any others – will be handling his donation separately.

Why I am not doing Movember!

For a few years now a popular movement among men is to grow their mustaches during the month of November for Prostate Cancer Awareness. Like just about every cancer awareness campaign it is a very worthy cause but this year I am opting out and here is why.

Simply, I have done it already and raised tons of cash for cancer organizations for several years now. I have done the Shave for the Brave, Run for the Cure, Volley for the Cure, and Movember. Each and every one is a great cause and a ton of fun to do. But over time I find after committing to something for a few years I feel I have neglected other worthy causes. So this year I have switched gears to focus more on community based organizations, specifically those that promote an active lifestyle. So I have moved my efforts to supporting the goals of Masters Swimming through the Dartmouth Whalers Masters Swim Club and the development of young athletes through the Dartmouth Crusaders Swim Club.

By living an active lifestyle a person can help reduce the risk off many of the problems facing society today such as; Heart Disease, Diabetes, and osteoporosis. It also allows people to improve mental health and moods, increases your chances of living longer, and builds stronger bones and muscles. These kinds of benefits just pay dividends in society, as the greater the general health of a population the lower the overall health care costs should be.

Also, I have decided to pass on Movember this year because of the increased difficulty of fundraising for the event. Two years ago when I participated it was a mixture of explaining what Movember was and getting the word out but that lead to some financial success. Last year a number of local radio morning shows got involved in it and were using their vast audience reach to solicit for donations. This made it far more difficult for individuals to fundraise. Everywhere I turned I heard “I already donated to Q104” or other station. While I am fine with what likely ended up in a greater financial success for the campaign, it does place the little guy in a tough position. Personally if I am going to sport a ridiculous looking mustache for a month, I want to raise some decent coin! In the end, while last year’s campaign turned out well but it was quite the effort . I’d place it at around five times more difficult than the previous years.

So this year, due to my lack of participation, I’ll make a contribution to the person with the most impressive or ridiculous looking stash at the two week mark. There is $20 in it for someone who tweets me @mercerch around on the 11th with a pic of killer or ridiculous stash. In the meantime you can likely find me on a pool deck somewhere.

Movember comes to an end.

This year, as in previous years, I have participated in the annual Movember campaign. I wanted to share a little message I have sent to others at the end of the month regarding what have done together for a important cause.

Movember, the month formerly known as November, has come to an end. I wanted to give everyone a little update on what we have done together.

First I’ll start with me. With your assistance I have raised $330 for Prostate Cancer Research raking me #3 on my team. My team, The Moustache Factory, of 7 people raised $1,847 placing us #2125 Nationally. Research in Motion, where I work, raised $53,132.

This combined with all other donations collected from Canada has totaled over $18,000,000 for Prostate Cancer Canada and this places Canada firmly at the top of the list of countries who participated in this international effort.

I want to thank everyone who donated to me or other Mo-bro’s to help fight this important mens health issue. Prostate Cancer Canada use the
funds raised by Movember for the development of programs related to awareness, public education, advocacy, support of those affected and
research into the prevention, detection, treatment and cure of prostate cancer.

Hopefully this will help stop some of the 44,000 deaths attributed to Prostate Cancer in Canada each year. Either though prevention,
treatment, or possible cures. Thanks again for your generous donation and with December having officially started I want to wish you all Happy Christmas. Enjoy the holidays, now just a few weeks away.

Love and Respect,
Christopher K. Mercer

iPhone 4

Friday I went out and managed to get one of the few iPhone 4’s that were shipped to Halifax. since I was in need of both a new phone and a new iPod, this was the perfect convergence of the two. I must say that after a weekend of using it I am quite impressed. The screen is sharp! Sharper than I can really describe. The speed of the new processor is also quite nice. Over all I have had no issues with this device. None of the dropped calls issue that people have reported. This is one nice device.

No facebook for you!

Recently I heard of a company blocking Facebook, Hotmail, and quite possibly a few other sites from being access via the corporate network. This is not an uncommon theme in organizations. Even my own employer has restrictions on which sites are technically inaccessible and those which are just frowned upon. You would likely be shocked to learn which are available compared to those which are not.

In previous positions I have seen extremely strict policies surrounding internet access at work. To the point that my own manager would freak out because he thought I was using Gmail at work (I was actually using the official company hosted Gmail ). But in other positions I have seen full reign of access. Anything I wanted to access I could… anything!

A wide number of reasons have been used to filter content at the workplace. Everything from security and privacy concerns to “wasting time” on the job. To be honest those are legit concerns. If you are dealing with sensitive information – especially the kind others people/organizations would pay for – then there are concerns about controlling possible avenues to share that information. If you are wasting time, then you are costing a company money (your salary) for low productivity.

I favor an open approach when it comes to such policies, particularly when it comes to changing them mid stream. If you are use to being able to check your hotmail or twitter on breaks or lunch then to suddenly have that taken from you is disconcerting. Did you do something wrong? This was a nice perk of the office, why did you loose it? I do my job, do they think I am wasting time?

But what generally is observed is the application of a technology solution to an HR issue. Instead of blocking something outright, provide avenues to legitimately mentally check out for 5 minutes. If people are time wasters they will find something else if they don’t have their twitter, hotmail, or MSN. They will chat at the water cooler, clean their desks, and chat on the phone. Key is they will find something.

It is more obvious in the technology world but the ability to access twitter, facebook, Slashdot, digg, etc, is often an aid in doing your job. The articles posted by friends and colleagues can lead to new technologies, methods, ideas which aid you in your career. To have these sites blocked makes absolutely no sense considering the wealth of knowledge that can be gleamed from them. Sometimes it is not even a matter of what you can do but what you should not do.

So while I have experienced a vast difference in IT policies I am curious as to your thoughts. Should employers filter content, block it entirely, or deal individually with “distracted” employees?

3D HDTV may not have consumer depth yet.

With the Consumer Electronic Show right around the corner – Tomorrow Jan 7th – there is a lot of talk that 3D HDTV’s for the consumer will be the next big thing in home entertainment. In fact there is quite a bit of speculation that nearly every major HDTV manufacturer will announce a 3D HDTV or plans for a 3D HDTV at CES.

So are consumers ready for 3D HDTV? The technology really only hit theaters in the past couple of years and has been a real hit with some titles such as Avatar and UP. Previous 3D attempts – think back to Jaws and those old Red and Blue paper glasses – were lack luster and often troublesome for viewers. So while the technology of 3D has improved it is not ready for wide spread home adaption.

The main reason for my argument against 3D HDTV now is basic economics. For the average Canadian family an HDTV has been a recent addition to the home. My own parents still use a 36” tube TV from Hitachi that renders fantastic image quality even 15 years after it was first purchased. So while people are replacing their old long lasting tubes with LCD and Plasma displays, they are also investing significant cost for such screens. The average cost for a 42” LCD is still in the $1200 range. To quickly turn around and replace that set with an 3D HDTV, with the often prohibitive new technology price, is a great recipe for consumer rejection.

So while 3D HDTV is coming and CES is a great chance to show consumers what is coming down the pipe. Don’t expect to see the 3D experience in your local sore anytime soon.

What do you think? Will the home version of 3D entertainment catch on or will it be regulated to the theater experience?

Kindle fails to wow in Canadian launch.

Last week I wrote a piece about how the local newspaper industry could evolve by adopting technology like the Amazon Kindle eReader to deliver their subscriptions. I went further than to suggest that people be able to buy the Kindle via a subscription model like cell phone companies make the phones they carry available.

Well this week brings us news that the popular Kindle is now available in Canada. Not only is it available but you can get your daily copy of The Globe and Mail or National Post via the device. But the launch is not as simple as it should have been.

A few important things to note about this launch are what features are not available on the Kindle. The device uses the 3G cellular technology to download content from the Amazon store. In the United States this is done via Sprint network but here in the great white north it is done by? Well we don’t quite know right now. It could be the Bell/Telus network or the Rogers network. Either has their pro’s and con’s. Another feature available to our southern neighbors and not us canucks is the ability to surf the web or subscribe to blogs via the eReader. A handy feature that makes the product more of an attractive buy.

In what I feel is the biggest failure to Canadian buyers, is the rollout is the Amazon store. Amazon operates stores in various countries selling books, items, and other products in that regions currency and with specific national items of interest. In order to get a Kindel in Canada though, one will have to go to the US Amazon store and pay an import fee to have the eReader. Not only that, but the device seems to be paired still to the Amazon US store which sells no Canadian content. Want an electronic copy of The Bishop’s Man, 2009 Giller Prize winner? No luck! While it is available in the Canadian Amazon store, Canadian Kindel users will be out of luck.

This is where Amazon misses the boat on a successful rollout to a new region. eReaders have all the promise of a successful product paired with great content but with deployments like this, it will be a slow adoption if adopted at all.

While this is disappointing I still believe that the evolution of the local paper can be done using this technology. This incident however will be a stalling point for anyone who was considering the moving in this direction.

News 2.0 an evolution of your local paper.

I have been an avid subscriber to my local paper, the Chronicle Herald, for a little under a year now. It arrives faithfully – with the exception of a few hiccups – every morning 7 days a week. Every day I take the time to read what I can and what interests me from the paper. It is one of the many sources and mediums I get my worldly news and information. To that extent I enjoy having the paper and the side benefit of supporting local journalist jobs and a local business. Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, it even comes with the added bonus of the weekly flyers. Unlike the ones that are delivered in with the postal mail every day, I actually enjoy these flyers as they are from some of my favorite stores.

So it is clear, I enjoy my local paper. I want to support my local paper. But right now I am not happy with my local paper. In today’s mail I received a letter from the Herald informing me that I am a valued customer, that they are enhancing the product, and they want more money for the subscription.

Typically a small increase in subscription fees is not a huge issue and generally speaking I am not opposed to the principal. Though, in today’s age I wonder if continuing with the paper product is necessary as the primary method of delivery. Should the paper, in its paper form, be regulated as a niche medium to the product? Let’s be clear that the product is the content not the physical paper! To confuse the two would be a mistake. After all, they pay their staff to produce pieces of journalism not folded pieces of paper.

Given the letter about the increase in fees and the afore mentioned hiccups in delivery I have started thinking about how the Chronicle Herald could evolve to provide me more bang for my buck. For $20 a month I could have a paper product delivered to my building that occasionally results in the frustration of a missed delivery or a paper taken by a neighbor. The production of the physical product is a highly recyclable result though its production is not environmentally friendly. Take in consideration other variables like the paper getting wet , ripped, etc and you can see how people might want a bit more than the status quo for more money.

What I propose though is not a radical shift in direction for the Herald but an evolution of the delivery. Many companies have flirted with moving to a website based paper. This does offer them a virtually unlimited space to produce content that a physical paper limits. It offers search ability, ease of archives, a world audience, and so forth. But it has been difficult for the industry to monetize that particular business model. So while I don’t think it is a model that is unsustainable – I just think it is being done wrong – it is not the solution I have in mind either.

To see where I am going with this take a long look at your mobile phone. News on my phone? No, not exactly! Think about the business model built from the subsidized subscription method of the mobile phone market. Since the cost of my local paper is now approaching the cost of a basic cell phone contract perhaps it is time to start thinking about such a model, a la Kindel.

By pairing the news service with a long term subscription based model where instead of a physical paper delivered you get it downloaded to your subsidized device such as an Amazon Kindel or other e-reader. I’d be willing to even pay $30 a month for such a service. The benefits of such a device are; reusable, you still benefit from the virtually unlimited space of the cloud, and other services can be used on the device making it versatile product for things like eBooks and magazines, a larger screen than your mobile, etc.

As these devices evolve to offer options for; full color, video, and audio, so does the possibilities for your news agency to produce more and more dynamic content. While I am not advocating for the Kindel in particular it is the most popular e-reader available today and I offer it as an example.

What are your thoughts? Is this the direction the news paper industry should take? Would you pay more for a Kindel (or other like device) to receive your daily paper? Would your current mobile suffice? Comments are always welcome.

Social Media: You are doing it wrong.

For those who are not aware of such events, tweetup’s are nothing more than a meet up of people who use Twitter. The purpose of such events is to network with like minded individuals in person instead of using online tools. Here in Halifax we have a very active social media community which has some rather regular events. They have organized regular events for “Halifax Chicks”, a semi regular sushi night, and the ever popular 3rd Wednesday event at the Foggy Goggle.

They define the events with a line “This isn’t an industry or professional event, it’s just a bunch of people who like this whole ‘internet’ thing and want to hang out with like-minded folks” which is exactly what social media/new media is about. It is about bringing people together around a common idea or goal.

At last night’s 3rd Wednesday event a question was posed to the group, is there a wrong way to use social media? While the question is a valid one to ask it also implies there is a correct way to use social media. Which leads me to think about why you are using social media?

This is where the answer lays in my mind. Social Media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Myspace, etc are about engaging and connecting people in a new way. Twitter is limited to 140 characters per message to get your ideas across. Facebook allows the sharing of video, pictures, and a variety of other information. Blogs are a beast onto their selves. But their fundamental purpose is all the same. The spreading of ideas in an interactive way.

The real power of social media is not in what tools you use – although they can add clarity to your message – but in how you use them. There were many brand experts in attendance last night who made very valuable contributions to the discussion about building a brand using these online tools. Though I think the fundamental principal of engagement was the key to the whole discussion.

Like the discussion that was happening in the room the discussions that happen online are most effective when people engage each other. Discussions where people talk and don’t listen. Well, we all paid our tuition for those! And like the course I took on the romantic poets where I was lectured to for 4 months those conversations did not have an impact like the discussions we had over Feminist Philosophy.

Others made valid points on honesty, authority, and even clarity. All valid points, all worth considering. But how are online discussions different from in person ones in that respect. You can say what you want but if you are being dishonest you will be caught and loose any authority you had. You effectively destroy your message or goal.

So is there a wrong way to use social media? Yes, that is to be disengaged from your potential audience. Is there a right way? Not really, because the varied goals of each user will dictate how they use it. But use, without engagement, is rarely effective. If you are building a brand, personal, corporate, or otherwise, not engaging the people who will give your idea power will prove to be a fruitless endeavor.

What do you think? Is there a right or wrong way to use social media tools?