Simple Math

When it comes to small vendors there are those who use Square and everyone else.

Nearly every payment experience I've had with Square is one swipe, super fast, super simple.

Nearly every payment experience I've had with any other product is multiple swipes ... waiting ... waiting ... another swipe ... waiting ... failure ...swipe ... waiting ...

I can only guess the reason people use a Square competitor is to save a fraction of a % on commission.

The math is pretty simple: use a quality product that works, that will make your customers happy and will increase your throughput. 

Anatomy Of A Cocktail Party, In Four Parts*


Guestlist I'd rank guest list as the single most important factor in a successful cocktail party.  Has to be the right mix of people with similar, but not too similar, tastes.  They should be really excited to be there and ready to shake it up a bit.

There are two way to build your guest list ...

The most logical and effective way is usually to network among your friends (or entities like social clubs) to meet a few really interesting folks who will, in turn, invite a few of their interesting friends.  This will ensure a varied, but vetted, mix.

The second way is to buy your guests.  Perhaps you run an ad on Hollywood Blvd inviting people to come.  Or maybe you offer everyone who attends something free (and expensive).  Either way, just make sure you're cool with the fact that many of the guests aren't there to really hang out, and probably won't ever come back.  And also, expect to spend a lot of money in the process.

It's your call.  There's merit in both, depending on your objectives.  If want to throw the BEST party,  option 1 makes sense.  If your sights are set on outdoing the Jones family, option 2 could work.


After the guest list, the host is the next most important factor to a great affair.  You can invite the most interesting (or just the most) people, but if you don't have a host who can get the Images conversation/dancing started, your party is doomed.

As the host, have you thought about your welcoming remarks? Have you poured over your guest list to determine what connections you might make?  Have you thought about how you'll handle an unruly guest, or someone who comes expecting free stuff, and whatever you're offering isn't enough?

*if you haven't figured it out yet, this post has nothing to do with cocktail parties


Interesting Decor is tricky.  You want to make sure the space is visually pleasing, but not overwhelming or distracting from the conversation.  Enough cool things to look at and interact with (and for people to tell their friends about, so they come to the next event).

Not all of us are gifted in this area, but some of us refuse to acknowledge our limitations.  I've been to plenty of otherwise nice parties that fall flat on the decor.  Usually the problem is that the host is hellbent on pushing their style, rather than thinking about their guests.

I tend to include food and beverage in the decor bucket.


So what are you giving people to remember their great experience?  What's that artifact that will sit on their coffee table or office shelf that will remind them of your great event?  Even better, what will get their friends, family and co-workers chatting about the party, and jockeying for an invite to the next one?  You have thought about this, right?

Lessons From The Threadless Crew @ PSFK Salon

FireShot capture #007 - 'Threadless catalog of tees classic t-shirts_ Unique, cool and funny tees_ Browsing graphic tees' - www_threadless_com_catalog_style,tees_group,classicA brief recap of the lessons imparted by the awesome crew from Threadless at yesterday's PSFK Salon in Chicago.  It's all so simple, yet so evasive to many businesses.

I was originally planning on commenting on each lesson, but they are so self-explanatory.

Lesson 1:  We do it with friends.

Lesson 2: Bring the fun. Fun = fearless.  And fearless = exploration.

Lesson 3: Honesty buys you goodwill.

Lesson 4: Act like a human, because you are.

[I tend not to wear T-shirts with images/logos/words, but if I did this would so be it].

Quick Thought On 'Creativity' From PSFK Salon Chicago

Great session this morning at the PSFK Salon. More thoughts to follow. 

But something I wanted to capture straight away was inspired by a comment David Armano somewhat casually made during a panel discussion.

The line of questioning was about samples of Chicago's creative community.  Several panel members gave great examples along the lines of urban art projects. 

But David referenced two local businesses - 37 Signals and Groupon.  Interesting.  Not what we might initially think of as examples of Chicago's creativity.

But clearly they are.  Not in that they make beautiful things.  But rather in how they design innovative business solutions.  That is no less creative than a beautiful piece of art.

Other examples of Chicago business creativity abound. The thriving developer community creating better stock trading algorithms is one that immediately comes to mind.

Anyhow, the point is that creativity comes in all forms.

Now, in terms of what's driving this alternative interpretation of creativity in Chicago ... that's still a mystery to me. 

Maybe it's the output from the University of Chicago and Kellogg business schools.  Maybe it's that Chicago draws from all over the Midwest - and damn if the Midwest doesn't have some killer engineering programs.  Maybe it's the [relative] civility in how we do business.

I don't have the answer.

But it's an interesting discussion, don't you think?

Go Small or Go Home

Everywhere I look these days it seems like people, brands, organizations are going small.  I started out with great intentions of giving lots of examples, but ran out of steam.  A few fairly random and obvious ones below.  What are other examples of this phenomenon?

The two 'surprising' teams remaining in the NBA playoffs are the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics.  Of the 29 combined players on their rosters, only one (Robin Lopez - hardly a key contributor) is listed at 7' tall.  These teams are winning with smaller lineups - out hustling and maneuvering their opponents.

Twitter's a pretty obvious example.  140 characters is pretty small compared to a full blog post.  That's small.

This video about an architect in Hong Kong who has transformed his 330 Sq Ft apartment into an elegant multi-functional palace blew me away.

What I Like About Posterous

Posterous is the popular new kid on the block.  There are a number of good reasons to like the service ... from how ridiculously easy it is to post, to how it syndicates content across the social web, to the great bookmarklet and more.  Mashable has a nice post about some of the killer 'hidden' features.

But thinking about it today, what I like the most about Posterous is how egalitarian it is.  Whether you're a big shot like Alex Bogusky and Guy Kawasaki or a regular Jane like Stephanie Lim, Posterous is not about bells, whistles and fancy design. 

And that's what I like about Posterous - everyone starts with the same visual template.  It's the content you put into your Posterous feed that will make it stand out from the crowd.

More Digital Holograms [Verizon + Nokia + Star Trek]

My previous posts on digital holograms proved pretty popular [here, here, here].  So when I stumbled on this from Verizon Wireless + Nokia + Star Trek I figured it was worth a shout out.  I can't claim to understand what Verizon or Nokia have to do with the new Star Trek film, but that's another post for another blogger.

Go to the Star Trek promotional site - the instructions are very simple.

TIP: Rather than print the .PDF take a picture of it on your cell phone.  I used the rather substandard iPhone camera, which worked fine.

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P&G's Tide Loads of Hope T-Shirt

You'll recall a couple of weeks ago the folks at P&G conducted a social media experiment, while raising money for charity.  My recap here

My shirt arrived the other day, and David Armano asked people to submit photos in exchange for some link love.  P&G digital brand manager, Dave Knox, promised me the T-shirt would be of good quality - and it is.  Pretty cool design, and not the typical stiff/ill-fitting corporate apparel. 

Using the Photo Lolz Polaroid emulator ...


If Twitter Were My Only Source Of Information


Thinking this afternoon about the Twitter echo chamber, and personally, what I'm getting out of it. 

For one, it's entertaining.  Very entertaining.  It's also quite useful for connecting with people in my industry.  And without a doubt, I have stumbled on some great content [related to previous points].  Finally, it's allowed me to keep in touch with some people from my past who might have otherwise fallen off my radar.

But as a simple exercise I thought about this question:  What would I think of the world if Twitter were my only source of information.  Here are few off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts - presented as "Myth" and "Reality." 

Of course my views are totally informed by who I follow.  So I'm wondering what YOU would think of the world if Twitter were YOUR only source of information?  Leave a comment.  Or Tweet me @iansohn.

Myth 1:
Austin, TX is where all important global decisions are made. [Reality: For some it is, but for my money I'll take New York]

Myth 2:
Brands, like Skittles, that don't get their first foray into social media right are failures [Reality:  I was always more of an M&Ms guy, but applaud Skittles for their exploration into the unknown. Furthermore, I dare anyone to claim they've never taken a step backward to take two forward]

Myth 3: FaceBook is horribly designed and the evil empire looking to steal all our intellectual capital [Reality: FaceBook remains a massive force in social media, and is quite useful for what it is.  Furthermore, their TOCs are really no different than anyone else - are they?  Finally, it's not THAT horrible of a design.]

Myth 4: President Obama enjoys a 100% approval rating [Reality: I do love the man, but don't forget there are a whole bunch of people out there who voted McCain-Palin.  This NASCAR blindness (I can't use that term enough, thank you @awolk for coining it) will get the Dems in trouble come 2012.]

Myth 5: Shaquille O'Neal is a poet [Reality: Shaquille O'Neal is a poet; and is having an epic comeback season]

Saturday Links [Design Edition]

I'm often asked why I started writing a blog in the first place.  Very simply, I wanted a place to store stuff I found online - hence, Flagged For Follow Up.  [Delicious does the job, but I like seeing the visuals as well].  Here are three things that caught my eye this week ...

The cityscapes from Spanish artists, Borja Bonaque are incredible.  I particularly like the one below.

Borja Bonaque

This Polaroid photo emulator could be fun at a party.  Here's me pretending to read The Economist.


I love all things Flickr [among several posts ... Flickr Color Search and Obama election night gallery].  Getty Images has partnered with Flickr to create a database of photos for commercial licensing [both rights managed and royalty free].  I like what PSFK had to say about it ... Stock photography is quickly transforming from a collection of professionals to the wider public who with homeschooled photographic knowledge and high-quality cameras.

Here's what happens when you search for "coffee"

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P&G's Social Media Experiment [Tide Loads of Hope]

[UPDATE:  Read David Armano's inside account; AdAge's report]

A funny thing happened last night.  P&G - as part of a private digital night in Cincinnati - turned to some of the most well-known names in social media to accomplish a few things [all but #1 are speculation only]:

  1. Raise money for their charity, Tide Loads of Hope [clean clothes to families in need of support after natural disasters]

  2. Demonstrate the power of social media to senior executives
  3. Self-promotion
  4. Ingratiate themselves with the social media who's-who [a proactive insurance policy]

What did they do?
For a few hours, several teams - led by different cewebrities hunkered down at P&G headquarters - bombarded Digg, blogs, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and more with links to Tide's web site where you could buy vintage looking Tide t-shirts.  Twitter was particularly insane, with #pgdigital appearing non-stop.

How did they do?

  1. According to one participant, $50K in four hours, with P&G matching $50K.  I don't care how deep P&G's coffers are, they should be commended for the match.  Bravo!

  2. I'm sure this experiment went a long way towards changing some old school minds within the organization.
  3. Tide's name was all over the Internet last night, and I'm sure it will be written about a lot today.  The thing to watch for today is backlash, which you saw starting last night and I'm sure Tide knew was inevitable. 
  4. All the usual social media suspects were virtually tripping over themselves to help promote this.  But come on, who doesn't want to be in P&G's good graces [and help raise money]?


Did you participate [disclosure: I purchased a shirt]?  Either way, what do you think of the excercise?

Did you think the external agency participants at P&G last night went far enough to disclose their relationship with the company?  I saw a video from Ian Schafer of Deep Focus (@ischafer) who was very clear to state his agency did not work for P&G.  But I didn't see that same transparency from others.  Maybe I missed it in the frenzy?

Do you think, as Brian Morrissey, Digital Editor at Adweek seems to based on his tweets below, that we were all played?

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Final Update [Promise]: GE Plug Into The Smart Grid: Digital Hologram

Given the huge spike in traffic to this blog since I first posted about the GE Plug Into The Smart Grid hologram [well, relatively huge compared to normal] I feel compelled to pass along this final hologram nugget, courtesy of PSFK.

Basically, same premise as two previous posts, only this time it's your Twitter status that appears via 3D hologram.  I am still blown away by all this. 

PaperTweet3d: Augmented Reality T-shirts from squidder on Vimeo.

GE Plug Into The Smart Grid: Digital Hologram

Thanks to my colleague @johnstauffer and the rest of the Ogilvy PR 360 Digital Influence team for showing me one of the most mind-blowing things ever - an interactive digital hologram courtesy of GE and their ecoimagination initiative. 

It's hard to explain, so just click the links below.  You might think it's some kind of trickery, but I did it myself last night and it is 100% real. 

Was throwing around ideas with people about how to use this as a marketing tool ... Can you imagine debuting a music video or new television show this way?

Watch it, then go here.  Have your webcam and printer all ready to go.  Mind-blowing.

Finally, here's a link to some information on the source code.

Word Clouds ... Huh, Yeah ... What Are They Good For?

This morning I signed on to Twitter to find this from @ColonelTribune [one of my favorite Tweeters by the way]

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To which I replied, Does it seem like someone produces a word cloud every time he opens his mouth. Really any value?

The good Colonel DMd me a reply [a 140 character retort or sorts], which basically said, hey it's so simple to create and some people like them.  Why not?

That's right, some people do like them ... because it makes you feel like you watched the speech, when you really read about watching the speech [you have to read Noah Brier's very funny post to know what I mean].

I think word clouds [and other such visuals] have a habit of letting us get away with being lazy.  Let's take President Obama's speech last night ... what could a word cloud tell me that any one of the following couldn't much more accurately:

  • Watching the actual speech live [ was covered on countless TV stations]
  • Watching it on YouTube at my leisure
  • Reading the transcript
  • Reading in-depth coverage in every news outlet around the world

Yes, I realize the word cloud doesn't replace all these, but what does the cloud below tell us?  That the President talked about the American economy, education, health care and job creation.  I think we knew that going into this speech.
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NOW, I do think word clouds have their place - when aggregating a massive amount of data to find true trends [e.g. every Presidential speech to joint sessions of Congress, ever].

Please, someone present a solid defense for the popularity of word clouds. Or even better, what are some good uses?

And to prove my point, here's a tag cloud of this post [courtesy of].  Apparently it was all about a speech and watching something.  Not.  It was a critique of word clouds, which can't communicate context.
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Hotel and Technology Roundup

From 2004-2007 I logged hundreds of thousands of air miles, countless nights on the road and roughly 30 international trips (and probably the same amount of domestic).  That's all to say, I know a thing or two about staying in hotels.  And while mercifully, I don't travel much any more, it's still with great interest that I notice articles and blog posts about hotel marketing/experiential innovations.  Thanks heavily to Springwise, here then are a few things I've Flagged For Follow Up recently:

Interactive Surface Technology at Sheraton:  Guests at Sheraton hotels in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle can use Microsoft's Surface technology to access entertainment content, local tourist information and information about other Sheraton properties worldwide.  Springwise recently documented the collaboration.

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Westin Chicago Designs Special Rooms to Fight Jet Lag:  Also from Springwise, Westin Hotels and Philips have partnered to design a concept room specially aimed at helping jet-lagged travelers combat sleep troubles.  Amenities include Philips' new blue-light ActiViva lamps, a light therapy box at the work desk station,  a eucalyptus shower fizzer in the room's "Heavenly Shower," a guided-meditation sleep TV program, a special room-service menu and specially designed running local running maps.


New York City's Pod Hotel connects guests with each other before arrival:   Once guests have booked their reservations, they are sent a link to the hotel's PodCulture blog and a  user ID, which allows guests to connect and interact with others who will be there at the same time.

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Sheraton (again) Invites People to Experience Their Brand In An Unconventional Way:  As part of their Global Out of Office Day, Sheraton invited New Yorkers to work from Central Park, where it recreated its new Link@Sheraton lounges [a collaboration with Microsoft to infuse useful technology into its hotels].

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W Hotels Gives Guests a Quiet Place for a Cell Phone Call:  This is something I am particularly proud of since I was Nokia's point person on this project.  Simple concept - a modern take on the phone booth, combining Nokia Nseries technology and great looking design.  Visit PSFK to read a short interview with Carlos Gomez de Llarena [the designer from R/GA with whom we worked on the booth design and interaction].

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Key Learnings:

  1. Make sure it works
  2. Make it simple
  3. Make it additive
  4. Work with the right partners to bring your vision to life
  5. Help people fight the loneliness of business travel
  6. Make it surprising and fun
  7. Understand the context in which the technology exists
  8. Experiment until you find something that really resonates with guests