Predictions for the next 10 years

2020 predictions vision of the home video media center family roomBack in 1999 I went to a conference at the Field Museum in Chicago called The Next 20 Years (sponsored by ZDNet, I still have the button that says Believe in Technology).

Now that we’re rolling over the odometer to 2010 I can honestly say that none of the predictions about string theory have come true.

It was an interesting idea though, to think about what is possible now and in the future and speculate in ways that may inspire people to do more, make things better and improve life.

I have been thinking a lot about this decade ending in the last few weeks and aside from an obvious comment about how blindingly fast it went by, I’m skipping the recap and these are some thoughts for the next ten to twenty years.

Disclaimer: These are just my ideas as one person, who analyzes things for a living, and I don’t have a lot of data to prove any of it. Take it with a grain of salt or as entertainment only.

1. Photo Recognition will be big. And I am not talking about face recognition software. But with smartphones we mostly have decent cameras at our disposal that are connected to the internet 24/7. I have been thinking I’d like to be able to redeem the coke-points my husband collects by snapping a picture of the cap rather than entering the number on a form online (boring and slow). This is the exact stuff that QR code readers are used for that work for UPS tracking and a whole bunch of other applications. Expect them to be used as the new coupons, contests, offline-online gaming and a whole bunch of other stuff. Then maybe by the time all that is common place facial recognition of images will be working online.

2. You will probably work in an industry that does not exist yet. Continuing education is a must. I say this because my life is an example. I work in Online Marketing and data tracking for ad agencies and this didn’t exist as a job or a technology available to most companies in 1999. I have to make sure I spend time learning on the job and off the job each year because things change a lot. This does not make having a family easy and we have no idea if we will do that as a result, but it means that you have to be curious about new stuff and be willing to investigate it and you may end up the local expert when you’re the only one with that knowledge. And learn a lot of math.

3. Taxes will go up. All this BS about lowering taxes to stimulate business and rich people spending will go away since we can’t fund the programs required, can’t borrow any more as a government and we would still have the lowest taxes for those rich people to pay when compared to other developed economies. Interest rates and inflation may follow, and of course oil prices crunching a lot of people out of the middle class. Someone will finally do the math proving that investment in hiring new people at a company and creating jobs is inversely related to lowering taxes on the rich and everyone else.

4. There will be a whole new batch of media mavens that we listen to and we will like them because they are curators not experts. No one person will be able to create enough content or be syndicated to as many channels, mediums and messages as would be possible in this fragmented media world. The people you will look to for advice are blogging now, looking at thousands of sources of information, knowing how to process it, evaluate what is good-bad-meaningless and just filter down to the good stuff. We need people like this because the big media push to produce new stuff 24/7/365 is too much for one person to go through and we all still have jobs/families/houses to attend to. And not everyone wants to spend every day plugged into a screen reading constantly. We just want those wow, aha moments. Eventually maybe this 1000 cable channels, commercials every 10 minutes, 100 blog posts a day, constant content model will streamline due to lack of popularity of most of it (no ROI) but as there is more digital space available someone will put something on it, with no guarantee of quality because people seem to randomly stumble upon things still and listen/watch/interact with amusement/laziness/procrastination of their day job. 

5. Expect more digital sensors everywhere. And this could mean in our clothing, in our fridges, on the roads, in our homes. There is a lot of bandwidth for transmitting data and ways are improving for processing data and analyzing it (without human intervention, or programming needed). I foresee more real-time data on traffic and alternate routes in my car guided by my voice requests (like Knight Rider’s Kit?). I foresee clothing measuring weight and texting me that I shouldn’t eat any more calories today. I foresee my fridge telling me the milk has gone bad again and there is a cracked egg leaking all over it. We may spend all day responding to automated messages. These may be an upgrade fee kind of thing but I think at some point the regular cost will include it because the data will be so valuable and targetable for marketers. The recent privacy discussions prove that people are becoming more aware of ad tracking as well as digital capabilities and the younger generations don’t want to go back to a time without it. But we do need better security options for this to work or an opt in policy for managing what companies know and how we want to get/share/target this info.

6. We’re going to get a whole lot more competition from China, South America and Africa for jobs. Companies are going there for operations now and not just to supply their own regions with goods and services. All the Bill & Melinda Gates (plus Oprah, Warren Buffet & That Facebook guy too) funding health/education programs in Africa will create a continent of healthy people who have jobs that used to be here related to their natural resources and possibly other areas as well. China will continue to be a leader in growth and the US needs to define itself. I always wonder why there is such an emphasis on making sure all the other countries have the help they need to solve their problems by these foundations and not the ones with people starving/not getting educated or employed in the USA. Also Immigration, population growth and birth rates in the US will all drop by 2020. (based on what I saw from the census in 2010)

7. The market will continue to be tumultuous. Up, down, sideways. It isn’t connected to real people or the economy as we know it anymore. We’re not sure how to gauge it or if it will make any positive growth in 10 years. With higher interest rates in 2012-2013 CDs may be the hot investment again.

That is it for now, but I may have more ideas later. One thing is for sure, let’s get out there and party like it’s 1999.

rolling over the odometer 1999 2000 2010 100000 miles

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How to create a webtrends custom report

webtrends menu
the webtrends menu in my old company login, new one isn’t as nice.

First off I am going toclarify that I am working in WebTrends self hosted software version 8 and that I have administrator access to do this. Without those factors you won’t neccissarily have the same experience setting up custom reports.

I have already had the developers add tags to the site to track custom events (SDC tags, DCS MultiTrack events) and I don’t work with the actuall tagging on the website so I will not address those concerns here.

I’m starting from the point where the tags are live on the site and I need to set up this custom report so we can start gathering data. If you need retroactive data because the tags were placed on the site months ago and you didn’t create the report, it is only possible if you create the report and re-process all the data from scratch for that time period and this is usually done in a new profile. This takes a long time (sometimes weeks if you have years of data) and the people maintaining the servers and data for your webtrends setup usually hate you if you ask. So, let’s stay out of that area and go build a report that will collect data in a table from this point forward.

One of the most frustrating thing about WebTrends is that nothing is connected and it is a bunch of database tables. Nobody in Marketing thinks that way or interacts with a system like this so it is completley foregin. (‘m getting the feeling that the developers feel the same way too) You have to go into several tables in the database behind the webtrends software and create the structure for the report. It sucks but that is the way it works.

For every custom report you need at least three things. A Measure, A Dimension and A Report. (you may also want a filter but that isn’t required).

1. Testing – Some people (webtrends actually advises this) like to create a copy of the profile to test the reports (or any changes to the profile) before they add or change anything for real. This reduces the probablility that you will have some change corrupt or crash your data. If you depend on this data and have a lot of custom reports and data already set in the profile you’re working with, start with a copy profile first and don’t endanger the main data set. Work in that sandbox until you find the right combination of settings, write them down and then go back to the main profile when you’re sure the report exports the right data in the right format. There is a one day waiting period to collect data to test in most cases unless you’re running on-demand (of which most of my advice may not apply to) or you have updates and processing every few hours. Also only select the most recent month’s data in the copy profile, you don’t need all the data to run a test.

2. A Dimension is what most people would call a metric name. It is the data being collected from those custom tags. Just because the tags are in the WebTrends format and live on the site doesn’t mean that the WebTrends software knows that they are there or what to do with that data. You need to create a dimension to name this data and create a table to collect it in. Go to Dimensions in the admin menu. (some systems show custom report menus under reports & profiles others in Admin, check both) Select new on the upper right corner. Name it. Give it a column name for reports. Use the navigation to go through the process steps to finish creating this measure. You will need the actual tag names for this. In my case it is WT.it. Not terribly descriptive but hopefully functional. Do not select to activate across all profiles because you also need to go into the profiles (the main one and the copy) you are working with and enable this dimension there so it knows which profile it is working with. You don’t want to affect everyone elses profiles with this extra data, just yours. They need a drop down within the dimension setup to allow you to select this all at once but of course that doesn’t exist to confuse us more.

3. A Measure is another function you need to set up manually (in a database table?) and tell WebTrends that along with the Dimension you just created a table for, should you count or sum this data? In a system like DART, this is so simple it is a drop down choice on an export menu, here you have to configure the backend system of the millennium falcon to get it set. Silly but true. Go to Measures on the custom reports menu. Select new on the upper right corner. Name it. Give it a column name for reports. Use the navigation to go through the process steps to finish creating this measure. You will need the actual tag names for this. You must also go into the profiles (the main one and the copy) you are working with and enable this measure there so it is activated. Ditto about not selecting all profiles on the measure setup so that this works. For my purposes I had the WT.ti (page title tag) and 4 parameters that were possible when that tag was used. (ShareThis: Facebook, Twitter, Email & MySpace) and they all got created as additional measures also. This will give us more granularity in the data showing us not only which pages had share this activity but which site it was shared to.

4. The Custom Report finally! – After about 4 hours of setup for the setup you can finally go do what you originally set out to do. Go to the reports link under custom reports.

The menu for setting up the report asks for the info about the dimensions and measures you just set up as well as how you want the data compiled. I always allow for sorting ability but you don’t have to if you want to save space and if you just export it all anyway it may not matter.

The setup for the report makes more sense having seen everything we’ve already talked through. It is also worth noting that if your template for webtrends software doesn’t have a left nav bar location for the custom reports you have to find the template being used now for your back-end-interface then you have to go into that version of template and add custom reports to that list. I found mine under report configuration, report designer in the report and profiles section of the menu. See screen shot at left. Click the top line of the left nav in the template to deselect the chapters already there and add a new report and list it in a new chapter for custom reports.

You also need to enable the report in the profile itself. Each version of WebTrends has a slightly different menu, but in the edit-report menu of the profile there is a reports tab that lists all the custom reports set up in the system and you select the ones you want to enable.

After this your data in the test copy profile should work, then the trick is repeating it all over again in the main profile and remembering all the steps.

New Media and New Information Paradigms

I have been hearing about the demise of the newspapers, the rise of search/social networking/new media and the internet fragmentation concept for years now. (almost a decade?) And I just read about it again today with the newspapers secretly meeting to try and sort out monetization methods to save their business. At the same time I am a Guinea pig living through this time of change/shift in how people find information, use information and consume things. Here are some of my observations although not in a concise dissertation format yet. 

  • We are at an odd time in internet evolution, on pause between big developments. We got email, IM, web sites, RSS feeds, Blogs, social networking and now Twitter. We don’t need more services or ways to interact on the web. We need better all inclusive ways to connect and consume all in one. Ways to make the experience more relevant and more inclusive of many kinds of content at the same time. Not wasting our time.
  • I can’t help but notice that at 33 I have never really “read” a newspaper. This indicates to me that newspapers were not that important back in the 1980’s to my generation when their profits were healthy and the internet was but a dream for most of us. (Except being something to line litter boxes and bird cages with.) I hate the size format, I hate the ink and I always have. I actually like the ads though, especially the Sunday fliers. 
  • Weeks go by without my watching any TV. This started about 3 years ago when I got high speed internet. It’s not that I don’t like TV, I just don’t have time to sit for 2 hours plus and I know if i sit down I won’t get up and get anything accomplished in the evening/weekend. And I don’t like overly repetitive things. I was watching the sell that house shows on HGTV to get ideas about how to sell mine and after about 3 I got it and didn’t need to watch any more. Reruns aren’t nostalgic to me really, more just boring. And reruns is all Cable TV is about.
  • The only TV I will drop everything for is Top Gear UK. When it is in Season we trek over to my parent’s house and watch wwith extended family weekly. Everybody drops everything to watch that show. It makes you laugh, it makes you dream of fancy cars and it inspires you to take grand adventures regardless of what the outcome is.
  • This leads me to a general cluelessness about a lot of local and newsworthy (?) events. Things like buses that are Hijacked and what the weather will be tomorrow. I also find that these things weren’t essential to me in the first place. I carry an umbrella, what’s the big deal?
  • I find myself focusing on things I’m interested in. Maybe this is the political polarization people speak of? I read my marketing emails/newsletters/blogs as well as home design blogs and write my own blog as well. I check status on Facebook/Twitter/Flickr and maybe update if I have something interesting to say. And I work a lot. I also am always investigating 2-3 new directions for my work/career. Not all of them pan out, but they help me figure out what is evolving that I need to know about.
  • I do still use the phone (yes the land line). It is the best way to reach my parents and Steve’s parents. Steve’s parents email but mine are not really into it. And we try and go visit once a week in person. In person time still matters.
  • I am a book reader because I am a train commuter. I have been for years now and it has created a small library of business/marketing/analysis books. I order from amazon when I see something I like and then go consult the pile of books for something new.
  • And that is all I have time for. Now with a husband (fiancee really for one more month), 3 cats, 4 litter boxes, a yard, wedding planning, condo selling, house hunting, family organizing, laundry, food shopping & cooking I am overbooked. I don’t even get to skype/call my friends very often. A party invite seems really daunting these days with the schedule we keep.
  • I wonder about new media uses and if we will really care about anything not personally relevant to us in the future? Will a police chase matter to everyone in Chicago or just the people who live by the highway where it happens? Will we be less distract-able by sensational news and distracting entertainment? Will we be able to channel the news, information and analysis we really need into our lives and ignore the products/content we really don’t care about?
  • On the other side of the coin, how will we ever discover new things? I find myself looking to find out what is happening on the internet a few times a week and look to Google News and the Yahoo home page. Not the Trib. Yet somehow the list at these sites is always limited and not really anything relevant either.
  • There has to be something in-between a completely open fire hose of information and one select rss feed with just content from one niche area. There has to be some middle ground between being hijacked by ads for 20 minutes of a 60 minute program on TV and not knowing at all where to find a dress for my rehearsal dinner when my usual 5 clothing websites didn’t pan out. (who has time to go to a mall?) ((and why does Google shopping suck when the main search is generally good??))
  • People won’t pay for news. Period. They will pay for some kind of extra relevant cool service though. They will pay for innovation, new products that are noticeably better for some reason. Things that simplify your life.
  • Ads should not be integrated more with content as if they were the content. It blurs the line in what is really true and what is marketing speak. And although they may pay the bills for a while, people will eventually figure it out and abandon that medium that does this.
  • We need another search player. Google is not enough and although they do some things well, I am not a fan of everything they create. I would like more companies to work on real time indexing of information as well as historical archiving to keep information accessible if anything happens to Google’s accessibility. At some point people will be so hooked they will be able to charge for a (low cost) subscription to the search engine itself. 
  • More people need web enabled phones with internet use active. I just read yesterday that out of 57 million people in the US with internet capable mobile phones only 18 million have internet enabled! (netpop stat comparing us to China) 31.5% of the people with internet use phones don’t even pay for internet access? (only 13% of all the cell phones total) This is a huge hurdle to making info more relevant and accessible because people carry their phones everywhere. Things like bigger screens, flatter profiles and easier software app use on these phones will help the adoption rates improve. 
  • Identity management and security is also a problem. We might like something like OpenID but only if sites still allow anonymous comments too. Privacy and being able to say something important without being hunted down in person for your opinion necessary for getting people to adopt this identity management software and make our lives easier between all the hundreds of web sites and e-commerce activities we do in a day and consolidating that information for our own personal use.   
  • Data mining is going to have to improve. If statistics are wrong 25% of the time like stated in the Numerati book, we really need to combine automated data crunching with human decisions about data more often. Numbers are meaningless without someones explanation. This completely changes what and how data is configured, crunched and reported and can determine/undermine your results even if you manage to collect it perfectly.
  • All this plus the only way out of a recession is through innovation. We’re waiting.

National Marketing Email Unsubscribe Day September 1st on Labor Day

Get your life back (and time) from your inbox. Unsubscribe from email newsletters and marketing messages on Labor Day September 1st.

I am proposing that everyone take (an hour or so of) time on Labor Day to clean out your overloaded email boxes and unsubscribe to the emails you always delete or file to read and never come back to. If you have not read it in a month or longer or you delete the email newsletter or marketing messages every time you see them, just scroll down to the end of the email window and click the unsubscribe link.

I think that everyone has the best intentions when they subscribe to email newsletters and marketing messages. I have subscribedto a lot of them over the years and only this week did I finally get to my breaking point when hundreds of messages were commonplace after only a few days away from the computer. Most were from companies I had purchased things from in the past, social networking sites that send you an email every time something happens, blogs which send updates via feedblitz and news sites that send news and links as they happen. Oh and the ubiquitous google alert on anything I was a fan of or working on at that moment. There were also some marketing newsletters from publications that write about the industry that I work in but as time has gone on some were relevant and others, not so much. Sometimes you also have to subscribe to and email newsletter in order try it and see what info they send. If you get all kinds of stuff that isn’t helpful, it’s time to unsubscribe.

I am guessing I unsubscribed to around 100 email newsletters. Everything from travel sites with airfare updates to flights to Paris to the Anthropologie and Nordstrom sale newsletters. (I’m sad to see those go but I never buy anything there, too expensive) I aim to take back the 3-4 hours a week it took to weed through all these alerts and updates on everything from celebrity news to Chicago entertainment options. I still get some alerts and some emails I am actually using but we will see if I can weed it out further and regain another hour of my week back.

If you think about it, you only have so much free time after work and why would you want to be mildly entertained by marketing messages when you could be out living your life? Or writing your own email messages to real live humans.

Update: I went from 150 messages in a weekend and 100 messages a day to 45 messages in a weekend and about 40 messages per day in the email account that was in question. I still have another email account I have not completley pruned and my work email that also needs pruning but this is a start! Information overload and email overload have been taking place too long. I aim to get my time and life back.

Update: I just spent the last 2 months ignoring this email box after it was initially pruned. What happened? I got 2,000 email messages and had to spend my christmas vacation cleaning it out. I took about 3 hours on 12/20 and about 3 hours on 12/29 to read, skim, file, delete and unsubscribe through this list of 2,000 emails. I also had to change alerts to weekly from daily and reroute some newsletters that are useful to a new email address I use more often. I hope now that the box won’t need as much maintenance but as soon as I get the list down more marketers seem to get my address and start emailing me. Most of what I unsubscribed from today was newsletters I never signed up for in the first place. Some were others I had a hard time letting go of (Etsy and Chicago Mom’s Blog) but knew it wasn’t going to get read.

Are you going to unsubscribe to more emails in 2009?

Email management for overloaded email boxes circa 2008

I have noticed I spend a lot of time sifting through email these days. I have several accounts for different purposes and they fill up quickly with both subscriptions I have started and a lot of spam I never requested. I know that spam is just the price we pay right now for an app like email, but I hope that someday the spammers are put out of business because of the awful things they do stealing identities and personal information.

Anyway, my post wasn’t supposed to be about spam. It was about email volume circa 2008. I do get a lot of spam, and because one email address I have dates back to 1996 that one gets about 50% spam.  The spam filter I have does catch about 80% of it but the other 20% is annoying and dangerous.

The other 60% of that old email address mail is a lot of subscriptions since I am more likely to read an email than go find a bookmark of a blog every few days. The web based email is about 25% spam and the work email is maybe 1% spam, they are pretty good at blocking it.

I found this feedblitz and email update technology immensely helpful in the beginning since I check email anyway and it was a way to kill 2 tasks with one stone. Now though, things have gotten out of hand. I estimate that I get about 200 emails per day between 3 accounts. That is a bit more than I intended. True, it may be time to unsubscribe to some newsletters and updates but then it might go down to 150. Knowing this, you might understand why I gave up on RSS feeds in 2004.

Email is just too ingrained into our business and consumer culture as a communication medium. Or at least it is for Gen-Xers like myself. I do feel the pressure of the millennials and Gen-Yers to go to a social networking communication platform and I have profiles on all the major sites with plenty of contacts/friends but it’s just not home base for me. For a while one circle of people I knew were using MySpace as a hub for communication, but they were in the Arts, as many MySpacers are. Now that I no longer have time for extra cirricular activities I have lost touch with them and my MySpace page. I also have an online client email I use for personal stuff and of course the ubiquitous work email. I also have a 4th email that I don’t use because 3 is really enough.

I was reading this article today about how people manage their emails and BAM it was exactly how I managed them without me even really thinking about how I categorize things. Literally things just evolved the way they worked best over the past 10 years. The old old email became a place for all the sign ups you had to complete for one reason or another, login info for registrations and updates and such but not time sensitive stuff because I moved my most critical emails over to the web based email when it got too cluttered and I wanted to be able to access it anywhere rather than just at home on my computer in outlook. The second web based email also became a place to move personal communication off the work email account since in the beginning there was no line between them and then there suddenly was one day in about 2004. The work account also gets some alerts and such but only work related. (yes, that’s a blurry line since its online media and marketing that I work in)

Overall, I was surprised that I fit their archetype “to a tee” and that I evolved this way without even thinking of it. The gen-x and gen-y people have a hard time separating work from personal (especially if you work in onlinemedia, its all online anyway at the click of a mouse, it only takes a second!) and this will only provide harder in the future as more is expected of us as we balance family and work all in less time. I hope this setup satisfies the need for different urgencies, disclosures and personalizations of emails as well as productivity and time management. All this digital overload is consuming in a very empty way really. I feel like I must look through all this and read it every day yet very little is really going to impact my work or my life. I am mostly off email on weekends and I find it not that different but I have more time suddenly. Hmmm…must pare down email newsletters soon.

I have a compulsion to keep my email boxes cleaned out once a day and reply to anything that needs it from work or personal in 24 hours. I wonder if I will be able to keep that up in the future and if I will have to integrate more mandatory social networking at some point to keep up with those 10 years younger than me? 

I also recently started using the rescue time application to log and review where I am in a day and how much is actually spent on email and work. I have since cut my work email time in 1/2 and ditto for the personal email also. It’s a good application for self time management, but I wouldn’t want to use it for work purposes officially. I like that I have control over it and am not evaluated based on it since I have my days where I am not as productive. But the application helps me get back on track and out of the funk quicker.

As a consumer do I like being emailed by companies? Sometimes yes. If I opt in to your email I may be marginally or really interested in hearing from you depending on how much your product fits my life and work. If the emails provide no help or relevance whatsoever, they will get deleted and unsubscribed within a few months. If you send me discounts, new product info or other locally relevant information or content I am really into that helps me do my job, I am happy to read and click to help your ROI. I think email is better than direct mail because of the targeting and the lack of paper it uses. (save the trees) I would much rather an email from most companies than a flyer in the mail box. Plus it gives me the control to turn it off when it’s no longer relevant. Trust me, I will re-subscribe if the situation changes, I am a newsletter nut, that is for sure. And I think my generation is in general. But don’t expect us to buy-buy-buy stuff just because you emailed it to us. If we don’t need or want it we just consider the offer and decide no this time. It’s ok, we will find you when we need it, even if it is a month or two from now. And frequency is an issue. I am annoyed by some weekly emails because how often do you really need to know about the same product over and over again? Monthly is fine, or how about every other week?  

So, all of this is kind of my unwritten rules of email, work and business, and I hope that we continue to figure things out to make communication and information finding more efficient and less time consuming while still productive. Now if I could only find a way to maintain 3 blogs more efficiently too.

Six Creative Uses for RSS « eMarketing & New Media Trends

Six Creative Uses for RSS « eMarketing & New Media 

I thought that this was a good article, it outlines that RSS is still not used as much as it should be considering how versatile it is. Sometimes it has to do with a lack of technology knowledge about feeds and other times by the limitations of your reader. I have gotten away from feeds though for a different reason entirely, there is just too much info out there to keep up with, so I gave up trying in mid-2005. I am happier now to just read things as I run across them rather than having to see that all my feeds have been read and subscribing to everything I see that had one interesting post back in 2004. I do think that rss has more to give as far as mashing up content and re-purposing it as well as searching and delivering info also, but we haven’t really seen good user interface WYSIWYG tools for non-programmers yet to really access that potential. I hope in 08 things evolve further and RSS is a big winner.