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Moderating The Addiction

It’ll come as no surprise to those who know me that I’m something of a Facebook junkie. I’m not a stay-at-home mom posting 20 pics of the kids wiping their noses, or the needy guy who posts his location every 5 minutes – no more than every hour, I promise – but I spend my share of time there. Sure, I went through that ugly Mafia Wars phase, but I’m over that … really!

About fifteen years ago, during the early days of the information revolution, I heard a speech from Scott McNealy, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, in which he introduced himself with the then-cryptic moniker, “scott@sun.com”.

“That’s an email address”, said McNealy, “and soon you’ll all have one.”

Sure enough, I started seeing the names with the funny symbol appearing in advertising everywhere – it was clear that Scott’s premonition was coming true. Today, I’d be thrilled to have only one – or even just five – email addresses.

As Ron White would say, I told you that story so I can tell you this one. Much like the email address – and shortly thereafter, the web site – became a ubiquitous element for businesses large and small, the Facebook fan page is now at the center of many advertising plans – even SCMO’s. But there’s one big difference between then and now – while the internet was controlled by a relatively neutral governance board, Facebook is a for-profit company, one that often has business purposes that are at odds with some of those who have come to so completely depend on the social network to attract customers.

A key tool for content publishers who want to raise their presence among Facebook’s near-billion users is the social reader app. If you’re a FB user, you’ve probably seen a social reader in your news feed. An entry will appear stating that so-and-so recommends an article, and when you click on it to see if you like it too, the app intercedes, wanting to access your permissions before allowing you to view the content. If you’re smart, you stop right there, but millions of people don’t – as recently as last month, for example, the Washingoton Post’s SR app was pulling in over 4 million hits a day from Facebook users.

But when you tie your cart to a horse you don’t control, you never know when you’re gonna step in a road apple. Facebook management could see those big numbers being raised by the social readers, too, and wanted their share. So they quietly changed their code to harvest the articles being hyped by the social readers and display them as “trending articles” in the News Feed of their users. Click on a link and instead of going to the site where the content is located, the content is brought to you – without ever having to leave Facebook. How devastating is it to those websites depending on Facebook to feed them traffic? The Washington Post has seen their traffic drop from the aforementioned 4M hits a day to 220,000 – a brutal hit in a world where eyeballs equate to dollars.

But that’s the price you pay if you’re Facebook user, whether a large corporation or single person. It’s their world, their code, and they play by their rules. I certainly get as irritated as anyone when they jerk with the user experience, but I try not to become on of those hyperventilating fanboys you hear interviewed in the news every time FB makes a change. Of course, having counterculture tools like FB Purity to help keep your sanity doesn’t hurt … ūüėČ

Back to my own Facebook addition for a moment – like most addictions, it started out innocently enough. Wanting to expand the Marlinnut brand, I established the SCMO fan page and Twitter feed as a way of reaching new billfish fans. If you haven’t checked out our Facebook page, I’d encourage you to take a moment and give it a look. It’s our way to share some of what we see elsewhere on FB with our fans and friends, and to spread the good word of SCMO to a whole new group of fishermen. If you like what you see, I’d be honored if you’d “like” the page, and share it with your friends!

Looking For A Little Place In The Country?

Everyone dreams of a wonderful place to spend their retirement. Some dream of a lanai on the Big Island, others a penthouse balcony in Manhattan, but a lot hope for a little country home they can call their own. Well, if you have a little change jingling in your pocket, have I got a deal for you!

We’ve all seen the Kevin Costner baseball flick, “Field of Dreams.” For those with a short memory, Costner’s Ray Kinsella is an Iowa farmer who follows the advice of a voice telling him to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field. Amazing things happen, and the catch phrase “If You Build It, He Will Come” (#39 in the American Film Institute’s list of famous film quotes) was born.

Universal Pictures build a real diamond in a real Dyersville, Iowa cornfield for the shooting, and when they left it turned into a real tourist attraction – and now it can be yours.

The baseball diamond is part of a 193-acre tract that Don and Becky Lansing have had in their family for more than 100 years.

The Lansings are asking $5.4 million for the field and surrounding farmland plus the house used in the movie, two souvenir stands and six other farm buildings.

The sale will be conduced without stipulations, meaning the new owner could potentially plow under the field, just as the fictitious Ray Kinsella was urged to do by his bankers in the 1989 movie ‚ÄúField of Dreams.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúWe love the land and the field, but it is time for us to head to the locker room,‚ÄĚ said Becky. She added ‚Äúwe are getting up there in years and it is time to think about retirement.‚ÄĚ

Both Costner and co-star Ray Liotta were rumored to be interested in buying the property, but that was just an urban myth. The unfortunate reality is that most small farms (and yes, this qualifies as “small”) are bought by neighboring corporate tracts, which could result in the field being restored to it’s earlier pre-baseball condition. But it’s not too late to step in and buy your own little piece of heaven – interested parties may contact real estate consultant Ken Sanders about the property at (414) 803-4220 or e-mail him at kensanders20@gmail.com.

But Does It Come With A Purse?

I think I’m pretty typical for someone my age in that I feel my generation was totally screwed when it comes to cars. ¬†Our parents got all the cool ’60s muscle cars, but by the time we got our license all those things were long gone – we got the Pinto and the Vega. ¬†It’s not surprise, therefore, that I was pretty pumped when Ford rolled out their retro-Mustang a couple of years back – all the cool of the original with modern touches like airbags and disc brakes. ¬†It didn’t take long for the other manufacturers to follow the leader, and soon we had a brand new Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger. ¬†But while everyone’s dipping into the ’60s well for inspiration, some ideas are clearly more inspired than others.

Dodge was a little late to the table rolling out their modern muscle car, and 2010 is the second model year for the Challenger. ¬†One could say they were a bit preoccupied trying to stay corporately afloat, but it seems they used the extra time to learn the mistakes made by Ford and Chevrolet with their earlier introductions. ¬†Most people agree the Challenger is the throwback that is the “truest” to the original design – right down to the colors. ¬†Like the original, you can get your Challenger in classic colors Detonator Yellow, TorRed or Blue Pearl – heck, they even brought back Plum Crazy. ¬†But to celebrate what would represent 40 years of the Challenger – had they stuck around – they’re rolling out a version in … wait for it … Furious Fuschia.

Now, I should point out here that I’m a Ford guy, so there’s really only two acceptable colors to me – white with two Ford Blue stripes or Ford Blue with two white stripes. ¬†I’m willing to tip my hat to the Mopar Gang for showing a little flair in their colors, but dude – that’s a pink car. ¬†There’s just no other way to look at it. ¬†I guess maybe if your girlfriend is into hot cars and you’re trying to impress her with a muscle car for her birthday or something, but I think for the rest of us this is just not going to work. Maybe they could have called this one “Failed Fuschia” …

Oh, and memo to the folks at the Three-Point Star’s Five-Point division: ¬†If you’re gonna celebrate an award, make sure it’s something legitimate. ¬†We all know that JD Power will give an award to anything from cars to toilet paper, but you guys are celebrating the Challenger being named “Most Appealing Midsize Sporty Car” – I mean, what the hell is that? ¬†Probably exactly what you’d expect someone driving a pink car to celebrate, I guess …

That Was Quick …

Well, give USC’s embattled athletic director Mike Garrett credit for one thing – he’s not afraid to go bold. Less than 24 hours after Pete Carroll was introduced as the new head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, there was Garrett, introducing the Trojans’ new field boss – Tennessee head coach (and former SC assistant) Lane Kiffin.

To say that this is a controversial hiring is the height of understatement. Kiffin was with the Volunteers barely a year after a very acrimonious firing by the Oakland Raiders (remember Al Davis leaving his coffin long enough to read Kiffin’s termination letter to the press?), and caused enough controversy during his tenure in the SEC to last most coaches a decade. Now he’s bailing on that program to come “home” – and his departure from Knoxville is as controversial as his arrival. Students were so irritated that they nearly rioted back in Tennessee, and everyone from the press to the AD blasted his lack of professionalism.

None of this seems to bother Kiffin – or Garrett. With Carroll leaving town, the precious momentum his time in LA created was at risk, and it would take a bold move to keep it going. This is just that move. Kiffin brings with him both former SC recruiter deluxe Ed Orgeron and own father Monte Kiffin – who was the man who mentored Carroll on how to be a defensive coach. Pretty good pickups, and if they’re successful at stealing Norm Chow from UCLA (a longshot at best, worth the shot), it’ll feel like Carroll never left. That could be a blessing or a curse, of course, since you want your coach to stand on his two feet and not hide behind the shadow of his precedessor (ask Bill Callahan how that went with the Raiders). But for all the drama, you have to respect the decision.

Now they just need to make it all work … ūüėČ

No Big Deal Or Really Big Deal?

Ever notice how history has a way of making people look silly? Like all those coaches, for example, who proclaim their love for their current “perfect job” only to reverse course on a dime when the money is waved under their noses? Facts and data can show things that mere words just can’t support.

Earlier this week, Northrop Grumman announced that they were moving their corporate headquarters from LA to Washington DC, ostensibly to better support their primary customer, the US Government. As you might imagine, this was met with consternation and concern by LA business leaders, but NG talking heads quickly threw cold water on any economic worries.

“We don’t really expect it to have a big impact” on South Bay operations, Northrop spokesman Dan McClain said. “The objective is for us to more effectively engage with customers, protect the jobs we have and grow new jobs. So, our goal is for this to be a positive for California.”

Now, Northrop was founded at Hawthorne Airport back in the ’30s, and has a huge footprint in SoCal with major facilites in both El Segundo and Redondo Beach. ¬†It’s possible that this move will have no impact on a company so closely tied to the region. ¬†But, as they say, let me tell you a tale about another little company …

In 1917, a young engineer in Seattle changed the name of his year-old company to one that would include his last name:  The Boeing Airplane Company.  Boeing grew in the northwest and, much like Northrop in SoCal, developed a significant business base around Puget Sound.  Major aircraft production lines were established in Everett and Renton Рin fact, every commercial airliner built by Boeing over the years has rolled out of one of those plants.  But Boeing also felt a need to have a less regional presence, and in 2000 decided to move their corporate headquarters to Chicago.  Again, it was a significant event to the politicos of the Northwest, who had frankly taken Boeing Рand the huge employment base it represented to their districts Рfor granted.  Even with the move, they knew Boeing would retain a large business segment in the greater Seattle area.

Fast forward a few years, and Boeing is developing the new 787 Dreamliner. ¬†Like most large aerospace concerns, Boeing has learned that you need to spread the work around to keep people happy, and much of the 787 is being developed by foreign firms selected to ensure their countries’ desire to purchase large numbers of Dreamliners. ¬†Even with foreign ownership, though, much of the work was being done at purpose-built facilities in South Carolina. ¬†When the foreign firms had trouble meeting schedules, Boeing stepped in and first assisted and then supplanted the foreign companies, taking over the facilities and work.

Meanwhile, ¬†back in Seattle, Boeing had established the final assembly line for the 787. ¬†Sure, it would just be bolting together big pieces made elsewhere, but at least Seattle could still take credit for finishing the plane and sending it into the sky. ¬†But a bruising strike put the program behind schedule, and politicians refused to give Boeing any kind of breaks, knowing they’d never take their business elsewhere. ¬†Or would they.

Last year, as orders for Dreamliners skyrocketed, Boeing looked for sites to build a second 787 production line. ¬†Washington knew every Boeing jetliner had been built in the Pacific Northwest, and was confident the new line would be built there. ¬†But down in South Carolina, where Boeing’s new facilities included a flightline with airport access, local politicians had a full-court press in play to get that new assembly line. ¬†Imagine the shock in Seattle when Charleston was announced as the site for the new 787 production line …

Sure, Northrop Grumman has a proud Southern California heritage, but when it comes to corporate decisions, it’s “out of sight, out of mind”. ¬†It’s hard to close a facility when it’s within driving range of your headquarters, but not so hard when it’s all the way across the country.

NG employees, don’t say you weren’t warned …

That Didn’t Last Long

You may remember that a few months back, we wrote about an innovative – if unenlightened – attempt to breathe new life into a stale coffee franchise. At the time, we pointed out that the new “Bikini Espresso” coffee shop was inheriting a difficult location that had already failed in with a previous coffee brand, and wondered if just adding barristas in bikinis was enough to make a difference.

Back to Bikini Bottom for you!

Back to Bikini Bottom for you!

The answer came barely three months after the grand opening. I noticed two things as I drove by recently – no customers, and a pink sign on the door. Suspecting I already knew the answer, I swung into the lot and took a look. Yup – outta business.

Gary Gillett thought he could brew a profitable business plan by mixing coffee with bikini-clad baristas in Torrance.

Just over three months into his experiment, Gillett has called it quits.

On Monday night, Bikini Espresso, the South Bay’s only drive-through bikini coffee shop and a magnet for resident complaints, shuttered its doors.

Pink signs on the front door and near the drive-through window read: “Relocating to a business-friendly town!”

“I had to turn off the lights,” Gillett said angrily. “I’m kind of done with Torrance. Torrance sucks.”

Um … told ya?

The whole “barrista-as-stripper” concept seems to work pretty well in the Pacific Northwest, but maybe that’s because the only bikinis they ever see are in a Victoria’s Secret catalog. ¬†Here, where you only have to go two miles west down 190th to get to the beach and all the bikinis you like, it takes more than skin to win. ¬†A good location, knowledgable staff, undercutting the Mickey D’s across the street – those are the kinds of business savvy decisions that will keep you in the business for the long run. ¬†Half-nekkid servers apparently won’t.

He wanted to stay with the bikini concept even as his business seemed ready to fail.

“I didn’t want to go with the lingerie idea because I thought it would corrupt the original bikini idea,” he said. “I couldn’t have them on the street in lingerie. Plus, Torrance fought me enough on the bikinis.”

Way to stay classy, Gary. That’s not to say that Gillett is giving up on the concept, mind you …

Gillett said he hopes to reopen Bikini Espresso in another city, possibly Redondo Beach.

Woo. Hoo.

Where Was This On My Last Business Trip?

I travel a couple of times a year for The Company – not enough to think of myself as a travel “pro,” but enough to appreciate some of the challenges that business travel can pose. ¬†For me, the worst part of the experience isn’t the long hours on airplanes, or missed connections, or boring meetings. ¬†The worst part for me – and, I suspect, many of my fellow travelers – is the expense report. ¬†You get done with that long trip and pull out a stack of crumpled receipts, hoping that somehow it matches what’s been billed to the corporate card. ¬†And should there be a discrepancy? ¬†You’re screwed – until now.

Clearly, I was multi-tasking in NYC - not hanging out at the bar.

Clearly, I was multi-tasking in NYC - not hanging out at the bar.

Maloney & Porcelli is an upscale steakhouse in NYC popular with businessmen, so they know a thing or two about the value of receipts. ¬†They obviously know a little about marketing, because they came up with one of the most creative webapps I’ve seen yet – Expense-A-Steak! ¬†Spend a little more at M&P – or anywhere else, I guess – than you’d planned and wondering how to expense it? ¬†No problem – just tell the app how much you spent and it’ll gin up some fake receipts. ¬†It even presents them to you in the “I’m ¬†trying to squeeze them all onto the copier plate” look our Finance Department is used to. ¬†As the boys at Guinness might say – brilliant! ¬†In fact, I think on my next trip I just might have to give it a try … :-)