Friday, November 30, 2007

Wobble Wedges®

If one of us in the “Thursday Night Martini Gang” has jammed a book of matches or a wad of napkins under our cast-iron table at Mo Mong once these past 10 years, we’ve done it a hundred times. With the passing of matchbooks, leveling an awkward table became more of an annoyance.

Shift scene: a pub in the Brookhaven section of Atlanta, where four of us had just sat down for a couple of pints and burgers…a pleasant patio lunch on a beautiful day. And the table wobbled. Teeter. Totter. Teeter. Totter. While I was looking around for a napkin to wad up, the ever-resourceful Edith Fusillo reached into her purse and pulled out a small white plastic shim. She lifted the table slightly and shoved this thing under the leg. No more teeter-totter.

“It’s a Wobble Wedge,” she proclaimed and she and Bob beamed at us. “Every table in Venice wobbles. I found these at The Container Store and we always carry them with us.”

Sheesh! Of the hundred or thousands of useless knickknacks and gadgets in the various catalogs of the world, here are these Wobble Wedges – complete with registered trademark. So the first thing we do is go off to the nearby Container Store and pick up a couple of packages. Barbara stashed hers in various compartments of her purse. I stowed mine in…well…my man-bag. Map case. Alright, dammit, my purse.

This is word-of-mouth marketing in action. Only after I got back here to the home computer have I gone to the website; you can read all about Wobble Wedges, “the tapered plastic shims that do it all.” You should look at this site: simple, homegrown, but with all the information you’d need to realize why this is one of the world’s great inventions.

And it’s only a million or so years old. Stone Age (though I’m told that the Association of Social Anthropologists is not happy with this term). After all, the reason we’ve used matchbooks to level the damn table is because they’re wedge-shaped.

Our modern, purse-carried Wobble Wedges are made of polypropylene, tapered at a 5.75° angle with some extra features like nesting ridge teeth that make it adjustable – and so awfully handy. The Wobble Wedge is patented and manufactured by Focus 12, Inc.; conveniently packaged; it even comes with a small hole so you can tie a string to it. “Everyone needs Wobble Wedges ‘cause the world isn’t flat.” Nice line.

The only problem: you tend to forget about the Wobble Wedge when you leave the restaurant. Edith says she and Bob left dozens of them in restaurants all over Venice (the paving and flooring are so out of true, you see). Still, they’re cheap enough, three bucks per six-pack. You can get ‘em in jars of 300 in case you’re truly into leveling.

So this today’s WOM contribution: Wobble Wedges. Pass it on.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Door Prize

Ye don’t think we’d have a St. Andrew’s Day Party without an appropriate door prize, do ye? When you drop by the Stag’s Head Pub this Friday, you can register for our “Pairty Giveout,” a 10-year-old Black Bottle Scotch Whisky.

It wouldn’t hurt if you took a quick, visual peek at the brand’s neat, interactive website. You can even pull down a menu or two and take a look at some of Black Bottle’s advertising, though it’s a bit hard to read with its bitty type and all.

Fact is, Scotch whisky’s one of the Worldwide Web’s favorite subjects. Do a bit of Googling and find out more about Black Bottle than I could fit in half-a-dozen blog posts.

I’m going to make it easy on myself. Spirits writer Michael Lonsford jotted a column in The Houston Chronicle a couple of weeks back. The highlights:

It’s black and green, and it had a red-letter renaissance. It’s a blended Scotch whisky called Black Bottle, and its history is fascinating. Most scotch drinkers start off with the classic, popular blends — Johnny Walker Red, Dewar’s, J&B.

I did, too, later segueing to the single-malts and finally the shores of Islay, the island off the western coast of Scotland famous for its heavily peated whiskies.

If Scotch whisky aficionados fall into two camps — single-malts and blends – Black Bottle might appeal to both sides.

Where did the name come from? In the mid-1800s, the three Graham brothers of Aberdeen launched the label, a blended whisky sold in a pot-still-shaped bottle made of black glass from Germany. When England and Germany fought in World War I, the glass became unavailable. So the Grahams switched to green, which is still used.

Black Bottle is a blended whisky, but with unique Islay attributes. It makes you think of the heather shivering in the North Sea wind and wisps of smoke lifting out of Islay village chimneys.

Poetic enough (shivering North Sea wind and all) for me to steal for this post. But it’ll give you an idea of what the whisky is all about…should you happen to carry off the 10-year-old prize Friday evening. You might get away without giving everyone else a wee dram before you go.

You should thank my colleague, Rob Schoenbeck (good Scot that he is) for anointing this brand as the door prize.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Corrigan Christmas

My God, it’s good to be back in Texas.

The past week was uproarious. Glorious. If there’s anything better than being invited to the 80th birthday of one of your oldest friends (Bob Fusillo), it’s having a groaning-board Thanksgiving with him and his family the following day. Edith Fusillo kept feeding us, feeding us. Dylan Fusillo and Janis Shen came in from New York City. I got to spend more time with him and his brother, Neil Fusillo, than at any time in the past…decade? Two decades? More?

Atlanta itself was all about shopping. Every news medium was filled with stories about “Black Friday” and “Super Saturday.” Shoppers local and national lining up at Best Buy (e.g., which is also advertising a “Cyber Monday” in the event shoppers missed their opportunities over the previous weekend) the night before stores opened, wanting to be the first in line for flat-screen TV sets and other gadgets.

Number Two story on the national TV news programs was about all the Made-in-America toys people could buy. No fears of heavy-lead paint if you buy American instead of Chinese. This is particularly piquant since Barbara finally tracked down a pair of size-15 flip-flops that was waiting for us on our front porch when we arrived home last evening. Made in China, natch: a potential new meaning for the term “leadfoot,” I suppose.

Widely remarked upon by Talking Heads – and much in evidence in stores and lots all over Atlanta – is the deceitful attempt to avoid calling those seasonal, decorated evergreens Americans enjoy buying by any other name than Christmas Trees.

It seems to have started with the Lowe’s Holiday Catalog, in which the big-box chain cravenly referred to these items as Family Trees.

In an effort to avoid the use of the term “Christmas tree,” Lowe's has renamed their Christmas trees and are now calling them “Family trees.”

In their Holiday 2007 catalog, containing 56 pages of Christmas gifts, Lowe’s advertises hundreds of gift items, including scores of “Family trees.” In fact, the word “Christmas” only appears two times in the entire holiday catalog. The ads mentioning “Christmas” cover only 12 square inches of the 5236 square inches available.

I saw signs advertising Holiday Trees, Seasonal Trees and – on one corner of the Perimeter Shopping Mall – a lot with a huge banner announcing the sale of Tradition Trees. (I’m pleased to report the apparent absence of marketing for the Hanukkah Bush, though some are available for Jewish shoppers on the Worldwide Web.)

Yesterday, we battled our way west across Interstate 20 on the drive back. Rain, more rain. Massive rain. Spot showers. Heavy misting. Plus traffic diverting from I-10 because some of this major highway is closed – see the post below. Leaving the Interstate, crossing the state line on US 79 and switching to US 59 to bring us to Houston was a wonderful relief.

Even better, we drove through the tiny town of Corrigan about 8.30 PM. There’s a lighted signboard in front of the City Hall. It announced:

Christmas Tree Lighting
& Chili Cookoff

God, it’s great to be home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blowouts Happen

The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.

And so Barbara and I expected it to be when we left for Atlanta last Sunday, from Houston.

The rain was a nice surprise. Our unexpected event was the total closure of Interstate 10 from Lafayette to Baton Rouge, LA. A 55 mile-stretch of a major interstate corridor from Houston to New Orleans will remain closed until at least December 4.

Now you know what we know: I-10 will be closed because a fire at a Bridas Energy USA natural gas well erupted last Thursday evening, before we left Houston. Bridas workers were drilling a new well and the pressure blew the line, which then burst into flames. The well is about two miles west of the Ramah/Maringoin exit on the Atchafalaya Basin floodway side – you could see the flames from the causeway.

I missed this important bit of information and so did a few thousand other holiday travelers. It may even have been in last Sunday’s Houston Chronicle, which we didn’t read before we left the house because our copy was soaked from all the rain.

You know the area, right? That long, long causeway across the flood basin, where cellphones don’t work and there’s just one or two places to stop…we’ve been taking this route to and from Atlanta for years.

Without knowing exactly why, we followed the quickly revised Louisiana Highway Department/US DOT alternate. With all the rest of the eastbound unfortunates, we went northward onto Interstate 49 at Lafayette, then east on U.S. 190 at Opelousas, through Livonia, to Baton Rouge.

This part was not an adventure: Livonia, LA, has two traffic lights and Sunday afternoon traffic was backed up for miles while the good folks of the Livonia police department tried to cope with five times the normal traffic.

Backups aside, we really had no other problems. With no loss of life that I can find, though, it’s typical that Louisiana’s governor, Kathleen Blanco, would use words like ”appalling” to describe the incident. The Gov’s hindsighted comments notwithstanding, my hat’s off to Louisiana state and parish officials and DOT for organizing the best possible solution around an awkwardly placed incident.

It’s also given “over the river and through the woods” to the Fusillos for Thanksgiving a completely new meaning. We’ll be taking another highway home to Houston this weekend.

The Advocate photo by Richard Alan Hannon, with thanks.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Andy’s Pairty*

Inspired by actual events! Sanctioned by law! Well, not our law, but still...

Join us November 30th for what might well be Houston’s best celebration of St. Andrew’s Day, as officially enacted by The Scottish Parliament just last year. A real party – and we’re counting on real Scots (as well as Anglophiles, Beer Lovers and Party Goers) to come down and help us out.

“Us” includes Cameron Wallace of Helix ESG; and Rob Schoenbeck and Richard Laurence Baron (operating under the guise of area51, our strategic marketing consulting firm). We’re setting the stage, you buy your own beer.

Party, party, party. “Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled?” or in this case, “drink?”

We’re gathering at Houston’s Stag’s Head Pub. A wonderful location, Michael Holliday himself has set us up in a nice area of our own – thanks for that. There are ales and stouts, porters and ciders, lagers, even light beers. Rob’s turned Old Speckeld Hen into something of a favorite; Cameron’s likely to start with Stella Artois, the creature.

Now get this: The party’s actually on St. Andrew’s Day, Friday, November 30th, 2007, from 4-8 PM or later. Come on, it’s after Thanksgiving, no excuses and no fooling. Celebrating on Saturday wouldn’t be right.

We invite you to take advantage of your legal rights on the very St. Andrew’s Day honoured by custom and practice: Workers will be allowed to take the day off if they can swap the day for one of their existing public holidays: the most likely option is the autumn holiday in September or October, which varies from region to region.

(However, the day off will not be made statutory and it will be up to employers to decide whether they want to give staff the time off. There has been considerable doubt as to how many private companies will do so.)

But the confusion as to who would benefit from the holiday did nothing to curb the enthusiasm of MSPs [Members of the
Scottish Parliament] for the plan – all of whom will get the holiday, with the rest of the public sector.

Do NOT let this opportunity get away from you over some company quibble or more ordinary (mundane) commitment that can be fulfilled on any other day. We’re talking about the majesty of the law here. We anticipate that the beer will flow and the food will be eaten, to honor the Patron Saint of Scotland.

Spouses of all sorts entirely welcome. Scottish National Dress encouraged – sporrans optional. Designated drivers are also, perhaps, a good idea. That address again: 2128 Portsmouth, Houston 77098 – the Stag’s Head Pub, one block south of Richmond Avenue, one block east of Shepherd.

Come early. Stay late.

*According to The Online Scots Dictionary. Perhaps you would prefer the word “foy?” Our thanks to the owners, managers and staff of the Stag's Head Pub for their enthusiasm.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Krafty Publishing

We all know technology rushes things to death…but some things don’t die so easily.

Last week, one senior ad agency told Signalwriter that printed magazines were dead; that they couldn’t deliver the audiences any more. Felix Dennis, the Brit entrepreneur who publishes titles like Maxxim, was quoted in The Economist (September 29, 2007), saying, “It’s a long, slow sunset for ink-on-paper magazines…”

Technology is banging the business model for consumer magazines pretty hard. Print magazines are increasingly more expensive to publish (there’s only so much tech can do for printing presses and the cost of newsprint). And a lot of publications that have expanded to the Worldwide Web aren’t coining money from their sites, either. Mostly.

Still, print magazines have been in the hot seat before. Mass-circ mags seemed to be dying off – then along comes something like People and changes the model. More exhaustive databanking has meant that dozens of specially targeted niches deliver profitable audiences that could be identified and persuaded to subscribe, or buy the products advertised in these specialty magazines. F’rinstance…

We get a free magazine from Kraft Foods called Food & Family. It’s a substantial, attractive publication that involves its readers in a range of subjects revolving around “delicious ideas.” Everything in it is a Kraft brand.

By publishing and sending the magazine to homemakers without charge, Kraft generates both tactical and strategic benefits for consumers and for itself.

First, the magazine stays near to hand around the house. CPG companies learned a long time ago that recipes are ever-popular and attention-getting (that’s why you see so many recipes in magazine food ads). All the recipes involve Kraft products as ingredients: a key sales driver.

Second, Kraft gets to use its huge ad bank in the magazine: it’s filled with advertising for various Kraft brands. How many print ads do you think Kraft and its business units generate in a year? I don’t know – but it’s a lot! So in addition to running the ads in other magazines, Kraft gets extra mileage from them when they appear in Food & Family.

Third, Kraft has tied the magazine to an inviting, involving website that doesn’t simply duplicate the content of the magazine. It has promotions (of course); it also has a terrific “Welcome to Our Community” section where recipes and other household tips are shared – there’s quite a bit of sharing and it’s valuable for stakeholder involvement. All in all, the package is a good one in terms of branding, content and product sales programs.

This is hardly the only example of a magazine published for and distributed to product consumers. Car companies like Ford and Chrysler, published “owner’s magazines” for years. There’s a big difference, however, between the cost of a box of Jell-O and the price sticker on a car window…and the combination of Kraft brand ingredients makes for effective cross-selling.

Magazines’ fires are only smoored, not completely extinguished. Publisher Dennis completed his Economist quote thusly: “…but sunsets can produce vast sums of money.”

They can also generate an startling amount of reader responsiveness, whether they’re highlighting a busty starlet or a breakfast omelet that the entire family will enjoy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Gittelsohn’s Sermon, 1945: A Veterans Day Post.

The first Jewish chaplain the Marine Corps ever appointed, Lt Roland B Gittelsohn, ChC, USNR, was assigned to the Fifth Marine Division.

When the US Armed Forces invaded Iwo Jima in February, 1945, Rabbi Gittelsohn was in the thick of the fighting, ministering to Marines of all faiths in the combat zone. His tireless efforts to comfort the wounded and encourage the fearful won him three service ribbons.

When the fighting was over, Gittelsohn was asked to deliver the memorial sermon at a combined religious service dedicating the Marine Cemetery. Unfortunately, racial and religious prejudice led to problems with the ceremony. What happened next immortalized Gittelsohn and his sermon forever.

The Division Chaplain and Protestant minister, Cmdr Warren Cuthriell, originally asked Rabbi Gittelsohn to deliver the memorial sermon. Cuthriell wanted all the fallen Marines (Protestant, Catholic and Jewish, black and white) to be honored in a single, nondenominational ceremony. However, according to Rabbi Gittelsohn's autobiography, the majority of Christian chaplains objected to having a rabbi preach over predominantly Christian graves. The Catholic chaplains, in keeping with church doctrine, opposed any form of joint religious service.

To his credit, Cuthriell refused to alter his plans. Gittelsohn, on the other hand, wanted to save his friend Cuthriell further embarrassment and so decided it was best not to deliver his sermon. Instead, three separate religious services were held.

At the Jewish service, to a congregation of 70 or so who attended, Rabbi Gittelsohn delivered the powerful eulogy he originally wrote for the combined service:

Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helped in her founding. And other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores.

Here lie officers and men, Negroes and Whites, rich men and poor, together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed.

Among these men there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy! Whosoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or who thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery.

To this then, as our solemn sacred duty, do we the living now dedicate ourselves: To the right of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, of White men and Negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price.

We here solemnly swear this shall not be in vain. Out of this and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this, will come, we promise, the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere.

Among Gittelsohn’s listeners were three Protestant chaplains so incensed by the prejudice voiced by their colleagues that they boycotted their own service to attend Gittelsohn’s.

One of them borrowed the manuscript and, unknown to Gittelsohn, circulated several thousand copies to his regiment. Some Marines enclosed the copies in letters to their families.

An avalanche of coverage was the result. Time published excerpts; the wire services spread the sermon even further. The entire sermon was inserted into the Congressional Record; the Army released the eulogy for short-wave broadcast to American troops throughout the world; and it has been read on many succeeding days that commemorate our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines..

It’s Veteran’s Day today – 62 years after Iwo Jima and the Rabbi’s sermon. Join me in thinking about those you know, who have served and are serving throughout the world, defending our freedoms. As long as we remember the names, they won’t fade.

Paul Hirsch Baron, Emmanuel Katz, Herman Eisenberg and Sam Slavik. Phil Slavik. Norman Sabel and Sherman Sabel. Joel Hirsch Goldberg. Thomas Biddulph, Richard Dailey, Richard Fox, Bill Gay and Richard Sutter. David Starr. Chris Hrabe. AJ Smith and Paul Hoven. Alan Vera. Nathanael Charles Yonka, Jr. Hoi Nguyen and Ellis Alexander. And the names from the Gunroom (you know who you are): Paul Johnson, KCMO, and “Charlezzzzz” Muñoz. And me.

Special thanks to Rabbi Leigh Lerner of Montreal, Canada; and the American Jewish Historical Society. Photo: Fifth Marine Division Cemetary, Iwo Jima.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Information Mismanagement*

The belt had broken on the household vacuum cleaner. The Husband knew that the part number was listed in the cleaner’s instruction manual.

Simple enough: find the manual, copy out the part number, and order it. The result would be a delivered part and a repaired vacuum cleaner. QED.

He looked for that manual in all the places where the couple filed paperwork; he was certain it was near to hand but couldn’t find it. He flipped through more files. When this failed, he called to his wife in the next room. “Dear, where’s the manual for the vacuum cleaner?”

The Wife responded, “Did you look in the file cabinet?”

“I’m in there right now.”

“It should be right in front of you,” said the Wife. “Did you look under ‘H’?”

“Huh?” The Husband shook his head. “Why not under ‘V’ for vacuum cleaner?”

“‘H’ – look under ‘H’,” the Wife called back.

The Husband wondered why the vacuum cleaner manual would be under ‘H’ - and then realized the Wife had filed the booklet under ‘H’ for ‘Hoover.’ And sure enough, he plucked out the ‘H’ file and found the manual.

He was quiet for a moment. Then: “Dear, you do realize that our vacuum cleaner is a Dyson?”

The withering silence was no more than he deserved.

*As told to Signalwriter. The Husband remains anonymous for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Elephant Brand

One of the world’s most famous brands – or mascots, take your pick – was born 133 years ago today. The Republican Party was symbolized as an elephant for the first time. (I have been from time to time associated with it myself.)

“The Third-Term Panic” by Thomas Nast originally appeared in Harper's Magazine on November 7th, 1874. You can read all about it on the magazine’s website. Most people won’t recall that America’s then-most-famous political cartoonist was commenting on the possibility of a third term for President Ulysses S Grant.

Depending on your POV, it’s still going strong. Check it out: CaféPress says it has “over 2080 unique, Republican elephant designs on more than 51100 T-Shirts and Gifts.” That’s a plethora of pachyderms.

Conjecture: Another way to build the strength of your own brand is to found a political party. Win elections. Don’t forget to involve the public by establish a “netroots” organization – a fine new term that’s rapidly replacing “grassroots.” Put Presidents in the White House.

The American press (including cartoonists) will do the rest. Honestly, there are some days when I think it has to be easier than marketing.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Database Synonyms?

Your help is urgently needed.

Semanticists, IT types, even followers of William Safire are required: Signalwriter seeks a synonym for “database.”

You can’t bend your elbow without smacking it on the word “database.” It occurs 12 times in an article in The Economist’s 29 September number; my favorite’s a paragraph about the emergence of a “database state.” In another case, one client’s rough draft used the word four times in two short sentences.

The lack of a synonym threatens us all (except, apparently, The Economist writers: The article actually reads extremely well and contributes the alternative “databank”).


No, you cannot offer “information silo.” It ain’t elegant. Unless I’ve missed a major source, I reckon a euphonious (nice-sounding) synonym seems to be among the missing.

I’ve trolled the Internet, wandering among online thesauruses – no luck to speak of. Try out The Visual Thesaurus (which is a mighty cute gimmick) and what you get is “database” surrounded by a modest galaxy of adjectival modifiers such as “computer” and “online.” Little help there…though it does take you from “information” to “skinny.”

Fingering through the modern mish-mash, I Googled up the National Science Foundation: One of the recent visions is that of Semantic Web, which proposed semantic annotation of data, so that programs can understand it, and help in making decisions. Right.

I even went to The Source: Mary Jo Martin, Database Goddess. After a long period of grappling with this major mystery, she asked: “Ummm, can I use two words? If I can, then I’d say Information Repository.” But, of course, observed Martin: “Richard would say that I couldn’t do that.” So the principal of Cynapsus, the marketing research firm, gave it her best consideration. After deconstructing the word and consulting with Bill’s Thesaurus in MS Word on the pieces, she offered three possibilities: The first is “factcenter.” This one is very to-the-point and descriptive, but boring. Then “statisticsource” – I love the alliteration with all those Ss rolling around. Of course, it would not be good for those with a lisp. Finally, there’s “figureheart” for the sentimentalists.

I’d enter the last one into the competition, for fun. Otherwise, can we hear a shout-out for “infosource” or “bytebank” as alternatives? Ought we to give “databank” a renewed push? I’m willing to take up the cudgels for a neologistic, pleasant-sounding synonym or two, to give doughty “database” some blessed relief.

We need the gifted Seamus Heaney, his art with “swan’s road” and “frothing wave-vat,” his supple word-hoard. A poet who can whip Beowulf into shape would be my perfect synonym-generating hero.

On the other hand, honest Anglo-Saxon may be helpless in the face of 21st Century complexity. What would Beowulf have made of “laptop?”

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Odile’s Mosaïque

For the American cousins of Odile Suganas, there’s good news and bad.

The good news: Suganas has begun a blog about what happened to her family (plus some of our) and French Jews generally during the years of the Holocaust. She, who spent so many years with UNESCO traveling the world, now travels to Poland and Lithuania, searching out the stories of our European family.

She has published a book, Mosaïque, about some of these travels and researches, with photographs of family members never seen before here in America, except perhaps by some of our very elderly relatives. Suganas visited with the Chicago part of the family last year, researching additional information. Several of us have a rough English manuscript of the book.

Now she continues to travel and lecture about the Holocaust. She’s a member of the French Committee of the Days of the Memory, which was founded on the 50th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto in 1943. And she blogs.

Oh – bad news. It’s in French. Some of the blog, also called “Mosaïque,” can be machine-translated; other parts are pdfs of articles and documents. But Francophone or not, check into this new blog. I think you’ll be able to get a flavor of what this very able relation of ours has to tell us and the world about a specially provocative and saddened part of Europe so many years ago.

Friday, November 02, 2007

DrillingInfo’s “Waltz”

Every year, DrillingInfo takes its show on the road and I got a chance to see one of the Houston iterations of its “Waltz Across the Patch” yesterday. As the company’s Director of Marketing would say, it was a good ‘ern.

It really is a form of dance, organizing a 10-city tour with a two-and-a-half-hour show twice a day at each stop. But as a talking platform of a particular type, getting the latest word about the company and its data products out to its customer base, it was also a neat, compact example of its type.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a large-scale exploration services company or a small G&G firm, you know that you have a stake in the usability of the products and services you work with.

You are stakeholders in the company(s) behind those products and services.

DrillingInfo has a superb open-source delivery platform for its extensive collection of land, well and production data. Director of Marketing & Planning Roger Edmondson made it clear at the outset that it was encouraging its users – landmen, exploration team members and deal-makers – to be “missionaries” for its subscription-based services. The audience responded in kind, with plenty of interaction with the speakers.

Then DrillingInfo’s CEO, Allen Gilmer, waltzed us through the company’s DI LandTrăC Unified Land and Exploration Suite and its Virtual Scout utility (which I think is particularly clever); and gave us a glimpse of the company’s forthcoming new DNA product. He tells good stories – which made it even more entertaining.

Gilmer made a significant point about oil and gas exploration: explorationists don’t take a second look at their existing properties because they’re too busy chasing new opportunities. Which means that, potentially, there’s a whole lot of production left on the table.

Well, this is really about stakeholder involvement. It’s clear that the DrillingInfo team has taken this to heart. Gilmer, Edmondson and the rest of the Austin-based team conducted a credible and well-organized event, putting their customers first on the dance card. Way to waltz, guys.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Chevron’s “Energyville”

“This is your city. How will you power it?”

A brief morning post, this, but Energyville came up in a discussion yesterday. Chevron introduced its online energy game, developed by The Economist Group, this past September, supported by a portentous two-and-a-half minute spot on the CBS star-spot, “60 Minutes.”

According to a Chevron news release: The “Power of Human Energy” campaign is an evolution of Chevron’s “Real Issues” campaign…a Web site…to raise awareness and encourage discussion about the major issues facing the energy industry.

The Washington Post also points to efforts by other “Big Oil” companies like ExxonMobil and BP, wondering if any of these efforts to involve publics in a world-encompassing energy dialogue will work. It admits: But few have matched the new Chevron campaign for polish or emotion, or for its ambitious bid to recast itself as an environmentally responsible corporate citizen. Its creator said it was more of a “rallying cry” than an advertisement.

I call it an outstanding effort to engage and interactive with all the stakeholders. A similar note can be read on, pointing to the “online gaming space.”

Even if there is an occasional kink in the system (Energyville won’t let me register with my real name, for example), the ability to involve yourself and your colleagues in juggling the energy demands of an entire city is pretty cool. Even better, there is already plenty of back-and-forth activity about various kinds of energy from a wide variety of people.

So, as the ads’ tagline reads, “Play it. Power it. Discuss it.” This is one online game that could make a believer out of you when it comes to stakeholder involvement.

More to come on this one, I think.