Monday, May 19, 2008

Across the Universe

Finally got to see Across the Universe and loved it! Very creative and inspiring overall - especially for someone born in 1960 (too young to have experienced that time, but very much influenced by it).

As I watched the credits, I noticed that the director was Julie Taymor who also directed Frida (another favourite). I wasn't surprised to see this as both films are beautifully rendered. Incorporating art and effects in order to further communicate the essence of the story. And I wasn't surprised to see that Across the Universe was directed by an American woman born in 1952.

For many years, I was envious of those who were 5-10 years older than me and and who actually lived the love, peace and music of the 60s era. Funny enough though, in 1979, my first university room mate, Jan (also too young to have lived it), epitomized my ideal of the 60s persona. Long blond hair, sweet and pacifist personality, played the flute and guitar and was seemingly of an earlier time and philosophy. I'm not still in touch with Jan, but last I heard she was living in a cabin in the wilds of Alberta with her husband and son. Although I only knew her for 1st year before she went to another school, I will never forget her ethereal and loving presence.

Throughout my life I've been blessed to know several other like-minded souls who also seem to harken from that time of peaceful, values-based beliefs. Driven by their devotion for the earth, animals and humanity. Sandra, Debrah, Mika, Venetia, Yael, Kim. Of different ages and yet similar approaches. All in their unique ways. And all subsequent to the 60s - which makes me ponder what created that 'peace and love' momentum in that particular decade. Was it a unique culture or was it simply that there were more empathetic people living at that time (led, of course, by early boomers).

Regardless, my heart is still pulled back from time to time to what I grew up knowing as an idealistic and (mostly) peaceful, revolutionary period in our history. And with a soundtrack consisting almost entirely of songs by The Beatles, it's hard not to get all happily nostalgic while experiencing this wonderful film.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A different perspective

While wanting to emphasize the positive as much as possible, I have to admit I might have caught a glimpse of the 'cold and unfriendly' or at least 'conservative' Toronto today. I'm attending a 3-day Canadian Marketing Association conference (ok, that should've been my first clue) and must admit I was struck by the homogeneity of the folks in the room. Let's call them 'the suits' - of which I admittedly was one. A friend at Tourism BC - William who is the 'push the boundaries, e-leader' there - once commented on the difference between attending a web conference vs a marketing conference as the geeks definitely outcool the marketers - especially when looking at the way they dress and how they approach life and business.

One of today's keynote speakers embodied that this afternoon. Google's Avinash Kaushik, described as Author, Blogger and Analytics Evangelist, appeared onstage in blue jeans and white shirt and peered into the audience saying he doesn't even own a suit. He proceeded to present a colourful, dynamic and provocative case for "putting the marketer back into marketing with web analytics 2.0." Like most web people I've met, he's irreverent and challenges traditional business structures and approaches. He laughs at decision-making by 'hipos' (highest paid person's opinions) and counsels innovators to prove them wrong and then move on with customer-centric solutions.

Mostly he prods us to pay much more attention to the 'whys' and 'what elses' versus just the 'whats' and 'how muchs' of online results. And to intelligently use the amazing tools available to do so.

A key metric = bounce rate "- if 67% of visitors to your site don't click through once you should be crying."

Key questions to ask your users:
- why are you here?
- were you able to complete your task?
- if not, why not?

Main message - let customers tell you - capture their voice and don't just interpret their actions.

Important approach - experimentation and testing.

Key takeaway for me - Avinash's blog has been recreated in book form for sale and he and his wife decided that all proceeds will go to charity as he doesn't want to be paid for something that was already free nor for something he loves to do. So in addition to the clothes, this is one of the big differentiators between geeks and suits, at least that's the way it appears.

Next week I get to hang out with web people at MESH - Canada's Web Conference. Tomorrow I'm wearing jeans.

Photo: Avinash Kaushik

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nice people

The city of Toronto has a bad rap in other parts of Canada. You often hear that residents of Toronto and even the rest of Ontario feel they're the centre of the universe. Or you'll hear that Torontonians are cold and unfriendly. I'm happy to say that really hasn't been my experience so far - as I've mentioned before. People are friendly on the subway, on the street, in most stores, in elevators, and in my neighbourhood.

This past week, while getting lunch right at Yonge and Eglinton, I found I only had my visa card which the small shop didn't accept. Just as I was standing in line deliberating how to make cash materialize out of nowhere, the young man next to me said he'd pay. At first I said, no that's ok, but he persisted. He was offering a random act of kindness to both me and the sandwich shop owner and both of us were quite appreciative. I asked for his business card so I could pay him back and he said, 'no, no, don't worry about it'. And so I said thanks very much and that I'd pay it forward. To which he replied 'exactly!'

When I told my friends at work what had happened it made their day - just as it had mine.