Friday, July 31, 2015

July Observations - CSNY and Printing


When Graham Nash, of CSNY, played Boise earlier in July, I posted on Instagram (no surprise) and I also ended up learning lots about fine-arts digital printing (big surprise)
So if you even comprehend my headline's CSNY reference this month, I am betting you, like me, are a Baby Boomer! And that's a good thing, as far as I am concerned! The acronym stands for the full name of surname-based musical group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, one of the signature bands from the late 60s and early 70s, which began as (and still sometimes returning to) simply Crosby, Stills and Nash, or CSN, sans Neil Young. Following my attendance at a very enjoyable concert by band founder Graham Nash earlier this month, I ended up making a significant printing connection, in the historical sense, and will share a little of what I came across in doing my follow-up research.

A little more on Boomers

In marketing or related societal analysis, an understanding of the defining characteristics of these three major adult age cohorts (Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials) is critical. It does not take great insight to see that, for example, lots of advertising - if you look in the right places, anyway - is oriented towards the Boomers and our current interests in topics like retirement planning and healthcare. And (see below) while it's easy to toss around these labels, it never hurts to make certain we are clear on definitions. And just a reminder that it's never quite clear – note the overlap in birth years between Gen X and Gen Y, which helps keep us mindful that these definitions a bit fluid. And two further notes on the source – since 2010, the "Generation Y" moniker has been largely supplanted by the synonymous term "Millennials", and alas, that 40% of the population comprised of Baby Boomers has probably slipped a point or two, though our spending power remains huge.

Just to be precise, it all comes down to birth year, and Baby Boomers, according to the Glossary of one of my University's recommended Consumer Behavior textbooks (copyright 2010), are defined as follows:

Baby Boomers
Individuals born between 1946 and 1964 (approximately 40% of the adult population).
Generation X
Born between 1965 and 1979, this is a post baby-boomer segment (also referred to as Xers or busters).
Generation Y
The approximately 71 million Americans who were born between the years 1977 and 1994 (i.e., the children of baby boomers). Members of Generation Y (also known as "echo boomers" and the "millennium generation") can be divided into three subsegments: Gen Y adults (age 19–28), Gen Y teens (age 13–18), and Gen Y kids, or "tweens."
Source: Glossary, Consumer Behavior, Tenth Edition
ISBN: 9780135053010 Author: Leon G. Schiffman, Leslie Lazar Kanuk, Joseph Wisenblit
Most of the world's first look at CSN - later to become CSNY - came via this album cover.

Besides relatively fat wallets, Boomers also have our memories and love for the days of our past and the music that went with it. So when GroupOn emailed with the chance to attend the aforementioned local summer concert by Graham Nash, especially including their little tease (see below), hundreds of local Boomers, including my wife and I, jumped at the chance. Nash's voice and songs are signature elements of the late 60s, 70s and onward, and it was a wonderful show. In the days following (in addition to having "Marrakesh Express" and others tunes stuck in my head), my interest was triggered to learn more about this piece of digital printing history and the role played by Graham Nash in its development.
 
Graham Nash, the photog

Lodged in the back of my mind that Graham Nash was a photographer as a well as a musician. While there are many famous images involving the band (including the one above from their debut, pre-Young, album), including a few I remembered with Nash and a camera. And then in 2006, shortly after launching my second career, post-HP, as a blogger/analyst, I had a "brush with greatness" as I bumped into, literally, none other than Graham Nash, at the Spring conference of the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) in Orlando. It was one of my first events with press credentials, all very exciting, and it was a "press preview" event in a day-ahead-of-the-main-show which offered the opportunity for press to mingle with vendors and their representatives. It was all quite heady stuff, and bumping into the instantly recognizable Nash made it all the more so!

Nash Editions

Fast forward to 2015 and post-concert, I started to do some digging on what the story was on the printing side of things, going by that little tidbit offered by GroupOn. In addition to an interesting and fun 10-year old story (see "Nash Editions: Fine Art Printing on the Digital Frontier " http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0105/nash_intro.htm)  that describes the "unmet user needs" (again in homage to my marketing teaching) that Graham Nash experienced when trying to convert his digitally photographed portraits to large format hard copy for a gallery exhibition, and how his colleagues worked with him to get an industry solution that has been evolving ever since.

I was fortunate enough to make contact with two of the co-founders of Nash Editions, who are still there after over 20 years. Their stories deserve so much more than being tagged onto the end of this "discovery" part of my story, so stay tuned for August 2015 Observations for some of the Nash Editions saga.

Graham Nash the artist – as summarized by GroupOn
How you know Graham Nash: as the singer-songwriter who shared his talents in The Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash, with and without Young
2010: the year he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Nash's inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: two
How he managed that: he was inducted once with The Hollies, and once with Crosby, Stills & Nash
Inductions into the Songwriters Hall of Fame: only one, the slacker
Latest piece of writing: his memoir Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life
Classic Hollies tunes: "On a Carousel," "Bus Stop," and "Carrie Anne"
Classic CS&N and CSN&Y tunes: "Marrakesh Express," "Teach Your Children," "Our House," and "Just A Song Before I Go"—all of which were penned by Nash
Classic solo tunes: "Military Madness," "Chicago"
Everyone needs a hobby: Nash's work as a photographer led to the founding of Nash Editions, which was recognized by the Smithsonian for helping to invent digital fine-art printing.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Using Apple Pay with Apple Watch

This AP story from 2005 references the "SpeedPass" wand - similar to the FreedomPay system I used at my local McDonald's in the early 2000's



I finally did it - used my Apple Watch to complete a transaction. My choice for making my initial Apple Pay payment was McDonald's, at the same location, in fact, where I frequently used the keychain "wand", a trial program going back over ten years, which allowed wireless payments. I joked on my Instagram post celebrating the event (see right) that we've come a long, long, way, a la Virginia Slims, but actually one could argue we're simply right back where we started!

Friday, June 26, 2015

June Observations - Summer Reading: Farming and Hunting

Though it was a very warm spring where I live, I perhaps jumped the gun a bit with my “summer recipes” column. But as of a few days ago it is now finally, officially summer! And that means, it’s time for summer reading to begin in earnest. The typical “beach books” reading list is usually heavily weighted towards some breezy fiction (not to be confused with one of my favorite mobile printing firms, Breezy). But this summer I am recommending at the top of my list, Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas, by Jeremy Gutsche (@jeremygutsche), CEO of Trendhunter.com.

The title was published in mid-March of this year, when I received word of it through one of the world’s leading “recommendation engines”; the one at Amazon.com to be exact. And though Gutsche and Trendhunter were new to me at the time, and the “Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas” part of the title seemed a bit bombastic, I checked out a copy from my local library a few weeks later. From first indications, I was positively inclined to liking it (as well as puzzled by the fact of my late discovery of Gutsche and Trendhunter), including being strongly influenced by the blurb by friend and trusted advisor Guy Kawasaki on the back cover and their BetterandFaster.com website (see screenshot below) — complete with Kawasaki’s own brand of bombasticity, I might add!
Long-time friend and noted tech evangelist Guy Kawasaki likes the book
I have been doing an enjoyable “slow read” ever since, using library renewals and then finally buying the e-book version for my Kindle. And from the pages I have come up with some interesting applications to the printing and imaging industry I will expand upon in a bit.
The book’s format is simple and complete (sounds a bit Kawasaki-esque right there) — Gutsche’s contents include defining his basic definitions, starting with the metaphor using the differences between farming and hunting, and then describing six fundamental patterns which underlie most business and technology trends — convergence, divergence, cyclicality, redirection, reduction, and acceleration, which Gutsche explains through the remainder of the book.
Farming and Hunting as Applied to Imaging and Printing
I have found numerous examples of printing and imaging to apply to each of the six patterns, but it is enough for this space to apply a few of the farmer/hunter points to the industry I have been part of since the mid-1980s. The basic idea of avoiding the farmer mindset in favor of the hunter is a bit paradoxical, in that, human-evolution-wise, it was the shift from hunting-and-gathering to agrarian ways that catapulted our species into its grand success of the last 10,000 years or so. But Gautsche makes the point that in business, we usually approach problems with the determination of farmers, figuring out what works and then applying the same methods, over and over again — with a few tweaks of course — expecting and generally getting steadily improving results. But success is not guaranteed to continue forever into the future, and Better and Faster highlights three traps that farmers (and their analogous business leaders) find themselves in, including complacency, repetition, and protectiveness.
This graphic - a screenshot from BetterFaster.com - gives the basic structure of Gutsche's ideas, and the book offers many examples that bring each of them to life
The book includes many, many great examples, a few familiar, and many new to me, but one of the natural examples for inclusion in the section about farmers and the traps they get caught in is Kodak and its “miss” on digital photography, even when the initial technology was right in front of their noses. They were collectively missing the hunter instincts of curiosity and its related practices. According to Gutsche, instead of paying attention to experimentation and continually reassessing assumptions, eventually moving beyond their past and what had previously been successful, Kodak’s strong corporate culture stiff-armed the first digital camera prototypes a maverick Kodak scientist had developed in-house in the mid-1970s, and continued with their farming approach to the imaging and printing business.
Recently, I witnessed something firsthand that was less dramatic but indicative of this farming versus hunting mindset. An industry leader had gathered together the analyst committee to share, under embargo and prior to its official launch, a collection of new technologies the firm had developed. It had taken a huge investment in terms of years and dollars, with the end result being that they could now offer improvements in product price/performance, and in particular, through following the curve of efficiency and miniaturization, much smaller products in terms of mass and footprint, with corresponding improvements in energy usage. The executive in charge of the analyst briefing was excited by what he had to talk about, but clearly dejected by the lack of enthusiasm to match on the analyst side. Despite the investment and measurable improvements, I look back to that less-than-overwhelming reaction as a response to how a declining industry is coping, and in this case it was touting new seeds and fertilizer on the old farmland, when whole new fields need to be explored.
In that hunter mindset, I can point to no less than the subject of my last several columns on printing and IFTTT and the Internet of Things. Curiosity, “breaking the mold,” looking outside the normal sphere of success and influence - these are hunter characteristics which I greatly admire and will continue to report on. (At the end of last month’s Observations, I promised more on the subject, but wanted to get this “Summer Reading” out while it was seasonally appropriate.)
Conclusion
I highly recommend Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas, by Jeremy Gutsche, and for those who want a media alternative, there is also aBetter and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas video, a keynote address by the author, available via YouTube, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFshvhzcCVw

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Go figure - Apple making lots of profit on watchbands!

I enjoyed seeing this article by Julia Love @byJuliaLove of Reuters, in Business Insider this morning. In addition to having sold 2.79 million watches, according to Slice Intelligence @SliceIntel, apparently Apple is selling, and making lots of profit from, the watchbands that go with them. It's the oldest business model in the books, or nearly so - the classic "razors and blades" model that I first remember learning about in college days, when a friend worked in a camera shop and was trained to never let a customer leave the store without a case and other accessories, after buying a camera body. Interesting that I remember the market leader of the day was the Canon AE-1.

Friday, May 29, 2015

May Observations - Mixing up some Summer Recipes - IFTTT and the HP Print Channel

Screenshot of some of the example HP Print Channel recipes on IFTTT


Jim Lyons Observations May 2015 Mixing up some Summer Recipes – IFTTT and the HP Print Channel

Last month, I reported on a very exciting development with our industry leader (and my former employer), Hewlett Packard, and their development of a “Print Channel” as part of the IFTTT web-based service. IFTTT stands for “If This Then That” and is considered a key Internet of Things (IOT) solution, so much so that HP’s announcement of the initiative (via blog post rather than press release – so 2015!) included IOT in the headline.

What I didn’t include last month was some hands-on recipe work. (Recipes, as Wikipedia states, being the “chains of simple conditional statements…which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Craigslist.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IFTTT) Choosing from the multitude of existing recipes, registered IFTTT users can activate them as is, customize existing recipes, or create them from scratch – just like real recipes.

Bring on the hands-on!

Leaving out the IOT and other strategy for now, let’s bring on the hands-on! As my readers may recognize, I seem to have been born with an early-adopter gene. I don’t know how else to explain my love of experimenting with new things, even if it isn’t always the smoothest of roads! Of course, with so many new gadgets and solutions out there, I have to be selective, but IFTTT had first captured my attention a year ago, so I was even more engaged when HP added printing to the mix (via HP’s “Print Channel” – channels being the “basic building blocks of IFTTT”, again per Wikipedia.) Currently, HP has a number of recipes available (see illustration, top), with the capability to construct your own, as well.

Before HP Print Channel, my three favorite IFTTT recipes
   As mentioned, I already have a background in using IFTTT recipes on a daily basis, employing a small selection which fit nicely into my personal workflow. The screenshot below show three I found early on in my quest – moving favorited Tweets to Evernote, converting Instagram posts to Tweets, and simply emailing a recommended IFTTT recipe my way every morning. Each has been “run” hundreds of tim
So looking at the print-channel options available, I was quite comfortable with quickly trying out the Instagram-to-print recipe, which prints to my designated eprint-enabled HP Printer when posted with an included #print hashtag. So far, the recipe worked fine in terms of “running” but the prints were in a rectangular format, not the Instagram trademark square image. HP is working on this, advising that it is IFTTT which “doesn’t currently support square photos, but HP is researching how to make this possible (and to print captions as they appear in Instagram)”, according to a spokesperson. From a user benefit perspective, I really don’t want ALL my Instagram posts printed, but selected ones I surely do, and with the #print hashtag I have that control. Printing and collecting all my “Waterlogue” posts as prints (see example below), for example, has been a goal for some time, and while I need to go back to print my “backlog”, I could start knocking the new ones off in real time with this recipe and the right printer, right media, and right format, once that is corrected.

Implementation of the #Print Instagram recipe will be great for my Waterlogue collection

Do-It-Yourself and My “Sweet Spot” Recipes

Taking the next step in recipes, I went to the building blocks to build one all my own, and noticed the “Blogger” channel, the Google platform I have using for Jim LyonsObservations for nearly ten years. So in literally a handful of minutes, I had cooked up (sorry) a “print new post on your blog” recipe. When I tried it out with a new post, it also had some formatting issues – which I will be working on. But the ability to put together the blocks and have it running in virtually no time impressed me! It will be nice to have a properly formatted collection of my blog posts, again as they are published and not in some major batch print job.

My first "from scratch" recipe prints each new Jim Lyons Observations blog post, when it is published
And thinking about a bigger payoffs in my time and productivity, I thought at length about when I ALWAYS want a hardcopy, and it is usually at the last minute, when I am also thinking about a million other things. That would be my TripIt itineraries. Whether for work or pleasure, every trip I have taken, by land, sea or air, has been on TripIt for almost as long as I can remember, and I always stress about remembering to go online and take the steps necessary to print out one or several copies. Having a “day before” setting to automatically print my itinerary and have it waiting for me in the printer’s out-tray is my next IFTTT recipe objective, so stay tuned. I have already identified a “Mint report to Print” recipe I am considering modifying.

The next exciting thing

In late May, 2015, when HP announced its quarterly earnings for one of the last times as the company is currently defined, pre-split, CEO Meg Whitman addressed the future. Looking ahead to PCs and Printers making up the HP Inc. portion of the split, Whitman offered, “At  HP Inc., we will continue engineering multi-OS devices and immersive computing experiences for business and consumer, and ink and laser-based solutions that provide a faster, more affordable, exciting way to print, manage and deliver content, all while continuing to invest in strategic areas like 3D Printing.” (See http://h30261.www3.hp.com/~/media/Files/H/HP-IR/documents/results/2015/transcript/q2-2015-results-transcript20150522.pdf.) As I heard this, I thought, at least I know what the “exciting” is – even with those inevitable bumps in the road!

On to Part Three

I promised when completing my April Observations that I would come back in Part Two on the topic and discuss, among other things, the “Hyper-Integration that HP included in their original blog post. Well, having covered details and hands-on experiences (and leaving a few) with a number of IFTTT recipes, it looks like that will have to be in Part Three. With HP Discover and its accompanying multi-day Analyst Briefing in Las Vegas coming soon, I should have ample opportunity to probe the strategic depths (along implementation details) with key HP execs, and then report back here with my summary. And now we will see if I have my automated printing of TripIt itineraries working by then, too.