What Well Over 10 Years Of Blogging & Consulting Have Taught Me

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.”  That provides strong principles and values, a useful framework, to live by but is it a useful definition of purpose?  I offer a simpler take:

The purpose of life is to find your true purpose.

This article will explore my journey, not for the sake of mere self-indulgence but for the purpose of helping you on your own journey and perhaps getting to know each other better.  I hope that, by the end, you’ll realize just how valuable and accomplished you are.  If you’re at a crossroads in life, this may be the article for you.  If you have any thoughts to share, please don’t be shy.  This one will be quite the journey!

This epic collection of stories and scattered thoughts will cover a lot of things, including, but not limited to:

  • How writing can be a tool of self-discovery and self-improvement
  • What I’ve learned through running Y3B as a vehicle for consulting
  • Going beyond establishing expertise and credibility
  • Toxicity and the dangerous brand of knowledge (i.e. bad advice)
  • Why culture/personality fit trumps technical knowledge and experience

Tomorrow, on April 6th 2017, Y3B turns 11 years old and it will mark an over 20-year journey.  While I’ve dabbled in just about everything and worn many hats, writing and technology have always been passions.  The challenge is translating those passions that into what Mark Schaefer calls sustainable interests, a concept that I have long taught and believed in before the book “Known” was published.  That said, you really should read “Known” and check out the discussion groups on it.

known-book-mark-w-schaefer

I believe blogging is still one of the most powerful tools for those wishing to be known.  On a greater scale, if you wish to establish credibility and visibility, the written word is still one of the most compelling ways to do so.  Writing forces you to really think through your ideas in a way you may not do on a podcast and certainly not video, where you may be more preoccupied with production quality instead of the relevant, uniqueness, and importance of your message/stories.  Writing is easily the most powerful form of communication and it is something everyone should strive to improve upon, if for no other reason than to structure your ideas and self-identity better.

 

I’m Not A Blogger, This Is Not A Blog

When folks have asked me over the last few years what it is that I do, I never answer with blogging.  It’s not my focus or core competency.  I believe that calling yourself a blogger diminishes the value of what you do; furthermore, your blog should be a catalyst for bigger things.  The term “blogger” has become synonymous with hobby or passion, not profession or purpose.  That’s fine if your blog is truly a labor of love but, if it can be so much more, why wouldn’t you develop it as such?

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Who’s On First? The Disappearing Niche!

This one is going to be short and sweet.

I offer to you a challenge:

Consider your unique advantage and think, real hard, HOW unique is it? Do you even have a unique advantage or are you focusing on a niche to stay competitive or stand out?

You hear lots of talk about niche marketing and how it’s the “only” way to be competitive in a world of look-alike businesses and copycats. Well, I think niches are a load of crap. Focusing on them can kill your business in the long run.

Here’s why niches are full of suck… Continue reading

Are You A Serious Blogger Or A Hobbyist?

QUICK UPDATE:  My stock, YOMAR, is rising up on Empire Avenue – it’s strangely exciting to see how my social influence ranks throughout various communities.  Come visit me!

If you’ve been around the blogosphere enough, chances are you’ve come across blogs preaching the importance of planning out content, doing SEO, and monetizing your efforts. Most of the advice is sound. It makes sense to make blogging more worthwhile, if not lucrative. The first real step we bloggers should take is asking ourselves…

Am I a serious blogger or a hobbyist?

I’m surprised more people do not tackle this aspect of blogging. Rewards and success come in different flavors. Really, I’d say the longevity of your blog comes down to two things:

  • Sustainability. WordPress.com initiated postaday2011 and postaweek2011 as a way to create urgency for bloggers. Some “experts” will tell you should blog 3 times a week, if not daily, but can you keep this up? For how long?
  • Passion. Blogging is more of a selfish act and it should be.. BUT blogging solely about what interests others will bore you. Are you passionate about your subject matter or just following trends? You need a balance.

Blogging, like any business endeavor or project, can become a chore if you’re not focused on your goals and motivations. Product longevity depends on a number of factors so you have to consider what the heart of your “thing” is and how long that focus will work. You have to be honest with yourself here. Let’s look at the things you should consider before stepping things up with your blogging efforts (or not)… Continue reading

Certifications And Service Guarantees: Worth The Money Or More Marketing Spin? (Empty Labels Suck)

Here are a few questions to consider as you read this article:

  • Do you treat your brand as a moniker or image, or does it truly embody your values and focus in work-life?
  • What makes you trust a brand: the promises, the image, or the experience?
  • Does quality stop at design and engineering?
  • What are we REALLY buying and selling, and what’s the value in it?

On The Mundane Chatter Podcast we discussed a slew of consumer-focused and other geeky topics on Episode 9. I was particularly intrigued by the whole “Fair Trade” market and the implications for small businesses, competition, and the consumer. Is it worth buying something labelled or certified a certain way? Allow me to rant a bit.

When I think about labels like THX, Organic, and Fair Trade, I think “marketing spin” (HINT: Spin Sucks) and “propaganda”. Value and proper execution/delivery, not so much. You’re paying more under a marketing pretense, a promise that is likely never delivered. I look at guarantees and certifications like any other line on advertised specifications and features: it’s more perceived value than anything else.. Mere labels (false attempts at dress to impress). Continue reading

Gaming Shop Talk: Microsoft’s Majestic Marketing – Halo 3 Zero Hour

Today is the day that many geeks and overly-competitive gosu gamers have been waiting for: the Halo 3 launch. For me, it is business as usual. I played the beta and wasn’t particularly impressed and I am not a huge fan of Halo to begin with (you’ll have to forgive me for that) but, whatever way you chop it up, this is a historic day. This is the story of a somewhat obscure developer that hit it big by allying with one of the biggest brands out there – Microsoft! It is also the story of how online multiplayer games really got put on the map. Halo brought a gleam of hope to those that wanted something different…

Halo 3 - a ray of light for a different type of gamer!

For many years, the online gaming community has thrived in great numbers on the PC front but it was mostly underground, cult-like, not very organic or viral. Some home consoles tried to capture the magic of PC gaming but failed, mainly because they treated multiplayer modes as an after-thought. Along comes Halo to change everything. Halo is, without a doubt, the killer app of the XBox, comparable to Final Fantasy and Super Mario, easily. It is all a matter of brilliant marketing. The XBox cultivated a huge gaming space that was, for the most part, a vacuum waiting to be filled by a big idea. Bungie was a quiet developer that gave Mac users what they rarely got: fun games that weren’t family-oriented or overly-nerdy. Marathon arguably started it all yet few people even heard of the game. In this case, it is clear that the Bungie brand made little difference as crossing over to the “dark side” (Mac users tend to dislike anything Microsoft) would have lost the long-time followers. Surely, the amplifier of the Halo franchise was something outside of the developers and branding, surely the market was ready and waiting for something to come along. Halo certainly filled void by meeting the needs of those that wanted hardcore competition in a not-so-nerdy package. Finally, an FPS that was fast-paced, revolved around multiplayer (both coop and versus), and didn’t have a complex control scheme!

Had Halo been released on the PC like Microsoft originally intended to, it would not have been as popular; instead, they attacked the console market and used college dorms as marketing hives, the gaming bees buzzing about about their latest gaming addiction. Why do I say this? Well, the game is a rehash of what has been done before but, since it was new to those that only knew console gaming, it was easy to spread.

The brilliance of Halo was never it’s unique storyline or break-through architecture. The technical aspects are all commonplace in a marketplace where ideas are just repackaged and regurgitated. The marketing is where the real money was made and where the Halo franchise became rock-solid. The console market was in dire need of a fast-paced online multiplayer game. Something that was easy to find (accessible), easy to talk to others about (smooth), and simple to play (inviting). The major gripe for people that dabbled in other First Person Shooter (FPS) games is that keyboard-and-mouse control schemes were too complex. Halo opened up the FPS genre to the masses and targeted the most aggressive, competitive gamers as well as everyday, casual gamers that needed something simple to enjoy with friends. These two segments spawned many fans spreading the message: here’s something UNREAL! Continue reading

The Gaming Console Wars: Initial Thoughts

The latest next-gen gaming consoles are all the buzz this holiday season but is there really anything new here other than more of the same stuff in nicer packaging? Perhaps. My simple response to this question is that, for generations beyond 16-bit, the console wars have been all about marketing hype and aesthetics. This time is no different.

Ask a gamer what they feel about a system and their response is rarely about the features provided by each system, it’s not even about the tech specs. The first thing most people will say is “wow, that game LOOKS amazing”. It’s all a big show and, this year, we’ve seen quite the circus. The PS3 launch alone was ugly as people practically mauled each other to get their hands on a box.

Old-school gamers, especially us purists, feel that nothing much has changed. The games are uninspiring and, for the most part, just rehash the same tired mechanics. Cynicism aside, I think the major players on the console market are realizing that they can no longer rely on long-time favorites, powerful brands, and strong franchises to hold on to their market share. In reality, you’re either expanding or shrinking. Franchises are part of the power of presence equation but shouldn’t be your only strategy. Believe me, I love my Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and all that good stuff but these well-established franchises, powerful brands in themselves, will not be enough. We need something fresh and new.

Right now, Nintendo seems to be the most devoted to making gaming more accessible. Aiming to the masses is risky but, really, I think it’s what the console market needs. You see, PC gaming has long ago pushed the envelope on gaming but, since not everyone is technologically savvy nor can they afford the equipment, consoles stand to benefit while computers still create a facade of elitism, as if computer gamers belong to some sort of exclusive club. This holds true in spite of the fact that computers have a greater product cycle (life span assurance and overall product longevity beats the pants off of the short-lived consoles), endless third-party support, far more expandability, and a huge library of games.

If you look closely at the market now, the XBox line of products tries to offer a PC experience at an entry price. Playstation is more focused on those that love the epic single-player experience and don’t care too much about multiplayer (though Sony Home will change this.. maybe) or socializing, beyond water cooler discussions about the latest Silent Hill, DMC, Final Fantasy, or Dynasty Warriors. Nintendo’s systems, since day one, have focused more on family gaming, gaming for all, but has earned the rep of making purely “kiddy” games. The snobbery of those that are loyal to the Microsoft or Sony brands keeps them from experiencing a diverse world of gaming on the Nintendo side of things.

Truth be told, each system caters to a very specific gamer, for the most part, but Wii really is trying to welcome all by making games that are as intuitive as they are fun. When you’re not worried about cumbersome controls or technical issues, it’s much easier to get into a game and encounter something called replay value. I tell you: it’s a beautiful thing. To me, when you buy a game, it should be an investment. It should do one of the following:

  • Give you a truly immersive gameplay-focused experience worth repeating again in the future.
  • Provide a story and content so rich that you truly fall in love with the characters and essence of it all.
  • Focus on multiplayer rather than throw this in as a mere after-thought.
  • Be dynamic enough that you are not merely using cookie-cutter moldings or doing the “grind”.

In my eyes, those are the things that make a game memorable and highly replayable. My standards for gaming have gone up greatly once I got heavily involved in the development of games myself. I have seen just how many corners these big brands cut just to get product out. Quality controls essentially fly out the window, if you ask me.

In spite of the ugly trends that we’ve seen in the past, I am optimistic and believe that folks really see the urgency in doing things right and sticking it out for the long haul (a’la product longevity). My hopes are that, instead of trying to make the NEXT next-gen system, developers will stop slacking and learn how to program properly; that is, take advantage of each system’s strengths and create quality content, optimized for the specific platform. The software is where the money is made, not the hardware. Heck, Microsoft always makes sure people know that they are selling XBox units practically at cost. BOO HOO.. You make up for it elsewhere, M$!

Getting a bit more focused here, this war depends on something more than a killer app. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo need to stick to their positioning and really hone in on their focus. Microsoft seems to be leveraging online multiplayer mostly and Halo 3 is their killer app, supposedly. I’m not holding my breath. I felt from the beginning that Halo was all the hype and, since I’ve seen games like and better than Halo on PC way before it came around, I am definitely not swayed so easily.

XBox has some exclusive titles to their credit which will help but, currently, they share a lot of the same titles as the Playstation. Interestingly enough, there are barely any shared titles on the Wii except for those that have their own flavor on every major platform. Games like Call of Duty 3 and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance are two of the few games that are being offered in different packages on each system. Undoubtedly, the PS3 versions have the best graphics while the WII versions offer some unique and fun mechanics. To me, the XBox 360 just doesn’t have enough appealing titles. I mean, I am tempted by games like Gears of War and Rainbow Six: Las Vegas but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

In all fairness, I realize that there’s still many things in the works and we’ve only begun to see what each of the three “big ones” can do right now. I really like Nintendo’s approach to the online gaming community. Their allegiance with former rival Sega is brilliant and, at the same time, surreal for a gaming veteran like myself. Throw in some retro gaming offerings and it is gaming euphoria. This could be the last console needed for a long time. The backwards compatibility makes me very happy because I HATE when people abandon products – that’s just bad business!

Even with my connections, I am not particularly interested in jumping on any system and, if you want some good advice, I recommend this: don’t be an early adopter unless you have a good reason. Being the cool kid on the block will lose it’s novelty when your system’s bugs come to surface and you see your friends buying the same system for much cheaper months later. I make it a point not to get on-board with anything that is overly-hyped or first generation. Too much risk. Of course, there will always be early adopters and bless their brave souls. The ones that count the most are the unbiased folks, the non-fanboys, that can deliver the hard facts to us.

I know I seem biased but, believe me, at this point I like all the home gaming consoles equally, each for very distinct reasons. I am ranting here because I am seeing this all from two perspectives: that of a gamer and that of a developer. This battle in the ongoing console wars is certainly one of the most interesting in the last ten years. There have been many great fallen soldiers, like the Sega Dreamcast (one of my personal all-time faves) and hopefully things won’t get so ugly now. For the most part, the technology has been pioneered as much as it can be as the manufacturers borrow pages from the PC gaming market and the lost cookbooks of the little systems that could-have-been.

In the end, it’s all about marketing. We’ve all been told stories and, depending on what we choose to absorb and what we want to believe, these stories will be hit or miss in our minds. Microsoft seems to have the least marketing power right now. They’re essentially strong-arming things by locking down some exclusive content and buying out the competition, as they always do. Nintendo and Sony have carved out strong niches. The Wii seems to be untouchable because, really, they’re not even in the same playing field. It’s interesting stuff indeed.

More on the gaming console wars to come – don’t forget to send me your feedback – also available (scarcely) via Google Chat!

Related Links:
* The Gaming Console Wars: Initial Thoughts
* The Gaming Console Wars: Marketing Analysis
* XBox Dominates the Multiplayer Arerna (For Consoles)
* Dirty Selling Tactics, Price Drop Nay-Saying, and Project “Zephyr”
* Price Drop Considerations – Aggravated Gamers