Categories
Uncategorized

Using the Audio Tag

I wanted to test out the HTML 5 audio tag. Up until now I’ve been using the LibSyn media player over at Marketing Over Coffee but if native support is now widespread enough I might switch to reduce the loading time for the page and this is a good place for me to take it for a test run.

Here’s a few of Marketing Over Coffee Greatest Hits!

Simon Sinek – with Controls!

Gabriel Weinberg with simple audio playback

Ugh, nobody wants Autoplay

Tom Webster

Categories
Daily Life

Trial and Error

Trial and Error sounds so clean, so clinical. Picking yourself up off the ground for the 10,000th time requires a lot more soul than just “starting the next trial”. In many ways I rate this blog as a failure (which sounds much more imposing than “an error”) having not taken the advice many successful bloggers did take of “think of it as working on a book, not a diary.”

But, I like having a bit of my own writing out there that’s fun for me. It may not be a big crowd, but if you do read this, you’re probably into many of the same things I am and I’m happier to have a few kindred spirits reading about things they want to, rather than feeling like I have to post something here seven times a day to “feed the beast”.

So, I’ll ignore the trial and error results and let’s get back to the diary! What’s going on that has kept me away from posting about audio or Christmas Tree ornaments here?

I’m working on a great project called Stack & Flow with Sean Zinsmeister of Infer. Sean’s opened up his rolodex to get Sales and Marketing leaders to talk about the sales and marketing technologies they are using to drive results. It’s just been fun to find a place for Marketing Ops people in the podcasting world.

Marketing Over Coffee has been growing like crazy thanks to all the excitement around podcasting. We’ve decided to launch our first events for listeners to work together in groups limited to 10 people. I’m hoping we get to take it on the road as our audience has grown to around 50% outside of the US which opens up the chance for some foreign travel which would be fantastic.

EventHero continues to grow, doing badging, lead retrieval and session tracking. We’ve been doing a bunch of the Salesforce.com Dreaming’ events which keeps me in touch with what’s happening on the SFDC front. It’s always a thrill for me to see the app in action. I’m thankful for the privilege and trust of my co-workers.

The kids are off for the summer and doing a few weeks at camp, and in my spare time I’ve been helping Carin remodel 5 apartments. Currently working on bathroom 4 of 5 so I can’t wait for that to finish, not that it means I’ll have any free time…

I hope your summer has been relaxing, or at least fun!

 

Categories
Brain Buster

Seth Godin at Sales Machine 2016

This is the transcript of an interview I did this summer at Sales Machine 2016. You can listen to the audio of Seth Godin on Marketing Over Coffee.

John: Today, we have a special guest. He’s the author of over a dozen bestselling books. He’s been on the show many times, and I’m very excited to have him with us here today at Sales Machine in New York City.

Seth Godin, thanks for talking to us.

Seth:  What a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

John:  You’re here to talk to this audience about your latest book. In fact, it’s been about a year and a half since we talked to you last. How has the book done? I’ve actually heard you say that you love it more now than when you put it out.

Seth:  Yes, I did a webcast about it the other day. I’m fortunate in that I don’t organize my life around promoting books; I organize my life around teaching people, and if a book is helpful, that’s great. It never occurred to me that I was here today to talk about my book because I’m not.

The book What To Do When It’s Your Turn is a call to action. It’s illustrated. It’s consumed in a way a lot of people consume the Internet these days, in little bits and pieces. It’s determinedly non-digital; it’s only on paper. I published it myself so that I could sell it in boxes, as opposed to by the copy because I believe that if the people around you are also engaged in what you’re engaged in, it’s more likely you’ll be able to push yourself forward.

I’ve gone back to press five times. It’s become this community tool that enables an entire organization or a circle or a mastermind group or friends to be on the same page – literally be on the same page.

John:  So it’s the fifth printing in 18 months. That’s amazing. This has really done well.

Today, this event is all sales focused. What are you going to tie into that? I saw the keynote was about tribes. Does it link into the previous book?

Seth:  This event is called Sales Machine. They didn’t ask me before they called it that. I think it should be called Sales Human. The machine is the last thing we need in sales. When we think about what the machine has done to each industry it has touched, it industrializes it, it commoditizes it, it turns the players into cogs in the system.

Our chance to be linchpins, to be leaders, to speak up, to share what we believe, that’s the human part. As sales people, I think it’s essential that we understand that enrollment is the key to everything, that if the person you are trying to sell with feels like they’re being sold to, you lose. If they’re not enrolled in the process and eagerly pushing it forward, you’re just a spammer.

John:  Yes, I can totally see how a lot of this event is about software tools, narrowing the focus, and automating so much stuff, but bringing you in brings the human element back into it and allows people to think more about the relationship, as opposed to mining coal.

Seth:  Yes, and I think that the smart people, the caring people, the motivated people would rather not mine coal. The software is great if it gets you back to what you’re supposed to be doing, and what you’re supposed to be doing is being the one we would miss if you were gone.

John:  You’ve been doing the altMBA program. That’s continuing to roll on. Tell us about that. How’s that working?

Seth:  I started about a year ago, and the idea was to build a scalable, intimate experience online that does the opposite of most online courses. Instead of being huge, it’s very small. Instead of being easy, it’s really hard. Instead of being free, it’s really expensive. Instead of being open to everyone, you have to apply.

It’s a 30-day workshop. We take 100 or 120 people each time. We have coaches. We run it all in Slack and in WordPress and in Zoom Conferencing. In every given session, there are about 19 time zones represented, and 50,000 messages will pass back and forth in a typical week in Slack. I’m not there. My work is there, my projects are there, but there are no lectures from me. I’m not present. This is not how you get Seth. This is how you level up.

We’ve run it five times so far, and what we have discovered is that it works. It works in a way that’s more dramatic than any other thing I’ve ever done. For the person that seeks to see the world differently, to make decisions differently, and to be able to persuade others differently, this is a massive chance to be able to level up.

I didn’t set it up as a fast Internet thing; I set it up as a slow human thing, over time, drip by drip. We don’t have to run any more sessions. We’re only running two more this year. When we have the right group, we’ll run it again, but I’m not out there flogging it. It’s not some get-rich-quick thing for them or for me; it’s about how to go on this journey of becoming meaningful.

John:  Do you see that expanding into other realms, not just MBA? Would you consider something for kids? I know education is something that you’ve talked about a lot in the past, about how this current system is not serving what we’re doing. Could this expand?

Seth:  A little bit of what we do in the altMBA is like doing brain surgery in a moving vehicle in that it’s not for sissies and it’s tricky. We push people really hard, and they push themselves. I don’t think I have the enrollment or the standing to do that with 12-year-olds. It’s harder to do that kind of work online.

What I believe… And Stop Stealing Dreams, the e-book I wrote that’s free, continues to spread this. What I believe is that all schooling is homeschooling. Even when you send your school to public school as I did, they spend way more time being schooled by their parents. The real leverage that I have is to help parents understand that it’s up to them to ask their kids the difficult questions and up to them to expect their kids to lead.

As I was going through the altMBA stuff, you mentioned that you actually went to China recently.

Seth:  Yes. I went to Shenzhen and Dafen. I gave a speech in South Korea and then stopped by to see where they make all the smartphones and where they paint all the oil paintings.

John:  Has visiting China changed your perspective? Was this your first time there? Have you been there?

Seth:  It was my first time in China. I’m not really a world traveler. I’ve been everywhere but sort of begrudgingly. I didn’t see very much that blew me away in the sense that I’ve been thinking about it and studying it since Tom Peters started talking about it 20 years ago – that the cog economy that a country like China has no choice but to start with, because 20 or 30 years ago, that was the work that was available.

It’s interesting to note that South Korea in 1962 had the same GDP as Haiti. It was one of the poorest countries in the world. In my lifetime, it went from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the top ten. How you do that? You do that by doing the cog work fast and cheap, by being the manufacturer slash systems integrator slash “We’ll do it for you right now.”

But you can’t keep doing that because then you need better wages, then you need people who have better quality of life, then you need a workforce that seeks more than putting part A and part B. We see in South Korea and now in China this urgent move away from “How do we be cheap robots?” into “How do we actually add value by being human?”

The irony is that’s where the US was when I was born, and we keep arguing – quote – “We want good jobs back.” Those good jobs weren’t that good; they were just steady. The steady jobs are gone. We’re not getting any steady jobs back. What we have is a chance for human jobs, for the art of daring and leading and connecting and being human, but it requires way more personal responsibility than people in this country have been trained to seek out.

People want a map. We can’t give you a map. You’re better off with a globe because a globe gives you the lay of the land. It doesn’t show you how to get from here to there.

John:  You mentioned Americans saying they want these jobs back. Of course, those jobs are not coming back, and a lot of it is another thing that you talked about, which is identity versus logic. The logical approach to it just says that, in fact, what we consider terrible jobs could be the best jobs that are available in that country, so you can’t judge that country by the way that things run here.

Do you see China following a similar path as they evolve to become more knowledge-based, more personal touch?

Seth:  As fast as they can. If you think of it as a game or a war between two countries, the only advantage we have is that their schools are even more cog-focused than our schools. In our schools, even though we spend six out of seven hours drilling and practicing and focusing on standardized tests, we still spend one hour encouraging kids to dream and think big and realize that they have a shot to make a difference.

But what’s going on in a place like China… I went to one factory where every single person does exactly what they did yesterday. I went to another factory run by a 29-year-old son of a multimillionaire, and he is right on the edge. Yesterday, they weren’t making hover boards; today, they are. Tomorrow, they’re going to be making something else. He has a flexible workforce. He has people are eager to discover the next thing. You can walk into one of his little labs with an idea, and they’ll have it on the circuit board in three hours.

If there’s that kind of change happening on every street corner, how are we going to catch up when we’re just sitting here insisting on – quote – “good jobs”? That’s not where the good jobs come from; good jobs come from doing things that might not work.

John:  What would be the best advice you’d give to a parent to prepare their child for this new world and to get away from that assembly-line school? What things should they be doing to get on the right path?

Seth:  I volunteered yesterday at the local Farm CSA. I did my few hours, and a woman came in with her kid, Adrian. Adrian is three. She handed Adrian some purslane. “Yeah, I think this tastes a bit like purslane with hints of celery in it.” Then walked over and said, “What’s this?” We had a whole conversation about the xylem and phloem and why the napa cabbage is green on the top and white on the bottom. Then another three-year-old kid came in and the mom said, “Here’s an iPad. I’m going to go pick up the vegetables.”

The difference is really clear. If you say to your kid, whether they’re 3 or 7 or 12 or 20, “Figure it out,” they’re going to learn to figure things out. If you say to them, “Here’s a metro card. Go to New York City. Call me when you’re done,” and they’re 12, why not? What’s going to happen?

If you said to a kid, “Here’s how blogging software works. It’s not under your name, so don’t worry. Just start blogging. Here’s a Wikipedia entry. Put some edits into it” – things that might not work, things that you’re not qualified to do. If you start doing that with your kids, early and often, if you reward them for failing and make a face when all they get is the same grades as last time, then your kid gets the message.

But if the message is you need to go to a famous college, which means you need to get good SAT scores, which means you need to get A’s, which means you need to do what the teacher says, then why are we surprised when the kid is 25 and says, “No one came to the placement office to hire me.” They’re unemployed. It’s because we never taught them to be free-range kids.

I’m ranting. Sorry.

John:  No, this is excellent. I like the free-range kid idea, letting them get into trouble, letting them go out and do what they need to do. What’s next for you? Have you another project that you’re working on? What’s coming up?

Seth: Every day is what’s next for me, so I am thrilled and privileged to be here. We are cooking up some things in the office that I hope to be able to talk about soon, but right now, this now is the best now that we’re going to get for a really long time. I’m really into this now.

John:  That sounds great. Seth, thanks for sharing some time with us.

Seth:  A pleasure. Good to see you.

Categories
The Marketeer

Regarding Disrupted

Dan Lyons’ scathing tell all “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble” came out last month and I’d been eagerly awaiting the book as have many in the Boston and marketing software communities. He tells of his time at Hubspot, the Cambridge-based startup that went all the way to IPO and took the lead as champion of Inbound Marketing.

I’m always looking for interesting books to profile for Marketing Over Coffee but decided to pass on Disrupted. I thought it would be just a bunch of stories of startup lifestyle, parties with career limiting consequences, bad ideas and burn rate. The goal of the podcast is to educate and entertain. I try to avoid the negative slants of industry gossip or making fun of failed marketing campaigns. We do cover that stuff, but failing a lot, often spectacularly, is what happens at startups. Most of them fail – Hubspot is one of the exceptions. I’ve been at more than one place that was a lot crazier, that also crashed and burned.

I used my monthly Audible credit to get the book (I said I would refuse to buy it, so this was me going half-truth on that so I didn’t have to wait for a library copy to finally get around to me) and tore through it. Even if you are not going to read all the “Inside Baseball” that follows, the TL;DR is: This is not just a book comparing a startup to a cult, it presents a lot of big issues: the nature of the workplace, the place in our society for the rapidly growing over 40 demographic, our financial system and how it perpetuates disparity of wealth, the death of journalism, and the trade off between privacy and being a member of the online world. If you are interested in any of these topics you should get this book.

I’d also recommend the audiobook because many of the key plot points are meetings and discussions between Lyons and his fellow employees. Hearing him do the voices paints a more vivid picture of when somebody is giving a crazy answer, laying out some wild idea, or the subtle sarcasm in his answers that you would miss if read off the page.

Ok, so if you’ve made it this far I’m presuming you’re in and want all the details. Even though I decided to pass on this for the podcast, so many things about this book were banging around in my mind because I’ve lived through a bunch of these situations, everything from bringing a company from near zero to a successful acquisition, to having my “position eliminated”, i.e. “we promised higher ups that hiring you would create explosive growth this quarter and it didn’t and now I have to fire you so that it’s not me.” Even after many years you can’t help but look back on the turning points and think about how it could have been better or worse. I’m writing this to get it all out of my head, but at the same time my wife listened to much of the book and had questions about how and why this could happen, so if you’re interested in this, my therapy might also give you some insight.

Rules and a boatload of disclaimers: This post is for people who have read the book. There’s been a lot of social media rambling from people who haven’t. I’ll run this by a friend to make sure it can be read if you haven’t read the book, but if you haven’t and you make a stupid comment I’ll probably delete it.

Mike Volpe was brave enough to have Hubspot take a chance as an early sponsor of Marketing Over Coffee, years before the laggards got hooked on Serial. Chris Penn and I were also guests when Hubspot did a video show and we met many team members during our visit there. I met Dan Lyons at his book signing for “Options – The Secret Life of Steve Jobs“, part of his Fake Steve Jobs writing, which is the funniest and most entertaining writing that has ever been done on the tech industry. It’s been 8 years since I read Options and I still laugh out loud when I think of the part where Hillary Clinton goes to meet the Tech Titans of Silicon Valley (pg. 140 in my copy). I’ve known Scott Kirsner for many years and have been to one of his events on Nantucket, he’s brave enough to try and figure out where he fits in the post-newspaper age and he’s painted as a gun for hire but he is the first choice if you have a question about what’s going on in the Boston tech scene.

And this is where you get your first taste of crazy. I’ve worked with all these people and I like them. When I first heard of Dan going to Hubspot I thought it was fantastic, I couldn’t wait to read what he was going to write with access to those resources and audience. Like all startups, it sounds like an exciting idea, and yet somehow it ended up with an FBI investigation.

Where does all this crazy come from? For any startup you are trying to do something never done before, and many may think that what you are trying is not possible, so that’s the crazy seed. The founders may be visionaries seeing the future, or f#$%ing lunatics. Taking money from venture capital investors (VCs) is like alcohol in an the old Bill Cosby standup routine: “Alcohol magnifies your personality”… “but what if you’re an a-hole?” (Sorry about the recursive mess of a Bill Cosby alcohol joke.)

Once you have VC you are pledging to rapid growth. Usually the founders have pitched this but have no real idea if/how it will happen, and the VC’s also live with the conflict of believing in the startup enough to invest in them, while also believing more of their investments will fail than succeed. Finally, the crazy tree is at full height when preparing an IPO, a massive amount of work that does not really have anything to do with directly serving customers (besides making sure you have the money to stay in business).

Dysfunction of demanding quarterly growth from what used to be an organic process – I could belabor this but it’s enough to say if you gather 9 women and think you are going to get a baby in one month it’s not going to be what you’re expecting, it’s going to be crazy stuff.

When I heard about the book I immediately thought “wow, this is going to get messy” and yee-haw, another successful prognostication for me. I was conflicted because I hated the idea of someone taking a shot at a successful Boston startup, yet knew I would laugh at anything Lyons wrote. I said I wanted nothing to do with it, while my curiosity was killing me. Yes, there are the tales of drunken hook-ups, standing desks, crazy outings but at the heart of it is “What happens when your career has been blown to bits and you’re thrown into a startup.”

He writes about his first day, showing up nervous and ready for amazing things. Instead of getting welcomed at the door, nobody knows he was showing up today. It takes more than a day to work things out.

When I started it I’m laughing and already hooked at this point. Rewind about a year – I’m at the Hubspot receptionist desk, excited out of my mind, I’ve set up a time to talk with Dan Lyons, the funniest tech writer ever, and going to guest on their new podcast. I’m also getting an interview with Mike Volpe for Marketing Over Coffee, it’s been a couple of years since he was last on and we’re due for an update on what’s going on with Inbound Marketing. I’m stuck at the receptionist desk, the woman there has no idea who Dan Lyons is. After about a half hour she finds out that he’s no longer with the company. The interviews are still on though and somebody that works with Mike sets me up with a desk so I can get some stuff done as things come together. I’m on the top floor in a space that has just been worked on so most of the desks in the open layout are empty. There’s a big mural of a dinosaur walking through the city and I laugh for a second thinking about myself as approaching dinosaur territory. About 20 minutes later my cube neighbor shows up, it’s Brian Halligan. We’ve met a couple times before so we say hello and catch up, he makes a joke about being the dinosaur in the building and that’s why he’s under the mural and I have some line about it being good to have at least one person in the building that has experience running a business. The interviews go well, everyone says Lyons went over to the HBO show which makes perfect sense to me, so I’m disappointed that my imaginary lunch with Dan never happened and figure that’s the last I’ll hear about it.

Nope. I can’t remember the order, but I heard that the guys were gone and then I heard about the book. I even connected the dots and said “I bet they were trying to get the book!” I wish I could remember who I talked to about that to confirm prognostication #2 but it’s not that important. Then there was the press release, talk of an FBI investigation, but really no new info until the book came out. On to some points to clarify:

All startups tend to be more like cults than jobs. The founders are giving up a normal life of paycheck and health insurance to do something crazy. You can have angels that put money in and work for free to get things off the ground. Teams taking on this insane level of risk create bonds far beyond anything that happens in a standard 9-5 shop.

Comparing any startup to a Fortune 100 company will make it look poorly managed. At a well managed business your list for the day might have 8 things on it. The employee can usually get 6-10 things done. If the employee can’t get the 6-10 they hire another person, if they are constantly sitting around doing nothing they get more work to do or are laid off.

At a startup your list for the day has 25 things on it. 12 of them really needed to be done last week, 10 of them need to be done today. There’s no time travel though,  people still chip the same 6-10 things off the list per day. As a result there are always projects behind or abandoned, this is how things like the receptionist not knowing you happen.

This high risk, low management environment is part of why startups can be innovative. Clayton Christensen has done brilliant work explaining why “well managed” ends up meaning “unable to innovate” and “soon to be crushed by a more agile competitor.” The Innovator’s Dilemma is one of my favorite books (and yes, I realize that having a favorite business book, by definition, makes me old).

Founders not being hands on or in the office every day is not surprising. The problem with the startup is that it is both a sprint and a marathon. I once had to work about 30 hours straight when we had updated our software and needed to get a working demo machine set up to bring to an event the next day. This was just before “The Cloud” arrived so any major project involved building servers. Installing an Oracle database at 2am is a pain, but on the upside there were long breaks in the install process so I could go ride one of the company scooters around in gigantic empty parking lot when I got sick of being alone inside.

Of course you can only do this kind of insanity in short bursts, after 2 or 3 years straight you would lose your mind or drop dead. If the company starts to have some success they get enough resources for more employees. At this point a cultural shift begins from crazy entrepreneurs to more normal employees. As everything gets bigger you are able to find employees who are specialists and if you are doing it right, they are smarter in their area of expertise than the previous round of people. To give you an example, Volpe came on as marketer at something like employee #5. I don’t know exactly where work was divided but odds are he was doing content, running the website, email, advertising… everything. Fast forward 6 or 7 years and now the marketing team is bigger than the whole company was when he started and there’s a whole team doing what he used to do by himself.

Now the founders want to do something different because they’ve been running like maniacs for years so they focus down to the things they want to work on and delegate the rest. And, if they’ve done it right the new hires don’t want the founders getting involved that much anyway, they have more specialized knowledge and are doing the day to day so they have no interest in a founder as Seagull Manager (flying over now and then to crap on everything). In “normal” jobs the manager is working with his employees managing, in startups it’s not uncommon to have founders who just have an office they sit in and work on crazy projects, or they are always on the road doing speaking gigs, or actively working on their next startup project. They are not going to leave because there may be a huge payday in the near future, but they are in no way your classic employee. This is where you see a lot of great startup drama when investors keep coming in and start to gain board seats, and may put the crosshairs on a founder that’s not delivering the growth they originally promised the VCs.

Employee vs. Entrepreneur vs. Internet Celebrity – I’ve always said that building a startup is like creating a recipe for a killer dish by randomly adding ingredients. You may have everything in order for that chocolate chip cookie but if you’re using salt instead of sugar you’re stuck with something inedible. Each employee is a new ingredient and even though each ingredient on its own may be a favorite, you’re not going to sell a ton of Meatball Sundaes.

As positions and culture are built on the fly there’s a lot of opportunity for confusion. Anyone from a normal job might go into a startup expecting a manager that explains what needs to be done, spends time training them, and has clear goals as to what the employee needs to do to be successful. Far more likely, when the employee is hired the entrepreneur is thinking “Whew, that was a ton of work there, I’m glad I’ve got an expert so I never have to do that again.” Now both parties are expecting the other to figure it out. I’m not saying this is right but from what I’ve seen, the burden to clearly define things and get them done falls to the employee, not the supervisor. Yes, it would be great if there was a mentoring and leadership culture but often there isn’t.

I’ve also seen companies hiring people that have their own following, thinking that the employee’s celebrity is a magic wand that’s going to bring thousands of fans and prospects. In reality, internet celebrity is like building a waterfall, it’s powerful and impressive but you don’t drag it around with you. If you’re famous for posting cat pictures and you go work for a plumbing company none of you cat fans is going to give a damn. Or if they do it’s going to be one confused visit to the home page and then gone for eternity.

And of course if you hire a guy who got famous making wise remarks, don’t be surprised when his co-workers get pissed at him for making wise remarks.

Tough questions, no answers. This was the most interesting part of the book for me, it takes on some big questions that we don’t really have good answers for. Disrupted makes light of young people with little experience being hired but at least Hubspot is hiring many college graduate employees at a time when skilled entry level jobs are not plentiful with college graduates facing unemployment rates around 30%. Most startups I know don’t bother with intern programs or first time employees, the infrastructure to train people is not there, you’re expected to show up knowing what to do and how to do it. It also touches on ageism. The simple out is to call it discrimination – old people are not wanted anymore, but it’s more complicated. Old people are not stupid enough to take crappy jobs for 30k. Old people see the disconnect between “We are a team, not a family” and “building a company we love.” And on the other side there are old people not interested in learning new software, or being more than happy to exploit a situation where a company is moving to fast to really see how much work is getting done. This is not a Hubspot thing, this is everywhere.

There’s the hot issue of inequality of wealth, with a small group making a ton of money while everyone else gets shuffled off to the next thing. And a nod to privacy, that anybody can spy on us, through any of the online services we use, but nobody is going to back out of them.  If we want to be at the party, giving your privacy up is the ticket at the door. We’re not using a product, we are the product.

What really happened? We’ll probably never find out, the problem with publicly traded cloud companies is that, at their core, they are responsible for data integrity so there’s no upside to them ever talking about any kind of security breach unless they have to. The reports of a possible FBI investigation would make me think someone ratted to their board of directors. The thought of it being someone on the outside for justice or PR, or someone inside as some kind of coup both seem absurd to me, but I’ve got no other theories that make sense.

There was an official response, and I have to give big time kudos to the fake cover they did, they get the symbolism award for changing the unicorn head to racehorse horse/horse’s ass.

Hubspot Customers don’t care, they want to make more money, they want good tools. They could not give a damn about some internal executive politics, especially if the software is making them money.  You could look at this thing as the new Dean Martin Tech Celebrity Roast. If Dean Martin was still alive, and people still did roasts, and you were young enough to get this joke…. never mind.

I don’t think this book is going to slow Hubspot down, if people are as engaged with this book as I was it will sell lot of copies. The bad news there is that the books I love tend not to be best sellers. As I wrap up I’m the guy at the poker table looking around for the idiot who’s losing money on this deal and realizing it’s me wasting my time talking about it when I could be working. So, after all that, I’m glad this is out of my head so I can get back to making my own mistakes. Thanks for listening.

Categories
Geek Stuff

$4k Worth of Headphones

About four months ago a friend forwarded a link to Lumoid.com who now rents high end headphones (sadly, Lumoid is no more). It had just been covered in Lifehacker or one of the other high profile blogs so it took until last month for my order to come up. For $75 I had two weeks with three top shelf headphones:

  • Audeze LCD-3 ($1,945)
  • Sennheiser HD 800 ($1,599)
  • Sony MDR-Z7 ($699)

Of course for the majority of the time they were hidden in my closet so that my kids wouldn’t look at them

Audeze Sony Sennheiser
Our Contestants!

or breathe on them. I also waited on writing this up until they were safely back in the Bay Area in case anyone considered doing an Ocean’s 11 heist with me actually having something of value in my home.

If you’re in a hurry, the punchline is: I don’t think spending this much money on headphones is worth it. Yes, 2 of the 3 sounded amazing, but maybe 5% better than my Sony MDR-V6 headphones that cost under $200. For those still wondering what $4,243 (+tax, +shipping & handling) gets you…

boxes
Click for full size

As you’d expect from headphones this expensive, the boxes were impressive. The Sony and Sennheiser were similar, opening like a trophy case. The Audeze come in a plastic travel case, like the kind you’d use to transport a monitor to a trade show. Basically about half a piece of luggage, leading to the first lesson – this is not stuff you travel with.

Note that the Audeze and Sennheisers are open back headphones, the ear cup is vented so air flows in and sound flows out. These give them a much more natural sound, as if you are in a concert hall, but it means that on a noisy subway you’ll hear the train, and the passengers will hear your music, so probably not a wise choice.

All three of them have proprietary cables with unique connections to the headphones. The Audeze and Sony’s plug in and then are screwed down to prevent them being pulled out. The Senn’s have some crazy mount with a pin that makes them only insertable in one position. The Audeze come with an XLR cable so you can have a balanced connection, which is supported on some high end gear. A balanced connection means that the signal is sent down two wires, inverted on one of them. It’s ingenious, when the inverted one is restored any interference picked up along the line cancels itself out. Of course I’ve never personally seen someone using a balanced connection to listen to music, but you could say that’s just because I hang with a low rent crowd.

Audeze LCD-3
Audeze LCD-3

Over the past couple of years I’ve come up with a number of theories on headphones, one of them being that fit and comfort are more important than any specs or technical analysis. It doesn’t matter that the Audeze sound better than anything I’ve ever listened to, I don’t want to wear anything that heavy so I wouldn’t buy them even if I was sitting on a pile of cash I had no use for. The Sennheisers also sound amazing, and are very light and comfortable. But I’ve also been impressed with the Sennheiser HD 558 which you can currently get a used set on Amazon for $64. Yes I would say that the HD 800 is two or three times better considering the sound, fit, weight, and quality. Paying 25 times the price for it? Personally, the value is not there. Factor in losing or breaking a pair now and then and the economics get uglier quick.

I did not like the sound of the Sony headphones compared to other Sonys I’ve heard. Usually they have a very clear mid range and high end, and this pair did not. This comes to another point about my review, the case could be made that listening to uncompressed digital files via a Dragonfly DSP and a Meridian Explorer 2 is not the same as spending $10,000 on an amp to drive these headphones to the extreme. I admit that this could be true, but that throwing down another $10,000 is not going to tilt the odds in the headphones favor in my value equation.

In closing, I won’t be dropping a boatload of money on headphones, but I would not hesitate to rent from Lumoid again. They also rent photography gear, and fitness wearables, two areas where you definitely want to try before you buy.

For past writing on audio start here.

 

 

Categories
Productivity Booster

SEO and Trade Show Tips

 

Just trying something new – this is the roundup of topics from Marketing Over Coffee. If you’d like to get these emailed to you, just subscribe here.

This Week’s Podcast

In which we use insider lingo

Click to listen!


Google Releases Search Quality Rating Guidelines

A 160-page PDF document, aimed at helping Google Search Quality Raters understand how to rate the search results they are testing. Along with this resource we also discussed SEO by the Sea one of the best search blogs out there.


The Unreal Environment of a Trade Show Floor

David Spark talks about his new book Three Feet from Seven Figures! Bad behavior, ludicrous amounts of money and a compressed timeframe are problems for the “Always on” in the “unreal environment of a trade show floor”


Going Beyond Lead Scoring

So you’ve got a lead scoring system set up, what next? Infer lays out where this space is going and what to consider when you want to get beyond just a number.


Your Chance to Show Gratitude for the Holiday

Wondering how you can put a dent in the universe? The answer is so simple, an iTunes review for Marketing Over Coffee.

 

 

Categories
Daily Life

Project Update

Here’s what’s been going on and why I haven’t been posting here.

We are still barrelling along at EventHero. It is not easy, but we’ve had some big wins recently and this is the best team I’ve ever worked with. If we continue on our present course life could get a bit easier, like just “software startup difficult” not “flat out alchemy”. So if you have anything to do with events and need badges, lead retrieval, session tracking, or integration between event technology systems, please remember me.

Marketing Over Coffee continues to be a great project, even since Serial brought in a fresh wave of listeners things have been growing faster than ever before. Even if you are not into listening to podcasts, you might want to sign up for the MoC newsletter. The biggest topics from every show are sent out a couple times a month, all the goodness without having to listen. To be honest, that’s been the biggest killer of this blog, the newsletter gets 10x the readers and is backed by sponsors so that’s where my free time goes first.

On the audio gear front I decided back in the spring that I wanted some over the ear headphones for the office. My favorite Shure 530s died after many years of service and the new Bose QC20i is amazing for travel so I looked around for something new while at the desk. I was very impressed with the Sony 7506 as a huge value when you look and price and sound quality. Then I went a little further down the lunatic path – I’ve been modifying them, adding a removable cord so you can use them with your phone, or with a high quality boom mic. I’ve tested dozens of aftermarket ear pads. I’ve even set up an online store, if you’re interested in learning more about headphones that sound incredible because the money goes to the parts instead of to celebrity sponsorship check out Johnny Headphones!

That’s about it, that and two kids under 6, and my wife working the family business. The last big thing that has nothing to do with marketing was that we went to Frontier Days in Wyoming this summer. If you’ve never seen a grown man jump off a horse galloping at full speed to tackle a 700 lb. cow you really need to do that. Carin and I also went to three shows, catching Big & Rich, Toby Keith, and Keith Urban, basically a Country Music Super Bowl.

I am getting the year end wrap up in order, and if you are a marketer the nominations for the Marketing Over Coffee Awards will be open soon, and I’ll also be giving out some Johnny Headphones there too! I hope you have a great holiday season!

Categories
Podcasting

Beefing Up Audio

I’m just posting this because I listened to a Tim Ferris interview with Tony Robbins this week and it doesn’t do well in the car or while running because of the mix. Tim has a page where you can submit comments and I wanted to post a sample to show what I’m talking about.

For anyone podcasting here are two simple things that can significantly improve your audio. Here’s a screenshot of an audio wave:

Audio Graph
Sound Wave Before/After

You can listen to this audio file here:

If you cut the picture above in half, the left side is the “Before” and the right side is the “After”. On the left side the recording is not taking advantage of the power available to it. In other words, you are going to have to turn the volume up twice as much compared to the average song, or audio cues on your phone. These are the situations where you turn up a podcast and then when you get a text message, or your running app cuts in to tell you how many miles you are at, it blows your ears out.

Now there’s an entire profession dedicated to mastering audio – making it sound great and taking into account the devices it will be played on. I am by no means an expert in this area, but I can give you two simple things to at least get from annoying to sounding closer to an NPR podcast:

The Levelator is a free tool that will adjust the entire file so that it uses most of the dynamic range. This includes fixing where one person is louder than the other. All you do is drag and drop your file on to the window and it spits out a second file that sounds better.

Soundsoap is not free but does a great job at reducing background noise and can also add some Barry White to your sound. If you realize that the air conditioner or other stray noise in the background is annoying this can make a huge difference.

Enjoy!

 

Categories
Podcasting

Stu-Stu-Studio

Jason Keath posted about building a home studio on Facebook and asked if I would throw in my two cents. Jason is a mensch and I realized that my comment would be one of those annoying five page Facebook comments so it was much easier to write an entire manifesto here.

I probably know about 5% of what you need to know to build a studio, but that doesn’t matter because there are two easy options. Either call Parsons Audio and spend the money or talk to some podcasters who are always experimenting with cheap stuff, which is often pretty good thanks to the current level of technology.

First things that come to mind:

Do you really want to build a studio in your house and lose a room? Renting allows you to not have weirdos in your home, will sound fantastic, and means that you won’t have the UPS guy ringing the doorbell or the General Lee driving by honking the dixie horn. It’s also just like the gym, when you go you will get the job done, if the equipment is in the house it will probably end up as a clothing rack. On the other hand, the big upside is setting up a bunch of stuff and then never having to take it down. Let’s say you’re sold on that. Most people I know have an office and create a studioffice. Or maybe an officudio. Or something.

Noise kill: John Federico makes a great point about Dynamic vs. Condenser mics – I’ve found it easier to use dynamic mics in a room with carpet and some stuff on the walls than trying to make sure everyone is out of the house and gluing up foam egg crates. Capturing the room noise before and after recording and then using Soundsoap hides a huge array of sins.

Who’s doing the talking? If you have four people around the table with some microphone technique, then nice mics and headphones are great. These Sony headphones are good enough that if someone doesn’t like them you can yell “BRING YOUR OWN DAMN CANS.” Shure SM58 is a workhorse for a microphone, but if you want similar guts but a lot cooler looking, the Elvis Mic fits the bill.

The thing here though is if they are not broadcasters it may change things – for podcast guests sometimes a lavaliere mic is great because  public speakers who move around a lot may not always be in front of the mic (off axis), or worse yet tap or kick the table (why you see the 10,000 pound tables in the studio). An old NPR trick is to have a lav mic on the brim of a baseball hat, the placement works and you don’t have to mess with people’s clothes.

Also on furniture – finding chairs that don’t creak is important. Metal submarine style chairs are an option, although standing up or having a barstool can improve vocal projection for the group.

I like to keep a computer out of the equation for panel discussions (although the fanless Macbook may change that). I run a Mackie mixer into a Marantz digital recorder, it’s been solid for years.

Of course then you’ll start thinking that you might video some of it so that requires cameras and light….

 

 

Categories
Podcasting

Sound and #MyHeadRoom

Longtime readers know that I usually check in every six months or so with a sound update. Between loving music and producing the Marketing Over Coffee podcast I keep an eye on what’s happening in audio (and tend to spend more money than I should).

I got a push this time from the folks at Headroom, I mention them every time we talk audio because of their great shared testing results. Since I’m writing anyway I can also enter this in their #MyHeadRoom campaign which is giving away 2 sets of Shure SE846 earphones (if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drop $1,000 on earbuds), and a set of SHR1540 headphones (which I would love to take for a test drive). Listening to music is the only peace and quiet that happens in my house full of kids, and I have worn my Shure’s for a full day as part of work so thanks Headroom!

Last time we were talking about getting better sound out of your iPhone. Since then: Bose replaced the QC15 with the QC25 and all reports say they are even better, so if noise reduction is your thing (hello road warriors), that’s the way to go.

I also found an interesting app called Dirac. It optimizes the sound for Apple Earphones and EarPods (the freebies that come with your phone and most sound fans laugh at and throw away). For $3 it is no joke, it makes the EarPods sound much better, as in better than some earphones costing $100 or more.  The catch is you have to use their music player, it doesn’t work for all apps (i.e. no movies, games, etc.) If you want to nerd out on it some more check out their site and how they optimize for Rolls Royce and others.

I’ve been digging into DACs as part of the quest for better sound and have found that some call the Pono snake oil, there are some interesting things (or maybe more snake oil) on the horizon, and some results that show the iPhone 6 actually has fantastic soundAn interesting tip from that last link – the volume slider on the screen gives you more granular control of the volume than the buttons on the side.

As far as phones… a moment of silence for my Shure 535s that have gone to the great listening room in the sky. For now I’m using my Bose QC20i as they are the easiest to travel with. I’m also interested in checking out what lands from the guys that make the Dragonfly.

On the recording front, Shure has some things in the pipeline that look interesting. Also Soundsoap released version 4, that’s my secret weapon for making the podcast sound a bit better than the other guys out there. I’ve also been kicking around a condenser mic in the studio and have been checking out Apogee gear for that.

That’s what I’ve been listening to, if you’ve found anything interesting lately I’d love to hear from you @johnjwall