I’ll Have What Ray’s Having …

It was a cold night at JFK and the terminal was eerily (yet understandably) quiet.  Just a few weeks prior two planes had flown into the World Trade Center, and most people were avoiding air travel.  The mood was somber, to say the least.

I was “listed non-rev” on the last flight back to LA for the night, which is airline lingo for waiting on the stand-by list as a non-revenue passenger, thanks to my friends and family benefits with the airline.  This was long before the airlines automated this system with online check-in and in-app status notifications.  The protocol back then was to wait patiently by the gate for your named to be called, just minutes before the gate closed.

This was an art form in and of itself; you wanted to be close enough to hear your name if the gate agent chose to just yell for you rather than use the PA system, but not so close that you annoyed the gate agent.  Just like today, gate agents have a tremendous amount of discretion in seat assignments and lurking over the podium for your name to be called was the fastest way to be seated in the back next to the restroom … or not get a seat at all.

So there I was quietly standing off to the side, listening for my name, when the phone rang at the gate.   The exchange went like this:

Gate Agent: Hello?

[The Gate Agent pauses while listening]

Gate Agent: Hold on, let me check.

[The Gate Agent picks up another phone and dials]

Gate Agent:  Do we have any Bailey’s on the plane?

[The Gate Agent pauses again while listening]

Gate Agent: Thanks.

[The Gate Agent hangs up the second phone, and goes back to the first call]

Gate Agent:  No, we don’t.  [short pause] Ok, thanks.


About five minutes later, an airline employee comes up from tarmac with a large bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream.  He hands it to the Gate Agent, who rushes it down the jetway to the plane.

Before I continue I feel that I have to level set that everyone, including myself, was on edge.  Just a few weeks prior terrorists had hijacked three planes and used them to kill thousands of people.  The FAA had only recently allowed planes to fly again.  I can’t speak for everyone else, but personally I was being (perhaps overly) vigilant.

And in my hyper vigilant state, I started to ask myself questions about that bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. What was so important about the bottle?  Did it go through security?  It was much larger than 3 ounces, …. could it be disguising something else? Could someone have put an explosive in a fake bottle, and thrown it over the tarmac fence to avoid security?

You hear stories about people who have an intuition and get off a plane, only to find that it crashes on that flight … I quietly wondered to myself if that bottle of Bailey’s was a sign that I shouldn’t be on this plane.

Did I mention that it was late?

After some internal debate – which I’d like to be able to say was short but in truth likely took longer than I’d like to admit – I realized that my concerns were irrational and resolved myself to get on the plane, Bailey’s or not.  This decision was eased by the fact that the Gate Agent had called my name and assigned me a seat in first class.

The seating configuration of the first class cabin was (facing forward) two seats on the left / aisle / two seats in the middle / aisle / and two seats on the right.  My seat was 6B, on the left side of the plane just a few seats down from where we boarded.

I quickly got on board, and settled into my comfortable leather seat for the flight home – the bottle of Bailey’s now only a faint memory.

Just as the flight attendant made the final pre-flight announcements, I noticed Ray Charles and his assistant getting on the plane.  His assistant helped Ray into seat 6E, across the plane from me in the same row, then quickly ran behind the first class section to speak to the flight attendant taking the pre-flight drink order from the passenger behind me.

Ray Charles’ assistant:  excuse me, did you get the bailey’s?

flight attendant:  Yes sir, we have the bailey’s.

ray charles’ assistant:  great, ray won’t fly without his bailey’s.  He’ll have a bailey’s on the rocks.

I quietly breathed a sigh of relief as I now understood the importance of that bottle of Bailey’s.  And when the flight attendant asked me “Mr. Gordon, would you care for a drink before flight?”, I confidently said … “I’ll have what Ray’s having”.




Wired Crowns Alexa the Winner

CES is over, and in this article Wired Magazine has crowned Alexa “the winner”.

There are now over 7,000 Alexa-enabled devices, from cars to speakers to appliances and TVs.  By offering an open platform for the development of Alexa-enabled devices, Amazon is getting tremendous market penetration and exponentially increasing the amount of consumer insights data it collects.

This is no easy feat.  Not only does the technology need to be able to accurately understand the user (something that for Siri is still rather hit or miss), but it needs to be able to action on that command.  And based upon’s Mark Zuckerberg’s own experience creating a connected home, he showed the latter to be more critical as he often “chatted” commands to his home using FB Messenger.

But is this really a game changer?  Marketers love this, for sure.  The ability to “listen” to what’s going on in a household has huge implications – for example, (theoretically) identifying who is in a room by their voice, and what commercial their listening to / watching (including the channel) based upon the audio signature.  Tie that to actual purchase activity and you have true closed loop attribution for radio and linear TV.

But will consumers really incorporate this into their daily lives.  Or will Alexa just end up having a conversation with Google Home?  It’ll be some time before we see if this brings real value, or if it is just a gimmick.  If having a virtual assistant really gives us the freedom to live our lives to their fullest, or if they just allow us to change the room temperature without leaving the bed.

Juice Jacking – Is that phone charger safe?

Every time you use charge your mobile device from a public charging station, an Uber driver, or even a friend’s computer you’re putting your phone at risk of being hacked.

Juice Jacking – the process of hacking a phone during charging – is a very real threat that effects almost any phone, tablet, etc.  Because the power ports share the same cord as the data ports, when you charge your phone using a USB connected device (such as a computer, the USB outlet in a car, or potentially a public phone charging station) you give hackers the opportunity to access the data you’ve stored on the phone.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to protect yourself from this threat.

  1. Use an in-wall charger.  Using a standard two-pronged adapter ensures that you’re getting data right from “the wall”.  It isn’t connected to a computer, and doesn’t utilize the data port.
  2. Use a USB cigarette lighter adapter.  Rather than using the USB connection in the car, plug your phone cord into a USB cigarette lighter adapter and plug that into the cigarette lighter.  Like the in-wall charger, this does not allow data access.
  3. Use a portable charger.  Effectively a rechargeable battery block with a USB adapter, you charge these in the morning (from a trusted source – like a wall outlet) and have extra power at hand whenever you need it.
  4. Buy a data blocking power cord or USB adapter.  These are USB adapters and charge cords which have disabled the ability for data to pass through the cord, protecting you from hackers.  Some have the added benefit of offering “fast charging” – in laypersons terms taking the power that would have been used to support the data connection and using it for charging.If you’re industrious, you can modify your own USB cord to support data blocking.

Travel safely !


Sources:  Wikipedia, Krebs On Security

Healthy Flying

The recent passing of Carrie Fisher reminds us of how unhealthy, … dare I say dangerous, it can be to fly.  While airlines are not mandated to keep track, the Seattle Times estimates that nearly 300 people a year die mid-flight. Thankfully, given the number of people who fly every year, the odds are still pretty good that you’ll arrive at your destination still able to appreciate it.   Most importantly, it is rarely the pilot who passes.

Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that flying can kill you.  I’m simply pointing out what we’ve known for years – the inside an airplane isn’t the most conducive environment for healthy living.  You’re in a small confined space, surrounded by people from everywhere on the globe, potentially hours from the nearest medical attention.

Here are a few things that I do to have a more healthy flight:

  1. Drink (bottled) water!  Flying is very dehydrating.  My personal rule of thumb is 12 ounces for every hour of flying.
  2. Avoid the salty snacks.  Most airline food is over-salted, to compensated for your diminished taste buds.  Whenever possible, I bring my own food onboard (let’s be honest, it’s usually better tasting than what the airline offers) and if I do partake in an inflight meal, I eat carefully and in moderation.
  3. Avoid alcoholic drinks.  The effects of alcohol are intensified in a pressurized cabin, and can be stressful on the body.  Best to wait until you land.
  4. Avoid window seats and wear sunscreen.  The suns rays are more intense at 30K feet, and most airplane windows do not have UVA protective coatings.  I always wear sunscreen, and whenever possible avoid the window seat.
  5. Carry a mini-medical kit.  I don’t go overboard – who wants to carry around another 10 lbs. of things that you’ll likely never need? But I do keep a few things in my toiletry bag – such as bandaids, baby aspirin, etc. , just incase !

Remember, everyone is different, so always check with your physician first.

Safe travels !

SAP Announces New DSP / DMP : Exchange Media

SAP announced Exchange Media, adding another DSP / DMP to an already crowded ad-tech ecosystem.

Advertisers are increasingly demanding transparency in their advertising, from where and how ad dollars are spent to the true impact and ROI of those advertising dollars.  Adtech providers can either give advertisers what they want or watch as advertisers bring those solutions “in house”.

This also further underscores the importance, and value, of first party data.  The companies who control access to advertiser first party data hold the keys to the kingdom.

Time will tell whether Exchange Media will be perceived by clients as an important value add, or just another platform solution in an already fractured marketplace.  Flexibility will be key, as marketers have been wary of “walled garden” approaches that lock their data into specific systems.

Source:  AdExchanger

Google Announces New Changes at I/O

Google I/O recently wrapped up, and here’s a great recap of “what’s new at Google”.

Some of my personal favorites include:

Google Home: Google’s competitor to Amazon’s Echo.  Consumers will find value in the ability to add voice commands to their home “Internet of Things”,Google will find value if Google Home leads directly to increased consumer purchases.

Duo & Allo: Google’s response to Facebook’s WhatzApp and Messenger, Duo is a video chat app with advanced “sneak peak” features, and Allo is a pure play text messenger app (important for regions constricted by low bandwidth issues).  Much like Gmail displays ads based upon the context of the message in your email, these apps will offer options for goods and services based upon the text of your message.

Daydream VR: Google has entered the VR space.  This vertical is getting very crowded, very quickly … and its success will largely depend on content creators ability to build these hardware solutions into their games, programs, etc.   Stay Tuned!

Instant Apps: Google is making moves to seamlessly connect the mobile web with apps.  To date, they’ve been separate experiences.  Google’s Instant Apps will enable users to download critical portions of apps in realtime, as they interact on the mobile web.   This will require developers to change how they build apps, but the changes will be retroactive through numerous previous versions of Android.

Sources:  The Next Web ; AdExchanger

Book Review : Decisive

Decisive Book Review – How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

Should I or shouldn’t I ?  It’s a difficult question that we face every day.  Chip and Dan Heath have written a guide to helping you better make difficult decisions, in all aspects of life.

It seems like every time I turn around, there are more opportunities and consequently more choices to make.  I’ve found this book tremendously helpful, allowing me to avoid “analysis paralysis” and make better decisions more quickly.

I’ve recommended this book to several friends and colleagues, who have also found Decisive to be a powerful tool.

Here’s an overview of the book.

Chapter 1:

They go over the four key reasons we have difficulty making decisions:

  1. You frame up choices based upon your own, narrow,  experience. 
  2. Your confirmation bias skews the information you gather. 
  3. Your short term emotion tempts you to make bad decisions. 
  4. And once you’ve made a decision, you stick with it out of pride and overconfidence.

So how do you solve for this ?  By widening your options, reality testing your assumptions, getting a different perspective (expanding your focus) before deciding, and embracing your mistakes (and quickly fixing them!)

Chapter 2: Avoid a narrow frame.  Your decisions are typically not binary; you have more than two choices.  You can shift your focus from the current options to other options by thinking about the opportunity cost of your decisions.  Try eliminating your current options, and forcing yourself to come up with new options.  It’s easier if you step outside the solution, and look at it as an outsider.

Chapter 3: Multitracking.  Embrace considering numerous options simultaneously, which allows you to shape the problem while keeping egos in check.  Just beware of unrealistic options that can lead you, the decision maker, towards an option that only appears to be the best compared to the others.  Switch between a mindset that avoids negative outcomes and pursues positive outcomes.

Chapter 4: Find some who has solved your problem.  Look internally and externally (even with competitors) to find the best solution, even to problems you may not know that you have.

Chapter 5: Considering the opposite.  Acknowledge your confirmation bias, which leads you to confirm you initial assumptions.  Encourage groups to bring dissenting opinions.  Ask the uncomfortable questions (“why doesn’t it work?”).

Chapter 6: Zoom out, zoom in.  The value of your information is critical to your decision making process.  You need to pivot your decision making from close up to outside views, to get the best, most accurate, information.

Chapter 7: Ooch.  You don’t need to make big decisions.  Make many small decisions, and evaluate each one to make sure it is ultimately leading you to the right outcome.

Chapter 8: Overcoming your short term emotion.  All of our decisions are impacted by our own biases.  We’re apt to hold onto our original ideas out of pride, to stay within our comfort zones, to avoid losing – all of which affect your decision making.  Try looking at the decision from the outside, … what would you tell your best friend to do ?

Chapter 9 : Honor your core priorities.  By identifying (even documenting) your core priorities, you’ll make your decision making process easier.  Zappos does this, and you should too.

Chapter 10 : Bookend the future.  Give yourself best case and worst case scenarios (much like investing in stocks) and use those as guidelines.  Anticipate problems, create tripwires to quickly identify them, and quickly implement solutions when problems occur.

Chapter 11 : Set a tripwire.  Make sure that you’ve documented your ultimate goals, and set up best and worst case tripwires which automatically trigger when you need to make a decision.

Chapter 12 :  Trusting the process.  Whether you are making a decision alone or with a group, you have to trust the process.  For group decisions, make sure that the “rules” are established ahead of time, and that the process is perceived as fair for everyone.

Forest for the Trees ….

I recently had the pleasure of having dinner with the new defensive coach of our football team.  He mentioned that he was just coming off a year long “sabbatical”, as he transitioned from his previous city to ours.

I was really curious – what exactly does someone do when they take a year off?  Travel?  Repaint the house?  Binge watch missed episodes of The Walking Dead?

He spent the year doing what he loves – from the other side.  He went to football games: high school, college, and professional.  He used this time to challenge preconceptions he’d built over the span of his career.  He studied the new defensive techniques, and questioned why coaches made certain decisions.  He walked the stands and spoke with parents (something that would assist his scouting efforts in the coming years).

He explained that every Spring he would get together with fellow coaches to share the previous year’s plays, discuss new coaching techniques, etc. But given that every team plays at the same time within a set season, this only provided limited value.  He never had an opportunity to truly interrogate the way his colleagues were playing the game.

Taking the time to step outside of your role, and look at something from a new perspective, is critical – especially when you’ve been doing the same thing for over a decade.

The more you challenge yourself to look at things through a different lens, the more impactful your time off will be.  And you don’t need to take several months to a year off …. you can even do this over short periods of time, like a weekend.  All that’s required is that you disconnect from your current assumptions, and view your world from a different perspective.  Do this, and even Mondays will seem easier.

Pivoting Through Acceleration : The Value Of Data

Entrepreneurs are tested as their start up grows up “the hockey stick”, from initial concept to full execution.  They must be able to pivot, changing from sole contributor to team leader.

And through that metamorphosis, their reliance on data increases.  Data, like revenue, is oxygen for businesses.  From pipeline bottlenecks, to revenue forecasting, to funding valuations, data drives everything.

Here’s a great article on just a few ways data is important.

Source: Entrepreneur.com