All posts by Bill Genereux

Freemiums Drive Site Traffic

The enticing post title “How to Make Your Business Videos When You’re Awkward in Front of the Camera” caught my eye. It was one of those serendipitous moments that often happen when browsing the web; I arrived on it from another site where I was looking at some original artwork that I found while doing some other research. The business video post caught my attention for a number of reasons, but I’m sharing it here today, not for the information about video making per se, but because it is an excellent example of something called the “freemium model.”

I don’t recall exactly where I originally heard the word freemium, but it comes from the idea of giving away something of value (free + premium) with the idea that it builds goodwill, brand recognition along with the opportunity to make purchases for add ons or other related products.

Much of the world wide web was built on the freemium model. Early adopters of the web remember the “browser wars” in which Netscape and Microsoft battled for dominance of the world’s browser users. At the time, Netscape offered the basic Netscape Navigator browser for free, but charged a fee for its more robust “Gold” version of the browser. Microsoft entered the browser space with an Internet Explorer browser similar to Netscape’s premium browser but gave the software away for free. Microsoft also included the browser with every new copy of its Windows operating system, which led to a famous anti-trust lawsuit (analysis paper pdf download).

Anyway, the point of all of this is to illustrate the fact that players in the digital world have been giving away digital goodies for free for a long time in the hope of gaining followers, new customers and so forth, and I thought the article about making business videos is a great example of the freemium concept. The advice provided is good advice; it contributes value to anyone who struggles with making quality video content. However, in the end, the article is offered as a service but also as an advertisement for Agora Pulse, a social media management system.

I haven’t used Agora Pulse and can’t comment on its value as a social media tool, but I was impressed enough by the small amount that I saw to write this post. Why? Because the writing I found is superb and of value to me and I liked the simple design graphics that I saw on the website as well. When designing for the web these days, we have only seconds to gain and hold a reader’s attention before they move on to something else. The Agora Pulse site did a number of things right and I thought it was worthy of mentioning here on my own blog.

 

Robot Servers

In Tokyo, Japan there is a cafe that employs people with spinal cord injuries and people with the debilitating ALS disease. These people, confined to a hospital bed, work as servers in the cafe by using remotely controlled robots.

I think this is a brilliant use of robotic technology. I’ve been looking a bit into using telepresence robots in schools and nursing homes.

Professors Genereux & Knopp (appearing on remote-controlled robot screen)

Our English professor, Kaleen Knopp had a surgery that kept her home-bound for some time was able to continue working remotely by operating our telepresence robot. Our robot only provides a virtual presence, it does not have any arms with which to interact with the remote environment. So she needed an on-the-ground assistant in the classroom to help with things happening in class, but with this support, she was able to teach her class without missing a day.

I think having a robot with remotely controlled arms is the logical next step in this sort of technology and I think it is astounding that this sort of technology enables those who could not otherwise interact easily with the outside world to not simply be present to others, but actually have productive employment by serving others in a restaurant. How absolutely wonderful for those people who are doing the serving and who are being served. This is an internet-of-things device that truly makes the world a better place!

Ash Wednesday

Today Christians around the world are celebrating this day as “Ash Wednesday” or the day in which we are called to remember that we are mortal beings, with only a finite number of days. By reflecting on the fact that we are composed of elements which come from the Earth and we will one day return those elements to the Earth, we are compelled to examine how we are using the precious days that we do have while we are here.

I remember the one day during my first year as a college student, my professor, Dr. Chad Davies revealed to us that all elemental matter, including the elements from which our own bodies are constructed, originated from inside of ancient stars that exploded and spread the heavy elements throughout the universe. My mind sort of exploded like those stars! Now wait a sec… I came from inside of stars? How does that jibe with what I was taught as a youngster about people being created by God?

But then I remembered the creation story in which Adam is formed by God from the clay of the Earth. And then I remembered Ash Wednesday and the words of the priest on that day,

“Remember man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Hmm, I am basically made of dirt. I come from the Earth and will one day return to it. The elements come from stars that exploded. The Earth formed from those elements. The Earth’s creatures are composed of the elements of the Earth.

As I learned more, I also learned about the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe. It is that point in time where there was nothing at all, and from the nothingness, a big bang occurred. First, a blinding light, followed by heat and some primordial stuff that ejected out and became the first stars.

“Let there be light” -God

Robert Spitzer wrote a fascinating book called, New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy which explores important questions about the formation of the universe. He discusses the precision with which the universe got its start. A few degrees cooler, no big bang. A few degrees warmer, nothing is sustained. It was a perfect setup for the beginnings of the universe and of us.

When I think of Ash Wednesday, I think of the sciencey things I have learned about how the universe was made, how the Earth was formed and how people later appeared, composed of elements coming from exploding stars by way of the dust of the Earth, and I think to myself that there is really no contradiction between the truths of science and the truths of faith in a creator God. Of course there are differences in how these two ways of knowing arrive at what is true, but in the end, the truth is the truth.

Friday & Saturday Writing

I was able to write a good deal over the past couple of days. Much of the writing was simply transcribing entries from my 1991 journal I wrote in Desert Storm. I’m not sure how much of it I will publish in the final version of the book. I may only take excerpts. But it is good for me to digitize what I wrote, and analyze my thoughts.

What struck me most about what I wrote almost 30 years ago is how much I’ve changed and how much I’ve stayed the same. I sensed the attitude of a young man without a great deal of life experience yet. I was pretty critical of my superiors, often unfairly so. But looking back, those who were my leaders were actually pretty good at what they were doing.

I sensed that at my core, I am still very much the same person.

I didn’t and still don’t like to be told what to do and how to do it. I’d rather someone give me the gist of what they are after and let me find a creative solution to the problem. Back then, I struggled with details and keeping track of specific items. I still deal with that, so I have to devise solutions for that concern. Mostly, getting into a routine, putting things in the same place, and automating certain tasks that can be automated has helped me immensely. Interestingly, I struggle the most when my routine gets disrupted. However, I really get bored with the monotony of things that never change. It is a paradox for me.

There were hints in my writing that even back then, I was very concerned about the well-being of others. I’ve had some of my former shipmates over the years confirm this with their impression of me. They would say things like I looked out for others, and I made being in the Navy fun by not always taking things too seriously.

There was at least one incident that I recorded though in which I got on a younger shipmate’s case for not being serious enough. I didn’t name names, but I recall that incident well. We were getting ready for combat, and one of my men was saying over and over, “we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die!” I don’t really know if he was joking, or if he was seriously frightened by what we were getting into, but I told him to snap out of it and straighten up. We didn’t have time for that kind of talk. So I guess I wasn’t always goofing around and being a jokester.

One thing I’ve been doing besides my own writing is reading the memoir of a Pearl Harbor survivor of the USS Arizona, Donald Stratton, a native of Nebraska. I purchased the book a while ago and haven’t ever read it yet, so I’ve been digging into it as time allows. I’m mostly looking at the style of writing it uses and what details he focuses in on. It’s very well written.

Two weeks into the 30 day challenge, the total page/word count for my Desert Storm book to date is 67 pages and 24366 words. I think I averaged between 500 – 1,000 words per day during the past week.

 

 

Tuesday Writing

I wrote less on Tuesday. Bad winter weather predicted. Watched more Frontline over lunch. Learned some new things. I didn’t know the much touted Patriot missile system had such a low rate of success. It was all over the news how it was shooting down everything that came near it. Turns out, by some estimates it hit 20% or less. One expert said it might have never hit one scud missile.

In one news conference an aide to Gen. Schwarzkopf showed “scud launchers” being destroyed but an unnamed CIA official later said they were petroleum trucks or even milk trucks.

The scuds were actually stopped by British special forces.

Wrote a piece about battleship technology. Word count ?

had another idea but didn’t write it down, now I can’t think of it.

 

Monday Feb 18 Writing

I wrote two pieces yesterday. One was about the food served aboard ship. I have been conversing with Desert Storm Navy vets about their favorite shipboard meals. Breakfast was a favorite, especially when fresh milk was available. Total length of that effort was 920 words.

I also wrote a piece on the daily routine aboard ship. I was having trouble remembering specific times that certain things occurred so I will have to do more research on that. But I covered things like morning quarters, sweepers, working hours at sea vs in port. Total length of that piece was 860 words.

Also watched about an hour of PBS Frontline special on Desert Storm.

Total for day was 1780 words. If I can maintain that pace this will be my best week.

30 Day Challenge – Week 2

This week I wrote an additional 8,000 words (up 500 words over last week) in my writing project. I struggled to work in the writing each day. Some days I came home dog-tired and just didn’t get it done. But I wrote a bit more on some other days. Overall it was a successful week. My total writing for two weeks is around 16,000 words.

One related piece I wrote that I nearly forgot about was my Oh Shut Up post. It talks about the macho man culture of the military and how men are not really permitted to be anything else but a tough guy. One veteran was shamed in an online forum about Gulf War illness. I didn’t like it, but didn’t want to join the fight there. (Maybe I should have?) But I did write a post about it and shared it on my own online outlets.

In this coming week, I want to make an effort to post some daily updates on my writing progress, just to see how that spurs me to do more with my writing project.

I also lost another 4 lbs. My total weight loss over the two weeks is 8 lbs.

How to best manage a digital footprint

How to best manage a digital footprint so you can get a job.

1) Show your work. Build an electronic portfolio, ideally on a website that you own, that shows the skills you have and the projects you have worked on. ,

2) Create a professional account on LinkedIn with your resume and recent photo. Connect with others there who can help you land a job.

3) Don’t put anything on social media that would be embarrassing to you if your family found out or if it went viral online, appeared in the newspaper or on the national television news. Always assume that whatever you put online can be shared, no matter what the privacy setting is supposed to be.

4) Network with professionals who are doing the sort of work that you aspire to do. Ask thoughtful questions about the work that they do that you admire.

Oh Shut Up

In response to a query about Desert Storm Syndrome in an online veterans group we were all recently treated to this delightful comment:

Oh shut up, it was only a fart of a war.

In one little post, I was reminded of one of the reasons that I decided to leave the service and choose another path. There was always someone around quick with a put-down. Now, this is probably true wherever you go, but it is particularly true in the armed forces.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m very proud of my military service, in fact, it is probably one of the things in my life of which I am most proud. I miss being part of something so much bigger than myself. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the brotherhood. But I don’t miss the machismo, the always a tough-guy theme. As much as I am truly thankful for that part of the experience because it helped me to toughen up, in the end, it wasn’t where I wanted to be day after day throughout adulthood.

There are more ways to be a man than the hard-exterior tough guy. Much of our culture tells us that this is the only way for a man to be though, and anyone who is made differently doesn’t quite measure up. And we wonder why some men are confused about what it means to be a man. The truth is, there are many ways to “correctly” be a man and tough-guy is only one of them.

At first, I laughed at the “fart of a war” comment along with some of my other comrades in arms. After I returned from the gulf war, I had a chance to talk with my grandfather about his wartime experiences as an infantryman and combat medic in the Pacific jungles of WWII. It made me realize that my difficulties aboard ship during a couple of months in Desert Storm were minuscule in comparison to those of an infantryman in the second world war, or any war for that matter.

However, as I think about it, dismissing the misery of an unexplained illness or the trauma of serving in combat really isn’t a laughing matter. Undoubtedly, some of us still suffer from mental health issues if not physical issues, but to the macho man, these are unspeakable things.

I don’t typically engage in online arguments, particularly one so obviously desirous of stirring up contention. It is like the old saying,

“You shouldn’t wrestle with a pig. You’ll just get yourself dirty and the pig will enjoy it.”

Instead of wrestling with pigs, I’ll just have my say in this space. We should support each other better.