marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Friday, December 2, 2011

Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge - the ideas are easy

One December 1st, I was at the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge helping judge the presentations by teams that included at least one San Jose State University Student. Overall I was impressed by the number of good ideas in the exhibition room, as the exhibits spanned power management, to blood alcohol monitoring, to vanity personalized wear, autism tools, supply chain authentication and more.

Now while that may sound like over generous blanket praise, it comes with a caveat: Ideas are cheap. In fact, I said that to one presenter who had, as part of his business model, an idea auction. Even with his nebulous idea auction, however, that presenter garnered praise from several judges due to the utility and value the business had in a very well defined niche. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a third of the businesses presented could become living, breathing, and thriving successes - if the creators took the plunge and gave it a shot.

That brings me to another point - niche focus and market knowledge can mean the difference between fundable idea and failure or successful small business and pipe dream. One business I liked, called Travit, was showing a supply chain authentication system from manufacturing to end product delivery. That's a tough business - a really tough one. One of the long-time judges went so far as to shoot down my appreciation of the idea stating that there were "problems with the business." Unfortunately, that's where market knowledge trumps lack of imagination. My partner judge worked at Intel, and I have some experience in clinical data managment, both areas where the exhibiting company's product might have a huge impact in ways such as saving lifes and reducing counterfitting.

Now if a judge working at a multi-billion dollar company says a project could solve one of their big problems, do you dismiss any issues as "too hard"? Likewise, if a product/solution can possibly save thousands of lives and become a standard for major pharma or biotec companies, do you dismiss it for potential "problems with the business"?

To me, blowing off any suggested innovation because there are issues or problems with the idea before it's a running business is short-sighted. If the issues, after deeper inspection are insurmountable, then yes, it's best to move on. But if a judge at the competition likes your idea and is interested in being your first customer, you ignore the naysayers, listen to the customer, and solve the problem.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are all about solving problems, finding new challenges, and overcoming them. And while the presentations and ideas may not have been as well thought out as possible, I thing there is value to understand what might be possible with a presented solution. As such, I've reached out to the head of the event to see some of the ideas from the exhibition. Ideas are cheap - but if many of the presenting teams can resolve some of their weakneses and focus on some key business areas, there could well be 20-30 businesses that launch from that event.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Don't be correct, be accessible in your marketing message

I recently had a conversation with someone who discussed a "bifurcated costing model for predictive analysis" - and yes, I too almost glazed over as I heard this. While I may have the math and science background to understand that phrase, and it may be technically correct, there's a cost or penalty for using such an accurate description in communicating your idea or message.

I try to look at problems and solutions as a opportunity to explain it to my mother. Granted, she's pretty smart, but she has no reference point to the math or statistical phrasing involved in technical solutions I often have to explain. In fact, all she cares about is that there's a problem and I try to solve it. If she can grasp the problem because I explained it using accessible terms, all the better. I'll explain why this matters later.

Realistically, a "bifurcated costing model for predictive analysis" appears to have no bearing on everyday life, it's worth another look. While "bifurcated costing model" is mostly descriptive and sets context, the key phrase, "predictive analysis", has a real-world application in behavior. The result was framing the message as a solution - a way to help predict people's behavior during online transactions. It may not be perfect, but it gets to the heart of the matter.

Now why is that important? By using accessible language that my mother understands (or the general public can grasp for that matter) has led to connections, introductions, and even future business, as people quickly understood that I somehow helped people manage or improve the buying process. No one in their right mind would ask their network if they knew someone who did "bifurcated costing models for predictive analysis", but they might ask for a contact or reference to someone who might optimize or improve targeted behavior.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finally a good auto-follow response on Twitter

Do you dread following someone on Twitter due to the worry of impending Twitter DM spam?

Maybe you don't face that problem, but let me tell you, Twitter DM's are the new spam. While most people don't spam you too much, I've about had it with the "join my Mafia", "is this you in the picture", and "click here to validate" spam redirections. I've about given up on reading DMs just because of it. But before you agree and give up on the value of an auto-responder, I wanted to share a decent, or better yet, potentially useful DM after following Thomas Korte, or @thomask.

Why should you care? Thomas is an angel investor, so he get's even more spam than most of us, and most of it well intentioned spam from entrepreneurs trying to get his attention. That made me curious to see how he would handle Twitter follow requests, so I followed him, and his "follow response" is one of the rare and useful DMs I've received:
(follow-response) Hi. You might find this post interesting: "How to cold-email me (or anyone else)
Of course, it looks simple and plain, and it could be a spam link. I clicked through and was taken to a very concise and to the point blog post about how to pitch him while showing some respect for his time in the process.

So have I been cured of my worry of DM spam? No, but I do know that there's an exception to the expectation of DM spam. By providing true value and NOT upselling me in his auto-DM, Mr. Korte has set an example that I would like others to follow. So if you use an auto-DM as a follow response, don't blow your connection to your follow - just add value, an maybe you can start you Twitter relationship on a positive note.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Steve Jobs and the Eureka Myth

There's a great article from the Harvard Business Review about Steve Jobs and the Eureka Myth that is worth mentioning here since it encapsulates a much bigger topic and fallacy in many people's minds - not just for Apple, but for product design and marketing in general.

Basically, the misconception is that Steve Jobs came up with the iPhone and iPad and other products one day, manufactured it the next, and as a result dominated the market. The "eureka" of those products and their "magic" isn't nearly as simple. The were years of ideas and multiple generations of protoypes that went into both products.

In fact, the "eureka" moment came after many trials AND errors, tweaks, improvements, corrected paths and feedback loops. While Jobs and his team were indeed more inwardly focused than the standard market research processes, there was no reduction in a prototyping and test process.

There was no magic - but there was good process and vision.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Google CPC - are your expectations set right?

A client wanted to launch his wellness business and grow using an initial "consumer Internet" go-to-market approach. I cautioned that there were few good examples of a B2C success in his product and service space, let alone a direct analogy that he could use to garner best practices or emulate. In short, he was offering a new product in a new market, and would likely need a heavy education component or high touch marketing at the start.

Having used Google adwords before, he thought that it might be 'the ticket' to getting things off the ground. After two months of trying the Google CPC route, he felt that he had exhausted Google adwords as a viable vehicle for lead gen. Had the client more time and not been insistent on CPC ads, the "expectation" phase of his marketing campaign could have had more time for discussion.

Online advertising, whether display or CPC, has some general economics that people overlook. The good thing is that the factors in the model can be tweaked to increase performance and ROI, but the bad thing is that there are enough variables that it can be easy to focus on the wrong elements. The basic metrics of advertising, especially search CPC advertising, has some key numbers to keep in mind. These are:
  • Keyword searches - searches with target keywords where your ad appears
  • Click through rate - or the ration of clicks to impressions 
  • Conversion to Free action - the percentage of visitors who register
  • Conversion to Paid action - the percentage of registered users who end up paying or upgrading
For this discussion, I'll use basic industry rates that are on the optimistic side.
  • Keyword searches: 1,000,000
  • Click through rate: 2.5%
  • Conversion to Free action: 20%
  • Conversion to Paid action: 5%
Using those numbers we might get a funnel that looks like:

The disparity between the searchers who may see the ad and the number of registered paid users is visually striking and provides a "come to Jesus" moment.  While your first reaction might be - 1M search ad impressions might yield only 250 paid users, I tend to think about the cost of the ad and how the advertising might even pay for itself.

Using simple math (again, everything is simplified here), if the CPC was $1, that means each paid user must have a contribution of $100 per user. If the CPC was $0.10, that contribution diminishes to $10 per paid user. Contribution, in this case, is the margin built into the product or service price that, net of costs.

I'd be worried if I didn't know how I might drive the CPC down or if I did have other tools and methods to improve the conversion numbers. But once you get past the worry, we can look at the point of this post - to provide awareness. A CPC campaign in the example above can, and often does makes sense. It's important to set "expectations" and  to know what you need for your campaign to be successful.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sorry Vocus and PRWeb, but you sent me to another vendor #vocus #prweb

I really wanted to give PRWeb a chance, but they reminded me of an important lesson.

There's a phrase that B2B startup marketers and salespeople come to expect: "No one gets fired for buying IBM." That phrase has other forms, such as "No one get fired for buying Cisco" and more recently, "No one gets fired for choosing Google."

What the customer is saying in each case, is that time and battle tested vendors with established track records are safe bets. The buyer, or his manager doesn't want the risk of choosing a startup that may not deliver the same level or quality of service.

It's simple really and can be boiled down to a simple formula: pay A get Y

That equation is actually: pay A get Y, Z percent of the time, where Z = a reliability (or trust) factor. For established and trusted vendors, Z is presumed to be 1. There is an implied certainty that the established vendor has survived this long by delivering Y, 100% of the time.

When you're a start-up or less established business, customers don't know what value "Z" is for your company. Start-ups have two main ways do deal with uncertainty in "Z" for customers. Lower A (Charge less) or increase Y (deliver more value). Basically a start-up or less established business can attract customers with lower prices or delivering more value.

I bring this lesson up as I was in the position to evaluate another vendor for press release distribution and my investigation into using PRWeb has proved unfruitful. I know somone at Vocus, who owns PRWeb, and I recalled seeing a note that PRWeb had a partnership with Zemanta which could provide more social media coverage for my release. I researched my options, signed up for an acount, then froze in my tracks due to the menu of choices. I was considering PRWeb's "premium" release, which provided AP distribution for $160 more than their other options for a total of $360, which was less than the $600 I paid for my usual major wire service. After logging in, I saw an option for "Better visibility" for $269 that would give me AP distribution and several other key distribution points. That meant I would pay $629 for better visibility and, it seems, pay for AP twice. I also noticed that the Zemanta distribution that I had wanted was not listed.

So to recap, I originally though I would get Y + Zemanta + other PRWeb social media benefits for a price somewhere less than $600. In reality, there might not be any Zemanta, and I was going to pay $629, and my reliability/trust factor was still less than 1. I would be paying more for less reliability and maybe more features. That confused me, so I asked the salesman: is Zemanta included? and why do I have to pay for AP twice, which I asked for the response in writing. His response, call me. My response - I need it documented, write it down, then I'll call to ask questions. Again, his response: "Call me". Needless to say my time is better spent using an older, but more trustworthy news service.

So thank you, Vocus and PRWeb, for reminding me that no one gets fired for choosing a trusted and established industry leader. In some cases, and this one in particular, it's not worth the risk when your vendor won't document what service they'll provide and even try to you trust them.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wisdom or Wisecracking of Crowds

I was following up on a report on KNTV where they discussed lawsuits against users who gave bad reviews when I ran into a thread from a reporter on yelp.

The reporter request was ligit, and I even saw the televised broadcast of the special report. The topic seemed important, as any commenter on Yelp or Facebook could be subject to a lawsuit for libel and slander. Worse yet, precedent could be set by any firm able to sway a jury to their way of thinking about online commenting. If anyone on the forum/comment list could be targeted, wouldn’t it be in their best interests to help the reporter?

The problem, it seems to me, was authenticity, familiarity, and reputation. Without any of those three, the reporter didn’t stand a chance of getting the breadth and depth of responses she deserved. The reporter, Vicky Nguyen from KNTV in the SF Bay Area, has a profile on the TV station site here, but even so, that did not help her. Let’s look at some errors that hurt her trust, reputation, and authenticity factors in getting the responses she was requesting.

Authenticity: The reporter made an honest appeal for feedback and introduced herself. She stated that she was a reporter looking for feedback on a story. Her appeal seemed transparent and open, but there was a problem with her appeal. The reporter chose a screen name that I cringed at immediately “KeepItReal I”. I’ll simply say that the name sounds like someone is trying too hard, but in the interests of brevity, I’ll stop there.

Familiarity: While the reporter did not commit the complete noob error of FPHR (First post help request), she did not have a long enough history of participation on the site or engagement with other users that people could trust that username was not a joke. Sometimes trust can be gained just by familiarity, but there is little you can do to remedy a new, young, or lightly engaged account.

Reputation: Closely tied to Familiarity, Reputation frames how users act with you or toward you. As the sum total of your experiences with the site, your reputation helps others categorize you as a lurker, commenter, value-adder, conversationalist, influencer, leader, troll, or even spammer. If the reporter’s reputation was one of influencer or leader, she may have received the feedback she needed. Without the right reputation and a history of belonging, it’s much easier to dismiss comments by a typical lurker as those of a troll or spammer.

Due to the the above factors, it was unlikely that the “wisdom of the crowds” would play out, and, in fact, the reverse happened. The online responders made innuendos, jokes, and otherwise ignored the ligitimate request for help from the reporter. The response amounted to nothing more than the wise-cracking of the crowds, which may be the expected response for attempting leverage unfamiliar communities.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

4 Tips for Pitching Analysts to Get Past the BS Filter

The first step is admission. I was an analyst, I admit it, and I appologize for all the bad ones out there. I hope that by providing useful tips and advice, that others may have more successful future interactions with them.
Some people have suggested that the analysts they’ve met either have attitude problems or have not learned the 5 lessons that I listed on my previous blog post. While that may be true, I’ll submit that there may be some key items missing from your marketing toolkit that lead analyst to respond to you the way they do.
Since others have asked me “what do analysts care about?”, I thought I’d frame my answer in terms of key marketing tips for analyst that often apply to the press as well. Oh, if you didn’t know, the analysts are almost always where the press go when writing stories if an analyst covers the space.
Here are some quick tips when pitching an analyst, in no particular order:
  1. Why should they care? 
  2. Really, chanting “we’re #1” without justification instantly turns on the bullshit filter for an analyst. Actually, the filter is always on, but it goes from “normal” to “high” if you just cheerlead. What impact is your company and/or product having now, not what might happen the in future. If your future vision doesn’t sync with your current actions or position, there will be a problem
  3. What is the current product/topic of discussion’s position?
  4. If you are talking to an analyst about a new product or service introduction, you MUST be able to state a clear and compelling UVP (unique value proposition). If there’s nothing unique and compelling, I wouldn’t care. Why would the analyst care? Of course, a “me too” offering can be news if you’re a $1B+ company entering a market and about to squash smaller competitiors. The value proposition in that case: Resources, massive customer base, long term market analysis and staying power.
  5. How does your product/service really compare to other offerings?
  6. No competition? You’re fired, your market doesn’t exist, or your lying. Good analysts know every significant player in a market, but no, a pre-product startup may not qualify. If there’s no one doing it the same way, in the same location, or with the same technology, then you may be re-segmenting an existing market or opening up a niche in an existing market. In either case, there are certainly indirect competitors or even hidden direct competitors
  7. Did you visualize your differentiation?
  8. Key skills that marketers need when presenting to analysts is position mapping and visualization. Analyst create reports, charts, and visualizations that the press and Wall Street love to reference. If you’ve ever heard that a picture tells 1000 words, then consider a good position map or visualization your resume to the analyst. In 3 to 10 seconds, the position map or visualization tells the analyst if and how you matter. Sure they might be pleasant to you anyway, but if you don’t have a position map or visual that conveys why you matter, you won’t. Nuff said.
          These tips, suggestions, etc. are part of the marketing framework I use when looking at a company and business and prepare them for press or analyst communications. Remember, the press assume that you already have contacted an analyst willing to speak with you or who is familiar with the product. The press will gauge the "news" value of your product or service depending on if an analyst took your meeting to cover the topic, and sometimes the number of analyst informed also telegraphs news value. If you’re doing outreach to the press, the above tips are good homework  to have done. You will need to do additional work to prepare for testimonials and "social proof."

          If you have question on this, please comment below, follow me @dkuroda on Twitter, or formspring me on my blog.

          Wednesday, March 23, 2011

          When it comes to trust, Industry Analysts rule

          I saw an interesting article in IT Marketing World that struck a cord. I had been an Industry Analyst in the past, but since I left that occupation, I have heard numerous engineers, IT folks, and even marketers call Industry Analysts all kinds of unflattering names.

          Recently, I spoke with a Marketing Director who referred to analysts as if it was a curse to work with them. I said it was no problem for me, since I used to be one. Now I do not hold Industry Analysts in a position of honor or holiness, but I knew then and still know now that they play an important role for technology markets, and it's just good business to deal with them properly.

          Why should you care? The article I linked above sums up the issue - Trust.

          The article states that a SiriusDecisions survey found that "Industry Analysts and Peers are the most influential and trusted sources of information", with Industry Analysts scoring nearly 3 percentage points higher.

          Of course there are other factors in decision making, and the study also cites "favored sources of content", "influencial sources of content", in addition to "trusted sources". Because trust is only one important factor of many, I won't claim that Industry Analysts are the end-all be-all, however I do have some fond memories of lessons learned from being an analyst and what it took to be a good one:

          1. Always have a BS filter - As an analyst, companies were always trying to bend my ear to their way of thinking. It never hurts to question motivations.
          2. You can position anything - Analyst are wary of every positioning statement, since every company positions themselves, and smart ones position their competitors. Good analysts know positioning well and that this is just part of the standard pitch.
          3. What really matters to the market? - An analyst is paid to think beyond spec wars and get to the issues that really matter to customers and the market.
          4. No one operates in a vacuum - No matter how good someone's story sounds, the competition is always moving. Sometimes they may even be ahead.
          5. The road to hell is paved with good inventions - One of my favorite lines first told to me by Jim Handy (hi, Jim), as it describes the hope inherent in every company pitch. Companies want to build a product or service that solves a problem. Often they fall short and the best product/service doesn't win. Good marketing, bigger marketing budgets, legal wrangling, misinformation, related product momentum, goodwill, or other factors can determine the winner.

          I think that good analysts apply the 5 guidelines above and can provide a truly balanced view with limited biases. When they do, the real issues that matter to customers can be addressed, and they can provide a perspective worthy of trust.

          Monday, February 14, 2011

          Are you looking for Barbie and forgetting to Lead Score?

          A recruiter I’ve known for years showed me a CMO position spec and asked if I knew of any matches. The position looked pretty standard, covering the strategy, positioning, messaging, branding, press and lead gen under the standard umbrella, and I mentally noted a few good candidates who met the basic requirements.

          As I delved deeper into the spec, the company described how they were looking to take their company and product space to a new level, citing how their industry was stuck back in the dark ages in terms of leveraging intellectual capital and interpersonal relationships for productivity and efficiency. I had seen this problem in several industries, where the “oldest man in the room” syndrome was the norm, and hoarding knowledge insured job security and maintained a rigid hierarchy. The implication is that a cultural change and essentially a change management process is attached to installing and acclimating the industry customers to newer, more open, and automated systems for creating, managing, and leveraging the knowledge base in the minds of the knowledge hoarders.

          The right candidate would then require the marketing knowledge and experience for a normal CMO, but also the patience and change management mindset to educate train and persuade industry members to adopt new and potentially disruptive social technology. The bar was getting higher.  The company would clearly be breaking new ground, and the spec recognized the forward thinking required of the right candidate.

          Then I came across the show stopper - the company wanted deep industry experience AND a track record of implementing similar socially oriented knowledge sharing and productivity tools.

          Wait, did you catch that? The company was breaking new ground, bringing the industry out of the dark ages to do things that has never been done, but they wanted the same person to be an industry insider with a track record of doing things that the industry has not been doing, ever. Basically, the spec was asking for someone who has done what has never been done in an older industry that has a tradition of sticking to tradition.

          That’s when you stop, take a step back, and ask the hard question. “Are you looking for Barbie?” Where Barbie is the mythical perfect person with the perfect background, skills, experience, and other qualities. I think every company would like to hire a “Barbie”, and there’s no reason not to want that, but the question has to be asked “What do you really want this person to do?”

          My recruiter colleague has not gotten back to me, but the hiring company should take a long hard look and possibly do a stack ranking of the real requirements. For example the requirements might be:

          Rating categoryWeightScore
          Deep industry experience1.2
          Marketing executive experience2
          Experience driving cultural change1.5
          Experience marketing to multiple marketing verticals or segments1.3
          Experience in marketing knowledge tools1.8
          Experience in marketing social technologies2

          In the example above, the company would be identifying an experienced marketing executive weighted toward experience in social technologies and knowledge tools and less experienced with multiple vertical segment marketing and potentially less industry experience. Note that if the hiring firm stuck to hiring “Barbie” setting all categories at 2, then “industry experience” could completely replace “marketing social technologies”, and the firm would hire someone without the skill necessary to fill the role.

          So trying to hire “Barbie” could lead to poor candidate sourcing and poor decision making in the hiring process. All parties concerned would be best be served by applying a “lead scoring” framework to systematically identify and engage the best candidates.

          Friday, January 28, 2011

          Lifetime Customer Value Case Study - Turning a Negative to a Positive

          I’ve talked about value and customer service in several posts, where I discussed the impact on perception, confidence, and trust when customers work away, against, or oblivious to their customers. The choices some vendors and companies make simply don’t make sense, are not well thought out, or are just dumb, while others seem to treat customers as not only single sales targets, but as a source of long term income.

          Recently, I received a defective product from an online vendor ( that was priced low enough that it wasn’t worth my time to work through the support tickets, RMA process and shipping costs to return the product. It was a loss to me, and yes, I lost faith in the vendor and silently put them in the “low QC & poor products” list in my mind, planning to avoid ordering from them in the future.

          Imagine my surprise when they sent me a cheery email asking me to review the product. That email tipped me to action in a bad way. I went to the site and product page and promptly ripped on them for the quality problem, linking the review to the photos I had also posted of the defective goods. I got it off my chest and thought that I won a minor moral victory that cost me a small lesson in trusting that online vendor. It was over and I moved on.

          Out of nowhere, a short while later, I got an email from the online vendor. I expected it to be a “please contact us to resolve the problem” email, like I had seen on some other sites. I expected that it would only anger me by requesting more time and effort of to do the customer service ticket, RMA, and shipping steps I sought to avoid. I was wrong. The firm was notifying me of a new shipment, when I didn’t order anything. There was no clue as to what it was, why it was shipped, or even if they were planning on fixing the problem - there was just a shipment coming.

          A week later, the package arrived, and in it, a replacement for the defective product, but no note explaining why they shipped it. I promptly tested it, and it worked. I was pleasantly surprised enough to write this article, as I realized that the company had regained some trust and the benefit of the doubt with this simple, but important act. While I also realize that I have not given up on my concern for quality from the company, I can trust that they will do what is right to fix a problem.

          They may or may not have done the calculation, but they made a good move. As a repeat customer, I have ordered from them more than once in less than a year, and over the course of 5 years I might represent a decent chunk of change in revenue. If they ignored the problem, they would have guaranteed that I would spend my money elsewhere. As it stands, they’re on my approved vendor list not just as someone who had products I purchased, but as a company with a customer service policy that values it customers.

          Friday, January 21, 2011

          Your Customer Said Build Green, but You Need to Build a Jaguar

          People say what they think, but not always what they mean

          Ever have a customer who wanted a product and would say something like "that would be really cool in forest green"? Then you might build them a version in forest green and they continue "that's not how I imagined it would be, I don't think I'd really want one in forest green."

          You haven't been punked, you've been hearing, but not really listening. The customer may have imagined a version of your product that had the color, shine, and elegance of a Jaguar that was both art and gadget. You just delivered color when the customer really wanted experience.

          Sometimes customers say things that are the easiest to say. Colors are easy to see and describe, but they often have emotional ties with meaning. But it's not just colors, but think of shapes, another difficult topic. What do you do when someone says your product is too linear or angled? Do you add curves , make it curvy, or even wavy? The linear shape may suggest industrial, simple, or cheap, and the lack of rounded anything may symbolize austere or minimalist expectations.

          My point is that when someone gives you feedback on a product or service, be sure to listen deeply and don't just record the words you hear. This problem exists for consumer goods,  physical services, and even online applications and enterprise software.  If you listen deeply, you may just uncover a real need or opportunity that the customer has not figured out how to articulate.

          If you do your job right and extract the real need, you may be rewarded with happier customers and a larger market.

          Thursday, January 6, 2011

          Google App Inventor - What Could Have Been

          When Google announced their Chrome notebook with the program where they would issue a few units for feedback and testing, my mind started racing. Not only was this a great idea that would lead to buzz and market interest, but maybe I could get my hands on the product and start building some Android apps with on a notebook that featured Chrome OS, a cousin to my now favorite web browser, Chrome. I would prove to myself and the world, that Chrome OS and App Inventor could more smash the development success that Microsoft had with VB and by enabling anyone, even business types/former coders like myself to jump into the game. That night, I had a dream that not only would I get the notebook that I applied for online, but I would also get my invitation to Google App Inventor.

          The next day, I saw blog posts from people un-boxing the Google Chrome notebooks. I crossed my fingers, checked my email for my App Inventor invite, and silently hoped that my notebook would arrive. Days passed, then weeks, and I lost interest and hope that I would be able to spend my entire Christmas holiday building apps and testing the notebook. By the end of December, I was resigned to my fate, no Chrome OS notebook, no App Inventor invitation. I had to make a decision and spent a few days looking at some of the development SDKs and web developer tools, finally settling on Appcelerator for a number of reasons.

          I have a number of app ideas that I could build myself or farm out, but I really wanted to prove my point - doing it the Google App Inventor way, and also benchmarking against doing it with Appcelerator later. I had even hoped to blog about how Google Chrome + App Inventor could best Microsoft, Appcelerator, and Apple, but w/o the tools that just won't happen.

          A day or two ago, a friend told me that he got a Chrome OS notebook. It was shipped to him 2 weeks ago. While I was glad that I didn't hold my breath waiting, I was envious. I was silently more upset when he said that he had not figured out what to do with it, while I would have tried to build 3 apps in that time. Sure, he has provided some PR value for Google by carrying it around and showing it to all his friends, but one of his work friends received one as well, so the novelty has started to wear off for him.

          So after watching another developer tutorial on Appcelerator and brushing off my envy, I decided to peak back at the App Inventor site. To my dismay, the App Inventor site no longer was invitation only, but open to anyone to download, install, and start building apps. Again I felt cheated and now face a new dilemma - should I abandon my Appcelerator proejct for App Inventor, even without my Chrome OS laptop, or do I keep going forward with the current plan?

          As I ponder the question, I'll list a few factors weighing on me:

          1. Last communication from App Inventor team - 10/2010, telling me it's invite only
          2. 10+ hours invested in Appcelerator documentation and videos
          3. Downloaded an installed Android SDK to use with Appcelerator's Titanium
          4. No Google Chrome OS laptop, so I would prove a different point if I used my Windows machine
          The lack of communication and time invested are bigger factors than #4, which was a nice to have.  The key issue for me here is the human factor. Whether is product engagement, contract negotiations, sales, or marketing, the underlying issue is people. People use the product, people give feedback, people tell their friends, and negotiate or communicate with each other about it. I like the concept of App Inventor enough that the lack of human consideration hasn't dominated the decision, but I hope that Google communicates better to employees and the market when it launches Chrome OS in ways better than I've seen for App Inventor.