Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"The Social Network" could be great, but could be sucky

When I went to the movie theater over the weekend to see "The Other Guys" I was drawn into one of the trailers before the film. It was for "The Social Network," which is (a version) of the story of Facebook.

To be sure, there's a lot of drama behind the creation of Facebook, certainly much more than most people realize between planting their crops in FarmVille, offing a rival gang in Mafia Wars or getting into arguments on friends' status messages.

"The Social Network" is based off Ben Mezrich's book, "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal."

For those not familiar with Mezrich, he (I felt) hit the ball out of the park in his 2002 book, "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions." Mezrich followed that -- his first work of non-fiction -- up with other books such as "Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions" and "Rigged: The True Story of an Ivy League Kid Who Changed the World of Oil, from Wall Street to Dubai."

Sensing a theme from Mezrich? He writes about nerdy Ivy Leaguers, in the latest case Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, and peps up the story with sex, booze and adventure.

Now, I did very much enjoy "Bringing Down the House" and thus was very excited when it was adapted into a movie. But that adaption ended up being the dungfest that was "21," a movie not at all true to the book and that embellished even more than Mezrich may have in his prose. It's the poor treatment the book received in "21" that makes me wonder whether "The Social Network" will be fantastic film or is just a great concept with a trailer that is buoyed heavily by a phenomenal rendition of Radiohead's "Creep," performed by the Scala and Kolacny Brothers.

Back to the point. While the Facebook story is great and dramatic and a fantastic case study for business, I'm concerned that Mezrich only got one side of the story for his book. He did not interview Zuckerberg at all (Zuckerberg reportedly refused to speak to Mezrich.) Meanwhile, Facebook co-founder (and guy who you never hear about so he has an axe to grind) Saverin was a consultant for Mezrich. Moreover, no one associated with Facebook was involved with the film project.

So while "The Social Network" might be very entertaining, a little will be taken away for me if there are excessive embellishments or facets of the film that are just not believable.

But that's Hollywood. And I'll almost certainly see "The Social Network" opening weekend regardless, unless that happens to be the time that Andy Morgan gets me into a screening and hooks me up with the steak he owes me for his colossal malprediction on recent box office figures!

It's time to start blogging again

I started this blog several months ago during a politically hot time in my life and I told myself I'd start blogging consistently again.

But then, as happens, school got busy, work got busy, life got busy, and writing here fell by the wayside.

So why, now, when I'm on the brink of entering what might become the busiest, most stressful two-year period of my life, am I saying I'm going to start blogging again?

Because I need to.

For the past two years I've had the radio show to vent daily thoughts in forms longer than 140 characters. Before that, I had a solid creative outlet in working at a newspaper for the previous six years.

Besides, I'd like to think there are a few people in Cache Valley who will want to keep track of what I'm up to, and this will be the best clearinghouse to take care of that.

So let's see how I do with this. Wish me luck, because lord knows I'll need it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are there any merits of "Foursquare."

For the past few days, I've been using a new social media service called "foursquare."

Foursquare has been around for a while, but only recently started to catch on in Logan. It is a location-based social media service where people use their cell phones to "check in" at businesses, buildings and events around a community. Users get points for checking in at more places, and if they frequent a location, earn "badges" that they can display to friends saying they're "crunk" (if they visit four places in one night) or that they're a "local" (if they go to one location several times in one week.)

Foursquare started in bigger cities, but again, only recently started to have locations in Logan, and since you can add your own location to the service to check in (I added KVNU and the 400 North Subway this week), pretty much any location is fair game.

I've had my foursquare account linked to my Twitter and Facebook accounts, so every time I check in at a location, an update is sent to my friends about where I'm at. It looks like this:

For the past few days, immediately after one of these updates is posted, I get comments posted from friends asking me why I'd want people to know where I'm at all the time. There's even a website called Please Rob Me that is dedicated to the phenomenon of "oversharing."

People think I'm nuts for participating in this service. Maybe I am. 

The reason I'm trying out the service is because if you're in the fields of marketing or communications, or if you're a businessperson who tries to maximize the use of social media, I think it's critical that you become familiar with emerging technologies and services, know how they work, understand why people are using them, and try to use them to your maximum advantage. I'm doing recon, basically. 

Certainly, this is toeing the line of "oversharing," if there is such a thing, but everything we do online right now, as far as sharing information, would make someone from the 1950s scream outrage over the lack of anything private. Plus, for me personally, I'm not worried about getting robbed because, let's face it, people know I'm not home during the day, they know when I'm on the radio, my life is very public as is.

There are probably some good uses of foursquare, especially if it catches on, and especially for businesses. It could be a great way to interact with your "power customers" and provide coupons, specials, promotions, etc. For example, Pounders Hawaiian Grill is doing a foursquare event this week where they want to get upwards of 50 customers to come to their North Logan location, "check in" on foursquare, and get meal upgrades for free if they do check in on foursquare. This promotion is done at little to no cost to Pounders, and helps customers of Pounders who are also on foursquare feel closer to the business. I believe customer/business intimacy is critical. It's a win.

But overall, while I'm exploring foursquare, I don't care for the service. But I didn't care for Twitter at first either, and also hesitated switching from MySpace to Facebook. I thought both were fads, and I was proven wrong. I will never say an emerging social media concept is "just a fad" again, because you never know what users (especially young people) will grow to love and use, and as businesspeople, we need to stay on the cutting edge or get left behind.

So this is, in the end, my long-winded response to the people who keep asking me why I'm using foursquare. I'm just giving it a try. And if you want to come rob me when you see that I'm at school or at lunch, by all means, be my guest. I hope you enjoy my XBOX. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A souring experience at the GOP precinct caucus

For the past six weeks or so, I was very excited to be able to attend my GOP Precinct Caucus meeting and start to have a say in Utah politics, since you pretty much have to be a registered Republican to have a say.

So Tuesday, I went to Mount Logan Middle School for the caucus meeting and I was amazed by the turnout in my precinct, which is the Logan 29th. There were probably 50-60 people at the meeting, far more than the eight who reportedly showed up to the last meeting. Because I felt it could hurt, I had arranged for someone (former Cache County Republican Party Chair and current House of Reps. candidate David Butterfield) to nominate me as a county delegate. He graciously agreed to nominate me. I wasn't expecting to get elected, but it would have been fun.

The process of how this played out, however, didn't sit well with me at all.

Now, I'm told that this is pretty much "just the way caucuses are done," but I don't buy that. If this Republican party is going to demand transparency and accountability out of its government, then I feel I am within my rights to demand transparency and accountability as a voter. Moreover, I demand consistency. Let me explain.

For the county delegates, there were seven positions open and 12 people nominated.

The vote was carried out by paper, everyone passed around slips of paper, it was a take one, pass the pile along type thing, and then random people (including some who were nominees) walked around collecting the ballots. We were told to write down eight names. Now, this in itself doesn't make sense because although there were eight county delegate positions open to our precinct, one was automatically to be filled by the precinct chair. But we were told to vote for eight people (I didn't realize this error until after the meeting.)

So eight of the 12 nominees were selected as county delegates (even though only seven positions were open) and the rest (including me) were alternates.

For the state delegates, we were electing two delegates and two alternates. There were eight nominees, and after some confusion over whether nominees were allowed to speak in front of the group, we heard from each nominee for about 30 seconds and then voted for two people each.

My problem with the process is that on both votes, after the votes were tallied, we were simply told "these were the top vote getters." There was no mention of vote totals, and no way to verify that in either election, the persons elected to the delegate positions received a majority of votes.

Prior to the state delegate vote, I raised my hand and said "Can I verify that to be elected as a state delegate you have to receive a majority and not a plurality of votes?" The precinct chair, in what I felt was a demeaning way, said yes, of course.

Still, when the results came back, no numbers. No rounds of voting beyond that first vote. I didn't question this until hearing from friends in other precincts.

Every one of them had the vote totals announced after each round, and candidates were eliminated and more voting was held until candidates received 50 percent plus 1 vote...a majority.

Again, I was told "this is how caucuses work. It's very informal."

I perused the Cache GOP and Utah GOP websites to see if there were any definitions as to how caucus voting should be ran, but there was nothing.

I would like to call in the Utah and Cache Republicans to establish a consistent voting criteria for precinct chairs to ensure the transparency of the process. I am not upset at all that I was not elected through this process, but rather am concerned that the proper procedure wasn't performed for the state delegates, who will have a say in an ultra-vital senate race.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dear Vice President Biden:

Sunday was a bad day.

Monday was a good day to let off steam, and I felt like Jonathan and I (and lots of callers) put on a good two hours of radio (which you can listen to here and here, incidentally.)

When I come home from work, I always anticipate seeing if I get anything in the mail. Usually there's nothing, and if there is, it's a bill, magazine or credit card offer. Lately there's been a crap load of MBA brochures coming and admissions stuff from the UofU. Today, however, was an "URGENT" envelope with the return address none other than the vice president, Joe Biden.

Inside the envelope was nothing more than propaganda about how we need to "join together and elect more Democrats to the Senate and House so we can help President Obama achieve his agenda." On a nice little bookmark-type thing, there's a list of "3 Republicans We MUST Defeat in 2010."

It appears that Richard Burr, Roy Blunt and Rob Portman are the three biggest sources of JoeBama's heartburn. Anywho, I'm obviously not going to be sending these fools any money to help them further stack the deck, but I feel I should use the postage-paid return envelope for a good purpose.

Now, keeping in mind that I am not going to put sugar in the envelope and send it back, are there any suggestions out there for a pithy note I could put together and send back? Something that sends a message of "F*** you all," but with a little more tact. Any ideas?

I should add, the letter arrived on March 22, but was dated February 26. That speaks significant amounts about either the speed at which the Democratic party operates or the efficiency of one of our premier government-ran organizations, the USPS.

Silver lining: Was a new GOP star born Sunday night?

Sunday night was not good for conservatives opposed to health care reform. The hours of watching C-SPAN were rewarded with a swift kick to the nuts when the health care reform votes were made.

But was there a silver lining to the night? Certainly, one of the few highlights was the impassioned speech that House Minority Leader John Boehner delivered. But twice in the day before that, we heard from Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

Honestly, I'd never seen this man speak before, but in a Republican party that is filled with divisive voices like Mittens Romney, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Rush Limbaugh and any other talk radio/Fox News shmuck, this man makes sense. Check out his first speech to Congress Sunday where he called the health care reform proposal "the mother of all unfunded mandates:"

That's good stuff, isn't it? How about his speech later in the evening?

Keep an eye on this guy. He's the type of conservative who Americans can rally behind without involving divisive social wedge issues. His motivation is restoring the prosperity of America, and doing so by restoring freedom and liberty. I can get behind the good congressman from Wisconsin on this.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My politics: an admission

I think it's time I come clean with a heartfelt admission about my politics.

My parents are conservative, for the most part. Their friends, as far as I could tell growing up, lean liberal.
Growing up in Utah, feeling a need to rebel against something, I liked the Democrats. In middle school and high school, without fully understanding situations, I liked Bill Clinton. Hell, I still do, I think despite his personal life failures, he was a heck of a president who oversaw a great period of U.S. prosperity, technology advancement and well being of our nation.

I was in high school and my first years of college for most of the George W. Bush administration, and I didn't like the man. I didn't like his wars, I didn't like his policies, I didn't like his cabinet, I didn't like his VP and I was glad to see 2008 come and someone else come along. America could get back on track again.
In 2004, during the Democratic National Convention, I was working a night shift at Utah Public Radio on the night that Barack Obama gave the keynote address. I remember listening intently to his words, being drawn in by some catchy things he said.
"...there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America."
That was inspiring. There was more:
"We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states."
I went into work at The Herald Journal the next day and remember distinctly talking about the speech with Charlie McCollum, the managing editor, and saying that Obama could be the next president after a speech like that. In January 2005, I signed an online petition saying that "Barack Obama as president would be the best possible thing that could happen to our country." I bought "The Audacity of Hope" from Border's in Logan the day it came out and took it to court with me that day and told the bailiffs how wonderful this man was. I told my mother to read the book because Obama was exactly what our country needed.

Obama's momentum continued, he swept the youth of this country and everyone else up in a whirlwind and he got elected in November 2008. I traveled to Washington D.C. on January 20, 2009 for the inauguration (although I didn't actually get to see it because I was stuck in the Purple Tunnel of Doom.)

Over the first months of the Obama presidency, little was accomplished, but I defended him to his critics, of which there were/are many in Utah. I defended health care reform specifically, including several times on the radio, saying we needed to do something. I remained liberal on social issues but became increasingly more conservative on fiscal issues, not just over the past few months, but probably the past three years.

But about six weeks ago, something in my mind snapped. I watched Obama and the liberal Congress in the news and, as if a cloud had been lifted from my mind, asked myself how, in my right, logical mind, could I rationalize supporting these people.

It became clear to me, personally, that these politicians were not leading in a way that I value as appropriate.
As I've continued to digest the news every day for the radio, on everything from foreign policy to health care reform, every day its become more clear: The Democrats and, Team Obama for lack of a better term, are dead wrong. The Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker Kickback, providing the DNC fundraising mechanism for congressmen who vote with the White House on health care...it was all wrong.

Sunday, I spent most of the day watching C-SPAN. Every time a Democratic congressman would speak in favor of health care reform, the platitudes that spewed out of their mouths about made me vomit. Meanwhile, GOP congressmen like Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and even John Boehner, spoke words about the value of America, liberty and freedom. They painted a clear picture: We were losing liberty and freedom and a piece of America with this health care legislation.

As I watched the votes come in, I became more sick. Now I'm outraged.

This morning, I will go into the Cache County Administration Building and officially change my party affiliation from the Democratic Party, where it's been since the day I registered to vote on my 18th birthday. I will register today as a member of the Republican Party. I will attend a Republican neighborhood caucus meeting on Tuesday night, and I will do all I can to get up to speed on what I now believe are the appropriate politics that are needed for our time.

For so long, people around here talked about how liberals are destroying our country, and I laughed at them thinking they were nuts. It turns out I was the one who was nuts. And I am not ashamed to admit it today.

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