Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

February 22, 2009

Better Solutions Than A Mileage Tax

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:30 pm

The good news is that Obama just rejected the mileage tax, but the bad news is that politicians (especially in oregon and taxachussets) keep thinking that this would be a good idea.

The fact that elected officials think it would be good to track citizens every movement is scary. If we keep electing people like this we’re going to head down a very slippery slope toward the type of 1984 society that Orwell imagined. In fact, it’s starting to look more and more like Orwell was just off by about 30 years.

So, instead of creating huge privacy concerns, here’s some better ways to go about changing the tax.

1.) If you really want to tax by mile, why not just look at a car’s odometer? Many states (like Texas) require yearly car inspections. It would be very easy to just write down the mileage at the inspection and charge the appropriate tax. Same data, no privacy concerns. Late fees and tax repercussions would even cause more people to get their car inspected on time, and eventually reduce emissions by a little.

2.) Tax Diesel More. Heavier trucks put more wear and tear on the roads than light cars do. Heavier trucks use Diesel fuel. Why not tax it accordingly?

3.) Tax Tires. If you follow my twitter feed you probably saw this suggested by Xich. Bigger tires = more wear and tear on the roads. Tires have a set mileage to them, so tax accordingly.

4.) Just raise the gas tax. Compared to Europe, America pays pretty cheap gas prices. We’re no Venezuela, but we still have cheap gas compared to some other places in the world.

5.) Start spending responsibly. The gas tax isn’t the real issue here though. The big issue is that cities and counties and states all spent their money and are now panicking. Instead of taking the money given to them for road repair, they spent it on other stuff. In Michigan, for example, we sent it to Nigeria.

February 12, 2009

How To Fail At Social Networks

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 2:00 am

I’ve seen a thousand and two posts over the past few months that all say things along the lines of: “Is your company on twitter?” “do you have a facebook app?” and “why your company needs to embrace social networking.”

While that’s all and good, most of these posts (and most of these businesses) are completely missing the point about social networks.

Yes your business needs to be on social networks – but only if you’re truly embracing the social part of them.

When I think of the world “social” I think of society. In other words, people. Social networks are all about people, and they differ from traditional old school marketing greatly. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses aren’t realizing it yet.

The same mistake was made 3 years ago when everybody was screaming that companies need blogs. Since nobody knew anything about blogging they quickly assigned it to somebody in marketing and they quickly filled up post after post with marketing speak. Even today most corporate blogs still read like a brochure. They don’t allow comments, they don’t talk about anything interesting, and they only talk about how great their company is. In other words, they’re boring and nobody reads them.

I’m starting to notice the same trend as I look at various Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook accounts. Blogging and social networks are about conversation, but nobody in the business world wants to converse. Everybody just wants to have a site out there to push their brochure style marketing statements.

If you’re going to use social sites like that, you’re better off diverting your resources elsewhere. An it company Lethbridge can bring in different consultants for your project.

http://iamlearningdisabled.com/getting-over-a-learning-disability Social sites MUST be a conversation, and all conversations require 2 or more human parties. So instead of typing corporate marketing speak, you should instead focus on being an actual person. A good example of this is Google’s Matt Cutts. In addition to blogging about Google related things, Matt also blogs about geek related things. Matt’s twitter account regularly links to interesting articles from all around the web. He shows us that he actually has a personal side, allowing him to build rapport with all of his readers. Rapport is crucial.

That’s how you should use social networks. As a CEO or marketing manager you should be blogging, on twitter, and on all the sites like Facebook. You should also update these accounts regularly with both normal personal stuff and business stuff. You should be monitoring Google Alerts for your company and responding to comments on other social sites. You should even encourage your employees to do all of the same. Give them some leeway and see what they do. Most employees will do more productive than harmful things.

For more examples of companies who get it you can look at Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist who I’ve seen comment right here on this blog when I reviewed job search sites or Bob Parsons of GoDaddy. Both of these blogs regularly mention all kinds of current interesting things – not just news about their company. These are the guys who “get it.”

What about you? Does your company get it?

February 9, 2009

Enough With The Touch Screens

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 7:08 pm

Touch Screens are trendy, I get it – but that doesn’t make them the right choice in all of the latest gadgets.

When I had to pick up my parents from the airport today, I borrowed their new Minivan to do the job. I refuse to drive my Mazda on these winter potholes, and there’s no way there were going to fit in my Jeep. Aside from not being able to find the washer fluid button, the touch screen in the center console really annoyed me. I realized that I had to constantly take my eyes off the road as I tried to change radio stations on the freeway. It’s the same problem I have when trying to dial my iPhone while driving: There’s no tactile feedback.

I’m about as old school as a 27 year old can get. I can touch type in both regular and Dvorak. I can use the number pad and special symbols on a keyboard without looking, and I can even crunch numbers on a calculator without looking – that goes for regular and Polish layouts.

Before my iPhone I had a nextel i730. It didn’t have internet, and it didn’t have a touch screen. What it did have though was buttons. Buttons that had a raised dot on some of them so that I could feel my way around the keyboard. This meant I could effectively dial a number without looking. If I knew the order of somebody’s name in my contact list I could even hit “contact list”, down down down down, talk and select the right person. Thanks to the speakerphone, I didn’t even need to take the phone out of the cup holder.

I can’t do any of that now, and thanks to the trendiness of touch screens, I can’t even change a radio station anymore without looking at the screen. Now I’m seeing touch screen phones, mp3 players, laptops, cars, everything – and it’s making me sick. In most cases a touch screen isn’t the right answer. It may seem cool, but it’s also counter productive.

In my college days I worked at Wendys as a manager. When we switched to touch screens, order taking became a much longer process. Before the touch screens I could take an order without having to look at the screen. That meant I could have one hand out the window making change with a car while the other one pressed the corresponding buttons on the keypad. In fact, that method alone had my store setting multiple drive through speed records.

When the touch screens came in, there was no way to tell what you were pressing on the screen. The smarter employees quickly learned to just remember an order and type it all in after they made change for the car at the window, but the customer accuracy screen prevented that. People simply stopped ordering until they saw the last thing they said show up. Order taking went from averaging 6 seconds per car to averaging over 20 seconds per car. In addition, the screens quickly became all fingerprinted up and blurred on the most pressed areas. The average life of a screen became about 2 years.

Clearly, the touch screen didn’t work as good as the old fashioned typewriter style computers.

So before you start putting touch screens into places where they don’t make sense – think about it. Are you using a touch screen because it’s cool and trendy, or does it really make your product more usable?

February 5, 2009

Translate British iPhone App, and More New Stuff

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 5:39 pm

Just a quick note to say that I’ve officially launched the Translate British iPhone App. The App is similar to the NoSlang App only instead of being an internet slang dictionary, it’s a British to American dictionary. Go check them out, both apps are $0.99 in the App Store. If you do choose to buy a copy, please give it a review.

Having extra free time I’ve started to actually code again, so I want to recap some of the new sites I’ve launched in the last few months.

There’s Fail Pictures, which lets people browse, rate, and upload their own fail pictures. If you’re not familiar with that meme, it’s quickly sweeping the internet.

I also added WoW Slang to my family of slang sites. That means I now have internet slang, drug slang, World of Warcraft slang, British slang, and swear words. All of the sites are linked at AllSlang.com.

I also just launched a new text message site called TextSendr. It’s been over a year since I sold my previous text message site, and I’m taking a turn at re-writing the code from scratch. It’s amazing how many things you can learn when you undertake a project for the 2nd time and totally start over. The site’s pretty basic right now, but I’ve got some cool things planned for it.

I’ve got a few more ideas brooding, but I’m not ready to release anything on those yet, so stay tuned.

February 4, 2009

How To Fix The Economy

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:28 pm

If you haven’t noticed, the American economy is going to shit. The bailout isn’t working and things are just getting worse.

When I talked last year about fixing America’s problems I had no idea we were headed into the giant recession that we’re now facing. The bailout, designed to put more money in the hands of consumers, has just resulted in the banks tightening up loans and using the money for ill-conceived expenditures. AIG spent it on bonuses and vacations. BAC spent 10 million on a circus at the Super Bowl.

Instead of spreading the money, giving mortgages and creating jobs, the rich are simply hording money away. It’s having the opposite effect and things are just getting worse.

There’s a way to fix all of that though, and here’s how:

Eliminate the payroll tax for American Citizens
If you’re like me, the first thing you said when you got a job was “who’s this FICA guy, and why is he taking so much of my money?” Instead of throwing billions to the banks, that money would be better spent on subsidizing or eliminating the payroll tax. That would not only put extra money in the pockets of all hard working americans, but it would also give tax incentives to companies who hired citizens – as hiring a foreigner or off sourcing a $50,000 job would cost the company an extra $2-$3000/year in taxes. This would create spending a lot more than just giving money to banks would.

Let Companies Fail
I’m from the Detroit area, and the last thing I want to see is the auto companies fail – trust me. Sometimes though, you have to let companies go under so that better, more efficient ones can take their place. If Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, and all the others closed their doors right now there would still be an auto industry – eventually. There will always be a market for cars, and where there’s a market there’s a way to make money. It’s as simple as supply and demand.

The unions are working and the current companies are spending way more than they can afford to. Instead of propping up them, the government needs to let them fail. As much as it would hurt people and I don’t want to see it, it needs to happen. We live in a capitalist society with a free market, and we need to let that free market run it’s course. It’s not the government’s job to prop up failing businesses. It’s not the government’s job to get involved at all.

If the car companies do fail, new ones will take their place. These new ones won’t have workers making $30/hour to unpack parts from a box, and they won’t be spending 10 million per year on Viagra for retirees. The same holds true for the airline industry.

Change the Incentive Programs
The entire financial industry needs to change the way it rewards employees. Portfolio managers need to be paid over the term of the fund they manage – not just short term results. Mortgage brokers need to be paid their commission in installments over the term of the mortgage, not all at once at closing. This stops people from selling $500,000 homes to people making $40,000/year. That’s what got us into this mess.

Switch to a Flat or Fair Tax Program
I’m a big fan of the FairTax, and I think now is the best time to implement it. Here’s how it works: Eliminate the state and federal income taxes and start charging a higher flat sales tax. Something like 10-12%, but only on non essential goods. This means no tax on things like water, electricity, groceries, gas, and toilet paper. The system taxes those who spend while putting more money in the pockets of those who scrape to get by from paycheck to paycheck. You might be asking yourself, what are the tax implications of earning over £100k? As soon as you start earning over £100,000, you gradually lose your £12,570 tax-free Personal Allowance, pound by pound.

Fix The Roads
2 things got us out of the first depression: The Assembly line and Highways. Unfortunately, nobody wants to do that type of job anymore. As more and more people struggle to find work though, that should change. We spent all of the 1920’s building roads and highways everywhere – and now they’re not only falling apart but they’re inefficient. Detroit is the “Motor City” yet we don’t even have carpool lanes. We have redundant streets and freeways with exits every 1/4 mile that only lead to unnecessary backups. Instead of paying for SuperBowl circuses, let’s spend that money on fixing our infrastructure. We need better, more efficient roads, and public transportation that works. In some places (like my home town) we need start filling in the millions of potholes that have cost me 2 rims on my Mazda so far this winter. Fixing the roads will not only save money in the long run and reduce carbon emissions, but it will create tons of new jobs that put money back in flow.

February 3, 2009

SuperBowl Ad Anticipation

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:03 am

There’s lots of blogs out there talking about the best and funniest Super Bowl ads from the other day. There were some pretty entertaining ads, but one of them still sticks out in my head as being the most effective.

I’m talking about the Miller High Life ad. All 0:01 of it.

A few days before the Super Bowl, Miller put out a commercial talking about 1 second ads and told us to keep an eye out for theirs during the super bowl. Throughout the entire first half it’s all my friends and I could talk about. 10-12 of us sat there through every commercial break looking to see the ad. A few times we’d ask if somebody else saw it, or if we missed it. When it eventually came on, a few of us did miss it. Thankfully, it’s preserved forever online. Here it is if you haven’t seen it:

So why was this ad so great? The ad itself wasn’t great, but the hype was. Selling a product on TV has very little to do with the ad itself, and lots to do with getting people to talk about your product. I’ll probably never buy a Miller High Life (I’m more of a whiskey/bourbon man) but somehow I managed to spend an entire evening talking about it with 10 other people and then still sit down to write this post. If you ask me, that’s one hell of an effective ad.

How many other people do you think sat there like we did waiting to see what the 1 second ad was all about? Many of us saw Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, but now fail to remember what product they were selling – others even got to see a few seconds of porno – but I’d be willing to bet that none of us forgot the High Life ad.

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