What is bitcoin? And why should I care?

bitcoin-book

Have you been hearing a lot about Bitcoin, but still not entirely sure what it is? This easy-to-read ebook answers the following questions:

  • What is Bitcoin?
  • Why should I care about Bitcoin?
  • How do bitcoins get exchanged?
  • Are bitcoins money?
  • Why should a business accept bitcoin?
  • Why should I personally use bitcoins?
  • What are the risks?

You can download the ebook at http://coindale.com/bitcoinbook.

For Bitcoin to hit the mainstream, it needs to address its gender issue

moneyhoney

image: freshphoto

Bitcoin has a woman problem that, unless solved, will keep it from hitting the mainstream as a medium of exchange, at least in the US. The following conversation is primarily aimed at the particular challenge Bitcoin faces in getting to mainstream adoption, and is not focused on the speculative rises and falls that have dominated the news cycles for the past few weeks in particular.

Right now (Dec 2013), the overwhelming majority of activity in the Bitcoin space is dominated by males. In doing a review of the market for consumer activity, and then comparing it to the market at large, it is clear that there is a significant gender gap that will need to be filled before Bitcoin can hit the mainstream as a payment mechanism in any meaningful way. Although all web statistics of this type are prone to some margin of error, these are certainly directionally correct. Read more at Coindale.

Andreessen Horowitz invests $25 million in Coinbase

Things just got very interesting in the bitcoin space. Andreessen Horowitz, never a firm to shy away from large bets, just invested $25MM into Coinbase. It looks like other current investors including Union Square Ventures and Ribbit Capital were also a part of the Series B raise. The story from AllThingsD:

“If you’re a bitcoin doubter, you might want to turn away. The doors to venture funding in bitcoin startups are about to swing wide open.
Andreessen Horowitz has led a $25 million Series B investment in San Francisco-based Coinbase, the companies are announcing today, in what may very well be the largest-ever venture investment in a bitcoin-related company. Coinbase previously raised nearly $7 million.
Existing investors Union Square Ventures and Ribbit Capital will contribute some cash, as well. And Union Square’s Fred Wilson and Andreessen Horowitz’s Chris Dixon are taking seats on Coinbase’s board of directors.”

Read more at AllThingsD.

Coinbase founders

Coinbase founders Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam (AllThingsD)

Macbook Air trackpad issue resolved

Just documenting this here for others, in case it’s useful. I have a 2012 (or maybe it’s early 2013) Macbook Air. This week, the trackpad started selecting everything, as if it was in permanent click-and-drag mode. This was maddening, and made it literally impossible to use the machine.

Trackpad y Teclado

image: cyfuss

I spent a couple of hours digging around the various forums online, as it appears this is a fairly common problem. I tried both the “remove it from power” trick (no dice) as well as a number of other remedies that were indicated, such as selecting and/or deselecting various options in the Accessibility menu. None of these worked. I hooked up a USB mouse as a workaround until I could get the machine fixed.

After hooking up an external mouse, I went online, got a Genius Bar appointment, and went in. The Apple store folks were able to confirm the problem and took the machine at about noon, saying it would be done by 7pm and that I’d get a call and an email when the work was done. They were going to replace the trackpad, and they had one in stock.

7pm last night came and went with no notice from the Apple folks, so went over to the store at opening time today. The trackpad had been replaced, work was complete, and the machine was ready. I just picked it up and am typing on it now. The problem seems completely fixed. (Bonus to boot: they cleaned the outside of the machine and keyboard area to showroom new…sweet! It’s like getting my machine detailed.)

My MBA is still new-ish, so the work was covered, but had I needed to pay for it, the total cost would have been about $90 (about $50 for the trackpad and about $40 for labor).

So: net-net for anyone who finds this post – this seems to be a pretty common problem, and a replacement of the trackpad might be indicated, instead of spending many hours on hunting down obscure folk remedies. It’s quite likely a hardware failure that needs to be replaced, but it can be done easily.

Talking ’bout my motivation

By way of a path through this whitepaper from Limelight networks and Digital Clarity Group, found an interesting presentation from this month’s Inbound Marketing Summit (#IMS13) that was created by Allen Bonde from DCG. Not only does Bonde’s presentation echo research we are seeing from the likes of Forrester and others that points to the reality of video channels becoming an increasingly important asset in the portfolio of B2B marketers, it also brings up an interesting model on the steps from engagement to action in the medium. In particular, Bonde outlines three phases of note: Inform, Connect and Motivate.

  • Inform: Tailored, simple and relevant content results in initial attention and gives the organization the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship

  • Connect: If your prospects, customers and influencers are spending time on social channels, your stories need to be reachable from social networks as well

  • Motivate: Simple, smart, responsive offers result in action

These three phases are critical, in my opinion. The things that drive initial engagement are either things that are educational or entertaining. (They’re the types of things that get saved or passed around.) As such, for a B2B marketer seeing to become a trusted advisor to her customers, skewing content toward the informational is a sensible route to take. Similarly, one needs to fish where the fish are. With social networks dominating the usage landscape, an organization simply can’t ignore their potential customers.

Which brings us to “motivation.” (And a brief mini-rant.)

As anyone who has been within earshot of me in the past couple of years can attest, I think it’s critical that we all actively work to end the process of “engagement for engagement’s sake.” On that note, “engagement” is a weak metric. In and of itself, engagement is near-worthless. What matters is the action that’s taken as a result of the engagement. That action can be the “next step” in the buying cycle, or it can be a request for further information, or it can be a phone call. But it needs to be something. The “counting metrics” don’t count anymore.

Check out the rest of Allen’s presentation here:

Lead generation and social marketing key for marketers, says Forrester

Forrester has published a detailed research report comparing the marketing approaches of over 200 organizations across a wide variety of industries including software, electronics, media, publishing and professional services (e.g. marketing, agencies, business consulting, etc.).

There were five key recommendations from Forrester in the report, which dug into the marketing approaches of organizations with between 50 and 2500 employees. These recommendations were:

  • Take lead generation as seriously as lead management – There was a significant opportunity for marketers to contribute to their business by focusing on “top of the funnel” lead generation activities. In most cases, conversion rates on leads were within expected norms, so focusing on getting more leads into the pipeline could significantly “move the needle” according to Forrester.
  • Get serious about social marketing – The Forrester quote on this one was spot on: “Social is not just an abstract and immeasurable buzz-generating tool. It’s an integral part of the lead-to-revenue management process – an engagement strategy that can have a measurable impact on lead generation.”
  • Get online and start using digital marketing techniques – The chart below shows that SMBs, in particular, keep going back to the well with “what they know” with respect to marketing approaches. Unfortunately, these approaches don’t scale. Digital is critical and organizations that want to survive need to get moving.
  • Use marketing automation to complement your CRM – Get leads, nurture them, ruthlessly qualify the leads and get them to sales. Process leads to success.
  • Don’t reactively cut the marketing budget in a down economy – The companies that outperform their peers continue to invest, and sometimes even double-down, during recessionary times.

One final bit of interest from the report was the set of tactics that organizations in the study were using to acquire new customers, as alluded to in the point above. All of the top tactics being employed by the marketers in this study were inherently not scalable, as they relied heavily on face-to-face channels.

marketing_techniques_customer_acquisition

What’s working in your organization for lead generation and customer acquisition?

You can download the report from the report sponsor Act-on.

How a meme spreads on LinkedIn

I always find it interesting when things get used in unexpected ways, like using a nutcracker as a bottle opener or using rice to dry out a smartphone that got soaked. So when I saw that Koka Sexton had run an experiment that sought to understand how a meme could travel on LinkedIn, I was intrigued.

What Koka did was share an on-brand and topical image into his LinkedIn network which, frankly, isn’t something one sees every day. In this case, the image was a riff on the Liam Neeson “Taken” character.

taken_linkedin_meme_koka_sexton

A couple of weeks ago, we linked to an article about how scientists had solved the fundamental problem in viral distribution of information. The research showed that seeding information into key groups in a network could significantly affect at what velocity and distance information spread throughout the network. Koka found that by sharing this type of content as a LinkedIn update, as opposed to the more typical link to external content, he was able to have an initial interaction with many more individuals than he typically would.

Perhaps even more interestingly, however, was Koka’s recognition that certain individuals in his network act as bridges between different parts of his overall network. (Social network analysis researchers measure this concept being a bridge or a broker as an individual’s “betweenness centrality.) In this case, he saw that many of the links to his third-degree network went through one of his colleagues and once the meme “jumped” into this other part of his network, it continued to propagate. This also showsthe strength of weak ties.

Once someone interacted with the meme, the most important thing was to take some form of action to take the first step in turning what could be a one-off engagement into the start of a business relationship. Four ways to do that included:

•   Liking their interaction

•   Thanking the individual for their interaction

•   Messaging the individual directly

•   Connecting with the individual on LinkedIn

“The idea isn’t to create the content, get engagement and then start pitching your product. The idea is that you share great things and then use the engagement to expand your network.” – Koka Sexton, LinkedIn

In reading the original post, it clearly cast the network that the meme traveled through into an explicit model of “1st, 2nd, 3rd degree connections.” While I know that’s how LinkedIn technically refers to individuals in the system, I don’t think I’d ever really used that frame as actively. When I look at the world, I typically didn’t go through the mental action of “do I know this person, or do I know someone who knows this person, or are they further away than that?”

A few key takeaways for me:

•   I’m definitely going to start to look for more instances where LinkedIn has worked as a medium through which information can travel, and not solely a place to build connections.

•   Need to do some more thinking on this “1st, 2nd and 3rd degree” framing of the world

•   Liam Neeson still kinda spooks me out a little bit with his intensity

What do you think? Have you seen other examples where this type of content achieved significant distribution through LinkedIn, as opposed to the more obvious venues such as Facebook or Twitter?

Bonus link: The voiceover is pretty funny

Mac Lethal fast-raps the news


(I also wanted to try out the Facebook embed post thing, just to check it out.)

How to be luckier

maneki-neko_lucky_cat

Weekends are usually “catch up on reading and drink a lot of coffee” days around the homestead, and last Sunday was no different. One of the most interesting things I came across was this article out of The Telegraph (UK) entitled “Be lucky – it’s an easy skill to learn.” In it, researcher Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, shares his findings of ten years of research into the differences between “lucky” and “unlucky” individuals. Based on his research, he feels that lucky individuals “generate good fortune via four basic principles.”

• They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities

• They listen to their intuition

• They create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations

• They adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good

Does this apply to business as well? Could these traits apply to organizations and organizational strategy, in addition to individuals?

The first point above reminds me more than a little bit of the OODA loop (“observe, orient, decide, act”), a concept developed by Air Force Colonel John Boyd. In the model of the OODA loop, the organization (or warrior) that can make it through all four steps of the loop faster than its opponent will have an advantage. Agility wins, and the more agile entity is the one that has more control of its own destiny vis-a-vis its competitor.

Notice the first “O” in the OODA loop is “observe.” This feels like it connects directly to the first point of Wiseman’s findings about luck, as both are tied to the concept of awareness.

The faster you can “observe” in the OODA loop, the more dogfights you’ll win. Similarly, the more you can notice opportunities, the more luck will come your way.

Entrepreneur and professor Steve Blank tells a great story in his post “Why startups are agile and opportunistic.” In it, he tells a representative story.

At a board meeting last week I watched as the young startup CEO delivered bad news. “Our current plan isn’t working. We can’t scale the company. Each sale requires us to handhold the customer and takes way too long to close.  But I think I know how to fix it.” He took a deep breath, looked around the boardroom table and then proceeded to outline a radical reconfiguration of the product line (repackaging the products rather than reengineering them) and a change in sales strategy, focusing on a different customer segment. Some of the junior investors blew a gasket. “We invested in the plan you sold us on.” A few investors suggested he add new product features, others suggested firing the VP of Sales. I noticed that through all of this, the lead VC just sat back and listened.

Finally, when everyone else had their turn, the grey-haired VC turned to the founder and said, “If you do what we tell you to do and fail, we’ll fire you. And if you do what you think is right and you fail, we may also fire you. But at least you’d be executing your plan not ours. Go with your gut and do what you think the market is telling you.  That’s why we invested in you.”  He turned to the other VC’s and added, “That’s why we write the checks and entrepreneurs run the company.”

Photo sharing site Flickr is a great example of a company that made its own luck early in its days. Out of the gate, Flickr wasn’t a photo sharing site. Flickr actually started out as a mutliplayer game called “Game Neverending,” a web-based, massively multiplayer game. However, the observation that the most engaging part of the game was actually the photo sharing component resulted in refocusing the 11-person team from game development to create the photo sharing pioneer that was later sold to Yahoo!

The Flickr story certainly seems to hit all four points of Wiseman’s definition of “lucky,” does it not? The founders were observant enough to notice the opportunity (check). They listened to their intuition (check). They had positive expectations (check). They had a resilient attitude – “we can do this!” and not “our game doesn’t work” (check).

So. Are you going to get lucky this week?