Sunday, May 31, 2009


Just got a bunch of great job leads for that I am excited about. I was networked in to emailing a recruiter at SalesForce who has 14 positions open in her section. At the same time, I got an email from my old boss David Mosher (who was the CEO of my past employer Embark Corporation), telling me of an open position he had heard about that he thought I would be a good candidate for.

This is exciting. It means that there are certainly opportunities at SalesForce, and to be in contact with a recruiter from there makes it even more promising.

SalesForce is a definite leader in CRM and cloud computing. The sales team at my former employer, Embark, used to use it to manage prospects and they all raved about it. I've consulted for The Green Zebra, where we used it to manage client information that is to be published in their coupon books. I wrote a PHP middleware program to interface their front-end data gathering web form to SaleForce, so that the staff at Green Zebra would not have to enter client information in manually as they had to do in previous years. It would go from the client, to the web form, and then directly into SalesForce. Brilliant!

Looking forward to hopefully talking to SalesForce more about their open positions!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

In case the Murphy-Goode gig doesn't work out

If the real deal doesn't pan out, maybe I can get a lifestyle corespondent gig promoting bum wines? - as seen at " curl up to a heating duct and enjoy..."!

Cisco: "Liquid Crack". Also, since when is "red" a flavor?
Night Train: "sober to stupid with no roundtrip tickets available"
Thunderbird: "What's the word? Thunderbird!"
Wild Irish Rose: "Gimme a pint of rosie with a skirt" (aka paper bag)
MD 20/02: "BlingBling"

The video on this page is hilarious. I love the music (Mike Tyson's PunchOut on Nintendo if I am not mistaken?)

Thank you, for the humorous distraction --- and thank you Burnz for the tip.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Web 2.0 Marketing Strategy

I thought it was about time I posted my idea of a good Web 2.0 marketing strategy. It's a process I have followed in the past with consulting clients of mine, including Peas of Mind and Dr.David E Smith. I thought I'd also tailor this posting to show what my plan would be should I be selected for Murphy-Goode's Lifestyle Corespondent position.

1. Blog: First and foremost, there must be a BLOG. The blog should be updated at minimum once a week, but more often if possible. I would aim for 3 postings per week, with at least one of them having some substantial writing to it (as opposed to just posting a video clip or some pictures). Everything else will revolve around the blog. The blog will be the main focus of the strategy because it is a forum that we can fully control. I'd recommend subscribing to a premier blogging service such as TypePad. Allowing readers to Digg content can expand exposure as well. Having other company websites feed into the Blog is also helpful. It's no easy task to maintain a blog by writing interesting articles, frequently!

2. Twitter: There must be a Twitter account. Update often with things that are current and going on around the business and in the industry. It is important not to always plug products though, or else followers will become wary. Sharing links to new information is important, and linking to the Blog is important. Take pictures often via a mobile device and post them in real time via a service such as TwitPic, so that followers can easily see the photos from their Twitter client.

3. Facebook: Personally, I am not a big fan of Facebook and could do without it - but it is such a big part of social networking that we can't ignore it. Maintain a fan page, and link it to Twitter so that updates on Twitter will automatically update the status on Facebook. This will save you from having to post something twice. Periodically, we should upload photo albums and/or videos. We can also periodically send messages out to followers to announce new products or events. If a budget exists, we could create ads very easily to help increase the page's exposure and the fan base.

4. Flickr: In addition to the occassional TwitPic shot, I'd like to take lots of still photos and have them upload to a Flickr photo stream. This will just add a little more photographic documentation than TwitPic is able to offer, and the content can be presented in different places or referred back to for historical purposes. If possible I'd like to be able to have the photos I take simply upload in real time by using an eye-fi card, so there is no need to wait until I can get to a computer to upload them.

5. YouTube or Vimeo or Seesmic: In addition to taking photos, I have really started to taken an interest in video. I'd like to be able to upload both candid and edited video pieces from special events, occasions, or even just fun times in the tasting room (where I'd plan to spend a lot of time pouring so I can talk to and meet customers). I'm still torn on which service to use to post the videos. I like Vimeo better than YouTube, but YouTube is more widely used currently. I like Seesmic b/c people can respond and interact (video conversation). I may have to use a combination, where videos that I don't expect responses on go to Vimeo/YouTube and ones where I want followers to interact I use Seesmic.

6. Webcam: Gotta have a webcam!!! Maybe a tasting room webcam, or a production webcam, or a harvest webcam? Whatever is going on, if I am going to be there for a long period of time, I'd like to set up a webcam. To be successful it is something that has to be set up for at least several hours, or preferably throughout an entire day. Having a real time video feed can be an awesome supplement to Twitter updates. If something going on with the webcam is worthy enough, we could even tape it for future submission to YouTube or Vimeo.

7. Bandwidth: For Murphy-Goode's position specifically, there will need to be WiFi in most of the company locations; if it is not there already. In addition to WiFi, it would be a good idea to have a reliable service that can connect me to the Internet from almost any location. I would choose Verizon Wireless Mobile Broadband. This will allow for almost anywhere updates.

8. Respond to People: Finally, and most importantly, it will be necessary to spend time responding and interacting with people. Although there is opportunity to do this while "out in the field", to be truly comprehensive one will need to be able to sit down every day or every other day and respond to inquires, thank people for support, and make sure no one has been ignored. Spend time on other people's blogs and spread relevant information from them to your followers. If possible, try to secure a place as a 'guest poster' on a written blog or an interview on a video/audio blog. Sharing content from others helps you 'make friends' in the web 2.0 world, who will usually reciprocate by helping spread your messages.

As time goes by, and as technology and trends advance, it is necessary to continually re-evaluate your strategy. Staying ahead of the curve is also part of the plan.

Be frequent, be interactive, be real!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wine Tasting 101

I realized this past weekend while I was up in wine country, that the process of wine tasting has become second nature to me. I am fortunate to live in a part of the country (Northern California) where wine and the opportunity to go to a winery for a tasting is abundant. I realized however that wine tasting might not be so familiar to everyone, and perhaps even intimidating, so I thought I'd log a few pointers in my blog.

First off, wine tasting is not just about "taste". It's meant to be a multiple sensory experience. You should not only focus on what you are tasting, but also on what you are seeing and smelling. Although there is a certain etiquette to it, the process is very simple and has become much more casual in recent years. So when you go to winery, here's how it will go down:

1. You show up at the bar and let the server know you'd like to have a tasting. Many times the tasting is free, however more and more wineries are beginning to charge for tastings. In the range of $10 per "flight" of tastings is not uncommon. You may be able to select a "reserve" tasting instead for an additional cost ($15?), where they will pour you low production wines or wines of older vintages. If you've never been to the winery where you are at, you may as well start with the regular pour. You are not obligated to buy a bottle, however I always feel like I should if the tasting was free and there was something I liked (and the price is agreeable). It is not rude, however, to say "thanks" and leave without buying anything. Some wineries that charge for a tasting will take the cost of the tasting and deduct it from a bottle purchase, which I always appreciate and think all wineries should do when they charge for a tasting!

2. You will receive a glass to begin your tasting. You will usually start with the sweetest white and work your way to the dryer whites, then the lighter reds to the darker reds. If the winery, for example, doesn't produce whites then you might taste just the lighter reds to the darker reds. Contrary to what it may seem, it is NOT necessary to wash your glass out with water between each taste. That is not to say you should mix wines (you should not). If your glass is empty but just coated with the previous wine, you are ready for the next wine in the flight without it ruining the taste of the next wine. The one exception is going from white to red. Once you go to red wine, if for some reason you go back to white - then you should rinse your glass to avoid getting a "rosé" inadvertently. (Real rosé is in fact not a blend of red & white wines but rather made from red wine grapes, but the skin is remove shortly after fermentation begins).

3. You will notice "spittoons" and usually a water pitcher on the bar (maybe even some crackers if you are lucky!). You are not obligated to finish everything they pour you, and it would not be considered rude to pour something out if you don't like it or if you don't want to finish it for some reason. If you don't like it, no need to make a face or bad comment, just pour it out and carry on. Some people will say that it is ok to physically spit something out into the spittoon. While this is true in a professional wine tasting scenario (so the taster does not get drunk and end up with impaired judgment), I'm not so sure it would be appropriate at your casual wine tasting. What I would do instead is swallow the taste, and break the "no water" rule above and have a drink of water to chase it.

4. During the tasting what you want to do is use sight and smell, as well as taste. Take the wine and hold it up to the light, and admire the color and clarity. Swirl it around in your glass a little and take a big sniff from the top of the glass and admire the aroma. Take a look again and look at the "legs" of the wine. The legs or "wine tears" are little drops that form at the top of where the wine coated the inside of the glass. They slowly trickle down like tears on the inside of the glass (seen in the picture at left, in the glass' reflection). Scientifically, the legs indicate alcohol content - even though the common belief is that they indicate wine quality. In fact, they have nothing to do with quality but I find them enjoyable to watch nonetheless. Ok now, you've got the sight, you've got the smell, now take a taste!

5. In tasting a wine, critics will often find taste comparisons to other fruits or herbs. There is a great description on this Wikipedia page of common sensory descriptions based on wine variety. You don't have to always agree with what the critics or the wine maker suggest, and in fact, you may sense something completely different. As an example, recently I tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon where the wine maker sensed a taste of leather. I did not taste the same thing. He was smart about it though, and only told me what he thought after I told him what I thought - so as to not influence my interpretation of what I was tasting.

6. Sometimes there are dessert wines available to taste. They are usually very, very sweet. I would recommend tasting those last, just like with actual dessert. The sweetness could alter the way everything after it tastes. It would be a good idea to rinse your glass with water before and after tasting a dessert wine, especially if it is going across colors (red to white or visa versa).

Part of what is spectacular about tasting wine is finding something that YOU like. That is really the secret to wine tasting. Just because something was rated a 90 by Wine Spectator doesn't mean that you have to like it. Just because something costs $100/bottle doesn't mean that you have to like it. In fact, if you find a $10 bottle of wine that you like - I'd say you scored and you should buy a case immediately! It's really all about what YOU get out of it, and not what the experts think. The more you taste, the more you will learn to appreciate the differences in various wines.

Here's another good article on wine tasting 101 from (Sonoma County, California). It's an overall great site from the beginning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Muprhy-Goode Job Applicant - @cgiven

Ok it is done. I submitted my application and video for the Murphy-Goode Winery's, A Really Goode Job. I saw the opportunity first on either sfgate or Twitter, the day they had the kickoff event in downtown SF. I thought about it half wittingly, but really became inspired when I saw some of the boring videos that were being submitted! There are definitely a lot of requirements for a mere 60 second video, but the one requirement I thought people were missing the most was, "It should be entertaining". "Put up, or shut up", I thought to myself. So, here it is:

Some interesting facts about my video:
  • I wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this video. Other than valuable feedback from friends and family on draft videos I created, I did everything myself. (see feedback credits below)
  • The equipment I used to shoot was a Canon Powershot SD770IS Digital Elph and a stand (pictured below with my niece). I used iMovie software on a Mac to cut the video.
  • The idea for this came to me in a dream. I dreamt I made a video of me downing a full, huge glass of wine as quick as I could while spilling it all over my shirt.
  • I actually tried to down a huge glass of wine as part of the video, but I could not do it fast enough. (I used water instead of wine to time myself)
  • To not waste wine, I replaced the wine in some shots with watered down apple juice that I painstakingly compared in appearance to Murphy-Goode's Fume (which I drank later).
  • I needed another wine bottle as a prop, and noticed unknowingly and conveniently; an empty bottle of Murphy-Goode Fume in my sister-in-law's recycling (she lives downstairs from me). Score!!!
  • My cat Lucy is usually a royal pain, always begging for food or attention. However, she slept the whole day I shot the indoor scenes. I had to wake her up for her cameo appearance. She wasn't happy.
  • The vineyard shots were at Ksyrahsyrah Vineyards in Napa,CA (with permission from the owners - special thanks to The Osgoods)
  • I had to shoot the vineyard shots on 2 different days, b/c the shots I took on the first days were sub-par in draft feedback from friends. After some tips, I went back for a 2nd day of shooting and battled sun and wind. I took over 50 takes for several hours for about 15 seconds of video.
  • I found out later that the vineyards were sprayed the night before. No wonder I felt light-headed afterwards.
  • The indoor shots were all done in my flat in San Francisco.
  • The music is "Grateful Dawg" by David Grisman & Jerry Garcia (purchased legally from iTunes specifically for this video, b/c I could not find the CD I thought I had of it.). The song also came to me in my sleep.
There was definitely a lot of project management involved. Before even picking up the camera, I wrote a detailed script with each scene getting a specific amount of time so I would properly plan for exactly 60 seconds. I even timed myself saying a bunch of different lines to see how long it would take me to say them. The planning definitely paid off, as it makes shooting much easier when I had an idea of what to shoot and the time constraint for the particular scene I was shooting.

After I made my first cut, I put it up on my own website and invited a select group of friends and family to view it and give me feedback. The final cut did not change much in context from the original, but it definitely got fine tuned. This was one of the most important phases. Not only did it give me validation in what I was doing, but some corrections and creative ideas came out of it. I am definitely a big advocate of not working in a bubble for just this reason. Special thanks to @craisin, @brentium, Julia, Suzanne, Noel, Dad, Aunt Janet, Alice, Cathy, Rupert, & David for all your feedback.

Ok now it's time to talk some smack! Some people submitted some really, really bad and boring videos. So, for all of you people who didn't even try, here is The Murphy-Goode Job Applicants Video Fail Guide, featuring a list of trends and observations I noticed in other people's videos that drove me nuts:
  • Hand held cameras (this isn't the Blair Witch Project) - FAIL!
  • Noticeably reading from a script (you can't memorize a little or wing it?) - FAIL!
  • Drinking wine on camera and giving a cheesy expression of satisfaction afterwards (the most boring 10 seconds your audience ever watched) - FAIL!
  • Talking about how much you love wine (uhh, DUH!) - FAIL!
  • Using less than 60 seconds (Really? You couldn't fill up 60 seconds?) - FAIL!
  • Not including a *video* of yourself in your video (they didn't ask for a Powerpoint presentation) - FAIL!
  • Saying something cheesy and inspirational, like you are reading it off of the back of a wine bottle (Even wine makers laugh at some of the things that get put on the back label) - FAIL!
  • Putting credits with links at the end of your video (Did you also give them these links in your application? I bet you did. You just wasted 10 seconds of video on something no one will read) - FAIL!
  • Not being entertaining, at all - FAIL!
That's all folks. I really enjoyed this as a project, and I really REALLY hope to make it into the next round. The video competition is starting to heat up as compared to the first few weeks, as I'm seeing much more creative content submitted. If at the minimum with this experience, I learned a lot about making a video and how to better operate my camera. Now I want to start taking more video than photographs! May need a bigger hard drive, as my materials for this 60 second video alone were close to 1GB!

Update 5/22/09:
Go on over to Andrea at Andy's Goode Life Blog, who was kind enough to feature a guest posting from me about my video! Thanks Andrea!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

3 Ring Circus

So the other night, in a dream, an idea came to me for a potentially great video for the Murphy Goode Winery's A Really Goode Job contest. I had a video in mind already, but it was boring...just me talking about my qualifications, personality, blah blah blah. I think the video I dreamed about will be much more entertaining. Afterall, the idea here is to get noticed!

The "Goode dream video" as I call it, is currently in production. There are a number of videos already on YouTube from applicants. Most or plain and boring, like my original video idea, so I hope the "Goode dream video" will be far superior.

As they say, PUT UP OR SHUT UP!
(Give me a few days to complete it)

I like Hardy Wallace's video. At first I thought this was the stupidest video ever, but Hardy kinda grew on me -especially his catch phrase and how he says it "It's Murphy Goooooode!". Hilarious! What a goof ball! I bet Hardy would be a hoot to meet! Of all the videos submitted to date, I liked his the best.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Claude Moves! (a little)

A video of Claude the Alligator at the California Academy of Sciences moving, a little. I've never seen him actually move, until today. The conversation between Suzie and Lauren is humorous.

Claude Moves! (a little) from Craig Given on Vimeo.

L: Maybe he likes me mommy?
S: I think he does like you.
L: Why does he like me?
S: Because you look like a snack!
L: I'm not getting in there, Claude!
L: Now he's sad, 'cause I'm not getting in there

We are big Claude fans!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Harvest the Rain

If you want to take your personal contribution to a greener planet more serious (it starts at home), why not consider a rain barrel to help irrigate your garden and shrubbery?

I purchased one about 6 month ago shortly after moving into my new house, and since then I have not had to use my sprinkler system at all (granted, it is the rainy season). I have also seen a reduction in my water bill (see left). The key with rain harvesting is to reduce the amount of runoff water that the city has to process and to reduce consumption of potable water.

I would eventually like to install a drip irrigation system so that I don't manually have to water all of the plants, but for now I manually irrigate via the rain barrel every week or so. Unlike a sprinkler system which sprays water everywhere and is probably set to water too frequently, my watering is targeted so it reduces consumption and also helps with weed control by not watering unnecessary areas.

To help collect the water, I purchased a Garden Water Saver which helped me tap into my rain gutters. Most people put their barrel directly under the rain gutter, but I had to bring the water to the barrel given the configuration of my gutter runoffs and the confined space I have living in the city. You'd be surprised how quick the barrel fills up when it rains! (matter of minutes in a good downpour) I have a small urban space, so only need 1 barrel - but if you have larger property you can daisy chain multiple barrels.

The city of San Francisco has a Rain Barrel Program in which you can purchase a fully equipped rain barrel at a discount ($70 as opposed to $130). The barrel has necessary fixtures so you can attach a standard garden hose, and also comes with overflow equipment to help you keep overflow runoff away from your foundation. It's one per household and available at Cole Hardware. Just bring a copy of your SFPUC water bill.

You can also make your own rain barrel quite easily, but the hose fixtures are more challenging to install AND (most important) you need to procure a barrel for use or used in the food industry. You don't want to be spreading around chemical residue from industrial use barrels.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pay Consultants Promptly, Please

Since I have been out of traditional employment for 3+ months, I have ramped up efforts to do independent consulting work. I have several trusted clients who I have developed rapport with, but with extra time available - I have looked outside this circle of trust for new clients so that I could possibly come close to being able sustain myself financially between traditional employment positions.

Competition for such work is fierce. In order to compete, I price myself reasonably and try to make dealing with me as easy as possible. One such policy I have is not to charge anything upfront, but instead issue quotes for a defined amount of work and then collect on that quote after the work is complete.

Unfortunately, this system of trust does not always work in my favor. It may bring the client to me, but what compels the client to follow through on their commitment to pay (outside of common decency) when the job is completed to satisfaction?

I have had a few situations lately, with new clients, where work is complete but payment is lacking. Asking several times is not only uncomfortable, but brings more empty promises and excuses. I have had to make the decision to cut some of these clients, and still have not received payment. I can only ask so many times, and small claims court would only be a time hog and a 'feel good' victory.

Working and not getting paid is obviously a detriment to any business, but for the independent consultant (IC) it is devastating as this is the bread on my table. As it stands normally, the amount of work for IC's is not consistent month after month and sometimes even honest payments may take as long as a month to come through. The small bill from the non-threatening IC may not be a priority to a business having received the services, but it could very well be the lifeline for the IC.

A friend of mine does website consulting and had some advice for me. He offers hosting in addition to website consulting, so he retains a credit card for the hosting charges:
It helps that we offer hosting and accept credit cards. People are more likely to pay if they know we can shut down their website and accepting credit cards means there's no excuse.

We also require signed contracts and if we don't have a previous relationship with a client, we require a 50% deposit. If a client is flaky, we work off of retainer.

Nothing you can really do about collecting except for being persistent.
I am probably going to have to give up independent consulting, simply b/c I cannot seem to make the income steady enough to support recurring personal bills like mortgage, healthcare, utilities, etc. It is unfortunate, b/c I do enjoy IC work and believe I provide a valuable service to my clients - who may experience some difficulty in having to find and train a replacement.

The message here is to show your appreciation for your independent consultant by paying them promptly. It can sometimes be a thankless job, and to get a prompt payment is the best sign of appreciation you should show. For those who have been consistent with me over the months/years, I appreciate you now more then ever.