Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reflux, Endoscopy and My Fears

I've always had a bad stomach. But I have really bad heartburn. At times I feel like I'm having a heart attack. The pain in my chest is so bad that sometimes I'm virtually incapacitated. I've taken Nexium which really helped. Then United Healthcare didn't support Nexium (bastards), so now I'm on Prilosec, which isn't doing as good of a job.

For years, Doctors have suggested I see a GI doctor. So has my wife. But every time the discussion has come down to getting an endoscopy and that's where the conversation stops every time. I have a terrible gag reflex. I haven't even gotten a throat culture in 20 years because I don't want to strangle the doctor. So the thought of having a scope being put down my throat paralyzes me with fear and anxiety.

Now I know that it's the right thing to do. I've heard about the possibility that the reflux could lead to esophageal cancer and other ailments. I've had several friends and colleagues tell me I should and they have stories about other people who have done it. I have not lost sight of the fact that none of them have had the procedure done themselves, but it is all good counsel.

So yesterday I finally broke down and went to a GI...just to talk. I was hoping he would have said the barium milkshake test was enough, but damn him to hell, he said I need the scope (even worse he suggested that in addition to having cut caffeine out of my diet, that I should cut out chocolate!! Heresy I say.). He told me about all of the sedation choices...all of which are conscious sedation options. I was hoping to get general anesthesia and not have to worry. I just don't know if even hopped up on Valium I can even deal with seeing them put the scope down my throat, even if I don't feel it.

So now I have to make a choice. Any thoughts from my legions of loyal readers (besides my wife)?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Isiah's Anniversary

There are plenty of articles out there talking about the recent passing of the one year anniversary of Isiah Thomas' 4 year contract extension with the Knicks. In one of the articles by Alan Hahn in Newsday, it noted that the Knicks are 23-61 since the extension. That's actually 2 games worse than the Knicks' record under Larry Brown for which he was fired. Evident progress? Methinks not.

The "Fire Isiah" watch continues, but nothing will change as long as "Crazy Jimmy" Dolan is still running the circus...including Isiah's tenure.

Should Your Company Blog - A Conversation with AMR

Yesterday I had an analyst briefing with Dana Stiffler and Phil Fersht at AMR Research, along with my company's CEO, talking about the latest trends with "captive R&D centers" in India, China and around the world. Happily, the meeting went very well (at least from my perspective).

After the briefing was over, Dana and I were talking about a few other subjects and blogging came up. Apparently, AMR is contemplating a corporate blog, but there's a lot of concerns internally about the appropriateness of a blog from an analyst firm. Dana asked my advice and I thought I'd share it with everyone.

For almost any company a blog can be a great tool to disseminate thought leadership and market your company. But of course it requires that you have something smart to say and people who can write well. AMR clearly has both. Their analysts are smart and articulate or they wouldn't have a very long shelf life. I mentioned that they much more advantaged than most companies, and certainly my own, where even with almost 3500 people, there are relatively who have an interesting and engaging point of view and even fewer who also have the writing skills to make the posts something that people would want to read and come back for more.

I told Dana that from a marketing perspective I thought the blog could be great -- getting a glimpse of what AMR analysts have to say would make people who aren't customers intrigued about becoming one. Bruce Richardson's "First Thing Monday" column exactly that. Lord knows at least once a week there is "locked" article referenced in FTM that I'd like to read. And now I'm talking to them about signing up for the service.

Secondly, the blog format would allow them to respond to news far more rapidly than having to write a more lengthly, formal report that has to go through AMR's approval process for published content. Interestingly, it seems that the lack of the formal approval process is the key reason behind the resistance to the blog at AMR. Frankly, I think the ability for an analyst to post a 'dissenting opinion' or at least an alternate view from the official AMR pronouncements would be awesome. It would enrich the dialogue and provide additional information and context for readers to assess the impact of the issue in question. I think that if it works for the Supreme Court, it would work for AMR.

So if you're deciding whether to create a blog for your company, the common sense advice is yes -- providing that you will have something engaging to say and that you can keep it up. You need multiple contributors to ensure you're posting at least twice a week. But if you have enough people and can spread out the responsibility, it's pretty easy to sustain.

At the last ITSMA event I had a chance to talk with Larry Weber, founder of W2 Group and Weber PR (pick up Larry's latest book "Marketing to the Social Web"). Given my situation of 3500 engineers in India, I asked what his advice was about who should be allowed to blog. He said to open up the floodgates because you never know who has something smart to say. It may be good advice, but I'm not sure that I'm going to heed it. At least not right out of the box. But depending on your situation, it might be the right move.

There are a million other people who are more qualified than me to give advice on this. Talk to your PR agency, colleagues and peers. Get involved in local groups like the Social Media Club or PRSA.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

West Wing and the 2008 Democratic Nomination

Is it just me or is it ironic that the brilliant TV show "The West Wing" which many saw as a homage to the Clinton Administration is coming back to bite Hillary in the ass?

The parallels between the Jimmy Smits character, Matt Santos, and Barack Obama are stunningly similar, just swap black for hispanic. His ability to stick with his convictions, stay above the political fray and provide a hopeful message for the future of the country is exactly the same storyline that Obama is playing out. With any luck for the country, the ending to the 2008 Presidential campaign will end the same way as the series did.

Pope Benedict Keeps Turning the Clocks Backward

Maybe I'm the only one who does this, but often there are articles or Op-Ed's in the paper that I don't get a chance to read, so I rip them out and save them for later. Well I just read an Op-Ed from James Carroll who is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. I love his stuff.

The piece entitled "Reviving an old insult to the Jews" was published on Feb 18th and is a great read. In it Carroll talks about the Vatican's recent decision to reauthorize the "so-called Tiedentine Mass. This "what was old is new again" Latin mass again portrays Christianity as superceding Judaism and calls for Jews to convert. The original text that the Vatican approved "resuscitated the conversion insult, praying on Good Friday that God 'lift the veil' from 'Jewish Blindness'. Catholics and Jews objected and the language was modestly scaled back to say that Catholics should still pray that God may "enlighten" the heart of the Jews "so that they may recognize Jesus Christ, Saviour of all Mankind". Yeah, that's a lot better.

It's amazing to me that in today's day and age where Catholicism is on the decline and multi-culturalism is flourishing, that Pope Benedict XVI is trying to return to the 1600's to try to keep Catholicism relevant, as if by repudiating the legitimacy of other religions will strengthen his own. I think that many will have the opposite response. Carroll finishes the article nicely stating:

"Something is wrong with that development [Vatican II's Nostra Aetate condemning the idea that jews could be blemed for the murder of Jesus, and affirmed the permanence of God's Covenant with Israel], now say Vatican reactionaries. To which the people reply, "No, What's wrong is you'."

Experience and the Democratic Nomination

I was talking with my colleague Jerry Smith today about the latest turn of the Democratic presidential race. Jerry is a conservative Republican, so he's really enjoying all of this...and like many GOP faithful are praying for Hillary to win the nomination.

One of the subjects we discussed was all of the hullabaloo about Clinton's claims that she has the experience to take the 3am phone call and Obama doesn't. It's all crap. It's not as if Obama, or any President for that matter, will live in seclusion and make all the decisions by themselves. There will be advisors everywhere: NSC, Pentagon, Secratary of State, etc. It's the quality of the team that you can build that makes any enterprise successful. Great CEO's don't know the ins and outs of every element of their businesses and neither do great Presidents. Was Reagan an expert on any issue? Probably not. But he was a great leader and surrounded himself with experts.

Hillary touts her 8 years in the White House. Jerry quipped that he heard someone in the media (undoubtedly Fox News because he doesn't accept that any other media exists) that using that logic, a chef who served in the White House can make the same claim. Now I do not doubt that she was far more involved in the Clinton White House than the chef, let's not confuse lunch with Tony Blair's wife with foreign policy experience either. Hyperbole works both ways.

Now Bill Clinton is widely lauded as a great President. Interestingly he was the same age as Obama when he ran for President and did just fine. Jerry noted that he's usually go with someone with gubernatorial experience over a Senator. He thinks the executive experience goes a long way (editor's note: Jerry was a Mitt supporter. We all know how that turned out).

Let's look at Bill's experience prior to entering the White House (we will skip the extramarital encounters segment, but clearly that experience didn't help either when you consider that as the most powerful man in the world he hooked up with Monica). So what was Bill's great accomplishments at Governor of Arkansas -- finishing 49th out of 50 states in education? Did dealing with the backwaters of Arkansas provide any special insight into dealing with third-world countries.

And finally, I think that all Democrats can agree that experience doesn't necessarily lead to good results or good judgment. Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld served in government for years. So did our friend "Brownie". 'Nuff said.

She Ain't Getting My Vote

As are many Obama supporters around the country, I was disheartened by the results from Tuesday. I was shocked at the outright drubbing Clinton gave Obama in Ohio.

But as McCain sealed the GOP nomination on the same day, I came back to what Obama said a few weeks ago: "I'm confident that I'll get all her votes, but I don't think that she'll get all of mine". I realize that I'm a sample size of n=1, but I think he's right. She's certainly not getting my vote if she gets to the general election.

Thoughts from Forrester B2B Marketing Workshop

A couple of weeks back I attended Forrester Research's B2B Marketing Workshop at their headquarters in Cambridge, MA. Overall it was a good review of some of their recent research, but very little in terms of helping make actionable improvements in how I do my day job. The folks at Forrester said that the details come at other events, but when someone puts the word "workshop" in the title of an event, I expect a little more. Maybe that's just me.

But it's not to say that the day wasn't without value. There was a few good exercises and examples of successful integrated marketing campaigns and SEO that was helpful and good ideas of what we could be doing.

A few days after the workshop, I had a meeting with Mike Gauthier of E-Tractions, a Boston area integrated marketing firm that also appeared on a panel at the Forrester event. As we were talking he asked me if I felt inspired by any of the ideas from the conference. I responded that I was torn between inspiration and depression. There were a lot of great ideas, but the realization that we're not doing near as many of them as we should was really depressing. Some of it was stuff that we didn't even contemplate doing, but a lot came down to not having the budget or internal resources to pull it off.

In any case, I'm going to do what we can, try to experiment and see what happens. Hopefully if we can show some good progress, we can "find" some more budget down the road.