Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged editorials

The secret to life is working to death, experts say

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

PROVO, Ut. — Want to get ahead in this world? Work lots of extra hours — even nights and weekends — experts say, and it will all be worth your while.

“It’s easy to forget what’s most important in life,” says Bill Loney, a certified life coach who hasn’t quite made it in life yet. “Family, friends, and social activities that can often inspire and enrich the life of an individual… these are all distractions in getting more work done,” he adds.

Emma Royds, who hasn’t stopped looking at her smartphone every five minutes for three straight years, councils that most people actually die wishing they had spent more time — not less — working. “People never regret working too much,” she says. “My neighbor opted to do adventurous, social, and fitness-related activities with family and friends in his spare time.

“Now 80, he told me recently he really wishes he would have spent more time on TPS cover sheets, obsessively trying to turn his company into the next big thing, and reading email during every waking hour of his life. It’s kind of sad, really.” Continue reading…

The exact moment I fell in love with soccer



In honor of the World Cup, which starts next week in Brazil, here’s how I fell in love with the game.

The year: 198X. I was at a friend’s house in a remote part of northern Oklahoma. We were watching Victory, a so-so Sylvester Stallone movie about a POW soccer team playing Nazi Germany during World War II. My buddy and I were no older than five or six at the time.

Not wanting to endure the feeble character and pre-game drama, we fast forwarded the VHS “through all the boring stuff” to get right to the climatic game. While the build up to said game will likely keep most adults engaged — more for its interesting plot than acting skills — the last 20 minutes of the movie is most triumphant.

Continue reading…

No turning back: How FiveFingers replaced cushioned running shoes

vibram fivefingers classic black

In 2009, I started running in the ugliest shoes ever. The first time I did it, my calves and feet ached in places they hadn’t before. The second time I did it, I knew I’d never run in cushioned shoes again.

With the exception to select frozen days of winter, in which I run in Nike Free 3.0s to stave off frost bite, I’ve run in Five Finger Classics (pictured) or KSOs ever since. Here’s why: Continue reading…

My favorite music of 2010

Those who know me well know that I love music. In terms of audio/visual entertainment, nothing compares. Not movies. Not games. Definitely not TV.

When opening it up to all forms of entertainment, music is right up there with books and dancing. In other words, if an armed man asked me which I’d prefer, I’d have a really hard time and probably die trying. What’s more, the latter is virtually impossible to enjoy without music.

That said, this is the new music I most enjoyed last year. New to me, at least. Call it my top bands, whatever. I had this stuff in heavy iTunes rotation last year: Continue reading…

10 reasons my dad is awesome


I forgot my Dad’s birthday yesterday. Maybe I should start consulting my calendar on weekends again. Or plan accordingly when something important doesn’t fall on a weekday.

In any case, here are 10 reasons I love my Dad. Yup, I said love. But I say that in a man-to-man sort of way. If that makes any sense. Which it doesn’t. So just read on. Continue reading…

World Cup teams with foreign coaches are going to get bit, if they haven’t already

I’m no conspiracy theorist. But I do believe in conflicts of interest. Which is why if I would never hire a foreign national team coach, like many modern soccer nations do.

I understand it’s faster to import coaching talent than to develop it yourself, something which can lead to immediate improvements. But let’s suppose England faces Italy in the World Cup final this summer, which is what they will do if both teams win their groups and go all the way.

England is led by Italian coach Fabio Capello. I’m sure he’s an honest man and all. And it’s doubtly he’d sabotage his employer by somehow jeopardizing said game. But the possibility of temptation is very real, solely because he is not a home grown coach. Never mind his proximity to Sicily.

With so much on the line then, why would a national team (of any sport) ever risk that?

I’m sorry we can’t make a deal. Please don’t heckle me.

As a self-employed individual, I’ve closed a lot of deals. Seven years worth, in fact. Enough to make me a thousandaire. But I’ve lost a lot more than I’ve won, something that’s expected in business.

What isn’t expected, however, are the rare occasions when a prospective buyer ridicules me for not meeting his terms. It usually happens like this: Buyer probes, likes what he sees, and then starts asking questions. We talk. I name my final price. He doesn’t like my final price.

But instead of walking away, like most sane buyers do, this buyer hangs around, and suddenly decides he no longer likes the free market. Continue reading…

Top 5 reasons video games don’t look as good as you think they do

From doctored screenshots to recorded animations, in-game graphics often underwhelm

madden-2005-bullshot-comparisonLeft: Screen capture of a Madden 2005 trailer. Right: The final game, which looked noticeably worse.

Video games are a delight. In my eyes, they’re better than television, and right up there with books, movies, sport, and music as pastimes. But since their beginning, games have held a dirty little secret: they never look as good as advertised. Here’s why: Continue reading…

Americans react to congressional passage of unpopular healthcare bill

_imageDemocrats in the House of Representatives last night approved a controversial healthcare bill, written and approved by Senate democrats in December. The president is expected to sign the bill into law on Tuesday, “then hit the road to sell it to a reluctant public,” reports the Associated Press. Here’s how those in favor of reform have responded to the unpopular bill:

  • Why would any damage control be necessary if this bill is so good and will do so many good things? Why did it take a year to pass and why was it passed without any Republican input or votes? How come the people in the party that crafted it needed to be bribed and bought off to vote for it?
  • This bill should have been broken into smaller single elements, each being its own bill, then voted on.
  • I want reform, but smart reform. Not this.
  • The reason we think Washington is dysfunctional is not that nothing gets done, it is because Washington does not listen to those who put them there. Had they scrapped the bill and fixed the things that are broken, no damage control would be needed.
  • And how does passing this make Washington functional? They passed it when nobody wanted it (in its form that passed). Wouldn’t that make it dysfunctional?????
  • It’s amazing the arrogance of the House to force this atrocious legislation through despite all the public resistance to it. Anyone who voted for it has no business even being elected again.
  • Congress ignored the people and now must suffer their wrath in November elections.

Of course, many Americans are elated with the bill, even though most agree it’s “imperfect.” And the bill is a step in the right direction on reigning in ridiculous health insurance policies. But it’s frustrating to see our politicians pass imperfect legislation just to get something passed. Why not wait until we get reform right before passing something? It boggles the mind. Good thing legislation isn’t reversible.

Remember when I almost killed myself running?

I like running.

With exception to an injury hiatus, I ran several times a week over the past two years. And since reading Born To Run, I do so enthusiastically (not begrudgingly like I once did).

I normally run continuously for 45 minutes to an hour. On occasion, two hours—whatever I feel like really. I don’t time myself or track miles—an act that makes running feel like work—I just run.

Two weeks ago, I was feeling especially light on my feet. When I left the house on an empty stomach that Saturday, I didn’t plan on running for three plus hours, but I did. I also didn’t take water or food with me, and nearly put myself in the hospital as a result.

Continue reading…

Actually, defense doesn’t win championships, dummy

soccer kick“Defense wins championships” is the dumbest thing you’ll ever hear in sports. Winning requires scoring and damage control, regardless of the competition. To prioritize the latter over the former is absurd. In fact, offense might be more important—not to mention more exciting to watch.

Pelé, the world’s greatest soccer player, also made this point in his biography (p. 280). Although his comments are directed at soccer, the same can be said of just about every other sport. “Why do I find fault with defensive football, when it obviously is the style preferred by many coaches throughout the world?” he says. “For one main reason: The only way—or certainly the most possible way—to score goals is if your team is in possession of the ball. Continue reading…

Incredible: Unread email actually waits for you on your computer!


OREM, Utah — After four convenient but usually bad-habit forming years, I canceled my Blackberry email/data plan with T-Mobile last week. To my surprise, I was amazed that my email would actually wait for me on the computer, as opposed to following me around wherever I went. Now, if I’m away from my desk, my email will tell me how many unread messages I have upon my return, so as not to overlook anything. (Some fancy email programs even support audible alerts, such as “You’ve got mail!” Really neat stuff.)

In a flurry of discovery, and in search of more answers, I asked a representative of ARPANET, the inventor of email, for comment. “The great thing about email is that it’s free, provided you don’t give money to your cell phone provider for the same service,” the spokesman said. “And unlike the Post Office, you don’t have to put a hold on your mail if you’re away, say on nights and weekends. If it fits, it ships—which is all the time.”

Continue reading…

You’re never too busy for people

I have found, as many before me, that with age comes added responsibility and a much larger to-do list. I’m arguably busier than I’ve ever been in my life with managing a marriage, a new baby, a company, and working on several other projects. Opportunity surrounds us, and I want to take it all in. I hope to learn, experience, and do as much as I can (or even can’t sometimes) throughout my life. I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people, learning new things, and finding other ways of applying the little that I know.

While pondering all of this on my way to Salt Lake City this morning and after catching myself saying “I’m so busy,” to those around me, I couldn’t help but think how this claim might sound to the receiver. Does that phrase add any value to the person listening? Does that make them feel important? If it doesn’t, then do away with it. Continue reading…

Don’t retire, vacation several times a year until you die

I have never believed in traditional retirement, the complete withdrawal from one’s occupation, business, or office near the end of one’s life. It’s a pipe dream. As millions of ex-retirees quickly realize after an uneventful year on the beach, idleness never was happiness.

But leisure and periodic breaks from work are an important part of life. When used properly, regular vacations can inspire and rejuvenate a willingness to work harder. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be rich or wait until the end of your life to vacation. Here’s how: Continue reading…

Would SSN verification fix U.S. immigration?


I think every hard-working individual who desires should be able to live in the United States. Unfortunately, that’s not as easy as it should be for people trying to get in by the book, because illegal immigration is so rampant. Call it the emigrant’s plight: they want to get into the country, but our system is so broken, they either abandon (or postpone) the American Dream or risk deportation by going undocumented.

Continue reading…

Let’s call the stock market what it really is: speculation

The British had it right at one time. During the 19th century, their culture viewed stocks and securities exchange as a less than noble venture, according to the writings of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens—like how you and I look upon multi-level marketing companies today. Appropriately, the stock market was widely known then as “speculation.” A theory. A guess. An unverifiable promise or conclusion.

At some point, investment sharks (don’t call ’em bankers) hijacked the accurate description of “speculation” to mean “investments,” “stock market,” and “Wall Street”—prestigious terms that sound nothing like the conjecture they represent. Smart people made money on changes in the fickle market, giving hope to uninformed individuals, who blindly followed and still lose the majority, if not all their money, every few decades. Some are lucky. Most are not.

Continue reading…

Three easy steps to getting your point across

(April 23, 2005) A message—whether an email, voice-mail, sticky note, or blog post—is just a mini presentation. It’s a way of conveying information to an audience. To effectively do so, I try to adhere to the following 3 principles.

  1. Be brief. Say what you need to say and nothing more. Keeping it simple will allow your audience to understand and remember what you want them to.
  2. Be detailed. In what you do choose to say, tell the audience specifically what they need to know, including quantities, hard deadlines, and delivery.
  3. Have structure. Write, record, annotate, say, or outline your message in an organized manner, so there is no confusion.

If you are brief, detailed, and structured when conveying information to an audience, your message will be loud and clear. Just be sure you have something important to say…

Boycott companies that beg for bailout money

They can take away my representation, but that can’t take away my purchasing power.

I’ve said it before, but it’s been frustrating to watch the ballooning growth of our national debt, after eight years of unprecedented ballooning. For a long time, it seemed as if I was powerlessness to what was going on—like I couldn’t fight back.

Not anymore.

Continue reading…

I’m sickened as an American taxpayer today


I have been against any type of taxpayer bailout or “stimulus package” since Congress and America’s most liberal-spending president first passed the $700 billion one in October. I even asked my representative not to vote on the bill, which he did anyway.

As the majority of Americans predicted (60% in both a CNN and Gallup poll), the bailout didn’t work, according to today’s report in The Washington Post. Banks aren’t lending the $200 billion they received from taxpayers back to taxpayers. How kind of them. Continue reading…

Do I like when people answer their own rhetorical questions? No.

I think rhetorical questions can be a persuasive and colorful form of language, but only when left unanswered.

I’m not sure how or when it started, but answering your own insincere rhetorical question seems to be increasingly popular these days, especially among public relation and business folk. Here’s how they do it: “Am I happy about [insert any controversial issue here]? No. But… [insert any justification here].” Worse still, rhetorical answer lovers will often string together three negative questions, followed by a mega justification. Dumb.

Good communication is concise and precise, replete with active voice and direct sentences. In other words, I don’t like when people answer their own rhetorical questions.

25 status updates you should never make on Facebook

ifacebookedyourmom.gifIf you’re a Facebook user, you know how fun status updates can be. The good ones give you specific insight into what your friends are doing, how they are feeling, and what they really think. The bad ones are vague, cryptic, menial (you just checked into some hotel — no one cares), and wouldn’t know wit if it punched them in the baby maker.

These, on the other hand, are much worse — 25 status updates you should never make on Facebook. Continue reading…

See what happens when you yell “Bomb!” in an airport…


Associated Press

… The world financial markets fall more than they would have, because financial markets are based entirely on confidence. And when you have intimidating officials like President Bush and McBama spreading FUD like, “the worst economic crisis since the great depression,” fickle investors will believe them, and global bank markets struggle.

I’m not saying there wasn’t a partial bomb to begin with — there was thanks to a greedy and irresponsible Wall Street — but that still doesn’t mean top officials can frighten the public with said statements just to bail out their Wall Street buddies who donated lots of money for special interest (which they succeeded in getting this time). Just like yelling “Bomb!” in an airport is illegal, so should it be for individuals in power crying “depression” just to get their way.

Continue reading…

Question: What do Bush, Obama, and McCain all have in common?


Answer: They all support $700 billion bailouts for reckless Wall Street investment banks. And they don’t care if taxpayers absorb the mistake, because taxpayers pay said officials’ mortgages.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but if that’s not proof that Wall Street has its hand in the pockets of big politicians, more so than normal, I don’t know what is.

And you’re kidding yourself if you think this country still runs a two-party system. There is no such thing as “Decision 2008.” McBama (aka big government) is going to win.

Nevertheless, make your voice be heard and write-in Ron Paul for president. If he siphons even just one or two states from The Nationalist Party next month, the publicity will further propel his message of the Constitution, free markets, greater state power, and responsible spending necessary to save the dollar.

My proven guide to dumping and avoiding fake friends

Real friends

Lindsey and I have been blessed with many genuine friends — ones that make us laugh, can celebrate our accomplishments, and extend considerate help.

This week, while visiting one such family, we discovered that they’ve been dealing with some “friends” that reputedly became envious and judgmental of our friends’ recent good fortune. For shame — time is too precious to waste on such superficial friends.

With that in mind, here’s my proven guide to ditching and avoiding fake friends, so you can better enjoy your days in the sun. Continue reading…

Against my will, I’ve become a “Sorry, I got a bad back” guy

I ruptured a disc in my lower back on July 4. I successfully ran a 10K that day, but the spine cushion (as it is called) blew due to genetics, not physical exertion, I’m told. The demanding event and requisite training only aggravated an already degenerative disc.

On Friday, I had a discectomy to cure the problem, which slices through my back, drills a hole in my vertebrae, and traverses the sacred spinal canal to remove the loose fragment that was pinning my sciatic nerve against my bone, causing pain throughout my entire right leg.

Continue reading…

UPDATE: Read this if you really want to understand the Georgia-Russia conflict

Though imperfect, The Associated Press is increasingly becoming one of the few U.S. media agencies that can be trusted for reliable news. After reading their thorough and objective report on the the South Ossetia conflict, I learned the following:

  • Two areas of Georgia have been operating independently (though unrecognized internationally) since the early 90s: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
  • Georgia last week invaded South Ossetia without warning in an effort to retake the region, citing previous provocation from South Ossetian militants.
  • Russia, out of nowhere, came to South Ossetia’s rescue, then starting invading other (unaffected) areas of Georgia without explanation or reason.
  • President Bush criticized Russia for the “disproportionate” military response “outside of South Ossetia,” suggesting approval with Russian aide in affected areas, but disapproval with Russian aggression in unaffected areas, obviously.

Something smells fishy — seems like everyone, including Georgia, Russia, and maybe even the U.S. are more concerned with those ginormous oil pipes in the war-torn country than the security of little old South Ossetia.

UPDATE: For additional commentary, be sure to read the comments on Digg surrounding this story. If American, you’ll uncontrollably laugh at how brutally honest some Diggers are, before blushing upon realizing how embarrassed you should be.

“Hey, I’m in the band!”

The Swing (2003)

Before high school graduation, a mission, college, marriage, two children, and a semi-real job, I was an aspiring rock star. I learned to play guitar and wrote my first song at age 14. I joined my first band (a trio named Formaldehyde) at 15, as singer and guitarist. We were kind of a big deal in po dunk Carrollton at the time (insert smiley face). I even got stopped at the local Blockbuster and movie theater by adoring fans (for reals).

Continue reading…

Video games in good company since 1958

As with all things in life, video games are best when shared with others. But despite the medium’s rich history and current resurgence of multiplayer games, a tired stigma remains:

Video games are played in isolation, and thus perpetuate social retards.

“There is still this mindset that video games are lone wolf activities for like-minded groups of nerds,” says Troy Goodfellow, a freelance critic for nearly a decade. “But on the contrary, they build connections better than a lot of people think.”

Continue reading…

Note to the Federal Government: Borrowing more money doesn’t make you less broke

The United States is nearing bankruptcy, and yet officials want to borrow more money (!) to curb economic woes, according to today’s headlines. It’s amazing how fiscally incompetent these knuckleheads have become — they’ve all but defecated on our once precious dollar.

As harsh as it sounds, natural consequences (i.e. bankruptcy, foreclosures, loss of jobs) is the only way to atone for our country’s overly optimistic and unchecked enthusiasm of recent years. This includes irresponsible land developers, loan officers, politicians, investment bankers, and home owners who bit off more than they could chew — all of whom ignored the basic principles of supply and demand.

Dude, where’s my country? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

See also:

Please, don’t talk to me while cleaning my teeth

Lindsey and I both had teeth cleanings on Monday.

Unfortunately for us, the “lab tech” polishing are pearlies couldn’t keep her mouth shut. She talked about past boyfriends, the lack of air conditioning, the wall decorations, how the new dentist is having a hard time paying bills (that makes me feel better), and other small-talk minutia ad nauseum.

Now, I rather enjoy listening to strangers and asking questions to learn more about them. But not when I can’t say anything in response; not when the discussion is mindless generalities. And definitely not when I’m getting my teeth cleaned (something I’ve always enjoyed).

To top off the bad experience, I was seemingly misdiagnosed in my exam, and my the dentist was all but begging my wife for repeat business. I guess it’s time to find a new dentist.

How do you achieve mental toughness?

Lindsey and I have been training for a long distance run this fall. It’s one of the toughest physical goals I’ve ever set, at least in terms of endurance, which often leaves me discouraged. In short, while my body is not fatiguing, my mind is. It makes me feel mentally soft.

So I ask you, dear Smooth Harold readers. What do you do to obtain, maintain, and demonstrate mental toughness when the going get tough? What do you do to get “in the zone” and find the courage to keep pressing on physically when the finish line seems so far off?

I frackin’ love summer.

Earlier this morning, I drove to the store to get gas for Lindsey — she was running late and still getting ready for an upcoming appointment with the girls. I walk outside, and I’m greeted with the warm blanket and smell of liberty that is summer weather. I love it.

Last weekend, I helped chaperone a youth camp in Eden, Utah for 10 boys and nine girls (a deflated tubeing ride pictured). Notice the contrast of the bluish lake, the rolling green hills, the snow-caped mountains, and clear sky in the background. Beautiful, not to mention the 85 degree weather the group enjoyed that day.

So if I had to rank my favorite seasons, they would be as follows: 1) Summer, by a long shot; 2) Fall; 3) Spring; and 4) Winter, a very distant fourth (I say “boo” to you, cold weather). What’s your favorite time of the year?

TV news needs to stop link hoarding!

img7.jpg“You can find a link to the report on our website.”

That’s the same line every local TV news station in the nation uses to artificially inflate their website traffic. What they are really saying is: “We have no idea what we’re doing online, and our shortsighted logic tells us that we should funnel and horde all valuable web links on our site. But our website is so messy you won’t even be able to find the desired link.

“Furthermore, we’re pretentious and have no understanding that providing a courteous service to our audience (like saying, “For more information, visit”) is enough reason alone to keep them coming back — so we force the issue.”

I rarely if ever watch local news. But this sort of amateur move is enough to make me never want to watch again. Lame.

Some of America’s most venerable newspapers face extinction — “Pick almost any American newspaper company and you can tell a similar story. The ABC reported that for the 530 biggest dailies, average circulation in the past six months was 3.6% lower than in the same period a year earlier; for Sunday papers, it was 4.6% lower. Ad revenues are plunging across the board…”

Fact: many technologists were quick to predict the death of pen and paper with the rise of typewriters and personal computers. Similarly, many technologists predicted book sales would decrease with the rise of e-book readers.

That being said, older technology can often persist in light of new technology through adaptation (i.e. new technology does not always obviate older technology). I believe the same is true for newspapers and magazines, provided they accentuate their remaining value (portable text, reputation, local community, and/or more non-ephemeral reporting like features).

[via Digg]

The ability to distinguish formal and informal writing is a good thing

“Not all :) as informal writing creeps into teen assignments,” reads a clever AP headline. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s nothing to LOL about: Despite best efforts to keep school writing assignments formal, two-thirds of teens admit in a survey that emoticons and other informal styles have crept in… “It’s a teachable moment,” said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew. “If you find that in a child’s or student’s writing, that’s an opportunity to address the differences between formal and informal writing. They learn to make the distinction … just as they learn not to use slang terms in formal writing.”

First of all, I love how avant guard the Associated Press was in using that playful headline in a formal news report. Secondly, I whole heartily agree that there’s a time and a place for informality. That goes for speech as well.

It pays to be ugly (sorta)

img9.jpgAmerican Way has a whimsical article in their April 15 issue which profiles distinct-looking, non attractive amateur models, and how they’re making one New York agency popular with advertisers seeking greater image authenticity.

DiNardo, at 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, with stringy locks held back by a headband and tufts of hair encircling his chin, could be any random guy you’d pass on the street. And that’s the reason that Simon Rogers, owner and CEO of Ugly NY, wants to represent him. “Tom’s very arresting, isn’t he?” Rogers says admiringly.

Ugly commissions range from an occasional few hundred dollars to $2,000/shoot — hardly substantial, but gravy for people who were never looking to model in the first place. I love seeing people zig while others zag and get rewarded for it.

My commentary on recent happenings

img5.jpgI returned home from a press junket to Baton Rouge on Wednesday, and here are some thoughts I haven’t had time to talk about:

  • I enjoy coming home from a trip and am convinced the flight into Salt Lake City is one of the prettiest in the nation.
  • Blackened alligator is better than sushi — confirmed!
  • Louisianians fry more food than my native Georgia. Impressive.
  • As has been customary, I’m entering the travel period of my year as the gaming industry gears up for its big fall push. I travel only 6-7 times a year, and prefer it that way. I’m an unadventurous city-slicker who is also a homebody. I even choke up a little when leaving for a short trip.
  • Maddie, my six-month old looks really cute in shades.
  • My wife’s sausage manicotti is delicious.
  • Regular exercise is difficult for me. After three weeks of steady running, I let it slip this week.
  • On a personal note, I just learned of the sudden passing of Jeff Jones in December at the hands of Leukemia. I considered Jeff a close, friendly, and respected professional colleague and worked extensively with him in 2006 and early 2007 before losing touch last summer. I would have his surviving family, friends, and associates know that Jeff was genuinely one of the kindest individuals I’ve had the pleasure of working with. He will be missed.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Now with 100% more milkman

According to Wikipedia, milk was first delivered in bottles on January 11, 1878. As of April 14, 2008, it is still delivered to Wasatch Front doorsteps in plastic jugs.

Though Lindsey and I had heard and tried Winder Dairy in the past, we recently become customers in a cooperative with our downstairs neighbors, the Johnstuns. We pay about a dollar more per gallon than we would at retail. The milk (not to mention bread, cheese, and whatnot) is not only deliciously fresh, but it’s delivery method is loaded with history, something I’m convinced makes the cow extract taste even better.

To my surprise, milk is still delivered in isolated regions of the United States, but it’s seemingly a rare luxury for most. It’s amazing how long older technologies can endure, and with the quiet resurgence of web-to-order grocery delivery, the milkman may still have a future.

Fun Fact: I was in talks with Winder Dairy many years ago as a web consultant to redesign their website.

I’m deleting my LinkedIn and My Space accounts. Yea!

easy-button.jpgEvery so often, when my technology gets out of hand, I trim fat to reduce unwanted noise — to simplify my life.

Last year, I put my RSS reader on a diet, going from over 400 subscriptions to just 67 (I’m down to 46 currently). This year I’m cutting two “unsociable” networks from my geek intake: LinkedIn, the high school year book of web professionals, and My Space, the new Hotmail of social networks.

LinkedIn is stale, lifeless, and has yielded zero fruit for me personally since first joining in 2004. So I’ve begun the archaic process of deleting my 90 connection account via email, as opposed to a simple button click and confirmation (I told you they were stale). I’ve heard the removal turnaround can take weeks. I’ll update if and when it happens.

Additionally, I’m deleting my unused My Space account after less than a year of membership. Sure it let me connect with old high school buddies, but the site is trashy and far inferior to Facebook.

So long, suckers.

Microsoft Encarta sorta downplays Nintendo Wii success

howwiiwon.jpgThe paltry entry on video games from the Microsoft-owned encyclopedia currently has only one sentence regarding Wii’s popularity: “The introduction of Wii made Nintendo once again a major player in the video game industry.”

That’s accurate. And I wouldn’t expect up to date specifics — this isn’t Wikipedia, after all. But the language seems to deemphasize reality upon further reading from the same paragraph which quickly shifts gears:

Continue reading…

The Truth According To Wikipedia raises important questions on accuracy, expertise, and group think

YouTube Preview Image

I just finished watching IJsbrand van Veelen’s excellent 50-minute documentary on the glamorization of amateur content producers and the potential negative effects that it may or may not have on society, especially as experts (informed individuals who work for, reason with, and experience wisdom) are waning in popularity. Here are some thoughts: Continue reading…

The Promise is the greatest one-hit wonder from the Eighties

YouTube Preview Image

After much deliberation, and nearly two decades later, I have finally made up my mind: The Promise by When In Rome is the greatest one-hit wonder from the Eighties. It’s better than Devo’s Whip It, better than A-Ha’s Take On Me (A-ha), more lasting than Come On Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, more diverse than Tainted Love by Soft Cell, and has more heart than Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang. It’s so choice, as is the beat, the contrasting vocals, and the splendid synth bass.

The hair? Not so much.

Crispy Gamer: The Excessive Use of Subtitling in Videogames

img5.jpgA closer look at the rise of lengthy videogame names by Blake Snow.

In the second week of November 2007, publishers released an unprecedented number of multiplatform videogames at the height of holiday shopping. Interestingly, more than half of the listed games employed subtitles in their titling, via the use of colons. This represents a far cry from the use of subtitles 10 years ago, which stood at just 30 percent of games.

Continue reading… [Crispy Gamer]

Visual search is nothing more than a lame gimmick to rival Google

When will software executives finally learn that speed of functionality will always trump bells and whistles. You’d think RedZee and SearchMe would already know this after the “we’ve got more glitz” called it quits last week.

Build a better mouse trap, people — not a sexier one. Google is number one because it returns relevant results faster than others. It takes a lot more than good looks to be “cool.”

Ask questions first, spank later

225_shrek2.jpgI learned a valuable and humbling lesson as a parent yesterday: the unharmed sister or brother isn’t necessarily the one to blame. In other words, don’t jump to conclusions.

After feeding both Sadie and Maddie early in the morning while Lindsey slumbered, I laid Maddie on our tall ottoman to perfect my laptop father skills. Moments later, while entrenched in technology, I heard a “Maddie’s falling” accompanied by a heavy thud. I looked up from my PowerBook to find a suspicious looking Sadie standing over a fallen Maddie, who was now crying loudly.

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Dude, where’s my perspective?

According to a recent Gallup poll, a majority of baseball fans (57%) think Roger Clemens lied last month when he told Congress he had never taken performance enhancing drugs. Despite this, 62 percent of fans surveyed believe Clemens should still be in the Hall of Fame.


As a reminder, The Hall of Fame’s motto is “preserving history, honoring excellence, and connecting generations.” Clemens’ induction, if convicted, would preserve history alright, but what about honor and example (read: connecting generations)?

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The most intriguing British words according to an American

img2.jpgI saw Me and My Girl last night — a play that takes place in 1920s England. The performance was entertaining (a bit stale at times), but I really enjoyed the English… which got me thinking of the funniest British words. They are:

  • Bollocks. Figurative meaning: nonsense. Technical meaning: testicles. Codswallop is a less-descriptive substitute.
  • Trousers. These are what Americans call “pants.” We understand the former term, but you’d get ridiculed for using it.
  • Blimey. Is there a cooler way to say “wow” or “holy crap?” I think not.
  • Salad-dodger. Quite possibly the funniest word I’ve ever heard for a fat, obese, or overweight person. Continue reading…

Designed by Apple in California?

If you haven’t noticed, Apple prints “Designed by Apple in California” on the back every iPod and iPhone it sells, sometimes in a ridiculously tiny font size. Joel on Software tells why:

“These five words evoke a flurry of happy memories… Apple in California is, of course, on the literal level, a computer company, and not a very nice one, but put those words together and you think of apple orchards, and the Beatles, and you think of how Forrest Gump got rich off of Apple stock. And ‘designed in California…’ It’s not made. It’s designed. In California. Like a surfboard. Or a Lockheed XP-80.”

In short, California stands out by being the hippiest of all United States. And unlike its competitors, who outsource both product design and manufacturing overseas, Apple keeps its design rightfully in-house — at all times and at all costs. Continue reading…

“I swear, this is for work.”

Having spent the majority of my time as a video game critic since the latter half of 2006, I say this a lot when confronted by my peers. Yesterday I was “working” on a feature article that required my playing an excessive amount of games. Lindsey’s friend Stephanie came over, only to find me in my living room saving a digital world from evil, in the middle of the day even. “I swear, this is for work,” I said.

My tax people (H&R Block Premium represent) have also heard this excuse as well. Knowing that few individuals can legitimately write-off video game purchases, Sallie, who does both my business and personal filings, documents the expense as “research materials” so as not to raise any red flags. “I swear, this is for work,” I maintain.

Is it really work, then? I wouldn’t go that far. But I have played games against my will to meet a deadline. What I will say is that this is how I make a living. So if you ever hear me retort, “I swear, this if for work,” what I really mean is, “I swear, I’m not dorking around.”

In his defense [Leezy Lindsey]

Infendo: Gamers don’t want honest reviews, they want fanfare

I spent the last hour reading allegations that Eidos dangled a six-digit advertising deal over GameSpot’s head in order to have long-time editor Jeff Gerstmann fired for the critical tone of his now-pulled 6/10 video review of Kane and Lynch (a text-only review remains). Whatever the real story, Gerstmann is currently out of a job.Truth be told, game makers have long since pressured gaming media to publish favorable game reviews as a higher score equates to greater sales. And while most publications will tell you otherwise (even self-serving at times), my sources confirm that several outlets have delt with the dilemma and even succumbed to filthy lucre.

The good news is the current publicity surrounding the issue will end up benefiting our favorite hobby in terms of its integrity, or lack thereof. Sadly, I’m not sure my fellow gamers want honest reviews, at least from the critics.

Continue reading at Infendo…

Half of life is simply asking

My Blackberry inexplicably died on Saturday afternoon while napping on the kitchen counter. Two years of age seemingly put the kibosh on the device’s ability to connect to T-mobile.

So I called T-mobile to solve the issue. It turned out my phone had in fact died and was no longer under warranty. I would need to buy a new phone.

Reality bearing down, I decided to do what I’ve done so many times to successful results as a consumer: ask if my continued business would be worth an exception — in this case having to fork over $100 for a replacement.

“You’ve been with us a long time, Mr. Snow,” the last manager happily said over the phone. “We’ll send out a new phone right away (read: your $1200/year cell phone account is worth a $100 concession).”

Half of life is simply asking.

Why three band members are better than four or more

The image It’s been more than two years since I’ve seen a live band perform, the last being a piano-rock trio named Keane. Before that, it was 2-3 years since seeing a live concert as this thing called life, family, and work slowly takes over.

Tonight I’m going to seeing another trio named Muse with some friends. While I enjoy groups of all sizes (I’m an equal-opportunity fanman), I’ve always liked three-man rock bands for the following reasons: Continue reading…

General Motors scored Omega Supreme on free Transformers advertising

Despite its recent troubles, General Motors is the luckiest company in the world over the next few weeks according to Jalopnik. The car-loving blog — while heavily praising the movie’s entertainment value– says the highly-anticipated Transformers movie is basically a 144-minute commercial for GM. From the article:

“What makes this arrangement so amazing is that GM didn’t pay Paramount a single dime to get it done. That’s right — not a single penny changed hands between the big n’ beefy automaker and the big n’ beefy studio. Sure, GM provided some in-kind contributions of concept vehicles and the like, and of course they’ve got their own marketing budget running their own marketing campaign — but unlike other automakers, they didn’t drop a single pence into Paramount’s pocket for the privilege of having themselves featured in a movie [aimed at the coveted 15-35 male demographic, you know, the ones that buy a lot of cars] about cars that change into robots.”


NOTE: Transformers looks incredible! At first I thought the movie and its premise seemed too lame for the big screen, not to mention juvenile and over the top. But after seeing (and hearing) the amazing CG, cinematics, and deep sound, I cannot wait to see this film. “Autobots, transform. And roll out!” (spoiler-free review here)

Nasty commenters give me thick skin and chutzpah

As a professional blogger for nearly two years now, I’ve seen tens of thousands of comments aimed at me. Most of them are favorable, a lot of them are entertaining, some of them are negative, and a handful of them are just nasty. It comes with the territory when you publish your opinions, passions, and stories freely to the web.

But nasty commenters have a bright side. They help motivate me to work harder and make it so my output has to do the convincing. They give me thick skin and chutzpah to take risks as both a writer and businessman.

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Five reasons I support universal healthcare in America

The US healthcare system is broken. That is unless you work for an opulent healthcare or pharmaceutical provider. In that case, US healthcare works like a charm (from a for-profit perspective).

But let me put my business degree away for a minute. As a citizen and patient, I now believe in universal healthcare in America just like I believe in socialized libraries, policemen, firemen, public schools, and highways. Here are five reasons why: Continue reading…

10 things about the future of newspapers you need to understand

Ryan from Invisible Inkling has such a good take on the waning popularity of newspapers and how new media has changed the game for the better. Without stealing his thunder, here are his major points:

  1. It’s not Google’s fault
  2. It’s not Craigslist’s fault
  3. Write local
  4. Get new training
  5. Stop charging for news (only advertising)
  6. Reporters need to be multimedia enabled, not just writers
  7. Use bloggers as network sources and voices, don’t fear them
  8. Let your readers consum your content in a variety of ways
  9. Embrace new media
  10. Revamp your online vision

Be sure to click on through to read his excellent commentary.

Five reasons Spider Man 3 is the best in the series (and the best comic book movie ever)

Spiderman 3 is the best comic book movie ever* followed closely by Batman Begins. Interestingly, however, this movie is getting slammed in reviews with most people saying it tries to do too much. I, on the other hand, loved this movie. And while it is a tad long, I thought Columbia Pictures did a great job pulling all the stories and subplots together in a clever Seinfeld fashion. And yes, the movie is hilarious.

Regardless of what you may have heard, here are five reasons why Spiderman 3 is the best movie in the series not to mention the best comic book film to date: Continue reading…

Six ways to become a better salesmen

Friend, colleague, and referral ninja extraordinaire Chris Knudsen outlines six ways to become a better salesmen, Zig Ziglar not required. He writes: “Bottom line: solve problems, sell benefits not features, sell value, show value, listen, educate, have empathy and build real relationships. By doing these things correctly, I promise you will see a dramatic increase in your sales.”

I especially like Chris’s counsel to ask good open-ended questions that show the client you’re thinking about their pain areas and how to improve their business.

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Wikipedia is hilarious… sorta

In doing some Wikipedia research last week on Bill O’Reilly, I found this little snippet of vandalism right under the “Politics” sub-section after four, well-constructed paragraphs: “Bill O’Reilly is also a douche who should never express his right winged opinion ever again.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the little activist fellow who snuck that one in. The change in cadence was hilarious. And while I love Wikipedia, I do admit it that it takes an intelligent reader to spot entry vandalism on controversial subjects. Hence, you have to be a pretty savvy individual to spot the good from the bad. Furthermore, reports indicate that the reading level for the site is on a 10th grader level, much higher than the 6-8th grader level of most national publications. But more often than not, however, Wikipedia works like a balanced and well-written charm. It’s the closest “no spin zone” I’ve found on the internet.

See also:

I’m likely to be the father of Blackberry orphans

The Wall Street Journal reports of the effects of Blackberry parents on their children which are cleverly called Blackberry orphans. From the article: “They are fearful that parents will be distracted by emails while driving, concerned about Mom and Dad’s shortening attention spans and exasperated by their parents’ obsession with their gadgets. Bob Ledbetter III, a third-grader in Rome, Ga., says he tries to tell his father to put the BlackBerry down, but can’t even get his attention. ‘Sometimes I think he’s deaf,’ says the 9-year-old.”

I like my Blackberry, not just because I’m addicted to email, but because when used effectively, it lets me attend to business without sacrificing flexibility. However, I don’t want my one year old daughter to grow up with a father more concerned with a portable piece of plastic than her company. More importantly, I know my wife could do without the constant checking. (Commits to leaving the Blackberry in my office after 6pm.)

[via Lifehacker]

TIME calls bloggers “random lunatics”

In an article entitled “Do Newspapers Have a Future,” author Michael Kinsley at TIME magazine had this to say: “Meanwhile, there is the blog terror: people are getting their understanding of the world from random lunatics riffing in their underwear, rather than professional journalists with standards and passports.”

He’s got a point. However, he also exposes the overall threatened view of traditional media towards bloggers, and rightfully so. Continue reading…

5 years later: My thoughts on 9/11

Lindsey and I watched the story of the engine 7 firehouse from NYC during 9/11 on CBS last night. It contained amateur video of that day’s terrible events. Amazingly, every fireman survived despite almost all of them being on upper floors of the North Tower (which collapsed second). This documentary stirred up a lot of feelings: Feelings of loss, feelings of hurt, feelings of how cowardly terrorists are, feelings of frustration that nothing has been rebuilt, feelings of disappointment by how the Bush Administration has handled most everything, and feelings of what I’d like done. They are: Continue reading…

Never give up

As long-time Smooth Harold readers may already know, I’m big on people doing what they love (if sustainable, of course) no matter what the obstacles. As an unaccomplished entrepreneur trying to grow, such examples serve as inspiration and encouragement for me. Enter the story of one Wade Daniels.

Wade is married to my wife’s cousin. He has wanted to become a doctor since a young age. He studied pre-med and worked at a hospital during his undergraduate degree. He took the MCAT and applied to both top- and lower-level medical schools last year. His preferred school of choice, which is also where he got his bachelor’s, was the much acclaimed medical school of the University of Utah. To his disappointment, he was accepted to none. Not even the lesser known schools offered him a spot due to poor MCAT scores. When most people would have gone into something else, Wade–out of a love for medicine– decided to keep working at the hospital and study for the MCAT again for a full year.

Earlier this summer, and after re-taking the medical test to much better results, Wade got accepted to medical school. And wouldn’t you know it, it was his top pick and one of the most difficult to get into (especially as a native of Utah): The School of Medicine at the University of Utah.

Moderating Comment Criticism

I don’t like moderating comment criticism on blogs. Granted, moderation is good for some large organizations or companies that need to be especially careful with what’s posted on their site, but for independent publishers, I like the added democracy of an open comment system. And for the most part, blog readers have come to appreciate that comments do not express the views of the posting site or its author.

Moderation, either before-the-fact or after-the-fact gives the independent publisher the power to masque criticism, ideas, thoughts, new views, differing opinions, open-mindedness, vulgarity, and hate speech. I’m not sure I want that power, though I do use it in the case of the last two. I have let a little hate speech slide but don’t really like to. I prefer after-the-fact moderation (once a comment is already posted) because it’s easier for me to let comments “stick” if they aren’t too racy. The extreme one’s (through rare on Smooth Harold) get thrown out once I spot them in my email inbox.

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How is democratizing the news

What do you get when you mix Slashdot community ratings with MySpace social networking and Delicious tags to let users categorize stories? You get, the company I believe is revolutionizing relevant search and turning the news into a democracy. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, search engine optimization, machine algorithms, and search engine bots are on the way out. Though it may be several years, people engines via the social web will be the future of search relevancy. Don’t get me wrong, I think indexing will still be used, but human relevancy is far superior.

From the article: “Imagine being able, for example, to use Digg to explore the popularity of consumer products such as cell phones or plasma TVs–to be able, as Rose put it, “to drill down among your set of friends or the masses and see their opinions.” Then imagine this capacity married to the recommendation-engine feature that Rose and his team are working on. In other words, Consumer Reports, look out.”

Student Developers

Today while in a strategy meeting, I voiced my concern in utilizing student developers to hit paid deadlines. My opinion? Don’t use student developers if you want to deliver the project on time. The reason? A majority of students (at least BYU) are more concerned with getting A’s than delivering the goods.

That statement is flawed, though, in that some students put school lower on their priority list. When I started Griffio as a Senior BYU student, I remember ditching classes left and right to make sure our clients were happy. If you can find students that import more with real world applications, then it’s a go.

Be a Lovecat

I’m currently reading Love is The Killer App. Though not the most prolific business book, the title does an excellent job in formulating what makes for a successful business career in terms of happiness and producing a return on your “networks.” Author Tim Sanders defines a “lovecat” as an individual that intelligently and sensibly shares his/her knowledge, network of friends and associates, and compassionate service with bizpartners without expecting anything in return.

What’s a bizpartner you may ask? Every person in our work life, be it a boss, banker, competitor, client, or just about anyone else. I especially like the competitor one and have recently discovered how much of an asset and help they can be for any type of business striving to improve.

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Lessons Learned from Hitch

Hitch was a fun and entertaining movie. However, I liked the insight it shed on the consulting industry even more. In the movie, the main character Hitch, played by Will Smith is a dating consultant. He helps couples successfully get past the third date and fall in love. He does it all covertly as to not ruin the relationship.

At the end of the movie, his cover gets blown and people start coming down on him. In one scene, one of his client’s girlfriends is expressing her frustrations on him. She can’t believe he trained her boyfriend to accidentally spill mustard on his shirt and dance crazy. In other words the things she loved about him. Hitch replied that he hadn’t nothing to do with those things and didn’t endorse them at all. She then proceeds to ask him, what exactly did he do, to which he replies, “I guess nothing.”

I am an IT consultant. Sure I help clients with technical issues the same way Hitch helped his clients work on their smoothness, but in the end, we really don’t do much. The true value of the consultant is derived by his/her solely being there for the paying organization. A teacher. A coach. A support group. A friend. We assist and help in areas where the company may struggle, but the success is really all the client’s.

Consulting (or professional assistance) is to business as weights are to a weight lifter. Both are necessary if the client wants to progress rather than plateau-ing. But it is the weight lifter that is the true winner.

Good Salesman

Small business employees have the opportunity to wear many hats. My main “hat” for example says Project Manager, which is a fancy way of saying I take care of and manage all client projects and make sure they’re done on time. I’m also an HTML designer, proposal writer, secretary, general manager and even a salesman from time to time.

So what makes a good salesman? Well that question would be like asking, “What makes a good baseball team?” or “What makes a good human being?” for that matter. There are obviously many functions involved in answering the above questions. With that said, however, I do believe one thing is common in all great salesmen.

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Intelligent Design

Too many people try to think outside of the box, especially when it comes to product design. I guess they think that being outside of the box will automatically classify their efforts as creative. This belief couldn’t be further from the truth. Good design doesn’t always require creativity. Innovation does. So I guess before starting to design a product you need to decide, “Am I’m designing or innovating?” Once you get that down, you’ll be much more successful with your creations.

A quick example of this might be if you were a shirt designer. You might decide to “design outside of the box” by moving the shirt pocket from the left side to the right. The shirt was already working fine though as shirt users expect the pocket to be on the left side. In this case, you wouldn’t reinvent the shirt, just redesign it to make it look better. Maybe try a new pattern or a different color, but don’t try to innovate the already functioning shirt. You have to consistently use common sense to achieve intelligent design.

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