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Just like everyone else, I am following with interest and a smidgen of anxiety the swine flu epidemic (my in-laws live in Mexico City).

As a tech guy, I started to look at some of the technologies that can be used or have been used to help contain the flu and solve this global threat.

This is what I have found so far.
First of all, Internet technologies have been tapped to track the spreading of Swine Flu. Here an article on this topic from IHealthBeat. This is a Google map. And this is the CDC Twitter feed so you can follow the updates real time.
As Ogilvy PR we have developed a simple aggregator where you can follow the latest news as well as some interesting information.

But what about technologies that prevent or that can help cure the flu?

I found a press release of a company, Qualsec, that says to have  a technology that can screen individuals for Swine Flu and provide instant results.

So apparently not much from the tech community to help solve this potential pandemic . Much faster and more creative is the professional spanner. Read this blog post on the LA Times  on how spammers are using celebrities such as Salma Hayek to get the attention of  recipients. Maybe Diego Luna and Santana are the next ones? And according to McAfee computer viruses may be the next part of the swine flu outbreak. Virtual world and reality coming  together?

You have to give the Texans credit. They do some things incredibly well.  Take economic development.  Texas has the most Fortune 500 company headquarters in the United States (at 58 HQs).  These guys and gals understand how to build financial structures that attract industry.

And now we see that those savvy Texans are making a land grab (photon grab) for solar manufacturing business in Texas.  The state is expected to soon approve a $500M bill aimed at subsidizing small scale solar users

Texas has executed so much better than some states (like mine, Colorado) at attracting headquarters and fostering development of market segment ecosystems that fuel the local business economy.  If they crack the solar grail, I’ll have to say they’re brilliant.  And I’m a New Englanda.

The business of solar is fascinating to me.  How Germany has leveraged a feed-in tariff system to lead the world.  And how, unlike the semi industry, solar manufacturing jobs are likely to be based where the projects are to be built and customer installed due to the sensitivities of glass and the cost of shipping it.  So what does that mean?   States need to get moving in their legislatures and get attracting those jobs, which means building the financing systems that will incubate the projects and ecosystems.

I’m told that citizens in Germany don’t scoff at the annual fee on their electric bill that underwrites their system as they see it as a direct investment towards clean energy and local clean tech jobs.

Could Texas be at the top of a future list of States With The Largest Share of the U.S. Renewable Energy Industry?  They surely know how to attract businesses.

Crazy like foxes, they are.

Just a quick note to direct our loyal readers to this Nightline segment about the recent Domino’s Pizza crisis.  It’s a good overview of the topic and resident expert and colleague John Bell is featured.

Amy Messenger

by Amy Messenger
Category: Tech PR

Hold that thought! Yes, we want to hear from you, so please don’t lose that comment. We are about to launch a brand new look for Tech PR Nibbles*, so our commenting function will be temporarily disabled as we migrate to a new platform. Our new design (same URL) will go live in the next few days.
When you come back, you’ll find more content, more resource links, and a fresher design experience. And with the commenting function re-enabled in the days ahead, you’ll be able to tell us what you think of our new look. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

A few weeks ago I finished reading Talent is Overrated by Fortune Senior Editor Geoff Colvin. It’s a good book; the kind that makes you sit up straight as you’re reading it, as if slouching would do it a disservice.

The book makes a persuasive argument that nature is decidedly subordinate to nurture — at least in regard to concepts such as ‘work’ or ‘performance’. Pointing to a range of examples from the athletic (Jerry Rice, Tiger Woods) to the historic (Benjamin Franklin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), Colvin demonstrates that excruciating and deliberate practice improves performance in a way that no other factor seems to replicate.

As I read the book I began to wonder what forms of practice might best apply to PR professionals. It’s one thing to acknowledge that practice improves performance; it’s another to know what forms of practice are worthwhile.

I’ve given it some thought and here are some initial ideas for types of practice that might improve foundational PR skills. I don’t think it begins to scratch the surface however, and would be interested in getting ‘the wisdom of crowds’ on this:

  • Improve writing skills, general knowledge, understanding of the media: Taking a page from Benjamin Franklin, choose one article each day in a publication relevant for the industries you support and rewrite it from memory. Wait a few days — rewriting other articles in the intervening period — and compare it with the original. Analyze the differences, the strengths and weaknesses of the comparative pieces and so on.
  • Improve overall performance, ability to give and receive feedback: Mimic the military: after any half-way significant endeavor gather team members in a room and disregard hierarchy. What worked (or is working)? What didn’t (or isn’t)? Then take this a step further. Crunch some numbers. If we’re dealing with a pitch, what was the response rate from the email? What was the response rate from follow-up calls? How many calls or emails did it take to reach an interview? Force objectivity and the most excruciating level of self-analysis. Bottom-line, stay objective and reject rank.
  • Improve business savvy, writing, and knowledge of media/publicity cycles: The tool of business schools everywhere: force yourself to write one new case study — for a non-client — each month. Pick a major news maker (for good or bad reasons) and outline the entire media cycle. Include metrics when available and make strong conclusions (and recommendations). Submit to your colleagues for review and feedback.
  • Improve pitching & business development skills: Force yourself and your team to go to as many networking events not tied to PR or the industries you represent as possible. This isn’t about selling and there should be no pressure. This is about forcing yourself to make connections in a short period of time. Set goals. Make everyone responsible for making at least one connection with a plan for follow-up, at each event.
  • Improve message development & delivery: Before every meeting (internal or external) write down your three key messages and brainstorm one attention-grabbing statement. Take notes throughout the meeting to see how well you do sticking to your messages and bridging to them when the conversation takes a turn. Rate yourself after each meeting.
  • Improve something: Bottom line, we can all get better at something. Find a flaw and force yourself to confront it. For what it’s worth, my new blog: Difference Engineering, is an example of exactly this point.

I have some other ideas, but I’ll stop here for now. Let me know what you think.

There are 32% fewer articles being published by traditional technology publications today then there were just two years ago. How do I know? Well I don’t. Not for certain. But I think I have information that points to this conclusion.

A few weeks ago I was asked if there was some way to articulate the decline in traditional tech media beyond pointing to layoffs and examples of magazines folding or moving online. I thought about it for a while and came to the following conclusions:

  • If the traditional tech media is declining then fewer articles must be appearing.
  • If fewer articles are appearing, then media databases should pick up the change.
  • If this is true then searching several years’ worth of tech trade articles for common, every-day words should provide a reasonably accurate picture.

With these points in mind I decided to count the number of articles in technology trade media from 2004-2008 featuring the most frequently used word in the English language: ‘the’.

I found that from 2006-2008 the number of articles decreased from 135757 to 92021, a decline of 32%. While not perfect, this seems to strongly indicate that there are 32% fewer articles being published by these outlets today then in 2006.

For more info, a fuller explanation and a look at some other words that seem to confirm this analysis, see Difference Engineering, a new blog I’ve started that will explore marketing and communications from a more objective lens.

This week wrapped up San Francisco’s Web 2.0 Expo with its conversations about openness and transparency (including NPR talking about its API), innovation (presented by the “accidental entrepreneurs” of Threadless.com), and marketing (which took the form of everyone talking ad nauseum about Twitter, including the upcoming cruise on which you can learn tweeting best practices).

Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media and the person who coined the phrase “Web 2.0” to describe the phenomenon of increased social and consumer-created interactions online, spoke about the changes in the media industry with a group of 15 bloggers at one morning roundtable. O’Reilly, whose company publishes the DIY magazine Make and its sister web publication Craft, wore a Maker Faire t-shirt while answering questions about the types on content that stand to survive the much-discussed “death of print.” Craft has been distributed as a somewhat substantial print magazine but is soon to become an online only publication. The switch is a bittersweet one: while I’ll miss dog-earing and saving the physical volumes, I’m intrigued by the multimedia and mobile content possibilities it presents for clever creators.

O’Reilly described some of the variables that have become key considerations for media organizations looking for sustainable long-term publishing models:

  • Format: The Web becoming more people’s de facto space for interaction with other people and their ideas raises huge questions about how content providers can create the most optimal experiences. Because reading coverage online can be a more distracting experience than holding a piece of printed material, how can web publishers best replicate the more static offline reading experience? Should they?
  • Visibility: It was interesting to see O’Reilly’s mention of the importance of awareness and promitions come up again in the Threadless keynote when founders Jake Nickell and Jeffrey Kalmikoff said they’ve never used print or television advertising to promote their efforts. Instead, they describe their weekly e-newsletter as their most traditional form of marketing.
  • Distribution and sales: The recession has made bottom line production costs a consideration not just for publication managers but for audiences as well. Readers have good reason to be concerned about the transition away from the longer lead times and bigger staffs that newspapers and magazines enjoyed, especially since there’s no assurance that bloggers and microbloggers will pick up the slack to regularly develop decent in-depth coverage.

Because each of these factors has so many additional variables (form factors and timeliness of delivery not the least among them), the issue of the quality of the news product that the reader is getting can be overlooked. While print publications are inherently limited in the amount of sensory information they can deliver (video, real-time observations from the community, and photo slideshows win here), I’m concerned that the demise of print gives us an easy excuse not to create something well-made in its place but to sink to the level of what O’Reilly described as the most minimal form of publishing–the dreaded retweet.

Yes, I do get excited about SNW. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend nine of the last 12 ‘SNWs and it has grown to be a part of my annual plan.

Almost without saying, it has been interesting to be a part of this conference as it has evolved over the last six years. Not long ago press conferences were the daily norm, vendor news was flying across the wires, on- and off-site parties, dinners and comedy shows (it was only about 4 years ago that Sinbad was the evening entertainment – yes, that Sinbad) were all just ‘the norm’ for SNW.

This Spring the shift I’m starting to hear and feel is that social media is starting to take hold at the conference. This feels a bit overdue, and rightfully so, as social media has been engrained in almost every large event for the last two years or longer. Truth be told, there is so much great information created and shared at this conference, it will be interesting to see how much of it will be shared outside of the confines of the Rosen Shingle Creek.

Here are some interesting developments and new additions to this years’ SNW conference that may help you keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening at the conference this spring:

  • @SNWUSA Twitter feed: already sending some useful updates and gathering a bit of momentum with storage industry Twitter users.
  • It is looking like the hashtag #SNW will be used by most attendees, so be sure to use that to track the broader conversation.
  • While not everyone will be on-site, I’m confident the following active Twitter users will be worth keeping a close eye on during the show: @PariseauTT, @storageswiss, @demartek, @storagebod, @storagemonkeys, @sfoskett, @Chris_Mellor,. @Storagezilla, @storageanarchy, @storageio and @dvellante.
  • A more robust list of active storage Twitter users was posted by Stephen Foskett not too long ago, if you’re looking for a whole slew of active storage pros.
  • The SNIA has also recently started testing the social media waters with their own activities, and they’ll be cranking out some fresh content during the event. (Fair disclosure, I’ll likely be contributing to some of the content they are creating.)
  • @SNIAcloud will be a good SNIA Twitter to follow considering the first ever Cloud mini-Summit being held at SNW on Monday.
  • The Wikibon team is working on something pretty interesting once again. They are working to deliver once again on their Analyst 2.0 model by hosting a live ‘viral experience’ at the conference. To track the conversation they’re having with vendors and likely end users and other attendees, keep an eye on conversations using the #wikibon (as well as #SNW) hashtags.

So, cheers to another SNW and lets hope the social media buzz around the event avoids “Storage Smackdown” status from Byte & Switch.

Feel free to follow me around during the show as I’ll be posting live updates whenever something interesting comes my way…@dlarusso15.

David Friedman

by David Friedman
Category: Technology

On Wednesday, I attended the Sustainable Opportunities Conference here in Denver. I see the clean energy industry and sustainability sector as bright spots in the tough economy at the moment.

There certainly was a lot of positivity at the conference relating to the future of this market, particularly in the metropolitan Denver area as more clean energy companies like RES Americas move here. Colorado continues to be a leader in attracting these companies and President Obama reinforced the State’s leadership by signing the Stimulus package here last month at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Without giving a full wrap up of the conference, I wanted to give you a few snippets of some interesting comments I heard in the panel sessions and in my conversations over the last few days. Here are some controversial comments that stand out:

- The challenge with plug-in cars is that our grid is 30-40 years old and it’s already overtaxed…Plug-in cars sound great but we should be investing resources in updating our grid instead. If we have wind power in East Kansas, we can’t get it to Chicago or Denver…that’s the crux of the problem. - Michael Peck, MAPA Group

- The US manufacturing system is in bad shape. The expertise has skipped a generation. Most of our wind turbines have to be manufactured overseas, because there is no expertise in the US. We need to get back to teaching people how to go from welding to material science. - Chris Mone, Vestas Wind

- Oh Happy Day! - Denver Mayor John Hickelooper when commenting on the dedication of the 300KW solar system atop the Colorado Convention Center, where the conference was held.

- We need to eat our main meal of energy efficiency before we eat our dessert of renewable energy. - Mark McLanahan, MMA Renewable Ventures

See you at the Denver Green Festival!

At a recent PRSA Tech Talk panel, New York Times technology writers Brad Stone, Claire Cain Miller and editor Damon Darlin had a chance to put on their psychic hats and discuss key technology trends for 2009. If anyone should know, (they do get >150 PR technology pitches per day!) it’s them.

Technology Trends in 2009

1. Proliferation of light-weight applications on social networks and smart phones has created a new wave of creativity from the developers community

2. Migration to cheaper or free substitutes in technology due to the current economic climate, e.g. the popularity of inexpensive netbooks and cloud services

3. New delivery mechanisms of movies to classic (cable) and new technology devices (digital)

4. Overlap of technology into health care and education - especially given the Obama administration’s strong focus on open access

5. Green technology will continue to gain exposure in 2009

6. The news appetite for new Web sites is down unless they are real-world revenue-generating Web sites

What do you think about these trends? Are they obvious? Ground-breaking? Let’s get your thoughts.

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide