Joel Vincent

Technology. Wine. Family. (maybe not in that order)

Hope is the engine that drives humanity…

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Image by Renegade98 via Flickr

I’m sure there has been plenty said about the impending Obama presidency but I’m going to say my $.02.

Its really hard to describe what this means to me, to many many people for that matter.  Its not the end all be all, but its a milestone that seemed impossible two years ago.  Barack Obama, a black American, taking the head of the most powerful office in the free world.  Its not coincidence that the world looked at this as an instantaneous moral and morale boost – we just, as a collective nation – looked past everything and did what the majority of citizens (majority by popular vote) thought would be best for this country and that happen to mean putting a minority into the oval office.

A country that can do that should be able to speak rationally with other cultures and religious states, shouldn’t it?  Should be able to be open to listening to all sides of a debate and making a good decision shouldn’t it?  Clearly should be able to give the minority voice of other nations the ear they want when all they want is an ear to listen to them to restore their dignity, shouldn’t it?

Thats called hope.  Instantaneous, street credentialed hope.  For that I’m incredibly pumped for this country.  I don’t feel like cringing when I think about my president going and speaking to other nations.  I don’t have that feeling that I have a loud, obnoxious friend with me in a fancy restaurant who I love dearly but I just know he/she’s doesn’t belong in an environment that people want to be civilized and not sloppy drunk.  That is all gone today.

For me personally, I guess even expecting him to win I wasn’t expecting alot of feelings I had to bubble to the surface.  My father is my hero and he taught me basically if you’re at a disadvantage, well then too bad, you just have to work harder than the others.  Energy you waste complaining could be energy that could be putting you ahead.  Something I took to heart never complaining about the disadvantages of being black in America because I’m pretty confident in my abilities.  But even so, there is a bit of an unspoken limit to what could be accomplished.  Or at least there was one.  That hit me yesterday.  How can there be a limit?  Even with people trying to hold you back or not giving you the same chance, Obama is the president, anything can happen.  Truly.

Thinking about the people who died just on the faith that this day would come if they marched, took beatings in non-violent protest, and even lost their lives so that I could see this day and my kids would be in a different world.  Lost their LIVES on faith in this country’s ability to adjust and the hope that their efforts would make this time possible…that hit me yesterday.

My kids…I hugged my daughter (she’s been sick).  And I did cry a little.  She doesn’t have to know that limit.  She’ll never know that limit.  I’ve always thought racism was so ignorant that it was comical; something just ripe for satire.  I truly appreciated things like The Chappelle Show and Wayans Brothers productions (like Hollywood Shuffle) because they used comedy to highlight the absurdity of racism.  I love that.  But the racism takes on a whole new level of rediculousness when the leader of the most powerful nation in the world is a black man.  My daughter is 3 years old.  I have a sincere hope that could come true now – that she really won’t understand how people could be seriously racist.  That hit me yesterday too.

I think thats how I look at it.  The people that I struggle with now will be long dead and buried by the time my girls are my age.  And while it feels good for me now to see all this worldwide credibility restored and faith in our own democracy’s ability to adjust restored, its really when I think about the things my daughters will never know is when I can find the energy and enthusiasm for life.  I often think about how technology will change things, in fact I think about it constantly.  Think about how my daughters will never wake up at 6am on a Saturday to watch their favorite Saturday Morning cartoon because they can just pull it up.  In fact, my 3 year old has a hard time understanding why if “Dora” can play in her room, why can’t she continue watching it downstairs on the TV (yeah, DirecTV DVR, why the f*** not?).

Today I can think about more significant things that I didn’t really think about because I didn’t see this happening and I didn’t know when it would.  Not knowing that limit or perception of limit.  Dealing with racism (as its clearly not gone) but having a very different perspective as the racism shouldn’t be a limit on what she can do anymore than any other corporate political situation.  No more excuses – yes, “the man” might be holding you back but YOU are the only one limiting yourself because being black isn’t even an excuse for not being the f***ing President of the United States anymore!!

No more excuses for not achieving.

To me personally, it inspires me further to understand the wine industry because the lack of minorities (not women obviously) still puzzles me.  I mean, I get the demographic thing and the “snooty” thing but thats changing with social media, folks like Gary V, new generations coming in, etc…yet for some reason this industry is simply monochromatic.

No more excuses…

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Jury Duty and Life

I need to continue my WBC insiders posts but the last few days have been dominated by kids’ fevers, doctor visits, and this week potential jury duty.

Sorry for the slacking on the posts but I’ll get to it soon enough!

Don't call it a wrap-up, just a point in time…

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WBC 08 in Sonoma CA

The Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) in Sonoma has come and gone.  I’ve been toiling around with so many things to write about that I hardly know where to start.  So I’m going to have to write a series of posts about different things.

First, there will be no “wrap-up” post.  The concept of the WBC was to take our online conversations and meet face to face, as a community, to get a better understanding of the issues and each other.  Then we need to talk more about the issues back online again.  So I have always viewed the WBC as another element like our comments, tweets, forum posts, etc.  We need to keep this conversation going and evolve the medium as a community.  Its exciting when you think about it.  Like I mentioned, technology has once again taken an industry status quo and turned it upside-down.  The game has changed and we can influence how things pan out in the future.  Already, as noted by Alice Feiring in her keynote speech at dinner on Saturday, there has never been a community of wine writers and now, if you felt the energy in the room at the conference, clearly there is.  Guess what – thats new.

As a co-producer with so many new friends let me say a thanks and an apology.

First the apology:

While its necessary to get sponsors to pull something like this together on this scale and make sure we’re not just gathering in a park drinking from the water fountains, we tried very hard to make this a re-imagining of a wine conference.  All bloggers welcome and the community is there to interact with each other first and foremost.  We attempted to dedicate an entire morning to the Unconference – a free-flowing session with ad-hoc topics, no sponsors, no pitches, only bloggers.  I personally communicated to everyone that we would have at least that much time to do something completely unscripted because thats what we as bloggers are about really – going off-script, something completely different.  I took my time getting to the Unconference and when I arrived there was already a session about Wine2.0 and getting bloggers involved.  So after all my talk of unscripted, unsponsored, hippy-blogger-love day, a brand ran a session anyway which changed the tenor of the Unconference.  I didn’t take that lightly and I do apologize to the community for it.  We hadn’t intended for there to be any corporate presence in that session and I should’ve paid a little closer attention to what was going on.  I wanted to get that out because its been toiling in my head for days.

Now the thanks.

I’ve been getting alot of kudos, which I do appreciate and I do my best to say so even though I’m not the best at taking compliments, but really Allan Wright of Zephyr Adventures turned out to be the perfect partner to pull this off.  I know a few of us had been kicking around the idea of a conference for a while but knowing what it takes to pull off a conference, my hesitation was basically I knew what I didn’t know and that was very daunting.  Allan approached me in April and after talking over what he thought he could do for a conference like this it was pretty clear he had alot of experience and skills in areas I didn’t and THAT is what makes teams, companies, ideas, etc. work!  The success we had was not only fast (April to October – 6 months) but we were able to take care of what we needed efficiently as if we worked together for a long time when in reality we were going basically “site unseen”.  So MANY thanks to Allan, the perfect partner to making this come to fruition.

Next post…the anatomy of a conference – the snafus you DIDN’T see even if you thought it went smoothly!

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Repetitive iteration is killing to Innovation

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Image via Wikipedia

I have two real passions that I’ve spent the last few years trying to combine – technology and wine.  This post is about technology.  My technology passion goes back a long long way (in my life) to Commodore Vic20 to working in a computer software store all through High School to going to MIT for an Electrical Engineering degree.  I just love to learn about it and having grown into my skin as somewhat of a geek I feel fine diving in and ripping things apart just to figure out how it works at its most basic level.

Anyway, one thing I’ve seen, particularly in the latest “craze” of social media, is the utter lack on innovation.  There is a repetitive iteration (yes, that was on purpose) to sites and technology I see coming out all over tech but particularly in social media websites.  People, particularly in wine, are confused as to which site to use, why?  Because that are pretty much the same thing.  Slight variations, but for the most part the same.

And yet, many of these sites call their releases “innovation”.  Blech!  Come on.  Innovation is disruptive to the status quo.  In my mind, disruptive makes things interesting.  I’ve gotten involved in a few projects that I found interesting (i.e. I thought could be disruptive) and have tried to counsel these companies on how to highlight their innovations.  I’m not going to blather on about them in this post, this is more of a post to highlight what is and isn’t innovation which is pretty simple – if you’ve created something with some defensible intellectual property then you’ve likely got an innovation.  That means a NEW WAY of doing things.  Not a re-swizzle of old technology.

Unfortunately, far too often folks in Marketing (I guess my current field, technically) walk around touting innovation and what this does is create a high noise floor for real innovation.  One very innovative company that I worked with, Cruvee, went through some intensive messaging sessions with me and are going through some re-designs to reinforce that messaging.  But why did they have to do that and why did they have to call me and ask for my help?  Because the sheer number of “social media” sites that lack innovation in the tiny tiny area of “Wine” made it actually challenging to highlight what they do differently, and believe me, they are taking a very different approach and actually introducing some new concepts.  But that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

I think this is in part due to a diluted engineering discipline called “agile development“, which I’ve written about before.  I say “diluted” because the interpretation of the interpretation of the interpretation of the original discipline has made people think that pumping out any old crap and then adding features will eventually allow you to hit the one thing that people need (or somehow early adopters will just start using it for what they need).  That is a horrible assumption.  That is called “luck” and its no replacement for hard, smart, innovative work.  If you know the story of YouTube you might disagree with me.  If so, then “good luck”, you’re gonna need it.

If you agree with me then what’s the cure?  Easy, proper Product Management – think about what you’re doing, the audience you’re attracting, what their actual problem is, and have a directed effort.  What a Product Management discpline is all about is INCREASING YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS.  You can count on luck, or you can do the work.  I guess it depends on how much time you have and how long you can go without a salary.

On the plus side, investors that I know just ask me “who’s got something innovative?” or “what do you think of this company?” and I can keep being employed to separate the wheat from the chaff.

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Is it me or is this guy a TOTAL douche bag?

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Image by Getty Images via Daylife

OK, so I’m trying to insure that the Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Sonoma has good, solid Wi-Fi access.  I’ve spent a decade and a half in the networking industry and the last 8 years designing wireless products so when I setup a conference for 160+ BLOGGERS, i.e. many many laptops in the same room, I have my concerns because of the physical limitations of Wi-Fi.

So the hotel hooks me up with the contact information for their service provider (the Wi-Fi is outsourced which is typical for a hotel).  I send him a message stating exactly my concerns and pointing out that I’ve setup many tradeshow demos as well as conference networks that got hammered by a techie conference.  Here is the email that he sends back to me (understand, I am the hotel’s customer and I am selling out their hotel for this weekend and giving them untold exposure through media the whole weekend).  Is it me or is this dude kinda of a douche?

Dear Sirs-

There are a total of 19 APs interspersed throughout the hotel, not including extra devices occasionally set up by catering.  Depending on the unit, they’ll support from 12-36 users on the wireless (multiple internals).  This has been the design at the Flamingo since its initial design and installation, almost as if we knew what we were doing…

Please inform the users that the codes will be bound to the MAC address of the NIC they use at the time of connection and entry of the code.  They cannot switch computers and use the same code.  The time in contiguous and not broken up to when they are using the connection, ie: 3 hrs ≠ 9 hrs of 15 minute usage periods.

Also, be aware that the total bandwidth for the Hotel Guests use is 6mb/3mb.  Therefore, this should not be a time for these “HEAVY internet users” to download all the Richard Simmons or Jane Fonda videos as this type of abuse will naturally hinder the enjoyable experience that such a convention should foster, human dialogue and contact.

I hope that you enjoy your stay at the Flamingo and that all elements of your convention are a total success.

JJ

Maybe its me, I don’t know…

Updated: The hotel worked on the service provider to create a parallel network in the main conference area that will be supported by additional APs on non-adjacent channels and they committed to having staff on hand throughout the entire conference should this network shit the bed.  I feel better about the chances of success.

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Still alive and kicking…

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Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

As a fugitive of the cubicle nation I’ve learned a few interesting things.  Some about myself and some about actually jumping ship and really trying to get things going.  In fact, I don’t have much time today but this blog is an important part of my life and I don’t want it to go dark for too long.

So its about three months since I was officially “jumped” and the main thing I’ve learned is this – have your shit together, ducks in a row, and get ready because having little visibility into where the money is going to come from is a scary thing.  Don’t let all these entrepreneurs tell you “oh yeah, just do it; shit or get off the pot; blah blah blah”.  All crap.  There is NOTHING impulsive about jumping ship and going it alone.

If you’re part of the cubicle nation you’ve most likely gotten extremely good at your job and that gives you confidence to “give it a try”.  Recognize this – while you may be a genius in your field, you do NOT know everything you should to go it alone.  Go into it with your eyes open and allow yourself to “know what you don’t know”.  Business development, marketing, networking, tech services, administrative assistant, bookkeeper, customer support, legal secretary, etc…

Its not that you CAN’T do all this stuff, but just know that you’ll need to plan some time where you don’t have money (or assume you don’t) figure out how you’ll pull that off – assuming no income – and then when you’re OK with that you can go for it.  Because what will happen is things will take longer then you think and you need to make sure you’re not rushed into bad decisions for your business just because of the uneasy feeling that “no visibility” gives you.  In fact, you want to figure out everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph as a way to give yourself visibility into your business and the more visibility you have the better you’ll feel about the jump.

Next – you can’t get away from politics.  Now granted, there are no office politics unless you want to count arguments over why the dogs haven’t been walked in a week and the potential of withholding of certain marital obligations as politics.  But the politics that I’m talking about are around meeting new people, making a name for yourself, and building your business.  I’m not big on politics and generally as a consultant, even early in building the business, I tell it like it is, turn down business that while I’m perfectly capable of doing the work, it doesn’t add to my “portfolio” if you will.  Its a tricky thing breaking into new markets and its clear that there are “circles” everywhere you go.  I’ve always known that and I’ve been ready for it.  But its more important to understand that going into it then I would’ve thought before making the leap.  So I think its important to communicate that out – You are not getting away from politics by escaping from the cubicle nation; you are just dealing with a different type of politics.  So “how to gain friends and influence people” is still an important skill!!

OK, I have to run but I think I’ll be doing more and more around communicating my Cubicle Nation Fugitive experiences as they seem to be coming fast and furious and they are actually interesting as I learn from this.

Cheers!

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Wine Spectator Award scandal…yeah, so…

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Image via Wikipedia

OK, so there’s alot of hub-bub about that the Wine Spectator expose that happened by blogger Robin Goldstein.  And first let me say a couple things.  Bloggers are extraordinarily important to the world and this is just the latest example of some good citizen journalism.  Bravo to Robin for the work on setting up this sting.  Nice, ethical, and well executed.

As a marketing professional for a decade and a half I’ll say this though – what did you think the award was?  Wine Spectator is a “for profit” private entity that has what, 100 employees?  I’ve dealt with many many awards for the rediculous number of products and companies I’ve launched and I’ll tell you this, whenever there is a for-profit entity involved then you’re going to pay-to-play.  And if you pay-to-play then you’re probably getting an award!  There are several technology related firms that have pay for entry, then I win the award, then they call me back and pitch me Ad space, and then tell me to be involved in the award ceremony I have the great opportunity to present my product/company at a high profile industry show…for yet another fee.

update: On side note for the history books.  In the late 1990s, what I call “Bubble Days” of tech, pay-to-play got ridiculous.  There were analyst firms that would take EQUITY in a startup and then write a positive report.  Subsequently, these firms would go public and thanks to the Tech Bubble some people got very rich for their “award” or “positive outlook”…nuts…

This Wine Spectator debacle is nothing new or unexpected.  They’re leveraging their brand, which has the power today to make a $20 wine into a $100 wine overnight, to make more money.  What is unexpected is the fact that they were complete IDIOTS about it and obviously do zero vetting not a very thorough job vetting applicants.  Dumb dumb dumb.  But I’m not surprised the award is the way it is.  Not at all actually.  Maybe thats part of the marketer’s secret code or something but thats how these things go.  If this didn’t happen (the dumb non-vetting move being exposed), who wouldn’t pay $250 for this “Excellence” award, hence “profit” opportunity.  Look, even now, if you have a real restaurant whats to stop you from fudging the wine list?  The sting was a totally fake place, but what stops you from doing this again?  Pay-to-play, thats how it works.  Its a revenue generator for the company, thats all.

Now, I do want to point out something in stark contrast.  The “American Wine Blogger Awards“.  Whenever they come around everyone gets in Tom Wark’s grill about “who are you to judge me” and “what makes you think this award is valid at all”, and so on.  I mean he gets HEAVY criticism.  Well guess what – its decided on by people submitting nominations, then the finalists are chosen by a panel and voted on by the people again.  Oh yeah, and it FREE.  In fact, when I offered to sponsor the AWBAs Tom turned that down.  So even though its not perfect I view it kind of like how I view the American Democracy – its not perfect and sometimes its not fair (just look at my tax bill every f’in year), but its about the best you’re gonna get!

Cheers!

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