The Tower of Babel is one of those famous biblical stories– too lofty we reach, position ourselves (literally and figuratively) too close to God, we’re torn down.
A little historical background: speaking one language, the city of Babel was an epicenter of commerce & culture. Only after displeasing the Almighty with the erection of the immense tower dedicated to Man’s achievement, God dispersed them across the lands, each speaking a different language. Hence the origin of our world’s differing dialects (end history lesson.)
This is a world economy. On most levels. Money speaks all languages. Achievement, for all intensive purposes, is really limited by the self. Presently language is one of the last significant gate keepers for true world commerce.
I mean, which is more desirable: Two MBA’s, same school, same ability. One speaks fluent Chinese in addition to English? Yeah, you get my drift.
Technology has gone a long to helping us blend the economies of the world– especially with the Internet. The latest communication newcomer, a phenomenon known as Twitter, impacting business, marketing, product development, PR, you name it. Twitter’s growing, and at an exponential rate– it’s being touted as an alternative to search giant Google. I’ve personally used it for marketing, test-marketing, sourcing new businesses, and information just to name a few, and to great success.
So you will have to believe me when I say it was like Christmas came early when the latest version of Tweetdeck was released. For those not in the know, Twitter to Tweetdeck is like Alex Rodriguez on steriods (oh, wait that’s redundant… oh, well you know what I mean.) If you “tweet” any more than just casually, you need to upgrade yourself to Tweetdeck. Trust me. One feature stands out (though there are A LOT of really great ones– a more intuitive UI for one,) is the added language translater. I’m seeing that as a real paradigm-shifter. Users have the ability to translate johnny-on-the-spot 30+ languages- both sending and receiving.
What does this mean? Why a paradigm-shifter?
It means we are one step closer to actually being a truly diffused world-market — especially when the average business person can easily haggle their wares in German, French, Spanish, Chinese (both traditional & simplified), Serbian, Hindi, Japanese, Vietnamese, just to name a few.
Imagine the effect of a seamless language translator would have on a wine distributor, an import & exporter, manufactures, or creatives (PR/SM/Marketing/Design) when they can do business across the world, without necessarily hiring a translator for initial marketing purposes?
Huge. That’s what.
I know a few marketing plans that would change if they could make efficient inroads into foreign markets. Thanks to twitter and tweetdeck, that just got a heck of a lot easier. Of course we’re not at full Star Trek Communicator level but you can wisps of the future coming. Next step: having a preferential language setting– so no matter what language is tweeted it would be received in YOUR preferred language. Some current issues that still need to be addressed are colloquialisms, syntax and certain words and concepts that just don’t translate readily.
Granted there are limitations: legal, medical and higher business negotiations shouldn’t be left to a simple auto-translator. But for preliminary marketing and sales, to basically get the conversation started- what a heck of a tool!
And once you get to where negotiation and legal is necessary, you can source that pretty easily. (Hello Twitter?)
So back to Babel. As the communication barriers break down, and we move toward building a truly world economy, one that even the smallest business can participate in- what does this mean? Should we be wary of building temples to our vast achievements over nature and circumstance?
Honestly don’t know.
But it sure is going to be exciting to watch it unfold.
Annoying things exist. You can’t escape errands, laundry, traffic, pesky bills, airline security, doing your taxes, remembering different passwords to different websites, long lines and surly government employees. Annoying and, very often, necessary.
Then came the Captcha.
You heard me.
Captcha. Otherwise known as the annoyingly weird exercise of retyping hard to read words when you try to “friend” someone on Facebook. Gmail and Yahoo use captcha to stop spammers from obtaining millions of accounts that they’d use to send spam email. It’s put there to make sure automated programs, or “Bots,” don’t gain access to websites. They, like you, can’t read the wavy, out of focus random words. A computer program, they get over it. You just seethe.
With 200 million captchas “solved” everyday by suckers like you and me, at 10 seconds every time, that roughly adds up to around 150,000 hours each day. EACH DAY.
I bet that got your attention. It should, because it’s an impressive statistic.
Enter reCaptcha. This little company might just get you to actually tolerate this annoying exercise. Seriously. And more companies should adopt this version of the captcha.
Besides being FREE, ReCaptcha, is helping digitize newspapers, books and old-time radio shows, by putting this wasted time to actual good use. Every reCaptcha solved adds to the world’s library of digital books.
Books written prior to computer are currently being “read” by optical computers that scan pages. Except with real type-setting, which is often imperfect, they can’t read the text. Like 20% of the time. So reCaptcha takes the text the computers can’t read and uses it as the security image that you and I have to retype to “friend” Bob Smith on Facebook (except Facebook doesn’t use reCaptcha and yes, that sucks.) You can read more about reCaptcha in their paper cited in Sept. 2008 Science Magazine.
This appeals to me on a lot of fronts. Captchas by themselves are a necessary evil. I get it. ReCaptcha just makes it an efficient use of my time, and one that benefits the world in a real meaningful, tangible way.
What would happen if more companies used ReCaptcha? The world’s digital knowledge base deepens, and I’d be more than happy to help.
If you follow me on Twitter You know I recently was in California visiting the family, friends and basically enjoying a brief break from Boston (which, come February is hellishly cold with a side of bleak.)
On my way to Cali, while laid-over at Chicago-O’Hare, I took it upon myself to try and slip in a bit of work. Powering up my ever-awesome Macbook, (which I should probably name Delilah.) I was shocked that I couldn’t connect to any Wi-Fi. Correction: I couldn’t connect to any FREE Wi-Fi.
I was shocked. I was insulted. Plus, I was getting really annoyed.
Little backstory: genetically I’m part Scottish. At a start-up company. And though my mostly French side (merci petite Maman!) would totally pay $250 for a pair of kick-ass Juicy wedge cork heels, the Scottish lassie in me is like “$6.95 for 2 hours of freakin’ Wi-Fi access?”
Are they high?
I just paid hundreds of dollars to fly, had an intimated moment with an airport security matron named Gloria (and she didn’t even call later,) shelled out about $2.00 more than normal for my Starbucks and muffin at the airport kiosk, and NOW I have to pay over $6 frackin‘ bucks to get my email and maybe work on a blog post.
You know how this ends. Ticked off, I whipped out my iPhone*and managed to get THAT MUCH BETTER utilizing one of the most dazzling pieces of technology that has come out since Laser hair removal… and Botox (or so I hear.)
Aside: I’ve actually told my husband that, outside of his love, the children and my wedding rings, my iPhone is the nicest thing he’s ever given me. True story.
So back to blog… Before my iPhone workout I, of course asked around, not believing this Wi-Fi debacle to be true, and found that the airport Starbucks I just tithed to didn’t offer free Wi-Fi.
“But Starbucks always has free** Wi-Fi,” I whined. It’s like a deal — I buy your obnoxiously over-priced ground bean & water concoctions and I get Internet access, gratis. And I’ll probably be back for seconds. Happily. Skipping with cash in hand.
This got me to thinking…
Other business people seemed resigned to the fact that they need to pay for Wi-Fi. Which for almost $10 a month, at a number of airports & hotels, Boingo seems like a deal for hard-core travelers. But what about the majority of us that don’t travel as frequently? My thought is that, for the cost of tickets, the indignity and hassle of airport security, the overpriced food and drink, asking the extra $6 to send some emails seems a bit rude.
Coversley, knowing what I know now …what would happen if I found an airport (or any establishment for that matter) that offered free Wi-Fi?
I’d be more apt to patronize that establishment. Ticket my lay-over there, where of course I’d eat, drink, and buy my secret trashy airport mags (US Weekly being one fave.) This also led me, remember I DID have a couple hours to kill, to think what would happen if more businesses offered Wi-Fi for free? Those establishments would be more attractive to patronize but there would also be a hidden multiplier effect at play. For every $1 spent of offering free Wi-Fi I wondered how many MORE dollars would A) the establishment receive; and B) would the economy get as a result from being able to do business and shop Amazon.com to our hearts content?
Don’t underestimate the “trickle down” effect that something as simple as free Wi-Fi might do. I stand by my Starbucks (or Panera Bread) example, go to anyone in a metropolitan area– besides over-caffeinated souls, you’ll see something else transpiring…business. A favorite of start-ups, students, consultants, and others, free Wi-Fi areas are both a gathering place -a respite, and a place of commerce. How many times have I had to squeeze in a moment, on the run, to send a business email, buy a book, or last-minute gift online? Every dollar spent on providing Internet access probably pays back many times more*** for the host and the economy at large.
That is an amazing concept to get behind AND to replicate.
It’s a shame O’Hare doesn’t want to pay for Wi-Fi. Instead of the Boingo popping up (nice little reminder that you’re captive & “we’re going to nickel & dime you whenever possible,”) the open page could be a customer-friendly “We are happy to offer you free Wi-Fi while you’re waiting for your flight” with a helpful terminal map, including food & beverage offerings. The airport vendors could chip in, and I know I’d feel a lot better paying for the $9 sandwich if I knew that a portion paid for my access to my email.
My 2 hours really seems so small, so trivial, but it was the tipping point of my trip. Given that long day of travel, I already felt put upon (Gloria, seriously I thought we had a “moment” during the pat down) and, looking back at the game reel, Chicago O’Hare had a real opportunity to make me a fan. They chose not to.
So can this example be extended to other arenas?**** To your business? Others? What if there were more establishments that “gifted” their customers or clients with something outside of shampoo samples? What other opportunities to offer customers something, that in turn benefits both you AND the economy long-term? That is the challenge, but if you can figure out how — you have a fan. A fan that will most likely return and refer their friends. The multiplier of “Free” is a solid PR and marketing technique.
You could just call it “gifting” with a side of good economic Karma.
* Now with the advent of iPhone 3.0 Boingo might be worried (tethering is one of the new features.)
** not necessarily true I found out later
***I couldn’t find a study on this but if you find one, let me know.
**** I was reminded of the policy of free soft-drinks to “designated” drivers at bars. A GREAT example both as an economic (and karmic) multiplier. In college, we’d specially target those bars (and bartenders) that followed this practice.
In a sea of blogs, you may ask why, oh why did I jump in with my own?
Simple. I needed an outlet.
I am totally ADD, but without the Ritalin. I follow my muse pretty much wherever it takes me. With a Mathematics degree, a past in Movies & Television, background in marketing & PR, an MBA and love of tech, design, travel, and anything just plain cool, I needed an outlet to express me. My hubby and children can only take so much. My job doesn’t allow me to spout about the finer points of the wedge heel or the unearthly delights of Fois Gras.
Selfish. I know.
So follow me or not. Read me or not. Take my RSS feed. Abuse me, send me free Gucci sandles (size 10) to blog about or ship me off to your (warm) exotic locale to sit and taste-test your painkillers. I’ll do it. Not for you, but for me. The only thing I won’t touch is cauliflower or gut a fish. So that leaves us pretty much wide open.
I’ll be touching a lot of everything. My mantra is “Good is Good” and if it’s Good, you’ll hear about it from me.
Come on in, the water is fine.