Facebook: “Ad brokers are watching.”

Facebook: “Ad brokers are watching.”

Use Facebook?

If you do, then you’ll likely know about the recent controversy surrounding Cambridge Analytics. But didn’t Facebook know what Cambridge was doing? And didn’t Facebook knowingly directly share user data with prior political campaigns and other third party ad brokers?

Even if you don’t use Facebook, being aware of the privacy pitfalls that exist in the marketplace for your friends and family is most valuable.

To find out more, please watch this brief interview of me by Fox Business.

Please click HERE.

Devil’s in the details? Good news!

Devil’s in the details? Good news!

The Devil is in the details. Good news! This means picking a trade name for your new business venture will involve a great deal of planning and detail oriented thinking about your launch plan, and the market you serve. This will only serve you in good stead down the line.

Take, for example, a company called “Designbook.” According to a recent article, Established Firms Fight Startups on Names, they are a fledging upstart who is seeking entry into the now crowded social networking market. In attempt to gain a nationwide monopoly on their name, Designbook filed an application to register it’s name with the federal government’s Patent and Trademark office.

Guess who opposed the application? Facebook. According to the networking giant, Designbook’s use of “book” in it’s name is confusingly similar to the “book” used in “Facebook.” Of course, if Designbook was a pen manufacturer, Facebook’s claim wouldn’t likely have merit.

However, as applied to the social networking market, “book” has gained a worldwide reputation as being associated with “Facebook.” So the mammoth’s argument about confusingly similar use has merit — in this instance. Imagine if the market became saturated with “Desginbook,” “Loobook,” “Cokebook,” “Gangabook,” “Pornbook,” and so on? Such uses give the impression that the companies are affiliated with Facebook (as in the case of “Designbook” or “Lookbook”). Otherwise, the tradenames dilute the “Facebook” name (as in the case of “Cokebook,” “Gangabook,” and “Pornbook.”). Unlike confusion, dilution doesn’t require that folks think one brand is affiliated with the other, but merely that that the new brand — i.e. “Cokebook” — makes the famous brand — “Facebook” — less unique.

That being said, assume “Pornbook” launched a website, not in the social networking realm, but as a new humorous online publication by evolutionary biologists like E.O. Wilson for the study of sexual practices among Rhesus monkeys, in addition to other non-human mammals, throughout history. In that case, Facebook would be hard pressed to bring a claim. “Book” is a generic word. Facebook doesn’t own it. So the question becomes, how do you, as a new venture backed company, pick a good name to enter into an otherwise crowded market?

Be original. While “Designbook” describes, in some ways, what the company does, the trade name “Nike” does not. If you didn’t know that “Nike” referred to the shoe company, you’d otherwise think it may apply to a Greek God for victory — it does. All this means is that a company like “Designbook” needs to pick a more original — “fanciful” — name that doesn’t describe, in anyway, what they do. They then can make a splash in the market — like Nike did after Mr. Jordan helped revamp the brand. (Remember those Spike Lee/Michael Jordan commercials?) In the end, an original name can actually help “Designbook” gain more market share instead of merely being a “me too” Facebook.

Only by respecting the Devil and his details will you arrive at a sustainable, attention grabbing, name.

Copernicus wouldn’t have had any Facebook likes — that’s because he was right.

Copernicus wouldn’t have had any Facebook likes — that’s because he was right.

If Facebook likes existed at the time of Copernicus, he would have been considered a loser, just like he nerds in Revenge of the Nerds. Like them, nobody would have given Copernicus a “like.” But, in the end, Copernicus ended up being right — and the nerds won out. And yet recent press in The Wall Street Journal has indicated children are being taught from a young age to heed likes on Facebook as a proxy for the value of their art work. Is this a good thing for innovation?

As the Copernican revolution shows us, innovation doesn’t always give us answers that make us feel warm and cozy inside in the short term. When Copernicus came out with his theory that the sun — and not the earth — is the center of the universe, he was considered a heretic. That revolution shows us that being ahead of the curve isn’t only lonely — it is sometimes downright unpopular.

No doubt, Steve Jobs felt this way, at times, when he was CEO of Apple. The board of directors thought he was nuts for wanting to put so much time, money, and energy into the design of the personal computer when others in the market, such as IBM, were doing just fine without such bells and whistles. In fact, the board temporarily ousted Jobs for pursuing his idea of making personal computers not only easy to use — but lovely to look at.

Look at where Apple is now.

At the time, Jobs wouldn’t have had any likes on Facebook among the board. And yet he continued. The point isn’t that to be a innovator, you always need to be unpopular. Sometimes thinking of a new great technology product and testing it in the market is the way to go. But, in other cases, it makes sense to trade off short term unpopularity in exchange for a longer term innovative bang.

Giving too much respect to short term popularity on Facebook or on any other social network will have a powerful chilling effect on the next Copernicus — which can kill innovation.