# Post

## Advertising to Calculus Students: The Standard of Proof

Try these math problems on for size:

1. Tom Farber, a calculus teacher in San Diego, California, has a \$316 budget for copies. He needs \$500 to provide his students with the practice they need to master the course.

True or False? \$316 < \$500

2. Getting a larger budget from the school is not an option. There is no discretionary or R&D budget. What is the most sustainable way for Mr. Farber to solve this problem?

A. Pay the \$184 difference out of his own pocket.
B. Keep printing tests as normal, hoping the \$184 would be found somewhere between now and then.
C. Reduce the number of tests. Use up only what his budget allows, possibly sacrificing the course’s effectiveness.
D. None of the above.

Assuming his methods really are effective, give Mr. Farber extra credit for choosing “D” and refusing to sacrifice the quality of his students’ education. When faced with the prospect of a budget shortfall, Farber invented a way to make up for it.

On tests.

And worksheets.

Even the final exam.

## But is it ethical?

The managing director of Commercial Alert, an organization formed explicitly to prevent commercial interests from intruding on spaces they deem ought to be impenetrable, is worried that, since Mr. Farber raised nearly twice as much as his shortfall, this feat might be duplicated by other struggling schools.

Before jumping to conclusions, here are a few questions worth asking:

1. Do Mr. Farber’s extra tests make the course more effective at teaching Calculus?
2. Can that effectiveness be duplicated by some other means, less expensively?
3. Does selling any ad space, whatsoever, in any format, inherently corrupt the education process?
4. Do ads inherently corrupt the students?
5. Is it possible to corrupt students with advertising?
6. What measures can be taken to prevent it?

If the answer to #1 is yes and #s 2-5 are no, then by all means, sell the ads and let the kids learn.

If the answer to #1 is no, then it doesn’t much matter what the other answers are, because the problem isn’t with the number of tests, but with the teaching method.

If the answer to only #1 and #5 are yes, then it becomes necessary to answer #6 and to determine which option costs less: Forking over the dough for copies or investing the time, energy, and money to institute proper safeguards that prevent the corruption of the students or the process.

### Who is responsible for finding out?

The teacher and the school have the duty to educate the children under their care. Thus, it is up to them to confirm the effectiveness and integrity of the system.

Once they’ve established a positive correlation between number of tests and better grades, they can determine if the better grades were caused by another factor, such as some sort of quid pro quo between the teacher and the advertiser.

Beyond that, the public can subject the process to what is called a “reasonable person” test. According to Wikipedia:

The reasonable person is a legal fiction of the common law representing an objective standard against which any individual’s conduct can be measured. It is used to determine if a breach of the standard of care has occurred, provided a duty of care can be proven.

The standard performs a crucial role in determining negligence in both criminal law—that is, criminal negligence—and tort law. The standard also has a presence in contract law, though its use there is substantially different.

Therefore, if Commercial Alert or any other advocacy group believes the practice of exposing students to advertising is harmful in some way, they are obligated to not only assert, but provide a body of evidence that shows how what they claim could be true.

It is incumbent on them to do so, because they propose such advertising be eradicated by statute, and in doing so they eliminate a potentially effective resource for overcoming budget problems in a way that doesn’t require compulsion.

Because unlike individual taxpayers, sponsors have the choice as to whether or not they will participate.

The standard of proof has to rise above the level of indignation – feigned or otherwise. Commercial Alert may have a point. But they may be blowhards. It’s up to them to convince the public which category they fall under.

Likewise, Mr. Farber and his school shouldn’t get a free pass, either. We shouldn’t take on faith that his approach is necessarily better than one requiring fewer tests. But in this case, there should be a mountain of statistical studies already that suggest one thing or another.

All they need to do is cite them. – Cam Beck

## Age of Conversation 2: Don’t Be The Only One Who Doesn’t Get It

Age of Conversation 2: Why Don’t They Get It? was officially released yesterday. I bought both a hardcover and an electronic copy, and from that purchase, \$16.04 is being donated to Variety, the children’s charity.

But that’s not why you should buy this book.

Now, you know that as a contributing author, I’m biased, but having read a few essays so far, I know that the quality of thinking and writing is strong.

As a contributing author to the first Age of Conversation (which is still on sale at Amazon), I can say without bias that this version is so much better than the first.

The difference, I think, can be attributed to several factors.

1. A dedicated theme. “Why Don’t They Get It,” as chosen by the community (including non-authors).
2. Organization. Authors had choice of topics from within that theme. Authors chose between Manifestos, The Accidental Marketer (John Herrington’s chapter is in here), A New Brand of Creative (my choice), My Marketing Tragedy, Life in the Conversation Lane, Keeping Secrets, From Conversation to Action, and Business Models. Kudos to Drew and Gavin for stepping it up.
3. Increased effort. Authors (including returning authors) knew the opportunity was serious. They stepped up their game for this one and unleashed their creativity.
4. More perspectives. About 134 more authors this time than last. We’re all over the globe, too.

Still unconvinced?
While you’re making up your mind, here is some information that may help.

2. Subscribe to the Official Age of Conversation Blog
3. Listen to the Official Age of Conversation Podcast
4. Meet the authors.
5. Interact with them. Don’t be afraid to get in the conversation

Who Are the Authors?

Thanks to the great Kristin Gorski for the author formatting!

– Cam Beck

## Get This Age of Conversation Widget

Copy and paste the text below to add this Age of Conversation widget to your blog.

## The Calm After the Storm

When I was a boy, sometime between 7 and 10, I lived with my family in Okinawa, a tiny island located in the Pacific. It seems like we were hit by one or two typhoons (basically a hurricane by another name) every year. Most of them weren’t serious. We just bunkered down, lit up the candles, and occasionally toweled up the water coming in under the doors. I used to stare out the window with my two older brothers and count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the thunder that accompanied it.

In our third and final year in Okinawa, we were hit by probably the worst one we’d ever seen since we arrived. I seem to remember it being a category 3, but I wouldn’t stake my life on it. The domiciles built for the military were pretty sturdy and we lived on a hill, so we never really worried about the roof crashing in or being overcome by a flood.

When it was over, life continued as normal. There were a few uprooted trees, which at the time I thought was pretty cool, but as it turns out, the worst of the storms didn’t signal the end of time.

Later, when we moved back to coastal North Carolina, we encountered the same type of storm once or twice, but afterwards we picked up the pieces and went back to work (or school, as was the case for my brothers and me).

While I was at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, Hurricane Andrew (the costliest natural disaster in the U.S. until Katrina) came up the coast caused a bit of a mess, but after it was over… you guessed it… we picked up the pieces and soldiered on.

Of course, I’ve already documented the plight of my wife’s family after Hurricane Rita hit the gulf coast.

As flawed human beings, we have a tendency to look at each crisis as the worst that has ever occurred, and the worst that will ever occur.

These storms taught me, and history has confirmed, that we are resilient. We adapt. We find ways to persevere relying on nothing more than the sweat off our backs and the goodwill of our neighbors. Sure, there are tough times ahead, and after this one is over, there will be more we can look forward to.

They will always seem worse than the ones that came before. But we will get up the next morning, strap on our tool belts and rebuild what had been destroyed. That’s what we do. And we will gladly help each other along the way. – Cam Beck

## Online Olympics coverage and Silverlight

Like a lot of people I’m becoming an Olympic junkie. I have my favorite teams that are either not covered on television or that I want to see live, despite of the time difference.

I wasn’t surprised that NBC is using Silverlight  to broadcast on MSNBC. OK, I’ll download your plug-in to see what I want to see. It’s from Microsoft, right? It should work fine because they make the FRICK’N OPERATING SYSTEM AND BROWSER. We’ll it doesn’t. I’m not able to see what I’d like to see. However, I am able to watch the 30 second commercials each time I try to bring up the games, which pisses me off even more.

Maybe it is a problem with my Internet Connection. However, how come I can see the 30 second spot in all of its bloated ad agency ego glory?

Once again Microsoft has proven that they can release products without really testing them. You’d think that they realize they could capture the market and create a brand that would chase out competition due to their roots as the creator of Windows and Internet Explorer. Not so. It seems like Microsoft hasn’t been able to release a trusted version of any of it’s products since the 90’s. With all the anti-trust pressure on them, just making it part of what’s installed on a PC won’t work anymore. Nothing substitutes doing it right the first time.

– Paul Herring

## When Statistics Tell You Nothing

According to eMarketer, as of 2008, 54% of Internet users read at least one blog one time per month, and they project that number to reach 67% by 2012. In addition, the number of bloggers will grow steadily between now and then (although the number is still very small). At first glance, this development seems to be very promising to the blogging community, but in reality, it doesn’t tell us much at all.

The numbers are likely inflated, because the definition is too broad.

You have to read only one blog post once per month to qualify as a blog reader?

You have to update our blog once in the past three months to qualify as a blogger?

When analyzing and comparing statistics, one of the first things you should do is find out how the statisticians defined their terms. Otherwise, you leave yourself open to manipulation by those who, blinded by their own passion, see only that which advances their own beliefs. – Cam Beck

## How to Do Viral the Right Way

After seeing this excellent JibJab video, I knew it would be an big hit. With the YouTube versionbeing viewed over 100,000 times in a day, I’m pretty sure it satisfactorily meets the definition of “viral.”

Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard Today!

When we encounter brilliance, it is commonly useful to examine the elements of it that make it successful, so that we can also duplicate it.

1. Create compelling content
There are many ways to create content that is likely to be widely distributed. Content is compelling to mass audiences if it contains at least one, but preferably two of the following elements:

• It is unexpected
• It strokes the egos of the intended audience (Case in point)
• It is considerably funny

2. Make it easy to consume the content
Be platform and website agnostic. Commit to go wherever your consumers are. That means, as in the above example, if your audience is on YouTube, if the content is video, post it on YouTube. The chances of your content being consumed decreases proportionally to how difficult it is to consume. Typically (but not always), this forbids requiring users download extra software to make it work.

3. Make it easy to distribute the content
This is where a lot of efforts fall short. It isn’t necessarily because they are overlooking the step, but that they don’t recognize the viral potential of it. Maybe they’ll even spend the money to point a few ads at it and miss a great opportunity to help others pass it along. (Related post: Missed Opportunities and Distributable Content)

4. Plant the Seeds
It’s tempting to overdo this. If your content truly is remarkable and compelling, it will spread organically pretty quickly. However, don’t underestimate the time it will take to plant the seeds right.

It is critical to first identify the brand or category-specific (or even just the brand or category-friendly) conversations already taking place. Even if it doesn’t fit your predefined notion of who your audience is.

For instance, you may be in the underwear category, but if your approach to marketing your underwear really is compelling, let the marketers know about it. Chances are, someone will want to talk about it.

I don’t know how they did it, but the above video (minus my head) made one of the morning talk shows, and I have little doubt radio DJs across the country have been touting it, too. Part of this is seeding it where it will be seen, but even that would have been impossible but for the nearly universally compelling content.

What makes something viral?
The term “viral” was not selected by accident. A viral video or campaign, like a virus, is communicable. It infects our consciousness to the point that we feel compelled to pass it on to someone else.

JibJab’s effort with Time for Some Campaignin’ here was successful because they incorporated all of the essential principles of making content viral.” It wasn’t easy, and it certainly can’t be considered “free advertising.” However, it’s funny and relevant, but most of all, it’s communicable.

## Bureaucracy Must Die

Maybe you’ve been there. You toiled for weeks on a large website and collaborated closely with your contact. You asked for and received approval every step of the way, went above and beyond to meet nearly impossible deadlines, answer and rebut requests that are not in the best interests of the client, and you practically nursed the contact along to prepare them for the brave new world of the Internet.

Presentation day arrives. Not including the time it took to perform the research and create the plan, it takes you 5 days to prepare the slides. You give your best performance.

The contact looks at you and says, “This is great, but I can’t approve it. When are you available to give this presentation to the committee so that we can move forward?”

Wait. What?

The work you just performed wasn’t just the culmination of weeks of work, but years of accumulating knowledge – knowledge you had to dig up and pass along to your contact at key intervals, overcoming what you now assume was the decrees of the bureaucracy.

Now you know… you just know this committee will dream up silly requests born of ignorance and groupthink. They will ask that you break all sorts of conventions and usability rules because the boss thinks being different for its own sake is “cutting edge” and “best in class.” You’d better come prepared for anything, because you’ll likely have to deal with it.

First, you took the job without knowing who had approval authority, or worse, you knew all along that the person you were presenting to was just a liaison to the bureaucracy that controls the purse strings, and you didn’t find the source of the objections when you were addressing them with your contact.

Navigating around office politics can be tricky. Because they’re pervasive, there aren’t many companies that can afford to turn away paying clients because of such things.  It’s a part of the job.

But the sooner you can identify the impact the bureaucracy has on the process, the quicker you can find the remedy and work more efficiently. When you do this, you can do better work for more clients for a longer period of time. When you fail, expect to chase your tail and use all of your time explaining and reexplaining the same things over and over again.

If you’re successful, the bureaucracy will take all the credit, but if you really have the client’s best interests at heart, you won’t have a problem with that. – Cam Beck

## Writing a Book With 236 of My Best Friends

Last year, 100 bloggers and rabble-rousers, herded by Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan, conducted an experiment in collaborative writing. The result was The Age of Conversation, a collection of essays loosely tied around the subject of social networking (Buy it on Amazon). By the time we finished, we raised over \$10,000 for charity, which is, if my math is right, somewhat higher than zero.

This year, the conductors are at it again, but this time they made a concentrated effort to provide direction and organization to the essays. Both participants and nonparticipants got to select the topic for the book, which by a democratic vote was, “Why Don’t People Get It?” Each author selected the section they’d write in. The options were:

• Manifestos
• Keeping Secrets in the Age of Conversation
• Moving from Conversation to Action
• The Accidental Marketer (This was John Herrington’s topic)
• A New Brand of Creative (This was my topic)
• My Marketing Tragedy
• Life in the Conversation Lane

Ryan Barrett has collected a bunch of snippets from the chapters of many of the authors. If you want to get a flavor of them, I encourage you to check out the page she dedicated to the effort. – Cam Beck

## My Media Diet: No Rest for the Weary

The brilliant and indefatigable Arun Rajagopal requested that I share my media consumption habits.

Books
I read mostly nonfiction — focusing on business and marketing, history and current events, self-help and philosophy –, but I’ve been trying to break out of that by reading a little more fiction. To that end, I read The Sea Wolf by Jack London last month. I just finished The Christian Husband 2 nights ago. Currently I’m making my way through the excellent *Personality Not Included, for which I will write at least one review when I finish, and Hitler 1936-1945 by Ian Kershaw.

News
I admit it. Although I love newsprint for reasons David ReichBob Glaza and Tangerine Toad all expressed at one point or another, I still get most of my news online. I regularly check USAToday.comMSNBC.comWorldNetDaily (plus its print monthly, Whistleblower), and various news aggregation websites such as The Drudge Report and Scott Baradell’s Spin Thicket, both of which often take me to news stories on websites I would not have otherwise found. I also pick up whatever is lying around here in the office. There is usually a Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Dallas Morning News, and a USA Today around here somewhere.