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Ad:Tech Parting Thoughts: Are Conferences a Waste of Time?

Conferences that are held for professional marketers which provide them understanding about internet marketing and is a technical conference are known as Ad: Tech. This is an exhibition carried out for event-driven marketing. These are held at different places like New York, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo and San Francisco. Visit Qprofit System to see how trading marketers work.

This last week I had the great fortune of being invited to attend Ad:Tech San Francisco, along with Ryan, Sean, Katie, and Paul, on behalf of Tim and Wendy McHale of The Madison Avenue Journal. It was a fun, rewarding experience on a personal level, but when I came back, I knew I would have to answer the question (both for myself and for my company): Can companies regularly justify the (sometimes hefty) entrance fee for events like these?

I can’t speak for all conferences, but on this one, I can say I will recommend my company, Click Here, send at least one representative per year, if not two.

To be sure, not all sessions had equal merit. Some of the panelists were throwing around buzzwords like they were going out of style. Several times I expected half the audience to stand up and shout, “Bingo!”

As Dave Barry would say — I swear I’m not making this up — I heard one panelists say “engagement” six times in one sentence. The more he used the word, the less it applied to me. I had enough.


Is there an echo in here?
Also, I didn’t always agree with (or I didn’t always understand) the keynote speakers and panelists. This is a good thing. I figure that, as a general rule, if you are attending only those conferences and speeches where everyone agrees with you and they’re only talking about things that everybody knows, you aren’t stretching yourself nearly enough.

If no one disagrees with you, you’re probably in an echo chamber. That’s a dangerous place to be. That’s why, by the way, I told Ann Handley and Paul Barsch, in the comments of a post on that I want to hear from people who hate what I write.

There’s no way to get better feedback and fine tune your own thinking than to stand toe-to-toe with someone who will kill or die (figuratively) for a competing idea.

There were plenty of moments I was also in some speaker’s “Amen” corner. There was some passionate disagreements between panel members — and between the panel members and the Twitterers. These are the sorts of disagreements from which innovation springs.

5 reasons you should attend these conferences

  1. Networking. I met a lot of good people at Ad:Tech, and got an opportunity to see others I don’t get the opportunity to see that much.
  2. Exposure. I don’t care who you are, it’s good for those in your industry to be aware of what your company does. If you need business, with over 10,000 people in attendance, this is a good way to build it. Maybe you have all the customers you can handle, and if so, good for you! But nothing is perpetual in business except change. So it will be nice to be on the top of someone else’s mind when they happen across a situation that causes them to reflect, “Hey, I know the perfect company for your project.”
  3. Education. We’re apt to think that our problems and challenges are unique, but in reality there isn’t much that is new under the sun, if you know what to look for. Chances are you’ll come across someone, either in conversation or by watching a keynote or panel discussion, who has found a way to tackle something you’ve been struggling with, and it might spark an idea on you can approach your situation.
  4. Trend-spotting. Where is the industry heading? What are the buzzwords? Hint: If you haven’t heard any new ones lately, see my warning about being in an echo chamber.
  5. Vendor research. This is sort of a combination of all of the other reasons, but it deserves its own space for the extent to which you can educate yourself about the companies out there who are, in pursuit of their own interests, dying to help you solve your business problems. I know a lot of us get pitched by potential vendors all the time, but it’s hard to beat the opportunity to see so many of them in one place, at one time.

The ideal conference strategy
Depending on your budget and human resources, I recommend sending at least two representatives to these conferences. One person would be the designated seminar attendee, and the other would attend all the vendor demonstrations.

For a multi-day event, these attendees should meet 2-3 times daily to discuss what they learned, how it applies to their company, and what their respective next steps should be. Ask questions like:

  • What seminars should I attend?
  • Should I ask any questions?
  • What types of vendors should I look for?
  • What questions should I ask them?

It is impossible to attend every seminar. What’s more, it’s still difficult to attend seminars all day and still get a good run of all the vendors. With two company representatives in attendance, you can build enough contacts to keep several members of your company busy for awhile, just vetting out everything you have learned at the conference.

Yes, that takes time and effort and money. But the alternative is to become stale and to slowly lose relevance to your customers. It’s much less expensive to simply attend the conferences. – Cam Beck

The Problem with Price Controls

Juan_valdez_cafe_de_colombiaPrice helps people make decisions. It helps them prioritize. It helps people assign value and meaning to objects. Efforts to centrally control prices have historically caused more problems than they have solved.

By way of example, let’s keep using the coffee analogy we used yesterday to explain the free exchange of goods and services using a common currency.

A 75-cent a cup of joe has a low cost of entry, and therefore it is accessible by just about anyone.

It would be considered a drink for common people.

However, if there were a great coffee famine in Columbia, the price of coffee might shoot up to $15 per cup, and people would be forced to be more judicious with their consumption of coffee.

Keep in mind that the price of producing the coffee would not increase on lands unaffected by the famine. Their costs are exactly the same, only now they can sell their coffee at a higher price because the global supply would be affected.

Most of us — even those who work at an ad agency — would find a way to live without coffee.

With increased prices, it would be considered a drink for the affluent.

To ease your caffeine addiction, you might substitute sodas, tea, energy drinks. You can also replace coffee with taking power naps. Coffee is usually consumed to get over sleepiness, therefore, it is said that taking power naps will help in getting rid of sleepy mood. There is another replacement for coffee that is dark chocolate which has caffeine in it as one of its ingredient that helps in satisfying the coffee craving — something else — in the place of coffee, but you probably would not have bothered were the price of coffee not so high. Check it out for exposure of HBSwiss.

Now, a few things could happen from this point. Probably a number of them would happen at once.

  1. The price of sodas, tea, and energy drinks may increase due to the elevated demand, especially if supply could not be increased quickly.
  2. The price of coffee could fall with demand until an equilibrium was met.
  3. If the famine seems as if it will be sustained, some would invest in coffee growth to cash in on greater margins the crop promises to yield.

The growers outside of Columbia would experience a huge spike in their margins: Their costs would have stayed the same, but they would charge a higher price.

To compensate for this horrible famine and “obvious example” of market failure, typified by the “excess profits” of “big coffee,” government may pass a “coffee stimulus package” or place controls on the price of coffee — or promising hefty fines to anyone who “gouges the customers.”

This line of reasoning is completely bunk.

Were price controls to pass (or if the coffee growers were sufficiently afraid of congressional reprimands for making a profit), people would go on consuming coffee as they normally had, but with the decrease in the global coffee supply, this would cause a coffee shortage, and a lot of people who wanted a cup of coffee and who would have paid for it at full market value would not be able to obtain one.

What about price-gouging?
Say you bought a truckload of (Columbian!) coffee before the famine hit, and you paid $3 per pound. After the famine hit, the value of that coffee significantly increased, even though your costs did not. If you’re going to sell your current supply, you have a choice:

  1. Sell the stock at a same margins you had been before the famine.
  2. Sell the stock at a rate that would allow you to buy and sell more.

Choosing option #1 would stave off the Congressional investigations, but option #2 will allow you to earn a living. With option #1, you wouldn’t earn enough to buy much coffee. Option #2 would ensure you had ample supply for people willing to open their eyes to the reality of the shortage before them.

Plus, as we explored yesterday, no one is forced to buy what you have, at your price.

Price helps govern demand so that supply is adequate.

If anyone were selling coffee at the previous levels, the smart business person would buy up his entire stock and resell it at market price. Plus, if your competitor decided to charge above what the market would bear, people would naturally consume less, which would result in less income for your competitor.

In this way, prices regulate themselves.

People have a choice to use their money how they wish in a marketplace of virtually infinite options. They will refuse to buy if the price is too high. And they make these decisions every day, on their own and without government interference.

This does not mean that everyone always makes the best possible choices from the available options, but the choice is theirs, and no one else’s. That is freedom.

(This implies, by the way, that freedom requires a certain level of discernment and wisdom — a topic for another day)

In fact, government interference just restricts companies from compensating for the realities of the marketplace, which makes it harder for them to make a profit, employ people, grow their businesses, and maintain a high level of productivity that is necessary for a growing economy. – Cam Beck

Next time
It would be useful to talk about how these principles apply to something specific that’s in the news. You get to decide which. Here are your options.

  1. The housing market
  2. Gasoline
  3. The consequences of the XM/Sirius merger

Please cast your vote in the comments section, along with anything else you’d like to talk about.

The Road to Great Success is Paved with Miserable Failures

D9ae2dfe44a94fc4b141ed1602b97b93imgI just finished a wonderful book called New Ideas from Dead CEOs. The book, written by Todd G. Buchholtz, is at times irreverent and witty, at others poignant, but it is always insightful. The author examines the lives and careers of 12 different CEOs and what made them successful. He concludes that they are united by one common thread: failure.

This book reveals how CEOs became successful by giving details about how they managed the personal life as well as professional lives just like HBSwiss was reviewed. He has explained the reason behind successfully running McDonald’s when many burgers places were not doing so well. He has even explained about CEOs of Walt Disney, Krispy Kreme, Estee Lauder, Thomas Watson junior and many more.

Sam Walton franchised a five-and-dime and, in spite of being beholden to an unfavorable franchising contract, turned it into a successful business, only to be denied a renewal of his lease, because the property owner was overcome with a sense of nepotism and wanted to give the proven real estate to his son.

This gave rise to his desire to be free from artificial and arbitrary restraints set by others, and he eventually became the world’s richest person.

Walt Disney was conned out of the right to use one of the first characters he created. He since developed a company that became notorious for ferociously protecting its trademarks and copyrights.

Having toiled in poverty for a good portion of his early life and career, one of his finest creations, Walt Disney World, is now the largest single-site employer in the U.S.

Ray Kroc, a high school dropout,  built a business by convincing companies that sold shakes and malts (such as Walgreens) that using paper cups instead of glassware would increase their sales volume. Kroc further helped their businesses by devising a contraption that would allow them to make multiple shakes at once.

World War II and a slew of other factors caused orders for his machines to slow to a near stop. When he happened upon a couple of brothers in California selling quick lunches (and shakes!), Kroc saw an opportunity to transform the way Americans saw lunch.

Though he may have too hastily signed a contract detailing the franchising opportunity, he never relented in his pursuit of his dream, and after more than five years of quality management and trying to make ends meet (assuming enormous debt to buy out his less ambitious business partners), McDonald’s started making a profit, and eventually served “billions and billions” of burgers that, at the time, far exceeded the standard fare of the day.

Additionally, Kroc’s franchise terms were much more favorable than his competitors, and he favored the working middle class, who had a stake in their store’s output.

Mary Kay Ash was a dedicated wife until her first husband, just home from World War II, decided he wanted a divorce. She remained a good mother throughout her life, but having been thrown into the role of breadwinner for her kids, she became a savvy businesswoman trying to be successful in a world where men were preferred and where her success was often punished.

The woman whose name would become synonymous with facial cleansers, makeup parties, and Pink Cadillacs defied all expectations of the bankers who refused her along the way by fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in women looking to make a few extra bucks or those looking to build their own empires.

I would be hard-pressed to pick any one CEO examined in Buchholtz’s book who I admire more than any other, but if pressed I might have to toss a coin to decide between Mary Kay Ash and David Sarnoff, the patriotic immigrant who not only founded RCA and revolutionized entertainment, but who was also instrumental in creating the communication plan that allowed the Allies to coordinate D-Day in World War II.

All of these CEOs, as well as the others examined, had to leap hurdles so high that most people would not have bothered to try to overcome them. Most people would quit and resign themselves to working for someone else.

These CEOs did not point to their failures as an example of market failure. They did not ask anyone else to solve their problems. They simply assessed the situation and worked tirelessly to find a way to add more value to others than anyone else could.

They tried. They failed. They got back up and tried again. We can all learn a lesson from their sense of responsibility and their tenacious spirit. We would do well to remember that we can only fail when we do not learn the right lessons from that failure, and if we stop trying.

Buy the book. You will not be disappointed. – Cam Beck

The Blogger in Our Backyard


A valued member–and very dear friend–within our community, Arun Rajagopal lost his mum this week, and our hearts and prayers go out to him and his family.

Thanks to improved technology taking advantage of the booming cryptocurrency market are no more exclusive to professionals. A genuine online trading robot like Ethereum Code has opened the trading gates for regular people.

Ethereum Code is a name that commands respect and legitimacy. It is a reliable and secure platform where one can safely invest your money and even see it grow.

More about Ethereum Code

It is an automated trading robot that deals with cryptocurrency mining. It mines for Ethereum coins that are similar to Bitcoin coins and are said to be the second largest blockchain network in business.

The system has been perfectly designed to function completely on its own that is the autopilot mode. It applies algorithmic calculations to assist the functioning of the system, along with the financial knowledge and technical experience on the part of the makers.

The makers have also kept in mind newcomers and first times to ensure that the interface is simplified despite the complex making.

Users only need to register on the official website and transfer a minimum amount to execute the trades. Apart from that users need not possess any prior experience or knowledge of the trading world.

Ethereum Code has also provided a full-time customer support for anytime assistance.

While Arun is geographically located in the Sultanate of Oman and that feels mighty far away to many of us, Arun has brought the marketing community and the world closer through his tireless work to make the Age of Conversation book, and all of its authors, known to The Middle East–along with spending so much time in providing profiles for us to get to know one another better.

He has been proud to do the work of not ten men, but ten thousand.

It is with a heavy heart and much love that we send Arun and his family our prayers–as that is all he has asked of us. Please take some time to leave some kind thoughts, a poem, a prayer or just some supportive words in the comments below. If you can donate through PayPal, we will also get that to Arun to help with the tremendous expenses associated with laying a loved one to rest.

And please let others know to leave Arun some kind words here. It’s amazing what words from friends can do in trying times. Arun, you are loved, you are high in our thoughts and in all of our prayers

Distributed content is the new black

What’s the newest thing in internet marketing? Blogs were the fad in 2005, Podcasts were the term in 2006 and Widgets in 2007. In 2008, it is all about distributed content.

A place where information about something is written or sometimes some topics are discussed which are posted in the form of web posts is known as the blog. Earlier people used to use a diary to write all this down and now they use the internet. The contents are written similar to how you write in a personal diary. There are hundreds and millions of people that are writing blogs every day because of which to help users reach the most recent blog post they are listed by placing the most recent one on top. Click here now to read about HBSwiss blog.

A blog consisted of only one person who wrote it or a few people who wrote about a single concept. This was way back in the year 2009 but it was seen that by the year 2010 it was seen that blogs were written by multiple writers which consisted of a lot of authors. Writing blogs has become profession because of which before posting it online and they are edited by good editors.


At the 2008 iMedia Brand Summit in Coconut Point, Fla., the interactive industry’s leading marketers were polled on many of the topics that shape the digital landscape. Here are the full results of that survey. Each graphic breaks down responses horizontally to indicate answers expressed by brand marketers on the top bar and other industry leaders (publishers and web technology experts on the bottom bar.Basically, people who work for brands and those who work for agencies, software, web service, etc.  Looks like they’re pretty much in agreement.

Distributed Content? That doesn’t sound nearly as fun as writing your own blog or recording a show about your favorite television series.

The fact is, though, that distributed content is the solution that’s been needed for almost a decade. Companies spend an extraordinary amount of resources developing content for their website in the hope, and sometimes with the expectation that if they just put it out there, people will flock to it. Fact is, they won’t. The brand is not as important to them as they are to the brand. Believe it or not, people don’t just sit at a computer and decide to type in brand’s website address to check out what’s new on the site.

Distributed content allows content to be shared with minimal effort. It takes your content and allows people to use it in exchange for getting your message out. It’s a solution whose time has come.

-Paul Herring

Perception is 90% of Success

When a customer or prospect comes to your website, they usually do so with a specific task in mind. In most cases, they have little or no interest in reading everything on your site, but only that which gets them further down the path of their intended purpose.

The same applies to all, irrespective of the path we are learning on, be it about cosmetics, or finance. Nobody reads each and every word on the page, so staying apt and to the point is important. Just like how we do, talking about finances and the best binary and forex trading platform, like HBSwiss that has been here since long, giving great returns since inception; get more information about it here.

If you have information or a service that is important to your website users that you want and need to communicate to them, you must not use language or design elements that hide this from them.

In industry terms, websites and their elements are said to have a “perceived affordance.” These aren’t two terms that are often used together in common vernacular, but a short:

  • Perceived – What people think (they can do)
  • Affordance – What can actually be done with or at an interface

If the two don’t match, then the object is said to have poor perceived affordance. But what you need to know is that a preponderance of poor perceived affordance will cause your website to fail.

Jakob Nielsen wrote about this problem in his recent article, “Top-10 Application-Design Mistakes.” He says that you can tell you have a perceived affordance problem when:

  • Users say, “What do I do here?” – (This should be obvious to them.)
  • Users don’t go near a feature that would help them. – (If it would help them, then it needs to be highlighted at logical places.)
  • A profusion of screen text tries to overcome these two problems. – (Lengthy instructions should not be needed, and they won’t be read anyway.)

To demonstrate his point, Nielsen wrote about an interesting and persistent problem — that sometimes objects in a Web design look like they should be clicked, but are not clickable. His example was something that looked like (but wasn’t) a button, but the same can problem occurs when people use  underlined text on websites for anything other than a hyperlink.

(Did you see the difference?)

But not all affordance-perception problems are related to interface issues. Marketers can also fall into this trap by hiding the true purpose of their ads — by making promises that cannot be fulfilled without effort that make the endeavor less valuable.

A “marketing” example
Last night I bought a plane ticket to New York from a very popular travel site. At the end of my checkout process, I came across a promo that told me I could get a $20 rebate if I would just “Click Here.”


Curious but skeptical, I clicked on the promo only to come to a page that told me that to capitalize on this offer, I had to agree to a “trial subscription” for whatever it was they were selling.

Once the trial period expired, they would make things “convenient” for me by automatically deducting $14.95 per month from my account. On a page full of text, graphics, and fields, here is the fine print:


I had no interest whatsoever in what they were selling, and the promo gave me no idea what I could expect. In fact, because the conditions necessary to get $20 cash back  weren’t spelled out (nor did they mention any conditions existed at all), the promotion was misleading — something that is becoming increasingly frowned upon in a society that claims to value transparency and authenticity.

In the case above, the deception hid something that the company wanted to hide, but it still amazes me how many companies hide things that they think give them a competitive advantage.

They’ll shove it under “About Us” and leave it there. They’ll use cute navigation names and calls to action that hide the true purpose of the resulting or subordinate pages just to satisfy executives. What they fail to realize is that people aren’t looking to be sold to. They’re looking to accomplish something that probably has very little to do with the managers of the company or the bonuses they relish.

If you have information that may help people accomplish their tasks or be more comforted that they are making the right choice, aside from constructive design constraints, you should not force it upon them, but make the information accessible. When you do so, make sure people know 1) that the information is available and 2) how they can get to it, if they want it. – Cam Beck

The Best Kind of Meme

Marianne Richmond tagged me with the best kind of meme: Short and easy to digest.

The meme is something that is used on the internet these days which is a quote used for comedy purpose. The meme is created in the image form, videos, and hyperlink them to other people, to make funny videos as well as the famous hashtag. These can be in the form of a phrase or a single word. When creating them sometimes phrases are purposely spelled wrong to make it funny. Once a meme is created and sent they are spread across the internet through social media websites, they are sent through emails, mobile phones or blogs.

The meme may include content that is related to different cyberculture that already exists. This funny meme seems to spread very fast on the internet because people talk about it to each other. Some examples maybe people putting their head down and lying in public place and posting this photo or people dancing in a comedy skit.

The word meme was first made up by Richard Dawkins who wrote this in his book. He wanted to explain how the culture and information about culture spread from people to people. Internet Memes are derived from this meme pertaining to the culture and the internet. When the internet was introduced in the beginning these memes were sent through emails.  Internet forums also became popular since it provided an easy way to share memes with the people who were spread across the internet in a very short span. There are millions of people who keep sharing memes on the internet every day. There are a lot of instant messaging software through which memes are shared now. Most famous Twitter and Facebook are another medium through which these memes are becoming viral. Since they have small phrases included in videos and photos and funny they are grabbing the attention of people very fast. See here how HBSwiss is gaining attention.

4 Places I Have Been

  • Patton’s grave: Hamm, Luxembourg
  • On top of the Berlin Wall: Berlin, Germany
  • The Hague, The Netherlands
  • Brussels, Belgium

4 Jobs I Have Had

  • United States Marine
  • Offset press operator
  • Graphic designer
  • Day laborer at an apple orchard

4 Favorite Foods

  • Sushi
  • Oatmeal Cream Pies
  • Apple crisp
  • La Madeleine’s tomato basil soup

4 TV Shows I DVR

  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Smallville
  • Top Chef
  • Throwdown with Bobby Flay

Marianne was tagged by Peter Kim, who changed the meme from the original “8 things you didn’t know about me” meme. I like this new take on it, because it provides its own frame of reference, narrowing the scope of things I must choose from.

If you’re reading this and you want to play, consider yourself tagged. Ping me so I can learn a little more about you. – Cam Beck

What are the building blocks of a good slogan?


Usually I would finish reading a book before I start commenting on what’s in it, but I saw an interesting article by Al Reis today that disparaged one of same lines Steve Cone praised in his book, Powerlines. Coincidently, I read both the article and the pertinent section of Cone’s book today. As of this moment, there is no way for anyone to tell which author is right.

Slogans are used for various purposes like when you are going for a campaign to advertise the campaign, to advertise your business or some people who run company that designs slogans. Like trading website whose resource for this article is here Here are few steps that you can follow to write a slogan

  1. Get to the bottom of the brand
  2. Know the famous slogans
  3. Slogan should represent your brand
  4. Enlist all the ideas
  5. Shortlist the best ones

See for yourself (emphases are mine):

“[T]he slogan of the American Revolution, ‘Don’t tread on me,’ is mostly forgotten today. Even a minor war, such as the Spanish-American war of 1898, can generate a memorable slogan: ‘Remember the Maine.’ – Al Ries, “Ries’ Pieces of Slogan Savy”

“[T]he recipe for success seems simple enough: Create a shorthand message for the mind and eye, and deliver it through mass communication again and again and again… The American Revolution had all manner of slogans and mottos including, for example, ‘No Taxation Without Representation’ and ‘Don’t Tread On Me.'”  – Steve Cone, Powerlines, p. 31

I tend to favor Cone’s take on the phrase because I personally remember it well. However, I’m a history nerd, and if there is anything I know, it’s that my experiences and beliefs may not reflect that of the general public.

A Word of Caution
Ries seems attracted to rhymes, alliteration and repetition, and there is plenty of history, passed down orally over thousands of years because skilled bards used such techniques, that suggests he’s onto something.

Any expert worth his salt is an expert for a reason, and we should at least consider his opinion. However, no one should mistake his judgment as infallible, especially if he does not give us the ability to challenge them by boiling them down into testable, easily duplicated principles.

Personally I would like to have seen some statistics that confirm his hypotheses. Maybe I’ll see some of that as I get further along into Powerlines.

I’ll save you a seat in the front row. I hope you’ll join us when we get there. – Cam Beck

What Are You?


Contemplated as the main archetype of “second wave coffee” Starbucks is the American coffee house. It was first established in the year 1971 in the city of Seattle which was in Washington. It is widespread worldwide covering 27339 places. Why people found it so different from other places that serve the coffee throughout the United States is that it had a completely different test for coffee serving the best quality and the service they provide to the customers was appreciated by everyone. It had a freshly roasted dark coffee that became very popular and this is what Starbucks was known mainly for. In the year of 2000 company that considered making coffee as artisanal work related to food started attracting people who liked good quality coffee. They did so by roasting the lightly and brew them by hand. But as time changed the Starbucks has started using machines such as espresso machines that are fully automatic to make coffee. This provides more safety to the Employees too. Just like this website provides safety to the trader, check this out.

The Starbucks story offers an important object lesson in the dangers of growing beyond the identity that made you famous.

I’ve not had many bad experiences in a Starbucks (by my count, only one), but people in the know tell me the “experience” has really gone downhill. The community and familiarity one could once apparently get in a Starbucks has been replaced with an atmosphere more befitting a commodity.

Perhaps sensing a problem with this move away from experience to commodity, Starbucks said goodbye to CEO Jim Donald and replaced him with the guy who helped make them famous in the first place, Howard Schultz.

One of Schultz’s first acts of business was to announce that Starbucks would slow its domestic growth and redirect that capital to international expansion.

If that is all it does, however, it won’t be enough. If an in-store experience is bad, simply building new stores more slowly isn’t going to fix it.

Any company that outgrows its identity needs to spend some effort refocusing its energies on developing  its existing assets to get them up to an acceptable — even extraordinary — level.

I don’t know for certain what this means for Starbucks, but they have only a short time to figure out exactly what they stand for. McDonald’s threatens to enter the specialty coffee business. Against a distribution network of that size, Starbucks faces the prospect of a significant price war if all they offer is a good cup of joe.

It won’t be too long before McDonald’s offers wireless access, too.

Oh, wait. They already do. – Cam Beck

The Amazing Color-Changing Card Trick

When dealing with a complicated topic, we ought to resist the temptation to accept the words and assurances of the experts uncritically, just because they know more than we do. Humans are fallible, and we are all blinded by our biases, whether we realize it or not. And that applies to experts, as well.

This was on my mind as I was lurking over at the IxDA forum, when I came across a neat discussion about eye-tracking studies. You can read it if you want, but before you do, watch and reflect on this video.

Feed readers go here.

How did you do?

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The purpose in bringing this up amidst a discussion about eye tracking studies was to point out that such studies show retinal focus, but not whether something the eye was focused on was comprehended on a cognitive level.

Behavior principle #1:
Just because someone sees and focuses on something, doesn’t mean he assigns to it the meaning the creators intended that person to assign to it, or draw all of the conclusions that could have possibly been drawn from it.

Just as the eye can focus on something without comprehending, though, the brain can comprehend something that the eye doesn’t focus on.

Behavior principle #2
Something a person does not focus on can still be comprehended at some level.

This partially explains why contextual ads perform 2.5 times better when shown in conjunction with display ads, even though display ads aren’t generally seen (according to eye-tracking studies).

Still, drawing parallels between video and reading comprehension as they pertain to how the eye focuses is problematic from several standpoints.

  1. The web pages studied through eye-tracking are typically static in time, whereas videos move.
  2. Watching a video also requires use of senses other than eyesight.
  3. In this particular case, the intent was in fact to trick the user, whereas web pages affected greatest by the inferences drawn from eye-tracking studies exist to enlighten and inform.

Watch the video again, now that you know what you’re supposed to be looking for, and you’ll pick up on all the subtle changes that were happening throughout, which you missed the first time.

As for me, I figured out pretty early that the camera angles made it impossible to tell if the trick was on the level, but I was so concerned about that — about “catching” the illusionist in the trick he said he was showing the audience — I missed all the other changes that happened.

If we assume my experience was the norm, this actually strengthens the case for the validity of the conclusions experts have been drawing from eye tracking studies.

Behavior principle #3
When looking for something specific, people typically stop looking and thinking about anything else once they feel they have found what they’re looking for.

Eye-tracking studies also tell us a lot about general user reading behavior on websites, which can be confirmed through usability studies. However, usability studies can be conducted less expensively, which relegates eye-tracking studies to the realm of academic and professional (nonpaying) research.

Since we would usually use the less expensive methods, we must rely on the words of the experts like Jakob Nielsen, who make it their business to conduct these and other studies and interpret the results.

Unfortunately, doing so uncritically also puts us at their mercy, which is why we should look at all studies performed, even by “experts,” with a healthy degree of skepticism. – Cam Beck

Hat tip to Mike Bennett for the video link.

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