Tying digital media and actions to in-store behaviors

Posted in tech | Tagged , ,

Many brands struggle to prove ROI for their digital media spend. These 3 simple strategies can to tie real-world conversions to digital advertising.

Unlike TV and Radio advertising, digital media offers the possibility of tracking individual ad views to purchases. Many brands have made this leap for their online and in-app purchases, but a much smaller number have taken the next step and started tying digital media to real-world activity – or even realized that it’s possible!

That’s a huge missed opportunity – for modern advertisers being able to accurately link media to sales is an essential step in proving the value of campaigns. There are three main strategies that can be used to do this deterministically. Continue reading

Thoughts on Trump’s election and California’s partisan divide

Posted in News and Politics

Like many Californians who grew up here, I have always considered myself a Californian more than an American.  In my 20’s I spent years travelling back and forth across the United States as part of various environmental and social justice campaigns and that feeling only deepened.  When outside the US I always tell people who ask that I am a Californian when they ask my nationality.  My daughter is a ninth generation Californian and there is nowhere else in North America I would even consider living.  As I have said for years – long before becoming involved in the independence movement – I am a Californian by birth, culture, and inclination and an American because they conquered us. As you might expect, identifying as a Californian first has an impact on how I view American politics.  

A tremendous amount of ink has been spilled about the recent American elections.  As tempting as it is to rant about everything the Democrats did wrong along the way, I’ll save that rant for another day. Instead, I want to talk a bit about why Californians voted the way they did and what that means for our future.

At the end of the day, two thirds of California’s voters checked the box for Clinton – some enthusiastically and some less so.  Of course there were four American parties in the race, but because America uses an utterly broken “first past the post” voting system instead of the proportional representation that most democracies use, everyone knew from jump that only the Democrat and Republican had a chance of winning. Being forced to choose a lesser evil is a fundamental part of the American political system, and is the not-so-secret ingredient that allows American politicians to continue to claim a democratic mandate even while overwhelmingly pursuing policies that the majority of Americans oppose.

Even so, Clinton’s landslide win in California is noteworthy.  Californians – more than any of the other subjects of the American empire – overwhelmingly decided Donald Trump was the greater evil and even normally conservative areas like Orange County voted against him.

Like previous elections, this one came down to urban vs rural. Rural Californians, rightly disgusted at the way they have been ignored and betrayed by Democrats in Sacramento and Washington DC both, overwhelmingly opted to come out and vote for someone who portrayed himself as an outsider who would listen to them. The fact that millions of people who knew their votes would make no difference came out to vote against the Democrat speaks volumes to the levels of dissatisfaction.  We need to firmly denounce the condescending attitude that so many Democrats have towards rural voters and recognize that there are real issues here that need to be addressed.

From my own conversations with Californian Trump voters, some were undeniably driven by racism – there is a shrinking but still significant segment of our population that regard immigrants from the Spanish-speaking countries to our south as invaders.  It would be a mistake to underestimate organized racists over the coming years now that they have sponsorship from the white house.  These folks have no place in California and all we can do is oppose them.  There is a much larger group, however, that voted for him as a vote of no confidence in the Democratic party.  Many of their complaints are legitimate and worth addressing.

So what are the issues?

Like most things, it comes down to economics.  California’s rural areas have been hit over and over again.  While California has strict regulation on private lands, federally owned lands (with 20 million acres of National Forest the federal government is by far the biggest landowner) are managed according to federal standards. Up until 1990 that meant clearcutting and replacing forests with monoculture tree plantations that are particularly susceptible to wildfire and beetles, provide very limited habitat, and experience massive soil erosion while the newly planted trees are small.  That eroded soil ends up in the rivers, destroying fisheries.  This has been absolutely devastating to our fishing industry and destroyed the river ecosystems where Salmon spawn.  Faced with collapsing fisheries and the inability of the State to regulate logging on federal land, Sacramento responded by shutting down much of the remaining fishing.  Diverting water from the rivers to feed farms has been the final nail in the coffin for many river ecosystems and means that 27 years later most of our fisheries have never recovered.  

Here’s the thing, a competent government could have prevented this mess by adopting appropriate regulation up front.  There’s no rule that says logging has to destroy rivers and fisheries. The peculiarly American habit of failing to regulate until permanent damage has been done and then writing legislation that passes the buck to future generations instead of addressing the root issue is in full effect here. Turning over federal lands to California and adopting sustainable logging practices would safeguard our forests and rivers while maintaining jobs over the long term. Instead,short-sighted officials in DC and Sacramento made a mess of things and left rural Californians holding the bag.

For farmers, the picture isn’t much better.  Soaring water costs driven by protracted droughts have put tremendous pressure on farmers and led to an almost annual fight over whether we should divert ever-growing amounts of water from the rivers.  Doing so would be, at most, a temporary solution for our farms but it’s hard to convince someone whose farm is teetering on the edge of solvency that fish are more important than their ability to feed their kids – even if the survival of those fish is critical to someone else ability to do the same.

There are so many missed opportunities here – interest-free loans for farmers who want to upgrade to drip irrigation and other technologies that could save billions of gallons of water if adopted across California’s vast farmlands.  Our climate has changed, but we are resourceful and can adapt!  Conservation can take us a long way if we’re willing to make the upfront investment. There are many other potential solutions to add additional water supply as well, from atmospheric dehumidifiers to desalination to just plain fixing the corroded network of pipes that move water around the state and lose millions of gallons a year.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, from poorly maintained roads to unreliable power, hospital closures, under-funded schools, and more; rural Californians often get the short end of the stick.  

Democrats do nothing to address these issues because the rural communities that would benefit don’t vote for Democrats and they are incapable of seeing beyond their own partisan interest.  Meanwhile Republicans would rather pretend that the problem is environmentalists and out of touch urban voters because casting blame is cheaper than actually investing in California’s future.  Neither American party has any solutions to offer – even though the solutions are obvious, uncontroversial, and would be supported by the vast majority of Californians.  

Here’s the thing, voting for Trump didn’t solve any of these issues.  It didn’t add a single drop of water, or save a single farm.  “Opening up the water”, as he proposed in one of his campaign speeches, would only have a marginal impact on the water available to farmers and would guarantee that our fisheries never recover. If Trump follows through on his plans to deport undocumented Californians the farmers that voted for them are going to struggle to find people to pick their crops.  For the farmers who grow California’s most valuable cash crop, Trump’s Attorney General’s promised crusade against legal marijuana promises to destroy the network of legal dispensaries that many rely on to get their crops to market.  While Trump’s proposals to open up logging and offshore oil drilling might create some jobs in the short term, clearcut forests do not provide long-term jobs and the global economy is moving away from petroleum.  So when you look at actions, Trump’s agenda does very little to help rural Californians and a lot to harm them.

Rural California – and rural America – goes red because the Democrats have failed to speak for them or represent their interests and voting for Republicans is the only recourse available.  That could be fixed by moving to a multi-party system – moving away from America’s broken two-party system would give them a real voice for the first time.

There are a host of other issues that divide rural and urban Californians – gun rights being a common one.  California’s overly-centralized government means that people in rural and urban areas have the same gun laws even though the needs and values of urban and rural areas are radically different.  That’s frankly ridiculous.  It should be obvious that reasonable gun use looks different in Humboldt or the Sierras than it does in the urban Bay Area or LA.  Cities like San Francisco already have more restrictive laws in place – we should devolve this power to the local governments and let them decide what works for them based on local conditions.  That’s something neither American party will support, but that should be common sense for most Californians.  If we want to close this urban-rural divide, we need to start looking for more common-sense solutions that recognize and respect our ideological diversity.

So what about urban California?

California is, in many ways, the vision of America that we all read about in our high school social studies classes but that America has never actually been.  We’ve all heard of the melting pot but I’m always struck when I leave California by how little melting seems to actually happen.  In contrast, the suburban bay area town where I grew up had more than 70 languages being spoken on a daily basis. We are a nation defined, more than anything, by our inclusiveness.  While huge numbers of Americans spent the last 8 years obsessed with the idea that the president was secretly a Muslim, the vast majority of Californians know that – here at least – it doesn’t matter whether you’re an Atheist, Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, or any of a hundred other faiths and belief systems. For urban California, where latinos outnumber white voters and where diversity is the norm, Trump’s call for mass deportations and banning muslims were met with disgust.  Most Californians know that muslims are more likely to be doctors or engineers than terrorists and we are outraged at proposals to build walls and deport our neighbors.  Our dominant urban industries are based on trade – from computers to aerospace to entertainment – and the prospect of trade wars with China and other trading partners is obvious bad news.  Trumps talk of “closing up the internet” just adds insult to industry.

 

As a whole, California rejected Trump more than 2 to 1 and we are largely responsible for Clinton’s narrow victory in the popular vote.  Unfortunately for us, we get less than one third the representation per person in the electoral college that people in states like Wyoming get.  That’s one reason why California’s electoral college votes haven’t determined the results of an American presidential election since 1870 – the list of US presidents since then would look exactly the same without us.   We’re also radically underrepresented in the Senate, the result of a compromise made in very different circumstances over two centuries ago and a continent away.  We’re even under-represented in the ironically named House of Representatives.  Is it any wonder our needs are ignored over and over again?

 

And so here we are, the 35th largest nation in the world and 5th biggest economy; subject to the whims of a president we overwhelmingly rejected and who is actively hostile to our interests.  Make no mistake, a Trump presidency is an assault on our core values of decency and compassion, as well as the civil rights of millions of Californians.  As Governor Brown pointed out not so long ago, our peers are nations like France and Canada, not wretched backwaters like Mississippi and Alabama.  The closest thing we have to a peer within the United States is Texas, and even they have only a fraction of our population or economy.  So why should we continue to let them impose actively hostile governments upon us?  Why do we waste our wealth subsidizing their crops and paying for military adventurism we opposed when our own nation is in such dire need?

 

It’s time for a new approach.  We need to leave America’s hyper-partisan divide behind and instead start investing in California and in a better future for all Californians, urban and rural alike.  

There be Dragons!

Posted in Life

My daughter took her first steps this week and my heart almost exploded.  Being a parent is something I was scared of for a long time but found myself wanting more and more.  I find it’s changed the way I think in all sorts of unexpected ways. – for example I suddenly spend a lot more time thinking about children’s stories. I’ve believed for a long time that the stories we tell each other are one of the most powerful ways we transmit values and a sense of belonging as a culture.

I’ve taken to watching movies aimed at children, searching for positive messages I can feel good about sharing.  On a flight recently they had the new “Pete’s Dragon” remake and I gave that a look, but quickly turned it off in dissapointment.  Which is a shame, the original Pete’s Dragon was a family favorite when I was growing up.  So I decided to re-watch it with a more critical father’s eye. Continue reading

A bag of Avocados

Posted in News and Politics | Tagged ,

I was working on an article on the US presidential elections for another website earlier today and made an offhand remark that if the Democrats nominated a bag of Avocados for the presidency that California would faithfully line up and vote for it.  And then it hit me – a bag of Avocados would actually be a better nominee than either American party’s candidates.  Here’s 10 reasons you should join me in writing in a bag of avocados on your presidential ballot this fall.

1. Foreign policy

While it’s true that a bag of avocados doesn’t have much foreign policy experience, avocados are widely travelled – they’re grown in 57 different countries and exported and consumed world wide.  Moreover, everyone loves avocados – neither Trump or Clinton can come close to a bag of avocados in global opinion polls.  Finally, a bag of avocados is far less likely to get us into World War 5 (WWI, WWI, the Cold war, and the current ongoing neoliberal war being waged on the worlds poor via the WTO and various other treaties and trade organizations being the first 4) than either Hillary “Iraq is a business opportunity” Clinton or Donald “macho man” Trump.

2. The environment

Avocados understand the importance of rain that isn’t full of acid, air that isn’t polluted, and soil that isn’t full of toxic waste far better than Hillary “let’s frack everything” Clinton.  Even better, we can plant the avocado pits and grow trees.  Trees drink carbon dioxide and fight global warming.  I rest my case.

3. Trade and the economy

As mentioned in point 1, avocados have vast world experience and are a key part of a balanced breakfast, lunch, dinner, and trade portfolio.  A bag of avocados won’t sign the TPP or push through any other similar trade deals that continue the decades of class warfare that both American political parties have waged on behalf of their corporate backers.

4. Women’s rights:  

Avocados will not push to overturn Roe vs Wade or defund women’s health clinics like Trump/Pence would and they won’t drop bombs on poor women in Honduras/Iraq/Libya or sell weapons to regimes like Saudi Arabia that oppress women and execute LGBT people as HRC did as Secretary of State.  Instead, they will gracefully adorn your morning toast and lunch time hamburgers, add body to your post-yoga smoothie, and spread joy wherever they go.

5. Healthcare reform

Avocados are full of polyunsaturated fats – the good kind of fats – and surprisingly low on calories at only 234 calories in a medium-sized avocado.  They will promote healthy diets and the consumption of more fresh produce instead of the over-processed pre-packaged junk most americans eat far too much of.  They probably won’t deliver the healthcare reforms we so desperately need, but then neither will Clinton or Trump. While it’s true Avocados can be bought out by the HMO’s, they are the only candidate where we can say with honesty and certainty that campaign contributions will not impact their decisions about what legislation to sign into law.

6. Social Security

Avocados will not privatize social security as the Republicans want to do or raid social security to pay for wars and “balance the budget” as Bill Clinton did.  They won’t expand it the way Sanders wanted to either, but then with him out of the race that’s off the table anyway.  As a bonus, avocados are soft and easy to eat, even if you lost all your teeth during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and the new-age types claim they have powerful anti-aging properties.  That’s probably bullshit, but then so is literally every word out of Clinton and Trumps mouths.

7. Taxation and benefits

Unlike Clinton and Trump, Avocados will not give giant tax cuts to the super-rich that defund the government and create deficits that they then use as an excuse to cut social programs for poor people who are struggling to survive.

8. The Supreme Court

Unlike Clinton the Neo-liberal and Trump the neo-fascist, Avocados will not appoint evil bastards that put corporate interests above the needs of ordinary people to the Supreme Court.  In fact, they won’t appoint anyone to the Supreme Court.  And maybe that’s what we need for a while, after their idiotic Citizens United ruling, the entire Supreme Court needs to sit in time out for a few years and think about what they’ve done.

9. Integrity

Avocados tell no lies, they won’t set up private email servers to skirt the freedom of information act, they won’t turn the presidency into a kleptocracy, and they cannot be corrupted.  At the end of the day, you can trust a bag of avocados far more than any major party politician.  And if you don’t have trust what do you have?

10. Avocados are delicious

’nuff said.

So please join me in voting this November for your next president – a big bag of avocados

Deep links and Cross-platform targeting

Posted in tech | Tagged , , ,

Two new posts up on corporate blogs for my job.  One is a product announcement on our new deeplinking solution:

Announcing: Smart Link

The second is an explanation of how data from that tool is being used along with other data to power our new cross-platform and cross-device targeting technology:

Cross-Device and Cross-Platform Targeting

(Hopefully) interesting stuff if you work in the mobile advertising and media space!

Career advice for my younger self

Posted in Life | Tagged ,

First off, let me be clear here.  I’m not some big shot super-successful business guru that you should model your life on.  These are rules that I’ve learned or made for myself over the last decade or so, often from bitter failure.  If I had the opportunity to go back in time and give 20 year old me career advice it would be a long conversation, but these points would form the core of it.    So do yourself a favor and learn from my mistakes!  Or don’t, I’m not your supervisor after all.

Continue reading

PII, Analytics, and Advertising

Posted in tech | Tagged ,

I’ve been thinking about privacy and the inherent conflict between the drive by advertisers to want to know more and the need to respect end users personal information.  I ended up writing two articles about it.  The first is up on the RadiumOne corporate blog and talks about threats to end user Personally Identifiable Information (PII) presented by the growing trend toward integrating mobile analytics tools with programatic media buying solutions and how RadiumOne is addressing that issue.

The Fight to Keep Personally Identifiable Information Private on Mobile

The second post is up on iCrunchData news and goes a bit more into the nuts and bolts of digital media targeting, as well as some of the threats to user data posed by solutions that don’t use the data themselves but store it on behalf of third parties.

Why Modern Advertising is Based on a Contradiction

Enjoy!

Enough

Posted in fiction | Tagged ,

Jake sighed as he slumped against the steering wheel of his truck and moved back into the lane.  He had moved over to the side to let a motorcycle past because the truck filled the whole lane.  It had been years since he’d been on a bike, the girl who loved to ride on the back of his cruiser when they were dating had mysteriously morphed into a wife who made him sell his bike because she was worried he’d get killed riding it.  At least that meant she wanted him to make it home, right?  Things could be worse.  Some couples burned hot for a few years and then faded but they still lay in bed on Saturday mornings laughing and cuddling like newlyweds.  He smiled, thinking about her eyes looking up at him. Continue reading

Lucky

Posted in fiction | Tagged , ,

The airstrike rattled the city, everything shook. Dust rattled down from the rafters and somewhere in the basement below an infant cried. Mo sat as still as he could amidst the crush of strangers and tried to focus on breathing. The air was thin, too many lungs sucking oxygen and not enough ventilation. The earth shook again beneath the roar of planes overhead, and the thunder of bombs; aggravating the ringing in his ears.

He had ended up here by sheer good luck, if you could call it that. The university had closed months ago because of the protests and never re-opened. When the military had opened fire on protests in the capital the shock waves went right across the country. Many of the students had joined militias, others fled. Mo headed for the border, he couldn’t muster enough faith to believe in a revolution and the fundamentalists were even worse than the soldiers. On foot it was a long journey and the war overtook him. Continue reading

The do’s and don’ts of online dating, from a newlywed.

Posted in Life | Tagged ,

Almost 2 years ago now I wrote a humorous (well, I thought it was funny…) blog post on taking a data-driven approach to dating.  In that post I promised to write a follow-up if I had success.  Since I got married in July, I guess it’s about time I keep that promise!  So here’s a few things I learned along the way (big thanks to the okcupid data blog and the okc forums on reddit) that might prove useful to others.

For the sake of transparency, these are written for someone who’s looking for a life partner, if you’re just out there to get laid you can disregard most of them. Continue reading