Personify Plus Literally Put Me In Front Of The Class

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 08:35 PM with 0 comments

photo of remote presentation using Personify Plus with 3D camera and mobile app

Going into my recent guest lecture on blogging at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I know I couldn’t physically be there. This wouldn’t be a problem for the professor, Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen, as she has had remote guest lecturers in the past using Skype. Though Skype was also a viable option for me, it would not truly represent “me” as I would want it to – both in my presentation style and how I wanted to present my material.

Pondering this, I recalled a presentation I saw by my esteemed colleague Dr. Dietmar Schloesser, where he used a 3D webcam and software and the service from Chicago-based Personify where he literally “inserted” himself into his PowerPoint presentation which he was giving remotely. So I wondered, could I do the same, without adding unnecessary complexity to Dr. Hansen and deliver an engaging presentation to her classes that would be like me being there?

The Next Best Thing To Being There

Leading up to the lecture, I reached out to Personify and asked them if I could use their “technology” for the lecture. I use that term in quotes as I really had no idea what was involved in this, and to what extent the effort would be on my part as well as on campus at UW-O in the lecture hall. Thanks to help from Personify’s director of marketing Kira and solutions executive Nick, they explained the extremely straightforward concept, got me setup with their service and allowed me to use their office and one of their 3D cameras, when plugged into my notebook PC, allowed me to interact with the students some 4 hours north of me.

Using Personify Plus is similar to what a TV weatherperson does, where they stand in front of a large green screen, and the effect is that it appears they are in front of whatever image is selected, which is usually weather maps. With Personify Plus, the 3D webcam fulfills the role of the screen, where it isolates you the presenter (or presenters if there are more than one) from the background, then allows the image of you to be literally inserted into whatever presentation or what you put on your screen to share. In this case, I had a PowerPoint presentation. But as you can see from the photo below, I was able to bring up a weather map and use it just as any meteorologist would. Also notice the close-up of the 3D camera and the configuration panel on the left side of the screen.

photo of Personify Plus test with 3D camera and weather map

The Personify Plus software consists of a program installed on a PC or Mac that connects to an attached or installed 3D webcam, as well as to the Personify service. These are both intriguing elements of the Personify experience. Going into this, I really was not aware of 3D webcams, but they have been around, and more and more notebook PCs are being sold with them preinstalled. Also PrimeSense, the maker of the camera that Personify let me use, was recently acquired by Apple. Where everyone has been wondering what Apple would be doing with Beats headphones, I am more intrigued into what they could be doing with 3D! Also, the Personify service allows you to not only run presentations with you in them, but to record them as well. There is also a mobile app which, when logged in, serves as a remote control for the service, allowing you to make adjustments to your positioning as well as advance PowerPoint slides.

Putting it all together was very straightforward. Installing the Personify Plus software and mobile app were also easy. When I plugged in the 3D webcam, the drivers loaded, and then there I was, literally on my desktop. To transmit the presentation, I used Join.me, a free (and paid) screen sharing service. This was recommended by the Personify team as it had a much better streaming and video refresh rate than Skype or other services. So I connected with Join.me, went full-screen on my presentation and there I was, standing in the presentation.

I had to make small changes to the layout of my PowerPoint slides to allow for myself to not block any of the content on the individual slides. This process allowed me to rethink some of my presentation and what I was going to say as compared to what I put on the screen. It was my choice to use the lower quarter of the presentation, as I could have had myself be any size, which is a great option to have for just one person or multiple people.

Just As Successful In The Classroom

Where thus far I have talked about the technical and logistical aspects of my presentation using Personify Plus, what I have not mentioned – and what I was equally concerned about – was how it was received in the lecture hall on the Oshkosh campus. Even though I had discussed this fully with Dr. Hansen, she really didn’t know what to expect. And even though I have seen a presentation using all of this, I did not know how giving one myself would be like without the visual feedback you get from the audience, as this can influence what and how you present.

Fortunately, everyone’s expectations were exceeded with Personify Plus. It felt very natural for me to present, and the students in the classroom were engaged with my presentation, almost as if I was there. Feedback from Dr. Hansen was very positive, and so were the reactions from students in the class which they shared with the #uwonewmedia hashtag on Twitter.

The Next Level Of Online Presentations

I have sat through many webinars and other online presentations, and I admit that many times my full attention is not focused on it. Personify takes presentations to the next level not only with inserting the presenter but increasing engagement. I will sit there and watch all of a presentation, especially as the presenter or presenters themselves will also be changing, more like watching a video and not just a stack of static slides. Where I haven’t given another presentation since using Personify Plus, I am eager to, and have thought of other uses for it, everything from creating business videos to comedy and improv – similar to how many movies use green screens for background scenery, you could do the same for local actors on a small budget.

Have you seen a presentation using Personify Plus, or would you want to? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Blogging Guest Lecture At University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh #uwonewmedia

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 04:54 PM with 0 comments

photo of Mike Maddaloni presenting at UW-Oshkosh

Photo credit: Wilke (‏@Wilke_411) via Twitter

Yesterday I had a distinct honor to guest lecture to college students on the topic of blogging.

I was invited to speak to 2 classes at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh by journalism professor Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen. As part of her classes where she is teaching the students all aspects of blogging, each student is building a real, public blog. What better way to learn blogging than with real-life experience?

As someone who has his own blogs and has built blogs for clients, I have learned on the job about blogging as well as keeping up with trends and changes to blogging over the years. One challenge was focusing on key elements to share with the students and keep it to a brief presentation with time for their questions. Another challenge was that I would not be able to be physically in the lecture hall on the Oshkosh campus, yet deliver my messaging in an interesting and engaging way.

As with my own writing style, I decided to tell the story of how I got into blogging myself and then focus on areas that I felt were important to the students, including the art and science of writing and writing on a regular basis, plus some key pointers about blogging such a sharing and social media integration.

For the presentation itself, I created PowerPoint slides and used technology from Personify to literally insert myself into the PowerPoint presentation so that when the students were looking at the screen they saw both the slide material as well as myself, as you can see from the picture above. As the Personify technology is extremely unique in itself, I'm already writing another post on using Personify and how I was successful in conveying myself, my style and my message to the students remotely – watch for it soon.

I have posted the slides from the presentation to SlideShare and you can link to it here or view embedded below. I kept the slides at a high-level and spoke to the details so that the students did not have to read slides, and by using the unique Personify technology I was able to make that happen very well. If you look at the slides and are wondering about the references to Ernest and Edgar, those are to 2 “other” famous Chicago-area writers, Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Rice Burroughs, as I used them as examples of different approaches to writing.

Thanks again to Dr. Hansen, the team at Personify and the students who asked great questions and shared the presentation on social media. It was great getting back into the classroom and I am looking forward to my next opportunity.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Join Me And Support Barrel Of Monkeys For Giving Tuesday 2014 #givingtuesday

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, December 02, 2014 at 09:57 AM with 0 comments

Barrel of Monkeys logo

After Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, if you have anything left, I welcome you to join me and support a great organization, Barrel of Monkeys, for Giving Tuesday.

Though I don’t know the story about how Giving Tuesday came to be, I know well the story of Barrel of Monkeys – what they do, how they do it, and the impact they have made on school kids in Chicago.

In short, Barrel of Monkeys teaches elementary school kids creative writing in several Chicago Public Schools and an after-school program. They learn how to create a story from beginning to end, journaling them in their notebooks. These stories are then adapted into sketch comedy by the Barrel of Monkeys company members and performed for the students in their schools. So not only do they learn how to write creatively, they also see their work come to life!

But that’s not where it ends – every week there is a performance by the Barrel of Monkeys company members, where several of these sketches are performed to audiences live. Each sketch is introduced and the student author is acknowledged, and the program given to each audience member has what the students actually wrote – sometimes it’s just a sentence, other times it’s several paragraphs and everywhere in between. The company members donate their time to perform, and all money raised goes back into the overall program.

The preceding gives only a synopsis of the great work Barrel of Monkeys does – you can read more on their Web site @ barrelofmonkeys.org or see for yourself their programs and some of their sketch comedy performances on their YouTube channel.

Below is a funny video promoting Giving Tuesday and Barrel of Monkeys, performed by Barrel of Monkeys company members and staff Elizabeth and Joseph – watch the embedded video below or you can view it directly on their YouTube channel.

Thank you for your support! And why would I be thanking you and promoting Barrel of Monkeys? I am proud a member of their Board of Directors.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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What I Learned This Week For August 1 2014

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, August 07, 2014 at 10:20 PM with 1 comments

photo of Neiman Marcus window in Chicago promoting pre-fall

Writing a catchy opening to the presentation of what really resonated with me over the last week isn’t always as rewarding as the things I learn, so this time I won’t dwell on it.

  • It’s one thing to accuse Hallmark or other greeting card makers of creating holidays to sell more cards, but I never thought retailers would go to the depths of segmenting seasons. Granted the cooler temperatures here in the Windy City may cause some to think about what to wear in a couple of months, but I am not one of them.
  • Feedback is a dish best served hot and fresh, right out of the over, and not several months later, as it sits on the counter, covered with something but allowed to rot and not satisfy anybody.
  • A while back ago I registered the domain name SayMyNameRight.com, with the idea of having a Web site where people could post videos of themselves saying their name. If I recall correctly, it was after having lunch with my good friend Tom Ordonez that the idea came to mind. If you click the link it’s clear I didn’t do anything with the domain name other than point it right back to this very blog. Yet for some reason over the past several weeks it has been getting a noticeable amount of traffic. Maybe now is the time to act?
  • I was reminded not everybody knows what a “hashtag” is.
  • Where the bidding wars over the potential mergers of “dollar” stores is going on, one thing piqued my attention, that the “activist investor” Carl Ichan was involved. Personally, I don’t get the guy. Granted, I am no student of finance or investment wiz, but is someone who buys a ton of stock in a company and tries to get them to merge really an activist, as in the same term that can be prefaced with the phrase “civil rights?”
  • Keeper Security, the Chicago-based app for secure password storage, just announced file storage. It is being pitched as a way to store images of a driver’s license or passport in case it is lost or stolen, or any other important personal files. As a current user I can get 5 free file uploads and then pay an annual fee from $10 a year and up, depending on the space used. I need to think about this, and where to best spend money on “cloud” services, or on my own server.
  • In my quest to try new restaurants I finally went to Protein Bar, a Chicago-based chain of healthy quick-serve food. And I have to say, upon my first visit I have become a fan. I was impressed with the store, the menu selections and most importantly the taste. The price is comparable to even Subway and other restaurants in the city. They also have locations in the Washington DC area and in Colorado.
  • For as many times as I have referred family, friends and complete strangers to get from point A to B with my friend Rashid, Chicago’s premier cabbie and expert on customer service, who goes by the trademarked name of ChicaGoCabbie™, for reasons that I don’t quite know for sure, I have never ridden in his cab. Granted, because of his work with cab-hailing service Hailo I am a loyal customer. Perhaps it is timing, I am not quite sure. But he has delivered both pizza and cupcakes to me in his chariot!
  • This past week Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester was traded to the Oakland A’s. For several weeks leading up to it, my sports mobile app was buzzing non-stop with alerts on rumors and speculation around the trade. It got so bad I almost turned off the alerts altogether. Unfortunately that is the business of sports today. When I was a kid, I had no idea what any of the players on the Red Sox made, nor did I care.
  • One of my favorite blogs is Brand New which features logo, design and branding, especially changes to brands. They recently featured a YouTube video interview of the creator of the Hartford Whalers logo. For those not familiar, the New England Whalers hockey team moved from Boston to the capital city of Connecticut in the 1970’s, then moved to North Carolina in the late 1990’s and became the Carolina Hurricanes. They played not too far from where I grew up, so I was familiar with the team and got to go to many games. Though the team is long gone, the defunct team’s logo is almost a cultural icon and is being worn by trendy celebrities. The interview on Hartford’s Channel 3 is embedded below or follow the link above to watch it. Note the mention about who really owns the logo, which is something that I wouldn’t be surprised would end up in court someday.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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What I Learned This Week For July 18 and 25 2014

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 08:51 PM with 0 comments

photo of household to-do list

Typically a 2 fer 1 offer is something people look forward to. I am now finally getting around to posting this almost a week late and for 2 weeks, which means if I keep this up, I will most likely lose readers, especially if this is all I ever post. But I digress…

  • July 18 marked 6 years of being a Dad. And talk about learning!
  • I sat down and made a list of all of the small things that needed tweaking, tightening or fixing around the condo. My, what a long list – you would think the place was falling apart. It took a couple of days to get through them all, but it felt really good to get them done.
  • Have you ever had a Rainier Cherry? I hadn’t until last week – they look like tiny Macintosh apples and are very sweet. My guess is they are also not a GMO fruit. Thanks to my colleague Mike G. for the proper introduction.
  • Whenever I hear about food deserts why is it grocery delivery services like Peapod or food trucks are never considered as a solution? I guess that isn’t something I learned, but more an observation I learned from repeated exposure to it recently.
  • Yet again, I was reminded not everybody knows what a “browser” is, especially when related to the Internet.
  • I got a check in the mail from CentUp for a US$15.84, which was my earnings thus far. How did I earn it? People clicked the little CentUp icon at the bottom of my blog posts, and I earned whatever pennies they sent my way. It’s a form of micropayment which I think can be quite successful, but many more people need to get on board – both readers and publishers!
  • Now everyone around the world can be as stylish as a member of the European Union Parliament with your own EU Parliament sash. For only 146.95 euros, you can show your true colors, either in the chamber or on the street. Who knows, maybe these will next show up in the Chicago City Council chamber.
  • If you are using Microsoft Lync for a conference call that was scheduled in Microsoft Outlook, and while you are in the call you decide to cancel the meeting series altogether in Outlook, not only will it delete all meetings in Outlook but it will throw you out of the meeting you are currently in, with no way of getting back in.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago has a mobile app to digitally store your membership card. That’s one less thing I need to stuff in my wallet, and I usually have my mobile device within reach at all times, which comes in handy for getting into special exhibits in the storied museum as you have to show your card to get in them as well as the front entrance.
  • A while back I was thinking of a lot of the DJs I used to listen to in Boston back in the 1990’s, and started searching for them online. One of them, Nik Carter, I wasn’t able to find. But low and behold, he is hosting VH1 Classic On Tap, a segment highlighting bands from back when he was on the air on WFNX and WBCN. I tweeted him and he responded back in the style I was expecting from him, self-deprecating and hilarious. I’m catching up on On Tap segments whenever I can.
  • A few bus shelters in Chicago were turned into Coca-Cola advertisements, playing on their latest campaign where you can get bottles of the carbonated beverage with your name on them. Of course they don’t have every name, so this shelter had a large touchscreen where you could spell out your name and take a picture of yourself with it. When I saw the first one, I had to “test” it and tried a few choice words that would never end up on a soda bottle. As I typed them, the letters turned to stars like I was typing a password, then I got a message that the name was not in the database – a safe message I was expecting from the global drink giant. Fortunately my Goddaughter’s name was allowed, so I got a picture for her as she was not expecting to see it on an actual bottle.
  • YouTube has been running ads all over the place in Chicago, promoting certain content creators. For as many of these ads I see, I am still not compelled to watch any of the videos, especially when someone who is supposed to be Al Capone looks more like Mark Cuban.
  • Clearly nobody at Foursquare heard the famous phrase by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “less is more.” The once popular social media check-in service has lost much of its luster not to mention purpose of hopes for a revenue model over the years. Last week they formally split into 2 apps – Swarm, which is for checking-in, and the old app will be more Yelp-like with reviews and suggestions. Even seeing this spelled out doesn’t make it any clearer to me why they did it, and I have yet to find anyone to explain how this will make the service – or services – even better.
  • I’ve had some déjà vu moments recently on a project I have been working on at work which is an animated promotion for a mobile app. The flashback is back to the mid 2000’s when I produced one for a client. Where the steps we went through were very similar to today, the style and length of it are 2 things that stand out as being much different, not to mention it was the “splash” page for the Web site, a concept that fortunately has all but vanished. Years later I had the animation converted to a video and we uploaded it to YouTube, and you can view the animation for Boston Village Auto Body on the YouTube site or view it embedded below.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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What I Learned This Week For July 11 2014

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 07:16 AM with 0 comments

photo of a hole in clouds letting in the sun in Chicago

As the sun rises over a city that a few hours ago had a tornado and flash flood warning…

  • They (whoever they are) say that the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line. I found an exception – when the line goes through some not-so-nice neighborhoods in Chicago. Though I did debate actually writing this altogether, let alone as the first one on my list, it is a reality many have shared with me over the years.
  • The above statement being said, the above photo was taken at a stop light on the journey which prompted that statement, proving there is hope everywhere. The photo was taken in color but made it greyscale by accident, and decided to stick with it.
  • I was a witness to a colleague, visiting from India, having his very first tater tot. We sometimes forget things around us are new to many people.
  • I read this sad story about a young boy in Toronto who was starved to death by his grandparents. To add insult to injury, DC Comics, the mega-publishing giant of comics and related merchandising, would not allow a statue being created to honor the boy to sport the Superman “S” logo. The boy was a huge Superman fan, but DC Comics “didn’t want the character connected in any way to child abuse.” Sure, in life it was ok for the boy to have money spent on him, but in his death he can’t be memorialized because of how he died?
  • Troubleshooting a technical problem sometimes means you need to work with the right person who knows why something may or may not be working, though finding that person may not always be obvious.
  • In the course of a conversation with a very wise person, they mentioned the term “find the cracks.” I perked up when I heard this, as I feel this is an even better way of describing looking for niche markets. Only if I heard this term years ago, but that will be covered in that book I am slowly piecing together.
  • Solid state hard drives are the only way to go <- they are small, wicked fast and don’t come with all of the moving parts of a standard hard drive. Though they come with a price tag much higher than said standard hard drives.
  • I was thrilled to learn my favorite beer brewery Harpoon became an employee-owned company this week. With the retirement of one of the founders and the sale of 48% of the company stock to an employee stock ownership plan, the future of Harpoon has been set. With many smaller craft breweries, like Chicago’s Goose Island, being sold to mega-brewers in order to grow and compete, this is a great sign that Harpoon will remain independent and brewing the awesome beers they do.
  • This week a public video was released on YouTube for something called Business Chemistry, a method for identifying patterns in personalities in the business world. Granted that description is in no way the best way to describe it, that is why I was happy to see the video to be released. It came from my employer, and I myself have taken the personality test, and have been identified as a “pioneer” with alignment to an “integrator” – traits I identify and embrace. So from my own point-of-view, I think this process is spot-on. Check out the video embedded below or view it on the YouTube link above, and contact them if you want to bring this unique program into your business.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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What I Learned This Week For July 4 2014

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, July 09, 2014 at 10:51 PM with 0 comments

photo of Independence Day color guard in Munster Indiana

With the sound of sirens wailing in the background on this late evening in downtown Chicago, as I go thru my notes and tweets of the holiday week of previous, I don’t have as much noted, but here goes…

  • Once again I reinforced my love of small town US Independence Day celebrations, as my family and I spent the holiday in Munster, Indiana. From fireworks the night before to a bicycle parade for kids the next morning, it was great to be around great friends and great conversation, much of it around our country today.
  • Speaking of fireworks, where we saw the official city-sponsored fireworks, we saw probably 10 times as many displays put on by individuals, as fireworks sales in Indiana are legal. Some of what we saw came close to rivaling anything I have seen launched in big cities as well. That Krazy Kaplan is not so crazy after all.
  • I now have a better understanding why the term “PTO”, for paid time-off, is used instead of the traditional term “vacation.”
  • Where you can learn how to do just about anything online these days, formally or informally, learning from others provides the needed context and paints the complete picture of something.
  • After gaining bits and pieces of his latest idea, I was pleased to see my friend and fellow Chicagoan Len Kendall launch a Kickstarter for Cartegram, an adventure game that involves tagging – literally and online – sites as you travel and logging them in a paper notebook as well as online. I am looking forward to the formal launch of this simple yet elegant idea, and as of the writing of this post there is still time to get in on the fun!
  • In a previous post I had mentioned about Chicago’s app for paying for on-street parking, ParkChicago. I finally got the opportunity to use it one day and it came in extremely handy, as I was parking during a torrential downpour and never had to get out of my car to go to the meter box and buy a ticket. The app user experience is very nice as well. Where parking on the mean streets of Chicago is certainly not cheap, it is a little more convenient.
  • In my ever quest to simplify my life, I have found merely finishing something goes along way to achieving this simplicity.
  • Over the winter I was asked to give a video testimonial on my daughters’ daycare center. Last week I learned part of what I said was selected for the video, which you can watch embedded below or watch on YouTube directly. After watching it over and over and over several times, I wished I was smiling more, but overall I think I did a very good job. I’d love to hear what you think about it, and feel free to send them in the comments section of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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What I Learned This Week For June 27 2014

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 03:03 PM with 1 comments

photo of a warning message on a waterski

With the Pandora Smooth Jazz channel playing, and though I am confused at some of the music they are classifying as “smooth jazz” I am nonetheless liking it as I collect my learnings for the week…

  • I learned 2 things along with the above photo. Presumably if you are putting on a water ski, it is probably too late at that point to read the warning fine print. Also, this modern ski was not sufficient for my lovely wife, as she strapped on wooden skis she used when she was a kid to be pulled behind a boat for the first time in at least a decade, and with great success – go you!
  • Sometimes, spontaneous fun has to be scheduled.
  • Facilitating the listening to the earlier-mentioned Pandora channel are my iHip Patriots lanyard headphones. I have had these for a while and am surprised I have never talked about them as I love them! Most of the cord is wrapped in lanyard material sporting the Pats logo, which means they don’t tangle just by looking at them. And for under ten dollars, they are a great deal. Where mine have the logo of the greatest NFL football team ever, they are offered in other team logos, including the local team the Chicago Bears.
  • Where I didn’t need headphones was last Monday when I saw Bob Mould perform at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. I have mentioned him and his original band Husker Du many times before, and this was the third time I saw him over the years. In short, he rocked, both in his new music, songs he has recorded as a solo artist over the years, and even a few songs from Husker Du days, including Hardly Getting Over It, Flip Your Wig and Makes No Sense at All.
  • Building on my original blog post on Managing Your Email Inbox To Zero from 5 years ago, a great way to get your inbox down is to sort by recipient – it’s a great way to clear out notifications, newsletters, junk mail and other spam. It is also a good way to action on a group of emails pretty quickly.
  • The Boston Market restaurant in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago closed abruptly on the June 15 and I found out about it when I went to take the family there for dinner, and we found out from the attendant at the free parking lot next to it that they shut down. As someone who had been to the original Boston Chicken before renamed and franchised, which itself closed years ago, it’s sad this decent meal option for the family becoming more scarce.
  • I am not a therapist nor do I play one on TV, but if I was a PhD and I wanted to prescribe certain medications I now could in Illinois, after taking over 2 years of additional education, based on a new psychologist prescription bill that has become law. Even in this hypothetical situation, to have a PhD then take more education, especially in this uncertain time in healthcare worldwide, I would rather refer them to a true MD who would buy me a beer for every referral. Again, in this hypothetical situation I would.
  • While the City of Chicago has been thrust into turmoil over the addition of the name TRUMP to the eponymous skyscraper and winning the future George Lucas museum, what has been hardly talked about is the installation of sensors to monitor, among other things, sounds and mobile device activity. They are due to be installed along Michigan Avenue and the Loop starting later this year. Of course they won’t look as ominous as they sound as they will be concealed with a decorative shield. As expected, they are being proclaimed not in the name of Big Brother and Big Data, but for our safety. Looks like I will be placing my phone in Chicago Mode (similar to airplane mode) as I walk around the city.
  • When you say you don’t know, chances are you probably do.
  • Version 7 of ownCloud is now in beta. The suite of tools which you can use – just as I do – to replace Google Docs, Calendar, Address Book and similar “cloud” services from others has been an invaluable tool for me, and I haven’t even yet installed version 6 yet, which is out and has been given high marks.
  • Where the next book from my good friend John J. Wall may not be coming out anytime soon, I have finally taken the first baby steps towards writing my own first book. Note the term baby steps, so don’t expect my book signing bus tour to commence anytime soon.
  • I ran across Musicless Music Videos almost by accident, where popular music videos are stripped of the music and you hear what could have been the sound when the video was shot. Below I have embedded the video for Dancing in the Streets by Mick Jagger and David Bowie with this treatment – follow the link if you can’t see the video below, and follow this link to the original video, including music.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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What I Learned This Week For June 13 2014

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, June 16, 2014 at 07:18 PM with 0 comments

photo of the complete 1,004 Portrait sculpture at Millennium Park, Chicago

After waiting all total about 30 minutes for Windows 7 to patch itself, and a few other lame excuses for this being posted late…

  • The installation of the 1,004 Portraits at Chicago’s Millennium Park, which I mentioned in last week’s post, is complete. This is what it looks like at around 7:30 am Central time with the sun’s reflection off of buildings on Michigan Avenue.
  • Speaking of the last blog post here on The Hot Iron – it was my 750th post. After the last several years of not blogging much, it is good to hit a milestone like that.
  • Morrissey, who came to fame in the 80’s as the lead singer of The Smiths and since has had a prolific solo career, canceled the remaining dates on his US tour as he caught some form of virus in Miami, including tonite’s show. The fact that I had great seats for that show makes me sad, but I hope he gets better and books yet a third show in the city, which hopefully be the charm to see him here.
  • I did get my fix of 80’s music last Friday night as I “heard” Foreigner and Styx. They were performing at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, an outdoor ampitheatre that sits where the former Meigs Field airport was. If you look at this aerial map of the venue, you may see water around it. That water is Lake Michigan and Burnham Harbor, where boats are docked or do dock by it for concerts there, where they can hear them extremely clearly, and for free. I know as I was on a boat in the harbor singing along with Foreigner, who’s 45 rpm single “Urgent” was the first record I ever bought in the late 70’s. It was wicked awesome, and thanks to Kristy and Edi for having us aboard.
  • People are more inclined to give to a specific cause or item rather than just to a general fund. For example, ask people to contribute any amount to a charity, and you will not get the response like asking someone to donate to purchase a specific piece of equipment for a charity that has a fixed cost. It also works better if you repeatedly go back to those same people and ask for another specific item.
  • Just recently Hailo, my choice for taxi hailing app, added black car service. So rather than riding in a standard taxi cab, you can choose a black car – a leather-lined sedan or SUV or even a limo – for just a little more than the cost of a standard taxi. This new option is so easy to choose, and it could become addictive.
  • This past week I learned the terms information foraging and information scent. Though I had just learned these terms, I was very familiar with the concepts and have used them in Web design and content development for years. For those of you that are not technical, follow the link above and read the article and let me know if it makes sense to you, and if you have experienced this yourself.
  • I don’t need someone pimping out their new biography to make it “Ideas Week” – for me, every week is ideas week.
  • Upon catching up on podcasts this week, I got to listen to the 100th episode of The Voicemail. It is a weekly, around 30-minute podcast on mobile technology hosted by 2 very smart and witty guys, James Whatley and Stefan Constantinescu. If you are interested at all in the mobile device industry you must listen, and thank me later.
  • My good friend and colleague Tom Ordonez is launching Miami Startup School. Being billed as a “3-month bootcamp that teaches you the right way to create a business. Sales, marketing, legal, tech. Everything you need to do it the right “lean startup” way and stop wasting time and money” I am sure it will be a success for those who attend and for Tom. He is a serial entrepreneur and takes a no-nonsense approach to building thriving businesses.
  • I was amused by the story of how ad agency Cramer-Krasselt parted ways with Panera Bread. Where I personally don’t have an opinion either way about their advertising, they certainly need a creative touch in the presentation of their in-store menus. Most of the time when I am in there, only to buy a loaf of their fresh bread, I am behind people who can’t make heads or tails of their menu. With numerous colors and fonts, it is not a quick read by any stretch.
  • Though it originally aired over a year ago on national TV in the US, I was just made aware of this dialogue in the CBS-TV show “Mike and Molly” which interestingly takes place in Chicago. The exchange is between 2 older men, an Italian-American, and the other who is apparently a farmer or lives in a rural area. Their exchange is full of stereotypes, making references to life on the farm and being Italian. Where comments about an Italian man’s mother’s moustache is one thing, calling him a WOP is another. The term is a racial slur against Italians, and is clearly not an apples-for-apples comparison to the insults the Italian said to the farmer, yet it somehow cleared for broadcast? You can view the excerpt from the Mike and Molly episode on YouTube at this link and I have embedded it below. Where I usually end my weekly lessons learned on a high note with a video, this one is surely a low point. Seeing this only reinforces why I don’t have cable TV or an antenna.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Government Breakdown On A Small Level In Chicago

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 at 11:44 PM with 4 comments

News about the latest government scandal, no matter when, seems to consume the mainstream media… at least until the buzz or outrage dies down or another story takes its place. As it is hard to get any attention for anything smaller or doesn’t make the cut for a 23-minute newscast, people like myself take on telling these stories, in hopes they are heard, spread and people can hopefully can avoid it happening to them.

This story is about something that happened to me, and is still in process. It may not sound like such a big deal, but it highlights how a breakdown across government agencies can happen at any level, from the parks department in Chicago to the US Veterans Administration.

A not-so-special events parking ticket

photo of parking sign on South State Street in Chicago

A few weeks back I parked my car along South State Street in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago. There are several types of on-street parking spaces there – metered, resident, open with the exception of during an event at nearby Soldier Field, or some combination of these. Where I parked was a combination of the last 2. It was a Saturday afternoon, and in my mind there was no event going on at Soldier Field, the home of the NFL Chicago Bears, so I parked and went on my way. Little did I know there was a beer festival going on at the stadium, and upon return to my car I saw a parking attendant put a ticket on my car, a US$60 fine for a “special events restriction.”

Needless to say, I was a little upset about this, but clearly I was in the wrong. To reinforce this, had I simply followed the instructions on the street signs I could have avoided the fine and parked elsewhere. As shown in the photo above, the sign clearly tells parkers to check Soldier Field’s Web site or call 311, Chicago’s non-emergency information hotline, to see if there is an event going on a few blocks away. I would surely do this the next time, as I had 60 reasons to do so.

Next time a communication breakdown

Fast forward to this past Saturday and I am getting ready to drive down to the South Loop, and would be looking for on-street parking. Remembering my last experience, I decided to check if any “special events restrictions” were in play. Where the concept was easy enough and I had the places to check, I was unsuccessful in this cross-functional communication breakdown.

First I called 311, and the conversation went something like this:

311: (after about a minute on hold) Can I help you?
Mike: Is there any events going on at Soldier Field today?
311: Yes, there is a walk going on.
Mike: What time does it end?
311: It started at 9 and I don’t have when it is supposed to end.
Mike: Really?
311: Yes.

So much for that channel, and I decided to check the Soldier Field Web site at soldierfield.net, and I got the following:

screenshot of soldierfield.net

This was odd, as I know I had the right URL for the site, so I tried searching for the site and linking to it that way, and I got the same result. I had been to the Soldier Field Web site before, and I had no idea what was wrong or where it was. Where is the Web site? Is it temporarily down for maintenance or is there a bigger problem.

I then took to Twitter, first clicking on the link on their profile to the Web site and got the same error. Then I sent a tweet to @soldierfield and then checked the time and had some place to go, so I left and found on-street meter parking not far from my destination and paid a few dollars and all was good.

Well, all was good except for the Soldier Field Web site. Now almost a week later, it is still down. In the course of that afternoon I got a reply to my tweet from @soldierfield on my mobile phone – I saw it on the lock screen of my iPhone as an alert from the Twitter app. It only showed the beginning of it, and it said something to the affect that “they were sorry for the inconvenience” – I don’t recall exactly what it said, and a few minutes later when I went back to check it, the tweet was gone. I certainly was not hallucinating or doing anything to cause me to dream about it. After checking the Twitter app, it was certainly gone, and they must have deleted it after they sent it to me.

Though it is not American football season, there are other events going on at Soldier Field, one being soccer with Mexico vs. Bosnia this past Tuesday night. Here it is Thursday and still no Web site or even an explanation where it is, and a tweet is a common way to get the word out.

Where 311 did not have all of the information, and Soldier Field’s Web site had none of it, I was not willing to risk it that the parking authority or the outsourced ticket attendants that roam the streets of the city were not there, as I was almost certain they would be. The workaround was paying to park for US$6 for 3 hours, and that was fine for me. Less hassle, namely from barking up the tree of various city agencies or the local alderman, as I didn’t have the time or interest to fight that battle, and my time, effort and frustration would certainly be worth more than 6 dollars.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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