Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Blog updates

Over the last couple weeks, I have run across additional information on some earlier blogs I wrote. I decided to put those together in this entry to pass them along.

Over the summer, I wrote about the DNA testing service I’ve used, 23andMe. They are currently running a sale of their service for only $99. That price point should make it accessible to a fairly wide audience. I’m hopeful that lots of people will take advantage of this and help advance genetic research by doing so. If you are at all curious, now is a good time to check it out.

I looked at the Belkin WeMo (a WiFi-based, remote control for electrical devices like lamps) in my first set of gadget reviews back in September. Since then, they have debuted an interesting additional product, the Wemo Baby. At one level, it is just a simple audio-based baby monitor like I used with my kids 30 years ago, but the receiving end is your iPhone. That is a nice change over trying to find a place to plug in the receiving device. What makes the product really interesting to me, however, is its ability to do some processing of the sound. For example, it claims you can set the phone to alert you when the baby has been crying for 30 seconds. That is such a contrast to my memories of sleeping badly all night as every little grunt and short cry would wake us up and make us wonder whether we need to go and check. (In truth, I think I slept through though sounds, but my wife didn't!) I’ll have to get one to try out the WeMo Baby when we have our next grandchild.

When I recently wrote about the ReadySet Solar Kit (a solar recharger, primarily for cell phones), I was fairly favorable in my impression of it. Just a few days after writing that review, however, it stopped working. I contacted Fenix International and they sent me a return shipping label. Unfortunately, I had already thrown out the box. It was a bit of a hassle packing it up, but I got that taken care of. (OK, I admit I had someone help with that!) They sent me back a repaired unit and I am now back to recharging my iPhone and iPad with solar energy. I was happy with the response and repair, though it was a little annoying that they did not just send me a new one and let me pack my broken one into the new box. Regardless, for a product still someone under development, I thought they handled it fairly well.

For reasons I don’t yet understand, my blog is now getting most of its traffic from China. Who knew I’d be so popular in China? My best guess is that the traffic may be due to my recent gadget reviews, including the one of the ReadySet Solar Kit. On the other hand, it may just be bots that are finding the blog as I’m also seeing traffic from places like Ukraine and Poland. On yet another hand, I do know people in Poland, so it is really hard to be sure of the real reason. The Internet is definitely a difficult "place" to understand at times.

I’ve also been getting some traffic on the blog due to my article about the Hincapie CEO Cycling Challenge. Shortly after I wrote that entry, George Hincapie read it and passed it along to the guy who runs the CEO Challenge events. He, in turn, put a pointer to it on the CEO Challenge Web site. That whole sequence of events is yet another reminder that you never know who will see what you do on the Internet. Privacy is so 20th Century.

I plan to write a couple gadget reviews over the next few days as I know there are some cool gadgets under the Christmas tree. (After all, I put them there!) Anything to keep my readers in China happy.

I hope all of you have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful start to the new year!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

PT's 10th anniversary

PT's gala 10th anniversary banquet
A week ago, my company, Principled Technologies (PT), celebrated its 10th anniversary at what I would best describe as a gala affair. At the picture to the right shows, it was a beautiful evening. It also was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on those years and to say thank you to the amazing group of people that helped make PT’s success possible.
A less than flattering picture of Mark and me 
Mark Van Name and I started PT 10 years ago. We had worked together at that point for over 17 years. We had written well over a thousand articles (and a book) together and had worked to create ZDBOp and ZD Labs for Ziff-Davis. What we started 10 years ago was a blend of all that we had learned over the years in the computer industry about product evaluation, marketing, and running companies.

In some ways, from the very beginning, we considered PT to be an experiment. We obviously hoped to earn a living at PT, but we wanted to do more than that. Even the name we chose, Principled Technologies tells a bit about our thinking. We’ve always been technophiles, so the Technologies part of the name was easy and obvious. But, at least as importantly, we wanted to create a place firmly grounded in principles we believed in, both then and now. Over the years, PT has grown far beyond what we ever envisioned and keeping true to those original principles (and ones we added along the way) has been a challenge. But, a challenge I believe we have risen to meet.

Like most small businesses, PT has changed over time. When we started, we were mostly a testing company that tested technology products for our clients. We did things such as run benchmarks to show one desktop computer was faster than another. Over time we added capabilities such as a drop table for testing the durability of notebook computers, power meters for measuring power consumption, and a data center for keeping cool the servers we test. We also added the expertise of new people while continuing to develop the skills of the talented people already at PT.

We came to realize that our technology testing was largely used in support of our client’s marketing efforts. We were doing what we have come to call fact-based marketing. The goal of fact-based marketing is to help buyers understand the advantages of a product when making purchasing decisions. 

To do a better job of that, we have spent the last couple years adding the necessary people and facilities to present the facts our testing uncovers in more and more compelling ways. This year, we built a studio complete with a sound booth, a large green-screen area, LED lighting, microphones, and cameras. We also hired some great people so we could tell about our work in innovative ways.

Watch this video to both understand better what we do and what our team is able to create. (It is best seen in full screen--by clicking the icon in the lower right of the video.) Our studio team did everything from the music to the videography to the special effects. I think this video shows that we really do believe that Facts matter.®

Principled Technologies strives to do great work for its clients while being a great place to work. I think we have largely succeeded at those goals. The reason we have done so is the amazing group of people that make up PT. That is why I’m proud of the company and the people at PT. After 10 years, I am truly humbled by and thankful for the efforts of each of the folks at PT. Thank you.

My family at the PT gala: Emily, Davey, Nathan, Sarah, Bill, Susie, Becky & Steven