What Does the HST Tell Us?

I got a very well organized and informative guide in the mail today called “What changes –and what doesn’t change– under the HST”, which may be one of the very few things I like about this new Ontario tax scheme.

Governments often use taxation to try and influence of buying behaviour of their citizens, so I thought I would take a look and see what behaviours the government is trying to change with the HST:

  • Smelly Ontario – Apparently they want us to dry-clean less, with taxes going from 5 to 13%
  • Drunk Ontario – Alcohol will be taxed at 13% instead of the old 17% (although they footnote that they will stop people from drinking so much with ‘other fees’)
  • Lazy Ontario – Gym, athletic memberships, fitness trainers, hockey rink rentals, hall rentals, hunting licenses, fishing licenses and golf green fees will increase from 5 to 13%
  • Ugly Ontario – Hair stylists, barbers and aesthetician services up to 13% from 5%
  • Lawless Ontario – Legal fees will be taxed at 13% instead of 5%
  • Cold (winter) and Hot (summer) Ontario – Electricity & heating bills to go from 5 to 13% tax
  • Flooded and Electrocuted Ontario – Home visits by plumbers, electricians, etc. will go from 5-13% as will home renovations
  • Digitally-divided Ontario – Internet access will now be taxed at 13% instead of 5%
  • Wild Ontario – Landscaping and snow removal up to 13% from 5%
  • Homebound Ontario – Hotel rooms (from 10%), taxis, campsites, domestic air, rail, boat and bus travel all up to 13% from 5%, as does fuel for your car, unfortunately you will have fewer magazines to read at home since subscription magazines also go from 5 to 13%
  • Double-dipped Ontario – Remember that new car that you paid 13% tax on, well now the government makes 13% again –up from 5%– when you sell it used!
  • Suburban & Condo Ontario – New homes over $400,000 will be taxed at 13% instead of 5%, and AFAIK can only be found in the suburbs or in condo dwellings. Real estate commissions will also be taxed more, at  13% instead of 5%.
  • Scurvied Ontario – Vitamins up to 13% from 5%
  • Stiff & sore Ontario – No reduction on Viagra tax, they are increasing taxes on massage therapy from 5 to 13%
  • Entertained Ontario – Tickets for professional sporting events and movies will DROP from 15% to 13%.
  • Alive Ontario – Death will cost you more, with funeral services taxed at 13%, up from 5%… sure as death and taxes.

    Apparently, Banner Ads Don’t Have to be Crap!

    I can’t believe it, I actually saw a banner ad today that I wanted to click on! This was the first such banner ad, after perhaps the millions I have seen, and it looked like this:

    Unfortunately, there is no direct link to this ad for you to try it yourself (if you find it, please let me know!), I can only hope that you find it the same place I did at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6573FD20100614?type=politicsNews I just tried again and another ad popped up, so all I can suggest is to keep trying!

    Why is this ad so awesome? Clearly I fit the demographic they are targeting (people who like nice cars) but I have skipped over many such ads by Audi and others many times. I think it was because the ad challenged me to try something where I would not be certain of the result. This leveraged the ‘gap theory’ of curiosity, where the ad created an information gap that I wanted to fill. Once I saw my cursor slide and crash, I noticed the toggle at the top left that allowed me to turn on ‘quattro’ (Audi’s super-grippy 4WD system), which created another information gap: What would this do?

    With the quattro system engaged, my cursor slices through the water no problem.

    I have never seen such a good example of an ad being able to draw me in, and stay so core to their message (safety = traction = Audi quattro). Also impressive is the TV spot with the ‘downhill skiing’ theme in San Fran (see at end of post).

    Kudos to the Audi marketing team for creating the first banner ad that has ever worked on me!!

    One Less Voice

    Using blogging as a marketing tool for a new business, I have put a lot of thought into the value of adding yet another voice to many that already exist online discussing a topic. The internet is not old, but to a great extent the though leaders for each discipline have already set up and staked their territory online. Some have used their credibility created offline and made a graceful translation online, while others have used this new medium to establish their thought leadership.

    So what does this mean if you want to build your own audience in an established field?

    With so many voices online and off, anyone with a casual interest in a topic is completely overwhelmed by the many opinions that are provided. One more voice can be very useful for deep discussion amoungst afficionados interested in the fine points of a topic, but only the most followed/respected in a field will get a large audience of the ‘casually interested’.

    But there is an alternative to appeal to the mass audience: the digest.

    The very challenge that faces the new blogger –the plethora of voices– can provide an opportunity. Those that don’t have the time to devote to a given topic, but still have an interest, can benefit greatly from the activity of a good online editor. One negative aspect of print publications was that they were barrier for writers and/or topics that didn’t fit with the editor’s goals. On the plus side, they did provide a service to the reader by selecting content that was relevant to the target audience, met editorial standards, and provided new knowledge to the readers. The same magazine or paper was unlikely to publish material that was poorly written, didn’t provide an opinion with supporting evidence, or repeated themes published in recent issues.

    The online editor or ‘digester’ can still have great influence in a field by adding their own observations and by selection of content, but has to avoid misrepresenting content to avoid loss of credibility and authenticity, very significant keys to online success.

    Consider becoming one less voice, and instead, an exceptional collector of content.

    Attribution: I wanted to mention the article that triggered the idea for this post.  It was an article entitled “Lessons Learned from Seth Godin” by J.D. Meier. I realized that, while the article  provided some service for Godin afficionados –like myself–, it provided even greater value for those with a cursory interest in Seth’s areas of expertise, who would benefit from a very well done digest.

    Will Carriers Finally Get Their Piece of the Apple Pie?

    “Better coverage… fastest network… fewest dropped calls…” Which mobile carrier am I talking about?

    ALL OF THEM

    There is a huge gap in the current capacity and the demand that is being created by new high-bandwidth mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad, RIM smart-phones, Androids, Nokia Nxxx’s, MiFi/RocketStick 3.5G/4G devices used with laptops/netbooks, and Kindles. This capacity gap is inspiring another internet arms-race, just like the catastrophic that contributed to the ‘.com bubble burst’ of 2000/1. All of these competing wireless carriers are upgrading their wireless network capacity many-times over (10-100x+). The main difference –this time– is that demand exceeds supply… for now.

    Dilbert.com

    Right now, customers are very much choosing carriers based on the phones available, but this will soon change as cachet devices like the iPhone are made available on multiple networks. Then people will start switching from one to another because they are dissatisfied with the service (probably because a carrier is picking up high bandwidth users faster than their network engineers can deploy capacity). Then we will reach an equilibrium…

    Then What?

    Well, until recently, the answer would be –like any commodity market– a race to the bottom. The raging ‘red ocean’ of the wireless market would lead to the survival of the cost-cutting fittest. Just like pork-bellies, barrels of oil & even computer RAM, the winners will be those that produce a common unit for the lowest cost. The only people making real money (margin anyway) in this scenario will be those who can create differentiated products: handset makers & those that own the content (Apple and Apple respectively – I kid).

    But then ‘net neutrality’ & the FCC got a big kick in the nuts courtesy of Comcast.

    People who don’t care about FCC regulations (probably 99.99999% of you) may have missed the recent ruling in favour of Comcast on their ability to control how their customers use the internet (whether they were ‘neutral’ or could treat data from different sources differently).

    Comcast, by challenging the FCC’s right to control neutrality, has now set a precedent that would allow carriers to be less ‘neutral’ when providing these over-the-top services (particularly those that make it hard to identify the source of all the bandwidth, like BitTorrent, etc.). This could potentially mean that they can have more control over the internet experience the user has. They could treat websites preferentially (higher speed) that agree to do revenue sharing, or block/restrict the bandwidth to those they don’t like.

    The wireless and wireline carriers now have another way to differentiate from each other, aside from the “Better coverage… fastest network… fewest dropped calls…” mantra they all currently drone.

    The internet experience could end up being VERY different from one carrier to the next, with an infinite combination of content/carrier/geography relationships possible. A very basic example would be a carrier winning business based on allowing BitTorrent traffic to your cell phone vs. one that does not allow it.

    Things just got a whole lot more complicated… will carriers finally get a piece of the Apple pie?

    The Media Buffet – At One Reasonable Price

    Early adopters experience new market opportunities before the rest of the market. By trying something new, they get the benefits of a new service or technology earlier than the rest, but they also experience the gaps that are inevitably created by the new thing.

    We will soon have the iPad to add to the already large number of means to experience media that includes:

    • eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader
    • Digital audio players like the iPod and Zune
    • Smart phones (Blackberry, iPhone)
    • Desktop & laptop computers
    • Internet capable set-top boxes (AppleTV, PS3, XBOX, Wii)
    • Traditional print media

    Here is the gap: I am sure many other early adopters are finding it useful –but expensive– to purchase all the various potential forms of a piece of work.  For example, I may purchase an audio-book to determine if I like the work (and it allows me to read it quickly), then purchase the eBook version on a Kindle because I want to be able to highlight the material and look at diagrams, and even purchase the printed copy of the book if I want to share it with others.

    Hopefully there soon will be a time where a content publisher will offer the “One Price Media Buffet” where one price is paid to access to the media regardless of the desired format.  Alternatively, an initial price can be paid, with small incremental fees for alternate versions.

    You might wonder what is in it for the content publisher? Unfortunately, the current attitude of many people towards DRM (digital rights management) is quite confrontational. Users don’t see the DRM as a way to protect the artists that produce the media, but rather a cash grab reminiscent of the music business who would release a new format every 5 years to get you to buy the Beatles White Album again. This confrontation allows people to rationalize making illegal copies of media. This is money lost for publishers and artists alike. There is no DRM that yet exists that can keep motivated hackers breaking it, and the internet makes it very easy for hack to be propagated to less-tech savvy users that feel enough frustration to make illegal copies.

    Here is a new opportunity for content owners to develop a more positive relationship with their customers and their artists by offering new innovative solutions instead of more complexity and frustration.

    Is it possible? I can see at least one company who could offer a very good start at this: Amazon. They already offer content via audio book, print and eBook (which includes access via PC & iPhone, and in the future likely the iPad & Mac).  The only reasons for them not to offer the ‘Buffet’ would be existing contracts with rights holders (good reason) and the opportunity to charge their customers multiple times for the same content (not so good).

    Come on publishers, surprise we early adopters in a GOOD way for a change! There is a WIN-WIN scenario.

    This is Gonna Be HUGE!

    This started off as a comment on Kneale Mann’s blog, but then I realized that a lot of my regular readers are probably expecting me to weigh in on the iPad, and why not! Ironically, Kneale’s post is about all the free publicity that the iPad is getting.  🙂

    There are a lot of people griping about what the iPad doesn’t have, and its name:

    iTablet was the obvious (good) choice IMHO, but it breaks the ‘two-sylabble rule’ of the Apple naming conventions, and the recent predilection for the use of the letters ‘iP’ at the start (iPod, iPhone).  Complaints about the name are missing the real story here:

    All the coverage I have read misses just how much this device is going to revolutionize everything! Apple has created a huge developer community and worked them into a lather over the potential of becoming rich, famous, or rich & famous developing the next multi-million-downloaded iPhone app.  Now they provide those same developers a new platform to innovate on.

    Lots of analysts seem to think that this is about Kindle vs. iPad, but that misses the point too.  The Kindle is a very well executed specialized reading device which will continue to do well in the segment of eBook readers.  The iPad provides the opportunity for innovations of much greater scope.

    Expect big revolutions in:

    • Medical charting and visualization
    • Marketing
    • Gaming
    • Graphic design
    • eBook technology
    • GPS & mapping
    • Education
    • Human interface design
    • How you enjoy video and music
    • Point of sale enablement
    • Retail displays

    Just as an example: imagine you go into the local car dealership, and instead of being handed the usual marketing glossies you are handed a iPad with an interior and exterior visualization of your new car with all the interior and exterior features & colours, exactly to order.  The same could be applied to making all the selections for a new home, where colour and material choices can be visualized in a 3D rendered world navigated by intuitive screen gestures and/or movement of the whole device.

    The tablet itself is a nice piece of work at a compelling price point (especially compared to the capabilities offered by netbooks), but the real monster unleashed here is the rabid pool of developers who now have a completely new form-factor to innovate on. In 6-12 months, the folks at Apple will look like geniuses (again).

    TEDx Ottawa: A Resounding S.U.C.C.E.S.s!!

    TED conferences are mind-blowing, but expensive and far away.  Sp when I heard about the TEDx concept (locally organized TED events) I was excited to hear that an event was being organized in Ottawa!  But how was a local event going to compare to TED conferences which regularly attract the worlds top thinkers?

    The same weekend, I was trying to complete my presentation on a very compelling book that my wife bought for me: Made to Stick. This timing was very fortunate for my presentation because TEDx provided so many great examples about how to make ideas ‘Sticky’. I thought I would use the S.U.C.C.E.S.s acronym used by the book to illustrate some of my key take-aways from TEDx Ottawa:

    S – Simple: Keep your message core and compact to increase the chance that people remember the one most important thing you want them to act on.

    If someone really succeeded in getting their message across, I shouldn’t have to look at my notes! And one great example of this was Bob Ledrew who’s key message was to “Sing your song.”, which was all about remembering what things you were passionate about in your youth, and making sure that you make time for them in adulthood.  His personal story about his rediscovery of his passion for music, and his ‘House’ concerts was very inspiring.

    U – Unexpected: If you can break a person’s guessing machine you keep their interest and increase the chance that they will absorb your message.

    For me the ‘unexpected’ story that stuck with me most from the day was Ray Zahab‘s story about how he entered a Yukon ultra-marathon, and the mental and physical battles he fought during the race to convince himself that he could finish it.  At the end of the race he then says “Nobody is more surprised than me that I finished this race.” and the race marshall responded: “You didn’t just finish, you won.”

    Cindy Chastain and Kip Voytek surprised me by clarifying the difference between ‘cooperation vs. collaboration’, and how most ‘collaboration’ strategies actually are about cooperation.  This surprise caused me to furiously write down their proposed approach to collaboration, which I will use!  As a result, I have a lot more ‘pleasure in not knowing’.  😉

    C – Concrete: Everyone will take in your message using their own filters and lenses, you must make your message concrete to ensure that your audience gets your message, regardless of their background.

    Images and video are fantastic ways to make your message concrete and accessible to a wide audience.  Najeeb Mirza used a video shot in Afghanistan to illustrate how people around have more in common than you would think!  It made me laugh to see a bunch of turban doffing Afghani tribesmen talking about who had the best cell phone.

    Williams Jans‘ message about how ‘Bad Roads Bring Good People’ was driven home by his many great photos and video showing how friendly and happy people can be at the fringes of the inhabited world, and showed the joys (and laughs) of learning new languages!

    Finally, Mark Levison talked about how images are ‘Google for the mind’ and there doesn’t appear to be an upper limit to how many images the brain can process.  So many of Mark’s comments echoed the ‘Made to Stick’ concepts that I ended up giving him my copy of the book when I was surprised to find out he hadn’t read it!

    C – Credible: To get people to believe your message, you need credibility.  The book has many suggestions on how to accomplish this, but I used some TEDx presenters to illustrate.

    Tracey Clarke has credibility for many reasons.  First of all, she is the managing director of Bridgehead Coffee, a company who has beaten the mighty Starbucks at the own game (in Ottawa anyway). This should be credibility enough, but then teaches us more about the dynamics of coffee business than I thought possible in such a short presentation!  Her many stories, pictures and detail about Bridgehead’s stance on coffee supply made me proud to be a Bridgehead customer!

    Robert Mittelman, a Kiva Fellow, leant a lot of credibility to Kiva’s microcredit initiatives by his experiences with the program abroad.  It was good to hear how this money was being used, and how the inspiration flows both ways: debtor to creditor, creditor to debtor.

    E – Emotional: In order to get people to act on your message, you have to hit them in the heart with it; with emotion comes action.

    Mark Blevis and his message of the importance of children’s books really hit me at an emotional level.  It made me realize how I really didn’t recognize the importance of these books in providing children context on how to interpret and interact with their world.  The reminder that this is actually a high art form of imparting messages in a compact way to people with a limited vocabulary.  So is this emotion making me act?  Absolutely.  Just one week after TEDx I am sure I have had at least 4-5 conversations about the significance of children’s books!

    S – Story: If you tell your message as a story, there is no way that your audience can remain passive. The act of listening to a story (as opposed to just a bunch of facts) forces the listener to build the mental image of the story as it is told, which increases the chances of the listener remembering it.

    Danny Brown‘s presentation was all about story telling, digital storytelling in particular.  He told of the new Star Wars series that lost the viewer because it forgot that telling a human story was the important part, and not all the technology that enables it (actually I think it WAS Jar Jar’s fault).  I really liked how he compared the Millenium Falcon to everybody’s beater first car!

    Nothing illustrates the power of story like Jowi Taylor‘s Six String Nation ‘Voyageur’ guitar!!  Every piece of this guitar has a story, and is perfectly united to his message of ‘One Canada’.  There was certainly a lot of emotion in his stories as well, as there were several that brought a tear to my eye, and the passion of Jowi about telling these stories was clearly apparent!  The best part about this guitar is that, for all the stories that are built into this guitar already, the guitar itself is creating so many new stories that are being captured by Jowi.  All Canadians must hear the story of this guitar, and I am certainly doing my small part.

    I don’t want to diminish any of the other presentations by their omission here!  I got at least one great nugget from each presentation, and many great discussions with the presenters in the interludes.  It was a fabulous event, exceptionally executed.  Even the box lunch was fabulous!  I hope all people that attend TEDx events around the world are as lucky as we are in Ottawa to have such a great experience!  An experience worthy of the ‘TED’ name!

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