June, 2008

How Digg Got Me On ESPN and Fox News

What is Digg? For those who do not know, I will use the description right off their web site:

“Digg is a place for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the web. From the biggest online destinations to the most obscure blog, Digg surfaces the best stuff as voted on by our users. You won’t find editors at Digg — we’re here to provide a place where people can collectively determine the value of content and we’re changing the way people consume information online.”

I will not go into all the ins and outs of Digg. You can read a good article about it here. You basically submit content you find interesting to the Digg Community. The community votes it up or down. If enough people vote it up and not too many vote it down or “bury it”, your submission makes it to the “Front Page” which can generate thousands of hits to the submission.

Is Digg beneficial to the “obscure bloggers” of which I count myself? It can be if you remember the key phrase coined by Viacom movie mogul Sumner Redstone “CONTENT IS KING!”. I actually thought my brother Mark Cuban coined the phrase until I read about Redstone. This is the golden rule that drives the Digg community.

What is your blog about? Is your blog about getting traffic from front page postings regardless of quality of the content because you are ad supported? I see a lot of that on Digg. That kind of content in my opinion is not king when it comes to blogging because it is almost always content generated by someone else. Why not spend some time building a loyal readership base with quality and or original content? If you don’t people are not going to come back until you have another popular submission. I want reader loyalty. I want people to stick around and look at my multiple posts. The only way they are going to do that is if they enjoyed the initial post I submitted to Digg. When a Digg submission of mine hits front page, it is just as or more important to me how many other of my articles are clicked.

There is nothing wrong with writing about other people’s news. Unless you are writing an original screenplay it makes sense to write about the world happening around you. The key for me at least is to take an event, even if 500 other people have written on it, and make it mine with original ideas, thoughts and viewpoints. If I can not add something new (at least new to me) to an event, I tend to stay away from it.

The tendency of some Diggers is to read only the lead-in when they digg. I try to create a lead-in that encourages readers to click on the link to my blog rather than simply digg and comment off of the lead-in. A bad lead-in can get an article buried as quickly as a bad article itself. The art of writing a good lead-in can be compared to a a teaser for a Hollywood movie. You want to capture the interest of your audience quickly without giving to much information. You want them to be curious enough to go see the movie.(your blog) It is a continuous learning process.

Do not be afraid of the comments. When a submission goes front page there can be hundreds of comments. Many of them are hateful and tough to read but if you shrug those off and find the meaningful ones you can learn a lot about ways to improve your writing and content selection skills. I routinely got tortured for my grammar before I started working harder on it. I still get tortured to a degree but the complaints have reduced dramatically.

Here is an example of how Digg recently worked for me resulting in two ESPN interviews and an appearance on The Fox News Channel.(video below).

On June 6 2008 I wrote an article entitled “Why Athletes Go Broke“. It went popular and generated 814 Diggs. This is a fairly modest number for a front page submission. In contrast, the actual article on my blog received 30 thousand hits. This is again, not an unusually large number of hits from a front page submission. The real benefit is the other search engines and blogs that pick up on this large number of hits. This process got my post noticed by the New York Times. The Times linked to the my blog in their Freakonomics Section in a post entitled: Why Do So Many Celebrities Go Broke. It was also posted in their “Whats Online” section. The Times postings resulted in my submission being picked up by news blogs all over the world. This resulted in two ESPN interviews and a national appearance on the Fox News Channel.(video below) I have also received several offers to write for publications.

What lessons can be learned from this? There are some that will say that this only happened because my last name is Cuban. I dispute that assertion. I have written many blogs that have gone front page and not generated any interest beyond Digg. It proves that Digg does work for bloggers even in the face of any disdain by the Digg community towards the blogging community. I have no idea if this disdain actually exists but I read about it frequently. It proves that regardless of any Digg variables, content will always be king. If you have content that is timely, interesting and hits a “public nerve” Digg will work for you. Digg is not just for distributing hard news around the internet. Digg can work to distribute your thoughts on that news as well. You just have to have something worth saying. Digg can pull back the curtain but the audience still has to like the show. Be original-Be timely-Be bold as a blogger. The Digg community will stand up and take notice.

©2008 Brian Cuban


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How To Sue A Naked M&M

The Naked Cowboy will end up with more than a few dollars slipped into his boots from Mars Inc. and retail branding agency Chute Gerdeman. The naked cowboy sued both when they used his trademark protected “giddyap” to advertise the popular Mars product M&Ms

For those who never had the pleasure of a personal viewing, the Naked Cowboy is a New York City street performer. He is kind of a guitar playing Chippendale Dancer. He plays the guitar in Times Square clad only in white underwear, cowboy boots and cowboy hat. I saw the Naked Cowboy in action the last time I was in Times Square. Feeling myself on the verge of “self emasculation”, I elected not to put any money in his boot. I left Times Square with my “machismo” still in tact.

In the very near future Mars and Chute will wish they had slipped a few bucks into his Snakeskin boots. They did the incredibly stupid thing of using his “shtick‘ to sell their products without his permission. The Naked Cowboy filed a lawsuit against Mars Inc. and Chute Gerdeman Inc., after they released a video billboard showing a guitar-playing blue M&M dressed in a white cowboy hat, cowboy boots and underpants.

When interviewed, the Naked Cowboy stated:

“I have spent 10 years in every kind of weather and going through the legal, step by step process of getting a trademark,” Burck said. “It is imperative that damages are pushed so … an example will be set”

How did their trademark counsel miss the fact that his “manhood” may have trademark protection? Did Mars or their retail branding agency even consult trademark counsel? A first year trademark attorney would have known to check into this. If counsel did look into this, why did they conclude he had no protection for it?

The legal requirements for The Naked Cowboy to claim trademark infringement and basic trademark protection are not complicated. The Naked Cowboy has to be trademarked; has to prove that Mars, without his consent, infringed upon the trademark. He then has to show there’s a “likelihood of confusion” between his trademark and the allegedly infringing mark . This is for federal trademark protection. I suspect some New York State trademark laws have been broken as well.

Guys who put money in this cowboys boots are not the only ones who will be emasculated here. The guilty decision makers at Mars or Chute had better “cover up” for a gouging if they did not have opinion of counsel before they played their guitars.

I decided to get a plaintiff attorney’s take on the issue. I contacted Angel Reyes, a very well known and respected attorney in the Dallas firm of Heygood, Orr, Pearson & Bartolomei. They are a trial litigation firm in Dallas, Texas. Angel had this to say:

No matter how much money you spend on lawyers, you just never know when something will get overlooked. Imagine overlooking the package the Naked Cowboy sports. I’m sure not many women who’ve seen him in Times Square have overlooked it, but it sure looks like Mars, Chute Gerdemen, and their high priced lawyers did. Maybe they should have called Nancy Grace, she’s got a sharp eye.”

Nancy may have a conflict of interest. I saw her slipping a ten spot into the boot of the Naked Cowboy the other day.

One last thought for the masses. How do you know if an M&M is naked?

©2008 Brian Cuban

Posted in Law and OrderComments (3)

Is A Military Draft Inevitable?

A confrontation with Iran at some level appears to be a foregone conclusion. Presidential candidate John McCain has stated that there are scenarios that would necessitate the reinstitution of a military draft. Even with Obama and a Democratic Congress could the law of supply and demand leave them with no choice in the event of a military conflict?

Our troops continue be stretched thin all over the world. Are we one more conflict away from a draft? How big will the conflict have to be? Will we be at war with Iran over nuclear reactors? Will the “cold war” over the North Pole heat up as Russia builds up its Antarctic military defenses? The Antarctic is thought to hold 25 percent or more of the worlds untapped energy resources. Maybe North Korea will fuel up(unleaded of course) one of those Taepodong-1 missiles and lob one over the ocean at us. Wherever it comes from, my gut tells me it will be something different than we expected.

Is a military draft a political issue or a simple issue of supply and demand? Can we predict the future by looking at the politics and economics of past drafts?

The last time we saw a draft was the Vietnam War. The last soldier was drafted in 1972. The draft officially ended in 1973. Prior to that time, the draft was historically a reaction to a specific military event. President Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Service And Training Act of 1940 in response to the United States entering World War II.

Prior to World War II, the last draft was in response to World War I with the establishment of the original Selective Service Act, establishing local, district, state, and territorial civilian boards to register, classify, examine, and either induct and ship out or defer men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty for service in World War I. The draft was incredibly unpopular and volatile. For the first drawing 50,000 men applied for the very broad exemptions allowed by the first act. More than one quarter million eligible males failed to register at all. There were often mass roundups and arrests of draft dodgers.

The first national “conscription draft” was the Civil War. The North began conscription in 1863 when Congress gives President Lincoln the authority to require draft registration by all able-bodied men between the ages of twenty and forty-five, regardless of their marital status or profession. You were able to pay a fee to have a “substitute” fight in your place. You were also in the clear if you could cough up 300 dollars to the government. The corruption, politics and favoritism associated with the Civil War draft in part set off the New York City Draft Riots depicted in the movie Gangs Of New York.

The Confederate Draft was such a mess that it really never achieved the needed manpower infusion. There was massive non-compliance leading the Confederate states to begin conscripting slaves.

Prior to the the Civil War, the calling up of military was primarily reserved for state militias. The was often conflict between federal authority to call up the militias and the states willingness to comply. This was a particular problem in the War of 1812.

The constitutionality of the draft has been challenged several times. The first time was the very unpopular World War I draft. The United States Supreme court held that the draft was constitutional in the case of Arver v. United States. Lower court cases have followed Arver.

The current military stance is that there is no need for a draft even with any military recruiting shortfalls that may occur. It is the position of military leaders that a draft would actually decrease the quality of the average volunteer solider in the field. All branches of the military have in fact met or exceed their quotas for whatever that is worth. Is the fulfilling of a “peacetime” quota a symbolic and meaningless statistic?

People have been opining and predicting the need for a draft since the Civil War and the riots that followed.. Without exception it has taken a precipitating military event to bring one about. In my mind it is not a right wing versus left wing, Republican versus Democrat argument. There are so many variables and external forces that any prediction bases on political alliances and agendas is futile. I prefer to look at the constant economic variable that has driven world economies since pelts were being traded for food.

It is a very simple formula of supply and demand economics. In any economy external forces/events drive up or lower demand and supply. When demand increases and you don’t have the resources to increase supply, you make adjustments, re-deploy assets, lean out the supply chain. If demand keeps increasing sooner or later the only way to deal with it is to increase your supply by renewing production. Supply chain management is critical in the military on all levels in including the resource no war can be fought without. Poor supply chain management at Sears costs jobs. Poor supply chain enlistment management in the military costs lives.

How many events can our military respond to before the demand for soldiers outstrips our ability to bring in volunteers?

Our military leaders say we are meeting and exceeding retention and recruiting quota in our all volunteer force. That is really a meaningless statement unless we know the formula they use to determine quota. For example, we know that a percentage of the retention quota is being met through the military’s controversial “stop loss” policy. Many of called this policy a “back door draft”. When this is taken into consideration, the numbers do not appear to tell the whole story. It’s like Enron telling their employees they are kicking ass. Unless you know how they came to their conclusions, it is a false and very dangerous sense of security.

The military is a business. It is a poorly managed business. Sooner or later, you will reach a point where it makes more economic sense to force people to go than entice them with all kinds of incentives and bonuses. I have no idea where that point is. When it happens, there is not going to be a vote, a referendum, a debate etc. We will be told its coming and that’s that.

Will there one day be the new “Pearl Harbor” that will cause a massive “patriotic shift” in favor of a draft? I have no idea. Is it naive and “isolationist” to bask in comfort that it will never occur?

What do you think?

©2008 Brian Cuban

Posted in UncategorizedComments (6)

My Headphones Almost Killed My Cat

I purchased a new set of headphones at Best Buy. Mine died of natural causes. I am one of those people that cannot work out unless I am listening to something so it was imperative that I got a new set before my next workout. I thought I had it planned out perfectly. I would buy the headphones, run home, get my gym stuff and be ready to rock and roll!

I found a cool pair that I liked. I got them home. Everything was going as planned. I guess I never really noticed or thought about the fact that they were enclosed in this big thick plastic case. The kind that need to be opened with a phaser or a Jedi light saber. No big deal. I would just get the scissors out and I am ready to go. There were no scissors to be found.

So here we go… I ripped it with my hands, stomped it with my feet, tore it with my teeth, fed it to my dog, fed it to my cat, stabbed it, jabbed it, prayed over it and cursed it. It just smiled back at me laughing, still snugly encased in its plastic kryptonite home. Where is Superman when you need him? Finally in a fit of rage, I took a knife and wildly stabbed at. I completely missed it and impaled my hand. I screamed loudly and throw the package across the room. I heard my cat scream. I looked over and it had sliced off the end of her tail.

After I bandaged my hand, I picked up the cat and the headphones and headed for the vet. On the way to the vet I look at the headphones and they were still in their plastic case laughing at me. I decided that I would have the last laugh and tossed them onto the highway to face a gruesome end by tire squash.

I got my cats tail re-attached. I got my hand stitched and headed home. I was stopped at a red light and out of the corner of my eye I saw a homeless guy wearing my headphones and petting his cat. He was obviously smarter that I was!

I missed my workout……

Question to ponder? What is the point of these “kryptonite cases”? Medieval Chastity Belts were probably easier to break into. Somebody please tell me who invented it so I can send him or her my vet bill.

©2008 Brian Cuban

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