Presentation Matters

Not So Obvious

When I say, "Presentation matters", you might scoff, believing this to be so obvious, it doesn't bear mentioning. But, in fact, it does.

As design professionals we grow accustomed to developing ideas and reviewing work in progress. We “see” the comp or the rough idea in our mind’s eye for the finished work it will become. And at times we mistakenly project our comfort level onto others, assuming they can also see through the reality of work in progress to envision the finished product as we “see” it.

The truth is, no matter how carefully you position the work as “not finished”, “in-progress”, etc., people form opinions based on what you show them; not what you tell them it will be.

Presentation matters.

This is not to say that everything we share must be work complete or for that matter that good design and elaborate presentations will elevate bad ideas. Neither are true. I am suggesting, however, that we must consider the sophistication of the audience and that a hasty or ill-prepared presentation can absolutely hurt a good idea, obscure real talent and undermine credibility.

A Case In Point

One of the most vivid examples of this principle came about while I was leading a team designing a set-top box application. The lead developer had just completed some core functionality and was pretty excited to share it with the rest of the team. He called us all together for an ad hoc demo at his workstation. The application interface consisted of what we affectionately refer to as “programmer art”, a euphemism for stand-in graphics which rarely resemble “art”.

The demo went smoothly and it definitely represented technical progress, but it was clear to me the developer was disappointed with the understated response he received. After the team dispersed, I asked the developer if we could drop in the UI assets the graphics team had been designing. He shared that he thought it was a bit early, so but could easily do so if I insisted. I did.

The next morning, we all gathered around the developer's workstation once again and he walked us through the same demo from the day before, but this time with the ready-for-prime-time user interface assets.

After the demo the team was literally squealing with delight. “Awesome, dude! You rock!” High fives all around. When everyone got back to work, my lead developer seemed even more befuddled than he was the day before.

When I enquired, he said, “I don’t get it. This is the exact same demo I shared yesterday to a lukewarm response.” I smiled and said, “Actually, it’s not.”

Challenged by my comment, he raised his voice a bit, saying, "Yes, it is. All I changed were the graphics.”

To which I responded. "And, that’s why it was a different demo."

In other words, Presentation matters.


Steve Lomas is a digital media and marketing consultant specializing in developing new products and services from concept to launch.

For more articles, visit Digital Bits at

The Race to Own the Mobile In-Box

A Three Legged Race

This is a little different post for me. It started with a personal encounter that peaked my curiosity and caused me to do some digging and pondering... 

I don’t know if you have noticed, but over the past 24 months, competition has been heating up among some major players hoping to own your mobile in-box. To date, those players include Dropbox, a relative newcomer to the email client business, and arch rivals, Google and Microsoft. More about their motives and what prompted me to write this article after a brief history of the race being run.


First out of the blocks was Dropbox, in February of 2013, with their innovative email client, Mailbox. The promise of Mailbox was to help users quickly manage email in order to attain empty in-box nirvana via swipe-based email sorting and filtering:

  • a quick swipe to the right and the email is archived
  • a full swipe to the left and you can file the email
  • a half swipe to the left and you are presented options for snoozing the email, such as later today, tomorrow, next week, etc.

This UI innovation, truly allows users to burn through vast quantities of email quickly and efficiently, clearing their inbox in minutes.

Unfortunately, Mailbox only works with Google mail, so if you are an Exchange user, you are out of luck.


In October of 2014, Google responded with Inbox. Google was careful to state that Inbox is not a replacement for Gmail or the Gmail mobile app; just an alternative. Much like they had done with the roll-out of Gmail in 2004, the Inbox app was introduced by invitation only, and that is still the case as of this writing. The invitation also grants you access to a desktop version of Inbox accessible at

There are many things to like about Google’s Inbox app. Inbox is colorful and modern, leveraging user avatars and attachment previews to really bring your inbox to life. It incorporates the best of Mailbox such as swipe-based email sorting and filtering, but it leap-frogs Mailbox by adding some new concepts like reminders, collections and pins. Not surprisingly, its search capabilities are excellent.

As an avid Mailbox user, I quickly adapted to Inbox and it soon became my default email browser -- for Google mail. That’s right; just like MailboxInbox only supports Gmail. ;-(


The most recent contender to join the race is Microsoft, releasing its Outlook for iOS and Android this past January. This is a surprisingly good app, providing a robust bundle of useful features. The new Outlook app integrates, email, file management, contacts and calendaring into a single app.

It goes without saying that a mobile version of Outlook better provide robust support for exchange users -- and this app doesn’t disappoint. What you may not expect, which this app also provides, is robust support for other email platforms including Google.

One of the most useful mobile features in the Outlook app, is the ability to attach files from multiple cloud sources including OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and, as well as local files. Its the only app of the three that can do that.

Outlook for iOS and Android also incorporates a version swipe-based email sorting and filtering, although it doesn’t seem to be quite as responsive as the competition.

Microsoft has clearly thrown down the gauntlet by offering cross platform functionality that surpasses both Dropbox and Google; but don't count either company down and out just yet. I suspect we will see updated functionality from both in the future.

Corporate Motivation

So all of this this begs the question: why are these companies competing rigorously to provide the best FREE email client?

Premise: Perhaps it has something to do with advertising dollars? Ya think? ;-)

A Personal Anecdote...

Consider this personal story recounting my wife’s experience last week.

We have an 18 month granddaughter; cute as a bug. Our daughter emailed my wife a picture of her little girl sporting some new OshKosh overalls. All our kids wore Oshkosh when they were little, so my daughter’s message was something like, “Does this outfit bring back memories?”

Within an hour of receiving that email, which did not mention Oshkosh by name, only a photograph of a little girl wearing Oshkosh and a vague mention of her outfit, my wife started seeing Oshkosh ads in her Gmail!

She brought this to my attention, saying, “Certainly this must have been a coincidence, right?” Not necessarily. In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise.

The Digging...

We know that Google has been data-mining Gmail for years in order to present user-targeted advertising in Gmail. In fact they have a patent for the technology (Read: The Natural History of Gmail Data Mining and Google does scan all emails...).

Given the computational horsepower of the Google data centers and Google’s cutting edge advancements in AI and its purchase of Deep Mind, it is easy to believe that Google is data mining our images for information. A bit unnerving, but plausible and highly likely. In fact, there is an annual global image recognition competition called ImageNet, which Google won in 2014. We are seeing similar technology being used by Facebook to identify our friends by face recognition, why not branded overalls?

Dropbox is reported to have a “Deep Learning” team which is another way of saying “Data mining” team. I can only presume that Microsoft has or is developing similar technologies.

The Pondering...

The aggregated user data and anonymous matchmaking between advertisers and users made possible by mining our email in-boxes is clearly valuable to advertisers, and thus potentially lucrative to the company that corners the “free email app” market.

The only way to do that is to provide the best user experience. So good for users on one level, but at what cost? If you don’t like the concept of Big Brother holding hands with Big Data, you can always choose to stop using these email apps, but that isn't a very attractive option for most of us.

In the case of Google, the company at least provides users the opportunity to monitor and manage personal Google privacy settings via Google Dashboard.

I am not aware of anything similar to this dashboard from Dropbox or Microsoft. If I am mistaken, please correct me. Of course all these companies have asked for and received our permission to do these things -- when we hastily click accept when presented with their verbose policy and privacy agreements.

To my mind, at some level, agreeing to allow these companies to mine our data in exchange for free and ever improving tools and services is somewhat analogous to concept of commercial television -- it's the cost of admission -- but potentially far more consequential than having to sit through the soap ads.

What do you think? Does any of this bother you or is it simply the cost of our digital society?

Share your thoughts.

Steve Lomas
Idea Mechanic
Product Design & Development Consultant
For more articles, visit Digital Bits at

Tools of the Trade - Part 3, The Best of the Rest


In Part Two of this series, I outlined five, broad categories that pretty much sum up all the project management tools required by a professional services group:

  1. Collaboration Tools
  2. Artifact Creation Tools
  3. Resource Management Tools
  4. IT Management Tools
  5. Accounting Tools

Supplementing Google

While Agilix Professional Services was established as a Google Apps for Work shop, we needed to supplement the Google suite with other tools or various purposed. Using the above list as a structural construct, let’s discuss how we supplemented Google Apps.

1) Collaboration Tools

Meeting Software

Our primary meeting tool at Agilix is Citrix GoToMeeting (GTM). From my experience, GTM is by far, the most stable and reliable of all the major meeting tools, including WebX, Adobe Connect, Bluejeans, Skype and Google Hangouts. This is especially true of long meetings. We have frequently kept a bridge open throughout the day and sometimes into the evening -- jamming to meet a deadline or resolve a production issue -- six, eight even ten hours without any degradation of audio or video clarity!

As good as GTM is, it may not be the right choice for certain certain corporate IT environments, due to GTM’s requirement for frequent automated updates. Many corporate users do not have local admin rights and therefore, cannot approve the installation of software updates, leaving them frustrated and locked out of the interactive aspects of the meeting.

For this reason, we also maintain a few shared licenses to WebX, in support of certain customers that can not use GoToMeeting. WebX does not share this quirk and therefore seems to play better in the corporate IT world, but its VOIP quality is not as good as GoToMeeting.

Internally, team members also use SkypeGoogle Hangouts and Google Chat for ad hoc collaboration between two or three peers.

Phone Communication

In this day and age, telephone communication doesn’t necessarily mean a phone is involved and your telephone number doesn’t have to relate to your location. I use skype for my desktop telephone calls. Both Skype and Google Voice offer virtual telephone numbers for VOIP communication.

2) Artifact Creation Tools

Areas where we typically supplement Google Apps for artifact creation include:

Document Interoperability

MS Office
There's no getting around it, you have to be prepared to read, write and add comments to the MS Office docs. This is especially true of contracts where the use of track changes is universally accepted as S.O.P.

As I mentioned in the last installment of this series, Google does a pretty good job reading and converting MS Office documents as well as publishing in the MS Office formats.

Adobe Acrobat - PDF Format
PDF has long since become the publish standard format for business world-wide. Acrobat, Adobe's PDF authoring and reader application is such an important tool and yet seemingly underrated and often overlooked. I use it pretty much daily for a variety of reasons leveraging its rich feature set.


MyBalsamiqthe cloud-based version of Balsamiq was the original group standard, but lately we have been moving toward Axure more and more.


We use a little known gem, Diagram Creator, created by Chipp Walters. Diagram Creator offers a natural language interface for quickly building logical diagrams. Diagram Creator is not hard to use, but like most software, it takes practice to master its subtleties. For that reason, some members of the team rely on Gliffy, an Industry standard charting program, fashioned after Microsoft Visio. Gliffy offers plug-ins for GoogleDocs and Jira. For simple workflows, used in presentations, we often use the Google drawing tools available in Google Slides.

Ui Graphics and Image Editing

Adobe Creative Suite is still the standard for serious professionals.

Sales and Marketing Presentations

Early on, we adopted Apple Keynote for authoring sales and marketing presentations. Keynote offers much more powerful and more elegant authoring capabilities compared PowerPoint or Google Slides and robust publishing options including Powerpoint, PDF, HTML, JPEGS, and Video output with direct sharing to many social media sites such as Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube.

3) Resource Management Tools

For the purposes of this article, I am lumping resource planningtask management and tracking work completed together as sub components of Resource Management. To manage these functions we used a combination of Google SpreadsheetsWrike, and Jira Agile.

Google Spreadsheets

Of the three applications mentioned for resource management, Google Spreadsheets is probably the most widely known and understood. Using a series of related Google Spreadsheets and Google Script we created a project management platform that allowed our internal Producers to lookup, cost and allocate resources to their various projects and rollup actuals in realtime to an executive dashboard.


Wrike is a relative new and evolving tool. Wrike bills itself as a project management platform, but I feel it is more accurate to describe it as a task management platform. Wrike is is a bit of an acquired taste, but once you master its metaphor, it can highly effective.

Wrike is built on a tasks and folders construct. Folders may contain a combination of tasks and sub-folders. Tasks may include sub-tasks and interdependencies with other tasks. The real power of Wrike is the ease with which you can create complicated folder/task structures to create process templates that can be quickly and easily cloned at the start of a new preserving interdependencies and even individual task assignments,

Key factors for our choosing Wrike included its native support for both Google Docs and Microsoft Office Documents, tight integration with both Gmail and Outlook, threaded discussions around any task, robust reporting, personalized dashboards, watch lists and notification management.

Common Uses For Wrike:

  • Preliminary Planning
    • Tasks
    • Timelines
    • Dependencies
  • Non-development Tasks
  • Financial Pipelines
    • Contracts
    • AP Invoices
    • AR Invoices

Jira Agile

Jira Agile is an agile methodology project management extension for the popular Jira issue/bug tracking system from Atlassian. Since it was designed for agile development, Jira Agile provides many useful management tools including:

    • User-story Backlog Repository
    • Backlog Grooming (prioritization)
    • Sprint Planning
    • Developer Assignments
    • Sprint Management and Developer Progress
    • Burn-down Charts
    • Unit Testing and Bug Management
    • Developer Collaboration

4) IT Management Tools

As previously mentioned, we Agilix Professional Services standardized on Google Drive for shared storage and file sharing. It comes with Google Apps and the cost of storage is hard to beat.

Code Repositories

For code repositories, we have used XP-Dev and Beanstalk (cloud instances of Reversion) but recently standardized on a self hosted Git Hub server.

Password Management

Most of us are familiar with the concept of password vaults to a manage our personal passwords. IT organizations have similar needs; in fact, even more so. From my experience, this is rarely managed well at most small to medium sized companies. LastPass offers an enterprise version of their popular personal password management software, that is powerful, but spendy. Ironically, for $12/year, the personal professional version of LastPass works great for group password management. One of the coolest features of LastPass is you can share credentials with another LastPass user without ever exposing the username or password. If that individual leaves or no longer needs access, you can simply delete access with a click of a mouse -- without having to update credentials or notify anyone. Likewise, if you decide to update credentials you can do so without impacting anyone's virtual access! Very slick.

5) Accounting

As noted, the most obvious area where Google Apps comes up short, is accounting. Spreadsheets are useful for budgeting and tracking actuals, but they are no replacement for a dedicated accounting system. At Agilix we used a combination of  Google SpreadsheetsFreshbooks and Quickbooks.

Google Spreadsheets 

As mentioned above, Agilix uses Google Spreadsheets for budgeting, tracking actuals and forecasting.


Agilix uses Freshbooks for timekeeping, team timesheet reporting and to quickly calculate T&M invoice for clients. If you are wondering why we didn’t use the timekeeping capabilities of Jira Tempo, Wrike or Quickbooks. In the case of the latter, Freshbooks is simply superior in every aspect of collecting time sheets from a distributed team. As for Jira and Wrike, both offer decent timekeeping capabilities but neither program was used by the entire staff. Jira was exclusively the dev teams and Wrike was more, design, PMO and management. This we settled on Freshbooks for ubiquitous timekeeping, company-wide.


Agilix uses Quickbooks for its corporate accounting and for generating invoices to its professional services invoices to clients.

In Conclusion

As you may rightly surmise from the patchwork quilt that comprises this toolbox, in my opinion there really isn’t a unified, end-to-end enterprise project management tool suite suitable for small and medium sized businesses; and by suitable, I mean affordable.

If I am wrong about this, I'd love to learn otherwise. Please share a comment, or contact me directly, with your thoughts.

Useful Links:

Steve Lomas
Idea Mechanic
Professional Services Consultant
For more articles, visit Digital Bits at

Tools of the Trade - Part 2, Professional Services Toolbox


In this installment, starting with the basics, I will discuss the collection of tools we employed to manage Agilix Professional Services.

About Agilix

Agilix is an ed-tech company based out of Orem, UT, and the professional services team is essentially a product team for hire, creating custom solutions for large educational publishers in the ed-tech industry. As the company name implies, Agilix prides itself on being, “agile”; as in fleet of foot. So, nimble process, flat hierarchies, and lean UX are all important to Agilix -- and that meant choosing a flexible toolset. Since we created the group from scratch, we had the luxury of starting with a clean slate. We were essentially a startup within Agilix, with our own infrastructure and culture. And like all startups, we were cash conscious. Our toolset decisions were driven by these realities.

5 Buckets

Agilix specifics aside, the requirements of enterprise project management are pretty similar across industries and the toolsets can be organized into five, broad categories:

  1. Collaboration Tools
  2. Artifact Creation Tools
  3. Resource Management Tools
  4. IT Management Tools
  5. Accounting Tools

The Basics: Startup? Google Up!

Call us religious zealots, or fanboys, I really don’t care. Agilix Professional Services was established as a Google Apps shop. Given the selection criteria I shared in Part One of this Series on Tools of the Trade, it isn’t hard to understand how we landed on this decision.

For $5 a user per month, consider the value proposition of Google Apps for Work:

  • User Management
  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Contacts
  • Google Docs (docs, sheets, slides)
  • Drawing & Charting Tools
  • Google Chat
  • Google Tasks (personal todo’s)
  • Google Hangouts (video chat and file sharing)
  • Google Sites & Forms
  • Google Drive (shared storage)
  • File Management (robust file sharing)
  • Cloud Storage (5 gigs/user included)
  • Backups and Disaster Recovery
  • Extensibility (Google Script and Extensions)
  • Robust Publishing Options
  • Free Hosting
  • Zero hardware and maintenance costs

Taken together, the Google feature set addresses most all of the functionality outlined in the five major categories above: collaboration, artifact creation, resource management, IT management and accounting -- okay, accounting is a bit of a stretch, but spreadsheets do have a role. ;-)

In other words, you can practically run an entire enterprise on Google Apps alone!

Not to be left out...

If you are a Microsoft shop, you can still integrate Google Apps into your Exchange environment to reap the benefits of both platforms. Google offers various articles about how to implement this.

A Few Google Highlights

Let me highlight a few areas where Google Apps shine.

Google Docs Collaboration
Before Google Docs, few people, if any, considered the notion of real time, multi-author collaboration in a single computer document. Google Docs collaboration is brilliant! Once you experience the productivity boost of working together in real time, it is painful to even consider reverting to the old school practice of circulating documents for input, one author at a time, each adding their initials to the filename. So 2006!

Authoring vs. Publishing
One of the great things about Google Docs is its ability to read other formats for preview or conversion to native Google documents. Likewise, Google Docs offers a wide variety of publishing formats, including Microsoft Formats (.docx, .xlsx and pptx), Open Document Format (.odt), Rich Text Format (.rtf), PDF Document (.pdf), Plain Text (.txt) and Web Page (.html).

My standard process is to author in Google Docs and publish in whatever format the client needs. If a publishing format isn’t specified, PDF is our default publishing format. Once a document is published, especially if it is an editable format, be sure to communicate clearly to your team where any updates are to be authored; typically, I recommend maintaining the original authoring source doc, to prevent later confusion.

SSO User Management
It's not surprising that Google user management offers SSO (single sign-on) across the Google suite, but many 3rd party systems, including Wrike and Jira, also offer SSO integration with Google Apps. What this means is if you create a user in Google, they are also created in Jira and Wrike, for example. We chose not to employ this feature at Agilix, in order to have more control over user licensing management.

Shared Storage
When Google Drive first came out it seemed buggy and unreliable; especially on the iOS platform. For this reason we experimented with Dropbox and, but ultimately, we standardized on Google Drive. One thing than many people overlook is the the native reversion capabilities of Google Drive. If you want to update a file on Google Drive without losing its version history, right click on the file to be updated and you will see a dialog that allows you to upload a new version.

Hassle-Free IT
One huge benefit of any cloud-based solution, is hassle-free IT.

  • No servers to buy
  • No growing Pains
  • No hosting to manage
  • No backups to manage

24 x 7 Phone Support - Included
No provider can promise there won’t be glitches, from time to time, and Google was no exception. The difference is the quality of support, and in this department, Google was best of breed: quick access, short hold times, excellent CSRs and over the top follow-up, both email and by telephone!

These are just a few highlight. If you want to learn more, you can visit the Google Apps for Work homepage.

Beyond Google

Having made the case for the power and excellent value of Google Apps as a foundational toolset, we still found the need to supplement the Google suite in various ways for various reasons, which I will share in the next installment of this series.

If you have any comments about this series or your experience using Google Apps or other project management tools, please share them below or with me directly.

Next post: Part Three - A Professional Services Toolbox, The Rest of the Chest

Steve Lomas
Idea Mechanic
For more articles, visit Digital Bits at

Tools of the Trade - Part 1, Selection Criteria


Over the coming weeks I'm will be posting a series of articles sharing my experience with various popular project management tools and my quest to identify and unify the best toolset for enterprise software management.

I have spent much of my career managing distributed teams to create software products. In fact, I started an interactive company in 1995 called CyberIsland Studios, which was established on a literal island in the Pacific Northwest. The World Wide Web was in its infancy, and online collaboration was was still a twinkle in the mind's eye. Managing distributed teams was relegated to phone, fax, FedEx and email. From that time forward, I have been an early adopter of pretty much every promising emerging collaboration and project management technology. Along the way, I have also created a lot of glueware to meet the needs of my teams when commercially available technologies fell short.

My most recent experience as Vice President of Professional Services at Agilix Labs has led me to realize that the perfect PM stack doesn't exist, at least not out of the box, and the many applications that market themselves as project management solutions are partial solutions at best; pieces of the pie.

Part One - Selection Criteria

To set the context for this series on enterprise project management toolsets and to round out this first post, here's my selection criteria for considering new software solutions:

  • Cloud-based - This is a must for distributed teams.

  • UX/UI Design - Is it thoughtfully designed? Easy to use? Elegant?

  • Interoperability - Does it play with other solutions? Is there a public API for custom integrations?

  • Mobile Friendly - Also a must, these days. More and more work is being done on mobile devices.

  • Data Ownership - Who owns the data? Can you export and/or migrate your data, if you choose?

  • Business Continuity - Are they running on a solid infrastructure? What is the up-time promise? How often do they back up? What is their disaster recovery window?

  • Financial Stability - Company Size? Years in business? Is there a user community? What do the forums tell you about the company and products?

  • Support - How good is their sales support? Ask a question via their website or email. The responsiveness of the sales support team likely reflects the best you can expect from customer support.

  • Privacy and Security Policies - It's important to know what's lurking in the birdseed. You can reserve this tedium for serious contenders only, but don’t forget to do this.

  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) - The acquisition cost is only part of the TCO picture. What about adoption cost? Is the software easy learn? Or, at least easy to use, once you learn it? What will it take to train your team on this software? What about on-boarding new team members? What is the ongoing cost of support? All of these areas need to be considered and quantified up front.

    If the software you are considering passes this checklist, there is one last critical hurdle I strongly recommend:

  • Pilot Program - Run a test pilot with a small internal group, before purchasing. This step alone, can and will save your bacon over and over. Sometimes it is only through practical application that you can tell if the software candidate is a good fit for your team. What’s more, by piloting the software first, you can establish internal expertise to help drive adoption for those applications you do choose.
Next post: Part Two - A Professional Services Toolbox; what we piloted, ultimately chose, and why.

Web Consultant, Idea Mechanic
Founder and CEO, MojoMediaPros, Inc.

5 Reasons why Guy Kawasaki was easily my favorite session at SXSW-EDU

  1. Guy was humorous
  2. Guy is a storyteller
  3. Guy made it personal
  4. Guy shared relevant, actionable information
  5. Guy is not an educator

My Notes from Guy Kawasaki’s SXSW-edu talk:

"If I knew Then What I Know Now"

Guy's Top 10 things he wished kids were taught and his kids believed

1) How to continue to learn

  • It's not a sprint, its a marathon.
  • The goal is to become self-reliant. Learn to learn.
2) How to separate correlation from causation
  • Steve Jobs traded in his Mercedes every 6 months; never registered a car -- ever; he believed he could drive solo in the carpool lane, park in the handicap spot, wore blue jeans, black mock turtlenecks and new balance shoes...
  • If you do all these things, you will not be Steve Jobs.
3) How to pitch
  • Life is a constant pitch
    • Pitching for capital
    • Pitching for talent
    • Pitching for distribution
  • The idea is the easy part, buy-in is the hard part ( previously believed opposite)
  • Guy’s 10/20/30 rule for presentations
    • 10 slides
    • 20 minutes
    • 30 pt font ideal size (Age of oldest person in the audience / 2 = minimum font size)
4) How To Write Software
  • Everyone should learn the basics
  • Useful as a BS filter, if nothing else
5) How To Be Brief
  • Learn to write a one-pager
    • One sentence
    • One paragraph (elevator pitch)
    • One page
  • Mantra not Mission statement
    • Guy: empower people
    • Apple: democratized computing
    • Google: democratized data
    • Canva: democratized graphics
  • Emails: ideally 5 sentences; win or lose with subject line
6) Learn to use Graphics
  • Adding graphics double engagement (2x)
  • Canva allows you to quickly pick graphics
7) How to Make Video
  • An AV pitch is more persuasive
8) How to "work" Social Media
  • Market-driven approach to social media guidance
  • If I told you recruiters are going to reference your social media, might that govern what you post?
  • Use Social Media to market yourself
  • Repeat tweets 3x, 8 hours apart (to reach entire audience) and include a graphic for a 6x bump
  • Do you have a great avatar?
  • Do you have a great profile?
9) How to reciprocate in advance
  • Help people before they can help you
  • Default to "Yes"
  • There are two types of people: Bakers and Eaters
  • Book: Influence - Bob Childeny
  • When someone says, "Thank you", the correct response is not, "You're welcome", but, "I know you'd do the same for me." The implication is very different.
  • When someone owes you, the optimal response is to tell them how they can pay you back or return the favor.
10 Learn how to Suck it up

Steve Lomas
Web Consultant, Idea Mechanic
Founder and CEO, MojoMediaPros, Inc.

The 5D's of Enterprise Agile-Fall

At Agilix Labs Professional Services we consolidated the typical 10-step SDLC methodology into a process called the 5D's:  1) Define, 2) Discover, 3) Design, 4) Develop and 5) Deploy.

While the first two phases are typically linear and somewhat waterfall-ish due to the nature of professional services — clients always want to know what, when and how much — the later three phases are iterative and agile. This hybrid methodology is sometime referred to as agile-fall.

Below is the presentation we created to explain the process.

Steve Lomas
Web Consultant, Idea Mechanic
Founder and CEO, MojoMediaPros, Inc.

Follow the Bouncing Ball

Recently, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. If one can't support a personal memory or experience with a link to Wikipedia or some other online reference, that memory is simply suspect, no matter how factual. Forget about the fact that you lived it firsthand, if it's not documented on the Internet, it might as well not have happened. So the story below is one such memory and my attempt to document what little I know about one forgotten individual in the history of animation, hopefully giving credit where credit is due... 

Wikipedia states, "The bouncing ball is a device used in video recordings to visually indicate the rhythm of a song, helping audiences to sing along with live or prerecorded music. As the song's lyrics are displayed on the screen, an animated ball bounces across the top of the words, landing on each syllable when it is to be sung."

It goes on to say that "The bouncing ball was invented at Fleischer Studios for the Song Car-Tunes series of animated cartoons (both Max and Dave Fleischer later claimed to have devised the idea). It was introduced in September 1925 with the film My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean."

This would all be good if it were not for my personal acquaintance with an all but forgotten, pioneering cartoonist, animator, and cinematographer whom I believe to be the inventor of this particular effect and many more.

In 1977 I was newly married and a student at Art Center College of Design. I had been contracted to produce an animated surf parody of Star Wars called "Surf Wars,"; a short subject that would play before Gary Capo's surf movie, "Many Classic Moments."

I accepted this gig thinking I could shoot the entire film on Art Center's animation camera stand, but it soon became apparent that the school was unwilling to let me monopolize their animation department, so I needed to find an inexpensive animation camera stand to complete this epic. After asking around Hollywood, I was introduced to a retired animation cameraman named, Sid Glenar. 

At 74, Sid was thin and spry with shocking white hair. He had long since shut down his production company when I met him. He wore two hearing aids that would occasionally feedback on each other causing an unbearably loud squelching sound. Words cannot adequately describe just how alarming this was to experience.

Sid was a long-established resident of Burbank and had set up one of his smaller (and older) animation cameras in his garage. Carl Vidnic, who shot much of Surf Wars with me, used to refer to Sid's garage as the "sweatshop" because there was no air conditioning and it really heated up once the movie lights kicked on. 

One day, Sid asked if he could visit me for lunch at the Art Center campus. Even at his age, he was curious to visit the school's new campus, which had only relocated to Pasadena the year before. I will never forget that lunch because it turned out to be an amazing history lesson about the early days of the animation industry.

I learned that among other accomplishments, Sid was a charter member of IATSE, the Hollywood cameraman's union, and the senior cameraman for Fleischer Studios. 

Fleischer Studios produced many animated classics, including the original feature-length animated version of Gulliver's Travels, the Popeye cartoons, and the immensely popular Out of the Inkwell series featuring Betty Boop and Koko the Clown.

In fact, it was Sid's hand that drew Koko the clown onscreen to start each episode of Out of the Inkwell. This was a novel gag at the time. Sid's hand would quickly draw Koko and then the little clown would spring to life and run around the drawing table.

He went onto explain exactly how the effect was created.
  • Using a large-format view camera, he photographed his hand holding an ink pen, laying across his animation table. He also photographed the same scene, from the same angle, without his arm -- just his animation table with a blank sheet of drawing paper. This became the background for the famous opening. 
  • The image of his hand holding the pen and a section of his forearm was printed as a life-size photo and mounted onto thin cardboard. Next, the image was meticulously cut out using a Xacto knife. Lastly, a vertical slit was cut in the arm's upper part.
  • To shoot the effect, animation cells of the Koko drawing sequence were placed onto the animation stand, under the arm cut-out, and shot frame-by-frame — each cell photographed with the tip of the pen carefully placed at the leading edge of the advancing ink line. 
  • When played back at 24fps, the illusion was that the hand was actually drawing Koko.
  • What made the gag work was genius. Sid anchored a pushpin through the slit in the offscreen portion of the photographed arm, allowing it to pivot and slide freely so the point of the pen could easily be on the advancing line, so it looked like the arm and hand were working together to draw the character.
Another thing I learned was that Sid was a contemporary to a young Walt Disney. Not only did the two men know each other, they apparently looked quite similar. Sid told me that around the union hall, they used to say, "Here comes 'Disney', There goes 'Sidney'."

I left that lunch with a napkin drawing of Koko the Clown, which Sid drew effortlessly - as if he had done so a thousand times before.

One of my animation teachers at Art Center was Chuck Jones (Bugs Bunny, Pepe Le Pew, Road Runner & Coyote). During one class, Chuck said, "I have never met a creative animation cameraman."

I found this intriguing since I was working with Sid at the time. After class, I asked Chuck if he had ever met Sid Glenar. Chuck looked dumbfounded as he explained, "As those words came out of my mouth, I thought to myself, ' ...with the exception of Sid Glenar, but none of these kids will know the difference.'"

Then Chuck asked me, "How do you know about Sid?" "I'm working with him." Chuck knew about Surf Wars, and I went on to explain how Sid was helping me to shoot the film on his animation stand.

Chuck was amazed to learn that Sid was still in the land of the living, sharing, "I haven't seen Sid in decades. One of the true pioneering geniuses of animation!" Then he asked, with a glint in his eye, "Does he still wear those Gawd awful hearing aids that you can hear from a mile away?"

I smiled and said, "Yup!" We both had a good laugh over that.

So, what does all this have to do with following the bouncing ball? 

During our lunch, Sid told me that he created the concept of following the bouncing ball in 1914 while working on a movie for King Vidor. The movie was called "Kelly With A Green Necktie." If true, this predates the movie noted in Wikipedia by a decade. 

I've tried Googling that movie and have so far come up empty. But here is what I have learned: King Vidor moved to Los Angeles early in life to pursue a career in Hollywood. Wikipedia states that his career as a writer-director began in 1913. His filmography on IMDb lists two movies in 1913, nothing in 1914, and numerous short films in 1915.

I have no evidence to support this, but as someone who started my career working in and around Hollywood, I have no trouble believing that both Vidor and Glenar were involved in various spec projects and could easily have worked together — two young creative guys trying to make something happen. It is very likely that Kelly With A Green Necktie was never completed or released. I further suppose, years later, working for the Fleischers, that Sid might have dusted off an old gag for a new project, Song Car-Tunes, as reported in Wikipedia above.

Given Sid's other credits and reputation for innovation, confirmed by Chuck Jones, I have no trouble believing Sid's claim that he was the true author of this landmark special effect, just as he claimed.

I'd love to hear from you if anyone can offer further details supporting or refuting these claims.

Update 03/23/2023

With further research, I have determined that there was no way that Sid and King Vidor worked together in 1914. Sid would have only been 11 years old, living on the east coast, and Vidor was working in Texas. By the time they were both in Los Angeles in 1928, Vidor was a well-established A-list Hollywood director.

Sid was in his seventies at the end of a fantastic career when I met and worked with him. Did he muddle up the facts and timelines as he relayed his story? Perhaps. But it seems just as likely, maybe more so, that I conflated the facts, missing some critical context when Sid relayed his story. We may never know the circumstances of exactly how, when, or if Sid worked with King Vidor, but I did solve the mystery about Kelly with a Green Necktie, thanks to Marianne's comment below and some dumb luck.

All of this is explained in the updated and amplified version of this article, "Following up the Bouncing Ball: In Search of 'Kelly with the Green Necktie.'"

It's only happened twice to me in 30 years...

Deep sleep.
Bzzz... Bzzz... Bzzz... "What is that sound?"  
Bzzz...  Bzzz...  "Oh, it's my phone.... But why is it ringing at 4:30a?"
Bzzz..."Wait... Something is wrong.... Where am I? Think. San Francisco.That's right, I'm flying home today."  

Suddenly it dawned on me: "I over slept! My cab is outside!!!"

Reenacting the scene from the movie, Home Alone, I sprang into ACTION. 

By the time I managed to answer my phone, the cabbie just hung up. "Don't leave. Don't leave.... Please, LORD!" I fumbled to return the call. The cabbie answered, "Hello?" 

"I can't believe I over slept. I can be down in 10 minutes -- OR less. I promise!" Dead silence.

"I will wait 10 minutes." He said, in an ominous tone. "Thank you," was my obvious response.

Much to my surprise and a total praise to God, I was dressed, packed and out the door in 7 minutes -- I will spare you the hygiene details, or lack there of.

As I approached my cab, the driver was unimpressed. He'd seen it before.

Driving to SFO airport, I realized managed to avoid disaster by doing a lot of things right the night before that enabled my quick escape -- years of ritual, had actually paid off. 

Perhaps these 10 TRAVEL TIPS will one day save you?

Before turning in, the night before traveling, I always:

     1) Pre-pack as much as possible
     2) Consolidate and stage all my belongings into one area 
     3) Lay out my clothes before turning in
     4) Research any ground transportation in advance, looking for positive reviews
     5) Book* my cab or ground transportation in advance
     6) Review my travel itinerary
     7) Launch my alarm clock app and set the alarm
     8) Position my charging phone so I can easily read the clock app
     9) Fall asleep saying my prayers...

What I failed to do, was number ten: Turn in early and get a good night sleep

Our business meetings went late. By the time I said goodbye to my colleagues, tidied up the meeting suite and completed items 1-9 above, it was past midnight.

Imagine, however, if I had decided to skip the above?  I would have been toast.

Winging my way home as I write this, I am THANKFUL for happy endings.



* A note about booking any reservation over a phone: Remember to smile. Smiles can be heard over the phone and sometimes just being pleasant can make the difference between getting the reservation you want, or not.  :-)