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Pietra WineryFront view of PietraPietra EstateThe gang!Blanca's profile!FB ready?
Pose ChinoLookin' goodPietraEating some cheeseGroup picture!2nd glass of wine
Yuri and ChinoYuri!Blanca!Enjoying lifeChino @ PietraChino
Chino!Palm trees in front of PietraWine manufacturingWine lives in these big containersWine is agingCheck out that frost!

Pietra Winery, a set on Flickr.

Pietra WineryFront view of PietraPietra EstateThe gang!Blanca's profile!FB ready?
Pose ChinoLookin' goodPietraEating some cheeseGroup picture!2nd glass of wine
Yuri and ChinoYuri!Blanca!Enjoying lifeChino @ PietraChino
Chino!Palm trees in front of PietraWine manufacturingWine lives in these big containersWine is agingCheck out that frost!

Pietra Winery, a set on Flickr.

Recently visited Pietra Winery in Hollister with a few friends over the weekend (June 30, 2012). First off, the road to the winery is rather far and is a bit secluded, but the scenery is nice. The actual winery itself is small, but wasn’t really an issue for me.

The rosemary olive oil was great! Definitely recommend the olive oil if you do visit Pietra Winery.

Take a look at some of my photos taken with my Canon EOS Rebel T3i.

Hello, I’m moving my blog to:

Please make sure you update your bookmarks.  This will give me more control over what I publish.

Discovered an interesting article asking if Groupon should acquire Foursquare?  This is tricky and at first does seem like a good business move for Groupon.  But who will this benefit more…Groupon or Foursquare?  Hands down, Foursquare will be the big winner and it makes sense.  Foursquare is looking for ways to make money and Groupon has that down pat.  What does Groupon gain?  The biggest gain is Foursquare’s users, but thats really it.

I’d argue that Groupon will gain most from partnering with Yelp.  IMO, Groupon’s biggest competitor is Facebook Deals and they will need to make bigger partnerships to stay on top.  I still prefer Groupon over Facebook, but thats now…things may change.

Here’s what Groupon needs to be thinking about in order to stay on top:

  • Engage Facebook and Twitter posts with “deals” – Groupon is awesome, they have daily deals and make it easy for users to make purchases.  But how do they keep users on their site?  Perhaps integrate FB and Twitter posts with people who have bought the daily deal.
  • Allow “ratings” for Groupons – This is valuable and will help future users make purchases.  I’ve noticed that some companies use Groupon over and over again to attract new customers, this is great!  However, why now allow users to rate their experience using a Groupon at a specific store for future use.  I know of a few friends who have had bad experiences (company giving bad service b/c of a Groupon, company not accepting Groupon code from iPhone).
  • Create categories for Groupons – Location-based Groupons are great, it works and its the easiest way for me to find a Groupon near me.  But what about those Groupon deals (like Fandango) that you can use in any location?  Categorizing those type of offers into groups (Movies, Music, Entertainment, Sporting, etc)

I commend Groupon for joining partnerships with other social tools, but keep growing and improving the user experience.  User experience is one key advantage you have over Facebook.  Don’t settle for the small buy-outs and instead take some risks and make big splashes.  It’s the only way you can compete with big companies.  Just hope that Google doesn’t get into the “deal” business.

Social business is hitting all industries and making an impact on how we communicate online.  Toyota is the latest auto company to dive into social media and put some real investment in their customers.  Toyota Friend is a new social network that will come equipped with new Toyota cars, starting with the company’s next battery operated and plug-in hybrid car.  Toyota is figuring out how to keep their customers happy, lets hope other auto companies join in too.

Online there is a car forum/club for just about any model out there.  Toyota is thinking ahead and is trying to take advantage of the opportunity here.  If car owners visit forums, blogs and other tools for information and help on their cars, why not bring the social experience to customers?  Clearly, they know the benefits of social media.  Here are my thoughts:

  • Stickyness – keep customers on your site, talking about your products and driving your cars.  The more auto companies strive to keep a relationship with their customers after the purchase, the better chances of increasing brand loyalty.
  • “Push” Information to Customers – the idea of the social network is to allow customers to continuously receive updated information on their car including: recalls, service info, dealer alerts, etc.  Instead of making customers search for all of this content, it will be provided to them automatically.
  • Increasing Brand Loyalty – brand loyalty in the auto business is a tricky subject.  Several different factors come into play b/c every year theres always a new model, brand, or feature that intrigues buyers.  But, if I know that when I purchase a Toyota car I will be taken care of as long as I own the car, I might be more inclined to make a purchase.  Buying a car can be scary, but owning the car for the next 5 years can be worse.

Toyota is using’s Chatter to create this unique experience and it should pay off.  The investment will be worthwhile and at the very least it will keep customers happy.  As users start to communicate with each other, Toyota may be able to learn from its customers on how to make the next best car, what the typical problems are in a car and what customers like the most about their cars — this is the data every company needs to make better products.  This in itself makes the investment well worth it.

Empire Avenue, introduced to me by Jeremiah, has become a never-ending pursuit of brand awareness for “myself” (see my initial thoughts here).  I consider my online social identity (whether it be my last name, first name or both) to be my brand.  A brand that I care about, promote and keep enhancing through my social tools (blogs, twitter, linkedin, forums and social sites like empire avenue).  This is the same exact stance businesses should take, whether small or large, when participating in social business.  Their online perception is just as valuable as any other.  Which is why Empire Avenue is valuable and a necessity.

Empire Avenue is a social game that values every user (person or company) on their social interaction with the online community.  Several algorithms are set to put a value on an individual’s twitter, facebook, linkedin and youtube “worth.”  This worth is valued in “eaves” which is real life’s equivalent to dollars.  These eaves can be used to purchase other people’s stock, upgrades and luxury items for the game.  The idea is simple, the more quality conversations you have with your immediate and extended network, the higher your stock price will rise.  Notice I mention quality, don’t get this confused with quantity.

@dups and the Empire Avenue team have upgraded the “portfolio” component of the site and drastically improved the user experience (see screenshot above).  A few things to note right away”

  • Portfolio page uses the real estate of the page to provide a “quick glance” of one’s own portfolio mix (personal value + social feeds, value of shares own and in which accounts, and sorting) – perhaps the biggest change and what users will notice right away.  The changes are consistent with the overall look and feel, but still provides a fresh look
  • Quick and easy call to actions (buy/sell); these were provided before, but now its clear what this page will be used for.  Interesting that “buy” is in green…perhaps that is related to the color of money (dollars).  By the way, what is the color of eaves?
  • High level views on individual investments
  • Sorting is key to a portfolio and the capability here makes this page work and 100% useful
Now if you click on any one of your investments, the left side of the page automatically refreshes to give you the top details of that investment.  See screenshot below:
For this example, I clicked on “Mashable” and as you can see you are provided with a handy chart on how this stock is doing through the course of its life on #Eav and other key data values.  The new look and feel is a well-done upgrade that will continue to make this site sticky.
At this point, we just need enhancements made to the feeds pages and groups.  I’m sure they’re on top of it already by now.

A few days ago, I talked about users backlash with the PlayStation Network  and it looks like the predictions were right.  The month long outage is affecting retail sales and its not a good thing!  The top problem?  Users are beginning to trade in their PlayStations for Xbox 360s.  If I’m Microsoft, this couldn’t come at a better time, especially with their recent venture with Skype.

PS3’s network has been down for a variety of reasons and rightfully so.  But should the network be down for this long of a time?  Yes, I agree they must bring down the network to repair security holes, but is a month really the best option?  Perhaps they were trying to send a message to users that the more hackers try to get their hands on the PS3 the more Sony will fight back?  Probably, but its backlashed big time.

Here are some of the top problems Sony is facing now:

  1. Just two weeks into May, some retailers are already seeing an increase in trade-ins for Xbox (some retails are experiencing 200% increases)
  2. Retails already had a trend of PS3 users trading in their consoles for cash (as is expected in tough economical times), but now they have a second problem.  They’re losing consoles in two different ways
  3. PSN point cards and pre-orders for consoles are dropping significantly
  4. Black Ops and Modern Warfare users are the main users switching consoles – hint: Sony use this data to figure out how to get those users back and to reward users that have stayed
  5. PS3 game pre-orders have been canceled all together OR switched to xBox titles

Sony is losing market shares, big or small, users are moving from one console to another.  Sure one can argue they aren’t loyal customers, but either way Sony has unhappy customers.  They need to bring the system back up and come back with a bang!

Sony needs to:

  • Figure out FIRST how to reward users that have stayed loyal
  • Create new strategies to get customers back from xBox or attract a new customer segment
  • Repair their image from the recent outage
  • Make sure NO security holes are breached
  • Sony may need to think about hiring an in-house team to follow PS3 hackers online and keep track of their activity – I’m sure its been no secret that the PS3 was hacked or jailbroken
  • Come forward, use social tools to show they made a mistake and have learned lessons
All in all, every company faces these setbacks and how they deal with them going forward make or break their image.  Get it together Sony and turn this into a chance to use the “free” spotlight to your advantage.
See other interesting articles about PSN’s Network Outage here.

For a while, iPhone has been the only phone capable of running the official Netflix app until now.  Netflix has upped their game and are equipping HTC, Samsung and LG phones with a new Netflix app.  Since the Playstation network has been down lately, I’ve been relying on my iPhone for all my Netflix needs and its been more than helpful.

The app is perfect for those traveling and have quick breaks to catch an episode or two of their favorite shows.  What may be the best feature is you can pick up a show/movie from where you left off on your TV or computer (source LifeHacker)!  This is amazing and really innovative.

I know Comcast has been going through some media issues lately, but when will we be able to watch MyDVR shows on our portable devices?  This is when Comcast can start pulling away from competition and set the bar high.  Surprised this capability has not been rolled out yet.

Engadget also notes that iOS users can now use subtitle playback with the Netflix app.  Keep the features coming Netflix!

…maybe in your feature releases you can introduce a way for me to quickly share what I’m watching on Netflix to other friends on Facebook and Twitter.  Don’t get me wrong I can do this on my own now, but seamless integration with those tools PLUS allowing me to send actual shows to my friends on Netflix?  That would be the real WINNER.


Techmeme broke the news…and its definitely newsworthy and a MUST know!

Its awesome news for Fan Pages on Facebook of big brands like (Cola, Sony, Apple, etc) b/c all photos can now be linked to their respective Fan Pages.  See the image below, Coca Cola is tagged in a Facebook photo (photo taken from tech crunch, rights belong to them).

I see many ways that businesses can start using this to their advantage.  Almost anything and everything can be tagged now in any given photo.  Think about it…

Marketing and advertising is built on repetition and constantly pounding a particular brand into our brains.  Facebook is a social tool that some of use multiple times a day and what better way to get brands all up in Facebook wherever we look.  I see a lot of alliances being made and maybe brands should reward users who tag their brand X times.  Thats a real big incentive for us…otherwise, will I tag my Apple computer? Maybe, depends I guess.

The new Farmville spin-off will be online soon and guess which music super star is leading the way?  Lady Gaga…the new project will be called GagaVille.  The project will be launched next week, but already there is so much buzz around this.

GagaVille will feature unicorns, crystals and of course Lady Gaga’s music.  GagaVille users will get exclusive snippets of Lady Gaga’s new album and even free downloads in certain stages of the game.  Is this the new direction of music artists?  Not entirely sure, but this experiment will sure be either a hit or bust.  Some will like this idea and some will hate it, but any press is good press right?  Either way, Gaga’s brand awareness will sky rocket.  Its a sweet setup for her and her team.

This is a clear example of gamification used in the celeb world to create a game out of Lady Gaga’s real life.  This game will bring in real objects (music snippets) and challenge users to achieve certain levels in the game to find out more clues about an upcoming album, tour or collaboration.

Almost 2 years ago, I tweeted to Bad Boy Entertainment telling Diddy to create such a game based around “Last Train to Paris,” but no response.  Maybe it wasn’t the right timing, but what if they would have listened to my innocent tweets?  🙂

Sony’s PlayStation network has been down for over 3 weeks and I begin to wonder how many users have backlashed.  Sure its suppose to be up in a few days but Sony will have to do some serious “makeup work” to get its users happy again.  This has not affected me much b/c of my busy schedule, but with millions of users worldwide, I wonder how many of those have moved to the xBox Kinect?

If I was on the fence between both consoles this would have been the time I would have jumped ships.  After all, whats the main difference between them?  Not much.  I know Sony was only trying to “protect” us from the malicious hackers (mainly GeoHot) who managed to break into the ps3, but perhaps the lesson they are trying to teach us is too harsh.  With Skype integrating with Microsoft (who owns xBox), the competition between the two will heighten.  Its what we’ve been waiting for.  Hopefully this will push Sony to make their products better and to stay innovative.  Up until now, they’ve just been sitting around and punishing us.

On another note, for my birthday I got the PS Move.  Cannot wait to play this with my friends…wait a minute…PS3 network is down, guess I’ll have to wait!

For up-to-date information on the PlayStation network visit techmeme

Wow, a few days ago I posted that Google/Facebook were in the run to purchase Skype, but in a stunning twist of fate, Microsoft’s deal with Skype is complete.

This is Microsoft’s first big acquisition since 2008 and its a big one.  Skype has been trying to spread their technology to several different platforms in all segments today’s tech world (gaming, mobile, corporate, etc) and now Microsoft will have its chance to integrate it with all of their products as well.  Aside from the xbox 360 Kinect, I’m not sure what other products will benefit, but we will see.  I still think Facebook would have been the better choice.  Analysts agree that maybe this specific deal between Skype and Microsoft wasn’t the best, but for different reasons than me.  In fact, Whitney Tilson, founder and a managing partner of T2 Partners LLC, who owns Microsoft shares, also includes:

I wish they had not done it.  Initially when I first read about it, I hated the deal. Now, I don’t like it.  Everybody I know uses it and I am glad Microsoft owns it. They just probably paid too much for it.

Others, including Kim Caughey Forrest, senior analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group, which holds Microsoft shares, said:

They really have to do some explaining as to how this company merited that price and how they’ll return the value to shareholders.

Time will tell, Microsoft could prove to prevail with this acquisition and make the next big killer Kinect and Skype combo OR reach everyone in the world!

Interesting news to come out of today’s business world.  Cannot wait to see what comes next from either of these two corporations.

Recent news has been surfaced that Apple has overtook Google and being the most valuable brand (Apple’s value is $153 Billion…wow!).  As expected, there are many skeptics, but overall is Apple the most valuable brand?

Its definitely a difficult decision b/c the idea of being valuable to me probably is different to you. Princeton defines valuable as

…having worth or merit or value

“Value” is defined as

…the quality (positive or negative) that renders something desirable or valuable

It seems that this award is highly subjective, although, no one can deny that Google and Apple are the top brands in today’s business world.  For me, value is something that is not a luxury, but a necessity; something that I count on every day.

More importantly, which brand could I live without?  Google.  Yes, I use Google’s search engine daily and even Chrome, but are there substitutes out there?  Pretty much; they may not be as good, but I can still get by.  Yahoo!’s search engine is ok and FireFox will get me through the day.

On the other hand, Apple, can I live without my iPhone or iPod.  Not a chance.  I use my phone daily for just about anything you can think of.  I’m not even counting how I depend on it for making phone calls (as I use only 200 minutes a month), but for texting, blogging, taking pictures, listening to music (iPod and Pandora) in my car, and for my day job.  I highly depend on Apple’s products, which to me brings value.

No denying Google is a top brand, but #1? No way.  As Apple continues to be the innovator and change how we use cell phones, they’ll remain on top.  Google can try and get into the “call” industry, but they’ll be one step behind Apple.

The new iPhone iOS has been out for a few days now and I’ve had some time to use it extensively (during Altimeter’s Roundtable last night) and have the phone on standby to test a lot of features including the battery life.  The previous versions of the iOS (4.3.1 and 4.3.2) have been terrible.  Several dropped calls, loss of 3G connection and the battery lasted less than a day on normal use.  Seems like Apple took a giant step backwards and started to make me wonder how life is on the Verizon side.

Yet, despite all of this, Apple has not disappointed with their latest release.  My battery life is significantly better than any previous iOS.  I’ve used my phone constantly and barely any drop in battery life and absolutely NO 3G connection issues.  Whatever the formula Apple used, they need to keep it up.  I am once again happy with my iPhone.

New iOS means my iPhone goes back to normal and I need to wait patiently for a jailbreak…but not for long, the Dev Team already has the jailbreak and it works.  Redsn0w r15 worked great without any hiccups and I’m back to all of my apps and customizations.

Iphonedownloadblog provided excellent steps on how to complete the jailbreak; see below:

Step 1: Make sure your iPhone is on the latest iOS 4.3.3 software. Make sure iTunes is up to date.

Step 2:Download RedSn0w 0.9.6rc15 from our iPhone downloads section. Also download the correct iOS 4.3.3 firmware for your device. Leave those items on your desktop for convenience.

Step 3: Launch RedSn0w and browse for the firmware you downloaded in step 2.

Step 4: RedSn0w will ask you if your iPhone is a newer model. Read the explanation provided by RedSn0w and select Yes or No. Click Next to continue.

Step 5: RedSn0w will now be preparing the jailbreak data, which should take a few seconds. When it’s done, It will give you several options. Make sure to select Install Cydia. You may select other features such as Custom Boot Logo, but we will not go there in this tutorial. Click Next to continue.

Step 6: RedSn0w is now asking you to make sure your device is both off and connected to your computer. Click Next to continue.

Step 7: You will now have to get your iPhone in DFU mode. Simply follow the onscreen instructions to proceed.

Step 8: If you have successfully entered DFU mode, RedSn0w will start the jailbreak process. You should see a bunch of weird code running through your iPhone screen. It’s all good. This should take a couple minutes. When done, your iPhone will reboot.

You should now have the Cydia icon on your iPhone springboard. That’s it. The whole process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Other jailbreak methods are available, but I stick with redsn0w as its the easiest to use and I’ve never had any problems.  Make sure to add insanelyi’s repo in Cydia for an updated list of apps.

A few years back I wrote a post about Facebook and if they can win the battle over MySpace.

Here are the highlights of that post written back in 2007:

Provides a legitimate social networking platform

  • MySpace: Yes, but who is part of the network? Probably, friends you met at a party, someone who is in your class, someone you think is cute, or spam.
  • Facebook: Yes, and although the network could be any of the above, it also includes colleagues and business professionals. That’s the difference! The network on Facebook is a lot more professional and older. Obviously, MySpace has its own niche, but will this survive the rapid popularity of Facebook?

Provides an opportunity to show one’s personality

  • MySpace: Yes, all power is in the hands of the creator. This is something MySpace has mastered! And the younger generation loves it! But, does it get old? Well, I know my sister loves MySpace and so do my parents, but what about my generation? Where do we go? FACEBOOK…but can facebook keep my generation for long?
  • Facebook: No, theres not much room for creativity. Of course this is the intention, but is it the right strategy? I know its great for my generation, but will it withstand the generation swings? Can Facebook keep people like me interested?

Web 2.0?

  • MySpace: Although, I’d say that MySpace has some good web 2.0 widgets, its just not up to par. Then again, this might not be their strategy. But, this could put them significantly behind competition if they dont keep up because their users are evolving…and they need to be aware of this.
  • Facebook: Absolutely! I like the whole idea about the Feeds (although some think its a bit invasive). Plus now you can import flickr photos directly to facebook!

Here to stay?

  • MySpace: Yes, but for who? I feel like MySpace is very niche, either you like it or you dont! Can this keep them the top social networking site? Im not too sure
  • Facebook: Face it, we are all on it or at least talking about it. Even the Community Evangelist at LinkedIn, Mario Sundar, has a facebook account. AND even Jeremiah, who asked the question if he really needs it since he already has LinkedIn and his blog, signed up and is adding friends.
The key questions I asked were:
  1. MySpace is a niche platform, but can they survive the popularity of Facebook?  Facebook exploded and MySpace could not do anything about it.  Instead they integrated with fb and remained a niche market.  In the end, this hurt them and they will not be able to recover.
  2. MySpace is interesting and can Facebook keep my generation interested?  At first Facebook seemed to be boring and me along with everyone else I knew (my family, coworkers, and friends) but now it completely switched.  Turns out Facebook is more “cool” and receptive of all generations because of its ease of use and instant mobile capabilities.  Its fast and easy to set up profiles  and keep them updated.  For older generations thats key b/c they may not be as tech savy as younger generations.  For younger generations its key b/c our lives are so fast we need something easy to update!  Facebook has kept me interested and my vote is it will continue to.
  3. Who wins the battle of Web 2.0 integrations?  Facebook is the KING of feeds and won this by far.  But its more of everyone wants to be a part of Facebook, rather than Facebook trying to reach out.  This is what makes the tool so compelling!  Its the fact that any other social media tool is integrated and can update my status on fb.
  4. Are they here to stay?  Facebook yes and MySpace probably not for the mainstream but still for musical artists.  Thats the niche for them.  Facebook has flourished into something bigger than what anyone every expected.  Now if you dont have a Facebook, we look at you like “whats wrong with you.”  Just like anyone who plays music on the go needs to have an iPod, anyone who cares about their “social” status, needs a Facebook.
There we have it, looks like the battle is over and has been over for quite some time.  Good job on Facebook’s part with taking a small idea and making it big.  Facebook is even considering buying Skype now.  The sky is the limit for them.
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