Monthly Archives: April 2012

Eat More Kale! (Just don’t brag about it)

If someone threatens to sue you for using a common word, whom would you go to for redress?

Well, if you’re a writer, or a mom-and-pop business owner, you may not be able to afford a team of lawyers. You may not think that a common word such as ‘think’, ‘eat,’ or ‘whisperer’ could get you into the cross-hairs of a team of copyright lawyers. But we live in such times.

Last week I spoke to Bo Mueller-Moore, someone who didn’t understand all of this. Bo is a Vermont-based folk artist who became an accidental T-shirt designer.

We grow kale (as you could see here) in our back yard. This story resonated with me. He comes across as a folksy, genial gentleman who might be the least likely chap to threaten a 1,615-restaurant business.

One of his shirts that he sells (he originally made three for farmer John down the street) read ‘Eat More Kale’. But a corporation began claiming the rights to the words ‘Eat’ and ‘More’ and thought that Eat More Kale would confuse its customers.
Bo has been imprinting t-shirts since 2000, and this is not the first time Chick Fil-A has come after him. (It dropped its earlier case after someone from his town sent them a polite letter saying they were going after the wrong kind of person who was no threat to them.).The company’s product? Chicken sandwiches. Sandwiches!

Last year the lawyers sent him the second cease-and-desist letter. This time Bo decided he was going to fight it another way, in another court –the court of public opinion. Which is located …in the realm of social media.

He took to Facebook, and YouTube, and has garnered thousands of fans.

Now I like Chick-Fil-A, and its sandwiches are one of my daughter’s favorites. But I can’t for the life of me imagine why they would think that a small T-shirt business, especially a short slogan promoting kale would ‘confuse’ me as a customer. Bo’s not a lawyer, but he summarizes his defense as plain and uncomplicated as a head of kale: “You can’t eat anything I sell.”

Oddly enough, while you hear of similar cases (Facebook, apparently tried to own the word ‘book,’ and Apple tried to make claims on the word ‘pod’) others who common English words don’t always get into this kind of trouble. Denny’s restaurant is currently using the word ‘whisperer’ to promote its fare.  The series of videos is called ‘Skillet Whisperer.’ (The word whisperer immediately conjures up the movie Horse Whisperer, doesn’t it?) Some folks in Wisconsin have a website called Eat More Cheese. Now they are definitely in the food category, even though a slice of cheese is a far cry from a piece of chicken.

If I were a PR agency advising Chick-Fil-A, I would tell them stop wasting their budget on expensive legal advice and allocate a tiny portion of that to a dude in the office who would listen to the awkward chicken-unfriendly conversations going out there in the blogosphere.

Better still, it could try to repair the relationship and channel the conversations away from anti-chicken talk. How?

How about a seasonal chicken sandwich with Kale instead of lettuce? That would be a nice gesture to the farmer John’s of this world. It may be wise to look back at how United Airlines got the ‘message’ when Dave Carrol took his story to YouTube, and did an admirable job of tuning in, and toning down the voice of an angry customer plus his millions of fans.

Gimme a grilled, spicy chicken-kale sandwich, Chick Fil-A. I’ll eat mo. I promise!

PS: My wife grows eggplant, parsley, and chilli peppers. On her behalf, eat more eggplant! Eat more chillies! Eat more kale, too!


New York Times forcing us through Facebook funnel

Updated: 21 April 2012

I’m Ok with funnels for decanting liquids in the kitchen or garage. Media funnels are another matter entirely.

That’s essentially what The New York Times is trying to do with us readers: entice us down the narrow neck into Facebook territory. No thank you!

We’ll never know what the conversations were at the Times in the past few weeks, but it certainly didn’t involve us.

The folks there probably looked at the evidence of how media is now flowing through networks, how people are jumping platforms and thought it was time to send us to Zuckland. Call it Funnelization-meets monetization.

Were they scared we may be sucked in elsewhere?

I don’t buy the ‘newspapers are dead’ argument any more than I think books are dead. (I love my Kindle, but I don’t plan on not reading real books anytime soon.) I grant that I do get plenty of my news updates via social media, but that has never stopped me from picking up a newspaper, tuning into a radio show or watching a non time-shifted television show now and then. The sheer serendipity of discovery using ‘old media’ could never be replaced.

In short, I get sucked in by great content.

The Times and Facebook relationship is not new. It began in 2010, with a new design of the front page. (Explanation by NYT here.) I liked the idea of enabling readers to be able to follow threaded comments and connect via social channels. It was a tough call, to make trusted commentary a feature that was by invitation only. But hey, reputation is always earned!

Starting this week, however, content on is limited to ten articles a month free. Content will still be available via Facebook.

But that’s not the main problem. The Times requires one to link a Facebook account to the Times story to be authorized to comment.  That tantamount ro appointing Facebook as a sort of gatekeeper. An e-verify system for readers. Why Facebook? Why not LinkedIn, amore professional system? Good question. Andrew Rosenthal, the Times’ editorial page editor explains it thus: It’s coming! For now we’re stuck with Facebook.

Maybe it’s not so bad. After all Facebook is now a major authenticator and on ramp to other online properties. But it’s thumbs down for me. I’m not ready to jump into this funnel yet.

Updated: If you have inadvertently linked your Facebook account to the NYT, here’s where you can find the button to uncheck it.


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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Media, Social Media


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‘TMI’ may stand for Too Many Infographics

For a recent article in  CW magazine I interviewed Alberto Cairo of who teaches at the University of Miami, FL.

One of the questions I asked him was if infographics was being over-used today.  His answer was an unconditional yes! Tons of substandard projects, in fact.

There are “dozens of dubious graphics and “infoposters” that were not designed as tools to aid cognition and understanding,” he said. The problem? People think that by just compressing numbers side by side with ‘cute illustrations’ they could come up with an infographic.

If you like to read more about from Cairo, who’s the director for infographics and multimedia, here’s a link to my article. He’s also got a great blog, a companion to his upcoming book, Functional Art.

He refers to my interview with him in a post, A conversation on marketing, PR and infographics. He makes a great point there. That all this massaging of information is not bringing out the clarity we need. Especially when infographics are being “designed to attract eyeballs with bells-and-whistles.” In my interview he put it another way. “Infographics’ first goal is not to be cool, but to be understandable, readable, useful, and deep.”

I just came across one of these bells-and-whistles infographics. It is on the Kony 2012. I’m not sure what the purpose is and how it really helps us to know how the Kony interest stacks up with other, trivial YouTube videos. Here’s the link to that.

Compare that to this, below, posted by Cairo. It’s a work in progress, by students at a workshop. But you get the drift.

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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Social Media


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Our Web. Our Conversation. Our House Rules

The 'shape' of our Internet

It’s not everyday you get an email from Vnt Cerf, a.k.a. the father of the Internet.

His email yesterday read: “You spoke out and showed that, when we stand together, we can prevent bad policies from hurting the Internet. You proved we can stop something, but now it’s time for us to start something.”

He was probably referring to my joining in on the online petition in January, in support of massive, worldwide protests against SOPA and PIPA. Some 7 million people signed that petition. Apparently such widespread laws could ‘break’ the Internet.

Now, since there is talk of a renewed attempt to get those laws passed (read the recently published White House Intellectual Property Report) Vint is calling for you and me and your next-door who walks around with her face buried in her tablet, to do something about it.

The newly worded act talks, among other things (such as fear of China) that “U S innovation and creativity (needs to be) protected around the world and allow Americans to do what they do best—out-innovate, out-compete, and continue to lead in the global marketplace in this decade..” yada, yada, yada.

We’ve heard this blathering before. Funny how other nations are out-innovating, out-competing, and out-thinking us –sans such laws.

Vint makes a good point. It’s not enough for us to be always reacting  to legislation. We ought to be demonstrating to the people pushing for these laws that the value of openness outweighs  the value of putting handcuffs on every node of the Net.

The call to action is a tad too simple, if you ask me. It is a web site called Start Something. Basically you are asked to complete the sentence “The Internet is the power to…” You could have your say on Twitter, Google or Facebook.

I am not convinced that adding to the noise as to what the Internet is, will make the lawmakers do a double take. The content creators of this world, the thought-leaders, and social media evangelists ought to come up with a deeper, richer conversation.

What would you do? 

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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Technology


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