This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
My first 6 months at Nationwide
Today, I have been working at Nationwide for exactly 6 months. It actually seems like yesterday that I started; however, when I look back at what we've been able to accomplish with our social media strategy, I am pretty pleased with the progress.

Here are some of the highlights:

1. Supporting our Sanjaya campaign
On my first day in the office, I was brought into a meeting about the launch of our TV commercial featuring Sanjaya Malakar from American Idol. I was tasked with figuring out how to integrate social media into the launch which was less than a month away.

We were able to create the plan, do blogger/community outreach and build our Sanajaya-ize Yourself microsite in about 3 weeks.

We also did our first experiment with capturing behind-the-scenes footage from an event (using a Flip video camera) and using that to build buzz and add an extra dimension to the announcement.

We received a ton of press, blog and fan forum activity around the launch and microsite. More importantly, we showed that you can add value with social media very quickly and for very little money. A nice quick win.

2. Getting executive buy-in for social media
When I arrived in July, there were groups at Nationwide who were really eager to embrace social media and there were some groups that were concerned about the implications. It is understandable considering the FINRA and SEC regulations that surround some of our lines of business.

After having some success with the Sanjaya project, we set out to build our social media roadmap for the remainder of 2008 and the 2009 *and* get executive support for the initiatives we proposed.

It took a lot of meetings, research and presentations; however, by the end of September (September 24th to be exact), we had approval from our senior leadership team to move forward. I consider this our biggest social media accomplishment so far.

3. Supporting our NASCAR sponsorship
I was selected to be part of the interactive team responsible for promoting our 7-year sponsorship of the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

NNS: Dale Jr. in the car

As part of the team, I had the opportunity to go to Charlotte in October to see a race and all of the things that happen behind the scenes. The idea was to not only get a better sense of the sport, but to understand the NASCAR culture and all of the things that surround the race itself. You can see the full day's recap here.

We have also had some more quick wins using social media to promote our sponsorship and connect with fans and bloggers. I think our marketing relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. will give us a great fan base to tap into in '09.

4. Working with a great team and agency partners
Finally, I want to mention what a great group we have in our Corporate Internet Marketing team. Honestly, it was a concern when considering coming to an insurance company after 9 years at an internet company. However, I have been blown away by the thought leadership we have in terms of interactive strategy, SEO/SEM, web content, usability, user experience, design and, of course, social media :)

I've also been able to work with some great agency and vendor partners from Google, TM, Rosetta/Brulant and others who really get social media.

Those are just some of the highlights of working at Nationwide over the past 6 months. I've also been fortunate enough to have some great Columbus experiences as well.

I was able to take Mahlon to his first concert, get a 2-hour tour of Ohio Stadium, attend the Ohio State v. Michigan football game, attend a Columbus Blue Jackets game and see the amazing Andy Warhol exhibit at the Wexner Center.

Now, if I can adjust to all of this snow, I think we'll be well on our way to getting settled in Columbus.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Video games surpass DVDs in 2008
A report from Media Control GfK International came out this week that showed that, for the first time, video game sales surpassed the combined sales from DVDs and Blu-ray discs. There were $29 billion (down 6% YoY) worth of DVDs sold versus $32 billion (up 20% YoY) worth of video games.

Of course, dollar value isn't a pure apples-to-apples comparison since most movies cost between $15 and $30 while most games cost between $49 and $59.

A quick look at my consumption patterns show that the DVD-to-video-game ratio wasn't even close regardless of whether you look at total dollar value or units sold.

Games and movies purchased in 2008

Here is the list of DVDs and Blu-ray discs I purchased in 2008:

1. Mad Men Season 1 (Blu-ray)
2. Iron Man (Blu-ray)
3. The Dark Knight (Blu-ray)
4. Step Brothers

Here is the list of video games (both console and PC) I purchased in 2008:

1. Littlest Pet Shop (Wii)
2. Wii Music (Wii)
3. Wii Fit (Wii)
4. Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
5. Chicken Shoot (Wii)
6. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
7. The Bigs (XBOX 360) used
8. Rainox Six Vegas (XBOX 360) used
9. Gears of War 2 (XBOX 360)
10. Guitar Hero World Tour (XBOX 360)
11. Burnout Paradise (XBOX 360)
12. Rock Band 2 (XBOX 360)
13. Pure (PS3)
14. SOCOM Confrontation (PS3)
15. Call of Duty: World at War (PS3)
16. Hanna Montana (NDS)
17. Left Brain Right Brain (NDS)
18. The Sims 2 IKEA Home Stuff (PC)
19. SPORE Creature Creator (PC)
20. SPORE (PC)
21. SPORE Creepy & Cute Parts Pack (PC)
22. The Sims 2 Apartment Life Expansion Pack (PC)

I am also pretty sure we picked up a couple of random PS2 games over the past year.

This list doesn't count the dozens (and dozens) of downloadable tracks for Guitar Hero and Rock Band we bought in 2008 either.

We also picked up new video game hardware including a PlayStation 3 and the Wii balance board (Because I would like to stay married, I'm not going to attempt to total up how much all of this cost).

So what about you? Did you spend more on video games than you did on DVDs and Blu-ray?
My Twitter rules of engagement
I am working on a Twitter 101 session for some of my colleagues at Nationwide. There is a lot of interest in social media internally and Twitter seems to have everyone's attention right now. One of the questions I often get from Twitter users (after they have been active a few weeks) is "How do you choose who to follow back?"

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I try to keep my "Following" list short so that I can stay engaged. Over a certain number (it's about 400 for me), I end up missing too much and trying too hard to catch up (Michael Pinto at has a great commentary on people who follow thousands of people. Very true and very funny).

So, I will share my criteria for deciding who to follow back. Don't expect everyone to agree with these, but wanted to share them and see what others use.

1. "Followers" to "Following" ratio
This is the biggest, most obvious factor. If someone is following 1,000+ and they only have 100 followers, then I usually won't follow them.

2. Number of @replies
I also look at how many @replies they post. If there are a ton of them, I usually don't follow them. If there are a ton of them and they're all to @chrisbrogan, @jowyang or @scobleizer, I definitely don't follow them (these are the "drone level zombies" that Michael Pinto from references).

Chronic @repliers like to use the excuse that Twitter is about "conversations." It's not. It's about relationships. It's about telling other people who care to know what you're doing what you're doing (with simple replies so those people can comment on it). If Twitter was really intended for conversations, it would have a better featureset (like threaded message views) to support it.

NOTE: Chronic @repliers who follow thousands of people will tell you that they are maintaining relationships with their @replies. However, these people are "zombies" and can't be trusted :)

As Michael Pinto explains:
"The zombies then seek each other: You'll always notice that of the 5,000 followers that a social media expert has that all 5,000 of them are also social media 'experts'. Their only form of conversation is to quote each other and live tweet conferences where they gather. Like any good Ponzi scheme the lead zombies can make a good living feeding the hopes and aspirations of the worker level drones who parrot their every blog entry."

3. "Good morning" or "good night" posts
This one is nutty/nitpicky, but if there are "Good morning, INSERT CITY NAME HERE" or "Good night, Twitter!" posts in the timeline, I don't follow. Those annoy me and this is my list :)

4. Too many links or retweets
To be fully transparent on this one, I use Twitterfeed to push posts from this blog into Twitter; however, I only post about once every two weeks, so it makes up a very small portion of my overall Twitter participation. If I see someone's timeline and it is dominated by automated blog posts and little else, I won't follow them.

Same goes for retweeting. If all you're doing is pointing me to other peoples' tweets, I will just follow those people.

5. Using your iPhone GPS coordinates instead of your location

[UPDATED 1/28] Just remembered this one. It's great that you have an iPhone and it's great that it has a GPS built in. Unfortunately, I don't know all of the world's GPS coordinates off the top of my head. I like to know where someone is located when they follow me. If I click through and find "iPhone: 39.979176,-83.032539" for your location, I'm not following back.

What works for me
Reading back over this list, it would appear that I am only looking for ways to NOT follow people. Definitely not the case. I love finding new, interesting people to follow.

Here are a couple of things I appreciate (of course, a common interest is still required):

1. Use Twitter as intended
I love the randomness of Twitter, so I love it when people actually use it as intended and answer the question, "What are you doing?" So things like "Going to the bank" or "Having lunch at XYZ" are A-OK with me.

If you don't like to hear these posts from the people you follow, then I would assert maybe you are following people you shouldn't.

2. Be funny
It's hard to be funny. It's especially hard to be funny in 140 characters or less. Micah Baldwin is great at doing it. Diablo Cody has some good ones, too (this is a favorite). Consistently being funny is enough to trump many of the reasons for not following listed above.

So that's how I figure out who to follow and who to avoid on Twitter. As I mentioned, this is just my non-scientific, completely subjective criteria. Would love to hear how you decide.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
High school yearbook photo challenge
I am fast approaching my 20-year high school reunion (shocking, I know). As part of the preparation, one of my classmates created a website for our class. Sounds nice, right? Unfortunately, she also dug out the yearbook and included our senior yearbook photo on our profiles.

My senior yearbook photoAs you can see from the photo, I look a little bit different in 2009 than I did in 1989.

After sharing my photo on Flickr and Facebook this week, I got lots of comments from friends.

"Your parents let you walk around looking like that. Damn."

"I'm rarely stunned, but this is just AWESOME!!!"

"Wow. I had some Rex Chapman curls when I graduated but nothing like that...Did you use mane & tail on those locks?"

"LOL - this is classic; the hair and glasses are killin me!"

"oh my.....ewwwww"

Now, I'd like to challenge anyone who commented on that photo (and anyone else who would like to play along) to post their senior yearbook photos. Can't be as bad as mine, right?

So, Todd Earwood, Jason Hiner, Jeremy Lwanga, Brendan Jackson, Tom Osborne, Kevin Watts, Matt Cleary, Jeniece Jackson and Amy Morton, it's time to dig out those yearbooks.

For bonus points, post a link to your photo on Twitter and tag it #senioryear.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
My personal CES 2009 highlights [updated]
One of the things I miss about working at CNET (OK, the only thing I miss about working at CNET -- I kid, I kid!) is not getting to go to CES. I had a blast last year covering the event with my colleagues Jason Hiner and Bill Detwiler. This year, though, I had to live vicariously through them, Dave Zatz, Engadget and Gizmodo.

Although the crowds were smaller and there wasn't big controversy like last year's Blu-ray/HD-DVD news, there were still some very cool products shown. Here is my personal list of favorites.

1. Windows 7 beta
I've had Vista on a couple of PCs here at home since the Fall of 2006. I finally switched back to XP when I bought my Acer Aspire One netbook last month. I am so ready for an new OS that doesn't require 3GB of RAM to run properly.

I am currently in the process of downloading the beta now. Because it is an upgrade from Vista, I will have to re-install Vista on a test machine before I can try it out.

Early reviews are positive. Of course, it would be hard to be worse than Vista, right?

2. Slacker for the Blackberry
Even before last year's CES, I was a big fan of Slacker (I'm listening to my custom hair metal station as I type this). I met with Jonathan Sasse, VP of Product, last year when they unveiled the first generation Slacker Portable.

This year, Slacker delivered the beta version of their much-anticipated Blackberry app. The software turns your Blackberry into a Slacker Portable.

Photo from Dave Zatz. Read his coverage.

The UI and music collection of Slacker are both excellent. And while I love my Slacker Portable, I can't wait to get it on my Storm (The beta app doesn't support the Storm yet).

3. SlingPlayer Mobile for Blackberry
I actually got to see a demo of the Blackberry version of SPM last year when I visited Dave Zatz at the Sling booth.

Dave Zatz showing off SlingPlayer Mobile's new Blackberry support
Dave Zatz showing me SPM for Blackberry at CES 2008

Just days before this year's CES, Sling released the beta to the public. As with the Slacker app, there is no official Storm version yet. Some Sling community members have had success using the Curve version. I haven't been successful in getting it to run for more than a few seconds.

Slingplayer on Blackberry Storm
The Curve version of SPM installed on my Blackberry Storm

Sling is working on a Storm version and I can't wait to get it.

4. Eye-fi video support
We are a two Eye-fi household, so I was excited to see the addition of video support. Amy shoots a lot of video on her camera and it is a pain to have to extract those files from the Eye-fi card manually.

Eye-Fi announced that their Wi-Fi SD cards will soon support direct upload to YouTube.

I hope they add support for other video sites like Flickr and Vimeo, but it will be a great start just to be able to transfer video files from your camera to your PC.

5. Dish Network's 922 DVR / Sling HD monitor
Since Echostar acquired Sling Media last year, the company has started integrating Sling technology into their set-top boxes.

Photo from Gizmodo

This year, Dish and Sling deliver a new, "Slingloaded" DVR (ViP 922) which features a 1TB HD DVR with Sling's placeshifting built in.

Photo from Gizmodo. Read their coverage.

While that is pretty cool, the most pleasant surprise was the 15" HD display with Sling integration that allows you to pull in video from the 922 or other Slingbox source wirelessly. Kind of takes the SlingCatcher concept and bakes it into an HD display. Very cool.

Not sure if the 922 is enough for me to switch to Dish; however, I'm all over the idea of a Sling-enabled display.

[UPDATE 1/14/2009:] According to Dave Zatz, the Sling display will only work with the 922 DVR. Won't work with standalone Slingboxes. Bummer.

6. Hava Sociable TV
Hava is one of the companies I met with at last year's CES. I also own the Hava Titanium HD Wi-Fi placeshifting box which is a lot like a Slingbox but with some key differences (like support for simultaneous connections to the same Hava box, free mobile software).

Photo from Dave Zatz. Read his coverage.

This year, Hava announced Sociable TV which will allow users to share live or DVRed content with friends via a web interface. According to Dave Zatz's coverage, Sociable TV "is slated to arrive mid-year, assuming the studios, networks, or lawyers don't intervene, and will include other 'sociable' features such as friends list, text chat, and content starring."

I've been a big fan of the idea of social TV since the relaunch of at CNET a few years ago. I had suggested to the product them that they could allow users to share what shows they were currently watching and dreamed of a day when friends could actually tune into shows and watch (and interact) with their friends. Looks like we're getting closer to that idea with Sociable TV.

7. Mikz
Keeping with the social theme, I really like the idea of Conveneer's Mikz software. It will allow you to create a social network using the content on your (and your friends') mobile phones. So, if I go to CES or SXSWi and take a lot of great photos or videos with my phone, I could share that with my friends with Mikz. According to Mari Silbey's coverage, there is also a Facebook app in the works.

Photo from Mari Silbey. Read her coverage.

I absolutely love the idea of making more devices "social." Of course, some might argue that a phone is already pretty social with that old-fashioned calling feature.

Mikz was being demoed at Qualcomm's booth and is currently limited to a select Qualcomm handsets.

So that's my list of the new products that I'm excited about from CES 2009. What was the product you're most excited about from CES 2009?
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I really like the Blackberry Storm
I finally got around to ordering my corporate Blackberry right before the holidays. I ended up choosing the Blackberry Storm over the other phones we had to choose from (Bold, Curve, Pearl, etc.). I have a Moto Q9h as my personal phone and the Bold just seemed too similar in terms of the form factor. So, despite the mixed reviews, I went with the Storm.

After using it for a couple of weeks, I feel like I made a good decision. I really like it a lot.

The Good
1. The screen
The Storm features a bright, 480 x 360 resolution, 3.25" touchscreen.

Guess it is time to change my background image

It makes e-mails and webpages easier to read than on most traditional smartphone screens. Comparing the Storm's viewing area to that of my Moto Q9h is no contest.

My Moto Q9h next to my Blackberry Storm

2. Touch-click interface
Not sure what the official name is for the interface; however, I like having two different options for interacting with items of the screen: touching (to highlight something) and clicking (to select something). This allows for scrolling screens of program icons (as opposed to the pagination on the iPhone) without any accidental keystrokes. It also allows for dropdown menus that can be scrolled before selecting an item.

I also was relieved to find that the clicking of the screen sounds nothing like the sound effect they use on the TV commercials. In fact, mine doesn't make a sound at all when I click it.

One of my female co-workers found that her fingernails prevented her from being able to press the onscreen icons. So, you may need a manicure before getting the most out of the Storm.

3. The onscreen keyboard
This has been one of the most criticized features of the Storm; however, I have not really had a problem with it. As with the iPhone's keyboard, it took a little time to get used to it. I found that after a couple of hours of use, I had pretty much mastered it.

As long as you don't cross over the center line on the keyboard (between the "T" and the "Y") with your thumbs, your typing will be accurate.

The key to success with the QWERTY version of the keyboard is to keep your thumbs on the proper half of the screen. For example, trying to type a "Q" with your right thumb is only asking for trouble. Use your left thumb and you're good.

4. The browser
It's not quite Safari on an iPhone, but the Blackberry browser on the Storm is really good. Scrolling is done with your finger. Zooming in or out is controlled by clicking the screen.

5. Storage capacity
The Storm has 1GB on onboard storage and, at least on Verizon, comes preloaded with an 8GB microSD card (It will accept up to a 16GB microSD card).

The Bad
1. The camera
The camera on the Storm has decent specs for a phone. It is 3.2 megapixels with a flash. Unfortunately, it is ridiculously slow to respond. Not sure what the issue is, but I am hoping they can resolve it in a future software update.

The swing set is back!
A sample photo taken with the Storm

2. The tilt sensor
Even after applying the .75 firmware which was supposed to fix some of the issues, switching between portrait and landscape view is still pretty flaky.

If you aren't holding the Storm at a certain angle (actually it is more of a range of angles that are acceptable), it won't switch between views. If you're holding it straight up (perpendicular to the ground), then switching is no problem. Unfortunately, I usually hold mine much flatter (more parallel to the ground), so I have to change the position of the Storm in order to switch views reliably.

Not a dealbreaker, but it definitely took some getting used to.

3. Lack of app support
This really isn't RIM's fault; however, several of my favorite apps from my Windows Mobile phone aren't available for the Storm. The three that I miss the most are Slingplayer Mobile (which has a beta Blackberry app out, but it doesn't support the Storm), Slacker Radio (which has a beta Blackberry app out, but it doesn't support the Storm) and Qik (which has a beta Blackberry app out, but it doesn't... seeing a theme here?).

All of those apps have Storm versions in the works; however, I think it is still something to note if you're considering the Storm.

The Bottom Line
If you are comfortable with a touchscreen interface and can live without a physical keyboard (which might be a big adjustment for existing Blackberry users), you should have no problem making the transition to the Storm.

There are still a few quirks that need to be addressed in subsequent software updates, but I can still recommend it in the meantime.

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.