Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Reading List

I'm finally off my self help kick (4-hour work week, The Power of Story, The Power of Now) and am back to the business books that I love.

Here's the list of what's on my nightstand... reviews/blog posts/notes coming as I finish:

Made to Stick
Join the Conversation - disclaimer: I got this book from the author/publisher
Meatball Sundae - Mr. Godin's latest


This is Big...

Facebook's announcement about a new JavaScript client library that will allow Facebook apps to be displayed on any website is big, really big.

What's bothering me are all the negative comments. What am I missing?

I think some of this has to do with Social Networking backlash that is certainly overdue at this point. Did you know that yesterday was "International Delete Your Myspace Account Day?" I'm sure someone is already cooking up a Facebook version. Hey, maybe they'll make it into a facebook app!

In any case, Larry's comment tipped me off to the backlash:

"When will this long national social nightmare end?"

Or even better, Mobilekick's Larry cheer:

"Smart, clever, whatever… facebook isn’t that tight, and I agree w/ larry iunno what all you lametards are on. When I am at a bar the college kids here say myspace, only *** are like “wee facebook.”"

Not all the comments were so sophisticated. Fabian said:

"I am not sure if anybody see it coming but it is brilliant. Facebook is becoming not just a platform but an online operating system. Now somebody needs to develop one of these apps that is actually worthwhile and not a toy. And Facebook needs to start making $$$$$$$$$$$ not just $$$"

Online operating system? I think Google is on that one too, aren't they? Either way, I believe this Facebook announcement is big.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

OK - We Have To Talk About This

Armstrong foundation to launch fitness Web site

Innovation to the extreme? Perhaps! I so love this idea it hurts.

"If we were going after a broad category like health and fitness ourselves, we wanted have the best brand," he said. "We would not take on a category this fat unless we had the LiveStrong brand." (The "he" in that statement is Richard Rosenblatt, the former head of

Let me try to process this... what the guy who used to run is saying is that he needed a partner and a non-profit brand to do execute his business strategy, right? Voila. Music to my ears! That's selling the value in a big, big way and is something non-profits can get better at.

Lance himself was quoted as saying "I don't think we've ever met our full potential on the Web when it comes to the site, but that's not our expertise. Our expertise is fighting cancer."

This is a stunningly simple and powerful statement, don't you think? I think so!

Here's two questions you can ask yourself right now...
  1. What is (or isn't) your organization doing that it should be doing?
  2. What are you doing that is outside of your expertise (like building software perhaps?) that you should be outsourcing so you can focus on what you are really good at?
Have fun coming up with answers for those two doozies. Please comment, I want to talk about this with someone.


New Shopping Experience?

Check out this real-time "Watch People Shop" mashup. Neat.

It doesn't appear that this site offers anything that unique, but does have some built in social networking/marketing functions like wish lists, recommendations and comments. Doesn't that site called Amazon do all that?

Facebook Application Usage

I came across a chart in the WSJ this week that showed 'Top Friends' vs 'SuperPoke' on Facebook.

The numbers are astoundingly large. The top 3 in order are*:

  1. Top Friends 6.2 million users
  2. Movies 5.2 millon
  3. SuperPoke 3.6 million
What's even more incredible about these numbers is the penetration among all U.S. Facebook users. The Top Friends app has and 18.5% share. Amazing.

I realize everyone in "non-profit land" is trying to figure out how to use this marketing machine to find new donors and engage constituents - but I think the thing here is that these apps are all ego driven. Comparing yourself to others, listing your favorite songs and posting up funny graffiti for friends is one thing - these apps all appeal to our innate sense of "me, me me."

Whether you should (or even can) flip the model to make an application that is about your organization is still a big question in my own mind... but is something I've been doing more and more thinking about lately.

*Statistics source: Wall Street Journal/comScore Widget Metrix


Monday, January 28, 2008

NYT Magazine Article: Extra Helping

Great article in the NYT Magazine this week on

Donor engagement simply means something different today than it did 10, 20 or 50 years ago.

Here's my thinking... the feeling you get when loaning someone the money they need to build their business is quite different than the feeling you get from a making a traditional donation.

Old way is charity and a handout and is passive. There is nothing inherently wrong with the old way other than perhaps there is something better about the new way...

New way is about creating self-efficacy and accountability and being an active partner in helping make the world a better place.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Last Interaction

Seth is at it again in his latest post "The Latest Interaction."

"The last interaction, in my experience, is responsible for virtually all of the word of mouth you're going to get, positive or negative."
Yea, totally! I did a big research project for a huge non-profit that I used to work for looking at the entire web experience for a particular event. Guess what we found out...

We found out that the last interaction that donors and participants had proved to be CRITICAL to their overall experience. It didn't matter whether it was an e-mail thank you or a real-world experience after a long run/walk/swim/skateboard etc... that moment in which you have to make the really feel that they are making the world a better place is crucial.

Just today, I re-wrote a thank you letter and e-mail after talking to my client about how important it is to make sure that their donors feel all warm and fuzzy after clicking the donate button.

Don't miss out on this, it's super important - the last interaction you have (each and every time you interact with someone) is going to leave a critical impression. Get it right and you have a chance to get another "date" and to continue the relationship.

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The Direct Mail Business Model

Wired Magazine has a great feature this month called "Why Things Suck!" which I absolutely loved. One of the things that suck as you might guess is Junk Mail. See where I might be going with this post yet? I pulled a few of the more interesting parts of the Wired article here for easy reference - but check out the entire thing - it's worth a look.
Your name is on a list
And you have no one to blame but yourself. You refinanced a mortgage or got a new credit card. You subscribed to a magazine or donated money to a charity. These organizations sell their lists to aggregators.
How dare you donate money to a charity? Sheesh.
The math kicks in
Let's say you're soliciting donations. You buy a list of 5,000 names for $500. It costs you $2,500 in labor and postage to mail your plea. Of those 5,000 envelopes, 94 percent will be recycled and 5 percent will be misaddressed. But 1 percent will prompt a response. That's 50 people. And that determines how much you have to earn from each one: You spent $3,000. You need your 50 suckers to cough up an average of $60 each to break even. (It also works for email, though the response rate is much lower: 0.2 percent. But sending junk email — spam — is nearly free.)
Does this look at all familiar? I thought so! Look, I'm not saying you should stop (not unless you want to stop raising money). I just don't yet see how our past and our future is going to reconcile. If the customer is in control, than this just isn't going to work for much longer.

PS -I hope you didn't miss the e-mail kicker at the end (0.2 percent?!)


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dimes for Diapers

This is exciting... my 10 year old daughter is doing her very first service learning project. She's picked the New Haven Diaper Bank to try to help and is hard at work both in school and online trying to fundraise. I'm using a bunch of different outlets to try to help her reach her modest goals of $500 by February 11th (that's the due date on the service learning project). Obviously I'm proud of her, and am even more excited to see her accomplish her goals.

She and I shot a video (outtakes coming soon), built a blog and started to use my Facebook account to promote her efforts (i.e. we'll do anything to raise the money!) In addition, she got the school principal to agree to let her distribute flyers to every class in school - pretty slick I thought.

Kids today, eh?!

Here's her first post on her new blog:


This blog and web site is designed to help raise money for the New Haven Diaper Bank - I'm doing a service learning project called "Dimes and Dollars for Diapers" and my goal is to raise as much money as possible.

Here are some of the facts of why I'm doing this project:

  • Safety net programs, like Food Stamps and WIC, which are supposed to provide poor children with basic necessities do not cover diapers.
  • An adequate supply of diapers can cost over $100/monthly
  • Infants need up to 12 diapers a day; toddlers about 8 diapers a day. In low-income households babies may spend the whole day or longer in a single diaper.
  • Cloth is not an option for most poor people. Most childcare centers require parents to provide disposable diapers. Furthermore, most people living in poverty do not have easy, affordable access to washing facilities.
You should donate now because without clean diapers, lots of bad things can happen.
  • Parents who are working or in school cannot take advantage of free or subsidized childcare if they cannot afford to leave disposable diapers at the childcare centers.
  • Inadequate diaper changing increases the risk of numerous health problems from skin diseases to hepatitis.
  • A baby crying non-stop from being in a soiled diaper for a prolonged time is at greater risk of abuse.
For more information, please visit the New Haven Diaper Bank.

Please consider visiting her blog and:

Are You a Seth Fanatic?

Aren't we all? If you are a killer developer hell-bent on working on insanely cool stuff, here's your chance. Good luck.

(Their office in Irvington, NY)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Great interview in today's WSJ (paid access) with Marc Benioff, the CEO of who is talking about software being built on "platforms" yet again.

Thing is, I get what he's saying and buy it, big time. Two years or more ago, I was at a event where they first launched Dreamforce and had a long conversation with a sales guy there who didn't buy it. He told me he was focused on selling and that this new platform wasn't ready for prime time. In some ways, he was right - adoption never took off.

Today, it seems as if more and more companies are using web services and web based platforms for real, mission critical applications. Benioff points out in the interview that there are more than 20 companies now selling "software-as-a-service," up from only Salesforce just a few years ago. Now he's talking "platform-as-a-service." While he admits that this is a long process (perhaps 10 or more years to become mainstream) it's worth noting that the big boys (Microsoft, Oracle etc) are all now moving into this world as well. There seems to be a ton of momentum around this idea.

For non-profits (and others), I think it's time to think outside the box when looking at companies like not just for their pre-packaged CRM solutions, but for their visions of the future as well. It's also time to start making sure that your existing vendor solutions are thinking about opening up their black boxes. As we all move further and further into this hyper-connected world you'll have to make sure that you can actually connect, swap data between systems, applications, partners and more.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Neo, Do You Believe?

Was catching up on some blogs that I love to read and finally made my way back to "Don't Tell the Donor" who had a great post called "tick, tick, tick..."

Holly Hall from the Chronicle notes:

In first three quarters of last year, donations made in response to direct-marketing appeals failed to keep pace with inflation, growing by a median of 1.4 percent, meaning that half the groups achieved greater increases and half fared worse. The number of people who made gifts declined by a median 1.4 percent since 2006. Meanwhile, the organizations recruited a median 6.2 percent fewer new donors, on top of a 10-percent decline in new donors for the first three quarters of 2006.
Look, I am NOT saying that direct mail isn't important here - but I am asking you some serious questions, because folks, the writing is on the wall and has been for a few years. How many more postage increases can you handle? How much more tolerance for the price of paper can you swallow? What happens when donors start asking you to stop killing trees because of how much paper you are using?

Here are two good questions to ask yourself:
  1. Is your organization really committed to the online channel? Prove it... do you have an organization structure designed for success? Have you broken silos down? Have you made the INVESTMENT needed to get the RETURN so that ROI isn't just three letters but an actual goal? Have you shifted some budget from direct mail/traditional channels to online? Why not?
  2. Have you really thought through how you are going to replace a big chunk of your direct mail revenues over the next 3-5 years? Have you written a number down and assigned a person to get you there?
I do believe it is Seth Godin who continually re-frames risk - is there a greater risk in not doing something about declining direct mail or greater risk in taking small steps in a formal way to start to figure out a digital strategy?

Red Pill or Blue Pill time (again)...

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This Is Way Too Cool

Geeks out there... get ready - this is way too cool.

Using the infrared camera in the Wii remote and a head mounted sensor bar (two IR LEDs), Johnny Chung Lee from Carnegie Mellon University demonstrates how you can accurately track the location of your head and render view dependent images on the screen. This effectively transforms your display into a portal to a virtual environment.

I don't have a clue as to how a non-profit could use this, but I'm blown away by the sheer coolness factor.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

DoGooder TV - Non Profit Video Awards

DoGooder TV is at it again with their non profit video awards. There were some really engaging videos last year, and this year is sure to be jam packed as well.

From the official press release:

See3 Communications ( and NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network ( announce the co-sponsorship of the 2nd Annual DoGooderTV Nonprofit Video Awards. Nonprofit organizations are encouraged to submit their videos to the contest, hosted on DoGooderTV (, the video sharing platform for nonprofits. The grand prize winner will be announced at NTEN’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in New Orleans on March 21. The winner will be awarded an all-expense paid trip to the 2009 NTC to be held in San Francisco.

The theme of this year’s contest is From the Ground Up: Using Technology to Engage Constituents and Make the World a Better Place. The goal of the contest is to highlight the work of nonprofit organizations and to spread the word about the creative ways they employ media to bring about social change. Last year’s winner, Avaaz “Stop the Clash of Civilizations” received a standing ovation when played at the conference. This video has been viewed over 1.5 million times on YouTube™.

Here is that video from last year:

Nonprofit organizations and their constituents are invited to submit videos used in support of a 2007 campaign. Videos can be from a wide variety of issue and interest areas including (but not limited to) activism, environment, education, disability, economic development, human services, international development, health, and the arts.

I'm excited to see the amazing videos this year once again. I'm also left wondering... is "DoGooder" a word?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Was in the Holodeck

If you were an educator, wouldn’t you dream of taking your students on exciting field trips but the location is across the country, or even across the ocean? How about a holodeck in a virtual world where, with the click of a mouse, you can be in New York, Chicago, or visiting Chateau Villandry on the Loire river?

I got an invite to check out some new technology within SecondLife and had an interesting experience. I've blogged and complained about this before and it applied here as well. Any space within SL that has more than a few avatars is simply useless. Too many people, laggy performance and usability issues galore. Add in that anyone who felt like it could click and change the scenery and it was pretty much madness. Gotta lock down the user experience here!

All that said.. cooool! After the different environments rezzed, it looked pretty slick - with a caveat. Images like city scapes looked and felt real, but anything that had objects that were within reach failed badly to impress. The restaurant/diner scene in particular was off - tiny little men standing on huge tables - I thought I had climbed the beanstalk!

I wished there were fewer folks and that I could try my hand at Battle School, but it's still early!

Either way, virtual worlds technology continues to impress and create new opportunities for learning, experiences and of course, fundraising.



Twitter, JJ Abrams and CC Chapman

Turns out Twitter is valuable (and fun). I'm following marketer, blogger and photographer CC Chapman (Managing the Gray & The Advance Guard) who tweeted today about a recent TED talk featuring JJ Abrams. Given how far behind on watching TED talks I am, this helped me jump right to something that I really wanted to see.

JJ talks about creativity and gives an really impressive talk. The talk centered about "mystery boxes" - new technologies, ideas and products that we have no clue as to how they work. JJ's grandfather used to show him how things work by opening them up - but I wonder how any of can make heads of tails about how Facebook, Second Life or even "mundane" applications like e-mail are going to affect our non-profits in the long run. You can de-construct with any certainty these new technologies and have to decide at some fundamental level to simply believe.

Watch the talk, it's very much worth the 18:02. Hey! I wonder if the 18 minutes is a clue on Lost?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Social Networking and Private Communities

Been doing lots of thinking about online communities and where we've come from to where we are today. To my delight and surprise, an article in the WSJ today has an article about about how some communities are using private networks for market research, ad testing and product opinions.

The article points out that Del Monte tested and launched a new breakfast treat for dogs with the help of their 400 person "I Love My Dog" community. What strikes me about this is how small the community is - only 400! My god any decent sized non-profit could build a community of donors, employees and others who care about the cause, can't they?

Update: I was reading 1to1 magazine shortly after I posted this and learned that Del Monte partnered with MarketTools and pulled the 400 users from a research panel of 8,000 and used a non-branded site to do the testing. This is really interesting... the WSJ article wasn't entirely accurate. While in a general way it is "community building," it's a stretch in my way of thinking.

I've built a few of these sorts of "panel communities" and think they are worth their weight in gold. At a past job, I sent out an e-mail to about 10,000 users and got more than 1,000 opt-ins to be a part of our research community. I think what's interesting, and what may trip some people up is trying to keep those users engaged. Once you get them to sign up for something exciting, you need to deliver and engage them occasionally.

These private communities aren't talked about much, but on reflection, perhaps this is a better use of your time than fighting with broad community outreach programs on sites like Facebook and Myspace. Interestingly, the article points out that myspace is in fact looking at building functionality for brands to launch privatized spaces.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Introduce Your Right and Left Hands

Anyone seen the new IBM commercial that talks about virtual worlds, economies and avatars? I'm confused by this ad. I've read report after report of how IBM is investing serious energy into virtual worlds including Second Life. This commercial seems to be making fun of such an "innnovation."

Is this a case of the left hand not knowing (or caring) what the right hand is doing? Perhaps it's IBM's attempt to be self-deprecating (that would be odd, eh?). The commercial itself is fine, I just can't believe that IBM would send such mixed messages in the marketplace.

When you look at your own messaging, is it possible that you are doing the same thing? Is it possible that your traditional mail is so different from your online messaging that you could actually be contradicting yourself? Could the personality your organization shows on Myspace be so different than what is on your corporate web site, or so completely foreign from your local offices that you are actually confusing people?

It's probably worth a look!

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Join in the Conversation...

Rover started a great conversation after his rant sucked Seth Godin himself in...

I made a short comment about organizational structure (I couldn't resist) that will hopefully be approved at some point soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

20 years and $800 million

To say that The Leukemia & Lymphoma's Team In Training program hasn't positively affected the world we live in would be to deny the life changing experience that more than 340,000 participants have had in completing a road race of some sort. I was lucky to be a part of the "team" for a few years and am thrilled at the great marketing they have been doing ever since.

Most recently they launched a 20th anniversary celebration site along with an expanded online community, both which are terrific and exciting for alumni and participants.

They've even created a special video to help them get the word out. I continue to love the positioning and the marketing that surrounds the biggest of these types of programs.

Just to show how objective I am (and not just a shill for LLS), I'd say that the community is a great start, but so much more could be done with it! Why not let participants upload their own scrapbooks or create their own blogs? I also don't understand why the message boards (and most recent posts) aren't on the homepage. I hope they continue to build this community and continue to build out more ways to engage folks over time (I'm sure they will).


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

From Left Field...

It turns out Bill Gates is also a great marketer:
"If you want to inspire people to participate, you have to show more than numbers; you have to convey the human impact of the work—so people can feel what saving a life means to the families affected."
Ummm, YEA!

Thanks Presentation Zen!


Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Terrific presentation by Jonathan Coleman (the associate director of digital marketing for The Nature Conservancy) on findability - an introduction to search engine optimization and search engine marketing. I love this presentation! Jonathan has a bunch of other presentations worth checking out as well.

Google AdWords Mistakes

I just found a terrific marketing blog that I hadn't heard of before called "Click Wisdom" (great title, so much better than npMarketing eh?). A recent post focused on Google AdWords mistakes - so many of us are simply not optimizing our accounts...

According to the posting, the top 3 mistakes are:
  1. Not testing ads against each other
  2. Not using exact match
  3. Not tracking conversions (this is the big one!)
I know for me, I've had issues trying to properly implement conversion tracking, even though it should be easy to do. For one reason or another, I've yet to fully implement conversion tracking to the extent that I feel I should be.

Read more and subscribe to this terrific blog when you have a moment.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Book Notes: The Power of Story

Just finished reading a stunningly wonderful book called "The Power of Story: Rewrite your Destiny in Business and in Life" by Jim Loehr. I tend to take these types of books seriously and spend the time to do all the exercises and in trying to squeeze everything I can out of the experience.

This book in particular opened (or re-opened) my eyes to the power of a good story. The core premise of the book is that in order to create true success and fulfillment, you need to have a powerful, purposeful story that guides your every action, thought and movement. The book walks through tons of great examples and has exercises galore that have you writing and re-writing your "old and new story." These exercises are not easy! and are incredibly illuminating if you commit to telling yourself the truth.

For myself, in this great time of change, I started to realize what is driving me and what I'm passionate about. The book helped me clarify for myself a new story and a new direction. The power of good storytelling as you all know is not simply one piece of the puzzle when constructing messaging around your non-profit. It's the one thing that you need to get right. It's the first thing.

One of the key exercises the book lays out is the idea of imagining your own tombstone and making sure that you can live with whatever it says. I found out that I had a real need to rewrite my own story. It's not easy.

As many of your know, Beth Kanter is trying hard to raise funds for The Sharing Foundation using social networking and leveraging the power of networks. I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out some ways to help her and think that a good place to start is with the story she's telling, or trying to tell. She's trying to get folks who don't yet know about the foundation to pony up $10 to "route out poverty for Cambodian children.

She's telling what seems to be a compelling story, but it isn't catching on. Something is missing. Not only is it really hard to find new donors, it's even harder to get first time donors to donate without first cultivating a relationship.

I love headlines like this (from Beth's blog), but have to wonder if she can't take it even further by connecting it to what's relevant in each of our own lives.

It Takes A Whole Village: Ten Dollars, Ten Minutes, Help The Sharing Foundation Change the Lives of Over 1,500 in Cambodia!

Beth goes on to say "The Sharing Foundation's programs have touched all the children of Roteang Village who have been immunized, full series. In the U.S., childhood immunizations are routine and taken for granted."

This is good, it starts to get at being relevant but I don't think it goes far enough. What if my children weren't immunized and got sick, or worse?

It's also worth mentioning that "full series" is not exactly clear messaging. What does that mean? Clear, simple words work best.

Existing widget headline: Route Out of Poverty for Cambodian Children

Try guilt: Don't let it happen, donate to save children from the worst poverty
Try hope: You can be the difference. Save a child from poverty.
Try fear: If you don't act now, another child's life will be lost forever in horrible poverty.

Try these and test them... then when you find something that resonates, do that.

Go further Beth! Push it until it hurts and your messaging is as sharp as the edge of a knife.

Change This and Change That

I was playing the Barack Obama "Change" game last night and realized that I never followed up on my ch-ch-ch Changes blog post from a few days ago.

Very simply, I'm leaving my current post as Chief Marketing Officer at the end of January. A big part of the reason I made the jump from the "for profit" world to the "not for profit" world was to be a change maker, someone who was passionately using new technologies to affect real change in the world around us. I think I can make a bigger difference as a consultant and contractor than I can make as an employee of a single organization.

I'm trying to decide which direction to run in next (i.e. go out on my own or join a consulting firm) and until then, I'll be doing some individual consulting work.

I'll be focusing my efforts in 3 specific areas where I know I can create immediate impact for both "for profits" and "not for profit businesses."

  1. Core messaging and usability of your web site/online properties (i.e. how to align your web site with your business priorities)
  2. Online event fundraising optimization and strategies
  3. Social networking strategies and tactics (building audiences, traffic and sales/donations)

I have other capabilities of course, including a keen interest in emerging technologies and platforms like mobile and virtual gaming/reality, as well as lots of ideas on organizations structure and how to best optimize your organization for marketing success.

If you need my help, want to hire me, write an article, give your organization a presentation or just want to chit chat, contact me.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Marc's Favorite Posts from 2007

In no particular order, here are my favorite posts from 2007 - a year in which I again didn't blog enough (or by some accounts, blogged way way too much). It was a tough year and I learned a lot about marketing, myself and the world. I also played a lot of golf (but no where near enough by my count).

Ok, here goes...

Favorite Post #1 - Great Marketing in the Oddest of Places
A post about the good work that the MTA does with their newsletters and keeping their customers informed, and laughing.

Favorite Post #2 - How the New Web Transforms Your Organziation
"Marketers do not have the right to interrupt you."

Favorite Post #3 - Authenticity
It appears that it is working for Obama in a big way, eh?

Favorite Post #4 - Best Development Resources
I still get 7 or so hours of sleep, really.

Favorite Post #5 - Yikes, it's not working!
I love failing, because it means I'm making progress.

Favorite Post #6 - Causes vs. Organizations
I still think I'm right... yea, definately.

Favorite Post #7 - Leave the Ivory Tower, Now!
And wow, the Africa trip really proved my point on this one.

Favorite Post #8 - “Edge”tion – Another Look at Causes vs. Orgs
Lots of discussion, comments and goodness from this post... horrible title though.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Big announcement coming soon on npMarketing so stay tuned over the next few days for some new year excitement...

Here's a hint from on of my favorite blogs on Earth...