Sunday, March 18, 2012



I believe in soul mates and I believe in reasons. Reasons for the good and the bad. I believe that the bad is actually a lesson to be learned and that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

I believe it is wrong to spend one minute longer with a mate/companion than one should, because every minute spent with someone you know you aren't meant to be with, is a minute that you have stolen from their lives, and they from yours.
       To illustrate that last point...try this exercise:
       I am 40 years old
       I expect to live to be 70
       I won't be able to be as active as I would like around 60
       This means I have 24 years of good quality living
       24 x 365 = 7,300 days left to live
Every day that I waste, is one day I can never get back...that is gone forever from a finite supply of days. Every day I spend with someone I know I am not meant to be with, is 2 days from each person. I have an obligation to not waste my life nor theirs...

I believe that the surest ways to meet someone with whom you will want to spend time with is to do those things you love to do and take care of your needs first (look inward vs. outward). Why I believe this to be true...

1) By doing those things you enjoy, you will meet like-minded people, and just maybe the common interest will spark something. If nothing else, there is more to talk about.

2) By taking care of yourself first, when you do meet someone, they will find someone who enjoys self-love and doesn't appear needy. Plus, it is infinitely healthier emotionally and spiritually to exercise, read and tend to your needs so that you have a good reservoir of stuff to share. Plus, one just might lose that nagging 5 pounds and feel better in the process...which leads to greater self confidence...and you know what...everyone loves  confidence in a person.

3) By looking inward at what you can do to take care of yourself vs. outward (looking in bars etc)...happiness will come more quickly, and be more lasting. I believe that the worst thing that can happen is that I am with the wrong person when the right person comes long...because I believe the right person wouldn't be interested in me if I was in a relationship, because it would be wrong to disrespect the relationship.

I believe that CHOICE is the strongest power in the universe...freedom of it what you will. What it means is that of all the people on the planet, and of all the choices I have...I have chosen this moment in time to spend with you...and that choice is the strongest thing there is. I believe it is my responsibility to create an environment with my mate and/or friends where they will 'choose' me vs. another. I believe that love is like a that it deserves tending...a little fertilizer every day...plucking a weed or two every day...and then let it grow. I believe that if one doesn't tend a garden, the crops die...and so does love.

I believe that trust given is a miracle and trust broken is a tragedy (again, I have learned this first hand). I believe that whatever one, scream, cry, fight...but before breaking a trust...try...and then if trying doesn't work...respect that you don't want to take a day from your or their lives...and walk away.
I believe that words like honor, trust, reliability and sincere are sexy...I believe that what two people do in the privacy of their relationship is their own business...and no one else's...
I believe that women are women and men are men...and if we value the differences instead of trying to be like each other...the balance works better.
I believe that there are few things better than a cigar with a friend who you can talk to...especially a friend who will walk around the block with you for three hours when your heart has been broken (again, I have the honor of having a friend like this).
I believe that what is worth doing at all...should be done well...half-assed is a bore...and no one respects middle-of-the-road.
I believe that if I leave a little piece of myself with every encounter...I have done all I can do to enrich the world by my being in it.

Lastly, I believe that these are just my opinions...they work for me...and that is all they are meant to do...and if I am smart...I will live by them and allow others to live by theirs.
Don't be in a hurry to meet someone to spend your time with...because in your hurry you might rush right by the person who would've been great. Slow down and look inward vs. outward.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Advertising does not work on me...

I don't buy things from 'da man!' A commercial, billboard, bumper sticker, banner ad, paid or sponsored link has never recommended a darn thing that I have bought. I do not trust marketing...I trust my friends! Friends tell the truth...and mass marketing is often over-hyped lies. If you do not believe me, as any marketing exec who finds herself at a company with poor product development...and lasts about fourteen (14) months in the job. As my baseball coach used to say, "you can not polish a turd." While a bit harsh..true.

I do not subscribe to the marketing theory that impressions + lots of them = buying stuff. I know this is not a nice thing to say, as I do not wish to offend or make redundant marketing execs with fancy lexicons that sound like cotton candy to me. It is a simple fact for me and most everyone I talk to.

I buy things because my friends tell me they recommend them OR there's a fairly low risk way to try something (signing up for newsletters etc don't work for the UNsubcribe feature that certain TOYOTA dealerships employ in southern California is a joke) are sending them direct emails asking to be unsubscribed...ending up in animosity and being spam listed.

As proof...of money I have spent on various social networks etc;
- facebook = zilch
- myspace - = zilch
- = subscriber
- music = what friends recommend or a kick ass site that recommends cool stuff (
- games = what friends recommend
- bebo = zilch
- ning = zilch
- online dating = zilch (never used one)
- amieST - .49 cents
- = zilch (although I'd consider it if their site was better - more features)
- flickr and fotolog = zilch
- google  products = use them/love them/don't pay for them
- imeem = zilch
- there are lots more I have tried
...get the point?

A story of my friend George (let's call him George, cuz that is his name). He is the CTO of a tech company. He has never been enticed into buying anything from all the various efforts until recently. He bought concert tickets to a band he likes...ONline.

Why did George buy? Because George likes the band, and chose to follow the band's updates on where they would be performing. OK, marketing did not prompt this purchase...the band reaching out to fans did. Sorry marketing...

So, let's pretend I am Nike (as a sample of a large, pretty cool company) or any xyz product wishing to apply their marketing dollars in a more useful way. I am a large retail provider, and the OFFline world is deteriorating the 'value' I, as Nike receive, from my marketing spend. What would you do?

If you were were Ashton fKutcher (read this month's Wired magazine), you would use experiential marketing combined with social networks or viral reach. I like his thoughts that when people don't set out to make money, it scares him. Me too. If you don't know how you'll make money from it...why are you doing it? I have the same feelings when product development folks develop what THEY think is cool versus simply engaging with their audience...but that's for another day.

If I were Nike, I would make this very simple...and GIVE AWAY cool online stuff! Design cool stuff that is tied to some simple premises. For example...
- advertised to sites within facebook: put our logo or super coolio thingy that we designed (or better yet, let you create a custom design thingy from the cool app we made for engaging fun) for three days and automatically get a retail coupon for x% off whatever the person wants in the store...period. ANYthing...the person wants. YUP, get someone to walk into the store and buy one thing and MAYBE another one. If Nike did this right now...I'd be buying new running shoes in a few days!
- yes, I said sites within facebook or pick your flavor social network. For example, new mobile phone offers across work just dandy!
- CUSTOMIZE that offer to that site's users. OH, and marketing not kill yourself trying to be clever. Just ask your partner what would be cool.

This applies to ANYthing (almost). Did I mention that I, as a user would like unique offers that are for an added value since I pay a subscription each month?

How does a company make this work?
- Forget the 'message' you wish to send, and design for the end user. If it is a virtual pair of shoes, make them cool...and able to have the colors changed etc. If it is a tee shirt (see shoes). In other words, put your user first.
- Make the offer flexible. Face it, you do not currently have enough information to create targeted campaigns, so instead of even trying...give a percentage off ANYthing in the store. Period...end of story. Oh, and did I mention that this is simple?

On the back end, track everything. Nike, you want to know how your money was spent and if it worked. Right?! Use PIN codes tied to each individual offer, promotion or social site from which your offer originates (oh, did I mention that EVERY offer needs to be able to be forwarded on while still tracking origination point).
Example (for the sake of fun): Nike pays Habbo Hotel 25k dollars to allow Nike to GIFT a super-cool tee-shirt to their users, which is tied to a special promotional offer.
1. Habbo Hotel gets revenue.
2. Nike gets users checking out their stuff and hopefully walking into retail outlets to buy.
3. User gets a free super-cool tee shirt thingy that they can keep, pass along or throw away...and still receive the offer.

To do it right...
- PIN codes would be recognized through both Nike's billing and POS network for reporting
- Marketing would create unique promotions by site and not by Nike product
- Marketing would then be able to measure foot traffic and cross/up-sell at the register
- Marketing would know which social networks are BUYERS or RECOMMENDER' each is important.
- Marketing would be able to say, we spent exactly X on this campaign, and it yielded Y results and do an ROI analysis

BECAUSE...after you do will know if anyone liked what you did...if anyone actually passed it along and if your marketing team knows the individual audiences by 'site.'

Yes...the devil is in the details...and I purposely did not create a design doc around this, although I could. I would also enhance the features into some existing applications that are out there today, who monetize virtual networks...such as Live Gamer, Play Span, Fat Foogoo and Velocity.

Thanks for reading!
All the best

Saturday, May 23, 2009

SAS70 Certification

Q. Why is SAS70 Type 2 Certification Important (

A. SAS70 indicates professional standards have been used by a service auditor to assess the internal controls of the service organization. In a practical use case scenario, when you are audited, if your service provider is NOT SAS70, you will then have to pay your auditors the roughly $10k to audit each service provider. 

Net/net - SAS70 Type 2 in conjunction with PCI Compliance are the highest standards you will want to see for a service provider in the Billing, Virtual Storefront & Customer Life Cycle Management fields.
All the best

PCI-at-a-Glance for Gaming

There are four levels of PCI Compliance. Level I is the highest standard. Levels III & IV are self audits and should trigger serious red flags within your organization, as there is zero accountability.

Why choosing a PCI Level I supplier saves money and limits risk!

-       Liability: using a PCI Level I provider means that you absolve yourself from all liability as it pertains to the storage and transmission of credit card data. This means that if there was ever a breach and personal information was revealed, your SERVICE PROVIDER is liable, not your company.

o    Imagine your Public Relations Team explaining to your end users that their personal credit card information was compromised because you did not choose a PCI Level I Compliant provider.

-       Registration pages:

o    You must host registration pages, because they cannot touch credit card data.

-       User Self Service:

o    You must design, build and maintain USS because they cannot touch the credit card data when a user views/edits their payment information in their profile.

-       Admin and/or CSR Portal:

o    You must design, build and maintain the admin/CSR portal, as they cannot present credit card data for your team to reference/review/edit in the day-to-day handling of Customer Calls or simply in the review of the transaction history in the system.

The RIGHT Questions (and answers) to ask ANY potential Service Provider re PCI Compliance

Q. What is your CURRENT level of PCI Compliance?

A. We are PCI Level I (the highest standard). The definition is here: Additionally, you can validate this information at this independently maintained link by Visa for PCI Compliance:

Q. What is your validation date for PCI Level I Compliance?

A: Our validation date is mm/dd/yyyy and you can validate this information at this independently maintained link by Visa for PCI Compliance:

Q. Who is your assessor?

A. Our assessor is  Trustwave/Security Metrics/IBM Internet Security Systems etc and you can validate this information at this independently maintained link by Visa for PCI Compliance:

PCI Level I Compliance & Selling Virtual Items Online

Publishers that wish to monetize around a strategy for the sale and management of virtual items need to understand the relationship of PCI Compliance on the e-Wallet, and what it means to STORE credit card data at the ACCOUNT level for e-Wallet purchases and one-click-buying (spontaneous buying) either 'in or out-of-game.'

When discussing an e-Wallet capability, gamers must have their form of payment at the ACCOUNT level so VC (virtual currency) deposited into an e-Wallet can then be used to purchase from a ‘stored balance,’ 

Since the first static page was posted and an effort was made to get users to sign up for a newsletter or become a member, there is one primary metric that matters; CONVERSION. Conversion is ‘the line in the sand.’ Conversion is taking a user from being a looker to a participant (which can be buying, signing up, registering, trying another game or character class etc), depending upon the business goal. For this piece, let’s keep it generic and call this the desired action (DA) that a business wants to achieve.

A barrier to entry is any ‘design element’ or ‘feature set’ that allows the user to walk away before taking the DA. There are so many barriers to entry that it is almost an ART versus SCIENCE.

How does this pertain to Virtual Asset Sales?

Remember, a barrier to entry is anything that allows the user to walk away or impedes the DA. In the example around gaming, don’t let your gamers leave the fantasy state. The moment they have to walk across the room and get their wallet etc, the phone rings or the neighbors wave through the window etc…all of which takes the gamer out of the fantasy state…and really, a good game keeps you in that cool place.

The Pieces and How They Fit – ‘One Click Buying'

  1. USER registers with user name and password
  2. ACCOUNT created
  3. USER has an ACCOUNT (no form of payment attached)
  4. USER wishes to buy using a credit card
  5. USER enters payment details in registration form (PCI Compliant form)
  6. Credit Card details can only be appended to the ACCOUNT if the provider is PCI Compliant
  7. ACCOUNT now has user name/password/payment details (assuming PCI compliance)
  8. USER purchases VC (Virtual Currency) - $5 for 500 pieces of VC
  9. $5 purchase is processed against the credit card at the ACCOUNT level
  10. 500 pieces of VC are placed into the e-Wallet
  11. FUTURE PURCHASES can now be made against the e-Wallet, with no percentages or transaction fees (some providers charge for virtual transactions within the e-Wallet)
USE CASE – e-Wallet runs out of VC

  1. USER wishes to purchase a virtual item for 600 VC (existing balance is 500 VC)
  2. USER needs 100 VC more to buy item
  3. Conversion Barrier –
  4. the SERVICE PROVIDER is not PCI Compliant 
  5. there is no stored credit card information at the ACCOUNT level (due to no PCI Certification)
  6. IMPACT - USER must go get their credit card (remember the waving neighbors) and re-enter all payment details for EVERY purchase.

NOTE - this has been a major barrier to conversion since the internet was launched, and why EVERY online merchant tries to design purchase flows that make it easy to keep the USER within the buying experience when their 'intent to buy/transact' is high.

e-Wallet, Virtual Worlds & Marketing

A.      eWallet – the ability to have an account with stored value of virtual currency or cash

a.       Account management capability

1.       User has a balance of virtual units from which to credit through purchase

2.        Credit through XP (experience points)

3.       Credit through unique Offers/Promotions/PIN codes

4.       Decrement through purchase

5.       Decrement via expiration of assets or currency, based on expiration business rules

6.       Ability for user to view all the transaction details of purchases in a self-service tool

7.       Ability for users to edit user information in a self-service tool

8.       Ability for users to up/cross-sell their plans (subscription based) via a self-service tool

b.      Ability for CSRs to view accounts

c.       Ability for CSRs to edit accounts

d.      Ability for CSRs to modify account details

e.      Ability for CSRs to view/edit/modify purchases

f.        Ability for CSRs to view/edit/modify attributes related to Promotions/Offers/PIN codes

B.      Characteristics of virtual points

a.       Paid Value

b.       Redeemed Value

c.       Existing Balance

d.      Running balance

e.      Expiration of points

f.        Descriptive Text of what the points are associated to as they are ‘gifted’

g.       Descriptive Text of what the points are associated to if purchased


C.      Are these characteristics associated with specific point purchases?

a.       Points purchased will reside in an eWallet until such time as the points are used to buy virtual items.

b.      The reporting part of our solution shows the purchase and characteristics of the points in the CSR tool and account management tool.

c.       There are dependencies on FIFO below for example (see below)


D.      What redemption orders are supported (such as FIFO, LIFO, high point value first), etc.?

a.       FIFO / first-in-first-out)


E.       e-Wallet Marketing Promotions

a.       PIN Codes/Promotions/Offers that have 3 common characteristics;

                                                               i.      A unique code can be issued to each individual user

                                                             ii.       A unique code can be issued across all users (measure conversion)

                                                            iii.      Both can be set to expire after a number of uses or after an elapsed time period

b.      Gifting virtual items

                                                               i.      From the  to the user

                                                             ii.      From family members (or sponsor) to a user

c.       Promotional points (with 0 paid value) to customers with a short-term expiration date.

d.      Can promotional points be good only for specific item purchases

                                                               i.      You can create multiple ‘types’ of points and allocate promotional points for specific types of products or purchases.

1.       Unique products or goods would be mapped to a specific type of "point"

e.      Promotional points be stored/displayed separately to customers?

                                                               i.      Yes they can be displayed in User Self Service module leveraging our APIs or via the CSR tool.

f.        Can Aria grant bonus points in addition to the purchased points based on the payment method used, purchase date, etc.?

                                                               i.      This is possible via a service request or leveraging our APIs.

g.       Status Levels - business rules that are associated with 'status' so as a user gains greater status the business rules state 'you must accomplish A XP or activity level before you can have access to B status'


F.       e-Wallet Account Management

a.       Account management requires the ability to have stored;

                                                               i.      User credentials

                                                             ii.      Payment details

                                                            iii.      Unique attributes by game type or user entitlement

                                                           iv.      User Access to individual transaction history on-demand

                                                             v.       User Access to view, make changes or change types of service

1.       Example: if a user has a BRONZE level subscription, in the User Access tool, they can upgrade their service to SILVER or GOLD

2.       If you want to issue a PIN code that automatically provides a ‘one-class would trigger a provisioning hit to the game to denote the change of status from BRONZE to SILVER.


G.     Virtual to Physical Goods

a.       Cross-over from virtual item to retail

                                                               i.      Virtual items that are either offered or created in world/game can be purchased as a physical product and shipped to the user

H.     Retail to Virtual

a.       Physical products that are sold in a retail outlet with a PIN code that the user enters and transports the attributes of the physical product in-game/world. 

b.      Retail partnerships whereby a partner creates unique, branded content for your world to highlight specific offers or alliances


I.        Micropayments (2 common methods)

a.       True micro payments that involve incremental payments of real currency for virtual items, with the associated risks that aggregation cannot counter if a user doesn't buy enough items, thereby eroding margin from transaction fees.

b.      Purchase a pre-set amount of currency at a larger purchase price (say $5 for 500 pieces of virtual currency) and then enable micro payments that are virtual-currency-for-virtual-item and doesn't involve transaction fees from payment processors.

                                                               i.      Aria can aggregate micro payments monthly


J.        Virtual Market Sales

a.       Primary Market

                                                               i.      Sale of virtual items from publisher to gamer. Costs tend to be upwards of 10% of the gross revenue unless you find a more strategic offering.

                                                             ii.      Aria can deliver to you our e-Wallet + virtual storefront (primary market) with these attributes;

1.       Far less costly

2.       More payment methods and localized currencies

3.       More flexibility for various currencies/games

4.       FULLY end-to-end PCI compliant

5.       Full catalogue and asset/sub-asset class management

b.      Secondary Market

                                                               i.      Sale of virtual items between gamers. Costs tend to be upwards of 20% of gross revenue, and games need to decide if the risks (farming, potential negative game experience etc) are worth the upside.

                                                             ii.      Ability to offer items on a 3rd party site


K.      Cross-Game Virtual Currency

a.       Allow experience points or currency bought/earned to be used in another game aside from the primary game experience.

                                                               i.      Individual transaction details are captured at the user level in the self service tool

                                                             ii.      Individual transactions details are captured at the Admin level and viewable/changeable via the Admin Portal

                                                            iii.      Aria accommodates as many games as desired provided the exchange rate is consistent

1.       Should you wish to offer varying exchange rates, this can either be developed or we can integrate a partner solution for immediate release



L.       Stored Value Retail Cards & Payment Processors

a.       INCOMM

b.      BlackHawk

c.       Ultimate Game Card

                                                               i.      Unique PIN codes can be created by you, the merchant or Aria

                                                             ii.      Stored value cards purchased in retail outlets can have unique attributes or promotions attached to them to drive foot traffic to retail locations

                                                            iii.      PIN codes are uploaded into Aria so that we recognize the value of the PIN and any unique attributes

d.      PayPal

e.      Credit Cards

                                                               i.      Note: one end-to-end solution allows for;

1.       Consolidated reporting of ALL transactions regardless of which payment channel the transaction was paid/funded through

2.       Ease of use by CSRs, as the Aria solution provides all transactional details regardless of the payment processor

3.       ALL data is exportable via CSV to your native accounting system of record, eliminating the need to take reports from disparate payment systems and merge them together for your business reporting.

f.        International Expansion – Aria solution currently bills in 236 countries and has the capacity to accept 178 currencies.

                                                               i.      What this means – accepting localized payment methods in each country spur conversion (new revenue) and retention (reduced churn)


M.    Affiliate Capability

a.       Offer your game or ensuing products;

                                                               i.      Via unique channels

                                                             ii.      Via unique user groups

                                                            iii.      Via unique geographically based groupings

                                                           iv.      With unique business rules or conditions that conform with the contracted conditions between the  and partner

                                                             v.      Measure the performance of channels or partners


N.     'Recommender' Type Logic (storefront)

a.       User logs in and is presented with most popular items purchased by:

                                                               i.      Character class

                                                             ii.      Period of time

                                                            iii.      Demographic characteristics

1.       Any info that is captured and passed can be reported on and used for demographic and marketing purposes

2.       Example – what percentage of a certain age group bought a unique virtual asset


O.     Revenue Recognition

a.       Cash SPENT for virtual units

b.      Virtual units purchased

c.       Virtual units SPENT for virtual items

d.      Virtual items PURCHASED

e.      Running balance

                                                               i.      In addition to RevRec reporting you have full access to all of the transactional details and can break out your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) as desired for dashboard metrics that are presented based on the users access levels upon logging in.

P.      Reporting

a.       All data that resides in the system can be reported upon.

b.      A standard integration includes setting you up with custom reporting that you want/desire to help run your business.

c.       For example (and there are many, so this is but a sampling):

                                                               i.      What % of users bought the GOLD Tiara vs. the PLATINUM Tiara

                                                             ii.      What % of 12-14 year olds ‘bought’ XYZ virtual item

                                                            iii.      What are the most popular virtual items sold


Q.     One-time Purchase + Subscription Capability

a.       Recurring types of service plans (subscriptions)

                                                               i.      Dunning rules apply

                                                             ii.      Retry logic for failed recurring purchase attempts

b.      Recurring types of one-time purchases

                                                               i.      Not subscription\ are initiated by the user at any given time period