General chris on 04 Jan 2013 12:05 pm

Not doing much cooking in the Diner anymore. Find me on TinCan’s Tumblr.


In the spring of 2007, I interviewed at one of the major communication shops in the world. They had a senior-level opening and I met with four or five people (including the Managing Director)… The result: I walked out of the agency disappointed in the talent, the creative, and the product. Accordingly, I decided to launch Tin Can Communications.

As I look back over the years, I’m extremely grateful to our clients who put their faith in our brand. A brand that rebels against the inertia that is rampant in DC. A brand that offers products that people questioned five years ago (now these products are obvious). Group think is so epidemic in the District of Communications. Doing nothing is often seen as a path forward. Once again, I thank those clients for the opportunity to be bold. We will continue to deliver.

Our people are bold too. Joining a small firm, where you can’t just show up takes guts. We have to be our best everyday. In particular, I wish one former colleague, after serving a senior-level position in the Obama Administration, tremendous success in her new endeavor. I have no doubt she will continue to be a star.

Lastly, I would like to thank my mentors (younger and older). These individuals took the time to teach me the skills that I utilize every single day. They allowed me to fail, and allowed me the chance to succeed. In particular, my old boss at my first telecom gig. You know who you are.

I don’t know what’s next… The past five years have been awesome.. All I know is it will be a great ride.

Via Tin Can Communications Tumblr.

General chris on 31 Aug 2011 11:11 am

The Department of Justice has filed a complaint in Federal Court to block AT&T’s $39 Billion bid for T-Mobile.

Up until this point, AT&T has made a strong case in DC securing major support from Members of Congress as well as in the States. There has also not been a lot of noise in public opposition to the deal, and I give AT&T credit for being proactive in this area. However, politics is one thing, and facts are another. When you look at this merger nationally, the facts are hard to spin for AT&T.

I have only been watching this merger from the fringe. I don’t represent any of the parties waging war against each other. However, having been involved in wireless mergers, I’m not surprised by the DOJ making the filing.

In the event of AT&T dropping its bid (and that is the big question), some of the talking heads speculate that Sprint would make a run for T-Mobile. I don’t think that is realistic. The companies utilize two different technologies and Sprint has already gone down that path (with the result being indigestion – Nextel).

In any case, I look forward to watching this play out from the bleachers.

Additional nugget -

Press Release and Full Complaint here

at&t and General and Spectrum and SprintNextel and T-Mobile chris on 26 May 2011 08:17 am

In my last dish, I emphasized how important it was for at&t to go beyond their typical playbook to get approval for their merger with T-Mobile. The company has done just that and continues to move the ball forward on messaging and the approval process.

Once again, I’m not going to go on the record (yet) on my opinion on the deal. Instead, I will offer a few thoughts for my friends at at&t and Sprint to chew on…  Enjoy!

Silicon Valley - I love at&t’s proactive outreach to this community. In 2004, the mobile-social revolution was not on the radar and we did not have to court the valley. However, the innovations and services driving the wireless ecosystem is a real success story for the industry. At the moment, there is a ton of money being invested in everything mobile. This group has a huge stake in this deal, and having them on board or just neutralized is huge.

Continue Reading »

at&t and Spectrum and T-Mobile chris on 21 Mar 2011 01:55 pm

A month ago, I wrote on my Facebook wall:

friendly advice for T-Mo & Sprint – did George Washington play by the same rules as the British in the Revolutionary War? he did not. you cannot play the game the same way as your much larger enemy or you will continue to lose (or eventually become extinct).

The recent news yesterday regarding T-mobile’s acquisition by at&t confirms the above.

Moving beyond competitive strategy in both the marketplace and in Washington, the above combination is going to dominate the telecom policy conversations in DC for the next 12-18 months.  I’m not going to delve into the matter of whether this is good for consumers or not.  I want to focus my thoughts on some issues that my friends at at&t and T-Mo need to consider as they work to get approval.  Continue Reading »

Facebook and General and Social Networking and strategy chris on 05 Aug 2010 10:38 am

when everyone is looking for gold in the same river, the best opportunities are somewhere else… Mark Cuban

A recent article in the New York Times got me really excited.  No, it wasn’t an article predicting the Ravens to be Super Bowl Champions.  It was about a journalist who went beyond Facebook and Twitter to bring value to his company.  Not only was he successful in that endeavor but it paid off for him professionally too.

If you didn’t see the article, I highly recommend it.  The story is about Mark Coatney, a former senior editor at Newsweek, who decided to engage with folks in another medium.  Accordingly, Mr. Coatney starting using Tumblr to post unique content.  The effort created a successful following for Newsweek on Tumblr that other media companies are looking to emulate.

Many companies and organizations are starting to pursue a social media strategy now.  Three years ago Facebook and Twitter were great.  However, they are the status quo.  You have to go beyond them now.  There is a tremendous opportunity to be a leader and not a follower by utilizing location based social networks (Foursquare, Gowalla) or going beyond blogging with (Amplify, Posterous).

Congrats to Mr. Coatney for leading and his new gig at Tumblr!

Disclosure – I’m one of the co-creators of Amplify

General and Policy and social media and Social Networking and strategy chris on 27 Apr 2010 09:20 am

Cecilia Kang’s recent front page story in the Washington Post discussing efforts by those in the telecom / tech space to use social media to affect policy generated a lot of buzz over the weekend.  Although I’m no longer in the trenches fighting those battles, I’ve been one of the early advocates for using social media in the public policy arena (this blog started in 2006).  Accordingly, I have a few thoughts on the article.

Ms. Kang begins the article stating – “Why pay for a golf trip, dinner, or full-page ad when you can tweet for free”?  It is a good question and is core to the overall conversation.  However, citizen lobbying isn’t on equal footing yet.  Fundraisers that provide the golf and dinner opportunities provide access to policymakers that are not quite analogous to twittering.  If this was true, as highlighted in her Post Tech column, some companies wouldn’t be spending nearly $6 million (last quarter) in lobbying.  Don’t get me wrong, utilizing social media is allowing citizen lobbyists to close the gap on the traditional influence game.  However, we are not quite there yet.  Continue Reading »

General chris on 29 Mar 2010 03:05 pm

In “pushing” the bounds of innovation, Nokia recently held a contest to see if folks could create something special with the open nature of the N900.  They received hundreds of entries and I had the opportunity to interview the winners – Brett and Sarah Peterson -  at Nokia’s booth at CTIA Las Vegas.  Not only did they develop a very cool bike dashboard but they won $10,000!

Check it out -

CTIA and Policy and Spectrum chris on 23 Mar 2010 01:24 pm

As always, it is great being in Las Vegas for another CTIA show.  This industry is happening and I’m really excited to learn more about some of the new gadgets and products on the horizon.  With that in mind, I thought I’d hear more about the evolving nature of this industry and it is this evolution that makes it quite exciting.  However, the major message coming out of CTIA, in my opinion, is much more policy focused than usual — “We need more spectrum.”

Ralph de la Vega (CEO, AT&T Mobility) kicked off the start of the show with a snapshot of where the industry is and what will be needed (more spectrum).  Mr. de la Vega highlighted the fact that the United States leads the world in 3G subscribers.  It is estimated that the U.S. has 117 Million 3G subscribers with Japan (101M) and South Korea trailing (40M).  With subscribers in mind, Mr. de la Vega discussed how much the industry is spending and plans to spend on wireless infrastructure.  Specifically, he projected that the industry will spend $22-$23 Billion in 2010.

After providing this snapshot of the industry , he addressed the critical question of whether or not the industry can handle the growing appetite for mobile broadband.  Accordingly, he offered up a blue print for taking on this issue.

(1)  “increasing available spectrum” – This point has been hammered everywhere.  On that note, the FCC recently called for 500 MHz to be available for wireless broadband over the decade and that 300 MHz be available within the next 5 years.

(2) “accelerating network efficiency” – In this instance, Mr. de la Vega discussed LTE and the network efficiencies that can be derived from that technology – it is about 2.5X more efficient that HSPA.

(3) “capitalizing on Wi-Fi and Femto” – I don’t have too much to add on this point.  Offloading traffic is an important part of the solution.  I’ve always been a big fan of Wi-Fi.

(4)  “ensuring application efficiency” – This is a point that is starting to be repeated more often and it is a good thing.  Developers need to be cognizant of the amount of bandwidth a particular application is going to have on the network.

Spectrum is the lifeblood of this industry and we need more capacity to keep the momentum going in this space.  The FCC’s efforts in the National Broadband Plan is a great start.  However, there needs to be more talk about spectral efficiency as we get ready for the long battle ahead to free up more capacity.

General and Policy and Spectrum chris on 17 Mar 2010 09:04 am

I’m still chewing on the National Broadband Plan that was released yesterday by the FCC.  It is quite large and I’m focusing on the spectrum roadmap set by the Commission.

In any case, Congress is going to review the plan next week.  With regard to the Senate, they will hold a Full Committee Hearing on Tuesday, March 23.  The House will hold a Subcommittee Hearing on Thursday, March 25.


General and Social Networking chris on 15 Mar 2010 11:25 am

I’m chewing on a number of thoughts this morning and I thought I should share them…

Blogs have influence — I subscribe to an email based clipping service pertaining to the wireless industry.  I’ve noticed this before but it is becoming more and more the norm – the highlighted clips are from tech bloggers.  I know many folks in the diner are not shocked by this news.  However, there are still tons of people in the District of Communications that haven’t figured it out.  Not only are many journalists getting their stories from bloggers but the impact some of these stories have had on public policy decisions are significant.

EVOLVE — According to GigaOm, a much tweeted quote from author Clay Shirky’s speech at SXSW was: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”  What a fantastic quote!  I can think of so many examples but this may whet my appetite for a future post in the diner.

Location, Location, Location — The battle of the “check-ins” is quite fierce and the NY Times did a nice little story this morning.  Although sharing my location information is not my thing, there is huge potential in this space.  Small businesses really have a nice opportunity to connect at a more intimate level with consumers and consumers can reap the benefits of being “a regular.”  I look forward to seeing more marketing efforts around location based social networking.

CTIA chris on 03 Mar 2010 02:13 pm

It has been about three months since I cooked up some food in the diner and there are a number of reasons for the stale food.  I’ll spare you all the details.  However, with CTIA’s 2010 show on the horizon, I’m going to get back in the saddle and cover some of the action in Las Vegas.

On a related note, I often connect with many of you in some other social spaces online (Twitter, Facebook, Amplify).  Please feel free to follow or connect with me there.  As I have mentioned previously, time becomes an issue when running a small company and being involved with a growing internet start-up company.  I still like to discuss the issues but I’m doing it in other places that allow me to quickly engage on a more regular basis than the diner.

Thus, I’ll be here when conferences are coming up or to give deeper insights on an issue (if time allows for it).  Otherwise, please catch me on Twitter, Facebook, or Amplify.

General Brin on 23 Nov 2009 02:13 pm

It’s not often I trek across town for the unveiling of a policy report. Last week, I did, heading over to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) for an event that was worth the walk. On Tuesday, the ITIF released a new report, “Explaining International Mobile Payments Leadership,” that examines why the U.S. lags behind other nations in establishing a mobile payments system and offers recommendations for how the federal government can speed the arrival and adoption of mobile commerce.

The report, authored by ITIF Senior Analyst Stephen Ezell, explores the global state of mobile payment systems and identifies Japan, South Korea, and Singapore as the world’s leaders.  In these countries, mobile phones are used in conjunction with near field communications (NFC) technology to pay for public transit, to check in at airline gates, to make purchases from retails, and, in some cases, to supplement banking and financial institutions.  As a result, the mobile phone has evolved into an “electronic wallet,” which the report defines as “a multi-functional device possessing cash, information storage and transaction, identification and authentication, and communication functions.”

After presenting the report, Ezell participated in a panel discussion alongside David Jeppsen, Vice President, NTT DOCOMO USA, and Mark MacCarthy, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University and Former Senior Vice President for Global Public Policy at Visa Inc. The discussion was moderated by ITIF President Robert Atkinson.

The panelists argued that using cell phones as an electronic wallets will result in increased economic productivity and personal convenience.  However, as the reports notes, “widespread deployment and adoption of mobile payments systems requires action from a complex ecosystem of organizations.” This ecosystem include mobile carriers, banks, credit card companies, and others.  Because of the complexities involved, only a few nations have succeeded in coordinating the ecosystem required to develop a widely used mobile payments system. For America to realize the convenience and cost savings opportunities provided my mobile payments, Ezell stated, it “needs to develop and adopt a national strategy with government participation.”

The report’s key recommendations suggest that government should:

  1. Create an inter-government mobile payments working group and private-sector advisory council that would collaborate to introduce, by min-2010, a strategy for spurring the deployment of an open, interoperable mobile wallet;
  2. Assume a leadership role in promoting and adopting mobile payments (i.e require that mass transit systems receiving federal funding deploy mobile payment systems, and provide funding for pilot programs); and
  3. Establish clear consumer protections and address consumer privacy concerns.

Though the report states that electronic wallets are “now ready for full-scale implementation and use,” Mark MacCarthy noted that first, “we need incentives for merchants to upgrade and for carriers to embrace their role as payment intermediaries.”

No clear timetable was offered on when Americans can expect a mobile payment system. Stephen Ezell predicted, “two or three years,” while David Jeppsen said, “this technology is being developed for my twelve-year-old…who will be using it when he gets to college.”

General and Policy and social media and Social Networking and SprintNextel and strategy and Verizon Wireless chris on 13 Nov 2009 02:06 pm

Are you a leader or a poser?  There’s a big difference.

Free Press is a leader in the interactive universe.  They cultivate and organically grow their communities.  By utilizing digital tools early and often, the Free Press team has built a machine that can deliver results.  Last year, they took on Comcast, leading an effort to urge the FCC to rebuke Comcast for its network management practices.  They won.

Early this year, Free Press began beating the drum for the FCC to stay the course and open a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on open internet regulations in the wireline and wireless spaces.  This effort mobilized thousands of letters, blogs and tweets on the topic.  Once again, they won.

Free Press has become a juggernaut in the District of Communications.  Although, I don’t always agree with all of their public policy positions – I love the strategies they use to raise public awareness and influence policymaking. Continue Reading »

General and social media and Social Networking chris on 05 Nov 2009 12:36 pm

As always, apologize for the stale food in the diner.  As I have mentioned, things have been busy at Tin Can and Amplify but wanted to cook-up a quick dish on Twitter lists…  In digital circles, you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about them.  It is all the buzz right now in social media.

What are Twitter lists?  Briefly, Twitter now has the functionality to allow its users the ability to segment people they follow on Twitter.  For instance, I follow around 400 people and, with the addition of twitter lists, I can now group people according to “policy”, “mobile”, “digital”; you name it, there is a Twitter list for it.  You can also see other Twitter users’ lists (if they’re public) by looking at their profiles and you can get a sense of how you are seen in the Twitterverse.

This is either another stroke of genius by Ev, Jack, and Biz or just another thing for the social media elite to point to as a way to measure “influence.”  Thus far, it seems to be the latter and I don’t think that’s good for Twitter in the long haul.

We’ve already seen reports that Twitter’s growth is slowing.  The strategy to get to 100 million users seems to be promoting the celebs and hoping all of us will just want to sign up so we can see what Alyssa Milano and Ashton Kutcher are doing.  Contrary to being an awesome two-way communication tool – it becomes a fire-hose of noise.

I’m working on my list now (it is private) to see if it adds additional value.  I enjoy Twitter and the community I have engaged with there for over 2 years.  However, I’m not optimistic about this move and believe it is a step in the wrong direction…

General Brin on 19 Aug 2009 06:40 pm

Thirteen. That’s the current number, as of yesterday, of fraudulent letters sent to members of Congress in an attempt to discourage support for a key energy and climate bill.

The letters were handiwork of a DC-based consulting firm, Bonner & Associates, which specializes in “innovative grassroots campaigns.” In case you’ve missed the string of players involved: the letters were manufactured by Bonner & Associates as part of their work for the Hawthorne Group.  It turns out the Hawthorne Group was working for American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), an opponent of the climate legislation.

Bonner & Associates’ President Jack Bonner has blamed the forged letters on a recently-fired “bad employee” and proclaimed outrage.

He’s not the only one.

More than a dozen “senders,” organizational leaders whose identities were used without their knowledge or consent, are pretty upset, too.  So is Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), co-author of the legislation at the center of the storm.  Markey has launched an investigation into the forged letters. (Though thirteen fraudulent letters have been identified, dozens more await verification.)

However, the most audacious expression of outrage came from a small band of environmental activists known as the “Action Factory.”

These brazen demonstrators stood, nearly naked, outside the Bonner & Associates office building on a recent afternoon. Wearing little more than handmade signs of protest, they took to the street to draw attention to a despicable PR tactic known as “astroturfing.”

What is astroturfing?

It’s a PR tool most commonly employed by the lazy, unskilled, and unconnected. It’s also an underhanded and unethical practice.

According to Wikipedia: “In American politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations projects which deliberately seek to engineer the impression of spontaneous, grassroots behavior. The goal is the appearance of independent public reaction to a politician, political group, product, service, event, or similar entities by centrally orchestrating the behavior of many diverse and geographically distributed individuals.”

The basic idea is to manufacture the appearance that a grassroots movement is taking shape. Some resort to paying troops to generate propaganda. Even more disgraceful, some simply invent these troops or enlist them without asking permission.

Bonner & Associates is not the firm to resort to astroturfing, just the latest to learn the key lesson of this tacit: In an effort to gain ground, astroturfing can result in considerable and devastating loss. In this case, some have lost jobs (the “bad” employee), others have lost their cools (the many “outraged” participants), and a bold few have lost their shirts (the Action Factory team).

Most concerning of all, however, is the loss of credibility that astroturfing inflicts on the entire PR industry — especially when most communications professionals conduct their outreach, grassroots organizing, and coalition building activities with integrity.

As the count of forged letters grows and news about this astroturfing incident continues, Bonner & Associates is not the only firm affected. Ethical communications shops and legitimate grassroots advocacy organizations also suffer.

Winning public relations fight is no easy task, but adhering to the rules of battle is a critical professional responsibility. Astroturfing undermines both the valuable work of the public relations industry and the most vital tenants of our democracy — open and honest pubic debate.

In launching his investigation, Chairman Markey stated,  “Democratic debate has been deceptively debased by fake facts and harsh rhetoric. We must return to an honest discussion of the issues, and ensure that this sort of campaign does not further poison the well of trustworthy debate.”

Let’s hope his words –  not the threat of his investigations — can inspire an end to astroturfing.

This post has been edited.

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