Category Archives: Blogging

SAMURAI RIDES: THE 2017 MAZDA CX 3 – BIRTHDAY EDITION

 SAMURAI RIDES: THE 2017 MAZDA CX 3 – BIRTHDAY EDITION

#SamuraiRides #DriveMazda

After a short hiatus for the heart of the winter season, Samurai Rides is getting ready to welcome in warmer days. Before we hit the official start of Spring those good folks at Mazda sent me a little gift. Seeking to make my travel a bit more comfortable, the Mazda CX 3 Grand Touring was dropped off for me to enjoy my birthday week in style. Sitting at the top of the subcompact division you know the quality that Mazda delivers. When I saw the Dynamic Blue of this ride, my favorite color, I was in heaven, but enough chatter let’s dive into another edition of Samurai Rides.

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First off I can imagine what you are thinking? How on earth is he really reviewing a sub compact vehicle? Isn’t he tall? Yes, it’s well documented that I’m rather over sized but that is beauty of the CX -3. Even for someone of my height Mazda’s latest CX Compact car didn’t restrict my movement, comfort or enjoyment what so ever. I’ll admit I had to lean that driver’s seat back so heaven help who ever attempts to sit behind me. Outside of that it was all good. This is the 2nd year for the CX-3 after its’ initial introduction into the Mazda line up last year. It’s essentially a replacement for the Mazda 2 which is no longer available in the U.S.

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Max & Mazda. Matching Blue as we hit the road.

Truthfully, after a solid debut Mazda is just tweaking a few things for 2017. They have made a few features available in lower trims besides the Grand Touring edition. You can enjoy the redesigned 18 inch wheels at the mid level trim now as well as the  i-Activsense package which offers adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, automated emergency braking, and more. Mazda shaved off nearly $800 to bring that add-on option pack just under $1200.

Another thing I will say is that the CX-3 Is not the ride to get if you’re planning on lugging around a lot of stuff. There’s modest trunk space here. You should be ok with your weekly personal groceries but massive shopping trips will have you putting bags in the rear seating space.

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Design wise Mazda remains the master of giving the look of cars costing more than they do. Surprisingly luxurious would be a great way to describe the sleek appearance of the CX-3.

This ride looks like a mini SUV but it handles like a car smoothly navigating the road. You’re getting 146 horses out of the 2 liter 4 cylinder engine. That’s getting you from 0 – 60 in 8 secs. Not bad at all. It definitely did the trick as I celebrated my birthday around New York City. In this case the smaller ride made parking that much easier.

Overall, my streak of good times with Mazda cars continues. From the seamless on road handling, to safety features, to the always simple entertainment media interface, Mazda’s consistent delivery of quality shines through with their 2nd run of the CX-3. In all honesty I really only see competition coming from within their own brand. What I mean is that the price of the Grand Touring starts around $27K at which point you may be tempted to hop up to the CX 5 for a solid increase in power and size. So, aside from some possible in-fighting, Mazda is looking pretty strong to close out the first quarter of the new year. Take a look below at a few images and swing by Mazda USA for even more CX-3 info.

Stay Tuned Samurai Rides has something special on deck to usher in the Spring.

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**Check Out My Previous Auto Reviews**

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Hulu Wrote The Blueprint For Today’s Streaming Media

Hulu Wrote The Blueprint For Today’s Streaming Media

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Phones, Tablets, Lap Tops and Desk tops are no longer just number crunching devices. They pack all the entertainment value of your cable TV at a much less cost. You can select the same program at your own leisure and often bypass commercials. How the average person consumes their entertainment has changed radically as our world now come with us in our pockets. While streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix may be the biggest brands on the block, Fast Company just released an interesting look back at just how Hulu got the ball rolling for the streaming giants of today. Take a look below. At the end you can link to FC’s ongoing Innovation series that this piece came from.

Remember when Netflix was a DVD-by-mail service? And its chief rival was the brick-and-mortar outlet Blockbuster? Feels like an eternity ago. Now Netflix looks over its shoulder at HBO on one side and Amazon on the other. But it was the breakthroughs generated by the less-praised and underappreciated Hulu that pointed the way to all of their success.

Fast Company put Hulu on the cover of our second World’s Most Innovative Companies issue in 2009. That decision was not a dig at Netflix or a mark of suspicion about its business. (Reed Hastings of Netflix had been a cover subject three years earlier.) Rather, it was a reflection of game-changing steps that Hulu was taking. At that time, Hulu was run by former Amazon executive Jason Kilar, who had to manage an assortment of owners—including both Fox and NBC—that had yet to embrace the idea of streaming their content. While Kilar had access to a rich trove of TV shows, he faced an ownership structure that was internally divided. For several of his many-headed bosses, the prospect of Hulu was at best a test, and at worst a threat to their core operation.

Kilar’s tactic was to play these owners off against each other just enough to keep them at bay, while he and his team furiously worked to create a new kind of viewing experience. Suddenly, streaming TV and even movies was easy, fun—and legal. At that point, the model was ad-supported in a user-friendly way that still hasn’t been replicated: Viewers could choose which ads they wanted to see, increasing the value for advertisers by constructing a qualified audience.

Eventually, Hulu’s corporate structure—not to mention the rise of streaming elsewhere, among its owners and most notably via Netflix—put the company on its heels and Kilar out of a job. But the user experience, design, and mass-market acceptance of streaming were all created or accelerated by Hulu. The most common narrative of innovation success often follows a single disruptor—Steve Jobs, Phil Knight, Mark Zuckerberg—without appreciating how much rests on the shoulders of progenitors and peers who advanced the game.

Today, of course, we expect to be able to stream everything via apps. (Back in 2008, most viewing happened on a desktop computer via the web browser.) Hulu is among a constellation of providers continuing to advance a revolution whose ultimate outcome is still unclear. Hulu hasn’t reaped the lion’s share of the rewards from its early innovations, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have a powerful impact. And it continues to play a role in pressing Netflix, HBO, and others to keep advancing.

Via Fast Company

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Desktop Activity Isn’t As Dead As Experts Say

Desktop Activity Isn’t As Dead As Experts Say

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Mobile, Mobile, Mobile…..that’s the future wave. Smartphones are the growing platform of choice for everything digital and while the world is engaged in the screens carried in their back pockets, what has become of the desktop? Well, if you let the many digital experts tell it, stationary computers have one foot in the grave already and are preparing for a swan dive. Fortunately for me and many others like me the demise of the desktop has been greatly exaggerated.

Let’s look at just what the real current status of the desktop computer is in the social media area.

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According to FlurryMobile, 90 percent of mobile user time is spent in apps. Consumers are often using their phones with entertainment and communication intent — calling, texting, checking email, engaging on social media, watching videos, listening to music, getting directions, checking store hours and playing games such as Pokémon Go. The chart above supports this view the personal time is more suited for mobile device usage vs the general office/work hours of the day. But what about the actions that are taking place o these devices?

Where the device decisions get a little more complex is during the process of detailed transactions. Depending on what you’re doing and how major a transaction it is, desktop usage offers a several advantages in efficiency over smartphones. See the following excerpt from Search Engine Land.

Most consumer journeys involve cross-device usage; however, the device used for the final transaction is often determined by the type of transaction and the amount of data needed to complete the transaction.

An example of this type of deeply considered journey can seen in the financial services sector, when a consumer opens a retirement account and makes initial investments. It’s a complex decision with a high cost of failure, and the average consumer will research the process across multiple devices; however, the final transaction of creating the account requires entering a significant amount of data. For that reason, this step is more convenient to complete on a desktop or tablet then on a smartphone.

On the other hand, when the purchase is simple and straightforward without a high cost of failure, like booking a hotel room due to a flight cancellation, I’m more likely to book my hotel stay on my smartphone as I’m exiting the terminal instead of opening my laptop to complete the transaction. And in e-commerce scenarios, the ease of completing the transaction through a one-click purchase option can help increase mobile conversions.

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Once again we see that while usage and time spent is trending towards mobile access, there is a large portion of online active that is taking place almost exclusively on desktops.

[M]arketers always overestimate the appeal of new things and underestimate the power of traditional consumer behavior.
Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian

In the end it would appear that the desktop is not going anywhere. Desktop functionality has become much more direct and focused. Folks are browsing, entertaining and communicating as they move about. Yet they are still sitting down for the bigger decisions and transactions. Keep this in need with your own business. Do you fall into any of those desktop heavy industries? Remember that it will always pay off to have a balance in your professional positioning. One that includes both stationary and mobile accessibility.

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SAMURAI RIDES: BACK ON THE ROAD WITH THE NEW 2017 MAZDA 3

SAMURAI RIDES: BACK ON THE ROAD WITH THE NEW 2017 MAZDA 3

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I was excited to see my first Mazda of the new year. The Mazda 3 rolls in with its 2017 edition in a gorgeous Cherry Red and I’m ready to roll out. I had a number of errands to handle in the tri state area so I was putting in those miles on the I-95. Highly enjoyable miles as Mazda never fails to provide me an excellent driving experience. Another edition of Samurai Rides is on deck!!!

After 2-3 years of auto reviews, I have to say that consistency is the word that comes to mind when I think of Mazda. Inside and out the attention to detail is steady across the brand and all its models. Focusing in on the Mazda 3 this time around and things are still as solid as ever. With this being my third spin in the 3 I can confirm that Mazda is definitely subscribing to an approach of not trying to reinvent the wheel. The short list of updates for the 2017 model echo those of the Mazda 6.

On the outside you get a new grill and headlight design. The rear bump is modified slightly as well. On the higher trims your 18 inch wheels have been tweaked a bit. The 16 inch standards wheel are unchanged from 2016 though. Hop inside and you get a few more revisions.

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The center console gets some additional space as Mazda switches up from a manual to an electric parking brake. Your flip-up screen is full color now as well. For a brand that boasts some of the best interior designs for under $30K you’ll get an upgrade in fabric and trim styles this year.

Just like the Mazda 6 the biggest driving update the G-Vectoring Control system to tighten up the steering a bit. The 3 hugs those curves just as well as the 6 does so this new GVC technology is a great move for a brand that has already locked itself into a very respected spot in the auto industry.

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Even covered in snow Mazda shines brillantly.

The 2017 Mazda 3 got a real good run with me as the weather dished out sun, rain, ice and snow and at no point did the 3 suffer in performance. In addition to that, I put that new heated steering wheel feature to work with the heated seats. Cold was not allowed in this ride.

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I’ve had nothing but glowing sentiments towards Mazda from day 1. The new 2017 Mazda 3 strongly continues that trend delivering a great combination of grace, style, innovation and power. If you’re looking for a great ride in a smaller package this is definitely the car for you. See more of the Mazda 3 here!

**Check Out My Previous Auto Reviews**

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Boom or Bust – The Future of Proximity In-Store Marketing

Boom or Bust – The Future of Proximity In-Store Marketing

Proximity Marketing

Not too long ago I tested out a number of proximity based apps in a few of New York’s larger retailer stores. As consumer habit continue to move towards mobile tech integration business are looking to get as up close and personal with shoppers as possible. Tailoring your in store experience based on where you are comes with a number of potential benefits. Below is the opening excerpt of a great piece discussing In-store proximity marketing. Check it out then hop over to the full post at the end.

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Today’s constantly connected consumers are using smartphones in-store more than ever. A recent Google survey states that a staggering 80 percent of shoppers are using smartphones to make purchasing decisions. Retailers and start-ups have taken notice, and the concepts of mobile location analytics and proximity marketing are emerging out of that.

Publications like Techcrunch and Adweek have articles of retailers launching Bluetooth beacon pilot programs almost on a daily basis. Some recent examples includeTarget, Country Market and Urban Outfitters. But when you clear away all the buzzwords, what exactly is this shift we’re seeing? It’s the world customizing itself to you. The world is reacting to your presence, specific to you as an individual.

Proximity marketing is an exciting concept, but a lot of people are worried they’ll be inundated with spam if they opt in.

That is an exciting concept. Talking about this out in the world will get you varying reactions, from concerns about privacy issues to the idea that your phone is going to spam you with Viagra ads non-stop, but if you boil down the idea, there are some really compelling concepts here.

Personalization Is A Key Benefit

Let’s take a look at a form of personalization we all know about today. A husband and his wife have individual key FOBs for their car. When the husband gets in the car, the mirrors adjust, the seat slides back, and the radio station changes to his favorite morning radio station. When his wife uses the car that evening, the car returns to her preferences. That’s an example of very useful personalization. Now, imagine if a retail store could do that for you.

We’ve seen online personalization become more and more sophisticated over the past decade with platforms such as Google AdWords and the Facebook Audience Network, and the addition of proximity marketing technologies is making it possible to expand that personalization in-store, effectively bridging the gap between digital and physical environments. There are both exciting and scary possibilities to this.

So, why can’t retailers live without it? The retailer will now be able to understand shopper behavior beyond POS data. Retailers currently have the ability to analyze traffic patterns, deliver personalized offers, measure dwell times, build on customer loyalty profiles and even A/B test physical displays. And what does the shopper get? By integrating this technology into a retailer’s app, the shopper gets an ultra-personalized experience through customer-specific offers, location-specific coupons and contextual information such as maps and menus.

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But the question that keeps coming up is: Will shoppers adapt to this kind of experience? If users don’t adopt the technology, hockey stick graphs will never happen for retailers. I think of a Sheryl Sandburg story I’ve heard during her presentations several times. When Caller ID first came out, users were scared by it. They thought the concept of knowing who’s calling before you picked up was creepy. Now, 20+ years later, we don’t pick up our phones without knowing who’s calling.The user’s perception of the technology completely flipped over a couple of decades.

It seems a general consensus among investors and marketers that someone will figure out and win the proximity marketing race.

***See the full Article Here via Topal.com***

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SAMURAI RIDES: HAPPY NEW YEAR W/ THE 2017 MITSUBISHI LANCER

SAMURAI RIDES: HAPPY NEW YEAR W/ THE 2017 MITSUBISHI LANCER

#SamuraiRides

Another year is in the books and I’m sure it comes as new surprise that I brought in the new year bouncing with another edition of Samurai Rides. Taking me into the year 2017 was the new Mitsubishi Lancer. It’s been 2 model years since I last got behind the wheel of a Lancer. Previously, Mitsubishi helped me navigate the streets of Miami for Art Basel. Their 2015 Lancer was a solid ride that got me all around the beautiful areas of southern Florida with no issue. Their 2017 model doesn’t stray far from its core designs and functionalities.

Letting the sun in and ready to hit the road.
Letting the sun in and ready to hit the road.

You can go to various auto review sites for specs and industry rankings. When I do Samurai Rides I try to give you real life applications for the cars you drive. That means where did I drive it, how did I feel and what type of people I think would benefit from this car.

In the final days of 2016 I made a few round trip runs home to New York and back to Philadelphia. With a little over 2 hours each way, it’s gives me a good space to get a feel for the ride in terms of on road handling and interior features. The exterior appearance was sharp and clean. The Diamond White finish and the 2-tone 16 inch alloy wheels were a good look. Standard LEDs, Halogen headlights and fog lights set things off nicely.

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I liked the Lancer immediately as soon as I pulled out. It has just enough power under the hood to navigate these often aggressive Northeast highways but not so much that I’m tempted to break any speed records.

You have the option of Sirius XM radio and navigation. Even when I’m making trips along routes I know in my sleep, the real time traffic notifications are always welcome. You’ll be thankful when you avoid getting stuck in an oncoming 30 min traffic backup and can continue smoothly on your way listening to your favorite tunes.

Rockford Fosgate has been the consistent audio sound system of all the Mitsubishi cars I’ve dealt with. This one sounded like it had a little more kick in the bass so that is pleasing to the ear. Again you have your full expected audio options of radio, cd, Bluetooth compatible linking, AUX cord and USB.

Brought Harlem to Philly. Sounds nice in the 2017 Lancer. #DriveMitsubishi #SamuraiRides

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Over recent years I’ve seen the rise of vehicles adding various sensors and on road warning indicators for blind spots, lane shifting and approaching objects. These are all great preemptive safety features. You don’t get those with the Lancer but in all honesty that didn’t take away from my driving experience. I didn’t feel less safe without an additional bell or buzzer going off. The Active Stability Control is solid as it works with the braking system to support tire griping on slick surfaces. Basically you just need to drive and keep your eyes on the road just as we all did for years before. Outside of the extended Summer season the winter holidays can be notorious for bad/dangerous/reckless driving. The Lancer got me home and back without issue. You can check some of the other safety features of the Lancer here.

The Lancer is a nice ride for the everyday person not looking for too much flash. This car isn’t made to remind you of another more luxurious brand. It provides you what you would need to effectively travel the roads at reasonable cost. You can select from 4 model trims that range in price from approx. $17K – $22K.

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I definitely would suggest the Lancer to a friend looking for something affordable for their day-to-day needs. Hop over to the Mitsubishi site and have a good look around. I think you’ll find what you’re looking for. See you soon with another editions of Samurai Rides.

**Check Out My Previous Auto Reviews**

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2017 Social Media Cheat Sheet

2017 Social Media Cheat Sheet

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The new year is underway and as you set out to execute your business plans it’s always nice to look over your presence online and make sure your business is being represented to the best of its abilities. From the proper dimensions on your profile images to the ideal time to post content, there is a science to this digital world. Fresh from the good people at SWM. Here’s a convenient cheap sheet you can cross reference your activity with to get the most out of all the major platforms. Just hit the jump for the full sheet.

You’ll also want to check out this collection of apps and tools that will add tons of value to your social media activity. I use more than half of these tools and can vouch for them. See the link at the end of the jump.

Continue reading 2017 Social Media Cheat Sheet

Notification Overload – So Much Streaming So Little Reason

Notification Overload – So Much Streaming So Little Reason

snapyell

2016 will likely be remembered as the year that streaming exploded. What started with  Meerkat and Periscope evolved to Facebook Live and Instagram Stories updating their platforms to try to capture the lightning in a bottle of Snapchat. In the progress, we’ve enabled an entire generation to share their world with the world without filter. So, as my notification log fills up with messages about you, you and you “going live” I can’t help but wonder if it’s really a good thing?

Must we go live via streaming to show that we are actually living? This is a question I ask myself regularly as live video stream notifications light up my screen. I’m not simply curious about why everyone’s doing it but also why now? Video isn’t new. Vlogging is the organic heart of Youtube. Before every major media brand got it’s on channels it was person people content that ruled. When Periscope hit from the outside you’d think everyone was using it and the new wave had arrived. Truth be told, only a small % of people actually streamed on Periscope. The majority of people connected to watch others. Periscope links via Twitter so the “sign up” was easy. This is the point that caught my attention and it’s what I think is really at the heart of this “going live” movement.

People that really have invested valuable in their message were saying it before and they got better as the technology improved. They were on Youtube, Blogger, Vimeo, etc……Today, people stream not because they have important things to say or share but because it’s easy. It’s a feature now plugged into spaces they were already active in. You can think of this as the “I do it because I can” crowd. People want the SnapChat effect without having to build a new audience on SnapChat. Don’t get me wrong because there are many who are putting streaming technology to good use and are delivering real information content. You just have to weed it out via the new wave of look-at-me-do-nothing material. Streaming in many ways is just amateur hour cable television. How many shows do you have to cycle through to find the one that makes it worth your time?

Every time something crazy happens to a person folk say, “Man my life needs its own show.” No, it really doesn’t you need to be happy that something worse didn’t happen and try not to end up in that position again. We all don’t need shows about our lives. Like all things in this social media based world the initial hype will fade as the truly committed users continue to push through the masses with their messages.

I my humble view, existence should be measured by how you live life not by how many folks see yours.

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Hip Hop is Dead…10 Years Later Nas Looks Back

Hip Hop is Dead…10 Years Later Nas Looks Back

nashhid

In 2006 Hip Hop was a very interesting place. While powerhouse names like Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West were still dominate, the mainstream is fully in the midst of a revolution led by the new music makers of the south. Lil Jon’s Crunk movement was turning out ultra energized club hit after hit. Atlanta’s Trap had invaded the scene as artists like T.I, Jeezy and Gucci Mane were just as well known in a city like New York as Jadakiss or Camron. And let’s not forget Ludacris and his DTP camp who would occupy multiple chart slots at a time. The Hip Hop landscape was changing and it was not going unnoticed by one of Hip Hop’s greats. In the view of Nasir Jones, he would tell you “Hip Hop is Dead.” I remember my personal excitement awaiting that release of this album. My Hip Hop taste is very NY for all the good, bad ad ugly of it. Nas’ attempt to being things back to the essence was a rallying cry for many even if it was short lived.

10 years since it’s scene shaking release Nas looks back on the Hip Hop Is Dead album that many rallied behind while even more rallied against. Unintended regional tensions resulted from Nas’ claim that the core elements of Hip Hop, music, wordplay, storytelling and lyricism had been given up for childish, hooks and low grade concepts. Linking up with Google Play and Mass Appeal, Nas delivers a 4 part digital documentary on the this controversial album.

“In retrospect, I missed the mark by miles,” he admits. “I didn’t want to pick people apart. I felt like that was for a younger artist to do. I thought the title was enough — to say it’s dead it was to say, ‘I don’t know where to begin, I don’t know where to start.’ But at least I’ll name it this and we’ll see what goes from there.”

Hit the jump to view the other 3 installments of the doc. Watch as Nas speaks on everything from the album title, his long anticipated collaboration with Jay-Z, to his current view of the culture and his present role in it.

Continue reading Hip Hop is Dead…10 Years Later Nas Looks Back

2016 The Year That Changed It All

2016 The Year That Changed It All

Digital Daddy, Social Media Samurai
Is this the end of the Social Media Samurai

Look around. Admittedly things have been a little quieter around here than many of you may be used to. The year 2016 was a monster for many people for a lot of reasons. While the theme of high-profile death has dominated the conversation recently, it’s been a focus on gain and new life that has been the signature of my year. From self-centered to selfless, my life went from 0 -100 with the May 27th arrival of my son, Maximus Xaiver Francis. Nothing was the same since.

Max’s birth came with me relocating to Philadelphia and a drastic shift in how I operated. My networks were changed, my access to certain levels of business were reduced and overall it was if I had just hit a mega reset button on my life. I’ve never been a person that took things and people for granted but the new perspective of my situation immediately made me see my daily New York routine in a different light. The small things that brought balance to my life that were no longer available weighed heavy on me for much of my time away from NY.

What really countered that feeling of displacement was a the beauty and happiness that washes over me everything I saw the innocent smile of my baby boy. Knowing nothing of the insane world around him, he only asks for love and protection. All the cliches’ are true regarding how a child makes you feel and how it changes you. As much as continue to juggle thoughts and feelings around my new status quo, I’ve never once looked at Max with anything but love and pride.

2016 forced me to change. It forced me to prove myself in ways I never thought. Those tests are still ongoing but I feel a renewed power and strength within me for what is to come on many levels. Social Media Samurai is not going anywhere. As I adapt to my new reality the brand will adapt as well. Who I am and what I am about will be revealed more as I expand SMS into new territory. With the growth of my own Tribe I will re-emerge stronger with a determination to get things done no matter what.

The previous 366 days at times knocked me down. There were many moments of doubt and frustration regarding all important aspects of my life, but as the saying goes if you are brought to it then you can make it through it. I’m here and ready to make 2017 a banner year for me and my loved ones. I’m not who I once was yet I’m still me. I’m better. For my son I will never stop evolving.

2017, it’s nice to finally meet you.

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