Writing Exercise: Can robots ever be human?

The Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

The Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

I realize this topic is as incredibly deep and complex as it is general. I will start this by stating that I am not in robotics nor do I work with artificial intelligence. I have never even studied it. I am a man who is very interested in concepts and logic. I enjoy in delving into the overlying principles of things. My opinions on this are not fact and they possibly aren’t even close. Do not be offended. If my writing makes you think and feel, whether it is an introspective “I haven’t thought of that” or an angry “Is this guy an idiot?!?”… I have done my job.

Robots are a strong theme in American culture. They evoke a wide array of emotions from us. Many of us find them interesting. I loved the show Battlebots. I love having the newest, sleekest technology. I love that my phone can use simple algorithms to predict things I want to do. I am an absolute nut for predictions and analysis. Heck, I even have a scale that links to an online profile so I can see exactly how my weight is fluctuating. Give me a shiny piece of technology that syncs through WiFi or Bluetooth and presents its information in colorful bar and line graphs and I’ll be your best friend. These machines or robots are created to analyze us and assist us. They are getting smarter and we have long been past the point where our phones know more about us than we do. In some instances, our phones can probably predict what we will do before we know it. While computers (I’ll generally use that term here) are getting better and better at knowing us, that leads to another emotion we have towards robots:


Americans have many fascinating obsessions. We glorify ninjas and pirates and have made ridiculous versions of them that never existed. We drool over superheroes who have seemingly plausible “origin stories” but are obviously impossible if you give it any amount of thought. We love orcs, mages, and elves despite there never being an instance of any of them in history. We equally are fascinated by the idea of robots, but unlike the others, robots are real. Robots are here. As many movies and video games there are that portray good robots who help us fight an enemy (usually other robots), there are just as many that feature robots that kill us. Usually the narrative is the same. We keep making technology better until we reach a point where AI has the ability to achieve free will. At this moment, AI is not a program anymore. It has consciousness. It doesn’t necessarily “feel” but it can make its own decisions and that turns for the worst when that is coupled with the intelligence, processing speed, and ability to essentially recall any memory in its storage in nanoseconds. These advanced robots then always go through some change that causes them to turn on humanity. Sometimes their coding just glitches. Sometimes an evil mastermind “rewires” them. Sometimes the perfect beings just realize how flawed humans are and decide to get rid of all of us. What makes this fear rational is that this could possibly happen down the road. For whatever reason, these robots are usually made into the shape of a human. This brings me to my actual point.

In this exercise, I’m not discussing if we will be mass-exterminated by a robot in the future. We are nowhere near that point. However, as computers get smarter and more knowledgeable of us, people have undertaken the task of trying to get them to emulate us. The question is: Will there a be a day where robots look and act like humans? Will you be able to bump into a stranger out in public, have a conversation, and then be shocked 10 minutes in when that stranger informs you that it is a robot? Many people say no, but there are also those who believe the answer is yes so strongly, they have dedicated their lives to it. I will not say no as the future is a long time, but I will say we are nowhere close.

The issue is that from an artificial intelligence standpoint, humans are perfectly imperfect. We are irrational and we act on impulse. We will actually make a terrible decision with no thought or research, but then we have the capability to amend the mistake and still get the job done. There are many times that humans will actually do research and then still make a mistake because of an unforseen variable. Humans have embraced the ever-present possibility of mistakes. Jobs have policies for getting stuck in traffic. Companies have insurance for people hurting themselves while performing work. Humans are irrational, but not random. We will do everything we’re supposed to do, then in a moment of rage, break a $500 cell phone. Computers are efficient and would never do these things.

The next step would obviously be teaching the robots to emulate us. This would not be easy to do since they do not have emotions. You could program a robot to emulate the average human, but then have it rarely do random acts, but this is not even close to being the same. I think watching a robot pretending to be human would be like watching a fake viral video on the internet. I would bet that every day, hundreds of companies try to fake videos where something ridiculous happens in public. They stage events that are cute, romantic, or dangerous. They sit in meeting rooms and analyze other viral videos. Many of them probably even have focus groups to test how believable they are. No matter the process, most of them hit the internet and are ignored. The problem is that real viral videos happen naturally. We can tell when a video is faked/staged because it just seems unnatural to us… It seems inhuman. You could strap a GoPro camera on a thousand people’s heads and then upload that footage into a robot and it still would be emulating humans. The robot needs to feel, think, and act on impulse for it to be believable. It needs to be human. We are nowhere close.

I find this entire process scary. Using programs and algorithms to assist us has progressed society to new heights. Things have become cheaper and easier. We can digitally film and edit. We can make complex spreadsheets in a window that would have taken an entire wall of a conference room to draw out. We can instantaneously mail each other through the internet. The list of things technology has provided us would be a mile long, but how far do we need to go? Why do we need robots walking around pretending to be human and acting like us? I don’t agree with making humanoid robots to complete certain tasks, but I see the purpose (I think the implications toward jobs would be horrible). I don’t see the purpose of making human robots that do everything we do and that pretend to be us. That’s another issue, however.

As the future comes, we will undoubtedly reach higher levels of technology. Processors will get better. Memory will better. Storage will get better. There will be a point where things like androids will be a possibility. I just don’t think we’re anywhere close to that right now.

Thanks for reading my random fit of writing inspiration.


Writing Exercise: The Logan Olson Look-alike

I’m a firm believer in that writing and creativity both fall under the “use it or lose it” umbrella. They are muscles that you need to work out regularly. This isn’t scientific fact. This is just a silly motto that I find to be true. I don’t write as often as I should and I made the decision that if something inspires me, I will utilize it as a writing exercise. Well, something silly inspired me today.

It was early in the morning. I work at the FDA (this is public knowledge) in the Washington, D.C area and I utilize the public transportation system. It’s an efficient system, especially when you use the metro rail, or train as normal people would call it. You essentially have eight (or so) box cars full of people dressed in suits or at least business-casual clothes. Many of the riders read newspapers as the Washington Post has representatives handing them out for free as you get on. Many people also have headphones and are listening to music or watching videos on their phones. I tend to listen to Rocketjump’s Facerocker podcast while reading the newspaper or Washingtonian Magazine. Luckily, I discovered Facerocker Podcast fairly late so I have years worth of material to listen to (or did).

Today was like any other. There were the suits and briefcases. No one was talking. This isn’t unusual. People act like they’re in a public restroom while using public transportation. Anytime you lock eyes with another passenger, both of you shamefully dart your eyes away from each other and delete that vision from your brain out of respect. I took a seat by one of the doors of the train car. I don’t usually get to sit so this was a nice surprise, but what happened next was more surprising. My seat was perpendicular to the door and there was a man leaning on the divider facing me. I was looking at my phone and my eyes locked onto tennis shoes with bright green shoelaces. I looked up a bit and noticed black track pants. This is fairly strange as people normally don’t take the metro to go work out at 8 a.m. in the morning during rush hour. I kept looking up to notice a regular jacket and then long, silky dirty-blond hair. The man’s face was gruff, but not in an ugly way. It was a masculine face that had maybe seen some things and it did not fit the beautiful hair at all. I looked at the person’s face, but he did not look back. He just stared right over my head into the distance. He had the face of someone who was in the zone and ready to “kill it.” I looked around to spot another person dressed to go to the gym but there were none. It was just him and honestly, the top half of the outfit didn’t really fit the gym-going persona. I laughed to myself because this person could very well be going to his job, ready to do something more important than any of us. His face screamed determination. He looked like he already had a full serving of nitric oxide and was ready to crush some bent-over barbell rows, but what if he was heading to the Pentagon? One of our nation’s major agencies’ headquarters? What if he was a high-up at the FDA and was, in fact, my boss’s boss’s boss?

This person didn’t care what anyone thought of him. He was in his moment and he was absolutely crushing it. His face also reminded me of someone. As it turned out, I was listening to an episode of the Facerocker podcast that reminded me who it was. Logan Olson, a recurring host/guest on the podcast, jumped into my mind. Take in mind that I have never seen Logan Olson except for maybe two pictures online. I only know of him from what has been said on the podcast, but this guy looked exactly like the pictures(except for having a more weathered face). Also, what I know of Logan, this guy was living it. He didn’t care what anyone thought. He was focused on what must have been the thoughts of a winner, ready to destroy the challenge waiting for him at the end of that metro ride. As the metro reached my stop, I stood up and everyone looked at me. This is normal as I get off at a stop that few others do and I am also a massive 6-foot-6-inches tall. He also looked at me for the first time and as I walked past him, I nodded. He smirked and nodded back.

“This world is yours,” he said with only a simple half-smile and a nod. “Go crush it.”

“You too, Logan Olson Look-alike,” is what I would have said back but I knew he didn’t me to tell him that.

Now obviously, that was kind of creepy, but inspiration is inspiration. Sometimes it takes seeing a guy who looks like another guy who says funny things in audio form and shares a fondness for dark Mexican beer to get your creative juices flowing. Give in. Maybe you shouldn’t post them on the internet like I did, but I’m a rebel. I do what i want without shame. Will Logan Olson have a restraining order on me by the end of the day? We shall see.

Write on and ride on.


College Football Playoff: Why Four Teams Aren’t Enough

No. 1 Mississippi State remains in the driver's seat to be the top-ranked team int he playoff (Photo: USA TODAY Sports )

No. 1 Mississippi State remains in the driver’s seat to be the top-ranked team int he playoff (Photo: USA TODAY Sports )

“Four teams aren’t enough.”

I said that the second I heard that a four-team playoff was introduced to College Football. I was met with the expected response that the teams would sort it out and there would only be four deserving teams at the end of the year. I laughed. We must not have been watching the same sport for the last 10 years.

And here we are.

The season is coming to a close and there is absolute chaos. Florida State has been struggling, but looks to remain undefeated and a miracle season by Duke could have them and FSU with one loss at the end of the year. Baylor and TCU both have one loss and have already played each other (plus the Big 12 has no championship game). Alabama and Mississippi State could both end the season with one loss. Ohio State or Nebraska could end the season with one loss, as well as Oregon or Arizona State. All of this is happening and there are only three weeks left.

Let’s get into why exactly more than four teams should be in the playoff.

There are five power conferences.

Power conferences are not made alike. Using the eye test alone, the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12 are much different than the rushing attack-oriented Big 10. Each conference has its own flavor, as well as its own strengths. Who is to say that Florida State wouldn’t get a loss in the Pac 12? Who’s to say that 2-loss Kansas State wouldn’t have one loss in the Big 10? We simply don’t know because the conferences don’t really play each other. If a conference is a “power conference,” its champion should be in the playoff. There should be some sort of requirement, however, to ensure that the conference champion is one of the best teams in the nation. An example could be that the champion has less than three losses or maybe it is ranked 12th or better. If a team wins a conference, it is the best team in the conference and it did enough to prove that. Let the conferences sort it out. With a six-team playoff, there is an extra spot for Notre Dame, a BCS buster, or possibly a second team from a big conference. An eight-team playoff would remove even more doubt.

The Baylor-TCU situation from this season.

This was a conundrum I saw coming from a mile away. What happens when two one-loss teams play each other and the team that won that game loses to a sorry opponent? The team that won between the two will be devalued due to a bad loss and the team that lost that tiebreaker will have a better loss (TO THE OTHER TEAM). Couple this with the team that lost the head-to-head playing better football when the playoff comes around and the problem appears. For instance, this year, Baylor and TCU both have one loss, but Baylor beat TCU 61-58 when they played. Baylor followed that win with a horrible 41-27 loss to unranked West Virginia. Because of this, TCU is ranked higher than Baylor in every national poll despite losing to Baylor. In many mock playoff selections, TCU has been popping up, but not Baylor. If both teams win out, this is going to be a a sticky situation.

The Alabama-LSU situation from 2011 or Alabama-Auburn situation from 2013

In 2011, Alabama missed four field goals during a 9-6 loss versus LSU. In 2013, A last-second Alabama field goal didn’t go far enough and was caught by Auburn’s Chris Davis, who then returned the now technical punt 100 yards for the game winning touchdown. I can’t think of two other games in College Football history than left viewers staring at the screen more unsure if the better team won the game. With a 4-team playoff, neither loser of those games should get another chance. The 2011 National Championship between two SEC teams was the most pathetic joke I’ve ever seen in sports (How can a team that couldn’t win its own half of its conference deserve to fight to be the best team in the nation over other conference champions?) However, in a 8-team playoff, it’s fair-game and that losing team would still be in. The better team lost on that given day? Prove it in the new bigger playoff.

When a conference champion loses a game because of injury but regains form come playoff time.

This is a specific example, but it is one that affects Ohio State and Arizona State, none-the-less. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was knocked out for the season due to injury 11 days before the season started. Freshman back-up J.T. Barrett came in and looked awful. Ohio State looked sloppy against Navy, then lost against Virginia Tech. Barrett was shaken and couldn’t do anything right. Seven games later into the season and Ohio State is unstoppable and Barrett just dismantled Michigan State, which was statistically one of the best defenses in the nation. OSU also has gained at least 49 points and 533 yards in six of its last seven games Obviously this argument only works for a conference champion, but it is obvious that this is not the same team that lost to Virginia Tech. Because the Virginia Tech loss is the worst out of all of the contenders, this four-team playoff system will leave Ohio State and all of us will miss out on a potentially great team competing for the trophy.

Arizona State also fell victim to injury and lost starting quarterback Taylor Kelley for three games. In backup QB Mike Bercovici’s first game, ASU looked awful and turned the ball over four times. UCLA throttled them 62-27 in a game that is hardly representative of the team that just beat No. 10 Notre Dame 55-31.That 35-point loss is going to keep being brought up if ASU wins the Pac 12 and analysts are looking for every reason why certain contenders shouldn’t be in the playoff. Like Ohio State, Arizona State now is not the same team that played in their lone loss.

A four-team playoff is better than the two-team National Championship of last year, but it still isn’t enough. It is better to have all of the real contenders with a couple pretenders, just like the systems of every other major sport. The current system leaves teams that have proved they’re among the nation’s best sitting at home. The sport, the teams, and the fans would all be better off with a playoff that features more than four teams. That’s my opinion.

-Marty F. Nemec

Video Game High School Season 3 Review (No Spoilers)


The best shows have a way of making you not want them to end. The writers do their best to make the plot satisfy you so you will close the book and feel like it has finished its course, but you never do. That is the boat Video Game High School is in. The characters are so lovable and memorable that the show could have gone for another five seasons, but the creators were tasked with finishing all of their stories in this season. This was a big challenge.

Many shows that garner popularity tend to go out on a victory tour, giving fanfare to the viewers and highlighting the most lovable points of its characters. This is not the approach VGHS takes. This season, all of the characters hit some of their darkest times. I won’t spoil anything, but all of the major characters go through life-changing events that make them look at their lives from a different angle. Even Ki, the unwavering bastion of caring and righteousness, finds herself questioning whether good always wins. VGHS swung for the fences with the story.

This is a good thing. These actors and actresses really have come into their own and it’s noticeable as they flex their acting muscles. After seasons of Ted Wong goofily deflecting anything that might hurt his feelings, he finally hits his breaking point and shows a wide range of emotions. As the show digs into his relationship with his father, it creates some very powerful stuff. Ki also creates some moving work as she is put in a position where she can’t fix everything with both her life and friends. It’s one of the few times in the show that “life happens” for her and she is not used to be powerless to it. Brian, who has carried the show at times from an emotional standpoint, continues in that regard. While he steps back as the main character and lets his friends join him in the main narrative, he continues to be the glue that holds the group together and finds himself in tough situations because of it. His friends need him even when they don’t realize it. Brian, or Josh Blaylock rather, deserves awards for his parts in this show as a whole.

The one character I was a touch disappointed with was Jenny Matrix. Don’t get me wrong, her acting was solid and I like her as a character. However, her desire to be a professional gamer is a huge focus during this season. The viewers always knew that Jenny was the player in the school that had the best chance of going pro and it was her lifelong dream. I find this a little strange because Brian actually carried the team on his back quite often and was shown to be on Jenny’s level throughout the show, but the writers made it obvious that he didn’t have a chance of going pro. We always knew that this would inevitably lead to a conflict between Jenny and Brian. Well, that conflict happens in this season and it absolutely tears Jenny apart. She has to come to terms with who she is and what she wants. After this issue seems to be resolved, later in the series, she does something that completely contradicts this in a matter of three seconds. It seemed the character hadn’t really progressed at all and it was disappointing to see, but the writers knew what they were doing. It was destined from the start.

The show also adds some new bad guys, which was refreshing. At the end of Season Two, Ashley Barnstormer and his Napalm Energy Drink High School pop up and nab The Law in a seemingly random move. This story arc is fleshed out and you realize that this energy drink company/high school is gunning for VGHS. Dean Calhoun has made some powerful enemies, one being Ashley and another being a known face I won’t reveal. Napalm Energy Drink High School has an unlimited amount of money, as does its two leaders, and that money allows them to do anything they want, which puts the protagonists in bad situations over and over again. Ashley Barnstormer is absolutely hilarious. He calmly connives and picks people apart. He is very similar to The Law from Season One. The scene where he is a “captive” was particularly funny to me. Napalm also picks up a new face, who you will recognize from Disney’s iCarly, and he brings up one of the most random plot twists in the show to date. It is pretty funny and he immediately becomes mortal enemies with The Law for more reasons that one. He is a man of few words, but gets some very memorable scenes, especially closer to the end. Ki’s old rival, Shane Pizza is also a blast to watch. He never loses and so calmly buys his way out of every challenge and problem. He also has a much bigger role in this season in ways you wouldn’t even imagine. His condescending tone is hilarious and how he has kept it through three entire seasons without letting a smile or chuckle slip is impressive. Snaps, Ki. Snaps.

Every show can use more of this guy: The Law

Every show can use more of this guy: The Law

That brings me to one of my biggest disappointments. The Law is practically not present in the entire season. I know Brian Firenzi, the actor who played The Law, moved to London after Season Two but I still find the aggressive phase-out of The Law disconcerting. While every character has a special place in my heart, The Law has always been my personal favorite character of VGHS. His romance with Shotbot and the narrative of him uncovering his framing by Shane Pizza in Season Two carried the show for that stretch. The Law was eccentric and ridiculous, but was human at the same time. I would go so far to say that he was so humanized in the later part of Season Two, he was turned into a good guy and the viewers were rooting for him. Of course it was a “Law” move to immediately go against Brian and his friends at the first chance he got to join Napalm, but what followed wasn’t. He immediately became a subordinate to Ashley and allowed himself to be pushed around, which doesn’t fit his character at all. Then he practically disappears for the rest of the season to then pop up for an anticlimactic finish in which he doesn’t get revenge or even try to against any of the people who wronged him. He was turned back into the comedic relief character who pops up a handful of times that he was in Season One. It was just so disappointing because in Season Two, he really was fleshed out and became a driving force of the show. Maybe I just love The Law too much and am the only one who cares he was gone. While I’d have a beer with any of the cast mates of this show (except the girl who played Sushi Princess, of course), Brian Firenzi would have to be on the top of that list. Look at his Twitter account. He is a complete hoot.

Season Three featured all of the side characters we have come to love from Wendell to Games Dean to Clutch to Jumpin Jax to Drift King to the Duchess. It was wonderful to see, but I wish the show could have gone longer so that we could see their stories drawn out more. How did the Duchess of Kart and the Drift King get to their respective roles as the lead of each racing team? How did the two racing teams come to hate each other? Many of the side characters could have had their own stories, or at least origin stories, and I felt like there were opportunities left on the table, but this was likely due to resource restraints. They were very clear about this third season being the final season so they obviously couldn’t travel down too many avenues. At the closing of the season, I felt unsatisfied with the endings of the side characters, They just basically disappear into the woodwork after the climax of the entire show. I was hoping for Wendell getting the respect from his peers he worked so hard for; Drift King and Duchess excitedly hugging and showing that there is hope for a racing-based friendship; A real showing of friendship between Games, Jax, Brian, and the other FPS players; or just maybe a small montage showing what happened to everyone. I also was a bit saddened by Drift King sliding back into a villainous role towards Ted as I thought Season Two hashed that out, but he redeems himself. There are many great things done with the side characters, though. I won’t tell you it, but one of the best scenes of this season involves Dean Calhoun. You’ll know it when you see it.

This scene comes right after one of my favorite scenes from the season.

This scene comes right after one of my favorite scenes from the season.

Those complaints are so miniscule towards how amazing this show is, though. The action scenes are better. The acting is better. The story is real and makes the characters suffer to come out stronger in the end while peppering in the trademark VGHS humor. This season even adds in MMO, JRPG, and social gamers into the school’s cast, which was hilarious. Season Three was a great tribute to not only VGHS itself, but gaming as a whole. Plus, it features one of the craziest final scenes of a show I’ve ever seen.

One other thing that I personally enjoyed about this season was the adult theme. Season Three starkly deviates from its more kid-friendly past. There are jokes about sex and cussing. This doesn’t seem like a video game-based Disney show anymore. This is a thought-provoking, roller coaster of emotions that keeps true to its fun and giddy nature while taking you to places you never thought VGHS would. I loved it. Its cheesiness is a big part of my love for VGHS, but this move towards adult content was a great one that paid off. I won’t mention the ending of the show, but even that isn’t the Disney perfect ending we would expect from VGHS, but instead follows in the footsteps of other emotionally driven shows like Friday Night Lights. VGHS brings it.

All in all, Season Three of Video Game High School hits big. While I wish the show could go on for another ten seasons, this is the finale we get and it does more than enough. We learn who Brian, Jenny, Ki, and Ted really are as they, as well as the whole school, are tested by these new evil forces represented by Napalm Energy Drink High School. We go to both the bottom and top with these characters by the end of the season and it is an incredible and rewarding journey. My lone complaint that I will carry over is the lack of The Law, but that doesn’t detract much from what is otherwise a near perfect closing to one of my favorite shows ever. To those of you who didn’t donate to the show and have only seen Episode One:



To watch Episode One of Season Three of VGHS, go here.

-Marty F. Nemec

Crowley Attends GSA Expos at Three North Florida and South Georgia Military Bases


Every year, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation organization at Submarine Base King’s Bay, Naval Station Mayport, and Naval Air Station Jacksonville host GSA expos and for the fourth consecutive year, Crowley was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to all three.

These expos are great, allowing businesses (mostly small) to rent tables and set up banners, goods, information, and giveaways. Employees from each base then come and see what each business does and get free stuff at the same time. Many of the government employees are purchasers and contracting officers of different industries so there is a realistic chance that someone who buys a particular service or product could end up standing in front of a business that sells it.

These expos are great networking events and they allow all of the attendees to show their appreciation for the military (my father works on NAS Jax and even ran into me at the expo!) and small businesses in general. Crowley brought employees from multiple departments including procurement. Those procurement employees walked around and shared information with small businesses to possibly purchase their goods.

While I’m not in procurement, I gladly walked around and shook hands with many people as well. I noted businesses that could possibly subcontract or partner with Crowley on our GSA schedule and I also chatted with companies to just learn about them and their employees at the event. I really think I made some friends these last three days! I love Jacksonville and I am a huge supporter of local Jacksonville businesses, just like Crowley as a whole. It was so much fun meeting members of companies from industries like flooring, safety equipment, office furnishing, environmental solutions, and others.

Another thing I was glad to do was teach the attendees about Crowley. There were so many people who came to our booth and didn’t know we are a Jacksonville-based company. In case you didn’t know, we are and we are very proud of that. There were people who didn’t know we managed and moved containers on giant ships. Most of the attendees didn’t know that we are helping raise the Costa Concordia with Titan Salvage, a company Crowley owns. You will find Crowley at almost every single event that supports contracting and small business because we care. I’m very glad to be part of those efforts.

I am not sure what I am doing here!

I am not sure what I am doing here!

There were over 50 businesses in attendance and the networking was incredible, not only between the government workers and business representatives, but between the businesses as well. There is a lot to learn from business development specialists and sales managers of other companies. I greatly enjoyed talking to employees of CORT, CDW-G, Yeti Coolers, Mohawk Group, and many others. Attending these expos wasn’t just about getting business for Crowley. It was also about learning, sharing, and getting closer to the Jacksonville and government contracting community.

The three bases also provided free breakfast and lunch, complete with potato chips, drinks, and desserts. There was a strong incentive for the government employees to attend and fortunately for the businesses looking to do business with them, those employees came.

As a member of Crowley, I thought the GSA expos were great. I met so many people from both government and industry. Every direction I looked, I could see smiles and handshakes. I really cannot overstate the incredible power of networking events like these. Any event that has government purchasers speaking directly to the people who want to sell to them is an event I support. This is business at work and everyone wins. Thank you to GSA, every participating company, and all three of the military bases for putting on such great events.

How an Amazon email marketing goof-up lost them a sale

I love Amazon. I think they are the best online retailer on the planet and everyone who knows me well knows that I use Amazon for everything. I will sing their praises until the end of the world.

However, that doesn’t mean that Amazon doesn’t mess up.

I woke up today at 5 a.m. and did my normal routine of checking my emails (and Facebook) in the hopes that it would help me wake up. Amazon sends me emails regularly with different deals or products catered to my interests. I don’t open many of them but I prefer getting them because every now and then, I do get an email for something I want.

Well, that actually happened this morning.

I received an email for “Up to 65% Off Select Kingston Memory Cards and USB Drives.” This was incredibly convenient because my last flash drive (which was also a Kingston, by the way) burned down with my house and I hadn’t bought another yet. There are ways for me to get around using a flash drive so I had been holding off, but 65 percent off the normal price would have been the thing to make me finally buy one.

Amazon email marketing mess up martyfnemec Communication Made Simple

The email did a great job of building a sense of urgency as well. The Kingston flash drive sale was the Amazon “Deal of the Day,” which means that I only had today to buy a flash drive using this deal. This marketing technique was very successful as I immediately clicked the link so I could buy a cheaper Kingston flash drive.

Then, something strange happened.

The “Deal of the Day” was not the Kingston flash drives. I was confused and I stopped for a moment and thought that maybe Amazon messed up and the flash drives were not the “Deal of the Day” but instead part of Amazon’s “Lightning Deals” that are featured on the same page. I clicked through all 37 of them and there was nothing involving a flash drive.

I decided to go back to the email and I saw what had happened. The “Deal of the Day” was for April 15 (yesterday) and I received the email at 3:01 a.m. on April 16. Even if I had opened the email the second I received it, I still couldn’t have bought those flash drives because that day had passed. Even if I lived in California, which is three hours behind Florida, the state I call my home, I STILL COULDN’T HAVE BOUGHT ONE OF THOSE FLASH DRIVES.

Amazon successfully assessed my interest and sent me a relevant email. Their email marketing worked and I was 100 percent ready to make a purchase and their mess-up lost them a sale.

Will this affect my love of Amazon and cause me to stop using them first and foremost over every other online retailer?

Nope. It doesn’t change anything for me. I am disappointed, but the value Amazon brings me far outweighs this rare mistake.

But this does bring to light that every company makes mistakes, even the almighty Amazon. The difference is that Amazon can afford it. Can your business?

Make sure that your email marketing is tested and analyzed deeply. Just like in my case, a lead can be ready to become a customer and a simple mistake can make it never happen. Unlike my case with Amazon, your missed opportunity may not come back and give you another chance.

Do you have an opinion on this subject? I’d love to hear it in the comments.

-Marty F. Nemec

Game of Thrones makes TV watchable again

Game of Thrones

I admit that I’m a tough sell with TV shows. I have probably watched two or three episodes of a hundred shows. I just don’t have time for TV shows that can’t keep my attention. I expect shows to make me interested in the futures of the characters. I expect to laugh or cry (feel like it). I expect to feel emotion.

Three of the only shows I have ever finished and made me satisfied with my decision were Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, and Arrested Development. Game of Thrones definitely meets all of my expectations for great shows.

I won’t ruin what happened, but in a roughly four episode span, featuring both the “Red Wedding” and the “Purple Wedding,” this show blew my mind and changed what I thought about TV shows. Game of Thrones will keep you up at night thinking about the show’s events. It will have you talking to coworkers about it.

The one constant complaint I hear is that Game of Thrones is too long. The episodes are sometimes slow and always an hour long. What you don’t realize, though, is that the entire show is a series of build-ups. Each long build-up peaks at a crazy event that leaves you speechless and then the next build-up begins. You have to know these characters. You have to love or hate these characters to truly appreciate what the show has to offer. That is why you have to watch the episodes that aren’t action-packed from start to finish.

I strongly suggest that you get a big bag of popcorn and dedicate a Sunday afternoon to Game of Thrones. After three episodes, you will most likely be as hooked as me (and most of the country). It is an incredible show that will make you feel every emotion known to man. Don’t be that guy (like me) again who starting watching Breaking Bad after it ended and you already knew the ending.

Also, you will come to really appreciate Jack Gleeson’s portrayal of the cowardly, yet sadistic, King Joffrey. What a tough role and Jack nails it every single episode.

-Marty F. Nemec