Nick Pflumm: Remembering a Friend and a Mentor

Posted by Tony Vargas on May 13, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Nick PflummYesterday the world lost a great man when Nick Pflumm passed away. To be honest, I always felt unworthy to call Nick a Friend and Mentor but that’s precisely what he was to me and so many others. In addition to Nick’s significant success in his profession, he had a gift for inspiring those around him to do more and be more and man did he have a spirit and a laugh that could raise your own spirits! There’s a reason we all called him, “St. Nick!” My heart remains so unbelievably heavy for Nick’s family and the seemingly endless circle of influence of humanity, which seemed to grow on a daily basis.

I received an email invitation last week, passed along from Nick’s family, when it became evident that Nick would soon pass, to share some thoughts about him and his affect on my life and, I have to admit, this brought me a tiny measure of contentment to gather these thoughts, reflect upon and publish them for my own catharsis. I humbly offer these now here on my site in reverence and respect for a man I esteem as highly as any as well as to serve as a call to myself personally to live life with greater purpose each and every day.

During the summer of 2003, I had been living in Spain continuously since 1998 and was enjoying Madrid, as well as the Spanish culture immensely as I’d worked hard to integrate completely within that culture but invariably felt homesick every time I returned to KC for the summers to visit with family. It was during this particular summer trip, the day after taking my father to play golf for the first time in his life, when he and I returned home all smiles and excited for this new milestone in his life.

However, those smiles were dashed as soon as we walked through the door as another milestone was about to viciously insert itself into our lives. My mother had just gotten off the phone with my father’s doctor. My dad had recently had a biopsy performed on a lump in his throat which results showed was malignant. Our family came to understand the word “Cancer” that day in a very real and brutal manner. Further tests revealed three separate category four tumors in my father’s throat and throughout his neck. His chances of surviving treatment were very low. And, I was due to return to Spain that next week with my family. Our world changed in a moment.My family and I stayed an extra week but did eventually return to Spain but our hearts remained in Kansas City.

The next six months were unspeakably challenging for everyone; my father of course most of all. But he was a champion and, even when we were all told around Christmas time of 2003, say your goodbyes, he kept a better attitude than most while the rest of us slowly fell apart; ripped by the realization that we were about to lose the rock of our family and, for us and others, our hero. I bought a ticket to come home to KC during the holiday season for the first time in years to spend time with my father and say my own goodbyes. My father had a very, very challenging 2004 but slowly began to improve and miraculously beat cancer but, around the middle of that year, I felt like I needed to return home and be near my family.

That’s where a chance, long distance encounter with Nick Pflumm changed my life and started me down a path that has made me a better man, both personally and professionally. A long-time friend, who was employed with First National Bank of Olathe needed help with a presentation he was putting together for an awards meeting at the bank where Nick was the EVP and Chief Operating Officer. Actually, to be more accurate, this was a PowerPoint Presentation and my friend and two colleagues had been working on creating a “Jeopardy” themed presentation for this meeting for a few weeks or so and just could quite figure out how to pull off a Jeopardy presentation from within PowerPoint. I received a frustrated email from my friend saying, “Tony, can you help me out? We can’t seem to get this to work.” Now, I’m a systems engineer and technology project manager by trade. “Engineering” PowerPoint presentations wasn’t precisely my core competency. And, as stated previously, I had been looking to return to Kansas City since my father’s cancer diagnosis in a similar capacity but between Sprint laying off thousands and Garmin not in a hiring cycle, pickings were slim for me.

As a matter of fact, when my friend emailed me, I was just arriving home, late in the evening, as Madrid is 7 hours ahead of Kansas City, following a 10+ hour work day and was pretty beat but my friend and I were very close so I said to myself, What the hell… I’ll try and do this for him. Well, the PowerPoint Presentation they had sent me was in bad shape. I had to scrap it and start from scratch. I was able to rebuild it and send it back to him about 40 minutes later completed and ready for use at the event, which was scheduled for that very evening, if memory serves me correctly. I later learned that the Jeopardy board was such a big hit that my friend was asked about how he pulled it together by Nick, who was seated at the same table that evening. My friend mentioned to him that it had been put together by a Kansas City native, living and working in Spain who was looking to find a job back home. Nick was intrigued and asked him for a copy of my résumé.

To fast forward, 7 phone interviews later, I had a soft offer to return to KC and work for First National Bank of Olathe in “some sort of IT capacity” to be determined and I jumped at it because there was something inspiring and motivating about Nick and the people who surrounded him that was palpable and I could even sense it over the phone and an ocean away. Selling my home, business, packing up everything I owned to ship back to the U.S. just made sense and Nick was the positive force that set me perfectly at ease with this decision. I never doubted myself. I still find it funny that, after working in Europe all of those years as an Telecommunications Engineer, Project Manager for European Commission funded Technology Projects, building eLearning, eBanking and other eCommerce related websites and end to end systems, it was a Jeopardy themed PowerPoint presentation that got me back home to continue my professional development and enjoy the gift of additional time with my father and the rest of my family. I would eventually become the Vice President of IT for the bank but I’d have taken this same leap of faith regardless in order to work with Nick, to be honest.

Working with and for Nick has been one of the most privileged experiences of my professional career. But working with and for Nick was never purely a professional interaction, as has been my experience. Nick took the time to get to know each member of his team and used the foundation of each relationship and his uncanny intuition to put each team member in a position to succeed by gifting each of us a measure of trust. I’m reminded of the parable of the talents as I felt that, regardless of the quantity of talents in measure of trust that I was gifted, Nick always left me with a desire to work very hard to validate this trust and earn additional opportunity; never for my own gain but rather for the team’s gain. This has always been Nick´s “Secret Sauce” in my experience. If he’d decided to be the manager of a sports team, he’d have won championships without a doubt but community banking was Nick’s playing field and he the consummate, hall of fame professional! Nick worked as a champion and inspired others to give a championship effort every day, like no other leader or colleague I’ve ever been around. Nick was one of a kind; there will never be another like him!

I know I’m not alone in this assessment but Nick is and always has been in a category of three men, I esteem well above any other famous athlete, business or inspirational figure and aim to model my own life after as a professional, husband, father and man. I place Nick in a category with my father and my father-in-law, the other two men I most admire and respect for their examples of leadership, work ethic, vision and sacrifice and aim to emulate each and every day. I consider my life enriched and better for having had the honor and the privilege of working with and for Nick Pflumm. I’ve also had the honor to get to know Donna and other members of Nick´s immediate and extended family and am thankful for having been warmly and respectfully treated by all, in any encounter I’ve had with the Pflumm family.

I feel like the effect Nick had on my life; both as a man and a professional is a part of me and always will be. Whether I needed a friendly set of ears about how to survive raising a child through their teen years or needed his critical review of a key technology strategy proposal, Nick always made you feel like yours was the most important issue on the table. It’s because of Nick that, whenever somebody comes into my office with something they need to vet, I take the time to make those investments of active listening in those relationships because that’s what Nick would do. I apply the same principle to my personal relationships as well. And that’s just it. I’ve come to measure myself as a human being in many respects by emulating the example that Nick gave to so many of us who were fortunate enough to spend time in his circle of influence. I’m better for this. Those who Nick’s life touched are also better for this as well.

God bless Nick and the entire Pflumm family.

Poseso… Tony


In Lerd Heaven with the Samsung Galaxy Note II

Posted by Tony Vargas on March 30, 2013 in Uncategorized |

I admit it. I’m a proud Lerd. What is a Lerd, you ask? Well, it’s not an Iranian village located in the Ardabil Province by the same name. Nor should it be confused with the popular Urban Dictionary definition citing it as a pejorative compound of the words Loser and Nerd.

Nope. To be called a Lerd in my universe is a great thing and should be worn as a badge of honor. Myself, along with several other technology professionals, who all happen to be Latino, began calling ourselves Lerds, which is short for Latino Nerds, over the past year. We routinely have fun one upping each other; always digging up the newest tech toy, tool, coding technique, etc. most often before many of the rest stumble upon them. This is a good way to stay up to date and ahead of the next budding trend before it hits the mainstream.

So, when I was invited by Sprint to test the new Samsung Galaxy Note II, you can imagine how I was quick to announce my good fortune to the rest of the Lerd faithful. Quickly, I was the envy of the circle and, I must admit, I’ve really had a lot of fun with the Note II and find it a remarkable device for multiple reasons.

Samsung Galaxy Note II

Click on the Image to Enlarge

However, it’s one thing to get a Lerd excited about testing the new gadget and it’s something very different to vet this product from the perspective of those who don’t spend the time and effort we do immersing ourselves in technology as the Lerds do. I had my work cut out for me, for sure. Here”s what I learned about the Galaxy Note II  along with a sprinkling of my thoughts and commentary for your consideration:

  •  Size: The Galaxy Note II is the big, REALLY big brother of the Galaxy S family of Android mobile devices manufactured by Samsung. The screen on the Note II measures a whopping 5.5 inches! However, it’s not bulkier than the first Note. It’s actually slimmer and weighs less.
  • Screen Resolution: The screen resolution of 1280 x 720 is actually slightly lower than the first Note. However, when you factor that the device is equipped with a 3100mAH capacity battery to give abundant life to the 1.6ghz quadcore processor, you have enough firepower under the hood to do quite a bit and a beefy enough battery to leave any other comparable iOS or Android device owner running to charge their device long before you even start to sweat!
  • Operating System: I was especially excited to test the Note II’s Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system that comes with some neat Android features like Smart Stay, which keeps the screen on as long as it detects a face in front of it. Also of note, I enjoyed Jelly Bean specific app functionality like Google Now as well as enjoyed the generally speedier UI performance thanks to Project Peanut Butter. This operating system seems to have joined a lot of neat, cutting edge functionality in one package for a pleasant distribution.
  • S Pen Improvements: While I”m not completely sold on the S Pen or “Intelligent Stylus” which, for example, will launch the on-board Note app when you pull the stylus out, seems to continue to improve at offering an appeal to those whose text input skills aren’t as refined as others”. However, the S-Voice improvements are considerable and are so advanced that you man be tempted to say: “SIRI who?” after a while.
Note II: S Pen and Productivity Apps

Click to Enlarge Image

  • The Camera!: The camera is a strong point for the Note II. The rear facing camera is a solid 8 megapixels with auto focus that comes with and LED flash, which can be very bright but generates high quality photos. The front-facing camera comes in at 1.9 megapixels and is capable of HD recording. It”s up there with the best on-board mobile device cameras on the market though. My latest Twitter AVI was snapped on the Note II.

All of this really cool, well thought out functionality considered, a mobile device has to make sense for your life and personal/professional necessity. It’s in these simple terms that I feel the Galaxy Note II could really be useful for a user that falls into one of two main categories:

  1. Tablet Purgatory Folks: Are you a user who prefers the increased real-estate and ease of use of a larger screen Tablet device but also needs the portability and simpler mobility that comes with a standard, smart-phone type of device? If so, the Note II may be the ideal device to consider. It”s not as big as it seems and the simple act of reading and browsing news and emails on this larger screen is really a Goldilocks-esque “just-right” feel if you find yourself caught in that space between point A and point B for your mobile needs.
  2. Searching for the NOT iPhone, Android Device: Many Android users are loyal, just as many iPhone users are loyal. Many would argue that the Android manufacturer that has come closest to emulating what is good about the iOS user experience while offering the openness that Android operating systems are famous for, is Samsung. And the Note II isn’t their first trip to the Rodeo. But it may be their best offering yet. And, this device may be landmark in that is is a true hybrid between tablet and smart-phone, mobile device that”s quite unlike other offerings you may have seen previously.

I had a lot fun giving the Galaxy Note II a test drive. I received the call about this opportunity a couple of weeks after the Super Bowl commercial featuring Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd… along with a cameo by Lebron James at the very end. This was honestly one of my favorite Super Bowl commercials this year and did factor into getting me excited about this review and the inevitable bump it would provide within my “Lerd” circles when I was contacted so I feel it only appropriate to close out with that same spot. Who knows, if all of the rest of my Lerd-y commentary hasn’t convinced you to give the Galaxy Note II a look, heck, maybe this will:

Poseso… Tony


My Education Crossroads. A World of Opportunity

Posted by Tony Vargas on October 19, 2011 in Uncategorized |
This article was included as one of the featured pieces during the 10/20/2011 #LATISM Twitter Party: EDÚCATE – Transforming Higher Education.

My story is a simple one but it’s not an uncommon tale, as there are many Latinos in the U.S. who will relate with this story. I was born in the heart of the U.S. to a multi-cultural family, exposed to different languages and cultures from birth and later chose the path of becoming an immigrant myself.

Mexican Labor was used to build Kansas RailroadsMy family migrated from the northern border town of Guadalupe Bravos in Chihuahua, Mexico in an effort to flee violence in that region a few of generations ago, stayed in the heartland to help build the railroads and connect the East to the West, returned to Mexico during the Great Depression and later returned to Kansas City to stay. As a matter of fact, many forget that the U.S. was connected via rail largely thanks to the back-breaking work of Mexican, Italian, Irish and Asian immigrants.

I was fortunate during my upbringing in that my parents encouraged me to try my hand at whatever I was passionate about. This freedom coupled with an amazingly constant blue collar example of hard work and perseverance offered me a blueprint that has served me very well throughout my life. Many who know me today, think of me as an engineer and a technologist first but I actually attended the University of Missouri at Kansas City on a full-ride music and academic scholarship. My original intent was to study music education. However, an internship at my part-time job with GE Capital locally sent me down a different path, though I celebrate and value my experience in both the arts and sciences. This combination has helped me become an unusually effective and innovative technologist.

madrid_la_puerta_de_alcalaToward the end of my studies, I met my wife of seventeen years and mother of our two children. Let me be honest. I married up. Way up! We were blessed that, four years into our marriage, we followed an opportunity to work and live in Madrid, the city of my wife’s birth. It was there that I refined my native fluency with the Spanish language, completed my graduate studies in Computer Information Systems at, arguably, the most prestigious Spanish language university in the world and blossomed into the innovative, technological problem solver that has allowed me to ”pay the bills.”

All of this wouldn’t likely have been possible, and most certainly never have been as fulfilling and complete had it not been for the privilege of carrying the dreams, hope and constant impulse of my family with me along this journey. To this day, every time I see him, my father ends every visit we share by telling me with awe-inspiring sincerety: “I’m proud of you, son.” This embarrasses me and I feel unworthy of such praise as it is he who has always inspired me, but it always makes me feel amazing! Honest, I”ve never seen him quit or give up… at ANYTHING! I desire to set the same example for my children.

latina_student_educationAnd this is my message to those youth who I now try to encourage to follow suit. You are part of a larger cause and you are not alone. Literally millions support you and remain ready and willing to help you along your own journey to educate yourself and turn this world upside down with the amazing gifts you have to offer. ¡Ánimo… os acompañamos; os apoyamos!

Poseso… Tony


Protecting Your WiFi Network For Your Family

Posted by Tony Vargas on July 10, 2011 in Uncategorized |
Originally published on 6/27/2011 for the Papá HEROES Alliance.

Family Wi-Fi SecurityWhile the advice in this article is directed at parents of children who use the Internet via home Wi-Fi connections, the best practices shared here are applicable to anyone who has setup a wireless home network. There are plenty of Horror Stories of those who stopped by the local electronics store, bought a $60 off the shelf Wireless router, took it home, set it up only to discover their credit card information had been compromised!

Wireless networks transmit data over radio raves, which makes them inherently insecure. I don’t mean to scare you but do hope to open your eyes and encourage you to review the setup of your home wireless network to help make certain that you and your loved ones surf safely, just as the rest of the Papá Heroes do!

Wireless Router SecurityLet’s keep the focus of this discussion at a 50,000 foot level. Some additional, closer to 10,000 foot level resources will be provided at the end of this piece. Here is a basic checklist of items you should be aware of within your home network if you have a Wi-Fi router attached to your home Internet connection:

  • Use Encryption! Simply put, apply WEP/WPA/WPA2 security. From left to right, WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy), WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) & WPA2 security standards will encrypt the data your transmit over your wireless network. NOTE: The WEP standard is really discouraged nowadays. While some encryption is better than none, it is strongly recommended that you utilize WPA encryption at a minimum and WPA2 is even better!
  • Change the default password of your Wireless Router! The bad guys know what the factory pre-set, default passwords are on all brands of Wireless routers. So make certain to change that default password and remove a significant loop-hole from their arsenal!
  • Don”t broadcast your SSID! The SSID is the technical term, which refers to the “Name” of your wireless network. You will see this field labeled in the administrative control panel for your wireless router. There is typically a check-box that will allow you to “Hide” the SSID from wireless network “Sniffers.”

Identity Theft in Progress

  • Keep your wireless router hardware”s firmware up to date! … The manufacturers of wireless network routers often update the security features of the router’s internal operational software. And while we”re on the topic, make sure too to be sure that the computer systems that are connected to your home network, via physical or wireless connections are also regularly updated via automatic and spot manual updates as time permits. This includes:
    • Make sure you have an up to date anti-virus,
    • Make sure that the firewall is turned on. Routers often have built-in hardware firewalls. Make sure it is turned on as this provides an extra layer of protection.
    • Regularly update your Operating System (Windows, MAC etc…) by download the latest security updates when they become available. These updates will fix security holes holes or bugs the Operating System may have, which attackers might use to hack into your system.

This advice really just scratches the surface but this is a good list of simple, best practices that can make your family’s Internet surfing experience safer and richer. During the research I performed for this piece, I found some additional resources you may find useful if you’d care to dig deeper into this subject. I’m including these for your reference as well:

Happy Surfing!

Poseso… Tony


Learn How to Show Social Media Who’s Boss!

Posted by Tony Vargas on May 26, 2011 in Uncategorized |
As published on 5/31/2011 on the Tech Tuesday section of the LATISM.org blog.

Facebook Addicts AnonymousI have a confession to make. There are a couple of weekly Twitter parties that I am absolutely addicted to! Tops on this list is the Thursday night LATISM (Latinos in Social Media) Fiestas that kick-off weekly at 8pm local time for me. I’m not addicted for the drug-like, addictive rush that some describe can come along with robust participation in social medias. I”m addicted because these parties are a time for mutual sharing & giving with a group that cares about and serves a larger cause. It really is an extension of Family time for me.

However, and here”s my confession, I invariably spend the first 30 minutes of each party pulling double duty because my first family, with whom I have the Klout score that matters most, is in the midst of our typical nightly routine at this hour.

Me and my monkey!

Me and my monkey!

I spend that first half hour bathing my son and getting him ready for bed while also following the LATISM party Twitter feed as well on my mobile device. It’s quite the orchestrated event to bathe my son, dry him off, brush teeth, read him a story and spend some time shooting the breeze with him as well, just as I would any other night of the week. So, if you ever find I Tweet more gibberish than normal at the beginning of a LATISM party, there’s an explanation, not an app, for that!

OK, that”s out of the way. I”m glad to have that off my chest. How about you? Does your social media participation ever cause you to feel like your life may be a perpetual exercise resembling my hectic, weekly 30 minute, multi-tasking flurries? Do you feel like you have time to adequately juggle needs & desires to dive deeper into social media participation & personal brand building while balancing this with the life you had before Mark Zuckerberg began trying to crack his way into elite Harvard social clubs? Either personally or professionally, you may find yourself becoming overwhelmed and bombarded keeping up with social media inputs. The net result of all of this activity can be a positive and negative combination of most of the following:

  • Multiple connection and friend requests
  • Strengthened relationships with a wider reach of people than ever before
  • More concept proposals and pitches that you may or may not need
  • More incoming emails, newsletters and junk mail to process
  • Instant messaging alerts to steal your attention from life
  • Dreaded auto DMs from Twitter you need to skillfully ignore
  • Increasing level of accountability
  • Increasing influx of SPAM
  • Elevated exposure to the products and services
  • An escalated amount of INPUT!

Social Media OverloadHow do you manage it all? How do you receive and process all of the inputs listed above and manage to come out feeling like an orchestra conductor who skillfully juggles conducting your own personal life-flow & social media symphony with style and grace? How do you avoid getting to a point where, both awake and asleep, you are neuronally noodling over something you have reviewed or need to review? This is not an easy balancing act but, at the same time, the eternal optimist inside of me would remind you of what a blessing it is to simply have access to information & opportunities to acquire knowledge that can help connect you with others and inform yourself like never before. You just need to make a plan and, most important of all, STICK TO IT!

The basic framework of this plan doesn”t have to be difficult. In my case, I use three basic building blocks to making sure I constantly prioritize the big rocks in my life so that Social Media can never steal more mental band-width than I am willing to give it. Remember, you are the boss of your technology and a you have the power to pull the plug if it won”t behave itself. Here are my 3 basic building blocks:

  1. Establish limits to the amount of time & number of social media inputs you expose yourself to depending on where you are and what you are doing.
  2. Set a weekly, recurring time to process work & life inputs, both technological and otherwise.
    • I have long subscribed to David Allen”s GTD Workflow Processing Methodology, which teaches you to schedule a ”Weekly Review” meeting where you organize the inputs, information, tasks, etc. you accumulate during a week in order to always get: Clear, Current & Creative!
  3. Schedule your work & social time. I wrote an article on this topic last year about how my family has used Google Calendar to eliminate the inevitable, “I thought you wrote that on the calendar.” miscommunication. The same goes for your social media life. Schedule time both in and away from social medias on a regular basis.

The goal of this type of system is simple. Get ”STUFF” off your mind and into some sort of system where you can process it when your mind has the mental band-width to get creative and innovative with it. We all have different ”STUFF” that”s important to us in our analogue and digital worlds so consider how organizing and taking greater control of your social media life could benefit you.  When your mind is free of the clutter that limits your creative band-width, you feel liberated and flourish like never before! And I promise you one thing: Investing in this journey, if you’ve never done it efficiently, will cause your personal, professional, social & social media times to be so much more fulfilling & rewarding and, if you do cheat like me for 30 minutes once a week during LATISM Twitter parties, nobody is likely to hold it against you!

Poseso… Tony


Battle of the Mobile Song ID Apps (Shazam vs. SoundHound)

Posted by Tony Vargas on April 19, 2011 in Uncategorized |
As published on 4/26/2011 on the Tech Tuesday section of the LATISM.org blog.

Mobile Song ID Apps: Shazam vs. SoundHoundOK, now be honest. You’ve invested in a well equipped, technologically relevant mobile phone or tablet device. You may even use your mobile phone to make an actual phone call or two but, if you”re at all like me, you may have discovered the most significant use of this investment may have less to do most days with mobile productivity and more to do with winning trivial disagreements with colleagues & family by accessing useless, Internet trivia and facts on demand. Admit it! And how about music? Does music ever factor into this equation? Names of songs, artists, genre specific factoids, etc… If you’re now nodding your head in the affirmative, have I got an entertaining project for you?!

Pandora and Grooveshark are fun juke-box style apps but I’ve found that a good Mobile Song ID App can really take your music listening experience to the next level. Are you ever sitting in your favorite local shop or café when a song comes on that intrigues you that you can’t ID? If so, you need to spend some time with one of the two main mobile song ID apps. The most senior of these would be Shazam. You simply activate the app on your internet connected mobile device, either hold it anywhere near a stereo speaker or even sing or hum a song and it will identify the name of that song, the artist as well as additional information that will enhance and make your music listening experience much more dynamic!

However, Shazam now has a significant competitor that you may not have heard of called SoundHound and, during my testing, it actually surpassed Shazam in song recognition & range of functionality. Both apps are readily available in both Android, iOS version for Apple devices, among others. Both apps come in two flavors: free and paid. Though the full-featured version of SoundHound lists for sale for $4.99, it”s significant to note that I have seen that same version available for free via the Amazon.com Android App Store on a couple of occasions as their featured Free app of the day. So be on the lookout if you”re a Droid user!

Screenshots of the SoundHound Interface

Click on the Image to Enlarge

While basic functionality between Shazam & SoundHound is comparable, I find SoundHound’s native functionality to be a bit more robust and song recognition accuracy superior. You can pull up a song’s lyrics, share what you’re listening to with others via Facebook or Twitter, pull up other music by that artist and buy a copy of the song, find similar artists and songs all while the song continues to play in the background. You can also launch a Pandora station based on the song or watch the music video (or other performances of the song) via YouTube without having to leave the app. So, beside identifying songs with greater accuracy, SoundHound also has a bit more umph under the hood, in my opinion. Here’s a bulleted look at some of what you can do with the app once SoundHound recognizes a song:

  • Look up song lyrics
  • Search YouTube for videos of the song
  • Buy a copy of the track from Amazon
  • Follow the artist on Twitter
  • Ask SoundHound to recommend similar songs or even artists
  • Retrieve album appearances a song has made

SoundHound Mobile Song ID AppAny and all of you involved with the Thursday night LATISM Tweet Parties, which begin at 9pm Eastern, know that we always round out our evenings with a music filled after party. (If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, see THIS LINK HERE to learn how to participate.) Imagine how much fun you will have at the next party using a Mobile Song ID App to participate in and enhance your experience as you join us in the weekly Pachanga! ¡Ahí te esperamos! (We”ll be waiting for you!)

Poseso… Tony


Google Recipes Cooks Up Something Tasty

Posted by Tony Vargas on February 25, 2011 in Uncategorized |
As published on 3/29/2011 on the Tech Tuesday section of the LATISM.org blog.

Google Recipe ViewWhether you”re hungry for Paella Valenciana, Cocido Madrileño  or Cochinillo Asado, there’s a good chance that Google Recipe View, which just launched this week, has what you”re looking for! It’s been nothing short of cathartic for me to peruse their database for different recipes from my youth, adulthood, time living abroad and travel experiences and find that pretty much every recipe I could dream up is accounted for! Wow! Isn’t there just something about food that unites us?!

And there’s no need to stop there either. If you want to learn how to do something more exotic like make your own wine, cheese or even granola, they’ll promptly serve you detailed instructions, step by step video, user ratings… you name it! For years, I have kept analog versions of important personal recipes in a sort of hipster presentation complete with preparation dates, notes and tips on how certain variations of my personal favorite recipes have turned out. I recall scouring the internet for a site that had just what I needed to get a taste of something special that I couldn”t readily find where I was living or visiting at the time. However, this one stop shop of a knowledge base presents some exciting possibilities for the gastronomically inclined & euphoric!

Spanish Tapas. Enjoy Good Food with Good Friends!To put this Internet based tool to the test, simply visit Google Recipe View site and type in the name or a recipe, ingredient(s) or even holiday you would like to search for related recipes on. You will be presented instantly with recipe ideas to consider. In typical Google Fashion, you can also drill down further in the left-hand column to filter your recipe results by such additional factors of interest like: ingredients, preparation time, calories. You can expect Google to develop this idea further and it would seem there may be real value in this concept.

If I were to gripe about anything in Google Recipe View, it would be that they seem to lean heavily on the recipe databases of some larger recipe sites. This diminishes somewhat from what this offering may ultimately become, at least in the short term. However, it will be interesting to see how it develops over time. As web developers practice better SEO friendly context formatting and Google hones their cataloging methods for recipes, this may improve over time. Enough said on that for now.

By now you should be hungry. I’ll let you get back to planning your next meal! Feel free to trace your own culinary roots on Google Recipe View and see if you find every meal you’ve enjoyed with family & friends during the special occasions that adorn your life’s journey. Happy eating… Bon Appetit… Que aproveche… Enjoy!

Poseso… Tony


My Twitterverse: Taming the Twitter Universe!

Posted by Tony Vargas on January 5, 2011 in Uncategorized |

Welcome to the Twitterverse!Happy new year to all! Okay, be honest. How many resolutions have you broken so far? The average person breaks 3 to 5 resolutions in the first week following the new year! You don’t believe me? Well, you shouldn’t. I just made that up!

But here”s something you should believe, especially if you are interested in improving upon any of the following in 2011:

  1. Better branding your business,
  2. Building equity in your personal brand and/or
  3. Simply keeping up to date and relevant with new & emerging technologies…

You should consider making a resolution in 2011 to join me in the Twitter Universe! I really like this label, even more so following an article I read this week which contained an amazing, albeit somewhat overwhelming INFOGRAPHIC designed by Brian Solis & Jess3 that really  made an impression on me.

I set out to draw from this larger universe and map out my own personal ”Galaxy,” which I’d like to share with you along with a challenge that you consider forming your own Twitter experience here in 2011 that you can customize and tailor to your personal needs. (In case you aren’t yet following me on Twitter, please GO HERE and atone for that sin!) Simply put, we all sell ourselves and market something,  at a minimum. Marketing & Real-time information in the Twitter age offers exciting possibilities that you may not have previously considered.  For example, here is my personal Twitter Galaxy (aka-my Twitterverse):

Tony''s Twitterverse - My Personal, evolving galaxy within the Twitter Universe (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Click on the Image to Enlarge

Compare this to the aforementioned INFOGRAPHIC and you can see that, while my Twitterverse is not exactly tiny by comparison, it is quite a bit more manageable! Let me introduce you to each of the 7 Verticals that are represented in the bright green boxes above in an effort to help you better understand how Twitter is much, much more than a single web page and more of an integrated real-time, bi-directional information & marketing consumption suite!

Twitter Dashboards: For me, the center of my Twitterverse is my Dashboard! It is the spaceship that will direct you through the galaxy, so to speak. Here you can customize your Twitter experience with columns, groups, saved searches, see what people are saying about you and receive automatic updates helping you to effortlessly stay updated with the people and topics you care about. I think that HootSuite & TweetDeck are both really good and really close in quality! They are my preferred Dashboards.

Twitter Search Tools: Real-time Twitter Search Tools are necessary because Twitter”s native search tools are inadequate. Besides, once you start following a key Twitter group and/or hashtag, you will see that a good search tool enhances this experience. Some may argue that Google Instant makes these less relevant but I don”t know that I agree with that just yet. The two search tools I’ve found most compelling are: Twazzup.com & Collecta.com.

Geolocation Services: Facebook asks you “What’s on your mind?” Twitter going to come at you with the more chic “What’s happening?” But hey, this is the dawn of a new age and the real, burning question for the next wave of social networking is “Where are you?” This is where Geolocation enters the game! Geolocation leverages GPS-enabled smartphones such as the iPhone, Droid, BlackBerry, etc. giving you the power to let your friends know where you are, or to find places recommended by people you know, or to check in remotely at clubs, bars, restaurants or even at home! I won’t get into the Obvious Privacy Concerns associated with Geolocation, which you should definitely think through. But I will tell you that the two main players to consider are: FourSquare.com & Gowalla.com.

Rich Media: Since Twitter doesn’t store photos directly, there a LOT of third party Twitter applications & tools that can. Whether you are sharing images with family and friends or capturing news in real-time, such as was done last year during the Haiti relief efforts, I’m sure you can imagine many ways that leveraging a Rich Media platform can enhance your Twitter universe by adding a visual element to the story you tell. There are two sites I use for this purpose more than the others. These are: TwitPic.com & Yfrog.com.

Live Streaming: If you’re going to spend the money on a nice smart phone or tablet device, complete with front and back facing cameras, you will invariably want to unlock the potency of Live Streaming. Whether you are covering a news story, Bobbie Sue’s soccer game or simply looking to chat real-time with somebody on the other side of town or even the world, live streaming is an area that is expected to grow exponentially in the near future! To date, I’ve had good experiences with two platforms. These are: Qik.com (I like this one a bit better!) & uStream.tv.

Influence & Resonance: You may have wondered what I was referring to at the beginning of this article when I referenced building equity in your personal brand. Well, making use of the planets within your Twitter galaxy to communicate and get your message across can extend your outreach to those who participate in the Twitter universe. This can be important for you if your aim of leveraging Twitter may be to increase visibility of your business and/or personal brand. The two players I’ve come to rely on in this space include: Klout.com & PeerIndex.net.

Event Management: While this topic is new to me, Event Management has been around for a few years now. From global events like 2012 Olympic Games in London or niche events like the local elections in New York City, to marquee events like the NFL Draft, traditional bloggers and mainstream media have been using Event Management for some time now but I feel that smart phones may enable this art for the rest of us as well now. Time will tell. I’ve been most impressed with CoverItLive.com to date.

Twitter - Follow me! So, are you ready for the challenge I mentioned at the top of this article? Here it is! Create your own Twitter Universe. That’s it! I have simply set out to take the INFOGRAPHIC I shared with you at the top and slice it into a manageable piece that most anyone can derive benefit from. It may not seem like a small piece but it really is! I’d suggest reviewing the 7 verticals I’ve shared with you here and cross-referencing them with the other 12 verticals on the INFOGRAPHIC I didn’t even get into here and determine how you prefer to structure your personal Twitterverse. The way you consume information may change for the better and the worlds you unlock may carry with them a limitless supply of marketing possibilities you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Did I mention that all of this is available free of charge too?! If you need a hand with any of this, you know where to find me. Happy Tweeting!!

Poseso… Tony


Will Google Instant Kill SEO?

Posted by Tony Vargas on November 30, 2010 in Uncategorized |

It’s been over two months since Google Instant launched. It really is neat to see how Google now predicts what you may be searching for as you type and delivers your search results dynamically, shifting and morphing your search results with each letter you type in the Google search box. To be honest this new paradigm of search does provoke all new Internet browsing manifestations of ADHD-like behavior for Internauts everywhere!

If you keep your own website, you may have wondered, “How may this helter skelter method of presenting search results affect how my web page ranks?” If you haven’t thought about this, you should! Simply put, if you are a web developer or use one, you may have to ponder the concept of Search Engine Optimization (aka- SEO) differently than you have previously.

The knee jerk of many technology pundits has been to pronounce SEO as DOA! To be honest with you, that’s where I was at too when Google Instant was first launched. I’ve taken a wait and see approach, read up on the subject a lot and have formed some recommendations that you may want to consider for your website(s) as well. I do not see Google Instant as the death of SEO but it does potentially change the rules of the game a bit. Here are some things for you to keep in mind:

  • If you perform a once or twice a year review of your website’s keywords, I’d suggest performing this search every 2 to 3 months, at least for the next year or so. Try and focus your research on which industries may be affected most by the change. Many expect some to be affected more than others depending on the search types & technological savvy of the demographic groups they depend upon to generate site traffic.
  • Search volume for Long Tail Phrase Searches (Search queries with long strings of words) will likely diminish thanks to Google Instant. If you depend upon paid search advertising (i.e. Google Adwords), you will likely want to adjust your campaigns and move away from Long Tail Search strings. Again though, this is something you will want to monitor because time will tell if the Long Tail Keyword Dinosaur becomes extinct going forward!
  • Based on the previous two points, it would appear that the use more generic, shorter search keywords will likely increase in importance. Of course, this presents a significant challenge for small business owners who are more likely to have tight budget constraints for their paid search advertising efforts. If competition increases for these generic terms, the price for bidding on those terms will likely increase as well.
  • Before you let the previous point depress you too much, keep in mind that paid search quality trumps quantity. For one thing, click through rates (percentage of those presented with your ad that click on the link and visit your site) will increase if the funnel of potential, more popular search terms for a given industry is narrowed. A competent SEO expert knows how to maximize your value per click and drive good quality leads to your site.

More info on SEO from WikipediaI don’t believe that good, ethical web developers and SEO experts should view Google Instant as a bad thing or a threat. SEO needs to evolve. The reason for this is that many Black-Hat developers have taken advantage of loopholes in SEO deployment for malicious means. I see Google Instant as an effort toward thwarting such practices. I don”t feel that Google Instant will make SEO irrelevant. An interview I listened to while researching this topic compared SEO to a résumé in that it also helps you put your best foot forward in the sense that SEO similarly helps chronicle and catalog your website. It makes sure your site it well represented, makes the right impression and it”s really useful for visitors. Those are all of the great things you can do and Google Instant will not change this anytime in the near future.

Poseso… Tony


Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs!

Posted by Tony Vargas on August 27, 2010 in Uncategorized |

I wanted to let you know about a new, fun and most certainly cathartic activity I recently started, pretty much by accident, out in the social media universe. On a recent family road trip to and from San Antonio, TX, I must have been in a more creative state as humorous signs and other physical manifestations that nature seemed to be poking healthy fun at the human race seemed to, all at once, pop up all around me. It all started just south of Fort Worth, Texas. The family and I needed to take one of those famous road trip pit stops. I stopped by the gentlemen’s room to powder my nose and there it was! Like that scene in Monty Python and The Holy Grail when God tells King Arthur to go on a quest, I saw my epiphany. It looked a little something like this:


I found this image brilliant and it really made me smile. Life can be tricky some days more than others. Smiles are good and have a curative effect. So I started thinking, how many other signs might one find during a typical day if we allow ourselves to occasionally take a break and more effectively work to live as opposed to living to work? I spent a few days following this epiphanous event and came up with an idea, which has turned into a bit of a sociological experiment. I ended up having fun gathering examples of instances where I felt there was clear evidence that nature has its own way of poking fun at how silly humanity can be and, well, laughing at us a bit! It”s a good thing that a higher force has a sense of humor toward the human race! So I created a place to collect these musings on Facebook where I display these images and video clips along with affectionate notes to reinforce why I found an image particularly entertaining.

Signs of the ApocalypseI wanted to select a name for this group that would require some thought while capturing the spirit and even absurdity of these instances and ¡Voilà! the double entendre: Signs of the Apocalypse was born and a Facebook Fan Page was established to collect these morsels of smile provoking irony. When we mention signs, we are referring of course to literal printed signs as well as other symbolic instances of how we would all do well to laugh at ourselves with greater frequency.

I have been very pleasantly surprised at how rapidly this group has grown. I have created multiple Social Media forums, mainly for business and civic ventures, but nothing has experienced the immediate boom that this effort has. Our first week, we received visits well north of 1,000 with interactions from multiple countries and contributions in more than one language. I think we may be on to something here! Not to worry, I have no plan to quit my day job but I hope you will take a moment to visit Signs of the Apocalypse. I would love it if you would Like Button the page and I eagerly invite you to consider sharing it with your friends.

The page intended for fun, smiles and perhaps some laughter. I ask the community to refrain from posting content that may offend or be deemed insensitive or tasteless. However, compliance verbiage aside, Signs of the Apocalypse is guaranteed to make you smile or your Like Button back! And on that note:

Nothing is Written in Stone

Made by the same euphemism sculptor who brought you that, uh… creative, rockin’ if not somewhat disturbing interpretation of, “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings!”

Poseso… Tony

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