Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2011 Hyundai Sonata

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata is something of a departure for the Asian manufacturer. The word most often used to describe the previous models is “ordinary.” The new model has new styling, showing a sleeker, more sporty design philosophy.

Hyundai call it “fluidic sculpture,” we call it curvy, and we like it. It’s reminiscent of the newer Infiniti’s, with the curvature at the front and back and strakes running the length of the car. It certainly makes last year’s Sonata look a little ordinary.

Add to that, the liberal use of chrome, alloy wheels,, dual exhausts and good looking headlights and you have what is an attractive car. No longer will your eyes pass it over in the street, now it draws you in and makes you follow those curves from end to end.

Inside

Internally the trend continues. The fluidic sculpture continues with flowing shapes on the dashboard, decent materials and good quality finish. The driving position is good, with very few blind spots. The instruments are clear, and both analog and digital. All the controls are within easy reach and large enough to reach while not looking.

The center console has the climate controls and the information screen. Touchscreen navigation is an option, and well worth the extra cash, although it does lack a 3D view. All the buttons and switches feel solid under your hands, with smooth but definite movement from one position to the other. It also has Bluetooth, USB, and an optional iPod connector.

The audio is pretty good, with a standard AM/FM radio with a single CD with MP3 capability. There is an optional 7-speaker system available that is worth the money if you can afford it. The Limited version of the Sonata includes a six-disc CD changer, 8-speaker system made by Infiniti.

There is plenty of room in the front, with leg and headroom aplenty. The rear is a bit narrow for three adults, and the sculpted roof shows the compromise between design and practicality. Headroom is limited in the back for adults, but would be fine for the children. As far as new cars go, this shows Hyundai are learning what the US market wants.

The Flavors

There are three versions of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata. The GLS at $19,915, with a six-speed manual gearbox, six airbags, ABS, electronic stability control, keyless entry, power windows and locks, heated and powered mirrors, and Bluetooth connectivity.

The SE is $23,315. Increased to $26,000 with the optional Navigation and Sunroof package. The Limited model is $26,015 which comes with dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming mirrors and vents for rear-seat passengers. A $2,100 Navigation package adds touch-screen navigation, a rearview camera, and an Infinity audio system, bringing the fully loaded Sonata to just over $28,000.

Engine-wise, it’s the same motor across the range for now. That’s a direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 198 bhp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The twin-exhaust on the SE adds a further 2 bhp and 2 lb-ft of torque. There is adirect-injection, 2.0-liter turbo-four on the cards for later, for those who want a bit more bang for their buck. There is also a Sonata Hybrid, which is a gas-electric, but that needs a review all on its own.

Driving

Behind the wheel is actually a nice place to be. We pulled up alongside a Honda Accord and were surprised at how good we felt. The motor pulls well and will get you to 60 in 7.9 seconds.Fuel economy for all Sonatas is EPA rated at 22 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway with the automatic gearbox. Manuals, are close at 24mpg city and 35 mpg highway.

Driving is smooth, although the noise builds up alongside the revs. Swooping along the highway is an effortless exercise and one we quite enjoyed. The SE test model had “sports” suspension, which held the curves well. Although no track day car, the 2011 Sonata is a decent car at a decent price. For families who want a new car to get them around, this is ideal. There are deals on new 2011 Sonatas but you’ll have to look hard for them. As they are already keenly priced, dealers are loathe to offer discounts. They are there though if you look for them.

Vehicle Type: 4-door sedan

Base Price: $19,915

Engine Type: direct-injection four-cylinder

Displacement: 2.4-liter

Power (SAE net): 198 bhp @ 6300 rpm

Torque (SAE net): 184 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm

Transmission: six-speed

Fuel Economy (MFR’S EST): 22/35 mpg (city/hwy)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Divorce and Children

Divorce Rates & Collier County Parenting

Children are sponges for information, experience and knowledge. They soak it all up. We as humans remember everything that happens in our lives. Every single thing. It’s recall we have problems with, which is why hypnosis works. Everything is recorded and influences us, either consciously or otherwise.

There are many hardships that face a Naples family, events like divorce are one of them. This is one of the most traumatic times a parent can experience, let alone a child, and every effort must be taken to insulate them as much as possible from the problems it causes.

First and foremost, it’s important to include the child in the discussions if they are old enough to understand. They’ll find out anyway, so take the initiative and sit them down and talk to them, both of you. Explain what’s going on, what’s going to change, and what isn’t. Make great pains to tell them it isn’t anything to do with them, but you and your partner. Make sure the child knows they aren’t at fault, and that you love them and always will.

Divorce is messy and involves conflict, sometimes lots of it. Protect the child from as much as possible. Fight when they aren’t around. Do it while they are at school or at a friend’s. It isn’t possible to “schedule” an argument, but try to refrain from discussing emotive issues when the children are around. That’s when you’re more likely to fight, so avoid it if you can.

Also avoid putting your partner down in front of the child. Don’t forget, they are a product of both of you, so won’t take kindly to hearing bad things about them. It causes division within the family and within the child. A child feels they have to take sides, and will side with the parent they feel the closest and safest with. It also fuels dislike, which can turn into hate or anger. Avoid that at all costs, because it can lead to significant problems later.

When your child is around, talk about the situation as much as you, and they are comfortable with. Get them as familiar and as prepared for it as possible, while not making it all they hear. Don’t talk negatively about it at all, or about your partner. If you can’t be nice about them, don’t talk about them. Better to hear nothing, than hear bad things.

Lastly, and most importantly, don’t use the child as a pawn in the proceedings. Protect them, it’s your job. Think of it from their point of view. Everything they have ever known is changing, help them through it, don’t use their pain for your own gain.

Even in a place as idyllic as Naples, family events like divorce can turn a place, a house, town or city into a negative experience. Consider this when you’re dividing a household and make sure to minimize the effects as much as possible. Don’t use all your energy up on fighting your ex, save some to protect the children.

Transforming Financial CRM From Retention Mode to Growth Mode

http://www.smarsh.com/prinsite/nr/default2.asp?siteid=12&webpageid=254
http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Transforming-Financial-CRM-From-Retention-Mode-to-Growth-Mode-69138.html
http://www.salesforce.com/industries/financial-services/

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As financial institutions gear up for 2010, many companies are still on the long road to recovery after facing some of the most difficult challenges in years. Mortgage defaults and foreclosures, new regulations on credit card and bank fees, and the constant barrage of related news stories sent customer call volumes through the roof in 2009, as concerned consumers inquired about rates, terms, the threat of foreclosure and fees.

Service representatives were asked to do more than ever, in less time, all while financial institutions sought to hold on to their best customers, control costs and position themselves for future -- dare we say it -- growth. However, loyalty, customer retention and ultimately growth require well-executed customer relationship management Click to  learn how AT&T Application Management can help you focus on the  growth and profitability of your business. (CRM) solutions. Customer touchpoints must be approached as opportunities to strategically improve profitability, not just control costs. As a result, providers need to take a hard look at how they currently manage their customer relationships and how they will advance these relationships and gain new ones in 2010.

Turn Obstacles Into CRM Opportunities in 2010

Many in the financial sector are glad to leave 2009 behind as the industry is starting to come out of the economic downturn that gripped the entire nation. Regardless of where institutions fall along the recovery continuum, obstacles can be transformed into opportunities by establishing customer management guidelines that are in line with the level of customer activity. The transformation starts by asking some tough questions. What are the specific goals that will advance the recovery of our company and customers? How can we continue to ensure customer loyalty? Are our goals clearly understood by every representative in the organization?

Experts predict that as the economy improves, customers will initiate more financial transactions in response to new programs and government incentives. Financial companies and their representatives must be ready to scale up quickly, yet cost-effectively, in order to take advantage of this increased customer activity.

Preparation means examining and learning from the past. Savvy managers can turn potential obstacles into opportunities to offer better customer solutions by incorporating customer feedback into program improvements. Leadership should consider: Have we asked our customers lately what they want us, as their financial institution, to do? Were our customer-facing processes as effective as they could have been during the mortgage default and foreclosure crisis? What do we need to do to improve our services? Do our representatives understand exactly what customers expect of us as recovery begins?

2010 CRM Trends

A new year is good time to look at current CRM practices to see which ones are working and which practices may need to be fine-tuned. There are some important CRM trends in the financial sector that you may want to incorporate into your planning.

  1. Care versus revenue generation: Many financial institutions are still stuck in the mindset that care and retention should be the main focus of their CRM program. However, today's CRM leaders know that care and retention efforts should also drive revenue generation opportunities. This is no small task, as companies find it increasingly difficult to hang on to customers, but loyalty itself should be an important revenue driver. Satisfied -- and loyal -- customers have a much better appetite for considering additional products or services which, in turn, add more value to the overall customer relationship. Most importantly, this turns what used to be a cost transaction into a revenue source.
  2. Growing call volumes: We all know that fallout from the mortgage crisis and financial impacts from the economic downturn in general drove record numbers of customers in need of account support to contact their financial services firm. Media coverage of foreclosures, credit card legislation and other timely events further contributed to a marked increase in customer contact -- especially call volume -- over the past year. This influx stretched many firms' CRM capabilities to the limits, and as market conditions improve, and government pressure to increase processing of loan modifications continues, financial institutions can expect call volumes to remain high well into 2010. Evaluating options like self-service Web and IVR (interactive voice response) solutions can help defer some of the volume. Evaluating analytics on root causes for current volume can also help identify opportunities to manage future volume.
  3. Efficiency and flexibility of the workforce: Today's customer profiles demand that financial service providers enhance training to increase service representatives' efficiency and flexibility. Our first two trends -- call volume growth and the opportunity to expand revenue generation -- further support the need for representatives to do more with each call. This year, leading organizations are training representatives to not only address their customers' fundamental questions, but also to cross sell products and services that add value.

As part of these new roles, financial firms and their managers will do much more probing to understand the client's needs and should address each of these key questions:

  • Do our representatives have access to the information needed to address our customers' issues quickly and effectively?
  • Did we really look for a creative solution and resolve our customers' initial problem?
  • Will our solution really help the customer?
  • Were we able to add value by turning a service opportunity into a revenue generation opportunity?
  • Are we truly able to effectively represent a broader share of the public with more offerings?

Manage CRM Expenses in 2010

As service representatives are able to effectively represent a wider range of products and services, CRM strategists also see that the cost to serve and retain customers can change, creating a greater focus on efficiency and effectiveness metrics. There are specific ways financial companies can maintain good CRM, still manage expenses and turn a cost transaction into a revenue source. Three key areas of consideration are:

  • Are we meeting the customer's expectations while still delivering on contractual obligations?
  • Is the value our organization brings to customers offsetting the service costs?
  • Are we preventing additional unnecessary phone calls?

Outsourced and offshore CRM support by a dependable team trained on high-quality transactions is also an important consideration. Highly trained and certified associates can help companies scale quickly as new market demands dictate, while ensuring accuracy and integrity on every call.

As 2010 begins, the CRM expectations in the financial sector will be more demanding than ever before. There will be more customer inquiries and people to help. CRM will be a key differentiator for successful providers as objectives expand from retention to growth through revenue generation.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tiger Woods in the news

And the Buzziest Billion-Dollar Brand of the Week Is...

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart: A Week of Tiger Woods


"Tiger Woods" (Tweets Per Day vs. Google News Results vs. Google Blog Results)
Key:
"tiger woods" (source: Matching Twitter Posts per Day)
"tiger woods" (source: News Stories from Google)
"tiger woods" (source: Number of Blog Posts from Google)

The buzziest billion-dollar brand of the week is also the most-embattled brand of the week. You saw this coming: It's Tiger Woods.

Usually the Trendrr Chart of the Week focuses on one metric, but this week we're offering a three-course buzz buffet. A few notes and observations:

Tiger Woods
AP
Tiger Woods
  • On Friday of last week, in the aftermath of his car accident, Tiger Woods was name-checked in 56,868 tweets. This week, thanks to the slowly unfolding post-accident scandal having to do with the state of his, um, married life, he came pretty close to matching that peak with 52,093 tweets yesterday.
  • As of yesterday, Google News was indexing more than 46,000 active news stories (considered active if it's been 30 days or less since their publication date) about Tiger Woods. Of course, he's pretty much always a constant in Google News thanks to his years of omnipresence in the sports pages, but his recent surge in, uh, newsworthiness due to his reported sexual prowess seems to be trumping anything he's ever done with his athletic skills.
  • The stats that Google Blog Search is reporting on "Tiger Woods" as a blog meme are pretty amazing: As of yesterday, Google was indexing 14,560,543 blog posts around the world that name-check him. Of course, that number is cumulative -- it includes years and years of sporty blogging about his exploits as a global athletic superstar (so just one sports blog might have hundreds or even thousands of individual blog posts mentioning him). But still, the recent jump is rather astonishing.
  • The smartest thing I've read about the rise and fall of Brand Tiger? Charles P. Pierce's "Is This the End of Tiger Woods?," posted yesterday on Esquire's blog. A brief excerpt: "Back in 1997, one of the worst-kept secrets on the PGA Tour was that Tiger was something of a hound. Everybody knew. Everybody had a story. Occasionally somebody saw it, but nobody wanted to talk about it, except in bar-room whispers late at night. Tiger's People at the International Management Group visibly got the vapors if you even implied anything about it. However, from that moment on, the marketing cocoon around him became almost impenetrable. The Tiger Woods that was constructed for corporate consumption was spotless and smooth, an edgeless brand easily peddled to sheikhs and shakers. The perfect marriage with the perfect kids slipped so easily into the narrative it seemed he'd been born married." The whole thing is definitely worth reading.

~ ~ ~

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week is produced in collaboration with Wiredset, the New York digital agency behind Trendrr, a social- and digital-media tracking service. More background here. A basic Trendrr account is free; Trendrr Pro, which offers more robust tracking and reporting tools, comes in various paid flavors (get the details here).

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

25 Excellent Social Media Sites for Entrepreneurs

25 Excellent Social Media Sites for Entrepreneurs

by Linda and Daniel Saltman on August 10, 2009

Are you an entrepreneur who has been seduced by social media tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook? If so, you may realize the benefits of displaying your resume, finding and staying in touch with business partners, employers and customers, and learning new information through these basic tools.

If you don’t use a variety of basic social media tools for networking, then you’ll learn a few below. Then, we offer a variety of social media sites designed just for entrepreneurs. Through these sites, you can network, build a Web presence, place ads, find funding and more – all needs required by the entrepreneurial soul.

The following list is alphabetized under both categories to show readers we do not favor one social media site over another.

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The Basic Social Networking Tools

  1. Digg: Create a news niche by uploading information that’s useful to you and to others who want your information. This is a great place to find like-minded individuals who are interested in your information.
  2. Facebook: Not just for kids, this tool can help you create ‘Pages’ that relate to your business where you gather ‘fans’ like ‘followers’ on Twitter.
  3. Flickr: Share photos of your products or services, staff, convention photos and get-togethers to show that you’re a pro and that you like to have fun as well.
  4. Friendfeed: Create a private group for your company or colleagues to collaborate on a research paper, coordinate an upcoming event, or give status updates on the TPS reports. Or, use Friendfeed as an aggregate to feed from your other social networking tools.
  5. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the business social networking leader of the pack. While you may be tempted to use your business as the ‘name’ for your LinkedIn account, you might think about a down-the-road situation where you sell that entrepreneurial business. Be yourself at LinkedIn, state what you do, and put enough information in your profile to show that you own a business and that you’re a human being, too.
  6. Twitter: Use Twitter to show that a real human lies behind your brand. Some social media pros suggest you use a photo rather than your logo for an avatar, but use what feels ‘right’ to you.
  7. YouTube: This tool is a no-brainer for film companies, entertainers and politicians. But, you can use videos as how-to guides, information hubs and more to promote your business.

Enterpreneur-Specific Social Platforms

  1. BizFriendz: Increase your online presence and your sales as well as develop new business contacts and partnerships through this social media platform. Earn money while you build your network through ticket sales for events you create and through first- and second-tier referral fees from others who join your network and use BizFriendz’ enhanced site features.
  2. Biznik: If you hate isolation, need more clients and customers, want to raise your visibility and need help with certain parts of your business, then Biznik might be right for you. While LinkedIn provides a great venue to seek new work, Biznik is for sharing ideas online and face-to-face.
  3. Cofoundr: This community for entrepreneurs offers a global environment for entrepreneurs to find co-founders, to build teams and to get advice. This is a public beta offering, so getting in on the ground floor might appeal to your entrepreneurial spirit.
  4. DreamStake: This is a collaborative platform for “creative entrepreneurs” who want to meet up with other talented individuals with experience across a wide range of disciplines. Find funding, legal and marketing expertise and software and design development skills at this site.
  5. Ecademy: Create new contacts and friends, market your business for Google visibility, share your knowledge for opportunities to meet others and build your business with unlimited advertisements in the Marketplace.
  6. Entrepreneur Connect: Create a profile, share ideas and make connections without feeling pressured to self-promote (which is discouraged at any rate). You also can create or join groups to network, create dynamic business-to-business relationships and get your creative juices flowing.
  7. Fast Pitch: Fast Pitch provides a “one-stop shop” for networking and marketing. Increase your online presence with a 60+ page manual that shows you how to use Fast Pitch to its fullest potential.
  8. Go BIG Network: Billed as the “Biggest Community of Startup Companies,” this social networking site offers ways to build a business plan, find funding, services and mentors. Think of this site as a Grand Central Station for entrepreneurs.
  9. PartnerUp: This is another networking site for small business owners that offers material on how to build your business, learn more about being in business and opportunities to find a new business and even properties for sale or lease.
  10. Perfect Business: Get the education and resources you need to succeed in business along with a venue that promotes meeting thousands of entrepreneurs, both novice and expert. Use this site to find potential business partners, clients and mentors.
  11. Ryze: This social media platform provides a free networking-oriented homepage for you to use to make quality business contacts, deals and connections with clients, peers and friends.
  12. StartupNation: This is an entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur site that helps self-starters get off the ground, market and build a business. This site also welcomes franchise owners.
  13. StartupSpace: Develop a profile page for your business and invite friends to network. You can develop a blog, a group and/or a discussion and upload and share videos about your business and interests at this social network platform.
  14. The Funded: This is an online community filled with entrepreneurs who research, rate and review worldwide funding sources. Share terms of service sheets, assist others with finding start-up funds and ask for help for your venture.
  15. Upspring: Use this social media platform to promote your company and to increase offline sales, to develop new B2B contacts and to profile your business for online visibility.
  16. Vator.tv: If you want to expand your video exposure beyond YouTube, try this social platform on for size. This is a place for emerging companies to showcase and market their goods and/or services. Get feedback, join the community and share news while meeting new entrepreneurs and customers.
  17. Young Entrepreneur: If you’re a young entrepreneur, join over 50,000 other members to discuss start-up issues and more in forums, through blogs and by private messages.
  18. Xing: Manage your business contacts along with seven million other members to this site. You receive a profile, a personal home page and messages as well as special limited offers on travel, electronics and more.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Google's Android To Invade Homes

In a sign that Google's Android mobile platform has a future far beyond cellphones, San Francisco-based start-up Touch Revolution says a string of well-known companies will introduce a range of Android-powered household gadgets before the end of the year.

The devices will fall into three basic categories: home control devices, media control devices and home phones, says Bill Brown, Touch Revolution's vice president of marketing. All the gadgets will feature touch-screens in sizes ranging from 4.3 to 10 inches, support Android as an operating system, and connect to the Web through wi-fi or wired ethernet. Depending on their purpose, they will sport bases (for perching on a desk or kitchen counter) or have a flat, tablet shape for handheld use or for embedding in a wall.

Brown says the new devices capitalize on Android's strength as an open operating system with sophisticated communications features. The home control devices are designed to talk to major household systems, such as lights, locks, security and heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC). The media devices play a similar unifying role in the entertainment realm, allowing users to program their digital video recorders (DVRs), remotely control their stereo systems, and view TV listings directly on the gadget's screen.

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Touch Revolution is calling the third category of products, "smart phones for the home." These cordless phones, meant for indoors use only, will communicate via radio waves like typical home phones or through voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) on wi-fi.

Each of these devices could be programmed to do even more. A home phone could act like a digital photo frame, for instance, given the right software. As Android devices, they will be able to access the same applications written for Android cellphones unless the companies marketing them limit that feature.

Expect to see most of the products before the end of the year, in the U.S. and elsewhere. Brown says Touch Revolution is working with "companies with major brands" on upcoming launches. Touch Revolution provides the touch screens and Android features, encapsulated in a module. Its partners then customize the hardware and software, if they choose, and bring the product to market.

Why use Android at all? Brown says its partners liked the operating system's ease of use, openness and touch-centric features. They also regarded it as a bargain since Google ( GOOG - news - people ) is distributing it for free.

Though just 17 months old, Touch Revolution boasts some flashy credentials. Founder and Chief Executive Mark Hamblin spent more than five years at Apple ( AAPL - news - people ), eventually rising to senior product design engineer. While there, he worked on both the iPhone and iPod touch, according to Brown.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Opposites attract — how genetics influences humans to choose their mates


Opposites attract — how genetics influences humans to choose their mates

attract

Vienna, Austria: New light has been thrown on how humans choose their partners, a scientist will tell the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics today (Monday May 25). Professor Maria da Gra├ža Bicalho, head of the Immunogenetics and Histocompatibility Laboratory at the University of Parana, Brazil, says that her research had shown that people with diverse major histocompatibility complexes (MHCs) were more likely to choose each other as mates than those whose MHCs were similar, and that this was likely to be an evolutionary strategy to ensure healthy reproduction.

Females’ preference for MHC dissimilar mates has been shown in many vertebrate species, including humans, and it is also known that MHC influences mating selection by preferences for particular body odours. The Brazilian team has been working in this field since 1998, and decided to investigate mate selection in the Brazilian population, while trying to uncover the biological significance of MHC diversity.

The scientists studied MHC data from 90 married couples, and compared them with 152 randomly-generated control couples. They counted the number of MHC dissimilarities among those who were real couples, and compared them with those in the randomly-generated ‘virtual couples’. “If MHC genes did not influence mate selection”, says Professor Bicalho, “we would have expected to see similar results from both sets of couples. But we found that the real partners had significantly more MHC dissimilarities than we could have expected to find simply by chance.”

Within MHC-dissimilar couples the partners will be genetically different, and such a pattern of mate choice decreases the danger of endogamy (mating among relatives) and increases the genetic variability of offspring. Genetic variability is known to be an advantage for offspring, and the MHC effect could be an evolutionary strategy underlying incest avoidance in humans and also improving the efficiency of the immune system, the scientists say.

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The MHC is a large genetic region situated on chromosome 6, and found in most vertebrates. It plays an important role in the immune system and also in reproductive success. Apart from being a large region, it is also an extraordinarily diverse one.

“Although it may be tempting to think that humans choose their partners because of their similarities”, says Professor Bicalho, “our research has shown clearly that it is differences that make for successful reproduction, and that the subconscious drive to have healthy children is important when choosing a mate.”

The scientists believe that their findings will help understanding of conception, fertility, and gestational failures. Research has already shown that couples with similar MHC genes had longer intervals between births, which could imply early, unperceived miscarriages. “We intend to follow up this work by looking at social and cultural influences as well as biological ones in mate choice, and relating these to the genetic diversity of the extended MHC region”, says Professor Bicalho.

“We expect to find that cultural aspects play an important role in mate choice, and certainly do not subscribe to the theory that if a person bears a particular genetic variant it will determine his or her behaviour. But we also think that the unconscious evolutionary aspect of partner choice should not be overlooked. We believe our research shows that this has an important role to play in ensuring healthy reproduction, by helping to ensure that children are born with a strong immune system better able to cope with infection.”