My overview of CES2016


Here are some personal observations from the floor of CES2016 in Las Vegas. I was too busy shooting videos and finalizing Predictions for its launch on January 13 to see any of the fine work done by my Deloitte colleagues on the panels or at the dinners, so I can’t comment on those aspects of CES!

I need to start by saying that my thoughts below are as a former technology venture capitalist and investor. It is likely to be very different from everything else you read about CES, and does not reflect consensus views. If you want consensus reporting, there are literally thousands of CES overview articles out there. Most of the stuff you read about CES is either written by the media (who sell ads) or investment bankers (who sell deals.) In their world, everything on the show floor is great, and it will all be massively successful, and every single one of these new markets will be the next big thing. That kind of positive bias drives web traffic and deal flow, and good for them.

But as someone who invested hundreds of millions of dollars into tech companies over the years, I know that most new products fail. Most new categories end up being much smaller than the initial projections. Some are bigger (and as an investor that’s where you try to make your bets!) but you need to be very realistic about what is mostly hype and what is actual. So forgive me if I seem a little too pessimistic at times! That only comes from watching $20 million of your investors’ money go to zero…several times.

Disclaimers over. The hot new products for 2016 are…TV sets and laptop computers. Yup – everything old is new again!

TV sets are big. And thin! That whole “death of TV” thing can’t be true. The stroking, caressing, ogling, lusting and moaning from the crowds in front of the TV displays at CES was louder than… (I probably shouldn’t finish that sentence.) 🙂

The most coveted devices were big screens (over 80”), OLED screens, and the 8K displays (double the pixels of 4K sets.) Compared to last year, I would say that there were fewer curved TVs, but the real “wow factor” were the ultra-thin versions. Seriously – there were 80-100” sets that were less than half an inch thick at the edges. This thinness probably doesn’t matter in most consumers’ homes…but it does look really cool. Equally, I suspect 8K and 4K sets only really show off their pixel count when you walk right up to them, and from normal viewing distances the extra resolution would be wasted. But that doesn’t mean that hundreds of people weren’t looking at these sets and talking about buying one. That is probably a reliable indicator of future demand.

[I should add something here. There were also cool displays at CES of self-driving cars. I believe that technology will be huge, but I have to be blunt and say that you really can’t tell much about a self-driving car by looking at one parked on the Las Vegas Convention Center show floor! (If they could demo an autonomous vehicle that handles the traffic outside the Sands Convention Center, we would all be impressed.) Equally, lots of the CES crowd love taking pictures of the drones and the 3D printers: they have high “gee whiz” factors. But the people taking the photos don’t tend to be experts at 3D printing or drone technology – they are not likely to be terribly good judges of what they are seeing. They’ve probably never bought a drone or 3D printer.

But that’s not true of TV sets. The people who are ooh-ing and aah-ing over the new TV screens are very knowledgeable buyers. They have purchased many TV sets over their lives, they know what makes them open their wallets, they know how to judge a good TV picture, and the CES floor is almost as good a location to evaluate a TV screen as their living room.

When I see a thousand people admiring a TV set at CES, I think that is a meaningful and useful indicator of probable real world buying behaviour. But when I see a thousand people taking photos of a ball-shaped drone, I am less confident that their actions will translate into sales.]

Ultra-thin laptops. If you ask people what they want in a laptop, they will usually answer “better battery life and good keyboard.” But when I wandered around CES, the laptops that were getting all the love could double as cheese slicers. I am not sure why, but something about these ethereal devices seems to draw a crowd, regardless of high price points and lack of practicality. I was intrigued by one article, which put it this way: “Physically speaking, these Windows PCs are pretty much tablets with the keyboard permanently attached.” That feels right to me: we have our large screen phones, and we love our light and thin tablets…but we also like the bigger screens and full keyboards of traditional laptops. No evidence that we are in the post-PC era.

Smartphones and tablets were a bit meh: Everybody has one of each (or more), but 2016 didn’t feel like an exciting year for either device category at CES. Now that’s being a bit unfair: the really big show for mobile devices is Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (Feb 22-25 this year) so I suspect the device makers may have been keeping their powder dry for product launches next month. Still, I look at the sales forecasts for tablets and smartphones for the next couple of quarters and I think saying we are entering a bit of a lull would be a good way of putting it. Don’t misunderstand me: we are using mobile devices more than ever but there don’t seem to be any buzzy new technologies in the mobile device space in 2016. I suspect 5G might change that pretty quickly, but they are still arguing over what 5G wireless means, so it will be a while yet!

Smart appliances are a ghost town. The following is a true story. Getting from one part of the LVCC to another can take 20 minutes or more. Some of that is because these places are huge, but another is that the aisles are JAMMED with people walking slowly, stopping and looking at cool tech stuff, and taking selfies. So when I and my ace Deloitte video crew (yay Divyesh and Michael) were trying to get to a specific location in a hurry, we got frustrated. But luckily, we were able to take a short cut through a smart appliance section…there were almost no people. We zoomed right through, although I did stop to pat a sad and lonely smart fridge on the way. This experience played out at every other smart appliance display we passed over the days: the folks attending CES just aren’t that interested in this technology. The media loves the fridge that opens its door for you, but it doesn’t seem to compare to drones, VR or 3D printers for mass appeal.

Eye candy, or breakthrough technology? As I said above, things such as drones, virtual reality and 3D printers look amazing on the show floor. The idea that you can print out a Lego head with your face on it makes for great video footage. But very similar displays last year drew equally large crowds — there were tens of thousands of people admiring the 3D Systems booth and their $999 home printer last January at CES2015. And on December 27 on 2015, the company announced they were getting out of the “factory in every home” consumer space (although they are still a leader in enterprise 3D printing.) So while I will keep my eye on all of these technologies, I am not willing to get too optimistic based on the CES crowds alone.

The FAA had a booth at CES: nice guys, lots of beards, cute hats. Not a single person talking to them, despite the fact that the FAA is going to require drone registration going forward, to keep an eye on the idiots who are flying in front of jets and interfering with forest fire fighting planes. My point is that the people taking pictures of the cool drones might not actually be planning on buying, flying, or registering them!

I also need to report back on VR headsets. The crowds of gamers were lined up again, but I really wonder if CES is the right indicator for mainstream success. Will VR goggles be snapped up by hard core gamers? Absolutely, but I am very sceptical about wider adoption. Have you actually tried a pair? They are still pretty heavy, make you look weird, and make it almost impossible to interact with people around you. This is NOT the official Deloitte view, but I think VR goggles will be as massive a success as home 3D TV was. I.e. big splash at CES, but relatively low current usage.

Gaming is huge. Between mobile, PC and console games we are talking a $100 billion market. Now CES is the natural habitat of the gamer, but I see no signs this industry is about to start shrinking. Lots of fanboys and fangirls, and all looked ready to drop some serious coin. This market is one where VR headsets (even at $600!) will do well.

So are accessories, especially sound. We tend to focus on the hub device with the big processor and screen…the smartphone, tablet, TV set or PC. But there are so many different accessories that make the hubs better. Cases, earphones, selfie sticks, remote controls, enhanced keyboards, extra batteries and so on; adding up to tens of billions of dollars per year, or more than every dollar spent on drones, VR goggles and home 3D printers added together! Spending even a few minutes walking through CES is a great reminder that (for example) while the smartphone is a big market; it also supports an entire ecosystem of accessories. That’s been true for years, but as I look at the changes in 2016 compared to 2015, I noticed the growth in the number of speakers, headphones, and other near-audiophile gear being offered and engaged with by people on the floor. I sense the beginning of an acoustic wave, where we have all upgraded our screens, and realize that a pair of $40 speakers just won’t cut it. In 2016, perhaps “audio is the new black.”

The interstitial moment: going, going, gone. I have been attending tech tradeshows since 1995. That makes a bit more than 20 years, and I noticed something new this year. Las Vegas has these moving sidewalks…like escalators, but flat. They aren’t fast, and even a few years ago, people would walk on them to get where they were going more quickly. In 2016, it isn’t that people are in any less of a hurry…but the second they hit the slidewalks, they stop walking and pull out their phones. It’s only 15 seconds of smartphone time, but they still want to spend that brief time on their phones. Waiting for an elevator? Use the smartphone.

There was a time when opening a book or newspaper was something you did if you had 5 minutes to kill. The idea that even 15 seconds is too much to be un-entertained seems to be a new one. There used to be interstitial moments where we simply were – gaps in our otherwise always distracted lives. Those moments may be gone: the smartphone is like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up every available bite-sized chunk of time in our lives. That’s a pretty meaningful change.


10 tips on how to get started running, even if only short distances


On November 1st of 2015 I wrote an article on how to stay in shape enough to run for hours at a time, any time you wanted. A lot of people liked that article, but one friend asked “Fine…but what advice would you give a 50 year old who weighs too much? I don’t want to run for hours at a time: my goal is minutes at a time!”

Running is a common New Year’s resolution, so on January 1st 2016, here are my ten tips:

    1. Walk before you run. I know that sounds obvious, but this is a critical first step (as it were.) Find an attractive, interesting and safe walking route that is at least five kilometers long. Build up to it if necessary, but begin walking as far as you can at a brisk pace. Your goal is to walk five kilometers per hour, for one hour, three days per week, for one month. Why?
      1. You are building up some leg and core strength, always good things.
      2. You may even lose a little bit of weight.
      3. You are learning your eventual running route.
      4. You are breaking in your new shoes.
      5. You are finding out NOW if you have any issues that are going to cause big problems once you start running. Many beginner runners have issues with their gait, feet, hips, knees, alignment and so on. A brisk 5 km walk three times a week will surface any possible issues, and allow you to deal with them now, rather than after you run and escalate them into more serious injuries. I learned I needed orthotics before I started running, and that was a lifesaver.
    2. Eat exactly the same. Sad but true! Almost everyone who starts walking or running almost immediately begins to think they now burn enough extra calories that they can “treat themselves” to a snack, doughnut, popcorn, or bonus slice of pizza. Nope: your 5 km walks are definitely good for you, do elevate your metabolism, and are burning calories. But as human beings we are terrible at overestimating how many calories we burn and even worse at underestimating how many calories we are rewarding ourselves with. So try as much as possible to eat exactly what you did before.
    3. Don’t diet, but every pound counts. Most people, inspired by a resolution, try to reduce calories AND start exercising at the same time. It can be done, but in my view it is much easier to focus on one tough thing at a time. So save the diet change until later, just do the brisk walks for that month. If you have followed my advice above, and not increased what you eat, you should be 2-3 pounds lighter. Why does that matter?
      1. You will feel better about yourself, and less self-conscious. That makes you much more likely to run.
      2. Weight matters a lot in terms of pace and effort. Every pound less will pay off in better speed, a greater sense of running, and much less sense of plodding or pounding.
      3. And that’s the big deal: when you start running (as opposed to walking) every pound less…is less pounding! Your legs and feet and knees will thank you. The single biggest reason people abandon running programs is injury, so not getting injured is your #1 goal.
    4. The right route is a delight. A park is great. Trees, grass, forest. Try to have as much of your route off sidewalks and roads if possible. Driving five minutes to get to the right trailhead is fine. Having a great path will help you get through the days you feel less like running…and will fill your heart with delight on the good days.
    5. Running shoes: I like them! There are those who believe in barefoot running, and that’s fine. But I am firmly in the camp that thinks that proper running shoes combined with a proper gait (mid-foot strike) are the best of both worlds. If you buy expensive shoes, and then take that cushioning and slam your heels into the ground as hard as you can? I think you will get injured. But at least in my experience, wearing good shoes while running smooth and easy and landing on your mid-foot has allowed me to run 50-80 km per week for years with few injuries. I have had great luck at the Running Room, where they help me pick out the right shoes.
    6. Everybody looks good in spandex. Get the right size, of course. But wearing proper shorts, shirt and (especially) socks is helpful. You will look better, feel better, and you will not have blood running out of your running shoes, which I think is a bonus. Running in the wrong materials as you sweat can lead to terrible chafing and blisters, so try to get the stuff that breathes right.
    7. The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la! Yeah, yeah: you are the toughest and most inspired Canadian in history, and you are going to take up running in January in Winnipeg. Remember what I said about trying to diet and start exercising at the same time? This is similar: starting to work out in winter is setting yourself up for failure. Some people can work out on treadmills and good for them. But many can’t stand the damn things (I fall off them!) so why not take advantage of the seasons? Start your month of walking in March or April, and then begin the actual running in April or May. Still not too hot, but do you really need to begin your runs through a foot of snow, or on top of icy paths? Set yourself up for success!
    8. There is no such thing as running too slowly. There are some people who believe in the run/walk approach (run for nine minutes, walk for one, repeat.) In my experience, the dropout rate on that seems to be very high: I think it encourages people to run too hard, then rest up, then run too hard. That is a good training technique for some, but my own preference is to find a SUSTAINABLE pace and stay in the groove. At first that running pace may be barely faster than your brisk walk, but that’s ok too. Trust me: if you run for five kilometers, no matter how slowly, you will get better, faster and stronger within two weeks. What running goals are you aiming for, at first?
      1. Same pace, more days per week. Your first goal should be to keep going out for your 5 km route three times per week, and have one of them as a run, and two as walks. Next week should be two runs and one walk. Week three is three runs.
      2. Now a bit of pace. Your walking pace was 5 km/h, or 12 minutes per kilometer. A very nice long term goal is to run around 10 km/h, or 6 minute kilometers (10 minute miles.) But leave that for a while, and aim for doing your 5 km run in less than 40 minutes. You already may be faster than that, but as long as you are under 8 minutes per kilometer you will feel like you’re on the right track: that is an 80 minute 10K, which almost everybody can run. Some days can be faster and some slower, but try to have one day per week where you are at that pace or better.
      3. Go long! Never try to increase your running time by more than 10 minutes per week, and at your new pace, that is roughly one kilometer. Each week, add another 10 minutes/one km to your route. By my calculations, if you started this program on March 1, you are now able to run 10 km in less than 80 minutes for three days per week. You can now start thinking about playing with speed, distance or frequency, and do what you want.
    9. But they are all laughing at me! No, they’re not. Over and over I hear beginner runners thinking that people are mocking them, and they feel self-conscious. It’s not true:
      1. Other runners are proud of you. We love running, and nothing makes us happier than seeing someone who is not a runner lacing them up and getting out there. We are cheering for you, not tearing you down, even in our minds. That’s not 100% true, of course: I do sometimes think nasty thoughts about runners who are old and fat…and run faster than I do and pass me on the trails! 🙂
      2. Non-runners don’t think you’re fat. They think they are lazy! They respect that you are on the trails, and wish they had your determination and strength.
      3. People are looking at you, but nobody is LOOKING at you. We are all monkeys living on the African plain. We evolved to look at any running animal: it could be tasty potential prey, or it could be a predator. So all humans are programmed to snap our heads around when a runner goes through our field of view. This WILL happen to you, so don’t worry about it. Once they have determined you are not about to eat them and their children, they will ignore you completely.
    10. Water, Gatorade and gels, oh my. As I wrote in my other article, staying hydrated is critically important. That being said, if you are running five km, you probably only need to drink water before you run and once you get home. No need to worry about carrying water with you unless the temperature is well over 20C, or as you go out for longer distances at higher pace. But the bigger issue is sports drinks or gels. As it happens, I can run for three hours without needing either, but some runners do find them useful on runs over two hours. That is their call, but I will tell you now: no beginner runner needs a sports drink or a gel. They are filled with sugar, and you haven’t burned enough calories to need it, nor do you need the electrolytes. Once you start running half marathons you may want them, but as a beginner runner they will only cost you money and prevent you from losing a pound or two.

Why believe me on the above? Because in October of 1989 I weighed 280 pounds. I was only 25, but I looked terrible and was not healthy. I started walking at first, then walked more, then needed orthotics, then got good shoes, then started running, and everything else you read above.

I am sure there are lots of other ways to get into running shape, but this list worked for me. Happy trails!


How we were able to predict (correctly!) that consumer 3D printers would not be disruptive


People often wonder how the predictions I make can be so accurate. Sometimes it takes a great deal of research, but here is an example from this year that was much simpler.

Last fall there were many media stories about consumer 3D printers for under $1,000 — and how this was an important disruption and would lead to “a factory in every home.” Competing forward looking think pieces parroted the hype, but we didn’t. What gave us that insight?

Really simple stuff. I went online and read reviews and user blogs. Then I asked a couple of friends on social media who had recently bought a home 3D printer. Literally every single source I went to (100%!) told the same story:

The printers were hard to set up, broke down frequently, worked very slowly, took repeated attempts to make even a single decent object…and at the end of the process made small plastic objects that looked like a reject from a Happy Meal. 🙂

Many of the users were glad they had experimented with the technology, and felt they learned some useful skills. But virtually everyone printed for a few weeks or months, and then put the machine in the basement or the garage, where it kept the pasta-maker company.

Yesterday, 3D Systems, one of the two major manufacturers of consumer 3D printers, announced it was exiting that business. The enterprise market is still great (and 3D Systems is a big player in that space), but the factory in every home remains science fiction, at least for now.





Yes, one third of 2015’s best-selling books are adult coloring books. No, it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

There was great rejoicing by those who love print books when Nielsen released the chart at top. Not only were eBooks not taking over, but print book sales in the US were rising for the second straight year: 571 million sold as of early December 2015, compared to 559 million for all of 2014.

“Don’t start celebrating just yet” warned one columnist (the always insightful Mathew Ingram @mathewi): publishers were saying that one of the reasons print book sales were up was the popularity of books by YouTube celebrities and adult colouring books. And it’s true: if you look at the Amazon best-selling books of 2015 (updated daily!) or in the screenshot below, you can see that five out of the top 15 are indeed colouring books, with The Martian (my personal favourite geek book of the year) down in #16 place.

Amazon best sellers

Assuming normal seasonality, a lot of print books are going to get sold around Christmas in the US, so that the 2015 print number will likely be  590-600 million, or 30-40 million more than 2014. Just how much of that growth is due to (shudder) colouring books?

Less than you think. The book industry is very much UNLIKE the movie industry. As you can see from the chart below, the percentage of total North American (US and Canada) box office receipts from the top five films has been climbing for years. Over 42% in 2014, the top five contribution will likely be even higher in 2015 due to the record breaking performance of the newest Star Wars installment. In the movie business, it is “all about the blockbuster.”

Canaccord Genuity Movie Trend

That’s not the case for books. As above, there were 559 million print books sold in the US in 2014. The top selling book was The Fault in Our Stars, which sold 3.5 million copies across three versions (hardcover, trade paperback, and movie tie in paperback.) But if I add up the combined sales of the top TEN books (not top five, as in movies) they sold just over 11 million copies. Or about 2% of annual book sales.

The book market has its best-seller list. But the book market is so fragmented that even the most popular books don’t really have a significant impact on overall sales.

Yes, adult colouring books were bigger this year than last. And they did make up a portion of the best seller list. But based on the 2014 distribution of sales for best-sellers, I estimate that the five colouring titles that made it into the top 15 would have sold around 4 million copies.

Which is 0.7% of total print book sales for the year, or only about 10-13% of the 30-40 million additional unit sales that we will see in 2015.

I think I will go back to celebrating! Print books are alive and well, and things like colouring books are only a small part of the story.

Why I prayed for Paris


I put up an image that said “Pray for Paris” on my Facebook page yesterday. A few people took exception, saying that religion was the problem, and prayer was inappropriate.

In my various posts on social media I don’t mention God, religion, church, faith or prayers that often, so I wanted to take some time and explain why I put up that image, and also respond to those who call for an end to religion.

1) I love Paris – hardly an original sentiment! I love the restaurants, museums, shops, and the streetscapes. But another important part of MY VIEW of the city is defined by its churches: Notre Dame, St. Germain, and St. Sulpice are wonderful – but my favourite is St. Eustache, just north of Les Halles, and often called the church of the people of Paris. See the picture at top! On a sunny day, I cannot help but go inside each time I pass, and I always take a pew. Do I bow my head? Do I even kneel? Am I praying?

Yes to all three. But I don’t expect an omnipotent being to hear me, nor do I expect my prayers to influence a Jungian collective consciousness and somehow reach other people. Instead, I pray because I know that mindful meditation (setting an intention, and focussing on it while visualizing the desired path) really does work. I believe that the only ears that hear my prayer are mine, and the only mind it affects is my own, but the same technique that works for athletes and artists also works for regular people too. Thinking about kindness, sympathy, empathy and compassion makes us kinder, more sympathetic, more empathic and more compassionate. All good things, in my book.

In that way I genuinely believe that “praying for Paris” is a reasonable thing to ask people to do after a tragedy like yesterday’s.

2) #Endreligion. Nice hashtag…but how exactly would this be accomplished? There are lots of historical examples of trying to “get rid of religion” and: they never work, they violate civil rights at the least, and they always do more harm than good.

3) North America and Western Europe are the targets of radical Islamic terrorists. In that fight, who are our most important allies? I would argue the millions of our fellow citizens who are horrified by the acts in Paris last night – and who are also Muslim. Many of them are devout, true believers. And telling them that we want to “end religion” is not only against everything Western democracies believe in, it is a BAD STRATEGY, and pushes them into the arms of extremism.

4) Let’s ignore #2 and #3 above, and invent a magic wand that does end religion: no more churches, no more prayers. Wave that wand, and terrorism and war will go away? Maybe it would help a bit, I don’t know. But I look at the last century, and while religious reasons have accounted for some percentage of the terrorist acts, so have issues of language, race, ethnicity, politics, class, economics, power, and (especially) nationalism. Depending on the period and the place, they often have been far more harmful than religion.

I can’t prove it, but I am depressingly sure we could literally make all religion vanish – and we would just move on and find other ‘reasons’ to kill each other in terrorist attacks.

Instead of being depressed by that, I am going to remember the sunlit nave of St. Eustache, and focus on some positive and loving thoughts. Because I don’t think the alternative to that will make things better.


14 tips on how to run for as long as you want.

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“How are you able to go for three hour runs whenever you feel like it? What does it take to do that?” So asked a young friend of mine just getting into running. She was still working her way up to doing 10 kilometers at a time, but was interested in how Barbara and I, without seeming to do any actual “training,” were able to fly into a new city and just go out for a 2-3 hour run any time we wanted to.

Although we have both run full marathons (42.2 km or 26.1 miles, taking about 3.5 hours) in the past, we don’t do that anymore and don’t really want to. Been there, done that, and it’s just too long for our fifty-something bodies. I am sure we COULD do it, but we know we wouldn’t enjoy it. Plus there are too many people, and the actual courses are usually not that pretty, what with the crowds and running on paved roads.

Instead, we run 20-30 km routes by ourselves up mountains, along rivers and canals, or through deserts: probably 10-15 times per year. How?

  1. “If you want to be the kind of person who will always be able to take the stairs…you have to always take the stairs!” There is no better to way to train for something than actually doing it. I don’t have any single specific way of training for 30 km runs. Instead, I do two things:
    1. I run a lot. When the weather is at least ok (March to December in Toronto) I run 30-80 km per week. Total weekly running distance helps builds cardio, muscles, and endurance.
    2. At least some of those runs are longer times and distances close to my eventual goal. More than two hours, and more than 20 km, and on a regular basis (2-8 times per month).
  2. No winter hibernation. In the past, I used to run a ton in summer, but really dialled it back in winter since I hate the cold. (Only doing 10-15 km per week, with maybe 8 km as my long runs.) That meant that I wasn’t in peak shape if I happened to be in Tel Aviv or Singapore in early March, so there was no way I could do 30 km. It also meant that every year I had to “get back into shape” which often ended up in my getting injured. Even though I am 20 years older now, I seem to get injured much less often by always being in (close to) peak shape and not letting things slide.
  3. I never run through pain. Injuries do happen, and as soon as something hurts even slightly (but in a serious way, if you know what I mean?), I stop. That is literal: a few hundred meters into a run I will stop, turn around and walk back to the house, and not run again for two weeks. No joking here: it means real time off, and running injuries do not heal just because you try running slowly, or “only” 3 km. And if I had kept running when I felt that first twinge? That usually means 4-8 weeks off. So pulling the trigger on an injury time out ‘early’ is much (much MUCH) better than being ‘late.’
  4. I cross train. I have done a lot of running the last few days in Zurich. I could probably run today…but why not do a hike instead? If I were in Toronto, how about a nice bike ride? I love running, but it can be tough on the body, so having a day of exercise where you still get the heart rate up, still get the blood flowing and the muscles working…but DIFFERENTLY…is a big help. Some weeks I may only run once or twice, and hike or cycle the other days. Important to note: I try to cross train at similar levels of effort and intensity. A 5 km bike ride or 30 minute gentle stroll doesn’t count as training in my book. The bike ride needs to be at least 2 hours long and at good tempo, and the hike needs to be at least 3 hours long, preferably up a mountain, and at a solid 5-6 km/h.
  5. Once every 7-10 days, take a day off. By which I mean no exercise at all. No weights, no swimming, no ashtanga yoga, no whatever. Studies show your body does better with regular days off. But please note it is once a week or so, not once every other day!
  6. 15 push-ups. Yup, push-ups. On all my runs, hikes and bike rides, I try to do at least one set of 15 “perfect push-ups” at the mid-point. Get someone to watch you and correct your form until you get it 100% right: utterly flat body, all the way to the ground…it is MUCH more difficult than you think. Doing 15 perfect push-ups is 10x harder than doing 50 sloppy ones. Why do I do upper body work in the middle of my aerobic exercise?
    1. It gets the heart rate up in a different way, and keeps your body working even while your legs take a breather.
    2. “You run on your legs, but you run with your arms.” Look at all good runners in the Olympics. The sprinters have huge upper bodies, but even distance runners have incredibly well defined arms and shoulders. Upper body strength contributes hugely to leg turnover, speed, and going up and down hills.
    3. And perfect push-ups work your core muscles in the stomach and back. I find that after about 1-2 hours of running or whatever, it is easy to get tired and a bit sloppy. Maybe I start slumping a bit? Doing those push-ups reminds me which muscles I need to be engaging while I am running, cycling or hiking. A strong core makes me run faster, easier, and less likely to be injured.
  7. Run quiet. If you pass people…and they scream in surprise? You’re doing it right! 🙂 Be aware of how much noise your running makes: too loud means you are probably heel striking or making some other ergonomic mistake. I weigh 90 kg, and nobody ever hears me coming. Not only does that mean I can run easy, it also means I am less likely to get injured. Running should never be about pounding the ground.
  8. Weigh the right amount. I have been struggling with my weight on and off for 30 years now, and running has helped me lose weight from time to time. But for the 2-3 hour runs I find I need to be in my sweet spot: under 210 pounds. If I am too heavy, I can run 10-15 km at most as a long run. Otherwise the extra weight almost always will translate into plantar fasciitis or shin splints or ITB. The longer distances are great AFTER you lose weight, but less good for actually losing it.
  9. Eat. Then again, once I am in the right zone in terms of weight, I find that I need to eat a lot to provide the right energy. Barbara and I eat almost no starches (no pasta, bread, potatoes, rice), overdose on fruits and vegetables, and also overdo protein. It could be lentils and soy, but it isn’t: we both eat 500 g EACH (or more than a pound) of salmon, chicken, pork, beef or lamb at almost every dinner. We also eat chocolate, butter, cream, avocado, olive oil, and so on more or less at will. Our weight seldom fluctuates by more than a pound either way, and I believe that our diet gives us the right fuel for our runs, but also helps us recover from our longer distances.
  10. Always change your shoes; never change your shoes. That sound weird, but both are true.
    1. If you look at my weekly distances, I do over 500 km every ten weeks. Towards the end of that period, I can always start feeling the longer runs in my heels, hips, Achilles or other. That first twinge is 100% reliable warning that the shoes are ready to be changed, so I buy a new pair ASAP, and throw the old ones out. I never keep them around “just in case”: running on old shoes even ONCE has injured me several times. That does add up – I spend about $1,000 a year on shoes. Then again, that’s a couple of rounds of golf or a few months of a gym membership. Cheap at twice the price.
    2. On the other hand (or foot) I try to always stick with the same brand and model of shoes. I have been running on Brooks Beast since 1989. A few times I couldn’t find that model, or thought about trying out a cheaper shoe. In each case, I was injured within a week! Back to the tried and true…
  11. Hydrate or die. There are runners who swear by gels and sports drinks like Gatorade. I used to do the same, but find that even on my longest runs I don’t actually need the extra calories or electrolytes: if I am properly nourished at the start of a run, 20-30 km of running doesn’t empty my tank. But I always run with water, and for the longer runs it is usually a backpack device with a hose, like a Camelbak. Most people know that you have to drink lots of water when it is hot out, but I find that the longer runs always dehydrate me, no matter what the temperature. It isn’t that you get heat stroke, or die of thirst. But if I am drinking enough, I feel better on the run, recover more quickly and am less likely to get injured. My rule of thumb? On any run over two hours, if I don’t have to pop behind a tree at least once, I am not hydrated enough.:)
  12. Stop watching the stop watch. I still have a Timex Ironman watch. I remember the good old days: doing intervals, watching my splits, trying to shave 10 seconds off my time for a particular run. All of that did help me reach a personal best (PB) in races…but it also made running less fun, made me more likely to be injured, and fed into my overall OCD mentality of measuring everything. These days I run with a normal watch, or even do away with it entirely and just look at the clock on the stove to see roughly how long a run took me. I don’t care about PBs any more…as far as I am concerned; EVERY run I finish is a personal best!
  13. Run for your wife! I don’t want to offend anyone who is currently single. But a bunch of the most romantic couples I know run together, and for long distances. If I had to spend 10 hours a week running or cross training and all that time had to be apart from Barbara? That would be a non-starter. Instead, we almost always run together. It brings us closer, aligns our moods (and appetites) and helps make long runs even more fun. Plus, we hold hands some of the time…see photo below of us finishing the Brussels Half Marathon. ❤
  14. Run with joy. There is scientific evidence that human beings evolved as long distance runners. Running isn’t something to do so you can eat more, so you can lose weight, get fit, or wear certain clothes. Instead, it is this incredible thing that almost all of us are capable of, and capable of being pretty good at AND HAVING FUN AT THE TIME. I don’t mean a certain pace, or winning some half marathon. But I believe we are all able to reach that same joyful point.

We can get off that plane, pull on our shoes, head up the mountain, and run for as long as we want. Happy trails, bonne route.


To be clear, everything above is just what seems to work for me. It isn’t designed to win races.


The danger of online polls: 1 in 5 Americans don’t use a wearable


Don’t believe everything you read! No offense to my friends at Forrester, but there is no way that 21% of adult Americans use a wearable. I have seen other research with robust methodology, and no more than 14-15% of Americans 18+ even have ACCESS to a wearable, let alone use one. (The Canadian number is about 9%.)

How can the study be so wrong? It is an online opinion poll, and there can be problems with those. First, the online population is not always representative of the population as a whole, and the online population who are willing to take these kinds of surveys may be even more unrepresentative. Online polls can be useful, but sometimes can give results that just don’t match reality. Having more than 1 in 5 Americans using wearables is pretty suspect — but it gets better.

In the picture above, you can see that of the 21% of Americans who report using wearables of all kinds, Google Glass was used by 15%. That suggests that 3.15% of all adult Americans use Google Glass, there are 245.3 million Americans over the age of 18, which means the online survey says that 7.7 million people are using Glass.

That seems improbable, since the best estimates of GLOBAL Glass sales were around 40,000 units. Either the Forrester data is a couple of orders of magnitude too high…or each person who says that they are using Google Glass is sharing the device with 191 of their closest friends.


eBooks are not taking over


Digital eBooks are not taking over from print books in the same way that online newspaper websites are destroying print papers, MP3 files took almost all of the CD music market, or digital cameras and smartphones replaced film for consumer photography.

This last week saw two articles on this debate. The New York Times started us off with a piece based on data from the Association of American Publishers (AAP), which said that eBook sales were down 10% in the last year. The very insightful Mathew Ingram replied with his own article in Fortune, which said that the AAP data didn’t tell the whole story, and eBook sales from non-AAP publishers were doing much better. Mathew went on to say

…the overall trend in book publishing remains clear: Digital sales are going to increase, and print is likely to become a niche market over time, just as it is becoming in the newspaper and magazine industries.

I admire Mathew very much, and we almost always agree – but not on this issue. Two big reasons:

First, while I agree the AAP numbers are incomplete, that only means that eBook sales are likely to be down less than the headlined 10%. They might be down 5%, flat or even up 5%. But they are not out there stealing huge market share from print books! Based on my estimate for 2015 final US book sales, revenues for print books will be down about 11% from 2010 levels based on constant 2014 dollars. Print has been AFFECTED by digital, but only marginally so. (And the US is the market which has seen eBooks have the greatest success: on a global basis print books sales have been virtually unaffected. eBooks are under 5% of sales in most countries.)

Don’t get me wrong: down 11% has hurt print publishers and bookstores. But does this really compare to what we have seen in other industries that have been digitally disrupted? US print newspaper ad revenues are down 78% from their peak; CD sales are down 92%, and film camera sales have fallen 99.5% since 1999. When we compare how eBooks have affected print book sales…well, “one of these things is not like the other.” 🙂

Secondly, the shift in the growth of eBooks from AAP publishers to other publishers (see chart below) is very real, and not to be ignored. But equally, I do need to point out that the kinds of eBooks being published by those indie publishers do fall into certain categories. They tend to be what is called genre fiction, often romance, erotica or fan-fiction. Nothing wrong with any of those, but they tend to serve niche markets, with low price points, low volumes and an element of “disposable reading.”

If I compare what is going on with eBooks and the print book market, it would be very different from what we have seen in music, magazines or newspapers. Digital disruption did not mean that MP3 files were the preferred format for emerging acts and polka bands, while Taylor Swift still sold lots of CDs. Digital shifts didn’t mean science fiction fanzines went online, while Time and Newsweek kept selling tens of millions of print copies weekly. And the newspaper story is not that the Moose Jaw Times Herald was crushed while the Toronto Star kept thriving in print. 

Across music, magazines and newspapers the digital destruction has affected all artists, all genres, all titles and all publishers more or less equally. That is NOT happening in the book industry: eBooks are thriving in certain pockets…but they are not doing as well in the segments that most readers and book buyers care about.

Andy Weir’s The Martian (now a Major Motion Picture!) was originally self-published as an eBook. Yay! It sold incredibly well…35,000 copies in only three months! Double yay! If eBooks were truly the future of books, he and the book might well have stayed there.

But he didn’t. He took a $100,000 advance, submitted to professional editing and added more content, and launched it in print. Where it sold hundreds of thousands of copies in hardback and paperback, and continues to sell out of bookstores I visit around the world.

To be blunt, most people view eBooks as a reasonable place to start, but “REAL books” come in print versions, and usually outsell the eVersions by tens or even hundreds of times.

Unlike other print publishing businesses affected by digital, and based on the evidence so far, it looks to me like eBooks are the real niche market.

The Martian


Advice to sickly speakers: please be seated


BMW CEO Harald Krueger collapses at a presentation during the media day at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 15, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

BMW CEO Harald Krueger collapses at a presentation during the media day at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 15, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach


New BMW CEO Harald Krueger passed out on stage at the Frankfurt auto show last Tuesday and generated some internet laughter. But as someone who has had to give more than a few speeches when feeling decidedly unwell, I didn’t think it was funny at all, and I have some advice for Harald…or anyone who is due on stage in 30 seconds and feels faint: ask for a chair.

Next Thursday evening I will be part of a North of 41 panel on “How to Deliver a Killer Presentation” (tickets still available here) at the Environics offices at Bloor and Yonge in Toronto. Our panel moderator will be Vanessa Cohen from Environics, and my co-panellists will be IBM’s Paul Zikopoulus and Dian Chaban from RBC Wealth Management. (Note to future panel organisers: please observe the 50/50 gender split. It’s not hard to do if you make it a priority!)

We’re going to tackle a wide range of topics, but the BMW example from this week is worth discussing as a sneak peek of what I am going to say. Why?

You may think you don’t need to worry about this issue. Maybe you only have to give one or two speeches per year, and the odds of them being on a day when you’re feeling poorly are low? Plus, speeches can be moved, or someone can fill in for you. But sometimes this CAN happen to you, and listen to your Uncle Duncan: fainting is WAY more common than you think. The medical word for it is syncope, and while it isn’t usually serious, it does ruin your speech…as Harald just found out.

In my own experience, the pre-conditions for a possible faint aren’t that unusual: lack of sleep, jet lag, a persistent cold or cough that you can’t shake, not eating properly/low blood sugar, too many meetings and too much stress and travel. Especially when all of these combine, you are a syncope just waiting to happen.

Assuming the event can’t be moved and there is no one to cover for you, I have always found the perfect solution to be 100% honesty. If you have even a suspicion that you might pass out, tell the organisers you aren’t dying, but you don’t feel well. Ask for a chair or a stool. (A chair is better, stools can be tippy.) Have it put on stage, and when you come out, tell the audience what is going on. “Hi folks…I am not feeling perfect, but you all came here to hear me talk, and I don’t want to let you down. So I am just going to talk while seated, and we will see how it goes.”


In the 4-5 times I have needed to do this over 20 years, I have never had an audience complain. I usually start slowly, but because I am not worried about passing out, I am able to keep my energy level high, wave my arms around, use my voice, and still try to keep things interesting. If I feel better during my talk, I might even get out of the chair and walk around a little…ready to sit back down if I don’t feel well again. It has always turned out fine! So here is my top 5 countdown on why this is such a good idea for speakers:

#5: Fainting on stage is really bad and to be avoided. Ruins the event, takes away from your message, and you will have to deal with a battery of annoying medical tests after.

#4: Fainting isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Not to go into too much detail, but feeling sick can have other symptoms too. That REALLY does not impress audiences. 🙂

#3: Giving a speech while seated will allow you to focus on how you present, and you may learn things about voice, projection, body language and movement that can use again when you feel 100%.

#2: Speaking while seated isn’t necessarily lower impact than bouncing around stage. Go find a version of Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia to set yourself straight: 85 minutes of a guy sitting at a desk can be more captivating than most action movie chase scenes.

#1: If Dave Grohl can rock the house while seated…so can you!


[All of the above ONLY applies if we are talking about a vague sense that you are a bit sick and might faint. In the last few years I have had two blood clots and a pulmonary embolism, and the only reason I am alive today is because I went to Emergency as soon as I felt something wasn’t right. If you worry you are having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious medical problem, go to a fucking hospital right away. No speech is more important than that.]

Facebook had a billion users in a single day. What does that REALLY mean?


Mark Zuckerberg announced that on Monday, August 24 over one billion people had accessed Facebook. That was a single day record, and FB has not yet updated their “daily active user” (DAU) number that was 968 million as of June 2015. But I expect them to reach a billion DAU sometime this year.

A billion is a big number, but how does it compare to other forms of media?

I can’t seem to find any article discussing that question, part of the problem may be that DAU is only an internet statistic, and most traditional media aren’t measured that way. But I think the comparison is relevant and useful, so I will take a swing at it.

As a start, the global newspaper industry says that 2.5 billion people read print newspapers. That won’t be every day, but it is probably fair to say that perhaps a billion have done it on a single day, likely over the weekend. But that number is likely dropping, and won’t be a billion soon. Estimates of the global TV audience tend to be around 4-5 billion, but not everyone watches every day, so somewhere between 1-2 billion as a daily peak seems about right. Radios are very common in the developed world (75% of homes have a radio) but are MUCH less common in the developing world. I would be surprised if the Facebook number wasn’t bigger than the radio peak. Other forms of media like cinema, magazines and so on would all be much lower still – less than 300 million daily users.

Therefore the Facebook billion is a good number, but not mind-blowingly better, right? That’s true, but we need to remember that TV, radio and newspapers have been around for decades or more…while FB is 11 years old. To reach a billion that fast is pretty impressive!

Next, how does the Facebook billion compare with some other large audiences in the past, especially TV? A broadcaster friend of mine pointed out:

…a billion simultaneous viewers is something television has been delivering for some time around major international events like the Olympics and even the Oscars… A billion viewers was the estimated audience for a single SEVEN HOUR cricket game earlier this year (between India and Pakistan) at the cricket World Cup…

I have a few points to make in response to that:

  1. The numbers that are often thrown around for global TV audience are deeply suspect. FIFA repeatedly claims audiences of over a billion, while the measured number is always much smaller…a few hundred million at most. There is an entire Wikipedia article looking at the likely distortions, with one example being the Kate and William wedding: estimated at an audience of 2 billion, the actual number is likely closer to 300 million. The Elvis Aloha from Hawaii broadcast of 1973 was claimed to reach a billion people…but the population of countries receiving the broadcast was only 1.3 billion, and a 77% reach seems unlikely.Aloha_from_Hawaii_Via_Satellite
  2. Next, broadcasts like the Olympics, moon landings or Royal weddings are highly infrequent events. It appears that Facebook will be delivering a billion people on a daily basis soon. That ability to connect with a billion people every single day of the year is impressive.
  3. More importantly, even if a billion people watch a sporting event worldwide, they are doing so across tens or hundreds of different broadcasters. The billion that Facebook gets is from a SINGLE CHANNEL, owned by a SINGLE COMPANY.
  4. If I were trying to buy advertising space to capitalise on a billion people watching a TV show, reaching that audience would require me to negotiate with multiple broadcasters. That fragmentation doesn’t exist with Facebook – it is a “one stop shop” to reach a billion.

Where does that leave me? After more than a week thinking about it, and doing a deeper dive on daily users of other media, as well as other famously large global audiences…I am now MORE IMPRESSED by the Facebook billion users than I was before. There was a lot of hype over that number. But the reality is even bigger than the hype.