Creativity is just connecting things.
— Steve Jobs

Tag Archives: Chrysler

50 Things About Me

This blog, founded on June 1, 2004, is written and produced by Matt Binkowski.

Matt and baby Elise

1. I have been happily married for 14 years to my best friend, partner in crime, and all around love of my life.

2. My daughter Elise is perfectly cute, funny and smart as a whip. My baby boy Miles crashed the party on November 29, 2008.

3. I collect old Apple hardware:
– 1 Apple Pippin (Developer’s Edition)
– 1 Emate
– 2 Newtons (130 and 2100)
– 1 Interactive TV Prototype.

4. I started playing guitar when I was age 15.

5. My hollow-body aluminum strat was hand-built by a gifter luthier, Tom Murray.

6. I’ve driven a Wrangler over log piles, shale beaches, large boulders, through flooded trails, on the Rubicon Trail and the Chrysler Proving Grounds.

7. I like to think I’m a good painter and draftsman.

8. My dog lives on a 20 acre ranch in California and I miss him every day.

9. I lost my home, job, friends and savings thanks to the financial collapse in 2009 but somehow we were rescued and my family is okay.

10. I need to be challenged wherever I work.

11. If I’m watching a band is playing at a bar, I get nervous because I’ll feel like I’m up next.

12. My favorite color was blue and now it’s red.

13. I am an Eagle Scout and once won the Summer Camp-wide Archery competition.

14. I think Flash is the least usable application a designer has to deal with.

15. I used to live in California during the big internet boom and I miss that optimistic culture.

16. I rarely use my iPod Newton.

17. I love my iPod iPhone.

18. I find my Newton iPhone more useful than my iPod Newton.

19. I once fell from the roof of my Mom and Dad’s house and I didn’t get hurt.

20. I’ve never broken or sprained anything.

21. I once camped outside for 24 hours while it was 10 degrees below 0.

22. I once played in a band described by the Metro Times as “Detroit’s most offensive hardcore band.”

23. I took that as a compliment.

24. I loved playing in that band because our live shows were so crazy.

25. I painted three life-size oil portraits of my friends for my senior thesis in art school.

26. My college band performed a show in front of AC/DC’s lead singer and 800 high school kids. (it was so odd to see Brian Johnson just 30 feet away from me watching us play.)

27. There’s something comforting to me about a buddy list that makes me think I’m able to keep up with friends.

28. I take other people’s old Macintosh computers when they mention throwing them out because in some weird way it feels wrong.

29. I am determined to create my own OS X iPhone app.

30. I bought a Jeep so I could learn how to take it apart.

31. I hate being bored.

32. I have a good way of being calm in hairy situations.

33. I can’t cook anything except Crazy Pancakes.

34. Even those don’t turn out very well every time.

35. I wish Google Maps was able to send info to my Newton.

36. I’m somewhat addicted to the news, especially during election years.

37. I can’t watch CNN for very long before it stresses me out.

38. I once hiked over 100 miles in 1 week in New Mexico while carrying a backpack that weighed over 40 pounds.

39. I only drive the speed limit when I drive with my family.

40. I can draw Dora the Explorer.

41. I really can’t stand Dora the Explorer. I’m really learning to like Dora now that my daughter is so caught up in the Disney princesses who need to be married in order to “be complete.”

42. I can do all of the Winnie the Pooh voices.

43. I drink too much coffee and not enough water. Too personal? Maybe…

44. My first guitar teacher taught me Puff the Magic Dragon. Then I quit and learned how to play by listening to the radio.

45. The first record I ever bought was Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.

46. The last record I ever bought was Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.

47. My favorite movie is Better Off Dead.

48. I have a bad habit of rejecting bands the first time I hear them…and then reject them again a few months later…eventually listening to them religiously about a year down the road.

49. I’ve taken over 8,000 photos and 300 movie clips of my family.

50. I am amazed you made it all the way to the end of this list.


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Nielsen and Nuts

For the uninitiated, Jakob Nielsen is a usability guru who made his name in the early 90s by criticizing the poor usability of many websites. His voice helped shape the web and is generally respected by just about all in the interactive field and simultaneously despised by designers who consider pushing the envelope a part of their jobs. It must also be said that in the early 90s, it wasn’t that hard to pick apart many websites with regard to usability because the entire industry was just getting started.

On to the topic at hand.

I’m not sure if he just had a bad, long 4th of July weekend, but his most recent “alertbox” posting on his website regarding blogs is screaming out for a rebuttal and is uncharacteristically scatterbrained. It is important to discuss this article because many Marketing VPs and IT Directors who search out advice on any web related subject will eventually come across Mr. Nielsen’s opinion and give it considerable weight.

His summary of the post is this:

“To demonstrate world-class expertise, avoid quickly written, shallow postings. Instead invest your time in thorough, value-added content that attracts paying customers.”

That’s a perfectly acceptable concept if your name is Jakob Nielsen and make your living partly through writing thorough, value-added articles for your website.

And it’s applicable for his first example — a top level consultant whose job is to expound on his expertise in person, not for free elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Mr. Nielsen then heads straight into the weeds where he tries to apply that same logic to corporations.

“Weblogs have their role in business, particularly as project blogs, as exemplified on several award-winning intranets. Blogs are also fine for websites that sell cheap products. On these sites, visitors can often be easily converted and the main challenge is to raise awareness. For example, a site that sells pistachio nuts should post as much content about pistachios as possible in the hope of attracting quick hits by people searching for that information. Some percentage of these visitors will buy the nuts while visiting the site.”

That quote has two points I’d like to address:

1. Blogs are fine for websites that sell cheap products?

Mr. Nielsen really should familiarize himself with Granted it’s not a B2C level blog, yet it still makes an impact on consumers via the media. This blog is regularly quoted by many outlets (on and offline) and its importance to the Chrysler Group’s overall communication strategy is vital.

For example. When the Chrysler Group’s VP of Communications, Jason Vines, took big oil to task on a blog post, the media ran with it immediately:

The Detroit News:

USA Today:

And Jalopnik (an auto trade blog that speaks to consumers):

2. “On these sites, visitors can often be easily converted and the main challenge is to raise awareness.”

If Mr. Nielsen could expound on how blog readers can be easily converted, I’m sure every single marketer on the planet would kill for that secret recipe.

Unfortunately, blasting inbound search engine visitors with pages upon pages of detail on your product isn’t likely to be the best way to “easily convert” hits into sales. Those who stay long enough to read it may become slightly more informed but that’s it.

The question is this: Are people really shopping when reading your company’s blog? No. Probably not. They’re getting a feel for your company’s personality, for your commitment to your customers, products and future. That’s what you’re communicating.


Engorging on Jeeps

Man I can’t wait for this day. Aug. 9, the Chrysler Museum is having an open viewing of all of the latest Jeep concept vehicles from 6-9pm. What are the chances that my camera will be fully charged and its memory completely cleared for shooting? :-)

High Caliber Project

Imagine you’re building a piece of software that is going to be publicized every single day on and offline and the main content creators have never seen it before or been fully trained to use it. This is the short story of how we overcame that and other issues.

First, a little background on the project: In an effort to raise awareness of the all-new Dodge Caliber, the DaimlerChrysler team created an event that saw three teams of college students drive cross country to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. Each team took a Dodge Caliber and stopped at various destinations along the way to promote both the vehicle and the event. In addition to staged press events and interviews, the teams were encouraged to blog their experiences along the way using words and images. ICON was chosen to build the blogs and provide additional info like team bios and route schedules.

It’s important to note that we had an extremely tight schedule to meet with no room to let it slide a day for any reason. Everything had to be buttoned up in advance of not just the event, but the selection of the teams. That was fine. We’ve been there before.

Now for the hard part: the user.

You see, every project begins with a good idea of the target audience in mind. That in turn, helps us create the experience. But when you’re dealing with software where many people have to be able to jump right in without any training and thousands of people are watching, that’s where it gets interesting.

With this project, we had no idea who the students were before-hand. The students were picked very close to the start of the event, and therefore, we had absolutely no access to them…even to ask a simple question like “do you have your own blog?” Had they ever used a blog before? Commented on one? Run their own? Posted their own photos? Resized them properly? Get the pics off the camera in the first place? The list goes on and on. All we had was their name and a short bio.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s a blog. How hard could it be, right? There’s millions of blogs out there right now. True. But we couldn’t guarantee that these 9 people knew what to do with admin access to a corporate blog. And we had to account for their unique position, which was probably akin to being on tour in a rock band: non-stop driving, interviewing, photo taking, meet and greets, THEN blogging.

Imagine going through that experience every day and then being asked to sit down, download photos off the camera, resize them, login to the website, create a post, upload the photos and hopefully write something thousands of people would find interesting. That’s not something most people would find enjoyable for 7 days in a row if the software you were forced to use was not so great.

Here’s what we did to help the students out: We started by basing the 3 blogs on the codebase of – the blog we built and still maintain for the Chrysler Group. The Firehouse has sophisticated functionality: a fully realized WYSIWYG editor, full featured image uploading, editing, and resizing functions, an entire post review/publish process on the backside, podcast support, plus lots more that I can’t even fully explain here. Put it this way. It’s far from your standard WordPress/Blogger experience.

One goal was to have as few UI and usability roadblocks as possible so the students could post as much as possible without having to call Chrysler’s PR group (and in turn have them call us for help). We simplified our software by reducing the number of steps required to do anything. We modified how you upload images, how you review the posts, how you create posts in the editor, etc. Again, when you don’t know the user’s proficiency, you’re safer to make things simpler to use instead of hiding lots of help copy that people will quickly stop reading.

Once the software was simplified, we didn’t leave the students out in the cold and throw them to the wolves. We supported the promotion daily. We were notified when new posts were entered. We checked the site at night after hours for image sizes, copy, and looked for content that we thought would compromise the event or our client’s brand. We even went in to the posts to help students resize photos to fit the site and make any formatting edits if necessary. Luckily for us, we didn’t encounter any content that wasn’t fit for prime time.

The blogs are still live if you’d care to take a look:

In the end, the sites really went off without a hitch and the students caught on to the software very quickly and seemed to have fun posting goofy photos of themselves and the sights and people along their way.


Nader vs Jeep

The Detroit auto show attracted throngs of appreciative fans last week, but Ralph Nader wasn’t among them. The consumer advocate, presidential candidate and perennial industry critic told Automotive News he was appalled by the stunts that car companies pulled to launch their vehicles at the show.

Nader was especially annoyed by a 2007 Jeep Wrangler that crashed through a plate-glass window at the show hall, crossed a downtown street, drove up the steps of a hotel and scaled an ersatz mountain — with Chrysler group CEO Tom LaSorda aboard.

“It’s high-level juvenile delinquency,” said the author of Unsafe at Any Speed, “a grotesque caricature of what the auto industry is doing these days.”

iPod and Jeep Integration Is Here

The Chrysler Group today announced that it will be the first American automaker to provide full iPod integration as an option in most of its 2006 models, with over three million 2006 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge models offering seamless iPod integration beginning this spring. Drivers will be able to listen to their iPod through the cars audio system, select their music by artist, album or playlist with radio or steering wheel controls and view selections on the radios display.


Yes, I’m coining that word. I said it first and noone can use it without paying massive sums of money.

I happen to have seen some real photos of the 2-door 07 Jeep Wrangler. Here are my thoughts:

Front grille: Straight from the Gladiator. It also is more of a flattened, rounded corners, rectangular shape. Not like today’s shape.

Front bumper: Similar to the Gladiator minus the built in fog lights. Not that that’s a bad thing since those would probably have been knocked off by a whipping tree branch on the trail. They also looked too Chrysler for me anyways.

The top: Take the current top and do the following mods: It is sliced in 3 pieces creating one piece over each front seat and the third slice goes across the vehicle between the front and rear seats. The top also has a flip-up windshield. The overall shape is very angular like the Rescue concept. The soft top is nothing new: Sunrider but it’s standard. I don’t have one on mine so I can’t comment.

The interior: Again, no way to tell if these things are standard, but: Power windows. Yes there appear to be two up/down switches in the center of the IP, which according to my friend, is much like the Liberty. The general IP is rounder with a smaller glove box. Not a good move in my opinion. It appearrs to be smaller due to what looks like a large speaker grille. Lose the speaker and give me more glove space. It was really small to begin with but now looks only good for my winter gloves. Power door locks. They appear to be integrated with the door handle itself as a switch similar to the power windows style.

The fenders: Front are from the Gladiator, rear barely look different. I wonder how much mud this front set will accumulate when wheeling but whatever. Most people will want to remove them anyway. The side turning signal lights are tiny, round, and look pasted on. I’d rather just cover them with black tape or lightly spray paint them with black to tone them down. They just look weird when everything else is so Wrangular. 😉

I’ll try to do a photoshop mock and drawing of what i saw so it’s easier to visualize.

Actual Transcript of Snoop Dogg’s Chrysler Voicemail Message

“Yo, what up? This is big Snoop Dogg, trying to put these new legs down for this new 300C. What I gotta do to get that brand new 300 up outta you? Get back in contact with my nephew so you can make it happen, then it’s official like a referee’s whistle. If you want this car to blow, give it to me. This is Snoop Dogg. Preach!”

That is precisely why I love tha biggest dawg on tha west coast.

Read the whole article at the New York Times.