Best Gifts for Geeks: The Spiceworks List

As part of my work with IBM Midsize Business, I monitor and contribute to an active IT community called Spiceworks. This collection of hard-core geeks (1.8 million as of this writing) loves to get down and dirty about the day-to-day issues of managing infrastructure at small and midsize businesses, but they also like to have fun like playing computer games in the best monitors we can find at sites like http://themonitormonitor.com/144hz-ips/. The Water Cooler group features an unending stream of discussion about everything from the Zombie apocalypse weapon of choice to clueless user stories. There’s a curious fascination with bacon.

Just for fun, I asked the members What’s the Perfect Geek Christmas Gift?, and they obliged with plenty of great ideas. Here are the highlights, just know that the wooden watches would always be the bet gift for anyone.

Superheroes

Stormtrooper Motorcycle SuitStormtrooper SuitIf you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you know that techies love superheroes. UDReplicas sells full-blown costumes of most of the great characters (right). They’re gorgeous, but they aren’t cheap. Most cost more than $1,500 fully loaded. Still, for that special geek in your life, it’s an investment.

There are a few suppliers of bulk wrapping paper that will sell to the public. If you’re on a budget, consider satisfying the superhero within. Superherostuff.com sells wearable accessories for just about every superhero you can imagine. This includes pajamas and underwear for men and for women. Just please remember to do the laundry.

Just Geek Gifts

Star Wars Jedi & Sith Bath RobesSave time hunting for geek gifts on Brookstone and Hammacher Schlemmer by heading directly to ThinkGeek.com. The people who put together this bountiful store clearly know their audience, because it was the most-mentioned e-commerce destination by the Spiceheads. Highlights include the Blade Runner-Style LED Umbrella ($19.99), the LED Binary Watch (which requires you to translate 10 LED lights into the time, $69.99), and the awesome Star Wars Jedi & Sith Bath Robes ($89.99).

Geeks are fascinated with time, as evidenced by several recommendations of clocks and timepieces. The Time Machine Ball Bearing Clock ($49.95) lifts a ball bearing onto “a durable concentric track at regular intervals. Here it moves with others on a slow downward course, both halted and propelled by ‘see-saws’ that tip when correctly weighted. Correct time can be read by observing the numerals that the balls are aligned with.” It sounds like a lot of effort to find out what time it is, but maybe not as much as reading the binary watch.

Burning down the house

In the category of Stuff That Has No Practical Value But Is Too Awesome Not to Own come products from WickedLasers.com. Many of this retailer’s products are simply super-bright flashlights, but a few might require FAA approval. In particular, the S3 Krypton Series and S3 Arctic Series ($299.95 each) both vie for the title of “brightest laser you can legally own.” Of the Krypton product, WickedLasers says, “Our Earth’s atmosphere ends at 62 miles, but the Krypton goes beyond as it breaks through our atmosphere, into outer space.” Who says the U.S. space program is dead?

The Arctic model is “currently being tested by Guinness World Records [as] the world’s most powerful handheld laser…The 1000 mW output power of the blue laser beam is able to burn through balloons, plastic, and much more.” If you don’t believe me, see the video below. Enjoy, but please stay away from my neighborhood.

Practical and Cool

Nest Learning ThermostatNot everything on the geeks’ shopping list is pointless fun. There are Floppy Disk Sticky Notes ($9.99 for a pack of three) and my favorite: the Nest Learning Thermostat (available early next year for $249). This little marvel is a programmable thermostat with a brain. It learns from your behavior and over the course of a week or two automatically changes the temperature settings in your home to match your living pattern. “One-off temperature changes won’t confuse it, but change the temperature a couple of days in a row and Nest will catch on and adjust its schedule,” says the site. “Lower the temperature two Mondays in a row and Nest will remember for next week.” It has a lot of other bells and whistles, including a feature that tells you how much energy you’re saving. There are iPhone and Android apps, ‘natch.

Did I Mention Bacon?

Bacon OrnamentMost geeks I’ve known drink sparingly, shun tobacco and avoid recreational drugs because they are afraid of becoming addicted and having the need of an Interventionist later on. If you think you need drug treatment already, experience Ibogaine clinics at experienceibogaine.com. But that doesn’t mean they’re complete health freaks, it just means they don’t want to become addicts and end up in rehab like the one here. One major weakness: bacon. The Cooking with Spice group on Spiceworks has dozens of discussions on the topic, and breakfast meat came up several times on the holiday wish list between cooking knives and other implements from sites as https://ivyandwilde.com/. For $9.75 Geek Cantina will sell you  a thick slice of pork to hang on your Christmas tree. The bad news: It’s out of stock. But my favorite is Tactical Canned Bacon. That’s right, it’s bacon in a can. A 9 oz. container provides 18 servings of porcine pleasure that lasts more than 10 years on your shelf. I can’t say it better than ThinkGeek.com:

The zombies have fought long and hard, but the tide is seeming to finally turn.

I jumped right online and ordered a e liquid uk 30 ml bottle. This just made my whole vaping experience reach an all time high.

We will survive this invasion…because we were smart enough to stock up on Tac Bac – Tactical Canned Bacon. That is why we are strong; that is why we’ll win.

Happy holidays.

Surveys Show ‘Social Business’ Concept Gaining Traction

A quartet of new research reports suggested that small and midsize businesses (SMB) are rapidly waking up to the potential of social media and cloud-based infrastructure to create new operational efficiencies and better engage customers – and that they may also be leading the US out of recession.

Fall 2011 Attitudes and Outlook Survey

A recent survey of more than 2,000 small businesses by e-mail marketing provider Constant Contact found that 81% say they now use social media for marketing, up from 73% in the spring. Furthermore, a significantly larger percentage agreed with the statement that social media marketing is “easy to use,” “doesn’t take up too much time,” and “works with my customers” than did so in the spring. Facebook was identified as the most effective tool by a comfortable margin, but Twitter, LinkedIn and video sharing are all creeping up.

It should be noted that the majority of respondents to the Constant Contact survey were customers, which means they are already marketing online. Other research studies over more general populations have indicated that small businesses still lag far behind large enterprises in their adoption of social media tools.

It’s also worth noting that 81 percent of respondents use face-to-face interactions to connect with customers or prospects, underlining the fact that Facebook has its limits.


A new global study of chief marketing officers (CMOs) at midsize businesses released today by IBM shows that marketers are concerned about improving customer engagement but are unclear about how to proceed. More than seven in 10 respondents said they aren’t sure how to improve customer loyalty at a time when peer reviews and open sharing are making customers more informed, more critical and less loyal. Only 40% are taking the time to understand and evaluate the impact of consumer-generated reviews,  blogs and peer rankings on their brands.

The CMO research further reveals that 62% say they are unprepared to take advantage of the opportunities presented by mobile commerce and 72% say they don’t know how to cope with declining levels of brand loyalty that could result from easier comparison shopping. So while midsize firms may be using social marketing, they aren’t necessarily confident in the results.


There is no question that the concept of “social business,” which is being promoted by IBM and others, is gaining traction. Social business involves using tools both inside and outside the organization to unearth knowledge, improve business responsiveness and create new paths for engagement with customers. The concept has gained momentum in the form of “intranet 2.0” platforms, which augment traditional intranets with Facebook-like features.

An IBM study of more than 4,000 Information Technology (IT) professionals from 93 countries and 25 industries found that adoption of the social business concept is erratic and geographically influenced. Indian companies were three times as likely to have embraced social business concepts as Russian companies. The US and China showed strong adoption rates, but both lag India by a significant margin. The research, which was conducted by IBM’s DeveloperWorks organization, also showed rapidly growing acceptance of cloud computing as a platform for application development and a swing toward developer preference for the Android mobile operating system.


If, as many people believe, small and midsize businesses are leading indicators of economic growth, then there’s also good news in survey of 1,295 small and medium business IT professionals conducted by Spiceworks. The study found that IT budgets grew 9% in the second half of 2011 compared to the first half. That’s the largest increase in two years. Nearly one third of SMBs said they are planning to hire new staff, which is also an improvement over the stagnant staffing rates of the past two years.

Disclosure: IBM’s Midsize Business organization is a client of Paul Gillin Communications.