Friday, December 28, 2007

Video Professor Version 21.0 aka I can’t wait for ’08!

Wow, another year has flown by. Why do they seem to go by faster the older one gets? I’ll save that subject for a future blog.

This certainly is a time that people tend to look back. But, since I started this company I’ve always preferred to look ahead. Rearview mirrors are great in cars but not in business. Always best to keep your focus on the road ahead.

That said, 2007 was a challenging year for most businesses. The folks who run Wall Street acted like drunken sailors with money to burn. They burned so much of our money, but of course, not their own. More than ever, people are looking for maximum value and customer service for every dollar they spend. Both are something we’ve been proud to offer since we started, in 1987.

I’ve stayed in business for two decades by watching my pennies and hiring good people. So far so good!

This is a good time to salute the hard work and generosity of our Video Professor team. Recently, they collected over 330 gifts for 110 needy families through the Salvation Army Angel Tree Project, over 850 food items and hundreds of dollars to the Jeffco Action Center, dozens of coats to people in need, plus gift cards and turkeys for holiday dinners. Many of our employees are active volunteers in the community. I’m proud of them all and I fully support their efforts.

As a company we were able to donate to groups like the Fisher House Foundation™, which provides a free place to stay for families of our soldiers recovering from illness and injury at Military hospitals. Also, to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver that makes a difference in the lives of 9,000 terrific kids each and every day. We just presented a check to Jeffco Action Center as well. They tell us that families who used to come in one door to donate food, clothing and shelter, now come in another door to get help themselves. All of these nonprofits have coveted 4-star ratings by Charity Navigator, which analyzes and rates the financial health and efficiency of charities and nonprofits in the U.S.(

We also donate computer lessons to many nonprofit organizations which include computer education as a part of their programs. We recently helped the New Horizons Independent Living Center in Shreveport, La. Daryn Broussard runs the program there and tells us “The tutorials we received have worked marvelously. Our students report an overall positive experience with the Video Professor products.” We’re glad to have helped you and your clients Daryn.

O.K., lets move on to next year.

I can’t recall ever looking forward to a year like I am 2008. There’s an excitement at our corporate headquarters that’s simply contagious. It’s generated by some of the team who’ve been with me since day one. It’s also fueled by a new generation of leaders and technical wizards who’ve recently joined us.

Video Professor is known for our lessons that teach you everything you need to know about operating your computer. But, when you look at our library of over 50 titles, you’ll also see lessons about online travel, buying and selling on eBay®, online investing and how to connect and actually use all those new digital toys you found under the tree.

We’ve taught a generation how to use their computers. Now we’re teaching them along with new customers how to get the most benefit and value out of their computers. All this technology is designed to make our lives easier, more productive and simply more efficient. You just have to know how.

I know Internet safety is an important issue for the entire family. We’ll be revisiting that subject with a terrific new tutorial being released in just a few days. Definitely content you can use.

Finally, our list of titles is going to increase dramatically from dozens to thousands in 2008. If you can place a “How to” in front of it, we’ll have a tutorial for you. While CD-ROM lessons are still a part of our business, we’ll be making a very strong move to provide lesson material that can be streamed directly to your computer.

It will be easier and faster than ever before to start learning with Video Professor.

2008 promises to be an exciting year. I wish all of you a most happy and prosperous New Year and promise you that whether or not you agree with everything I post on my blogs each week, I will sign my real name to it!

Never hesitate to contact me at


John W. Scherer

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Mitchell Report: Major League Baseball’s dark cloud

Shoeless Joe Jackson must be smiling somewhere. Along with his fellow Chicago White Sox players, Jackson is finally off the hook, the 1921 Black Sox scandal is no longer the worst disgrace in baseball history.

There are far more opinions about the Mitchell Report than there are actual findings issued by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell on the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Almost everyone has an opinion, including me.

Let me say this right now. I’m old school. Baseball is a game to be played on green grass, on warm afternoons under the bluest of skies. The game itself doesn’t have to be played by saints. Hank Aaron was darn near perfect while Mantle and Ruth were far from it. What made them all special is that they played the game with a level of integrity baseball needs to remain America’s favorite past time.

But the list of names in the Mitchell report is staggering and stunning.

The numbers: 409 pages. 86 names. 30 teams.

We expected to hear about Barry Bonds, but Roger Clemens? Clemens was known for his seven Cy Young Awards, but now people will only think about his 82 mentions in this report. Ouch.

Let’s begin where the stink starts: Bud Selig and Donald Fehr. Selig, by any measure, is the weakest commissioner in the history of baseball. Fehr, heads the Major League Baseball Players Association, the players’ union, is equally complicit. They’ve always known and they’ve done nothing. I would hate to look under the rugs in their offices.

Both should step down immediately. Of course, they won’t. Selig will hide behind record attendance and revenue numbers. Same goes for Fehr, the only thing we have to fear is Fehr himself.

It doesn’t help matters that Sen. Mitchell is on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox. Which makes him an insider. He does, however, have a well earned reputation as a respected and honest man. So while his report has no legal weight behind it, it is a damning indictment that the past 20 years of baseball will forever be known as the Steroid Era.

Numerous records, awards and even World Series titles are tainted forever.

Congress, of course, will call hearings; they love to do these sorts of things. It gives them plenty of face-time for the folks back home. Unfortunately, while Congress loves to hear, it seldom listens and they will do nothing. It’s what these appointed officials do best.

But when every single team in Major League Baseball is named, teams that play in stadiums financed by you and me, action needs to be taken. Selig says the “report is a call to action” and that “[he] will act.” We’ll see.

So, will Roger Clemens be locked out, instead of a lock for the Hall of Fame? That will be decided by voters who are all a part of this sorry mess.

To be fair, everyone named in the report deserves a chance to defend themselves. It is indeed likely that some of the players named did nothing wrong at all. Major League Baseball commissioned the report and now must deal with the consequences. 

There is simply too much dirt hidden under the rug to hide anymore.

Here is my solution, simply step up or step aside. All the members of Congress, should have hearings, bring in league officials, owners and players, and meet in private if they have to. (There will be less showboating that way.) The best way to handle this is to listen, then act and give us a plan.

Make testing for steroids and other human growth drugs mandatory. Testing would be random and conducted by an outside independent agency. If a player tests positive, they’re off the team for good. One strike and you’re out. What possibly could the players’ union have against that? What honest player wants to play against a cheater?

 We’re going to hold every member accountable which you will see at voting and ticket booths. Some fresh leadership is in order.

The report is out, what’s done is done. I agree with Sen. Mitchell, to a point. Let’s not hang the players out to dry. The people in charge weren’t doing their jobs. In fact, they failed miserably. Let’s hold Selig and Fehr accountable instead. Moving forward, everyone knows what the rules are. Life and business are all about rules.

There are rules for fans. If I throw a bottle on to the field or chase after an umpire, your tossed out, arrested or both. No second strike. Fans have a clear choice: behave yourself and  enjoy the game, but if you do something stupid, you’ll be tossed out.

Players should follow the same rules. Behave yourself and enjoy the game.  Do something stupid, like take performance-enhancing drugs and you’ll be the one tossed out.

I’m just one fan who hopes the game can save itself, from itself. I’m not an optimist.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me at


John W. Scherer

Friday, December 14, 2007

My name is URL

I thought about calling this blog “Shootout at the E-comm Corral.”

E-comm is short for electronic commerce, which is business conducted over the Internet. We love jargon in this industry, so we often refer to it as e-commerce or e-comm. We might even shorten it to EC one day, but I can assure you it’s anything but EZ.

Enough with the one-liners, even if they are intentional. What was once “the wave of the future,” has become more like a Tsunami.

You’ve likely conducted electronic commerce, which is when you buy something on the Internet. Perhaps you were notified by e-mail from businesses you have bought from concerning a sale, or perhaps you followed a link suggested in an e-mail.

Imagine a shopping mall with millions of stores. Then imagine the many ways they would try to get your attention: huge billboards and signs, people handing out pamphlets, or even being lost and wandering into the wrong store, where they make it very difficult to leave. All of these methods have electronic equivalents that exist today.

E-commerce is a business full of terms like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) the process of improving the volume and the quality of traffic to a web site,  URL’s (Uniform Resource Locator) which specifies an actual web site address, keywords and new terms being developed every day.

We have a very talented team of professionals here at Video Professor who specializes in all of this. In fact, they’re pioneers of sorts, whose ancestors settled the West in the 1800s.

That’s where “Shoot-out at the E-comm Corral” comes in. Cities like Tombstone, Ariz. sprung up overnight. It was a wild and wooly place, until lawmen like Wyatt Earp brought in a little law and order. While the early Western towns were full of fine, law-abiding folks, there were also more than a few villains.

The Wild West relates to e-commerce due to issues like cyber squatters that buy up domain names of very familiar or popular brands, but with slight misspellings. We often type faster than our brains can keep up, or misspell the URL we’re looking for. Cyber squatters want you to end up at a web site much different than what you intended. It could be a pornographic web site or one that is simply designed to steal your identity. Some very important companies recognize how damaging this can be and are taking legal action. There aren’t many laws pertaining to this subject and lawmakers are finding it hard to keep up with the technology.

Another nasty bit of business going on the Internet these days are web sites designed to allow users to post blogs, or anything, for that matter, anonymously. Many allow people to make any claim they want and then sign their work with a false identity. Forget the facts, anyone can be falsely accused or slandered on these sites. There are sites that will charge money to clear your name and absolve you of wrongdoing. Whether you are part of a business or are a private individual, we’re all equal opportunity victims, so be careful.

You may have read about the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide as the result of false and hurtful postings made under a phony name. This is all protected by what some would consider free speech. I wonder how the parents of the young girl feel about this falling under First Amendment rights. These were not just innocent postings; they were malicious attacks made on a young girl, which inevitably lead to her taking her own life.

The great thing about the Internet is that everyone has access. The bad thing about the Internet is that everyone has access.

Again, technology is moving much faster than litigation and businesses, so government agencies are starting to take notice. Just like in the old West, people are calling for law and order. It is on the way, it is hard to say how long it will take, but it will be good for all of us.

This is obviously a hot-button topic. I’d like to hear your thoughts. Send an e-mail to and let me know how you feel.


John W. Scherer

Friday, December 07, 2007

To TiVo® or not to TiVo? That is the question

You may have read recent news stories about the just–completed, November television ratings period. It’s a time for networks and their local affiliates to get a measure of who is watching and who is not.

These rating periods are conducted four times each year in November, February, May and July. You’ll have no problem noticing these occasions because it’s when the networks air their most popular shows’ premieres and   promote various new series.

A company called Nielsen Media Research measures the results which are critical to programmers as it sets the rate they’re able to charge people like me for commercials..

One method involves a group of selected viewers filling out diaries and sending them in. Others have boxes hooked up to their TV’s in order to electronically measure viewing data. In a market like Denver, between 4-600 viewers are needed to make up the sample to be able to measure the viewing habits of hundreds of thousands of people.

But is measurement technology keeping up with viewing technology?

Here’s an example that one of our staff here at Video Professor shared with me.

He watches programs like NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’s “Face the Nation”, at his leisure instead of Sunday mornings when they both air. He can watch them later that evening or while eating lunch on Mondays. Both programs are available as podcasts which he watches on his video iPod® player.

On a recent Tuesday night he watched episodes of “Shark” airing on  Sunday evenings on CBS, and “Heroes,” airing on Monday evenings on NBC,  via DVR (Digital Video Recorder.) He enjoys being able to skip through commercials, two hours of programming is compressed into less than 90 minutes.

He also mentioned that at least twice that Tuesday evening, he checked in with a local station’s news website via his BlackBerry ® device. He didn’t have to watch a traditional newscast to find out the news, weather and sports he needed.  I just hope he read the e-mail I sent to that very same BlackBerry about getting next year’s budget numbers in!

So, while he does watch some programming live, much of his news and information comes via delay on the DVR, his iPod or BlackBerry device. So it appears that while he watches, he’s not one of the counted.

Companies like Nielsen are working hard to catch up with technology, like many of us these days. While technology moves ahead at what seems light speed, the methods to measure it, and legislate it effectively, move far slower. So, is that good or bad? Do you even care?

However, that’s just part of the equation. You could get your news on the Internet and comment about with a blog, like I do. Some blogs are extremely influential in politics, business and entertainment.

While you may be watching a show on television or your iPod, others are listening to music on their MP3 players, playing video games, watching movies on their home theater systems, or downloading video to their computer. Nowadays, people are not just watching television. We have many choices, whether it’s between a satellite provider or cable company, both are  available in HD (High Definition) which is optional. There are even more choices with the invention of HDTV, built-in digital video recorders and third party hardware such as  TiVo ®  digital video recorder.

Here’s the bottom line: Technology is doing what it’s supposed to be doing: Empowering you, the consumer, with choices. Networks do not dictate when or how you watch. You do. When there isn’t something interesting to watch in  our 500 channel universe; you now have so many other choices.

All of us here at Video Professor have been paying very close attention to this surge in technology since we started working on our Digital Devices Made Easy tutorial. We learned from our own experiences, plus those of our customers that while all this technology is fabulous, understanding how it works can be quite frustrating. We’ve also learned from all the lessons we’re selling, you will continue to come to us for help.

It reminds me of when I first started Video Professor over 20 years ago, people knew that computers were the future. They knew that like it or not, computers would become a part of their every day lives. They just needed someone to teach them how to operate their machines.

Technology we could only dream about 20 years ago, including  HDTV’s, iPods and digital video recorders are here to stay. So, the technology has changed. What hasn’t changed is that we simply need to learn how to operate it all!

I guess it’s true, the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’re happy to keep up with it all in order to help you keep up with it all.

I’m curious as to how the many home entertainment choices available today are used in your house. Share your stories with me at

I look forward to hearing from you.


John W. Scherer