Okay, sorry about this, but it’s still quite exciting for me when people ask to talk to me. Anyway, PR Week did an incredibly flattering profile of me this week (which I think is in the magazine as well) and Anjali did a super nice interview with me over at her blog One Size Fits One.
There’s one quote of mine I especially like in the PR Week piece: “It’s exciting that people find things I’ve put on the Internet.” I can’t say that enough. I realized recently I had actually missed the four year anniversary of this blog. I usually take the opportunity to thank everyone for making it happen. This year I was just too busy with everything else and didn’t even notice the occasion until about a month later. Needless to say, I believe that I have all you to thank for my success. Every time I get an email via the site or someone signs up for the likemind mailing list I’m a little bit amazed that this stuff works. I hope that never goes away.
A little site we put together at work the other day.
I just sent out an email to the brand tags list and posted it to the blog over there as well, but I figured I’d update everyone here.
First off, in case you forgot, I launched battle mode a couple months ago, which pits two random brands against each other. Check the leaderboard to see who’s winning (basically who you might expect). Also, just recently launched a Brazilian version to go along with UK and Hispanic. Finally, I ran some numbers and the average age of brand tags users (self reported of course) is 34.4 years old. Interesting stuff.
Today I got some Facebook spam. It’s the first time it’s happened, it came from a friend and it ended up on my wall. After Twittering about it, Ray pointed me towards these posts on the Facebook blog. So it looks like the problem lies in people giving their username/passwords out to random sites with promises of apps (or something). These sites then take control of a user’s account and send out a barrage of spam.
Okay, now for the rant. The reason this is happening in part is Facebook’s own fault (as well as a lot of other parties). Part of the way these sites have expanded at the speed they have is by asking people to enter their email username/password and then crawling their contact list and showing users/sending out invites appropriately. By encouraging this kind of behavior, Facebook makes it seem okay to give a site (even one you trust) your username and password, which it shouldn’t be. Ever. Period.
OAuth attempts to solve this problem by bouncing you over to the other site for approval, rather than asking for the login info. Google has implemented a version of this, but it’s still not being used by many sites (the only integration I’ve seen is Dopplr).
Now Facebook isn’t alone in this one. Every social site has a feature like this where they ask for email usernames and passwords. This is bad for business.
Whoa, this is awesome: Telegraph presents 5 best iPhone tricks. My two favorites are screenshots (hold down home key and press the sleep button … goes straight into your photos) and additional domain name endings (just hold down the .com in Safari and it will pop up .edu and .org).
I just posted this on Facebookand figured I’d post it here as well. Anyhow, me and some of my Barbarian brethren are doing a drinks thing tonight. As always, feel free to invite others, the more the merrier.
Where: House of Shields, 39 New Montgomery, San Francisco, CA (Google Maps)
When: Tonight (8/18/08), 8:30pm – Whenever
After watching this awesome sketch on why predictive text blocks swearing (via Daring Fireball) I was inspired to figure out how to get my iPhone to stop sending emails with the word “duck.” A quick Google search landed me on a Twitter that suggested if you type swears out and then just press the x when the phone tries to correct it, eventually it will learn the word. Not only did it work, but it will start to predict you’re trying to swear even when you spell it wrong.
Anyway, I decided to set up a little site/email called duckingiphone.com where I figure I’ll collect people’s swearmail. So send your swear training to email@example.com
Okay, so being out of town for a while has left me lots of time for reading. Hence I’ve got another one of those link posts. But first, a question: Does anyone like these things? I find them to be a useful way to throw together a bunch of interesting stuff, but if everyone thinks they suck I can stop. Also, would it be better if I just blogged these at the time I read them as quickies? Do you care? Seriously, if you have any preference or thought at all, please let me know in the comments or an email.
Now for some stuff …
- I may be doing a little drinks thing Monday night in SF. I will post here, but if you’d like an email with details let me know (comments or email is fine).
- The science of spice: Chili’s are hot because the chemical that makes it so acts as a fungicide. Interesting. Also from the article, “It turns out that capsaicin – this plant protectant – binds to a special class of vanilloid receptor inside our mouth called VR1 receptors. After binding capsaicin, the neuron is depolarized, and it signals the presence of spicy stimuli … But here’s the strange part: VR1 receptors weren’t designed to detect capsaicin. They bind spicy food by accident. The real purpose of VR1 receptors is the detection of heat. They are supposed to prevent us from consuming food that is too hot, in the thermal sense. (That’s why our VR1 receptors are clustered in our tongue, mouth and skin.)”
- New York Times on how much different the dress code/culture of advertising is now compared to Mad Men. There are simply too many quotes worthy of poking fun at to choose one.
- Georgia’s war with Russia is the first time in history that two nations with a McDonald’s have fought. (via rc3.org)
- Marginal Revolution sums up something I’ve been noticing quite a lot: Obama insecurity.
- Airborne has settled a case with the FTC that will require them to give back $30 million to consumers because of false claims. If you bought Airborne over the last few years and want your money back, there’s a handy website to help you.
- What was most interesting about the Times’ piece on YouTube ads was the technology behind it: “YouTube introduced a technology last fall called Video ID which allowed copyright owners to compare the digital fingerprints of their videos with material on YouTube, then flag infringing material for removal.” This gives media companies (or any content creator) the opportunity to track all content and eventually claim it as their own. That includes content created by consumers. Check out what EA is doing: “Electronic Arts, the video game publisher, has taken Video ID a step further, using it to encourage user submissions. In a promotion for the coming video game Spore, E.A. encouraged gamers to upload original Spore creatures they created using a software program. There were more than 100,000 submissions, and some attracted hundreds of thousands of views. E.A. used Video ID to claim the most popular user videos and share in the ad revenue on them.” Opens up some interesting possibilities (and questions).
- A select number of libraries have started to lend physical objects in addition to books: “Tool Lending Library offers thousands of tools free to Berkeley residents and people who own property in Berkeley. First time borrowers must present photo ID, a Berkeley Public Library card, and a recently received utility bill their name. Berkeley property owners who do not live in Berkeley must present their property tax bill. These policies are strictly enforced.”
- Diaroogle.com: Locate a public toilet in NYC. (via Alan via Josh)
- Blogjects (or spimes) in the wild: “Baacode gives each item of clothing a unique tracking number, which when entered into Icebreaker’s website allows you to find out exactly where your clothing was made, even allowing you to take a virtual tour of the New Zealand ranch on which “your” sheep was raised.”
That’s it for now. Have a great week.
Peter Hossli has an incredibly strange article about a place called Wannado City. It’s a strange pseudo-amusement park for kids located in the Sawgrass Mills mall in Florida. Parents pay for their kids to spend time there and the kids are given the opportunity to try their hand at any number of real-world jobs, which they eventually get paid for in the city’s special currency. As Luis Laresgoiti is quoted as explaining in the article, “This city for kids should be as close to reality as possible … Money is the most important fuel in every city and every country – also in Wannado City.”
Shudder … It all leaves me feeling a bit disgusted. Sure I think it must be a thrill for these kids, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but the focus on the park is clearly to help kids understand the realities of the world as early as possible, especially when it comes to money. I don’t even really know what to say.
On the marketing tip, “12 sponsors and their logos give the children’s work the stamp of reality. The newspaper that the little reporters research for is called the Miami Herald, Florida’s largest newspaper. Working as a cashier you are employed at Publix, a supermarket chain with over 850 stores in America’s south. On its shelves you can find ketchup from Heinz and pasta from Barilla. The money that the kidizens (junior citizens) accrue is managed at the State Farm Bank, an American financial firm that offers insurance and bank services. ‘Watch how your Wongas grow,’ exclaims the bank slogan.”
This can be filed away in the “I know it’s important, but I’m not sure I can verbalize why quite yet” category. A . It seems that as with many things web, the rich got richer. I haven’t read the actual paper yet, but this quote from it really made me scratch my chin: “Ironically, my research suggests that one of the chief values of print library research is its poor indexing. Poor indexing—indexing by titles and authors, primarily within journals—likely had the unintended consequence of actually helping the integration of science and scholarship. By drawing researchers into a wider array of articles, print browsing and perusal may have facilitated broader comparisons and scholarship.”
I’ve had like a million quickie entries and other stuff I’ve been meaning to write, but just haven’t had the time. So I figured I might as well compile them all in one of those posts full of random stuff.
So, without further ado …
- I’m out in SF. Drop a line if you’re around. Will be hitting up likemind sf this Friday.
- Benjamin passed this on to me this morning and it’s too good not to share: Back in 2002 a waitress at hooters in Florida sued the restaurant for giving her a “toy yoda” as a prize instead of a “Toyota”. You can’t make this stuff up.
- In the “you can’t make this stuff up” (YCMTSU) camp, McCain is being accused of plagerizing a speech from Wikipedia. Furthering the YCMTSU, The Onion was the mainstream news outlet that broke the story.
- Totally awesome pictures of appliances taken apart (via swissmiss)
- I was having a debate over Facebook comments about Obama’s decision to (and subsequent promotion of) announcing his running mate via text message. The argument was whether it was too sensationalist and made the very important process of choosing a VP seem as trivial as choosing a winner on American idol. I was on the side of no: Why shouldn’t his supporters be the first to know? The New York Times picked up the story and explained his likely rationale for this: “A study conducted during the 2006 elections showed that text-message reminders helped increase turnout among new voters by four percentage points, at a cost of only $1.56 per vote — much cheaper than the $20 or $30 per vote that the offline work of door-to-door canvassing or phone banking costs.” Overall it’s an interesting decision, obviously the mainstream press will pick up whatever his decision is (likely prior to the official announcement), but he’s decided that getting all those phone numbers is more valuable that whatever incremental coverage he might have gotten (which likely isn’t any, since it will be followed with a big press event I’d imagine).
- My friend Naveen announced a new side project called Novels in 3 lines (link is to the Twitter feed). “Novels in Three Lines is a collection of more than a thousand anonymously-published blurbs that appeared in the French newspaper Le Matin in 1906. They were all penned by Félix Fénéon who worked as a clerk in the French War Department.” You can also buy the book if that’s more your style.
- Awesome post over at The Barbarian Group blog by Nick about his recent experience with data security at a doctor’s office (it wasn’t good).
- Really interesting New York Times article about trolls on the web.
- Why Microsoft and Intel Tried to Kill the XO $100 laptop: A good in-depth piece about One Laptop Per Child.
- No link here, but has anyone else tried to watch video of the olympics on NBC’s site? Beyond having to download Silverlight, I found the experience awful. Things weren’t buffering right and I had to keep pausing the video. Eventually I went to YouTube and watched camcorder video of people recording their TVs. Quality sucked, but at least it played with jumping around. (I even watched one video that someone had recorded off the NBC site … which was funny.) Anyway, why couldn’t they get this right? Has anyone else had this experience?
- Turns out the iPhone has a kill switch that allows Apple to disable an application. Jobs explained, “Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull.” It’s been quite interesting to watch this whole app thing play out. Kottke wrote an interesting piece about Apple’s decision to pull the $1000 I Am Rich app that I totally agree with. Jason wrote “App Store shoppers should get to make the choice of whether or not to buy an iPhone app, not Apple, particularly since the App Store is the only way to legitimately purchase consumer iPhone apps.” Basically, Apple’s decision to pull the app was an editorial one, not a technical one. The app worked fine, but they just didn’t agree with what it did. If I were a developer and thinking about developing for the iPhone this would scare the shit out of me. Are there guidelines for how Apple is going to make these decisions moving forward or are will it just happen randomly? As Kottke wrote, “Imagine if Apple chose which music they stocked in the iTunes store based on the company’s taste. No Kanye because Jay-Z is better. No Dylan because it’s too whiney. Of course they don’t do that; they stock a crapload of different music and let the buyer decide. We should deride Apple for that type of behavior, not cheer them on.”
- While we’re on the Apple tip, have you seen the new iPhone commercial that’s all about speed? No? Well, basically it paints a totally ridiculous picture of how fast the device connects to the internet. Check out this side-by-side comparison. Speaking of iPhone, someone should do one of those homemade commercials about the battery life. Yesterday I had to stop in an Apple store for like 20 minutes to charge the damn thing. WTF?
- Kenji helped me rediscover this awesome McSweeney’s piece: E-mail Addresses It Would Be Really Annoying to Give Out Over the Phone. Highlights include “One1TheFirstJustTheNumberTheSecondSpelledOut@hotmail.com”.
- Nike stock does really well during the olympics: “the world’s biggest maker of athletic shoes rose in New York Stock Exchange trading during each of the six Summer Games going back to 1984, gaining an average of 8.7 percent in the two-week period from the opening to the closing ceremonies.”
- The always enjoyable year in logo trends.
- An interesting take on the message sent by the architecture and spectacle of the olympics in China: “The opening ceremony is sending the same message, then, as the Games architecture: cultural and technological leapfrog. The Water Cube and the Birds Nest don’t simply display China’s modernity, they claim a jump into a digital, sustainable, mega-scaled future.”
Phew, that was a lot to say. Anyway, I’ll try to keep on top of this stuff a little better so a post with this many links isn’t necessary.
PS – don’t forget about likemind this Friday.
Clearly one of the themes of the 21st century is the changing meaning of location. Whether you call it the flattening of the globe or something else, the point that we’re living in a more global society than ever before can’t really be ignored. As someone who makes stuff on the internet this comes up quite often. Since launching brand tags, for instance, almost exactly half my traffic has come from the US and the other half has come from everywhere else, despite the site is clearly for a US audience (the brands are mostly US-centric). And I’m not alone on this one, according to this iMedia article:
Research from comScore indicates that 63 percent of the visitors to Ticketmaster come from outside of the United States, as do 64 percent of the visitors to New York Times Digital, 68 percent of the visitors to Disney Online and Expedia. More than 80 percent of the visitors to CNET Networks and Apple Computer, Inc. come from outside of the United States as well.
But it’s not actually marketing I’m interested in talking about at the moment (imagine that!). Rather, I want to talk about a few interesting quotes I’ve run across recently that I think fit together.
First off, it’s the one that inspired this entry. It comes from a 2005 Rolling Stone article about the Rendon Group titled “The Man Who Sold the War” (thanks for the tip Colin). The article is amazing, and I seriously suggest reading it. It’s all about how propaganda shapes thinking and world events (specifically the war in Iraq). But it’s this quote that really jumped out at me:
By law, the Bush administration is expressly prohibited from disseminating government propaganda at home. But in an age of global communications, there is nothing to stop it from planting a phony pro-war story overseas — knowing with certainty that it will reach American citizens almost instantly.
“An age of global communications” is a nice way to think about it. There’s no delay in information anymore. Yesterday I was talking to a colleague about the idea of asymmetrical information (the economic idea that markets behave inefficiently when one side has different information than another) and the fact that it’s coming closer to being extinct. The car industry is a great place to look at this: Who walks into a showroom anymore without complete knowledge of the pricing of the car and its components (well, probably lots of people, but still). Seriously, though, this is a big deal and a big change, when everyone knows the same stuff all of a sudden markets start behaving in new ways (or actually, they start behaving in “normal” ways which just so happen to be new to us). When you play this out on a global stage what you get is a world where information is digested almost instantly no matter where it occurs. Which, of course, leads us to situations like the one the Olympics and NBC are facing right now.
By choosing to delay the opening ceremonies, NBC set itself up for a fight against technology and communication. As the New York Times article explains, “NBC’s decision to delay broadcasting the opening ceremonies by 12 hours sent people across the country to their computers to poke holes in NBC’s technological wall — by finding newsfeeds on foreign broadcasters’ Web sites and by watching clips of the ceremonies on YouTube and other sites.” Global communications doesn’t do delays, it just doesn’t make any sense. Which leaves a company like NBC trying to hold onto a relic: The control of a once-local communications medium.
But again, nothing I’ve said is particularly new. These are all things that have been bubbling for up for at least the last five years and probably even longer. What I think is interesting is where it all goes. A few months ago Shelly Palmer wrote a really interesting article about Antigua’s copyright threat to the US (in short Antigua threatened and actually distributed copyrighted US materials in retaliation to the US shutting down offshore internet betting). In the article Palmer quotes Phillip Rosedale, CEO of Second Life, saying, “in a few years telling someone you’re from China will have about as much meaning as telling them your astrological sign.” Palmer goes on to explain that “While even Philip agreed that that might be hyperbole, he was pretty sure that where you live in the physical world is starting to have less meaning with respect to your ability to function online.”
So what does a post-nationality world look like? Not surprisingly I don’t really have any idea. I mean, I think we’re seeing lots of paralells in other parts of life that point in the same direction. The move from demographics to psychographics as a way to define groups seems to be a nice analog for the situation. Simply put, we are moving to a time where we need different criteria to define our universe. Play that out further and you get questions like: What happens when they find a way to help people live forever? (Or until they get bored of it at least.)
Essentially I think much of it boils down to something Faris wrote about the other day: Post-scarcity economics. Much of this discussion revolves around abundant availability (in this case specifically around content and communication) and more specifically, around the business world trying to find some semblance of balance as the ground shifts beneath them.
Basically I don’t know where else to go with this. So I’m stopping. Going to keep reading and see what I come up with, but figured I’d leave it open to everyone else as well. In my search for a conclusion I landed on the Wikipedia page for “post scarcity”, which led me searching for a guy named Anthony Giddens and eventually to an excellent lecture he gave on globalization which included this:
Instantaneous electronic communication isn’t just a way in which news or information is conveyed more quickly. Its existence alters the very texture of our lives, rich and poor alike. When the image of Nelson Mandela maybe is more familiar to us than the face of our next door neighbour, something has changed in the nature of our everyday experience.
So I’ll leave you all with that. Thoughts, as always, are greatly appreciated. Maybe someone else can tell me what I’m talking about at this point, since I seem to have forgotten. Good night.
Nice map that overlays the United States on Europe to help get a sense of scale. It’s a pretty amazing thing to see. From the looks of it, the Mediterranean is about half the size of the US.
The site, radicalcartography is actually full of totally awesome maps: Manhattan building maps, currency pegs, time zones (an animation that cycles through all of them), errant Manhattan (size comparisons of Manhattan to other cities) and North American subways. Seriously, I could have listed just about every project on the site, just go click around, it’s amazing.
As an aside, I’ve also cataloged it at a tumblr I may or may not keep up with called, appropriately, nice chart.
This is less insightful and interesting as it is a great resource for just about anyone that works in the marketing industry at the moment. The fine folks at Mashable were kind enough to round up 35+ examples of “corporate social media in action”. Some of my personal favorites: Blendtec’s Will It Blend … Actually, that’s kind of the only one I really like on the list (though I like where the New York Times is headed with TimesPeople and think Zappos on Twitter is kind of cool).
Very interesting Salon article about the 2001 anthrax attacks and the media’s role in making a connection between Iraq and terrorism, when none was there.
The article makes some fascinating points about a time I hardly remember at this point (sure, I remember the anthrax scare, but the details were new to me). This comes on the back of the suicide of Bruce Ivins, the government anthrax researcher who was accused for the attacks. As the author, Greenwald, explains, “The 2001 anthrax attacks remain one of the great mysteries of the post-9/11 era. After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency.”
Nothing substantial to write, but here’s a bit of linkage that didn’t make it into the sidenotes for your enjoyment.
- One of the things that drove me crazy in high school and college was the when teachers/professors put a value on printed content over web content, as if being bound and sitting on a library shelf makes something more meaningful or true than something published online … Anyway, I think that’s only moderately related to this letter from a librarian to a patron who was complaining about a children’s book that includes gay marriage. Ultimately, the librarian rightly refuses to remove the book from the children’s section, arguing that it is in fact a children’s book. However, it was his explanation of the role of libraries that I found especially fascinating: “But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won’t agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don’t imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.” (via kottke.org)
- Other than making it look prettier and getting rid of the dots, what’s new about delicious? I was expecting some awesome recommendations or something (which they had for a short time a few years ago but got rid of because of the resources it hogged. As as side note, I just read this really interesting and approachable paper on TiVo’s collaborative filtering approaches. It’s a great primer for how all that stuff works and why gives some insight into why it hogs resources in the way it does.This Times story on the testing of female Olympic athletes to ensure their femaleness was fascinating. Turns out it’s been happening since the 1960s and “At first, women were asked to parade nude before a panel of doctors to verify their sex. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, officials switched to a chromosomal test.” What’s crazy about the new test is that a few times it has turned out chromosomal defects like woman (or people who had spent their lives believing they were women) finding out they were born with a Y chromosome. If you’re interested, I found this detailed account of how this works (a woman with an X and a Y) that’s specifically about an olympic athlete, Maria Patino, who failed this test in the 80s.
- I just found out about TripIt from Rick which led me to two important questions: A) Why didn’t I know about this service? (You forward your airline confirmation emails and it keeps all your flights and confirmation numbers in one easy to access place) and B) Why doesn’t Dopplr do this yet? (That was actually Rick’s question … but I’m stealing it.)
- How about a 42kb zip file that when fully unpacked contains 4.5 petabytes of data? (“The file contains 16 zipped files, which again contains 16 zipped files, which again contains 16 zipped files, which again contains 16 zipped, which again contains 16 zipped files, which contain 1 file, with the size of 4.3GB.”) If anyone has a spare 4.5 petabytes and tries this out, let me know how it goes.
- I like Andy’s idea for the “worst iPhone app ever: “It’d be dead simple to build, and I’d call it “iPhone Discus”. Basically it would use the phone’s built in GPS to see how far you could throw your iPhone. Enter a location, throw, record location. That’s it.”
- Since this is a post full of random stuff, it seems appropriate to link to someone else’s post about the value of random posts in blogs: “Think of a blog as competing with both Google and Wikipedia, among other aggregators. If you knew you wanted to read about ‘the minimum wage,’ you could bypass Tyler and Alex and Google to the best entries (some of which might include us, of course). But with Google and Wikipedia you must choose the topic. A good blog writer can randomize the topic for you, much like a good DJ controls the sequence of the music.” I really believe this is the secret to why editorial driven content will remain relevant in the long run (yes, that includes newspapers): The best stuff is always the stuff you weren’t expecting to read. I think this is what makes the New Yorker so great, actually. I don’t think there’s ever been an article I’ve opened up and said, “I’ve got to read that.” But then you get like 3000 words in and you say, “I’m so glad I started this thing.” (Once again via Kottke)
- This high school commencement speech from Patton Oswalt includes one of the more insightful things I’ve read recently. He quotes Bob Hope as saying, “When I was twenty, I worried what everything thought of me. When I turned forty, I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. And then I made it to sixty, and I realized no one was ever thinking of me.”
- When Super Mario Bros characters fight back. (via the excellent new Team Tiger Awesome Variant Tumblr Edition)
That’s it for now I think. I’m exhausted and head back to New York tomorrow (am in San Diego at the moment). Good night.
Oh, actually, one more thing. Am on a little video podcast kick (enjoying them as a way to kill time at the gym). Anyone have any recommendations?
This video is crazy. It shows a Critical Mass ride in New York last Friday. There are two cops standing in the middle of the road and all the bicycles are going around them. All of a sudden one of the cops lunges at a biker who was obviously trying (successfully) to avoid him and tackles him, throwing him to the sidewalk.
According to the Times, the cop actually arrested the guy afterward for “forcing multiple vehicles to stop abruptly or change their direction”. Needless to say, once the video emerged the biker was released from prison and the cop (a third-generation NYPD) only had his badge and gun taken away. (Seems like grounds for firing, no?)
You don’t often get the surveillance state going the other way, and it’s a pleasant reminder that cameras in everyone’s hands can be an amazing thing, leaving people accountable for their actions.
Ever have to call someone back who you really weren’t prepared to talk to? Slydial allows you to bypass their phone and go directly to their voicemail, leaving the onus on them to call you back. Brilliant.
I gave it a try and it worked, you’ve got to listen to a quick advertisement in the middle, but they did connect me direct to voicemail. Apparently you can either sign up as a member or pay 15 cents to skip it. From reading around a bit, it looks like this was possible in the past by going into your voicemail and choosing send, recording a message and then putting in the phone number. However, that usually only allowed you to send to people on the same network as you.
Somehow this morning the topic of those “Who’s Who in America” came up. In response, Andrew was kind enough to send a 1999 Forbes article by Tucker Carlson on the subject. Basically Who’s Who compiles a giant list of people and then charges them for copies of the book (and lots of other stuff, like lapel pins which run $52.95 plus shipping and handling).
Anyway it’s an interesting read (though a bit old at this point — it mentions computer tape) and left me undecided on whether I think it’s totally scummy (which it is) or kind of nice for people who are looking for some recognition (which it also is).
This article is partly interesting in and of itself and partly because it sits on fbi.gov. The piece itself is mostly fluffy, combining myths like “The FBI has Nikola Tesla’s plans for a ‘death ray'” with a paragraph about the FBI’s reasonable record with hiring minorities.
Like I said, though, what’s more interesting is that the article lives on the the FBI’s official government site. It’s got a little “share this” button and includes such un-governmental writing as “The FBI was hardly way ahead of its time in providing equal career opportunities to all Americans, but it is not true that the FBI was unwilling to hire minorities during Hoover’s tenure” and “So, bottom line: while FBI agents chasing aliens and other supernatural creatures may make good entertainment, it’s not part of our job description, and we don’t have a secret collection of ‘X-Files’ squirreled away somewhere.” They’ve even got their own Flash video player.
While I think it’s far from perfect, it’s a pretty good example of a company (or in this case a governmental organization) recognizing what makes it interesting to people and turning that into a website (instead of putting a bunch of boring stuff up there and thinking people will read it/watch it). Other articles include “How to Protect Your Computer” and “Elliot Ness and the FBI” (doesn’t look like they update to frequently).
My friend Alan wrote a little piece about “the tyranny of SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) and how search has left us unable to make interesting looking websites. While I understand what he was getting at, I fundamentally disagree with the premise (although, as he explains in the comments, he’s speaking specifically to the “SEO industry” and their reliance on Google tricks rather than good content).
Anyway, I was reminded of one of my standby examples for SEO and after giving it another read, figured it was worth sharing: Four years ago this month (wow), Anil Dash entered an SEO competition to see who could climb to the top of the results for a word, nigritude ultramarine, that previously had no results. Rather than looking for ways to game the system, Anil, a well known blogger, went with a simple approach: Ask his readers, many of whom were bloggers themselves, to link to his post with “nigritude ultramarine”. Fairly quickly he rose to the top and ended up winning the whole competition. Not surprisingly, this made the SEO consultants that Alan mentioned pretty unhappy.
Anil responded and wrote up his thoughts in a post titled “Optimizing Search Engine Optimization”. His conclusion, and the SEO strategy I’ve believed in for the last few years: “My suggestions? Write good content. Develop an audience that cares about what you’re doing. Do something that’s relevant to people in your field.”
While we’re on the topic, last year wrote and narrated a presentation on the fundamentals of markup-based SEO (in other words best practices for showing up high in search results without doing anything shady).
Yesterday was likemind’s 2nd birthday. I didn’t realize it until a friend mentioned it in the afternoon, but exactly 2 years earlier we had gotten together for coffee in NYC at s’nice. What’s also amazing for me is that it marks the two year anniversary for a few of my friends, who I met at that first likemind. That’s pretty amazing.
For those that haven’t been around the site for that long, let me tell the story of likemind again, because I like it. Just over two years ago I asked if anyone felt like getting a cup of coffee or a beer, Piers wrote me an email and said we should meet up, which eventually turned into a few emails back and forth that ended with us holding the first likemind. It was fun and has changed my life. I’ve met so many awesome people and had such a blast doing it. I’ve now been to likeminds in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Austin, SF and London and I’ve enjoyed every one.
My friend Colin was kind enough to remind that it had been far too long since we did a little drinks shindig in NYC.
So we decided to organize one for this Friday and in the process of organizing (or thinking about organizing) we thought it would be even more fun if we got Alli and Theo in on the organizing action (and not just because both of their names can be shortened to four letters).
So the four of us are forming a quadumvirate (??) and having a rocking happy hour this Friday. here are the details:
Date: Friday, July 25, 2008
- Time: 6pm – whenever
- Location: Sweet & Vicious (where else?)
- Address: 5 Spring Street (between Elizabeth and Bowery)
As usual, this is the kind of party where you bring anyone you want/post to your blog/show up whenever.
Hope to see you there.
Really? (Of course not is obviously the answer.)
According to this list on NowPublic (using TinyURL to offset the linkbaitishness of it) that purports to be “a detailed barometer of the most public news influencers of today’s digital world” I am the fifth most influential person in this fine city. As Brian and Rex have written it’s quite simply link bait from a company who is otherwise known as that site who sends you those weird Flickr emails where they ask to use your photos and then ask you to become a member to let them (who does that?).
A couple things about the list: It’s fun to be on these things but there is no real merit behind them. Interestingly enough, though, they seem to have exposed their formula for the rankings (it’s about 3/4 of the way down the page) and includes basically how much stuff you do, not how much you actually influence anyone.
As a side note, this seems to be the major issue with any discussion about influence: It’s not usually about influence and tends more towards things like reach and frequency. I made this same argument two years ago and not much has changed. Influence happens on a personal level and changes depending on topic. One person is more influential on computers and another on music. This is how the world works, which is one of the big flaws with all these attempts at calculating influence.
On top of all this, I’m kind of annoyed because rather than linking out to people’s sites, they link to a member profile which they’ve created for each person on the list. While I’ve written and asked them to take control of my profile, I haven’t heard anything back yet. This generally feels like really bad form.
With all that said, the idea of a personal influence list is kind of fun and I thought I’d go through the list (and off it), to think about some people that influence me:
First those on the list
- 6. Anil Dash: Just about everything he writes is worth reading. He’s really freaking smart.
- 10. Loren Feldman: He’s a little crazy (which I said to him last time we had drinks), but he makes me laugh and says a lot more really smart stuff than people give him credit for.
- 15. Jason Kottke: How one man can read so much is beyond me. There’s nobody better.
- 16. Rex Sorgatz: I’m pretty sure he’s the only person I follow on twitter that I’ve never met in person.
- 18. Brian Morrissey: Brian’s a good dude and writes about the ad industry.
- 23. Kyle Bunch: Kyle and I have grandiose plans to take over the online sports universe as soon as we find an extra five minutes.
- 40. Peter Rojas: He’s a really smart dude and I like what he’s up to at RCRD LBL.
- 46. Allison Mooney: Me an Alli met awhile back at a random coffee morning when Russell Davies was in town. She’s awesome and will be co-hosting a party with me this Friday (which I will write up tomorrow probably).
So, there you have it, the 8 people who influence me out of the 50 New Yorkers they chose (I mean, I’m sure I’ve been influenced by some of the other people, but these are the ones that stood out for me).
And now, five more New Yorkers that influence me on the internet who didn’t make the list.
- Rick Webb: Sure he has a tendency towards diatribes, but there aren’t that many people who know how things work better than Rick. (And I don’t just say that because I technically work for him. Also, while he doesn’t actually live here, he spends enough time to count.)
- Faris Yakob: Rule number 1, if someone has as much hair as Faris, make sure you listen to what they have to say.
- Chet Gulland: Chet is a buddy of mine. He’s got awesome taste in just about everything and he’s super smart.
- Colin Nagy: Colin keeps a low profile, but our at-least-weekly breakfasts (that’s right, in person) are a constant source of stuff (music, news, ideas, etc.).
- Aaron Rutledge: Aaron runs Poke NY (along with some other fine folks) and is always good for a link or some tech advice. Plus he cooks up a mean burger with bacon and cheese mixed in with the meat.
So I’m sure I’ve missed a ton of people, but I thought it was at least a worthy exercise. Lists are dumb.
I feel like I’m late to the game on this one, but Strange Maps is an awesome collection of odd and fantastic maps.
Justin, a fellow Barbarian sent it my way to show me this domain name ending map, which is pretty awesome (the size of the domain ending is based on the population of the country).
About a month ago the Supreme Court ruled, “detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have a constitutional right to challenge their detentions in federal court and that congressional legislation has failed to provide a reasonable substitute for such a hearing.” In response, John McCain called it, “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”
A friend pointed out to me how absurd a statement that was, and, after a bit of digging, turned up a few articles which point it out.
The crux of the issue, which George F. Will points out: “Does it rank with Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), which concocted a constitutional right, unmentioned in the document, to own slaves and held that black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect? With Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which affirmed the constitutionality of legally enforced racial segregation? With Korematsu v. United States (1944), which affirmed the wartime right to sweep American citizens of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps?”
Really good interview with Rob Walker (author of “Buying In” and murketing) where he hits on just about every marketing trend going on at the moment: influencers, death of the 30 second spot, social media and co-creation to name a few.
I especially like what he has to say about customers defining the brand for Timberland: “This had nothing to do with the Internet, and nothing to do with Timberland ‘allowing’ customers to ‘collaborate.’ Consumers determine brand meaning whether anyone ‘allows’ them to or not. And they don’t need a special website to do it.” Precisely.
The fine people at Behance were kind enough to ask if they could interview me for their magazine. Incredibly flattered, I of course said yes and now the interview is up at behancemag.com. It’s mostly about one of my favorite topics, “making stuff on the internet”, and includes lots of ideas and quotes you’ve probably read around here. Here’s a little bit to whet your appetite:
“My two most successful personal projects to date have been likemind and brand tags. As for getting them off the ground, they’ve been quite different, but have shared one important thing. For both of them I was quite involved and spent a lot of time emailing every single person who asked a question back. I think that personal contact/feedback is quite important (I still thank every person who signs up for the likemind mailing list). Being involved on that level allows me to get to know the people who are coming to likemind/using brand tags and helps me come up with new ideas for ways to expand.”
Go read the whole thing. Big thanks to Michael for making it happen.
Me and some Barbarians are in London today and tomorrow for a pitch. After we’re done presenting tomorrow, we figured we’d invite a bunch of people out for some pints. If you’re in the mood and in London, why don’t you come meet us? Feel free to bring your friends. Here’s the info:
Location: The Endurace, 90 Berwick Street, Soho, London, W1F 4QB
Come have a beer.
One of the questions I have about the world is whether it’s possible to ascend without an eventual descent. I expect Newton answered that question a long time ago,, but in terms of companies or communities it’s fascinating to me. 15 years ago it would have seemed impossible that Microsoft would have been knocked off its perch and today it seems equally impossible that Google will descend. However, if history (or gravity) is any lesson, we know that it will eventually fall. The same seems to be true with communities: Hippies eventually became yuppies after all. (Kind of relates to Metcalfe’s Plateau.)
Anyway, I really liked this analogy from a post about how geek news sites get quickly overrun: “The shift of online communities resembles urban development and the gentrification of many hip neighborhoods. The artists and hackers move in first, they are in development parlance, risk tolerant. For urban neighborhoods that means they’ll deal with crime if they can get cool warehouses to take over. Then slowly the neighborhood transforms, and gets some nice cafes and clubs, gets known as the place where the hip kids play, and more people come. Rent gets driven up, the crowds come, it becomes to crowded, and the hipsters have to move on. Just replace hipsters with alpha geeks and you get the same process.”
There are a bunch of points in this entry on debris that are great, but this is my favorite: “It stopped mattering whether the feature was even useful to the visitor. We ask our visitors to ‘Digg This’ not because it adds any value to their experience, but because we need the traffic.”
That’s always really bothered me about those “bookmark this” or “Digg this” buttons. If someone already uses Digg or del.icio.us they know how to bookmark your site. It just feels so icky.
Anyway, go read the whole thing.
At this point most of us in the geek contingent have heard of Metcalfe’s Law. For those that haven’t, Metcalfe describes the law named after him like this: “The network effect says that the value of that Ethernet card to the person on whose desk it sits is proportional to the number, N, of other computer users he can connect to. Now multiply this value by the number of users, and you have a value for the whole operation that is roughly proportional to N2.” Or as I explained just over a year ago, “If one person has a fax machine it’s got no value, if two people have it, it’s still got very little value. From there, however, the value really starts to grow for everyone involved and eventually it hits a ‘tipping point’ where you can’t not have one.”
It looks like this (taken from Forbes):
The reason most geeks have heard/talked about Metcalfe’s Law is because it’s become the de facto religion of Web 2.0: A technological revolution that relies on the network effects described by Metcalfe over 25 years ago. Facebook is the simplest illustration of this, after all a social network without any of your friends is hardly worth joining. Even if Joe Corporate could have gotten on the site when it was just filled with students from 11 universities it would have been pretty boring, after all in a closed system like Facebook, just browsing isn’t really an option. Looking at Facebook today, however, you find a site where it’s harder to find someone you know who’s not on it than who is (especially as someone who had heard of Facebook while they were still in college).
Putting it in context of Metcalfe’s Law, it all seems logical. The more people on the network, the greater value the network has, which only attracts more people to the network. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The number one feature of Facebook is the Facebook network. It’s not apps or news feed, it’s that every single person you know is on Facebook.
But that can be a bit of a gift and a curse. After all we’ve all spent a bit of time Facebook gardening: Pulling out the weeds, deleting random friend requests and desperately trying to avoid those stupid vampire bites. At some point, probably around the time Facebook apps launched, I realized that I was actually spending more time gardening than I was doing things I found useful/enjoyable on the site. For the occasional acquaintance I reconnected with, I was approving five friends I either didn’t care about talking to or already had other, preferred, modes of communication. Facebook became a bit of a drag.
That’s when it occurred to me that I was witnessing Metcalfe’s Plateau, a place where the value of the network no longer increases with each additional node. In fact, thanks to spam (as deemed by me), the value of the network had started to decline, I was looking for other places to spend my time online.
I’ve been noodling on this idea for a while and been trying to figure out just what to say. I don’t think it’s a particularly new problem. Anyone who’s “discovered” a new bar can attest to the initial rise, as you tell all your friends and they tell their friends, which inevitably ends with a place that’s so full of random folks that everything you loved about it is gone. In the world of email we see Metcalfe’s Plateau even more clearly: Spam. When the network hit a point large enough that you couldn’t afford not to have an email, it also hit a point where you could afford to reach massive amounts of individuals for little to no money. Thanks to spam filters, we’re able to hold back the flood waters. However, I think it’s pretty safe to say for me that new additions to the network are unlikely to provide any additional value to me, since everyone I know or likely will ever know (minus those not born yet or too young to have an email) already has an email. Therefore each new email address (node) holds a certain likelihood to be spam or at least some unrequested contact. (I am not entirely sure about what I’m saying there, it’s just a theory now. Feel free to tear it apart.)
As Jeffrey Stibel wrote in a piece called Networks Don’t Grow Forever (which inspired me to finally get these thoughts down), “Networks do not always grow more powerful with size and scale. To be sure, Metcalfe’s Law applies to networks up to a point, call it a growth phase. But let us stake our claim to a new Law: all networks eventually hit a point of diminishing returns.”
Thinking about it further, I think the distinction probably lies in who reaps the benefits of the network. In other words, the value of the Facebook network to Facebook likely does increase exponentially with each new user, as it allows them to attract even more people to the site. However, for the individual users like us, that value isn’t necessarily passed. As Clay Shirky wrote in A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy,
You have to find a way to spare the group from scale. Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way conversations. In conversational contexts, Metcalfe’s law is a drag. The fact that the amount of two-way connections you have to support goes up with the square of the users means that the density of conversation falls off very fast as the system scales even a little bit. You have to have some way to let users hang onto the less is more pattern, in order to keep associated with one another.
Or, as Paul Saffo was quoted as saying in the Economist, “The value of a social network is defined not only by who’s on it, but by who’s excluded.”
As should be obvious at this point, I don’t know the answers here. Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts. I’m also exploring some of this stuff with a mathematician friend of mine because I’m curious to see whether this idea can be worked out with numbers (and goodness knows I can’t figure it out myself).
In a post about early adoption my friend Eric Nehrlich hits on something I’ve been noticing quite a lot lately: The “phenomenon of feeling like something new is important, without quite being able to describe why.”
This happened to me just yesterday as I was reading Chris Anderson’s piece on the end of theory and recognized it’s importance but couldn’t necessarily describe why quite yet. In a way it was like by acknowledging the importance I was able to file it away in an especially accessible spot, ready to find the perfect connection and come to life at some point in the near future. (I believe Grant talked about something like this at PSFK’s New York Conference, though I need to go back and watch the video.)
Anyone who has been around me in the last few weeks has heard me preach about how great it was to learn PHP and be able to build stuff myself. In one of those preaching sessions with my friend Eric he suggested I check out this article about programming being the literacy of the 21st century. Needless to say it’s a great read and one I’ll need to do a proper writeup about at some point soon. In the meantime, here’s a nice paragraph from the piece:
“One might ask, ‘Will every educated person really have to program? Can’t the people who need programming just buy it?’ Possibly. Of course, with that model, we have in a sense returned to the Middle Ages or ancient Egypt, or even before. Then, if you needed to communicate your thoughts on paper, you couldn’t do it yourself. You had to hire a better-educated person — a scribe — who knew the writing code. Then, at the other end, you needed someone to read or decode it — unless, of course, you were ‘well educated,’ that is, you had been taught to read and write and thus had become literate. “
Wow, that’s me.
I kind of feel like I sound like an idiot … but it always feels that way when you read your own stuff (or that’s what I keep telling myself).
So I’ve got a pretty big announcement to make today. People who know me probably already know about this, but I haven’t really told that many folks. I have moved to Barbarian Group to head up planning and strategy and I’m super excited (like super super excited).
There’s lots of reasons I decided to move over, but mostly it’s because I think the Barbarians are awesome. For those that don’t know them, here’s their Greatest Hits which includes Subservient Chicken and Method’s Come Clean site and recently CNN’s new t-shirt thing and Getty Images’ Moodstream.
Anyway, I’m sure you’ll all be hearing lots about what I’m up to over here in the coming months, but in the meantime I’ll turn to an entry by Rick Webb on the Barbarian Blog to explain it:
The Barbarians and Strategic Planning
In thinking about the strategy and planning offerings at The Barbarian Group, it’s important to understand that we aren’t adding planning and strategy to our company, we are formalizing our offering and responding to increased, near-constant demand for planning and strategy that has thus far only been offered on a first-come, first-served basis by Benjamin, Bruce and Rick. Our clients have come to respect our insights into these areas and ask for these services more frequently, so the right thing to do was put a process around it, some discipline, and bring in a big brain to help us and ensure we do things rigorously and better than we did before.
Secondly, Noah is freakin’ awesome and we would have probably made a juggling department if that was part of his conditions for coming over. This is a joke, but intended to drive home the point that Noah was bright and there was no previous search underway for a new department or offering so much as he highlighted an opportunity and problem we had been ignoring until the perfect solution presented itself.
Thirdly, the ad-press-unnoticed addition last year of a User Experience department has been an unmitigated success. Like 1000% revenue growth in less than a year for the offering. Like pioneering-what-the-field-is type of stuff. Like we’ve been so busy with it we haven’t had time to write enough about it. And while this is awesome, User Experience at the initial side of things is heavily driven by brand and product strategy, and UX in the 21st century starts before the site, and begins to merge with your media strategy – Facebook app, widget, banner or game? Website or blog? That sort of thing. It all blends together, and our UX department has driven a need for disciplined strategic planning to drive it. And doing them both ensures a far more effective result. Just ask any startup company who has a brand strategist and a UX team at two different companies.
Finally, our aim is to offer every service under the sun in assisting organizations and individuals in forming, executing, measuring and capitalizing off of their interactive marketing. This is our organizing principle. Not being a production shop, not being an agency, not just creative, not just this or that. Everything in service to that goal. One-stop coordinated interactive brilliance for any type of organization that needs it. This is just another step for us in that direction.
That’s it for now. Hopefully the return to full-time work (I’ve had 3 weeks off) will mean a return to posting here a little more often.
Finally, thanks again to everyone who has kept with me over the last few years, I really believe nothing I’ve accomplished would have happened were it not for this site at the center. So thanks for that.
I wrote in the past about parents picking baby names based on domain name availability (as well as giving the baby gift of page rank).
Anyway, Ryan at Barbarian offers up an interesting alternative: “Name your child something so common that it’s nearly impossible to separate the signal from the noise. You simply vanish into a sea of digital homogeny.”
My buddy Aaron put together this little gem of a site called UPL8.tv. It’s a pretty simple idea: A whole bunch of oddly mesmerizing YouTube videos that play one after the other (you can skip to the next one at any time by pressing space). Watch out, though, because you’ll look up and realize it’s a half hour later.
While I’ve been in California I’ve been spending a lot of time reading the newspaper (that’s right, like the printed one). I don’t read the paper often at home, maybe once or twice a week at most, but I always enjoy myself. What’s amazing to me every time I sit down with a paper (or a good magazine for that matter) is how I always end up reading and enjoying things I never thought I would. Online we’re so selective, scanning and choosing carefully what to read and what not to. With the paper in hand I find the process completely different, I read almost everything. Maybe it’s because I’ve actually invested in it (all $1.25) or maybe it’s just because reading the paper is much more of a leisure activity for me (I usually am just hanging out somewhere with plenty of time).
Now I would never say one is better than the other, however, I think it’s safe to say that I read a lot in the newspaper that I’d never think about spending time reading online (and vice versa, much of what I read on the web wouldn’t ever make it into the paper). Now I’m not really sure where to go with all this, but I find it to be an interesting phenomena.
With that out of the way, this entry was actually supposed to be about some themes from today’s New York Times business section. As I was reading through I was struck by the strings that seemed to run through all the articles (of course it’s entirely possible that I am imagining their existence). Anyway, bear with me as I try and run through some thoughts I had …
My thinking got rolling with this quote:
In truth, Wall Street is in for a radical makeover. Fewer people, lower margins, lower risk, lower compensation — and ultimately, fewer talented people. It is likely to change the culture of an industry that for nearly a century has been the money center of the world.
That is an almost perfect explanation of what’s happening all over the business world at the moment: You could use the same words to describe the music business or the advertising world. Maybe what we’re seeing at the moment isn’t some sort of radical shift, but rather a market correction. I’ve written before that I believe success is a relative, not absolute, measure. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten so used to things like year-on-year growth and, in the case of the media/entertainment industries, mass audiences that we’ve forgotten that success is about how much you put in as well as how much you get out.
Continuing the theme of market adjustments is this quote from an article about cable’s recent success.
“The natural shift of dollars to cable will continue,” said Jason Kanefsky, a senior vice president and account director at the media buying agency MPG. “It just makes sense. Why pay more for eyeballs on CBS when you can go out and buy eyeballs on Turner for half the price?”
Now I’m no economist, but if you have two things of equal value and one costs less than the other it’s only a matter of time before the prices equalize. Cable beating network TV isn’t revolutionary, it just a market doing what a market does. Ultimately the only reason we’re surprised (whether “we” are the advertising industry or television executives) is because we’ve gotten comfortable with the incredible profits. Once again, it doesn’t mean that network TV is going anywhere, just that it will see lower margins. The sky isn’t falling, it’s just lowering slightly.
My friend Amit (of Photojojo and Jelly fame) is doing a little survey about tumblr. He’s going to make all the data available. So, if you use tumblr and have a few minutes to spare, go fill it out.
I’m not sure if I’ve written this before, but I think tumblr is 1) a fascinating idea and also 2) nicely illustrative of the New York tech scene at the moment. One, because I think there’s a big opportunity for super targeted blogging platforms. If you think about it, tumblr is essentially a CMS made only for reblogging. Makes me think about all the other single use CMS’s that could be built. Two because it’s less about tech and more about behavior/design. The tech behind tumblr isn’t that complicated, it’s a CMS (and not a particularly robust one at that). However, it’s perfectly suited for it’s task (reblogging) and beautifully designed. There’s no fancy algorithm behind it or anything else.
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