Have had a bunch of different ideas floating around in my head for the last few weeks and rather than trying to develop them into fully-fledged ideas, I figured I might as well write them all up. I’m not sure what to do with any of them really, so it’s more just ideas without conclusions.
You Are What You Say You’re Not
This is really simple. If you feel the need to say you aren’t something, that’s probably what you are. I mainly started thinking about this in reference to agencies who say they’re not agencies, but I think it’s bigger than that. Needing to defend yourself in this way is generally because that’s the perception and in most cases perception is reality (like brands).
Shelly Palmer recently wrote a great article about Antigua’s copyright threat. While the whole thing was quite good, one quote in particular stood out. Palmer quotes a conversation with Second Life CEO Philip Rosedale who said “in a few years telling someone you’re from China will have about as much meaning as telling them your astrological sign.” (Palmer also explains that “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.”) I agree that the timing isn’t perfect, but it immediately made me think of how meaningless area code has become. With free long distance and cell phones, people are now moving around the country with numbers from wherever they first lived (or rather first bought a phone).
Yesterday at the PSFK conference my favorite insight came from Etsy founder Rob Kalin who said that cars can’t make conciliatory gestures and that’s why road rage happens. As he explained more eloquently than I will, when you bump into someone in a hallway or sidewalk you nod or say you’re sorry, but in a car when you cut someone off you tend to do nothing (maybe put your hand out the window at most). This lack of feedback gets people really angry. It made me wonder whether you could figure out a way to make these surfaces malleable in some way to reflect our own movements.
If You Can’t Do it Best, Why Do It?
I had breakfast with Eric Nehrlich a week or two ago and we talked about lots of great stuff as usual. One thing stuck out in my mind, however, and it was when Eric said something to the effect of in a world of APIs it doesn’t make that much sense to do something if you’re not the best at it. Now he wasn’t suggesting you should just not make things, but rather that it’s often worth not reinventing the wheel if someone can do it better already and is letting you use it for free. I had an experience a few weeks ago building a small website that needed a bunch of photos on it. At first I was sticking photos one-by-one in the database and then decided to build a little photo upload functionality. Problem was, I would still need to upload these things one by one. Then I thought, why not just tap into Flickr’s API and just upload things there, after all they’ve already built a great desktop uploader that lets you upload multiple photos at a time. So that’s what I did. And it worked great.
There is an incredibly rich array of APIs out there that let you do just about anything. Building a website with incredibly advanced functionality is easier than ever and really basic things that must have been quite difficult at one point (like geocoding an address) are no harder than typing a URL. Amazon’s recent announcement of their fulfillment web service takes things in this space even further. Basically Amazon will store, pack and ship anything for you. It’s absolutely amazing and further evidence that concentrating on your core competencies is a pretty good strategy.
Alright, that’s it for now. Have a great weekend.