"The starting point of all significant change is mindset." Tom Peters
Maybe not to you, but to me these DAILY stats came as a shock:
154.6 billion emails
400 million tweets
16 billion words on Facebook
52 TRILLION words on email and social media*
(*equivalent to 520 million books)
Said stats appeared in the October issue of the Wired written by Clive Thompson: "THINKING OUT LOUD: How Successful Networks Nurture Good Ideas." I was captivated from start to finish. I admit a positive bias toward the value of social media, gaming, etc. On my lengthy list of recent reads you'll find at the top: Steven Johnson's Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter and Jane McGonigal's Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Thompson suggests that our social publication mania also yields extraordinary benefits. Here are a few quotes (which, of course, I also turned into a micro-PowerPoint presentation):
"Before the Internet, most people rarely wrote for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating from high school or college. ... The fact that so many of us are writing—sharing our ideas, good and bad, for the world to see—has changed the way we think. Just as we now live in public, so do we think in public. And that is accelerating the creation of new ideas and the advancement of global knowledge."
"Having an audience can clarify thinking. It's easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing. ... Studies have found that the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to pay more attention and learn more."
"Brenda Clark Gray, an instructor at Douglas College in British Columbia, had her English students create Wikipedia entries on Canadian writers to see if it would get them to take the assignment more seriously. She was stunned at how well it worked. 'Often they're handing in these essays without any citations, but with Wikipedia they suddenly were staying up till 2 a.m. honing and writing the entries and carefully sourcing everything,' she tells me. The reason, the students explained to her, was that their audience—the Wikipedia community—was quite gimlet-eyed and critical. They were harder 'graders' than Gray herself."
"Once thinking is public, connections take over. Anyone who's Googled a favorite hobby, food, or political subject has discovered some teeming site devoted to servicing the infinitesimal fraction of the public that shares their otherwise obscure obsession. (Mine: guitar pedals, modular origami, and the 1970s anime show Battle of the Planets.) Propelled by the hyperlink, the Internet is a connection-making machine. And making connections is a big deal in the history of thought. ..."
Tom was tweeting about Big Data & Gamification & Algorithmic determinism this morning. Though the thread here is not 100% transparent, we thought you might be amused.
As I dig deeper into big data/algorithmic determinism/gamification I am appropriately impressed but feel as if the world is being sterilized.
Read big data/gamification/algorithmic gurus and wonder where the human beings/humanity have gone. Exabyte/zettabyte/yottabyte heaven awaits.
Loyalty 3.0 and The Gamification Revolution are my two latest Amazon acquisitions. I have no idea what I think.
"Why" [questions of causation] may become obsolete & insurance be denied because you had a Zoroastrian college roommate, but human chaos will continue to reign.
But will your sociology department be a hotbed of revolutionary thought with faculty who were selected by a big data-derived recruitment algorithm?
But artist will be uninsured because data/cameras show he once inadvertently sat across a bus isle from convicted pedophile.
I'm a trained behavioral scientist who loves nothing more than wallowing in data, but some bigdata-/alorithmized-world implications unsettle.
On the other hand: As a 40-yr student DKahneman (e.g., Thinking, Fast & Slow), I'm frightfully aware of how routinely our instincts suck.
Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near sits on my bedside table, and I wish I'd wake up one morning and discover it missing.
As someone who's lived for 50 years with a religious belief in the primacy of data, it's an "Oh-shit-my-dream's-come-true" nightmare moment.
Religiously believing in the Supreme Power of Data was fine ... as long as your data sucked.
Data uber alles. There is no God but Correlation. Is the Googleplex Heaven? Or Hell?
My problem is the more I study, the less idea I have of what I think. And I know for sure that's either a good thing or a bad thing.
What is the mathematical relationship between a yottabyte and yadda yadda yadda?
A couple of years ago, Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson authored a cover story titled "The Petabyte Age." The use of "big data" (more or less everything, not a sample) and the attendant primacy of correlation over causation as the basis for discovery was described thus: "The data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete." He also called the phenomenon "the end of theory."
I was outraged—correct word choice. But that was then and this is now. I still haven't swallowed the whole pitcher of Kool-Aid, but I have moved to the point of open-mindedness. Recently, I have read and re-read two books. One on Big Data. One on the looming takeover of pretty much everything by algorithms—yes, I do exaggerate.
Mostly, assuming you're not a full-fledged expert, I urge you to give yourself some space—beach reading?—and take a deep dive into both.
To perhaps titillate, but not summarize, I am providing a handful of quotes from each of the two.
Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier
"As humans, we have been conditioned to look for causes, even though searching for causality is often difficult and may lead us down the wrong paths. In a big data world, by contrast, we won't have to be fixated on causality; instead, we can discover patterns and correlations in the data that offer us novel and invaluable insights. The correlation may not tell us precisely why something is happening, but they alert us that it is happening. And in many situations, this is good enough. If millions of electronic medical records reveal that cancer sufferers who take a certain combination of aspirin and orange juice see their disease go into remission, then the exact cause for the remission in health may be less important than the fact that they lived."
"Correlations let us analyze a phenomenon not by shedding light on its inner workings, but by identifying a useful proxy for it."
"Predictions based on correlations lie at the heart of big data."
"There is a philosophical debate going back centuries over whether causality even exists."
"Unfortunately, Kahneman argues [Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman's masterpiece Thinking, Fast and Slow], very often our brain is too lazy to think slowly and methodically. Instead, we let the fast way of thinking take over. As a consequence, we often 'see' imaginary causalities, and thus fundamentally misunderstand the world."
Walmart: "[Using big data], the company noticed that prior to a hurricane, not only did sales of flashlights increase, but so did sales of Pop-Tarts. ... Walmart stocked boxes of Pop-Tarts at the front of the store [and dramatically boosted sales]."
"Aviva, a large insurance firm, has studied the idea of using credit reports and consumer-marketing data as proxies for the analysis of blood and urine samples for certain applicants. The intent is to identify those who may be at higher risk of illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, or depression. The method uses lifestyle data that includes hundreds of variables such as hobbies, the websites people visit, and the amount of television they watch, as well as estimates of their income. Aviva's predictive model, developed by Deloitte Consulting, was considered successful at identifying health risks."
Bonus: On the topic of causation and incomplete models, I offer this wonderful commentary by pollster Daniel Yankelovich, which appeared in Jack Bogle's stellar book Enough! To wit:
"The first step is to measure what can easily be measured. This is okay as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which cannot be measured, or give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what cannot be measured is not very important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what cannot be measured does not really exist. This is suicide."
Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World, by Christopher Steiner
"Algorithms have already written symphonies as moving as those composed by Beethoven, picked through legalese with the deftness of a senior law partner, diagnosed patients with more accuracy than a doctor, written news articles with the smooth hand of a seasoned reporter, and driven vehicles on urban highways with far better control than a human driver."
"... The audience then voted on the identity of each composition.* [Music theory professor and contest organizer] Larson's pride took a ding when his piece was fingered as that belonging to the computer. When the crowd decided that [algorithm] Emmy's piece was the true product of the late musician, Larson winced." (*There were three possible composers: Bach/Larson/Emmy-the-algorithm.)
"When Emmy [algorithm] produced orchestral pieces so impressive that some music scholars failed to identify them as the work of a machine, [Prof. David] Cope instantly created legions of enemies. ... At an academic conference in Germany, one of his peers walked up to him and whacked him on the nose. ..."
"... Which haiku are human writing and which are from a group of bits? Sampling centuries of haiku, devising rules, spotting patterns, and inventing ways to inject originality, Annie [algorithm] took to the short Japanese sets of prose the same way all of [Prof David] Cope's algorithms tackled classical music. 'In the end, it's just layers and layers of binary math, he says. ... Cope says Annie's penchant for tasteful originality could push her past most human composers who simply build on work of the past, which, in turn, was built on older works. ..."
"When you ask [Cloudera founder Jeff] Hammerbacher what he sees as the most promising field that could be hacked by people like himself, he responds with two words: 'Medical diagnostics.' And clearly doctors should be watching their backs, but they should be extra vigilant knowing that the smartest guys of our generation—people like Hammerbacher—are gunning for them. The targets on their backs will only grow larger as their complication rates, their test results, and their practices are scrutinized by the unyielding eye of algorithms built by smart engineers. Doctors aren't going away, but those who want to ensure their employment in the future should find ways to be exceptional. Bots can handle the grunt work, the work that falls to our average practitioners."
From the extraordinary/chastening book Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World, by Christopher Steiner:
"... The audience then voted on the identity of each composition.* [Music theory professor and contest organizer] Larson's pride took a ding when his piece was fingered as that belonging to the computer. When the crowd decided that [algorithm] Emmy's piece was the true product of the late musician [Bach], Larson winced." (*There were three, one each by Bach/Larson/Emmy-the-algorithm.)
" ... Which haiku are human writing and which are from a group of bits? Sampling centuries of haiku, devising rules, spotting patterns, and inventing ways to inject originality, Annie [algorithm] took to the short Japanese sets of prose the same way all of [Prof David] Cope's. algorithms tackled classical music. 'In the end, it's just layers and layers of binary math, he says. ... Cope says Annie's penchant for tasteful originality could push her past most human composers who simply build on work of the past, which, in turn, was built on older works. ..."
We've included more from Steiner's book, and some related other stuff in an attached PowerPoint mini-presentation.
Happy International Women's Day! This may not be a traditional gift-giving holiday, but I thought I'd give your curiosity a gift today. Patricia Martin (disclosure: she's a client of mine, not Tom's) has pulled together a list of Top Women (you've probably never heard of) Shaping Digital Culture. These are some truly fascinating women doing remarkable things. From a creator of an open-source EPUB reader to researchers reporting on sociological images to the Chief of Technology at the Brooklyn Museum, these women are leading projects that are sure to spark your creativity if not your interest. Check them out.
The buzz around Google Authorship is gaining serious momentum. Why should you pay attention?
Google Authorship gives credit where credit is due. For all those writers whose writing can be found in various places on the Web, it's the long-overdue feature that links your identity to your writing in a standard way, regardless of the publication. The link is essentially your Google+ profile, and establishing yourself this way will add to your credibility:
Google's Eric Schmidt has hinted that the search behemoth could give higher rankings to content when it's linked to verified Google+ profiles -via Google Authorship.
That's right, he said "higher rankings." This affects businesses directly since Google+ features the ability to offer social feedback by giving +1 ratings. Google is strengthening its search results by adding a social component, not just relying on the bots to make the ranking decisions. Read Monica Romeri's The Lowdown on Google+ for Business to get a better feel for how this impacts businesses.
Google is the uncontested monarch of search. It's name is now listed in the dictionary as the equivalent of search. Adding Google Authorship to Google+ increases Google+'s relevancy for businesses, enhancing its attraction as a social network. Furthermore, Dave Lloren's Fast Company article today goes into detail about several other tools Google is bringing to bear while quickly becoming a powerful hub of business solutions we'll soon not be able to live without.
Giving a speech is [for me] a primal act.
It is the ultimate in being purely "alive."
At its end I die.
The exhaustion leads to odd thought patterns.
I've been thinking about Kurzweil's singularity a lot.
And juxtaposing it with my work.
I have no idea what the singularity is.
But I'm simultaneously clear about what it is—in the primal part of my brain.
I think [GOD HELP ME] in tweets these days.
Take notes in tweet form.
Herewith a set that emerged from my keyboard during DL494 Santo Domingo-JFK:
The more things change the more they say the same. Not true circa 2011. The more things change the more things change.
Pretty sure I agree with Kurzweil on the meaning of the "singularity" except for timing—perhaps it's already occurred????
Intensity of giving a speech—each speech always leads to copious tears when I return to hotel room and adrenaline evaporates. It's a form of dying.
I start "going weird" about 72 hours before a speech. I stay weird for about 48 hours after a speech.
Kurzweil says "singularity." I say The Great Flip. We labor and wear our fingertips to the bone to feed and clothe and educate our computers-networks.
We now [ALREADY] work for our computers-networks more than they work for us??!!
We barely have time to eat because it takes so much time to feed our computers-networks.
If computers-networks could laugh spontaneously [WILL THEY SOMEDAY SOON?] they'd laugh hysterically at "user communities."
Business goes a lot faster these days not because of our needs or even our wants—but because the computers-networks require us to go ever faster.
Who's in charge: JIT-driven computer networks determine [COMMAND] the moment-to-moment behavior of millions/tens-of-millions of workers worldwide.
1985: Speech prep 2 or 3 hours—shuffling my (almost) static 500 glass-mount slide set. 2011: I work for PowerPoint—50 to100 hours prep-per-speech.
Soon we may not be needed.
I talk ceaselessly about the "eternal basics." Perhaps I'm wrong.
Are we already living in the matrix?
If Thos. Pink quit making shirts I'd probably quit giving speeches.
Twixt '97-'05 back pain treatment up 65% to $90B. No improvement in back health per population self-reports. (Source: Forbes 03.27.08)
Is fusion surgery a pure and simple racket? (Rehab-exercise program just as effective per numerous studies.) (Source: Forbes 03.27.08)
On the evening of May 26, I made my first "presentation" (an informal talk) on social media. The affair, called "Sweets & Tweets," was held in Georgetown and hosted by corporate social media consultant Debbie Weil. I participate in social media somewhat myself, but in no way, shape, or form am an expert. Moreover, I did not spend an enormous amount of time preparing—the talk was intended to be "off the cuff." But with my obsessive penchant for lists (ah, engineers), I did jot a few things down which I shall simply call "musings from an incredibly old guy and unadulterated amateur" on social media:
[Our guest blogger is John O'Leary. It seems Erik called him upon receiving spam from John's email address. The conversation led to this idea. The post is a re-blog from John's website.]
One nice thing about being repeatedly hacked in your email and social networking accounts is hearing back from old friends and business colleagues you haven't been in touch with for years! I'm sure you can relate. In my case I can't say that everyone on my spammed contact list has been entirely pleased to hear from me—or who they thought was me—but amazingly many of them have taken the bait. It appears that hundreds of folks are now wondering how I've been able to start so many multi-million-dollar home businesses this year AND successfully sell cheap meds on the side (while maintaining a consulting practice). Well, I've decided to exploit this opportunity and share my trade secrets in a new book I'm working on: How *YOU* Can Make Millions From Getting Hacked & Spammed in Your Spare Time. (The first step is: Don't give up that AOL account.) Subtitle: Business Lessons From Viagra.
Red-eyeing it from Boston to London last night, I read in the Guardian about today's opening of BETT 2009 [British Education and Training Technology], advertised as the biggest and best show of its kind in the world—the collection of global education ministers expected to attend gives cause to take the claim seriously.
In a word, everything.
The article led off with this little vignette about 4-year old Multimedia Masters of the Universe, part of a Global Surge re-inventing education. Or should I say, better yet by far, re-inventing LEARNING & LIVING:
"In Blackburn, four-year-olds are making podcasts. In Suffolk, the sometimes tedious and impractical ritual of morning Assembly has been replaced in one school by a news video compiled by pupils; posting it on YouTube means parents can watch as well—and they do. ... Learners at all stages and ages, from all over the world, are downloading free tutorials while they replenish their iPods, courtesy of iTunes U. ..."
Among many other things, the key ideas are hyper-creative group collaboration on the one hand—and, on the other, completely customized, "user driven" learning, starting by, uh, age 4. (Or less?)
Other examples are more "ordinary" (by the standards of the distant past, say 2007 or 2008). Consider:
"MirandaNet is pioneering the concept of 'braided learning'—digital exchanges using instant messaging and social networking where members contribute their comments, judgments and evidence to create shared insights to influence current professional thinking. ... Braided learning allows professionals to create their own knowledge that can be used locally, regionally and nationally; they become activist professionals."
Again group-crowd sourcing-learning and production and 100% customized knowledge are the keystones.
Naturally, some education systems are way ahead (parts of the UK are at the front of the front of the line), and others trail miserably, even if their scores on national technological sophistication are high. Our British friends see the chance for global leadership in an enormous industry ticketed for fast growth over the next 10–20 years.
As I prepare for a seminar tomorrow to a company involved in and dependent upon information collection, analysis, and dissemination, I find that the kids, wee kids in part, from Blackburn and Suffolk are my principal source of inspiration. Dear God, do they have a lot to teach us!
I've done all my Windows updates, Bill, but when I type "Obama" (as immediately above and preceding) I get the infamous wavy red underlining—which suggests that I replace Obama with "Osama."
A commission formed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies recommended a Cyber Czar in the White House. While Mr. Bush did increase spending on cyberthreats, much, much more emphasis is called for—and the topic is too important to bury in DHS.
I just finished a wonderful book, The Defining Moment, by Jonathan Alter. The book focuses on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first 100 days in office, during which FDR successfully lifted the hopes of the American people from the depths of Great Depression-induced depression.
There are many facets to the story of FDR's first 100 days, but the one I want to focus on here is FDR's interest in creating an intimate conversation with the American people. Alter tells the story of Roosevelt sitting in the Oval Office writing his radio address, his first "Fireside Chat," less than a week after his 1933 inauguration. He looked out his window and saw a worker taking down the inauguration platform, and said to himself, "I want to give a speech that worker will understand." Then, while on the air, he imagined he was speaking one-on-one with this person. Often, just before giving a radio address, FDR would visualize a construction worker, an office worker, or a girl working in a store. The White House received thousands of letters from people who said they felt like the president was speaking directly to them as they sat by their radios.
For centuries, before the invention of microphones and public address systems, orators had to speak very loudly to reach large audiences. This stentorian style carried over into the early days of radio, with announcers using their booming voices in the only way they knew how. FDR was among the first to recognize the opportunity for intimacy that the new technology afforded, and he used this opportunity masterfully.
I believe that there are two kinds of technological innovations (which I describe in Chapter 1 of We): those that put barriers between you and your customers ("please enter your 16-digit credit card number") and those that bring you closer to your customers (the Apple Genius Bar reservation system). FDR taught us an important lesson. Instead of looking at the new tool of radio as a way to talk to 60 million people at one time, he looked at it as a chance to talk to one person, 60 million at a time.
[Read more by Steve Yastrow at yastrow.com.—CM]
I heartily recommend, in the current (July) issue of Vanity Fair, "An Oral History of the Internet: How the Web Was Won." This is, in effect, yes, the Web's __ anniversary.
That is: 50th!!
In 1958, spooked by Russia's Sputnik, the Department of Defense created ARPA—the Advanced Research Projects Agency. ARPA, in turn, sired the Web, no ifs, ands, or buts. In this marvelous recounting, virtually all the key players have been tracked down—and contribute to what VF calls the first oral history of the Web.
(For those of us who are Avowed Capitalist Pigs, it's amusing to see that all the initial funding, decades' worth, for Web-related activities came from the Feds—so much for only-the-private-sector-matters!)
In its May 12th cover story, "The Mac in the Grey Flannel Suit," BusinessWeek confirmed that Apple has finally made some promising inroads into the corporate market in the last year. As a long-time Macophile and anti-PC-er I'm thrilled to see more company Macs. According to research data from the Yankee Group, 87% of surveyed companies now have some Apple computers in their offices, compared to 48% two years ago—due in large part to the iPhone's success in gaining new Apple customers. Meanwhile, Microsoft's problems with Vista, the latest version of its Windows operating system, have further weakened the MS hegemony and encouraged corporate users to upgrade to Mac.
But as the article points out, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who wouldn't even comment on the BusinessWeek story, may not be that anxious to get the grey flannel business. Why? Because a corporate sales strategy would require both an expensive sales & support staff and a willingness to modify Mac product designs to suit the conflicting demands of corporate buyers. Apple is doing just fine without these hassles, making high margins catering to students and artists who will pay extra for the Apple cool. Budget-conscious CIOs may not be as accommodating.
If you were Steve Jobs, what would YOU do?
The financial loan market has taken a lot of heat these days. There is not a lot of alternative loan financing for small businesses, but according to the News & Observer, peer to peer financing is starting to catch on. People who need to raise cash put bids out on the Internet for the amount they need and the interest rate that they want to pay. Different people, or those specializing in lending, decide if they want to back the loan or not. No banks, no brick, no mortar. Just another portal on the Internet making inroads into the financial market.
This is an interesting concept in a market where financing hasn't changed much in years. As George Hofheimer, chief research officer at Filene said, "There is so little innovation in traditional consumer finance that anytime something new like this comes along, it is a rarity and something to watch." So, let's watch to see if this disruption takes hold.
The September issue of Wired is, as usual, chockablock with SWR—stuff worth reading. I was "taken" (mesmerized!) by "WWI," the story of last May's full-fledged cyberattack ("botnet attack") on Estonia, the most wired country in Europe. Among the savvy members of this Blog community, perhaps I'm the last to know the story—but the "imbedded journalist" (more or less) tale of the attack, a true attack on national sovereignty orchestrated by the Estonians moving a WWII Russian war memorial, was stunning in both the details and the implications thereof.
If you buy the journalists' story—and I can't see why one wouldn't—this was indeed WWI, and we are woefully unprepared, and in fact uninterested in being prepared on an appropriate scale, for what will doubtless be a Dark Black Swan in our collective futures, tomorrow at dawn or a decade from now. The results of said failure to prepare on an appropriate (BIG!) scale could be calamitous.
Sad to say, the lack of attentiveness to the cyberassault problem, like the ineffectualness of many of our anti-terrorist measures, heats up the "survivalist" in me—which ain't so pretty.
Okay. Okay. It's old hat. Antediluvian even. But at the end of 2006 I once again salute Google. Above I wrote "all men are created equal." I felt confident in my wording, but only 99.4% confident. (And understood the dire consequences of screwing up.) So, of course, I went to Google. And there before my eyes appeared, sans reindeer: "Results 1 - 10 of about 802,000 for 'all men are created equal.'" As usual I "hung around" for about 15 minutes chasing various strands—after I'd gotten my confirmation.
I do love that. Thanks, Googlers one and all.
But it's also neither of those things.
It's actually stunning.
Headline, right column, page 1, Wall Street Journal, 27 November 2006: "Seeking an Edge, Big Investors Turn to Network of Informants. Mark Gerson Assembles Web of Moonlighting Managers."
I suppose in the old days (pre-1995, say) investors or investors' reps could have hung out at bars near plants to ask hair-down workers or even bosses what was going on inside. In fact, there's no doubt they did just that. So "this" is not new—but as usual these days, "Internet Scale" dwarfs all that came before.
In this case it's Mark Gerson, "a networking wizard who has done for professional investors something akin to what Match.com has done for the nation's singles. He hooks up current and former middle managers from hundreds of companies with professional investors desperate for an investing edge." (The Journal reports that Mr G's network includes 180,000 members!)
Needless to say, some employers are duly concerned ... but this is one more genie out of one more bottle that, no matter how intense immediate pushback, is not going to be re-stuffed into said bottle.
Yes, this sort of thing is becoming commonplace. Still, every time I read a story like this, and see yet another barrier to transparency fall, I am both amused and amazed.
Welcome to Web 2.0.
Or Web 3.0.
Or Web 9.83.
What fun it all is!
(NB: Speaking of "transparency," I felt its bite a few days ago. I wrote an email that, I grudgingly admit, contained a "little white lie." Before pushing the send button, I realized that my likely Blog postings would give me away. Fortunately, the hovering finger was withdrawn in time. Yet another "lesson learned, circa 2006.")
You know it's a new world when ...
When you are sitting on the can with a computer on your lap, attached to All Known Things (the Internet), and reading the Wall Street Journal online at 3 a.m.—and the subject is new cell phones dedicated purely to Skype ... which can cut one's (my!) mega-int'l phone bill upwards of 95%. New product idea, guys division: airport & restaurant urinals with embedded wi-fi/email capability.
(NB: Speaking of urinals, Urinetown may be the funniest-saddest-best play I've seen in a long time. Incidentally, I/we saw it at the Weston Playhouse in Weston, VT—one of those handful of amazing regional theaters where the quality of productions literally equals Broadway's.) (NB: Speaking of TechTime, our new puppy has an implanted chip.)
Speaking again of TechWorld, on a flight from San Francisco, I ran into my pal Kevin Kelly, tech uber-guru and founding Wired editor and, far more important, incredibly good guy. It's nice to see someone who's not as young as he used to be still waaaay ahead of most everybody in what's been declared (by me, among others) a "young man's/woman's game." Kevin is also "one of those people" with whom, even though you haven't seen 'em in 10 years, you take up the last conversation you had with them mid-sentence from where you left off.
I've spent hour after hour in airline clubs in recent weeks (years, decades). Lately I've a new phenomenon (or maybe I'm just paying attention for the first time). Ever so many of us are working assiduously for our 45 minutes or 2 hours on our Laptops. "Mini-offices" are almost always full. Okay. But it's the absence of Wall Outlets that is becoming a source of tension. I collided with a guy in the Chicago Red Carpet Club as we ungracefully plunged for the last outlet in the joint. It wasn't the first time I'd seen such a thing—or, frankly, participated in it. Only the TSA proscription on knives, pointed objects in general, and guns has kept lethal forces at bay.
Two hundred years ago, a man named Mendel of Rymanov reminisced about quieter times:
"As long as there were no roads, you had to interrupt a journey at nightfall. Then, you had all the leisure in the world to recite psalms at the inn, to open a book and to have a good talk with one another. But nowadays you can ride on these roads day and night and there is no peace anymore."
In our age of 24 hour connectivity, the road really never closes. (As I write this at 12:15 A.M. in San Francisco.) Does it interrupt peace of mind? What would Mendel say today?
Just playing. On the way home from Bucharest (via Frankfurt). Flying Lufthansa. They (alone?) have FlyNet—and I just created an account. (A+ for ease of sign-up.) We are currently flying over the Irish Sea, heading for the North Atlantic.
Sending an email Blogpost from 11K meters (to me) is very cool.
Okay, I'm online, wireless, from the BA lounge in Heathrow. And that's a good thing.
Ye gads BT (BT Openzone) made it as painful as possible. Consider: Long layover, so I wanted to buy three hours. Required to buy three vouchers, one hour each. Each has its own username and password. Ridiculously complex passwords and ID. Typical password (CASE SENSITIVE!), szUXPxc3w8. (My user name that hour is the memorable 83167759.) Then the system rejected my Visa card the first two tries, requiring me to thrice start afresh with data entry. All in all, the transaction took about 15 minutes—only an unholy thirst for connectivity kept me in the race.
Today's exam, spurred by BT: Call or email your company, or perform a Web transaction: Is said transaction a gen-u-ine "Wow Experience"?
(All this also makes one-me wonder about the ATT-Bell South link-up. Just what we need, a monster-size, near monopolist, devoid of incentives to kowtow to the customer.)
Not that any of what follows will surprise you. Nonetheless it as usual reminded me that it is a spanking new world. Speech to Aetna tomorrow. Long Google search. Great stuff, sure. But to get a flavor of "Aetna world," I even found myself reading legal documents from wee lawsuits from single individuals about a tiny topic (not to the litigant, of course) involving some aspect of claims handling or settlement. The "flavor" I picked up was priceless—and so, so easy to obtain.
A+ in Usability. Motley Fool. I wanted to dig pretty deep, and as is often the case (and fair, as I see it) I had to register to make an archival search. The registration and confirmation process took less than 30 seconds—and I'm a very slow typist. Kudos!
Re PowerPoint discussion of a couple of days ago, fonts.com is very cool.
Web = Ubiquitous = Duh.
I just picked my 13 year old son up from a friend's house, where he was watching the Chicago Bears lose an NFL playoff game. He is really bummed out.
The entire way home I heard about poor play from the Bears' cornerback, missed calls by inept refs, and the unfortunate interception near the end of the game. And then he told me the worst part: "Now the Bears are going to be rated low in Madden 2007." "Why does that matter so much?" I asked. "Now when I want to be the Bears they won't win very often."
An unwanted (I thought) Web email I just received just offered me a "FREE 90-day supply of Serenity." Wow! How could one resist?
Technology, culture and behavior seem to evolve together. Years ago, we started to see people walking through airports talking on cellphones with headsets. In order not to seem like wierdos talking to themselves, these folks would routinely hold the headset microphone to their mouths, so you could clearly see that they were on the phone.
Then people dropped their hands from their headsets, assuming you'd know they were on the phone because of the cord dangling from their ear. After a while, the introduction of the bluetooth headset took away that cord, but by then nobody was self-conscious anymore, and it became commonplace to see people walking through airline terminals talking without shame to an unseen companion.
But now, at least for men, social norms have relaxed to a new level. Many times in the past year I've walked into an airport men's room and seen a lone man standing at a bank of urinals, actively engaged in a hands-free conversation with someone hundreds of miles away, presumably with a hidden bluetooth headset in his ear. These people inevitably speak in extra loud voices, as people speaking on cell phones in public often do. So, it's hard not to hear about the latest deal they're trying to close, or the new investment idea they're discussing.
I guess the call of the greenback makes it difficult to wait two minutes to make the call. After all, cash is king. But, I personally refuse to take part in this latest cultural development. And, I'll hang up on anyone who calls me if I hear the sounds of the airport bathroom in the background.
Hate to make this post because it betrays both my wholesale ignorance and stupendous innocence. I take no notice of the numerous "mail delivery failed" emails that arrive and for which I simply press "delete." In an idle moment today, or by accident, I clicked the read icon, and then puzzled through the email. It was 14 pages of gibberish, except for the address section at the top. What was being returned was an email from my very private address that I had sent to email@example.com. Omamconsultants may well be legit; on the other hand, they may be planning to destroy the world ... and have hijacked my email address as part of the convoluted process.
There's not a damn thing I can do, as far as I know, but it did send literal chills up & down my back ...
Some Firefox folks have broken off to develop their own browser called Flock. It's still in a pre-beta version and as they say, 'not for the faint of heart.' But keep an eye out for this launch. It's a browser that incorporates a lot of your everyday tasks on the computer. This is gonna' be cool.
Another inspiring speaker at PopTech was Todd Kuiken (pronounced kyken), Director of the Neural Engineering Center for Artificial Limbs at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Todd's working on making prosthetic limbs work more like real limbs by taking nerve endings and growing them into chest muscles to allow the limbs to behave in a more human fashion. Most mechanical limbs only operate in one dimension at a time. Todd's mechanical arms can operate like a real arm. Two problems: They're heavy. And slow. And so they're not quite ready for prime time.
But as Jesse Sullivan says, "The Wright brothers' first flight didn't go that far, either." Jesse is one of Todd's research patients. He was a lineman who lost both arms at the shoulders when he touched a 7200 volt power line. The guy is an inspiration. Very funny. He's from Tennessee, and when Dr. Kuiken mentioned that one of his other research subjects was from the same state, Jesse replied, "I guess we're just accident prone there." More about Jesse and his work with Dr. Kuiken is here.
Just got back from my first Pop!Tech Conference in Camden, Maine. And still feel overwhelmed by what I encountered. The reason for the event is to explore how new ideas and new technologies can make a better future for all the citizens of Planet Earth. And while I'm not going to try to review all of the speakers, I might blog occasionally about those I thought were particularly powerful. Also, you can go here to check out what other bloggers are saying about the conference.
In a section of the conference called "Big Fixes" Cameron Sinclair, a Scottish architect spoke about Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit organization he founded that promotes architecture and design solutions to humanitarian crises around the world. Powerful speaker, and unlike a number of the speakers before him, he had really good slides. But we don't have access to them. One thing I'm going to suggest is that speakers' slides be made available to the audience. (Hey! That's what we do here at tp.com, right?) The current project he spoke about is the Siyathemba Soccer Club project.
The challenge is to create the "perfect pitch," a soccer field/outreach center for the youth of Somkhele, South Africa, who are three times more likely to become HIV positive than youth in other parts of the world. The field will be home to the area's first girls' football league.
Talk about passion. The way this guy talks about the projects they're doing around the world makes you want to drop everything you're doing to volunteer to work on one of these life-saving projects.
Don't worry about FBI or CIA snooping. Let's save 'em the trouble and do it ourselves! As I headed to Russia I read an article in the Sunday Times (London) titled "Electronic detective keeps tabs on roving family." It starts this way: "A wall-mounted screen that allows busy families to keep track of each other's movements is being tested by Microsoft. Researchers call it the 'Whereabouts Clock.' They say it was partly inspired by a magic clock that appears in the Harry Potter novels." Bottom line: A flashing Technicolor screen, linked to mobile phones (inert or active), will feature personalized icons displaying the up-to-the-nanosecond location of one and all.
Hey, why not an implant at birth?
Although she has lived 80 years, my aunt, Roslyn Alexander, is anything but old. An actress for many years, she can still be seen on stage in Chicago frequently, doing 3 shows this year alone, and appearing over the last few years at prominent theaters such as Steppenwolf and Victory Gardens. So, her comments don't come from one who is just out of step with the times ...
This evening, the conversation turned to the avalanche of emails people face every day at their jobs. She said, "Just because we can connect, should we? I hear people on their cell phones ask, 'What did you do today? Nothing? Ok, I'll call you later.' Are we just afraid that if we're alone we might have to think? If we have a bad thought, are we afraid we can't face it? Or are we afraid we'll have no thought?"
Darci Riesenhuber of Tom Peters Company submitted this blog entry.
I just attended a WIT (Women in Technology) event where my friend, David Nour (www.nourgroup.com) spoke about his trademark concept, Relationship Economics. He told a story about introducing two colleagues to each other. One, a lawyer who'd been with a large firm for five years, had never met his colleague who'd worked at the same firm for nearly 10 years, until David introduced them to each other! (Obviously a very large firm.) But, think about it ... how much knowledge is wasted, talent goes unrecognized, best practices aren't shared in an environment where colleagues don't spend enough time out of their 5'x5' spaces to connect with their own peers. Then suddenly I'm struck by the irony ... I'm at an event whose target audience is people in the technology sector ... listening to how communication between individuals is broken. People don't know how to establish, nurture, and leverage relationships. So, I ask you ... with so much "connectivity" how can we not be connected?
Tom Friedman started his op-ed piece in today's New York Times by suggesting that he'd run for office on a one-issue platform: He'd promise to make America's cell phone service as good as Ghana's.
Friedman points out that our technological infrastructure is actually falling behind the rest of the world—in addition to frustrating cell phone coverage, our broadband connectivity has fallen to 16th in the world. As he points out in his book, The World is Flat, the advantages we've grown up enjoying in the U.S. are evaporating, and these technological deficiencies will have a direct result on our wealth and productivity.
Ask he asks in the article, do we depend on private companies to provide better connectivity for us, or is it not in their interest to make access easier and more ubiquitous?
A month ago I opened my laptop in a coffee shop in a 150 year old building in Jerusalem and was immediately connected to the Internet, for free, because the center of town has been set up for wireless access. The only place that has happened to me in the U.S. is the Roanoke Airport—not exactly the center of our universe.
Will it be world domination next by the iPod?
Listening the to BBC's Radio 4 last week, I heard an animated conversation led by Dylan Jones, Editor of GQ magazine, who has recently published a book called iPod, Therefore I Am.
What interested me about the conversation was not the standard debate about the disruption that Apple has created in the music industry's business logic, it was the impact that this (apparently miraculous!) product has had on the lives of some people.
I say some people, because I am in the category of human being that has yet to succumb to the lure of the iPod ...! Jones contends that the iPod has transformed his relationship with music and the role that it plays in his life. Others in the studio enthusiastically agreed, which led me to wonder just how long I can continue to live life without one!
Are you an iPod enthusiast? What makes it special for you, and how has it affected your habits?
Or are you more like me? Wondering what the heck is so special about this little gadget? Surely it's just a modern day Walkman, isn't it?
Speaking of GM, the Wall Street Journal claims that Toyota is "fast on its way to challenging General Motors as the world's biggest car maker." GM's CEO Rick Wagoner, as I recall, recently said that his market research clearly supported More & More SUVs, because consumers weren't fazed by gas prices. On the other hand, the Journal article (07.13) I just cited says the cornerstone of Toyota's "Beat GM" strategy is ... Hybrids! New president, Katsuaki Watanabe, is quoted as saying that hybrid technology "is now a core technology." The U.S. car industry went into eclipse 30 years ago when, after the first Oil Shock, it missed the small car surge. History seems inexcusably to be repeating itself. I guess Wagoner will have to pray that his "give away the cars" marketing ploy will carry the day for his junk-bond rated firm.
What a bunch of bozos! (Lutz excepted—see above.)
Much of the business world and all of the tech world are on "the edge of their seat" about Apple's possible switch from IBM/Motorola chips to Intel chips.
I don't buy all that much from Herrington's or Sharper Image, but I spend endless time with their catalogs. I just got my first firstSTREET catalog. Cool stuff! I went berserk. For instance, legal police radar jamming devices are so good now that Rocky Mountain Radar offers to pay for any ticket you get while using their device (for the first year of operation). Somehow, that appeals to me ...
Andrew Sullivan's written an interesting piece about how isolated and lonely we seem to be these days. He wonders if we've turned into the iPod People, as he describes a recent stroll through New York:
There were little white wires hanging down from their ears, or tucked into pockets, purses or jackets. The eyes were a little vacant. Each was in his or her own musical world, walking to their soundtrack, stars in their own music video, almost oblivious to the world around them. These are the iPod people.
I noticed this when I went skiing this past week, especially obvious were the iPod teens on the ski lifts, staring into space like zombies, seated next to me.
Can a product change a society so fundamentally, or is this product showing us something about our society that was always there?
Board my BA flight in Boston last night, headin' for London & Zurich. Set up my computer, and prepare for a necessary 6-hour work session. Slide updates. Thinking-via-PowerPoint. Etc.
Not a peep out of my Gateway.
Go through my entire repertoire of diagnostics.
And my B/U Dell is in my checked baggage ... and I haven't tested it in 6 months. What do I do? PANIC. Not "panic," but ... PANIC. As in, full-fledged, clinical Panic Attack. Sweaty. Heart palpitations. Will #2 work? Just how backed-up am I? ("Mostly" doesn't somehow feel all that re-assuring.) My desktop on my Gateway represents, I'd guess several thousand hours of work, perfectly arranged. Oh shit!
Arrive London. Want to get some patches going ASAP. Try to place a call on my new, super-duper (PRICEY!) Verizon world-phone. Access denied. OH SHIT.
Hey, here I am in Interlaken working via my B/U Dell. Nonetheless, what transpired—physically & emotionally—was a startling reminder of Tech-Dependence, 2005 Style! And I'm not so happy about that. There are of course the easy fixes. Redouble my back-up practices. Keep #2 in my carry-on, and check it routinely. Stay pissed off at Verizon—nothing new there. But in a way that's the least of it. I don't like being this wed to my gear—and I'm no Gearhead. But what is one to do? Actually, I worked with Pen & Notebook on a paper outline for a couple of hours—and did some good work. Maybe I'm in a PowerPoint Rut? Hmmm. I'll think on that.
Upon being questioned by a member of the audience concerning slipping commissions, I drew a rueful laugh when I snippily retorted, "Get over it." I added, "Be thankful for how long your Monopoly lasted, and when you do hold your Weeping Party, don't invite Stockbrokers—their fee structure means they can hardly afford Cab Fare to your whinging party, so the sympathy will doubtless be in short supply."
Truth is, I had a ball during my 90th and Last seminar of the year—to the Very Progressive ... Houston Association of Realtors. Texans are fun to be around to begin with, and I as usual got a great kick out of dealing with yet another Profession coming ... Under Direct Siege. After years of an almost guaranteed 6% commission ... The Web Has Arrived. I spent hours patrolling the likes of LendingTree.com, ZipRealty.com, ServiceMagic.com, HomeLoanCenter.com, HouseValues.com, forsalebyowner.com and homedepot.com. The array of online services, advisory to turnkey, is staggering ... and growing daily-exponentially. (And attracting aggressive players like Barry Diller and Cendant.)
Some 70% of prospective RE residential purchasers now start their search for home & agent on the Web; those who so utilize the Web spend on average 1.9 weeks with a live Realtor, vs 7.1 weeks for the non-Webbies. Realtors pay 25% or so—a Big Deal—of their fee for on-line generated leads from 3rd-party providers, and commissions in general are more like 4.5% than 6% these days and headed for the Rio Grande. Talk about trauma-for-traditionalists! (The industry, including Houston, sports a, shall we say, sizeable share of Gray Hairs.)
The Houston Association of Realtors, typically considered best-in-breed nationally, has its own brilliant & aggressive & high-investment Web site, HAR.com. Unlike many of its sister associations, HAR is urging members to progressively live with and take advantage of the changes; other associations are following the futile "genie-back-in-the-bottle" approach, and frequently using their formidable local political clout to shut down public-listing sites in their locales. Talk about baying at the moon! Eventually, the courts will stop the silliness, but not before the Luddites lose another few years playing defense.
My Tom-message was fourfold: (1) The Web is here to stay/You ain't seen nothin' yet. (2) Make the Web and the New Services your allies & partners, make them work for you, not vice versa. (3) The old commission structure is DOA—get on with life. (4) Respond to competition by Leaping Up the Value-added Chain ... and offering Irresistible Experiences of the Cirque du Soleil variety.
As some of you know, I just returned from England where I participated with Saatchi's Kevin Roberts in a Microsoft Webinar on KR's powerful-profound Lovemarks idea. I hawked it like crazy yesterday, as I did with Lawyers a few weeks ago. I demanded (Can a consultant "demand" anything?) that my Newfound Houston Realtor Pals begin 2005 by responding to my 2 questions: (1) WHAT'S THE "DREAM" THAT YOU OFFER? (2) How do you become a ... LOVEMARK?
I insisted I was not "talking at" my Clients, but "with" them. Hey, I, too, am caught in exactly the same pincer movement: (1) On the high end, the "guru market" supply-side is outpacing the demand-side. (A recent Variety story claimed there are 150 speakers priced at or above $40,000 a pop—up from 1 when I effectively invented the "guru industry" 20 or so years ago.) On the other/lower end of the-my market-spectrum, eLearning is eclipsing classroom training at an extraordinary rate. All fine with me! I well know that I must work night & day—including this Blogging—on my Lovemark!
Welcome to 2005, Realtors. (And Lawyers.) (And "management gurus.") (And just about everybody, including the hundreds of thousands in the "I've Been Outsourced2005 Ranks.")
Come in, Houston!
Become a Lovemark!
NB: Houston/HAR, thanks for making my Grand Finale2004 a Peak Experience! And being such gracious Hosts!
NB2: For those interested in this market, see the Wall Street Journal (12.06.2004) piece "It Will Still Take Time, But Net Is Modernizing Home Buying, Selling."
Not that I'm any kind of expert on this front, but I've started using Firefox as my browser and it's fast and clean. An article from today's Boston Globe, "Web power to the people," confirms that I'm not the only one changing my access road to the Web.
Had a burial ceremony on the Farm (VT) near my studio. I opened an old-ish "techie casket," and next to my 17 Beloved 35mm Slide Trays from another age I ceremoniously dumped 8 Beloved Floppy Drives. They suffered the brutal life-on-the-road with seldom a complaint ... but their time has passed. R.I.P. And: Many cheers for the Tech Revolution that makes the unimaginable ever more imaginable by the day.
Love your neighbor. Respect your fellow man. Yes, I generally feel that way. But, let me tell you about a few people I don't like.
I don't like Joseph Vickers, who wrote me "Re: Account # 4339Q." I don't like Lindsey Dwyer, who wrote me about "Xanax-Valium-Cialis Deals Here." And Dr. Felicia Quintero, MD, who also spammed me about medications, should (if she actually existed) have her medical license revoked. And I hope that Rae Hutchinson, who wants to sell me a Rolex watch, has a major server crash today and can't send 1 million emails tomorrow.
You may have seen me before—I'm the guy in the airport departure lounge using a hands-free headset with my cell phone, but holding the phone to the side of my face anyway. Why? So I won't look like a weirdo talking to myself.
Ah—but I think I can stop worrying about how this looks, if observed practice is a sign of social acceptance. In my first half hour in the Frankfurt, Germany, airport this morning I saw people walking through the terminal talking to themselves in at least 3 languages, with their inconspicuous headset cords and cell phones hidden in pockets and the folds of jackets.
Do you feel funny talking to yourself like this in public?
Now I know the peril of cell-phoning from one's car. And I've lived to tell the tale. Barely. The problem is not that we're pretty competent at using the cell phone—it's that once-every-10-years moment-of-truth. Was driving from VT to Boston yesterday afternoon. Approaching the city, near Concord. (As in Lexington and ...) Calling Susan, to coordinate my arrival.
About 500 (?) yards in front of me, out of the blue (and the sky was blue), a guy simply spins out of control, does 2 or 3 360s. He ended up hanging from an embankment. I ended up undamaged (car or body) on the other side of the 4-lane road.
That is, nothing happened.
But the plain fact is that I did my evasion bit a fraction of a second, or a second or even 2 seconds, later than I would have had I not been phoning.
(And don't give me the "hands-free" equipment retort! I WAS DISTRACTED. PERIOD. AND I AM ALMOST NOT WRITING THIS AS A RESULT.)
What we're talking about on the front page.
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
What we're talking about
on the front page.