Don't Miss a Thing
Free Updates by Email

Enter your email address


preview  |  powered by FeedBlitz

RSS Feeds

Share |

Facebook: Seth's Facebook
Twitter: @thisissethsblog

Search

Google


WWW SETH'S BLOG

SETH'S BOOKS

Seth Godin has written 18 bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list

all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

linchpin

Linchpin

An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

poke.the.box

Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

purple.cow

Purple Cow

The worldwide bestseller. Essential reading about remarkable products and services.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

small.is.the.new.big

Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.big.moo

The Big Moo

All for charity. Includes original work from Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Promise Phelon.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.dip

The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.icarus.deception

The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

tribes

Tribes

"Book of the year," a perennial bestseller about leading, connecting and creating movements.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

unleashing.the.ideavirus

Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

v.is.for.vulnerable

V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

The end of mass and how you can succeed by delighting a niche.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

whatcha.gonna.do.with.that.duck

Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:


THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 08/2003

« February 2005 | Main | April 2005 »

Outrageous!

Lg_smith_bradleyI worked really hard on this year's April Fool's joke. It was called "The Blog Dongle Uproar (part II)". All about Bradley Smith, formerly part of the Federal Elections Commission.

The post had to do with a dongle (see picture down below) that all bloggers would have to attach to their machines in order to post.

It involved a blog tax, the proceeds of which would be used to fund Orrin Hatch's attempts to ban P2P and all sorts of useful progress in online technology. It involved registering all bloggers and creating a division of the Department of Homeland Security that would monitor all blog posts to see if they threatened our moral security.

Link: The coming crackdown on blogging | Newsmakers | CNET News.com.

"The real question is: Would a link to a candidate's page be a problem? If someone sets up a home page and links to their favorite politician, is that a contribution? This is a big deal, if someone has already contributed the legal maximum, or if they're at the disclosure threshold and additional expenditures have to be disclosed under federal law.

Certainly a lot of bloggers are very much out front. Do we give bloggers the press exemption? If we don't give bloggers the press exemption, we have the question of, do we extend this to online-only journals like CNET?"

My whole shtick was that I was going to support  the blog tax and talk about what a good idea it was... thus leading other bloggers to be outraged and rip me to pieces for supporting something so entirely stupid.

BlogdongleBut I'm not going to post it. In fact, this is my last post until Saturday. Why? Because everything is being taken so seriously, especially when individuals feel deceived, mistreated or foolish.

I got a note earlier today from someone excoriating Best Buy because the price they offered for a CD in the store was <gasp> a few dollars different from what they were offering the same thing online. They were outraged.

Outrage seems to be the order of the day. Outrage is the new currency of politics, it's the currency of marketing and it's the currency of our interactions on the road--did I mention a woman in a GMC Jimmy--probably 55 years old--honked at me for more than a minute today (and flipped me the bird) because she didn't like my driving?

This is going to be the biggest April Fool's day in memory. There will be political fools and satirical fools and just plain goofy fools. I figured I could get a lot of mileage out of inventing the "blog tax" fool, and it would be a good story to tell my grandchildren. But then I realized that if it worked, I'd get all this incredibly angry mail and trackbacks and I'd have to deal with it.

So, alas, no Fools for me. Good luck tomorrow. Be careful out there.


Noses cut to spite faces department

Petra Rankin shares this story:

I went for a drive to pick up some business cards from my local printer. When I got there, I was handed four boxes of very shiny business cards, even though I had specifically ordered matte. I had specified matte a number of times because it was very important to me, and he was also charging me a premium price for the matte laminate.

So I told the person who was serving me that they were not matte, and I was told in response “yes they are.” (!)

Given that these cards were so shiny I could almost see my reflection in them, I asked to speak to the manager. He come out and agreed that they were not matte, and also agreed that I had asked him a number of times to print matte cards, but he would not lower the price of the cards. I offered him what I thought the cards were worth given they were a misprint, but he was too proud and said I couldn’t take them!

So he is throwing away 1000 perfectly good (albeit shiny) cards, because he didn’t want to accept a discounted price for a mistake!

I wonder how many other small business people operate their business like this? They would rather have a big loss than accept a small one?

(PS She just wrote me and said the printer called her at home, told her had changed her mind and even offered to drive the cards over if she'd just pay the discounted fee.)

find Petra: Achieving Our Potential (And Beyond).

Does language matter more?

"Your call is important and will be serviced as soon as possible"
"Please have your card number and other additional information ready"

In the old days, you'd go down to the American Express office and talk to a real person. They would use eye contact and hand motions and could gauge your responses in order to make themselves understood.

Today, when you're on permahold, listening to a recording at Amex, you only have the classical musical loop and the words they've chosen.

So when they choose the wrong words, when they ask you to do silly things (additional information? which additional information?) it makes you think they're not as smart as you'd like them to be.

As we see in the warning sign below, in an environment where you can't react in real time, the words you choose are critically important to the message you send.

Death plus a fine

200finedeathThanks to Mark Mattos for the snapshot

People or systems?

Chris Garrett says I'm wrong about the Westin. That they should fix their systems, not their people.

I can't think of one world class service organization (whether it's someone selling million dollar computers to corporations or Starbucks) that has figured out how to replace great people with great systems.

The best organizations have principles and guidelines and even, yes, scripts. But time and again, they fall back to, "Use your best judgment" or "Do what's right for the customer" or "Make something magical happen" or "Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen."

When a hotel chain empowers a maid to spend up to $500 to make it right (using her own discretion), that's not a system, that's trusting great people to do the right thing.

The problems with systems?
1. if you rely on them too much, your people stop trying, and your hiring people realize they don't have to get such great people.
2. sooner or later, it's going to get copied by the competition. It's a lot easier to copy a system than it is to get great people.

JetBlue is first and foremost about the people Amy Curtis hired and trained. The systems allow the great people to do great work.

Yes, if you can automate it in a way that increases satisfaction, do it right away. Use an ATM system instead of the front desk at the hotel. Use an automated wake up call system. But then put the money you save into wonderful people at the concierge desk.

Adventures in travel

Staying at The Westin Hotel in Florida to give a speech today. The staff here is very scripted, doing things because they were told to, not because it comes naturally. My favorite example: When you ask for a wake up call in the morning, they automatically respond, "Would you like a follow up call fifteen minutes later?" I said no. They asked me the same question when I called an hour later to change the time. Same no answer from me.

So this morning, as is usual when I travel, I woke up an hour earlier than I wanted to. Before going to work out, I called to cancel my wake up so the ringing phone wouldn't bother the neighbors. The receptionist then asked, "Would you like me to cancel the follow up call as well?"

Obviously, there's no reason on earth that someone who is already awake and is cancelling their wakeup call would still want to be reminded of the call fifteen minutes later. Especially if they didn't ask for the reminder call in the first place. But there it is in the script, so it's an error that's repeated over and over.

I know it's more difficult, but hiring people who can think for themselves is usually a better long run strategy than scripting every conversation. If that's the plan, it's probably better to get an automated system. And not just at a hotel in Florida...

Five things to do today

Spring cleaning and all that:

1. Don't forget to check out the details for: Seth's Blog: Please come to a seminar in my office.

2. Sign up for an RSS reader. You can check all your blogs at once just by visiting a website or loading a program. Click on the odd logo for the easiest one I've found: Subscribe with Bloglines

3. Send a thank you note to three people you work with.

4. If you live in a house, have your furnace checked. Ours was backed up and almost killed us all. If you live in an apartment, go ahead and get tenant's insurance. It's pretty cheap and you'll thank me one day.

5. Make a list of the five most useful blogs you read and email the list to six clueless friends. If everyone who reads blogs daily did this, the number of clueless people might actually go down (hey, a guy can dream.)

Thanks for your support. Enjoy your spring. (For those in Australia and other places that are closer to penguins, enjoy your fall.)
 

You can always be mean later (respect works)

Here's a fascinating case study in the power of being nice.

Lawyers have customers too, and not just the people who pay the bills. If a lawyer can successfully market her ideas to an adversary, she's far more likely to get a case settled quickly and to her client's advantage.

Consider the case of Julie Greenberg and Hank Mishkoff. You can see the entire thing in detail here: Taubman Sucks!.

Ms. Greenberg represented (or I should say, mis-represented) a giant chain of shopping malls. A few years ago, she and Taubman went after Hank Mishkoff, who controlled a domain Taubman wanted for one of its malls. Her opening salvo was a classic lawyer's demand letter, very formal and threatening.

Of course, most people respond to a note like that with fear and trepidation and then anger. And it spirals from there. I wonder if any law firm has ever done testing as to whether letters like that are actually effective. What if she had called first, or sent a friendly, clearly written letter that outlined mutually beneficial options for both sides?

Instead, Greenberg started mean and escalated from there. Classic litigator tactics, reflecting a "my typewriter is sterner than yours" age-old tactic. Sometimes people fold in the face of this approach (but even when they do, it's expensive for both sides).

Hank responded by defending himself and taking it to court.

In the end, he won. It cost Taubman tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, it's clear to me by watching the correspondence, if the very first interaction had been civil or even pleasant, Jill Greenberg could have ended with a win for 1% of what the loss cost her (actually, it didn't cost her anything. She made a profit on it! It cost her client a boatload of money, though).

Even if you're not a lawyer (or especially if you're not a lawyer) the lesson here is pretty clear: it doesn't matter who's "right". What matters is that giving people the benefit of the doubt and treating them with respect is not only more fun, it works better too.

(Thanks to Doc Searls for the original pointer). (Actually, sorry Doc, it was Boing Boing: HOWTO: defend yourself against domain trademark shakedowns)

Apple's newest ipod launches first of April

Ipod2225vk_1It's made of granite.

Taking rock music to a whole new level.

Thanks to Alex for the image. Link: Nyfncr's World Of Randomness.

Marketing is where you find it

KrispyToday's New York Times reports that the Radiant Church - in Surprise, AZ  spends $16,000 a year on Krispy Kreme donuts.

The health risks aside, this is smart marketing. (And is there anything wrong with a church doing marketing? Churches have always done marketing.)

Marketing doesn't mean advertising. 

Tito's Vodka: How A Story Can Make Things Better

James Paden points us to this story about vodka.

Link: Tito's Vodka: How A Story Can Make Things Better.

Kind words...

Thanks to Dina Amadril for the nice review of a past seminar.

And I didn't even have to send a Fez!

Link: Marketing Improv: Get Your Fez on!.

Please come to a seminar in my office

SethmilkcartonabbottClick on this link--> Seminars and you can read all about my two new Whiteboard Sessions.

One is Tuesday, April 19th (for big and small companies) and the other is two days later (a free seminar for non-profits).

I don't really make much money doing these, and they're exhausting, but the feedback I get makes it totally and completely worth it. I don't think I do anything that generates the same sort of impact on an organization. I don't sell anything (no consulting or whatever) and sometimes you win a door prize like a fez or a milk carton.

If you click on the link above, you can find out all the details about pricing, about location, about hotels, about testimonials, about the guarantee.

It's a very small-scale event, so please don't dither, dally or delay.

Who's watching whom?

John Battelle pointed me to:  trendmapper � Add a new search!.

This is a cool service that let's you watch the google hits of a phrase or site over time. That's interesting. What's really interesting, though, is the list of phrases that people are watching. Some are not surprising (Joi Ito) and some are just sort of puzzling (ninja--did they not understand what this is for?)

Most interesting of all, though, is the way a small community of bloggers and webheads are always doing the next great thing. If you have a brand or a site or a cause, you should do this. But how does the word about it disseminate? Watch the link above to see who else is tracking...

You too can be famous!

NoseAs a shameless promotion for my new book (Link: Seth Godin - Liar's Blog) I'm promising to post your picture and your story here on my highly trafficked blog.

Once a week I'll pick the best submitted photo and story and post it, together with a link to your website.

All you need to do is send me a picture wearing the special liar's nose. Don't have a liar's nose? Don't worry! I just got a case of them. Send me $5 plus a self addressed stamped envelope (Seth Godin, Box 305, Irvington, NY 10533) and I'll send you back your very own nose. (While supplies last, void where prohibited, your mileage may vary). I don't expect to turn a profit here, but if I do, all proceeds will go to roomtoread.org.

Think of the fame. The traffic. The groupies. Tell me about the stories you tell, the lies your customers want to believe and how you're making things happen. No promises, naturally, except that your nose is 100% virgin latex and you can get your money back if you don't like it.

Shortcuts

I did an interview yesterday with a magazine that specializes in marketing. They've got hundreds of thousands of readers, most in the direct mail business.

The reporter didn't like the answer I gave her about how to build a email marketing list. I told her that the first step was to offer something in your email newsletter that people would actually want to read. That the second step was to promise people exactly what you intended to give them. And the third step was to create content that was so remarkable that people wanted to share it. I explained that if you take your time and keep your promises, it'll build if it deserves to build.

She wanted to know about shortcuts.

At least three times she asked me what the shortcuts were. How to do it if you were in a hurry. Most important, how to do it if your message wasn't that interesting.

Sigh.

It appears that marketing America still has plenty of time to do it over, but not nearly enough time to do it right.

If there were shortcuts, people smarter than you and me would have found them already. There aren't. Sorry.

Spec it... done.

I just bumped into elance.com. (Link: Search: Service Providers.)

I picked a page at random. I discovered developers in Israel, Washington DC, India and Rochester. These are firms that earning $80,000 or more every six months just from elance work.

It's now very clear that just about any organization can have what it wants online.

It's got to be something real (no fair using the back of a napkin.) Find a site online that's doing something that will help your mission. It could be a style of layout, a backend database, a search facility--it doesn't matter. If it's out there, you can have one too.  One more excuse for delaying or mediocrity, shot to hell.

You Can't Change the Game

But you can change the story.

A brief interview with Brian at LightBox5: Link: Like It Matters.

Amazon's Time Machine

This link will probably be broken by the time you read this, but give it a try: Amazon.com: Computers: VIEWSONIC TPCV1250S PM-1G 40GB ( TPCV1250S-1303 ).

Gizmodo pointed out that the description of the machine includes a 30,000 GB hard drive. Obviously a typo, but that didn't keep 56 different people from rushing over and posting sort of funny reviews (sort of funny if you think bill gates knock knock jokes are funny).

The question here is: why don't online stores do stuff like this on purpose? Why don't they slip in ridiculous items or funny descriptions? It's not like they're going to run out of shelf space or have a problem with inventory.

People like to smile. Lightening up is a good idea.

I got one of these for the multi-OS capability. So far, it runs HP-UX, Red Hat, BSD (2 flavors), XENIX, OS X, AIX, AppleDOS, Solaris, DG-UX, Netware, Debian, Mandrake, CP/M, QNX, Win 3.11, Win95, Win95b, Win98, Win98se, WinME, WinCE, Os/2, NT [34], Windows server 200[03], DR-DOS, & BeOS, all in separate windows. Couldn't load SCO - licensing issues. We also managed to get Lotus Agenda working pretty well; we dumped the entire Internet into Agenda and were able to solve most of the world's crimes and determine who on the planet is related to whom. And we were able to use the included Cray Supercomputer Simulator (4 instances simultaneously) to beat Deep Blue and Baby Blue at chess, at the same time. Nice machine. But I think soon I'll need an upgrade.

On the short list

Hans Eisenman sent me this article from the Washington Post.

Link: Losing Sleep Over Online Bed Purchases (washingtonpost.com).

Without copying the whole thing, it's impossible for me to convey just how stupid (that's the best word I can find) this marketer is and how bad he is at his job.

Some people are destined to fail. Green Culture (the company in question) is now on that list, in my opinion.

RSS Addict!

I promised myself I'd write less about inside baseball blogging sort of stuff, but this is worth it.

Yesterday, Bloglines (Link: Ask Jeeves Results -bloglines.) stopped working on my Mac.  All my bookmarks, as well as direct typing of the URL or even using Google would just hang. I figured the site was down post-acquisition. (I even tried it on my other Mac).

So after 30 hours, I started getting itchy.

It's amazing how quickly you can get dependent.

It turns out it's just a Firefox glitch (I'll figure it out, I'm sure). Bloglines is working fine on my other browser.

The second side effect is getting there to discover hundreds of unread posts. Yikes! I think I'll need to start posting less often, just to give fellow RSS addicts a break.

Questions for Seth Godin

Another interview, this time with ClickZ.

Link: Questions for Seth Godin. More good stuff at Seth Godin - Liar's Blog.

Astonishing

If I hadn't seen this link from Jason Richardson with my own eyes, I would have thought it was a prank:

Link: http://www.ibackups.net

NOTICE TO ALL IBACKUPS CUSTOMERS:

As most of you are aware, iBackups is down due to issues beyond our control. We are sorry but there is nothing we can do at this time to resolve this.

Also, we cannot stress the seriousness of our terms regarding our refund policy to our customers. Filing a chargeback or dispute with your bank will result in legal action against you. We are sorry we have to be so blunt regarding this matter. However, anyone who has ordered from iBackups that has not received their disc and some download customers will be issued a refund so please bear with us while we prepare all of this. Thank you.

Nathan Peterson
President- iBackups, Inc.

Godin's Leveraged Effort Curve

GraphAmong highly-compensated workers, the amount of work you get paid for actually goes down as you get paid more.

A talented doctor spends no more than ten or fifteen minutes a day actually doing the thing that she's actually gifted at

An insightful web designer spends just a few minutes a day actually doing insightful web design.

A great lawyer might be pushed to the edge of his talents once or twice a week.

The same goes for salespeople, farmers, novelists and hockey players. The baseline level of talent in most professions is pretty high, and the really exceptional people shine only rarely.

There's too much overhead. A doctor needs to fill out forms, meet salespeople, answer phone calls, travel from hospital to hospital, manager her staff and every once in a while, see a patient. And most of those patients are run of the mill cases that a medical student could handle.

I'm talking about knowledge workers, obviously. Knowledge workers get paid extra when they show insight or daring or do what others can't. But packaging the knowledge is expensive, time consuming and not parituclarly enjoyable for most people. As you get better at what you do, it seems as though you spend more and more time on the packaging and less on the doing.

(and yes, I know the chart above is about infected acorns, but it had the right slope)

The exception?

The intense conversations you can have with your customers and prospects, especially via a blog. Once you get the system and the structure set up, five minutes of effort can give you four minutes of high leverage idea time in front of the people you're trying to influence.

When the net is broken (spam, popups, cc lists, most instant messaging) it just adds more "time overhead" to what you do. But when it's working, it allows ideas to be stripped down to their essence and allows you to really push.

The temptation, when living without the time overhead, is to invent new overhead so you can stall. All these features available on blogs allow bloggers to spend time doing diligent housekeeping, with the excuse that it's necessary. In fact, by stripping away the time overhead, what it means to be a knowledge worker might just change.

End of discussion

A lot of us have been talking about this day for a very long time, but it appears to be here.

The end of FCC controlled content
The real beginning of the pro-am content revolution
The final straw for ad-supported media
and
The nail in the coffin for businesses that need selfish advertising to succeed.

Yep, that sounds like a lot of hype, but check out:

Link: Ourmedia Homepage | Ourmedia.

It is now supercheap to serve up media
It is also supercheap to make music and video and text
and
the big guys can't afford to make good stuff any more, so it's all reality TV and recycled music anyway.

What Ourmedia does is power the long tail.

There needs to be money in the system, imho, not to pay for it (as this site shows) but to serve as an editor and an arbiter and an assigner of value. In the meantime, if you're basing your success on the three local TV network model of the universe, this is worth a look.

(Sumner Redstone's daughter is the new heir apparent of Viacom. The question is: will she inherit anything at all?)

Think about parsley

Parsley_2I had breakfast with my friend Jerry today. We ate at Naples 45 in New York. I ordered the $12 omelette.

This is what I got: (I know I asked for no potatoes, and it's true that the muffin didn't come with a bite already in it.)

Who eats the garnish? No one does. What a waste, right? But once it's gone, you notice. You notice that there wasn't a sprig of parsley or even a strawberry on the plate. It's a vivid reminder that you were just ripped off.

All of us sell parsley. Sometimes, in the race to cut costs and increase speed and figure out how to fight off Wal-Mart, it's easy to decide to leave off the parsley. No focus group ever asked for parsley!

Right next door to Naples 45, the little cafe serves breakfast with a smile. And garnish. That's my stop next time.

Randall on a trillion commercials

The very very perceptive Randall Rothenberg writes in Ad Age today about computer-assisted ad creation and serving software that lets marketers show a different commercial (eventually) at every house if they choose.

It's behind the annoying adage.com registration page, but here's the link and an quote:

ANOTHER LOOK AT ADDRESSABLE TV ADVERTISING.

Visible World is a marketing-services company headquartered in a dreary Manhattan stretch near the banks of the Hudson. Led by a couple of renegades out of BBDO and a tech whiz who helped create Prodigy, one of the first online services, it is showing the way toward customized TV spots, using the video version of Internet Protocol, addressable cable.

Assembling custom TV spots
To a client base that already includes Ford Motor Co., 1-800-Flowers and others, Visible World is offering a technology that allows marketers to automatically assemble TV spots from components stored on a remote server and customize them to a ZIP code, even a few hundred households linked by the cable operator�s head end.

Good news about marketers and RSS

New Jupiter study shows that big time marketers aren't excited about it. DMNews.com | News | Article.

Which gives the rest of us more time to get it right. Hurry, before the spammers show up!

An interview with Hugh

Link: gapingvoid: e-mail exchange with seth godin.

Boy am I in trouble.

My wifi post has certainly annoyed people far smarter than I.

Like Marc Orchant: Link: Seth, I love you man but stick to marketing,OK? - The Unofficial Microsoft Weblog - microsoft.weblogsinc.com.

This riposte made me smile, though. Link: newswireless.net .:. Gossip .:. The Godin vs Orchant "head-slapping ....

So, here's my deal:
1. if you run a bowling alley, my advice stands.
2. if you have data fears, my advice about asking a computer guru to protect your data still stands.
3. if you read the New York Times, my reaction to their fearmongering still stands

But, if you read my original post as saying that without any precautions, you ought to just make all your wifi hubs public, then I withdraw it, with prejudice, immediately.

Skeptico: Five apples

This is brilliant. The whole site is worth a read.

Skeptico: Five apples.

Five apples

This is what my life is like. I have four apples. At least I’m pretty sure there are only four, I only bought four, I can only see four and there is no reason to suppose I have any more. There could be five I suppose, but I see no reason to think so. The trouble is, everyone else thinks there are five. I ask people for evidence that there are five apples. I ask them what reason they have to suppose there are five, or to show me how they counted five, and these are the replies I get:

   

1. What do you mean, “count the apples”?    

2. Have you studied agriculture? If not, how do you know there aren’t five apples?    

3. The majority of people in the world know there are five apples.  Are you saying they are all wrong?    

4. It’s closed-minded to think there aren't five apples.    

5. There is plenty of evidence to prove that there are five apples, go and look for it, I’m not counting them for you.    

6. Apples can’t be “counted” by science, so there are five apples.    

7. Can you prove there isn’t a fifth apple somewhere?    

8. Scientists counted only three apples in the past and now they admit there are four, so there are five now.    

9. The ancient Chinese knew there were five apples; modern science still has not yet caught up.  

10. They laughed at Galileo when he said there were five bananas, and he was right, so there are five apples.  

11. Science can’t yet see all the apples. You can’t see radio waves, but they existed before we developed ways to measure them, so why can’t there be a fifth invisible apple now that we just haven’t developed the technology to see?  

12. Quantum mechanics proves there are five apples.  

13. I just know the fifth apple is there.  

14. It’s a government conspiracy to cover up the existence of the fifth apple.  

15. You’re not keeping up with the latest research. It has now been proven that there are five apples (although I can’t actually remember where this research is written up).

Here’s the thing: I actually have four apples and an orange. These people are so busy making up stories about a fifth apple, they’ll never realize the orange even exists.

My Wifi Rant

This one has been a long time gestating, but today's New York Times completely pushed me over the edge (Link: The New York Times > Technology > Growth of Wireless Internet Opens New Path for Thieves.)

As I make my travels through the Northeast, I'm stunned by how many wifi networks my Mac encounters--and how many of them are password protected. Waiting in the doctor's office, for example, I find five networks. And every one of them is closed.

Why on earth would someone go to the trouble to do this?

I mean, I'm sitting at an ad agency or a cosmetic firm and their network is closed. I'm standing outside of an office building and there are 18 networks and all of them are closed. All of them!

It's like having a television on and intentionally putting up blinders so that certain people can't watch it. Worse, it's like making an apple pie and putting nose plugs on people who would like to smell it! (I like pie, not crazy about TV).

Having the wifi network in your lobby or your waiting room or in the street under your window open to guests will not compromise the security of your files. You need a different sort of security for that. And it won't degrade your net performance much either (hey, if it does, you can always turn the password on again, cursing me out as you do). [NB I'm not a computer security expert, and I'm not making a statement about the risk to your data. What I am saying is that if you're dealing in stuff that's super confidential--like medical records or which Congressman is breaking which law--then you've got no business using a wifi network anyway.]

And yet, here comes the influential Times with an urgent warning that all sorts of pedophiles, car bombers--hey, even people who do graffiti or spit on the street--are using this major hole in our security networks to do bad deeds. Since the article focuses on the dreaded "data thieves" it's easy to assume that they're stealing data from the networks. They're not. They're just hiding from the FBI. But if everyone jumps up and down and starts closing their networks, these data thieves will just take one of their stolen credit cards and go to Starbucks!

There were no razor blades in apples on Halloween when we were growing up. Did you know that? Really. They made it up. Someone should tell the Times and its readers that if you want to be anonymous on the Net, you can go to Kinko's or go to Bryant Park or the library. It's certainly not necessary to scare the nation into closing their wifi hot spots.

A Warning About Ostrich Farming

Ostrich_1Have you ever eaten ostrich?

I missed my chance when I gave up poultry as the last land animal on my eating list.

My guess is that you haven't had a lot either.

It turns out that there was a huge bubble in ostrich farming (yes, they have bubbles off the internet, too). Once a few clever promoters (Ostriches On Line - Chad.) realized that the world would go crazy about ostrich meat (and don't forget the eggs) there was money to be made selling breeding ostriches.

So, you bought two ostriches and a bunch of land, and soon you have some baby ostriches. You sold those ostriches for $20,000 or more each--to other people who wanted to breed ostriches. Do this for a few generations and pretty soon there would be plenty of ostrich meat available (and the breeders at the top of the pyramid would be rich indeed).

You can guess the punchline. The breeders sold their ostriches to other breeders, and soon there were plenty of ostriches but in the end, restaurants didn't want to sell the stuff because people didn't really want to eat it.

The blogads survey (see below) says that more than 20% of blog readers are also blog writers. Imagine a world where 20% of the people who read novels, wrote novels. Hope we're not breeding ostriches. We're so busy writing that maybe, just maybe, nobody who shows up is going to actually spend the time to read! As a parting shot, here's a quick blurb from the ostrich site:

The ostrich industry is the fastest growing agricultural business in the world. With the vast array and almost unlimited supply of products and services that we have available, your opportunities to resell these products has never been better.

Cheap, loud and smart

Joi Ito  points me to the newest Blogads reader survey. The upshot?

Blog readers have a one in five chance of having their own blog (ostrich farming alert!). They read a ton of high end magazines and are well educated. They have very very high household incomes. They don't hesitate to sign petitions, write letters or otherwise share their opinions. They read about five blogs a day. They buy almost nothing online. A bunch are students, but even more have influential jobs. And they don't use an RSS reader

Blogads: reader survey for blog advertising..

When your customers hold you back

Pf1606Ten or twelve years ago, I used to buy stuff from Paper Direct. They sell preprinted sheets that you run through your laser printer to make brochures and business cards and such.

In those days, when laser printers were still a little rare (and only printed in black toner) this was a neat way to make a sole proprietorship seem a little more professional.

I got their catalog in the mail today and browsed through it. I was stunned. The stuff they sell is exactly the same. The same pastel colors, boring designs, slightly cheesy look and very cheesy fonts in the examples. The market has changed radically but the products haven't changed a bit.

Today you can print astonishing color on a $200 printer. You can do professional short run printing on an Indigo machine. But Paper Direct is still selling design from the 1980s. It sort of screams, "home office!"

My bet? I think that every time they try to introduce something more hip or effective than "PC1606 Tropical Fish Postcards", their audience doesn't buy any. As a result, they slavishly serve their existing audience. Which is no doubt profitable, but how can they grow?

The organizations that have the most impact and grow the quickest are those that frequently alienate their existing customer base.

Hundreds of designed printable border papers, brochures, certificates at PaperDirect..

Pre-bankruptcy marketing

JapanamericanLet's say you run an airline with a horrible cost structure and you're facing bankruptcy on an almost daily basis.

Why on earth would you waste money on marketing like this?

Do the folks at American believe that some harried New Yorker is going to choose to fly to Tokyo on the spur of the moment for sushi and because American is the brand that prompted them, fly there on American?

Where's the ROI?

Stop for a second

Tom Peters reports that

In England more people are employed by Indian restaurants than in steelmaking, coal mining, and ship building combined!

Think about that for a while.

MBA mail

I've gotten a lot of heat about my "don't get an MBA" post--(Harvard did those guys a favor when they didn't let them in). Here's one: Life Beyond Code :: MBA or no MBA??.

Let me make my point in a more MBA-esque sort of way:
What if an MBA cost $2,000,000?
What if an MBA took five years?

Would it would be worth it then? Of course not.

So my question really is: is the marginal value (in terms of opportunity cost, time value of money and capital expenditure) higher or lower than the current cost? I think it's pretty close to a no brainer.

What happens next?

I think there are two blog/RSS frontiers worth considering... whether you manage a project, a church or a brand.

The first is the idea of the micro-blog. Ed Brenegar got asked to help a small group understand word of mouth and turned it into a blog: University of Word Of Mouth. Now, as he gets new groups to work with, he can repurpose the blog. I did the same thing when I produced a musical for an elementary school last year. I made a blog for the parents to use to keep up with the news about the play, with the schedule, with photos of each rehearsal.

Blogging doesn't have to mean "talking to anonymous strangers."

The second is what BaseCamp is doing (Link: Project management and task management software: Basecamp.) This is project management software that uses RSS to alert the people who need to be alerted whenever something is up... and they can ignore it the rest of the time.

RSS is like email, except there's no spam, the loop is closed, the media that's available is far wider and, best of all, the recipient can configure a host of readers to present the info in the way they want. Thinking like this led to podcasting, and it's going to lead us in a bunch of new directions now.

Again with the RSS?

If you're already using RSS, please skip this post.

Otherwise, you really need to read it.

RSS is the next big thing. Find out about it here: FeedBurner - About Feed Syndication.

Even better, click below and you'll be automatically subscribed to updates about this blog. Instead of having to go from blog to blog to find out if there's anything new, you can just go to bloglines.

Subscribe with Bloglines

More books worth reading!

Diego Rodriguez writes:

What's more powerful than a designer who thinks like a marketer who
thinks like a designer?

Link: 800-CEO-READ Blog: Design Thinking Books.

Bedtime reading?

Cant_start_em_too_youngMy friend Lynn with a new galley.

Let's hope Otto gets his fair share of Goodnight Moon.

Link: Seth Godin - Liar's Blog.

Where is the rainbow? (long tail, part 2)

Some of my friends are bloggers that look like America. Women bloggers, Asian bloggers, bloggers of color.

Lately, there's been some wailing from this community. How come the democratic, open blogging community appears to be turning into yet another white male bastion?

I'm hesitant to wade in here, because feelings are pretty easily bruised, but I've been giving it a lot of thought because it doesn't make sense.

Obviously, the problem isn't that traditionally under-promoted communities aren't talented enough to write a popular blog.

Also, it's not possible that these communities don't have access to the marketplace. Most of us have precisely the same access. If you've got $20 a month and a public library, you can do this.

I also don't believe the problem lies with the audience. I don't think people (or Bloglines. for that matter) screen content based on who it was written by. If the headline registers, you click and read. Then, and only then, do you bother to worry about the origins of the person who wrote it.

So what is it?

I think it involves the long tail.

In the old days, it mattered a great deal who you knew. If you knew the head of casting at MGM or someone at CAA or the right A&R person, you got the "break" you needed to find an audience. If you knew someone on Sandhill Road, you could get funded. Today, most of the winners work their way up. Boing Boing did, Scoble did and so did Doc Searls.

Working your way up requires a few things:
1. Persistence. Success comes slowly, and you have to stick with it.
2. Patience. Your peers won't see success, so the fortitude needs to be internal.
3. Low overhead (access to resources). While dealing with #1 and #2, you need a day job, and more important, the confidence to keep going even though it doesn't seem like it's going to work.

It seems to me that some communities are better at supporting all three than others. One reason, for example, that Silicon Valley creates start ups is that the entire community, from the supermarket to the school to the church to the bank supports the process.

Many of the underserved communities I'm talking about can't provide the support and expectations that many white men get. In other words, the blogosphere isn't stacked against women and others, the real world is.

The real world doesn't even know what you're doing. All they know is that you're not doing what they expect. And the curse is that once this new thing turns real, once the community expects you to go off and do it, it'll be much much harder to succeed.

So, what I would say to the struggling entrepreneur or pundit or expert or consultant or musician or person spreading that important idea is this:
1. it's okay if it doesn't happen fast
2. don't worry so much about getting the approval of those who came before and are farther along the curve
3. keep costs as low as possible so you can do this without panicking when it doesn't work so fast
4. surround yourself with friends and colleagues who "get it" and root for you, even when it's not going so fast
(variant: fire the friends and mothers-in-law who aren't supporting you so much!)
5. realize that it's not about you or the way you look or what you wear. It's about the tail.

I started with plenty of advantages, but it took me a decade to make it as an entrepeneur. That's a lot of macaroni and cheese. I was lucky--my network didn't lose faith.

Obviously, this applies to a lot more than blogging. There are so many tiny businesses (like eBay selling) or bigger businesses (like designing stuff) where these same rules apply. I hope this new medium finally gets us where we need to be.

Thinking about the Long Tail (part 1)

Chris Anderson wrote a brilliant article, and was clever enough to post it as a ChangeThis manifesto: ChangeThis :: The Long Tail.

I can't stop thinking about it, but in ways that are different than his original riff.

His point (for which he has data!) is that once we eliminate artificial bottlenecks like shelf space and the spectrum restrictions, the mass market effect drops off very quickly.

Give people 1,000 channels to watch, and they won't all watch the same thing.
Give people 1,000,000 books to read, and they won't all want to read a bestseller.

Yes, people read the DaVinci Code because everyone else is. Yes, people watch The Apprentice for the very same reason. But no, this effect isn't as pervasive as most of us would believe.

Joe Krause (co-founder of Excite) jumped on the bandwagon with this insightful post about what he saw there: Link: Bnoopy: The long tail of software. Millions of Markets of Dozens. His data shows that 3% of the searches were about the same handful of things... and that the other 97% were all spread out.

Apple's iTunes store has the same effect at work. They've sold more than a million different songs.

So, we see that:
1. hits aren't what they used to be. Hit TV shows, hit music, hit books--it's impossible to get the volume you could get 20 years ago in almost any field (even business to business stuff like consulting).

2. the choices are wider than ever before and the pickins for each producer are slimmer than ever.

Great. So what to do about this?

Well, unmentioned in these posts as far as I can tell is this:

It's cheaper than ever (by an order of magnitude) to make a product and bring it to market.

Which means your hits can be smaller.
Which means you can make more variety.

So, when Coke launches Water Salad beverage in Japan, it doesn't have to be a New Coke sized hit (or miss) in order to succeed. You can have a blog with 1,000 loyal readers and do just fine, thanks very much, on an ROI basis.

Our instinct is to push, to pull strings, to advertise, to hustle, to do whatever it takes to get to that top 3%. Hey, if you can write the Da Vinci Code, more power to you.

The better path, though, is to figure out how to be:
patient
persistent
and low cost

enough to be quite happy with a whole bunch of long tail scraps. A dollar here and a dollar there and soon, it all adds up.

This is my best advice if you have a radio station, a supermarket, an insurance agency or run Apple computer.

PS Danny Sullivan has a nice piece on this. Link: Search's Long Tail.

More on the mba book list

So, there are two kinds of business books.

The first kind contains a simple truth and then tries to persuade you to actually do something.

The second needs a big pad of paper and a pencil. This is the kind of book that covers the mechanics of a skill. Things like process control or cost accounting.

Josh comes through with a big ol list of the first type. Link: Josh Kaufman: Inside My Bald Head: The Josh Kaufman "Personal MBA" Program.

A new tool for raving egomaniacal authors

like me!

Bookpic2
There's no real purpose to this site, but I have to confess, on the twentieth anniversary of my first book being published, it did make me smile. It creates your name out of your book covers. Since I used to be a book packager, there's a lot of unsold titles to choose from.

Link: amaztype. Thanks to Cory at Boing Boing for the link.

Blogging doesn't matter

Thanks, Faisal, for the pointer.

Link: The Tao of Mac - blog/2005-03-12.

A lot too much inside baseball blog talk lately. Here's a riff from the other side--if you're blogging to help your career, maybe you should think twice.

Part of the 30?

Brandplay recommends its top 10 as part of my 30 books.

Link: Confessions of a Brand Evangelist: Top 10 Brand Books (Seth Godin's MBA Program in Action).

Feel free to send links to your own lists. No promises, though.

BATMAN: in Lego

Got some synergistic mail from Adam and Jeff.

Yes, it's weird and cool and clever... and Purple. The best part is that is exactly what the team set out to do.

Link: BATMAN: NEW TIMES.

PS Art Asylum does some very very cool things with toys. They're not actually Lego, but if you remember Lego, you'll feel the Proustian thing happening.

David Schatsky: Cookie Grumbling

My old college chum David Schatsky says that Jupiter is right and I am wrong about the cookie statistic (40% of American net users delete their cookies every month, with a significant percentage doing it every day). Hey, there are some states where people don't even brush their teeth that often.

I will happily stand corrected if Jupiter is that sure of the data. What's fascinating though is that among all the mail I got from my sophisticated reader base, not one person wrote in to tell me she deletes her cookies daily.

Jeff Jarvis (BuzzMachine ... by Jeff Jarvis) thought it might be automated software that's automatically doing the work. One writer (nameless) thinks it's people covering their porn tracks. I think it might be survey design and people saying they do something they don't really do.

Link: David Schatsky: Cookie Grumbling.

« February 2005 | Main | April 2005 »