Effective Immediately.

brokengentleman.com is closed for business.

I'm going to keep it up as a storage space for old ideas an inspiration, but for all intents and purposes, I'm not here.

As of today, you can find me at attentionindustry.com, or any of the links under the 'elsewhere' heading on the left hand side.

Thanks for reading.



another small change.

I've changed my twitter account from @brokengentleman to @joncrowley.

Just a quick FYI.  Back to your regularly scheduled programming.


housekeeping note.

brokengentleman has been stagnating somewhat, and I've decided a bit of a change of pace is necessary to keep it interesting and relevant.

I'm keeping the site (and the name), but I'm going to do my best to restrict it to longform, more considered content.  The shift of the last year, though rewarding intellectually, wasn't particularly consistent with what had been here previously.  As well, the platform has been far from encouraging when it comes to posting snippets, images, etc.

I have nothing but respect for Blogger, and for the things I've posted here, comments they've garnered, and things that will continue to be posted here.

For sporadic, theory-laden, longform content, this is still my home.

For something shorter, punchier, and (I sincerely hope) more regularly updated, you can visit attentionindustry.com.  I'm going to be doing my best to 'live' my ideas over there, while making sure the root theories get the attention and consideration they deserve from me over here.  It's still very much a work in progress, but I thought I should explain the silence at brokengentleman.  I know there isn't a comment structure (and I'm still not sure I won't change that) but feel free to contact me through the twitter / email information posted there, or the information posted here, and I will respond and/or address the point/concern publicly.

Exciting times ahead.


don't look crazy.

The New York Times launched v2.0 of the TimesReader app today, and it's pretty but useless unless you plan on paying in the neighbourhood of $180 a year to have the website in an app, with better formatting.

This reminds me, as most things do, of advice my mother once gave me.  If you endure something intolerable for as long as possible, and then finally speak out and take action, no one understands that you have been heroically enduring the situation, and are only taking a stand now, out of necessity.

People just assume you've gone crazy.

Because the people haven't changed.  If people see you tolerating a situation wordlessly for years, and then suddenly railing against it, the only thing that has changed is you.  Seemingly out of nowhere, you've changed the rules.

People might not want to pay for content, but they will pay for formatting, delivery and convenience.  But your price has to take into account that the content is already considered free.  $180 a year for formatting and an app that runs on Adobe AIR doesn't feel all that reasonable, especially if it comes with no extra goodies beyond that.

I want to use the TimesReader app.  It looks great, and I would probably be more than happy to pay for it.  Just not at anywhere near the current price, when the total displaced revenue is from online ads I wouldn't have clicked, and the cost of developing the application.


another correct prediction.

Back in 2007 (in a less focused time for this blog), I predicted that someone would make a sci-fi product based on the Svalbard Seed Vault.

And now, due to being followed by the creators on Twitter, I have stumbled on to this comic, the Two Percent solution.

My future-predicting cred is getting pretty solid, these days.

the internet is made of context.

I found the ad to the right looking at the latest iteration of This Magazine's website.  It looks great, and I like the magazine, so I have less than no problem using my blog as ad space for them.

Especially considering I plan on tearing the ad a new one.

This is the kind of argument that can only come from the devastatingly out of touch.  That This.org would use this specific quote to highlight the value of the magazine is painful.  It perfectly encapsulates the failure of traditional print publications to understand how information works today.

Not how information works online.  How information works TODAY, period.

Everything is, and has, context.  A link and a search box is access to unlimited context, if people are interested in finding it.  I'm not arguing that presenting an idea or opinion shouldn't have clear contextual information, but pretending that online is somehow predisposed against context ignores how information is sorted.

Even in the best print publication, there is limited space allotted for dissenting viewpoints.  Very often, they are presented only long enough to be dismissed, straw men to further emphasize the chosen perspective.  Similarly, the single, inane quote from a dissenter provides litter context or balance.

Online publishing is not "factoids of information devoid of context".  Nothing published online is devoid of context.  The internet is MADE of context.  Which is why it enforces transparency, updating, editing, and acknowledging other sources via linking.

I often think this is the real problem that many traditional media outlets have with online information - it's nearly impossible to do it right without drawing attention to, and acknowledging the validity of, competing sources of information and insight.


carry oil for squeaky wheels.

Whenever there is an online backlash against a brand or product, one of the first things I hear (or usually read) is a reminder that those voicing concerns aren't a large part, and at times aren't even a significant part, of the overall audience / customer base.

The problem with that line of thinking is, given current technology, those who voice concerns are the groups with the most visibility, and are usually afforded the most credibility.  And that's ignoring the mainstream media's current fascination with anything related to Twitter.

If 4%, or even 0.4% of your customer base is whipping up a frenzy on a social network, it's visible enough to impact a much larger group of customers, or potential customers.

Angry people aren't quiet.  And anybody can be loud, today, if they manage to strike a chord with the right people.


content vs object - short version.

When digital information storage and transfer became the norm, businesses (really, almost all of us) made the same, erroneous assumption: that the content was the value, and the object was waste.

As in, music = product, CD = trash.  Or book = trash, story = product.  The problem with this, however, is that purchase is about the transfer of ownership.  People like to buy things they can gain ownership of.  It's hard to feel like you own a digital file, even as you enjoy the text or the music.

Most of us bought into the glorious lie of the internet age, the belief that production costs would plummet, that even at reduced prices income would skyrocket.  We forgot that the cost of a book included a durable, attractive copy on your shelf for as long as you like.

In the past, the only way to transfer information without physical form was a mixture of senses and memory.  The only way you could charge for this, was to charge for the time of the person re-telling.  Charging for performance, you will note, still works.

Digital information equates to augmented memory.  Charging for it is counter-intuitive, if you think about it.


the market for communication is flooded.

[This post is something of a placeholder, transcribing notes I put together for what will hopefully be a somewhat interesting presentation.]

The market for communication is flooded.

Mass is dead or dying, when it comes to building actual relationships. There is no such thing as 'too visible to fail' in an attention economy. There is, however, 'too omnipresent to identify with'.

You might want to consider people.

You are a person, dealing with people. Technology has made it possible (unavoidable) to do a lot of this, ignoring limitations imposed by time or distance. Technology has also added a layer of separation. Meaning and nuance are reduced in comparison to face to face human interaction.

You should take this as a reminder: put as little as possible between yourself, and people you would like to speak, as possible. Things in the way often include: policy, management, NDAs, PR people, fear of transparency, voicemail systems, etc etc etc.

A flooded market means we can be picky. Most of us pick talking to / with a person.

I think there is still a need for communications professionals. But I also think that a trained, informed employee or owner is the best point of contact, not someone who is involved solely as a point of contact. I think it's time to stop pretending that media savvy isn't teachable.

Communications people should be hired for strategy, or input, and for insight. (And then, for connections and THEN in pursuit of coverage.)

The current cycle doesn't reward hype, or launches, or short-term thinking. It rewards community, observation, reaction, and sustained value.

It's not just engagement. It's interaction.

It's communication strategy, more than marketing or PR. Which isn't a chart of impressions, or a clip file, or ROI (Not that these aren't important things). Communication strategy is knowing your community, industry, issues and organization. Knowing what may come. And everyone knowing how to deal with it.

Because (cough, #amazonfail, cough) communication is realtime.

You can't wait until monday morning to let the people who trust you know what's going on. You can't put people, time, or fear between you and your community. You need people on the ground, ready, willing and prepared to act in response to public perception. Which means you need an informed, trained, prepared and updated team. All the time.

A flooded market means that someone else will speak, if you do not.


look to the webcomics.

I've been reading webcomics for about a decade, now, and every year I get more convinced that no one has figured out the new economic reality better than webcomic creators.  And I'm not talking about the Penny Arcade level death-star goldmine webcomic creators.  I'm talking about the one-and-two person operations, and the 'collectives'.

I'm not arguing it's an endless goldmine.  I'm just saying that a notable number of hardworking, talented artists are making a living on their creativity.  I'm not an expert or an insider, but I am impressed.

Business models I've observed include donations, subscriptions, advertising, sponsored content, but mostly a mixture of some of the above with merchandise sales (books, tshirts, tote bags).

All of this comes down to three stages: Make something good. Give it away. Offer the people who care about it a way to support you, and to own a piece of something they have come to love.

This can be merchandise sales (the Topatoco army wins at this, in my opinion), or donations (which have supported Something Positive for a couple of years now, if I'm not mistaken), or most recently, beautiful handcrafted books, sold at a well-justified premium (a la Dresden Codak.)

The important thing is the understanding of the new model of business.  It works the same as a new relationship - you give something of value, because you want to.  Because you love it.  Not with an expectation of return.

If you give something that enough people value, then they will give back, not only to support you, but to own a piece of what you've created.  To pull a little more of something they love into their lives, whether as a status object, or as a reminder that this thing they love exists.

The best part? Commerce has another layer of separation from the art.  The art is created to be art, to build a following, and to show something of value.  When the art is created to build a connection, there's no need to water it down - you want something that people will be connected to, not just unoffended by.  Selling tshirts doesn't diminish the art of a cartoonist, web or otherwise.  It separates the art from the product.

[Seriously, read webcomics.  The quality, humour and consistency of these people is clearly the biggest element of the success they've had thus far.  You will not regret it.]