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.]


the worst biz model in the world.

I've been noticing the continued popularity of the worst business model in the world.  (No, this is not a joke-post about twitter.)

The worst business model in the world is conceptually very common, but rarely implemented.  It goes something like this: "A successful company (or industry) has a point of contact with our business, and we think they should have to pay us, because we are not successful, and, well, there is a point of contact."

The most recent example, of course, is newspapers and Google.  Ignoring the fact that Google, by pointing people to the source of information, is increasing traffic to newspapers, Google doesn't sell news as a products, and Google's major sources of revenue have more or less nothing to do with news.

The record industry has tried this, arguing that a chunk of ISP income should be given to them, or that internet connections should come with a levy.  Which would make sense, if the internet was only useful for downloading records.

Note my earlier description: "point of contact" doesn't mean "incorporate someone else's technology or IP of value and then sell it".  It means two businesses cross over slightly, but not in a profitable way, and the less successful one takes a good look at the success and sees dollar signs.

It's the worst business model in the world.  Worse than buying patents to sue companies that actually create things.  Those lawsuits at least have arguable merit on paper.


twitter for comments.

There's been a fair amount of talk regarding using Facebook Connect comments, since they launched in February.  I was somewhat excited at first, because it attached comments to a fairly persistent identity, which has the potential to curtail some of the negative (or anti-social) behaviours associated with online commenting

I'm starting to think that a comment box that used twitter accounts, and actually connected to the usual twitter feed, would be substantially more useful.  The reasoning is fairly simple; twitter is a conversation tool, where facebook was once about the social graph, and is currently confusing me as to it's focus.

If the point of attaching an identity to comments is to create accountability, facebook connect is undoubtedly the better choice.  Facebook can easily be a window into a personal social circle.  Tying comments to that social circle might reduce some of the more absurd aspects of online comments.

If the point of attaching an identity to comments is to create a dialogue (which can also create accountability) I would suggest the use of a service that is essentially a lightweight dialogue tool.

This came to mind when I was reading a blog post over the weekend, and before I thought to comment on the page, I had opened TweetDeck and started to type.  When I think online dialogue, I think twitter.  I'm probably not the only one.

[This could also be a potential means of monetization - if a customized twitter interface is embedded on every post, a small percentage of ad revenue shouldn't be completely out of the question, assuming twitter develops, maintains and supports the specifics of the service to an acceptable degree.]


i don't believe in a technological generation gap.

The assumption of a generation gap when it comes to using technology bothers me, because it almost always actually comes down to one issue: Is the user willing to play with it?

Every single piece of software I can use in a valuable manner, I have learned to use by playing with it until it did what I wanted it to do.  Playing can involve rules, obviously, and in these cases my rule books are manuals, tutorials, blog posts and conversations with others who are comfortable with the tool in question.  But when it comes to learning how to use tools on a computer, the first step, for me, has always been play.

The only real generation gap that I've seen, is a worry that play is either unproductive, or potentially damaging to the tools.  Because comfort is built over time, people who are older, are often less comfortable with some of these tools.  Hence, fear of play.

But calling this generational bothers me.  There are plenty of people twice my age with a greater willingness to play with computers and softwear than I will ever develop.  Some of them, like me, keep their play mostly relegated to the user interface.  Many of them continue to play with modifications, with source code, with plug-ins and widgets.

It's not based on generation.  It's comfort and willingness to play.  Do these traits cluster a certain way demographically?  Of course.  But the assumption that these tools are for the young is dangerous.


we are not all the same.

We no longer live in a world where it's okay to ignore the extremes and the outliers.  If you can't provide information in a suitable format, with a suitable level of detail, to the right people, you can't connect with anyone.

My mother is an educator, currently working with children who face difficulties learning.  Last night, we went out to dinner, and had a truly great conversation, dealing with one of the core problems with education; the impossibility of creating a learning situation that isn't too slow for some people, and too fast for others.

This hits close to home, as I was in an accelerated program in grade school and high school, and generally felt that education came in two speeds: so slow it was boring, or completely self directed, as many teachers seemed to assume that kids in an accelerated program didn't require any guidance.

As a result of this, and (I'm sure) an innate tendency, I was a lazy student until I reached the mid-point of high school.  I reflect on these issues regularly, especially when I'm dealing with information delivery, or preparing materials for public consumption.

We're at a point where not only do you need to produce content at every key level of complexity and detail, but also tailored and distributed to the audience and community that is going to interact with it.

This doesn't mean giving the good information to newspapers, and less detailed stuff to new media producers.  It means tailoring the kind of information, and the presentation, to the audience at hand.  You will find people of more or less equal intelligence in any network.  What you won't find is a blurb of text that is equally dynamic on a facebook fan page, as it is coming across in 140 character blasts on twitter.

Tailoring isn't just for direct outreach.  It's for your presence in distinct communities, and distinct modes of communication.  Speaking to people with an understanding their idiom, at their speed, is the only way you can truly connect with them.

Thanks, Mom.


social media consultants are people too.

A short word in defence of social media consultants:

When the record companies ignored the way filesharing technology had changed the relationship between music and consumers, we mocked them.  We continued mocking them as sales waned, as they got more aggressive with legal tactics, and as we mocked them as their business model collapsed around them.

We're still mocking them now.

Meanwhile, social media is changing the way everyone does business.  And our immediate reaction is to mock those who are trying to help companies in nearly every industry ride out the transition better than the music industry did.

Not every social media specialist is a "guru" with 12,000 Twitter friends, and spam on the brain.  A lot of people are professional communicators who understand this new space, and would like to help companies understand it.  Don't insist that every attempt to introduce business to the new realities of communication is inherently crooked.

[completely inspired by this post at itellstories.org, which is always a good source of inspiration and mood improvements.]

[edited due to truly embarrassing typo]


secrecy is not your friend.

No one can tell their friends about the amazing, completely secret thing that you’re working on.

Even if it doesn’t materialize, an ambitious and transparent failure is better than continued, unremarkable anonymity.

(All advice is given on the assumption that you aren’t actually full of shit. Infinium Labs, transparency will not save you.)


copyright will kill disney, or disney will kill copyright.

Disney is the greatest company in the world, when it comes to turning creative content in to money. You can argue, but I’ve only got to say: Miley Cyrus, Beauty and the Beast, High School Musical, and you more or less have to admit that creating massively influential cultural touchstones / money factories is what Disney does best.

I’ve recently become convinced that Disney’s reliance on strong copyright is going to be it’s downfall.

Until recently, things worked pretty simply. You would create content, and then exchange it for money. We can get more specific and discuss distribution, advertising, investment, but mostly, it came down to that singular exchange: a piece of culture would be created, and then sold, to individuals and groups, again and again. As a bonus, you could also create additional related products, to be exchanged for money. If we’re talking about music, it would be posters, concerts, tshirts, limited edition packaging, stickers, etc. If we’re talking about movies, it would be toys, clothing, games, special edition books and dvds, etc.

Many of these things were just clever or attractive repackaging of the content itself. But that packaging was still important.

Things have changed, because the concept of distribution has changed. Access is simple, no one is comfortable with operating on your schedule, and, crucially, piracy has made content free. Not packaging, not experience, not perfectly, but free. It’s easier to download an album than listen to the band on the radio, and it’s easier to download an album than buy it online, if you use certain legal download services (looking at you, PureTracks).

The new map of this experience? Content is released, in hopes to build interest. You can charge for it, sure, but this isn’t where the real money comes from. When interests develops, if you are lucky it can bring loyalty, or a sense of debt. That interest means that people will buy your products, whether they are packaged content, or merchandise, or an experience.

The reality of creativity as business is that ROI has moved further downstream. It’s not money for album, or money for movie anymore. It’s non-rival (digital) content for consideration, and then an exchange of money for a rival good, something tactile, something to be displayed and appreciated.

Strong copyright is now a tool for alienating your audience, and complicating the task of building that key interest. Your core creative products are best considered advertising for the things that really make money. The physical products that can’t be duplicated perfectly, that can’t be supplanted by ‘good enough’ copies.

This isn’t to disparage the importance of the creative arts that companies like Disney create. It makes them more important. Movies, television and music will have to be so good that they inspire consumers to associate themselves with the content in real life. My nephew went to sleep last night in Lightning McQueen pyjamas, and woke up to put on a Lightning McQueen tshirt. This wouldn’t have happened if Cars wasn’t so impressive for him that the only toys he wants are inspired by the movie. The film itself may have earned, total $100 from my family, even counting DVD sales and individual movie tickets. The merchandise has earned thousands, without exaggeration.

Disney has the reach, the intellectual properties, and the tools necessary to restructure a business that is based on the new content/profit map. They can clearly influence culture – look at how successful the company has been when people had to pay for the content. Make it free now, and profit. Copyright used to work. Now it’s only standing between you, and the collective wallet of your audience.


wikipedia is your new agenda.

If you, your business, or a client is plagued by inaccuracies on wikipedia, the issue isn’t that wikipedia is petty, or inaccurate, or uncontrolled. The issue is that your image is a wreck, because wikipedia is, without fail, a better representation of the public understanding of you, your company, or client, than your own self-image is.

Wikipedia is the first place people will go, after your own website, to decide whether or not they trust you, and what they should trust you about. If an entry is biased, inaccurate, or adversarial, you need to act in response. And you have two things to act on.

1) A Hit List – Every major point on a wikipedia entry that makes you cringe is a point where you need to revisit your messaging and branding, and see how you can address those issues. Again, inaccuracy is less important than influence, and wikipedia is more influential than you. So look at what you can do, or say, differently, to make it clear that you are not being represented fairly. Every issue in the entry is a new point on the agenda for your next conversation.

2) The Truth – If you’re this angry about your image being misrepresented, I’m assuming it’s not an accurate representation. If the truth is on your side, prove it as best you can. Outside information, linking to evidence, transparency. Do it calmly, do it clearly, but make damn sure you aren’t hiding anything that will make you look worse. Don't accuse the community, or wikipedia, of being out to get you - there is almost no chance you are important enough to warrant that type of conspiracy.

You can’t control how you are interpreted or represented. But you can learn from it, and act with it in mind.


weaponized transparency.

When I think of the future of PR, at least part of what comes to mind deals with every individual in the company being a potential representative for what they do. Information is becoming more personal, and frankly, most interested parties would rather speak to the person responsible for the subject at hand, than speak to the person responsible for speaking to interested parties.

I'm looking forward to seeing a company use transparency as a weapon, both to encourage the best from employees, and to improve image and increase engagement.

Jumping on the bandwagon of the moment, I think the easiest way to do this would be to put the entire company on Twitter. Keep a company directory of accounts (personal or individual business accounts) with people following the rest of their group/department, and the people they are connected to on the ORG chart. The big positions would get followed by everyone, and follow, at the very least, all managers and directors, but preferably the entire company. Projects and divisions would have pre-determined hashtags.

The directory would be made public, available to people outside the company. And employees would be encouraged to use the system to communicate tasks, difficulties, scheduling, ideas, questions, concepts, irritations, etc. I recently compared Twitter to telepathy - imagine knowing what the guy in the next cube is worried about, without delay. Imagine knowing that your staff is all having the same issue, at different times. Imagine knowing what your organization is thinking.

Moreover, a certain (positive) panoptic effect kicks in. People who know they are being watched police their own behaviour. I can't imagine a company that uses public tweets as a major element of internal communications going Enron. I can't imagine anyone who is aware they are representing themselves, and their company, knowingly acting like an ass.

People suck less when they know they can be held accountable for their actions. This is the real essence of transparency - knowing that you can be, and will be, held accountable for what you do. This is the magic. Accountability makes people think before they act. Accountable people try to be great, at least more often than people who feel invisible.

I haven't yet mentioned the benefit of directed, asynchronous communication in a group of people who interact mostly between tasks. Or the benefit of a clear view of communications as it happens withing a group, that you can go back and observe. Or the value of watching your employee ecosystem, and changing strategy based on the patterns that emerge. Or the opportunity that random ideas emerging from the group represents. Or...

From a PR standpoint, this is the best nightmare ever. This much accountability, on an individual level, means that everyone has to be educated on the responsibility they now bear. Everyone needs to be trained in how to conduct themselves appropriately, within reasonable guidelines. The culture needs to change, to reflect a dedication to this level of transparency.

But companies would become more real. More trusted. When the truth is visible in tiny component parts, when the sub-units of meaning and message are visible to be interacted with and dissected, companies become, perceptually, what they are in reality: collections of people, with a common purpose. Given the amount of work that is done 'humanizing' companies, or emphasizing the role of caring individuals in the process, it's clear this is a priority. Fighting against the anonymity of people is going to be the most important part of the next type of company establishing itself as vital.

Put bluntly, the future has a sign on the door that reads 'No Cogs Allowed', and demands that every individual be unique and valuable, and be treated that way.

This is not the type of business that anyone is used to, or prepared for. But it's the kind of business that would best reflect the changes in society. Each individual being a point of contact, directly engaging with the public, is the way things are going to be. For now, and for a bit longer, we can relegate that role to a specific few. That won't be the case forever. Engaging interested individuals is going to be part of everyone's job description soon enough. PR, and other communications roles, are going to be about education, strategy, and facilitation. Which, if you're doing them right, they already should be.

I could not be more excited about the potential of working for a company where EVERYONE has to think about how their actions will look to the public. Because most of us should already be thinking about that, and too few of us are.


on crowdsourcing.

I've been hearing lately that crowdsourcing is a bad word.

I think the core issue is simpler. If you are asking others to do your work for you, and considering that the magic of collaboration, you are missing the point. A contest that asks the public to create your ads isn't inherently about the audience. It's gluing a high-school essay contest to the emergence of democratized production. This isn't inherently impressive. It's a contest, and this is an old idea.

Gluing it to a multi-million dollar SuperBowl media buy only makes it a worse idea.

If you ask people to work together to create something of value to not only themselves, but to a wider community, the crowd is creating real value. If you want to attach your brand to this, without corrupting it, expect a positive reaction.

Crowdsourcing based entirely on creating value for yourself, your brand, or your client, isn't crowdsourcing. It will either die due to lack of interest, or run entirely on incentive via cash. Paying directly for attention and interaction can be done better and smarter than this.

If you want to get a crowd of people working together on something, it needs to be about that crowd of people. Frankly, everything you do should be about that crowd of people - they decide what your brand means, and exactly how much it's worth.


buying attention is not a long term plan.

I'm no longer sold on the concept of buying attention.

It makes perfect sense in a broadcast media world with few channels, the world traditional advertising was born in. It even makes sense, to an extent, is a world of hundreds of cable channels, with a few category defining hits in each major time slot. Buying attention makes sense if you can cajole a large number people to sit through something they don't really want, in order to access something else.

A short list of things that break the functionality of buying attention: pvr, p2p file sharing, content distribution across regions and markets, streaming, time shifting, format shifting, fragmented audiences. All of these things are made worse by attempts to control them, as making it harder to do each of these things individually, decreased the barriers to removing the advertising from the content at the same time as sharing, shifting, etc.

As always, the fight to enforce the rules of the past just broke the present a little bit faster. Ask the music industry, they seem to have figured it out, now that it's too late for them to go back.

You can no longer reliably buy attention. You can, however, create something that is worthy of attention. You can create associations with a personality, or outlet, or with content that people would like to pay attention to. You can sponsor things worthy of attention, without interfering. You can earn attention, or positive associations, in any of a million ways.

But none of them are the strict exchange of money for attention that traditional advertising is based on. That deal is no longer as effective as it once was. What's left is earning attention, or supporting others as they earn attention.

The major difference is, before you could get away with piggybacking on the value created by others. If you expect people to watch your messages as the price for watching 'Lost', you aren't earning attention, you are interested in buying it.

If you asked someone to care about you, as a cost for caring about someone, or something else, they would laugh at you. I would laugh at you.

You don't force people to care. You don't ask nicely for them to care. You offer them a reason to care, and you hope that the reason is good enough that they do.

You can't buy attention. But I can give you a long list of ways to earn it, if you're interested.



Twitter, hashtags, and mobile devices more or less equate to telepathy. No, seriously, hear me out on this.

This is something I realized at PodCamp Toronto. Searching tweets by hashtag or by location let me know what people were thinking in the sessions I was in, sessions across the venue, and the thoughts of people who couldn't make it to the site.

Twitter enforces brevity, sure. But it's also just about the right size to encapsulate a single thought. I find I only clash with the limit when I actually have several related thoughts that I want to express.

Most people think telepathy would be a curse. I've always disagreed, assuming that we could develop a half-decent filtering mechanism. Twitter deals with a few of those problems naturally; people don't tweet things they are uncomfortable with sharing, and you are only exposed to that you opt in to / search for. Telepathy via Twitter is easily sorted, and more noise only equates to more potential signal.

Telepathy would me mostly mundane. People's thoughts aren't always useful. But this is how we understand people - through the collection of their inanities. Sound familiar?

The big lesson regarding telepathy that I've gleaned from Twitter is just that - there's no such thing as noise, as long as it's coherent. People aren't being inane. They are giving you context and backstory. You don't learn anything about people from seeing them in their edited, presentable best. You learn about them when they are being stream of consciousness, being unedited.

Being people.

Enjoy your faux-telepathy while it lasts. I know I will.


post-scarcity communication.

[My understanding of the relationship between scarcity and conflict has always been fairly straight forward. Conflict occurs when scarcity necessitates competition for a resource. This happens with land, with food, with money, significant others, etc. If there is one of something, and two people want it, conflict ensues. As such, I've always idealized the concept of a post-scarcity reality. While there are a bunch of ideas associated with the concept of the singularity, the hope of living in a post-scarcity society is the one that interests me the most.]

I recently started flirting with the idea that we have reached a post-scarcity state in the western world, in regards to human-to-human communication. (I'm intentionally not getting into advertising messages, here.)

With email, text messaging, twitter, facebook, blogs, phones, voicemail, call waiting, snail mail, email, instant messaging, skype, MMS, and so on, there are so many means of communication, instant or asynchronous, visual or auditory or both, tied to no specific location, that often the only justifications for not contacting someone are forgetfulness, avoidance or time-scarcity, which is more or less ranking other activities above communicating with the person in question.

This becomes clear when asked why you didn't invite someone along, or ask their opinion before making a choice - when pressed, often the only answer is 'I didn't think to' or 'I didn't want to', very rarely can one honestly respond that it was impossible.

Reaching a post-scarcity state in communication has the effect of intensifying conflict in relation to time-scarcity. By making a decision to not contact someone, you are in essence making the decision that other activities outrank communication with that individual.

This means that failing to respond, react, reach out and share concepts, thoughts and ideas is no longer excusable. If something is important, and not addressed, it is because you have chosen other tasks above addressing it, or you have simply chosen not to.

Post-scarcity communication means you aren't allowed to be too busy, or distracted, or out of reach when opportunity or crisis appears.

No one is going to believe "couldn't be reached for comment" unless you have a very unusual situation that can be clearly demonstrated.

Keep that in mind as you go about your business.


tv and music don't have the same problem.

Filesharing has complicated things immensely for the music industry, and everyone knows this.  The core issue is that money used to be made selling CDs (or records, or tapes...) and now the industry needs to develop new revenue streams to solve that problem.

TV never made money selling TV.  The money comes from advertising aired during the programs.  Again, this is obvious.

The thing is, making it dead easy to access something means more people do it, and that people do more of it.  The average music collection size has skyrocketed due to filesharing.  The average amount of TV that people watch is likely similarly impacted by illegal downloads.

If what you sell is eyeballs aimed at a screen, and more eyeballs are watching your content for longer, this is a good thing.  If you can't find a way to make money from these added eyes and hours, you have forgotten what your business it.

Dear TV,

You create filmed content, and then sell advertising based on the data you can collect for who is watching individual shows.

None of this has to be tied to cable distribution, or TV screens, time slots, limited availability, production realities, or what came before.

You attract eyeballs, and then sell them based on demographic information.  Focus on doing that, rather than doing the specific version that worked perfectly, before everything changed.




the short version (again).

Social media means anyone can publish.

Twitter, etc, mean people can publish as a reaction, with minimal effort, minimal forethought, at will, and connect to other people.

One aspect of this is that everything is now 'on the record', so we have two choices:

1) Freak out about anything that is remotely insulting, insensitive, or inaccurate; or
2) Accept that 'publishing' as an act has changed, and stop pretending a facebook status is remotely the same the New York Times, because both involve published text.

If we choose option one, which many people seem to think is the only option, people stop using social media to communicate, and start treating it as a form of resume.  This kinda ruins things.

If we choose option two, we have to do what we've done with file-sharing.  Ignore the law and established order, hoping that eventually it will become common enough that change will be forced upon society.  This is based on the idea that law should reflect the standards of society, not the other way around.

Note that I don't think accountability should be reduced.  I just think we all need to accept that publishing is not what it once was.  We've created a massive system of laws, rule, social behaviours and authorities attached to the act of publishing, all based on it being something only a chosen, dedicated few can do.

Reading was like that once, too.  I think we can all agree moving on from that was a good call.


question four: truncated vs full RSS feeds.

What are the benefits between full RSS feeds, and truncated feeds that link back to the original content?

Full RSS feeds indicate that you actually want people to read what you are writing. That you value the ease of your readership, and you want them to have at least some control over the information you've decided to create and share with them. Full RSS feeds lower the barrier to read content, because no clicking is necessary. Full RSS feeds are generally less of a hassle on mobile devices, because they don't require opening a new page.

Full RSS feeds are an indication that you are creating content because you want people to see it, not because you want to sell ad space on your page. And given the relatively low levels of RSS adoption, and the ability to include ads in RSS, it's not a huge sacrifice.

The benefits of truncated RSS feeds, linking back to the original site, include bringing more visitors to the original site, which may drive traffic to other content located there. The original formatting and design, as well as the framing that the page layout provides, is left intact (this is one of the reasons I was a latecomer to RSS, I like seeing different designs). This might result in more ad revenue. Maybe. Truncated RSS is great, if you see feeds as a kind of bait, and your site as a kind of trap.

My recommendations, in order: Have a full RSS feed. Failing that, offer an ad-supported full feed, or an ad-free truncated feed. Failing that, have a truncated feed, and be amazed at how little of your content actually gets read by RSS users, because you seem to have missed the point.

[This is the last in a series of my answering my own questions, which I think would help a few people when it comes to interviewing potential media hires. I am glad that this is over with, and apologize for how whiny I got at the end there.]

the age of accountability.

Many moons ago, I wrote a post about something I called the Paparazzi Panopticon. I'm fairly sure I forgot to attribute the original idea to Bentham, focusing entirely on Foucault, but the core idea, a democratized version of the all-seeing eye, has never stopped being interesting to me.

I've been having several conversations in this vein lately, focused on accountability. People are accountable for each word of every email they send, anything they post online, comments and images published through social media sites, anything that happens on video, audio, or print. And nothing ever goes away, because we aren't dealing with one outlet that can be 'reasoned with' or 'bullied', we're dealing with reality.

The reality is, the internet has made us all accountable for anything we do, either as a means of recording our actions, or as a means of publishing them.

And this is a Very. Good. Thing.

If the method of surveillance is in the hands of the government, I'd be terrified, and suggest that you adopt a similar course of action. This is because I rarely feel as though the government has similar values to mine. And improper action only gains awareness online when it becomes a cause pushed by a passionate community. Short version: in our democratized panopticon, cops shooting a restrained youth will be made public. My use of orphan works to illuminate a point in a presentation? If no one is impacted negatively, there isn't an uprising.

Accountability isn't a bad thing. Ideally, it just means that we all do as few things we aren't proud of as possible. The counter argument is that people will be punished for anything they do that doesn't toe a company or government line.

My counter argument for that? It won't be too long before companies and governments demanding total control and limitation of employee's private expression becomes the latest infraction to spark a collaborative response. The internet made Tropicana change its logo in a few weeks. I think we can get people to care about corporate attacks of the freedom of expression that private citizens have.

Will people get fired for telling off clients, even indirectly, over social media? Yes. And they should. Because the most important lesson yet to be learned by most of us is that THIS IS REAL LIFE TOO. It's not a hiding place where you can act in ways that would shame you in real life. It's not a playground anymore, not entirely. It's another facet of real life. The separation many of us hide behind is flimsy at best.

This is real life. Real life means accountability, which means better actions, and better people. We just can't let ourselves get caught in the trap of spending out time policing the minor issues, rather than uniting to deal with the major ones.


question five: list 5 books.

List the five books most influential to your view of communication:

If you have read, or do read, all of the above, I probably want to be your friend. Just saying.

[This is the 5th in a 5 part series, answering questions I suggested be asked of any potential media hire. I haven't done number 4 yet, because I wanted to answer this one first. Out of order FTW.]


question three: publishing online.

What services have you used to publish online?

Diaryland, Blogger, LiveJournal, Wallop, Flickr, Blogger (this time after Google acquired it), Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter.

I am nearly certain there are others, but these are the ones I can recall at the moment.  Any obvious things I've missed?

[This is the third in a series of posts wherein I answer the questions I suggested posing to potential employees working in media.]

different, not right or wrong.

People are usually good at being right, sometimes good at being wrong, and usually terrible at understanding those aren't the only two options.

This came to mind when I was discussing different viewpoints on social media, in relation to the old guard.  Even if people admit that social media is important and can't be ignored, they often fall into one of the first two categories.

People accustomed to working with traditional media sometimes think it's their job to educate bloggers on how media works.  By educate, they mean: impose the behaviours of old media on new media.  Turn a new thing, into a new channel for the old thing.  This is "I am Right" thinking.

Almost as bad is "I am Wrong" thinking, where someone with a long history working in traditional media, and a large amount of expertise and wisdom, decides that they do not understand social media, never will, and therefore should attempt to stay away from it.  By assuming they are flat out wrong in relation to anything centered on social media, less of that hard won wisdom and skill gets put to use, and much of it is applicable.

It's harder to admit that things are just different.  That it's not about being right or wrong, it's about taking what you've learned and developed, and seeing what works with the new world order.

Different is harder because the only option is fighting to keep an open mind, while considering new information through the experience that informs wise action.  When you are used to either being right, or wrong, this comes across as a massive amount of work.

Don't discount the older guy who says Twitter is a waste of time, even though we all disagree with him.  He probably knows a thing or two about how to make 140 characters impactful, or engaging, if you can express why everyone would benefit from his expertise.

[I suppose this could be considered the counterpoint to my post on millennial arrogance.]


question two: over-hyped social media service.

What social media / social networking service do you think is the most over-hyped?

For me, the only answer is LinkedIn.  I understand it's importance, I have a profile myself, and I do my best to keep it updated.  But for me, LinkedIn fails on the 'social' element, and that keeps me from making it part of my day to day usage.  I don't have relationships on LinkedIn, (and I fully admit this is my fault) I only have information there.

LinkedIn serves a particular niche, in my eyes - People who see the power of social media, and are still unnerved it.

Twitter has conversations, which lead to being exposed.  Facebook has history and context, which lead to being exposed.  Blogs have content, which paired with context, leads to being exposed.  LinkedIn seems designed to avoid exposure at all costs, and feels like it is based on the premise that your work life, and work social ecosystem, should be kept separate from your personal one.  To me, this feels like a service designed for people who like the idea of social media, but are terrified of incorporating it into their lives, and dealing with the exposure related to that.

Again, I understand the appeal of LinkedIn.  But for me, it feels as though it was designed for a subset of the current generation of employers, the people who think an embarrassing picture on Facebook, from five years in the past, is an accurate indicator of an individual's ability to contribute to an office environment.

So, I don't think LinkedIn in the future.  I think it serves a specific missing link between the people who have no interest in using social media, and the people who will soon be the only target market that matters: those who live in social media.

[This is the second in a series of posts where I answer the questions I suggested people ask potential media hires.]

just say no to ghostwriting.

Ghostwriting blogs came up today at Dave Fleet's Podcamp Toronto talk on Ethics in Social Media, and I've been thinking about it all day.

I disagree with ghostwriting in general, but I understand why it happens.  I disagree with ghostwriting in social media especially, because social media requires authenticity and trust to overcome the disparity in authority it faces, when compared to traditional media outlets.

That was a generalization, but I think it's a fair point.  I get my news from print media, and from bloggers.  I trust the Globe and Mail because it's the Globe and Mail.  If I trust information I get from your blog, it's usually because I trust the person I've seen writing and sharing that information with me and every other reader.  That trust is developed over time, and I think it's got more to do with the value of social media as a news source than speed does.

To clarify, I have no problem with hiring freelance writers, or bringing on unpaid guest writers, to pen entries for any blog, as long as it's made clear in some way that this is happening, or may happen.  If your blog has a note on the about page that says 'entries on (blog name) are often the result of a collaboration between myself and a ghostwriter', I might not like it, but I won't be able to justify getting mad about it later on.

My core issue with ghostwriting in general is it's not really justifiable.  If the value of your outlet or blog is the brand, it shouldn't matter who is writing, as long as it's associated with the brand.  If this is the case, there's no argument for misleading readers as to who the author is.  If, conversely, the value of your blog is the personality creating it, there's no justification (at all) for misleading your readership about what content is coming from that personality.

There's some overlap here, but the point stands even if we're talking about a 'Personal Brand'.  If the emphasis is on brand, someone else publishing with your approval (under their own name) should still carry weight.  If the emphasis is on personal, then you are obligated to do it yourself, to whatever extent works for you.

In the session mentioned above, someone pointed out that Barack Obama doesn't write his own speeches.  I (and several others) countered by pointing out that the guy who writes Obama's speeches gets profiled in the New York Times for doing so.  If credit goes where it is due, (or at least doesn't go to someone undeserving) there's nothing to get mad about.


explaining millennial arrogance.

This weekend, while doing some volunteering at OYP, I heard the now tired rant about my generation (the 'millennial' generation) and the apathy, entitlement, and arrogance that define us.  I'm going to do my best to explain some of that, if not justify some of it.

The internet is likely the biggest alteration to human interaction with information, since written language became commonplace.  I don't think this is hyperbole.  The written word allowed stories concepts, ideas and information to exist without being directly shared, and to have a life beyond the individuals, and even the cultures, that created that content.  The internet allows instantaneous communication, collaboration, and access to mankind's collective stored information, and has the ability to make physical and temporal distance irrelevant.  It has changed everything, and the millennial generation is the first one to consider it as a given and as a right, rather than as a tool.  The way we envision communication, culture and problem solving is based on this level of connectivity, which did not exist when current leaders learned how to solve problems.

Every generation thinks that it is living in the apocalypse times.  We don't have nuclear war (yet), but we have the strongest economies in the world collapsing, the spectre of rapid climate change, and asymmetrical insurgent warfare, on top of everything else.  We've inherited a pretty ruined world, and after a lifetime of being told we wouldn't have pensions, or steady jobs, or social security, we are being told that expecting a career, or a stable environment, is unrealistic.  We also can't help but notice that many of these issues are at least partially traceable to the generations preceding us.

We were raised specifically in rebellion to the discipline and sacrifice taught to our parents by the Greatest Generation.  Most millennials have been told from childhood that they are valued, they should expect to be heard, that they have valid ideas, and that expecting fulfillment in one's work is a bare minimum.  The education system in many areas has been shifted to one that doesn't consider failure an option until the early teens, and in my experience we've created a culture where we expect that 75% of students can be above average.  This inherently results in apathy regarding results, as expectations are absurd, and/or grading criteria are meaningless.

Now put this person in the workplace.

They have ideas, they are excited and motivated to finally have a chance to do something that MATTERS, that will be judged on functionality, not an artificial standard.  This is not the reality of the working world.

The people in leadership positions, in most corporations, are people who don't like being presented with entirely new ideas, especially not by people who are considered untested.  Most business structures are still operating on a pre-internet base, or at best with a thin veneer of new technologies applied to old structures.  Old structures are resistant to new ideas.  And millennials in the workplace quickly realise when they are in another situation where what comes before is dictating the options available to them.

We don't subscribe to the idea of paying dues before you get to make change, because in our minds, everything has changed, and the people who have the status necessary to influence things don't understand it.  If you'd like proof, the best example I can give is record industry execs admitting that they didn't hire anyone to help them with technology, because they wouldn't know who to hire.

To a millennial, every industry looks like that, or will soon.

We were raised to think this way, we have been presented with a well and truly ruined world, and when we actually try to do something about it, we are told we will have to wait a decade or so, to establish the credibility necessary to get anyone with influence on our side, or we are shown by others to strike out completely on our own, and make the change we see as necessary without support from older structures.  While being told to wait a decade, we are also hearing that we have a decade or so to change everything before the world falls apart.

We can see how bad things are, the world over, in more detail, and more personally than any other generation in human history.  And we keep getting told that the only thing we can do, for now, is business as usual.

Not sure if you've noticed, but business as usual has failed.  Miserably.  And doing the same thing, with hopes for different results, is the definition of insanity.

Of course we come across as arrogant, as entitled, as apathetic.  The entire world has changed, the way the human race interacts has fundamentally changed, since the current leaders of the world have entered the workforce.  Speaking to close friends and family members even ten years older than me is astounding, because they cannot speak 'internet'.  And we're being asked to wait, and to stick to failed structures.

You'd be arrogant, entitled and apathetic, too.

question one: why i care about APIs.

Last week, I suggested five questions that I thought were worth asking anyone you are hiring in a media related job, if you want to be sure they are fairly literate in terms of how people communicate online.  I've been asked to answer those questions myself, and will be doing so one at a time.  

Question One: What is the most interesting thing being done with an API in the services you use online?

If I'd been asked this last week, it would have been a comment about tying real time communication into a visual representation of location (Probably a Twitter / Google Maps mashup) but I had a thought today that gave me a different answer.

I recently started using Tweetdeck and TwitterFon as my Twitter tools of choice, after several months of using the desktop and iphone versions of Twitterrific.  I did this not out of preference for the interface, but because I'd hit the content wall for Twitter - I was following too many people to keep on top of any attempts to reach out to me directly.  Content was being lost in the stream, and the stream is the essence of Twitter.

The applications I'm using now go fishing in the stream, basically.  Replies directed at me, content that fits search parameters I have set up, is set aside for me to peruse at my leisure.  Instead of reading every post I can in an attempt to stay up to date, I can take advantage of asynchronous communication, and use Twitter in a slightly less obsessive manner.

This isn't a mindblowing use of the Twitter API, it's more or less exactly why the information was made available.  But, in terms of my interaction with the service, and in terms of my limitations in terms of time and attention, fishing in the stream of Twitter updates fundamentally changes the service.  Twitter is a different beast, in terms of my behaviour, using these applications.

It's expanded beyond the experience it was designed to have, and it's done so by letting control out of the hands of the creators.  This is what APIs are for, but it was astonishing for me to watch the changes in my own life, firsthand, due to these tiny changes.


five questions for potential media hires.

[This is inspired by a line in this article on the things newspapers could do online, which I found via Mathew Ingram on twitter.]

Five simple interview questions that I think should be part of the interview process for any job in PR, Social Media, or Journalism, if you plan on hiring people who are legitimately savvy as to how people ramble at one another online.

What is the most interesting thing being done with an API in the services you use online?

What social media / social networking service do you think is the most overhyped?

What different services have you used to publish online?

What are the benefits of both full RSS feeds, and truncated feeds with links to the original page.

List the 5 books most influential to your view of communication.

There are all fairly vague questions, but they are the ones I'd ask.  The first four mostly because a blank look indicates you're talking to the completely wrong person, a stumbling answer indicates some kind of familiarity, but not fluency, and a long, sprawling answer makes it clear that they not only use social media tools as part of their normal communication, but also that they thought about it.

The last question is in there for two reasons: firstly, to weed out the people who haven't read more than five books (dead-tree or ebook) in relation to the subject matter, and secondly to weed out the people who don't source any information from offline or traditional media outlets.  Social media is an echo chamber, sometimes, and the last thing you want to do is hire someone incapable of an original thought, and ignorant of traditional media and communications.

[If anyone would like, I've be happy to write my own ideal answers to these questions.]


1 week, 57 brands, 245 entries.

Last sunday, I decided I was going to track my significant interactions with brands (or branded objects / services) using Daytum.

At the time, I figured I would do this for a month.  I was blissfully unaware of how much of a time commitment that was.

So, after one week, here we are.  57 brands, 245 individual entries, and an awesome pie chart.

The top spots go to Club Monaco (37), Google (28), Apple (23), Body Shop (16), H+M (14), Starbucks (12), Roots (11), Zara (9), Tumblr (8), Twitter (8).

None of this is particularly shocking, but some specific things popped up to me looking at the information.  Roots, for instance, is just recurring use of two items, my wallet and a scarf.  But the fact that the wallet is in my pocket every day, means at least one daily interaction with Roots.  

(If someone asked me what the top ten brands I interact with were, Roots would probably not make the list.)

Similarly, Body Shop is semi-coincidence.  I bought several products on boxing day (body wash, skin cream, face wash) but don't really consider myself a Body Shop loyalist.  That said, I was interacting with up to three products from Body Shop every morning, making it outrank things like my car (Acura), my glasses (D+G) or public transportation (TTC).

Things I use every day ranked easily.  Companies that offer more than one product or service I use skyrocketed - I didn't think clothing would be such a huge factor, but it makes sense - dressing appropriately for winter requires about ten items of clothing, and I don't shop at too many different places.

The really interesting part was the changes in my behaviour brought on by knowing I would be tracking this information.  I'm conscious of the brands I associate with, but this was very different, literally altering my decisions based on thoughts like 'I've already been to Starbucks twice today, I should really try something else' and 'I don't really want to enter another brand into the tracking data, I'll wear the H+M socks instead'.  

I also began thinking about the amount of 'real estate' in my life I've decided to give to Apple, Google and Club Monaco.  Normally that was fairly invisible to me, as the justification for purchase or use is based (I hope) on functionality or enjoyment on my part.  What was more interesting to me was the amount of real estate I was giving to brands I'm more or less ambivalent about (again, Body Shop is a great example).

(I wasn't tracking instances, which is an important thing to note.  If I had been, this would have been impossible, and would be based mostly on how often I check my iPhone.)

Some of the things I use most visibly ranked substantially lower than things I don't really think about.  The brands I consider statements, or somewhat representative, did well, but not as well as a competitor with a broader product line.  This makes me wonder about the value of branding a product as a statement rather than a functional commodity.  Creating a badge that people want to be associated with is an excellent way to sell one thing.  But I was spending most days covered in stuff that wasn't overtly identifiable by brand - if the average person sees me in my day to day clothes, they won't immediately think of a brand, considering how often I get asked where some clothes are from.  Meanwhile, the bag that says 'Fred Perry' on it in massive lettering was only used once this week.

I don't know if that's a statement on me, or on the process I used, but I'm guessing it's both.

In terms of usable information, experiment fail.  But in terms of getting me to think differently about my brand interactions, it was a massive success.  

In short, the most successful brands, in terms of integrating themselves into my life, aren't the ones that I think about constantly.  I'm surrounded by brands I don't think about at all, and they are probably making a bigger subconscious impact than I think.

Oh, and I'm stopping this particular experiment.  I'm still a huge fan of Daytum, and will leave this information up there for the foreseeable future, but this was an exhausting experience.


pick a race you can win.

Steve Rubel makes a great point today at MicroPersuasion, which got me thinking about something.

I dream of running a campaign where the information is released free-for-all, with interested parties (whether they be print journalists, bloggers, or simply interested people) have access to the same information, at the same time.

I will not get to do this any time soon, because it would massacre the potential for coverage in many major traditional media outlets.  The most important things I can offer to journalists I've worked with are relevance, accuracy and access, but while these are essential, they lack the pure excitement that getting something first, or something exclusively, can generate.

This is a really bad call on the part of everyone involved.

Social media means information is faster than journalism.  When someone was shot on the subway system, I heard about it through Twitter, several minutes before there had been anything authoritative on television or online about it.  It's the same logic as an album leak - if information exists, it will be shared first through unofficial channels.

This happens, because journalists are, and should be, held to a higher standard than anyone else sharing information.  Being better at times means being slower.  If you're researching, fact-checking, and carefully crafting a balanced article that deals with all aspects of a problem, the value isn't in doing it first.

The value of good journalism is doing it BETTER than the layman.  Not sooner.  Insisting that first is genuinely important encourages the audience to forget that.

Newspapers, television, magazines and radio aren't fast enough to win on speed without hampering the flow of information, or sacrificing quality.  But they've proven the value of careful, skillful investigation and exploration an innumerable number of times.

There was a time when daily was fast enough to be the source of new.  That time has passed, and we should adapt.


addendum: daytum brand tracking.

A few things to add:

I'm counting individual objects / services, not instances. So, three coffees from Starbucks is 3, whereas google search gets 1 entry per day, regardless of how much googling I do. Similarly, my iPhone, Twitter, Tumblr usage is really just checking in on the same service again and again.

This puts a focus on brands that offer multiple discrete products or points of service. Physical products get an advantage, which I think reflects the greater impression a physical product can make.

As well, a magazine gets a mention, but not the brands featured within. TV is being left out, as I track that independently on daytum.

I'm also not counting independent / one-off stores.  Interestingly, I decided not to count Futureshop, as the experience had little to do with the store.  I came in, got a gift, and paid.  Futureshop as an entity had little to do with the process other than being the box it took place in.

This is already more work than I had anticipated.

how i will drive myself mad.

I was recently invited into the beta for Daytum, a personal data tracking site that you can read the interesting history of here.  (It's the progeny of the Feltron Annual Reports, and if you're a design geek like myself, knowing that the same guy is one of the Daytum co-creators just made you click the link and read the slideshow.)

I was trying to figure out which things about myself I should be recording, and the very last thing that came to mind was tracking what brands I use, and how often.  Clearly, this owes a massive (and total) debt to the Brand Timeline idea created by Dear Jane Sample.

The concept (and rules) are as follows.  Every branded object / service that I interact with on a meaningful level gets noted.  Each object / service only gets noted once per day, otherwise apple would get a mark every time I checked my phone, which is enlightening, but not in the way I'm aiming for.  If I mentally associate a brand with a larger parent brand, that's where the mark goes, such as giving google the nod when using blogger.  If something fades into the background, it doesn't get noted.  I know my furniture is from Ikea, but once I bought it, it's seems more like it's part of my room than it does an Ikea product.

I'm totally aware these rules are somewhat arbitrary, but I need to set certain minimum requirements to keep the workload from this plausible.

I'm hoping that 1) this doesn't drive me completely insane, and 2) I can be consistent enough to develop some interesting information regarding which brands I use constantly versus irregularly, and how much of my mental 'brandscape' they make up.

That said, I do still need to work a day job and lead some kind of life, so I can guarantee it won't be 100% accurate.

You can see my Daytum page here.  It is likely utterly boring to everyone except myself.


keep the broadcast model for a broadcast medium.

There are limitations to how many people you can read about, learn about, and conduct conversations with.

If you are willing to deal with a fragmented, less social experience, you can increase that number, with drawbacks occurring as the number of people you intend to interact with increases.
At some point, you will no longer be able to respond to every question or comment directed at you.  At a later point, you will no longer be able to read every question or comment directed at you.  

After a certain level of growth, you will no longer be able to read enough of the volume of comments or questions to build an understanding of the individuals you are attempting to interact with - you may recognise names, but be unable to have a profile of the person filed away in your head.

At a final point, you will no longer be able to recognise the sub-groups, factions or cliques, within your following.  You will merely have a mass of people who have offered to give you their attention.  This is massively powerful, but it's not the same as building a lasting social interaction with someone (or several someones).

We have platforms that work well for mass non-social outreach.  Broadcast media, and the broadcast model, do this absurdly well, and features such as confining a message of this type to a certain object, or a certain time, help to build a community experience despite the disconnected nature of the messaging.

Why do I keep seeing experts try to use social media for the broadcast model of communication?  Ten thousand people fighting to speak with you via Twitter and being ignored isn't better than the same ten thousand getting a video podcast or one-way mailing list - it's worse, because Twitter comes with an expectation of conversation.

Ignoring the realities of the form, and thinking that more is better in a medium that is optimized for, and defined by social interaction, doesn't help anyone.

I'm not trying to discourage celebrities, thought-leaders, and experts from interacting with social media.  I'm just arguing that they aren't experiencing social media, because social media is about developing conversations and connections that don't play well with fame.

Play to the strengths of the medium.  Or find a medium that plays well with your strengths.



An ambigram is a piece of stylized text that is still legible (either the same text or different) right side up or upside down.

Walking to work this morning, I think it might be the best way to consider communications - something that has a clear, valid message regardless of which angle you approach it from.  If you are betting the success of a campaign on the idea that your messages will be interpreted only from the perspective they were conceived, you are ignoring the way the world is.  Once you release a message, you relinquish control.

Control goes to the hands of anyone interested in interpreting, re-interpreting, dissecting, disseminating, remixing, mocking, re-purposing or otherwise using what you've created.  Everything has multiple readings.  Everything can be interpreted from multiple viewpoints.

Make sure you get the message across upside down or backwards.  It increases the chances of your meaning remaining visible, despite the presentation others may give your messaging.


journalism is the harbinger (or, say goodbye to sleep).

One of the attempted fixes the newsmedia has tried to bolster profits and smooth the transition online, is to basically to work journalists to death.  On top of the many, many facets of the actual job, the research, the interviews, the investigations and the writing, some journalists are expected to maintain a blog, create smaller pieces for websites, and generally add another separate job's workload to their day.

This is going to happen to all of us.

In a society where social media is well and truly mainstream, where transparency is a given, and where each individual within a company is seen as a potential representative, lots of people are going to find a social media element added to their duties.  Posting on a corporate blog, or updated a company focused next-generation equivalent of a twitter account, or flickr, or facebook page, is going to become a standard part of everyone's workday.  There will be a point where a lack of 'humanizing content' on behalf of a company or representative will seem as odd as meeting someone who refuses to use contractions.

The issue is, maintaining a meaningful social media presence is a lot of work.  Many of us are busy enough that we don't really know how to fit everything into a work day already.  I'm lucky enough to have a job where my use of social media on the job is accepted (and quickly becoming industry standard).

We should all get ready for the double shift.  It's coming.  And for the people who wouldn't be doing it anyways, it's going to be uncomfortable.


the big changes.

As far as I’ve seen, the internet makes a few major changes to human culture, and extrapolating from those tells us where the future is going.

Time and space bias are becoming less and less important.  When and where no longer limit information, entertainment, communication or conversation.  Any business model based on exploiting time and space bias, or enforcing time and space bias, is officially on deathwatch.  Business based on making time and space bias entirely irrelevant will probably find an audience, and success.

Potentially everyone can publish.  This doesn’t mean that everyone has an equal voice, but it does mean that people will learn the responsibility of their works.  If your words, your ideas, are put in front of the world, you become responsible for them in a way you can’t be without an audience.  People fear an audience because it forces evolution and improvement.  People cherish an audience for the same reason.

Knowing about something is going to become less and less valuable, as information is rapidly becoming accessible from everyone, from everywhere.  Knowing how to do something is going to remain essential, because skill requires more than information.  Discovering information about something will always remain valuable.

If something exists, there is less and less resistance against it becoming ubiquitous.  This is currently true of information, and will likely be true of physical creations in the coming decades.

These are all fairly obvious at this point; I’m not breaking any new ground by writing this.  But I’m finding it next to impossible to come up with a recent world-changing development that isn’t explained by the logical progression of one of these factors. 

If I’m doing something that doesn’t address or leverage one of these issues, I can usually do it better by asking myself why.


idealistic communications rant.

Communication is about new ways of talking.

Communication is NOT about old ways of talking on new platforms.

This is an important difference, and a common mistake.

Twitter ≠ RSS.  Don’t use it exclusively for linking to your blog.

Blogging ≠ Infomercial.  Strategic ‘authenticity’ is still inauthentic.

New ways of talking create problems.  The first instinct for both writer and reader, is to apply the standards of old ways of talking, or to ignore the lessons of old ways of talking completely.

Writing emails as formal letters is an example of the former.  Ignoring the freedoms we have for sampling and remixing text when developing limitations of creative freedoms with video or audio is an example of the latter.  Both, upon reflection, don’t make a lot of sense.

New ways of talking mean new rules of talking, but they don’t necessarily mean the lessons of older modes of communication should be ignored.  If we’re using English, a beautiful phrase will likely still read as a beautiful phrase.

Phrases can have beauty online, as much as they can in a novel.  There can be art and underlying meaning to communication anywhere, if we decide not to drown it in shit.

[inspired from a lot of places, more recently Lawrence Lessig's Remix, which is very much worth reading.]


how we deal with real change.

I  never shut up about my beloved iPhone, but it's one of the few things I've owned in the last 5 years that has actually changed anything.  Clearly, this is more about the rise of smartphones in general, than a specific gushing about Apple's current gadget du jour.

I recently read Cory Doctorow's 'Little Brother'* on my iPhone, through Stanza.  Last night, I read several comics released in an iPhone application format, from iVerse media.  Both of these experiences got me thinking.

We deal with new technology in one of two ways, generally.  These are both examples of the first way, which is usually the most successful and the majority of uses; taking something we already do well and finding a way to emulate that on the new platform.  Taking content created for one form (print media) and finding a way to make it work reasonably well in another form.

The second way we deal with new technology is to think about the essence of things we currently do (in this case, text narrative, graphic fiction, etc), and then devise a new way to do them based on the abilities and limits of the new technology.  This is substantially more rare, because it's very easy to do poorly, and very difficult to do if new technology isn't standardized.  Also, in comparison, written text has centuries of R&D behind it, any new form is pre-Alpha, by comparison.

That said, the second method, creating a wholly new way to do something important or interesting, is where the massive transformational power is.  It's at least worth spending some time considering this approach whenever you're tasked with reconfiguring content from one medium to another.

*It's good enough that not only will I recommend it (and probably blog about ways in which it inspired me later on), but that I'm planning on giving it to the majority of YA fiction readers in my extended family, who I've always worried weren't geeky enough. 


journalism and dialogue.

If you haven't heard, the modern news media is having some tough times.  Not too long ago, the refrain from communication studies classrooms was that Journalism was Dead, because of the rise of infotainment, the propagation of stories from government PR, and inherent bias in the presentation of facts, rather than a bias in editorial mandate.

Now the issue is the massive decline in advertising dollars and print readership, while no one has figured out how to make enough money to support a real newsgathering operation via the online audience.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, every story, every narrative will become collaborative, whether or not it is authorized to be.  I have a feeling the influential media outlets, and the journalists, that exit that transition in the best shape, will be the ones who can strike a balance between publishing from a position of authority and collaborating as part of a community.

I regularly debate the validity of things like transparent sourcing, and the position of authority most journalists operate from, with a good friend of mine who happens to be a journalist.  This is one of the few things we don't seem to have much common ground on, and it's confusing.  I respect journalism and journalists, not just professionally, but because I believe the type of society I want to live in requires an informed populace, and the kind of check-and-balance that investigative reporting represents.

At the same time, I think journalism is like cryptography: while some people would argue that key elements should be left in the hands of professionals, nothing is truly tested unless every interested eye can take a look, and see if they can spot the holes in it.  By this I don't mean that articles should be a wiki - but I do think it's reasonable to think that links to source documents, or other takes on the issue, will eventually become standard in the same way that comments are quickly becoming standard.

I'm not going to entertain the idea that proper reporting doesn't have a role in the future of newsmedia, because frankly, opinion pieces are only a small part of what proper news entails.  But I will say that I think the days of leading the conversation without becoming part of it as it moves on, are coming to a close.  I don't think the column or article is going to be the defining element of a story.  I think it's going to be the story.

I imagine following a journalist in more or less real time, getting the elements of a story in blog posts, in tweets, in images, all of which later come together in a more definitive story - crafted by the professional, but informed by the comments, queries and input of those who've been watching as things have developed.

I'm not claiming that I know anything special about journalism, but I am making a statement that I think it's not just the responsibility of journalists to figure out how to save the newsmedia.  I think that actual change and evolution requires looking at what elements are essential to quality journalism, and what elements exist because of the limitations and boundaries of the old media, the old production cycle, and the old technology.