Constraints stimulate creativity. This is the top take away from the Google Firestarters event a few weeks ago on creativity.
I believe in editing stages (their point 3), and love the distinction between publishing online and done (point 12) -- they are two different things. Because it takes additional steps to go from posting an idea to doing it. That counts for blogs, too.
[poster via Joshua Rothaas]
Understanding the difference between delivering against the same outcome every time and different ones and dealing with modular components are at the core of modern brand management. It maps back to classic models of how we communicate “Who (says) What (to) Whom (in) What Channel (with) What Effect?” What happens when Apple is the brand? The impact goes beyond the form -- to the function.
Grappling with misunderstandings in language, entertainment choices, and our use of data because we continue to use default thinking to drive action.
Seeing with new lenses, doing small experiments, and inspiring talks are all good examples of convergence.
For those of you unfamiliar with FriendFeed, it was a social network cum real time stream and content aggregator where many of us had powerful conversation threads and group discussions. Its strong search function meant you could find anything on the platform instantly. The global community and ability to stumble onto multi-lingual content easily was a major plus for me.
FriendFeed was about the friends of friends. What it did really well (slightly edited from that post):
(1.) It provided a 360 view of someone's online activity. Because it was designed to aggregate feeds from different tools -- e.g., Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, Google Reader (also discontinued), blogs RSS, Digg, and Stumble Upon activity, etc. You get a better feel of someone's social media imprint, tone, voice, attitude, including yours. What is the sum total of those impressions?
(2.) It shined a light over international discussions. While I have many Italian, Belgian, Australian, German, and French professionals in my Twitter stream, their activity is drowned by the sheer volume of American chatter. On FriendFeed I was been able to see the activities and conversations of my Italian network, for example. They made very good use of the tool using images, reports, and discussions. All neatly captured in threads that on the Twitter surface would seem unrelated and disjointed.
(3.) It was full of surprises. A friend of a friend may post something quite interesting that I would never in a million years have thought of looking for and there was more than one dimension to it beyond broadcasting. For some reason it reminded me of conversations you strike when on a train in Italy or as you wait in line at a store -- casual can be interesting. If a thread strikes a chord, it will keep bubbling up in the stream, intact for you to catch up on hours later.
I even did a fun you know you are addicted to FriendFeed when post -- they had come up with a hide button way before Twitter gave us the mute option. The comment thread to that post on FriendFeed:
I can dream of it on Facebook. The only place where we came close to having good exchanges was this blog when the comments box was a place to connect with others.
As of April 9, it will be no more. Though it ceased to exist in the minds of many users who had been there before with other tools when it was acquired by Facebook in 2009. The announcement inspired me to write one of my classic posts in defense of growing your own URL vs. that of other networks -- How social media is like sharecropping:
There's a lesson in FriendFeed's sale for all of us who spend time with social media, interact with customers online, or guide corporate digital outreach. Here it is: We are playing in somebody else's yard. And we can be told to go home at any time.That API your team just wrote an application for? It can be changed overnight - or disappear entirely. Maybe you've spent months developing a customer base on some promising service. A quick weekend deal, and that service is gone. Just business, of course. Companies don't run on promises and rainbows forever, and cash is king in a tough economy. Things can change in the blink of an eye.
In a way, businesses working social media channels are sharecroppers. So are all the users. They labor on the services, both creating and receiving value. But they don't own the fields they cultivate, and can be put off the land whenever it suits the landlord.
I did hold out for a while, as I explained in my 12 reasons why I still use and like FriendFeed where I saved the best reason for last:
12. You will still find that camaraderie and helpfulness that was present in other networks early on and then went away when things got busy and crowded (and people jostled for positions.)
Here we are once again wrestling with the built to flip concept popularized by Jim Collins in his famous Fast Company article. I prefer building to grow -- the difference in question between do you add or extract value?
Louis Gray said# it well:
If you were part of the active community that made FriendFeed special in those wide-eyed years, you experienced something I've never seen with any community since (with occasional flashes on Google+ and Twitter being exceptions). If you missed it, then you missed out on seeing one of the most talented teams ever assembled working on something that was both fun and smart. And that story's final chapter is coming without us ever getting the happy ending we were hoping for. I'm not mad, just wistful at what might have been.
Something to think about as we give more of our data to companies that may or may not be building to grow and who consider the contents of the platforms they provide theirs, even though we put it there.
When unchecked, the complex webs we weave ourselves end up masking what is going on -- and preventing us from asking better questions based on faithware.
An industry dedicated to communications having difficulty with walking the talk through its hiring practices. People with those skills exist (hi.) They just don't look like the people you already have. That is valid for companies as well. The future is unlike the past.
Where there is a will, there is a way -- and a but.
[is it Spring yet?]
For many years I was privileged to contribute as adviser and mentor to The Fox School’s of Business Enterprise Management Consulting Practice (EMC) to help International MBA students with marketing strategy and presentation polish. Through my involvement I met many entrepreneurs -- students and peer advisers -- and had the opportunity to see many successful project launches.
Mentoring is a way to help others succeed by providing tools, resources, access, and support. My favorite thing about mentoring is seeing young professionals develop as people as they build their skills along with their business ideas.
Starting something new is hard -- think about a new job, moving to another city, or even preparing for a talk at an major conference. Imagine what it's like when that new thing is a business. Reading the headlines and success stories you would likely never know how difficult it was to confront what did not work and to stay motivated along the way.
Because I appreciate both the opportunity to help others and the need for business innovation I am very excited to share that the Venture Fund for America accelerator launched yesterday:
In partnership with our lead sponsor, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, we’ll give six Fellow-led teams the chance to go from side project to flourishing business. We’re covering housing, food, and transportation for our teams, but we’re not asking for equity – there’s no cash, but no catch.
These 2013 Fellows launching their nascent companies will live together in Philadelphia, spending each day based at First Round Capital‘s generously donated coworking and community space. First Round’s investment in Philadelphia’s startup community is showing great returns, and we’re excited to be welcomed in.
And that this new venture is doubly exciting because it gives me the opportunity to participate as a mentor. As Mike Tarullo, SVP Corporate Development at Venture for America and program director for the VFA Accelerator says:
“Our favorite thing about working at Venture for America is seeing our Fellows change and grow throughout their time with us. We meet thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs on campus or early in their careers who say they want to launch a business one day, but don’t know where to begin. Then after a few years with VFA, we’ve seen them grow and are helping them make it happen.”
Exactly my sentiment. Growth happens all around, and learning to learn has long been my motto.
Do as I say, not as I do. We are immersed in a culture that worships at the altar of drive and ambition, yet we still need time (and space) to make things happen. Ironically, the very same organizations fail to walk the talk.
Machines can learn to represent the world. Can / do they feel? Belief is good when it focuses on people. We are the ones with feelings and we can navigate the fine line of asking reality to explain itself. The best among us manage to do it.
Understanding is born of seeing -- whether that be the real issues inherent in policy, making room for new ideas and craft, or visiting the places where life happens, unedited.
[RIP Leonard Nimoy]
What brought us here? Where are we going next? If I were to summarize the topics and conversations we had this past week at Social Media Week in New York City#, I would group them into two main questions. I attended the sessions that took an honest look at problems, and what people are doing to alleviate them.
By far the most engaging conversation was the one that happened on stage the third day of the conference during the session on Fostering Self-Disruption, Collaboration and Innovation at Large Companies. Having worked at many large companies I was looking for perspective. Beth Comstock, Healey Cypher, Bre Pettis, and Justin Stanwix delivered in spades.
From embracing the tension between “should I?” of marketing and “can I?” of engineering in organizations and other
innovation metrics that work -- throughput, velocity, improving cycles -- via Comstock to “Paying for courage” on hiring consultants to decide to innovate by Stanwix, and learning about Round Pegg#, a tool to understand cultural fit, build a team quickly via Pettis, I felt we were just as much part of the conversation as audience -- and that is quite a feat to do with a panel.
Anil Dash engaged the Rev. Jesse Jackson in a universally important topic of diversity. Though the session focused specifically on diversity in tech, the themes that emerged from the fireside chat format addressed the topic more broadly. Thought and expression are both vital aspects of thriving communities and organizations can benefit greatly from it.
A few speakers and panels added a refreshing element of delight and surprise. The super fast 10-minute segment on attention by Faris Yakob warranted a follow up round table conversation with attendees. Why not factor that into next year's format? It is an event on social and should be more social to help us see what else we are collectively learning staged along formal remarks. Conversation as a better Q&A. Maybe the conference followed his advice on value being a function of scarcity.
Another session worthy of round table was the one with Michael Zimbalist from The New York Times on Measuring Attention and Intention, starting with the USP of digital and the experiments by the NYT as well as the FT pilot. One thought I had about attention, time, and value was to discuss measuring -- miles or inches? with @ev and take a look at Medium. As I said in that post:
Are we asking the right questions, says Williams? Say we determine that time spent, a measure of attention, is better than click volume:
The problem with time, though, is it’s not actually measuring value. It’s measuring cost as a proxy for value.
Advertisers don’t really want your time — they want to make an impression on your mind, consciously or subconsciously (and, ultimately, your money).
Measuring proxies of value is where we are. He then says:
At Medium, we don’t really want anyone’s time. We want to create a platform that enables people to make an impression on others. To make them think. To change their minds. To teach them something or connect emotionally. It’s hard to measure any of that.
If you are a publisher and want to understand whether you make an impression on others, you cross reference a number of data points.
Faris Yakob's upcoming book on attention is possibly more focused on the ad space. Still, I do wonder about his take on Zimbalist's attention cannot be used to deliver signal.
BuzzFeed Motion Pictures head Jonathan Perelman talked about the difference between stories made to be consumed and stories made to be shared. The latter are conceived to get people to talk. Another interesting distinction he made was between the stream that comes to you and where you go when you look for something, and the garden where you go to do something specific. Simplicity and surprise are the two "S" of stories. The first one makes them consumable, the second sharable.
After sitting in his session on networks of influence I believe Marcus Collins and I have walked and worked converging paths for years. My talk on influence touched upon ways to conduct outreach and built on some of the very themes Collins referenced. His students at NYU are very lucky to have such an engaged practitioner. In addition to not getting lost in Translation, I discovered a company I did not know before. Well done Marcus. Mitch Brooks at Crimson Hexagon delivered clarity and perspective to the discussion. From the session description:
This “upwardly mobile” generation of consumers is neither traditional nor monolithic, and in an omni-connected social landscape with diverse curation of cultures, brands must work harder to be culturally relevant, and often come up short. Marketing to the connected class will require a deeper understanding of cultural influence and the role social plays in the spread of products and ideas.
Saving the best single speaker talk for last, Crowdfunding expert Clay Hebert gave us a very pragmatic construct we can adapt to all kinds of marketing to make it relevant -- a platform you build or borrow, an authentic story, and a compelling offer. Learning to see is a critical skill for marketers to embrace the changes that are affecting how we buy and operate in the world. “It's not a meritocracy,” he said. “It's a marketocracy.” In this new/content- and product-saturated world, we are all called to research, experiment, and adjust/iterate constantly. Download his best crowdfunding hacks here.
All that, and I got my very first brand new $2 bill from qzzr (thank you and for the water, too, guys.)
[images I took with my aging iPhone #SMWNYC]
Last September I joined about 10,000 people at Inbound in Boston. By far, that has been the largest conference I have even attended. Because I find more intimate settings better for getting to know people, the challenge for me was how to shrink such a potentially daunting experience into parts with greater human interaction.
In addition to the privilege and joy of sharing comments on how to become a Conversation Agent, these are a few random things I did to scale the experience that made it enjoyable and productive:
More ideas in 21 things you can do at a conference.
The sessions I am attending at #SMWNYC focus on measurement, the attention / intention tension / influence, video content, and the future.
It is a fairly broad range of topics. If I were pressed to provide a main theme to group them all it would be where technology and people meet. That is where marketing needs to be, and it better have its integration together.
Internet of things, data big and small, devices, mobility, advertising, analysis and research, even communications -- we rely on technology to do more, hopefully to learn better and improve how we work and live.
Two reports that have crossed my desk recently will be useful to frame how the convergence of technology and everything is impacting end-user experiences and is critical for CMOs to address.
Ashu Garg, general partner at Foundation Capital, describes four key changes that are affecting marketing:
Modeling the business impact of marketing investment is an imperative. Digital marketing, eCommerce, and customer experience management are the responsibility of CMOs according to Gartner.
This means marketers will be commanding higher budgets -- and that a greater portion of those budgets will be allocated to optimizing the efficacy of advertising and improving the relevance and value of content and experience.
Smart watches, retail beacons, mobile payments - digital innovations will continue to change how we live, shop and work. Rather than disrupting people’s behaviour, the smartest innovators will make the glittering possibilities of new technology feel familiar and everyday.
As you leaf through these 33 perspectives, we invite you to visit the library and explore each idea in more detail. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to keep you ahead of all the important shifts, across sectors, as they happen.
I am particularly interested in the innovations around food and drink, money, and home. Another area I follow closely is that of data big and small, which was the topic Taylor addressed and where I see money, lifestyle, and health converge.