I've gotten a few emails asking if I twittered... ok, now I do. You can find me @jennrice. I resisted for a while because I knew that I'd spend all day on Twitter if I started (same reason I don't have a TV). I was right.
I've gotten a few emails asking if I twittered... ok, now I do. You can find me @jennrice. I resisted for a while because I knew that I'd spend all day on Twitter if I started (same reason I don't have a TV). I was right.
A friend of mine has an interesting job opening with a angel-funded start-up here in San Francisco. Sounds like a fun ground-floor opportunity! Read on for details.
Rapleaf , a ratings system for commerce, is looking to hire a founding biz/marketing person (non-engineer). We allow buyers and sellers (on sites like craigslist, classifieds, auctions, etc.) to rate each other. Rapleaf is backed by Silicon Valley's most well-known angels. Our goal is to make it more profitable to be ethical.
What will this person do?
Everything that is not engineering-oriented including:
* Business development
* Product stuff
* Customer service systems
* And more
This position will be one of two non-engineers at the company. We're looking for a really smart, motivated, multi-tasking, entrepreneurial, and highly-adaptable person.
This person must:
* Be pro-active
* Be ready to work extreme hours and in a chaotic environment
* Self-manage and potentially manage others
* Be able to quickly grow as the company grows
* Laugh a lot and generally be very happy
* Have a strong desire to build a more ethical society
We're looking for the very best person, and we believe that person should be well-compensated:
* High salary and stock
* Opportunity to make commerce more profitable to be ethical
* Opportunity to change the world
* Be a part of a founding team of a game-changing company
Our office is in downtown San Francisco (one block from the Montgomery BART station) - the best location in the world. You will need to be based in San Francisco (or very close to San Francisco) and we will relocate the right candidate.
Please apply to firstname.lastname@example.org (before applying, please be sure to sign up for Rapleaf and check out the product).
I will be moving to San Francisco this coming weekend! Driving 25 hours with my 2 cats isn't exactly my idea of fun, but I'm looking forward to living and working in the Bay Area. My new contact info is included in my (recently redesigned) web site.
A friend of mine started a very cool fundraising site benefiting the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The site is called The Cancer Mosaic, which consists of 2,500 blank tiles that will be populated
with the faces of friends, family and colleagues who have dealt with cancer. A tile can be 'purchased' with a $20 donation. When completed, The Cancer Mosaic will raise $50,000 to help
people live through and beyond cancer. And since it’s easy for him to add more tiles to
the Mosaic, this could easily become an online memorial that honors hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people and makes a significant contribution for cancer survivors.
If you know someone who's battled cancer, please consider participating by either spreading the word or donating. Thanks!
against social networking. That was fast!
Introducing the anti-social networking site: Isolatr.com.
"People always used to approach me to try to talk about this or that. I wanted to punch them in the throat. Now they leave me the hell alone. Thanks, Isolatr!"
Check it out; it's pretty funny. Thanks to GMSV for the tip.
could you resend? My computer crashed hard and I lost all my emails including 15 unread ones. Thanks...
I'm thinking about relocating to San Francisco and will be there the 14th through the 22nd to check it out. Anyone want to meet for coffee, lunch or at your office to chat business, brands, or future of the world as we know it?
Obviously if you email me from a home email address and I don't know who you are, I'll probably say, 'no thanks...'
If you work in Tulsa, I'll be speaking at the Tulsa BMA meeting today. Join us!
I'm getting a lot busier these days and am looking for some good freelance help in the following areas:
(UPDATE: Please, if you do not specialize in the following areas, do not respond. This is not an open invitation for anyone related to marketing to send me their information!)
1. Qualitative researcher with a good strategic mind. Better yet, a brand strategy consultant who does his/her own research. (US-based) I am looking for someone trained in qualitative research, interviewing, moderation... a big plus would be ethnography.
2. Project manager (creative): This person should have an agency background as an AE or account supervisor, be excruciatingly organized, proactive, and have great writing skills and client-interaction skills. (US-based) This is a more junior level position; it doesn't pay a whole lot.
3. Web designer (can be anywhere in the world). You would not believe the pain and agony I've gone through to find a good web designer... someone who not only does great work, but is also not a flake, doesn't cancel in mid-project, and doesn't miss deadlines. There are a million web designers in this world; please don't respond unless you have personally designed some really crisp national-brand sites and you understand usability. Flash programming a plus. You should have less than 5 people in your company.
You can send resumes and portfolio samples (for #3) to me at email@example.com. I will call you if I'm interested; please don't call or email me after you've sent in your qualifications. If you're a good enough marketer, your qualifications will sell you. Thanks!
UPDATE: Also, I really need an Excel guru... someone to download quantitative survey results and built a ton of charts.
Sorry I haven't written much lately, but I am working on a couple really interesting projects that I know will spawn numerous blog posts. The first is a rather large brand strategy project for @Last Software, a company that makes a super-easy 3D design tool and epitomizes the emerging grassroots culture of openness and co-creation. Great group of folks.
The second is a presentation I'm giving at the American Library Association's Midwinter Symposium later this month. It's sponsored by the Online Computer Library Center, which consists of a bunch of really smart people looking to push libraries into the 21st century. You can find their blog here. Have you really thought about what would happen to libraries in the Google Age? I bet you (like me) haven't thought about libraries at all. What an interesting challenge; how do we rebrand and reinvent libraries to maintain their relevance?
For this conference I'm writing an entirely new presentation based on major social trends and how they are impacting brand development. In a few days I'll start posting each trend, and I'm hopeful we'll get a good conversation going. Stay tuned!
I just got notified via email that I've been "coolhunted." What's that all about? According to the site:
Like a cool epidemic, hype about the cool hunter has spread globally – and we’re talking literally. Bright Neon stickers emblazoned with the sting “You’ve been Cool Hunted” have been quietly circulating through the streets of London, Sydney, New York & L.A waiting to pounce on the coolest people, things and places....
The response to the cool hunter buzz campaign has been huge, unleashing a word of mouth phenomenon – one person is cool hunted, they tell 2 people, who tell 4 and so on….and before you know the site has generated an extra 10,000 hits per day.
Unfortunately they don't use permalinks, so that little post will vanish into the archives in a few days... but it is a pretty cool site; check it out. If they really wanted to boost the viral quotient, they could encourage the cool-hunted to pass out stickers as well.
Recent post on Fast Company talks about Google rankings for individual names.
On his journal, Neil Gaiman spoke about being Neil Number One. I went to Google and put in my name Kevin. I wasn't in the first hundred. But, when I put my last name I was surprised to find that I was Ohannessian Number One.
So of course I wanted to see how I ranked. When I just typed in "Jennifer" I was clearly outranked by Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Anniston, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Donnelly... oh, and Jennifer Furniture. But hey, I was pleased to find my blog listed at #46. Not too bad. I'm the first "Jennifer Rice" which is also pretty cool.
I think I was partly prompted to write this post because now I have 7 mentions of "Jennifer." We'll see if this helps my Google rank. :-)
It's rather disturbing to channel-surf these days. Death and destruction in New Orleans - (click) - cheering crowds at the US Open - (click) - 750 missing children - (click) - Comedy Central - (click) - homeless, starving pets trapped up in trees - (click) - mindless reality TV show...
I wasn't planning to blog about Katrina as so many other people are talking about it, but writing about marketing feels a bit disrespectful. I'll get around to it soon, but it's odd to notice how life goes on. I guiltily confess to a sigh of relief when I can change the channel to see people running, laughing, cheering. I’m horrified by the images of Louisiana and Mississippi, yet I can simply push a button and tune into a different reality that’s not so disturbing. I’m relieved by the illusions that life goes on, my comfort zone still appears intact, and I'm in control of my life.
we humans connect with the harsh reality of disaster, hints of our own
mortality and frailty slosh over the carefully constructed levees of our souls.
Talk about discomfort! So we do our duty and write a check to Red Cross, or
donate some clothing, then quickly get back to our daily responsibilities,
passions and irritations… back to “life as usual.” It was distressing to me to
realize that I'd completely forgotten about the tsunami on the other side of
the world. Their lives are surely still in utter turmoil and uncertainty, yet
it's no longer news.
I've been reading a book called Wake Up to Your Life by Ken McLeod. It's an instruction manual for developing mindful attention according to Buddhist principles. The chapter I finished last night was about death meditation.
"We will die one day. That much is certain. When and how, no one can tell. If we are vividly aware that death can come at any time, however, our attention goes into the actual experience of life, not into the effort to achieve fame or fortune....
Living in the knowledge that every relationship we have is going to end, we take nothing or granted and savor every moment with our spouse, parents, or children. Meditating on death and impermanence frees us from the conditioning of culture, society and upbringing and brings us closer to life, closer to the mystery of being."
Katrina, the tsunami, terrorism in New York, a friend diagnosed with cancer, an abused child... these are the sloppy realities of life and death. They intrude upon notions of "the way things should be." They rudely contradict notions of fairness and invincibility. And they happen all the time. We can choose how we're going to react, and whether we'll allow these events to soften us, make us more pliable, more accepting of the fact that shit happens whether we like it or not. And then we begin to see that it's not shit, it's just life. It is what it is. Buddhists meditate on death and impermanence in order to embrace life in all its manifestations, and thus be fully alive.
One of my favorite quotes is from Buddha: "Suffering is wishing things are other than they are." And even though I remind myself of this quote all the time, I still get so hung up on “what’s right” and “what should be” and how people “should act.” We’re so indignant about what the government “should have done” to alleviate the suffering. But what happened, happened. People are short-sighted. People let us down. People fail our expectations. It’s all part of this reality that flows onwards whether we think it “should” or not. We may try to do things better next time, but others won’t even make an attempt. That’s just the way it is. I don’t mean to sound callous about what’s happened; it’s just that I suddenly saw things very clearly this past week... that humans aren’t all that logical, despite all our illusions and wishful thinking, and it’s rather pointless to insist that they be.
I suppose our challenge in Katrina's aftermath -- aside from doing something to help those who now have nothing -- is to choose whether we'll wake up to life as it really is, or simply continue business as usual while secretly refusing to acknowledge that our own lives are just as fragile, that we make mistakes, that we’ll have the rug pulled out from under us again and again, that we’ll get our indignant sense of rightness and righteousness threatened even as we hurt others in our own way.
These are the things we don’t like to think about. Although we know better, we keep secretly hoping that they’re the exception rather than the rule.
Fact is, if we don’t take our next breath, we’ll die. If we don't get hit by a car tomorrow, or contract a fatal disease, or fall in the shower and crack our head open, then we'll experience the slow decay of our health and mental capacity through aging. Eventually we, and everyone we love, will die. And all the best-built levees in your soul can’t prevent any of these things from happening.
So we might as well think about them. We might as well acknowledge that they are a non-negotiable part of life, and no one is exempt. Many of you reading this have had major tragedies in your life, and you know what I'm talking about. You're already too-well connected with "life as it is." I think you're light-years ahead of everyone else, including myself. I admit to living a rather sheltered life, partly on purpose. So although I use the word "we" throughout this post, I really mean "me" ... and perhaps a few others who may read this and realize that they too are sheltering themselves from what is.
I’m starting to realize that it’s only when we open ourselves up to the good, the bad and the ugly -- acknowledging that it’s all the stuff of life -- that we can experience real freedom. Instead of reinforcing our walls and levees in a losing battle to keep the flood waters out, we can build a boat instead. It’s better to float with the current rather than drown in our disappointment and betrayed expectations. It’s better to be flexible in the wind rather than be snapped into pieces due to our rigidity and insistence on control. It’s better to open our heart and risk the inevitable hurt… for when we close ourselves off to selected parts of life, we really close ourselves off to all of it.
This morning I'm finally getting back into reading other blogs. It's been a while; I had to take a break from information overload! One thing that jumped out at me so far was Ton's concern over how the US government is handling the Katrina disaster. He notes that
US Government has not requested, and in some instances refused, international offers of help, although offers abound. (Meanwhile the press harrasses UN officials why the international community isn't doing more, to which everytime the answer is that the US Government must ask and allow itself to be helped.)
And this is why I like reading news from outside the US; I certainly haven't heard this disturbing information. Are we "too good" to accept help from others? Or do we just need to feel like we're in control, and that to accept help is an acknowledgment of weakness? Why are we Americans the ones who always nose around in everyone else's business, unasked, and refuse to accept help when offered?
On a related note, there's been a huge rallying of support here in Dallas where many refugees are coming for shelter. I've met many people who are inquiring how we can help those who are now living in our convention center. I met one woman who'd gone to the site with bags of clothing and personal items, only to be turned away by Red Cross workers who said, "we don't need clothes here; we just need money." What??? These people have nothing. We, an incredibly rich society, have so much extra stuff we don't need, and we're willing to give it to those who do need it. And the Red Cross says, no thanks. I'd like to ask some families sitting in the convention center whether, right this moment, they'd like money to go to Red Cross instead of a change of clothes and a toothbrush. This isn't rocket science, folks.
My friends and I are having a "hurricane party" tonight where we'll all bring donated items for the refugees. The goods will go to a local hotel that's holding a free garage sale for the 35+ refugee families staying there, and we feel good knowing that we can directly help a few families in need. It's disappointing that our government and charities have put artificial barriers between the givers and the needy -- on both local and international levels -- functioning more as a bottleneck than a way to evenly distribute aid. It's a perfect example of the old "top/down" hierarchical structure versus the past (and newly emerging) grassroots, community-centric model.
Anyway, I'll stop there. I think we're all terribly disturbed by the recent events. I'm hopeful that this catastrophe, and the way it's been handled, will fuel some necessary changes in our system.
But unfortunately hit burn-out on this blog during the past month. I resonate with Kirsten at re:invention when she says,
"After 3 long blogging years, re:invention's blog has quietly folded into a cocoon. At the moment, we feel we have nothing to say... "
Ironically, I'm headed off to Chicago on Sunday to speak at Ad:Tech on how social technologies (like blogs) are changing the way we do business. I still have a lot to say on the subject, but not on a blog. At least not right this moment. I think I'm starting to warm back up again; perhaps I just needed a break from all the brainpower that's required to write compelling posts.
I do appreciate the fan mail; it's encouraging to know that a couple folks out there like what I have to say. I'll be back soon, I promise! Hopefully Ad:Tech will get me recharged. Just need to get these creative juices flowing again...
This is completely off-topic, but I just received this awful petition notice from the Humane Society. If you eat poultry, you may hate me for sharing this. But I think you'd feel better eating your chicken caesar salad if this law were amended. I'm an occasional vegetarian precisely for reasons like this one. (And I know there are those out there who think this is BS... if you feel a burning need to leave a comment, I won't take the time to argue with you.)
If you read through it, there's a pretty condemning statement about Pilgrim's Pride. Talk about damaging a brand...
Last year nearly nine billion chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other birds were slaughtered in the United States with no requirement that their deaths be humane. Why? Because the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA), which is supposed to ensure that animals are rendered insensible to pain before being slaughtered, does not cover poultry.
That’s right: The federal law designed to protect food animals from suffering during slaughter excludes a shocking 95% of those animals.
Because of this exclusion, chickens and turkeys are entirely at the mercy of major poultry processors. After six weeks of being reared in dreadfully overcrowded factory-like conditions with breeding and feeding practices that leave many birds unable to walk naturally, they are shipped off to the slaughterhouse. There, at a furious pace, they are grabbed and shackled upside down by their legs on a mechanized line. Still conscious, the birds are then dragged through an electrified water bath designed to immobilize them, passed through a neck-slicer, and dropped into scalding water to loosen their feathers. Due to the speed of the assembly line and their own desperate motions, many chickens evade both the immobilization bath and the neck-slicer and are literally scalded to death.
Federal regulations require that the U.S. Department of Agriculture condemn those poultry carcasses that appear to have died from causes other than neck cutting. In 2003, more than 3.4 million carcasses were condemned by the USDA, meaning these birds died either because they were handled roughly during shackling or because they entered the scalder alive.
The industry repeatedly assures the American public that poultry are being treated and killed humanely. Yet the industry has proven incapable of self-regulation; time and time again companies have shown blatant disregard for animal welfare. The horrifying abuses that were exposed in July 2004 at the Pilgrim’s Pride slaughterhouse in West Virginia--in which large numbers of chickens were thrown against walls and stomped by workers--were among the worst known cases of cruelty in the commercial slaughter business.
However, this wasn’t the first outrageous case, and it won’t be the last--unless strong action is taken to change the attitude of the industry and to require new procedures to prevent such abuses. It’s time that the HMSA bring poultry under its protective wing.
Sign the petition here, and pass on the word. There are a lot of relatively meaningless things that spread through the blogosphere... it would be nice if the power of the blogosphere was used to make a difference on something important. Many thanks.
I tried getting into Typepad all day yesterday and kept getting rejected by the server. Today, no problem. Not sure why it was picking on me, since other Typepad users were still posting. Odd. Has this happened to anyone else?
This is so Texas... yesterday I rode my bike in sunny 70-degree weather. Today it's snowing. Go figure.
Thanks to everyone who filled out the survey... We just closed it out and I'll be notifying the 3 winners today!
I'm back from my vacation... I spent over a week at a silent retreat in Santa Fe. It was fantastic, but it's taking me a while to get reacclimated to the "real world." I'm now working on client site in beautiful Boulder, CO. Nice place to travel for business.
but barely. Went to Sweden last week on business; no internet access in my room meant no blogging for me. Came home jet-lagged, caught some nasty cold/flu bug and was basically down for the count all of last week. Still coughing up my lungs but feeling infinitely better this morning, so I thought it was high time for me to update this blog. More to come...
It's been a crazy few days... had company from out of town, jumped out of an airplane for the first time (great fun!) and got food poisoning. Feeling much better today, thank goodness, and I'm back to work. And back to my blog, which I've neglected for a while!
I've gotten some terrific feedback on my renaming exercise... here's where things stand right now:
I've gotten several comments that I should keep Mantra in the name. The pros are that it has some brand equity (at least in the blogosphere), and a few people think it can be evolved to fit my new focus. I'm personally not so sure about that. Mantra, to me, is simply a repeated phrase. It's the vision or brand statement that pulls a company together. So it's great for a branding company (my original intent), but maybe not so great for pure customer strategy. It seems a bit too marketing-focused to me. But hey, maybe I'm just too close to it. I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts on it; I may be persuaded otherwise.
The alternative name that I like is Orbital... implying a 360-degree view of business from the outside-in. It's extremely extendable into anything else I might get into, future-focused and global (I'm starting to do a lot more international work). I also deal mostly with b2b and tech clients, and this name would seem to resonate a bit more with that group than Mantra, which seems a bit voodoo/new age-y to some (to me, anyway).
Tom writes a comment that choosing a name becomes an obsessive activity for most entrepreneurs and small business owners. I think it's because one's company name is an extension of one's own personal brand (which means I probably shouldn't be asking for advice :-). However, I also think that a brand is created collectively and that it's helpful to get the outside-in perspective. So I'm taking my own advice: being transparent and soliciting that outside view that I seek to provide to others. Your vote and/or comments are welcome!
If you've started your own business or renamed a company, you may have felt the pain I'm feeling now. I'm in the process of renaming my company and everything that I like is taken or has trademark risks. So I'm going to open it up to the blogosphere and see how creative you guys and gals can be! The winner gets a $100 gift certificate from GiftCertificates.com, acknowledgement on my web site and fame throughout the blogosphere. :-)
If you accept the challenge, read on.
I originally started my company, Mantra Brand Communications, as a virtual marketing agency using freelance creative. I did the brand strategies and farmed everything else out. Gradually I realized that the only part of it that I enjoyed was the brand strategy aspect. And if you've followed my blog, you know that I'm not fond of the word 'branding'. It's overused, misused, and there's far too many people in this space. It's time to follow my own advice: differentiate myself and do what I really enjoy.
The part of my job that really jazzes me is bringing completely new perspectives to the client and catalyzing an "ah hah" moment. Usually it comes through customer research where we discover that what customers think is important is not at all what the company thinks is important. I also like to look at a business from multiple perspectives: talking to employees on the front-line, finding untaken opportunities in the space, and looking at how future trends will impact my clients' businesses. Lastly, I see a lot of waste that happens in customer research: often a research firm is hired by a specific department (usually marketing) to answer a specific question, and the results are only used by that department. Or the report ends up as a dust-collector because the wrong questions were asked, or execution strategies weren't included.
So my new space is customer strategy consulting, which encompasses evaluation, research middle-man and strategic interpreter. What are the business challenges that need to be solved? What are the right questions to ask for the results to have relevance to all departments within an organization? What different perspectives will yield 'ah-hah' insights? I'll source the right resources for the job (anthropologists, quantitative researchers, database analysis, smart people in different industries, etc.), supervise the project and then apply the learnings to the business. This is, by the way, the same process that would yield a brand strategy. It's framed differently to be more relevant to senior execs, and it also opens up opportunities to solve problems and create opportunities in various departments like customer service, product development and sales.
The name I really like so far is Perspective Lab. My web designer has a cool site design that uses photographs of buildings and other objects from artsy, interesting perspectives. But there's a videoconferencing router company called Perspective Labs, and although we're in completely different industries, my TM attorney says there's some risk because the name is almost identical. It's still viable so I might go with it anyway, but I'm looking for alternatives that are fun, original and --most importantly -- not taken. If you want to play, assume that anything remotely descriptive of what I do is taken. One random idea I had was Highway 39... did you know there's never been an interstate highway 39? So it's the "take the road not traveled" idea. But the highway motif has been overused so I nixed it.
OK, enough rambling. If you've got some ideas, toss them into the Comments Hat in the next few days. Deadline is when someone submits a name I like, or when I get tired of the process and risk going with one of my other ideas. Whichever comes first. Thank you for helping, good luck and have fun!
Sorry folks, I've been quite negligent in keeping up with my blog. Had a busy last week moving into a new office (yay!) and traveling up to Redmond to meet with my new client and team at Microsoft (who, BTW, found me via my blog... rah rah for blogging!). While I was there, I was also able to spend some time chatting with fellow blogger John Porcaro, who's just as nice, smart and engaging in person as he is on his blog. So I must say, despite the bad rap that Microsoft Corp often gets, the people who work there are absolutely terrific. I had a great time there.
I just looked at my calendar for this coming week and I have no meetings and no travels (good grief, how did that happen?) so I'm sure you'll be hearing from me frequently this week.
"You say I started with practically nothing, that isn't correct. We all start with all there is. It's how we use it that makes things possible."
- Henry Ford
Update: Here's a good post from Seth Godin that puts this quote in action.
I just finished giving a talk to a group of 400 high-powered (high-leverage, high-paid) credit card execs. As I left the hotel, I passed a much smaller room, where a seminar for local CPAs was going on.
The snacks didn't seem as good. The booklets weren't that interesting either. apparently. But what occurred to me is that the folks in the second room were just as smart and just as talented as the execs in the first room.
The first group was enjoying the benefits of aiming high. They didn't get these jobs because they were arguably smarter or had better connections or had gone to Harvard. No, they were starting with the same raw materials as the group in the second room. The difference, i think, was that a long time ago, the people in the second room had made a decision about what they deserved, or what they were capable of, or what they were going to stick with. And it was a bad decision.
I'm kicking off a new project in Malmo, Sweden tomorrow and will be gone for a week, so light blogging forecasted. The project should be great fun for two reasons: first, it's a multinational customer research and brand strategy project, which will be terrific experience. And second, I've recruited fellow blogger Johnnie Moore in London to work on it with me. Blogs are terrific ways to get to know how people think, and I think we'll start seeing a lot more 'virtual team' formation among bloggers. I'm looking forward to meeting Johnnie in person after months of blog debates!
I love it when I stumble across something that makes me laugh out loud. This is a hoot. Mmm, Caffeinated Meatloaf.
From Poe News, an amusing visual review of Rumsfeld's fighting techniques.
Thought you'd get a kick out of this...
ANGERED BY SNUBBING, LIBYA, CHINA SYRIA FORM AXIS OF JUST AS EVIL
Cuba, Sudan, Serbia Form Axis of Somewhat Evil; Other Nations Start Own Clubs
February 5, 2002: Beijing - Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the "Axis of Evil," Libya, China, and Syria today announced they had formed the "Axis of Just as Evil," which they said would be way eviler than that stupid Iran-Iraq-North Korea axis President Bush warned of in his State of the Union address.
Axis of Evil members, however, immediately dismissed the new axis as having, for starters, a really dumb name.
"Right. They are Just as Evil... in their dreams!" declared North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. "Everybody knows we're the best evils ... best at being evil ... we're the best."
Diplomats from Syria denied they were jealous over being excluded, although they conceded they did ask if they could join the Axis of Evil.
"They told us it was full," said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"An Axis can't have more than three countries," explained Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "This is not my rule, it's tradition. In World War II you had Germany, Italy, and Japan in the evil Axis. So you can only have three. And a secret handshake. Ours is wicked cool."
Click the link for the rest of the story... it's pretty funny.
I love discovering new blogs. Go surf around Robert Patterson's blog for some interesting and thought-provoking viewpoints on a wide variety of topics. He got me thinking on this one: The Science of Love: Our Forgotten Mammalian Brain. I think it resonated with me for the same reason that my blog posts have tapered off:
Our corporate world is a machine world with machine relationships. No amount of wellness or flex programming will change this unless the core work is to change the machine relationships to human/mammalian/tribal relationships. When we bring the corporate world home and have corporate and functional relationships with our spouses and with our children we are on a course for unhappiness.
I sit at my computer all day long and work, then come home and blog about the same stuff I was working on all day. I live more in the machine world than I care to. I think the Tuscany movie made me a bit melancholy for the outdoors I loved as a kid. Ahh, to be out of this dreary city with its TV and billboards and cement and computers and cell phones... I'm sad that so many kids these days are machine kids; they don't know how awesome it is to build a fort with friends out in the woods, or fly kites, or go digging for fossils (yes, I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was a kid!).
Those of us over 30 should remember a life without machines (or rather, machine-driven relationships). I think of the Matrix Reloaded, when the governor took Neo down to show him the machines that kept Zion running. "We could shut those machines down," said Neo in his point that we control the machines. "Ahh, but without those machines we'd be without air, without light..." replied the governor. So who truly is in control? We cannot go back; we've created a life dependent on machines. I write about the future, about nanotech, about AI... all these things are fascinating. But where will we be without relationships, love, nature and an unpolluted sky?
A completely tangential post from my normal blog fodder... I just finished watching this movie for the second time this week. I laughed, I cried. It's now one of my favorite movies (after The Matrix, of course). I must, I MUST go to Tuscany and the Italian Riviera. I've been to Venice, which is my favorite romantic destination. And, of course, Paris. But the cliffs of Positano overlooking the ocean are absolutely breathtaking. Someday...
Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine did such a great job of summarizing and expanding on the Coming Information Collapse that I'm just going to direct you to this link so you can read for yourself. Here's the opening paragraph:
Eli Noam, a Columbia professor, writes a most depressing piece for the Financial Times arguing that we're headed to a market failure in the information economy -- and, he says, that holds ominous implications for the economies of countries dependent upon the information economy (like Finland, with 35 percent of exports and 15 percent of GDP coming from one company, Nokia ... or like America, eh?).
I'm not sure he's right about this -- I think, instead, that we are headed for a fundamental restructuring from hyperbig to hypersmall.
The most wildly optimistic estimates indicate 2020 will be the year in which worldwide oil production peaks. Generally, these estimates come from the government.
The energy industry has quietly acknowledged the seriousness of the situation. For instance, the president of Exxon Mobil Exploration Company, Jon Thompson, recently stated: "By 2015, we will need to find, develop and produce a volume of new oil and gas that is equal to eight out of every 10 barrels being produced today. In addition, the cost associated with providing this additional oil and gas is expected to be considerably more than what industry is now spending."
Almost every current human endeavor from transportation, to manufacturing, to electricity to plastics, and especially food and water production is inextricably intertwined with oil and natural gas supplies.
And here's the kicker:
It is estimated that the world's population will contract to 500 million during the Oil Crash. (current world population: 6 billion)....
Dr. David Goodstein, Professor of Physics and Vice Provost of Cal Tech University says:
Worst case: After Hubbert's peak, all efforts to produce, distribute, and consume alternative fuels fast enough to fill the gap between falling supplies and rising demand fail. Runaway inflation and worldwide depression leave many billions of people with no alternative but to burn coal in vast quantities for warmth, cooking, and primitive industry. The change in the greenhouse effect that results eventually tips Earth's climate into a new state hostile to life.
Scary, but I have great faith in our instincts for self-preservation and believe we'll be able to pull off some amazing things to ensure survival of humanity. Seems like we're accelerating quickly on the technology front... nanotech and other innovations should help us combat some of the mega-shifts that we're seeing. (Although with everything I'm reading, those doomsday movies don't appear so fictional...)
I was talking with a client a few weeks ago about innovation. Somehow we got on the subject of nanotechnology, which he pointed out was not as much an invention as, say, the turntable. In other words, just because things are getting smaller doesn't mean there's a paradigm shift. I conceded the point at the time, but have since gotten quite interested in the topic. So I looked up nanotech; Ray Kurtzweil gives the definition as "A body of technology in which products and other objects are created through the manipulation of atoms and molecules." (BTW, Ray's site is my new favorite site... amazing stuff in there).
It seems to me that manipulating atoms and molecules would qualify as a paradigm shift. The first chapter of Engines of Creation outlines the shift this way:
The ancient style of technology that led from flint chips to silicon chips handles atoms and molecules in bulk; call it bulk technology. The new technology will handle individual atoms and molecules with control and precision; call it molecular technology. It will change our world in more ways than we can imagine.
Nanotech is born out of advances in biology, genetic engineering and biochemistry. It will lead to new ways of manufacturing just about anything, pollution-free... and will allow us to manufacture things that haven't even been imagined yet.
Because assemblers (nanomachines) will let us place atoms in almost any reasonable arrangement, they will let us build almost anything that the laws of nature allow to exist. In particular, they will let us build almost anything we can design - including more assemblers. The consequences of this will be profound, because our crude tools have let us explore only a small part of the range of possibilities that natural law permits. Assemblers will open a world of new technologies.
Advances in the technologies of medicine, space, computation, and production - and warfare - all depend on our ability to arrange atoms. With assemblers, we will be able to remake our world or destroy it.
So perhaps nanotech is not as much of an invention as much as an invention facilitator. It’s a bit creepy, if you think about it in conjunction with AI… self-aware, replicating machines… a super killer virus? The Singularity?
I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself... what will nano mean for business in the next 25 years or so? Ray Kurtzweil posits that "because we're doubling the rate of progress every decade, we'll see a century of progress--at today's rate--in only 25 calendar years." This raises an interesting issue, since it so starkly illustrates how short-term most businesses think. How many years in the future do most execs extend their vision? I think a lot of people are going to be taken by surprise by the speed at which 'the future' will be upon us.
It's fun to review an invention timeline, especially everything that was invented in the 1900s alone, and think that the same amount of progress will be made in the next 25 years. Where will you be in 25 years? I'll be 60. Supposedly we'll solve the 'aging problem' when I'm 85... bummer, I hope they can figure out how to not just halt but reverse aging so I won't get stuck in an 85 year-old body!
As the Buddha once wisely said, "Suffering is wishing things were other than they are." I sure wish Explorer hadn't locked up after I spent 30 minutes completing a new post. So I guess it's time to stop suffering and start re-writing...
Many thanks to those of you (Ali, Chris, Mike and Director Mitch) who commented on my last post about Bush's proposal to legalize undocumented workers. You spurred me on to research the facts and come up with a solution instead of simply ranting (although sometimes it just feels good to rant, and it sure generates good healthy debate!). I have some thoughts that I'll post later today -- particularly immigration's impact on business -- but first I wanted to share a well-researched paper on The Social Contract web site called "Sorting Through Humanitarian Clashes In Immigration Policy". It presents the pros and cons of open, closed and restricted immigration policies. Highly recommended reading. Here's part of the summary:
The ethical basis of the current U.S. immigration policy would appear to be to help:
- consumers to benefit from lower prices,
- business owners to restrain the growth in wages and to more easily fill job openings
- families — primarily upper income — to obtain the services of nannies, gardeners and housekeepers,
- the owners of capital to make larger profits (immigration is a key ingredient in the rising income disparity in the nation).
And immigration, according to those studies, currently harms:
• lower-skilled workers, especially the foreign-born,
• poor Americans trying to leave welfare and join the labor force,
• students in crowded schools, especially racial minorities in core cities,
• middle-class taxpayers in high-immigration states who subsidize the average immigrant by $1,500 to $4,000 each,
• hunters, anglers, boaters and outdoor recreation enthusiasts of all types who suffer extra congestion from population growth caused primarily by immigration,
• breathers of air in cities that do not meet clean air standards because of population growth,
• users of the 40 percent of the nation’s lakes and streams that still do not meet clean water standards,
• all who value the wildlife, natural habitat, ecosystems and bio-diversity that are reduced each year by the pressures from population growth,
• traffic-weary motorists and residents of small cities, towns and rural areas trying to preserve their culture of living.
Because the effect of current immigration numbers is so drastic on the rate of population growth, people who place a high ethical value on clean air and water, protecting eco-systems, resisting congestion and sprawl, and preserving community cultures will have to consider great reductions in the overall numbers as they create an ethically ideal immigration policy.
Before deciding what our ethical position dictates in terms of “how many?” we should consider that the U.S. Census Bureau projects that under the current rate of immigration the 1970 population of 203 million will nearly double to 394 million by the year 2050... The Census Bureau states that replacement-level immigration currently is 225,000. So illegal immigration would have to be stopped entirely, and legal immigration reduced from 915,000 in 1996 to 225,000 to allow the U.S. population (267 million in 1997) to stabilize soon after 2050 at around 320 million. If we don’t want to add another 50 million people to the country, we will have to choose an immigration level below 200,000.
I don't normally address political issues in this blog, but announcements like this really get under my skin. NY Times top story in my inbox today:
Bush Would Give Illegal Workers Broad New Rights
Under Mr. Bush's proposal, which effectively amounts to an amnesty program for illegal immigrants with jobs in the United States, an undocumented worker could apply for temporary worker status here for an unspecified number of years, with all the employee benefits, like minimum wage and due process, accorded to those legally employed.
The plan also includes incentives for workers to return to their countries, like a promise of retirement benefits there based on income earned in the United States.
So it's now it's ok to give jobs to illegal aliens when 5.9% of our citizens are unemployed? And since when do we need to provide financial incentives to illegal aliens to go back to their country? Between this and Clark's proposal to eliminate taxes in the under $50k bracket (funded by an extra 5% surcharge on the rich), it seems like we're out to create a society of moochers. Let's make sure that the middle class and the rich pay for a societal infrastructure that any claimant can benefit from -- free of charge -- just because they need it. Let's dis-incent the poor families from crossing the $50k income mark because they'd suddenly have to pay taxes, deal with paperwork and actually earn their place in society. (BTW, I'm all for helping people out, but I believe that handing people a fish -- instead of teaching people how to fish -- is what reinforces a welfare mentality and ultimately does more harm than good.)
But oh, my mistake: Mr. Bush didn't propose this with the express purpose of taking jobs from our citizens or cheapening the value of American jobs:
The president's proposals were designed to appeal to Hispanic groups, a constituency that the White House is focusing on as Mr. Bush seeks re-election this year. The proposals are expected to be embraced by President Vicente Fox of Mexico, who has been lobbying for them for the past three years.
Oh, ok, I get it now. Just can't quite figure out what benefits I get for actually being a citizen of this country.
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group: fifty pound of pots rated an A, forty pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one - to get an A. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
A few years back I served a brief stint as Market Intelligence Director for jobs.com. Several of the guys on the exec team came from a big 5 consulting firm. Every week I'd produce a report with a laundry list of all the competitive activities for the week -- new programs, new products, etc. -- and recommend a few immediate actions that would at least keep us in the game. But no, analysis paralysis was the dominant mindset and nothing ever got done. Funny how the company rapidly went under.
More recently I've consulted for a couple companies who just weren't sure whether they should invest in marketing activities. I recommended that we spend a small amount to test some ideas; if they work, we'll roll them out systemwide. If not, it wasn't a waste: we'd just try something else. Like the famous quote by Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Unfortunately my clients were a bit too risk-averse... just like the quality group theorizing about perfection.
Of course, it's all well and good when it's someone else's money... but a bit tougher to apply it to one's own personal life (Yes, I too have been guilty of analysis paralysis!) It does take some courage to make a decision based on available information and stop second-guessing yourself. I think too often we can doubt our gut feeling because our brains are in overdrive, and we forget that 'gut feeling' is really the summation of unconscious brain calculations...
Visit David St. Lawrence's blog and click on the thumbnail pic of "The World According to the United States of America."
I happen to fall in the mere 20% of map viewers who burst out laughing. Hope you have a similar reaction.
This is a bit off my normal subject matter, but it's something I've been thinking about lately.
Since I started blogging, I'm starting to feel like a neuron in a vast brain; my thought processes are improving and speeding up with every new connection that's formed. Yet I just started my weblog a month ago; where will I be in one year from now? Ten years from now? And just where is this whole blog thing going, anyway?
No ideas are truly new; they evolve from prior knowledge. Centuries ago, it took years for an idea to be disseminated throughout society and find a mind who had the capacity to adapt it, refute it or build upon it. More recently, ideas are transmitted through mass media: books, TV, magazines. They are spread like seeds into the soil of society; however, only a few minds are capable of both evolving the idea and having the connections to mass-publish the updated version, often months or years later. The advent of the Internet helped speed up the process, but not by much. It's primarily used as a glorified library, and if users don't stumble across the data needed to validate or evolve their idea-- or attract the right visitors to their websites -- the ideas can often stagnate.
Now enter the blogosphere, where ideas are born, nurtured, transmitted and evolved -- all in a single day. Ideas have a life of their own; good ones seem to create their own connections. I may have a seed of an idea; you recognize it and spread it; someone on the other side of the world has complementary knowledge to expand and evolve it. In brain terminology, neurons that fire together, wire together. The same principle applies to the blogsphere: bloggers who think together, link together. And so the connections form, faster and faster. More pathways for an idea to spread, evolve, mature. This, I suppose, could be called hyper-meme theory: self-propagating ideas combined with exponential pathways that enable rapid evolution (see Thought Contagion for more on memes; it's a fascinating subject).
And blogging is still in the early adopter phase. Where is it leading us? Could it be a factor that brings us closer, quicker, to the Singularity? (the Singularity is a future time when societal, scientific and economic change is so fast we cannot imagine what will happen from our present perspective.) At first I was doubtful; I didn't know that much about the Singularity, but based on my own personal experience it seemed plausible. I can see a time when a much higher percentage of the population is plugged in to the blogosphere: more neurons, more connections for this growing electronic brain, and an exponentially faster evolution of ideas.
So I Googled the topic and found this white paper by Vernor Vinge. He believes that the Singularity could be caused by two events: the creation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Intelligence Amplification (IA: computers plus humans). He states that one scenario could be to
"Exploit the worldwide Internet as a combination human/machine tool. Of all the items on the list, progress in this is proceeding the fastest and may run us into the Singularity before anything else. The power and influence of even the present-day Internet is vastly underestimated."
What the Internet facilitates is 3D parallel processing, which is how our brains work. I chatted with Graham Glass, who knows a heck of a lot more about this topic than I do... he believes that we'll start seeing a transition from humans as 'neurons' or nodes in the network (bloggers!) to an increasingly higher percentage of machines (and/or 'enhanced' humans) as nodes. As this occurs, the overall system gets exponentially smarter.
Ray Kurzweil in his paper, The Law of Accelerating Returns, believes that we'll experience 20,000 years of progress in the next century. Vernor Vinge believes that, based on current technological progress, we could see the Singularity in less than 40 years. Reading Ray and Vernor's papers makes one believe that T3 and The Matrix are not just imaginary movie constructs but could quite literally happen in our lifetime. It's an unsettling thought. But to paraphrase Agent Smith, it has the sound of inevitability. I find it interesting that my last blog post dealt with the unraveling of our social fabric, whereas this one addresses the rapidly increasing connections of our minds. Perhaps the former is fuel for the latter. I can only hope that we use our human endowments of morality, intuition and reason to direct this runaway train down a path that won't end in our ultimate destruction.
(Whoa, a lot of gloom and doom for the first week of 2004!)
New Years Day. Always a time of deep introspection, reflection and reiteration of what I want my life to be all about. I like to think about my life in relation to the whole; in other words, what do I want my relationships, family, business, etc. to be like, and what actions must I take to make that happen?
Along these lines, I couldn't help but think about some of the major trends in business today. There's been so much written about the failure of corporate America to satisfy the needs of customers, and in an attempt to fix the symptoms we've created new mantras (create customer evangelists!), new technologies (CRM), special programs (frequent flier miles), and the list goes on.
But who, exactly, is "corporate America"?
The corporate transformational change that we consumers have been crying for will happen when we -- the consumers, the customers, the employees -- begin living the changes we want to see. Instead of fixing the symptoms, let's address the root cause. Putting the blame on faceless corporations is the same error as putting the blame on our spouses, our co-workers, our families. Not only are we all connected, but we ourselves are individual components of multiple intersecting wholes.
We, the individuals who make up today's society, have created the world we see today. We've made -- and are continuing to make -- different choices than our parents and grandparents did at our age. These choices have created consequences that we often don't want to recognize or own, so we point outside ourselves and declare the culprits to be the big bad corporations (for whom we work) and government officials (whom we elect) and 'the system' (which we accept).
So what are these choices? Here are a few factoids from Bowling Alone that indicate that our social and family ties are loosening, and we're increasingly withdrawing into ourselves:
- In the past 3 decades, participation in government, local clubs and organizations dropped by up to 50%.
- Job instability, churn and the increasing numbers of independent contractors have resulted in a measurable decline of social connectedness in the workplace.
- Americans are entertaining friends at home 45% less frequently now than in the mid-70s; the number of picnics declined by 60% in the same time period.
- The fraction of married Americans who say that their family 'usually dines together' has dropped from 50% to 34%
- The number of families who vacation together dropped from 53% to 38%; watch TV together from 54% to 41%; sitting and talking, from 53% to 43%
- Reported charitable giving dropped by almost 20% from 1980 to 1995.
- The percentage of those who feel that "people in general today lead as good lives -- honest and moral -- as they used to" dropped from 50% in 1952 to 27% in 1998.
It's interesting to note that these percentages have remained more stable in small towns versus large cities. It's tough to be impersonal in a small town, but quite easy in a city. It's harder to be impersonal when you run a small business than when sheltered in the walls of a large corporation.
These statistics don't just show trends; they reveal our choices. We have chosen -- under the veil of 'too busy, not enough time, not enough money' -- to distance ourselves from our families, our co-workers and our communities. As isolated individuals, it's much easier to forget that we're part of a whole; that we're interconnected with everyone else and that our choices impact others as well as ourselves. We have made these choices individually but the combined effects are now reaching critical mass. How can we connect with a customer when we're not making meaningful connections with our own loved ones?
The lack of corporate/customer relationships is just the tip of the iceberg; it is symptomatic of a much more far-reaching issue. We've somehow adopted an us versus them mentality: not only between companies and customers, but between departments within the same company, between neighborhoods, races and religions. For real change to happen on the corporate and societal level, each one of us must first decide to build richer relationships within our own sphere of influence.... the forged bonds will move upward and outward, but we must start at the core, where we live. We must start by breaking down silos and walls within our own communities and companies and neighborhoods; by reaching out to others with compassion instead of holding back in distrust.
In a similar vein, we're calling on corporations to be more authentic, transparent and honest. Yet how will that happen if we're not transparent and honest ourselves? We so often are fearful of what others will think that we lose sight of our own authenticity. Political correctness has its limits. It's time for both individuals and businesses to stop trying to be all things to all people, and give ourselves permission to live honestly, and -- most importantly -- allow others to live their own truths without trying to change them. Each employee, each member of the whole, must be encouraged to live their own personal brand honestly and openly. When that happens, authentic and transparent corporate brands will naturally fall into place.
So perhaps our 2004 resolutions need not be so mundane. If each of us chooses to take ownership of our small section of the vast social fabric that ties us all together -- to tighten it up and halt the unravelling, not just with technology but with our own authentic goodness -- our society can be irrevocably changed for the better. Speaking for myself, I plan to seek out ways to be more authentic and transparent, more compassionate, and more willing to make time to deepen my connections with others. These are a few of my New Years resolutions; I hope you'll join me.
I received this story in my Inbox courtesy of Second Wind Network. What a wonderful reminder of the warmth, goodness and light that ought to characterize this season. Yes, there are always stories that float around the Internet this time of year, but this one really touched me in a sad yet joyful way and I wanted to share it with you. So whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, Rohatsu, Kwanzaa, or simply your own inner wisdom this month, I wish for you a holiday season filled with giving and gratitude, joy and peace.