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    Sunday
    Nov212010

    Losing Recall

    The ability to search for information on demand, via Google, Evernote, IMDB, Wikipedia, etc. is quite possibly atrophying the modern mind's ability to remember and recall. I suspect this will have huge implications over the long haul to how we behave, learn, and interact as a species.

    Saturday
    Nov202010

    Audience Vs. Community

    I've seen a bunch of web companies recently who talk about their site membership activities as "audience development". I've always preferred "community development".

    Choosing to use the term "audience development" vs. "community development" betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of social media. Anyone who thinks of their social media asset as an "audience" is missing the point. Audiences are at things like concerts, movies, and sitting in traffic in front of a billboard. Communities are thriving, engaged, and organic. They talk back. When was the last time you saw someone at a movie talk back at the film?

    Don't take the "social" out of "social media".

    Friday
    Nov192010

    This Isn't An Excuse

    When people say "this isn't an excuse", it almost always is exactly that.

    Thursday
    Nov182010

    Fine Dining In Reverse

    I'm intrigued by the idea of going into a fine restaurant, and dining in reverse. I suspect that you could get a waiter and chef with a sense of humor to play along nicely. It'd go something like this:

    • Sit down, have a cappuccino
    • Nibble a petit four, compliments of the kitchen
    • Enjoy a glass of port with a nice baked dessert, perhaps a cheese plate
    • Consume your entree with a bottle of wine
    • Sip a bowl of soup or eat a hot appetizer
    • Have a salad, fresh bread, and a martini
    • Bite down an amuse-bouche, courtesy of the chef
    • Get introduced to your waiter, select sparkling, still, or tap water
    • Wait 10 extra minutes for your table to be ready
    • Pay the bill and leave

    This is going on my list of life experiments to try!

    Wednesday
    Nov172010

    Elastic Everything

    Web-based business are moving increasingly to solutions that provide elastic resources. The idea is that there are more than enough resources to go around at any given moment (hard drives, processors, memory, cooling, bandwidth, power), so we should be sharing them. When one website is barely getting any traffic in the middle of the night, shuffle some of their compute power to handle web requests for a different site on the other side of the world. This is so clearly a good idea for most web-businesses, but unfortunately it's hard to translate it to less virtual resources.

    We need elastic everything, not just compute resources like Amazon's EC2. I want to see more real-world spaces going elastic.

    When was the last time you were at a movie theater in the middle of a weekday? Did you have to fight anyone else for seats? Do you think that the movie theater would really prefer to keep that giant facility open all day if they had a better option? When was the last time you were at the office on a Saturday afternoon? Did you have to wait in line at the coffee machine?

    Imagine a building which transforms. During the day, it's an office space. Then at night and on the weekends, the walls slide back, seats fold up from the floor replacing desks, and the space can be used for a movie theater.

    Some cities have tried to do this with highways. During morning rush-hour, an highway may have 5 inbound lanes and 3 outbound ones. 8 hours later, the highway will be repurposed for 5 outbound lanes to handle the commuters now heading home in the afternoon rush after work. But no one yet has figured out what to do with all that extra highway capacity in the hours in between, or overnight, when millions of miles of empty highway sit unused, a resource that is distinctly unelastic.

    Tuesday
    Nov162010

    Next Generation Signage

    E-Ink, the display technology found in Amazon's Kindle and other popular eReaders, is most interesting in that it is a static display technology. It doesn't require any batter power at all to display the content. It does require a little bit of power to change what's displayed, but once the "paper" shows a new image or set of text, it'll stay there pretty much indefinitely.

    Since owning a Kindle, I see signs all over my world that I think should be E-Ink. Basically any large signage that is currently printed up on big boards, but needs to change periodically.

    • The pricing signs at gas stations
    • The "lifeguard/no-lifeguard" signs at swimming pools
    • The "no vacancy" signs outside big hotels
    • The "today's events" displays in hotel lobbies

    All these signs today are analog paper, which means they still have to have lighting, and someone come by to change them every day (or more often). And as an added benefit, for signs that are in an awkward location, you could imagine that a worker comes along with a battery pack and small hand-held device, providing enough power to alter the signage, then walks away. With no vampiric power-draw, you've save energy, and it'd be safer (think around a pool, where you don't want a powered device in case the humidity or splashing cause it to short out).

    I'm assuming that the delay on this sort of thing has to do with the price and ability to manufacture large-format versions of E-Ink displays, but you have to think it's coming.

    Monday
    Nov152010

    Online Services

    Almost nothing service-based can't be accomplished online anymore. Bills to pay, forms to submit, online ticket-purchase, event/airline checkins, check-deposits. They are all online. And not just available, being pushed by service vendors.

    It's taken about 10 years to here, but ultimately it was going to happen, because online is a win-win. It's one of those rare things that's better/cheaper for the consumer, and better/cheaper for businesses.

    It's nice to be at the point where there are so many good online options, I'm comfortable switching away from those who can't offer that win-win. Anyone who still requires me to make phone calls or write checks is on a short-list for me to EOL before too long.

    Sunday
    Nov142010

    Shadow-Self

    Everyone has a shadow-self, a dark area that is our most private. Like an under-sea current shapes the water's surface, it can't help but affect our public behavior. It also provides the emotional extremes necessary for us to be as interesting and dynamic as we are, both the self-loathing and the self-love.

    Don't fear your shadow-self. But understand that you also can't simply ignore it.

    Saturday
    Nov132010

    Origami Solutions

    There's a pitfall when assuming success while creating big solutions to big problems. You're liable to fall into the trap of origami solutions.

    Imagine making an origami crane. You'll carefully follow perhaps dozens of steps. They all must be done in the right order, with the right pressure, the right paper must be selected before you start, in the right shape and size. If you forget a step, or mix-up two steps, or if the paper tears on one particular step, then you'll get to the end, pull two ends of the paper crane, and it's as likely as anything else that the whole mess will fall right apart in your hands.

    Now imagine you are solving a business problem. If you assume success, then of course those well-architected plans look doable. But do you really want to bet your business on a series of many intricate steps whose only value can be derived from the flawless serial execution of them all?

    When making plans, do your best to realize value at every step of the way, and avoid the trap of betting on heads-down work for months, and hoping a beautiful crane will emerge on the other side.

    Friday
    Nov122010

    Wonder-Person

    My two-year-old volunteered, unsolicited, "You are a wonder-person", maybe the best compliment I've ever received.