My New Year’s WisholutionPosted: January 2, 2015 Filed under: digital media 3 Comments
- Less disruption. I’m looking for confluence. Things that make things better without making other things worse by definition.
- We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We will not be saved by angels, but by the devils of our nature bending toward the light.
- Grab a shovel. There’s lots to work on. Let’s apply some of our talents to the greater good and put a “dent in the universe” in a good way.
- Life is sweet. So more cookies. Preferably peanut butter.
- Throw open the windows. Be more mobile. Windows down, windy-road sort. Peek beyond the wall. Get some fresh air. Take the long way home.
- In the flesh. Being more social. Doing less social. Irony intended.
- Show some teeth. More emotion. Fewer emoticons.
- Put away childish things. More talking on the phone. Less time sucking.
- Step into the ring. More daring action. Less biting commentary on others’ actions.
- S/He who threads the most together wins.
No More PresentsPosted: June 2, 2014 Filed under: digital media | Tags: buddha, driving, eckhart tolle, google, jetsons, mindfulness, mobile 1 Comment
I’m no better than anyone else.
I walk through the streets, headphones on, same as all the rest. We may as well have fish bowls on our heads like astronauts outside their spacecraft. The only thing that makes me better, if only by the breadth of a hair, is that I’m not texting while walking. I’d like to say it’s some sense of decorum that prevents me, but it’s probably just a fear of walking into something or someone. I confess to succumbing to frustration at times and not deviating course from someone clearly incapable of staying on one.
“Uncouth buggers,” I think, dipping a shoulder gently but with purpose.
“Sorry!” they say cheerily, eyes never really looking up.
I don’t even like to take calls on my mobile in public places let alone text. I end up talking very low and feeling like some shut-in, heavy-breathing phone-sex addict. My equivalent of “what are you wearing” is “how long will that take and how much will it cost?”
I ducked into a bar at the airport not long ago. I sat down, ordered a drink, and while the barman was making it I pulled out my phone and checked to see if my flight was on-time. This kind of app is one of the few redeeming characteristics of modern mobile technology, I find.
After tapping a few things and learning I was on-schedule, I caught a glimpse of an older gent sitting next to me with one stool in between.
He was subtly shaking his head disapprovingly.
I knew what for, but I wasn’t! I swear! I was just checking my flight, not Snapchatting or checking in or some such thing.
“It used to be that when you went to a bar you went to actually strike up a conversation over a drink.”
Nothing more needed to be said. This was an argument I couldn’t win. I put my phone in my pocket with great ceremony— like lowering a casket slowly and sacredly into the ground for internment.
We spoke for the better part of half an hour. He was an eccentric– possibly lascivious, definitely alcoholic, and obviously well-to-do. He had flown up to Boston from the Vineyard so he could have supper at this club, spend the night in one of its rooms, and then fly home tomorrow. I gathered he did this weekly and whenever the mood struck him.
This is my moral beacon.
Just last week I was in the barber shop. It’s a typical four or five chair place. The youngish, perhaps early thirties, guy next to me is texting the entire time. His arms were well outstretched, low toward his knees so no hair would sully his phone. The barber occasionally tried to make conversation with him. Most times the customer never even looked up. “Yeah. Yeah.”
“Shall I shave off your eyebrows?”
That didn’t happen. I wished it would have.
As I’m watching this unfold, his barber and I catch eyes and exchange little rolls.
It was at this time that I became aware that my barber had said something to me that I completely missed– so engrossed in the terrible texter beside me.
Pulled into his insidious vortex of hell.com.
And now Google piles on with the cruelest cut of all.
I need a self-driving car like a fish needs a self-driving bicycle.
Driving is one of the rarest of occasions when one can be, should be present.
Google wants to take this present back.
No more hearing the engine wind as the gears climb toward changing before falling into a lower rumble. No more eyes canvasing the terrain (whether to behold it for all its beauty or to guard against Big Wheels or small dogs). No more stereo cranked up. No more singing full throat in your own little leather appointed sound room. No more sun in the face or wind in the hair.
Great. Soon we’ll be hurdling “forward” in the Jetsonsmobile at the speed of (yellow) light.
I’m no Zen Buddhist. I’d rather eat bees than listen to Eckhart Tolle drone on. But there is more than a little truth to the idea of interconnectedness. And the more we let having “friends” on Facebook supplant getting together with our friends, the worse we’ll be. The more we Snapchat and less we chit-chat over coffee, the more isolated we’ll continue to become.
Alas, that genie is out of the bottle and into the mobile phone I fear, and we will continue to move amongst other people but never actually with them. We’ll know the joy of arriving with no idea how we got there. No more here. Just turn-by-turn there.
A Man for Some SeasonsPosted: January 13, 2014 Filed under: digital media | Tags: audience management, audio, browsing, content, sharing, walled-gardens Leave a comment
A few words of wisdom inspired by the “Golden Globes.” First, a brief Madmen-esque story, perhaps apocryphal, but allegedly true:
Fifty-year-old adman sits down at the bar beside a very attractive woman roughly twenty years his junior. He is suave. He is charming. He is on the prowl. He is experienced at prowling. After some time it’s obvious things are going very well and they’re hitting it off. Suddenly, she looks down. At his wedding ring. “Oh! I see you’re married. Too bad. We were just beginning to get to know one another,” she says with a coquettish pout.
“This ol’ thing? It’s not like I’m a fanatic or anything,” he says, teeth gleaming, as he drops the ring in his pocket.
Some guys are just like that. Prey drive is foundational to their DNA. They won’t be broken. Save your breath to cool your soup.
In media, whether you call it ‘tilting at windmills’ or ‘pissing in the wind’ it seems to me there’s a lot of effort to stop that which cannot be stopped. Best case, this is an exercise in futility. Worst, it’s suicidal.
You can’t hold all your audience close all the time. Don’t even try. It’s not you. It’s them.
The season of ultimatums— “you can either have ___ or you can have me”– is decidedly over. Consumers know full well they can have both and then some.
“Or” is out. “And” is in. Way in.
Folks don’t watch TV or surf the web. They watch TV and surf the web (amongst other things.)
The Fifties are gone, folks. We’re with you (usually) and against you (occasionally.) Ask Chris Christie. We’re not lemmings. Blind devotion is in short supply and reserved for only the most sacred relationships. Most content creators and their audience don’t share that kind of primacy.
It seems to me that the media winners in 2014 and beyond will be those that swallow their jealousy and enter into more open relationships with more people, accepting them for who they are: mainly flawed, often promiscuous, attention deficit ravaged goobers. People.
Successful media publishers will utilize new technologies to extend their brands, reach, and business opportunities. Here I see a distinct advantage for audio. Audio was never the bell of the ball. It was happy for the time you spent with it. It always allowed you to see other things (like the road, your frying pan, your bedroom ceiling as you lay there counting sheep to name only a few.) You could talk over it without it or anyone else ever shushing you. With the rise of mobile as the primary listening device, audio’s now even more generous. Tucked away in your pocket it keeps you abreast of the news, plays the guilty pleasure tracks you don’t want others to hear, or keeps you putting one foot in front of the other on the treadmill. It’s always been a companion. Now it’s the coolest companion ever. It’s Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary.
Of course, you should do as much as you can to be appealing. Craft your content like a Renaissance artisan. Make it portable, easily accessible and shareable. Leave room for comment and contributions from the peanut gallery—you never know where great ideas will come from, and pride of authorship is a powerful sharing motivator. Keep abreast of trends, but don’t chase. Most are ephemeral. Great content endures, riding above the churning waves of what’s fashionable this very moment. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth before charting a new course.
Do what you can to make them want you as much as you want them, but do render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. You can’t be all things to all people. Don’t try.
Otherwise, you’re a raving Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction that simply “won’t be ignored.” That’s creepy, not sexy.
Find a middle-ground, a stasis, where mutually beneficial relationships flourish based on genuine shared interests and compatibility. Neediness is not charming devotion. It’s shabby desperation. Not sexy at all. There’s a time for The Onion and The Journal, Yo-Yo Ma and Yo La Tengo. Don’t make me choose because there is no choice. I choose both. Deal with it or be dealt with.
Don’t grip the reins too tight. Do your part and your audience will see you for what you are—an indispensible resource for what you do. They’ll come back soon enough even if they do stay out a bit late once and again. They always do.
Unless they’re mixed up with some bunny-boiler. Then it’s time to roll the credits.
Whose Brain is This, Igor?Posted: November 29, 2012 Filed under: digital media, radio | Tags: frankenstein, innovation, internet royalties fairness act, josephy murray, media, mobile, Music, pandora, progress, radio, royalties, shelly, Streaming, transplants Leave a comment
Dr. Joseph E. Murray died this week at the ripe old age of 93. Even in monster years, that’s a pretty good run. The good doctor found fame for having the audacity to believe that he could save lives by transplanting human organs from one person to another. As it’s been successfully done 28,535 times this year alone, I think the jury’s in. He was right. And oh so wrong to so many.
In his day, he was compared unfavorably to the first Doctor who “thought he was God.” In an NPR interview Murray recalled, “Well, they (were) saying that God didn’t want this to happen. It’s unnatural. The doctors are on an ego trip. Dr. Frankenstein stuff.”
If Murray thought he had a rough go of it, he should have had a Starbucks with Shelley. In her day she was crucified for being a discredit to her profession and her gender.
“The writer of it is, we understand, a female; this is an aggravation of that which is the prevailing fault of the novel; but if our authoress can forget the gentleness of her sex, it is no reason why we should; and we shall therefore dismiss the novel without further comment.”
-The British Critic (April 1818)
Cut to today where there’s actual debate about ‘shadow siblings’, where parents are essentially growing genetic clones of their children in case the first-borns ever need a lung or liver should theirs fail. The dilemma or strategy, depending on one’s point of view, is beautifully dramatized in the novel My Sister’s Keeper.
If there is such a thing as a line, this scenario seems to approach it to me. But, that’s the point. To me. Things I do or believe make no sense whatsoever to many– starting with my parents.
Transplants, like any major advance in technology, medicine, the arts, or any other facet of life, are not for everyone. That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla. Choice. Some would gladly take a kidney from a donor or bake themselves in chemotherapy and radiation treatment to wring even a few more grains out of the hourglass. Others, when confronted with their mortality, pour themselves a stiff drink and sit stone-faced waiting for their grim guest’s arrival. It’s a choice. Who are we to say?
Unlike the innovator’s dilemma, I think of this as the ‘Complacency Conundrum’. To keep calm and carry on versus trying something, anything quite literally, to change a fate which you don’t buy into. It’s not inherited or ordained. It’s authored to those who kick in the stall.
My father went apoplectic when I suggested Baseball was foolish not to utilize instant replay in limited cases. Cases like, I don’t know, when someone legitimately became the twenty-fourth human in history to throw a perfect game only to be denied by an umpire’s inexplicable mistake. We all make mistakes. Fix them when you can, I reasoned. “Mistakes are a part of baseball!” he stammered.
Fine. Baseball’s audience is what it is and is on the trajectory it is. Football, which has heavily leaned both into technology and culture in a way Baseball never would, is on a very different path. Watch whatever you want.
It applies to media in the same way. Accept a fate that’s clear or do something radical to alter it with assurance you’ll be killed for that as well– and not softly. Technology has provided us choice. In the case of Radio it allows us to listen to virtually anything we want whenever we want wherever we are. That’s pretty good, right?
Not to certain Traditional Radio stations. Their formula is DJ chatter, commercials (except NPR), and content– almost in equal measure. Pandora comes along armed with Stanford guys who say, “our data shows the only thing people hate more than idol chatter is farging commercials, so we’re eliminating chatter and shrinking the advertising elephant in the room to the size of a mouse.”
Heretics! Burn them at the stake! That’s crazy talk.
These are the kinder commentary.
I say let them compete. But let them compete on an even playing field. This week, in fact, the Internet Radio Fairness Act was brought before Congress. The old guard, super-heavy-users of leaches and hot toddies, will tell you this is an attempt by Pandora to seek relief from a reasonable burden of “taxation”, sorry, “royalties” they’re currently paying to rights holders. “Why can’t they just run a proper business model like we do?” they’ll ask incredulously, knowing full well they pay no royalties at all.
The real issue, in fact, is not whether online royalties should be lowered but whether over-the-air terrestrial royalties should be instituted.
A transplant is now possible. You don’t have to get one, but it’s not for us to prevent others from getting one. If people want to listen to terrestrial music, they should obviously be allowed to and encouraged to do so. But if they want to listen on their mobile or computer or Xbox or any of the myriad of devices digitally connecting content to ears on a seemingly daily basis, they should be allowed to as well. That means they shouldn’t be penalized for stealing the crumbs from Radio’s table.
A song is a song is a song. An ear is an ear is an ear. Whenever the twain shall meet an exactly equal royalty should be paid to the people who made the music (how it gets divvied up between writers, performers, labels…is a separate, unrelated matter).
Technology has fostered choice. People should have the right to choose. Without equitable terms, we are effectively eliminating choice and furthering a monopoly because Pandora and those like them cannot thrive when they’re paying more than fifty-cents of every dollar of revenue to royalties while Terrestrial Radio pays zero. Change that immediately. Let listeners branch out. Let artists get paid more than ever before. Let competition ensue and choice reign. It might not save lives, but it might just save something that the overwhelming majority of the population wants to see not only survive but evolve to thrive.
Radio. Broadly defined.
Ears don’t distinguish. Why should the law? While choosing Pandora or Slacker or Spotify doesn’t rise to the level of choosing to ask your sister for a kidney or “Abbey Normal” for her brain, it’s a choice all the same. When we stack the deck to prevent innovation for those who seek it from flourishing, we stop progress. Or witchcraft. It’s all in how you look at it.
The Wonder YearsPosted: August 7, 2012 Filed under: digital media | Tags: Deutsch, facebook, ferrell, Fossey, google, Infomation-overload, olympics, Overload, Phelps, trampire, Ubiquity, Weiner, Westerberg, Wonder Years Leave a comment
(Overheard by no one. Ever.)
“I wonder what happened at the Olympics.”
“I guess you’ll have to wait until you get home to find out.”
“What do you think she’s like? I wonder what kind of music she’s into, books she’s read, where she’s from…”
“Assuming asking her is off the table, see what you can find out from one of her friends.”
“I’ll bet you Michael Phelps is straight as an arrow. He’s probably in bed at eight every night so he can get up and train at five-AM or some ungodly hour. I kind of feel bad for him. He can’t kick back and just do the things dudes do.”
“Yeah. He’s probably never even been to a party. Sucks for him.”
“Did you know Anthony Weiner originally wanted to be a weatherman? What a tool. He’s such a mensch it’s pathetic. He’s like the central casting ‘shirt off his back’ Boy Scout.”
“I know. The guy’s gotta loosen up a little. He’s making the rest of us look bad.”
“I’m worried about her. I think she’s working herself to death. I think she wants to prove to us that she can handle the freedom of college. We trust her. I just want her to enjoy herself– when she’s done studying of course.”
“The key is make friends and not look back and say ‘I wish I lifted my head up a little and enjoyed myself some.”
If Only We Could Unknow Things
Technology has made the world incredibly small and very translucent in so many ways. The whole concept of not being able to know something or to access information about it instantly from anywhere is almost unthinkable. This is not a diatribe on “Big Brother” and our loss of privacy. The government (or its shadowy puppet-masters if the blogosphere is to be believed) can watch me all they like. I’m not that interesting. Rather, I’m speaking about our loss of those things that were so common and so foundational for so many. The curiosity, opinion rather than ‘fact’, and the dialog that surrounded us are in short supply these days. The ubiquitous “I wonder…” most of us grew up with has gone the way of the hula-hoop. Many of life’s mysteries, writ large and small, have been ‘solved.’
In many ways this is a good thing. Finding what you’re looking for quickly and verifying it against multiple sources is nearly always a good thing. “Why belabor through debate what you can know,” has its place. But I can’t help but wonder if this seeming God’s-eye, three-hundred-sixty-degree view of everything actually acts as blinders more often than not. I worry we take so much in we retain very little.
“Did you hear about the shooting in Aurora?”
“OMG. Will Ferrell just called Kristen Stewart a ‘trampire’!!!”
Nothing sticks for long. There’s always more right behind it. Size gets distorted as everything gets force-fed into 140 characters or a million Facebook comments.
The Ephemeral Empire.
But mostly I worry we’re greatly diminished by our growing inability to understand and go beyond what we cannot see, what isn’t captured and made data.
To market a product (or create one) people used to engage in copious amounts of people-watching. Cognitive Anthropologist Dr. Bob Deutsch once told me that successful marketers are always astute observers of “people in life”, like Diane Fossey observed and came to understand gorillas in the mist.
Now we have behavior monitoring. Someone hit your website. Drop a cookie and work backwards as to how they got there. Look for ‘likes’ and funnel them at the point of decision.
Fine. For salmon.
The Deeper Part of the River
But if that’s all you’ve got, you’re in trouble. Our obsession with action has left us with decreasing understanding of why (or why not) the things happen. We only know that they happen or are statistically probable to happen. I’m not advocating going back to the bad old days of “birds of a feather” bucketing where nine of ten products were aimed toward “soccer moms.” We’re way past that. But I don’t want to lose sight of the things that happen that can’t be measured, captured, or categorized. What makes folks tick, not just what makes them click. Trusting your eyes and ears as much as your data. Or more.
Like the “Ghost on the Canvas” from one of my favorite Paul Westerberg songs, too often, “people don’t know when they’re looking at soul.”
Olympic TorchedPosted: July 25, 2012 Filed under: digital media, Uncategorized | Tags: apple, Blackberry, facebook, google, huffingtonpost, iCloud, MobileMe, Napster, olympics, samsung, screens, spotify Leave a comment
The London Olympiad is upon us, and I for one am thrilled. In a ‘win at any cost’ sports culture that mimics our larger society whether we want to admit that or not, the Olympics somehow float high above the grit despite the sponsorships, despite the doping, and despite the professionalization that’s foundationally changed the Olympics over the past few decades.
Underpinning it all is a wonderful set of tenets we could all do worse than to strive to achieve in our everyday lives:
Not to win but to take part.
Not the triumph but the struggle.
Not to have conquered but to have fought well.
So here are a few ideas I think merit recognition for their ‘going for gold’ if not ever achieving it.
Gold: Huffington Post
HuffPo may not have vanquished traditional News formats across media, but it certainly has made its presence known– and quickly. In just seven years it’s been bought, become one of the most visited News sites, and won a Pulitzer Prize. Not bad. What I like most about it is that it’s the proverbial box of chocolates. It’s got hard news and gossip, syndication/aggregation and original reporting, national and hyper-local news, liberal and conservative points of view. There’s something for everyone without being just completely vanilla, as in the USA Today. Rather than saying nothing, HuffPo says seemingly everything. Cool.
Like The Dream Team, people love to hate. But, Facebook is bringing lots of the best parts of the web together under one blue roof. Acquisition of Instagram, integration of Spotify, and many other land grabs continue to make The Facebook the shiniest site on Earth for most folks.
What if all your stuff was synched and stored in the Cloud? Wouldn’t that be awesome?! Yes. It is. Before iCloud and other services made that de rigueur, there was MobileMe, Apple’s Hindenburg meets Pinto blemish. A great idea that just never worked, MobileMe was tantamount to asking all of your stuff to stop working. It effectively shut down all conversation between devices like a third martini over dinner with your in-laws. Undaunted, Big Mac came back strong and MobileMe is all but forgotten. I like that Apple makes computers but isn’t a computer itself. This was the ultimate feet of clay demonstration of that. Happens.
Seeing Blackberry’s struggles is like the opening sequence of The Agony of Defeat. I’m not even sure if that epic tumble was from the Olympics, but it was Ski Jumping, so close enough. Blackberry pioneered the multi-purpose mobile space, blazed the trail, was run over by an iTank, dusted itself off only to get speed bumped by a speeding ‘droidmobile’. They brought their 400m game to the Marathon with predictable results.
In so many ways Napster was the ‘straw that stirs the drink’ for so much of what we have today. Before getting squashed like a bug, it egged the Music Industrial Complex, ushering in the likes of Spotify, Pandora, SoundCloud and others who crossed the chasm from traditional to digital delivery on a bridge fashioned from the charred bones of Napster. P2P got rolling in earnest with Napster. “Don’t own it, share it” became the mantra for a whole generation, second only to “don’t buy it when you can burn it.” While its reach did exceed its grasp legally and ethically, Napster began the process of people looking to each other and not to corporations for answers, ideas, and of course, music. Rock on.
Apple and Samsung need to get a room already. These two remind me of the Harding-Kerrigan soap opera. Engaged in an Olympic-sized pissing contest over patents, Made-in-the-USA (by way of China) Apple stares down the “menace from the East” with global Gold in the balance. Sorry, that was the made-for-TV Olympic-hype version. But don’t sleep on Samsung. They could very definitely medal in the Handset 400. My money’s on Apple to nip them at the tape.
None of these products won it all and that’s precisely the point. They strived. They tried. They pushed themselves and their competition to the limit. Isn’t that what we all should aspire to do? Not competing against anyone but competing for someone. For ourselves, our ideals, our ideas. The Olympics are about Personal Best, not destroy everyone in your path.
It wouldn’t be a Sporting event if we didn’t have wages on it.
All of us. That’s right. I think over the next fortnight or so we’re going to get a glimpse into how multiple technologies, multiple screens, can be used in a complementary way for regular folks, not just the Adderall-with-a-Mountain-Dew-chaser gamers. Use the web to learn more about events, contestants, venues…while also providing your own color commentary on your social web. With the apps out there and the anticipated coverage London will receive, it will be easier and more fun than ever.
Chicago. The City of Broad Shoulders wanted the Summer Olympics. When they see what an enormous cluster it is for Londoners, they’ll thank Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow they lost the bid. It’s not like they’re not used to losing.
Innocence. I think the Olympic flame stirs something in even the most jaded hipster among us. What it stands for deep down at its core is pretty good stuff. While the McOlympification continues to dismay and disappoint, I think there’ll be enough genuine passion, genuine appreciation, and genuine sportsmanship and camaraderie to keep the flame aflicker.
Let your Games begin.
A Flat PBRPosted: July 16, 2012 Filed under: digital media | Tags: clarity, communications, elegance, google, jargon, NFC, simplicity, strategy, technology Leave a comment
That’s short for “Princess Bride Reference.” As in:
Buttercup: Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.’s?
Westley: Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.
Cut to Westley being mauled by Ratzilla.
Funny stuff. In movies. But in business, particularly technology, acronyms are spreading like rats in a subway tunnel and becoming just as big a nuisance.
Take NFC. For the six of you who haven’t Googled it yet, it stands for near field communication, a proximity-based means of transferring data between two “aware devices.” A base application of the technology would be a “virtual wallet” which allows you to pay for things via mobile phone easily and securely. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. NFC has the potential to greatly enhance productivity (could we manufacture products in the U.S. again?), provide timely and accurate records transfer (no more amputating the wrong leg), and a host of other applications technically feasible if we’d only imagine them.
You’d think with potential like this we’d want the very best and brightest from all walks of life working on it, right? Not really. It’s still very much couched behind a byzantine wall of acronyms and jargon, accessed only by the secret password of the geekiest inner circles.
Why? My belief is that knowledge is power. If I know something that you don’t I lord that over you, consciously or unconsciously. It’s not surprising then that NFC is obligatory in every presentation within the Technology Marketing speaking circuit where all audience members are encouraged to pat the person on the left and right on the back for keeping the circle small. Conversely, if I don’t know something I might be tempted to use jargon you don’t know until you lose interest, become intimidated that you have no idea what I’m talking about, or just buy my bluff that anyone who talks like this must surely be a ninja at what they do.
Less cynical people think it’s the result of us (especially marketing folks) living in a 140-character world. Abrvtn bcmes rqrd. Possibly. I’m all about brevity. I firmly believe distilling complex things down to their essence is not just good communication, but good thinking. Filtering and Processing are twin towers of great minds.
But there’s shorthand and there’s inside baseball. I think this is the latter.
For instance, our company has a large operation in Montreal which I visit frequently. Of course, everyone is bilingual (at a minimum). I won’t go into the failings of our U.S. educational system as it pertains to language. I’m always so impressed by my colleagues seeking to communicate clearly based on their audience. If two people are speaking to each other it is nearly always in French. If I approach, they’ll invariably begin speaking in English whether they are talking about a project plan or last night’s Canadien’s game. Assuming it’s the same conversation continued so I can understand it, I think their fluency is remarkable, but even more so their manners.
That’s right. I said I admire greatly the manners of the French Canadians.
Contrast that with how we use language amongst ourselves here. Imagine you popped into a random meeting inside the company next door. (I’ve actually done this and the results were extraordinary. Farsi is easier to pick up than an hour-long conversation on Encryption.)
One thing I was struck by during the whole sub-prime debacle was how incredibly and obviously stupid it was once it was laid bare in plain English. Up until that point it was couched in jargon and rhetoric that when properly translated by experts said—“this is for us to know and you to (never) find out.”
This isn’t just in banking or government (the reigning BAD or “Best Acronym Deliverers”), it’s all of us. When jargon increases in our company, usually logic decreases. The beautiful elegance of a great product or concept is so wonderfully simple it’s easy to articulate. The inverse is true as well. I had a boss once who said if your corporate strategy couldn’t be written on the back of your business card it was too damn long. Today, most business cards would have to be the size of a Publisher’s Clearing House cardboard check to hold what could loosely be described as a strategy.
Check out this video from Google in which an engineer explains how Google uses social data in its rankings:
This is very complicated stuff presented by a very “inside” technical guy. And yet we understand every word. He breaks it down, makes it intelligible without in any way talking down to us.
If your simple questions are met with overly convoluted answers, hit pause—and for God’s sake don’t “just go with it”. “Believe me, it makes sense,” went out the window and down the toilet with so much written-off debt, the Pontiac Aztec, and several product briefs that have crossed my desk recently.
When you go back to your meeting rooms, listen to what your company’s working on with fresh ears. Better still, have a friend from outside the company (and preferably outside the industry) spend a day in your meetings. If he or she can’t make heads or tails of it even after asking for clarification, you may not be sitting on a bubble, but your business may not be ready to pop either. The skeleton key of gobbledygook has opened too many doors for too long. We’re on to it. There’s only so much hydro-, oxi, -ectate, and financial instruments we can be duped by.
Before the world calls BS on your alphabet stew, clean it up yourself. If your strategy won’t fit on the back of your business card, assuming you still have some of those lying around, it’s probably too damn long. And take a page from the French (Canadians), try speaking as if you actually want to be understood.
C’est si bonne.
This post originally appeared in iMedia.
Unplugged.Posted: June 13, 2012 Filed under: digital media | Tags: apple, Blackberry, iPad, Khan Academy, NPR, radio, Technology Cluttter 2 Comments
The phantom vibration in my pocket from the iPhone that wasn’t there was the least of it.
Yesterday I bit the Apple. I did what I was warned never to do. I put all my technology down and walked away. For twelve hours.
I’m blessed to commute by ferry. Having left my iPhone, iPad, and laptop locked away in my office (as much from me as from any would-be thieves) I set out on foot for the fifteen-minute walk from my office to the boat.
I played with the now impotent headphones in my pocket nervously. The first thing I noticed was the birds. Spring had sprung and they played call and response even amongst the office buildings and industrial landscape.
The next thing was the sirens. Goddamn but there are a lot of sirens in the city. Who knew? I wondered which were Police versus Fire or Ambulances. I feel sure I used to know. Was it my imagination or were some more urgent than others? Maybe just nearer?
I soon passed the Children’s Museum (lots of chortles and squeeeels) and arrived at the boat.
That’s when it hit me.
I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge tripping back through time or Patrick Swayze in “Ghost.” That’s a bad feeling. On so many levels.
Virtually everyone was heads down. They took no notice. Most wore headphones. Some scrunched over mobile phones (still lots of Blackberries!). Technology is not improving our posture, I can tell you. Many tapped away on iPads or read Kindles. A few Type-A’s banged away on laptops but they were high-achiever showoffs.
I could have been butt naked and on fire and nobody would have been the wiser. Every person was locked away in his or her own little Private Idaho, alone and oblivious to everyone and everything surrounding them.
Even the boat’s bar had been compromised. A crowd of mostly financial types stood around in club ties, vodka sodas in one hand and phones in the other. Every thirty-seconds or so– regardless of whether or not they were mid-sentence– they not-so-furtively glanced and scrolled.
Certainly ten years ago this would have been social ineptitude of the highest order. Now nobody batted an eye.
I got off the boat a half hour later. A light drizzle was falling. I wondered if my daughter’s soccer practice had been interrupted and dismissed early. Did my wife pick her up? Did a teammate’s family drive her home? Was she standing there under a tree, mop of soaked red hair pasted to her forehead waiting, waiting, waiting for her Dad to arrive?
How would I know without my fu*&ing phone!?
I put on the radio to distract myself. I normally stream from my phone via Bluetooth. I don’t even have the pre-sets programmed in the car. Oh my God. What an audio wasteland of cheese and snake oil. My ears wept. I found NPR and thanked my Maker.
I screeched into the parking lot like Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit.” Practice was still in session. No calls had been made to Social Services. Whew.
I got home. Had dinner. Was noticeably distracted by the lack of distractions. This must be what it’s like to wake from a coma after many years. I finally found focus and learned many things I didn’t know about my kids’ school, our dog’s incorrigible prey drive, and the neighbors. Bucolic my ass!
After dinner and dishes we checked homework. It’s hard to be a role model where complex fractions are concerned. Can’t we just check Khan Academy and…
After the kids went to bed my wife and I talked. Not skyped. Talked. While hard at first, this was prime iPad hour after all, I nevertheless got the hang of it after some time. New Analog Me and my wife talked about plans for the summer, projects we’d like to do around the house, how Mormons could possibly be Christian… You know. The usual.
We had a glass of wine or three and went to bed. I felt tired but very much awake.
I woke up once during the night thinking I’d heard the phone vibrating on the bedside table, but fell back to sleep with surprising ease.
Then morning came. Like the picture of God reaching for Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (and missing it by ‘that much’) I reached reflexively and futilely for a phone that was not there.
I showered, dressed, and had breakfast with the family. We talked about what we might do over the weekend in between their various activities. I prepped to leave at once not really wanting to but simultaneously feeling like things were very much in a good place at the same time.
I headed to the boat with a very “quiet mind” I think the Buddhists call it.
I hopped the ferry and in forty-five minutes was back in the office. I unlocked the desk drawer like Pandora (the myth, not the app– wait, that’s weird) and pulled out the iPhone first. No calls. Two texts. Both stupid.
I fired up the laptop. Emails were something different altogether. Hundreds of business emails and dozens in my Gmail since 6PM the night before.
With a mighty wave of my mouse I mass-deleted like a man (self) possessed. I ended up with a handful of “important” emails that certainly could have waited and did.
I was back in the saddle, but changed. The rest of the day I didn’t check as much, didn’t click so often. I began to sit apart from my ‘stuff’.
I wrote a lot. I made phone calls. Get this– I even thought about stuff deeply.
For me, technology had addled my mind to the point where I was becoming a mile wide and an inch deep. I made incremental progress on dozens of things but finished the final nail on precious few.
Putting it all down. Leaning back. Stepping back. It gave me a feeling of satisfaction and wholeness I hadn’t had in some time.
Technology is awesome and getting better every day. There’s just too goddamn much of it.
Left unchecked it had moved from a tool, to a crutch, to a vice. That’s no good.
So my advice to you is try going cold turkey. Walk away. It will still be there when you get back. When you bite the apple you won’t fall from grace. You’ll be happier in the garden.
(This article originally appeared in iMedia)