The Optimization of ‘Huh?’

A picture I took recently in a Vermont general store. The boxes orchestrated my optimal interactions.

A national organization comprised of marketing executives just sent me and thousands more (I guess) an email inviting me to watch an online presentation they are hosting.

The title of the presentation starts:

“Orchestrating Optimal Interactions…”

There were lots more words in the presentation title, but I couldn’t make it past those first three.

Shouldn’t marketing executives speak English (or whatever their native tongue might be)?

I suggest they rename the presentation, “How to sell stuff.”

Competitive Outrage

My outrage is more legit than your outrage!

I haven’t commented on the outrage of the week, the killing of Zimbabwe’s “most beloved lion,” Cecil, by a big game hunting dentist from Minnesota named Walter Palmer.

By the time I was aware of the Cecil killing, the internet outrage was far more than anything I could come up with, so I passed even tweeting about it. Besides, the only thing I could think of to say that I hadn’t seen before was how white the dentist’s teeth were — obviously, a Photoshop job.

The competitive nature of internet outrage is fascinating.

Read more “Competitive Outrage”

Remember the Web Sabbath and blog it slowly

podcasting-2.jpg


Early blogger Moses announcing,
“God told me bloggers love
linking to top-ten lists.”

Andrew Sullivan is pondering aloud what many other early and prolific bloggers (I confess) are wondering these days: Are we losing our ability to read (and write) in the long-form.

Two quotes:

“When it comes to sitting down and actually reading a multiple-page print-out, or even, God help us, a book, however, my mind seizes for a moment. After a paragraph, I’m ready for a new link. But the prose in front of my nose stretches on. I get antsy. I skim the footnotes for the quick info high that I’m used to. No good. I scan the acknowledgments, hoping for a name I recognise. I start again. A few paragraphs later, I reach for the laptop. It’s not that I cannot find the time for real reading, for a leisurely absorption of argument or narrative. It’s more that my mind has been conditioned to resist it….”

“…Some have suggested a web sabbath – a day or two in the week when we force ourselves not to read e-mails or post blogs or text messages; a break in order to think in the old way again: to look at human faces in the flesh rather than on a Facebook profile, to read a book rather than a blog, to pray rather than browse.

I could point to lots of early and prolific bloggers who have “struggled” with where blogging fits with other forms of self-expression — both long-form and short. I appreciate when long-time bloggers openingly share their inner debates regarding whether or not they should keep blogging at the same pace.

However, unlike Sullivan (and the Nick Carr book article that spurred his essay), many of those I follow are not pining for the return to long-form, but are being pulled by shorter and shorter forms of communication and expression. Yesterday, for example, Fred Wilson wrote, “I think its time to acknowledge that long form blogging every day may be coming to an end.” He was reflecting on his recent use of “micro-blogging” tools like Twitter and Tumblr. Steve Rubel has written several times on the topic and has cut-back considerably on his blogging as he has stepped up his usage of microblogging services like Twitter and FriendFeed.

Other bloggers are heading in the other direction. Jeff Jarvis (who still blogs and tweets prolifically) is writing a book (For the record, I don’t recall ever reading anything from Jeff questioning whether long-form, short-form, video — or using chalk on the sidewalk have priority over any other form of self-expression). Hugh McLeod will also have a book coming out soon. Hugh is one of my favorite bloggers on the topic of sharing-out-loud his personal conflicts with different forms of what I call “conversational media.” He is an early adopter and tremendous role model for effective use of each new service, but he’s also an artist who struggles (aloud) with how such new forms of communication can impact — both positively and negatively — his work.

Historically, my favorite blog post on the topic of giving up blogging was written by Dave Winer on March 3, 2006. The topic was “Why I Will Stop Blogging” by the end of 2006. Of course he didn’t. And I personally have thanked and continue to thank him for not. His continued blogging has led to some great ideas that he’s constantly developing. It’s also led to some very focused political commentary that has probably helped interest many in the political process who previously have been less focused on the topic.

Personally, I definitely see “blogging” evolving. I’ve never really liked the word “blog” (despite the name of this blog) and have always said that “blogging” may not last, but having a platform where an individual can “broadcast” (or, as Doc Searls describes it, send and e-mail to the world) will be around forever. For example, on our company website, Hammock.com, every employee has a “People Page.” They’re very blog-like and even run on MovableType. But no one is required to use them — and for some, they’re merely a bio. We’ve specifically said, this isn’t your blog, and have provided guidance on how to use such a platform in a work context. I use mine to say whether or not I’m in the office and comment about work-specific topics. (We have other blogs on the site where people are encouraged to write about professional topics — and activities related to work. And we’ve encouraged and assisted employees in setting up personal blogs.) Like Fred, I also have a Tumblr-powered website — RexHammock.com — that is completely unrelated to anything I do professionally. I am very random about what I post there. It has no theme other than I’ve found something interesting that I want to share with the half-dozen or so people who have discovered the site.

Finally, I have this theory: People don’t read past the first paragraph of a blog post (or the first sentence of an e-mail). If you are reading this sentence you are completely blowing my theory. You are to be commended and you prove that at least one person — you — still has an amazing attention span. Congratulations. Now, go read a book and enjoy your day.

Oh, and Happy Father’s Day.

Is it news when Forrester predicts the obvious?

Wall Street Journal, 5/22/2008, from the article: Apple Daydreaming: Report Predicts Move Toward Home Devices:

“Forrester’s conclusion: While much of Apple’s great successes have been mobile products such as the iPod and the iPhone, the company will seek to colonize rooms throughout the home.

RexBlog, 9/5/2006, from the post: All the Apple Rumors You’ll Ever Need:

8. Devices you place on shelves and hang on walls at home to replace anything you might think of as a “home entertainment center.”

My point is not that I gave Forrester any ideas. My point is that Forrester is predicting something so obvious, any half-wit Apple watcher could have predicted the same thing two years ago.

6 reasons I’m hooked on ‘American Idol’

I know, I know. It seems like all I ever do is hang out on the Internet.

But there’s this guilty pleasure I’ll now admit. I’m hooked on American Idol. Last night, David Cook won this year’s competition. He’s the first winner who I think may go on to be a hugely successful recording artist who I may actually enjoy listening to later. While others have certainly gone on to big success, I’m not really a fan of their music. For example, Carrie Underwood is nice looking and a megastar, but I’m not really into that commercial Nashville sound, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, since I know some people are going through AI withdrawal this morning, I thought I’d say goodbye to this season with a confessional list of six reasons why I like watching American Idol:

1. It’s perfect content for watching with a DVR like TiVo: I can honestly say, I’ve never watched an episode of American Idol “real-time” (while it is being broadcast). Even last night, my wife and I didn’t start watching the season finals until it had been on over an hour. I probably only watch about 20 minutes per hour of American Idol. I don’t like the host, the judges, most contestants or almost any of the features. I love being my own editor of the show. If you can figure out how to program your DVR remote to jump-ahead 30 seconds, you can watch the only segments I think have  any value: (a) the ‘up-close-and-personal back-story features about the contestants; (b) the performances of the really talented ones. The Fast-Forward control is the key to watching American Idol.

2. The show displays how advertisers must react to DVRs/TiVo: It is with amazement that I have discovered that while I Fast-Forward through a lot of the content of the program, I find myself stopping and reviewing some of the commercials and “sponsored” content. I’ll admit, some of this may come from my professional curiosity of what is taking place. Over the years, the show has gone from rudimentary “product placement” marketing (Coca-Cola cups on the judges table) to sophisticated and non-offensive “branded content” marketing that shows what “post-advertising” can be. Apple has become a major sponsor this year and, as typical, has displayed how “content” can be the most effective form of marketing. I may do a separate post on everything Apple has done this season, but, let’s just say: what Apple did this season on American Idol is the most brilliant display ever of network TV marketing. I doubt more than 1% of viewers recognized the array of brand-marketing, product marketing and (and this is the amazing part) direct marketing they were being bombarded with throughout each program. While Ford and Coca-Cola used the program effectively, Apple used it masterfully and in a way that proves once more their understanding of media is on a higher plane than we mere mortals.

3. The program has universal (omni-demographic) appeal: Over the years, I’ve discovered my love of NFL football means I have a topic I can strike up a conversation with people everywhere I travel in the U.S. Unlike politics or religion, a conversation about the hometown team is typically a “safe” place to start a conversation. American Idol is the same deal, except better. If you watch American Idol, you can have a bubble-gum conversation with waiters and waitresses, flight attendants, teenagers, retired couples from Florida. “What’s the deal with that Justin dude?” is good for a five minute conversation in a Southwest Airline boarding line.

4. I love story-driven competition: Next year, even if you think it would be the last sports thing you’d ever be interested in, watch the coverage of the Ironman Triathalon — the one in Hawaii. Typically, it’s a 90 minute documentary shown weeks after the event. It is mesmerizing because they focus on the stories of just a few of the participants who represent the different reasons why someone would get involved in such a sport. If American Idol was just a talent competition, I would have tuned out after a week or so — I don’t watch any other such program. However, the producers of the show find contestants who are both talented and have something about themselves that is compelling. Indeed, it can be argued that the final decision of this year’s winner came down to whose story the viewers preferred, as both of the contestants were very talented singers.

5. It makes me appreciate how very unique star-quality talent is: Living in Nashville and going to places like the Blue Bird has enabled me to be blown away by extremely talented people who will never be stars. Watching American Idol over a few months will amaze you when someone you think can’t lose ends up breaking under the pressure — or blossoming. It’s fascinating to watch who gets better and who peaks at the right time. Carrie Underwood went from being okay into super stardom during her year. I think David Cook did the same this year. Others prove that many people have a lot of talent and have worked hard and have not given up on their dream and have been lucky — but still don’t connect with the only folks who matter: the people.

6. It’s user-created content: Think about that one long and hard. While the program is perhaps one of the most over-produced and packaged programs in history, at its essence is this: People who aren’t stars and are on no-body’s A-List get a shot at getting to perform in front of a bigger audience. In the end, millions of people get to decide if they have what it takes to make it to the big-leagues, fame and fortune. There are lots of analogies there for what is taking place across all forms of media.