Smarter conversations

While reading through the comments on the recent cartoons Hugh has done as part of his Microsoft ‘gig’ I remembered an older post of Hugh (part of The Hughtrain) where he posts his thoughts on smarter conversations. Ok, it’s clear that this post will end in a record number of links to Gapingvoid – so no link here ;)

Part of the conversations are about Microsoft and what needs changing, part of the comments are related to Hugh’s reasons for doing this. First of all, I think so far the result is what Kris and Steve were hoping for, and you can see Steve is very engaged in the conversations as part of that. Karl Long asks why Microsoft needs to do this, if Hugh is a change agent, a conversation starter? I think that’s a very good question indeed, the conversation has long started, but Hugh sure is an enabler of some sort and a way to have different and maybe smarter conversations… and what was that again about smarter conversations?

I also believe that the beauty of this collaboration partially sits in the way it came about, because this happened a lot more naturally than many of you think of it (at least that’s what I make of reading the comments). The Blue Monster really kick-started this out of nowhere.

In one of the comments on Hugh’s thoughts I found this great quote:

“We have two ears and only one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” — Diogenes, c.412-323 B.C., Greek Cynic philosopher

It’s fun to see a quote that old pop up in a new conversation, but still very true. Anyway, I enjoy this experiment very much and it is great to have these conversations with Hugh and the community as well. It see all of it as part of Microsoft opening up and engaging more with it’s customers. It’s a big company and a lot of customers so all help is always welcome, but I do believe we’re on the right track.

Finally I wanted to bring up ‘the porous membrane, revisited‘ very briefly. Hugh points to a note from Mario Sundar, community evangelist for LinkedIn on that post:

“I’d like to think of the Community Evangelist as the one who connects the two entities A & B. They are the individuals entrusted with the task of pushing that membrane, aligning A and B and aiming for marketing Nirvana. And did I mention, they also help humanify the company.”

Carman comments that everyone in the organization should be a community evangelist and I couldn’t agree more. It’s also almost literally the theme of a presentation I’ve been giving internally to have more of my colleagues join the conversation. Let’s hope it works.

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Let’s just call it innovation

I rarely get into any of the ‘conversations’ going on over at Techmeme, but this time something really interested me. Peter Rip (a VC) calls out ‘over and out’ on web 2.0, saying:

“We aren’t seeing much. Startup activity remains strong, but the consumer web landscape seems to be populated with the same bodies with different skins.  Another video deal here; another social networking deal there, and social [feature] everywhere”

Maybe it is indeed time to put a fork in it – as Om Malik so beautifully states – and stop calling everything web 2.0. Web 2.0 and innovation are not the same anymore. Paul Kedrosky says:

“It’s long past time to move on folks. While the media, advertising, and technology transformations continue apace, let’s just call them what they are and leave the marketing mumbo-jumbo to others.”

I have to agree. I once read somewhere “web 2.0 is pushing the envelope and Windows Live is merely copying existing sites”. Is web 2.0 (still) pushing the envelope? With the MySpace for Finance, or the Youtube for advertising, … we could go for a long time here. Let’s move on, quoting Peter again:

“Now the hard work begins, again.  The next wave of innovation isn’t going to be as easy.   The hard problems in the WWW are no longer usability or ease of everyday content  creation.  These problems are solved. Digital cameras, SixApart, WordPress, and digital video cameras showed us how ease it could be.  Now the hard part is moving from Web-as-Digital-Printing-Press to true Web-as-Platform.  To make the Web a platform there has to a level of of content and services interoperability that really doesn’t exist today.” 

Let’s indeed just call it innovation, but then really innovate again, whatever the buzz word we’ll be using.

The Tipping Point

In January 2007 I finally had the time to read this classic business book by Malcolm Gladwell. As always, read the back cover first:

“In this brilliant and original book, Malcolm Gladwell explains and analyses the ‘tipping point’, that magic moment when ideas, trends and social behaviors cross a threshold, tip and spread like wildfire. Taking a look behind the surface of many familiar occurrences in our everyday world, Gladwell explains the fascinating social dynamics that cause rapid change.”

Well I wouldn’t call it brilliant, but it’s most definitely a good book and a must read for everybody. There are 3 rules of the Tipping Point: the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, the Power of Context. Especially the Law of the Few is a remarkable chapter with some amazing insights, in which we get introduced to the Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. Why did Paul Revere succeed where William Dawes failed? You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out.

In the same chapter, Gladwell goes deeper into the six degrees of separation as well, telling me I had it wrong the whole time:

“Six degrees of separation doesn’t mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps. It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through these special few”

This didn’t immediately make sense to me, but again the explanation in the book provides with exactly the information you need to understand thoroughly. Reading through the Law of the Few I think the book is brilliant, it’s when I got into reading the Stickiness Factor that I started loosing interest. And that’s all due to Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues. Even though I’m amazed with the amount of research that clearly goes into creating kids tv shows, I found it hard to read through the whole chapter. I guess that has something to do with the Power of Context ;)

Walking with the community

Quote from Mack Collier at The Viral Garden, a very good blog on marketing. Mack talks about the interaction between consumers and marketers in the new media age:

I think the idea of ‘The consumer is in control, get out of the way!!!!’ goes too far. The better solution is for companies to walk with their customers. By doing so, that gives us the ability to understand the path that the customer is taking, and then we have the ability to clear that path for the customer.”

Read on at The Viral Garden, it’s good stuff.

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A while ago I had bought ‘Freakonomics‘. Geert had suggested it to me and when I saw it in the little bookshop at London City Airport I decided to give it a try. It’s the revised and expanded version, but it’s because they say so in the book that I know, personally I didn’t really care.

I enjoyed the book, especially the first half, but never found it “dazzling”, “brilliant” nor “a phenomenon” like it states on the cover. The book hasn’t really got a unifying theme (which is ok) but it’s based on a few fundamental ideas that indeed will come back throughout the whole book:

  • Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life
  • The conventional wisdom is often wrong
  • Dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle causes
  • “Experts” – from criminologists to real-estate agents – use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda
  • Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so

The incentives part is very interesting. “Understanding them – or, often, ferreting them out – is the key to solving just about any riddle, from violent crime to sports cheating to online dating.” This incentive needs to be very well balanced, but is quite valuable as you can read in the book. Definitely something I’ll keep in mind.

When you pass the middle of the book, reading about “what makes a perfect parent” and such, I started losing interest quite fast though. Overall, I would say Freakonomics offers an interesting view on some very recognizable situations, but the wide range of topics makes it difficult to love it 100%.

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Random quote about wine

Hugh MacLeod had an interesting though around wine. It’s just an observation but it made me laugh. So here’s a random quote, I’m not sure how random the thought was though :-) Hugh?

“As any former choirboy will know, wine is mentioned a lot in The Bible. Funny how they don’t talk about the quality much.

You read “Jesus, knowing that tonight was his last night on earth, offered his disciples wine”, or “King David, being full of internal conflict, drank a lot of wine, and then went home to give Queen Bathsheba a good seeing-to.”

But you don’t read, “Jesus, knowing that tonight was his last night on earth, offered his disciples an unpretentious little Sauvignon with undertones of blackcurrant and lemons.”

Or “King David, being full of internal conflict, downed a few sips of a delightfully characterful Chateau Le Feuvre, and then went home to give Queen Bathsheba a good seeing-to.”

Why not? Because maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. If it mattered, they would’ve fit it in there somehow.”

It works for me anyway, I definitely do need to try out Stormhoek one day. But maybe I just like wine…
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A day with Shel & Rick

Last Saturday Shel Israel & Rick Segal where in Belgium and we had the chance to spend the day with them. The fact that we could have this meeting is for me one of the best results of blogging so far.

Back in the beginning of August I wrote about ‘Naked Conversations’ and Shel, who obviously is very much in the conversation, commented on that the day after. In the same week, Shel also announced his plan to do a world tour with Rick. I thought of this as a opportunity and sent an email to Shel asking whether they were interesting in traveling to Brussels as well to meet up with a few people and Shel & Rick immediately said yes. So we started planning for it as well. Originally this was supposed to happen at the beginning of September, but badly enough it had to be canceled/delayed. By mid September, the new dates were set and Brussels was on the schedule for October 21st.

So Simon McDermott (who had also been in contact with them) and I looked at what the most interesting agenda could be and we decided to do a dinner with bloggers and a roundtable with agency bloggers/strategists. The dinner to take place in a restaurant called Belga Queen and the roundtable at the H2O Towers. Since I travel quite a lot myself, but hardly ever see something of the cities that I’m in, I also proposed Shel & Rick to start a bit earlier so we could have a quick walk around the center of Brussels. I’m not a big fan of Brussels, but the “Grand Place” is definitely amongst the most beautiful in Europe.

(c) Pieter Baert

It turned out to be a very interesting day and I couldn’t thank them enough for this opportunity. We had a good dinner with Pietel, Ine, Peter, Luc, François, Damien, Jean Philip, Veerle, Bea, David, Geert, Tom, Coolz0r, Simon with our guests. And also the roundtable generated a really good conversation with Bert, Philip, Olivier, Evert-Jan, Tom, Tanguy, Peter and David, Geert & Simon again as well. I enjoyed the day, hope all the others did as well. Here is some coverage of the day (I’ll update when needed):

Or check out the Flickr sets of some of the guests:

So that wraps it up. Thanks to everybody for being there and to the others: the conversation is already going on, also for your brand, so you’d better join ;-)

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"I overheard you talking about puppies…

… wanna buy some dogfood?” Quote from Danny Ayers on his blog. In his post “Advertising is dead (soonish)” he refers to some of the contextual advertising out there as being much closer to spam than delivery of desirable information. Hence this quote.

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Treating the world as a place for creation…

“An entire generation has grown up with a different set of games than any before it – and it plays these games in different ways. Just watch a kid with a new videogame. The last thing they do is read the manual. Instead, they pick up the controller and start mashing buttons to see what happens. This isn’t a random process; it’s the essence of the scientific method. Through trial and error, players build a model of the underlying game based on empirical evidence collected through play. As the players refine this model, they begin to master the game world. It’s a rapid cycle of hypothesis, experiment, and analysis. And it’s a fundamentally different take on problem-solving than the linear, read-the-manual-first approach of their parents. In an era of structured education and standardized testing, this generational difference might not yet be evident. But the gamers’ mindset – the fact that they are learning in a totally new way – means they’ll treat the world as a place for creation, not consumption. This is the true impact videogames will have on our culture.”

Quote from a very interesting post (Dream Machine) written by Bill Wright on on how games are unleashing the human imagination and how the gamers generation has a different approach to learning.

[Via Futurelab]

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I truly believe …

This month in Gunk Magazine, a Belgian gaming magazine:

“I truly believe that the quality of games would go up massively if cut-scenes and ‘Hollywood’ scriptwriters were eliminated from our industry overnight’ If I want a story I’ll go to the bookshop, thanks.”

Quote from “Mark & Things”, a column from Mark Walbank. In this month’s issue Mark writes “The crying game” about how video games lack deep emotional value, how he has never played a game that provoked powerful emotion. Mark is an ex gaming journalist and playing games since 1976.

I think the man has a point. How much games sometimes can be enchanting, tense, beautiful, … they never go beyond that.

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