Does technology generate more talk, less conversation?

There’s an interesting article in The Atlantic based on an interview with the publication and Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and a professor at MIT. She recently released the book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other in which she argues that we are losing the art of conversation:

“Conversations, as they tend to play out in person, are messy—full of pauses and interruptions and topic changes and assorted awkwardness. But the messiness is what allows for true exchange. It gives participants the time—and, just as important, the permission—to think and react and glean insights. “You can’t always tell, in a conversation, when the interesting bit is going to come,” Turkle says. “It’s like dancing: slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. You know? It seems boring, but all of a sudden there’s something, and whoa.” Occasional dullness, in other words, is to be not only expected, but celebrated. Some of the best parts of conversation are, as Turkle puts it, “the boring bits.” In software terms, they’re features rather than bugs. The logic of conversation as it plays out across the Internet, however—the into-the-ether observations and the never-ending feeds and the many, many selfies—is fundamentally different, favoring showmanship over exchange, flows over ebbs. The Internet is always on. And it’s always judging you, watching you, goading you. “That’s not conversation,” Turkle says. She wants us to reclaim the permission to be, when we want and need to be, dull.”

I like the idea of the occasional dullness. The idea that breaks or gaps in a conversation is actually help drive the conversation. Check out the whole article.

The Agile Agency. An ad agency’s culture hack

Some 2-3 years ago we decided at Duval Guillaume that we had to re-invent ourselves, that we had to take a more fundamental step in the way we organized ourselves and of course in how we thought about digital as a key element in the communication or advertising that we make. A lot has happened since then but if the 25 Cannes Lions or the Agency of the Year wins of the last 2 years mean anything then it’s probably that we’re doing something right.

The decisions that were taken seemed like the right thing to do but weren’t always that obvious. We decided to get rid of all internal developer resources so we could focus more on our core strenghts – strategy & creativity. At the same time we stopped using online account managers to support the ‘regular’ account managers and we’d stop working with project managers. Instead we organized tech/dev resources to support the creative teams in their creative process and we hired digital producers to play the crucial role between our own teams and the 3rd party developer’s team. All of this in a way that would allow us to keep finetuning & tweaking the idea even while in development to maximize the outcome.

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We were always sure this was the right way to go and we understood the core philosophy behind agile thinking that supported the idea that what we were aiming for wasn’t that crazy. Just like with every good idea though there’s a difference between the idea and the execution and it was/is with guys like Bart, our head of digital production, that we managed to implement agile in the agency. And this in such a way that it’s constantly evolving and that we keep adapting, the essence of agile. And now Bart has written a book about what agile means in an agency environment, most likely the first book on the topic of agile in advertising agencies since he only found books on agile in software/web development when researching the topic.

To stay true to the topic the book was written in an agile way. Of course :-) A must read when you’re in advertising, download the book right here: The Agile Agency, how lean and agile will transform your advertising agency. Another key element in agile thinking that I learned from Bart is that you benefit more when you’re transparant about your own progress, so read the book and add your thoughts.

A lesson from Steve Jobs

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I just finished reading Steve Jobs’ biography. It took me a while to read it but I’m happy I bought it. I wasn’t all that sure in advance, and not because I used to work at Microsoft once, but because I just didn’t want to read a book about how great everything at Apple really is thanks to the genius etc etc.

It’s not at all like that. The book manages to give a very real – at least it feels that way – image of Steve Jobs and very human, much more human than how your regular fanboy will be talking about him. And that made it interesting. You get a better idea of how he really was, about the things that made him great, about the people that have been his mentor, about how he often wasn’t really such a nice person, about the genius, …

I made quite a few notes while reading the book, notes about things and ideas that I recognized or that I should look into a bit more. One of those things was the Apple Marketing Philosophy that was written down by Mike Markkula. Short but crystal clear.

  1. Empathy – that intimate connection with the feelings of the consumer to truly understand their needs better than any other company
  2. Focus – eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities in order to do the best job possible
  3. Impute – a company should convey its values in everything it does, from packaging to marketing because ‘people do judge a book by its cover’

You should read the book. Seriously. Not because you want to find out what an epic genius Steve was or anything like that – but because just like Steve you should steal from the best, see things with new eyes, work hard to make them different and don’t stop until they’re perfect. Respect.

My next book? Indeed – Steal like an artist, by Austin Kleon.

Going vertical

A couple of days ago I read this article about a new book format called ‘Dwarsligger’ (Dutch) which is supposed to make it easier to read in bed or on a plane… Not only is the book’s size adapted but more importantly you have to read from top to bottom instead of left to right.

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Interesting thought, I’m almost amazed nobody else thought of this before. Funny enough, only a couple of days later, I noticed the following video in which another Dutchman presents a new invention at the INMA Outlook 2010 Conference: the vertical newspaper. I smell a trend :)

Who’s next?

Ignore everybody!

One of the perks of being unemployed is that you actually have time for a few things that you didn`t really have time for before… like reading books for instance, so that`s what I`m doing… well one of the things I`m doing – looking for work is another one ;) One book I read a couple of days ago was Hugh MacLeod`s upcoming “Ignore Everybody” of which I had received an advance copy thanks to Hugh and the fine people at Penguin Group.

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Long time ago – while reading something on Hugh`s blog – I stumbled onto a series of posts/writings that were all tagged with “How to be creative”. It was a good read, so finding out it the content was also available on a free PDF on changethis.com made it even better. More than 1 million downloads don`t lie of course, I still have a printed copy of that PDF right here. When Hugh mentioned he got a book deal on this which involved writing some extra chapters I was a bit sceptical though. I totally loved the series but all of that stuff had come about quite organically, there`s a difference when you write things when you think about them basically whenever you feel like it… or when you have to write chapters for a book. Hugh proved me wrong about being sceptical, there`s now way you could tell which chapters where there first or which ones are new, the book is rock solid. It`s an easy read in the typical style of Hugh MacLeod – unique, smart and funny – and with a good dose of cartoons in them. My favorite one in the book? Especially while jobhunting… is this one (from 2006):

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So pre-order the book now, you won`t regret.

Crowd Surfing

Some 2 months ago David Brain (CEO Edelman Europe) launched his book called ‘Crowd Surfing’ and I was able to get a copy for review. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to check out this book was that my buddy Steve Clayton was mentioned in it together with the Blue Monster story (just like in PNI, only David did get Steve’s name right ;))

David (and Martin Thomas) write about this age of new consumer empowerment with a bit of a corporate focus, which is something I’m interested in most given my role at Microsoft. In an interview Hugh Macleod did with David, here’s what was said about this corporate angle:

“Sometimes it is easy for an entrepreneur or small business to be in tune with their customers or stakeholders, because their scale (or lack of it) means everyone is close to the customer (an obvious point I know, but size does sometimes matter). The bigger a firm gets the more difficult that becomes . Big companies need robust processes and structures to organize, to do what it is they do, and that can mean that the people inside can sometimes begin to focus on those processes and structures to the exclusion of the customer or the crowd. Dell and Microsoft have both worked really hard to find ways to bring the crowd inside the firm (at the cost of significant disruption) so that they don’t make that mistake. For me, where the crowd meets the organization is where the real action is.”

Crowd Surfing’ has a big piece on Microsoft, not only on the Blue Monster as I mentioned before, but it also features the whole “Successful Blogging at Microsoft: A Best Practice Guide” which is what Microsoft would like its employees to read when they start blogging. Remember I mentioned before that there is no policy re blogging at Microsoft. David and Martin also talk about Apple and the different approach it has taken, still benefitting enormously from this consumer empowerment.

I must admit there is one thing I missed though and that was a more European view on things. I’ve got another post in my drafts on this topic, but the reason this is important is because many of the learnings we have from the US aren’t easily applicable here in Europe. Given David is running the European part of Edelman and hence dealing with similar challenges for his clients I had hoped there would be more on that in the book.

And now, ‘The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR” by Al and Laura Ries, because Frank De Graeve told me to…. and because there’s a piece in it on the Mustang brand.

2nd Edition: Age of Conversation

Some 18 months ago I was part of a project called the “Age of Conversation” and today I’m happy to announce that the second edition of the “Age of Conversation” is a fact. Instead of 100 authors there are over 200 contributors this time (not me anymore) and it’s themed around “Why don’t they get it”. Other than that, all proceeds still go to charity so to encourage you to by the hardcopy this time, John Moore lined up the ‘Money Quotes’ in one little presentation.

Personality matters

PersonalityNotIncluded Last April in NY during the Blogger Social, we all received a bunch of goodies, most of it small promotional items, but also some marketing related books. One of those books was ‘Personality not included’ from Rohit Bhargava, also present at the event. We had a little chat about the book, which was pretty interesting for many reasons but one thing Rohit said made me more curious about reading it than anything else and that was part of a chapter talking about Microsoft and The Blue Monster. So I started reading on the plane back already, it just took me a while to write down my thoughts.

In the introduction Rohit already makes it very clear what this is about:

“Personality matters. Being faceless doesn’t work anymore. The theory of PNI is that personality is the answer. Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers.”

Rohit defines personality then as:

“The unique, authentic, and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about”

Chapter 2, that talks about The Blue Monster, interested me for two reasons. One, it’s The Blue Monster (see earlier posts) and two because it talks about ‘The Accidental Spokesperson’. The reason why that interested me more has to do with the revealing of corporations who get social media, lists you can find all over the place these days. Microsoft who used to be mentioned a lot in the beginning as a company who ‘gets it’ is hardly ever in those lists. Why? Because they look at corporate blogs, corporate twitter accounts etc. And we don’t have that – at least not like a CEO blog or something. But there are some hundreds of Softies on Twitter, a few thousands that blog and those are not to be ignored – the chapter shows it well.

Last point I wanted to highlight is something about transparency. Rohit says ’transparency is overrated’ and talks a bit about transparency and authenticity. I pretty much agree with his point and it reminded me of something David Weinberger said during the Euroblog event in Brussels, about how transparency and authenticity are too often used in the wrong meaning, or even terminologies that are sometimes mistaken for one and other. Now David was a lot more articulate about this than I am here now, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

Rohit is a smart guy, he writes one of the better marketing blogs you can find and is a great person to discuss with about the changes in consumer engagement. And that reflects on his book, you can see the personality. The one thing I didn’t like (much like Jennifer) is the ‘Guides and Tools’ section of the book, which is too much repetition for me re the first part. That said, good book, go check it out.

One conversation. 275 voices.

When 2 guys come up with an amazing and unique idea and manage to deliver it, what do you do next? Do something even more amazing? Exactly :)

The Age of Conversation learned me a couple of things:

  • If you’re passionate about something, any kind of collaboration can work. Look at how someone in the US and someone in Australia figured out how to get a book written by a 100 or more people living all over the world.
  • When you’re sharing a passion with other people, it creates a bond that you didn’t imagine to be possible in a situation where you’ve actually never met most of these people. I’m pretty sure that everybody who was part of the original Age of Conversation will testify to that.
  • The internet enables conversations globally, but nothing beats meeting people in real life – hence why some of the same people driving the AOC are now also driving the Blogger Social event in NYC. I’m not sure how big the overlap is between the 80 Blogger Social attendees and the AOC, but believe me when I say it’s big.
  • Even if the length of the article is about the same as a regular blog post, writing for a book is harder than for a blog. Now this may seem very logical to most of you, but it became really clear when I did my writing for the AOC.
  • The term ‘conversation’ is not overused at all. I’ve mentioned before how powerful it is as a metaphor and as long as it takes to make sure more people get it… we’ll have to continue the conversation.

The last point is also a good intro the the AOC v2 as all participants voted for “Age Of Conversation: Why don’t people get it?” and this time 275 authors will contribute to the book, more than double the amount of last year. Hopefully we can duplicate that effect as well on the proceeds of this book which all go to charity.

Here are all the 275 contributors, myself included:

Adam Crowe, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brent Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley, C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Doug Hanna, Doug Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, Gi Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Reginald Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Eric Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Helipern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Berg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkins, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Raj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, R.J. Northam, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

And the conversation continues…

Has it been a year already? Blimey! I mentioned before how The Age of Conversation was one of the more fascinating projects to be involved in last year so reading Drew’s announcement on AOC 2 there wasn’t the slightest bit of doubt, want to be part of this again. And so I am :) Thanks Drew, thanks Gavin!

That dates from a few days ago already and I didn’t have time yet to extend the call out for authors on this new AOC project, but here it is. I think it’s not too late yet, but I you want in then be quick about it. Trust me, you won’t regret, The Age of Conversation is one of these experiences you won’t likely forget. Full details to be found on Drew’s blog, get over there now!

Even my kids liked it ;)

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