Sunday, January 28, 2007

I am Isaac Asimov

I am:
Isaac Asimov
One of the most prolific writers in history, on any imaginable subject. Cared little for art but created lasting and memorable tales.


Which science fiction writer are you?




Which is way cool. But I was so hoping to be someone who wasn't dead. Or a chick.

[Note to self: in order to be "prolific," must finish at least one major writing project...]

Friday, January 26, 2007

Walls That Aren't and Never Weren't

In a recent post John Battelle talks about a NYT article on social networking in which (according to John... and me) the Times gets the whole idea of user generated content wrong, wrong, wrong. He quotes the part of the article that says:



User-generated content is basically anything someone puts on the Web that is not created for overtly commercial purposes; it is often in response to something professionally created, or is derivative of it. So, it could be a blog, a message board, a homemade video on YouTube, or a customer’s book review on Amazon.com




And then makes the point that,



there are so many examples of great conversational media [John's term for user created content] that is both commercially driven and entirely independent of "professional media" (in our industry alone, there's Om, there's Matt, there's Mike, there...and, and, and....), that making such a sweeping statement seems either ignorant or simply wishful thinking. Harumph.




I don't think John goes far enough. Here's the short version of why I think that:

There ain't no such thing as somebody who ain't a user. Or, to put it in the positive: we're all users, and all content is user generated content. Or to put it in John's lingo: it's all part of the conversation.

The mainstream media seems to forget sometimes that its not "the originator" of what it reports on. That if a tree falls in the woods and there's film at 11... the tree falling is the "thing" in the news. The news isn't the news. The reporters are "users," too.

And so are movie directors and bestselling novelists and product design folks and advertising agency owners.

My 7-year-old son, Dan, just wrote a short book about dragons. It's about five pages long. It has drawings and text, all of which he made up himself. It includes information about how to look for signs of dragons, types of dragons, what they eat, a dragon potion that will make you fly, and plants that grow near where the dragons live. I've also got a store-bought book about dragons that I picked up a few years back. It's neat, has lots of cool pictures and even some stuff tucked into pockets and what-not.

Which book do you think is more valuable to me?

The idea, in our culture, that the value and worth of a piece of creativity, writing, content, etc. is inherently linked to either a monetary valuation or, similarly, to audience size or some kind of "official" authority ranking is, at times, almost offensive. Yes, in the abstract, I know that I am probably going to want to read a best-selling novel 99 times out 100 as opposed to one written by some random dude in a basement in Jersey. Unless that dude is my brother. Or my friend, Jake. Or... or... or... And, at some point, my brother and/or Jake are going to be bestselling novelists, so there, too.

Reporters, directors and published authors are just people. The words are the same. A 16-year-old can write poetry and post it on an open writing site or her blog... and it has just as much "right" to be beautiful as the words of a 54-year-old professor publishing in a magazine of the arts.

The wall was never there. Blogs and other cheap, easy tools just make it more obvious.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Novel Post: "The Side Ways 2.3: What the Crow Saw."

New section of the novel-in-progress is up. A bit from the middle of it...

*  *  *  *  *

Bran led Kendra and me to a car, the door of which opened at his touch. He gestured for Kendra to get inside.


“That’s not your car, is it?” she asked.


“Of course not,” he replied, as if she’d just asked him the most insane question in the world.


“You can’t just take it,” she told him.


Again, he looked at her as if she were stark, raving mad.


“Why not?” he asked.


“It’s not yours,” she replied. “That’s stealing.”


He grimaced and nodded his head. “I keep forgetting that you were, until this morning, a chronic. Or, more delicately, a mundane. Their rules of property don’t apply to us. To Reckoners.”


“Why not?” she asked, clearly incredulous.


“For the same reason that your laws don’t apply to animals, at least in most cases,” he replied. “There may be specific rules about animals, but a sheep can’t own property and a dog can’t sue a person. Or be a senator. Or be charged with a crime. Now. Do you want to get to your job on time or not?”


She was clearly conflicted, and bit her lower lip as she thought about the situation.


“All right,” Bran gave in. “If it will help you in your transition, I’ll bring the car back here after I drop you off. OK?”


Kendra made a face. She wasn’t totally satisfied, but she finally nodded and got in the passenger side. I ducked under the door frame and flapped into the back seat. Bran got in the driver’s side and started the car with the touch of a finger to the ignition lock.


“How did you do that?” Kendra asked, both impressed and slightly shocked at the same time.


Turning the wheel to pull out into traffic, Bran shrugged, “It’s a very minor thing for one who walks our Way,” he explained. “Electronic locks seem much more complicated and impressive to chronics, but they’re much easier for us to negotiate.”


Kendra nodded, frowning. “Could you teach me?” she asked.


Driving comfortably through light midtown traffic, Bran turned and answered, “Sure. It’s funny, but jumping an electronic starter is so basic that the Way isn’t even aligned to our Station. If you ever came across an old manual ignition, though, it wouldn’t work. And the Way to unlock it is slightly more complicated and requires someone fixed in the Station of Release.”


Sighing, Kendra complained, “You keep forgetting that I have no idea what you’re talking about.”


*  *  *  *  *


Check out the main page for "The Side Ways," and request the password for all parts after "Chapter 1.1: Stray Girl," if you’ve got a mind to.

Good Friction: Authority vs. Score

I've often used the following definition of marketing with my students:

Good marketing removes friction from an economic process.

That is, you can sell a great product with no marketing. But there will be friction between a possible sale and potential customers. You have to show the horse an ad with a pretty picture of the water. Offer a discount on the water. Have a map on your website so that he can be led to the water, etc. All ways to remove various frictions.

Here's a question, though: does removing friction actually ever become a bad thing from a marketing/economic standpoint? My gut reaction is to say, "No." Because friction is bad, right? It slows things down. In business terms, it costs money to overcome all kinds of friction (geographic, time-related, information and language barriers, etc.). For centuries of business development, the manipulation of various "frictional deltas" is what has allowed companies to make profits (sometimes insane ones) not necessarily based on the merits of products or services, but on the relative inability of consumers to utilize or even understand those relative frictions.

For example, if there is any kind of monopoly in a given market, you have the issue of "information friction," where the lack of competition will keep the monopoly provider from really needing to be in any way open with data about products. Trade regulations that encourage competition help inject transparency and remove that friction.

Another example: better communication and transportation. If the only thing that allows me to make a profit on "Product X" is my ability to move it quickly from the point of manufacture to the point of sale, then the only friction I am overcoming is geographic. That is certainly not inconsiderable, and (until we have Star Trek transporters) will never be eliminated. But if a company relies on that as its sole value proposition, then it is at the mercy of anyone who can move stuff with less friction.

The same for communication... which is the basis of most marketing and advertising. If I can do a better job of informing you about the benefits of my product than can my competition, I've decreased friction in my process more than have they. That should help smooth the way for customers to get to me. Whether we talk about hard-sell, data-specific, promotional communications (product benefits, costs, FAQs, where-to-buy, etc.) or emotional, branding communications... both types provide, when done well, the means for customers to more smoothly identify the products in which they have an interest.

So, again... I'm sitting here thinking, "There's no such thing as good friction." Any time you can get something out-of-the-way and make it easier to get that horse to the water, or help the horse decide which water he wants... hooray for marketing, the economic lubricant. All friction is bad.

Except... when you want to slow down.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Side Ways 2.2: Now You See Her...

New section just added. Here's a chunk from the middle of it...

*  *  *  *  *


The girl was in my office?


After she’d spent the better part of the night trying to escape from it? She has a few waffles, a glass of orange juice and then comes straight back for more?


“Mrs. McKey?”


“Yes, sir?”


“Why didn’t you put her out of my office?” I was calm again. No use getting flustered. The situation would be well in hand soon enough.


Now Mrs. McKey hung her head and studied her shoes. She looked, for all the world, like a sixty-year-old school girl. I lowered my head and tried to catch her gaze, but she avoided my eyes entirely. I do not repeat myself, so I simply waited for her answer. Eventually, I got it.


“She’s locked herself in, sir.”


This was too much.


*  *  *  *  *

Check out the main page for "The Side Ways," and request the password for all parts after "Chapter 1.1: Stray Girl," if you've got a mind to.


Wednesday, January 3, 2007

"Five things you don't know about me" blog tag meme thing

So George over at IAG tagged me with this goofy "Five Things You Don't Know (Or Care) About Me" game of blog tag meme thing. On the one hand, I had hoped to avoid it. On the other, since I saw some of my other blogging buddies getting zanged by this, I was feeling left out. You know... the, "I haven't been invited to the party I don't really want to go to but I hate to not be invited to anyway" feeling. Well, George, you know me. And yet you still asked.

So...

1. I can trace my genealogy to Adam.


And not Adam Kisiel, the last Orthodox senator of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Adam "The Originator. Mr. No Navel. I can't do it in one breath, but here we go with the short, text-only version:

Adam and Eve > Seth > Enos > Cainan > Mahalaleel > Jared > Enoch > Methusaleh > Lamech > Noah > Shem > Arphaxad > Salah > Eber > Peleg > Reu > Serug > Nahor > Terah, (Prince of King Nimrod) > Abraham and Sarah > Isaac and Rebecca > Jacob and Rachel [Two lines traced from Jacob and Rachel to Clodomir IV]:

1. Jacob and Rachel > Phares > Esrom > Aram > Aminadab > Nasson > Salmon > Booz > Obed > Jesse > King David > Nathan > Mattatha > Menan > Melea > Eliakim > Jonan > Joseph > Juda > Simeon > Levi > Matthat > Jorim > Eliezer > Jose > Er > Elmodam > Cosam > Addi > Melchi > Neri > Salathiel > Zorobabel > Rhesa > Joanna > Juda > Joseph > Semei > Mattathias > Maath > Nagge > Esli > Naum > Amos > Mattathias > Joseph > Janna > Melchi > Levi > Matthat or Matthan > Joseph of Arimathea > Anna (cousin to Virgin Mary md. Joseph) > Penardim md. Llyr Lediaith > Bran the Blessed > Caradoc > Cyllin > Coel or Coilus > Athildis md. Marcomir IV > Clodomir IV

2. Jacob and Rachel > Judah (or Jehud, identified by Sanci Onaitho, an ancient Phonecian author) > Zarah > Darda or Dardanus > Ericnthonius > Tros > Laomedon > Priam, King of Troy > Helenus > Genger > Franco > Esdron > Gelio > Basabiliano > Plaserio > Plesron > Eliacor > Gaberiano > Plaserio > Antenor > Priam > Helenus > Plbsron > Basabiliano > Alexander > Priam > Getmalor > Almadion > Diluglic > Helenus > Plaserio > Diluglio > Marconir > Priam > Helenus > Antenor, King of the Cimmerians, 443 B.C. (Called "Chief Prince of Ephriam.) > Marcomir, King of the Sicambri, now called Franks. > Antenor > Priam. > Helenus > Diocles. (he sided the Saxons against the Goths.) > Bassanus Magnus, King and Priest, married the d. of Orcades, a Norwegian King. > Clodomir > Nicanor > Marcomir > Clodius > Antenor > Clodomir > Merodochus > Cassander > Antharius > Francus, King of the West Franks, B. C. 39. > Clodius > Marcomir, III > Clodomir > Antenor, IV > Ratherius, renewed league with Germans and Saxons. > Richemer, I. > Odomir > Marcomir, IV md. Athildis >  Clodomir, IV

Clodomir, IV > Farabert (renewed the ancient league with the Germans) > Sunno (fought with Romans and Gauls) > Hilderic > Bartherus > Clodius, III > Walter > Dagobert > Genebald, Duke of the East Franks. > Dagobert > Clodius, I > Marcomir, I > Pharamond, King of the Franks > Clodius > Sigimerus > Ferreolus > Ausbertus > Arnoldus > Sir Arnulf, Bishop of Metz > Anchisus > Pepin of Heristal > Charles Martel > Pepin the Short > Charlemagne (Charles the Great) – Emporer of the Holy Roman Empire, 800 AD > Louis I, m. Judith, 819. d. 843 > Princess Giselle (820 - 874) m. Eberhard > Hatwige (d. 9/6/864) m. Ludolph > Otho (d. 11-12-912) m. Edith, daughter of Emperor Arnoul > Henry I, Emperor of Germany (876-936) > Princess Hatwige, m. Prince Hugh, Duke of France > Hugh Capet, King of France > Robert II, King of France > Henry I, King of France > Philippe I, King of France > Louis VI, King of France > Louis VII, King of France > Philippe II, King of France > Louis VIII, King of France > Luois IX, King of France > Philippe III, King of France > Philippe IV, King of France > Princess Isabella, (d. 1308) m. Edward II, King of England > Edward III of England, (1312-1377) M. Philippa > John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (4th son) > Joan & Ralph Neville > William Neville > Allice Neville & John Conyers > Sir. Wim. Conyers (1468-1524) m. (2nd) Anne Melville > Sir Wm. (knighted 1513) & Anne Conyers > Robert & Alice (Conyers) Markenfield > Sir Edmund & Mary (Markenfield) Danby > William & Eleanor (Danby) Oldborough > James & Beatrice (Oldborough) Hutton > Edmund Mauleverer & Anne Pearson > Anne Mauleverer (d. 1754) m. 1695 John Abbot > Jane Abbot & Joseph Burr > Rebecca Burr & James Chapman > John Abbott Champman & Margery Hutchinson > Julian Maria Chapman & John P. Thornton > Mary Ellen Thornton & Charles Henry Dayton > John Charles Dayton & Emma Barnes > A. Warren Dayton & Flora Burton > Sarah Jean Dayton & David Ward Havens > Andrew Ward Havens

2. My brother has a  Bacon Number of 2


John C. Havens was in Thomas Crown Affair, The (1999) with John Elsen
John Elsen was in Loverboy (2005) with Kevin Bacon 

3. I love the game "Risk."
Perhaps too much.


We used to play it all the time as kids and youth. On camping trips, on snow days, in the back of the station wagon at picnics... all the time. And not for fun. To dominate the world. For real. I'm not kidding. I will so kick your ass at this game. If I lose, it is only because the Dice Lords are unhappy with my sacrifice of M&Ms and RC Cola. Don't even think you will ever come close... And if you try that, "Hole up in Australia and wait," strategy (I'M LOOKIN' AT YOU, JIMBO!), I will come down on you like the wrath of an angry, plastic God!

4. I can fit 43 green grapes in my mouth without squishing or swallowing them or choking to death


5. I own and play (badly, and only occasionally) a bright red, woman's-style accordion


Just remember.... You asked, George.

So now I'm supposed to name names. Five other bloggers who have to keep the meme alive.

OK. Here's how it's gonna be. The first five Terra Nova bloggers who read this after I send 'em the notification email... you get to tag your choice, one each, of the other TN bloggers (evil laughter).

Now, since TN is a group blog, I, personally, think it would be hysterical if they posted their 25 factoid thingies without reference as to which ones go with whom. But that's up to them.