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Friday, May 17, 2002


John Robb's essay "The New Economy"  hit the streets late Friday night. It's interesting to see the experience of an entrepreneur generalized into a political perspective. A military pilot and researcher by trade, Robb's immersion in a profoundly bootstrapping company (both technically and financially) combined with the military "can-do" sensibilities make him an attractive spokesman for the notion that economic sluggishness is somehow someone's fault and that a price will be extracted as a sort of karmic punishment.

Things are decentralizing. Things are simultaneously centralizing. The power of decentralization is clearest to those who benefit most from it. The same is true for the forces of aggregation.

It's hard to see our economy clearly. Small companies, the backbone of everything, have always been the backbone of everything. The small business owner knows this even while the bureacratic functionary in a large organization lauds his security and compensation over the head of the entrepreneur.

Small businesses create capital that is given to banks so that large companies can multiply it. Like lawyers, large organizations are risk mitigators whose challenge is not creation but maintenance. This is a task that small operations routinely fail. Small organizations make large gains possible. Large organizations thrive on the incremental.

If you asked the supposed 'culprits' at the homes of the various scandals what in the world they thought they were doing, you'd most likely hear something like "we were trying to be less risk averse. We were trying to instill the principles of entrepreneurial strength into our organizations."

It's the paradox. Big organizations have their purpose and we need them. Little organizations have their purpose and we need them as well. What we don't need is one acting like the other.

Corporations can not lie. They are not people. People lie. Worse still, people delude themselves and believe that they are doing the right thing (remind me, at some point, to tell you about my theory that evil is the aggregate effect of any group with good intentions). This is nothing new.

What is new is the broad spectrum of possibilities that have opened up for those of us who are willing to risk our lives and livelihoods on the bet that we can create better than we will be given. We take responsibility for things beyond our control and make them into realities. There are more of us. We have ever better tools.

We're pioneers in the heartiest of American traditions. Where we're headed is unknown. After we've been there a while, the one thing you can predict with some certainty is that big organizations will follow. The risk will have been mitigated.

So, John, with all kindness, thanks for the provocative essay. Write more.

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Blog Notes 3 - Blogging Is A Way of Thinking

Blogging is a way of thinking. Rather than simply absorbing information, as in passive consumption of broadcast information (including the passive web), Blogging requires that the blogger act as an active filter.

It's a skill that is practiced in a range of settings already; from cocktail party preparation by strong networkers to competitive intelligence gathering. Consuming information with an editorial eye and then redistributing it is the method that most social networks favor for maintaining their vigor. It is distinctly different from the eye-glazing flow-thru of data that characterizes the normal absorption process.

The blogger must, with some level of vigilance, ask the following questions

  • "Is this important?"
  • "Why Is This Important?"
  • "Who Cares?"
  • "What Does It Mean?"
  • "Is it worth explaining?"

It is no accident that some  (maybe most) blogging software contains a newsfeed (in XML, of course). The constant flow of ideas by the eyes of an active filter are an important part of keeping the filter (the blogger) engaged.

The fact the creation of a blog requires either a shift in thinking or a shift in attention for someone who already thinks this way is a limiter in the growth of public blogs. We are no more likely to see a blog on every desktop than we were to see a website on every desktop. The world is probably forever divided into producers and consumers.

Even so, blogging software creates an editorial envioronment in which it is easier to become a producer than ever before. The raw written communication involved in the process is something that simply gets better with practice. It's the way of thinking that makes the biggest difference.

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Secrets Of Networking

From x Blog: Secrets of Networking cool! When will we see one for blog networks? Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Privacy and Corporate Knowledge

We've always said that privacy is like tailoring. If you want a perfect suit, you have to let a tailor probe around in spots usually reserved for a spouse's touch. Without that sort of intrusion, you may as well just buy the thing off the rack. People who have never worn a hand tailored suit may not understand the extraordinary differences in fit and feel. Be assured, the intrusion is usually worth the return.

That doesn't mean that we want everyone groping us trying to make their products fit.

In a solid article (from the Direct Marketing - DM - perspective), Lee T. Capps, a CRM pro now working for Revere, makes the case that better customer service can be provided by merging and sharing CRM data between companies. Of course, consumer choice and participation gets short shrift in the discussion, that's the perspective of a DM pro.

Yes, we'd like Safeway to better understand our needs (right now they're just tracking what we bought, not what we came for and couldn't get) and, yes, we want things that fit better in general.

But, we want to decide which tailors we let stick their hands into our crotch. We're protective down there.

CRM technology will migrate rapidly into the Labor Market. The combination of blogs, CRM and solid human networking skills will be the model of Human Capital Acquisition over the next century.

Observing the dynamics of CRM in the consumer markets with a critical eye on the relationship between choice and privacy is a critical element of developing effective systems.

(Privacy Digest alerted us to the article)

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Seniors Online

Seniors are the fastest growing group of online users and a powerful resource to focus on the emerging labor shortage.

This group mirrors the early Internet population:

  • About 60 percent are men.
  • Forty percent are women.
  • They're more likely than their offline peers to be married.
  • They're highly educated.
  • They have relatively high retirement incomes.


  • Many wired seniors are newcomers to the Web.
  • They're more likely than younger Americans to be online on a typical day.
  • The most fervent wired seniors say the Web helps them better connect with loved ones and makes it easier get information they seek.

The five top uses of the Web by seniors:

  • using email
  • looking up hobby information
  • seeking financial information
  • reading the news
  • checking weather reports

Ooopsie....looks like we're almost seniors by these definitions. From ClickZ

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E-mail: When E stands for embarrassing.

E-mail: When E stands for embarrassing.  One more time: email is broken. Your Thoughts? [] Related Info?   

Blog Notes 2 - A Dozen Things We Know

Blogging is in a primitive form. The heavy users only know that it is possible. "Why?" is a question that awaits a claifying "How?" 

Here are a dozen things we know.

  1. Personal publishing has always moved from the grassroots out to society and blogging is an advancement in personal publishing.
  2. The technical ground beneath "blogging" (web services, net services or whatever you want to call it) is moving from the grass roots out (and not from the top down as Oracle, Sun, IBM and Microsoft would have it.)
  3. The blogging phenomenon itself is a market based example of a self-organizing system that appears to be producing features and functions just as they are needed.
  4. The growth vectors associated with blogging dwarf the original growth vectors of the Web in Phase 1 (circa 1993-1995).
  5. The sprawling, "static web" is in need of a function like consciousness that guides and focuses attention. Blogging makes that a volunteer job (in the sense that the great assignments go to volunteers who see risk differently than the 'never volunteer  for anything' set.)
  6. As was the case in early static web publishing, the egos of the individual contributors are larger than life so the story is exciting.
  7. In it's current state, 'blogging' is the product of technologists who are less concerned with "Why?" than "How?" although they grapple with "Why?" as content.
  8. Even as the technology finds its limits, applications are being unearthed. Knowledge-Logs (or K-Logs) are an underground phenomenon that may deliver what Lotus Notes promised.
  9. While the throngs of marketing professionals have not yet embraced the phenomenon clusters of influence are forming. That sort of infrastructure (the social network that creates technical momentum) has a longer half-life than the technical innovation itself.
  10. The first real beach-head in the maturity of the tool set will be the arrival of the "usual suspects". Although some from the "Wired community" are on board (see boing boing), expect near term entries from the standard digerati.
  11. The rhetoric is heating up. With forecasts like "blogs will overturn conventional media by the end of 2002" circulating widely, there is relative assurance that this thing has the standard 3 year adoption windup. As near as we can tell, it's still year one.
  12. Blogging is a nuance. If the Bugler, the Scripting News, the Electronic Recruiting News and EGR haven't been blogs for the past 8 years, it's the underlying technology, not the form. That said, the nuance makes the form accessible to a far broader array of participants. Automatic transmissions, which made automobiles accessible to the majority, were a similar form of nuance.
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