January 2, 2012

Angry nerds

Filed under: business,creativity,internet,IT,marketing,media,politics — Erik Dobberkau @ 20:49

Today the German version of Jonathan Zittrain‘s essay “The PC is dead” has been published (which he closes by saying we need more angry nerds), tempting me to comment on it in a lengthy post. Instead I recommend you to read it yourself.

My two cents: For platform owners such as Apple, Amazon, Google or Microsoft, the ‘art’ is to close the door only so much that the input-providing participants don’t feel uncomfortable squeezing through it, and keep providing stuff (apps and content), because the consuming participants will only start switching once they realize the restrictions applied lead to a perceived lack thereof. Angry nerds won’t fix it. Unless they invent a different thing that restarts the cycle.

October 23, 2011

“One day, the Web will be friggin’ empty”

Filed under: business,internet,marketing,media,politics — Erik Dobberkau @ 18:28

That’s what the CEO of the German VPRT, the lobby of commercial broadcasters and tele-media, said on his keynote during the Munich Media Days last week. No, wait for the punchline! It’s also his organisation who’s commissioning the study which concludes that the web is full of illegal content (in this study, everything that was availbale for free was counted as illegal — yes, they were and still are on a mission).

What he meant to say with the headline quote was of course that the world needs his peers to enjoy the richness of online media, and he argued that the government needs to push for stricter copyright laws. Like what? Sanctioning free content because it’s harming his peers’ business? I’m sure he’d love that. It’s just that way of 19th century thinking that once you’ve set up your factory, it’s going to run forever and all the boss has to do is maximize profits. In addition, new industries would pop up and the one with more money would buy the other and so forth. And it all keeps growing and growing.

But as the post-industrial age has kicked in long ago, it should have become obvious that it doesn’t work like that any more. And it won’t help that your industry is not producing material goods but collecting and repacking information (or rather data, I can’t help but come back to my axiom again), because it’s still run like the old-fashioned factory. We don’t need factories any more, we’ve had them long enough.

What’s not working anymore is people who used to buy an issue of a magazine with at least 50% advertising in the real world, won’t do this online. They have the choice of getting their desired information one article at a time from the source they like best. With ads or without. Paid or for free. Yet publishers had a hard time adapting their question “How can I get as many people as possible to buy / subscribe to my magazine?” to “How can I offer the best content for an acceptable price?” (of course there’s also the industrial “How can I lower the quality without losing too much of the readership?”), but the new question is a different one.

This new question is “How does my stuff fit into the big picture?”. There are millions of outlets on the Web offering articles on the same topics as pay-for magazines, but for free. Not as consistent in terms of output volume and regularity, but often in terms of quality. This leads to my idea where commercial publishers seek the cooperation with authors who publish for free. The commercial publishers will then support the free authors by publishing their (commercial) articles on their (free authors’) website or blog, like guest articles (of course these article have to be paid for when someone wants to read them, and the free author whose site the thing is published on gets a small share), thus improving the experience for the audience.

Instead of trying to persuade the world to come to their place, publishers of every kind of media must start serving all the outlets out there (this is what Seth Godin refers to as curatorship). What publishers understood is they need to be on the shelf in as many stores as possible. Now, moving beyond physicality, the number and variety of stores is infinite. And infinity has always been a good prerequisite to make money for a long time to come. If you embrace it.

August 30, 2011

More on data vs. information

Filed under: business,creativity,internet,marketing,personal — Erik Dobberkau @ 17:48

I’ll just blast out some thoughts I had during the last few days…

  • There is no correlation between the amount or quality of data and the amount or quality of information. Example: “I don’t use a DSLR camera for filming because it’s not good enough.” This opinion (information, subjective) does not require anybody to know all the facts. Everybody has a different threshold when they feel having sufficient “information” (it’s data) to make a decision, change or define their worldview and tell themselves a story. The data which is not included in the story becomes irrelevant. Trying to persuade them differently is unlikely to yield success then.
  • On Air Promotion trailers: The less data you need make the viewer feel informed, the better. The worst thing you can do is give the audience too much data. The factual data should no more than name and time of the show. Everything else better be a story people can connect to (and for this to happen, any emotional reaction is what you want, not only positive ones). Don’t give them data, because then they’ll start putting all the input into context themselves and stop listening. You don’t want that, of course. This applies to advertising in general as well.
  • The previous part also applies to presentations. The purpose of a presentation is to give information by present data in a narrowed context. This means you (the presenter) need to boil down the data to a level as simple (yet still correct) as possible. Do not show complicated charts or graphs (and worse, reading them to the audience). What’s on the screen or whiteboard is only supplemental to your verbal argumentation. It is not the information.
  • Do we really need compilations of references? At least their compiler should have the decency not to label it a “Guide” or similar. Because it’s not. It’s a directory, index, compilation, collection. Yeah I know. People love Guides and How-To’s. People love “not getting scammed” even more.
  • We need to train and force ourselves to decide on the spot more often, because it is often that we do have enough data and information to decide on the spot, but we’ve so gotten into the habit of “digesting” and “sleeping over it” we’re just too slow.

August 25, 2011

The Information Myth

Filed under: business,creativity,internet,marketing,media,personal,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 05:58

Sometimes, when a term has been coined, it’s hard to get rid of it albeit it’s plain wrong. As it is the case with “Too much information!”. I don’t know where it came from (and don’t intend to research it now, feel free to post it in the comments), yet it is unimportant for the matter of the fact. So how did I come to this conclusion?

Last week, German newspaper Die Zeit published an article citing a study among managers and their biggest issues on the job, resulting in ten rules a good manager, according to the paper, should follow. Let’s just say the author would have better read some books on the topic, yet he seemed to prefer the blather. But that’s not why I’m writing this.

The study revealed that one of the most pressing problems of managers is the amount of decisions, which requires a lot of information for each of them. Obvious. To decide, you need information. Now, what is information?

I like Fredmund Malik’s definition that information is knowledge that leads to action. Now, if you think about it for a few seconds, how much of the things that enter you brain in the course of a day do lead to action? Indeed, very little. What’s the overwhelming majority then? It’s data. When you look up the definition of data and information at Wikipedia it’s all there, though I don’t agree that a book with all data about Mt. Everest automatically becomes information. Data only becomes information when it is put in a context that leads to an action on your behalf.

Looking at all the bits and pieces we’re dealing with daily that way, it’s plain to see why making decisions is such a massive time-consuming process. It’s not information we’re dealing with on the input side, it’s data that we must put in perspective, be it an analytics report, a movie clip, the latest news. It’s not that we (as humans) were producing ever more information, we’re just producing ever more data which in turn we must filter out to obtain information.

Now, is what I’ve been writing about in these few lines data or information to you? Since we will keep producing ever more data, the ability to distill data to information will become key to future success for anyone, because all success depends on the ability to make decisions. This necessity requires not only organizations of every kind to teach their employees how to get better at this, it also requires schools to switch from teaching young people to learn everything from a limited resource (i.e., a school book) to learning the process of filtering out the irrelevant data from an unlimited resource (i.e., the Internet). For the careful reader, the previous sentence has turned data into information. Thank you for reading.

August 21, 2011

What do you stand for, and how fast?

Filed under: business,marketing — Erik Dobberkau @ 15:23

On a regular basis we encounter people not walking their talk, backing up from what they have promised to us because, ironically, we discover their promise can only become reality when we contribute our share. And as always, everyone feels they have they biggest pack to carry, their expense were the largest. That’s why Obama’s change he promised doesn’t come: It doesn’t come for free, which everyone seems to have expected.

And it’s what business owners and freelancers experience quite often. They were picked because they seemed innovative and audacious, to make you catch up with the competiton, even take the lead. And then, it’s all just lip service. Well, not each and every time, but in the vast majority of cases the result is far from what it could have been (and should have been, otherwise the client would have picked someone else).

So when you’re getting hired because you’re different, when do you stop being different for, ultimately, the money? What is the measure, a happy client (who’s happy because you responded to all his requests by giving in) or a fully accomplished objective (which might first look like it’s at the client’s expense)?

The point is, when you’re dealing with someone who’s constantly looking for deniability with regard to the project outcome towards their boss, you’re clearly working with the wrong person. And in most cases when it’s about doing something different, the boss is the only person you should be working with. (And if the boss is looking for deniability towards the board or the shareholders, you better be asking yourself what you’re about to get into is really worth the money.)

This is not to say that you should never compromise. Yet don’t compromise too early to avoid a head-on dispute, because in most cases these are the points where something needs to be done to achieve the desired result. As Seth Godin said, “thrash early, and thrash a lot”. You’re there for a reason. Don’t vaporize it lightly.

June 11, 2011

iCloud – The Triumph of Free (?)

Filed under: business,creativity,internet,marketing,music — Erik Dobberkau @ 18:02

Suppose the currently circulated news about Apple’s soon-to-come iCloud service that artists will get paid whenever someone adds their music to his iCloud account no matter how he obtained this music, there is no reason not to give away your music for free now (as long as it’s available on iTunes, that is). Even if it’s just a fraction of a penny per song, it adds up, and even more so when it’s easy to spread. Musicians now have more power over their destiny (in terms of income) than ever.

June 9, 2011

The Basics of Spreading Ideas

Filed under: business,creativity,internet,marketing,media — Erik Dobberkau @ 09:42

Once an idea makes it to the TV screen, it’s approved. Otherwise TV wouldn’t spread it, we assume, so we can spread it avoiding the risk of going out on a limb.

But that’s not what we need. To make it really clear: We need to spread ideas that have not been approved yet. Not only is this when innovation happens, it’s also where the money is made.

June 6, 2011

You are Peter Jackson (so is everyone else)

Filed under: business,internet,marketing — Erik Dobberkau @ 19:06

Yes, the Peter Jackson. How so? Well, first off you might be equally talented but never had the guts to try it. Not necessarily in film, something you care about. But that’s not what I’m talking about today, so should you want to elaborate on this aspect a little more, you might want to read this and this.

The idea to this post came to me when I read some of the comments on Peter Jackson’s Facebook Page after his last update (before they exceeded 100). There was quite a number of people half-heartedly applying as actors for the Hobbit shoot, like “Check out my page and contact my agent.” and I felt like is this how you say “Look me up, I’m on this new thing, it’s called Internet! Can you believe it?!?!” in 2011? Like any other person, or I dare say more than any other person on this planet, he won’t have the time. None of us has.

So please…  even if you (secretly) are Peter Jackson, don’t ask anyone to “come and get it” unless they know (and most people don’t, so there’s a paradox at work here) that you’re the best (if not only) person in the world to deliver this kind of thing. Until then, you’ll have to keep sending your colleterals, applications in whatever form, whatever. Thank you.

May 19, 2011

Two Kinds of Products, Two Ways of Buying

Filed under: business,internet,marketing — Erik Dobberkau @ 00:05

The other day it occured to me in (almost) any market segment there are two kinds of products with entirely different ways of buying:

  • Mass-produced products: This is everything made “in a factory” in a standardized process which leads to (almost perfectly) identical copies distributed to all retailers.
  • Unique products: These are products that are made “by hand” specifically for you and only you, unique.

The difference between the two is like buying a shoe in a shoe store or from a shoe maker. The first is a finished, tangible, testable, take-it-or-leave-it product. The second is not really a product because it doesn’t exist yet, it’s a service.

The problem is we as consumers buy 99.9% off-the-shelf stuff, and thanks to the Internet this side of the market has become very transparent. Whatever we want, we type it into the search field and within seconds we know about price and availability. And because we do it all the time we have come to believe that this holds true for any product. Which is not the case, of course. How do you compare products that have no been made yet? Obviously you can’t, and the only thing you can do is make guesses by talking to the manufacturers to see how you like them, or talk to people who have bought something there.

So when people are hesitant when it comes to buying products that are not comparable, one of the better things to do when you’re the one making these products is facilitating the exchange of user experience, creating a community of fans and curious people, a go-to place. Do not leave them lost. Help them make a decision they are happy with, whether it’s in your favour or not.

May 18, 2011

(Not) Buying Tyres

Filed under: business,marketing — Erik Dobberkau @ 00:08

Two weeks ago, I started looking for new tyres, so I went to the place where I got my last set about 3 or 4 years ago. They gave me the quote, and that was it. Take it or leave it. Not too hard a choice, thanks.

The next dealer I went to was entirely different. Besides talking at breakneck speed, he was really competent without selling anything, and at one point he said: “Y’know, everyone can go out and compare prices these days via the Web, it’s completely transparent, you know in a few seconds what I pay for tyres myself when I order them for you. It’s completely transparent, so there’s no sense in trying to make something up, all I can do is recommend and share my experience so you can make a good decision.”

You wouldn’t expect to find this insight in a courtyard garage, but it’s all what being a merchant is about today: Making your customers happy by helping them make a decision they’re feeling good about.

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