Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You Are Commodified When You Lose The Ability To Changing Things

HBS Working Knowledge had an article on When Your Product Becomes a Commodity — Annotated The source of this link was from Businesspundit When Your Product Becomes a Commodity

The truth is, even when a raw material has no value added and quality standards are set by law or the industry, there is still plenty of opportunity for differentiation around availability, delivery, shipment quantities, payment terms, and all the other services that accompany the core product. Marketers must use their imagination. As the saying goes: "There are no mature products, only mature managers."

I see it relating to the concepts I am trying to get my head around from Gapingvoid, Seth Godin and even Kevin Kelly. Not in terms of a specific product but how to relate to this as a manager providing service. Moreover, I am trying to look beyond just the "mechanics", which I sense from the readings is only a veneer that wears through quickly.

It has been Gapingvoid which as given me the closest sense of this, though I have not zeroed in on it fully yet. The mechanics yes, but there seems or maybe I am looking for something more. I see it related to an ability to make change in the world for the better. If one's ability to make self generate change in the world is compromised, then one becomes a commodity.

gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards": meatball sundae: ten questions for seth godin Annotated

Here's my challenge: I want to change things. Sometimes, the best way to do that is to reach out to committed individuals and give them some ideas to run with. On the other hand, big changes, sea changes... those happen in larger organizations with leverage. So, my books have sort of struck a balance, sometimes emphasizing one more than the other. In this case, it's clear that the digerati 'get' what's going on with the new marketing. But we're frustrated. I wrote this book to help us out. The phrase, "meatball sundae" is designed as a rallying cry, something to sneer at in a big meeting.
gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards": why marketers are so interested in blogs Annotated
Yesterday, while Johnnie Moore, Mark Earls and I were recording a podcast, Johnnie came up with a wonderful metaphor to describe this phenomenon.

He told Mark and me about being 12 years old in science class. To demonstrate that yes, indeed, a stick of celery is full of capillaries, even if you couldn't see them with the naked eye, the science teacher dipped the end of a stick of celery into a beaker of blue ink. An lo and behold, the kids watched in amazement as the ink traveled up the celery capillaries, turning the rest of the green celery stalk into blue.

Suddenly that which could not be seen before, could now clearly be seen. Glaringly so.

I think Seth said it pretty well to me the other day: "The web is a giant compiler for marketers. You can experiment here for less money, in less time, than anywhere else. If Al Gore hadn't invented it, I'd be seriously bummed out."

The thing about creating a blog is that lines keep continually crossing and there does not seem to be any constraints or parameters. Within the web as 'defined' by web 2.0 organizational permeablity does not seem to be an issue allowing what Kevin Kelly wrote about and for authenticity in our efforts to connect.

tags: design, entrepreneurship, gvoid, marketing

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Universe Is Conspiring to Help Us Or At Least Kevin Kelly Is

The Universe Is Conspiring to Help Us via NPR Series: This I Believe
Whether hitchhiking to work or bicycling across the country, Wired magazine founder Kevin Kelly always found strangers willing to help him. Kelly believes that to be a good giver, you must also know how to receive. by had a piece on Kevin Kelly has written a thoughtful post about how to...

Kevin Kelly has written a thoughtful post about how to make money in a world where the rules are:
  • When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
  • When copies are super abundant, stuff which can't be copied becomes scarce and valuable.
He then lists eight reasons why people pay money for things that could be free, one of which is immediacy:

Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released -- or even better, produced -- by its creators is a generative asset. Many people go to movie theaters to see films on the opening night, where they will pay a hefty price to see a film that later will be available for free, or almost free, via rental or download. Hardcover books command a premium for their immediacy, disguised as a harder cover. First in line often commands an extra price for the same good.

The Good Experience Blog also gives us Two new Kevin Kelly pointers

The Bottom is Not Enough, on the challenges of bottom-up design

Subterranean Tutoring, on being a geek dad trying to raise geek kids.

See also:

Kevin Kelly's must-read article on what's "better than free"

All mentions of Kevin Kelly recently (there have been many)

By my own standards I should be adding more to this post than just rehashing what others have already done. The truth though is despite knowing, "the bearded guy on the bike who wrote the Whole Earth Catalog", I really did not appreciate the work of Kevin Kelly. So I am letting those with far more experience in this Web 2.0 environment educated me. This post provides other avenues for studying some of the issues that this weblog has been considering.

Even researching Kevin Kelly provides some further insights into the Web 2.0 world. Searching for Kevin Kelly in brings up a number of hits. Interestingly though there are numerous hits for Cool Tools, each separate because they were assigned a different set of tags. Some of the tags linked to more specific selections with only 25 people sharing the tag set and other have 2,237 people sharing the tag set. Searching for Cool Tools on goes beyond Keven Kelly's Cool Tools.
Searching for Kevin Kelly on Stumble Upon brought up less hits than I would have guessed. It did however list Cool Tools under related sites, though again the designation goes beyond Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools.
[There use to be a paragraph here that said Jason Kottke and Mark Hurst use the target _blank code. That was wrong. It didn't have anything really to do with this post and since this weblog is designed for my web explorations I will still be using target blank because I like it, but it was still wrong.]
Below is my first direct introduction to Kevin Kelly from TED.

Now LA Times Recognizes That Africa's Anti-malaria Campaign Is Showing Results

Africa's anti-malaria campaign showing results
Infection rates drop as nations take action against the disease. In Tanzania, Bush announces a venture to provide enough mosquito nets to protect every child between the ages of 1 and 5.

By James Gerstenzang
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer February 19 2008

BWEFUM, ZANZIBAR;-- Like clockwork, particularly on Mondays after his office had been closed for the weekend, the patients would line the concrete benches outside Mininyi Othman's tiny health center 10 miles from the nearest paved road.

It is good to read in the Los Angeles Times that malaria is finally diminishing its deadly impact in Africa and hearing that our President is committed to providing "mosquito nets to protect every child between the ages of 1 and 5", is inspiring, but the article does very little to tell us how we got to this stage. Not to be overly skeptical, but are we to believe that George W. Bush is a significant savior of Africa?

The Los Angeles Times article "Unintended Victims of Gates Foundation", which was the primary focus of the Best Intentions Unintended Consequences post, was the second most popular item link of this weblog so far. What are the key health dangers for children?, has been the most popular. The previous LA Times article provided an indepth analysis of failure. An equally indepth analysis of success would be appreciated.

Still Here Subprime Fall Out And Credit Crunch

Recently, I went over some past Marginal Revolution posts that I had thought could advance my fletching understanding of economics. One of the clusters of issues of interest that was revisited was banks, subprime fallout and the credit crunch. This is an area that happens to cross over to my real life/day job persona.

I have though spoken with a commercial real estate appraiser who tells me that housing builder sentiment has bottomed out and is seeing an upturn. So even if banks are not lending as freely, there is the expectation that people (arguably people who can afford them) will be buying homes again in the not too distant future. If the negativity in the economy has been over-inflated and Tyler Cowen's point about the real impact of the subprime mortages compared to the overall economy was right, then we might see a turn around by the fall according to this view.

This isn't a prediction just passing along somebody else's perhaps optimistic take on the world.

However, for the most part the question as to whether or not the credit crunch is basically over or still here, the answer is:

Still here

The credit crunch isn't going anywhere

Feb 17th 2008

THE credit crunch is simply not going away. Every week another arcane area of the bond market seems to be dragged into the crisis. Late last month, it was tender option bonds, short-term securities backed by municipal bond assets; this week, it was auction-rate notes. These are bits of short-term debt issued by municipalities; the problem is that no one wants to take part in the auctions, so the yields being paid are skyrocketing.
Finance & Economics Get article background Market.view

From a more on-the-streets view of getting commercial projects built and sold

Economic worries predate subprime mess
Americans were expressing a declining confidence in the economy even before the subprime-mortgage mess exploded last summer. That lack of confidence could linger even if the economy improves. "I do think there is an increasing level of angst that is more fundamental and is not going to go away even when the economy improves," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of forecaster Moody's MSNBC/Associated Press (2/17)


Subprime crisis capsizes relationships

The subprime mortgage crisis has pressed banks to lay off employees in their commercial and residential mortgage divisions, and this is upending relationships that retail real estate developers, especially REITs, have cultivated with their underwriters, sources say. "Anecdotally, we've heard that many of the banks got rid of a lot of the people that were underwriting both residential and commercial real estate," said Phillip Martin, a REIT analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, on an earnings call. It was a cold January on Wall Street, with Morgan Stanley cutting 600 mortgage-related jobs and Lehman Bros. axing about 3,000 from its mortgage business. Private companies with more-personal connections to local and regional banks may have an advantage in this environment, observers say. Kite Realty is relying on a network of contacts formed during roughly 20 years as a private company before becoming a public REIT. "We have an advantage here in that we were a private company doing business for a long time, depending on commercial banking relationships," said CEO John Kite on a fourth-quarter earnings call. "Because of that, we didn't focus on one relationship manager, but we knew the president of the bank, the chief lending officer, the chief credit officer. One of our greatest strengths is having had to be a user of capital when we weren't a public company. Those are deep, long relationships." In fact, Kite Realty's list of potential lenders has expanded since the mortgage crisis set in. "We've actually had some growth in relationships," CFO Daniel Sink said on the call, "because there has been some turnover in some of the larger banks, and some of the people that we have had strong relationships with have branched off into new ventures with new banks."

Finally this from the CoStar Group: The Waiting Game: Lenders, Borrowers Grapple With Uncertainty Over Property Values, Cap Rates

Lenders Opt To Be Tightfisted as Markets Reprice Risks, Assets

While the credit crunch is bona fide and has helped topple through-the-roof commercial real estate prices in the last six months, the unexplored reality is that there is still abundant money out there. It's just that lenders are reluctant to give it out as freely as they did this time last year.

The distinction is more than semantics because it suggests that lenders are willfully holding back until such time as …

And that's where it stops, because no one seems to know when that time is. The uncertainty about where property prices and cap rates are is "the elephant in the room, sometimes discussed, sometimes not, but impossible to ignore," as one banker put it.

One Two Punch To Getting A New Purpose (That Hopefully Pays Too)

Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk again provides useful advice in how to live in the new Web 2.0 Millennial World. This time it is on How to job hunt from your current job.

A lot of people worry that they can’t get another job because they don’t have time to find one. This is why hunting for a job from your cube is totally standard.

Today, people switch jobs every two years between the age of 18 and 32. Which means that most job hunts do not have a start and finish—they are continuous. And this is smart, because so much of job hunting is being aware of the market (i.e. surfing at work) and networking (long lunch, anyone?).

In today’s environment, job hunting from the job you have is totally mainstream. Here are tips on how to do it right:

1. Don’t feel guilty.
Schedule interviews for at the beginning or the end of the day.
Don’t dress up for interviews if you can help it.
Don’t do phone interviews from your cube.

Okay, I am past the 18 -32 demographic and my job hunts will not be continuous from this point on, but her advice is still valid because it is naive to think that the world is going to maintain a special spot for you when change is everywhere else.

Furthermore, at some point in time, I will be moving on from my current role in life into "active retirement". Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk has advice I can use in this situation as well,

Use the entrepreneurship boom to improve your corporate job.

The new wave of entrepreneurship is changing the startup landscape for sure. It’s nearly free to start a company online, even teens are having wild success, and young people are flipping web sites like boomers flip houses.

1. Think of entrepreneurship as a safety net that allows you to demand more from your job. If you don’t like the job offers you have, you can leave. Start your own company. The history of the organization man is someone who is defined by whatever track the company puts him on. You don’t want to be that.

2. Think of intrapreneurship as a launching pad for who are waiting for the right idea. Seventy percent of young people say they eventually want to work for themselves. The problem is that only a fraction of those people have an idea for a company—or a friend with an idea for a company.

3. Get in a rotational program to learn a broad range of skills that many entrepreneurs learn as they go. Some of the most popular post-college routes today are management training programs at companies such as General Electric or Procter & Gamble, where superstar candidates get to test out the work in lots of departments in a company.

4. Recognize that with no clear ladder to climb, you’re an entrepreneur even if you never leave corporate life. Even if you don’t want to launch a start-up, you still end up functioning like an entrepreneur in today’s new workplace. There is no long-term stability, so the way you create stability is with your skill set and your connections.

5. Think of corporate jobs as a way to fund entrepreneurship. It used to be that you were either corporate or an entrepreneur. Today, people move in and out of big companies and start-ups, using the steady paycheck to fund the risky venture.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Stumbling on Sadness? Searching For Meaning?

TEDBlog had a post on Stumbling on sadness?

Many TEDTalks explore themes of happiness -- Stumbling on Happiness' Daniel Gilbert, Mattheiu Ricard (who's been called the Happiest Man on Earth), happy designer Stefan Sagmeister, and many more ...

Now a recent story in Newsweek rounds up the latest on happiness' opposite: sadness. It's an interesting gloss on the growing happiness industry -- and what the story calls "the backlash against the happiness rat race."
Stumbling on sadness is perhaps the TED Blog's stab at a minor alliteration, but having recently started using Stumble Upon, the social tagging system, I decided to see what they offered regarding happiness and sadness.

My own Stumbling sites on happiness are limited though this is more a matter of not tagging properly. Here are other Stumbling sites on happiness. I don't have any of my own, but here are some Stumbling sites on sadness.

This weblog has had a number of posts in the past dealing with the question of happiness.

Revisiting Some Old Posts For Some New Learning

A previous post of this weblog dealt with organizing some past Marginal Revolution posts under the various tagging systems used by this weblog. Those posts covered a number of areas of interest to this weblog.

All of this adds to a hopefully ever expanding education on economics, web 2.0 and other areas of interest.

Target Blank Not A Good Thing?

As part of my blog experimenting, and because I use Firefox, I have been using target -blank as a means of opening links up in new tabs, , or sometime in new windows. Now in my most recent experiments with cross-tagging or linking, I discover that there are a number of people out there who very much dislike forced open windows (none of the links in this particular post will open in a new tab or window). Although what I am finding on this is older than a year, it still gives me something to think about. Perhaps one change is that browsers now use tabbing to a greater degree than before so it may not be as big an issue.

I am not of the belief that this weblog is so important that it has to be kept open, but rather it is having to use the back button constantly that really annoys me personally. If there are different but related sources of information available on the same subject, I don't want to have to go back again and again through the original page. I want everything available so that I can move from tab to tab. That's why I like tabs. (Though I do have to admit to disliking unrelated pop-ups or having my window re-sized.) Links in diigo stickynotes need something similar to target blank so that they open outside the stickynote itself, but then they do open a new window rather than a new tab.

So, although my approach maybe OK for using this weblog as my own personal learning tool, it would perhaps not serve for a weblog that was specially designed to communicate with the larger world beyond. There are seemingly more complicated ways of working around this issue, but I am not proficient enough at coding yet to use them.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tagging and Cross-Tagging For Better Learning

This weblog is designed with the understanding that its collected sites would be revisited and restudied. Sometimes though things were put aside, despite the optimistic and good intention of coming back, for far too long. Marginal Revolution has had a number of posts of interest which lay fallow, but they are now being revisited and seen as another means of self-education.

However, beyond the information in the posts themselves there is also how that information is organized by this weblog. That is the focus of this post.

A recent review of old Marginal Revolution links stored in an (private) folder found a number of items of interest.

These have now been placed under the various tagging systems used by this weblog, but beyond tagging in the different systems this weblog has also been experimenting with cross-tagging or cross-linking between links with diigo. The question is whether diigo highlights and stickynotes appear if one reaches the original weblinks through the different tagging systems.

Under Stumble Upon the new links all come under the "Discoveries" designation. This means my using them for my own education is solely a personal choice, which in turn is not surprising as there innumerable paths one could choose. It does seem that Stumble Upon does not recognize diigo highlights or bookmarks so cross-tagging does not seem possible within Stumble Upon. (In the future I will figure out that there a ways to crosstag. The web can be beyond time and space.)

In diigo itself, it seems that stickynotes are a better means of cross-tagging than highlights as you can't see diigo comments at the original tagged websites, only in diigo itself. One problem though is that when a link is clicked within a sticky note appearing at an original site, it does not bring up a new window as it does within diigo itself. Adding a target blank extension seems to work, except that they open in new windows and not new tabs. More importantly, all of this only works if someone is a member of the diigo community.

Finding the sites through Ma.gnolia does allow the diigo highlights and stickynotes to appear so cross-tagging is possible. However, they do not appear in the Ma.gnolia site itself.

Blinklist also permits one to see the diigo highlights and stickynotes.

It still seems that the web 2.0 world is balkanized with very different outcomes depending upon the system you decide to use or constantly having to keep track of multiple systems if you use more than a few.