Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lesson From Philippe Starck "Design Is Dead" Lesson From Hugh MacLeod "The Future Isn't"

Back at the end of last year Phillipe Starck took the TED stage to answer the question Why design? During that time he railed against the cynicism of Raymond Loewy in the '50s.

Now tells us that Philippe Starck says that design is dead...

Here is Jason Kottke's post from by back on March 28 of this year.

Philippe Starck says that design is dead and that he's retiring. Says Starck:
I was a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact. Everything I designed was unnecessary. I will definitely give up in two years' time. I want to do something else, but I don't know what yet. I want to find a new way of expressing myself is a dreadful form of expression. (link)

I am going to follow Seth Godin's advice and have an opinion. Sorry, but being ashamed of producing materiality seems to me to be pretentious. Deciding that you want to do something else that has more meaning for you, yes that I could find admirable, even deciding what you personally designed was unnecessary in regards to your designing it, but to decry design because it works with the elements of this world, well I am not ready to leave the material world just yet. There are more than enough opportunities to find meaningful purpose in designing for the other 80% who could use a bit more materiality.

Materiality is not the problem, it is limiting our vision of ourselves and our world to only materiality. Equally problematic is disdaining the material world.

On numerous occasions this weblog has turned to Seth Godin and Hugh MacLeod for insights. It is not the purpose of this weblog to market anything, yet I still find ideas in their writings that resonate with me, regardless whether or not that was their intention.

MacLeod's latest post, just picked up today, justifies again my labeling MacLeod as the world's most optimistic curmudgeon, with more emphasis perhaps on the curmudgeon. The post also sets a warning marker about being pretentious myself.

The latest source of optimistic inspiration is MacLeod's post on "the blue monster is the future of marketing" via gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards" back in May of this year.

I am liberally paraphrasing MacLeod's post here for my own purposes, for his purposes go to his post.

MacLeod defines his Blue Monster as, a cartoon-based "Social Object" that me and my Microsoft buddy, Steve Clayton, unleashed on the good but unsuspecting folk at Microsoft.

I have been interested in the idea of the Social Object and how it fits into new marketing for some time. Not for marketing purposes, but how it defines how we interrelate with each other. It is too simplistic to take the position that it is just about making money. No doubt, if done well, it results in making money, but it is not at the heart of the gesture. The emphasis is on the social not the object.

5. My [MacLeod's] second big insight from this year was learning that, even with a fairly everyday product, you can create social objects simply by using your products to make social gestures.

Now the Blue Monster as a social object is arguably not material (sans pen, ink, paper), but other social objects promoted by MacLeod are. More importantly, they achieve something that perhaps Starck's designs did not, they take on a life of their own.

One of the reasons I haven't talked about it much lately, is simply because there is no longer the need. To paraphrase Steve, "It's already out there, it's already working its magic. It has a life of its own and it no longer needs us."

Perhaps Starck's designs practiced "Subversion as a marketing tool". Starck would not have called it "marketing", but whether it's marketing or telling stories or finding meaning, it can be counterproductive if not done with authenticity, especially if it comes from above, whether hierarchically or metaphorically.

Understanding the Blue Monster means understanding the need to be "bigger than yourself".

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jeff Sachs Writes, Tyler Cowen Asks, Wired Warns, Europe Ponders and E.O. Wilson Educates About Biodiversity

Some time ago in April of this year Marginal Revolution had a post featuring Jeff Sachs on biodiversity. Professor Cowen expressed his current perspective on the issue.

Now, loyal MR readers may remember that I am genuinely uncertain how much we should worry about the loss of biodiversity. I do know the following:

1. Many smart people who know much more science than I do are very worried about the loss of biodiversity.

2. Given that the human population has ballooned for the foreseeable future, massive losses in biodiversity are inevitable. The question is how bad the marginal losses will be, if we do not adapt policy accordingly.

3. If I had to conduct a debate and argue that the marginal loss of biodiversity was going to be a tragedy for human beings (obviously, I can see the loss to animals, and yes I do count that for something), I would not do very well. Yes Yana's children won't eat tuna and then I would sputter something about carbon and nitrogen cycles.

I genuinely would like to learn more.

The current source of information being Jeffery Sach's new book Common Wealth which devotes an entire chapter to this important topic. Sachs writes:

The main lesson of ecology is the interconnectedness of the various parts of an ecosystem and the dangers of abrupt, nonlinear, and even catastrophic changes caused by modest forcings...It is a basic finding that biological diversity increases the productivity and resilience of ecosystems. With more species filling more niches in a given location, a biodiverse ecosystem is better buffered against external shocks in is more adept at cycling nutrients, capturing solar radiation, utilizing water resources, and preventing the takeover of the system by single predators, weeds, or pathogens. In other words, preserving biodiversity helps to preserve all aspects of ecosystem functions. Removing one or more species from an ecosystem, for example, by selective harvesting of trees or fish or hunted animals, can lead to a cascade of ecological changes with large, adverse, and nonlinear effects on the functioning of the ecosystem.

Professor Cowen could get part of his answer from Wired Magazine's article Conserve Biodiversity or Risk Medical Losses, U.N. Warns via Wired Top Stories by Associated Press on April 23, 2008.

Poor stewardship of the Earth's diverse organisms could deal a major setback to medical research, a top U.N. environmental official says, because scientists are heavily dependent on naturally made chemical compounds to develop new medicines.
Here are some additional links from one of my network partners EUPHORIC which provides multiple perspectives on biodiversity and the efforts of the European Union in meeting them.

Finally, here is E.O. Wilson and the fruits of his TED Prize wish from 2007: Encyclopedia of Life launches! via TED | TEDBlog by on 2/28/08

Help me build the key tool that we need to inspire preservation of Earth's biodiversity: the Encyclopedia of Life. Today, the Encyclopedia of Life website has launched, with the first 30,000 pages, each one describing a single species, with descriptions and photos contributed by scientists and naturalists and people around the globe. Within a decade, it'll have more than 1.5 million pages, each for a single species.

More on this from the New York Times which provides additional background on this wish >>

Miracle of Melancholia And Failure - It Can Lead To Optimism

The miracle of melancholia by Eric G. Wilson, in the LA Times, has been sitting in my Blogger drafts since February 17 2008.

We're a nation obsessed with being happy, but sometimes feeling bad can do you some good.
In April of 1819, right around the time that he began to suffer the first symptoms of tuberculosis -- the disease that had already killed his mother and his beloved brother, Tom -- the poet John Keats sat down and wrote, in a letter to his brother, George, the following question: "Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a Soul?"

Another somewhat similarly minded perspective was found in The Value of Failure

Bounce by Barry Moltz, about startups and failurewhich was recommended by Small Business Trends small business expert Scott Shane back on February 4, 2008.

I don’t usually recommend business books to people because I am not a big fan of most of them. But I need to make an exception here. I want to urge people to read Bounce by Barry Moltz.
As someone who studies entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship for a living, I know that there is a big problem getting good information about the topic. Most start-ups fail, but people don’t like to talk about failure. So we have many more stories about start-up success than start-up failure, even though it should be the other way around.

Keats shows us that this struggle with melancholia is nothing new. Eric G. Wilson shows us that what is new is its social stigma.

Implied in this inquiry is an idea that is not very popular these days -- at least not in the United States, which is characterized by an almost collective yearning for complete happiness. That idea is this: A person can only become a fully formed human being, as opposed to a mere mind, through suffering and sorrow. This notion would seem quite strange, possibly even deranged, in a country in which almost 85% of the population claims, according to the Pew Research Center, to be "very happy" or at least "happy."

He goes on to say:

Melancholia, far from error or defect, is an almost miraculous invitation to rise above the contented status quo and imagine untapped possibilities. We need sorrow, constant and robust, to make us human, alive, sensitive to the sweet rhythms of growth and decay, death and life.

I don't believe that Professor Wilson's words should be denied, but they are not in themselves complete enough. The reason that I so often use business links,such as Small Business Trends, is that they are a laboratory in reality, rather than in the academic or virtual world. What the business person experiments with has to work or he or she doesn't survive. Barry Moltz's Bounce is "stories" of facing and overcoming failure, of starting again. Melancholia has its lessons and its value but that should not keep us from engaging optimism.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Revisiting Eco20/20 Group At

Back in April I joined one of the diigo groups Eco20/20, an organization that according to the group description, is the leader at providing safe,clean,environmentally friendly alternative-renewable energy information. We must be energy smart and independent. Fossil fuels are finite,expensive and damage the air.

Since then it has tripled the number of friends from 56 to 158 and doubled its membership from 15 to 33. This would seem to demonstrate that having a specific focus of purpose and established credentials to achieve that purpose makes it more likely that others will join you or at least tag along. Membership would suggest greater commitment than friendship, the basis of that commitment being contributions of bookmarks.

Energy Net is by far the greatest contributer to the group with 174, as of this writing, bookmarks provided. A visit to Energy Net's profile page will show a long term commitment to this cause. According the profile of the owner, I'm the archivist for the anti-nuclear movement in California that was organized by the Abalone Alliance and further down this site is organized around educating public about the dangers of nuclear power and alternatives to it. Energy Net has 5,348 bookmarks most dealing with energy and nuclear.

I would seem to be third, at least in terms of shared bookmarks with a paltry 12, but then energy and environmental issues have not been a top focus for me. Truth is that most of my shared bookmarks have dealt with economics, economic sustainability, technology or other issues and happened to involve energy issues. I have also, as of yet, not participated in any forums.

I do, however, have more shared bookmarks and even total bookmarks at the eco20/20 diigo site than eco20/20 itself. Is the site then merely a container created for others to fill in their contributions? Does the diigo site help to feed new people to the ECO20/20 website homepage? It is all for the good, rather the question being raised is on effective communication or conversation with the "crowd". At its highest level, the best term I can come up with would be "collaboration". My past posts on this perspective though have bounced all over the place. Energy Net would seem to be getting the greatest leverage out of their efforts on this subject, at least in relation to the diigo community.

Some of my contributed Group Bookmarks are below. Some perhaps could be debated as to whether or not they were applicable or not.

TED | Talks | Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto (video) --- Add comment
- Tag: development economics environment paradigms poverty social-entrepreneurship sustainability ted video - Shared By: Brian Dowling 2008-05-21 03:07:24

- Quotes & Comments -

  • Why you should listen to her: Majora Carter is a visionary voice in city planning who views urban renewal through an environmental lens. The South Bronx native draws a direct connection between ecological, economic and social degradation. Hence her motto: - comment by Brian Dowling
- Tag: biofuel environment global - Shared By: Brian Dowling 2008-05-21 03:07:26
- Quotes & Comments -
  • Mandelson writes: "The issue is not biofuels or no biofuels, but the right biofuels. Europe's governments have signed a commitment ensuring that 10% of the petrol in Europe's vehicles in 2020 is made from renewable transport fuels, including biofuels. This will make an important contribution to the EU's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote security of energy supply. But there is an obvious caveat: biofuels must be an environmental policy in pursuit of an environmental outcome - the most sustainable policy is the only right policy".
- Tag: economics environment - Shared By: Brian Dowling 2008-05-21 03:07:25
- Quotes & Comments -
  • This year biofuels will take a third of America's (record) maize harvest. That affects food markets directly: fill up an SUV's fuel tank with ethanol and you have used enough maize to feed a person for a year. And it affects them indirectly, as farmers switch to maize from other crops. The 30m tonnes of extra maize going to ethanol this year amounts to half the fall in the world's overall grain stocks.
- Tag: economics environment - Shared By: Brian Dowling 2008-05-21 03:07:25
- Quotes & Comments -
- Tag: environment - Shared By: Brian Dowling 2008-05-21 03:07:24
- Tag: crowdsourced economics environment vcfund - Shared By: Brian Dowling 2008-05-21 03:07:26
- Quotes & Comments -
  • Steve Newcomb, a co-founder of search startup Powerset, is in the early stages of launching a ventur- capital fund that would accept green investments as low as $100, with a maximum investment of $1,000.

    "It would be a breakthrough green venture-capital fund for the people, by the people. As excited as I was about PowerSet, I'm 10 times more excited about this," Newcomb told "Worldwide, there is the potential to raise a multibillion-dollar fund."

- Tag: economics environment - Shared By: Brian Dowling 2008-05-21 03:07:25
- Quotes & Comments -
  • Corn is caught in a tug-of-war between ethanol plants and food, one of the first signs of a coming agricultural transformation and a global economic shift. Ever since our ancestors in the Fertile Crescent first figured out how to grow grains, crops have been used mainly to feed people and livestock. But now that's changing in response to the high price of oil, the cost in lives and dollars of ensuring a supply of petroleum imports, and limits on climate-warming emissions of fossil fuels.
- Tag: design environment social-engagement - Shared By: Brian Dowling 2008-05-21 03:07:25
- Quotes & Comments -
  • One of the objectives we should want to achieve when defining and presenting ourselves or our life's endeavors is authenticity. One could take it that design also has authenticity has an objective as well from the writings of Finn McKenty, who blogs at Lightheavyweight. Perhaps, though, it is wrong to think of them as being in separate arenas.

    Finn McKenty extends the concern with authenticity to endeavors of social-engagement. Specifically, the Greener Grass project, which is about connecting people with ideas designed to have a positive impact.

    - comment by Brian Dowling
  • About The Greener Grass

    The Greener Grass uses our resources to initiate positive change by opening discourse, connecting people, and becoming a conduit for new thinking and discussion that leads to positive outcomes. Our goal is to build a community by interviewing experts and thought leaders, identifying trends, and creating concepts for products, services, and ideas that bring solutions to life.
- Quotes & Comments -

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Musician As Businessperson The Entrepreneur as Artisan


The New York Times brought up an ongoing debate with its Free Music? Only With a Fight article back on March 15, 2008 under its BUSINESS| What's Online section. The fight is over the economics.

Hugh MacLeod asked the same basic question, in his case regarding software, how does a software company make money, if all software is free? via gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards" by hugh macleod back on 4/8/08.

On Page 122 of this month's Wired Magazine, I'm given a brief mention in the first paragraph of an article, "Open Source Software Made Developers Cool; Now It Can Make Them Rich", all to do with monetization of Open Source software. Here's the online version.

Last spring, marketer and blogger Hugh MacLeod posted a question on his site: If open source is such a phenomenon, where are all the open source billionaires? His audience wasn't amused. Open source software relies on a community of volunteer developers who tinker on, write for, or amend a program, then give it away free. MacLeod's site filled up with complaints that even to look for billionaires violated the spirit of the open source movement. "There have to be rewards," one commenter wrote, "but they don't have to be financial."

What gets me working for Microsoft is that I've always been very interested in something else, namely, how people make a living. This is true for large companies, small companies, billionaires and "humble tradesmen" alike. This is why I can work with a large software company like Microsoft, or a small tailoring firm like English Cut, and find them both utterly fascinating. Everybody needs to get paid; that is the great constant in business.

Much of today's economy seems to be based on the intangibles of creativity rather than the production of product. This weblog initially looked at fair use and copyright issues and its impact on the economic viability at the individual level. Special interest has also been paid to the economics of this new paradigm at a more broad based level. Hugh MacLeod provides some insight from the world of Web 2.0.

Last summer, at a dinner party in London, I had the great pleasure of meeting Simon Phipps, the Head of Open Source at Sun Microsystems. .. A lot of the conversation was off the record, but one of my main take-outs was that Simon passionately believes that "The Future Is Open Source".

A few weeks ago, I met a young developer who worked in an IT department of a large insurance company. I asked him what kind of software did he use. Answer: About 75% Microsoft, 25% Open Source. I asked him why did he not use more Open Source? I thought IT people loved Open Source?

"If something goes wrong with Microsoft, I can phone Microsoft up and have it fixed. With Open Source, I have to rely on the community."

And the community, as much as we may love it, is unpredictable. It might care about your problem and want to fix it, then again, it may not. Anyone who has ever witnessed something online go "viral", good or bad, will know what I'm talking about.

When you buy a Microsoft product, you're not just getting ones and zeros. There's also a form of "social contract" implicit in the commercial transaction. You gave them money, this entitles you to certain expectations.

The last time this was considered, under Troubadour Troubles - Economic, Legal, Moral? You Pick, links were provided to David Byrne and his advice on Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars. This time the advice comes from Entrepreneurial Mind, who provided back on March 28, 2008 a perspective on the Musician as Artisan.

The music industry is facing an interesting puzzle these days How do you run a business where customers do not want to pay and they do not want advertising?
Efforts to sell music by subscription have mainly failed...traditional radio's offer of free music surrounded by audio advertising also is being rejected by a generation that resents undesirable interruptions.

"They want to be the program director, and they insist that the program be free," says Jerry Del Colliano.

The big boys in the industry do what big boys do in any industry undergoing fundamental change -- they try to get the government to protect their interests.

The predictions from the Institutue for the Future about the future of small business might offer a glimpse into the future of music:

Artisans, historically defined as skilled craftsmen who fashioned goods by hand, will re-emerge as an influential force in the coming decade. These next-gen artisans will craft their goods and shape the economy -- through upswings and downturns -- with an effect reaching far beyond their neighborhoods, or even their nations. They'll work differently than their medieval counterparts, combining brain with brawn as advances in technology and the reaches of globalization give them greater opportunities to succeed.

Summing it all up from Hugh MacLeod:

The reason Microsoft is able to charge the money it does IS NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE SOFTWARE. Like Open Source, the social contract can often matter far more than the ones and zeros.
Summing it all up from Professor Cornwall:
...I hope that it is an industry sustained by talented artists -- and successful artisans -- who help us understand love, heart ache, happiness, sadness, joy, despair.

I have to admit being pleased with the idea that the rock star provided the more business oriented advice and the business professor talked about issues closer to the artistic soul. Both Hugh MacLeod and Professor Cornwall, I suspect, are approaching the same place from different directions. Whether they or we all will arrive at the same place is another question. The challenge is to actively instill the humanity that Professor Cornwall evokes into the so far unwritten and to a large extent unrealized social contract that Hugh MacLeod suggests.

Innovation At MIT Inspires Experimentation At Home

MIT is, I have no hesitation saying, synonymous with innovation. Not only with technical innovations, for products or projects but process innovations which are often of greater long term impact and implementable by more people in the organization. This post is experimenting with its own innovations. You can either just go ahead and see what happens or peek at the bottom.

The two resources that are combined here deal with organizational transformation and how to bring that about. One featuring Rebecca Henderson, the Eastman Kodak LFM Professor, MIT Sloan School, describes the process and one describes on ongoing program that helps to bring that objective about. These are part of a series on Strategies for Sustainable Business Practices. How to you get all the different components of a large complex organization to work together for a common goal and set of principles. The principles presented here at a somewhat more abstract level, though they are derived from practical applications, but other presentations within this series provide tested pragmatic solutions.

MIT World: Why It's So Hard to Do New Things In Old Organizations... - StumbleUpon - diigo Annotated diigo tags: management, innovation, sustainability, strategy, mit
  • It is not just the technology, its how you use the technology, its how you use the technology together. Quite a few insights that sound logical when your hear them but so few organizations take the time to listen, even to themselves.
MIT ILP - MIT Industrial Liaison Program - Annotated
  • Corporate Access to MIT

  • Innovation is your lifeblood. Your company's survival depends on your ability to nurture growth with a continuous flow of generative ideas. Ideas for new products. Better processes. Superior services.

  • MIT's Industrial Liaison Program (ILP) is your one-stop shop for MIT expertise. The vast resources of MIT - one of the world's outstanding research universities - can provide a rich vein of technological and managerial innovation that will help sustain your competitive advantage for decades to come.

  • Leading companies from across the globe turn to the ILP for professionally coordinated access to MIT experts, research facilities, and information resources that will help them bring innovation to market. For its part, MIT has long held that leading, breakthrough research is the product of open, consultative dialogue. And the MIT faculty has come to expect its colleagues at the ILP to identify companies that can add meaningful input and perspective to important new areas of scientific inquiry.

The first link above goes to a StumbeUpon review of the target page with the link to the targeted page at the top. The second link is the same StumbleUpon page tied in with diigo. Subsequent sets of links go directly to the site or to the diigo account. If you decide to become a member of either tagging system, then there are more connection for you to explore by others. This post was created by tagging the sites first then creating the post from those tagged links. The idea is finding ways to make these separate components integrate together better. StumbleUpon, diigo and this weblog itself serve to organize and disseminate information, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The diigo account, under its "About" function under "More" in the diigo menu bar, indicates that this page is also found under my own delicious account and BlogLines through EURFORIC a member of my