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In my own experience, nothing is harder for the developing writer than overcoming his anxiety that he is fooling himself and cheating or embarrassing his family and friends. To most people, even those who don't read much, there is something special and vaguely magical about writing, and it is not easy for them to believe that someone they know - someone quite ordinary in many respects - can really do it. -- John Gardner
Well, I've found a means of marketing my cards that seems to be doing well, so I'll be investing more time into it. I mentioned a while back that I'd thought of a way to have a small army of salesfolk. To do this, I created colorful flyers and posted them in the career centers of local high schools. One counselor at one of the local schools liked my work and pointed out the flyer to a student who wanted to get started selling on her own.
The student did okay and got a few orders, but at this same school, I guess word got back to the counselor that I followed through well in support of the student, and so a couple more signed on. They've submitted their first orders with me and got paid, and so they then referred me to one of their friends, whom I signed up today. So here's the bigger question: can I replicate this model into a larger domestic model that can be profitable?
The students like it because there's no pressure to sell. It's their own time and they're not my employee. They make $4 per Connection Pack sold. If they sell two in a few minutes, that's equal to their job at the grocery store or fast food place.
So... how do I scale this upward? Great problem to solve :)
I'm pretty up-to-speed on things in the world. I certainly know who the bad guys are. But I couldn't have answered the question of "al Qaeda: Sunni or Shi'ite?" In fact, I heard a report the other day give some pretty great facts showing that a minority of Shi'ites are mostly the problem, so that would have been my guess too. But no... Sunni is the answer.
I don't think it's reasonable that our representatives in Congress should have expertise in these areas. Their pre-Congressional lives are not devoted to such things. They get assigned to committees based on whatever abilities they possess and what political stance they have with their leadership. But in no way does that guarantee expertise of any kind.
The Middle East is ridiculously complex. Our western mind won't quickly grasp that eastern mind, and so we look to experts to steer us. And more so if we adopt term limits.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the man in the hot seat here, has been in Congress since 1997. Now imagine him with a two-term limit. A short four years, half of which is campaigning for the next election since he's in the House. The other half would be reading legislation, listening to debate, and attending committee sessions.
I just don't see this system to be a recipe for expertise-building. Which says more about the need to re-think our system than it does about the inadequacies of those elected. If we expect expertise, then we need to have a system of orientation/education in certain niches and long-lived representation. Here, the Senate seems more appropriate with its six-year term, and maybe two terms of that is right.
If we don't want them to be in Washington long enough to establish their own corruption, then they're going to have less expertise. Two terms of two years each for the House is quite short, and tougher to be smooth at corruption in that time frame.
But this simply goes back to my firm belief that government should rarely be expected to be an answer for anything. The true experts, the passionate, life-long folks who devote themselves to a subject and skill, they are the ones in the market who will have the right answers. The free market of individuals has the better solution.
All the more reason to restrain the power of government.
Here's my wish for the phase of blogs: I want the text of my favorite blogs to be converted to audio files for me to have available in mp3 format so that I can listen to them on an iPod at work, driving - wherever.
I bought a program called NaturalReader. With it, I'm able to copy text to the program and it reads the text in an almost natural voice:
As the Bush Doctrine has come under attack, there are those in America who have welcomed its apparent setbacks and defeats as a vindication of their criticism of the policy. But the problem is that that kind of vindication leaves America in a position where there are no good alternatives. The reason that there is general despair now is because if it proves to be true that the Bush Doctrine has proclaimed an idea of democratizing the Arab/Islamic world that is unattainable and undoable, then there are no remaining answers to how to counter ultimately the threat of Islamic radicalism.
It remains the only plausible answer - changing the culture of that area, no matter how slow and how difficult the process. It starts in Iraq and Lebanon, and must be allowed to proceed and not precipitate an early and premature surrender. That idea remains the only conceivable one for ultimately prevailing over the Arab Islamic radicalism that exploded upon us 9/11. Every other is a policy of retreat and defeat that would ultimately bring ruin not only on the U.S. but on the very idea of freedom.
Some bloggers podcast and make their words available in audio, but few (any?) make all of their posts available in audio.
What if I could package up the textual content that I wanted available for myself, convert that to audio, and then easily transfer that to my iPod or whatever? That then becomes my own talk radio, if you will. I now package my own content completely. That saves me time. I don't have to just read sites to which I subscribe. I can save time and listen to them intsead, if I choose to do so.
That's what I want for Christmas.
ETC: Thinking a bit further, just as there are a few blog week in review podcasts, is there a market for a professional reader who gives voice to various sites? I think there might be.
For what it's worth, here's my rendition of the article. Because it's human, it's read with more meaning than NaturalReader.
I said recently that my site needs a makeover. Yeah, after some more thought, not so much.
The reason? Feeds. Don't know what a feed is? Get educated. You need to know. A feed allows you to access pure content across many web sites at once. It means that you don't have to visit each web site individually to read what the web site offers.
This has a lot of ramifications... this affects everything from advertising to copyright laws. For example, if I have ads on my web site, but you're accessing my web site's content through a feed, then you, most likely, won't see my ads. (I wonder how Google feels about this?) My content now appears through a new portal, if you will, alongside everyone else's content. So whose content is it really? Does this rob me of my identity? My brand?
How my web site appears no longer matters. Sure, I'll get occasional folks browsing me from search results. But increasingly, I'll get folks trafficking my site through feeds. That's sobering.
What's more, if there is a way to bundle my content with others' content and repackage it like a front page, isn't the front page the presentation? The look of my web site doesn't matter.
I still think this technology and methodology is in its infancy. But the long-term effects are staggering.
Brands don't matter. Look doesn't matter. This is true because in this new world, you can't manage either.
It's just content. And how you attract attention to your content. That's it. And that's huge.
ETC: I was explaining to my sons that Time magazine's person of the year was them, or "You." If you're reading this, you're Time's Person of the Year. Congratulations. But they have more to say along the lines of what I'm saying:
Look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.
The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It's not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it's really a revolution.
And we are so ready for it. We're ready to balance our diet of predigested news with raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing. You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos—those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms—than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.
And we didn't just watch, we also worked. Like crazy. We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software.
Raw feeds. Yes. Show me what I want in terms of content. Don't filter it for me. Don't sanitize it. Don't think you have to play editor for me. Let me do that for myself or I will find a way around you. Facilitate or die.
Further, let me have my own voice. Maybe that's the thing. If there is any content from beatcanvas that is worth consuming to you, you don't want it in my format. You want it in yours. You want it your way. Don't like my politics? What if you could edit that out? Don't like my art but you like my conceptual posts? What if it could be presented to you along with the content of others as you define?
The hierarchy is over. Top-down sucks. Give me tools that empower me with Mac-like intuitive ease and give me the content I want and don't waste my time with crap, be it ads or scrolling or visiting yeaterday's content. I want fresh and raw. I'll be my own editor. I'll remix as it makes sense for me to do.
Now apply all of that to any industry. Education. Medical. Financial. What if the medical community showed you a smorgasbord of medical content, expertise, testing, and so on and let you choose for yourself the best way to care for yourself, with advice from professionals along the way?
Marketing 2.0 - what does it look like and how does it play with this new era?
I watched Double Jeopardy with my son, Nick, tonight. It's a decent film. What struck me though was the sheer focus of Ashley Judd's character - her sense of self and purpose. There was no doubt in her. She asserted herself without a second thought. In the scene above, she knew that driving her truck into a car was exactly right. Think about that - what circumstances would it take for you to know that totalling another car was the right thing to do?
I was chatting with a friend earlier today and I mentioned that I admired her strength in dealing head on with people. Very factual, very much cards on the table. I think this is somewhat similar to being able to take criticism without being defensive. Both require a certain selflessness. In one, I can't worry about what others think of me. Call me an asshole, but truth is truth, and I just need to put it out there. In the other, I can't worry about what others think of me. Truth is truth, so if I screwed up, let's get it out into the open and I'll have to deal with it.
Another friend of mine calls this "just dealing in the irrefutable facts." Truth. If you deal in the irrefutable facts, and not personalities/politics, then the job is much easier. But it takes a certain moxie to disregard the feelings of others and just let them assimilate the facts as they are. Sure, there's a way to state these things that makes them more easily absorbed, but ultimately, you can't worry about it. Irrefutable facts are, well, irrefutable - without looking silly for trying to ignore them.
This is something on which I need to work, both in standing firm to assert myself in a tough situation and in knowing how to best communicate it. One key to communication in this area that I'm learning is the value of the one-on-one conversation. If I take the time to lay the facts out, most people will readily accept them for the truth that they are.
There's a chemical abundant in our society today that doesn't get enough attention. It's called Dihydrogen Monoxide. Here's a fact sheet about its dangers from this awareness web site.
Each year, Dihydrogen Monoxide is a known causative component in many thousands of deaths and is a major contributor to millions upon millions of dollars in damage to property and the environment. Some of the known perils of Dihydrogen Monoxide are:
Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects.
DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
Contributes to soil erosion.
Leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals.
Contamination of electrical systems often causes short-circuits.
Exposure decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes.
Found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumors and lesions.
Given to vicious dogs involved in recent deadly attacks.
Often associated with killer cyclones in the U.S. Midwest and elsewhere, and in hurricanes including deadly storms in Florida, New Orleans and other areas of the southeastern U.S.
Thermal variations in DHMO are a suspected contributor to the El Nino weather effect.
That's alarming, and yet this substance is used globally, unchecked. In fact, many corporations make money from its use.
This scandalous chemical... well, it's common to you. In fact, you need it to live. It's water. Yep - good ol' H2O. Di (two) hydrogen Mon (one) oxide. Two hydrogen, one oxygen. Water.
Yes, the web site given above is a spoof. But my goodness, what a lot of heavy breathing. How easy it is to use the proper buzzwords - corporations, death, contamination, etc - and bring people to a stupid cause without using their heads and without asking the right questions.
Take a look at this Penn and Teller video, in which a young woman in their employ goes to an environmental rally and gets hundreds of the people there to sign a petition against Dihydrogen Monoxide.
Now, me personally, I don't have an opinion about global warming. I really don't. I don't have enough facts, and despite Al Gore's presentation in his movie, there are enough folks presenting just as many facts discounting his presentation.
Gore repeatedly labels carbon dioxide as "global warming pollution" when, in reality, it is no more pollution than is oxygen. CO2 is plant food, an ingredient essential for photosynthesis without which Earth would be a lifeless, frozen ice ball. The hypothesis that human release of CO2 is a major contributor to global warming is just that - an unproven hypothesis, against which evidence is increasingly mounting.
In fact, the correlation between CO2 and temperature that Gore speaks about so confidently is simply non-existent over all meaningful time scales. U of O climate researcher Professor Jan Veizer demonstrated that, over geologic time, the two are not linked at all. Over the intermediate time scales Gore focuses on, the ice cores show that CO2 increases don't precede, and therefore don't cause, warming. Rather, they follow temperature rise - by as much as 800 years. Even in the past century, the correlation is poor; the planet actually cooled between 1940 and 1980, when human emissions of CO2 were rising at the fastest rate in our history.
So again, don't know. But what would be great is if we got some irrefutable facts on the table, rather than half-facts, as the chart Gore gives in his movie does. He shows a period of 650,000 years and says that a rise in CO2 is tied inextricably to a rise in temperature, his argument being that "greenhouse gasses" will bring about global warming. But if you break that chart down and look at the years in smaller increments, as the scientist quoted in the above article explains, temperature rise always precedes CO2 increase. Take a look...
I got this chart from this guy, who puts the facts on the table. Kudos to him.
Gore's movie may have many things right. Don't know. Environmentalists might be right about global warming and other ecological maladies facing us. Don't know. But a bit of healthy skepticism and fact-checking is certainly in order before we hop on the groupthink train and let ourselves be alarmed about things we don't know. Too many people, on all sides of the political spectrum, approach crap from "authorities" uncritically. As a result, folks might actually, you know, petition against water - catastrophic substance though it is.
Look, love/hate The Donald, but he is a brilliant businessman. He knows how to milk a good PR run and he has turned the lemons of Tara Conner's partying into more and more attention for the Miss USA pageant. He's also taken the heat off of Tara Conner and put it on: Rosie O'Donnell, who is also milking this for all its worth.
More viewers for Miss USA next time. More viewers for The View.
Ah yes... be controversial, get attention. In this attention economy, Trump seized on this beautifully. So did Rosie. Barbara Walters loves them both.
I've felt for a while that today's necessity of PowerPoint in the business world will be eclipsed by video. Managers will use multimedia and interactive videos to model their ideas and present their facts. The only question is how do we McJob the creation of video so that anyone can do it and look professional?
We're getting there with digital cameras and cell phones being able to shoot movies and Windows Movie Maker being on every copy of Windows itself and the growth of YouTube and Revver and others. That's bringing everyday people into this world of video production and distribution.
But... I want to get back to my statement that video is the way to present ideas and that business folk will seek to present their ideas in this format. Why is that so?
I read a lot. In the past year, I've purchased maybe 50 to 75 books, everything from "Execution," a business read, to "Conversation in Paint," an art book. Great stuff. I like the portability of books. I can even take the to the bathroom with me if I wanted to - The Library, as it's jokingly known in some quarters.
Even 5 years ago, it was pretty much unthinkable that I could drag a video - any video - into the bathroom with me. Sure, there were portable DVD players, but that was movies. What about TV shows? Home videos? These things weren't really available to put on DVD.
The Internet and video iPods and such make just about any video available to us whenever we want it. And a picture is worth a thousand words.
In the last 12 hours, I've spent about 2 hours of it watching explanations of m-theory and string theory, the latest trends in physics to resolve the questions of the universe into a single "theory of everything." It reoccurred to me in the course of my watching these videos that I was learning this much faster with the slick presentation of complex, moving graphics and human expression than I would through books. This doesn't dispense of my love for books, but it does show the alternative benefits of learning by video.
Now take that to the business climate. Do people really like to read the dry writ of reports? Of course not. If they did, PowerPoint would have never gained any hold. Managers want bullets, not paragraphs.
But how much better and more efficiently could we present project proposals and financials in video?
View the videos below - both of these are the first segment in multipart videos available on YouTube. Then imagine reading the books that give this same information. Doesn't video propel you much further along? And if you agree with that, apply this to communication and growth within a company. Would video accelerate the growth of the business because of the greased communication that video provides?
The Elegant Universe
Text works today because I can search it and jump into it and through it. For example, in reading a book, I can skip ahead, grab another book to dig deeper into something to understand a concept better. Video isn't interactive. I can't hotspot something and get more information. But I'm sure that's coming.
Video isn't searchable. I can't go to Google video and query to find all of the videos that have a Coke bottle in them somewhere. Only if someone tags the video with text, "Coke" in this instance, can I find the videos that feature a Coke bottle
And so PowerPoint is useful because it is both searchable and I can stop it to have a discussion and drill into a point.
How long before video offers that to users? And how amazing would learning then become?
One of the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes ever: Space Mutiny! Starring Santa - er, sort of. The three irreverently comment on one of the worst movies ever. Bonus at the end with the absolutely most ridiculous chase scene ever.
If you're not familiar with MST3K, hang in there for the first 15 minutes... the non-movie segments are never my favorites, but the movie bits are worth it.
With all of my kids away for the holidays with their moms and with Tamara in the Caribbean with her family, I'm whiling away the evening doing stupid stuff and painting. I'll watch a movie shortly, but try this game. I managed to get almost 29 seconds... and if you read French, you'll know what they're saying about me.
A good friend of mine once told me that there is nothing sexier than a man who loves and adores his wife. I'll stretch that a bit further. There is nothing sexier than a couple who only have eyes for each other. When I see that, I wish that for everyone. That depth of intimacy sparks the air around them and brings people to talk of their "magic" long beyond the evening.
On the flip side, is there anything less sexy than a married guy flirting with other women? Oh, but it's innocent and harmless, some say. He'd never do anything with someone other than his wife, they'll tell you. He's just being a guy, others say in excuse for him. Worse, I hear him say, "At the end of the night, she's only one I go to bed with." Some consolation. After ogling, flirting, and touching every woman in the place, his wife now gets to go home with him. I wonder if he's thinking of his wife when they're in bed...
Is it okay for the married guy to flirt? Go ahead... type in "married flirting" into Google. The results are riddled with affairs, the top link pointing to "Discreet Adventures." Yeah. What woman wants to sign up for that when she marries her man?
I bring this up (and passionately so) because I was recently subjected to this behavior by an acquaintance who did this at a party. He touched other women and even lay on top of one as she was on the couch. Her husband was in the adjacent room and he said nothing. In fact, no one said anything because no one wants to ruffle any feathers. He's an okay guy once you get to know him, I'm told. Allow me to call bullshit on that.
If my spouse flirts with others, then flirting with me becomes meaningless. Where it might have been sexy once, it loses its attractiveness. Just like going to lunch with someone doesn't imply a date because I do it with so many people, if I flirt with others while I am married the implication of attraction toward my spouse becomes washed out because it's shared with others. Flirting becomes common and nothing special. Big deal.
I've never heard any woman look at the married guy who flirts with other women and say, "Gee, I wish I could find a guy like that." Instead, I've heard some single women suggest that he'd be fun for a night. But that's it. Until they consider that he's been passed around like so much Jell-o at the table of a potluck supper. How special can that be? Only enough for one night. Maybe two.
On the other hand, I've seen single women look at the married guy who only has eyes for his wife and they light up. They smile and say approvingly, "She found a really good man. He's totally in love with her." That is exactly how it should be. Bingo.
They say that we become who we hang out with.
It would never cross my mind that someone I would call a friend would touch my wife inappropriately. Instead, he would seek to protect her and my marriage from the men who would try to do that.
A friend wouldn't see my wife as a sexy thing he can play with, but rather he would see her as half of me. Because of this, he would treat her with respect and care.
A friend knows that she's mine because she gave herself to me. He wouldn't think of crossing that line.
Such a man is one whom I can call a friend. And those are the kind of people with whom I want to surround myself.
Yesterday, I watched the most beautiful movie, What Dreams May Come, with Tamara. It's one of the few movies I've watched where the main characters actually felt like they were in love. It also has a great artistic bent to it, and the visuals of the movie are sublimely captivating.
And if you're a sap for romance, like me, then you'll groove on the story, which is, in part, that of a man who dies and then reaches back to his wife through her painting.
What would happen if the love of your life left? Would it be as though all of the oxygen had left the room?
It was tough for me while Tamara was gone... I'm joyous that she's back.
I read from Glenn Reynolds that some terrorist group in Spain executed a car bombing. He gives the name of the group, as does every other news source.
So I wonder: would we, as citizen journalists in the blogosphere, help to reduce the bandwidth of free advertising these murderers get if we simply refuse to give the name of the group? How about if we just report:
Thuggish Buffoons Blow Up Car
Might be me, but since blogs are leading by example in a lot of ways, such as the Porkbusters folks have shown, why not lead here too? And then what if there was a pressure on MSM to do the same?
So imagine that terrorists by name get no credit whatsoever. Then why would they continue to do it? Let's not promote their cause by giving them attention in this attention economy.
Is there a value in giving us, the public, the name of the murderous group that commit these acts? No, if you think about it. Whether it's Al Qaeda or the Wonder Twins, how does that knowledge help you? It can't help you avoid terrorists. The public doesn't benefit by this knowledge. The only thing it does is give them a big ol' banner for recruiting and financial support. "Oh look, the Smarmy Bastards are really giving it to the West these days - I gotta sign up! I want to be a Smarmy Bastard too."
So let's not. Let's not give them any attention. Call attention to the act, but never say who specifically did it. By drying up their advertising, maybe their cause becomes just a loser hobby instead of a well-financed organization.