This isn’t a matter of social entrepreneurship or civic responsibility. You have every right to pursue a venture of any kind – that is what makes America great. In fact it’s the foundation of the American dream. If you want to sell backlinks, then sell backlinks. If you want to stuff your piggy bank through affiliate marketing, then by all means go for it. But do consider the fact that your derivative business creates no long term value for yourself or your country. Consider the fact that this is not innovation and it’s not the future. And finally, remember that a life of spam does not pay more than a life of innovation.
This is just my take on it, but the problem is that doing innovative things is, by defacto, riskier. The general appetite for risk seems like it has decreased for whatever reason. People are happier than ever hitting singles or doubles rather than opting for the grand slam that really revolutionizes industries and solves a problem. Not sure what the solution is, but I think it has a lot to do with institutionalizing a very concrete problem and solution or endgame (As JFK did by publicly stating an intention to put a the man on the moon during the Soviet Space race).
Here’s an awesome example of content curation via a short form mechanism. It’s called 24in60, and all it is is text based summaries of stuff that has happened in the last day in small chunks (the idea is it takes less than 60 seconds to read).
Here’s a description from the site:
This site is designed for people who either don’t enjoy traditional news or don’t have time for it. While 24in60.com is from a U.S. perspective, the website is focused on covering the most important events of the day that has an important impact on the world and chooses stories that are not speculative or sensationalist. The daily news summary are usually posted in the evening or the following morning.
Awesome. I’ve been advocating for a long time that there needs to be more forms of experiences that use the marketplace to convey how much time they take to consume. This might not work for everything, but it certainly works for news content.
People are busy. Money might be fungible, but increasingly time really isn’t. It’s irreplaceable. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s hard for people to cognitively grasp the notion that time is a limited resource, but I predict a very near future in which products that give people their time back will have inelastic, extraordinarily high demand for them.
Products like RescueTime and 24in60 are already pointing to this type of future.
I think BetterAtlearning plans will work the same way. Teach yourself _______ in only 4 days/weeks/months. I wonder why more marketplaces don’t convey how much time they save people.
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
Kottke wrote How to beat Apple. The post is very well written, but here’s my favorite part.
4. I can’t remember if this is my own theory or I read about this on Daring Fireball or something, but the Apple products & services that Apple does well are the ones that Steve Jobs uses (or cares about) and the ones he doesn’t use/care about are less good (or just plain bad). Jobs uses Keynote and it’s very good…but I’m pretty sure Jobs never has had to schedule his own appointments with iCal so that program is less good. Cloud apps and social apps are at the top of this list for a reason…I just don’t think Jobs cares about those things. I mean, he cares, but there’s not a lot of passion there…they aren’t a priority for him so he doesn’t really know how to think about them and attack those problems.
Care. Deeply. About. The. Shit. You. Make. Or stop. Doing it. For fook’s sake.
This article Aged to Perfection reminded me about the notion of “beausage” in physical goods. Beausage is shorthand and refers to “Beauty through usage”. I was reminded by the author of the article that most products live in the “raw/worn” state for a majority of the time they’re in use — This is a very practical reason for products to be designed for “worn” use. I’d be very surprised if beausage wasn’t a factor that went into the creation of the first iphone, judging from that picture.
Products that show their wear well and feel used and “lived in” are familiar and comfortable, like an old pair of jeans. I haven’t seen marvelous examples of this in the digital world. Pixels don’t exactly erode, so I understand that there’s no explicit need to think about creating products that wear “well”.
But what if it were an active decision to instate this kind of “wear” the longer someone used a product? I believe that brands and internet experiences have yet to take advantage of the notion of “beausage”.
So many experiences nowadays seem to try to induce usage by introducing “badges” and viral gimmicks. That sucks. No one likes gimmicks. People fall for them initially, but it’s ephemeral and relies on an endless fountain of more gimmicks and badges and crap to get you to use their product.
My vision for internet products is that they actually provide mucho utility out of the gate and the longevity of use of a product conveys social currency. Going to a spot on the “MY” page (could be a profile, for instance) of your site should feel like the digital equivalent of “beausage” and you should be able to easily convey how much utility you derived from the platform based on how “worn” it feels.
There’s an ocean of a difference between an app and a transcendent experience. A few years ago, I won a design contest for Microsoft for some concepts around creating apps that business users would love.
I saw this piece by Stephen Anderson on O’Reilly Radar and thought it prescient. Customer and user loyalty matters more than ever, but emotional engagement and personality in the customer-product relationship is essential to delivering transcendent experiences that people continue using and actually *want* to share with friends. I believe this involves iteration, organic content creation, picking a narrow focus and conveying this focus in emotive ways.
From Stephen’s talk at Web2.0:
So that’s really where I’m keeping an eye out for web apps that engage people in an emotional way. If you look at a company like MailChimp, for example, I think they’re doing that — it’s a mail management system, a business app — but I laugh every time their mascot has a little quote or does something. They’re engaging me in an emotional way, and I think there are very few sites or businesses doing that.
I think that’s really the next thing we’re looking forward to — apps that people still use after three, four, five, or 10 years that they still love, enjoy, talk about, and share with others.
While these tenets are important in any consumer internet startup, they’re particularly vital in the area of education and learning. When there are a gazillion different options for apps, content (in its various media forms) for a learner to choose from, striking an emotional connection that persists over time is of paramount importance.
The learning cycle between what is taught and when a student is tested on it is far too short, he proclaimed. Short learning-testing cycles, Wozniak said, are nothing like the projects that technology innovators are afforded in real life.
A really innovative person is known for something that usually took an awful lot of thinking, maybe even over years, and a lot of development in a laboratory putting it together and getting it to work. And it’s new and it’s different. And it’s not something you read about in a book.
The greatest innovation projects Woz participated in at Apple almost always involved technology he was unfamiliar with. But, he said, when you want something for yourself “you work hard to learn it.”
Woz talked about judging student performance by giving “students one long project that spurs innovative thinking at the beginning of a semester and graded on their results.”
“The value of these big projects is you learn diligence, lot of repetition. A lot of hard work results in something that’s your own. Your own. You built it. You have personal pride,” he said. “Personal pride is the strongest motivating force there is.”
It never ceases to amaze me to hear about the amount of money that spent (wasted, really) on advertising, year after year.
Don’t get me wrong, advertising is great in that it supports amazing companies like Google that truly want to democratize information, but do people really think that it’s a good use of their money? I’ve quoted Wanamaker ad nauseam here before: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
We’re convinced that number is a lot higher on the web. There seems to be this meme that resurfaces in the world of content on the web, year after year. Advertising in most cases is a complete waste, it’s a lot better to underwrite the creation of nutritious, relevant content that relates to people and helps them explore a particular interest they have.
And yet, here we sit in 2011, more than a decade after the creation of the web, with warehouses filled with monkeys on typewriters (ok that was harsh) content farms that squeak out this crappy content just so that advertisers have something to put next to that content when a weary search engine user “stumbles upon” some page on a whim.
If we haven’t learned anything from Cluetrain Manifesto, any of the 17 Seth Godin books, and if common sense fails too, we might learn from Felicia Day’s SXSW interactive panel:
“Why pay $300,000 for an ad that people are going to avoid watching?” she said, referring to technologies such as Tivo that allow people to bypass television ads. Why not, Day said, spend half that or a quarter of that to fund a Web series, which will provide quality content that people care about, and has the potential to expand to other media? (The Guild has expanded with a comic book deal from Dark Horse).
It’s apocryphal that established companies who have spent years cultivating their brand do not have knowledge they could impart in order to make the world a better place. Then again, maybe the proper channel/medium hasn’t existed until today.