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Category: brand

Cluetrain: Any Dream That Ships Without A Mouse, Ships Broken

cluegang

On the tenth anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto, Doc Searls had some thoughts about clue number 71. Click the link and read them yourself, it’s worth the effort. My takeaway was that we have lived in a world where we have to subscribe to vendors, but vendors don’t have to subscribe to  us.

71. Your tired notions of “the market? make our eyes glaze over. We don’t recognize ourselves in your projections—perhaps because we know we’re already elsewhere.

In prehistoric times, there were three networks that locked down the channels of attention. These focused audiences provided a large target to whom they could sell the equipment required to enact the American dream. It was a dream pre-dreamed for us by professionals experienced in the business of dreaming dreams.

When the audiences began wandering off, spending their attention on dreams not listed in the handbook– the new imagery was incorporated. The channel had one direction so it seemed as though the dream manufacturers had tuned in to the spirit of the times. New images appeared in the dreams, although something wasn’t quite right.

When you control a uni-directional channel, you can overplay your hand. But, of course, the channel doesn’t really only go one way. And what can be co-opted by one set of players, can result in subliminal blow back on another frequency.

Tw*tter has distracted a sizable section of the audience from the crumbling remnants of the prehistoric attention focusing machines. The new channels are now being flooded with celebrities to refocus the audience’s attention. The analysts and consultants are conspiring to brew up a formula that can painlessly transport the brands to the new medium with their self-dreamed power and status intact. It doesn’t do to tell the powerful that the basis of their power is dissolving without providing an escape route to the next peak poking through the clouds.

The brands have sent their robots to follow me on Tw*tter. They’ve analyzed my tweets and have determined that I’m a customer– or potentially could be one. They’re listening to my broadcasts and sifting through them to build a profile to create an automated relationship. The polarity of the channel has been reversed. The brand subscribes to me– but I’ve yet to set the terms of that subscription. I can choose to reciprocate and subscribe– or I can block a brand that gets out of hand. The brand has its legacy communications channel that can be correlated with the new channel. They’re hoping this new combination will be more powerful than ever.

We are what we do with our attention.
John Ciardi

The cognitive surplus of our attention has been held spellbound for decades. Ten years ago, when Doc Searls said “we know we’re already elsewhere,” he paired that with the reaction “our eyes glaze over.” In other words, we withdraw from the world with which we’re confronted. In the ten years since, we now listen to Clay Shirky say, “any dream that ships without a mouse, ships broken.”

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Intermediation 2.0: The New Rhizomatic Economy

In the spirit of assigning numbers to ideas, I introduce Intermediation 2.0– a new era of data wholesalers and value-added retailers.

Retail distribution’s primary value in physical space is coverage of relevant geography, it’s about location. The Network annihilated distance and a wave of disintermediation followed.

Mahalo, Summize, Friend Feed, Mint, Techmeme, Twhirl, Newsgang and even Google Friend Connect take wholesale data feeds and add value through a transformation of the raw data, the addition of tools, and sometimes curation.

The first generation was Amazon, Travel aggregators, and the news/RSS readers. What makes Intermediation 2.0 possible is the emergence and recognition of new valuable wholesale data feeds. Twitter as a wholesale full-stream event based XMPP feed establishes a new economy around making that stream more valuable to the user.

The question hanging over this new economy is the threat that another round of disintermediation will follow. Developers have bitter memories of platform vendors incorporating their software products into the platform without compensation.

This is where the new Rhizomatic Economy emerges. If 75% of Twitter exists through API usage, the growth and extension of the Twitter stream depends on retailing partners. Twitter improves and grows by providing better API functionality to its partners. Twitter benefits through better distribution and fosters faster innovation.

The days of the totalizing whole, the drive to monopoly and hegemony, of being locked in the trunk, are coming to an end.

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Small Bits of the Future Distributed in Cleveland

At a Cleveland American Advertising Federation luncheon today, Larry Weber talked to a room full of traditional PR and marketing types about “marketing” and social networks. While the talk was mostly a new coat of paint on the Cluetrain Manifesto, it was interesting that this group of people showed up in good numbers to listen. As the talk went on I could feel that the room, even at this late date, was skeptical of his premise that markets are conversations with communities.

Weber suggests that big brands should be hosting honest conversations containing both positive and negative messages about their products. He recommended building communities from scratch around a brand, and implied that the brand should want to keep the users inside their own walled garden. In fact, he suggested that the network’s future will be filled with social network-based walled gardens existing as a form of client loyalty program. No mentions of VRM or the role OpenID will play in the future of the commercial web. And not even a hint of the way that Google’s Friend Connect might bring existing social networks to a brand’s site, rather than building a new community from the ground up.

Only small bits of the future were distributed in Cleveland by a guy from Boston. It’s a small sample, but it gives you a sense of the information asymmetry in the market that values the social web. It’s the definition of opportunity.

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Times have changed, and space has changed too

Sottsass Typewriter

I’ve been thinking of the dis-intermediation of printing. The disruption of the book, the magazine and the newspaper are in the headlines. A change is upon us, the valuation of things and the physics of the economy are irreversibly new. The big companies that employ thousands are the ones we think of most. The ones with the most reach, the powerhouses, the giants, the ones with the furthest to fall seem the most tragic. It’s a trans-valuation of all values.

But my mind wanders to the little literary magazine, the publishing project done for the love of it. These little magazines always seem to lose money and struggle on year after year. There’s an industry of writer’s workshops across the country that coach and prod writers to fill the pages of the little literary magazines. The interesting thing about these little magazines is that it still takes a lot of money and infrastructure to publish them. Desktop publishing brought the price down, but there’s still the editing, design, printing and distribution.

We now have a publishing medium that allows direct distribution of text over the network. Blogging software has become the new typewriter, and publishing is as easy as Tim Berners-Lee originally imagined it would be. The little literary magazine serves the purpose of a filter, it finds the best writing. But the cost of the filter is not much more than the cost of producing the printed matter. Is the writing about the tradition of ink on paper, or is it about the art of putting one word after the other?

The other thread this tangles up with is Hugh Macleod’s idea of the global microbrand. Hugh writes and draws cartoons from a small town in Texas called Alpine. It’s just up the road from Marfa, Texas, the place where sculptor Donald Judd established an outpost for modern art and minimalism in 1971. Times have changed, and space has changed too. Used to be that Marfa was a long distance from New York City, now it’s just a click away.

Of course for the UNIX operating system, 1971 was the beginning of time. It probably also marked the date when distance began to shrink at a visible rate.

Audiences for the little literary magazine, or Hugh Macleod’s cartoons, no longer need to be locals. They don’t have to live in Alpine, they can see it all through the network. It’s a gathering of tribes from across the globe, not tribes based on proximity or kinship, but on a common social object. We like Hugh’s sense of humor, or the taste of an editor who assembles a collection of short stories. We form a bond.

The highest value in the swirl of texts, images and sounds that roar by us minute by minute, second by second on the network is the good editor, the curator, the finely-tuned filter. Philip Roth, in an introduction to a collection of eastern European writing during the cold war, made an insightful comment: when nothing is allowed, everything is significant; when everything is allowed, nothing is significant. When we can see everything, where do we choose to rest our eyes?

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