Weblog Entries for April 2006
April 26, 2006
Auntie gets seriously wired
So I was visiting the BBC yesterday, as you do. There was a bit of hoopla going on in reception where a man in a T shirt periodically called out phrases like, "When's Eastenders on? Whenever you like!". This was to call attention to the recently launched Beeb White Paper "Beyond Broadcast Now". I call it a white paper, but it was manifested in a pizza box styled like a laptop, containing many sheets of paper announcing an array of ideas and initiatives. Some I've heard of, others I haven't. Some are running now, others are somewhere in the pipeline. I've summarised most of it here, not in full detail, simply to convey the kind of thinking that's been going on.
BBC 3D Interactive - to provide interactive content for games platforms, targeted at the "game generation", using fully enabled multicasting (simultaneous broadcasting over TV and internet)
Action Network - "a website to help people take action on issues that concern them, share information and run campaigns"
Augmented Reality - "a concept which allows users to create and interact with virtual, on-screen 3D objects in real time using their own hands, rather than a mouse or keyboard"
Backstage - "provides the design and develpment community with feeds of bbc.co.uk content and services to use in non-commercial websites and projects"
bbctwo - "creates a dynamic on-demand broadband space for BBC Two giving users both content highlights and the chance to engage with the channel"
BBCi+ - "allows people to watch a centrally selected list of programmes (around 50hrs per week) on their TV for up to seven days after broadcast" Undergoing trials this summer with a view to availability in 18 months.
Creative Desktop - to give BBC folk the tools to edit content from their desks, with expert support to back it up.
Creative Archive- targeted at "anyone who pays the licence fee" "Unlocks your inner broadcaster. You can now create your own shows using thousands of hours of free content from the BBC and allied broadcasters.
Electronic Radio Times - "simulates a copy of the Radio Times [programme listings magazine] on a touch screen tablet PC. When the user holds a pen down on a programme it marks it for recording, a communicates with a separate digital video recorder to set it"
Film Network - "the BBC's interactive showcase for new British filmmakers, screening three new short films every week"
Magellan - a prototype navigational interface for TV set top boxes "serving our audiences better by making it easy for them get to content they want, whether they know exactly what they want or not"
MyBBCPlayer - to enable audiences to find, watch and listen to BBC shows via broadband, live or timeshifted. Undergoing assessment this spring with plans for an autumn launch.
Participate - a three year R&D project to develop mass participation activities through remote computers, mobile, wireless and broadband networks
Non-linear segmented content - "a way of tagging and organising any media content, allowing users to navigate around it more easily and follow their own specific interests"
Stapler/BBC Collect - "searches for and delivers pieces of BBC content related to users' interests over any platform, so audiences will be able to create and manage their own "channels"
Wow. Wake up and smell the coffee.
Disclosure: I am doing a (paid) facilitation project for the Beeb at the moment. I'll see if I can keep up with them.
April 25, 2006
McCracken on the Tahoe
There is a fundamental shift in the rules of the game of marketing. We have to change our risk tolerances. We have to understand that the marketer's work, once so dominated by risk avoidance, is now much more about risk management.
April 24, 2006
Scoble unleashed again
Robert Scoble took two weeks off from blogging and has returned with a vengeance with some radical thinking for his employer, Microsoft. Some ideas do more than me for others, but what I love is the passion and freedom with which he speaks. For instance, in how many companies could you get away with saying things like this?
In my travels around Bill Gates' empire I do my usual Channel 9 stuff, but off camera lately I've been asking "how can we make Microsoft better?"That's another small nail in the coffin of grandiose branding via overblown advertising.
See, I've decided to stick around and make Microsoft better. I own a very very very small slice of Microsoft and so as an employee owner I figure I gotta do my part.
And, generally, what I'm finding on my tours is angst. Angst over stock price (it's gone up about $3 since I've joined three years ago). Angst over marketing issues (why do we make cool names like "Sparkle" lame by changing that to "Expression Interactive Designer?") Angst over vision and direction. Angst over leadership. Angst over advertising like our "dinosaur" ads (which are loudly derided by customers whenever I go to conferences and talk about how we're being perceived).
April 22, 2006
links for 2006-04-22
Marc Babej looks at an Ad Age artilce suggesting MBAs might be a liability in marketing departments.
YouTube and the end of the world as we know it
I guess that "It will lead to chaos" counts as a high-energy varitation of "it will never work", which means this item becomes my second post in that category.
Isn't this the most powerful argument for the emergent, unedited, unconstrained, unpoliced and unapproved nature of our culture. If we left it to the commentators, every innovation would look like a problem. Every innovation, TV and its opposite, would be forbidden us. Thank god we have intellectuals to protect us from ourselves. Thank god we don't ever listen to them.
"Now this approach may be seen as foolhardy by those who believe that products are always sold rather than just bought. This assertion, however, must be reexamined in the light of rampant license-fee discounting as well as the fact that [a typical enterprise software company] spends over 90 percent of its license fee revenue on sales and marketing expenses. The reality in enterprise software is while most companies do not give away their software, they might as well, given the cost of sales as well as market conditions." (Chris' emphasis)
April 20, 2006
links for 2006-04-20
"Business literature is packed with advice about worker motivation—but sometimes managers are the problem, not the inspiration."
Richard has 10 pithy aphorisms for ad agency types. My favourite: "In my day we make our own entertainment"
Over at the wiki for Reboot, (a great conference planned for June in Copenhagen) they're inviting participants to say who they'd most like to see at the conference. I'm not suprised to see that Top of the Pops at the moment is Kathy Sierra. Kathy's blog is one of my must-reads.
I particularly liked her recent post on how angry/negative people can be bad for your brain. There are just so many interesting ideas and factoids in there. The notion that happiness is a "left-brain" function - and that it is directly correlated with logical thinking - is a wonderful factoid that I hope to deploy someday soon.
(I wish I could add a link to a piece of research I heard about but can't track down. Apparently, it shows that the biochemistry of being harshly critical is actually more toxic to the critic than the person being criticised.)
This prompts me to ruminate on dealing with anger in groups. As a facilitator, I am from time-to-time confronted with people who have an angry response. I am training myself to say that rather than angry people, since the distinction can be pretty important. Sometimes, anger is simply the best tool people have with which to express some kind of connection to a group - even though emotionally it feels like a form of rejection. More often than not, I can work to find a way to include them, to value their contribution. Sometimes, the "angry person" has just taken on the task of expressing something others are thinking and not saying.
And having said that, let me also say that this is not easy. In just the manner Kathy describes, I find my own neurophysiology often kicks in hard around angry people, and I have to work to keep a polite or "positive" demeanour when it feels like I am under some kind of threat. Occasionally, I will confront someone who is going over-the-top... and that sometimes turns out to be the deeper thought the group is thinking and not expressing: if you can't find a less alarming way to express your differences, then please leave.
I've only had one walkout in the last 2 years. I hated the experience... but it turned out to be a huge relief to everyone else in the room and provoked some really powerful conversations about what it was really like to work in the organisation.
James spots a James Gapper article in the FT on the impact of viral video on media. He picks out this nugget:
"The top six video sites (Google Video, MSN Video, Yahoo Video, YouTube, iFilm and AOL Video) now gain twice as much traffic as the top six broadcast network sites." Gapper comments that: "Until they make their own sites richer by allowing viewers to choose from more material, broadcasters will remain at a self-imposed disadvantage. Even then it would be self-defeating to remain in their own silos.How wonderfully ironic that Gapper's insights will soon vanish behind an FT paywall.
Alan Watts on language
I've just listened to the first of four on the theme "Limits of Language". I think we easily lose sight of how our language shapes our world, and in some ways misleads us about it. Watts explores this with great clarity. (I also love hearing a robust debunking of notions of authority figures, delivered in an accent that for most of us in England is so often associated with exactly that kind of authority.)
This is a crude summary of what I think this podcast says: When we say a mountain is made of rock, we unwittingly create the notion of a mountain that is separate from the rock whereas, Watts argues, the mountain is rock. In such fashion, our language deludes us into seeing big-daddy organising forces when there are none. Our language unwittingly creates a notion of God-as-authority-figure instead of seeing life as an emergent process. If that sort of thinking floats your boat, you'll enjoy listening.
As I'm fond of saying, blogs are good for making things happen indirectly etc.Well it's not just journalists who make that mistake. And I have a feeling we're realising more and more that the immediate cause-effect way of thinking just doesn't cut it for complex systems. I never had a business model for this blog, I just started blogging because I was curious and I pretty much blog when I feel like it. I try not to blog when I don't feel like it. (I currently have a policy of not blogging about when I'm not blogging. I find that "expect light blogging" thing a bit narcissistic).
But journalists seem to have a problem getting their head around it. "Indirectly" is too foreign to them. They're too used to living in the "directly" universe.
But the longer I do this, the more I realise that this blog pays off for me in lots of indirect ways. And I've had two or three very juicy projects given to me by people who have never met me before. They feel they know me well enough from what I write here, and the odd Skype chat, to trust me with some serious work for serious money. That's when I realise this pull-not-push world is real, not some intriguing theory.
(For a journalist who really gets indirect, I continue to recommend John Kay on Obliquity.)
April 18, 2006
Prosper: another eBay for money
A few days ago, James and I chatted over Skype with Chris Larsen and John Witchel of Prosper. They are, like Zopa (to whom we spoke in February), a new online marketplace for people to lend and borrow money, person-to-person. A kind of eBay for money. The Prosper model puts more emphasis on group forming, encouraging borrowers to join up as members of a social group. This is designed to encourage more word-of-mouth marketing, but also to increase creditworthiness.
Prosper is a fascinating Web 2.0 innovation, and I hope you'll listen.
Download the Podcast - 18m 20s - MP3 (10.5MB)
Podcast RSS feed for iPodder etc.
Show notesThese shownotes below are not a transcript, but my paraphrasing of what we asked and how John and Chris answered.
0.55 What does Prosper do? It's a people-to-people lending marketplace. We think this provides a new asset class which offers an opportunity for both lenders and borrowers to get better rates. It's like eBay, but different in that we also handle all the details around repayments, collections, reporting to credit bureaux so people don't have to get involved in that.
2.25 What's the experience been to date? Been going a couple of months, pleased so far. In November we launched friends and family period to test the system. On Feb 6th we launched to public. Community seems to be active, so far so good.
3.15 We noticed that you're trying to set up affinity groups among users where customers gather together to set up accounts. How is that working out? So far, pretty well. There's been a lot of interest in the groups and activity around them. The purpose of the groups is to create a grassroots effect. Groups play two roles - one they serve as our acquisition tool, two they help capture that sense of reputation or shame, the community glue that means lower defaults over time.
6.10 Seems like an innovation in financial services to go beyond conventional credit scoring... it seems like you are trying to build something that actually creates more security by taking account of people as members of society, not just individuals. Yes, we do the normal credit checking and we also believe in a kind of collective accountability as well, on top of traditional ways of measuring people.
7.30 We want to be open about how groups start, some are going to be very effective and very tight, and some less tight. We trust the marketplace to do a good job of growing the groups with strong reputations and marginalise the groups that don't add anything to the credit scoring.
8.10 Is the social side of Prosper important or is it all about money? A lot of peer-to-peer ideas have an entertainment component; I think Prosper is different as one of the first Web 2.0 sites where there is an economic consequence of bonds between individuals... so that people's reputation matters. The behaviour of one individual impacts the whole group and this tends to lead people to behave more responsibly.
10.20 There's a greater transparency in your model... conventional lending strips the personality out of it; you make it a more social process, increasing the security as a result? We think transparency is key to so many business models now emerging. It speaks to the power of millions of people seeing something and making decisions collectively. We think transparency is a better thing in society and it's a better thing in credit systems. We think a transparent system will generate better returns and be more socially rewarding too. We sense that for people bidding on listings, they're not just concerned about making 200 basis points, but there is also a fundamental fascination with people. People can see their money going to things they care about, while making a good return.
14.15 Does openness translate to lower risk? Yes, at all levels from the philosphical to the practical. Transparency creates trust, at a nation level all the way down to a local level. Visibility gives us trust and confidence, right down to whether we put $50 into a listing. Lenders like to know more about the people they are lending to, who they are the community they belong to. For many lenders, it's not an entirely empirical decision.
16.10 Are some people thinking this is just a finance company exploiting people's openness? When you look at many new web companies, there is a struggle between transparency and privacy and sometimes those two objectives clash with each other. We're trying to strike the right balance, with opt-in/opt-out systems letting people be as expressive as they want or remain completely anonymous beyond basic credit information. It's something we think about all the time.
Facilitation as a leadership style
Steve Davis (in his regular newsletter) has been thinking about Facilitation as a leadership style and brings up a table created by Richard Weaver & John Farrell in their book, Managers as Facilitators. I've pulled out a few rows that I found interesting, but read Steve for the fuller story. Some of this made me smile, in recognition that facilitation sometimes feels like a weird job. I think this grid points towards some of the distinctions between facilitating and taking control.
|Concerned with doing the right thing||Concerned with doing things right||Concerned with helping people do things|
|Takes the long term view||Takes the short term view||Helps people find a view and articulate it|
|Hopes others will respond and follow||Hopes others will complete their tasks||Hopes others will engage in the process|
|Inspires innovation||Inspires stability||Helps people respond to things that are new and things that remain the same|
April 17, 2006
links for 2006-04-17
Mark Brady has a passionate rant against the deficiencies of thinking about security against terror in the US
Security and insecurity
I thought this line from Annette Clancy's recent post was rather brilliant.
The primary challenge to those of us involved in assisting organisations to strategise is the co-creation of a secure enough environment in which to envision a future that is insecure.I only discovered Anne's work today, thanks to Chris Corrigan. I feel tremendously excited by the clarity with which she describes her experience. I'd say she is clear about what isn't clear, and there's a surprise in many of her posts.
I was fascinated by her experience at a conference where there were groups working in different languages. She was less comfortable in a group that use her own language than in ones she didn't "understand".
Today I felt more misunderstood and I think I, in turn misunderstood my colleagues in a group that, on the surface, offered more possibilities of what we had in common than not. As soon as we had negotiated a “sameness” (language of communication) other differences emerged – nuance, intention, conscious and unconscious projections and inferences. I realise that not understanding the language also offers a respite from the words and offers the possibility of playing with meaning, non verbal and symbolic communication. I ask myself – how is the discourse affecting me? Is how I am being affected useful in terms of what is transpiring? The advantage of exploring this in a group relations conference is that is precisely the kind of exploration, reflection and learning we are invited to participate in.I also found this fascinating:
We’ve spent about 4 hours talking about chairs. Moving them, not moving them, what they “symbolise”, who’s not sitting in one, who is sitting in the middle of the group, who’s sitting on the outside of the group. Were anyone to walk into the middle of these conversations I’m convinced they’d think we’ve all lost the plot. In the absence of an agenda and something “to talk about” a group starts looking for things to talk about to replace the anxiety of the silence. Think of how difficult it is to sit on a three hour train journey with no newspaper, iPod, coffee, book and you get some idea of what I’m talking about . Paranoia about senior management and their intention towards the group starts to rear its ugly head. It didn’t take long for people to feel like we were like lab rats in a cage, being manipulated for some other external reason. The “management” deliberately arranged the chairs to “make” us react in this way is a popular fantasy.And I can't resist quoting one more chunk, from her post What does leadership look like?:
All problems in systems are caused by an attempt to control someone else’s actions and behaviours. Attempting to police those situations more often than not results in the suppression of difference and generates the fantasy of collaboration. If we’re brave enough to accept that difference exists and is enriching and is part and parcel of all systems, then the task becomes one of managing and engaging with that difference. If there is room for difference then there can be a realistic and authentic agreement to move forward from that perspective. That, to me, sounds like a more authentic form of consensus than an imposed “rule” that we all have to be the same.
For the first, and probably last, time I've chosen to not to delete a spam comment on this blog. The comment and my rationale are here.
Synchrony in meetings
Kathy Sierra has been listening to Thomas Lewis, co-author of A General Theory of Love. I recommend her summary of some of his ideas; she's fastened on the same bits of his work as I did when I read him.
Lewis looks at what happens biologically when we connect, or fail to connect, with each other in a variety of ways. His ideas are shaped by work with babies and their mothers. Like Kathy, I see interesting implications for how we organise ourselves as adults. Lewis establishes that way more is going on between us when we sit together, face-to-face, than the words we exchange. Here's how Kathy puts it (with my added note in square brackets)
We never had to learn to process body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. We evolved this capability...it's innate. But we had to spend years learning to read and write with any level of sophistication. The brain needs and expects these other--more significant--channels of information [the non-verbal ones] , and when they don't come... the brain suffers (and so does the communication). And the problem goes way beyond just an increased chance for misinterpretation.Kathy talks about why this means there's a limit to the role that IM chat etc etc can play in communications.
As a facilitator, I'm more and more interested in honouring the power and potential of meetings that lie beyond words. By its nature this cannot be made explicit, at least not easily. I have sometimes sensed it in meetings and those meetings are always special and memorable. I notice it more in silences and when its there, I find meetings start to move beyond the differences between participants to somewhat higher ground. That transition is not always comfortable. Many times it will be avoided, for instance by what I'd frame as a retreat to safer territory - such as a demand for action, the setting of targets or the ticking off of a list of deliverables. It's my growing experience that if we can sit a little longer with the anxiety, meetings can reach a higher ground where there is a different sense of what is possible, and a much more powerful urge to action than checklists ever provide.
Another practice that I think is hugely important when facilitating is to avoid becoming the permanent centre of discussion, a sort of co-ordinator. The stereotype of the facilitator is the chap holding the marker pen, standing at the flip chart, with everyone looking at him and not at each other. What chance does that create for the sort of synchrony between participants?
If this post engages you, you might also enjoy this one by Patti Digh: Follow the disturbance.
April 16, 2006
Spontaneity in politics
Joe Klein has a great article in at Time: Pssst! Who's behind the decline of politics? [Consultants.] Here's how he starts, and I found what followed fascinating.
On the evening of april 4, 1968, about an hour after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy responded with a powerfully simple speech, which he delivered spontaneously in a black neighborhood of Indianapolis. Nearly 40 years later, Kennedy's words stand as an example of the substance and music of politics in its grandest form and highest purposeto heal, to educate, to lead. Sadly, his speech also marked the end of an era: the last moments before American public life was overwhelmed by marketing professionals, consultants and pollsters who, with the flaccid acquiescence of the politicians, have robbed public life of much of its romance and vigor.Klein contrasts the extraordinary impact of the words Robert Kennedy created on-the-spot, with the pre-packaged, sterilised forms of policitcal discourse we get today. And he ends with a plea for some kind of return to a less dehydrated politics.
For me, that's the potential of Web 2.0, to allow us a return - in politics and elsewhere - to more spontaneous forms of interaction, away from the broadcast, one-size bores all equally model.
Thanks to Jerry Kail for sending me the article.
April 13, 2006
This week, I took part in an Improv performance here in London. I did this with eight other people. All of us did a series of six evening workshops playing improv games together and getting to know each other a little before putting on our show on Tuesday. When I started, I was pretty nervous about the idea of performing together. By the time of the performance, I was looking forward to it.
The experience was a delight. The audience had a great time and so did I. Some of the things my fellow players created on stage were beyond funny. For me, the joy of improv is that it forces a kind of spontaneity that we easily lose in our daily lives. I could call it quick-wittedness but in fact it's more like something being blurted out, spontaneously, and almost without thought.
So in one scene, the players have to insert random lines of dialogue put in their hands by the audience. In the middle of a sketch in which two guys are playing tourists in Cuba, munching on cigars, one player is suddenly given the line, "You're not a bad thinker for a penguin". There's a brief moment of hesitation, in which both the players and audience are together in the unknown. Then the other player, a big tall Irish guy, smoothly adopts the physiology of a penguin and starts waddling across the stage, continuing the conversation. Congratulating himself on his recently acquired English language skills. The audience is in fits.
As I write this, I'm pretty sure it won't sound that funny. And if I say, you had to be there, I'm not making excuses about my storytelling. I'm saying the truth: what makes this stuff delightful is a present-moment experience. Improv is an activity that, more than any other I know, brings us into the present moment where all the real choices in life are.
As someone once put it to me, we laugh in improv not always because the lines are so clever, but because being present to that kind of genuine spontaneity is deeply satisfying. It might even have something to do with love.
(I've talked before this shared uknown is what makes improv different from stand up)
And big kudos to Dave, Zoe and Grant of Sprout who put the whole thing together. You couldn't meet a nicer bunch of people to learn from.
April 12, 2006
links for 2006-04-12
Interesting example of how the public has become a highly critical, diffiicult to convince audiene
Not quite in the same league as other online showtunes, but still a good laugh
April 11, 2006
links for 2006-04-11
One kiiwi perspective on the author of Lovemarks. Hat tip: Declan Ellitott.
April 9, 2006
I've been enjoying the Adliterate blog by Richard Huntington lately. I started after meeting him on a conference panel.
I think Richard is far more into branding than I am and he seems much more part of the agency world I have drifted away from in recent years. He actually gets fascinated about how to position brands, a subject I can't stay excited about for too long. And I think he represents a really interesting voice, clearly up-to-speed with the whole user-generated-content, Web 2.0 mullarkey, and still sticking up for the role of agencies and planning.
Plus he gets some good discussions going in his comments.
Who managed to reposition PE as the fitness boom?In his post In may day, we made our own entertainment, he makes the point that we may be going full circle to the time when there was no television and we had more fun creating our own stuff than just absorbing other people's.
In Pimp my Proposition, he starts to open source planning ideas for various brands. Hey, free planning advice here... I think these out-loud conversations about how brands communicate are part of a trend that is going to change advertising. It's the sort of thing that undermines the notion of branding as something that can be done to consumers.
I'm also fond of bloggers who are willing to have the occasional unreasonable rant, as he does in Death to the Lemmings. Completely over-the-top, just like my own occasional rants. Makes the person seem more real and interesting, I think.
So I say lets just do our own conference, charge a total of zero dollars and zero cents and have it at the bar across the street from the Palace hotel - at the same time as Supernova.Sounds like a fun gig to me and he draws some interesting comments. I agree with Alexa, who comments:
Being a bar - we wont start til noon, but our evening events will be a lot more fun.
Most importantly - we'll assemable a critical mass of young, compelling people who never get asked onto panels, who don't work for large companies and who HAVEN'T been heard from - before.
I like to go to conferences to learn new things, meet NEW people, percolate new ideas. Plus, conferences which charge a high toll tend to miss new trends as the people most likely to be creative could never afford to go.For me, the most satisfying conferences are nearly always the cheapest. For instance, Reboot costs about 1/7 of Supernova and I thought is was superb last year.
Dave Winer, who fired some of us up about unconferencing, chips in too:
A common misperception is that unconferences are unstructured. Nothing could be further from the truth. Please read the FAQ, it takes all of ten minutes, and you'll find out how different an experience it is.I like what DW says about unconferences and his proposed format is interesting. He does sound rather proprietorial (I hear he can be like that sometimes) about the term unconference. I say if Marc wants to run something with less overt structure, and call it an unconference, that's just great.
I say overt structure because there will always be an emergent structure, often much more interesting to watch. Marc's event emerges from the structure of Supernova. It will be influenced in some way by the shape of the room it's in and the easy availability of alcohol. It's just that Marc seems very keen not to take control of it all. Very cool.
This sort of viewpoint sometimes gets people saying "but if you don't have a tight structure, you might cause chaos". I don't know what they mean by chaos... perhaps a potentially raucous gathering in a bar?.. which seems to be exactly what the tight structure of Supernova appears to be spawning...
Hat tip: Hugh
April 8, 2006
links for 2006-04-08
I found this moving and inspiring. A dog that walks on its hind legs because it only has hind legs.Found via Andrew Sullivan
Trust, control, power, silence
...many societies, including traditional Chinese society and, I would argue, many First Nations societies see humans as essentially good and capable and trustworthy. If you can view humans like this, then you can see a room full of people as a room full of potential, and an organization of people is one essentially capable of doing good in the world. All you have to do is trust these inherent capacities.For the last several months, I've felt like opening a meeting by speaking about its potential. Not in some anodyne, "let's have a great meeting way" but with genuine reverence. For some reason, I've not acted on that impulse.. yet it feels important to me.
This control issue crops up everywhere. If humans are essentially untrustworthy then we need laws to keep the peace and agendas to keep them on topic. We need rules, regulations, measurements, standards and assessment and evaluation criteria that judge the largely untrustworthy human against the perfect ideal, in order to see how badly they failed to achieve perfection.
In part, I think one reason that the real potential of meetings is not realised is that there is something scary about it. I've been reflecting a lot on the notion of silence in meetings. I've found silences increasingly powerful points in meetings I've been facilitating. These are often referred to as awkward silences - as if the awkwardness lies in the silence and not in the people in the room. What makes us awkward during silence? There are a few answers that come to mind, but I wonder if part of the discomfort is some half-felt sense of the great possibility of what might come to fill the silence?
I'm a big fan of Chris, and one of many things I've learnt from him is the notion of faciliation as a practice - something you are always practciing, never perfecting. And I've been practicing silence, gradually learning to be more comfortable sitting through silence. When you're the faciliator, this can be a fun assignment, as the longer the silence, the more gazes you might find coming your way, sometimes appearing to implore you to say something. Nearly always, when I resist that urge to fill the void, someone else in the meeting - often someone who has not yet said much - finally speaks up. And what they say is often more useful and powerful than what I might have said to relieve my and/or other people's discomfort. I think in moments like that, we may be touching on some of the deeper power we have as people working together, something that goes a little further than the mere exchange of thoughts and ideas.
April 6, 2006
Chevy mixes it up
It's been fun watching the frenzy over the Chevy Tahoe ad campaign. GM started a competition for anyone to create an ad for their SUV, and some folks created some rather sharp entries highlighting the ecological downsides of SUVs. I think this is all excellent, and I don't share what appears to be the prevalent view that this is some kind of PR disaster for GM. Lots of us harbour a dread of the power of large corporations. I'm more inclined to cheer their willingess to take a risk than perpetuate the idea that big companies are inherently incapable of courting controversy, engaging their customers, and being willing to be changed by what happens. Looks like James feels the same way.
April 4, 2006
links for 2006-04-04
Earl Mardle reports on Clooney's network thinking approach to challenging Gawker: "No need to try to create new laws to restrict free speech. Just make them useless"
How JetBlue is trying to get customers engaged in its new marketing campaign. Hat tip: Howard Mann
50% conference, 50% unconferenceThat sounds good to me, I'm happy to have some broadcast if there's also a generous amount of Open Space. And a few hundred people sitting in a giant circle, I love that idea.
Allthough we love the meme of unconferences it's not new to reboot. reboot has been a flirt between selforganisation and organisation the last couple of years. From the openspace format of reboot5 with 600 people with no agenda and only two speakers, the combined openspace and 7 speakers format of reboot6, to the pretty much one way format of reboot7 with 43 speakers. So yeah, hopefully we're gonna nail the right mix this year ;)
50% broadcast, 50% interactivity
Last year reboot learned that one of it's core values is it's informal vibe.
We're building on the shoulders of giants. No alpha male i've seen the next next unique thing, aren't i'm clever at reboot
I also like what host, Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, says in an email about how we talk about the new models emerging in Web 2.0:
"It feels like we more should think a lot about the emerging new models and how we can help shape them, instead of focusing on how the new models are superior to the current models."I think that is a great way of framing a discussion, one that invites us to act as co-creators of the future, rather than mere prophets deciding who "gets it" and who "doesn't" as if there is some new truth that is revealed only to the most worthy.
Right now, the Reboot site is open to offers for topics, presentations and hostings. I am sure something rather wonderful will emerge. And I'm going to try and put in my two cents.
April 2, 2006
links for 2006-04-02
Tom Guarriello follows the GM Fastlane Blog closely. Here he focusses on reader appreciation of the openness of the format, quoting one comment: "name another company that wants to hear the truth?"
It seems that gremlins are preventing many of the links within the weblog from working properly. I've raised tickets with my host and Six Apart. Hopefully, we'll get it fixed soon. Meanwhile, I'm sorry if you can't access much of my material here.
For any techie reading this, there seems to be a problem accessing the MySQL database, reported as
Warning: mysql_error(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL-Link resource in /home/johnniem/public_html/mt/php/extlib/ezsql/ezsql_mysql.php on line 92All suggestions welcome.
Warning: mysql_errno(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL-Link resource in /home/johnniem/public_html/mt/php/extlib/ezsql/ezsql_mysql.php on line 93
UPDATE: Seems that a username vanished from MySQL. Very odd. Anyway, it's all working again now.