What Global Climate Policy Should Learn from Year 2000

Back in the lead-up to the Year 2000 I was working at IBM. There were massive … really, massive projects underway to eliminate the "Year 2000 bug" from worldwide computer systems. These involved combing through millions of lines of computer code to remove any instances of six number dates (MMDDYY — those dates that reset the year counter to 00 rather than 2000).

To achieve this, there were whole, global divisions established, new competencies developed and careers were established for life … on both the technical and client side. The investment in people, technology and processes was amazing. The cost was hugely expensive. And the outcome? Well … the new year clicked over and not one plane fell out of the air. No catastrophe hit the financial markets. Hospitals continued to function. And I had a great night out.

But I was just watching this great video (courtesy of David Koopmans) on the relative risks of global climate change and our INACTION on this crisis (and yes, let’s admit it is a crisis). One thing that the Year 2000 folks understood was risk management. They understood that there was going to be a cost no matter what decision was taken … but the upside of action was the "management" of the cost and the outcome. The downside of INACTION was catastrophe on a scale never before imagined. This is the same situation today — just the debate is now about global climate change, not computer code failure.

I encourage you, watch this video. Invest the 10 minutes. And then push it. Spend five minutes more telling others about it. Don’t let this be the MOST TERRIFYING video you will ever see. Make it the most important.

Last Day to Enter theBargainQueen.com Competition

Originally uploaded by danzden

Don’t forget, this is your last day to get your thebargainqueen.comideas to us at bqcomp [at] servantofchaos [dot] com. Remember, it can be as brief or as long as you like …

But all those good ideas of yours don’t count for ZIP until you put them out into the world. This is your chance to show the world what you are made of.

Get your ideas to us as soon as you can.
Check out:
The original brief
The FAQs

The Strength of Social Media’s Weak Ties

In my meanderings yesterday, I happened across this interesting post on Noah Brier’s blog. Here he mentioned "the strength of weak ties" in relation to social media (and a link to a PDF). I was fascinated immediately by the title and wanted to learn more. Interestingly enough, this must be a promiscuous idea, as I had already written a draft on this exact topic some weeks ago but didn’t realise it until I did a picture search for "granovetter diagrams".

This article by Mark S Granovetter dates back to 1973 and was published by the American Journal of Sociology (vol 78, issue 6). The central idea is that in a social network, the WEAKEST ties are the most powerful in terms of disseminating information. This would seem to be counter-intuitive … surely the strongest links are most important? Apparently not … and this is where it gets interesting!

There is a lot of detail in the article, so I just want to look at a couple of key points. (For more detail take a look at Shiv Singh’s post over at Boxes and Arrows where he applies Granovetter’s ideas to Web 2.0).

First adopters and early adopters

The article points out the difference between FIRST adopters and EARLY adopters. The first adopters are the innovators. They are marginal, isolated, with very small social networks. One of the characteristics of these innovators is that they have one-to-one or "bridge" relationships with people who are part of groups that are at arm’s length. It is also important to note that the bridge is only a "weak tie".
The early adopters by comparison, have a "reputation" to protect … they are not the innovators, but they travel close behind them. This means, for an idea to spread across a social network, there must be a weak link between the FIRST and the EARLY adopter. The most effective FIRST adopters are those that have a number of bridges between themselves and other networks:

Intuitively speaking, this means that whatever is to be diffused can reach a larger number of people, and traverse greater social distance (i.e., path length), when passed through weak ties rather than strong (p 1366).

Weak ties drive action

One of the surprising results of the analysis is the connection between weak ties and action. Based on a study of job seekers, it appears that finding a new role will come not through the strong ties (who you would think would have a vested interest in their friends’ success), but through the extended network of weak ties (in over 80% of cases). What is shown here is that the network of weak ties is more likely to activate a request than someone closer — perhaps the motivation here is to grow that weak tie into something more substantial.

… studies of social and mass communication have shown that people rarely act on mass-media information unless it is also transmitted through personal ties (p 1374).

The community is ABSOLUTELY reliant on the marginalised
But perhaps the most important point is the absolute need for alienation or marginalisation within a community. Again, this seems to me to be counter-intuitive, but the analysis (and more importantly, the testing) bears this out. Without the marginalised or the innovators, ANY community has no possibility for organisation or regeneration: "… strong ties, breeding local cohesion, lead to overall fragmentation" (p 1378). And if you think about it … it does make sense. It is like having a small CONVERSATIONAL gene pool … you need new ideas — otherwise you end up talking about the same thing over and over again.

More reading and ideas

Mark Granovetter also has some interesting thinking in a 1985 article where he identifies economic relations between individuals and businesses within social networks that do not exist in an abstract, idealised market — got to find this one too!

Am I Leaving Media Snackers Hungry?

I have been tagged by Valeria Maltoni and Drew McLellan on the topic of media snackers. The video above (thanks to Jeremiah Owyang) describes media snackers as "young people", but in my view, media snackers are a style of behaviour, not an age group. I, myself, am a media snacker when it suits me … and I know of many in the business community who would also fit this description. But this meme is about whether I cater for media snackers … and specifically, where I can improve to cater to their minute attention spans.

As Valeria points out, for media snackers one of the most important determinants of their media consumption is RELEVANCE. How does one have relevance? I have a feeling that it is all about being interesting, but this could be wrong. It really depends on whether a PARTICULAR media snacker is a Winker or a Nodder. So how can/do I make myself relevant to media snackers?

I don’t … and I agree with Cathleen Rittereiser — "we show respect for all social media consumers by assuming they possess the intelligence and faculties to decide for themselves how, when and where they want to consume media".

And this is the important point — Media Snackers will CHOOSE you. They will choose you because:

So now after his tasty meme-rant, it is my turn to tag five others. So, I tag the five NEW additions to my blogroll:

  • Neil Perkin … because he has a tasty, bite sized blog full of punch
  • Anne Simons … because every snack needs some sizzle
  • Chris Bernard … because we should all snack by design
  • Meg Tsiamis … because sometimes an Aussie snack is full of flavour
  • Kris Hoet … because he thinks the term "conversation" isn’t over used (and I agree)

Sleeping While the World Changes

Originally uploaded by pH [浪人]

In the Age of Conversation there is plenty of talk. Plenty of chatter. But an authentic and trusted voice does more than talk … it incites, it points to action. It leads us to where, perhaps, we are on the edge of comfort.
For marketers, this means pushing ourselves beyond themes and messages. It is more than a clever catch phrase or a quip … it asks us to re-examine the NATURE and METHODS of the work we do. It asks us to "live our brands" in ways that we have never been asked to do. It is less about saying and more about DOING.

John Grant’s new book The Green Marketing Manifesto, which is due to be published any day now, sets out an agenda for marketers who are interested and willing to engage with "sustainable marketing".

One of the things that I like about John’s approach is that he takes a positive approach to what is a difficult and challenging situation. Take a look at his blog and you will see a willingness to grapple with issues — but within a strategic framework and with a practical approach.

Don’t be caught sleeping while the world changes … I have a feeling this book could well be one that we have all been waiting for … now I just have to wait for mine to arrive!

Are You a Winker or a Nodder?

Winker Toto
Originally uploaded by Café Latte

There are blogs that you read that make you nod your head … you agree with the sentiments, with the content and the approach. You lurk, read and maybe even comment from time to time. You will warm to the author, maybe even try to find out more about them (read their About page, check their Technorati profile or their LinkedIn page). You may even go so far as to stalk them on Facebook where you will vascillate between "friending" the blogger or just look at their friend list. But the conversation between you and the blog author really plays out in your own mind — the mind of the reader. These blogs are Nodders.

Another type of blog is like the Nodder, but with more sex appeal. This blog also has good content, makes you smile, teases you a little. Perhaps you find the writing voice just a little bit attractive … the ideas, oh so gently seductive. Maybe this blog is pretty. Friendly. Accessible. For you. But this blog is also smart. Pretty and smart — what a combination! When you read you agree, really agree … or discuss, argue. It is a relationship after all. These blogs are the Penny Droppers. They bring the ideas together for you in a way that lets you own them. I love a penny dropper. We all do.

There are other blogs that we love, but we know they are bad for us. They draw us in … expose us to ideas, concepts, content … dirty content that we can’t resist. When we comment or participate on these blogs we do so with a surreptitious excitement. It is a risk. A challenge. It could also be a fight. We can’t help being attracted to these blogs … we add them to our feed list, we follow their authors on Twitter and we check their photos on Flickr. We get close, oh so close, to stalking the authors … digitally. But our strange, digital attraction can also end quite quickly. Over. These are the Tinderbox blogs and you know you can’t resist them.

Then there is the Winker. The Winker has great style and panache. There is some great writing and concepting … there is personality to play with and an open style. You would like to have a drink with the Winker because the Winker is a great host, a fun storyteller and could, but probably won’t, get you into trouble. Depends on the day of the week.

NOW … I am interested in these characterisations (and there may be more), because they tell us something about the way that we, as readers, relate to the blogs that we read. From a CERTAIN reader’s point of view, one blog could be considered a Winker, but ANOTHER will find that blog more dangerous — a Tinderbox — and take the content in a very different way. This is the joy and challenge of reading. And writing.

So, which are your Tinderbox blogs? Which are your Nodders? And which do you prefer?

Social Activism and iTunes U

Normally I complain about Apple and iTunes, but today I have a positive story. I was checking out iTunes U and found some great free content on sustainability, environmentalism and global warming. This series is free to download and features luminaries such as Al Gore (The Earth in the Balance) and William McDonough (Cradle to Cradle Design).

And, of course, following the hypertext love, there are links through to Stanford’s Social Innovation Review site. There is plenty of great insight (some subscription only) here around non-profits, foundations and socially responsible businesses. They even have a blog.

Update: There are also some great seminars, chats, poetry etc also available on iTunes U. Check out "Consciousness, Creativity and the Brain", UC Berkeley campus event featuring David Lynch.

RIP Newspaper Advertising?

RIP News Release
Originally uploaded by prblog

The Caxton Awards is a long running program that recognises excellence in newspaper advertising here in Australia. Supported by the major metropolitan newspapers, awards are spread across 20 categories that range from "automotive" and "fashion" through to "best copywriting" and "best campaign".

This year, the judges refused to nominate a winner in twenty categories, reports Lara Sinclair in The Australian. It raises an interesting question … where has the talent gone? The focus?

While I agree with Tony Hale, CEO of the industry body, The Newspaper Works, who said "Ordinary creative compromises the effectiveness of our business", I am wondering whether the explosion of digital has distracted agencies from the lucrative and challenging news space. Given that there is a slow, but industry-wide move away from the traditional media channels, there are at least two opportunities arising in news and magazine advertising:

  • Creative thinking and strategy: Facing mediocre competition, clever creative will stand out. The opportunity here is to produce work that will play to the strengths of the printed medium.
  • Storytelling: The chance to take advantage of longer form storytelling should not be overlooked. While we spend increasingly large amounts of our free and fragmented time online, newspapers and magazines can still draw us in, but only if the story is good and the narrative is strong.

While I believe that digital is the future, I am also of the belief that newspapers and magazines will continue to serve a purpose. This purpose is now shifting and needs ongoing redefinition. But this cannot be done by the publishers alone … it needs the collective thinking of the whole industry — it needs collaboration and reinvention. Only then will the newspaper advertising rise from the dead.

Free Ruby on Rails eBook

Rail Junk
Originally uploaded by PeterEdin

You know, it is so disappointing to find out that the book you just BOUGHT for $70 is downloadable for FREE. Oh, the shame.

You see, I was planning a little tech weekend … and thought I would delve into Ruby on Rails. I had played with it a little last year, but it is all forgotten now. So, in preparation for this weekend, I dropped into the local bookstore and found “Build Your Own Ruby on Rails Web Applications” by Patrick Lenz. It is pretty good so far!

But I thought I had just better check the support site for the book in case there were any changes/code revisions. Sure enough there is! The biggest change is that the book is FREE to DOWNLOAD for the next 38 days. If you want a copy of the book, get it here.

Now, if only I had only kept that receipt!