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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Recommended Reading – 18th June 2010

It’s been a few weeks since my last update. I’ve kept the recommendations to a manageable number – seven – which means that the average quality of the posts and articles I’m linking to is even higher than usual. Enjoy.

  • Bud Caddell asks his readers to help him define strategy. He has put several of his definitions to image.


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Recommended reading – 30th April 2010

This week, I am mostly recommending:

Will Humphrey on the differences between PR and advertising, having now worked in planning departments for both sides

Bud Caddell presents a very thorough overview of the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Not a bad basis for questionnaire design in certain instances.

Sam Page has an excellent analysis of Jeff Francouer’s swing which shows how powerful statistical evidence and observational evidence can be when properly combined. I promise I’m not planning to post a Baseball link every week, but this is a really strong piece of work, and should be readable for all irrespective of sporting preferences.

Tom Slee’s eloquent rebuttal to Clay Shirky’s Collapse of Complex Business Models. I like Shirky as a writer, and I don’t mind the occasional extrapolation of anecdotes if they prompt further discourse and discussion, but some excellent points are raised.

Ken Auletta has a long, thought-provoking piece in the New Yorker on how Amazon versus Apple are lining up in the battle of the book business.


Recommending Reading – 4th April 2010

If you have a spare 15 minutes this weekend, you could do worse than read the following:

Jonah Lehrer looks at Costco through his Neuroscience prism. I’m not quite sure it adequately explains why people choose to pay a subscription to enter the store, but it is still interesting reading.

Two sides of a similar coin: Tom Ewing’s latest Poptimist post considers the options of a Foursquare for music, while Paul Lamere considers a Last.fm for books. The underlying point – the more metadata collected and used, the better!

Clay Shirky’s blog postings are sparse, but always incredibly valuable. This preview of his next book – on cognitive surplus – is no exception. It prompted Kevin Kelly to announce the Shirky Principlecomplex solutions  can become so dedicated to the problem they are the solution to, that often they inadvertently perpetuate the problem

Diane Hessan has some provocative thoughts on the next generation of market research. As always, the solution depends on the problem, but I liked the points made.

This link in particular is a hard sell, but I wholeheartedly recommend you read why Bill Simmons has fallen back in love with Sabermetrics. Advanced baseball stats may not be to everyone’s taste, but it shows the power and beauty of numbers. For a more gentle introduction, you might want to read my review of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, in which Simmons heavily features.


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Carpe diem

An unwanted corollary of thinking time – the topic of my previous post – is the possibility of feeling unproductive or lazy. There is a distinction between the two – thinking is doing, after all.

And doing is important. We should do stuff. And we all have free time. So we should look to do stuff in our free time (whether it is at work or home). Not tomorrow. Not the next day. Today. Now.

(Incidentally, Clay Shirky’s post on how our social surplus has populated Wikipedia is well worth a (re)read. As fun as drinking gin is, I think crowdsourcing is more worthwhile).

I’m sadly a deadline worker. I get things completed on time, but it usually involves a late night on the eve of submission.

And of course not everything has a deadline. So things slip. And slip. And slip. So I’m instiling self-imposed deadlines on all of my activities. Starting with this blog.

I have several drafts in WordPress filled with a few rambling thoughts – my online  post-it notes, so to speak. Some get written, some don’t. The worst offender is a post on the relationship between music and marketing that has been in my drafts for the best part of a year, and it has been some time since I stopped collecting news stories from Music Ally or Songs for Soap.

So I’m deleting it. I still have the bookmarks if I want to revisit the topic from a different angle, but for all intents and purposes that blog will not see the light of day. The deadline has passed.

Why? Because the quality of an output (whether a blog or otherwise) is a function of its context – its place and time. All the links in that draft are now old. Madonna may still be with Live Nation, but Groove Armada may not be associated with Bacardi for much longer. The interest is drying up, and the trend has passed. So my blog post dies.

If we think we have a good idea, we should execute it while it is still fresh (albeit considered). We shouldn’t save our best ideas, or wait for the “right moment” to come along. We should act. We learn by doing and we become stronger and better for it. New ideas will come. In the same way that saving money is bad for the financial economy, saving ideas is bad for the creative economy. Because not only do we improve from acting, our peers and associates benefit from the (hopefully) positive externalities of our ideas.

Therefore, I am imposing a deadline of Sunday to respond to Charles’ excellent post on cultural bias related to warped percerptions of Microsoft. It’s a cracker and has rattled a few cogs in my brain.


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaewalk/

Links – 15th February 2009

Things I have read in the last week that I would recommend:

Henry Jenkins has begun serialising his white paper on spreadable media – If it Doesn’t Spread It’s Dead. Part 1 – on media viruses and memes – and Part 2 – on sticky and spreadable – are both fascinating

Andrew Scott argues that Google Latitude is a Trojan Horse into social networking with the ultimate aim of combining location with context/mood

Robin Grant provoked an interesting discussion around conversational marketing with his post Learning to Speak Human

On the Digital Design Blog, companies are told that actions speak louder than advertising, and therefore Brands should do

Ana Andjelic riffs on Kevin Kelly’s post on sharing and copying by pointing out the differences between economies of scale and economies of scope

Adriana Lukas re-iterates the distinction between advertising (information) and Advertising (disruption)

Sean Howard argues that the IAP2’s spectrum of public participation is backward. He believes that empowerment and trust need to come first; as an input, not a result

Clay Shirky on why micropayments won’t save publishers

Lovely Charts is a web application with an accurate description (though some might quibble that for basic users, the use of the singular would be more reflective)


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Clay Shirky’s POLIS lecture at LSE

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Clay Shirky give a lecture entitled Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens When People Come Together at a POLIS event hosted at LSE. The lecture was part of the promotional tour for the paperback launch of his bestselling, critically acclaimed book of the same name.

This was the first time I had seen him speak in person, and his charisma and enthusiasm really radiate through. His lucidity and insight make even complex associations sound common sensical, and he has a great ear for a memorable quote. I came away having learned a lot. Some of the outakes and quotes I came away with are as follows:

The five word précis of his book would be “Group action just got easier”

“Lowered transaction costs have reduced the hassle factor of collective action”.

The lecture took us through three examples of participatory media making a difference.

The first example was the Facebook group protesting against HSBC’s withdrawal of interest free student overdrafts. In the past, HSBC would have had an information advantage and a cooperation advantage. But by documenting and sharing information, and coordinating action, these barriers were removed.

“Using information not just as a delivery service but as a site of coordination has changed the dynamic”

He then moved on to look at the Sichuan earthquake on May 12th last. Whereas in the 1970s, China took three months to declare an earthquake took place, now they had no option because pictures and messages were being uploaded to QQ, Twitter, Flickr et al. Social media also mobilised – and to an extent radicalised – the mourning mothers who lost their only child. 7,000 schools collapsed in the earthquake in part due to a corrupt administration overlooking sub-standard safety precautions. It resulted in a local official getting down on his knees to beg forgiveness. The Great Firewall only works in one direction – information can still freely leave the country. Sadly, a teacher who allegedly cited the schools was later detained, showing that there is still not a fully free flow of information in China.

“There are data cables and there are social cables. Information goes where people want it to go”

The final example concerned a certain election that we heard about recently. Shirky asserts that Obama was the first “platform candidate”. While McCain sought to control the message, Obama encouraged people to share and remix their own messages. Sometimes this worked; sometimes it didn’t. However, the net was beneficial.

“Just because your name is on it, it doesn’t mean you are responsible”

Shirky then illustrated the lack of control that Obama had over his new media campaign. On his social networking site – apparently set up to avoid satisfying people and thus sating them – 22,000 members joined a group protesting at Obama backtracking on an issue. While he didn’t change his stance, he was forced to address the issue. He was called to account by his own supporters.

When Change.gov was set up, it sought to crowdsource campaign initiatives. The most popular? Nothing to do with the economy, military action nor medicare. It was the legalisation of medical marijuana. Shirky admitted that he has changed his opinion on the benefits and capabilities of crowdsourcing. As James Madison said in Federalist Paper No. 10 “Everyone complains about factionalism but there is nothing you can do about it”. In other words, factions will always emerge and hijack initiatives. Shirky calls government a playing field and rules for factions to contend – participatory media doesn’t yet have the checks and balances set up to offer a functioning alternative or complement.

“It isn’t a problem of capability. It is a problem of legitimacy”

Even if something is wrong, it needs to be legitimate. With the Al Franken senate seat, the margin of victory was smaller than the margin of error in the counting of votes. Tossing a coin to declare a winner would have been cheaper and easier and just as wrong, but the victor wouldn’t have the legitimacy needed to do his job.

The lecture finished after around 40 minutes and moved onto questions. Below are some of the fragments I took out of it

One of those first questions was obviously by a marketing man, as he kept referring to “brand truth” and Obama. Shirky agreed that the role of president is too charismatic and as a result clarity takes a hit.

Another question was about newspapers. Shirky said with a smile that newspapers have had 20 years to react to supporters destroying their business model but they didn’t.

“Newspapers’ problems are so much of their own making that it is hard to have an ounce of pity”

He doesn’t think bloggers will necessary replace the newsroom as they lack the social coordination to pay enough attention to everything that is going on, and to hold the government truly accountable. Instead, he thinks newspapers may need to move to the non-profit world (arguably they are already there with the Scott trust, and Murdoch being a benevolent dictator).

With regards to a business model for social media, Shirky quoted Tim O’Reilly by saying that one should look to create more value than is captured. There are many business models, rather than a linear option, and money isn’t a sole motivator. He says that in some situations that money can lessen a transaction and uses the example of someone sending money rather than flowers after a date.

Another question related to relative abilities of public and private companies. Shirky said that in general public companies make small steps with big press releases, while private companies procrastinate, panic and then make a big leap. However, the speed of change is a difficult thing to manage. There is a balance between a culture clash and slow movement causing good people to leave.

Going back to the legitimacy question, Shirky said that he sees new models of participation having a legitimacy gap as nothing seems to scale as well or be as accepted as voting. The Google algorithm may have saved the web, and Wikipedia’s “last edit” function is popular, but whether these can transfer is a big question.

Shirky also had a great quote in relation to a great question about social media mobilisation only working in opposition. Wilfred Bion, who ran group therapy for neurotics, once said that nothing solidifies a group faster than an external threat. If there is no external threat, people gravitate to neurotics as they’ll be able to find one

Overall, 90 minutes extremely well spent


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oreilly/

EDIT: James Devon has uploaded the audio from the lecture here