No Joke: How to Earn $1 million in less than 2 weeks

Louis CK has proven that people are willing to pay for quality content, even if it is available freely.

The comedian put out a video of his latest performance at $5 a pop via his website. He then used social media to market it and whammo – in 12 days he amassed a whopping $1 million.

Story via Mashable.

Using Science Fiction Prototyping To Break Through The Consensus Innovation And Get Big Things Done Barrier

One of my favorite science fiction authors, Neal Stephenson, has written an article titled Innovation Starvation, in which he discusses how science fiction can be used to spur scientists on to make big breakthroughs. I want to extract a few comments from his article before exploring the exciting world of Science Fiction (SF) Prototyping.

Neal worries that our inability to match the achievements of the 1960s space program might be symptomatic of a general failure of our society to get big things done. My parents and grandparents witnessed the creation of the airplane, the automobile, nuclear energy, and the computer to name only a few. Scientists and engineers who came of age during the first half of the 20th century could look forward to building things that would solve age-old problems, transform the landscape, build the economy…

Yet fast forward to today and where are we? Neal uses the example of energy:-

We’ve been talking about wind farms, tidal power, and solar power for decades. Some progress has been made in those areas, but energy is still about oil. In my city, Seattle, a 35 year old plan to run a light rail line across Lake Washington is now being blocked by a citizen initiative. Thwarted or endlessly delayed in its efforts to build things, the city plods ahead with a project to paint bicycle lanes on the pavement of thoroughfares.

Frustrated by our far broader inability as a society to execute on the big stuff, Neal has turned to the tools of his trade – science fiction writing for a panacea. He believes that science fiction as hieroglyph-maker has relevance in this area:-

Good SF supplies a plausible , fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place. A good SF universe has a coherence and internal logic that makes sense to scientists and engineers. Examples include Isaac Asimov’s robots, Robert Heinlein’s rocket ships, and (another of my favorites) William Gibson’s cyberspace. As Jim Karkanias of Microsoft Research puts it, such icons serve as hieroglyphs – simple, recognizable symbols on whose significance everyone agrees.

Neal continues to define the problem and how SF can address it:-

Researchers and engineers have found themselves concentrating on more and more narrowly focused topics as science and technology have become more and more complex. A large technology company or lab might employ hundreds or thousands of persons, each of whom can address only a thin slice of the overall problem.

I agree that this ‘specialisation’ is an issue. However, I also believe that a culture of consensus is greatly affecting our ability to focus on and get big things solved. Much research is being driven by consensus innovation – academics are recognized and rewarded for publishing highly cited papers. Controversy does not increase citation count, nor does publishing in areas that fall outside the scientific vogue of the day.

Neal notes that many researchers and engineers have a fondness for SF, which reflects, in part, the usefulness of an over-arching narrative that supplies them and their colleagues with a shared vision.

The imperative to develop new technologies and implement them on a heroic scale no longer seems like the childish preoccupation of a few nerds with slide rules. It’s the only way for the human race to escape from its current predicaments.

This meme that we should all be working on solving big stuff that matters is something of a bug bear for me. I’ve written, for example,  about harnessing the power of social to solve big problems like the obesity pandemic. Others are echoing this – Tim O’Reilly recently tweeted:

…someone else makes the appeal for entrepreneurs to work on stuff that matters…

He pointed to an article in which Alyson Shontell picks up on the meaningful innovation meme over at Business Insider. She writes that young founders seem to be enthralled with building fun but meaningless apps. She quotes VC Mark Suster as saying, “The auto industry alone is a $1.6 trillion industry, and you want to f*ck with bars and restaurants?”

But how do we inspire researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs to break out of the consensus innovation mould?

This is where SF prototyping as a means of exploring Hieroglyphs and providing inspiration for big products to solve big issues can come to the rescue.

Just as Neal Stephenson is calling for SF writers to think big and bold and inspire generations of researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs to tackle projects that can allow us to escape our current problems, so SF prototyping provides a useful tool to harness science fiction, the playground of our imaginations, tethered to science fact to both imagine our future and enable the development of new technologies and products.

Intel futurecaster, Brian David Johnson, has written a book on the interesting arena of “Science Fiction Protyping: Designing the Future with Science Fiction” in which he explores the use of three publishing genres to create SF protyptes – short stories, movies and comics.

For anyone involved in exploring the boundaries of possibility and charting the trendmaps of the nextnow and the distant future, SF prototyping can be an extremely useful tool. I’ll be writing more on this area in due course.

Think big, think ahead and let’s solve for the future.

Moving Beyond The Book: Searching For New Constructs

Whither the book, that glorious construct that has transported so many of us into new worlds that have both delighted and trapped us between their pages as protagonists explore and evolve.

In this age of new form factors, like the iPad, are we satisfied to merely flip pages? Definitely not, said Richard Saul Wurman at BIF-6 last week. Paper delimited pages were initial mimicked on web sites, smart phones and, so far, on pads.

However, there is such an array of endless possibility for us in this arena – sorting information by context, curating by design and shifting in and out of real time.

I look forward to continuing to explore how we transport “readers” into new and exciting places. For now though, check out this short conceptualization from our friends at Ideo:

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

2010: The Year of the Tablet, How Publishers Shape It

The following Sports Illustrated concept piece by The Wonderfactory for Time Inc shows some of the key themes that will shape tablet-based consumption of information:

  • customize the layout to suit your tastes or keep the editor’s view;
  • verticalize the content to suit your interest areas;
  • easily curate ‘finds’ to your networks
  • inclusion of social gaming, but absent were meta game mechanics.

Sports Illustrated – Tablet Demo 1.5 from The Wonderfactory on Vimeo.

CaseLaw 2.0: Google Enters The Courtroom

Google Scholar

I fondly remember searching the case law while at law school in Cape Town in the early 90’s. Essentially I had three choices – the UCT law library, the records at the Supreme Court itself or gopher (that’s pre-browser Internet). My preference was always gopher.  It was in fact through gopher that I had my initial mindspin epiphany – the Internet was going to change our world.

Fast forward a few years – I had the pleasure of writing head notes for commercial case law and got introduced to CaseLaw 1.0 courtesy of Austlii. In 1998 I set up one of the first major legal vertical portals, Lawstream (the big picture vision was to stream live from the courts) and achieved a million page views in month 1.

Needless to say, I’ve seen the law online since its early days and I’m really excited to see Google enter the fray:

Starting today, we’re enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar.

It would be really cool if Google were to have an open API policy with respect to these cases. What I mean is that anyone should be able to write their own headnote or summary on a case or develop a set of commentary threading together how the common law has been affected by a particular judgement or other. In true crowdsourcing style, the most popular or authoritative headnotes and commentary would rise to the top to create a Legalpedia.

I really like the way that Google, in releasing Scholar,  has acknowledged the work of true legal pioneers such as Graham Greenleaf at Austlii.

Next step for Scholar? – My suggestion is that they expand out to other countries and continue to democratise the black box that is the law.

Social Business Design: Birth of a New Industry

La Défense

New industry sectors coalesce and crystallize as a result of a number of factors converging.

In the case of Social Business Design this is an area that has been bubbling under for about 18 months with a range of different tags, such as Enterprise 2.0, but it never really gelled together. There were differences of opinion on who the market was, how to approach it and what exactly did it constitute. Was it simply setting up a corporate blog, an internal wiki and a customer forum or was there more to this area?

Charlene Li’s book Groundswell went a long way towards gathering impetus behind this new industry sector, but still the gel wasn’t quite there. When she left Forrester and set up the Altimeter Group people took notice, but their attention wasn’t galvanized.

And then Jeremiah Oywang left Forrester as well and joined Charlene. People started to sit up and really take notice – they were primed for something to happen. Around about the same time David Armano, an exec with the Dachis Group gave a presentation at the Social Fresh conference titled Social Business by Design. The industry now had a moniker to focus around.

The key inflection point though came last week when Dachis acquired Headshift. Much has already been written about this and most industry commentators will agree with the following tweet from @amayfield:

Headshift/Dachis is massively significant. Not marketing…this is a new sector shaping up: social business.

The Social Business Design meme is now starting to spread rapidly courtesy of one of the classic tenets of this industry: sharing. David Armano had placed his deck of slides on Slideshare two weeks ago. It has since been featured on Slideshare’s new “hot on Twitter” section and is gaining a lot more viewers.

This depth of attention around the topic is rapidly turning to more widespread adoption of the term, both by potential industry practitioners and by their potential clients. An industry is born.

What is Social Business Design?

Anne McCrossan has delivered a cogent summary of this arena:

Social business design sits at the intersection of organizational development and marketing, and can loosely be described as the practice of developing communities of engagement to develop ideas, activities and outputs for commercial and social benefit.

As organizations adopt the principles of social business design, intangible, soft assets like brand value, purpose, human resources, processes and capabilities come to the fore. Social business design is about engendering involvement and it’s inbound.

Slightly differently, marketing services and ‘broadcast’ media operate on the basis the message and transaction are the means to the end. Marketing services communicate primarily outbound.

Her entire post is pure gold and I highly recommend anyone who has read this far to jump over to her site and continue reading.

You will be hearing a lot more on the topic of Social Business Design and I will aim to synthesise and analyze as much of it as I can.

ADDED: Gaurav Mishra has posted a comprehensive summary of this burgeoning space and I wanted to point to his thoughts as they complement the thread in this post.

The key take out, for me, from his comments are that both Altimeter and Dachis focus on using emerging social technologies for transforming businesses, instead of merely reaching out to customers.

This is a salient point. As the social technologies shift, so can the emphasis that an agency puts in those technologies. For example, Augmented Reality is still in its early infancy as a technology and a few years out from being of use within the enterprise. However, when it does mature as a technology it will have an immense impact, until then it is on all of our watchlists, but it’s not worth confusing clients with until it matures somewhat.

[picture courtesy of JArous]