Archive for December, 2008

Burt Rutan, Innovation, and Adversity

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Burt Rutan

A couple weeks ago I came across coverage of the keynote that Burt Rutan gave at the conference via , and am finally getting around to sharing it. Rutan is an inspiring individual and I have been moved to write about him before, my favorite being Failure Leads to Understanding. In his keynote to AU2008, Rutan digs into his perspective on innovation and serves up some memorable insights, including:

“Innovation occurs in periods of adversity. In the 60s we went to the moon, in the 80s we never broke low earth orbit.”

Burt Rutan

That’s a prescient quote given the challenges we now face not just locally and nationally, but globally. Tracking the news, it is interesting how many companies have already disappeared. That’s probably as much about business model relevance as anything. At the same time that we are seeing companies disappear, the American automotive industry surf disaster, and the entire newspaper industry sink into a reactive panic, we are seeing companies expanding their business, diversifying offerings, and improving their position. There has been much talk over the last year regarding taking advantage of the imminent recession to reinvest in your organization and look for opportunities to innovate, reinvent, and diversify. I suspect that those companies that took this advice to heart stand a very good chance of being around this time next year, and positioned to maximize opportunities that arise as we emerge from this crisis, this adversity. Those that do not? Well, it’s going to be an interesting time. To Burt Rutan’s point, adversity can be a launchpad for innovation (pun intended). It can also be a destroyer, and it would seem that the ability to innovate is one quality that can help companies navigate events well.

I have not been able to find video of Rutan’s keynote, but will post as soon as I do.

Discovery Is a Narcotic. In a Good Way.

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

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Why yes, yes it is. I would be one absolutely addicted to discovery. It’s also something we discuss often at work in an effort to always challenge our concepts of user experience and how design is revealed through that experience. Above is an interesting presentation from the folks at that gets to the heart of this. I came across Mr. Tweet through . You’ve probably heard of Twitter, but by way of overview it is an online service that allows you to connect and follow a diverse audience of people. A Tweet on Twitter is as simple as answering the question “What are you doing right now.” Some people use it to talk about what they’re making for dinner, others use it as a hardcore marketing tool, one that facilitates and enhances connection, conversation, and authenticity. For everybody, though, Twitter is very much about the surprise of discovering new ideas, people, shared interests, and answers to questions that might range from the mundane to the immensely interesting:

“Discovery is less about predicting precisely right about what the user wants. It is more about the userflow of discovery, with all of the hits and misses.”

Mr. Tweet (from 2008 SXSW presentation)

Seth Godin: Leadership is The New Marketing

Friday, December 26th, 2008

A nice interview with Seth Godin on , a project that I have written about before. Seth does not disappoint with his perspective on a number of things, but perhaps most importantly his very simple three-part philosophy:

  1. Treat people with respect.
  2. Customers have more power than ever.
  3. Great ideas spread.

Seth goes on to say that when you put these three things together you realize that leadership is the new marketing and that leading and connecting people has replaced the traditional notion of marketing, that of product placement and messaging. He also points us to the reality that we are in the midst of an industrial revolution, of sorts, with a multitude of components that are focused on very effectively and efficiently connecting people to ideas. This has changed everything around us, and people who are succeeding in this revolution are seeing how this connection can be the foundation of new businesses. Game changing stuff. Again.

Barack Obama’s Focus on Science

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I watched the video above at last evening and liked very much how President-elect Obama explains his perspective on the role of science in his administration, and the thinking behind the science and technology team he has assembled. This team will maintain his focus on the value that science offers society and the world, and represents a cross-section of disciplines that is comprehensive (with the notable lack of a biologist…) in the face of the real challenges faced by our nation, challenges that can be addressed through science, innovation, and discovery. This perspective is in stark contrast to the previous eight years, and stands to move science in the United States forward on many, many fronts. A prescient quote from Obama’s presentation:

“The truth is promoting science is not just about providing resources, it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or idealogy. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient. Especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth, and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States.”

Barack Obama

This emphasis on science and the importance of open inquiry is something that President-elect Obama had discussed several times during the campaign. This was a notable difference between himself and essentially all of the other candidates, from both parties. This difference would be one of the many reasons that I ultimately cast my vote with him, and continue to be reminded by the Obama transistion team what an excellent decision that was.

10 Things: The Power of The Network

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I was excited to find David Cushman’s self-published book . It’s available on Lulu as a downloadable PDF for only $.84, which is an excellent bargain given the density of insights and provocative ideas that Cushman packs into its 98 pages. Cushman also authors the blog , from which much of the content for the book emanated, it being a compendium of Cushman’s writings from over the last year or so, writings on the future of advertising, online networks, the death of broadcast media, and the power of . He succinctly ties together a wide range of ideas we’re all writing and thinking about in various ways, and he does so in a way that very directly points us to the future. As he says on his about page: “The further ahead you look, the faster you go.” That’s a lesson he picked up from motorcycling, and one I can appreciate given my own penchant for racing, motorcycles, and change.

Below are 10 Things from The Power of The Network by David Cushman:

  1. The Death of Death: At the heart of the networked world is conversation, and conversation is “at the intersection of ideas, the driver of value of the network… The digital world is not about death. It is about life… The evolution has begun.”
  2. Don’t Just Witness The Network: If we sit still we are in the midst of witnessing some of the biggest changes since the industrial revolution. But it’s different this time because we can participate, we can all “engage with self-forming communities of (global) niche shared interest (purpose).”
  3. How to Go Viral: 1. Speak in an authentic voice. 2. Lose the TV envy. 3. Give people the tools to make their own. 4. Don’t bother with urls, links or ‘brand messages.’
  4. Communities of Purpose: Leveraging , Cushman points us to two important caveats, that real value is only created by communities of purpose, and this value is best enabled by synchronous response. He then points out that the gap between Reed’s Law and reality is navigation and discovery.
  5. What Now for Advertising and Marketing?: We’re really left with limited options like widget marketing (take advantage of existing advertising model and add viral and widget messaging), engagement marking (creating conversations, participating, listening), and no marketing (no advertising, no marketing, but instead the bringing together of co-creating communities).
  6. We’re All Publishers Now: Indeed. We’re experiencing an orgy of self-published content via the internet and through the success of self-forming communities. “The silent majority have had their day. The participating majority are coming.”
  7. It’s Not How Famous You Are – It’s How Relevant: Enough said.
  8. Reed’s Law and How Multiple Identities Make The Tail Longer: Don’t network for networking’s sake as limiting yourself to one-to-one communication presents little potential for collaboration. Networking openly stands to unleash the power of crowds, and “none of us is as clever as all of us.”
  9. We Are The Eighth Mass Media: From this chapter, a favorite quote: “We all have cheap, rapid, easy ways of sharing our metadata. That’s what publishing has become. Publishing for all. Advertising for all. We can all share content. Content is the conversation starter, conversation is where ideas turn
    into action, action is where value is created. Now we can all share in sharing this. We can all share ourselves. That is what changes everything.”
  10. How Are We Made Great?: Start with the Stowe Boyd quote: “I am made greater by the sum of my connections, so are my connections.” We live with the opportunity to consume an enormous volume of ideas/opinion/perspective. There are so many ideas that would go unrealized were it not for the power of the network surrounding the person who originated it. The catch is that predicting how people will respond to an idea is impossible, the network has its own proprietary wisdom, and from this wisdom comes the elevation of great ideas beyond the individual and to the many.

Ganymede Goes to The Dark Side

Friday, December 19th, 2008

That would be the dark side of Jupiter. Above is an animation of images taken by the Hubble telescope in April of 2007 that show Jupiter’s largest moon moving behind Jupiter. Stunning.

More at .

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The video above is of Steve Jobs giving the commencement speech to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford. I had heard of this speech before, but only came across it recently. I have to tell you, it stopped me in my tracks. Everything he presents to these graduates is meaningful and relevant, and born out of a personal history that is absolutely remarkable. Steve Jobs is not perfect, and some even think he’s an asshole. But I’ll confidently state that he presents a worldview that matters, and his perspective on life, accomplishment, and doing what you love probably resonates with all of us, and the earnestness of his delivery makes this more so. I love this speech.

A Case of The Humans

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Came across this video tonight and thought it was humorous and creative enough to post, and probably pretty accurate. This sentiment was captured quite well In the immortal words of Agent Smith:

Clay Parker Jones Explains The Interwebs

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

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I came across this presentation by that very directly and simply gets to the heart of things that have the propensity to intimidate and/or confuse people as it relates to “the internet”, and how they might use the opportunities it presents to better connect with people/audience/customers/users/etc…:

  • Social media
  • Designing effective websites
  • Connectivity and engagement

It’s a really succinct presentation, and eschews any jargon or webspeak for just plain speaking. I particularly liked Clay’s perspective on reach vs. engagement in support of community-building from slide 31:

“Stop thinking about this as a reach vehicle. We’re working on the reach thing. For now, people don’t look at banners, and we know they don’t click on them. But we can do engagement really, really well, so let’s stick to that.”

Clay Parker Jones

24 Hours of Global Air Traffic

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

A team at the in Switzerland produced the animation above showing the paths of all of the world’s commercial flights over a 24-hour period. The flight information came from a single website, , which is an excellent resource and very interesting to investigate. Air traffic animations are not that new, as we have seen different versions of these for a while now, but the animation above is especially interesting as you relate air traffic to the march of darkness across the planet.

Also of interest is the animation below depicting 24 hours of Fed Ex air traffic operations. It’s longish, but interesting if only in the logistical model it presents. It is also a convenient way to locate Memphis, Tennessee on the map of the United States.

I’ve Always Wanted To Do This

Thursday, December 4th, 2008


from on .

The next time I buy a car, this will be how I let the salesman know he’s just made a sale. I mean, how do you really know you want a car without REALLY testing it out. I will put special emphasis on the ten second burnout as I depart the dealership.

This short took 3rd at the , which I recommend spending some time investigating.