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Someone way smarter than me…

…will actually understand the articles at knovel.com. All I know is that there is some very serious knowledge exchange going on at this site. (They specialize in helping scientists and engineers communicate technical ideas and access texts and databases.)

It’s stuff like this that’s really allowing the web to change more of the world than we ever thought it would.

Now that copyright is broken…

…can a web organization fix it?

I’m not sure, but this presentation (narrated by the amazing Christopher Lydon) is certainly worth thinking about. “Creative Commons.”.

I happen to think the idea is extremely well presented (when was the last time you saw multimedia done this well? Probably the Kikkoman thing below…) and an interesting thought. What happens when we give authors the ability to grant certain permissions automatically? What happens when we make it easy to unleash the ideavirus without giving away all rights?

Let’s see what happens…

…And then it happens!

One of the coolest things about the fast-moving world of the Net is that you can write about a new idea and then, a few months later, it’s a real thing.

Of course, they didn’t get the idea from me, but it’s nice to see it becoming real.

Today’s New York Times features profiles of two companies A New Tack in Fighting Spam that are fighting spam with a tactic I wrote about on June 19th: Stopping Spam

Now, if I could just figure out how to pick stocks.

When people become cogs

The cornerstone of the industrial revolution was the simple idea that management could dramatically increase productivity by buying machines that did what they were told, were cheap and could scale.

As we’ve moved to a service economy, though, machines can’t handle much of the work. People do.

I thought of this the other day as I got yet another outbound telemarketing call, this one from the local Yellow Pages. The caller, when pressed, admitted he was calling me from India.

I spoke to him for a while and then his supervisor. They were both risking their jobs, though, because everything they did was ruled by the script. Follow the script or lose your job. Follow the script or see your pay docked. Follow the script or you don’t get a good commission.

What so many people in the USA and Europe don’t realize is that their jobs are being scripted. Relentlessly. And once they’re scripted, why exactly should the boss keep paying you? There’s someone cheaper– in another state, in a prison, in a beautiful country with a low cost of living–who can follow your script instead of you.

This is the giant unwritten headline of our post-industrial economy. If your job isn’t creative/interactive or local, it’s probably going to go away. Offshore software programmers charge by the line, and the boss doesn’t have to meet them or give them benefits. Just because you can code/call/file/process or type doesn’t mean you’re secure. The winners are going to be the bosses (quick, become a boss!) and the fast-changing creative types. That and the folks with a jackhammer on your local street corner.

This is great news for people willing to work cheap, especially those with talent and a local economy with a low cost of living. Of course, they’re not safe either, because there’s always someone willing to take their place once they become too expensive.

I think our export of “good” jobs is a fine thing. It makes the world a smaller, better and more prosperous place. When you woke up this morning, though, that probably wasn’t the first thing on your mind. You were worried about your favorite person–you.

So, what should you do? Now, before it’s too late, realize one basic truth: Safe is Risky.

Cogs don’t take risks. But cogs are the ones that are next to go.

I probably have better things to do

but I can’t stop watching The Kikkoman (weird even if you know Japanese) movie.

Thanks to Jim Leff (creator of the remarkable chowhound site).

…November 27…. This just in from loyal reader Mark Bowie. The lyrics to the Kikkoman song, as translated by some anonymous web surfer with too much time on his hands:

The great hero Kikkoman!
Soy sauce makes the difference
Pour it, taste it, be amazed!
Restaurants are no mach to him
Take his blow the “Kikko-punch”!
(Eat sunny-side up with soysauce!)
Show me Show you Kikkoman Kikkoman
Show me Show you Kikkoman!
The Star of Soy has send him here
The cool guy called Kikkoman!
Try soy sauce and be healthy
Did you know that it kills germs!
Sauce? Ketchup? Nonsense!
Vanish them with “Kikko Beam”!
I said eat eggs with soysauce, idiot!
Show me Show you Kikkoman Kikkoman
Show me Show you Kikkoman!

The power (and the fear) of self determination

or… are we stuck in High School?

I had two brushes with higher education this week.

The first was at a speech I gave in New York. There were several Harvard Business School students there, invited because of their interest in marketing and exceptional promise (that’s what I was told… I think they came because they had heard that Maury Rubin would make a great lunch!).

Anyway, they asked for my advice in finding marketing jobs. When I shared my views (go to a small company, work for the CEO, get a job where you actually get to make mistakes and do something) one woman professed to agree with me, but then explained, “But those companies don’t interview on campus.”

Those companies don’t interview on campus. Hmmm. She has just spent $100,000 in cash and another $150,000 in opportunity cost to get an MBA, but…

The second occurred today at Yale. As I drove through the amazingly beautiful campus, I passed the center for Asian Studies. It reminded me of my days as an undergrad (at a lesser school, natch), browsing through the catalog, realizing I could learn whatever I wanted. That not only could I take classes but I could start a business, organize a protest movement, live in a garret off campus, whatever. It was a tremendous gift, this ability to choose.

Yet most of my classmates refused to choose. Instead, they treated college like an extension of high school. They took the most mainstream courses, did the minimum amount they needed to get an A, tried not to get into “trouble” with the professor or face the uncertainty of the unknowable. They were the ones who spent six hours a day in the library, reading their textbooks.

The best part of college is that you could become whatever you wanted to become, but most people just do what they think they must.

Is this a metaphor? Sure. But it’s a worthwhile one. You have more freedom at work than you think (hey, you’re reading this on company time!) but most people do nothing with that freedom but try to get an A.

Do you work with people who are still in high school? Job seekers only willing to interview with the folks who come on campus? Executives who are trying to make their boss happy above all else? It’s pretty clear that the thing that’s wrong with this system is high school, not the rest of the world.

Cut class. Take a seminar on french literature. Interview off campus. Safe is risky.

My friend Lionel died Friday

Lionel Poilane was the world’s greatest baker. He was also an extraordinary personality, a visionary entrepreneur and a kind and thoughtful man. chez Poilâne

I was supposed to have lunch with him in a few weeks–and lunch with Lionel was always a treat. Lionel embodied just about everything I’ve been writing about for the last few years. He was remarkable. His bread was standard fare at just about every two and three star restaurant in Paris–because it was different. He was roundly criticized at first (he refused to bake baguettes, for example) but the extraordinary qualities of his bread (and his sparkling personality) won over the critics. We don’t have enough gutsy entrepreneurs in the world, and now we’ve got one less.

On my first visit with him (I was the weird American tourist who refused to leave the shop without some raw dough I could turn into a sourdough starter back home) he invited me to breakfast, gave me a tour of the world’s largest collection of bread cookbooks and pumped me for internet advice. I think of him every time I put a piece of bread in my mouth or see a really stylish, cool new business idea…

I’ll miss Lionel.

Fast Company on Lionel Poilane

Who says creativity is dead?

A very, very funny full page ad in today’s New York Times sent me to Bagotronics. Containing a dead-on parody of an infomercial, the site hawks a “business time machine.”

What’s so compelling about what they’ve done (it’s an Ogilvy client, but the real name of the client won’t be revealed until Thursday) is that they’ve transformed the stuffy, boring, turn-the-page business ad into an interactive, virusworthy hoot.

Will it sell more high-priced technology? Not sure. What I do know is that attention among this audience is precious, and they’ve acquired some. (missing, though, is an easy way to invite your friends to see the site…)

Spend the day at my office?

Please come to my office.

On November 5, 2002, I’m inviting 30 people to spend a day with me in my funky warehouse in Dobbs Ferry, NY, overlooking the Hudson River. (We’re 38 minutes from Grand Central Station in the heart of Manhattan.)

My goal is to help you visualize a different marketing future, to find several take-me-home marketing breakthroughs and to share practical, inexpensive-to-implement advice about taking your company to the next level. You’ll probably learn as much from your peers as you do from me.

Because it’s a small group, we’ll be working on your specific issues, evaluating your web site, talking about how you can reach the right people with the right message. We’ll step back and look at business models and on what’s working and what’s not (offline and on). And everything will be focused on things you can do tomorrow.

If you’d like more information about pricing and agenda, or want to inquire about doing something like this at your company, please drop me a line at
sethgodin@yahoo.com. Put the phrase “practical breakthrough” in your subject line. Sooner the better.

Is tricking people a valid business strategy?

It’s hard to imagine standing at a cocktail party and answering the question, “So, what do you do for a living?” with, “Well, I trick people into giving me money.”

I just switched some domains from register.com to another domain registry service. The guys at register have raised subtle duplicity to a high art. After you notify them that you want to change companies, they send you a note to confirm the switch. This, of course, is a fine security move.

The note begins with several paragraphs about how great their services are, and then has a link. It appears that this might be the l ink to authorize the change, but it’s not… in fact, it’s the link to DENY the change! Read a few more paragraphs down, and there’s the link. Click it within a few days or it becomes invalid.

Click on the link. It appears that you’re done. But if you stop now, the change won’t get authorized. You must now check the box on the new screen. And THEN you must click CONFIRM. It’s easy to imagine that you’re done now, and you’ll close the window. But if you do, they deny the change.

You must go to yet another screen and once again confirm the change (that’s four clicks and three screens when one click would have been sufficient).

This is all very Microsoftian in my opinion.

As subscriptions, ship-till-I-tell-you-to-stop and other business models enter the online arena (where the profit margin is 100%), we’re going to see a lot more of this, I’m afraid. Almost fifteen years ago, when I first did an online project for Prodigy, I was told that their best customer was someone who paid the $10 a month fee but never used the service. If someone FORGOT that they had signed up for Prodigy with their credit card, it might take years before they noticed the billing. While that may have seemed like the right strategy at the time, it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t much of a long-run strategy.

I’m the biggest fan in the world of the milkman’s return. The idea of subscriptions that save time and money for both parties is a no-brainer way to run a business. But if you have to trick people into doing business with you, it’s not much of a strategy, is it?