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The most important book of the year

You’ll hear more about this from me closer to January once the embargo is lifted, but I think you should pre-order this right now: Amazon.com: Books: Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Malcolm Gladwell (he of Tipping Point fame) has done it again.

This is a subtle, powerful book about first impressions and the way we make decisions. It completely changed my thinking about a number of things and inspired the new book I’m playing with.

I know it’s unusual for me to come right out and endorse a book like this, but Malcolm’s latest is that good.

The next blog thing

TravelBlog | Travel Journals, Travel Blogs, Diaries and Photos

Thanks to Andrew Rupert for the ping.

Things are happening in this medium a lot faster than things changed after they invented that printing press thing.

“But I might learn something if I read that”

Yes, that’s exactly what she said.

I was at a conference the other day, and when I recommended a book to someone, panic flashed across her face.

As media gets ever more nichey (is nichey a word? If it isn’t, it should be), it’s now easy to expose yourself only to messages you already agree with, to see things you already know.

It’s comforting to be reminded that you’re right. It’s good for your ego to discover that you already know everything that’s important so you can go back to doing what you were doing yesterday.

But where’s the growth in that?

There’s more information on more topics on blogs and in the Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia than has ever been published before in the history of the planet.

And yet, with all this data, most of us resist the opportunity to obtain information. We don’t want to be confused or stressed or put in a position where we might, just maybe, make a mistake.

What a shame.

On copyright and on spectrum

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Internet keeps bringing this pair of issues to our attention, and they seem to go together more and more often.

Sinclair Broadcasting wants to use the spectrum (our spectrum) to broadcast political messages through its company-owned stations. Once again, regardless of our politics, I think we need to ask the following question:

“Whose spectrum is it?”

Computers have completely reinvented what we can do with a slice of spectrum. In the bandwidth your local CBS-affiliate uses, we could easily broadcast dozens of channels of digital information. We could create free internet access around the country. But it sits there, stuck, because the FCC licensed that spectrum years ago. Just because someone has built a business around it, should it stay that way?

What if we decided to use the spectrum in ways that benefitted everyone, not just media companies? For example, why not require that anyone broadcasting on the public airwaves devote one hour every night in prime time to public interest programming and commercials? With that much inventory, the cost of running for President could be driven close to zero (all your media buys would be free).

Which brings us around again to copyright, which always manages to get me in trouble. Whose copyright is it? What’s it for?

Why not have patents last 100 years? They don’t because we know that allowing a patent to go into the public domain makes it far easier for society to benefit… other inventions can be based on that first idea.

So why not make copyrights last for 5 years, not 100? A five year copyright would not dramatically decrease the incentive to make a movie or write a book, would it? Looking at my book sales, I can tell you that the vast majority of sales come in the first five years. Sure, JD Salinger would get hurt in the long run, but would that have kept him from writing Catcher in the Rye?

The purpose of copyright is simple: to encourage people to make stuff worth looking at and using. Not to protect the people who already wrote something. And CERTAINLY not to protect the companies that market movies or publish books.

Both cases are the same: our spectrum and our access to ideas are being held hostage by big companies who are dependent on the status quo. The ability of our culture to quickly evolve ideas and then to broadcast them to ever larger audiences is a fundamental building block of our success. Why do 98% of us sit around while big companies with no interest in us legislate against our interests?

The newspaper of record

Two quotes from page E1 of today’s New York Times:

“Sports Illustrated has designated the book “Friday Night Lights,” an account of a year the author spent in 1988 following a high school football team in Odessa, Tex., one of the top five sports titles ever, and called it the best book ever written about football–a verdict that’s hard to quarrel with unless you’re partial to Roy Blount Jr.’s “About Three Bricks Shy of a Load.”

“…the 1990 work is titled in part “Three Little Boys” in parentheses, preceded by a description of a sexual act.”

Is it just me, or is the (unedited/unprofessional) writing of blogs significantly clearer and more straightforward?

Holy smokes!

It’s a movement.

Viral & Buzz Marketing Association

Nice manifesto as well.

Getting Backwards

Many companies have decided to use the web and automated phone systems to decrease their costs. What an incredibly stupid idea.

How many clicks is it from your company’s website to your phone number? At Sprint: Welcome to the Sprint Customer Center, the phone number is four clicks down.

Then, once you call them, you have to go through dozens of hoops and presses and pound signs before you reach a human.

Isn’t having your customers and prospects talk to you a profit center, not a cost?

Isn’t the best outcome of a visit to your website a phone call?

If it’s not, how can you change things so it is?

HELLO, my name is Scott

HELLO, my name is Scott July_scott_pic

Scott has been wearing a nametag for almost five years. It’s fascinating to see how this simple act of engaging with the world has fundamentally changed his life.

the disposable restaurant

Courtesy of my friend Elizabeth: About Foodie NYC.

One more thing that changes when you can communicate with people who want to hear from you (and when the word is easy to spread).

It’s a restaurant that’s only open 6 nights a year. Fifty people, sold out far in advance.

Why is this surprising?

Bush, Kerry Underfund Online Ads · MarketingVOX

No one builds a jingle or a slogan or even a brand identity using web advertising. It’s never been done to my knowledge and it’s hard to see how it could be done.

The purpose of web advertising is to get interested people to raise their hand and give you permission to have an anticipated, personal and relevant conversation.

The web site and the blogs and the interactive email conversations and the petitions and the online buzz are where minds get made up and where ideas spread. Not in the Adwords.

Did either campaign do a good job in building an online asset of people who actually want to hear from them? Nope. Moveon did, definitely. Everyone could have done far far better, but political operatives are impatient and greedy and forget to build an asset for when it really matters.