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Tools vs. Craftsmen

Sunday morning and I’m watching an eleven-year old make a stop-motion animated movie.

He’s using tools that would have cost $100,000 or more a decade ago. And today, of course, they’re supercheap.

You can typeset using the finest graphic design tools ever made–for fifty cents a minute at Kinko’s, or at home with a $500 Mac Mini.

You can post your resume in more places and reach more people than any outsourcing firm ever could

And my friends at eyebeam just got a fancy 3D printer that allows them "output" just about any small three dimensional object they can imagine.

If you want to write a book, go ahead. You can write it and typeset at home, and get it professionally printed with no problem. And Amazon will sell it, right next store to Stephen King’s latest.

If you want to design a car or create a perfume or access a law library, same deal.

And if you want a blog, you can have the very same tools that the most popular bloggers have… for free.

The tools keep getting better and better.

Which means that the first barrier to entry–access to professional tools–is gone.

So there’s more, but is there better?

I think we gave a Disney movie, circa 1954, the benefit of the doubt. It was the movie in the theatre. It was the only one to choose from. It was a big deal. It didn’t matter if it was the best movie Walt ever made, because it was the only one right now.

The bar’s a lot higher, because access to tools is a lot easier.

Remember Felix?

(marketing makes it critic proof).

The New York Times roasted the Odd Couple today. They hated it.

The Odd Couple booked $21 million in advance tickets. A record. The whole run is sold out.

The review, then, doesn’t matter.

But of course it does. It does for the two reasons that it sold so many tickets.

1. American Express offered advance seats to Gold Card members. This
permission asset is hugely profitable. American Express has permission
to market to this group, a group that responds to Broadway show offers
in a big way. Not only does that help sell tickets, but it makes it
more likely that members will keep paying money for their Gold Card.

2. Nathan and Matthew have a brilliant reputation. A brand, even. As
a result, when the offer showed up (TV show! Jack Klugman! The guys
from the producers! Neil Simon! Advance tickets!) the offer was
irresistible. We’re talking $1000 scalpers on eBay.

So, there’s zero short term economic impact from a bad review.

But if it’s a bad play, all sorts of brands get tarnished. The
permission asset decreases in value. The names aren’t worth as much.

The lesson is that the new marketing makes it a lot easier to make
products for your customers (instead of having to run around finding
customers for your products.) The obligation that comes with that,
though, is to make something really and truly great. You no longer have
to dumb stuff down to create average stuff for average people. You can
make something truly great. So do it.

Swan song?

My first reaction to Delta to Eliminate Discount Carrier Song was, "of course it failed." It failed because they didn’t burn their bridges, didn’t really commit, didn’t do anything but a pale imitation of Jet Blue.

But then I realized that Song wasn’t a failure on at least one level… it allowed a stodgy brown company to move fairly quickly and to discover the power of story telling. Everything from the organic food to the paint job was about telling passengers a different story. Song had trouble keeping that promise, but at least they tried.

So maybe Delta learned a lesson about flexibility and speed and risk. Failure is rarely fatal.

The kids say “thanks.”

The Big Moo broke into the top 100 on Amazon yesterday.

Since every copy sold there (or at any bookstore) buys part of a school and part of a cure for diabetes and part of a round of financing for a third world entrepreneur, we need to say thank you.

Because I involved so many of my friends and colleagues (and heroes), this project has been a huge risk for me. Every single person in publishing said an anthology on this topic couldn’t sell. If it weren’t for my blog readers, they would have been right.

Thanks for buying a thousand copies. Or 100. Or one. Amazon.com: Books: The Big Moo : Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable.

Opening the microlending system

Soni Pitts points us to Kiva. The idea seems to be that anyone can be a microlender… Instead of spending $25 on lattes, you can help a farmer in Bangladesh buy a bull… and then he pays you back.

This is one of a number of cool ways to do first world wealth transfer. The challenge, as always, is in the execution. There’s not a huge shortage of money for microlending operations–there’s a shortage of great banks, great people to run those banks and access to the right sort of people to make the loans to.

It’s easy to imagine that every culture is as crisp as ours when it comes to money. (and hey, we’re not even that good at it… just look at credit card debt for an example). Most of the challenge of microbanking is in changing social systems, not in moving the $25. But like all things on the net, this is a great first step in opening up bottlenecks.

All your base [are] belong to us

GooglebaseSneak peak of Google’s new Craig’s List/eBay alternative: google base

The challenge is whether people are better at sorting through junk than computers are. Because it’s Google and because there’s a "bulk loader", it will be filled (okay, not filled, but "well-populated" in less than a week.

One more layer in the multi-layered web…

Are you tired? Busy?

Probably not as busy (or as tired) as our hero Tom.

He’s done an astounding number of lectures in a ridiculous number of countries over the last two months. 76,000 miles so far (he’s not very good at doing these gigs in the right geographical progression.)

So, congrats to Tom for spreading the word, and here’s a lesson worth hearing. (From: tompeters!):

So I’ve been consciously working on a new (for me) approach, with at least a smidgeon of success. Either at day’s end or dawn’s early light, I have a little meditation and self-counseling session on making the day count, rather than devoting the day to eager anticipation of the moment I can cross it off the calendar. Professionally, that first means looking anew and in depth at the forthcoming lecture to be sure that it clearly encompasses (as best I can) an ennobling purpose, challenges participants’ minds and engages their souls. (Will it at least aspire to the JFK idea that no speechifier should utter a word unless she "aims to change the world"?) Also professionally, I "work on" my attitude. This may be day 45 and mile 76,000 for me, but for the Client it is D-Day for an Important Event (often their year’s #1 event, for God’s sake); hence my exhaustion and accompanying short temper must be thrust aside … and downright cheeriness and spirited engagement must become the invariant orders of the day. Besides, such cheeriness, even if feigned, cheers me up first and foremost! Next, and in a way most important, even though I have little trouble infusing my lecture with meaning, I must thoroughly convince myself that this is a day every hour of which is worth savoring! Hackneyed though it is to write, 25 October 2005 ain’t gonna come around again and this 62-year-old is gonna be a day older and closer to checkout time when it’s done.

Whatever you’re making, designing, shipping or selling, it’s a Big Event for the person buying it and using it. It may be just another car/contract/widget to you, but someone is counting on it being remarkable.

Seth in New Jersey

I get a lot of mail about public speaking gigs. I was recently hired to do one on November 17th: Seth Godin presented by Move Ahead 1.

Ben’s insight

Ben Stein wonders (link) , in today’s Times, why Yale University keeps asking him for money (and why he gives it to them.) Last year, Yale earned about $3 billion on their endowment doing deals that you and I could never do. In the face of that sort of return, do the $3,000 alumni checks really matter?

Michael Motta answered that question for me when he quoted Ben Franklin in an email today. "he that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than whom you yourself have obliged".

In other words, Yale wants Ben Stein’s money so that Ben will be inclined to do the things that Yale really wants: send over great students, hire graduates, talk up the school and maintain its place in the pantheon of liberal arts colleges. And donors are far more likely to do that than disconnected alum.

It’s not always about giving. Yale wins by taking.

Changing the game

Michael Kenny points us to a story in Wired: Link: Wired News: Pumping Indies on MTV.

Pump Audio solves that problem by providing networks with a hard drive filled with 11,000 songs categorized and searchable by genre, instrument and lyrical theme. Customers pay a flat fee per episode (or commercial) to Pump Audio, which the company splits evenly with the musicians.

The music industry is broken. Has been for a while. Here’s a smart guy with a simple offering that is irresistible to all parties. Because he was willing to create a remarkable product that didn’t meet industry standards.