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Make your own beanie

Morty Schiller points out a valuable resource for those not persuaded by the turncoats at MIT: Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie.

RSS Three months later

The last time I posted about subscribing by RSS was August. So, here we go again:

This blog has one of the fastest-growing RSS feed lists I know of, but it's still a scary-low percentage of my readership. With your help, we can fix that.

EXPLAINED: RSS is just a little peep, a signal, a ping that comes when a piece of software contacts a favorite blog or site, telling your computer that it has been updated. If you have an RSS reader (and they're free and easy, and two of the easiest live on the web so you don't even have to install anything), whenever a blog is updated, it shows up in your reader and you can catch up on the news. If there's nothing new, it doesn't show up and you don't have to waste time surfing around.

GETTING IT: All you have to do to subscribe to this blog is ONE of the following:

a. Look down the left side of this blog until you see the little MyYahoo logo. Click on that and you'll be taken to Yahoo where you can add this blog to your MyYahoo page (or add a MyYahoo page if you don't have one yet.)

b. click on this icon:

Subscribe with Bloglines

c. Copy the text in red below into your RSS reader.


d. Or click this link.

EVERYWHERE: RSS is just about everywhere you want it to be. So add other RSS feeds on stuff you care about. And if you want a downloadable reader, just go to google and search on "RSS reader" and the name of your computer OS. You'll find a bunch.

That's it. You're done.

Free, easy, permanent until you undo it and it'll save you time, tire wear and help you avoid male pattern baldness. Did I mention that it was free and it will save you time?

RSS is not just for nerds. Not anymore.

Aluminum hats?

Laurie Kalmanson found this gem. I won’t preface it, but you should check it out.
MIT and the Government Plot.

Understanding the Zero Profit Condition

Austan Goolsbee writes in Slate about something called The Zero Profit Condition.

If you’re in any business where the cost to enter as a competitor is very low, you’ve got this problem. The minute there are big profits being made, competitors will flood in and steal them. This is why there are five times as many real estate brokers in San Francisco as in Steubenville, Ohio. Because the houses cost five times as much, the commissions are five times as great, so brokers show up in enough volume that everyone goes back to making exactly the same amount of money.

The only way to win is to break the rules. To play by your own rules, creating a market in which the cost of entry is very high, or even impossible. If you’re the only one, then you win, by default.

what’s a backup?

Thomas Hawk points us to this new piece of software (actual performance unknown): DVD to iPod.

Question: should you be allowed to backup the DVDs you own? If you leave ten on an airplane or lose them in a fire, do you have to buy replacements? Is it against the law to act out a scene from Star Wars in the privacy of your own home? What about listening to an audio recording you made of the movie? Or watching movies you’ve purchased on your iPod?

You can’t backup your car or your shoes. You can backup your email and even Excel.

I wonder what Proust would say.

remember AOL keywords?

If AOL had won, then keywords would have been even more valuable than domain names.

Andrew Cantino has a different sort of landgrab going on: AllYourWords.com. Fun to think about.

People, not things

Scotth It’s hardwired in. We respond (and react) to people. The story is at: Scott Heiferman’s Daily Fotolog.

Bad news for the lazy

The best excuse for not analyzing your website just went away.

Google’s Urchin division is about to offer their services for free: Google Analytics.

As we’ve discussed a million times before, if it’s possible to test and measure successfully in a medium, it’s inevitable that people will test and measure. And when your competition tests and measures, they’re going to evolve faster than you do.


(PS I couldn’t help but notice that Urchin uses Squidoo orange on their site.)

How to Run a Useless Conference

I go to more conferences than you do.

I’m frequently amazed, but not particularly surprised, at what a bad job conferences do at their stated objective. What’s the problem? After all, these are expensive, professionally-run events that work hard to satisfy the typical attendee.

And that, of course, is the problem.

Facts don’t change people’s behavior.

Emotion changes people’s behavior.

Stories and irrational impulses are what change behavior. Not facts or bullet points.

If all we need is facts, then books alone would be sufficient.

When the Surgeon General announced that smoking was fatal, how many smokers quit right away?

Human beings are irrational. Change agents (like you) can fight that and obsess about presenting more and more facts, or we can embrace it and make change happen.

Conferences are designed to get average people to change their behavior. By “average”, I mean typical—the masses, the center of the bell curve. That’s a sensible objective. By definition, most people (in any given population) are in the middle of that bell curve. Change them and you’re golden.
If this group would learn, take action and make things happen with just a memo, you wouldn’t need to have a conference. But we end up being flown on average planes to average hotels to sit in average conference rooms and hear average speakers doing presentations filled with bullet points. And it’s all beyond reproach.

But it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work when you’re on a sales call either. Your facts and your service and your prices can be the best, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the sale. And it breaks down at an annual review and it even happens in a one-on-one encounter with a policeman or a teacher or a clerk.

People are irrational and they usually make decisions that have nothing to do with facts. And yet we spend most of our time improving our facts and very little concerned with the rest.

Think about the most powerful learning moments you’ve ever had. My guess is that they didn’t take place in a darkened meeting room.

Conference organizers (and more important, their clients) spend virtually all of their time and money doing one of two things:
1.    Satisfying the center of the bell curve.
2.    Avoiding failure

That’s why the typical conference is… typical.

That’s why the food and the setting and the venue and the location and the chairs and the layout and the schedule and the refreshment breaks are… typical.

If you want to run a meeting (a brainstorming meeting, a board meeting, a zoning commission meeting) that is likely to perform as well as your past meetings, then the best thing to do is to run it the way you’ve always been running it, right?

Here’s the challenge, then: figure out how to do the atypical. How to change the interactions that people have with each other. How to change what they talk about in the elevator. How to create an environment where people walk in ready to learn and change and challenge, as opposed to getting that, “hey we’re in the Bahamas let’s get drunk and then sit through a session with the CEO” glazed look.

Sure, it won’t work on everyone. But that’s better than working on no one.

Practice makes perfect?

My third grade teacher, Mr. Guillaume, took issue with that. He insisted that "perfect practice makes perfect."

There are some that will tell you that you can measure a company’s desire to innovate by their R&D spending. This fact from Tom Peters might lay that to rest:

The #1 company in R&D spending over the last 25 years: General Motors.

You don’t get Purple by hiring a bureaucracy and giving them money (or money and time). You do it by having the will to go to the edges. When GM has no cash (and still no will) then they’re really in trouble.