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What to do if you don’t know what to do

Start a forum.

Ajax is a brand-new suite of programming solutions. Two people independently created non-profit communities where they could post questions, offer expertise and find fellow travelers:

Ajax Camp

Ajaxian

This approach is fast, very inexpensive and pays huge dividends.

Your expanding customer base

House_vs_obesity_lg
Dean Johnson wants you to see this chart of average US house size indexed against average US weight. Click on the image for the [big] version, and on Dean’s link for the details.

How to be lied to

"Does this dress make me look fat?"

People lie to you every day. And it’s most likely your own fault.

"Hi, welcome to our store. Can I help you?"

"So, tell me, what problems does your company face?"

"Why didn’t your VC firm fund us?"

"Can you please blurb my book?"

"When do you think you will be ready to invest in this solution?"

"How am I doing?"

"So, when does the next budget cycle begin?"

"Do you like this product?"

"Would you recommend us to a friend?"

"Did you pack your own luggage?"

Every question represents a choice for the person you are asking. She can choose to take a risk and tell you truth, or she can dissemble, fib or outright lie, and save your feelings or avoid an awkward situation.

The way you ask the question, then, matters.

The easy answer to, "Can I help you?" is, "I’m just looking." On the other hand, the easy answer to, "Do you want to see what’s on sale?" is, "yes."

Most of the time, we ask questions hoping for lies. It’s easier that way.

But what if you really want to know? (and you should).

"What is the best thing about our product? The worst?"

"Now that you’ve read our business plan, if you could change one thing about it, what would it be?"

"Who’s the weakest person on our team, do you think?"

The thing is, once you get someone to tell you tell you the truth, you have no right to argue with them. Punishing someone for giving you honest feedback just guarantees that they’ll never do it again.

And when was the last time you persuaded someone they were wrong about their opinion?

The best tag cloud (for today, anyway)

Crossing the line to less than zero

Blake points us to: HeightMax, a product few need and one that almost certainly doesn’t work as advertised.

On the same day that it is announced that the American economy has crossed a line for the first time in 70 years. In 2005, Americans spent more than they earned.

Net savings rate: less than zero.

Lather, rinse…

From Scott Hampton: unNotified Bodies – Stubborn Resistance to Change.

Sometimes I use this as an example when I’m at client sites. I tell them the moral of the story, too: "If you can’t change the little things in your methods, you’ll never change the big things. Pick something, make it better. Don’t worry if it is just a little thing. If you lather, rinse, and repeat that a few times, you will have made a big difference. BUT if you wait for everyone else to change BEFORE you will, remember that everyone else is thinking the same thing, and so nobody will change anything. Don’t wait for permission, or worry about doing something different, or invent reasons why you don’t have authority. Somebody has to make the first move. It might as well be you. Change your world, today."

If you aren’t doing anything different, how can you expect to accomplish anything different?

Russ Oasis is angry

Radio is going through tumultuous times. This op ed gives you a glimpse of it: Radio Ink – The Voice of Radio Revolution.

I think it’s notable for the exasperation as well as the content. There are very few industries that can simultaneously change their tires at the same time they go 55 mph. The answer almost always seems to be independent action in the interest of the consumer, not tortured compromise that protects the current lineup of players.

Guy’s got a blog

Some of us have been waiting years for this:  “Let the Good Times Roll” by Guy Kawasaki: Guy’s Golden Touch.

Stuck systems

A young friend of mine needed to create a bibliography for a school project this weekend.

I had forgotten how annoying this task was. I was also pretty sure it was obsolete.

Why, exactly, does a teacher or reader need to know the city a book publisher is based in?

If your goal as a reader (or someone checking for plagiarism or quality of research) is to get to the books that the writer used, you need exactly one piece of data: the ISBN.

A quick online search didn’t turn up what seemed obvious to me: a free service that would allow a writer to type in all the ISBNs used in creating a paper and then generate two things:

1. a bibliography based on looking up the data onlline and
2. a web page that would allow the reader/teacher to see the books, their covers, links to Amazon, libraries, online references, etc.

Then, when the student hands in the paper, she appends the bibliography created by the site, and there, right on top, is the web address with all the links.

Now, the typical middle-school teacher is going to explain that kids need to learn to write biographies because it’s part of literacy. And a college professor is going to want to keep the tradition going because no one wants to be the first to end it. And an entrepreneur is going to hesitate to build the site I described because she’s worried about how hard it will be to spread this idea and how much effort will go into making it the standard resource.

And no student wants to risk a grade by breaking the system.

So, the marketer faces a challenge similar to the disruption challenge that most marketers face–how do you take a system filled with an inefficient, annoying, time-consuming, wasteful and yes, even stupid task and make it better in a way that serves all sides?

If it were me, I’d focus on being cheap and fast and viral. And the more you break the system, the better your upside.