Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

Facebook’s generational challenge

Last month, I posted about Facebook’s issue with ads. I just had two fascinating interactions with the site that point to the good news and the bad news about their future.

I’ll confess I’m not a Facebook user. I have an account as a way of checking it out, but I’ve ‘friended’ very few people. Why? Because if I friend you, especially someone I don’t know, I’m giving you explicit permission to start a fairly intense series of interactions. This makes good commercial sense if you’re an insurance salesman or even a musician looking for gigs, but if you’ve got a limit on the time you can invest, it’s not only time-consuming, it’s a recipe to bitterly disappoint people. I’m amazed at people who claim to have a thousand friends on FB. Friendship is a little like the Navy. Either you’re in or you’re out.

What I’ve recently discovered is that even my real friends, the handful I’ve got on my list, aren’t so good at answering messages (at least messages from me). Three out of the last four people I pinged, folks that would always answer a phone call or an email, haven’t written back. That’s probably because my generation hasn’t figured out how to filter, prioritize and work with the incoming the way we have with email.  This test group appears to have fallen into the trap of accepting friend requests because they didn’t want to offend people and now they’re overwhelmed with noise, all of it at precisely the same level of urgency. There’s no doubt that technology will come up with a far better solution–networked friend-based messaging ought to be super smart and efficient.

The flipside? A friend got into college last week. The university gave her a list of the kids from our state who also got in. Within 24 hours, they were all friends. ALL of them! They knew who knew who, what they looked like, what their histories were. Facebook to the rescue. A new network built on the old network within minutes. By the time September rolls around, they won’t need college, they’ll need a reunion.

Apple’s next problem

AppleseverywhereWalked into Starbucks two days ago and saw five people with laptops. Every single one a white Mac. Five unrelated people out of five, same machine.

When your entire culture is organized about being the other, the outsider, the insurgent, the one that’s better than the masses… (like Starbucks, btw), what do you do when you are the masses?

It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem.

This is the new politics

Forget about YouTube debates.

The future of politics looks just like what Cory did to the Canadian DMCA the last few weeks.

One person, with just a few hard-working people in the field, managed to derail a bill that lobbyists spent millions of dollars on.

Sure, it helps that it was a lousy bill, that Cory co-writes the most popular blog in the world and that the bill was about something that blog readers care about. Doesn’t matter. Because as readership grows and issues start attracting loyal readers, what this proves is that Tip O’Neill was wrong. All politics isn’t local. All politics is about permission. The permission to share your views with people who want to hear them, people who take action, people who tell their friends.

Nice work, Cory. Who’s next?

[Right issue, wrong guy, I’m told! Cory was the one I noticed, but Michael was the point man.]

The Billion-Dollar T-Shirt

This is my favorite article of clothing, and for good reason. It’s a t-shirt I produced in 1994 (14 years ago) to promote a book I worked on for almost a year. The book was more than 500 pages long. The t-shirt cost me at least a billion dollars.

In 1993, I knew a fair amount about the internet, more, I daresay, than most people. I had built products for Prodigy, was working with AOL and had even used a prototype version of Mosaic. I saw what was coming.

So, my company decided to write The Best of the Net. Instead of building a search engine or an auction site or a payment system or … we decided to spend a year writing a book.


Agenda. Every morning in those days, I woke up and asked myself a question: What should I write a book about?

Assets. I had all the tools I needed to write and sell books. I had a great team, access to the publishing community, a brand… I figured my job was to leverage those assets.

Assumptions. I assumed that the world would stay pretty much the same while I leveraged my assets and completed my agenda.

So I ended up with a t-shirt.

That’s what happens in markets that move. If you don’t figure out how to set aside your A, A & A, you can’t possibly grow. You can’t take advantage of changes and opportunities. You snooze, you lose.

Getting sad at Whole Foods (more vs. less)

A trip to the Whole Foods Market used to be really fun. It’s an amusement park for food, a place where the lights are bright, the vegetables are fresh, the potato chips apparently guilt free.

Sometime in the last year, it feels to me, the story changed.

The mantra of "less" which is a natural offshoot of carbon-footprint thinking, combined with the mantra of "less" which is a natural offshoot of overfishing, combined with… have made shopping in a store like this a contest over who can have less impact.

So, here’s a can of tuna, but maybe that’s not okay because it’s a can and it’s tuna.

And here’s an avocado, but maybe that’s not okay because it came a long way in a truck.

And on and on.

For me, local and organic is a treat. I feel great doing it and I’m happy to invest the time to go to the Union Square market. I wonder, though, about how long the legs on that story are. If we’re going to make people feel guilty when they spend money, pretty soon they’re going to start ignoring the story that makes them feel guilty.

Do you remember when you were a kid and you were supposed to clean your plate when eating because somehow that was going to help some starving kid in China? That story didn’t last so long.

I’m more and more convinced that the best hope for the eco movement is to tell a story of efficiency and growth and ingenuity. More is easy to sell. Less almost never is.

My DVD boxed set is now shipping

It’s designed for training departments and other organizations with a budget for this sort of thing. 8 hours of video, $800. All the details are right here.

For a list of free ebooks, check out this page.

Thanks for reading.

w00t, localvore and gullible

Dictionaries have discovered that they can get publicity by picking and promoting new words. Megan points us to the selection of w00t by one dictionary. Another picked localvore.

I think this trend won’t last long. The best promotional gimmick will be the dictionary that finally has the guts to print an edition missing the word gullible. Practical jokers everywhere will need a copy.

Real people invade Amazon

First, this note via Richard.

And then, this review via Micah.

I wonder what it would take for humans to invade your company?

URL Hygiene

Here’s a neat blog about good urls and bad ones. Mostly, though, it’s about how you present your URL in your ads.


Tip two: we’ve probably reached the state where you don’t need the www. in order to communicate that it’s a URL.

Tip three, and the hardest of all: just because it’s the best URL you could get, or just because you and your team ‘get it’ doesn’t mean it’s going to work.

People don’t truly care about privacy

There’s been a lot of noise about privacy over the last decade, but what most pundits miss is that most people don’t care about privacy, not at all.

If they did, they wouldn’t have credit cards. Your credit card company knows an insane amount about you.

What people care about is being surprised.

If your credit card company called you up and said, "we’ve been looking over your records and we see that you’ve been having an extramarital affair. We’d like to offer you a free coupon for VD testing…" you’d freak out, and for good reason.

If the local authorities start using what’s on the corner surveillance cameras to sell you a new kind of commuter token, you’d be a little annoyed at that as well.

So far, government and big companies have gotten away with taking virtually all our privacy away by not surprising most of us, at least not in a vivid way. Libertarians are worried (probably with cause) that once the surprises start happening, it’ll be too late.


This leads us to Ask.com’s new Eraser service, which promises to not remember stuff about your searching. The problem they face: most people want Google and Yahoo and Amazon to remember their searches, because it leads to better results and (so far) rarely leads to surprises.

The irony is that the people who most want privacy are almost certainly the worst possible customers for a search engine. These are the folks who are unlikely to click on ads and most likely to visit the dark corners of the Net. If I were running a  web property, I’d work hard to attract the people who least want privacy and want to share their ideas with everyone else

Make promises, keep them, avoid surprises. That’s what most people (and the profitable people) want.