Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

The end of dumb software

Ical In the age of rapid cycles and connected data, how long are we going to have to settle for dumb software?

Here's the detail screen from iCal. If I write a long text to go with an appointment, the only way to see the whole thing is to hit "edit."  But I don't want to edit it, I just want to see it.

If I try to schedule an appointment for 2 pm, it requires me to not only hit the 2, but also select pm. I have never once had a meeting at 2 am. Shouldn't it know that?

When I type in someone's name, how come it doesn't know that this is someone I know, correspond with and meet with often? Why isn't it connected?

I have tens of thousands of people in my address book. Some of these folks were put there ten years ago and, alas, are dead or long gone. Do I really have to go through and delete people manually? Why isn't my address book smart enough to sort the list in reverse order of use, so I can see records I haven't encountered in seven years first and start from there? Or, better, why doesn't this address book hook up with other address books of trusted peers and automatically correct and update?

The people who make desktop software are making themselves obsolete. When you start developing on the web, your default is to be smart, to interact and to be open (with other software and with your users). Desktop software (like Word) is insanely unaware of what I do, why I do it and who I do it with. Right now, the desktop folks have the momentum of the incumbent. Not for long. Time to hurry.

Flipping abundance and scarcity

I think it's dangerous and often fatal to put free on top of an existing business model. Things fall apart.

People look at the free revolution and say, "oh, that could never work. If I gave x, y or z away for free, I'd fail." They're right. They will fail… If they keep the model the same and just give away stuff for free.

The way you win is by reinventing the model itself. So, for example, lululemon doing giant free yoga classes in New York. The more people come, the more clothes they'll sell… it'll become a movement. Or Crossfit, publishing their insane work outs online. The more people do them, the better the scarce part (private coaching, etc.) does.

We spent a generation believing certain parts of our business needed to be scarce and that advertising and other interruption should be abundant. Part of the pitch of free is that when advertising goes away, you need to make something else abundant in order to gain attention. Then, and only then, will you be able to sell something that's naturally scarce.

This is an uncomfortable flip to make, because the stuff you've been charging for feels like it should be charged for, and the new scarcity is often difficult to find. But, especially in the digital world, this is happening, and faster than ever.

Taking the time to teach

What we do in the long run, over time, drip by drip, affects the market so much more than an angry reaction or urgent event.

Smoking a pack a day for twenty years is a great way to be sure you'll die early. Far more likely, in fact, than getting hit by a car. And yet it's so easy to talk to our kids about cars…

Delivering out of the box remarkability day after day counts for far more than one hit or one misstep. When we teach people about our story or our industry or about making connections, the teaching lasts.

Teaching people not only impacts the market, it changes the world. Teaching about connection and community and science, a little bit at a time, can heal our world in the long run. It doesn't happen as fast as we might like, but it works. Emergencies fade, and in the long run our teaching lasts.

The challenge is in responding with education, not reacting with anger.

The big drop off

We try so hard to build the first circle.

This is the circle of followers, friends, subscribers, customers, media outlets and others willing to hear our pitch. This is the group we tell about our new product, our new record, our upcoming big sale. We want more of their attention and more people on the list.

Which takes our attention away from the circle that matters, which is the second circle.

The second circle are the people who hear about us from the first circle.

If the first circle is excited about what we do and it's remarkable enough to talk about, they'll tell two or six or ten friends each. And if we're really good, the second circle, the people we don't even know–they'll tell the third circle. And it's the third circle that makes you a hit, gets you elected and tips your idea.

The big drop off is the natural state of affairs. The big drop off is the huge decline that occurs between our enthusiasm (HEY! BUY THIS!) and the tepid actions of the first circle (yawn). Great marketers don't spend their time making the first circle bigger. They spend all their time crafting services, products and stories that don't drop off.

Righteous indignation

This is a default response for many people–irked customers, angry bosses, disappointed colleagues. It's easy to go into high dudgeon (in fact, low dudgeon isn't even in the dictionary, it's always 'high').

The thing is: it doesn't work. It rarely succeeds in accomplishing much, and it makes you unhappy at the same time.

What if you took it out of your toolbox of responses?

What if, just like becoming a cannibal or painting your face green, you eliminated righteous indignation as an option in your list of responses to various situations, no matter how unfair? What if the people you work with weren't permitted to indulge? Just think of how much more you'd get done and how much calmer everything would be.

Bonus: a big week for books

Lots of books cross my desk, and I think Amazon has me down as customer of the year. I've noticed that the quality of books keeps going up, particularly some of the business titles I've seen lately.

No room for all of them here, but I've made a handy one-page guide to some books I've been reading lately. You can't go wrong with any of them. If you meet an author in the street, give him a hug. Then buy his book.

Achievable avalanche opportunities

That's what your team wants. Your employees, your investors, your boss. They're willing to put in the time and the energy and the work if they think:

  1. The outcome might be an avalanche of attention, new business and growth, and
  2. Their work makes that outcome achievable, even likely.

If you are vague about the outcome, or if the steps are too complex, or involve sacrificing a goat or waiting for lightning to hit, it's going to be very difficult to get the group excited. People are far more likely to embrace a smaller goal that feels likely than they are to devote themselves day and night to the amorphous jackpot. The specific jackpot, sure we'll sign up for that, but amorphous and ethereal is largely beyond our ability to imagine and sacrifice for.


The web knows something, but it's not telling us, at least not yet.

The web knows how many followers you have on Twitter, how many friends you have on Facebook, how many people read your blog.

It also knows how often those people retweet, amplify and spread your ideas.

It also knows how many followers your followers have…

So, what if, Google-style, someone took all this data and figured out who has clout. Which of your readers is the one capable of making an idea break through the noise and spread? Bloggers don't have impact because they have a lot of readers, they have a lot of impact because of who their readers are (my readers, of course, are the most sophisticated and cloutful on the entire web).

If you knew which of your followers had clout, you could invest more time and energy in personal attention. If we knew where big ideas were starting, that would be neat, and even more useful would be understanding who the key people were in bringing those new ideas to the rest of the world.

Back in the old days, we had no idea, so we defaulted to big newspapers, or magazines or the TV networks. But now we know. We just need to surface the data in a way that is useful.

Pay for stuff

As a bootstrapping entrepreneur, my instinct has always been to work before spend. If there was a way to spread the word virally instead of buying ads, I would. If there was a way to change the project so I could do it myself, I would. If I could trade or whittle my way into getting an asset on the come, I would. That's the mantra of the bootstrapper.

It turns out that paying for stuff works too.

Ads that pay for themselves are worth buying. Employees and freelancers that produce more than they cost are worth hiring. Office rents that generate productivity, foot traffic or revenue are probably worth paying.

In the free media world in which we're living now, it's so easy to get stuck on not investing, on avoiding outlays at all cost. Frugal is an admirable trait, but being a miser is dumb.

Square one is underrated

Perhaps the worst outcome most people can imagine when a project stutters is having to go, "all the way back to square one."

Apparently, square one is an unhappy place, and far away, too.

Hey, if you're lost, if you've gone down the wrong road, it doesn't make sense to speed up and keep racing down the wrong road. Instead, the smart thing is to go back to the last spot you were in where you had a chance to find the right road and start from there.

Square one: nicer than people expect.