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What Matters Now: get the free ebook

[Update! Now available in a print edition, all proceeds to Room to Read. Thanks Bernie!]

Now, more than ever, we need to shake things up.


Now, more than ever, we need a different way of thinking, a useful way to focus and the energy to turn the game around. I hope a new ebook I've organized will get you started on that path. It took months, but I think you'll find it worth the effort. (Download here).

Here are more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about as we head into the new year. From bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert to brilliant tech thinker Kevin Kelly, from publisher Tim O'Reilly to radio host Dave Ramsey, there are some important people riffing about important ideas here. The ebook includes Tom Peters, Fred Wilson, Jackie Huba and Jason Fried, along with Gina Trapani, Bill Taylor and Alan Webber.

Here's the deal: it's free. Download it here. Or from any of the many sites around the web that are posting it with insightful commentary. Tweet it, email it, post it on your own site. I think it might be fun to make up your own riff and post it on your blog or online profile as well. It's a good exercise. Can we get this in the hands of 5 million people? You can find an easy to use version on Scribd as well and from wepapers. Please share.

2downloadfree Have fun. Here's to a year with ideas even bigger than these.

Here's a lens with all the links plus an astonishing array of books by our authors.

NEW BONUS: A different coop ebook, (click for free download) this time with contributions from authors that include JC Hutchins, Cory Doctorow, Joseph Finder and Chris Brogan.

define: Brand

Here’s my definition: A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.
If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer. 

A brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose, the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.

A brand used to be something else. It used to be a logo or a design or a wrapper. Today, that’s a shadow of the brand, something that might mark the brand’s existence. But just as it takes more than a hat to be a cowboy, it takes more than a designer prattling on about texture to make a brand. If you’ve never heard of it, if you wouldn’t choose it, if you don’t recommend it, then there is no brand, at least not for you.

If you hear a designer say this (believe it or not, I didn’t make this quote up), “A TCHO Chocolate bar, with its algorithmic guilloche patterns, looks like a modern form of currency. “Modern” was always part of the brand brief — no faux traditionalism, but resolutely forward-looking for a new generation of chocolate enthusiasts…” then I wonder if there’s a vocabulary disconnect.

Design is essential but design is not brand.

PS a Google tip: you can find the definition of any word by typing “define:” followed by the word into your search box.

A free supersimple to-do list tool

Here it is.

Alas, it doesn't work for groups, won't even let you share a username. That's what we need. Everyone on your team adds items, everyone can cross off items. Go.

Maybe next revision. In the meantime, it's so pretty you'll cross stuff off just because you can.

PS Michael likes cothrive.

PS Rajesh likes Remember the milk.

PS Corey likes Things.

PS Jennifer likes this one.

Discover the truth about a site’s online traffic

You can find the traffic of a popular website (and compare it to another site) by entering the URL into compete.com. Or quantcast. This data is far more accurate than the charts Alexa offers, because most of the sites being measured cooperate. I'm pretty proud of Squidoo hitting the top 100 sites in the US.

You can see the referrals and traffic to an individual bitly twitter URL by copying the URL and adding + sign to it. For example, if you see something like this in a tweet: http://bit.ly/870Ry9 just copy it and paste it with the plus and you'll see http://bit.ly/870Ry9+. I think that's pretty neat. You can also track top retweets on an hourly or daily basis.

Many sites also publish how many subscribers they have. The "K" stands for thousands.

PS You can get updates on this blog in Twitter by following @thisissethsblog. And you can get a free subscription by RSS (the best way) or email.

Who controls your media?

1966: NBC, CBS and ABC decided what I did every night at 8 pm.

Today: are you still ceding control to others?

It's easy to allow 'them' to dictate how (and how often) you friend or post or follow or tweet…

Shouldn't you be the one who decides?

If your Facebook circle is draining your energy and not pushing you forward, why, precisely, is it there? If you are spending more than a few minutes a day on Twitter, is it because you can't stop or because stopping will cost you your goals? Which is more important: a ringing telephone or an unfinished new concept on your screen, waiting for you to type out the rest of it?

The magic of dynamic pricing

Status quo seekers in publishing are now talking about delaying Kindle and other ebook editions of their new books. The idea would be to come out with a hardcover, then a few months later an ebook, then a year later a paperback.

This is lame-brained thinking on many levels, one involving teaching the market a lesson. Leaving that aside, it ignores the magic of dynamic pricing.

When you produce a physical good like a book, it's really hard to change the price over time, especially if there are retail stores involved. But changing the price on an electronic good is trivially easy.

So, for example, you could charge $24 for the Kindle edition for the first two weeks, then $15 for the next two weeks and then $9 for the year after that. Once it's a backlist classic, it could cost $2…

Or, thinking about how you might create launch excitement, you could reverse it. $2 the first day, $5 the first week, then $9 later. Better hurry!

Or, to get more sophisticated, you could reward the market for getting excited. What if the price for everyone drops if enough people pre-order it?

This isn't just about books, of course. It's about anything where you have the ability to change pricing based on time or demand… tolls, music, phone calls, consulting… We need to stop assuming that digital goods are just like physical goods, but shinier.

Technology puts a lot more pressure on your imagination and creativity, even in pricing.

The reason social media is so difficult for most organizations

It's a process, not an event.

Dating is a process. So is losing weight, being a public company and building a brand.

On the other hand, putting up a trade show booth is an event. So are going public and having surgery.

Events are easier to manage, pay for and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul.

Lead with your glass jaw

Here's one way businesses can profit from a social media presence:

Make it easy to get hurt.

If you're in a low trust industry (like car sales), a social media presence dramatically increases the opportunity people have to call you out, beat you up, tattle on you and flame you in public. If you have a Facebook page and people can YELL at you there, for all to see, it makes you vulnerable. Do you really think that a Chris or a Guy or Gary is going to risk ripping you off for consulting or wine? No way. Too easy for someone to post a comeback for all to see.

When your staff sees how much power you've given random consumers, they'll freak. And then, magically, they'll start treating customers differently, because maybe, just maybe, this customer is the one who's going to use the power. Suddenly, the answer to, "do you know who I am!!" is, "yes sire, forgive me."

It might not be comfortable, but you can bet it will build trust.

Fallback for the 2%

If you ask one hundred people to do a task (particularly one that involves following instructions or using a computer or both), figure that two of them will mess it up.

It doesn't matter if you use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. It doesn't matter if your instructions are crystal clear. It doesn't matter if you ask them to sign a release. Two percent will mess it up. And it won't always be the same two percent either, so the idea of kicking the clueless out won't work.

Which means you only have two choices:

  • Design systems that have the good sense and gracefulness to permit the 2% to proceed, or
  • Annoy, demonize or lose these people

Technologists hate this choice, but it's true. We have to plan for human failure and part of our job is to have the resources and back up to allow these people to remain in our tribe even though they're unable to follow a simple instruction.

[Can I just clarify that the first choice isn't the only choice. Plenty of successful designers (including Apple) gladly choose the second. Pleasing everyone isn't required. Making the choice intentionally is.]

How to protect your ideas in the digital age

If we're in the idea business, how to protect those ideas?

One way is to misuse trademark law. With the help of search engines, greedy lawyers who charge by the letter are busy sending claim letters to anyone who even comes close to using a word or phrase they believe their client 'owns'. News flash: trademark law is designed to make it clear who makes a good or a service. It's a mark we put on something we create to indicate the source of the thing, not the inventor of a word or even a symbol. They didn't invent trademark law to prevent me from putting a picture of your cricket team's logo on my blog. They invented it to make it clear who was selling you something (a mark for trade = trademark).

I'm now officially trademarking thank-you™. From now on, whenever you use this word, please be sure to send me a royalty check.

Another way to protect your ideas is to (mis)use copyright law. You might think that this is a federal law designed to allow you to sue people who steal your ideas. It's not. Ideas are free. Anyone can use them. Copyright protects the expression of ideas, the particular arrangement of words or sounds or images. Bob Marley's estate can't sue anyone who records a reggae song… only the people who use his precise expression of words or music. Sure, get very good at expressing yourself (like Dylan or Sarah Jones) and then no one can copy your expression. But your ideas? They're up for grabs, and its a good thing too.

The challenge for people who create content isn't to spend all the time looking for pirates. It's to build a platform for commerce, a way and a place to get paid for what they create. Without that, you've got no revenue stream and pirates are irrelevant anyway. Newspapers aren't in trouble because people are copying the news. They're in trouble because they forgot to build a scalable, profitable online model for commerce.

Patents are an option except they're really expensive and do nothing but give you the right to sue. And they're best when used to protect a particular physical manifestation of an idea. It's a real crapshoot to spend tens of thousands of dollars to patent an idea you thought up in the shower one day.

So, how to protect your ideas in a world where ideas spread?


Instead, spread them. Build a reputation as someone who creates great ideas, sometimes on demand. Or as someone who can manipulate or build on your ideas better than a copycat can. Or use your ideas to earn a permission asset so you can build a relationship with people who are interested. Focus on being the best tailor with the sharpest scissors, not the litigant who sues any tailor who deigns to use a pair of scissors.