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Now in Spanish

The Carbon Almanac is now available in Spanish. For free. Free to download, free to share and free to print a copy at home.

While the book has been traditionally published around the world (in Italian, Czech, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Dutch), no Spanish-language publisher was willing to do the work. So we purchased the rights from our publisher and did it ourselves.

It joins about twenty international editions of the free Generation Carbon, a Carbon Almanac book for Kids. Together, they’ve been downloaded and shared millions of times.

A worldwide network of volunteers managed to create a foundational text for the urgent conversation around our climate. It’s not too late, but we need to begin, and that can only happen if we talk about it and understand what’s really happening.

You can find the award-winning English edition here.

Special thanks to the indefatigable Anna Kohler Smith and her team of volunteers who led the Spanish translation at every step of the way, from ideation to rights to publication.

For customers vs to customers

In the life of every enterprise, the moment arises when a choice has to be made: Are you here for your customers, to give them what they seek, or are you trying to do something to your customers, to squeeze out extra income?

This doesn’t mean that the only path is to keep lowering your prices. It’s entirely possible your customers want to pay a lot but get more than they paid for.

What it does mean is that you use your brand and your interface and your software and your network effect to come up with ways to serve people that they would miss if you were gone.

It’s not surprising that many companies are putting software and dark patterns and AI to work on things that improve their profit. But I’m not seeing as many instances of them doing the same thing to improve the experience and delight that their customers experience.

Amazon is testing a different way to show reviews on the products they sell.

It looks like this:

instead of like this:

It’s subtle, but it can make a very big impact on merchants, on their profits, and on what we buy.

In the new format, your brain sees the image of a star, but then it has to do the mental math of turning the number 4.6 into something with weight and emotional heft–a bunch of stars.

In the old format, that work was done already. Our brains are much better at drawing emotional conclusions from this more concrete visualization. If you look at the two illustrations above, it certainly seems at first glance as though the second one is higher rated.

This new format means that higher-rated items won’t have as much of an advantage–which will push other vendors to buy ads and run coupons (which Amazon makes a profit on) instead of either gaming the reviews or actually making a better product.

When a company makes it hard to unsubscribe, or pushes needless options (“362 people are currently signing up for the insurance…”) or hustles people, they’ve forgotten the lesson that got them here in the first place.

Eventually, organizations that serve themselves lose the ability to continue serving others.

On the dot

Hardy came home from school and proudly showed his mom the cheap plastic trinkets he had earned that day.

“I stood quietly on the dot and so I got some tickets. And if I stand on the dot quietly tomorrow, I can get some more prizes!”

First grade! That’s one way to indoctrinate kids in both obedience and consumption.

It’s rare we see it so brazenly and vividly executed.

Is standing on a dot the thing we need to train kids to do? Has each of us spent too much time standing on dots already?

The status quo is very good…

at sticking around.

In fact, that’s what it’s best at.

New research shows that computers and robots are now better at solving CAPTCHA puzzles than humans.

This was inevitable. The interesting question is, “how long before they go away?”

First, someone has to decide that it’s their job to worry about this. Then they have to assemble a quorum to approve the radical shift away from something that was always there and didn’t seem broken. Then they have to take responsibility for what happens next. Then they have to manage a tech intervention with others that find it easier to leave things as they are as they worry about other priorities…

It’s easier to be a bystander than to be a leader.

The unsurprising confusion about ‘per capita’

A car cut me off on the highway the other day. The car was going nearly 100 mph.

Was the car a new Porsche 911 GT3 or a used Toyota Camry?

The thing is, there are more than 1,000 times as many Camrys on the road. But our instinct is to pick the vivid and distinctive answer.

The per capita crime rate in rural areas is often dramatically (sometimes five or ten times) higher than it is in most cities.

On the other hand, Alaska has far more millionaires per capita than most people would guess. That’s because we underestimate the population, not because there’s a particularly large number of millionaires.

More people might lead to more instances, but what matters isn’t the absolute number, it’s the percentage. New York is an incredibly safe place to live.

We’re simply not naturally attuned to dividing what we notice by the chances we’ll see it… stories resonate without regard for the denominator.

Flying across the country is dramatically safer than driving there, but intuitively, it feels like the opposite must be true. And peer-reviewed medicine is far more likely to cure an illness than an anecdote will.

The average TikTok or Facebook post is seen by just a few people, even though it feels like the ones we’re seeing are seen by a lot of people.

Reality is lumpy, and taking a moment to think about the source of our story helps us get clear about what’s actually happening.

Defending the apostrophe

Does it need defending?

The sign on some bushes near a park in my town says, Beware: Bee’s.

A local merchant adds a note to some receipts that says, Your awesome.

It’s tempting to speak up and point out that the sky comma is showing up where it shouldn’t. And missing when it might be helpful.

But language shifts, changing over time, and as we become ever more post-literate, it’s not hard to imagine that the apostrophe’s assigned role is ending. Greengrocers and others with pens have taken possession.

Sometimes, people throw in an extra apostrophe to sound smart. And sometimes, they simply give up because it’s not worth the trouble to figure out when or when not to use one.

Pedants will always pedant and try to defend the language, but the language changes whether we want it to or not.

This cycle of the informal becoming formal, then a badge of honor and then fading away has always been with us. It’s only going to accelerate, one more shift due to technology.

PS so far, it seems like AI is really good with apostrophes.

Ride your own bike

I was happily pedaling along on the rail trail when three spandex speedsters blew by me on their handmade carbon bikes.

For a moment, I was disheartened. What’s the point–they’re speedy, I’m not.

Then I realize that it’s not a bike race, it’s a bike ride. There is no winning, just the riding.

The (very) long tail

The average YouTube video gets five new views every day.

Let’s parse that for a second.

5 billion YouTube plays a day, spread over about a billion videos means that while some videos live in the short head and get millions of views, there are a huge number of videos that get fewer than a single view each day.

At some point, the long tail is so long it ceases to exist.

This makes it hard indeed to rely on persistence alone to find your audience. The buffet line is far too long and the plates aren’t getting any bigger.

PS! Chip Conley and I are doing a live online event today (8/15) at 4 pm NY time. (here it is)…

Chip is a bestselling author, a wise soul and a good friend. We were also co-authors of our very first book… in 1986.

37 years is a very long run in the world of book publishing, one that would be hard to imagine beginning today in the era of such a long tail. The number of books published each year has increased 50x, and when we add in social media, blogs and podcasts, the amount of content clamoring for our attention is perhaps up by a factor of a thousand. No wonder it feels noisy.

One approach is to make something worth talking about. Another is to connect and lead a community. Chip does both, with generosity.

Unstable equilibrium

We’re testing a brand new way to host a charity auction, and I’m hoping you can check it out and even bid to support BuildOn.

In this post, I want to take a moment to explain the attraction and risk of unstable equilibrium, and there’s also a fun contest at the end…

If you drop a marble into a metal bowl, it will roll to the bottom and stay there. Every time. This is reliable, predictable and stable. We know what to expect from systems that find one spot of equilibrium.

But sometimes, there isn’t just one state. A situation could go this way or that. A brilliant jazz quartet, a well-matched game of soccer and a canoe in a river are all examples of an unstable equilibrium. There’s tension. We’re fascinated and are drawn to how it unfolds.

Goodbids.org is a project I’ve worked on for a few months with some friends. And we simply can’t predict how it’s going to turn out, so it’s time to test it in the real world.

Our goal is to re-imagine the charity auction. Most of the time, bidders in these auctions are looking for a bargain, which is out of sync with what the charity wants. The end result is often lackluster.

In Goodbids, every bid is also a donation. That means that the winner takes home a great prize, and all the other bidders get the satisfaction of knowing they made a useful and non-refundable donation directly to a charity that’s doing good work.

The unstable part? The nature of the auction means that the items being auctioned off will almost always go for a price much lower than they’re worth. The charity gets more, the winner pays less.

And here’s the contest: Until 4 pm NY time today, August 14, we’re inviting you to guess how much the final bidding will reach on the two items that are up for bid in our test run. The person with the best guess will get a collectible significance bee mug and some other loot.

Thanks for caring and being generous.

The useful agreement

Contrary to expectations, written contracts don’t have to be adversarial. In fact, the effective ones rarely are.

When you hand someone a release, a royalty agreement or even a partnership document, it pays to point out the gnarly parts, the controversial bits and the ones that are worth paying attention to.

After all, the very best time to understand an agreement is when you sign it, not later.

PS tomorrow’s post is about a new project, and it will arrive about four hours later than usual to help coordinate time zones. Thanks.