Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category
Been a while since I shared something here – I thought this was extraordinarily entertaining and insightful. Too many of us are staring at our screens instead of seeing one another face to face these days.
When I was a senior in high school, I was asked to speak to a group of high-achieving junior high school students who were participants in the CTY program of Johns Hopkins University. As per my usual with respect to public speaking, I did a lot of thinking and not a lot of writing. In fact, I still hadn’t settled upon my speaking topic when I showed up at the auditorium. I remember sitting at the table with the 3 other students who were slated to speak and feeling irresponsible, since I was still bullet pointing my speech out.
However, as I watched each of them nervously fret over their neatly-typed, single-spaced speeches and mouth the words to themselves with their last few prep minutes, I discovered that I knew what I really wanted to talk about: seeking risk and failure in your life.
I’ve often looked back on that speech because I was proud that I took the opportunity to use that moment to speak about what I actually believed. The idea that we don’t take enough risks is something I think about a lot and Morgan Spurlock artfully talked about it at TED this past March much more eloquently than I did back when I was 18. Check it out:
Amazing, that’s all I can say about this data visualization. Absolutely stunning when put this way.
I’ve been heads down, fighting the calendar as I try to push out progress across 5+ projects. It’s pretty easy to get caught up in actions without spending time to reflect and write. I’m taking a few minutes this Sunday to share some things that I’ve read and that have made me think the past few weeks, particularly around the topic of digital communications and “social”, along with my thoughts:
- Howard Lindzon and Stocktwits are creating the “Social Finance Graph”: I love watching Howard build Stocktwits, it’s incredibly useful from a learning perspective and exciting as someone who likes the markets and investing. If you’re similarly inclined, you should be on Stocktwits and paying attention and even if you’re not, you should heed this comment:
- “Mark Zuckerberg believes that he owns the social graph. I think there will be MANY social graphs – especially as social networks form around verticals such as finance.
I would add to this that I think this idea of “ownership” of the social graph is largely an invention in order to make the concept more simple and easy to discuss for pundits/journalists etc. The reality is that ownership of the social data is ours. As participants, we’re providing the largest amount of data, through our connections and actions. There will be winners who enable and host that data and build utility for us, but there is very little likelihood that any one company ends up “owning” all of our data. I believe that the nature of human dynamics makes it basically impossible for any one company to end up “owning” this data. I know that “Facebook is building a social platform” but so are Twitter, our telecoms carriers, our ISPs, Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, eBay, Skype and hundreds of others – there’s simply too much opportunity here for any one company to “own” it.
- Derek Sivers wrote something simple and excellent: Obvious to you. Amazing to others. If you’re looking to create, stop thinking about why your creative ideas aren’t novel enough and just focus on the creating. Put your ideas and work out there, share it. You might just find that others are blown away by what you think is obvious.
- Joshua Brown (the Reformed Broker) writes about the value of knowing and telling your story. He’s right, it’s important to be able to clearly communicate who you are, what you’re doing and how you can be of help to others. It’s the first step in helping them out, really.
- A number of folks tweeted this out: Playboy released an interview with Steve Jobs from the 80’s. His analogy about the difference between the telephone and telegraph is excellent and it’s incredible to see, in retrospect, his vision for the future and his understanding of the business. It’s a long but worthwhile read. For example, a quote from him about building a product:
- “Actually, making an insanely great product has a lot to do with the process of making the product, how you learn things and adopt new ideas and throw out old ideas.”
- With the release of Facebook’s take on email, there’s been a resurgence of discussion about the nature of our digital inboxes and this piece from Alexia Tsotsis at TechCrunch does a good job of highlighting the inbox overload most of us are facing. I’ve been thinking about this problem so long that I often find myself falling victim to the problem that Derek Sivers wrote about: this all seems so obvious. As a person, I am faced with wayyyy too many digital communications channels to choose from. Not only do I have to choose which ones work for me, I have to try and guess about the channels that the people I’m trying to reach out to are using. It’s no shock that I often choose incorrectly. We’ve got a deteriorating situation and as far as I can tell, none of the current approaches is looking at solving the entire range of problems.
- For some more interesting conversation on this topic, take a look at Howard Lindzon and the CEO of ReturnPath, an email deliverability company. If you want to understand the business of email and why it’s got nowhere but up to go, you HAVE to watch this: http://www.stocktwits.tv/stocktwits-with-howard-lindzon-102010/
- I’ve been really enjoying this series from a designer on Social Software. Some really great thoughts on the design of social software and actions that people take in various contexts. The level of detail and level of thinking is extraordinary.
- Finally, I enjoyed Dave McClure’s take on competing with Facebook. He makes 3 key assertions that I think are an elegant way of breaking down how social works for people and how there are big obvious gaps between how people work and what Facebook is building.
- Assertion #1: Facebook doesn’t get Intimacy.
- ASSERTION #2: The stuff that’s really valuable in my social graph tends to the extremes — very public (ex: Twitter) or very private (ex: email).
- ASSERTION #3: Intimacy depends on Context, Connection, & Continuity… which determine Closeness… and ultimately, drive Commerce.
- Finally, he closes it with “Because Facebook has chosen to emphasize growth over monetization these past few years, they have de-prioritized close, meaningful connections over broadly relevant ones with a larger group of friends. While this will help them get to a billion users faster, and increase their share of brand spend on advertising (where Facebook is really killing it these days), it may create vulnerability to another social network player who focuses on a more tightly-defined social graph with only a few, specific & meaningful Intimate relationships.”
For those of you with a strong enough attention span to make all the way down here, I’d like you to give me your answer to a question I have, just leave it in the comments:
What is your favorite communications channel and what is your most frequent communications channel? If they’re different, why are they different?
Leadership, philanthropy and confidence
Some interesting reading on being a leader, activism and social networks and the business of philanthropy, courtesy of the Gates Foundation. All of these things are worth printing out and sitting down to read and contemplate with your beverage of choice (mine was a nice cup or two of French Pressed coffee):
- Thoughts on being a leader and a thinker from a speech at West Point. He discusses the idea that true leadership means being able to think for yourself. Furthermore, he shares insights into learning how to think, concentrate and develop ideas. This piece delves deeply into what it means to turn off other ideas and noise and to tune into your own thoughts, ideas and your conception of yourself. It’s really elegant. I also really enjoyed a reference to Pomona in his talk:
- It’s no accident that the word regiment is the root of the word regimentation. Surely you who have come here must be the ultimate conformists. Must be people who have bought in to the way things are and have no interest in changing it. Are not the kind of young people who think about the world, who ponder the big issues, who question authority. If you were, you would have gone to Amherst or Pomona. You’re at West Point to be told what to do and how to think.
- As if you didn’t already know how nerdy I am, here’s a confession: I look forward to reading some annual reports. I’m currently working on the Gates Foundation’s Annual Report. Beginning with a discussion of the efforts towards eradicating polio reminds me that there’s a lot of basic work that needs to be done globally in order to increase human standards of living.
- A website called “The Loop of Confidence” has a pretty solid post called Stop Thinking About What Other People Are Thinking – some simple and true tactics to employ if you find yourself more worried about everyone else’s thoughts. Love the pictures to illustrate the points
How are we using digital communications for our purposes?
I do a lot of thinking and reading (and rarely enough writing..) about how technology and communications are evolving together. As human communications increasingly become digitally enabled, the tools we have at our disposal often dictate our interactions and shape our social norms. Recently, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about social activism, Twitter, Facebook and his view. I found it interesting, but incomplete, so I’ve also provided some counterpoints to his piece that help me to round out my thinking about this topic a bit more:
- Gladwell kicked off the discussion by writing about about why Tweets and Facebook posts might increase low risk participation but they don’t increase meaningful (read: high risk) activism. To Gladwell, more involved actions are required for revolution and true activism.
- Henry Jenkins takes apart Gladwell’s piece in an interesting way, arguing that Gladwell is focusing on tools, as opposed to movements. He also points us to:
- Kevin Driscoll’s blog post, which is fascinating because he dissects Gladwell’s lack of understanding about the nuances of the technology utilized by Twitter and also corrects the historical records of the civil rights movement which Gladwell seeks to simplify. I found that he persuasively shifted the conversation to a focus on outcomes. Ultimately, distinctions between new and old participation make less sense than an understanding of how to utilize the networks and tools (in his phrasing, taking advantage of the current cultural and technological circumstances ) of today to push new social changes. Sounds much more reasonable to me.
Ultimately, I think that the technology of today facilitates human communications. Increasingly, the products shape our communications and expectations, which is a place where I think a lot of us get into trouble (I.E. expecting instantaneous responses, misinterpreting text-based messages, relying upon the device as an intermediary that softens and makes tough conversations easier..) but that’s not something we can stop. Rather, the new tools should be appreciated and understood and used as just that, tools, for our communications purposes. If we can organize more people to take massive action, great. If we can just use them to increase awareness, fine. It’s up to us to figure out what works for our purposes, not to complain about what’s changing and different.
Some interesting articles of late related to entrepreneurship and work in the digital age:
- Douglas Rushkoff shares why he left his publisher and went with a small company and is focused on digital book sales. Especially interesting are the details about the various people involved in the book publishing process and how many of them are focused on sales & marketing as opposed to actual editing and better book creation.
- This 17 year old entrepreneur (!!!) compiled a massive list of 256 articles for tech entrepreneurs. I don’t think I’ll make it through all of this, but it’s a great resource and kudos to him for doing such a comprehensive job
- An interesting piece on Business Insider from a former investment banker (like myself) who talks about why Wall Street banks can be great training grounds
- Marketing in the Digital Age continues to push marketing professionals to become more tech savvy. This piece in Ad Age does a good job of suggesting that there’s a formal executive level role necessary in many organizations: the Chief Marketing Technologist.
- Mobile usability is a tough nut to crack. Here are 7 interesting presentations that help you think about the problems.
- Productivity tips for people who work from anywhere. Related – compartmentalize and get more done.
- I’ve often said that if I end up having a large team involved in something, I’m going to institutionalize nap time. Why? Because it’s not natural for humans to be awake the entirety of the work day and that forcing consistent productivity typically backfires, with people giving less than full attention and cognitive capability throughout the day. HBR picks this up and has a great article on “Why Companies Should Insist that Employees Take Naps”
Have a favorite from the above? Let me know in the comments – I’ll share more like it, I come across things like this all of the time.
As an unabashed math nerd, I’ve loved being 32, because it was a very elegant number: 25. *sigh* that all ends today, as I turn 33 . Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to wait a while for the next mathematically pretty number: 62
Over the past month or so, my friends Greg, Jenni and Zain have taken to tweeting and retweeting things that I say and adding the hashtag #whoisrobiganguly, which I think is pretty hilarious AND flattering. It feeds into my natural introspective side, thinking deeply about who I am and what I believe. So, on my 33rd birthday, I’m going to indulge in a bit of self-reflection by sharing some things that I think and some things that I’ve written. A blog post full of #whoisrobiganguly goodness, if you will .
- Stay positive. It’s easier to complain and be snarky but being positive and figuring out how to have and make smiles is a lifelong skill.
- Don’t just dream, do. I haven’t figured out this entrepreneurial gig by any means, but I take more action in my life now than ever before. I love that.
- Listen, listen, listen. Listen until your ears bleed and your patience has been exhausted. Then listen some more.
- A sunny day is not to be wasted
- Get used to people changing. Embrace it. Assess what it means for yourself.
- Reading is an investment in yourself
- In this age of digital overload, you can stand out with the people who matter. See them in person. Call them. Write them letters and meaningful emails. Give them your time.
- Go Fail Yourself
- Communication is never perfect. Your words are never interpreted exactly as you intend them. Especially when written.
- The shorter the message, the more possibility there is for misinterpretation.
- Find your passions and feed them
- Look people in the eye
- All honesty stems from honesty with yourself
- Make being motivated your job, it will sustain you no matter what: http://www.wethechange.com/top-31-motivation-hacks/
- Ask questions. Real questions. Make people think.
- Your happiness is up to you. How you perceive your life and how you remember it are choices you should be making on a regular basis.
- Learn how to break and build habits. These are your weapons for change.
- Figure out which of your friends are willing to be brutally honest with you and give them free reign. Encourage their honesty, appreciate it and listen to it.
- Prove yourself wrong. I never knew what I could do until I questioned my own mental limits.
- Practice the things you want to be good at. You won’t be good right away.
- Complaining only helps if you intend to do something about it
- Yes We Can was/is more than just a campaign slogan. It’s simple truth.
- Eat less
- Drink more water
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint
- Expect the world of yourself. Don’t apply that to anyone else
- Loyalty is not mindless
- Invest in your values and priorities – be thoughtful about who and what gets your time, energy and money.
- Productivity stands out
- Focus is one of our greatest abilities. Focus your time and energy on the things that are important to you.
- Don’t give expecting to receive. Give because you truly want to.
- When you think you can’t go any further, take an extra step. It’s always there in you.
- See more live performances. Recordings help give exposure to excellent art, but seeing a band, a painting, a sculpture in person is always more impactful and inspiring. Case in point: at last night’s Arcade Fire show the entire crowd got into the song with the band. I tried to capture a bit of it on video, but experiencing it live is wholly different.
Hilarious video of what happens when a brand really dominates a consumer’s brain.
I liked Simon Sinek’s talk at TEDx Puget Sound about starting with “Why” in order to inspire the right actions. Some of his analogies are bit off (I really dislike the trend of using companies that are successful at the moment to prove whatever point you’re making), but it’s an engaging talk and a good way of thinking about decision-making dynamics.
In the past few weeks we’ve seen something new from Steve Jobs: an interest in communicating with “the commoners” using digital communications channels like email and blogging. First, it was the email he sent in reply to a developer about the iPhone OS 4.0 release and then last week it was a letter on the corporate website, talking about Flash. Now, I haven’t looked into this extensively, but it seems to me that he’s taking a bit more of an open stance towards communicating with the world at large about Apple decision-making.
Importantly, the letter on the Adobe issue was indicative of his interest in communicating with developers about what’s going on behind the scenes. The Jobs who lost the PC developer war to Microsoft refused to do this. It looks like he might have learned a few things. I highly recommend reading the entire letter from Jobs, but in particular, this paragraph is highly informative. For those of you looking to understand the strategy Apple’s employing and how they think about their business, here it is, quite concisely (emphasis on the devices piece is mine):
Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our developers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen. We want to continually enhance the platform so developers can create even more amazing, powerful, fun and useful applications. Everyone wins – we sell more devices because we have the best apps, developers reach a wider and wider audience and customer base, and users are continually delighted by the best and broadest selection of apps on any platform.
And just for a bit of fun, if I was on the team at Apple really focused on the developer platform and its adoption, this might be my theme song right about now: