Saturday, January 27, 2007

Who's tired? Davos or the bloggers covering Davos?

Piers Fawkes says that the 'uber bloggers' such as Jeff Jarvis, John Battelle and others have failed to bring some pizzaz to a once otherwise flourishing, 'mutual back slapping & scratching' talk shop for the rich, powerful and famous.

He goes on to suggest that the organizers would rather have brought in people who rake up some kind of storm - otherwise, there is too much talking about the usual things, too much head nods by the oyal readerships.

Piers has suggested names like Manolo, Ze Frank (he is popping up everywhere this January) among others.

Some suggestions:

In its present format, and in a world full of information-savvy online writers, gigs like Davos are old style and ineffective in being able to raise the level of conversation.

1. Davos Organizers would have set up a Poptech/TED like web site, and inviting bloggers to send in ideas and opinions on a variety of issues, including that good old lady: How to change/save the world.

Something like Add in a Digg-like system for ideas submitted by readers and bloggers.

2. Ask hard questions: Africa, Web 3.0, Open mobile phones, inequality, excessive executive pay, climate change and india; Is Vista relevant? Will the $100 laptop work? Future of the open source movement; the hegemony of Google and Microsoft, state of U.S. economy and effects of a slowing U.S. economy.

I am amazed that in its brief history, Davos has failed to ask hard, probing questions of its guests. It has become more of a congratulatory, press releasey, 'Did you see my new Jet?' kind of snow party.

3. Bring in the snarkists: Nick Douglas from Valleywag, and Nicholas Carr.
4. Get some subject matter experts. Bring in Graham Hill from Treehugger.
5. Get Gina Trapani of Lifehacker blog to run workshops on net usage for CEOs. Check out this article at NyTimes about an overheard conversation between a Fortune 50 CEO and his PR guy on how to talk like a CEO. (link via Paul Kedrosky)

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Forbes magazine loves doing lists, like so many other business and technology magazines, and that old hack called Time magazine. The latest from this list factory is a list of Web’s top 25 Celebs, populated by the likes of Calacanis, Perez Hilton, Matt Drudge among others.

On the important criteria of being useful, there are only a few deserving names: Jeff Jarvis, Clay Shirky (Forbes list him under a yet more pretentious ‘near miss’ category) Seth Godin, Om Malik, Cory Doctorow come to mind.

- Is Amanda Congdon still as popular as before?

What criteria did Forbes have?
- Is it all a wild imagination of some solitary journalists?
- Did they conduct Google search and scoured Digg,, Techmeme, Technorati, Blogpulse and others for mention?
- What about number of RSS subscribers?

Presenting the People’s choice Web 25 list

My main criteria: People, who educate, inform and are a good at the same time. The Internet might look like a ‘24 * 7 global chat room cum chat show’, people still come to net looking for something.

It would be silly to limit the number to limit top web people to a number. Here’s a list comprising of people and groups of people:

1. People who hit Techmeme, Digg and front pages on a regular basis.

2. People who are helping others blog better: Darren Rouse, for example. Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration blog is one of India’s most useful bloggers.

3. People who know search: Danny Sullivan, the guys at SEOMOZ, Aaron Wall, Shoemoney, John Chow, and many others.

4. Successful internet businesspeople: The person behind Plentyoffish, Kevin Rose, Gabe Rivera

5. Veteran Bloggers: Jason Kottke, Rebeccablood

6. Blog Network Owners: Nick Denton of Gawker network, because of a distinct editorial approach to news coverage.

7. Great bloggers: Peter Rojas of Engadget, one of the most successful technology blog, Gina Trapani of ever-useful Lifehacker.

8. Media analysts: Apart from Jeff Jarvis, there are Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0, Rob Curley, Amy Gahran, Rafat Ali of Paidcontent, and many others.

9. Web 2.0 coverage: Okay, Web 2.0 may be tired but you find beter analysis at Readwriteweb, Dion Hinchclif’s Web 2.0 blog and at Pete Cashmore of Mashable. I will say it again: The comments section of Techcrunch is better than the main writeup part. Bokardo has useful web 2.0 analysis and philosophy coverage.

10. The Snarkists: People who ask tough questions about the technology business issues – guys like Nick Douglas at Valleywag and Nicholas Carr (Roughtype blog)

11. Blogs for entrepreneurs: Guy Kawasaki’s blog, Positive Sharing blog.

12. Web development and design resources: 37 signals and A List apart are great reads.

There are many more. I apologize for any misses, especially since I understand that for many the web is a university as well.

Make a Digg for people
Put up all these names online up for vote and rating across criterion of usefulness, influence and popularity.

Don’t leave it to print media listmasters.

Forbes 25 list story has had weird journey online so far: Forbes print the story, Steve Rubel, A PR guy who also blogs gets mentioned in the ‘Near Miss’ category, and happily writes in his blog. That in turn gets picked up by Techmeme’s robot and thus it starts a new journey of its own.

Freeing ourselves of Mass media validation
I still don’t get why we depend on print media for validation. If someone at Economist or New York Times does it, it is okay for they don’t go for cheap tricks like lists. You may pardon when online hacks such as this writer use lists, aiming to go for glory despite being short on time, knowledge and creativity. 

We expect better things from our rather better-paid mainstream journalists.

It is strange that print continues to cheer Second Life, while there is a wealth of criticism of the whole system available online. I am sure no print publication will call Second Life a Ponzi scheme because they don’t understand how it all works., relying on their chosen ‘experts’ instead.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

T-shaped people: skill for our times

T-shaped people perhaps get first mention, as per Wordspy back in 1991, when David Guest wrote in The Independent:

… a ''hybrid'' manager who would combine business expertise with IT skills. The hybrid manager… would be distinguished by his or her ability to relate to ''the broad picture'' and to people, understanding their motivation and aspirations; he or she would also be energetic, intuitive, a good listener, and (cryptically) would have ''an unusual set of interests.

This type of rounded personality is also sought in other branches of the same theory, which prizes individuals known as T-shaped People.

Most importantly,
These are a variation on Renaissance Man, equally comfortable with information systems, modern management techniques and the 12-tone scale.

Moving on, the T-shaped people idea got a big boost from the influential design firm IDEO, who began promoting the idea in their search for great designers.

Tim Brown, head of IDEO writes in Fast Company:
We look for people who are so inquisitive about the world that they're willing to try to do what you do. We call them "T-shaped people." They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T -- they're mechanical engineers or industrial designers. But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior that point to a universal human need. That's what you're after at this point -- patterns that yield ideas.

LG Economic Research Institute in Korea points that the reason why Korean companies have failed ‘to create such iconic devices as Apple Computer's iPod or Motorola's RAZR despite their technological prowess’ is that Korean tech companies lack ``T-shaped people ‘.

Maybe this is why despite skilled coders in hundreds of thousands, India does not have a big software breakthrough product till now.

Some places the world needs more T-shaped people:

We need T-shaped people in:
- Government
- India
- Indian IT industry, which is creativity-challenged, despite the coding shops of Wipro, Infosys, TCS and others.
- T-shaped CEOs, scientists, politicians, town planners.
- T-shaped teachers.
- T-shape training in our colleges and Universities.

P.S.: Of late, Google has been known to be looking for people with varied backgrounds and experiences in unrelated fields.

Globalization is tired, Inequality is wired

In the coming years, we will see more discussion on Inequality around the world; people will increasingly share news and analysis on inequalities and how it affects their lives and neighborhoods.

I write this while thousands join BPO companies in India on $300 per month and above salaries and many more are queuing up daily. This is globalization – giving everyone a TV and a cell phone while the rich get richer doing so.

In New Delhi’s central business district, where my office is, as I write, people with fancy offices, salary and cars are completely surrounded by the unending multitude of peons, couriers, personal loan/credit card sellers, tea sellers all surviving on anything from $75 per month to $300 per month. [This writer make $1000 per month and abouts]

You will be surprised to see that inequality is a bigger disease in the so-called 'first world'.

The Economist provides interesting figures:

- In the rich world labor’s share of GDP has fallen to historic lows, while profits are soaring.
- If you look back 20 years, the total pay of the typical top American manager has increased from roughly 40 times the average—the level for four decades—to 110 times the average now.

While the Economist somewhat justifies high pay as it helps to attract and motivate gifted managers, it is worthwhile to note that the guru of gurus, Peter Drucker once reportedly said that High executive pay was one of the biggest problems with business.

Charles Wheelan writes about the Gini coefficient, a useful statistic for measuring income inequality – it measures a country's distribution of income from 0 (absolute equality, with each person sharing the same amount of wealth) to 1 (absolute inequality, with one person controlling all of the nation's wealth).

He comes up with a comparison of Gini coefficients for some countries and finds that Inequality is rifer in America than in India.

• Japan: .25
• Sweden: .25
• India: .33
• The United States 1970: .39
• The United States 2005: .47 (Note that a small fraction of the increase over time is due to a change in the methodology for calculating the Gini coefficient; still, income inequality has climbed steadily by this measure over the past four decades.)
• Brazil: .58

The Information Economy is another name for the Superstar Economy, namely 80% or a few top performers corner most of the market. The often cited example is that of the difference between what Brad Pit earns for a movie and what a character actor earns.

P.S. I wonder what Microsoft and Google do with all that high profile hiring of Smart People?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wikipedia NoFollow decision: what can happen next

Criticizing Wikipedia’s recent NoFollow rule, Nicholas Carr asks whether Wikipedia is a black hole.

It sucks up vast quantities of link energy but never releases any.
What happens next
1. Google stops providing link weighting to Wikipedia and moves over to a) sites like Squidoo, Hubpages, about, etc. b) gets serious about inviting people to use its recent buy, Jotspot.

2. Other big sites follow suit and start using the NoFollow tag.

3. Once again, it highlights Google Search’s monopoly and its idiosyncratic ways. Other sites will ask: why did it give prominence to Wikipedia for so long? This hurts the interests of the long tail, the data of which often goes into the work of bigger sites. Maybe it is time we asked more serious questions about Pagerank.

4. Or, Wikipedia sees that it is a stupid decision and corrects it. Others may say that Wikipedia has become too ambitious for its own sake - this NoFollow rule rule comes in the wake of the announcement of a Wikipedia Search Engine.

Generation Couch

There is a new study out. This time, from Iconoculture, a Minneapolis based outfit that tracks consumer trends for big companies, on the effects of new technology and new media on kids and families of today. Just like studies done all along the relentless path of technological up gradation, Iconoculture has duly come up with some new, fancy nomenclature.

It calls the current generation of the ‘demographically important’ 14 years and below as Generation WE.

We, Us, x, y, us, You – what does it all mean?
[I am from what they would call the Gen. X planet]

The generation gap will still be there, the older generation rooted to its own belief set, while the younger generation wants the latest doodad, the latest aspirational thing.

Children have more control of the media today: what about kid-produced media?

Parents use tools like the remote, cell phone to bond with their children: No, this is just the cliff notes version. Where is the whole book on parenting?

There is more of media: TV, PC, net, cell phone content, Youtube, Playstation, Tivo…

- How does it engage other than World of Warcraft booty collection, American idol polling, Digg voting, and creating mashups?

- Does it all make kids better, more intelligent and more informed kids?

- Isn’t the new media more of Couch Media? I hear the U.S. has one of the lower rates of people having valid passports.

The mind runs on a drug called ‘New’.

That is truth behind all this fancy PR speak. Kids will still be kids and marketers will be marketers. Wonder why we don’t we have a names for the salesmen.

Monday, January 22, 2007

PR 2.0: Why can’t Press Releases be proper 2-way conversations?

Stowe Boyd’s dismissal of the Social Media Release meme has divided commentators into two broad categories – the anti group consisting of all opinion bloggers on one side and the PR bloggers on the opposite side.

Here is my take on the whole thing:
A press release is a press release whether you create it for media people, social media sites or for the solitary blogger.

PR companies play semantic games with the push-idea behind the Press Release idea.

Then, there are some people who think that sending an email to Michael Arrington about the latest Web 2.0 laumch is better.

However, I have yet to see an example of a company putting up the news release up for public comment and analysis.
I am thinking about a two-way, interactive version of PRnewswire and types.

Let the modern Press Release be a conversation.

Why should companies (duly advised by their highly paid PR guys) ride on the new idea brandwagon just because everyone else is doing it and it makes them look cool as well? Why not actually walk the talk?

What's next from the PR spin doctors?
Virtual World Press Releases?