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Archive for February 2013

Voice mail, suckers, and those people formerly known as the audience

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The NPR “three minute fiction” quoted below is certainly a sign of the times… brought home recently as I and thousands of people watched the reality(?) show Gold Rush Live on “television” (what’s that?) as will as on ustream.

The difference between traditional television and ustream is the participatory nature.  That is, Ustream turns what used to be a “broadcast” (one way; one-to-many) into the opportunity for engagement (multi-directional, many-to-many) through usteams real-time “Social Stream”.  In parallel with the social steam on Ustream was another engagement opportunity through Twitter and the #GoldRush and #GoldRushLive hash tags.  There may have even been a Google Hangout at the time of the show.

I wonder if this re/definition of “television”  is just another step along the path of the dissolution of those people “formerly known as the audience” (see link below)

So what?  The Generation Gap

“Being social” (perhaps in an ever evolving way) is one of the things that clearly distinguishes the generations.  Whereas the social graph of previous generations reached no farther than the distance you could comfortably walk or dive now those boundaries are eliminated.

“Quiet, I’m making a long distance phone call” was something you could hear in an old movie.  But now that boundary is shattered.  “Where you are” does not matter.  Everyone can talk to everyone – no matter where they are.

With the generations, the social graph has changed dramatically.  Who you can (potentially) interact with is now unlimited.  It’s curious to listen to the generations.  To this generation they can’t understand why their parents and grandparents are not on Facebook, twitter, and other social media.  While, at the same time, parents and grandparents don’t understand why kids are texting, uploading videos to YouTube, twittering, Instagramming, blogging, and so on.

Will there ever NOT be a generation gap?

What one understands as the typical size of your social graph and the expected velocity of engagement in a diversity of forms is changing at blazing speed compared to the plodding velocities of the past.

What is to become of traditional voice mail?  Is that the last place you check before thinking the worst has happened?

From three-minute fiction on NPR –

Dude, yeah. It’s me. Look, what is the deal? Where are you? You haven’t responded to a single email. Everyone is worried, man. We checked your Facebook and you haven’t updated your status in a week. A freaking week. You haven’t even liked anything. And you like everything. Like. Like. Like. You’re kind of obnoxious with the liking, dude. No offense. But nothing. Not even a single I­can­haz­cheeseburger cat. So then we check your Instagram and again, nothing. No hyper contrast photos of the home brew from last weekend, no warm fuzzy photos of the goat cheese tart you and Beth made, no moody black and whites of the graffiti under the overpass. You haven’t filtered any phone pics for days.

So then we check your Twitter. Not a tweet, not a retweet, no direct messages from you and, dude, not even any mentions. What the hell, man? You can’t stay relevant with a week of tweetless silence. You may as well be dead. So then we check your Tumblr. You haven’t updated that either. It’s been EIGHT days, dude. Time to shut it down. And your last post? What the? What is that about?

Proper punctuation and capitalized letters? Pffft. Whatever. You haven’t responded to any IMs, the invites to Google Hangout, or answered your Skype. So then we check your Flickr. And your SmugMug and your Blogger and your WordPress and your FourSquare. You aren’t checked in, you are checked out. So yesterday, I send you a text. It says it was delivered. But you didn’t
text me back, man. So here we are. Reduced to this. Do you know how low this is, this moment? I’m leaving you a voicemail, dude. What is this, 2004? No, it is not. It’s 2013 and this shiz is horrifying, son. Unacceptable. Do you know how many voicemails I leave in a week?

None. Zero. You want to know how many voice mails I get in a week? One. From my mom, dude. From my mom. Voice mail is for suckers, man. And moms. Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but it’s scary. If we don’t hear from you soon, I don’t know what we’ll do. We’ll have to, like, come over to your house or something. Knock on your door. That’s weird, man.

Weird. Just the thought of it. Face to face contact. Who does that? Don’t make us do that, man. Log on. Text me. Facebook me. Just don’t call my voice mail, dude. I don’t check that stuff.

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The People Formerly Known as the Audience

Augmented Reality: Successful dating with “Sight”

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It’s February 14th – Valentines Day

So, what if you had “Sight” – an embedded contact lens that provided you an augmented reality and “coaching” (when needed) on a date?

Check out this video from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design graduates Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo, titled “Sight,” credited to an entity named Sight Systems

If we are in an age of “love in the age of algorithms” then what better addition than “Sight” –  enabled by technology and our always-on hyper-connected global reality – giving you that extra “edge”.

And if “Sight” doesn’t quite work out for you in a “legitimate way” then perhaps the ending of this short digital film will suggest an alternative, but less acceptable approach, to a successful dating experience.

Written by frrl

February 14, 2013 at 6:43 pm

The Future of Digital… is not in a rear-view mirror

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Last night we watched President Obama give the State of the Union address.

But what about the state of Digital?  What happened over the past 20 years?

How can you see the future in a rear-view mirror… ?

Check out this great slide deck to see how far Digital media, wireless, and the internet has progressed over the past 20 years.  I found it interesting that the title of this deck is “The Future of Digital” yet there is not a single slide in the deck that projects the future in any year past the present.

One of the many lessons of history is that anything truly “interesting” that happens is going to be unexpected, non-linear, dis-contiguous, and disruptive to the status quo.  So, a simple extension of any of the historical statistical data provided the slide deck will not capture the future of digital.

“The business of the future is to be dangerous”

How many of us are complacent passengers “along for the ride” with technology and digital media without really being fully aware of how technology and digital are changing us – culture, society, and even the neuroplasticity of the mind.  There are a couple of links below to folks that are thinking about the affects of media on us.

Those who are thinking seriously about this owe one to Marshall McLuhan.  Back in the 1960’s he recognized the extent of how the medium changes us.  To put it succinctly,

“We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us”.

In any case, an excellent  “retrospective” more than the future of digital captured as statistical depictions is linked below.  From: IGNITION: Future of Digital conference on November 27-28, 2012 in New York.

The Future Of Digital

Related reading

In the vein of  Black Swans & “The business of the future is to be dangerous”…

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Will there be books in the future?

Understanding Media: The Extension of Man

The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room

Written by frrl

February 14, 2013 at 5:52 am

ARRL: Does the ARRL need a Strategic Plan?

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Management is about generating yesterday’s results.  Leadership puts the leader on the line.  No manual, no rulebook, no uberleader to point the finger at when things go wrong. Leaders are vulnerable, not controlling, and they are taking us to a new place, not to the place of cheap, fast, compliant safety.

Strategy in the Corporate World

A few days ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave an interview to the UK Daily Mail.  In that interview, Zuckerberg talked about Facebook’s greatest challenge and missed opportunities.  “Facebook’s biggest challenge – and its greatest opportunity lies in mobile devices which is an area that the company did not pay much attention to until just last year.”

About a week ago I watched a Bloomberg video interview of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland.  In that interview she talked about the future of Yahoo and the concept of the “interest graph” to compete in search against Google and Facebook

A few months ago Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman appeared at the quarterly earnings call to talk about the HP turnaround.  An extensive amount of material was presented detailing the turnaround and how all levels of the company will become aligned to the new strategy.

Everyone has one…

Needless to say, every public company has a strategy.  Strategy is driven by the recognition (diagnosis) of challenges and opportunities.  The nature of the challenges and opportunities sets the stage to formulate an  approach to best address the situation.  The approach translates into the development and execution of a coordinated set of actions across the enterprise along with metrics and measure to assess progress.  You can see this clearly played out in HP’s multi-year turnaround strategy made public at the recent quarterly earnings call.

In general, you can look in just about any quarterly report or annual report of a public company and find the strategy.  They differ in degree consistent with the diagnosis of the extent of the perceived challenge and opportunity in the external and competitive environment in which they operate.

Strategy in government agencies and charities

So why is it that NASA and the ARRL have such difficulty when it comes to formulating a strategy?


In late 2011, the Congress directed the NASA Office of Inspector General to commission a “comprehensive independent assessment of NASA’s strategic direction and agency management.”

In part, this is what it said:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is at a transitional point in its history and is facing a set of circumstances that it has not faced in combination before…

Other than the long-range goal of sending humans to Mars, there is no strong, compelling national vision for the human spaceflight program, which is arguably the centerpiece of NASA’s spectrum of mission areas…

Although gaps in U.S. human spaceflight capability have existed in the past, several other factors, in combination, make this a unique period for NASA. These include a lack of consensus on the next steps in the development of human spaceflight, increasing financial pressures, an aging infrastructure, and the emergence of additional space-capable nations—some friendly, some potentially unfriendly…

These problems are not primarily of NASA’s doing, but the agency could craft a better response to the uncertainty, for example, by developing a strategic plan that includes clear priorities and a transparent budget allocation process. A better response would improve NASA’s ability to navigate future obstacles and uncertainties. An effective agency response is vital, because at a time when the strategic importance of space is rising and the capabilities of other spacefaring nations are increasing, U.S. leadership is faltering…

The ARRL (American Radio Relay League)

The ARRL as an organization is nearly 100 years old.  Below is their self-diagnosed position on a strategic plan

Posted on the ARRL web site regarding CEO David Summers K1ZZ findings (emphasis mine)

Mr. Sumner reported on his research into “state of the art” strategic planning by large membership associations. Perhaps because of the negative impact of the financial upheavals of 2008 and the revolution in electronic publishing, at this time there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it. The ARRL Board last updated the organization’s strategic plan in 2009 and normally would conduct an in-depth review three to five years later. The committee discussed the perceived shortcomings of past strategic planning efforts along with possible improvements. Without taking a formal decision the committee concluded that while strategic planning remains important to the ARRL, planning for a successful Centennial celebration in 2014 is the current priority. A fresh approach to strategic planning should be taken immediately afterward.

Challenge and Opportunity

What NASA and the ARRL have in common when it comes to the difficulty in strategic planning revolves around the assessment of challenge and opportunity.  This has many dimensions.  Partial considerations are suggested below.

In a sense, for NASA, it’s a case of “mission accomplished”.  It’s fair to say that NASA’s biggest challenge and accomplishment was putting a man on the moon and bringing him safely back to earth.  This was the challenge that President Kennedy set for NASA on May 25, 1961.  NASA accomplished this goal in July 1969 with Apollo 11.  NASA repeated this accomplishment five more times with Apollo 12,14,15, and 17.

NASA Mission accomplished – six times over.  Now what?

For the ARRL, in a sense, just as in the case of NASA, for the ARRL it’s also “mission accomplished”.  I will have to rely on Richard Bartlett’s assessment in his book The World of Ham Radio, 1901-1950: a social history.

In the epilogue of the book, published in 2007, Bartlett provides an answer for those who would ask him the obvious question: If you published the book in 2007 then why end the history of amateur radio and the history of the ARRL in 1950?  What happened in Amateur Radio and the ARRL over the past 57 years which is not accounted for in the book?

Why end this book as of the year 1950?  It is because the story of ham radio’s development essentially takes place in the first fifty years of the twentieth century.  Having been created, accepted, regulated, and achieved permanent status by 1950, the story after that becomes one primarily of repetition.  The one great exception is in the area of technology, and save for minimal descriptions necessary to the story, that has not been our concern.

ARRL Mission accomplished – back in 1950.  Now what?

NASA and the ARRL – Sources of identity

NASA and the ARRL have something else in common of a deeper nature.

The identities and goals of both organizations was set externally.

The Congress and the President of the United States created the national Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on October 1, 1958.  Amateur Radio was first governed by the U.S. Department of Commerce (the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor until March 1913), then by the Federal Radio Commission, and finally (in 1934) by the FCC.

The broad missions of each organization was set by other agencies

For NASA, the preamble to the act of congress was, “An Act to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes.”   For Amateur Radio, the definition of the Amateur Radio Service was set in Part 97 Amateur Radio Service Subpart A–General Provisions §97.1 Basis and purpose.

If an organization gets its identity and goals outside of itself, then how much latitude does the organization have (or, think it has) when it senses that its basic purpose or goals need to evolve to stay relevant as the external environment changes?

Engineering and operations, not Strategy

The third aspect that the ARRL and NASA have in common is based on the combination of the two commonalities mentioned above.

Insofar as the identity of each organization was set externally outside the organization.  And, insofar as the goals of the organization were set externally outside the organization both organizations developed a culture of, what could be called, engineering and operations.  There was no need for either organization to develop the capability to re/define identify and or re/establish strategic goals.  The operating model of such an organization has a focus of delivering preestablished goals and sustaining ongoing operations.

In the corporate world this is never the case.  Corporations are constantly challenged to re/define their identity and re/position in the context of the ever-changing environment of challenges, opportunity, and competition.  The job of assessing and diagnosing the environment, framing an approach, and then aligning execution and resources is the job of the Chief Executive with oversight from the Board of Directors.  So, it’s no wonder that analysts, on a quarterly basis, will badger Zuckerberg, Mayer, Whitman, and every other CEO of a public company  into articulating their latest strategy.

The Take

What are the legitimate reasons for any organization to not have a strategic plan?

Well, probably the most obvious reason based on what is written above is that  an organization without a strategic plan does not recognize any challenge or opportunity in the context in which it operates.

If there is no new challenge and no new opportunity and you are satisfied with the organizations current performance then there is no need of any strategic plan.  One simply operates in a state of sustainability by repetition – for as long as you can maintain it within a budget, or for as long as you continue to not recognize a challenge or opportunity in the external environment,  or for as long as you can get away with it until stakeholders commission a “comprehensive assessment” (as in the case of Congress and NASA above) to find out why you don’t have a compelling vision of the future that can engage a national interest.

The last page on the last chapter of Richard Bartlett’s book ends with this:

Time passes on, and the old guard gives way to the newcomers.  In November 1948 death came to Kenneth Bryant Warner, who for nearly thirty years was secretary and general manager of the ARRL.  “It was Maxim who conceived our League, it as Warner  who breathed into it life and energy and vitality, whose balanced judgement and clear vision ensured its growth and success,” reads his obituary. “With his passing we suffer the loss of a great leader, an untiring servant in the cause of amateur radio.  p. 230 The World of Ham Radio 1901-1950

The way Bartlett ends his book begs the question as to why he thinks Amateur Radio and the ARRL entered a state of 57 years of unremarkable repetition.  Was it because every ounce of value was developed from Amateur Radio’s pre-defined identity and purpose?  Or, was it because in 1948 Amateur Radio and the ARRL ran out of great leaders like Bryant who “breathed into it life and energy and vitality… [ that] ensured its growth and success.” .

Bartlett does not give an answer – one way or the other.

Related Reading

NASA: What to do after Mission Accomplished
ARRL: Reaping the Whirlwind

The Boy Scouts recently celebrated its centennial
Read the intro to the Strategic Plan from Chief Executive Robert J. Mazzuca

As our first century of Scouting comes to a close, I am delighted to share with you our 2011–2015 National Council Strategic Plan. This document represents the confluence of our vital mission with a clear corporate direction and will be the cornerstone for our second century of Scouting. I am particularly proud of the grassroots support and feedback given by Scouters throughout the country that provided guidance as we developed objectives and goals that are in direct support of local councils. This investment made in setting our course may well be one of the most significant accomplishments in the history of our movement.

The National Council is committed to following this strategic direction with a very formal process; allocating manpower and financial resources appropriately, and setting course corrections as the environment dictates.

The stakes are simply too high to put forth anything but our best effort

And then read the 2011-2015 Strategic Plan

It’s amazing how many opportunities CEO’s get to differentiate themselves.

Will there be books in the future?

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Recently, someone asked me if I thought there would be “books” in the future.

So, never to over analyze things, whenever someone poses a question like this a few things occur to me… What does this person mean by a “book”?  And, what motivated this person to pose such a question in the first place?

The “book” – container and contents (“medium and message”)

In 2013 the question of “what is a book” certainly is legitimate.  Does the person think of a book in the traditional sense – that is, a physical object that carries/conveys/transports writing?  In this sense, the physical medium of paper and ink is a container.  Is “the book” the container or what it contains?

So, in 2013 with the ascendency of digital distribution and the decline of traditional bookstores it’s easy to understand the difference between the container and the contents of the container.  In brief, the new container is the digital distribution but “the book” remains the same – if what you mean by “book” is the contents (the message)

The deeper question of “the book”

It begs the deeper question.  Will there be “books” in the future?  And here we mean by book not so much the content as a genre of thinking.

Back in the 1960’s Marshall McLuhan came on the scene with a phrase that is linked to his basic insight – “The medium is the message”.  Prior to McLuhan people had the idea that the medium is an innocuous container and what really mattered was the content.  So in the case of a book the container should not matter in the least.  What is important is the content (message) and it does not matter if the “book” is in digital form, “paper and ink” form, or any other form or container.

The idea of an  innocuousness container goes far deeper than the simple example of a book.  What about the containers of mass media such a radio, television, newspapers, telephones, and the internet?  Are they all just innocuous containers of content?

“The Medium is the Message”

McLuhan says, no.  “The medium is the message“.  Briefly, what this means is that the medium (radio, television, newspapers, telephone, etc) changes us in a way – perhaps a diabolical way – that lies below the level of consciousness.

In essence, the message (content) is the meat that distracts the guard dog so the thief can rob you. The crime is the theft of the way we think.  The thief is the medium and the content (message) is the distraction.

Building on McLuhan, the idea is floating around that the medium of the internet is changing the way we think – and not in a good way.

Briefly, the internet has made us “shallow”.  On the internet we see a page at a time.  And even on that page we might skim a few lines of each paragraph.  Pages on the internet are filled with links.  And in some cases –  like the link I used above to Marshall McLuhan to help people if they don’t know who he is – is not so much helpful as it is a distraction from reading the rest of this blog entry.

Maybe someone clicked on the link, read about McLuhan in the Wikipedia, followed the links on the Wikipedia page, and never came back to this blog.  Those people are not reading this paragraph.  Those people fell for the power of distraction inherent in the medium of the web.

The Take – Will there be books in the future?

So, will there be books in the future?  Perhaps there will be old books in the future.  But, if McLuhan and others are correct about the medium’s ability to change us in diabolical ways below our level of consciousness then we might say that “books” might not exist in the future.  And in this case, by books I mean a genre of  “long form thinking”.

After the affect of the internet perhaps our ability to think deeply about anything will be diminished to the point that people of the future may not be able to read the books of the past nor create new books for future generations.  People living at “internet speed” simply will not be able to pay attention long enough nor think in a sequential manner or deep enough to read a book or write a book – as commonly understood in the 20’th century.

Find out more…

Check out this video from the 1960’s.  As for the term “Global Village” in the 1960’s who doubts that we have truly arrived and that “Global Village” may not be a term we use anymore since this is now our native habitat in the early 21st century.  What about the  prediction of the end of “literary man” and the rise of “tribal man” (a new man created by the electronic media).  When you hear the term “tribal man” in the video think about today’s social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and all the rest  Think about the diversity of  “public identity” that people fashion for themselves in social media.  Does anyone have an identity anymore other than what the media creates for people?

Written by frrl

February 3, 2013 at 7:26 pm

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