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Energy

Been thinking about energy today and I’m curious if you think about energy in the same contexts as I do. There are so many aspects to that word it requires a bit of explanation to the flood of thoughts that came into my brain on this Monday.

It was 102 degrees today in the Twin Cities. I sat with a woman from New York earlier today who complained bitterly about “the heat wave” there. A buddy of mine from California and I talked earlier about the crisis of possible blackout conditions due to the heat there. All the discussions and awareness about global warming of late made today’s heat a constant reminder of my personal energy consumption and the carbon I’m spewing into the atmosphere.

But my personal energy consumption and outlay goes beyond carbon-based and other generated fuels.

  • I’m spread fairly thin in my work life and someone close to me is ill. I’m only able to invest my personal energy in so many places simultaneously which has made me consider all of my personal energy investments and where I want to place them going forward. My choice has been to eschew new commitments and I’m struggling to take care of existing ones…but have put everything on hold to attend to someone for the next few days.
  • My podcast has waned. I enjoy the hell out of podcasting but have been experiencing a challenge of motivation to continue it due to all the other pressing commitments I’ve made. I used to be obsessive about blogging every single day no matter what but find I’m prioritizing all the time and sometimes this blog suffers.
  • My news aggregator has exploded with articles. Just a few months ago it was 500-600 articles a day and is now up to nearly 1,000 per day. I’ve only added a few blogs and news publications to the mix, so people have become more prolific in their writings and the energy being invested in blogs is amazing…but now I’m questioning the payoff from my energy used to consume all these writings.
  • My iTunes podcast subscription list has grown and the podcasts have also grown…longer. No longer enjoying (did I say “enjoying”?) a 30 minute commute twice a day, I find less time to listen.
  • I’ve always had several books at various stages of being read, but for some reason that list has accelerated to seven! Plus, for the first time in my life I walk into Barnes & Noble or go on Amazon and lament the fact that I’ll never have time to read everything I want to in my life.
  • Then there are meatspace friends and my imperative in life, my family, as well as social sites and virtual friendships (specifically people I’ve connected with via my blog and podcast) that I’d like to nurture and grow.

I look at all of this and don’t feel anxious, sad or depressed. Instead I look at all of this abundance with a bit of wonder and amazement and am now trying to figure out which to choose and where to invest my energy. It’s all about choice so here is the question for you if you also have so much choice: How do you prioritize your energy investment? Alot of geeks seem to be embracing David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Merlin Mann at 43 Folders is a huge fan and there are a ton of tools available, but is this a trick or an authentic method for superior levels of choosing, prioritizing and then executing? I’ve not invested enough energy in it yet to determine it’s efficacy and would be curious what you think.

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Bad Mobile Web Experience #1

In my hands is an (arguably) cutting edge Palm Treo 700p. One would think that the ubiquitous PalmOS would be supported with the “it runs everywhere!” Flash player.

It doesn’t.

Adobe says on their site, “The Flash Platform delivers the most effective experiences for rich content, applications and communications across browsers, operating systems, and devices” …except for the current #1 smartphone OS.

In fact, what was disconcerting on top of it was that Adobe’s site doesn’t perform very robust browser sensing (where the site views — and then adjusts — the format and content based upon your platform and browser) and constantly brought me to a Windows Flash download page.

So there are numerous sites and offerings I would’ve liked to view over these last couple of relatively unconnected days. I’m chalking this up to Bad Mobile Web Experience #1 (and I hope this isn’t a very long series!).

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What if you were totally disconnected?

Following up from yesterday’s post, I’m delightfully disconnected from the grid most of the day…and am missing always-on connectivity. Most people up here near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness have phones, satellite TV and many sport these new fangled mobile wireless phone doohickey’s, but I’ve seen nary a laptop or internet cafe.

That’s not quite accurate. There’s a pizza parlor we went by yesterday where it was pointed out that ‘internet gaming’ is there with free Wifi. The clientele surely looked like gamers.

Part of me wonders about just turning it all off, moving to a place like this and living in sync with the seasons and the rhythms of my town. Would I miss much? Would it make a difference to me or to the world?

Then I think about the rich, amazingly robust and flood of information a mouse click away from me when I am connected…and those questions are answered.

By the way, this is my first post actually using my Treo 700p itself. The signal isn’t strong enough tonight to connect via my laptop. You know…this little smartphone is so capable that I may consider leaving my laptop home periodically

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Ubiquitous Internet?

I’m at an off-site on the North Shore of Lake Superior and finally had a chance to test Verizon’s claim to be THE ONLY wireless provider that is capable of saturating this sparsely populated region. Since the place I’m staying lacks internet access (and yes, it’s good to get off-the-grid but I usually need some access), I tried connecting to my Treo 700p using it as a USB modem.

The good news? I’m connected. The bad news? It tests at 92kbps down and 89kbps up (I’ve only got one small bar). Knowing that I usually achieve 700kbps down and 200kbps up when signal is good, it’s frustrating that I can’t have faster access.

Then I stop and say to myself, “Hey bonehead. You’re nearly in the friggin’ wilderness and you’re whining about being connected faster than that old 56k modem you used to use not that many years ago!?!” I must admit that it’s pretty amazing that I’m connected here, pulled over to a rest stop a few hours ago to send a PDF to a client because I could, and can use a legitimate connection to the ‘net vs. what I used to do when coming up here in the last couple of years: go wardriving and try to sniff out open Wifi connections so I could get connected.

My son asked me some weeks ago to use my laptop in the car so he could continue his online game he’d started in the house. He simply couldn’t understand why he couldn’t be connected at high speed everywhere and all the time. THAT is the expectation that is already here (he’s 11 years old) and the demand for ubiquitous internet is only going to accelerate.

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Technorati keeps maturing…

I rely on Technorati more so than any other search tool for the blogosphere. To me, it’s *the* brand for blogging info. Today they turned three years old and have some new capabilities and enhancements worth checking out.

I want more tools though. Trend tracking, thematic understanding (even more than is there now) and I’d really love a "here’s how to extract the most value possible" blog about Technorati.

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The Long Tail Skypecast…

Chris Anderson

Just attended my first Skypecast so that I could listen to Chris Anderson talk about his new book The Long Tail. I’m enamored with the concept, really enjoyed his narrative in the book (which took his original article and subsequent writings and put meat on the bones) and hoped he’d take it further versus just be high level.

I also wanted to hear a Skypecast which is an up-to-100 people audio conference anyone can join via the Skype Skypecast directory here. This Skypecasting concept — extended by the folks at HighSpeedConferencing to enable conferencing for up to 500 people *and* the ability to call in from landlines — has huge implications for enabling group communications globally (for free, by the way) that none of us truly grasp yet.

Unfortunately Anderson was in Los Angeles and the notorious traffic made him roughly 25 minutes late for the 50 of us waiting. That wasn’t too bad as I had plenty to do on the same computer I was attached to with my USB headset. There wasn’t music-on-hold and there was very annoying microphone sounds which were possibly caused by the meeting hosts (the folks at Six Apart, makers of Typepad, Movable Type, and Vox).

This listening experience has helped me to understand that “dead air” on a Skypecast — just like on radio — isn’t acceptable, even for a free Skypecast. We 50 were investing our time and Skypecast hosts must be extraordinarily aware of the value of participants time. That said, Ginger Tulley of Six Apart was a very good host and he, and Anderson, both apologized and Tulley smartly kept us informed constantly of Anderson’s progress while we waited.

Anderson basically pitched the audience on his concept and book vs. first finding out (which the hosts could’ve and should’ve done with the tons of extra time we had waiting for Anderson. Any of us could instant message via Skype and he could’ve asked all audience members a series of questions to which we could’ve easily responded). Wouldn’t it have been valuable if Anderson knew whether or not we all had read the book, knew the LT concept and thus he’d be free to take the listeners on a ride putting even more color around The Long Tail?

Still, Anderson is a guy I’d like to have dinner with and kick stuff around. He’s so in-the-game and is undoubtedly talking about big ideas with lots of smart people wherever he goes.

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What are *your* incentives?

As I’ve been looking at the hundreds of daily articles in my news aggregator, TechMeme, and all the other opinion, news and information sites, I remember Ed Porter. Ed was a mentor of mine who drilled into my head, “Borsch…everyone works toward their incentives. Discover what their’s are, and you’ll understand how to align theirs with yours or figure out what motivates their behavior.” Seems like a simple thing, but it really stuck with me and I often go into negotiations, look behind strategic moves, or anticipate and predict behavior based on incentives.

 Case in point: I was in an intense partner negotiation some years ago and there were three people from the partner and four from my firm (including me). We all wanted to get the deal done but — after careful and deliberate discussion around the terms — we couldn’t come to agreement and had hit an impasse. Remembering what this mentor had taught me in my twenties, I methodically asked each person:

  • What have you heard the terms of the deal to be? (I wasn’t 100% sure that we were all on the same page as the deal was very complex).
  • What do you personally want from this deal? What do you think will be the benefit to your firm and to you?

As we went around the room and each articulated answers to these questions, a picture emerged that we were NOT on the same page, had slightly different perspectives on the terms, and had just slightly different personal expectations and ones for our respective companies. Added all up, these slight variables combined to build a wall that we couldn’t seemingly surmount.

Getting all of this on to the table and under the light for examination presented us collectively with a picture that was pretty damn clear. We were able to modify each term just a hair to nudge them into alignment and we got the deal done that day. It was one of those days and accomplishments that a guy can point to with pride (until you then think about all the screwups!).

When I read blogs (which is why I don’t read blogs where the blogger is opaque or anonymous), news articles (The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal present the yin-n-yang of issues due to widely differing incentives and perspectives), press releases (always vanilla corporate-speak and happy-assed optimistic) or telegraphed strategic moves by companies or moguls (often humourously transparent or frustratingly opaque), I try to put them into a context of incentives…a process which has yet to betray me.

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Library for Accessing Atoms…or Bits?

Stopped off this afternoon to take a look at a reference book that <gasp> is only available at the library vs. online. Yes even I, Mr. Technoweenie Who Can Google and Seemingly Find Anything, discovers that occasional resource that is only (and easily) available at a bricks-n-mortar reference facility.

Here’s the amazing part though: the diversity of people at this county library (in my city of Eden Prairie) is stunning as is the physical space of this building — which was formerly a supermarket and gutted to make one of the nicest libraries I’ve ever been in — but also as stunning is what these folks are doing here. I know there are immigrants by the thousands in my city and the Somalis, Hispanics, and Russians seem to be here in force right now…which I find incredibly delightful and uplifting. This is the purpose of a library: feeding the minds of the masses and making knowledge accessible.

I’m sitting here right now on my laptop enjoying the free Wifi access filling this space. There are also dozens of PC’s connected in clusters to the internet. Virtually every machine is occupied…some with several people clustered around one machine collaborating on work as well as four teenage boys looking at girls profiles on MySpace!

The irony isn’t lost on me that I came to this building to examine knowledge that happens to reside as atoms…while other people came here to do the opposite and access the internet and knowledge and information which manifest as bits. I feel lucky to have what I have (fast broadband at home, Wifi in my house, EVDO wireless for on-the-go as well as several computers to use it) and am pleased that I can provide such robust access for my children…and that there is a place like this library for those that don’t.

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Thoughts on The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Though I feel on top of many of the trends and directions espoused in Chris Anderson’s original article on The Long Tail in 2004, his blog of the same name, and the oft-cited Wikipedia article, I still was incredibly pleased with the book itself and the mental journey it took me on. Let me share with you just a few of the thoughts on that journey.

Anderson has filled this book with some solid data and examples of some of these trends and directions feeding The Long Tail. One that I particularly enjoyed was a discussion of the book business. It had some facts about how few books actually “make it” and are commercially viable…as well as a discussion of the self publishing business and how offerings like Lulu.com are changing the paradigm of self publishing and thus accelerating feeding The Long Tail.

Last night I was watching an MSNBC show hosted by Tim Russert. The guest was Bill Carter, the New York Times columnist and author of a new book about the television business entitled Desperate Networks. Besides being a delightful interviewee with numerous fun stories about the TV business, it was remarkable how illustrative of The Long Tail the interview was especially when he talked about how NBC, CBS and ABC’s 90+ market share in the 60’s — vs. today’s era of hundreds of channels and an internet now competing with video delivery — and how a 12% share for a show today is considered successful and a hit! The networks are really struggling to be and remain viable.

This morning’s New York Times had an interesting article about Bill Ford and his challenges at Ford Motor Company — echoed only by the woes of General Motors. Though Ford and GM are not nearly as competitive as other automotive companies globally, it’s as impossible for a car company as it is for a TV network to be as dominant as it once was as it is for a publisher, bookseller or any other formerly dominant producer.

In his book, Anderson talks about the need for “hits” in businesses…especially in the media business. The problem today is that the moment something is a hit…everyone copies it. New designs and any successes are knocked-off instantly since photos and writeups are received as quickly as the bits can traverse the internet. Anyone that shifts their industry paradigm with something innovative is copied within moments.

All of these thoughts led me to thinking about Apple and their penchant for secrecy — especially in a time when bloggers can slice, dice and analyze every move made, including those by the component manufacturer’s that will ultimately feed Apple as well as patent filings Apple makes. Though they’re slammed often for it, the brilliance of Apple’s secrecy, event marketing, and element of surprise in today’s marketplace can’t be underestimated. When Apple releases something new, odds are they’re already 50% of the way toward their next iteration of the product and by the time competitors copy the first release…they stun the market with version #2.

Finally, I realized that most people and organizations need hits…but they mainly need an increasing and acceleration of items that feed The Long Tail in their industry and cater to niches. Anderson makes it clear that the collective sales in The Long Tail will outweigh the hits. Publishers, VC’s, auto manufacturer’s and many others have catered to niches for years through knowing that “1 out of 10 is a hit and supports the rest.” It’s just that the number of niches, the never-ending life of these niches, and the opportunity to cater to them has shifted.

To use a wornout baseball metaphor, now is the time to figure out how to hit lots of line drives, get people on base and score some runs vs. swingin’ for the fences over and over trying to get that one, usually elusive home run.

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The Power of Strong Blogs

Not Griff Wigley but is actually Arnold Schwarzenegger

Not Griff Wigley but is actually Arnold Schwarzenegger

Was poking around Griff Wigley’s blog today and am truly enjoying the quality of his posts. Always alot of food for thought and I find when I read his posts, it opens my mental doors just a hair further which often lets in other thoughts.

After reading Griff’s blog, another of my favorites, OpenBusiness, had a fabulous post today that slid right through the same mental door. The post is about why people work for free. Open source, associations, Wikipedia…all are places that people invest alot of time and energy in and the nature of these are changing as more and more people connect online and can participate virtually.

Within the post was a link to a blog I’d not heard of before: Principled Innovation (PI). PI advises the association space and had a followup post. PI is now part of my aggregator must-read list.

This is amazing stuff and really informs much of what I’ve been wrestling with and researching regarding community motivations, what is the magic sauce to deliver a really useful community site, and superior ways to connect people and leverage the network effect.

Here’s what always amazes me: this stuff is all free. It’s not deep or broad usually, but for those of us groping our way along trying to figure out what’s going on, strong blogs like these three are some of the most important knowledge and wisdom available.