We're all so immersed in the political narratives today that it's sometimes hard to remember the parallel evolution of media and politics. A few thoughts on how the two have enabled one another over the past seventy or so years.
I've been using Twitter fairly heavily for the past couple of months. Before that, it was a curiosity. As I've become more comfortable with it, I've started following more strangers. My system for choosing whom to follow has been fairly simply: I'll look at links and @name replies (if you're not a Twitterer, the "@" sign designates a "tweet" [what Twitter users call each individual post] as a public direct reply to an individual) in the tweets of people I currently follow. That way, I've come upon an array of interesting folks I'd never have discovered otherwise. So far, I'm following slightly over 200 people.
Now, that might sound overwhelming. And, if I tried to follow every single thing that every one of those 200+ people posted, it would be. But I don't. Instead, I'm approaching Twitter like I approach the New York Times.
When I pick up each morning's edition of the Times, there are some sections I read religiously (yup, Sports is almost always first) and some I get to if I have time (Arts). If I have a little more time, I flip through the entire paper, simply looking for things that pop out at me. I think all of us have had that great experience of sitting down on a Saturday or Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and just meandering through our favorite newspaper. I always find unexpected, interesting things when I do that.
Same with Twitter. I'll open my Twitter page in the morning and look for posts from some of my favorite people. I scan the page, looking for those names. If I don't find one (rare) I'll hit the "Older" button until I do. Then, click on the person's name link and, presto, you've got all their tweets in chrono order. I'll do that for a few folks and, if I have time, go back to the Friends timeline to begin the "flipping" process.
Now, this undoubtedly means that I will miss great material. Just like I do in the Times on those days when I don't have "flipping leisure time." Some of those things I'll pick up by virtue of others' references; others are gone for posterity. So what? You can't pick up everything, after all, and you have to trust that you'll eventually find the valuable stuff if you work at it.
If you're a Twitterer, I 'd be very interested in hearing your approach for using this amazing resource...that is, if you can get our newfangled Disqus-driven comments to work!
Now that each GMail account is allotted five gigabytes of storage, is there any way to get them to implant a device in my brain that will allow me to upload the video of my day so that it's all there, searchable, whenever I want it?
Two very interesting tech-related tidbits in today's NY Times.
First, since last Thursday's failed London bomb attempts, police in Great Britain have been investigating the network that planned the plot. The Times nestled this nugget in the body of this article,
A senior Western law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, said British investigators had been greatly helped by closed
circuit television cameras on Britain’s highways that pick up details
of every license plate.
As soon as the police had noted the
license plate numbers from the cars in central London and from the Jeep
that crashed in Glasgow, computers quickly traced the cars’ movements
over the past several days.
Whoa! So, the cops searched a video database of license plates which had been photographed as cars sped along Britain's highways and now could track the movements of the cars in question?
How cool is that?
Yes, yes, I know: "our privacy!, our privacy!"
What privacy? The whole idea is as obsolete as buggy whips. It's no longer a matter of whether or not governments collect huge amounts of information about each of us, it's now simply a matter of how ethical those governments are in using that information. This news item once again shows the utility of information gathering technology as well as revealing its potential for abuse.
Then, there was this article about neurophysiological research being done on TV viewers.
Think you're outfoxing the advertisers by speeding through their spots with your TiVo remote? Think again. Turns out subjects' galvanic skin responses (GSR), respiration and other measures showed just as much "engagement" in speeding ads as they did during the opening of an episode of "Heroes." Listen up:
“Whether people watch or not is not a useful measure of anything,”
said Joe Plummer, chief research officer for the Advertising Research
Foundation. “Exposure has very, very weak correlation with purchase
intent and actual sales, whereas an engagement measure has high
correlation and are closer to what really matters, which is brand
growth and creating brand demand.”
Media executives have long
discussed the potential of using physical reactions and brain scanning
to track their messages, and advances in medical research in the past
few years have made this more practical. NBC is working with Innerscope
Research, a small company in Boston that uses wearable sensors to
translate physical responses into what the company calls “emotional
The movement from "exposure" to "engagement" is a major shift for advertisers. It tells us that business models may soon change to reflect the dirty little secret we've all known for years: the correlation between our stated motivation for an action and the actual constituents of that action is not very high. We say we do things for reasons we can defend; we actually do them for reasons we often can't fathom. That's not to say that we can't investigate the elements that contribute to human decision-making, only that we can't take at face value the rationalizations that pass for our understandings of our decisions.
Now, if the advertisers can go beyond GSR and respiration rates to come to understand the nature of "engagement," then we'll really be getting someplace.
To find something comparable, you have to go back 500 years to the
printing press, the birth of mass media – which, incidentally, is what
really destroyed the old world of kings and aristocracies. Technology
is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers, the
establishment, the media elite. Now it’s the people who are taking
By now, many of you will have heard that Scoble's decided to leave Microsoft for an exciting new gig at PodTech. The guy who's more responsible for humanizing the tech behemoth than any other single individual has left the building.
One sad thing for Microsoft about losing Scoble was
that they couldn't pay him what he was worth to the company, which will
remain incalculably large — even after he's gone. In fact, there is no
HR metric for figuring the worth of a worker like Scoble, whose value
to Microsoft was due more to his work outside the company's walls than
inside them. Ironically, Robert Scoble may turn out to have been the
most human resource Microsoft ever had.
But, Doc's dead wrong. Of course Microsoft could have paid Scoble what he's worth. This is a company with billions in its treasury; swimming in cash. It's that they wouldn't pay him what he's worth. Because they couldn't figure out what he's worth, they had to let him go ahead and leave. Because MS (and every other large corporation) is trapped in its own policy straitjacket, it can't act in its own best interests. Can't you just hear the conversation?
"We can't set a bad [well, good, actually] precedent here, so we'll have to let him leave. There are no comparable jobs our there that would enable us to set the job family value correctly, or re-set his band, or rejigger his formula. After all, we can't put the whole system out of whack just for one guy."
Yup, can't put the whole system out of whack for just one guy. Now, Scoble might say that none of this would have made a difference; he wanted new challenges anyway. And, that's likely true.
But, what if your company was about to lose somebody who you knew, knew in your bones, was the most valuable person in the place for reasons that don't show up on any forms, job families, pay bands or anything else? What could you do about it?
If you can't honestly say, "we'd do whatever we had to so we could keep that person on board, and figure out how to deal with the consequences later," then you'd better go to Plan B right away.
In fact, you'd better be thinking about how to re-design your HR system so that it can start valuing whatever it is that person's doing that it can't measure today. Because if you know in your bones that this person's valuable, then your bones are a better tool than your system. Leave the system; take the bones (or, something like that.)
And, remember what Deming said, "the most important things cannot be measured." As a leader, your job is to figure out how to evaluate those unmeasurable things, not to hide behind someone else's metric system.
Update: Hugh says he'd work for MS, if they could figure out how to get their "metrics" together.
The more I listen and learn, the more I'm convinced that members of the
corporate elite of America are technologically backward and a threat to
their own companies. Outside the tech/net space itself, CEOs, by and
large, do not go online, know little about blogs, and are increasingly
divorced and distant from their customers, their employees, their
managers and their global partners (most of whom live and work online).
My experience totally agrees with those observations. And it's not just CEOs. Lots of senior executives I've known, some responsible for product development, have absolutely no direct connection with the online world.
And that's scary.
Why would a smart executive shy away from one of the richest sources of customer/business intelligence?
One word: Typing.
I'm only half kidding.
Remember when "Typing" was a course that girls preparing to be secretaries took in high school? Smart kids, certainly not smart boys, didn't take typing. It was a menial skill, a sign of permanent "clerical" status. The faster one typed, the lower one's prospects in a company. "Keyboard skills" were a sure ticket to second-class citizenship.
"Williams can type? Hmmm...I've always wondered about him..."
Of course, that's all changed today. Touch-typing enables one to quickly move through large amounts of data, enabling the typist to quickly capture ideas and effectively express them.
But, I fear, the generationally-divided stereotype remains.
And this means a whole cohort of (non-typing) senior executives with no idea of what YouTube is. Never having heard of Engadget. Thinking Technorati is a guy in IT with a tic and a fear of open spaces. Still concerned about needing change for the toll booths on the Information Superhighway. Wondering if Doc Searls makes house calls.
What's spooky is that this is somehow OK. As Nussbaum points out, boards don't seem too concerned about this huge hole in their senior executive's skills. (Oh yeah, many of the people on the boards are other senior execs. Or head hunters, who sure as hell don't want to add more complexity to their lives.) Neither do investors.
Can you imagine another area as important as technical literacy not being required of a senior exec? What if the CEO couldn't read a P&L? Impossible. What if she couldn't use the telephone? Ludicrous. How about not reading the Wall Street Journal. Unthinkable.
But, technical proficiency? Strictly for the underclass.