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The Next 100 Years: A Review

By - April 17, 2011

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For my next book (no really, I’m starting to work on it in my copious spare time), I’ve begun to read in earnest. I’ve got a rather long list, and I’m not sure I’ll get to them all, but for those that I do read, I plan to do a quick review here, if for no other reason than to prove I read the damn thing, and had an opinion.

Because the next book is a report from the future, I figured I may as well start with the NYT bestseller The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman, a fellow who apparently is the leader of a consulting company his publisher calls “the shadow CIA”. (And yes, that link is an Amazon affiliate link. I’m trying to make a few bucks to pay for the sorry state of publishing overall. Someday I’ll write a post about the process of selling my next book, but that day is not today).

Anyway, this book (first published in early 2009) came highly recommended to me by a very well known person in the Valley. It’s not a technology book, if anything, it’s the equivalent of a geopolitical romp, if ever there was such a thing. It’s reasonably well reviewed on Amazon, averaging three and a half stars, and I’ll admit it’s got some fun stuff in there.

But I have to say, it pretty much missed the entire boat when it comes to the impact the Internet is going to have on geopolitics, culture, and society over the next 100 years.

Now, I’m not going to do a classic book review here, but rather give you what I might say if you asked me what I thought of the book at, say, an industry cocktail party. And when I get to all the rest of the books, I’ll be doing the same. Deal? Deal.

So the premise of Friedman’s book is that certain geopolitical facts will never change. Nations need security, and those nations who can fend for themselves will attempt to defend that security. Some nations will fail and be dissolved into larger, more powerful neighbors, others will flex new muscles and create new (or in some cases very old) spheres of influence.

What makes the book so interesting are the author’s predictions, the most radical being this: That by sometime mid century, we’ll have a world war between two major sets of allies: On the one hand, the US, and the other, Turkey and Japan. Friedman lays this all out using a classic “past as prologue” approach, and I have to say, if you hold pretty much everything else constant, it actually makes a lot of sense.

But I find Friedman’s analysis sorely lacking when it comes to the potentially disruptive nature of global connectedness. Friedman argues from essentially this point of view: Countries are always worried about borders, access to commodities, and preserving national identity. They will always act to protect and preserve all three. He makes compelling cases for this by pointing to many centuries of history, from the Ottoman Empire to Germany in the 1900s.

Problem is, to my mind, we’re at a pivot point in human history, and I’m not convinced that national identity and protection of borders is going to drive folks to war in the way it has in the past. Until recently the human race has been bound by geographical regions of interest. Increasingly, the boundaries have more to do with intellectual (and commercial) regions of interest that are rather agnostic with regard to geography. They are, in a word, stateless. The nation state is not necessarily the end all or be all of how we are going to negotiate our political conflicts in the future. And we have the global Internet, still in its infancy, to thank for that.

Anyway, that’s what the book got me thinking about. I highly recommend it, even if I disagree with some of its premises. It’s a quick read, it’s rather fun to speculate, and it’ll get you thinking. Not a bad combination.

The next book I’m reading is In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives” by Steven Levy. I’m about halfway through, and better finish soon, because I’m in conversation with Steven, who I’ve known for a very long time, at the Commonwealth Club this Tuesday in San Francisco.

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The Past Week's Signals

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Herewith, for all you RSS readers of Searchblog, is that other thing I do every day of the work week, Signal. If it suits your information consumption goals, sign up for Signal’s email newsletter or RSS feed on the FM home page (upper right box).

Monday Signal: What *Is* The Future of Media? (Today’s Signal)

Friday Signal: What Is the Next Facebook? (Hint: The Answer Is Yes) (Last week’s…etc.)

Thursday Signal: Internet Ads Set New Record

Weds. Signal: Is YouTube “Open”? Well, Compared to iTunes…

Tuesday Signal: Google’s Biggest Advertisers

Monday Signal: Wake Up, It’s A New Week

A Funny Coincidence, or a Glimpse of the Future?

By - April 15, 2011

I took a ride today, and it was gorgeous as usual. That’s not my story, but it’s certainly a part of it.

As I rode I used the AllSports GPS app on my iphone to track my progress (guys, if you’re reading, your upload is busted).

I knew I’d be able to see the whole ride on Google Maps later, which is cool. It also tracks stuff like distance, vertical, speed, etc. Tons of fun.

So that’s one signal tracking me all along the way, kicking off tons of data as I went. Some of it I was capturing. Some of it, I’d warrant, was being captured by the app. And, if that app has a deal with Google or others for advertising, some of that data, I’d wager, is going to Google as well. I know this. Not sure most folks do, but they will. More on that in another post.

As I rode, I checked into a couple of trails I was on: Indian Fire, and Eldridge. In fact, I put Eldridge on the map of Foursquare, odd, but I knew it wasn’t on there as I tried to check in before but didn’t follow through on Foursquare’s request that I add the spot.

This time I did. Another app has some of my data now. I’m happy to give it to them, in fact.

After about 45 minutes of good up, I found myself at this vista and sent it to Tumblr:

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A happy place to be sure. I think I captioned it Beeeeeuuuuttiieee or something. This is the view looking Northeast, two-thirds up the Eldridge trail on Mt. Tamalpais. Oh, and a third app now has my data.

Of course, the iPhone also has all that data, and more. And AT&T has its fair share to boot.

We peaked (checked in natch), ripped on down, took more pics, including a video, and I got home to my new video/music/think out loud room. And I put the map and the pictures and the video up on the big screen, and played a bit of Muppets doing Dance Yourself Clean because, well, it was Friday after all.

My buddy left, and I went in to get something. I came back to check mail, and brought up my browser. Now, my home page is this site, and what do I see at the top of the site, in the ads which at this point had reverted to Google AdSense?

Well, I saw this image:

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Well I’ll be, I say to myself. That looks a lot like where I just was! And this was a Google Maps ad. Holy CRAP! Did Google get some of that data and, in near real time, show me an ad with MY PICTURE IN IT?

Funny thing was, I wasn’t creeped out. In fact, I was thrilled….I love that place, and there it was at the top of my site!

Now there’s much to say about this, but OF COURSE I CLICKED ON THAT BAD BOY.

Here’s what I got:

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The thrill was palpable – was I looking at a Northeast view from two-thirds up Eldridge? Wow! Now that’s conversational media!

Well, no. I was looking at a beautiful vista in Ireland, in fact. Clearly the ad folks at Google thought it was a good shot to use. Packaged goods media.

It was all a coincidence.

But it sure as hell got me thinking.

Why *isn’t* there a way to take all that data, and more, and make experiences that work for all of us? I wrote about this in the “Rise of Metaservices.” I want me some, now. And not just so Google can serve me the perfect ad. The world is so much bigger than that (but if that pays for that world, I’m cool with it, as long as I have a dashboard which gives me control).

More to come.

Join Us For the Sixth Annual CM Summit in New York During Internet Week

By - April 11, 2011


We’re very excited to announce the theme and initial speaker lineup for our 6th annual Conversational Marketing Summit. The Summit will take place June 6-7th in New York City, at the Hudson Theater and Millennium Broadway Hotel.
Our theme is Finding the Signal. Speakers at our annual anchor event include Laura Desmond, CEO of Starcom MediaVest, Tim Westergren, Founder of Pandora, David Karp, Founder of Tumblr, Antonio Lucio, CMO of Visa, and Judy McGrath, Chair and CEO of MTV Networks. And that’s just for starters…see the full (and growing) list here.
We’ve taken our theme in the spirit of our regional Signal event series. Each Signal focuses on a key new area of digital marketing: Location, Real Time, Content, and Social. Finding the signal in an increasingly noisy eco-system of sites, mobile apps and services is increasingly difficult. At the CM Summit, we’ll cut through the clutter and offer up the very best and brightest for two robust days of case studies, insightful one-on-one conversations and compelling introductions of new products, start-ups and services.
Please join leading agencies, marketers, platforms and entrepreneurs in our industry’s most rigorous and thought-provoking annual gathering, the Conversational Marketing Summit.
Early-bird registration is open until April 22. Don’t wait, this event always sells out.
I look forward to seeing you in New York in June.
A very special thanks to our sponsor partners who make all this rich conversation and exploration possible: RIM, Google, Quantcast, Demand Media, Pandora, R2integrated, Slideshare,Yahoo, AOL, Mobile Roadie, Spiceworks and Ustream.

Go Forth And Invest

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This headline caught my eye this morning: US VCs Raised $7.7 Billion In Q1, Highest Influx In A Decade. Of course, if you‘ve been following the news in our industry, you know there’s a raging debate on over whether we are in “another bubble.” This news will of course be interpreted as evidence that, in fact, we are back to bubbly levels…after all, one decade ago was when we had our last big hurrah, right? When VCs gave mostly incompetent founders way too much money, and the whole thing came crashing down around us.

Well, yes….and ten years ago, there was no way our industry, social culture, or technological infrastructure was ready for the big ideas VCs wanted to fund.

This time, I believe, is different.

There, I said it. Now go invest those billions, VCs, and go spend them, entrepreneurs. It’s about time we believed again.

Though, I must admit, the constant specter of the dot com bubble is a healthy thing – it keeps most of us focused on creating value, rather than simply scheming on how to make a quick buck.

Watch This Space: The Next Generation of "Social Networks" Won't Look Like Facebook.

By - April 07, 2011

Lately in talks and private conversations, I’ve been thinking out loud about the role of Facebook in our lives. It’s an extraordinary service (and company), and deserves its extraordinary valuation. But its approach to our “social graph” is limiting, as I and others have pointed out quite a bit.

While in Mexico I had the chance to sit with a couple of entrepreneurs who have an idea I feel is deeply *right* about social networking, and it couldn’t be further from how Facebook works today. I can’t outline what the idea was, but I can say that it hit the same nerve, that we are on the precipice of entirely new ways of thinking about our relationship to others as leveraged over digital platforms, and while Facebook may well be the oxygen or the landmass of this ecosystem, it won’t be the entire ecosystem itself.

To that end, this piece in TNW hits on some parts of what I’m on about. In it, the author writes:

Just as Google had early dominance in lighting up a portion of the web, Facebook has early dominance in lighting up a portion of the world’s social graph. But much like the Dark Web, there exists network upon network not yet graphed by Facebook, waiting to be mapped, organized, and optimized for communication.

I agree, and think there are many, many new places to create value here.

Guy's Enchantment

By - April 03, 2011

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I’m a Guy Kawasaki fan, so this isn’t really a “review” as much as an appreciation for his new book Enchantment. I read it over this weekend, it’s the kind of book you could skim in an hour, or spend a lot of time with. I fell somewhere in the middle, stopping every so often to consider his advice and apply it to situations I find myself in all the time. (Disclosure: Guy works with my company FM in various ways, but I’m writing this mainly because Guy, in his enchanting way, asked me to blog my thoughts here.)

Enchantment is, in essence, a book of simple advice for succeeding in business, and I found myself agreeing with most of it. Guy is a folksy writer and he loves simple anecdotes, the book is full of them. I rolled my eyes when he encouraged us to “make a checklist,” or to smile when meeting someone, and smile with integrity at that. But he’s right, and I realized that every time I see Guy, or see pictures of him, he’s got the real deal smile working, and it really does work to put whoever he’s meeting into an open frame of mind.

Another little gem was his advice to get to know the public person you are about to meet with. I tell my sales team this all the time – nearly everyone in our business has a public face – flickr and twitter streams, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, etc. I’m always astounded when folks don’t take the time to get to know the people they’re trying to do business with. There’s almost always a shared story, passion, or anecdote buried in someone’s public lifestream, and taking the time to pay attention to that is always appreciated.

Guy wraps up all his advice in the concept of being “enchanting,” and I get the idea, but it seems to me it comes down to another simple rule: Be a good, highly engaged person, and expect those you work with to be the same. He ends the book with a warning about how not to become enchanted by those who seem to follow his advice, but are in reality just snake charmers. As we all know, there are plenty of those folks out there as well.

Many would benefit from reading Enchantment solely for Guy’s chapter on managing Twitter, he’s clearly a master at it. He follows that with advice on most of the other major platforms (Facebook, blogs, etc), and these alone would justify the purchase, to my mind. Get Guy’s book, it’s worth the investment.

Google "Head End" Search Results: Ads as Content, Or…Just Ads?

By - March 30, 2011

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Today I spoke at Sony HQ in front of some Pretty Important Folks, so I wanted to be smart about Sony’s offerings lest anything obviously uninformed slip out of my mouth. To prepare I did a bunch of Google searches around Sony and its various products.

Many of these searches are what I call “head end” searches – a lot of folks are searching for the terms I put in, and they are doubly important to Google (and its advertising partners) because they are also very commercial in nature (not in my case, but in general.) Usually folks searching for “Sony Tablets” have some intent to purchase tablets in the near future, or at the very least are somewhere in what’s called the “purchase funnel.”

I was struck with the results, so much so I took a screen shot of one representative set of results. In traditional print, we used to watch a metric called “Ad Edit Ratio” very closely (as did the government, for reasons of calculating postal rates). Editors at publications lobbied for low ad edit ratios (so they’d get more space to put their content, naturally). Advertising executives lobbied for higher Ad Edit ratios (so they could sell more ads, of course). We usually settled somewhere around 50-50 – half ads, half editorial.

Google is way lower than that, on any given search. But not for head end searches. In fact, as a percentage of actual “editorial” (organic search results) versus “paid”, it’s pushing towards 35/65 or more, at least when you measure the space “above the fold” on a typical screen.

Then again, in the case of AdWords, one could argue the ads are contextually relevant and useful.

Just felt worth pointing out, if for no other reason as to add a page to the historical record of how the service is evolving. Once “media” adwords start taking over, this picture may well change again, and it might not be a change that folks like much.

+1: Google Figures Out a Way To Leverage Search.

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Google today did something smart in social – they offered a human way to do something they had already offered – the ability to indicate your approval of a search result. Previously, you could push a result up or down, but that action was not social in nature. Now you can “+1″ a search result, so as to indicate the result was good and/or valuable to you. That recommendation is then translated to others in your social graph.

Cool! But I sure wish it integrated with Twitter, at the very least. And man, it’d sure be powerful if it worked with Facebook. Wouldn’t it, now?! But from what I can tell, that will NEVER happen.

Instead, “+1″ is going to become Google’s version of the “Like” button from Facebook – the post is very direct about this:

But the +1 button isn’t just for search results. We’re working on a +1 button that you can put on your pages too, making it easy for people to recommend your content on Google search without leaving your site.

Because it’s directly tied to Google’s most powerful asset, search, I think this move has some serious legs. Site owners will want to put the button on their site – even if they have no idea how or even *if* those “+1s” will aid ranking in organic Google search. I can tell you this: Spammers will have a field day with this one, though I imagine the button will be gated in some way (perhaps to push it, you have to be logged into a Google account). In any case, it’s a smart way to leverage Google’s core strength.

Game on.

(BTW, over at Boing Boing, we’ve used “+1″ as a way to indicate agreement in email threads for years, a remnant of older email systems long since forgotten. That practice is alive and well at FM as well. Funny how Google picked up on the same notation.)

Recent Signals

By - March 28, 2011

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I’ve fallen down in my promise to RSS readers out there (all 250K+ of you). I told you I’d post summaries of my Signal work each week, and it’s been more like each month. Well, here’s an attempt to rectify my failure, below, the past seven Signals. I’ll try to do this more often.

Monday Signal: The Moral Corporation?

Friday Signal: TGIF, no?

Thursday Signal: Yahoo’s Not Done Searching; Why Color Matters

Weds. Signal: Don’t Sell Out Your Twitter, Man

Tuesday Signal: Eat Yer Bran, Folks

Monday Signal: And Then There Were Three

If it suits your information consumption goals, sign up for Signal’s RSS or email newsletter on the FM home page (upper right box).