For the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching the tech world go back and forth about Google’s latest creation, Google Glass. It’s been announced for a while, but the product has actually been shipped out to the lottery winners who wanted to pay 1500 bucks to test it out. If you’re not familiar with the product, it’s essentially a computer that you wear on your face like a pair of glasses. It projects a heads up display in the corner of your vision that enables you to see the weather, get directions, take video or pictures, you get the idea.
Once you look past the privacy issues and the dork factor of the design itself, as shown here, the possibilities of potential uses seems pretty interesting. I can imagine recipes being displayed while cooking, or breaking news headlines showing up as the stories happen. It’s making information even easier to access than our smartphones do. This can be good, as well as unnerving.
I’ve been thinking about all of the people now who bury themselves in their pocket computers as if there is nothing else that can possibly be more interesting going on around them (myself included). There are a bunch of reasons we do this that range from being neurotic about the possibility that you might miss replying to an @reply on your twitter feed within 5 seconds, or just using it as a distraction to avoid feeling uncomfortable in a crowded elevator. I think the biggest drawback to this phenomenon is our growing avoidance of human to human interaction, and heaven forbid making eye contact with the person in front of you. Can you imagine how this would grow exponentially if everyone had a computer feeding them information in the corner of their vision 100% of the time? Saturday Night Live commented on this pretty hilariously last weekend, but there is a lot of truth to the comedy.
Anyway, I understand that this is technology and cranky commentators (I don’t include myself in this bunch – usually I’m drooling over the shiny objects like everyone else) will whine every time a new gadget comes out – think tv. But I am a bit concerned about the reliance we have on these devices to feel connected to others. In some ways I imagine that in order to experience true empathy, people need people. With that said, I leave you with this incredible video that I ran across while researching this post. A lot of cars in Russia are now equipped with dash cams, think police cars over here in the states, and someone compiled this video of people just being awesome.
Anyway, let me know what you think.
My dad has a good friend who is a veterinarian. He once told a story about something his assistant said during a standard neutering job on an animal:
I’ve seen you perform that operation hundreds of times. I know it backwards and forwards. I’m positive I could perform it by myself.
The doctor understood that this was more a question than a statement, and responded accordingly:
I’m positive that you have the knowledge and skill to perform the operation as well. The difference between you and me, however, is that you don’t know what to do if something goes wrong.
GoDaddy’s recent server outage (1) was a great reminder that excellent work in good circumstances is no guarantee of satisfied customers. How your company handles problems might be the best test of your team:
Adversity cause some men to break; others to break records.
— William A Ward
The good news is that if your walls are shored for good and bad weather, you can use storms as an opportunity to remind people that you have their best interest in mind. If you’re really good, you do it with a dash of humor:
Click the image for a larger view.
* For the record, I think GoDaddy’s products and services are far from excellent and don’t recommend using them.
(1) You can read about how the GoDaddy outage affected small business here.
How many times have you heard talk about the dreaded ‘noise’?
The other day a friend of mine lamented about how digital camera prices have dropped to a point where ‘everyone’ is calling themselves a ‘professional photographer’ and its creating so much ‘noise’ in the industry.
But it seems to be everywhere – from startups releasing a product, to companies exploring social media, to ‘content strategy,’ to hundreds of people applying for the same job opening.
Everyone seems to be asking, “how in the world are we going to break through all of this noise and capture people’s attention??”
As I’ve thought through this subject, the first question that keeps surfacing is, ‘what exactly is this noise?’
This probably warrants a longer discussion, but here are a few thoughts:
â€¢ A lot of ‘noise’ is advertising…but that’s nothing new, right?
â€¢ People seem to be talking about a ‘new’ sort of noise, and much of the conversation seems to be centered on the internet.
â€¢ Whatever else is included, it seems to me that a sizable amount of this ‘new’ noise is people creating and sharing. Call it the ‘social web’ or whatever term suits you, but more people than ever are (publicly) writing, sharing photographs, making music, coding applications, interacting, reading, etc.
Those thoughts begged these questions: “Why do people talk about noise as an enemy? And is it really a bad thing?”
I think noise scares people because of this: it’s much more difficult to get noticed in in a room of 100 people than it is in a room of 10 people. (Got the next Twitter in beta? Awesome. So do a thousand other talented people.)
No one will contest the fact that standing out in a larger crowd is a difficult barrier to overcome – the reality is that our job got a whole lot harder, and is changing a whole lot quicker than it did before. I think that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. (It should probably make them hungry to learn.)
But I’m not convinced that a conversation about ‘breaking through the noise’ is the best way to think about what we do. After all, aren’t we making things and messages for many of the people who are creating that so-called ‘noise’?
I think we need to be asking these questions:
â€¢ Am I solving an actual problem or providing a better solution for people?
â€¢ Am I making every effort to produce remarkable things and communicate about them in remarkable ways?
Our jobs may be more complicated in the current marketplace, but if we weren’t willing to solve problems, come up with better solutions, or do the work of being remarkable before, any success would have been temporary even when there wasn’t so much ‘noise’.
My fiancÃ©e and I recently had a conversation about some of our experiences working retail jobs. The scenario was simple:
“If you had to work front-line retail at any store in the Mall [in Greenville, SC], where would you work?”
Her only caveat was that I was barred from choosing the Apple Store so that the remaining companies would have a more level playing field. (In case you were wondering, I’m a huge Apple fan.)
My response was well thought out. I talked about how I’d want to pick a company that sold a product that solved problems for customers, a something I could really get behind even if it wasn’t that exciting. I talked about people choosing to work at a company they liked versus choosing a store just to get discounts on merchandise they wanted. I talked about my strengths and where I might make a good fit.
And then she responded: “Wow, you really thought through that. I’d pick the store that multiple people have told me is the best one to work at.”
Your company’s values and quality of products are critically important, but they will eventually live or die by the way you value the people you hire to make them a reality.
And the word of mouth those people naturally spread will either breath life into the mission, or make it ring hollow.
I ran across two statistics recently that made me stop and think about predicting either success or failure too soon.
First, I read that last month The Daily iPad app celebrated having 100,000 subscribers in its first year of operation (1). “Interesting,” I thought, “didn’t people proclaim that The Daily was doomed to fail?” A quick search shows that many people did predict failure (2), and that some still aren’t optimistic about their future. The numbers tell a different story, though. The news source’s publisher, Greg Clayman, says that they’re on mark to be profitable more quickly than the average print publication start-up (3).
Time will tell, but with 100,000 paying subscribers and a path to profitability, The Daily doesn’t seem to be as big a failure as pundits guessed.
The next figure that caught my attention was related to MySpace. MySpace has been the butt of marketing jokes about social media for some time now. How many times have we heard that MySpace is dead!”?Â Again, though, the numbers tell somewhat of a different story. In a December 2011 comScore study (4), MySpace ranked #4 in unique visitors, beating out Tumblr, Google Plus, and Pinterest (I believe Pinterest has surpassed MySpace by now). The report is clear that MySpace traffic has steadily declined over the past two years, but the holding the #4 position in today’s social media obsessed world isn’t a rank to shake a stick at. It would seem to suggest that people still visit the site, and advertisers still pay to communicate with them.
Is MySpace dying? It would seem that way. But the numbers seem to show that it is far from dead.
Here’s the lesson I’ve been thinking about lately: success can’t live on expectation, and check the pulse before you say that something’s dead.