March 29th, 2012, 8:20am, Castro Street When he regained consciousness, Chris found himself bloodied and bruised, being loaded into an ambulance. He had no idea that his life had permanently changed. Because, a few days later, an elderly man he had hit with his bicycle would die of injuries sustained in the accident. News would go viral internationally, including articles in the New York Times and Forbes magazine. The District Attorney of San Francisco would see Chris’s case as an opportunity to send a message to the city’s cyclists.
But this isn’t a story about cycling. It’s about criminal justice. It’s about prosecutors manipulating the press in order to deprive defendants of due process, where facts get misconstrued and inaccurate details leaked. It’s about social media whipping public opinion to a frenzy, giving DAs fodder for political gain. It’s about what really happens behind the headlines: who wins, who loses, who plays fair—and who doesn’t.
Bikelash is a story chronicling Chris’s role in a fatal bicycle-pedestrian accident. These 107,000 words are based on court transcripts, emails exchanged with his attorney, and Chris’s in-the-moment journaling from immediately after the accident until he pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter eighteen months later.
Ok, so not the logo itself. I’m not an idiot who thinks it was a well-designed logo or that crowdsourcing is healthy for the design community. Let’s just dispense with that whole faction of this debate right now.
There’s a another side of this debacle I’d like to explore instead.
I posit that we’ve all fallen into a trap by getting enraged about Gap’s new logo and how much it sucked. Why? Because that’s exactly what they wanted us to do.
Any press is good press, right? Well, in this social-media-ridden world where every two-bit wonk has his own soapbox, that phrase should now read: “any trending topic is a good trending topic.”
The logo not only had Gap trending for weeks, but it inspired so much passionate vitriol that someone even built a web application to allow you to “crap” your own logo. These logos spread to people’s Facebook and Twitter avatars, blogs, web sites. I’m just waiting for “Gap Logo Sucks Freeze-Dried Donkey Bollucks,” the song. The t-shirt. The TV mini-series. Jeez, enough already.
How many web applications were built in honor of the original Gap logo?
I can’t prove that Gap (and Laird & Partners) intentionally duped the social media community into talking about (almost nothing but) their astoundingly shitty logo for weeks.
Perhaps it was a happy accident for Gap. Perhaps it was a bit more Machiavellian than that. We may never know. But one thing is indisputable: it worked.
Today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 68th birthday. Musically, politically, emotionally and spiritually, he has probably had more of an impact on me than any other human being whom I never knew personally.
As I was perusing YouTube today looking for some footage of him that I hadn’t seen already, I found that he was a pretty sage businessman as well. In his 1982 appearance (with Bob Weir) on The Letterman Show (full video embedded below), David asked him why he allows taping of his live shows when it obviously leads to fewer commercial sales of their official recordings. His response?
The shows are never the same. Ever. And when we’re done with it, they can have it.
Jerry was the not the creative force behind the lyrics of most of the music he played. Of their 420 original songs, only maybe 75 or 80% were truly originals; many others were adaptations of traditional bluegrass, folk or blues songs (in much the same fashion as Led Zeppelin, at least as it pertains to the blues). On the remaining originals, poet/lyricist Robert Hunter wrote the words and Jerry composed the music.
However, Jerry really did have an uncanny efficiency with his words, packing in multiple meanings into short, pithy phrases. In his response to Letterman, he’s really saying (at least) all of the following:
No, it’s not impacting our record sales negatively
The experience of seeing The Dead live is dramatically different each time
I don’t own the music once I have released it from my being; rather, by playing it live, I set it free to be enjoyed by whomever is listening
In many ways, this philosophy actually results in more record sales
No price tag can be assigned to the value of the community of fans that has grown organically around our music and our culture
These lessons are raft with really important business advice, especially since we’re living in the age of social media. In many ways, Facebook, Twitter, et. al. have created communities that are just like the traveling circus of hippies that followed The Dead (and, later, other jam bands like Phish) on their tours, perhaps without as many drugs nor as much free love nor rock’n’roll and certainly a bit more personal hygiene. Okay, so maybe they’re not really that much alike.
But the sense of belonging to something larger than oneself is the same.
How else can account for the explosive growth of Deadheads, the community around Burning Man and social sites like Facebook?
So, in this age of social media and utter disregard for things like “copyright” and End User License Agreements, how can musicians/bands, restaurant owners and other small businesses still manage to make “good bread” (as they called it in the 60s and 70s) in this age of the internet where everyone feels entitled to get nearly everything — music, software, etc. — for free?
The answer lies in Jerry’s response to Letterman.
Give away as much as you can.
Think of the community around your business as a empty field. It needs to be tilled, seeded, watered and fertilized before you can reap the benefits of the harvest. Giving your products away for free is akin to planting your seeds. Engaging with your online community is akin tending to your crops. Selling your products and services is akin to harvesting your fields and selling the goods at the farmer’s market.
But you can’t get to the farmer’s market if you’re not taking good care of your farm.
I’ve heard this argument before. Someone told me once that consultants should take a page out of the professional chef’s playbook (pardon the mixed metaphor). Take for instance, Hawaiian master chef Roy Yamaguchi, the creative force behind Roy’s restaurants. If you buy his cookbook, you will have nearly all of Roy’s recipes, free for you to make at home any time you want. But will you still eat at his restaurant? You betcha!
So what do you think? How does this apply to your business? Can you think of ways that you could give away the goods and still make money? I’d love to hear stories of how you’ve tried this and it has worked for you (or hasn’t), so please leave a comment if you’d like to share.
Why is it irresponsible? Well, before I break it down for you, let’s take a few journalism lessons from Robert Scoble, who explains why Flipboard (an iPad application that turns RSS feeds into a magazine-like layout) is superior to the one-item-after-another streams of information that we’re used to browsing on the Facebook news feed, Twitter, etc. He writes:
“I remember that early eye tracking research showed that pages that had a single headline that was twice as big as any other headline were more likely to be read. Same for pages with photos. If you put two photos of equal size on the page, it would be looked at less often, or less completely, than a page that had a photo that was at least twice as big as any other.
I won a newspaper design contest in college because of this my designs made sure that they included headlines that were twice as big as any other and photos that were twice as big as any other.”
MSNBC used these exact techniques to spin an oh-so-scary story about an alleged Facebook privacy breach. This first screen shot is what I could see on an average (15″) monitor “above the fold.” (You can click the image to see it in actual size.) Note the massive font used for the headline and the four tiny images. Keep in mind that some internet users don’t know how to scroll (really, I’m not kidding), so by not showing a broken line of text at the bottom of the page, many people won’t know that the rest of the article is even there, let alone how to get to it.
If you endeavor to read past the headline, you’ll notice that they “end” the story with more scary talk from the alleged “hacker” and hide the final three paragraphs behind this completely absurd “Show More Text” link, which serves no purpose other than to obscure the truth, which is in the final (that’s right, the very last) paragraph of the article:
“No private data is available or has been compromised. Similar to a phone book, this is the information available to enable people to find each other, which is the reason people join Facebook. If someone does not want to be found, we also offer a number of controls to enable people not to appear in search on Facebook, in search engines, or share any information with applications.”
So, if I were to email MSNBC and tell them that I was “a researcher” or “a white-hat hacker” and I had discovered a huge scam — “You see, these conspirators from Yellow Pages have been collecting and amassing all this private data and delivering it to everyone’s doorstep!” — they would think I was completely insane. Well, change “Yellow Pages” to “Facebook” and “delivering it to everyone’s doorstep” to “making available for download” and I think you see my point.
So how did MSN get away with posting this completely absurd story? To understand that, we need to look at their demographic. I went to Alexa.com to find out. As I had guessed, their readers lean toward females of the Baby Boomer generation and up. The same people who don’t know how to change their default settings in their default browser (IE6) on their default operating system (Windows XP) to anything other than MSN.com. Big suprise? No: MSNBC is preying on innocent victims by using psychological tricks to create phobias for things that they don’t understand. And there’s nothing scarier than the fear of the unknown.
The premise that the media is out to scare us all into staying home and buying more security systems/guns/etc. is not news; Michael Moore built a really compelling case against Big Media’s fear tactics in Bowling for Columbine in 2002. However, an interesting question to ask in 2010 is:
if Big Media is prone to Big Lies and Misinformation, can social media serve as an antidote?
In other words, can investigative reporting by “citizen journalists” help suss the truth out of all the lies?
To help answer the question, I turned to the 875+ comments on the article. To do some highly unscientific semantic analysis, I read a small sample to look for keywords were common in a neutral-to-favorable comment (information, private/privacy, security, people/friends, public) vs. what keywords where prevalent in a highly negative response (wrong, attention, fame, fraud, scam, boring, crap). Then I ran all the comment text through a histogram tool.
Unfortunately, the results of my study show that most comments were favorable by a ratio of over 5:1. However, it all goes back to to the demographic. After glancing at the TechCrunch coverage on this, it seems about 60-70% of the commenters call bullshit, which seems to be in line with a younger, male-dominated, tech-savvy demographic.
So what do you think? Can commenting/voting/Tweeting uncover the truth obscured though it is by the news outlets that report it? Or will we all just continue to propagate the monkey excrement that the mass media keep throwing at us?
On Wednesday the 18th and Thursday the 19th of November, 2009, Crowd Campaign will be exhibiting on the expo floor in Long Tail Pavilion Booth #2. Come by and say hi!
Today, Chris will be attending sessions and keynotes and, as is the case with every good conference, having great hallway conversations with his peers. Clinton Bonner, SVP of Sales and Business Development for Social Collective, Inc., will be joining Chris on Wednesday in NYC.
I know it feels like we just put the wraps on SXSW 2009, but Panel Picker Voting is already live for 2010! This year they’re using the Panel Picker to crowdsource session proposals for all three conferences: Music, Film and Interactive (whereas in the past it has only been used for Interactive).
As you well know, Social Collective, Inc., a company I started to serve the conference industry with better and more social software tools, provided the official social network and schedule builder for SXSW 2009. We’re on tap to provide that service again this year — in fact, the site is already live at my.sxsw.com. We have some exciting new features planned for this year, so stay tuned for announcements on that front as we get closer to the event.
So, even though we’re intimately involved with SXSW, I still have to EARN the privilege of speaking there. 30% of that is decided by YOU, the voters. So, in the name of shameless self-promotion, I must ask you to vote for my proposed talks (if you think they’re worthy):
SXSW Interactive: Developer from Mars Takes on Designer from Venus
Every great project needs a designer and a developer. Yet sometimes working side-by-side can be about as fun as pulling teeth. A veteran developer and a veteran designer use real-world anecdotes to spar on the dynamics that make it challenging for people in these two disciplines to collaborate effectively.
Neo-patronage: Can It Save the Music Industry?
Starting with the idea that all recorded music should be free (as in beer), I will explore the idea that a system of “neo-patronage” — think of the way European artists were commissioned during the Renaissance — can help reinvent the beleaguered music industry to ensure that artists can get fairly compensated in a world where music is free for consumers.
You have until Friday, September 4th at 11:59PM CST to cast your vote. Thanks for your support and see you at SXSW!
Join association thought leader Jeff DeCagna, Chris Hopkinson of DC-area startup DubMeNow and Chris Bucchere of The Social Collective for a free breakfast seminar entitled “Strategies for Association Success in the Era of Social Business” on Thursday, 4/9 in Alexandria, VA.
Registration is limited, but there are few spots left. Sign up now!
Continuing their efforts as fine purveyors of “awesomesauce,” those ebullient SocialFishes Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer interviewed Chris Bucchere of The Social Collective for an article in FORUM Magazine.