Archives For November 2007

“Facebook executives say the people who are complaining are a marginal minority. With time, Facebook says, users will accept Beacon, which Facebook views as an extension of the type of book and movie recommendations that members routinely volunteer on their profile pages.”

Why do they think they can get away with that? Because they were able to before. In September 2006, they came out with another horrible idea that was widely criticized: The Facebook Feed. And instead of getting rid of it, or changing course, they semi-apologized and then kept up with it. In the same sentence Zuckerberg claimed to care about the users’ feels and then defended the thing they hated:

…I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

That is, “I know your mad but we’re staying the course.” And Facebook pretty much got away with it. I know I’ve grown to tolerate the mindless streams of activity coming from my friends–it’s even alerted me of some things I would have missed out on. But it was the worst possible thing that could have happened to Zuckerberg because it lead him to overreach. This is the essence of Boyd’s Loop. Success now leads to failure to tomorrow because it provides borrowed time. It detaches you from reality.

Robert Greene:

“Whatever success you are now experiencing will actually work to your detriment because you will not be made aware of how slowly you are falling behind in the fast transient cycle. You think you are doing just fine. You are not compelled to adapt until it is too late. These are ruthless times.”

Unfortunately, Facebook’s success was based on something that cannot last: Compulsion. “Why would I quit over the Feed? It’s not that annoying and if I left, I’d lose all my data.” But that’s not how it was received by the perpetrator, they heard that they can do whatever they want and after the controversy settles, all is well. And as we see now with the backlash growing, it shows how dangerous getting exactly what you want can be.

Edit: Valleywag, as usual, totally misses the point: “Traffic has more value, at the moment, than user satisfaction.” Umair, does not.

Meditations Pt. 1

November 30, 2007 — 5 Comments

1. People will always root against you. Think of life as a race–do you stop and decipher the cheering? Or do you run through it, and let the noise blur into a solid wall of sound? If you can hear their discouragement, if you are resting long enough for someone to say “I don’t think you can finish,” then you are to blame, not them. Faster, faster, and focus. That is all you have.

Opening Up iTunes

November 29, 2007 — 4 Comments

Why doesn’t iTunes publish download statistics for each song? Amazon should do it too. YouTube does it. You know exactly how many times each video has been seen and what the rest of the world thinks about it. At the slight risk of a false-consensus I know that I tend to be more attracted to videos that have more views. And psychologically, informational cascades significantly alter how attractively people perceive things. Surely some of that is at play here. I am willing to accept that people like Avril Lavigne, but I tend to doubt that that music video drew 62 million views based on her stellar reputation for authenticity. It happened because people tend to like what other people like and the overwhelming choices of others give people a heuristic reference point.

Why not be open with the numbers? Why not remove any suspicion that a spot on the “Top Songs” list could be up for sale? Let’s cut out all the bullshit and just be honest: “This is what sells.” This is, for better or for worse, our culture. And let the contrarians and the cascaders go in which ever direction that they want.

Moves like this totally change the game. A lot of stuff would be disrupted. The New York Times Bestseller list might have to change (here’s why), Billboard would have to change, quarterly reports would have to change–because right now many records ship gold or platinum and then are returned–the whole business would be thrown temporarily for a loop. And those that clung to the old method look like they are hiding something.

It just seems simple: People like data. People make their decisions based on this data. Give it to them.

Followup to: Being Free from Perturbation Pt. 1 and Pt. 2

When Xerxes crossed the Hellespont on his way into Greece, the river surged up and destroyed the bridges he’d spent days building. And so he threw chains into the river, lashed it and branded it with irons. In preparation, he wrote a letter to a nearby mountain warning it that if it caused him the same trouble he’d “topple it into the sea.” How comical is that? More than that, isn’t it pathetic? I like Marcus’ line that “Why should we be angry at the world–as if the world would notice?”

You can fight and fight and fight and struggle but you’ll never change the fundamental nature of things–that you are a person and the world is an enormous, goalless entity that doesn’t care about you or your well being. And neither do other people.

That’s not to say you can’t thrive in it, or that it doesn’t want you there–(it doesn’t care either way) but you’ll never change that. Perturbation, remember, is interruption or disorder. How can you be interrupted if you aren’t speaking when something else is trying to talk? And how can you have disorganization forced upon you if you’ve already embraced simplicity? Just breathe, and cede control. It’s not just a business strategy, it’s a lifestyle.

Of course, this isn’t easy either. The idea that you should relinquish a little to something bigger than yourself is almost antithetical to you’re “supposed to do.” But I found that when things start to get tumultuous–when I feel like a blowup might be coming or I might be close to fucking up–it goes away when I just stop doing. It’s not encouraging for the ego to understand that problems resolve themselves better without your help but if it works, it works. Try it. Just take 24 hours off from trying; don’t email, don’t call, don’t express your opinion on anything and see if your position gets better or worse. That is ceding control. That is the world (your world) telling you that it doesn’t need you as much as you think.

Seneca, a hypocrite too, wrote “What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.” Beginning. It is a process. One of ceasing to be your enemy and starting to be your ally. That means abandoning the things that make you feel like you’re “helping” in exchange for the true focus on the things that actually produce results.

“Disdain the things you cannot have.” Learn to laugh at the things you hate rather than screaming at them–at lashing the water in a river. How well you teach the world a “lesson” in one instance doesn’t transfer over to another, just like the mountain wasn’t deterred by punishment of the Hellespont. All I have is me. Does it infuriate me that someone takes up two parking spots by themselves instead of pulling all the way to the edge of the curb? Of course, but all I can do is to not make that error myself. I hate it when people are late so I am almost always on time. I’ve shown them the respect that even if they don’t return it, allows me to respect myself. And I certainly note the transgression. It doesn’t make them anymore on time if I sit their and grind my teeth in rage as I wait. I’m the one who becomes miserable, I am the one that loses.

So I think freedom from perturbation comes most simply from getting rid of the things you can be perturbed about and from understanding how minuscule you are in the midst of all the things around you. And to understand that not only can no one else hear the things going on inside your head, but if they did, they wouldn’t care because they’ve got their own voices too. All you have then is to be consistent to yourself–to have your actions align with your principles. Then you remove the dissonance that comes from internal and external contradiction; this has to be the first step towards peace and calmness.

New Sites To Read

November 27, 2007 — 1 Comment

This is a really good blog that looks at some of the strategy and politics behind hip hop. I don’t listen to rap music at all but that hasn’t been a problem as far as reading the site. The author is really clear and concise and he understands how new media is dramatically changing the music landscape beyond just downloading or pirating. And why do rappers matter? Because they’ve never been able to earn the same amount of money touring as other artists, they were forced to learn how to brand, proliferate and turn attention into cash through indirect means.

On Winning

It’s new but awesome. The writers apply Boydian (John Boyd) strategy to business and the internet. Boyd hardly wrote anything so any material that is even tangentially putting his thoughts into words is a godsend. I don’t know who the writers are or what their credentials are but they are smart and have a good grasp of Boyd. It’s just getting started but I like it.

Global Guerrillas

4th Generation Warfare is essentially internet theory applied to warfare. It takes decentralization, the long tail, system disruption, crowd sourcing, informational cascades and guerrilla tactics to understand how small, fluid organizations can wreak havoc on trained military experts. More than anything, this blog is on the cutting edge of that sphere and is making sense of it as it happens.

Ben is writing again if you lost track of him. You should read him.