Posts Tagged ‘Google’

The Internet’s Destiny: Five Truths

February 23, 2009

I’m honored that yesterday, Louis Gray – an extremely prolific and well respected social media observer and commentator – named Dawn’s Plan as one of his “five new blogs to watch.”  Since I’m getting new readers here because of it (Thank you, Louis), I thought I’d state my basic beliefs that inform everything I write about here.

 1) Business Models must be Distributive

The Digital Age is inherently about undoing the most egregious economic imbalances created by the Industrial Age, not creating more of them.  There is little difference between getting obscenely rich off the backs of others and getting obscenely rich off the brains and hearts of others. 

To his credit, Mark Zuckerberg recognized the value of each person’s social graph.  To his failure, he has yet to acknowledge that your social graph belongs to you and you should be compensated for its use.

Zuckerberg is a billionaire on paper while the Facebook membership that makes the network valuable earns nothing.  I predict Zuckerberg’s paper wealth will never be realized, because obscene concentration of wealth generated by exploiting others goes against what the Internet is naturally meant to be.

2) Advertising Distribution must be in the Hands of Users

Except for Search, Internet advertising doesn’t work.  It will never work when it is thrust upon us, because it is kneejerk to despise and easy to ignore.  Online advertising must be willingly accepted to be effective.  This demands taking ad distribution control away from advertisers and giving it to consumers.

Closed ad networks that pollute the Internet and do little to help the advertisers themselves will inevitably be replaced by open networks which offer ads that may be taken by users and placed on their own pages – if it is a product or service they wish to help promote.  This power shift will make corporations more accountable and will lead to higher quality ads and products.  Also, people will be less fearful of buying when they have recommendations from friends, family and coworkers. 

Placing ad distribution in the proper hands will thereby help our economy rebuild from the bottom up, as trust is injected back into the system and people start consuming again.  So by giving up power to distribute ads online, companies will gain.  At least the ones that are worthy will.   The others can die a quicker death and quit wasting resources that can be freed for better concerns.

3) Free must be replaced by Free plus Compensated

Free has been a collective disaster.  We obviously cannot move from an industrial economy to a digital economy (which we must do to survive) if there can be no transfer of digital goods and services for money.  That’s what an economy is.

4) Everybody must have a Place at the Digital Table, despite their Talents and Geography

Let’s face it, when it comes to making a living, the Internet has so far mostly benefitted left-brained people and has too often devastated right-brain people.  While geeks’ opportunities and incomes have exploded, creators like reporters, photographers, cartoonists and other writers and artists have lost their jobs and incomes.2008-05-01

Trade in digital goods and services holds the promise of allowing great numbers of people all over the world to make a living without raping the environment, but this can happen only if doors are opened to allow in all skills and talents, not just coding ability.

5) Google’s Domination is Unhealthy and Potentially Treacherous

Yeah, I don’t like Google.  Their hegemony rivals that of ancient Rome.  The good news is that Google is much more vulnerable than people think.  Their lion’s share of online ad revenue won’t last once the above four tenets are inevitably manifested.  The only unknown is exactly how long it will take.

If you want more details about any of these, I suggest you check out my archive.  You can also subscribe to my feed.

I hope you will stick around and give me your input.  I appreciate your comments and welcome discussion about how best to spur the Internet towards its natural destiny, for everybody’s benefit.

Microsoft, Yahoo, Google – What They Need are Editorial Cartoonists!!

December 11, 2008

Back in the Spring, cartoonist Matthew Meskel (who lives here in the Portland area, too) and I were experimenting with a comic strip.  At some point along Swig’s path, we’re going to launch something like it as “Swiggle: the official comic strip of Swig the Social Market.”  He’s going to draw it and I and Swig employees will write it (with Matthew’s input, too, of course).  It will be based on actual things that are happening within the company.

I thought of it today because I was writing on FriendFeed that I wish websites (and other companies!) could/would hire cartoonists.  Somebody had kindly pointed me to editorial cartoons at investors.com, but that’s the online edition of the daily print newspaper Investor’s Business Daily.  If any website-only publication or social network has its own dedicated cartoonist, I don’t know about it – unless it’s the owner himself, of course.  Like Chris Pirillo writes a gag cartoon for his own site (or at least he was…I’m not sure about the current status of that).  If you know examples, please point us to them in the comments.

Of course, it would take something like a TechCrunch to afford its own cartoonist.  But I think it would be a great investment.  Cartoonists have long proven their ability to attract readers and keep them loyal. 

Imagine being a cartoonist going out on location with a company’s CEO, or to industry conventions with the marketing department, and so on.  I flew cartoonists Alan Gardner and Keefe Chamberlain to a geek conference in Seattle in August of 2007.  They drew editorial-type cartoonists of what was happening on stage.  It was an experiment that went over well.  They did a great job and we had a fun time.

Here is an example of a gag Matthew and I did about an introductory meeting I had with Marshall Kirkpatrick of Read Write Web.  I had had a second mastectomy in March and just got my new prostheses.  Nobody I knew had seen them yet.  So, yes, I really did ask Marshall this.  It’s a true story.  He was a great sport. J

2008-04-21

I think Microsoft should hire its own cartoonist!  And Google.  And Facebook.  And on and on – for company blogs and newsletters and annual reports and bathroom walls.

If nothing else, doing so will put a human face on the company and make you stay more humble and open to criticism, even if gags are only used internally.  There’s nothing like being forced to laugh at yourself to knock down arrogance barriers.

What if the CEO’s of GM and Ford and Chrysler had had good editorial cartoonists following them around and getting feedback from customers these past several years?!  Hey, we probably wouldn’t have to be bailing them out now!  And that’s no joke.

Cartoons are powerful.  They’ve taken down governments.  Unless you’re a dictator, you should be using them.  Do your company a favor and hire a cartoonist.

The Next Calvin and Hobbes vs. The Next Google: 5 Tips

December 5, 2008

calvin-and-hobbes 

In the cartoon world, everybody wishes to create “the next Calvin and Hobbes.”  In the tech world, it’s “the next Google.”  I think each world can learn things from the other that can help you in your efforts as you develop a comic strip or a startup idea.

Being from both worlds, here are my TIPS FOR SUCCESS:

1.  My strip/startup is all about [insert one word].

You need to find the essential human core to whatever it is you’re doing.  Calvin and Hobbes wasn’t fundamentally about a little boy with a big imagination.  It was about friendship.  One word.  Google, obviously, is about search.  Note how much stronger “search” is than “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible.”

Find your essence.  Make sure it’s a fundamentally human one, and stay focused on it alone during development.  You should be wrapping everything else around it, like characterizations and UI design.  Make it your DNA, not something you try to tack on or discover later.

2.  Don’t be a plagiarist; forget about building a better mouse trap.

When I think about the mountains of money that have been squandered trying to out-Google Google, it makes me want to cry.  Or scream.  If you take “the next [whatever]” literally, you’re bound to fail.  Once anybody has reached the point of being the noun in that phrase, it’s too late to try to compete with them on their playing field with their ball.

Even Calvin and Hobbes’ retirement didn’t open the door to another strip that was like Calvin and Hobbes.  Believe me, tons of people tried.  There were so many C and H knock-offs hitting syndicates and newspapers after Bill Watterson quit the strip that opening the mail became a running joke about “What does Calvin look like today?”  (sometimes Calvin!) and “I haven’t seen a giraffe yet…no wait, here he is.”  Even the few good ones that came through were thrown in the trash.

Google won search years ago.  Let them have it.  Search is not the end-all and be-all of the Internet, despite what you probably think.  It’s dominated the past ten years, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something else that can dominate the next ten.  I guarantee that the next Google will not be about search.

3.  Develop it from the beginning to be mainstream.

I believe that the almost universally accepted strategy of attracting early adopters and then hoping to go mainstream is a big mistake.  You need to understand the mainstream from the beginning and develop to it.

Google wasn’t about attracting early adopters.  They created something that anybody and everybody could enjoy.  Ditto Calvin and Hobbes.

Sure, you can make a lot of money out of the mainstream.  Look at Scott Adams.  He’s become a multimillionaire and good for him.  It’s great success that any cartoonist would be very proud of.  But even Dilbert doesn’t come close to the prestige of Calvin and Hobbes.  And IMO, Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter, MySpace…none of them can ever hope to match Google’s success, because they were not created from the very beginning to be mainstream.

4.  Know who all your different customers are and design in their various needs.

Almost all cartoonists who would like to get rich in syndication make the mistake of thinking comic strip readers are their primary customers.  They aren’t.  Newspaper editors are.  They’re the ones who buy the comics.  They’re the ones who are the gatekeepers and who supply the compensation.

This is why “we can worry about the business model later” is such a fallacy.  To me, that’s like building the Trump Tower without concern for the need of plumbing or electrical, thinking you can add it in later.

Whether serendipitous or deliberate, advertising is part of Google’s DNA.   If you don’t build in the business model, you don’t have a business much less the next Google.  If you don’t understand the needs and limitations of newspaper editors, even if “end users” would bust a gut laughing over your cartoons, you’ll never have the next Calvin and Hobbes.

5.  Remember that what’s most important is not what you think.

If you gathered people to judge a group of cartoonists’ ability to create a Calvin-and-Hobbes-type success, their criteria would undoubtedly be how well the cartoonist draws.  They would be overly impressed and carried away by great art and underwhelmed by a cartoonist who draws relatively poorly.  And the group would likely pick the wrong guy. 

Sorry, it’s not the art that’s most important.  It’s the writing.

I believe this is why there are so few successes with venture capital.  Non-geeks judging geeks are too impressed by the technology.  Perhaps geeks judging geeks are even worse! 

Sorry, it’s not the technology that’s most important.  It’s the anthropology.

Why is it the writing and the anthropology?  Because it’s people using the product that matters most, and they care about their own desired end result, not whatever it is that brought them to it.  They want the easy laugh.  They want the easily found document.

Scott Adams beat out business cartoonists who can draw much better, because of his superior writing. Twitter is beating more technically sophisticated (and reliable) micro-blogging platforms because of anthropology. 

The next Calvin and Hobbes will be superior in both writing and art.  The next Google will be superior in both technology and anthropology. 

Too bad Silicon Valley only respects the former.  They’ve left the latter to be fallen into by accident.  But that’s okay…it just gives me more opportunity to create the next Google myself. 😉

I hope this helps when developing your own endeavors.  Good luck!

 

Save Digital Artists Video – Taking on the Google

December 2, 2008
by Keefe Chamberlain and Dawn Douglass

by Keefe Chamberlain and Dawn Douglass

If not for the American pharmaceutical industry, I wouldn’t be alive today and my husband would have died a year sooner than he did.  So I am deeply appreciative of their many benefits and grateful to all the people who make up the industry.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like everything that “Big Pharmaceutical” does.

And so it is with the tech industry.  I hold the tech world in high esteem; I appreciate the many products and services that have come out of it, and on a personal level, I really enjoy geeks.  I love their enthusiasm, a trait inherent to the very word “geek.”  And I admire their many capabilities.  But that doesn’t mean that I have to like everything “Big Tech” does.

No, I’m not a big fan of Google.  Their lust for hegemony rivals that of the Romans.  And they don’t seem to care at all who is hurt along their conquering path.  In fact, there are less destructive, more successful ways for them to earn money than by destroying media via their black-hole-suck-up-of-all-ad-dollars to themselves.  But they enjoy being “disruptive.”  It’s a badge of honor in the tech world to create something that can be destructive.  It means you’ve made something important, something that can earn money by taking it from somebody else who was too fat and complacent to seek a new and better way themselves.  As an entrepreneur myself, not to mention a longtime ambition-nurturing mom, I say when this happens: Good for you!  Go for it. 

But when you get to be the size and power of Google, that “aww, look how cute” quality of a growling puppy has long past.  The founders of Google themselves knew how dangerous they could become.  Very early on, they created the motto “Don’t be evil.”

Destroying the livelihood capacity of large chunks of artist segments like illustration, photography and cartooning… no, I wouldn’t call that evil.  That’s unintended collateral damage from doing business.  But a deliberate multimillion dollar lobbying effort?; a purposeful money grab against “starving artists” who don’t have the financial means to successfully fend off this cowardly indirect and publicly silent attack?; stealthily using the current greedy give-us-money-and-we’ll-strip-anybody-of-their-rights Congress as the weapon of choice? 

Yeah, that’s evil.

The Orphan Works Bill that Big Tech is lobbying hard for is nothing short of a mobster-like protection racket: “If you don’t pay me to protect you from thieves, I’ll take all your work myself, wrap ads around it, and get my money from you that way.”

Mark my words, Google: when you look back in ten years and wonder where it all went wrong, you can point to the Orphan Works Bill of 2008.  Because you’ve awoken a sleeping giant.  The artist world is going to resurrect itself hand-in-hand with those tech-geeks who have artistic hearts.  And there are plenty of them, believe me.  We’re going to start fighting back.  Hard.  And we’ll hit you where you live: advertising.  Ultimately, we’re going to be victorious, because we humans can produce the content all ads need to be successful.  Your massive machine, as impressive as it is, can only steal it.

Want to learn more?  Watch my video on saving digital artists of all kinds: