Counting Wristwatches at the SNCR Conference

Note: this post is from Jun ’07. We’re reposting because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation.

I spent some time last week at the SNCR Symposium and Awards Gala at Harvard U in Cambridge, MA. One thing that always happens at these meetings is that the Researchers (I’m one) get to prognosticate about what’s coming down the pike re social media, new communications, the ‘net and such.

I think I was the only one with an actual cellphone, no camera, no internet, no media, no music, no twittering on the go.

Thankfully, my Ludditehood is still intact.

Questions investigated in a roundtable format included the future of print, who’s getting their news online, who’s getting their news mobline (online mobile), what’s the latest technology that will emerge and what will fade, …

Very interesting stuff.

analog wristwatchAnd it’s meetings like this that hammer into me the different set of filters I work with. I sat, watched and listened to my extremely intelligent and knowledgeable brethren and sistren and inwardly smiled. I was counting the number of net-savvy, on the edge, knowing the future people who were still wearing wristwatches. In fact, analog wristwatches. Not digital, and maybe quartz driven, but with analog faces.

There is a asymptotic ceiling to how much information the human mind can respond to from any interface. Cognitive theorists know this, and until we evolve further (and in the necessary direction) that asymptote is getting exponentially nearer (mathematicians grimace when I write or say things like that).

The wristwatch has survived for a very long time because of four simple design rules:

1) It is simple to use,

2) The information it presents is immediately actionable,

3) It is a wearable interface that doesn’t interfere with other routine daily functions and

4) It economically puts power into a large populations hands (or wrists).

I’ve been telling people for a long time that for all the latest technologies provide, not a lot of them will last. Remember when everyone had to have a digital watch? Do you know that record players are now considered the must-haves because the sound quality is (supposedly) so much better? Technology is wonderful and only when its benefits outweigh its detriments. Personal technologies are wonderful and won’t last unless they (as I said at a previous SNCR symposium and reference again in rule #4 above) put more power into people’s hands.

Mobile devices don’t quite live up to that promise. Yet. I know there are devices close to Dick Tracy’s watchphone. I understand that they’re not simple to use. Shucks. Lost on rule #1 above and require more power to use than they economically provide on a psycho-identity level (see Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History for more on this) so rule #4 is gone, too.

Bummer, dude.

I’m told that wristwatches are greatly on the decline with the young. They prefer to learn the time from their mobile devices. This means one of their hands is always going to be busy mobiling. One hand to hold the device, maybe another to push some button.

This is why digital watches faded. You needed two hands. If not to activate the display, then to light it. Not easy, economical power.

I also know that people purchase watches as they age. Perhaps to keep track of how little time they have left.

And I know that analog watches will catch on as we start to travel at light-like speeds. A little known fact from relativity; analog internals are the only timepieces that keep correct local time regardless of relativistic frame.

Maybe as people grow older they want to know the correct time at the Black Hole Bar&Grill?

So I performed a completely unscientific study

Anyway, I went from the SNCR meeting to the MIT MediaLab and then a walk from said MediaLab back to Harvard Square. I was counting wristwatches as I went along. Specifically on my walk back. About twice per block I would stop someone and say, “Excuse me, I need to get to Harvard Square by (some time). Can you give me directions and let me know if you think I’ll make it?

It was that last part that had the gold in it, so to write. It encouraged people to check their time to determine if I would be on time.

Generally true, there were fewer watches on the young than on the aged (one teenage Honduran gentleman had a most beautiful watch with Catholic symbolism on the band and face. Never saw anything like it and he was quite proud of it). Very true, watches existed on axes of age, gender and income level with income level driving down the age factor significantly. Amazingly true, younger people without watches showed you the time on their mobile devices rather than tell you the time.

Fascinating, that last part. The device is the truth, not the individual controlling the device.

I’ve seen this phenomenon before. In a bar. A couple of people were debating a sports issue, one fellow looked something up on his iPhone and presented the search result as the final arbiter of the truth.

The only problem was that I was sitting with some people who populated the site that was being iPhoned. We were talking about how unreliable their information was.


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The Stephane Hamel, Susan Bratton, Eric Peterson Convergence and more “Thoughts on Blogging”

Okay, I’m chuckling. I keep on thinking of that scene in Godfather III where Al Pacino’s character says “No sooner do I think I’m out then they pull me back in”.

Stephane Hamel read yesterday’s Thoughts on Blogging and offered [[an unfortunately lost]] sage comment, that historically blogs were meant to be personal journals and thus are more apt to be opinion and emotion rather than researched information.

Stephane’s comment caught me off guard. I always considered my BizMediaScience blog as personal, my AllBusiness.com blog as “business”.

I’ve also had enough training to know that anything anybody writes is going to be a demonstration of their personality unless they’ve had lots and lots of training (no, don’t worry, I know most of the people with that level of training and you’re not one of them).

Way back when I was studying (when haven’t I been studying? I mean “Way back when my study was more formal”) we did an exercise where everybody in the class had to write a story from an opposite gender perspective; men had to write from a women’s perspective, women from a man’s perspective. We turned the stories in anonymously (this was back when you either typed things up or printed them out. Nobody used emails for class work back then).

The purpose of the exercise was to determine if we could determine a) the true gender of the author and b) who the author actually was.

Interestingly enough, much of what I did in that exercise is currently being echoed in some responses I’m posting on Susan Bratton’s blog. I’m offering some suggestions for getting members to interact more on social sites and how the genders will interact differently.

Getting back to that class exercise, the true gender of the author was obvious to me, as was the author’s identity. Nobody caught me or mine.

I cheated, though. I used a trick. I knew (at the time) that I couldn’t rewire my brain from male to female orientation (now it’s much easier. Still no piece of cake, simply much easier (something I demonstrated recently during a training in NYC)). One of my teachers often described ways of using “levels of awareness” and “levels of abstraction”, something more colloquially stated as “Fake it until you Make it”.

So I didn’t write a story from a woman’s perspective. I wrote a story from what’s called “3rd person omniscient” perspective and added a twist — one of the characters had never encountered a woman therefore everything the female characters did was absolutely correct, right and true.

Women in the class were convinced that one of their own had cheated, had written from a woman’s perspective already being a woman. This wasn’t fair on a number of levels. Whoever she was, she had violated a basic tenet of the sisterhood by not letting her peers in on the scam. But they knew each other — it was imperative that we knew a great deal about each other in order to be in the program — and they knew (They knew!) that none of them would do such a thing.

I can’t tell you the amount of respect I got from both genders when the truth came out. I won’t tell you the number of dates I was invited on.

All of this plays into this thread (yep, I sew things up in the end).

I’ve always stated that I never hide my emotions, that I don’t play things close to the vest and that if anybody wanted to know what I was thinking all they had to do was ask. Eric Peterson read one of my posts and jokingly offered that I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Too true!

But in answering the questions on Susan Bratton’s blog and doing some research about the lack of readership on this blog I’ve come to realize several things about my brand of personalism.

One of the things I was going to write today for Susan is something she did today (I think it was today). She asked people to help her increase her readership in Rally for Suz: Help Me DOUBLE My DishyMix Audience. In my last post to her (not sure if she’s published it yet) I left off with “This form of reafference brings us back to “direct address” again.

Direct address is something NextStage and others’ research has indicated is a powerful motivational tool in social networks — simply asking people to take part. Works 99.99999% of the time and is an element of what NextStage talks about in our Full Day Training “Using the 10 First Contact Marketing Messages”.

Funny thing is, when I first started writing this blog, I was explicitly told not to comment on readership numbers or such or make requests such as those.

And I tend to do what people ask of me. If nothing else, it makes for good research.

By the way, that story I wrote was nominated for a Nebula Award. I think it was a Nebula. Some science-fiction, speculative-fiction award. I’ll run it here as a series of you’re interested. [[you can now read an anthology of my writings including the Nebula Award nominated Cymodoce in Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires or as the single Kindle story, Cymodoce.]]

Just let me know.

And keep it personal.


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Thoughts on Blogging

Ah, the freedom.

I’ve been doing some thinking about blogging since my liberation therefrom. That, of course, means research. My curiosity knows no bounds, I’ve been told.

I’ve wondered at my lack of number generation. I stopped writing for a online magazine because they wanted me to write “rants”. I remember when the editor-in-chief told me they were looking for rants I had to ask what she meant. Pretty much what she meant was “A rant or harangue is a monologue that does not present a well-researched and calm argument; rather, it is typically an attack on an idea, a person or an institution, and very often lacks proven claims.

“Some rants are used not to attack something, but to defend an individual, idea or organization. Rants of this type generally occur after the subject has been attacked by another individual or group.

“Rants are used often in situations requiring monologue. Comedians, such as Lewis Black or Rick Mercer, use rants as a way to get their message or punch-line across to the listening audience.”

I like Lewis Black’s comedy. Not sure if I’ve ever seen Rick Mercer. I also recognize (in Lewis Black’s case) that much of his rants are well researched. To me, it’s that research that makes it worth waiting for his punchline.

But the problem for me in ranting was the “…does not present a well-researched and calm argument; rather, it is typically an attack on an idea, a person or an institution, and very often lacks proven claims.”

Well, heck…why would I waste my time on a not well researched attack on someone or something, especially when they or it are not there to defend themselves?

So I began to wonder…

I don’t get a lot of comments on my blogs. I do get lots of emails about them. I compared what happens on my blogs to what happens on other people’s blogs. I have about 300 blogs in my reader, about 30 are from research institutions and are really updates on what they’re doing, who’s presenting, who’s coming and going. There’s not a lot of comments. I’d call them “news” feeds more than anything else.

There’s probably another 30 or so that are industry specific. Again, they’re more newsfeeds than blogs as I understand blogs. Another 30 or so are written by multiple authors or contributors.

I don’t follow any of these blogs daily. Heck, I don’t follow these blogs monthly. Or quarterly. I open up my reader every once in a while when there’s a break in my work and see what’s out there. “…a break in my work…” translates to maybe once or twice a year. I most often get my information from journals (Nature, Science, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Cybernetics and Human Knowing, Perception and Physical Reality, …).

When I do read through them, it goes pretty quick and mainly because most bloggers don’t offer a lot of information and do offer a lot of opinion.

Opinion again. I’ve studied how opinions form. I stay away from them the best I can.

So right now I’m answering some questions people sent in to Susan Bratton’s blog. It’s a fascinating exercise. I’ve been watching myself compose the answers.

Each response is basically a seminar in print. That’s not what I want, it’s simply that I don’t like offering an opinion unless I can back it up with lots of research.

Which means it’s not really my opinion. A few times people challenged my columns and I welcomed their input. Once or twice their challenges were what I recognize as rants. I thanked them for their thoughts. In all cases, I also posted the bibliographies for what I’d written. Never heard from any of them again.

Guess it’s a little harder to rant against someone who recognizes opinions for what they are and returns research in its place.

Sorry about that.


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Rocks, Hammers, Competition and How People Get Left Behind

Note: this post is from Jun ’07. We’re reposting because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation.

I’ve been talking with lots of people about what NextStage does, about our Evolution Technology, and about how I never wanted people to lose their jobs because of it. Ever since I made the first announcement about being awarded our patent, people have been walking up to me and saying things like “Well, there’s goes A/B and Multivariate testing” or “There goes web analytics as we know it” or “There goes marketing”.

It was never my intention to have people lose jobs or have industries go away. I am (at my core, probably) a tool maker. I recognize challenges and create tools to address those challenges.

I also make the tools I create available to anyone who wants to use them (and often at a sliding scale based on their ability to pay). Nobody gets it for free, though. That’s pretty well understood by anyone who asks me.

I also often talk about the history of technology, how tools change culture and, in environmental time, how tools change tool users.

Consider rocks, hammers and those who lost their jobs versus those who didn’t when this technology — a mass accelerated through a torque arc. That’s what both hammers and rocks are — changed.

You can think that the hammer put the rock out of the business of being a striking tool in flint based societies (“stone age”). The hammer’s advantage was it took less effort to do the same amount of work as a rock. Rocks had to be accelerated through the torque arc of the arm and lacked the ability to deliver constant impact strength to small areas (you usually had to swing your whole arm and you couldn’t do fine work).

The hammer could be accelerated by the whole arm. It could also be accelerated by the wrist and deliver close to the same impact strength. Also, because it was controlled by the finer muscles of the wrist, it could do finer work.

So the hammer put the rock out of business, yes?

The hammer put the rock out of business, no!

The hammer put people who refused to learn how to use the hammer out of business. People who learned how to use the hammer could also learn how to use the rock. The aboriginal people I’ve been with often start people with rocks when teaching them how to knap, then progress them up to primitive hammers as the student’s skills develop.

However, people who stop their education with the rock? It might be impressive to watch (it is. I’ve seen it) and the amount of time required to do the same amount of work with hammer or rock? Much longer with a rock. Much more expensive.

I won’t stop people from using rocks. I just think hammers are much more effective.


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Forget Influencers — the New Metric of Interest will be “Saturation Point

Note: this post is from Jun ’07. We’re reposting because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation, and noting how wonderful it is that NextStage’s research presaged information overload, how people would be responding and Millennials’ quest for “authenticity” way back when….

Lots of people (including yours truly) have talked about influencers and their value in social networks and social marketing. Basically, find the people who can influence the most others and win them to your side then turn them loose.

I still accept that model to a point.

The challenge is that I’m finally having another spurt of time to catch up on all the research we’ve done over the past few years, mostly our unpublished stuff, and I noticed something about influencers and their audience.

It’s one of those confluence things, a butterfly flapping its wings things.

Our information intensive culture is making influencers less…umm…influential. More correctly, it’s decreasing the amount of time an influencer can influence a given audience on a given topic.

People reach saturation points. Saturation points on everything. You can only be in the pool for so long. You can only drink so much milk. Saturation points are kind of where information mechanics meet aversion therapy.

Eat too much pasta in one day (for example) and you don’t want to look at another bowl of spaghetti for years. You even smell tomato sauce and you get nauseous. Drink too much coffee in one day and you can’t even stomach coffee ice cream. Listen to too many stories about food shortages and you start to either non-conscious tune them out or consciously change the channel. See too many news pieces on suicide bombers and you start to either reach the channel changer or walk out of the room when they’re on.

Strangely enough, its that same way with advertising and marketing. Only more so. You see an ad and it amuses you so you pay attention. Great! See that ad ten times in the course of an evening’s viewing and you’ll never buy that product or service again.

And now there’s the internet. So many voices saying so many things about all the same thing that you get a little numb. A saturation point occurs and you don’t want to hear, read, see or talk about that topic again. Even if it’s one you’re passionate about.

Saturation points are closely tied to traditional marketing concepts. You can reach a saturation point to print and still be receptive to radio, tv and internet broadcasts. You can reach a saturation point to radio and tv yet still be receptive to print and internet.

But because of the way our culture gets its information these days — the dominance of internet as the primary information channel among certain demographics (and more and more demographics as time marches on) – you get saturated on the internet and by golly you’ve shut down to everything else.

This is an amusing (to me) piece. People will reach multi-channel saturation points on the internet because (and I don’t know why) people still consider the internet as something more personal, more private, more uniquely their own than print, tv, radio and other forms of marketing.

Blimey! All that time companies spent working at giving site visitors more personalization abilities, more customization abilities? It turns out that site visitors really did start to consider their customized, personalized webpages as their own.

So how dare you, Mr. or Ms. Company, put your advertising on my webpage.

Oops. Goes beyond squashing that butterfly, don’t you think? Makes you want to exterminate the whole freakin’ species, doesn’t it?

Please contact NextStage for information regarding presentations and trainings on this and other topics.


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