Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!


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The Complete “Who’s In Control?” Arc

Note: Another arc, this one eight posts long. Amazing, isn’t it?

Who’s In Control?

A friend told me he is in therapy because his life is out of control. Too many demands on his time. A cell phone and a pager and a PDA and children and a wife and a job and a …

I listened. I congratulated him on deciding this was a problem for him and seeking help. I didn’t want to tell him that his immediate solution to the problem — too many demands on his time — was to add another demand to his schedule — a regular therapy session.

People who work with me call me a workaholic. Another friend tole me last week that I’m always busy because I’m always doing something, always active. People have repeatedly either told me they’re amazed at what I’ve done in my life or asked how I could achieve what I have. Some of it is nature (my musical ability or lack thereof, for example) and some is nurture (a family and culture where solving problems and core elements of solutions was prized, a family of readers, homes full of music and song, a family and culture that taught by storytelling and process modeling).

There’s also the fact that I realized at a very early age I was different from my peers in ways I couldn’t explain. I’ve wondered, in retrospect, if this awareness I had has similarities to the young boy or girl realizing they’re gay.

Aside from the anatomical confusions that are part of adolescence, what are the external physical manifestations of what amount to completely functional yet decidedly differently neurologic structural adaptations to… what? Are the neurologic adaptations required to alter physiologic manifestations Nature’s way of testing a theory? Easy theory to test: are there more gay people per capita in the world now than elsewhen in recorded history?

If yes –> homosexuality is an adaptive model that is working for the here and now. If not –> then not.

The concept of adaptive modeling is a challenging one for many people. Especially those who don’t study how things evolve over time (my thinking? Everything evolves over time). Nature (like me, I guess) is always testing theories and providing solutions to problems. I’ve heard it said that the age of the dinosaurs was Nature testing whether big teeth and big muscles were the way to go and eventually decided no, they weren’t.

Who’s In Control? (part 2)

We left off wondering if big teeth and big muscles was an experiment that failed. Here we pick up with how Nature really tests theories…

Well, close and no cigar. Nature found a solution that worked in the environment of the time. As things changed, old solutions didn’t solve the new problems (something I’m hoping to communicate in my comments on Starting the discussion: Attention, Engagement, Authority, Influence, …, but that’s another blog entirely and literally) so come up with some new solutions. Right now it seems Nature is testing to learn if big brains (comparatively speaking) are an adequate solution to the current problems.

My guess (in this anyway) is that the cure is worse than the disease. Big brains seem to causing more problems than they solve (see The World Without Us for a good read on this subject). And big brains’ current run is something less than a million years. Dinosaurs had several million, at least two orders of magnitude the run of big brains.

So maybe, just as big teeth and big muscles evolved to insure a good, long run, so shall big brains.

Who’s In Control? (part 3)

Here we question if homosexuality is another one of Nature’s experiments.

So if homosexuality is a test on Nature’s part, so be it. I’ve mentioned a childhood acquaintance, Andy, before. One of my strongest memories of Andy involved a third child whom I’ll call “Robert”. Andy never played with Robert because, when Robert played house with little girls, Robert often offered to be the “wife”.

I still remember, when Andy told me of Robert’s role-reversal play, how Andy wrinkled his nose, how his lips and face tightened, how his body tensed. I realize now he was merely demonstrating something he learned from his family, didn’t realize it then (it was only third grade). The message was quite clear — Robert was diseased, somehow wrong and wrong in an incredibly terrifying way because, while Peter, another friend, had an obviously club foot, Robert had no outward signs of his deformity. You couldn’t be sure by looking if someone else was wrong the way Robert was wrong.

Oh my! Scary Scary!

Who’s In Control? (part 4)

Here we deal with some of childhood’s mysteries. Just as Robert’s tendencies weren’t obvious in the way Peter’s club foot was obvious, so my tendencies, my “wrongness”, wasn’t obvious to those I played with.

My grandmother Sadie, when I was two or three or so, use to call me her Little Professor (another very involved post dealing with obvious evidence that remains unseen) because I seemed to study every thing around me. Grandma Sadie rejoiced in my wrongness but Andy, when he shared Robert’s wrongness with me and I replied, “So?” because men did a lot of the cooking in my family and performed other “traditional female” chores (I still do my share of the cooking, do the laundry, vacuum, …) turned that same look of fear, disgust and repulsion on me. The unspoken “Oh, God! Not you, too!” was as wounding then as the pod person’s signaling of “Other! Alien! Stranger! Intruder!” in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Andy’s mother spent a lot of time on the phone with my parents attempting to understand me or have my parents get me the help I needed to be a normal child. She was a very sweet albeit extremely prejudiced woman. I wonder if Andy ever grew beyond her lessons. For that matter, I wonder if I have.

I’ve written before that I now make a living out of thinking differently. My different neurologic wiring, whether an evolutionary adaptation, a simple sport, a stray gamma ray or not, is something I’ve managed to turn to profit. I can only hope Robert has done the same. In life.

Who’s In Control? (part 5)

Here we discuss finding teachers who honor differences rather than attempt to beat them out of you (with apologies to Indian Schools, Catholic schools and all the other educational institutions that are stereotyped correctly or incorrectly as not dealing well with differences in the student body).

Part of recognizing you’re different is deciding if you will foster those differences or not. In my case it meant either finding or being offered teachers who could help me decide if I wanted to foster my differences or not.

That is an important point. Not “teachers who could foster my differences” but “teachers who could help me decide if that’s what I wanted”.

Disciplining the mind is (technically) no different than disciplining the body. There’s the Nature v Nurture limitations again and that’s about all. True teachers know the student’s limits as well as their own. If there’s any difference between mind and body it’s that muscles grow and tighten as discipline’s applied. The mind? Does the skull reform as more training’s applied? Do we grow a sixth finger as knowledge grows?

I sometimes wish it were so. Instead disciplines of the mind — often closely tied to disciplines of the body — manifest themselves in the looks given when the obvious is to others not so, when order leaps from where others can only see chaos.

Who’s In Control? (part 6)

Here we explore one of the things I was taught early in my studies; Every weakness is a strength, every strength is a weakness (one of the early people who worked with NextStage couldn’t understand this. Their tenure was unfortunately short).

The most I could ever benchpress was 350# ten times and that was years ago. I have talked and laughed and trained with people who could benchpress me, the bench, that weight and a hundred pounds more all day without breaking a sweat. I’ve also met, studied and worked with people whose intellectual capabilities make me seem a driveling fool. I don’t know who I pity or envy more.

But weaknesses are strengths just as strengths are weaknesses (remind me to tell you about moving safes sometime).

A problem, once solved, bores me — great for research, lousy for productization (and Susan, the truly intelligent one in the family, suggested a reframe of this such that it’s also great for productization. I always tell people she’s the really smart one. Wish they’d believe me). A question, unanswered, requires research — It was suggested I check [[(a now defunct)]] blog twice a day and post to it. Post what? It takes me two weeks of study before I begin to understand the questions being asked. Coauthoring a blog has given me the opportunity to analyze the thought processes of others personally, sans the objective distance the NextStage Toolkits provide me. I’ve learned why people are sometimes impressed at my ability to focus and other times accuse me of not appreciating a situation’s complexity.

Who’s In Control? (part 7)

This section begins the round up and offers some solutions for my friend who’s confession got me started on this arc.

So how do I, with all my physical and mental training, help my demand enshrouded friend?

  1. Put yourself first in your life. Until you know how much space you take up there’s no room for anyone else.
  2. Work towards Joy. (ask a semanticist or a linguist to explain the humor in that one)
  3. Understand that you can’t recognize joy unless you’ve experienced sorrow.
  4. Recognize that you can’t choose everything that happens to you and that you can choose how you respond to it.

Less euphemistically?

Who’s In Control? (finale)

We conclude with some expansions of what was offered yesterday in part 7.

  1. Make yourself the most important demand in your life. Are emails a time suck? Don’t get them for a day. People will call if they need you. The phone ringing too much? Shut it off. People will knock on your door if it’s important. Too many people knocking? Take a day and tell no one where you go. Are you too important? Then you’re not. Not to yourself. Until you’re important to yourself you’re not important to anybody else, you’re a crutch.
  2. It really is that simple. No, really, it is. Is it not that simple? Do I not understand? Back at you. It is that simple and it’s you that doesn’t understand the true, real nature of the problem. Solutions are obvious. They always are. You just need to look in the right place to find them. Finding solutions isn’t the challenge, it’s knowing where to find them that is. Learn how to do that and you’ve learned it all. Take a lesson from the US Naval Academy. Take time to learn what’s important and focus on it.
  3. Make a list and keep to it. Realize there are only so many hours in a day and fill your list accordingly. Get a lot of items? Then you’ve made a two-day or week long list. Add to or reorganize your list only for items 1 and 2 above and in that order.

There you have it: Carrabis’ 3 Laws of Humans. Consider them Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics for those of us who don’t want to be robots.

And now my hand tires from all this writing. I compose on paper, review, rewrite and edit on paper before I type it into the computer and post it online. Not always. Only the important ones.

And the solution? Quite simple. Time to stop.


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Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1)

We’ve been getting a lot of requests for Sentiment Analysis lately. Based on my fun ride regarding engagement, I decided to find out what Sentiment Analysis was before saying NextStage had been doing it for years, what’s all the excitement about?

So I went to Wikipedia and read “Sentiment analysis refers to a broad (definitionally challenged) area of…” “(definitionally challenged)”???

Ah. Yet another buzzword in a long list of “My gosh, what shall we call something else we can’t really do?” words being slung about in the analytics world.

Okay, fair enough. People selling the stuff are attempting to own the field by telling clients what it is, what it’s suppose to be about and what they should expect. Some of you may know that Susan has a pharma background and that I often advise pharmas. They often say something like “We just discovered that this chemical compound has these effects. Can we come up with some catchy-named syndrome that this concoction will treat?” Same thing, really. “We know what we can do. Let’s give it a name and see if we can sell it.”

But we are NextStage. We follow a different path.

Asking “What do you want a Sentiment Analysis product to do?”

I asked some people to tell me what they would like in a Sentiment Analysis product (thank you, Chris Berry and Stephane Hamel).

I wrote Chris:

Howdy,
I’m wondering what, exactly, you folks would like a “sentiment analysis” tool to do.
Oh, the heck with that. Please give me a list of things you’d like some tool to do such that when you point some content at it, it tells you something about that content that would be valuable to you/your clients.
Remember, you’re talking to Joseph here. Go nuts with this.

<Fair Warning Dept>
This is going to be a long, rambling post, folks.
…and I plan on having fun, too…
</Fair Warning Dept>

Chris responded with:
<Begin List of Unreasonable Metrics>

  1. The aggregate degree of trust between a person (brand) and a social network or contained in the message.
  2. The aggregate degree of affinity between a person (brand) and a social network or contained in the message.
  3. The intent behind a comment (author intent) (Referral: I like this, you’re a friend, you will like this too. Check it out. :: Retribution: You piss me off. I’m telling everybody to avoid you. :: Love: I just want to say how great you guys are. :: Constructive: I like you, this is what I want now. Troll:: I don’t really feel anything towards you, I’m bored and I want to be entertained.)
  4. Is the comment “Positive”, “Negative”, or “Neutral” – accurate to within +/- 5%, 19/20. This is how most social vendors classify it. I don’t consider these numbers to be helpful, but they are ‘standard’. However, they tend to have a much higher rate of error. (3) is where it’s at.
  5. {C, B/e, M} profile of the author of a comment or blog post.
  6. The likelihood that the message will have the desired intent on those who read it.
  7. The likelihood that the message will have the desired intent based on psychographic distance from the author.
  8. The ability for the tool to return a CSV (or some other file) listing the social graph of the {C, B/e, M} profiles in relationship to each other within a specific tribe, in general, for the purposes of segmenting discussions based on expert areas. (Testing the 1957 “Word-of-Mouth” studies and the whole air conditioning patterns for new product introductions.)
  9. The likelihood that the message will be remembered or committed to memory. (Goes to that damned traditional metric: message recall. I don’t think that conscious recall is nearly as important than sub-conscious recall, but I’ll admit being wrong if shown evidence to the contrary.)
  10. The gender and age of the author of a comment or blog post.
  11. The gender and age of the composition of the social network observing the comment or blog post. [Tribe analysis].
  12. The purchase / re-purchase intent of the author.
  13. Identification of who, within a social network, is an influencer, a gatekeeper, or a hub. (IE. Identification of who should I talk to first to get movement on a message.)
  14. Suggestions, based on the {C, B/e, M} profile, of how to frame a message.

If NS wanted to compete on a ‘whole product’ basis:

<End List of Unreasonable Metrics>

I’m being unreasonable. You expected it though?

<Susanism>
I showed Susan Chris’ wishlist. “But we already do all that,” she said. “It’s already in TargetTrack.”[[we broke out the original TargetTrack tool into several NextStage tools]]
</Susanism>

(skip down to the boring stuff)

Zappos Twitter page

I then asked Chris for a webpage to analyze. He sent me http://twitter.com/zappos. As I’m learning about Twitter myself, I kept on clicking the “more” button at the bottom of the page for a while. Eventually I had the page from 3:10pmET 2 June 09 back to “10:41 PM Mar 28th from web”. I broke this into two files, one was just the comment stream, the other was the whole page — graphics and everything — including the comment stream.

Why did I do this? Because people will non-consciously be influenced by all the information presented, not just the comments.

Then I fed both into the ET TargetTrack tool [[The original TargetTrack Tool has been broken out into many of NextStage’s tools. This particular tool has been available since 22 Mar 2001. You’ll find some TargetTrack case studies on our Case Studies page.

<Anecdote>
Chris and others may remember my visit to the Chicago Critical Mass offices in Aug ’08. I was told a client company was interested in modifying their websites for three countries. I asked for the websites, fed them through TargetTrack on my laptop in my hotel room while having breakfast that morning before the meeting (did I mention that TargetTrack, like all ET based tools, is highly compact, extremely accurate and very fast? It’s not sexy, whatever Rene means by that, but compact, accurate and fast? Those we can do), and read the results over a cup of coffee.

<Dr.Geertzism>
Dr. Geertz, who some of you may remember as commenting on my TheFutureOf posts, has become one of my most trusted first readers. On reading through this he offered “With regards to ‘sexy’ as defined by Rene. Think about what a man or woman finds sexy. Focus. Would you describe it as compact, accurate, and fast? Maybe ET needs to become mysterious, exotic, dangerous, and built. There is a euphemism about partnering in business is ‘getting in bed with’ someone. Do a survey and see how many women want to get in bed with someone that describes themselves as fast and compact. Sexy? At least shoot for satisfying, thoughtful, and robust.

What I love about this is that it’s all in how one applies the terms.
</Dr.Geertzism>

When I arrived at the Critical Mass offices, I mentioned off-handedly that two of the sites would do well, one wouldn’t because TargetTrack had determined it wasn’t designed to appeal to that one country’s cultural biases.

I said it off-handedly because I’m use to TargetTrack revealing stuff like that. It was routine and old-hat to me.

And TargetTrack was right on track regarding which country’s website was performing poorly. And why.
</Anecdote>

TargetTrack is simply another implementation of our Evolution Technology (ET). That’s the technology some of you may have heard talk about recently, the technology with the very good scores at recognizing age and gender of site visitors without asking questions, without using forms, without polling other internet databases, and if you think age and gender is all it can do we should talk some time. I’ve been telling people about this stuff since 1999 so I’ve got the patter down pretty well.[[NextStage Members can access the full research paper, Machine Detection of Visitor Age and Gender via Analysis of Psychomotor Behavioral Cues, on the Members’ Papers page. A synoptic paper can be found at Predicting Age and Gender Online]]

ET itself isn’t a tool. For that matter, TargetTrack itself isn’t a tool. They are both tools that make tools (@jdaysy, this is an example of Eliadeianism at work. Most analytics tools that I’ve seen are Maslowian in nature. They are designed to do one thing and one thing only. ET, TargetTrack, etc., are tools that can be used to create more specific tools. As ET is based on human intelligence and humans (I’m hoping) can do more than one thing once taught how to do it, so can ET and its derivatives).

<Anecdote>
One of NextStage’s early investors told me “You’ve invented plastic. It doesn’t matter if they want a baby bottle or a car dashboard, all that matters is that you shape the plastic the right way. That’s what ET is, it’s a kind of plastic that people can shape to do what they need it to do.”

I love the elegance and accuracy of that.
</Anecdote>

An original TargetTrack report

TargetTrack comes in lots of flavors. The example shown here is the basic one pager and is what we provide if a) you’re not using our technology on your website and b) you come in through our TargetTrack page. [[These days you can either become a NextStage Member, take some training and access TargetTrack and lots of other tools on your own or hire us to consult and we’ll use it for you.]] We offer lots of versions based on what you need to know, all machine generated so human minds never touch them. Why is that important? Because human minds — without massive amounts of training [[(and we have that training)]]— can’t be a) neutral when responding to information and b) swap their consciousnesses in and out as required to understand how other people would respond to information. Thus unless you specifically want humans to evaluate your work and you know for a fact that the humans doing that evaluation are exactly smack-dab in the center of your target audience…

<Harrumph Dept>

attract-engage-act.jpg

And allow me a moment, if you will. The TargetTrack report shown in the above figure was produced for a client on 30 Apr 07. The yellow bar in the chart on the bottom right is entitled “Engage” as in engagement, as in “this is how well you’ve been able to focus their attention so that they’ll do what you want them to do while they’re on your site”. I know others define engagement differently than NextStage does. For us, it’s all about getting people to act, to do, so our definition of engagement — which is based on well documented psychologic concepts that have been around for over a century now — is more about getting visitors to respond the way you want them to respond (and we’ve been measuring and reporting on engagement for a long time in internet years) than about determining the ballast mass of their keyboard divided by the number of visits to your sites multiplied by the number of letters in their mother’s maiden name. Or some equally contrived calculation.

You just know Susan’s going to pull this, don’t you?
</Harrumph Dept>

Anyway, It took TargetTrack less than a minute to analyze both the whole web page and just the comments.

How Accurate is a Tool that Produces Results That Quickly?

Back in 2005 Progress Software asked us to determine which of their existing and potential partners would be successful. We used the same TargetTrack tool to analyze some 150 partner sites that was used in this analysis. ET picked the top four performers knowing nothing about the companies, only being able to predict how visitors would respond to their websites.

These four sites were the most successful Progress partners that year.

The only difference between then and now is the number of digital personalities in our system. Then it was 25,000. Now it’s about 10x that, meaning “increased accuracy”. [[And now it’s over 3MM.]] And TargetTrack is the tool we used to predict the outcomes of elections, to change the political landscape in Nova Scotia and of course to help clients save money and make money. Thank goodness there are people out there who care more about results than sexy, yes?

(start of the boring stuff)

What follows are TargetTrack’s responses to Chris’ wishlist. I’ve indicated the things TargetTrack can already do “off the shelf” and the things it can do “kind of”, meaning the best answer would be a combination of our tracking tool and TargetTrack.

The aggregate degree of trust between a person (brand) and a social network or contained in the message. (already in TargetTrack)

10 'Must' Messages

Some people may remember my eMetrics SF ’07 presentation. Part of that presentation dealt with The 10 “Must” Messages, two of which are “We Trust You” and “You Can Trust Us”. These two combine to answer Chris’ first question although it’s better to keep them separate, as we’ll see.

And I guess this is where we start offering trainings on using our technology.

Lesson the First: It doesn’t matter what the score is in isolation, it matters how well the score matches other information in the visitor’s environment. Someone sipping a glass of wine while reading an excellent novel doesn’t want an intruder to come up to them and shout “I TRUST YOU”. Whoever is doing the shouting will be evaluated as an “intruder” at best and a “nuisance to be avoided at all costs” at worst, hence the desire is to communicate “I Trust You” just enough to be recognized and favorably responded to, nothing more.

This image shows the 10 “Must” Messages of the Twitter Zappos page together with their relative strengths. You’ll notice that some messages are being SHOUTED compared to others? Not good, that. As far as it goes, the “We/I Trust You” and the “You Can Trust Me/Us” messages should be of fairly equal value (this is based on Fair-Exchange Concepts. You’ve read my work on Fair-Exchange Concepts, haven’t you?). Here the comment author’s variance between trust messages is just shy of being non-consciously recognizable, meaning readers may get a sense the author is asking to be trusted (message 2) rather than being found trustworthy. What’s worse is that the comparative intensity of the some of the other messages will probably drown out any “trust” messages being sent unless the audience specifically looks for them. This “looking for a message” can occur when the author is very well known to an audience and they’ve come to expect and often desire the variance in message strength.

<FYI>

This image is another version of our TargetTrack tool report. This was a 50 page report produced when a client gave us a brochure for analysis. You’ll notice the 10 “Must” Messaging reports in the lower left corner.
</FYI>

An interesting aspect of the human brain-mind system is that it allows different signal sources to supply similar signals differently. This means someone could be browsing a site while sitting on their backporch (as I am as I write this) and the brain-mind keeps separate shouting from the website and shouting from the woods behind my home. The brain-mind quite easily determines which of these two should get priority attention and they’ll rarely overlap (I’ll rarely have to struggle deciding which one I want to pay attention to. The woods always wins).

However, two competing websites? Or two equally attractive birds sitting in the pines in front of me? So what we often tell clients is that it’s nice to get a reasonable score when analyzing just your own stuff, it’s better to know how well it does against the averages of competitors. This image shows just such a comparison, specifically one company’s “We Trust You” message against all competitive companies’ “We Trust You” messages in our system. What we learned was that a visitor moving between websites — the client’s and their competitors — would feel more trusted hence more at ease hence willing to do business on competitor sites than on the client’s site. Why? Because most competitor sites were communicating “We Trust You” better and just enough better to be noticed, not to make the visitor feel they were being shouted at.

The aggregate degree of affinity between a person (brand) and a social network or contained in the message. (already in TargetTrack)

This is handled by the “We’re/I’m Good People”, “You’re Good People” and “They’re Not Good People” messages. As before, the goal is to have the messages work well together, not stand out on their own. The ideal is to have “We’re/I’m Good People” communicated with just a little less intensity than “You’re Good People”, as in a demonstration of humility followed by a recognition of another’s worth or value (as a person). The “They’re Not Good People” — the message about your competitors — is the one where some definite increase in intensity is allowed. Not a shout so much as a definite statement.

<Anecdote>
We did a comparison analysis a number of years back for Fidelity. They asked for a comparison of their mutual funds product path (the path that must be navigated from a landing page through a conversion) against five competitors (Merrill Lynch, TRowePrice, Schwab, Vanguard and SmithBarney). All of their messaging was quite comparable until you got to “They’re Not Good People” and “We’re/I’m A Leader”. Basically all of their product paths were communicating We/I Trust You…We/I Can Help…You’re Good PeopleTHOSE OTHER PEOPLE ARE LYING, CHEATING BASTARDS! STAY AWAY FROM THEM IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF YOUR CHILDRENAND WE’RE FREAKIN’ INCREDIBLE.

This needs to be compared to Canadian based companies where the laws are different. Canadian companies can’t openly communicate that their competitors are pooty. Comparisons between companies in verticals there tended to yield results along the lines of We/I Trust You…We/I Can Help…You’re Good People…They’re Not Good People…AND WE’RE FREAKIN’ INCREDIBLE.

Learning the differences in cultures is one of the reasons I love my work.
</Anecdote>

The intent behind a comment (author intent) (Referral: I like this, you’re a friend, you will like this too. Check it out. :: Retribution: You piss me off. I’m telling everybody to avoid you. :: Love: I just want to say how great you guys are. :: Constructive: I like you, this is what I want now. Troll:: I don’t really feel anything towards you, I’m bored and I want to be entertained.) (already in TargetTrack)

One of the things TargetTrack reports on (one of the original core functions, actually) are “hidden” messages. This is documented in several places and you don’t really care about psychobabble at this point, do you? How about some marketingbabble instead, “TargetTrack reporting also scans media content for subtext and hidden messages and creates a unique Key Marketing Messages report which determines how marketing materials communicate value by scanning for content and design features which most effectively denote trust, professionalism, helpfulness and leadership to consumers.

An example of a hidden message that was costing companies money can be found in Site-Penetration Up 225%, Time-On-Site Up 300%, Conversions Up 20% in Four Months. There are other examples where the designer didn’t like the company they were working for, didn’t feel they were appreciated, didn’t feel the project they were on was worthy of their talent and skills and each time their negativity was non-consciously embedded in the work they were doing, each time non-consciously picked up by the audience and each time costing the unsuspecting client time and money.

Some other messages TargetTrack found in marketing material include “Don’t Mess with Me” (perhaps that’s Chris’ “Retribution”), “I’m Different From Every Other Person I Know” and “I can make a career here for myself because nobody else knows what they’re doing here” (a law firm asked us to evaluate resumes using TargetTrack (we actually analyze resumes for lots of companies and how we do it is an example of the TargetTrack tool being used to create another tool, our ResumeReader)).

While I’m disinclined to suggest any hidden messages on this page, I am left wondering how comfortable the author is either Twittering, in their current position or how long they’ve been in their current position.

Hmm…Rene was telling me that several people have approached him about starting a company wherein ET analyzes funds and stocks based on its predictive ability (see Predicting Election Outcomes Via NextStage’s TargetTrack and Working with Prediction Markets via NextStage’s Evolution Technology)…and now lots of CEOs are blogging, twittering…hmm…

You know, several companies have asked us to read through the materials submitted by potential employees, not just their resumes, to get an idea of how well these individuals would fit in…so if we use our ResumeReader tool on this page…

This job applicant’s ability to help and their reliability may cause challenges depending on their position in the company. However, they will work very well with others and require next to no supervision. The juxtaposition of the Ability to Help, Works Well with Others, Requires Little Supervision and Reliable values indicates this applicant will work better in group or cooperative work environments than as an outsider and should not be considered for “work at home” or “remote office” situations. Trustworthiness is acceptable and the Competent value indicates they will probably grow into their job in a minimal period of time.

<Anecdote>
NextStage’s ResumeReader tool passed initial muster when we opened our Toronto offices. Our CEO (at that time) told me he was using TargetTrack to evaluate the resumes of programmers. We were in the conference room and he was synchronizing his laptop to the projector so things were flashing in and out on the screen. He mentioned one fellow in particular and a TargetTrack’s analysis flashed on and off. I knew nothing about the fellow we were discussing, his history, had never read his resume, only glanced at the TargetTrack results for a moment and said, “Well, that resume was written about two years ago and the fellow was very unsure of his future at the time. He was between jobs and trying to figure out what to do with himself.”

Our CEO stared at me. “That’s the report on my resume,” he told me. “The one I wrote two years ago when I’d just sold my first company and was trying to decide what to do with my life.”

Budda-boom.

<FYI>

And you, too, can have that facility with TargetTrack reports. All it takes is a little training…
</FYI>

Two senior people from a large jobsite, starts with an “M”, wanted to use our ResumeReader as part of their offering. During talks, it came out that they wanted to create a company that would sell this service to “M”. And they didn’t want “M” to know about any of our discussions until it was already a done deal. And they wanted all the rights. But don’t let “M” know about any of this. Ever. And they were greedy. Oh, were they greedy. You should have seen their eyes glaze over and heard their cackling laughter when they talked about charging “M” then offering slightly different versions of the ResumeReader tool to “M”‘s competitors.

We said “no.” Okay, I said “no”.

I’m told some people read the bottom of our homepage and consider it rude, that I’m basically saying “…if you’re not willing to put money upfront (and not a little money) don’t bother me.” [[They’d really love the one we’re using now (Susan’s design).]]

Well, that’s correct although not because I’m greedy or money-hungry. Frugal, yes, greedy or money-hungry though? Have you read our Principles? I am greedy with my time, that I’ll grant, and I do recognize posting our prices is the equivalent of “You have to be this tall to get on this ride”.

It’s also a block to certain kinds of people. Look through those Principles and you’ll see several ways to alter the prices we charge. Lots of people do. There are lots of ways to be tall and not everyone is willing to stretch. As I wrote, those prices are a block and only to certain kinds of people.

Sometime when we’re at a conference ask me to talk about cultural and social taboos, such as the taboo against discussing money but lack of taboos around discussing financial matters within certain groups and cultures. It plays a lot in designing culture and group specific information.

Or you can take one of our trainings as we often cover the same material there.

But greedy versus frugal? Moi? (Stephane loves my Frenglish)

True story: Someone said they’d help NextStage with marketing “for only 20% of the company”. I asked “Can you prove you’re worth it?” and they couldn’t. I don’t mean they couldn’t prove it to my satisfaction, I mean they couldn’t prove it, period. Nor could they demonstrate it. Anywhere. So I said “No thanks.”

Had they been able to prove their worth at all, I would have considered their offer. As it was, I would call them greedy. I would not call them greedy if they could have proved their worth, but do so because they could not. I would call myself frugal. I don’t accept someone telling me their worth without a demonstration of same, but once they demonstrate it? They can fail, all they need do is demonstrate the effort and my world is theirs.

You really should read those Principles.
</Anecdote>

Specific to Chris’s list and only comparing the values against themselves, we find that the strongest non-conscious intent is retribution. However, the relative strengths of Referral, Retribution and Constructive indicate that such non-conscious messaging is probably part of the author’s psychological makeup and nothing specific to these posts. This is where a helpful exercise is comparing this author’s material against similar material elsewhere, such as a competitor’s twittering or even the author’s own writing not contained in these twits.

I think what’s more important here is that if you can form what you want to know into a question or statement such as Chris did, ET can answer it. Most of the reports we provide are based on questions clients asked us, usually blue-skying their hearts out while doing so.

Is the comment “Positive”, “Negative”, or “Neutral” – accurate to within +/- 5%, 19/20. This is how most social vendors classify it. I don’t consider these numbers to be helpful, but they are ‘standard’. However, they tend to have a much higher rate of error. (3) is where it’s at. (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

It’s one thing to be positive, negative or neutral in general, it’s a completely different thing to be positive, negative or neutral as defined by your target audience. The world may love you but if the people you want to do business with think ill of you, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks. Likewise, if your target audience thinks the world of you, do you care what opinions others may have?

And do we mean negative, positive or neutral to a specific person, some cultural or ethnic group, some product or service, government, …? TargetTrack can fine tune it’s answers based on what you want to know.

How accurate? It will be accurate to within 83% based on the author’s {C,B/e,M} matrix at the time of their writing. For those who haven’t seen my presentations, the {C,B/e,M} matrices are the Cognitive, Behavioral/effective, Motivational neurologic, psychologic and sociologic methodologies that people employ to get through their day (and usually without knowing they’re doing so). Someone who’s always upbeat has a different {C,B/e,M} matrix than someone who’s shy, for example. Someone from Espania has a different one than someone from Alba Nuadh. Discovering where these matrices overlap and how they overlap is the key to cross-cultural marketing even when the cross-cultural aspect is just NH versus Tennessee and so on.

What I will offer is that this question is best answered by a combination of TargetTrack and our tracking tool (yep, the one Rene mentioned). It’s often fun to match an author’s intent with the readers’ perception of that intent. Doing this requires our tracking tag be on your site/blog/whatever. Interesting things can come out from that kind of study.

For example, if we learn than an author is habitually more negative than positive in their discourse AND we know that readers’ level of interest peaks during those periods, then escriva negativa, my lad.

{C, B/e, M} profile of the author of a comment or blog post. (already in TargetTrack)

Click on the above TargetTrack examples and you’ll see that much of the {C,B/e,M} matrix information is included as statements about gender, age (yes, I know. Gender and Age again. And since 2001. Who knew?), so on and so forth. We can include as much or as little of the {C,B/e,M} matrix information as you want.

This, for example, is an analysis of some marketing material that’s well designed to appeal to what we recognize as a K13 Rich Persona. I’ve written about Rich Persona on this blog, on iMediaConnection, lots of different places. What’s a Rich Persona? It’s the heart, gut and mind of the persona you create during your marketing discussions. Doesn’t matter if you create “Jeep Driver Joe” or “Soccer Mom Sally” or anything else, you’re simply creating a true fiction with no basis in reality other than your own machinations until you imbue that persona with dreams, desires, pains, pleasures, hopes, anxieties, desperations, relationship problems, and most importantly ways they would deal with all of these things, how they think about them, how they would respond to them, what and how they would ignore them and so on. Put all that together and your persona is now Rich.

People who saw my eMetrics Toronto ’08 presentation may remember that I shared how the {C,B/e,M} matrices for different parts of Canada were shifting over time. This happens all the time and translates to “Keep your materials fresh because what works today might not work tomorrow.”

And before I forget, this author is demonstrating an A9 {C,B/e,M} matrix or Rich Persona. Their material will most strongly influence readers who:

  • make decisions based on what might go wrong

  • learn best when what they’re learning can be directly applied to a harmful or painful possible future event
  • often seem mentally absorbed
  • often seem to loose focus on what’s going on around them
  • engage in internal dialogue (usually in the form of self-directed statements) in order to make decisions
  • will listen to others’ advice only if the advice has a negative form (“Oh, you don’t want to do that because…” “There’ll be problems with that because…”)
  • focus on the negative
  • are motivated to take action by arguments and/or explanations which cast things in a poor or bad light
  • pay more attention to what’s not working when evaluating situations
  • often need to confirm their beliefs (whether valid or not) with visual information

  • will only accept visual confirmation if what they are shown confirms the problem rather than the solution
  • base final decisions on anticipated problems or errors in their or other peoples’ judgements
  • pay little attention to what’s going on right now when making final decisions
  • are strongly influenced by the possibility of pain or difficulties down the road (although they will not intentionally seek pain or difficulties out they are still sure the pain and difficulties exist and are waiting “to greet them”)
  • will ignore any difficulty or pain they’re presently in if a future pain or difficulty is inferred, threatened, demonstrated or explained

  • ignore emotional appeals unless the appeal takes the form of a conversation or lecture in which a worse or negative outcome is defined or identified
  • demonstrate that a conclusion has been reached or something has been learned by some small, outward sign or motion, such as a slight or single nodding or shaking of the head, a slight clenching of the hands or movement of the fingers, or a slow, deep breath.

No wonder their writing showed up as slightly negative, huh?

Anyway, this {C,B/e,M} matrix information can be for the author, the audience, let us know when you ask for a TargetTrack (depends on which one you ask for) and we’ll provide the information for you.

For example, a law firm gave us an ad to analyze along with some responses from different people to that ad (this is documented in Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History. TargetTrack could individualize gender, age, geographic location and job description of the respondents by analyzing their responses.

But really, how useful is knowing this unless you know how to design for whatever {C,B/e,M} matrix information and Rich Personae your dealing with (and did I mention we offer trainings on just that)? Some of these images contain suggestions for improving audience (oh, dare I say it?) engagement, attention to, interaction with, whatever the buzzword de jour is, with your material.

Suggestions are included in all our TargetTrack products. That was one of the first things TargetTrack was designed to do, provide direct, actionable suggestions on how to get your material into the hearts and minds of your target audience as quickly and as economically as possible.

I mean, all these TargetTrack reports may or may not be pretty and (according to Rene) aren’t even sexy but who cares if you don’t have real, you can do it, actionable items provided with your report? You’re just shooting in the wind if you don’t, right?

So we give suggestions, to-do’s, action items, call them what you will, and in some cases listed in Critical, Important and Desirable order.

The likelihood that the message will have the desired intent on those who read it. (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

We can determine what an author’s desires regarding their audience response are via TargetTrack alone.

To know if the desired intent is actually being realized while people are reading the material requires our web tracking tool.

The likelihood that the message will have the desired intent based on psychographic distance from the author. (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

See above.

The ability for the tool to return a CSV (or some other file) listing the social graph of the {C, B/e, M} profiles in relationship to each other within a specific tribe, in general, for the purposes of segmenting discussions based on expert areas. (Testing the 1957 “Word-of-Mouth” studies and the whole air conditioning patterns for new product introductions.) (already in TargetTrack)

Compare the above Quebec Thought Progressions with this chart from that same eMetrics Toronto ’08 presentation, this one for all of Canada or the one below for British Columbia, all during the same three month time period. These are actually from our Personae Mapping Tool, yet another variation of ET and TargetTrack (there’s that “using tools to make tools” thing again, @jdaysy).

Anywho, these are graphs of the {C,B/e,M} matrices within different tribes and groups within those tribes. ET can do this for whatever you describe; areas of expertise, geographic locations, ethnic factors, language of origin, …

The likelihood that the message will be remembered or committed to memory. (Goes to that damned traditional metric: message recall. I don’t think that conscious recall is nearly as important than sub-conscious recall, but I’ll admit being wrong if shown evidence to the contrary.)(already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

This is another one that requires our tracking tool be on your site.

ET’s original function was to make sure educational material was being delivered optimally for each student, hence it would modify my class material on the fly based on how individual students were navigating the site in order to match the {C,B/e,M} matrix of the material to the {C,B/e,M} matrix of each student (the original NSE site did this in real time for each visitor. There are examples in the “Anecdotes of Learning” section of Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History and referenced above in that lawyer segment). The reason to do this was to insure that the material would be both committed to deep or long-term memory AND be immediately actionable in consciousness.

Yes, actionable, as in “they can and will be able to use and act upon the information” right now.

Remeber and Use, Branding, etc.

And while I’m here, let me offer something that (I believe) is a demonstration of “going one better”. I gave a presentation to the Boston KM Forum in Aug ’06 entitled “Increasing Knowledge Transfer By Adapting Information Presentation Styles On the Fly”. Wordy, I know, and the third slide in that presentation is relevant to this discussion in so many ways. Item #5 on that slide is “Cognition, retention, etc., went high”. That’s how people in my field talk about “branding, engagement, usability, understandability,…” things like that.

The end result was that people were able to remember material as content three times longer, in context seven times longer and be able to utilize that information (ie, “work with it”) ten times longer.

Consider this a “two-fer”. We can recognize and adjust content on the fly for specific “tribes” and deliver targeted messaging by recognizing a tribe then customizing that message so that only the tribe remembers and can use it.

The gender and age of the author of a comment or blog post. (already in TargetTrack)

Read all of the above again (you didn’t skip anything, did you?). Go ahead. I dare you.

The gender and age of the composition of the social network observing the comment or blog post. [Tribe analysis]. (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

There are two ways to answer this. I’ll start with the part that is “…kind of…”. To determine all visitors would require the tracking tool on your site. We could do it with just TargetTrack for people commenting and do some creative mathematics to guesstulate the entire audience composition. It would be easier and cheaper to use our tracking tool and just have it report the network’s composition.

Or we can answer “Who is this material best suited for?” That’s a pure TargetTrack question as I’ll demonstrate below.

Age appeal for the comments only

“Who is this material is best suited/designed for?” is where differences between just the content and the webpage — graphics, fonts, etc., and content — demonstrate great differences. They make differences everywhere, here they are very pronounced. This chart is from TargetTrack analyzing just the comment stream and determining “What age group is this material is best suited/designed for?”. No graphics, no images, no colors, no fonts, no backgrounds, only the pure text. Forget that there are three lines for now, just remember that this is TargetTrack’s analysis of the comment text only.

This image is TargetTrack analyzing the entirety of the page — graphics, colors, images, fonts, the whole shooting match. See that the yellow line is near flat on this chart? That’s an indication that the introduction of the images, graphics, colors, fonts, etc., etc., etc., are a major distraction to visitors both understanding and using the information presented.

And now, a little more ET Trainings and what are those three lines for again, Joseph?

In the charts above, the red bars are Appeal, the yellow bars are message Clarity and the green bars are message Actionability. Both position on the chart, height and positional relation to each other are extremely important. NextStage’s TargetTrack uses three items because Age is demonstrated by multiple intelligences, ie,

  • the visual intelligence that governs whether or not something will Appeal to a specific Age group,
  • the cognitive intelligence that governs whether or not something will be understandable (Clarity) to a specific Age group and
  • the psychosensory intelligence that governs whether or not something will be Actionable(ity) to a specific Age group

If you wanted, you could group them all together into a single Age metric but you’d lose a great deal of actionable information by doing so.

The point at which each line intersects an age group is an indication of how much of that specific age group is captured. The “just the comments” chart above, for example, indicates that just the comments on the page being analyzed would appeal (red line) to (ie, “get the attention of”) 55% of the 45-54yo market, about 28% of the 35-44 and 55-59yo markets and so on.

The next line of interest is Clarity (ie, “is this understandable?”). The human mind likes to understand things, too clearly see what things are about. But you don’t want people to work for it when you’re selling them something, at least not too hard. This means you want Clarity to target a slightly younger age group that the material appeals to. In other words, you want to get their attention then have them easily understand it, this Clarity (yellow) needs to be a little to the left of the Appeal (red) line.

Now you have to look at Actionability (green). You got their attention (red), they understand your value proposition (yellow), now they must act on that understanding. You want the green line to be just to the right of the red line because people will only act when they recognize value, hence must “reach” and that “reach” and value is detected as requiring slightly more neural effort than both Appeal and Clarity.

Thus the ideal is that the relational position of the lines be Clarity, Appeal, Actionability (yellow, red, green). Further, you want the Appeal (red) to be the highest peak while Clarity (yellow) and Actionability (green) can be even or Actionability just a little higher than Clarity (yellow). Again, this is that “you want them to reach” thing.

Appeal (red) governs whether or not your target audience would give this page a second look, that something on the page would catch their attention and make them stop for a moment or two before going onto something else. In many cases, a well crafted webpage (email, tv ad, radio spot, report, etc) for a given audience would cause them to stop, period, and spend time interacting with the material.

The question about what’s good or bad message Clarity (yellow) has to do with the intended age group for the material. Being understandable by a younger audience is both good and bad. A complex subject written to be clear to a young audience must perforce leave out some of the more complex elements of that subject. A mature audience interacting with the material might consider the material overly simplistic and determine the material incomplete or in error. The goal is to craft material with a Clarity peak close to the target age group.

Actionability (green) measures the amount of education, life experience or maturity required to make use of the information and understand the meaning as opposed to understanding the words (which is what Clarity measures). The phrase, “The true cost of a car’s easy drivability is paid by the consumer” is easy to read but it (probably) takes some life experience to appreciate that as cars have become easier to drive the number of people driving has increased, the amount of training available and skill required to drive has decreased, more accidents occur, the cost of insurance climbs, fuel costs rise due to increased demand, … Making the automobile accessible to the masses may not have served the masses well, necessarily.

You can read more about this at Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds.

Gender. Yes, we do gender. You really want me to go into details?

The purchase / re-purchase intent of the author. (already in TargetTrack)

It’s in the complete {C,B/e,M} matrix information that we provide clients.

Identification of who, within a social network, is an influencer, a gatekeeper, or a hub. (IE. Identification of who should I talk to first to get movement on a message.) (already in TargetTrack…kind of…)

Depending on what you mean, this is already in TargetTrack or requires TargetTrack plus our tracking tool. I presented The Blogging Power Continuum: How Bloggers and Their Audience Share and Assign Power in a Knowledge-Based Medium at a SNCR conference in both Boston (Dec ’07), “Whispering to Be Heard: The Art and Science of Buzz Marketing” at the New Communications Forum 2008 in Apr 08 and a variation of the Boston presentation in Montreal at the Communicating for Social Impact, International Communications Association Conference 2008 in May ’08. One of the things that I shared was the research into how to recognize influencers and such, how to gain control of blogs, direct them, all sorts of stuff. Perhaps some conference organizer who’s reading this might smile upon me and invite me to present this information at their conference…

Suggestions based on the {C, B/e, M} profile, of how to frame a message. (already in TargetTrack)

I think I’ve exhausted this particular item, yes? Again, if you skipped things, you shouldn’t have as I covered this above.

We do give suggestions for doing this. Depending on what level of TargetTrack you want, these suggestions can be just a few items or several pages long.

Breakdown of conversations based on topic area. (already in TargetTrack)

You tell us how you want it sliced and diced, TargetTrack will report on it.

So, Chris, not one unreasonable thing in the bunch.

I mentioned to Chris that I doubted he could come up with something we hadn’t done already. Remember, NextStage’s tools were doing these things back in 2001 as “tools” and before that as pure technology. The things we’re doing now…?

…pant, pant, pant…thank goodness. Two days of writing. Done. Finito. yea for joey…

Stephane, I’ll get to canoe.ca soon, I promise.


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Drunken Pirates, Anyone? or “Interlife Realities 101”

I’ve been asked to comment on Ms. Stacy Snyder’s recent travails. I’ll start by making sure everyone knows these comments are my own, not those of the company or companies sponsoring my blog. Further, these comments are coming from your friendly, neighborhood NextStage, so you know they’re going to be a little off sides, right?

All cards on the table dept: First, I knew nothing about this until I was asked to comment about it. For those as equally in the dark as I, “Stacy Snyder was a student at Millersville University who, like so many others in her generation, had a MySpace page where she expressed herself freely. This free expression has come back to bite her. Snyder was pursuing a degree in education and had completed most of her degree and was a student teacher at a local high school, but was denied her Education certificate because of a photo on her MySpace page that exhibited errors in judgment that conflicted with the Pennsylvania’s Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators. Snyder has now filed suit against the University for $75,000.”

B) I’ve been offered some professorships for this coming fall. I actually had that fact flash through my mind when I thought about responding to this.

Oh, well…on with it.

The situation Ms. Snyder finds herself in doesn’t surprise me. It’s an example of something I pointed at in Second Life is Experiencing Society’s Woes! Surprise!, the lines between reality and virtuosity blurring. I remember the actress Jane Alexander being in hearings before the Senate regarding President Clinton’s appointing her Chairperson of the NEA. Most if not all the senators lauded the characteristics of Eleanor Roosevelt, a character she portrayed on television. They didn’t know anything about Jane Alexander, but by golly, she’d portrayed Eleanor Roosevelt and everybody knew Eleanor Roosevelt would have made an excellent Chairperson, therefore Ms. Alexander would make a good one, too.

That realities boundaries are breaking the way they are does not surprise me. The how and the why form a nice manifold in social consciousness and similar manifolds have existed in smaller social consciousnesses before, as explained above, so this is not a recent phenomenon. It’s more obvious because of the internet, yes, and it’s always been around.

Reality reveals its cracks in certain ways and in certain places. One great thing about reality is that it only exists by consensus. Another way of stating this is “perception is reality”. The earth was indeed flat until its flatness no longer served the greater needs of society.

Let me explain that a bit further; The earth stopped being flat about the same time ships capable of circumnavigating the globe became commonplace. In other words, reality and technology tend to shape each other in strange and mysterious ways. Follow the great revelations of history — be they technical or otherwise — and you’ll notice that great revelations don’t occur until the larger part of the population is ready to accept them. Einstein’s Relativity could never have existed until the existing relativity — Newton’s Gravitation — started failing to explain some things people were seeing in their bell jars. Disruptive technologies are only disruptive until the greater population finds a need for them not to be so.

So Ms. Snyder’s virtual life has more reality than her real life does, and right now the greater population requires this to be case.

I do feel sorry for Ms. Snyder and offer my services in removing arrows from her back.

My greater sorrow is that there is an assumption of intimacy about the internet that I don’t believe it should have, something I wrote about in More Thoughts on Blogging. The immediacy of the internet creates an assumption of an existing social space (covered in the SEND glands arc). The conmixing of relative time and virtual space is creating a reality which, like Einstein’s, could not exist until technology allowed society to accept a space for it.

As I wrote in Live and Dead Tired from the US NextStage offices, humans weren’t designed to cover these distances in the timeframes that are available. We forget to see what’s within reach and assume we have the right to grasp things we are not designed to hold, then wonder why, like Prometheus, the gods punish us.

The gods in this case are society’s inability to clearly separate virtuosity and reality. Ms. Snyder didn’t steal fire and in a relatively short period of time her story will no doubt be yet another internet blip.

Until then, though, I stand ready to both fan the flames and drench them…as Ms. Snyder desires…

– Joseph Carrabis

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What does NextStage do?

Once again I was asked “What does NextStage do?”

This is an agonizing question for me. People expect a short, quick, succinct answer. I give them what I believe is a short, quick, succinct answer, “NextStage does research” and the conversation spirals downward from there. This happens a lot, the spiralling. I described it in The NextStageologist on Mars and Second Life? I don’t find you interesting in Real Life

This time, though, I got a completely different response, “Very interesting Joseph, let me chew on this for a while and get back to you.” along with a description of the individual’s position in their company.

The funny thing is that my response was my usual response. NextStage does research, tool development, trainings, presentations, consultations. The overriding theme is “How do people interact with information?”

This means what we do today can be very different from what we did last week and will probably be different from what we’re doing next week. Do we work on websites? Yes, and not exclusively. Do we work with print? Yes, and not exclusively. Do you work with video? Yes, …

But if you ask “Do you work on how people interact with information? So you help companies figure out how to modify what they do in print from what they do on the web and TV?” Yes, very good. That’s it pretty much.

A client once told me we do market research. Not sure I agree, but there you have it.

What amuses me is that this blog is pretty much a synopsis of what we do. Branding studies, how to use online video to capture market share and drive business, when to use sound files and why, how and why do audiences segment the way they do, …, and it all comes down to “How do people interact with information?”

So bear with me for a paragraph or two…

NextStage researches “how people interact with information”, something that grew out of my 1991 thesis, “How We Learn to Learn”, basically a blend of anthro, linguistics, semiotics and half a dozen other major fields and about 120 disciplines. The reason the research set is so rich is because, when I couldn’t find an answer to a problem in one field, I started modifying the problem model until it had similar macroproperties to solved problems in at least one other field and usually several. The next step was to determine how the macroproperties translated between disciplines, apply the learning of the solved metaphor to the unsolved metaphor, experiment with the translated paradigm to determine what properties were extant between metaphors then solve accordingly.

Because of this, Evolution Technology borrows from fields as diverse as quantum-magneto-hydro-dynamics and immunoassay development.

Okay. So how do companies use our research, tools, and consulting to help them?

Well…this is where it gets pretty interesting.

Higher Ed uses our tools and consulting to help them capture more of a decreasing market; first time college students. We’re helping them on several fronts; marketing, social networking, social media, creating rich personae of their target audience, …

All of which, to me, is “how people interact with information”.

Event organizers use our tools and consulting to help them expand into other product offerings via understanding how to translate their existing successful brand into recognizable brands in other markets.

Again, “how people interact with information”.

An F500 used us to help them understand why their employees weren’t accessing their employee site, and what to do so that employees would access the employee site.

(ditto)

Media buyers, media planners and some SEO firms use our tools to determine where to place ads online and in print so that the ads will have the greatest impact.

(ditto)

Companies use us to help them develop successful WOM and viral campaigns, …

(ditto)

Most engagements begin with conversations (a discovery process). Is the potential client having a recognizable problem? Can they explain the challenge? How is this a challenge? To what? In what way? What would be the best possible outcome? What would be the best possible solution? What would be an acceptable solution? What would be a horrible solution? … I’ve been told that I can be both intimidating and frustrating, but companies still come to us (we don’t advertise and have been reactive for a while now).

NextStage is blessed with being in a position to focus its attention on whatever catches my interest. I’m blessed with being interested in things that most people won’t care about for several years yet. Another thing that grew out of my thesis is NextStage’s proprietary Evolution Technology. Most of our tools are based on various models inherent in the technology.

I hope this helps. I much better talking on the phone. I’m much better answering questions, otherwise I tend to ramble (you couldn’t tell, I’m sure).
Also, my apologies if this seems glib. That is not my intent. I simply don’t know how to answer the “What does NextStage do?” question quickly and succinctly.


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