Thursday, May 27, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell on spaghetti sauce

This is one of the most popular speeches from

It's a bit lengthy, but I love its messages and I've made what I perceive as the two key points my own:

1. There is no best spaghetti sauce; there are best spaghetti sauces

This is the story of how Dr. Moscowitz arrived at the notion that a single platonic form is not always applicable in real life -- moving the focus from universals to variability is valid.

2. People know what they like but they cannot tell you

It used to be that the best way to find out what spaghetti sauce appealed to people was to ask them, "What do you like in a spaghetti sauce?" But what we learned from #1 is that people will tell you very similar things but when given sauce to test-taste, they choose very differently. People know what they like, but they cannot (or will not) articulate it (or admit to it).

What this means to me is:

There isn't a single enterprise-calibre solution that is all things to everyone. We know this intellectually, but we may not feel supported in saying so. Now we can. This frees us up to allow for multiple solutions. Redundancy is a bad thing in the IT world, but now, overlap is NOT such a bad thing.

Allowing users to work their own way is to be encouraged. Software like Lotus Notes, that supports half a dozen ways to accomplish the same task, are to be congratulated for their foresightfulness, rather than criticized for being too complex. People will find the method that works best for them and stick with it. And that method IS the best one for them. Because they've chosen it!

Trying to get business requirements out of users is a losing proposition. We're barking up a tree that doesn't exist. They can't tell us what they want in a spaghetti sauce - they just can't. But they recognize it when they see it. So providing a few different recipes or solutions and letting users test drive them (and watch the rate of adoption) is a reasonable way of identifying useful solutions to support more fully or integrate or customize -- whatever it is you're looking for.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Towel Day - May 25, 2010

Well, ok, they can't all be uber-serious postings! Happy Towel Day, everyone!

What is Towel Day? See

Friday, May 14, 2010

From the mouths of babes. . .

OK, so I agree that people under 20 are more likely to intuitively grasp social media than people over 50. Absolutely. It's a way of life for them, really. In fact, I'm not sure they know how to distance themselves enough from it to really explain it as a tool.

But I really resent the notion that older folks have to have our hands held, one-on-one, by the youth of today. To re-use the lightbulb metaphor, screw that! Just frickin' EXPLAIN it to me.

Example: I have a Twitter account. I know how to post a tweet via the webpage. I WANT to know how to post a tweet by using my cellphone. I have searched all over the darn site trying to find an answer and not getting anything that means anything to me. And I GET social media. What I don't get is clear explanations. That's not all of social media's fault -- that's just poor anticipation by the Twitter folks.

I do NOT need a 15-year-old stapled to me to understand social media concepts. What I DO need are accessible FAQs and examples written for grownups.

Reverse mentor - I'll TELL you what you can do with that lightbulb!

[Disclaimer: I am just kidding - using "crotchety and cranky" as a style, not a real emotion. Please dear god nobody go and put a lightbulb somewhere so far that the ER has to remove it!]

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jay Baer's "Convince & Convert" blog

A massively HUGE thank you to Jay Baer (whom I don't know but now adore) for his blog posting detailing which social media tools he actually uses on a regular basis:

I love the practical applications. AND he writes well.

Now I wish he would produce a PC Magazine-just-for-social-media that would evaluate what's out there and compare and contrast them all. I suppose that's too much work, especially given that I'm not paying. Hmm. Any volunteers? Can't hurt to ask!


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

We've known for some time that teenagers have a totally different idea of what "privacy" means than do older generations. (They also think oral sex isn't REALLY sex, but that's another story for another blog.) But for them, privacy IS different. Much the same way people who grow up in a crowded living environment attain privacy by everyone else voluntarily looking away at times, teenagers feel it's the internet's job to "look away" when they're sharing intimate information.

This is going to get them in trouble if they think their SSN and their bank account are intimate information. Information security cannot possibly function in that expectation of privacy. I'll be interested to see how THAT hashes out!

But if we don't think about security for a minute--or if we successfully persuade teens that account information differs from intimate information and needs more vigilance--teens can teach the rest of us that social sharing WORKS.

Why I'm on this train of thought -

Not everyone wants to hear everything. I just don't give a fig about 75% of what I read on Facebook's status feed. But if do care - a lot - about 25% of it. So much so that I will accept the necessity of wading through 75% dreck. And if I were a corporation trying to sell something, I would absolutely be interested. This is demographic data about my customers! I can use this!

My grandparents used to write long, conversational letters. My parents did too, but transitioned into quick talks on the phone (it was pricey back then and my grandparents scolded them for spending too much time on the phone much the way teens feel persecuted for spending too much time online now). When I was growing up, I hardly ever wrote letters, unless it was to make my grandparents happy, but I snuck much longer phone calls with my friends. I transitioned to email at some point because it was free (phone calls still cost something) and I could type fast.

But I don't pour my day-to-day heart into email anymore. Practically speaking, I use it for quick updates or delivering attachments. But I did miss knowing these little events and how my friends would interpret them. What we're doing now in social media is telling our friends (and the world) what's interesting to us right now. Facebook and Twitter are not capturing insightful, thought-out evaluations of events - they're capturing the raw, immediate reaction to events. The same impulse that drives impulse purchases, I daresay.

I say they're valuable. Capitalism says they're gold.

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