Thursday, October 18, 2007

How Come I forgot about this NYTimes Story?

A good friend of our family who has been running a web hosting business since dinosaurs roamed the earth (well, you know what I mean - 1992), sent me this ancient (in web terms) article from the NY Times... It quotes my dad (!) back in November of 1996. The author references his HowCome site (which really was a blog-before-there-were-blogs, and so retro-cool looking at it today). The founder of Webscope (David), was also the founder of my Dad's passion for the web.

The look back at this is really fun...just as a reminder of where we came from: "In September 1995, Long Island had 904 officially registered commercial organizations at Internic in Herndon, Va. This year the figure was 4,933."
- I wonder what that figure would be today...

...and, of course, anything linking back to my dad makes me smile.
(Thanks, David!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"May I have your attention, please"

Attention... Some want it. Some need it. Some give it. Some don't.
...and, yes, the mere existence of this blog puts me in category one, I guess.

An interaction with my 7-year old son brought up this whole stream of thought... He and my nephew were making impressive noise right at our feet while we were trying to have normal adult conversation about something which was completely irrelevant to the lives of these two resourceful first-graders. They decided that blowing a whistle and banging a drum – loudly – was the best way to get our attention. At first I treated the noise as part of the persistent, expected din you find in any house with kids. Then I realized that I was practically yelling to make myself heard, and finally shouted to them, “ENOUGH!... “ (hey, that worked). Followed by the gently delivered comment that every sensitive father must learn: “Please. Stop blowing that whistle or I really will crush it”.

“We’re just trying to get your attention!”.

I have to give them points for honesty and awareness - it's usually much more sub-conscious than that.

It struck me later that “getting attention” might be more a basic human need than just a phenomenon of competitive commercial coercion (although the latter is much more common). And now that web-based social networks have finally become recognized as potentially a more effective attention channel than others - here come the herds.

(this post grew pretty long... click here to see the whole story)Any business marketer, advertiser, publication, author, blogger, entrepreneur, actor, musician, politician, even Uncle Arnie is looking for anyone who will listen (“ know why oil prices will never go lower? I’ll tell you why...”). And while most of us play both parts – attention seeker and attention giver (or withholder), we walk through life now being blasted from every angle with people blowing their whistles or banging their drums.

So we invent filters, methods, channels, for optional listening. Specialized cable channels, Syndicated feed readers, NetFlix, podCasts and iTunes. On our social networks, it's our circle of friends and connections which (apparently) "control" the flow. And attention-seekers invent new ways to blast us. Spam, Pop-ups, elevator video screens, billboards, even street performers. So, while the attention market is mostly based on gaining customers, there are three other goals at work here...

First, friend seekers. Date-seekers in many cases, but also the likes of Uncle Arnie, looking for people to agree with him – to find people who share his view, trying to get attention in small ways, maybe just to prove to himself that he’s right or to get some recognition that he is smart – or hopefully, looking for more diverse opinions which can help him refine his own ideas.

Second, fight seekers. Like that dude at the party who moves from group to group just waiting to find someone who disagrees with his theories so he can more loudly describe them (after all, it’s hard to justify telling people your detailed theories when they already agree. It’s more fun for this category of person to try to convert others to their cause).

And third, is a common one: Fame. There’s a high degree of respect given to those who become famous (even ignoring, I think, the potential monetary value of such fame)... and, therefore, there’s a powerful draw for people to win the kind of attention that brings fame. Like the guys from that show ‘Jack Ass’, who, week after week, would risk personal harm, humiliation, and hatred just because that was their best devised shot at becoming famous (which, they eventually did).

Now comes the popularity of social networks - LinkedIn, Facebook, Orkut, etc. as semi-controllable (implying semi-uncontrolled) communication channels... and here come the attention seekers. First the date-seekers and friend-seekers, then, the fame seekers (they only come after there's enough people watching to create fame)...and then, the professional, commercial attention-getters (businesses, advertisers, etc). I'm suddenly getting poked, compared, bitten... I'm getting virtual gifts and invited to play games... all by people I either know well or at least recognize as those I've invited into my virtual social circles. I'm also getting some valuable attention requests from people with really good ideas and invites to keep in touch with old friends. These new(ish) channels can really be powerful to control the inflow once you learn how - but they're even more powerful for the attention seekers, as we are all more likely to give our attention to someone who has already gotten the attention of one of our friends.

No matter the channel, we each have this powerful resource we can either offer or withhold – our Attention. But manage your network of friends or you might find you've opened your door to more attention seekers than ever. Just like the theory of email-bankruptcy - where people are just starting over and tossing aside their old email piles, you might find yourself declaring social (network) suicide, and killing off your current social profile and the network of 'friends' as the only way out from under the weight of that news feed.

When we are looking for entertainment, or a product or a service or a friend, we can offer our attention and listen for a while, or we can say “Please, stop blowing that whistle, or I really will crush it”.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Porn Potato

In case you don't get the reference in the title... The origin is here.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I was on the train last night. I found a seat, but before I sit down, I find my eyes facing the back of the 50-something guy seated in front of me and my eyes are immediately drawn to the full-screen image on his phone. It’s Porn.
On his phone.
And he’s clicking the screen... to another image. He’s surfing. On his phone. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”.

He can definitely sense that I’m right behind him (I’m barely 2-feet away) and others are just as close, looking at his phone screen as clearly as he is, and he makes no defensive, nonchalant, screen-blocking gestures, no dirty looks. So I don’t feel embarrassed for him, because he has no embarrassment... which is all fine.

He’s just thinking “That’s right. I’m here on the train ride home, checking out some porn. On my phone. Yes siree... great way to unwind after a tough day in the salt mines”.

Dude! What’s up? If your wife calls on that phone, you gonna say “yes, I’m on the train – I’m getting off soon” (oops)... And it’s not even an iPhone... so he can’t zoom in with his sweaty little fingers. Imagine Apple marketing to that use case... I could just imagine the white silhouetted iPhone porn surfers to go along with their cool ipod campaign.

I know... Half the people reading this will probably think I sound uptight("It’s just porn".) On his phone? The other half will probably be offended that I could even mention this whole story ("That's disgusting, don't give other people ideas").

Now, every time I see someone hovered over their phone, I’m just gonna wink, smirk and give them a knowing nod.. or maybe I’ll add, in my best Borat voice, “Niiiice – you make a sexy time on your phone!”.