Looking For Answers.

August 13th, 2017 by dewprocess.
I often get push back from a few urban residents and business owners, whenever I speak at events and propose the idea of widened sidewalks, increased tree canopy, and raised, marked, and/or buffered bicycle lanes. My campaign is not merely in support of a changing streetscape, but for an evolution in how we coexist.

A mixed-use sidewalk in Lisbon, Portugal – comfortably accommodating pedestrians and bicyclists alike.

The resistance to my proposals is almost always borne of an innate fear of change. There exists in many of us an unconscious aversion to change, perhaps founded on a sense, however mistaken, that the status quo is always safer. Let’s be clear: it is only safer for those who benefit from that structure, and that structure is always perilous if it sits on unstable foundations. The pillars of fear, untruth, greed, and violence are made of the weakest mortar.
 
While it is true that the “evil we know” may be more predictable than an unknown and unquantifiable alternative, our evolution is based on a drive to innovate and disrupt. How do we reconcile these instincts that seem so diametrically opposed? We must become living testaments to the notion that oil and water can coexist. It seems a silly suggestion, until you look around at the turmoil that is escalating in otherwise developed communities.

So long as we respond to the “other” with fear and aggression we will never advance our society. We won’t evolve. We must, therefore, offer proposals for change and improvement that are tenable. Proposals tend to work best when they offer opportunity and options.

  • It might be something as relatively innocuous as getting a town to accept a plastic bag ban; offer them compelling and creative alternatives, such as reusable bags branded with their favorite store. The consumer gets a quality freebie, and the store gets the best sort of marketing possible: free grass-roots brand evangelism!),
  • convincing your community to finally accept that urban infrastructures require multimodal transportation options, and the streetscape is no longer the exclusive domain of the single-driver combustion fuel vehicle, but rather a vital part of our urban landscape that must be shared and managed with thoughtful consideration for all (develop a well-planned and comprehensive network of multimodal transport options, including pedestrian, bicycle, and public; ensure these options function efficiently and are well-signed; enforce the law for *all* stakeholders; and provide follow-up metrics to prove the merits of the model: social, safety, environmental, and economic);
  • or encouraging a society to accept and adapt to the often complicated but unavoidable complexities and nuisances of the present world in which we live, with a view to improving the future *together*, as opposed to yearning for a yesteryear that only existed for an entitled few.

How do privileged individuals such as myself support positive change, without injecting our own ignorance or arrogance? How do POC, women, the disabled, and other underrepresented constituencies secure their overdue rights, without feeling that they must do it all alone? Societies do not advance by fragmentation. Lasting change works best when we are all invested. How do we acknowledge the nuances that comprise every individual, so we each feel empowered and represented? How do we, ourselves, practice this inclusivity when we’ve perhaps never had to exist in a constant state of powerlessness and underrepresentation?

The questions will be many, and embedded with complexity. I worry that the portal to a stronger society, which can only be unlocked by the many keys of a truly enlightened and unified community, will remain locked longer than we hope. I fear we’ll struggle: pushing angrily against each other, instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder, confronting the obstacle together.

I don’t have the answers. Our politicians believe they are supposed to provide solutions, and we reinforce that sense with our demands and complaints. Perhaps our political system and its representatives are only supposed to provide thoughtfully crafted legislation and infrastructure. Then, We The People, are obliged to manifest the sustainable solutions that will advance our society, through our daily actions and interactions. Whatever the best option may be, it will not be discovered, let alone developed or deployed, unless we work together. At this juncture, this may seem an unrealistic and possibly untenable option. Do you have a better option? One which recognizes the humanity in each of us? One which respects and supports our equality, even though it may not yet be realized? One which refutes hate, social fragmentation, oppression, and exclusion? If we are only willing to listen to or read opinions that conform to our pre-existing beliefs and values, the status quo will be maintained, until it falls apart – a victim of its own internal frictional forces.

The challenge is in putting that change into action in a way that recognizes the urgency of the need, the diversity of given circumstances, and the enormity of the baggage we each bring to this journey.  How do we bring about positive change – inclusively, enthusiastically, intelligently, sustainably, meaningfully, realistically?

Sometimes The Path To Success Is An Uphill Road.

August 4th, 2017 by dewprocess.

My ideas and initiatives sometimes seem unconventional to many, but I have never been so vilified as when I first proposed a new streetscape redesign in the City of Burbank, California, back on September 21st, 2009. One member of the City Council actually accused me of being part of a United Nations conspiracy to rob US citizens of their rights! Thankfully, the party responsible for that particular point of view is no longer in a position of municipal authority.

I spent nearly 2 years vociferously campaigning for this redesign, supported by my fellow City Commissioners. It was an uphill battle, greatly aided by smart advice from my friend Janette Sadik-Khan, during her tenure as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

A number of city residents, reliable members of the NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) constituency, enthusiastically sought to paint (if you’ll forgive the pun) my initiative as an unrealistic and socialist land grab (I’m not making this up!). Groups such as the hard working Walk Bike Burbank got involved, working diligently to educate citizens on the potential health, safety, and community benefits of our initiative.

Nearly 8 years later, we are vindicated, in this excellent article. One street. 8 years. At this rate, a fully multimodal transportation infrastructure is still a long way off. I will, however, not surrender my firm belief that our cities need to be more accessible, inclusive, diverse, and community-oriented than they presently are. With more than 82% of citizens living in urban areas, it is more important than ever to ensure that we make our cities more livable, walkable, bikeable, workable, breathable, and affordable.

#NeverGiveUp

Be Less. Do More. (Commentary from NdeW)

June 14th, 2017 by dewprocess.

So this aggressively self-promotional “social media guru” recently posted a piece equating himself with Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban, despite the fact that nobody outside this particular guru’s little bubble really knows him. I found it a little distasteful, but not really out of the ordinary, when one reviews the diversity of “gurus” and “experts” who spend more time selling their name and brand than actually helping build other businesses, products, solutions…let alone making the world a better place! We all slip up once or twice, in our efforts to be noticed – especially in an increasingly noisy world. I consider myself fortunate to have a strong core of friends and associates who regularly remind me that the best effort is always applied on behalf of others, not exclusively for altruistic reasons, but rather because our legacy will always be marked by what we do for our communities, not what we acquire for ourselves.

#Ozymandias

Thank you to those who help me minimize my foolishness, and maximize my value to others.

A Cautionary Tale In Close-Up

May 2nd, 2017 by dewprocess.

The recently launched Hulu serialization of Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” is proving a worthy challenge to viewers around the world. It is not for the fainthearted audience.

Executive Producers Bruce Miller and Warren Littlefield gave the reins to director Reed Morano who, in partnership with actors including Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel, Samira Wiley, Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer, Max Minghella, and O-T Fagbenle, have inhabited a world at one and the same time seductive and horrific.

DP Colin Watkinson has used focus and color in ways designed to disorient and unsettle, and the symbolism of Ane Crabtree’s costume design is as direct as her craft is sublime. Not forgetting Julie Berghoff’s production design, but nevertheless unwittingly neglecting the host of other contributors, I found the show to be immensely demanding, in the best of ways.

This is not something I would actively choose to watch, as a means to relax at the end of a long day’s work. Then again, there is little about our current sociopolitical landscape that warrants relaxation. One might once have called “The Handmaid’s Tale” a cautionary tale. Today, it feels more like a peek in to a possible yet not-so-distant future. I wonder how much advanced warning we can afford.

WTHR TWTR – The Evolution of a Feathered Friend

April 23rd, 2017 by dewprocess.

With its traditional content limitations being “stretched” several months ago, in order to accommodate “photos, videos, links and up to 140 characters of text”, Twitter has arguable encouraged a more discursive and expressive community. Indeed, there are those who have become particularly enamored of the platform, when they might be better served, and of better service, were they to focus a healthier balance of their energy elsewhere!

However, political observations aside, it’s been interesting to see how the language of Twitter has and has not evolved, in the wake of recent changes. I’ve included below a list of acronyms, abbreviations, and unique terms that were once common parlance on the platform. Today, some #persist, while others have been effectively impeached (the other meaning of the word).

Which terminology do you still include in your tweets, and have you discovered or introduced new terms that are not included below?

BFN.

tweet_edited

Acronyms

  • MT = Modified tweet. This means the tweet you’re looking at is a paraphrase of a tweet originally written by someone else.
  • RT = Retweet. The tweet you’re looking at was forwarded to you by another user.
  • DM = Direct message. A direct-message is a message only you and the person who sent it can read.
  • PRT = Partial retweet. The tweet you’re looking at is the truncated version of someone else’s tweet.
  • HT = Hat tip. This is a way of attributing a link to another Twitter user.
  • CC = Carbon-copy. Works the same way as email.
  • FF = Follow Friday (a convention whereby, every Friday, one publishes one tweet listing newly discovered Twitter users deemed worthy of following)
  • IMHO = In my humble opinion.
  • AYFKMWTS = Are you f—ing kidding me with this s—?
  • GTFOOH = Get the f— out of here
  • OH = Overheard.
  • NFW = No f—ing way
  • IRL = In real life
  • NSFW = Not safe for work.
  • FML = F— my life.
  • FWIW = For what it’s worth.
  • QOTD = quote of the day
  • BTW = By the way
  • BFN = Bye for now
  • AFAIK = As far as I know’
  • TY = Thank you
  • YW = You’re welcome
  • FTW = for the win
  • QOTD = quote of the day
  • BTW = by the way
  • HT = hat tip
  • FIFY = Fixed It For You
  • OMG = Oh My God
  • LOL = Laughing Out Loud
  • TN = Tonight
  • TM= Tomorrow
  • SMH = Shaking My Head
  • IDK = I don’t know
  • AMIIC = Ask Me If I Care
  • FB = Facebook
  • FTF = Face to Face
  • FTL = For the Loss or For the Lose
  • FYI = for your information
  • IC = I see
  • IOW = In Other Words
  • IRL = In Real Life
  • JK; j/k = just kidding
  • JSYK = just so you know
  • JV = Joint Venture
  • ROFL = rolling on the floor laughing
  • TIA = thanks in advance

Abbreviations and other terms

  • GR8 = great
  • 4ward = forward
  • abt = about
  • b/c = because
  • b4 = before
  • bgd = background
  • chk = check
  • cld = could
  • clk = click
  • da = the
  • deets = details
  • Eml = email
  • fab = fabulous
  • fave = favorite
  • fav = favorite
  • fwd = forward
  • itz = it is
  • kewl = cool
  • K = okay
  • L8er = later
  • L8 = late
  • peeps = people
  • plz = please
  • PPL = People
  • props = proper respect
  • PWN = Own
  • R = are
  • shld = should
  • thx; tx = thanks
  • Twouche = Someone acting like a big fat jerk via Twitter.
  • Twurvey = A survey sent out over Twitter.
  • u’ve = you have
  • ur = your
  • U = you.
  • w/ =with
  • wld = would
  • wOOt! = an expression of joy or excitement.

The Ties That Bind.

February 22nd, 2017 by dewprocess.

present-past-future

I am a big admirer of Satya Nadella. However, when Mr. Nadella states in a recent interview, “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal”, he seems to be confusing and conflating the concepts of a VISION and a MISSION with the notion of VALUES. Perhaps this is an effort to distance himself and his administration from the legacy presence of the brand’s co-founder, but I fear that would be misguided strategy. Perhaps he was misquoted (it happens). Perhaps he didn’t say what he meant to say, or in quite the way he intended. Media interviews are fraught with the peril of partial clarity.

It bears reviewing that a vision statement should, if pursued properly, have an expiration date. At that point, the sitting leadership should reinvigorate the brand strategy with a new vision statement. Similarly, a mission is not well defined if it is not clearly achievable, and thus temporary. The values of a company may also change, but they can also endure.

Bill Gates’ vision of hardware ubiquity, expressed in his mission of “putting a PC in every home”, was well stated at the time, and largely accomplished, as Mr. Nadella concedes in this interview. Quite correctly, Nadella also points out the geographic and cultural limitations of that mission: a perfect opportunity to refresh the Microsoft brand, with a new more expansive Mission Statement, a new Vision Statement, and – if he and his leadership team so choose – a new Statement of Core Values (which is what I believe he is attempting to do here).

If a company accomplishes its previously stated mission, this is cause for celebration, not criticism and distancing. I hope Mr. Nadella will recognize and underscore this, going forward, and give his company the credit it justly deserves. I believe Microsoft has an exciting path ahead of itself, and how its leadership frames the past will do much to develop market and shareholder confidence in its future.

Whither/wither interstitial advertising?

November 14th, 2016 by dewprocess.
They say the ad industry has lost touch with the consumer, and I find myself agreeing, but not only from the creative perspective. When watching streaming or OTT content, I am disappointed by how unimaginative the ad allocations are, resulting in nauseatingly frequent repetitions of the same commercial spot, to the point where the brand actually suffers from being forced upon the viewer with mind-numbing frequency. Recently, a rather amusing Geico ad turned into a Gitmo ad, by the time I had been tortuously subjected to its pitch no less than 7 times in the same show. It’s a simple enough algorithmic exercise to parse out advertising content in a manner more digestible for consumers, and ultimately more profitably for brands. Indeed, with some intelligent and imaginative programming, online content ad streaming could be so much better targeted and varied, as to really promise the clickthru and brand adoption rates that conventional broadcast content has never been able to even suggest, despite all their metric mumbo jumbo.
 
While ECM is certainly a major challenge that needs prompt addressing, the creative content of ads is also in dire need of innovation. The drug ads have become little more than legalese white noise (to the point where our family doesn’t worry about the daytime Viagra ads, as we know the kids aren’t listening or watching), and the rest is a leftover soup of copycat automotive, CPG, and family restaurant dreck. One would hope that brands would take advantage of the upcoming holiday period to reposition themselves as partners in consumers’ lifestyles, both functionally and aspirationally. Several British brands seem to have got the message (see links below), but I’m having a hard time finding US brands that have positioned themselves as anything but hard sell commercial pitches. Another missed opportunity. Here below are a few of the British ads for this upcoming holiday season. Let me know if you find any other spots from the US (or elsewhere) that recognize the value of building a relationship, as much as hawking the initial product.

Letting Out the Slack.

November 2nd, 2016 by dewprocess.

Microsoft just announced a chat-based enterprise collaboration tool. It’s called Microsoft Teams, and the implications are deeper than one might imagine, at first blush. Whether those implications realize themselves or not depends (of course) on how enthusiastically the market embraces this SaaS.

One’s first assumption might be that Microsoft Teams is a “Slack killer”, and this might certainly be the case, if Microsoft were to have a fantastic track record of imaginative and impactful marketing. It does not. It’s unlikely that Microsoft Teams will have much initial impact on Slack user numbers, given the fierce loyalty of Slack users to the brand. The same applies (to lesser extents) to Basecamp, Smartsheet, Asana, Podio, Trello, Samepage, Quip, Projectplace, Yalla, and, and, and…

Each of these collaboration platforms provides an experience with which its users are – for the most part – quite comfortable. You don’t often see an Evernote user of longstanding jump over to OneNote, or vice versa.

So what’s the big deal with Microsoft Teams? There are two big deals, in fact.

First, if the solution is well-thought and intuitive, and if it integrates with Office 365 in as fluid and seamless a fashion as intended, it will secure those enterprise users of the Office Suite, and prevent their adoption of the other aforementioned “standalone” collaboration toolsets. Microsoft will be strengthening its enterprise software ecosystem, not by preventing escape, but by making the notion of staying more attractive. More of a golden cage, than a walled garden.

The second implication, however, is more dramatic: Microsoft was almost going to acquire Slack earlier this year – a move I did not quite understand, given both the $8 Billion price tag and Microsoft’s existing holdings of SharePoint, Yammer, and Skype, to mention just a few. Opting to withdraw from the purchase has made a silent statement that will, I believe, reverberate through the already flawed VC world. For the past years, convention and hubris have driven the notion that companies will purchase and absorb promising or threatening products and solutions, as a matter of course and self-preservation. On balance, this has not proven as cost-effective or innovative as many have pretended. Whether intentionally or not, Microsoft, by opting to pursue internal development and release of their own Swiss Army collaboration tool, has communicated that their IP, combined with internal dev talent, are sufficiently robust to offer solutions that do not require Slack.

Admittedly, this remains a risk. Slack users tend to comprise small businesses that “graduate” toward Google suites of product offerings, rather than the traditionally heftier Microsoft suites. However, the Microsoft brand (somewhat inadvertently, I feel) has been ceding its Goliath mantle to Apple and Google, of late, and many small businesses with which I work are less intimidated by the brand than they once were.

If Microsoft manages to position their Teams offering properly, this could be the moment when all the vaporware startups out there realize they are standing in the street naked, and need to actually develop something unique and truly valuable (read: unrealizable by others without great investment), or risk being eclipsed by developers who have finally wised up to the fact that a snappy presentation does not a mighty valuation make, even if it’s in PowerPoint.

Is “Periscope Depth” still too shallow?

July 6th, 2016 by dewprocess.

The power of live streaming is incontestable, as most recently demonstrated by the awful but important footage captured by Lavish Reynolds. This media innovation has the potential to revolutionize journalism, communications, storytelling…but then Twitter had that same potential, when it rose to prominence. Technological innovation will usually manifest compelling results, but many pioneering brands will stumble along the way. Is this unavoidable? Are there better ways to grow a product or solution, so it may realize its best potential more effectively, efficiently, and sustainably?

The recent Democrat “sit-in” in the US House of Representatives launched Twitter’s subsidiary Periscope into the spotlight (at the edges of which it had been operating for more than a year). This app has the potential to merge the functional merits of both Twitter and YouTube. Will this “Video Twitter” evolve into a long-term media platform enhancement, or is it little more than the latest social media fad? Who remembers Meerkat?

Snapchat took over from Instagram, which itself apparently supplanted Pinterest, after the latter briefly challenged Facebook. Of course, some will argue that I have one or two of the brand incursions mixed up, but that only underscores my contention: Will everyone have the Periscope app on their smartphones for the next 6 months, only to hop to the next shiny bright object, as soon as some bright young startup creates it (with a surfeit of investment from Venture Capital companies eager to reap quick cash rewards, before their latest vaporware is supplanted)? Will Periscope instead grow “too big to fail”, as Twitter seems to have done, yet – like Twitter – represent little clarity, in terms of functional positioning? Are our social platforms and channels destined to come and go with the whims of youth, or are some focusing on developing a degree of operational maturity that will more securely establish their merits and utility, both on our smartphones and in our communities? For all of Facebook’s flaws, it has consistently pursued this maturation with the degree of academic humility and professional confidence that is the hallmark of most engineers. Its relative longevity is as much a result of its willingness to adapt and iterate, as it is due to its refusal to be molded by its user base.

Therein lies the lesson.

Too many brands have relied upon the “Crowd” to manifest and elevate their identity and fortunes, simply because it was this same “Crowd” that first adopted the company’s initial value proposition. The “Crowd” is a powerful current, but while it runs most aggressively in shallow waters, it carries the greatest power in deeper seas. In much the same way, it behooves companies that operate in the Social space (which effectively includes all M&E and Communications companies, along with a host of other markets) to study more assiduously the role of their user base in the ongoing development and growth of their brand. It is not the Crowd’s responsibility to identify or define the brand, nor its value proposition. Furthermore, the longer we allow Startups to scale too quickly, simply as a means to secure larger investments, IPOs, and other Get-rich-quick objectives, the weaker our innovation pipeline will become. The vast majority of Venture-backed startups fail in their first year, and the many articles acknowledging this long-known but too often ignored fact effectively concur that the solution lies in more sustainable development, both of IP and workforce.

I have spent the past 15 years promoting this thesis: that Startup success should no longer be gauged by how fast a company sells, but rather how solidly it is able to build its value proposition; how securely it is able to hire and retain talent; how reliably it is able to integrate its offering into the physical and functional communities within which it operates. While the ROI may not be as immediately “sexy” as the silly Unicorns investors still chase, the longer-term returns generated by the far less mythical “workhorses” I have been supporting are more rewarding, both financially and otherwise. With this in mind, I look to brands such as Periscope, and I wonder: will they be seduced by the noise and sparkle of short-term ROI aspiration, which more often than not represents little more than a mirage of unattainable yearnings, or will they plot their course with thoughtful care and imagination, giving themselves, their investors, their employees, and users the best chance of hitting the mark, and driving forward into an increasingly valuable future?

What Lies at the Heart of a Business?

June 21st, 2016 by dewprocess.
Businesses all too often find themselves pulled by powerful gravitational forces into the black hole of “quarterly prosperity at all costs”. The vision becomes about paper profitability, and the true core value is lost in the mists of market competition.
 
Great business is, however, always tied to great community, great innovation, and great people. Without those ingredients, the heart of a brand fails, and all the remnant frantic activity is little more than life support, performed on a gradually failing entity.
 
No matter the size of your venture, be it startup or multinational, always remember your people, your vision, and your community are your core.
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