Crowdsourced Winter Reading List

October 13th, 2017 by dewprocess.

I recently posted a query to my Twitter family:

In no time at all, I received a flurry of very interesting and diverse replies, and I want to thank everyone for their very compelling suggestions. Here below the first ten reading suggestions, as I look forward to more to come!:

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – via https://twitter.com/carozaldua

“2am at the Cat’s Pajamas” by Marie-Helene Bertino – via https://twitter.com/lmholt0

“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline – via https://twitter.com/schlossax

“Lamb” by Christopher Moore – via https://twitter.com/jiwindsor

“Agapē Agape” by William Gaddis – via https://twitter.com/140xLangame

A general recommendation of biographies from https://twitter.com/MihadAli

“The Moon’s a Balloon” by David Niven – via https://twitter.com/bockersjv

“Such Small Hands” by Andrés Barba – via https://twitter.com/citizenlow

“The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt – via https://twitter.com/timokupsa

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders – via https://twitter.com/sfie_1

The Consumer Never Wins In Format Wars

October 8th, 2017 by dewprocess.

Betamax was better than VHS (smaller tapes, better color reproduction, APS, 250 lines vs. 240 lines of resolution, superior sound, a more stable image, and better HW (recorders) construction).

HD DVD was better than Blu-ray, from a production scaling perspective: a fact that would have proved even more profitable given the lack of wholescale Blu-ray adoption for which Sony et al were hoping. While Blu-ray picture quality is superior to HD DVD, the cost for upgrade (to studios, manufacturers, and consumers alike) will have proven too great, once we look back and see how non-existent the transition from DVD to Blu-ray was.

History is littered with the corpses of superior or more reasonably positioned systems, all killed by the same disease: poor strategic marketing. Herewith, another one bites the dust:

The Windows Phone OS family (WinPhone 7 – Windows 10 Mobile) was a fluid, elegant, sophisticated OS group, murdered by marketing failures galore (as well as by the marketing successes of the opposition). For more than 6 years, I have been writing about Microsoft’s failure to effectively position or market their mobile platform and operating systems. A lot of good that did!

What are the lessons learned, and has Microsoft burned their mobile user base enough times now, that their Windows Core OS offering will fail to elicit enthusiasm from mobile consumers who carry too many scars?

https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-windows-10-mobile-features-and-hardware-are-not-focus-anymore

Two Anniversaries

August 23rd, 2017 by dewprocess.

13 years ago, I gave a small talk at the Cannes Film Festival, evangelizing for more measured creative and business growth. I had been working with several startups and noticed a trend toward accelerated scaling that I found worrisome. I encouraged my audience (mostly independent filmmakers) to give themselves time to develop their properties, instead of desperately rushing to sell their idea, fearful that it would be illicitly co-opted by some unknown competitor.

In 2005, I joined a large multinational corporation and noticed that this trend was reflected in the sense of urgency with which budgets and projects were managed throughout business units, and even at the corporate level (usually in response to shareholder demands for the semblance of repetitive short term gains).

Instead of engaging in careful long-term strategic planning and consistent scaling at a manageable pace, enterprises large and small were increasingly (and often retroactively) chasing mythical goals. Business ventures want to convince investors, shareholders, and others that their offering is worth obscene valuation, yet they don’t want to “waste” time actually doing the work of conceptualizing, developing, testing, productizing, marketing, selling, and supporting any tangible offering. It takes less time to make a PowerPoint, it would seem, than it does to make a product. The collateral damage from this mentality continues to be ignored today, by too many people who ought to know better.

Permit me to jump to another topic, for reasons which will become apparent, I hope:

The C-130 Hercules remains the longest continuously produced military aircraft in history. The first flight of the YC-130 prototype was made on this day (23 August) 1954 from the Lockheed plant in Burbank, California. Burbank’s relationship with Lockheed was long and proud, but the city demonstrated a painful lack of strategic planning that left it in dire straits in the early 1990s, when Lockheed left town. The job losses and economic downturn were dramatic, to say the least. Burbank had relied too heavily on one industry, even though the signs of change in that industry had been evident for years. Today, the local economy in this charming SoCal city is once again relying heavily on an admirable and powerful industry. That industry is also showing signs of dramatic change, and Burbank must work proactively – in partnership with its resident businesses from the Media & Entertainment industries – to adapt and evolve, in order to stay aloft in turbulent times, economic, technological, and social.
Cities are growing, as populations increasingly urbanize. Too many of these cities rely on a very few large sources of tax inflow, instead of diversifying their portfolio of revenues. Given that 99.7% of businesses in the US are small businesses, and 48% of US employees are small-business employees, I continue to advocate (with increasing volume!) for municipalities to support sustainable small business incubation: providing for scalable workforce growth, complementary innovations within pre-existing business ecosystems, and more agile infrastructures, capable of adapting to the increasingly explosive nature of 21st century markets, without becoming unduly subject to that same volatility.

The window of opportunity narrows, the closer one comes to a point of inflection. Will Burbank adapt in time, so it is able to manage, rather than be subject to, dynamic market changes? Will the Media & Entertainment industries pull back (even just a little) from the precipice of quarterly performance, in deference to more long-term strategic measurements? Will business ventures invest more thoughtfully in smaller initiatives (subsidiary or autonomous), more capable of adapting to the creative, technological, and economic forces that wait around the corner?

In the words of my close personal friend, Dame Shirley:

“They say the next big thing is here,
That the revolution’s near,
But to me it seems quite clear
That’s it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.”

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.

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