Put Some Mustard In Your Shoe.

September 7th, 2018 by dewprocess.

A member of my Social Media community recently asked me to give them an example of what they can do as an individual, to address the inescapable reality of Climate Change. In their words, “…I don’t know if I am helping or hurting the situation.” I thought it might be useful to “recycle” my answer here:

I post a number of suggestions, as and when I find them, on my Twitter feed (which reflects only personal opinions, not those of the firm).

In the meantime, it would be great to confirm you are addressing the “situation”, as you politely call it, on 3 fronts:

1. Change the Lightbulbs

Many people feel overwhelmed by the dire predictions and visible signs of global climate change, and thereby fear that individual small actions amount to a waste of time. You may either assume everyone else is stuck in a paralysis of fear, and do nothing, or you may trust that active climate leaders outnumber the deniers, and collectively our small actions will have a mighty global impact! Obviously changing lightbulbs and turning down the thermostat are good places to begin, but there are so many more things you can do:

  • Make sure your air conditioning and heating units are ENERGY STAR models.
  • Set a non-ENERGY STAR air conditioning unit to “Quiet Guard” or “Power Save” mode.
  • Get a programmable thermostat that will automatically turn your AC and heater on or off to save on energy.
  • Always keep windows and doors tightly shut when running the AC or heater.
  • If you have central AC, close the air vents and doors in unused rooms to avoid cooling or heating unused spaces.
  • Turn off kitchen or bath exhaust fans as soon as possible.
  • Use ceiling fans to cool a room instead of turning on the AC.
  • You can set your thermostat to slightly higher temperatures if you have ceiling fans installed! In fact, you can probably change the setting by 3 or 4 degrees, regardless, without noticeable discomfort.

In Winter…

  • Reverse your ceiling fan’s direction to run clockwise and at low speed so that the room air is being pulled up, and warm air is distributed from the ceiling down into the room.
  • Keep your thermostat settings at around 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit at night to save on heating costs.
  • Remember to reduce the temperature setting on your thermostat whenever you leave the house. Many thermostats have an “Away” function, FYI.

In Summer…

  • Turn your ceiling fan’s blades so that it runs in a counter-clockwise direction. This will direct the air down into the room and create a cooling wind chill effect.
  • Try to keep the difference between the temperature of your thermostat setting and outside temperatures to a minimum. The bigger the difference, the more energy you will lose.
  • Increase temperature settings on your thermostat when you leave the house – there is no need to keep cooling excessively when no one is home. Again, many thermostats have an “Away” function, FYI.
  • Consider turning your AC off entirely every time you leave your house or apartment, especially when you are traveling for business or leisure. If you have a pet and live in a hot climate zone, consider your pet’s comfort and safety, of course.
  • Clean your air conditioner and heater’s air filters regularly.
  • Check if any ducts to your heating or cooling equipment are leaking and fix them to increase efficiency levels.
  • To keep your central air conditioner unit working efficiently, clean the outside compressor on a regular basis.
  • Keep plants at least one foot away from an outdoor AC unit to provide sufficient airflow.
  • Plan to have your entire heating system inspected by a professional on a regular basis, especially if it’s natural gas.
  • Invest in an energy-efficient heat pump to save on heating costs.
  • Electric baseboard heating can be very effective. To keep it that way, you should leave a clearance of at least three inches under the heating unit and avoid placing furniture or draperies too close to it.
  • While portable heaters are very convenient, they also waste a lot of energy. Limit your use of the same and opt for the regular heaters instead.

Insulation & Ventilation

  • Check your roof and basement for water leaks. Insulation that gets wet is ineffective!
  • Seal any cracks in the attic, basement, or crawl spaces with materials like caulk and spray foam.
  • Block gaps around windows and door frames with weather strips or draft guards.
  • Beware: air vents blocked by drapes, curtains, and furniture can increase heating costs.
  • Make sure your walls are insulated properly to prevent energy loss and shield your home from outside temperatures.
  • Cover bare floors with carpeting or rugs to help insulate your home.
  • Shut the damper in your fireplace when it is not in use to keep warm air from escaping.
  • Keep the doors inside your home open to allow conditioned air to circulate freely (while noting point 5 above).
  • Most homes come equipped with about 3 inches of insulation in the attic. You can easily upgrade this to 12 inches to reduce both heating and cooling energy usage.

Lighting Your Home

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFL models, which are slightly more expensive to purchase, but will last longer and save you significant amounts of energy and money in the long run.
  • If you have halogen light bulbs installed, you should consider replacing them with CFLs, which don’t emit as much heat and use much less energy.
  • When purchasing new light bulbs, double-check that you are purchasing the correct bulb size and brightness for your light fixture to avoid losing energy by installing light bulbs that are too big or too bright for your actual needs.
  • Check all your light fixtures to see if they have an “Energy Star” label. If not, it might be a good idea to invest into “Energy Star” certified lighting.
  • Manual timer controls are a great way to set certain times during which you want lights or electronics to be switched on. Once that time period ends, all of the connected devices will switch off automatically.
  • Install dimmer switches to control your lights can be a great and simple way to save on energy. By dimming a light, you reduce its wattage and energy output.
  • Install motion sensors in your exterior, which turn your lights on only when something or someone is moving.
  • Like thermostats, which control temperature, there are now digital systems you can install that control lights throughout your home. Some even offer remote control features through a connected mobile app. These digital systems can help you determine the most efficient use of light and automate the turning on and off process.
  • Reduce the overall amount of free-standing, redundant lights throughout your home to avoid turning them on out of habit.
  • f you want to increase the efficiency of your free-standing lights, try installing light-colored lampshades and placing them in corners, because from there they will reflect light from two walls instead of just one (especially in front of bright wallpaper).

Harnessing the Sun

  • When purchasing a new home or installing new windows, keep an eye out for the “National Fenestration Rating Council” label, which certifies energy-efficient windows.
  • Installing light-colored curtains is a great way to allow sunlight to enter and brighten the room without inviting too much heat.
  • A natural way to shield your home from sunlight is to plant trees on the sunny side of the house.
  • Make use of your shades by blocking sunlight from entering your home during the day in the summer. This will help keep it cool inside.
  • During the winter, leave the shades wide open during the day, which will allow the sun to heat your interior with natural, free energy.
  • Use shades to block warm air from escaping your home in the winter by keeping them shut on the north side of your home during the day
  • At night, keep shades shut all around the house to keep warm air in.

Combatting the Sun

  • Upgrade to reflective roofs to reduce heat buildup.
  • You can also apply a reflective coating to your existing roof to slow down deterioration.
  • Consider placing screens and films on your windows to reduce the impact of UV rays.
  • Apply reflective coating on window glass to reduce the amount of heat entering your home.
  • Invest in high-performance windows that will help your AC system run more efficiently.

Refrigerator

  • Use the power-save mode on your refrigerator (if available).
  • Set the temperature to somewhere between 30 and 42°F.
  • Refrigerators purchased in or before the 1990s are “energy vampires.” Replace them with ENERGY STAR units as soon as possible!
  • Did you know that an empty fridge uses more energy than a fully loaded one? Make sure to keep it stocked and consider filling the freezer with large containers of water.
  • A slightly inconvenient yet simple way to increase your refrigerator’s efficiency levels is to dust its coils, which are located on the back.
  • Check if moisture is collecting or if you can feel cold air around the closed door of your refrigerator. If yes, it might be time to repair the door seals to avoid wasting energy.
  • Do you really need that second fridge in the garage or basement? Probably not. Get rid of it and save energy.

Oven

  • When your meal is almost finished, try turning off your oven or stove burners early. The remaining heat, in most cases, is enough to finish the cooking.
  • When heating up leftovers, considering using the microwave and toaster oven, as they will use less energy than your conventional oven.
  • Opening and closing the oven causes temperature changes of up to 25 degrees. So keep the oven door closed while cooking to avoid making it “work harder” to maintain high temperatures.
  • Immediately clean your oven after cooking or baking, because a clean oven has much shorter warm-up times than a dirty one.

Cooking

  • When preparing a meal with many ingredients, take as many as possible out of the refrigerator at once to avoid opening and closing its door; every time warm air enters the unit, it ends up having to use more energy to cool down again.
  • Some stove models provide burners with different sizes. If that’s the case with yours, try to find a pot that perfectly fits the burner on your stove, because small pots don’t need all the heat of a big burner.
  • Copper-bottomed pots and pans are a great investment if you would like to use heat more efficiently when preparing food on the stove.
  • Pay attention to stove reflector pans and keep them clean so they can reflect more heat upward.
  • Not every pot has a lid, but if it does you should use it because it can contribute to building up heat much faster and shorten your overall cooking time.
  • If you have a door separating you from the rest of the house, try keeping it open during winter months to let the warm air around the oven and stove help heat your home’s interior.
  • While it’s nice to feel some of the oven heat when baking or cooking during colder months, it can unnecessarily heat up your home during the summer. So, consider preparing meals on the grill outside to avoid AC overuse.

Dishwasher

  • Use the “economy mode” setting on your dishwasher as much as possible.
  • Start your dishwasher only once it’s full, to avoid washing a smaller number of dishes over the course of several washing cycles.
  • Turn off your dishwasher as soon as the wash cycle finishes, then air-dry the dishes.

Washer & Dryer

  • Only do laundry when you can use the machine at capacity. Otherwise, you’ll end up doing more frequent washing cycles with smaller loads and waste energy that way.
  • What many don’t know is that laundry detergents work just as well with cold as they do with warm water. Consider keeping your washer’s temperature setting on cold to avoid wasting energy.
  • If you do not have enough laundry to wash a full load, change the settings so the washer uses less water.
  • When doing laundry, try to wash and dry more than one load at once, so that you can take advantage of the dryer’s leftover heat and put in the second load when it is still warm.
  • Consider air-drying your light fabrics and only using the dryer for heavy fabrics
  • To keep your dryer’s efficiency at the highest level, clean the lint filter before every load.
  • Check on your clothes earlier than usual when they are in the dryer. They might already be dry. Over-drying not only wastes energy but also causes static and sometimes wrinkling.
  • Make sure that your dryer is venting to the outside – especially during summer – so that your AC unit does not have to work extra hard to keep it cool inside.

Electronics

  • Always turn off all your electronic devices when you are not using them.
  • Unplug electronics that are not in use to prevent them from using energy.
  • Unplug a device AND its charger as soon as the battery has is recharged! Even if your device is unplugged, chargers will continue to use energy.
  • Adjust your TV and computer screen settings to lower contrast and brightness levels, but make sure that you are not damaging your eyes as a result.

TV & Computer

  • When purchasing a new TV, make sure to get a model that is “Energy Star” certified.
  • Change or turn off its factory settings, because newer models are mostly set to “showroom” mode, which uses much more energy.
  • Instead of getting a desktop computer, invest your money in a laptop. It will be more convenient and energy-efficient.
  • Computer screen savers can be fun, but they also use up energy. Instead, adjust your computer settings to sleep or hibernate mode for longer periods of inactivity.

Water

  • Fix any leaky faucet or showerhead immediately!
  • Also frequently check your hot water pipes, especially older ones, for leaks.
  • Shorten your hot showers or use lukewarm water instead.
  • You can install low-flow faucets and showerheads to reduce your use of hot water.

Water Heater

  • Consider reducing the temperature settings of your water heater to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is plenty to keep your water hot enough for everyday use.
  • Some water heaters come with built-in timers, but if they don’t, you might want to connect it to a manual timer. Either way, it is a good idea to set it to be turned off when no one is home.
  • When you are going on vacation or leaving your home for a short business trip, make sure to turn off your water heater while you are gone. Otherwise, it will keep heating the water in a sort of “standby mode.”
  • A small and cheap trick to save on energy when it comes to your heater is to insulate the first six feet of the water pipes connected to the unit.
  • Save energy by insulating your old unit with insulation wrap. Make sure to keep any vents uncovered.

(tips were compiled using resources from sites such as homeselfe.com, greenage, and energystar.gov)

2. Change the Laws

It’s amazing that, in the midst of a political climate that suggests bipartisan citizen-led democracy is a fading fantasy, we can find ourselves suddenly reminded how powerful we actually are, as individuals. Last week, the California Assembly voted on SB100, a landmark energy conservation bill. The vote fell 4 votes short of passing, until I and a strong group of associates at the Climate Reality Leadership Conference jumped on phone, email, and text, and bombarded 4 Assembly members with our desire to see them switch their votes. Joined by (I’m sure) many others outside of our gathering, we managed to change all 4 minds in less than 2 hours, and they flipped their votes, in response to the powerful citizen push. Your voice matters!..

…except when it doesn’t.

3. Change the Leadership

Special interest groups and corporate lobbyists have corrupted the sanctity of Public Office. Nobody can claim otherwise. There exist a number of honorable elected officials, from all points on the political spectrum, who wish this were not so, and are willing and, in some cases, actively trying, to fight this blight on our democratic landscape. Others sit comfortably in the pockets of big money, dark money, corporate greed, and other special interests that obstruct the will of the People. Unless these forces openly hack the electoral system on a massive scale (hello Russia!), your vote matters immensely. Americans vote in pitiful numbers at Election time (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout_in_the_United_States_presidential_elections), and this has to change. If you have already registered to vote, help 4 other people who are eligible, to register, and help elect sincere public servants who want to represent their constituents and our planet with sincerity, humility, and vision.

Thank you for caring enough to take action.

-NdeW”

What do you do to address the Climate Change crisis?

 

Ozymandias and Harriet

May 11th, 2018 by dewprocess.

California State Senator Scott Wiener and I communicated with one another several times during his campaign to push SB 827 through the legislature, and I warned very early on during our exchanges that the singlemindedness that gave him the courage and conviction to introduce and champion such disruptive legislation would be the very undoing of its hopes for success.

I do not delight in being proven right in this case, because the intent behind this bill was and remains laudable. Urban zones, especially in California, are in desperate need of increased housing inventory. That said, the housing most needed in many of our cities is not luxury condominiums or lofty apartments for the well-heeled. What is sorely lacking in major municipalities is thoughtfully centralized housing for the people who keep our cities alive: the teachers, city workers, restaurant and store staff, and other citizens presently struggling through daily commutes to work in places where they cannot presently imagine ever being able to live. A healthy community caters to its best and most conscientious citizens, irrespective of their income, net worth, gender, color, or creed. Our cities have lost sight of this dictum. Another element in ensuring the health and well-being of our urban societies is protecting the best core differentiating characteristics of each of these communities. Senator Wiener’s bill did not satisfy its critics on either count. Desperate circumstances do NOT always call for desperate measures.

Senator Wiener made it very clear to me how disdainful he was of early critiques, and his dismissive answers to polite questions in numerous online forums repeatedly undermined his chances at developing transversal support. It was only after a groundswell of opposition presented itself, from such quarters as the Sierra Club and the LA Times, that he begrudgingly agreed to revisit the details of his proposed bill. The damage had been done, however, and he had alienated too many potential interests, who might have proven invaluable in developing a piece of legislation that could have been truly revolutionary, if somewhat more nuanced than the original form.

My hope now is that Senator Wiener learns from this experience. He was not wrong in his general objective. He was incorrect in his specific approach. Credit is due, though, to the Senator: for lighting a match under municipalities whose bureaucracies have for too long kicked this can down the road. The warning bell has been rung, and it would not behoove our cities to meet Senator Wiener’s unfortunate strategy with their own arrogance and hubris. Change is due, and I sincerely hope that when Senator Wiener looks to revisit the matter, he will find that local legislatures will have done the job well enough to both adequately approach his noble aspirations and meet the needs of the community they more knowledgeably serve.

An Old Adage Goes Interactive

January 12th, 2018 by dewprocess.

Fort Collins, Colorado is installing its own “civic broadband” service, after the politicized FCC instituted a net neutrality repeal.
Chattanooga was the first with a municipal ISP program, and more will follow.

Perhaps this is how we beat corrupt government: think global, act local!

Of additional interest will be the implications for the larger telcos, cablecos, and other “Last Mile” pipeline owners such as AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum, et al: If municipalities become ISPs, the democratization of Internet access will be accelerated dramatically, and represent a big threat to private corporations’ strategic throttling of content distribution.

 

 

 

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

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.

Natural Growth Is Always More Attractive.

February 26th, 2016 by dewprocess.

Silicon Valley!

Silicon Alley!

Silicon Beach!

Silicon Forest!

Silicon Prairie!

“It’s in the trees!
It’s coming!”

When will the startup gold rush fever end?

I have been trying for 8 years, with varying degrees of success, to encourage people to stop heeding the false prophecies of certain (not all) Get-Rich-Quick Venture Capital investment vehicles, and instead seek out the truly thoughtful innovations that have the potential to bring as much social value as fiscal value to the marketplace and communities in which we exist today.

It’s time for us all to stop playing this game of “my vaporware is more shiny than yours”, and try to sincerely help inventors, innovators, and other creative business builders develop the types of sustainable business propositions that can build workforces, communities, steady revenue streams, and the types of long-term economic stability that was once the hallmark of great nations. It requires time, humility, and perseverance. It requires collaboration, vision, and generosity.

Watch this clip featuring Bernie Sanders. You need not agree with his every political position to recognize the veracity of his observations herein. It applies to our approach to so many facets of life and society:

“The truth is, at some level, that we are in this together… The truth is at some level when you hurt, when your children hurt, I hurt. And when my kids hurt, you hurt. And it’s very easy to turn our backs on kids who are hungry, or veterans who are sleeping out on the street, and we can develop a psyche, a psychology which is “I don’t have to worry about them; all I’m gonna worry about is myself; I need to make another 5 billion dollars.”

So I believe that when we do the right thing, when we try to treat people with respect and dignity, when we say that that child who is hungry is my child, I think we are more human when we do that, than when we say “hey, this whole world, I need more and more, I don’t care about anyone else.”

Cool or Cruel?

January 19th, 2016 by dewprocess.

 

Watching this video, I found myself ambivalent: on the one hand, this is an impressive display of control and skill and, as an urban bicycling advocate, I am always happy to see content that promotes bicycling as an activity. On the other hand, I am dismayed that nobody seems to consider the ecological implications of this particular sort of activity. In much the same way that I see so many snowboarders “carving” down mountains, effectively pushing snow down the mountain at far greater volume than their skiing counterparts, I watch this video and find myself unable to avoid the reality that the cyclist is tearing up the ground with his antics, unquestionably uprooting nascent plantlife, and otherwise treating the fragile area (especially the marshland featured in a couple of scenes) as his own disposable playground. For one person to do this is just ignorance, with little real damage done. However, posting this video is a tacit encouragement for others to do the same. What happens when hundreds, or thousands, of off-road cycling enthusiasts watch this, and opt to go tearing through their countryside in the same manner? Already this video has been viewed, on this one platform alone, more than 150,000 times.
 
Should we be concerned, or am I overreacting? I feel it is always important that we balance our exploitation of our environment with our responsibility to the sustainability thereof. This does not imply a blind devotion to sitting on a moor, wearing nothing but a burlap sack and health sandals, while I sip peat bog water through a biodegradable straw. It means that we have an obligation to consider the impact of our actions, large and small, upon the world which we share with our children. Sometimes such consideration will lead us to the conclusion “no harm, no foul”. Sometimes we realize there exists potential for harm previously not duly considered.
 
What do you think?
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