disruption posts

Sometimes I feel… February 21st, 2014

Back in 2012, this video appeared on YouTube, with disc drives playing Soft Cell’s version of Tainted Love (did you know it was a cover?).

This sort of thing does go back decades; some folks got an IBM 1403 printer to play pop songs in 1970 (check out the actual songs here).

In a delightful twist, Marc Almond of Soft Cell recently came across the video, and decided to add his vocals to the disc drive music!

I’m reminded of when Gotye created his own remix (on YouTube) of the ubiquitous covers (also on YouTube) of Somebody That I Used To Know.

Platforms like YouTube enable the collapse of the separation between consumer and producer and it leads to interesting and surprising outcomes. These small examples highlight the disruption that is occurring today.

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ChittahChattah Quickies November 8th, 2010
  • [from steve_portigal] book lovers never go to bed alone – [A Tumblr blog consisting only of photos of bookshelves, from homes and bookstores. Why? Because they can.]
  • [from steve_portigal] Ideal Bookshelf – [More examples of books as a identity system] This is an ongoing project called "Ideal Bookshelf". I paint sets of books as a form of portraiture: a person's favorites (of all time, within a genre or from a particular period in their lives); the ones that helped make them who they are today. We show off our books on shelves like merit badges (the ones not on our Kindle, at least), because we're proud of the ideas we've ingested to make us who we are, as we should be. The spine of a book is a sort of code for the giant cloud of ideas the author included within it. Just ten of them together on a sheet of paper tells the story of the mind that picked them in a way that is easily digestible but allows for endless study. We also display our books hoping to connect with others. When I paint someone else's bookshelf and they have the same book I do, it instantly makes me happy.
  • [from steve_portigal] Mr. Peanut’s New Look? Planters Went Old School [NYTimes.com] – Mr. Peanut is getting a voice as part of efforts to revitalize the character and brand for contemporary consumers. [Also] a new look, meant to give him a more authentic appearance by evoking designs of the character from the 30s & 40s. He is now brown, rather than yellow, and sports a gray flannel suit…Nostalgia is not what it used to be, particularly when it comes to younger consumers, so the goal is to be perceived not as old-fashioned but rather as old-school ­ from an earlier era and worthy of respect…Mr. Levine hastened to reassure fans that “he’s still Mr. Peanut, with the top hat and monocle and cane….We’re taking him back to his roots.” In addition to getting a voice, Mr. Peanut has a new sidekick. Mr. Peanut’s buddy is named Benson, shorter than Mr. Peanut ­ one nut in his shell rather than two. “Benson is quite enamored of Mr. Peanut,” Mr. Levine said, but they are, as the saying goes, just friends. Benson does not live in Mr. Peanut’s house, Mr. Wixom said.
  • [from steve_portigal] White poppies banned from P.E.I. market [CBC News] – [Disruption - whether innovative or not - starts with ideas. The poppy itself is not harmful or otherwise objectionable, but the idea it - arbitrarily, mind you - represents is transgressive enough that the establishment reacts as only the establishment can - by banning the representation of that idea. I assume, for further irony, that these are plastic poppies, not "real" poppies. The power of symbols!] The Charlottetown Farmers Market turned away people selling white poppies on Sunday for Remembrance Day. Volunteers with the Island Peace Committee had arranged to hand out the controversial poppies at the farmers market for the second consecutive week. Committee members say the alternative poppies stand for peace and are also to remember civilians who die in war. The white poppies have drawn an angry response from the Royal Canadian Legion, saying they detract from the original red poppy…For now, people will have to contact the Island Peace Committee directly to get a white poppy.
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ChittahChattah Quickies October 4th, 2009
  • Things I Would Rather Read On Paper – I recently built up a hefty backlog of unread articles, and the prospect of reading them all on a laptop or iPhone screen seemed like more of a chore than a pleasure. I should really get around to actually reading some of these things that I'm saving to Read Later. Something had obviously gone wrong. I had personally curated a series of articles, blog posts and essays that I was genuinely interested in, but somehow the resulting collection felt like a to-do list, yet another inbox on my computer waiting to be un-bolded. What I really wanted was a nicer user interface to these articles. So I copy-and-pasted the text of my unread articles from Instapaper into a PDF, uploaded it to Lulu.com, and ordered a single book.
  • As innovative products are introduced, category boundaries are continually shifting and new categories emerging – Lexar Media, a digital photography start-up founded in 1996, sold memory cards. They used a variety of signals to persuade early adopters, especially professional photographers, to classify the memory cards that store pictures as similar to the silver halide film used in analog cameras.

    Lexar Media’s product was put in gold packaging similar to Kodak’s film cartridges, given a speed rating to create an analogy to ISO ratings, labeled as “digital film” on the package and in advertising, and placed in the camera section of retail stores.

    Sony promoted a competing categorization, labeling its cards “Memory Stick” and advocating their use for many of the company’s consumer electronics devices, including digital music players, handhelds and digital camcorders. Other companies also adopted this broader memory classification, so Lexar Media’s success in establishing memory cards as analogous to film was short-lived, and the company stopped promoting the cards as digital film.

  • Will Piracy Become a Problem for E-Books? – Until now, few readers have preferred e-books to printed or audible versions, so the public availability of free-for-the-taking copies did not much matter. But e-books won’t stay on the periphery of book publishing much longer. E-book hardware is on the verge of going mainstream. More dedicated e-readers are coming, with ever larger screens. So, too, are computer tablets that can serve as giant e-readers, and hardware that will not be very hard at all: a thin display flexible enough to roll up into a tube.

    With the new devices in hand, will book buyers avert their eyes from the free copies only a few clicks away that have been uploaded without the copyright holder’s permission? Mindful of what happened to the music industry at a similar transitional juncture, book publishers are about to discover whether their industry is different enough to be spared a similarly dismal fate.

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Twitter’s User-Generated Disruptive Innovation February 13th, 2009

excel

In the late 1980s, I had heard about spreadsheets (such as VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3). I had a general idea of what they were for (“what-if” calculations) but I didn’t have a clear model of how I myself would use it. I had the chance to sit down and try Excel. After it launched, I just stared blankly at the empty grid. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. And so I left it alone for many, many years. Now it’s one of my regular tools, but at that time I didn’t have the need to organize columns of data, or an application built upon the platform to address any need I might have, or the mental model to allow me to customize the platform to suit any need I might have.

I think of Twitter as an analog. Almost two years ago I wrote about my experience with Twitter.

I finally started using it and I’m not sure I like it.

I think it’s a really powerful idea, it’s an impactful side effect of some simple technologies like putting up your pictures on a website. It starts to evolve well-formed social interactions like party chat.

Twitter takes that behavior and blows it up. The side effect is now the main effect (and no doubt tons of new side effects are created).

And I don’t like using Twitter. It makes me feel lonely and isolated. I don’t know what most people are talking about, I sometimes feel bad I’m not included in their conferences, travels, adventures, dining. Maybe I’ve chosen the wrong people to follow, maybe it’s not the same people to Twitter with that I would LinkIn with. I don’t have a posse, a regular gang. I have social relationships with colleagues, but we’re not in each other’s lives in any sort of deep way.

I don’t dismiss or blame Twitter; I may find the experience evolves over time, or I may simply bail. It’s always interesting to introduce new layers of interface onto my social interactions and see what the impact is.

I’d love to hear from others how they are using Twitter and of course how I might start using Twitter.

I did abandon Twitter for a long time, and then came back to it. There’s more of a critical mass of people I know involved; there’s more evolved social norms around responding and interacting; I’ve started posting more non-lame stuff. When significant news events happen (Mumbai shootings, plane crashes), Twitter is the place I know to go to find out what’s going on instantly. I’ve had the experience of being involved in a massive-dialog-like exchange during election events and conference sessions.

I wrote before about ComcastCares, a Comcast VP who decided to respond to customer complaints on Twitter. This has made a lot of people very excited about Comcast and Twitter, although I maintain it reveals the tremendous failings in Comcast’s default customer support infrastructure (I did make use of the Twitter support after being frustrated with the phone support recently, and was mostly satisfied). Meanwhile, Wired points out that this effort is driving internal change at Comcast, and while the public isn’t seeing the results yet, this is looks to be a significant side effect of Twitter adoption.

Lately when I tweet about a brand, I will quickly hear back from someone associated with that brand, offering to troubleshoot for me (examples here and here). That induces a tremendous feeling of being-listened-to (how come there’s no word for that feeling in English?), especially when my intention was to vent or share, not to seek help.

There’s an important network effect here, but that’s not the only disruptive aspect. Users of Twitter continue to find new applications that are not inherently obvious in this minimally functional service: type up to 140 characters and people can see it on their phones or on the web.

For more, see David Pogue’s latest column where he describes the still-evolving social norms

One guy took me to task for asking “dopey questions.” Others criticized me for various infractions, like not following enough other people, writing too much about nontech topics or sending too many or too few messages.

and offers a set of hints for using Twitter including my favorite: USE IT HOWEVER YOU LIKE.

And to everyone that found this post on Twitter: hi!

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Ins and Outage February 27th, 2008

img_1901.jpg
Starfucks sticker, Taipei, December 2007

Service outages seem to be common news stories lately. Sure, it’s news when many people in Florida lose power, but also when Pakistan causes a 2-hour YouTube blackout, BlackBerry service goes down, or Hotmail is unavailable.

There’s a sense that we are relying on far too many fragile systems and that as complexity increases, these stories will become even more commonplace (and perhaps even less newsworthy). But being forced to do without something seems to be a tactic companies enjoy using to extract a sense of the value of their service. The Whopper Freakout ad campaign is the most prominent example, but other companies such as Yahoo and Dunkin’ Donuts have conducted (consensual) user research experiments where people go without something and report back on the sense of loss.

But Starbucks pulled off the genius move, closing for a few hours to retrain staff, and making front-page news not for their failure (see: Florida, Blackberry, YouTube, Hotmail above) but for their retraining efforts towards a clarified service promise

Starbucks is welcoming customers back Wednesday with a new promise posted in stores: “Your drink should be perfect, every time. If not, let us know and we’ll make it right.”

This won’t address all of the challenges Starbucks is facing, but it’s a pretty brilliant P.R. success, hitting the denial-of-services hot button and emphasizing the valid, powerful reason behind the outage.

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