Previous month:
November 2004
Next month:
January 2005

25 posts from December 2004

Openness Rewarded with Innovation

Wade Roush has a good article on how Amazon is enabling innovation at MIT Technology Review, Amazon: Giving Away the Store.

While companies such as Google and Microsoft are also experimenting with the idea of letting outsiders tap into their databases and use their content in unpredictable ways, none is proceeding more aggressively than Amazon. The company has, in essence, outsourced much of its R&D, and a growing portion of its actual sales, to an army of thousands of software developers, who apparently enjoy nothing more than finding creative new ways to give Web surfers access to Amazon merchandise—and earning a few bucks in the process. The result: a syndicate of mini-Amazons operating at very little cost to Amazon itself and capturing customers who might otherwise have gone elsewhere.

Some examples:,,,

Getting a Perspective on Our Behavior

One of the best reads on the internet is Grant McCracken's This Blogs Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics. I laughed out loud twice during the post below.

Link: Asians of America.

I was sitting in his tiny, chilly living room. Jetlagged, disoriented, and freezing, I was asking slow pitch questions in the hope of slow pitch answers. Something I could hang on to. Dream on, Grant. This is China. “So why didn’t you want to live close to your grandson?” I bleated. “I don’t want to be a wise old man,” he explained. Hui said he did not wish to be stuffed into the conventional notions that await the elderly. He was, he said, curious about retirement without “retirement.” He was happy to be a “friend” to his grandson. He just didn’t want to be his “grandfather.” Who knows what we are looking at here? I am no China expert. (I do labor to make this clear to my clients but they send me anyhow.) It looks like the virus of individualism.

Grant is one of the best observers of culture we have, partly because he's always observing himself observing the culture.

Trend Gluttony

I've found another place to get free information about trends, this time about internet trends: (But if you're Meeker-phobic stay away.)

Plus, if you're trying to figure out the big deal about blogging and syndication, and how it could change the way we get information, download An Update from the Digital Word--October 2004 (pdf). As a blogger myself, I appreciate the heads up on the many different ways blog publishing could become profitable one day.

Innovation is a Social Good

Last November I attended a conference put on by Net Impact, an organization whose mission is to "use the power of business to positively impact social and environmental concerns." Everyone spent a lot of time talking about 'giving back' and 'social responsibility.' There was a strong underlying theme that 'making money' wasn't enough. Now, I agree with the principle of sustainability--that you should leave the environment, including the social one, at least as well off as you found it. It's sort of like the Hippocratic Oath of 'do no harm.' But let's face it--making money is a lot of fun. Is it inherently bad? I found a new, valuable perspective today at the Fast Company web site:

Link: Fast Company | What's So Good About Business?.

The way that corporations define social performance reinforces a pervasive but deeply flawed assumption -- that if there is a direct tie between an action and a profit, then there can't be any social benefit. It is unfortunate that we refer to social sector organizations in the United States as nonprofits. One company's annual report described how their newly launched medical device led to a radical improvement in post-surgical outcomes -- but only to explain the company's improving business performance. Apparently, medical breakthroughs have nothing to do with social performance.

You should read the entire article by Chris Trimble and Vijay Govidnarajan. They frame the issue beautifully in context of the recent movie "Farenheit 911."

Innovating new solutions for the market IS a social good. Being more efficient, being more effective, making more people happy is good. We can't be exploitive, making one group happy at the expense of the other, but isn't it just a matter of being a wise and well-informed business person?

Blogging improved by journalism practices

Over at, Steve Outing has a terrific two part article on what bloggers can learn from journalists and vice versa. His first suggestions to bloggers is to 'recruit yourself an editor.' I wonder if anyone at 43 Things is willing to trade editing labor.

Definition of The Long Tail

It's hard to find a short definition of "The Long Tail." You can read the original article in Wired, but here's a good summary by Joe Gratz, a law student studying digital rights:

Link: ? The Long Tail and Free Culture.

In it [The Long Tail article], Anderson argues that new dissemination technologies make relatively unpopular works a much more important source of revenue. For example, even the largest chain bookstores can stock only a fraction of the titles available on; even the largest music stores can stock only a fraction of the tracks available on Rhapsody. If you make a graph with the number of sales on the vertical axis and arrange items by their sales rank along the horizontal axis, you get a graph with a large peak at one end, representing the popular, mainstream items that sell many copies each. But from there, the graph drops steeply, then trails off very slowly – a “long tail” of items that each sell very few copies, but that in aggregate could represent a substantial proportion of overall sales.