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11 posts from October 2019

The Difficulty of Scaling up Communities

Since I'm thinking of building up a community around the new Creative Houston newsletter, I'm fascinated by this information about scaling communities. This research suggests to me, that for my purposes, I should probably plan on keeping the community below 150 people, as I don't have the resources to manage a bigger one yet. 

One Man & His Blog: Engaged journalism, membership models and communities under attack: important new research from the Reuters Institute, 2019-Oct-25 by Adam Tinworth thing we’ve known for a very long time in community management is that scale does break community. It always breaks community. It’s how the community breaks - what the triggering factors are - that’s actually interesting. And, happily, the report digs deep on that.

There are a group of standard ways communities break. For example, Dunbar’s Number is a problem. For something to be a genuine community, you can’t scale too large. You almost always get fragmentation issues if you don’t handle that growth intelligently. More seriously, the larger the audience, the greater the rewards for bad actors. For the simple troll, the attention seeker, the bigger community delivers a bigger reward for their antics. For the misinformation or propaganda purveyor, it offers a bigger surface for dissemination of their politicized content. 


How to build a marketing newsletter that's an asset, not an expense

We make a mistake when we think of a marketing newsletter of 'news' about our company or general 'news' which we share with our customers to persuade them buy. Newsletters ought to drive people to the long-term value they can find at your web site. First, the web site has to contain useful content. Then social media and newsletters are used to help people find the information or tools they can use. 

WebInkNow: Are You Creating Marketing Assets or Just Generating Marketing Expenses? 2019-Oct-17 by David Meerman Scott

For example, if you spend $5,000 in a given month on advertising via Google AdWords, the only thing you are buying are the resulting clicks of your ads appearing against the important phrases people search on to find your business. But as soon as you stop paying, your clicks stop completely. This is the classic example of a marketing expense.

However, if you spend $5,000 in a given month to hire an agency or a freelance journalist to write a bunch of interesting blog posts relating to important phrases people search on to find your business, you will have assets that live on forever that will drive people to your content from the search engines for years to come. The content will have value many years after it has been paid for.

I started writing my blog fifteen years ago. Every day I get a few hundred inbound clicks from Google because people find my work as they are searching. Posts I wrote many years ago rank highly in the search engines. This blog is an essential asset of my business.

My free ebooks have been downloaded millions of times. They are also an important asset of my business.

My blog posts and ebooks are assets that I own! They were “paid for” years ago!

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Stop debating and focus on persuasion, to drive out intolerance.

I agree with Dr. Burton (see below), and I think that when we are trying to build consensus, we have to turn away from presenting evidence and using Robert's Rules of Order. Persuasion, as Dr. Cialdini has pointed out, is based on behaviors, not ideas. When we practice reciprocity, when we appreciate consistency, and try to be likable and civil, then people are more likely to tolerate our ideas. And toleration is the best we can expect when people possess such conflicting values.  

Nautilus: Reason Won't Save Us, 2019-Oct-17 by Robert A. Burton 

There is no compelling evidence to suggest that public debate on virtually any subject can ever be resolved through reason. We migrate toward what we feel is best. Even science has its problems, ranging from replication to questions of statistical validation. However, science has self-correcting methods for slowly moving closer to supportable knowledge. Untestable opinion has no such self-correcting mechanisms.

If this argument sounds harsh or offensive, so is watching present day failure of discourse between those with differing points of view, yet persisting with the unrealistic hope that we could do better if we tried harder, thought more deeply, had better educations, and could overcome innate and acquired biases.

If we are to address gathering existential threats, we need to begin the arduous multigenerational task of acknowledging that we are decision-making organisms rather than uniquely self-conscious and willfully rational. Just as we are slowly stripping away pop psychology to better understand the biological roots of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, stepping back from assigning blame and pride to conscious reasoning might allow us a self-image that reunites us with the rest of the natural world as opposed to declaring ourselves as unique. Only if we can see that our thoughts are the product of myriad factors beyond our conscious control, can we hope to figure out how to develop the necessary subliminal skills to successfully address the world’s most urgent problems. If AI can improve itself, so can we.


Designing the world for our children

As my mother enters the late stages of Alzheimers, I'm looking around her cluttered home and wondering who'll carry out all the stuff. Then I go home and look at my cluttered home and think, "I'm not leaving this for someone else to sort out." 

In the future, when I acquire something and manage my home, I'm always going to visualize where that item will be after I'm gone. (And if it's going into the trash, I better be the one to put it there!)

Forbes: Lovesac's Loyalty Secret For Keeping Customers For Life And Saving The Planet, 2019-May-3 by Jackie Huba

In recent years, Nelson has been honing the Designed for Life (DFL) philosophy. Now 41 years old with four children, he is focused on growing the company in a sustainable way beyond "green washing." He wants to get rid of the status quo; that what we buy is designed to be used one time and thrown away. Nelson says, “There is an Iroquois saying that I think of daily... ‘we are borrowing this earth from our children.’ I think [about] what that really means and how our consumer actions right now will influence this world for my kids and yours.”... 

Nelson hopes the DFL philosophy becomes a movement among other businesses and has created a website,, that explains the concepts and provides helpful resources. Ultimately, he believes the philosophy will help companies connect with customers on a higher level than just a transaction. Nelson says, “[We want to] have an ethos that resonates with souls at a fundamental human level. You don't have to be a sustainability freak or even an environmental advocate to appreciate something that's well built, and that allows your life to be flexible, and that you'll love more after owning it for four or five years than you loved it on the day you bought it.” 


My narrative template

Storytelling is HARD for me. I tend to analyze and abstract, which kills the narrative. So I have blended two storytelling models into one I can use for Creative Houston. The two models which influenced me are from Pixar and John Hagel

  1. Once there as a WHO... 
  2. Every day they did WHAT (ACTION)... 
  3. One day they DECIDED… (WHY? What challenged them?)... 
  4. Because of that they took ACTION (HOW)... 
  5. WHEN they did that, the result was… 
  6. That led to another DECISION... 
  7. Until finally they found a PATH headed to WHERE
  8. Now they invite you to join them in going there. 


A better way to understand the internet: weather

A useful metaphor allows us to manage our work around a force of nature. We think of the internet as a manmade thing but it's gotten way out of hand. Now all we can do is learn how to ride it. Or should I say--ride it out? (Everything below was written by "Blogdana".)

@Bogdana: A metaphorical explanation for the Internet (for planners), 2019-Sep-7

For a very long time, I thought of the Internet as a whole other world with its very separate rules. A separate but a complete world. A world that was missing physicality but had everything else. People, relationships, marketplaces, connections, content, feelings, etc. Everything you find in the real world. So what you needed to do was not very unlike what your do IRL, but accounting for the lack of physicality. The truth is this view of the Internet helps only up to a point.... 

Now, I think of the Internet as similar to the climate or weather patterns.... the Internet “moves” operates across three layers:

  1. There’s medium-sized, local “weather fronts” — patches of information that move within a set “space”, defined by various coordinates: a community of followers on social, a specific forum, a newspaper’s readers, etc. This is why where you “live” on the Internet is important and this is what some people describe as your internet bubble....
  2. There’s small but intense storms. You know these: memes, trends and virals. Things that form small, grow exponentially in size, and hop from one community to the next. Think of them as tornados. That visualisation is important because it reflects how this information cluster circulates. Tornados are punctual and sometimes expand, but mostly they move fast in a direction. Very much like virals or memes leave the communities where they grew and move on to “attack” other spaces. It’s hard to understand where and how these tornados will form, much harder to get them to form. But not impossible. They are also hard to control and usually not brand-made :)... 
  3. Finally, there’s the jetstreams. The big guys, those who pretty much decide everything else above and below. This is things that really form in people’s heads over time and then begin to influence how people behave online. Think of adblocking. Think of widespread adoption of better data practices. Think of people using password storage software. These are widespread practices which are not temporary, they grow hand in hand with, and as a response to, the development of the Internet itself.

May as well post to the blog. Or not.

Dave Winer was one of the first bloggers, and he doesn't take it seriously. Just words. May as well put them out there. So I guess I'll keep doing it, just as he does. 

Scripting News: Blogs are little things, 2019-Oct-11 by Dave Winer

I know what a blog is, behind the scenes. It isn't a place. It's just a few files on a server, very small files, and a few database entries perhaps. The reason companies like Automattic and Google host blogs for free is that's how much it costs to host one a blog. It really is of no consequence.

You imagine that your blog is lonely and angry that you're not visiting, but that's purely a figment of your imagination. The blog doesn't exist in any corporeal sense. It has no thoughts or feelings. I doesn't give a shit if you live or die, because it doesn't have an ego, it doesn't care about anything.