Progress comes in long term cycles

Mania’s always indicate some revolutionary change to the technium. Revolutions are a bit like cosmic explosions in that they leave us with an abundance supply of core fundamental stuff from which we can use and make more complex stuff which is helpful in making yet more complex stuff. Yet these boom and bust cycles that very often are based on a core infrastructure leave long term capacity for new technologies to build with.

The ‘canal mania’ in Great Britain in the 1790’s became a frenzy of joining any two sources of water. There was little standardization in dimensions or routes of the waterways and this poor overall coordination and synchronization was also symptomatic of route planning of the ‘railway mania’ of the 1840’s. Following the Carnegie Steel revolution in the 1870’s,the 1900’s was the age of oil and the automobile all made possible following in the new age of mass production initiated with the Model T Ford in 1908. It is important to recognize that this age didn’t end with The Great Depression, begun in 1929. This did mark a shift in the economic, political and social paradigm to this new age. The extensive road and electric supply this left the USA was of enormous benefit during WWII and was the platform from which the now mature economy was able to build from and upon. This successful economy was driven by an enormous domestic mass consumption market leading to the ensuing years of complete global dominance. The depression years were barren, but during this time the new technologies were waiting for the time they could be deployed en-masse.

The Dot Com bust at the turn of the century left us using only a few percent of the total fiber optic cable that had been laid. However, in almost all these examples, it takes a crash before the new infrastructure to become deployed into society and our lives. It is almost as if technology development is faster than our acceptance of it, and this can be argued since the companies developing them are doing so for economic reasons, whereas society at large do not have such a powerful motive.

If you could in the 1960’S buy five cars for the price of one computer and in the 1990’s twenty computers for the price of one car we can see how the technology of the previous incumbent revolution becomes ubiquitous and the focus is on the next new leap.

The internet is an infrastructure that is supporting a growing family of new infrastructures that themselves support businesses and service. Over the coming decades it will be important to drop the label of ‘internet company’. After all any company that used the road network built in the US during the first half of the 20th century would not be labeled a product of the boom that caused  Great Depression.

To be bullish on the future implicitly implies and is implied by being bullish on tech. The new tech.

You can’t make decent content if you’re in a suit

Following a very interesting talk on ‘Social Media’ at the British Chambers of Commerce, the après was fascinating in its actual focus. It seems the whole world wants to get information out. Every business recognizes that they need to be involved in social media and needs to get their message out. There were repeated questions in search of examples of winning social media strategies which may be cloned. Everyone wants new ways of creating interesting Twitter fodder and YouTube fun. The stampede to create content is underway and in full charge.

When large groups of non-media companies are discussing creating a Twitter-post agenda then something doesn’t quite feel right. Energy and focus on getting information out may actually turn out to be like effort spent alchemizing.

Would companies be better off reversing the flow and try to seek information? By this I mean ideas, advice and guidance for better products, streamlining of services and enhancing user experience? At least one sub-goal of any company is to make better products or services to enhance future profitability. What better is there to beginning to achieve this than to seek opinions from the users or potential users.

Car companies should focus on building better cars not blogs. How many people buy a Blue car because the Blue Company has the best blog? Of course companies need to produce quality, well presented information, but if they are competing to win attention to satisfy some measure or sales metric then it becomes hollow and frustrating – especially when it serves no purpose and the content is clearly sub-par.

It does become a rather fruitless struggle for non-media companies to compete in the content business. Social media is not new. Word of mouth has been around since one came out of the other, but only recently has the grandiose ambition of industrial companies winning attention for more than their purpose of marketing become common practice.

I’m not arguing against content, I’m just arguing on who should produce it. Data is for companies to produce, but surely content should be from the fans. Wise companies will listen to their fans and detractors. Any efficient economy or company will have resources seek their most productive niche. The best content providers shouldn’t be wasted on making a blog for the Blue Company and neither should the Blue Company try to dominate our time to just sit on their blogs. They have to serve a purpose. You really can’t make content worthy of attention while you’re wearing a suit. Neither should you try.