Saw another article on Freakonomics called the Downside of Feedback that brings up an important question: feedback is important to engage an audience but at what point does the author need to stop listening and do his job as the one creating the story? All this talk about crowd-sourcing and being social and transparent to create buzz for your product needs to end at some point and you, the creator, need to do your job and create it right? From the article:

Has our quibbling worked? Yes, if you believe in the collective force of fans and the “wiki” social ideal — that group input only improves the result, guiding by peer pressure if nothing else. No, if you think filmmakers are too beholden to fans. Quibbling does not produce a Heath Ledger-style Joker; that is the result of an actor and a writer and a director coming unhinged from the original material. Quibbling produces a Watchmen movie, which tenderly reproduced the 1988 graphic novel panel-for-panel and still failed — pleasing fans, perhaps, but excluding newcomers.

There’s a quote I like that I read in the Long Tail that goes something like, “the more compromises taken to make you product good for everyone, the less its perfect for anyone.” Could it mean that more feedback dilutes your message and makes it vanilla to everyone instead of great for a few people? 

Initially, I think creating is the creator’s job. Its disturbing when a band changes their sound to better fit what the marketing department says will sell more albums. Allowing others the ability to socialize and spread your idea online works for marketing but you as the creator should be slow to take too much advice from the masses. This obviously depends on what your idea is. A product like baby strollers would take feedback in a different way than a movie. Listening to your customers should be your number one priority but how can you tell when you’re listening to too much feedback and therefore diluting your main message? I’m a little torn…

Debating the Issues

I saw this article on Freakonomics about what would happen if marijuana were decriminalized that I thought was interesting. A group of people give their opinions on the subject, some for and some against. I like these kinds of debates since I like the idea of forming my own opinions after hearing both sides of the debate. I like having my opinion changed based on strong points and counter points. But it gets very difficult to have a stance when there are people who contradict each other. For example, Joel W. Hay, professor of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California, says:

There isn’t a shred of scientific evidence that marijuana is safe and effective for any medical condition.

 Then the next opinion comes from Robert Platshorn, former marijuana smuggler and was the leader of one of the largest marijuana-trafficking organizations in the 1970’s, who says, 

Based on lies and distortions, we demonized a plant that’s proven effective in treating chronic pain, glaucoma, MS, arthritis, and the effects of chemotherapy, AIDS-wasting syndrome, and other chronic illnesses. Studies in at least five countries have shown marijuana to slow and often reverse the growth of cancer cells.

What the crap? How am I supposed to have an educated stance on an issue when one person says pot has never been proven to help anyone and the next person says pot has proven effective to help people? Either it has or it hasn’t right? We’re obviously not comparing apples to apples; one persons definition of proven is not the same as the other persons. So before we can start debating this issue we need to come to a consensus as to what the criteria are for what’s proven and what’s not proven. The problem is that these criteria are never set and so we continue these worthless debates that confuse people (including me) and move us further away from getting to the solution.  

I want to start a debate website that is like a wiki where people post cited facts on both sides of the debate so that people like me can compare all the issues without all the bullcrap.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing will be getting more and more important as Internet connectivity become ubiquitous. Imagine being in a city and not knowing where to go get a bite to eat with friends. You pull out your hand held computer and ask it to pull all the restaurants within a 5 mile radius of where you are. Then you can check your social network to see if anyone is currently at any of those places, read their past reviews, look at real time streaming video inside of all the different bars to see which one has the best vibe and see if any of the restaurants currently have offers or coupons they are sending out. It will be something like this eventually. Mashable had an article about Coupious:

delivering on-demand, location-based coupons to smartphone users for savings at the point of sale. Coupious works by using your phone’s GPS to provide location-based coupons relevant to your immediate whereabouts. Essentially, all you need to do is launch the application to find deals within walking distance or up to 50 miles away.

There are so many cool implications with mobile internet. I had an idea once to make a site that shows where all the best skate spots were so if you were in the city you could look at your handset and see the closest spots to where you were. And then I found out that beat me to my great idea. Although the problem with the idea is creating incentives enough to get kids to upload skate spots. Do a search on Denver and there are no spots uploaded.

Newspapers Are Mistaken

I think it’s kind of funny how newspaper people see Google as a business model that is dependent on content taken from others including newspapers. Google doesn’t take content, its sends an audience to them. It allows people to find your article, it doesn’t take it away. Another Jeff Jarvis quote:

Content is becoming a cost burden, what you have to have to get the links, but in and of itself, content can’t draw value without an audience, without links…links are presents that can be given or earned but not bought. But the AP is still operating in the content economy, which values control instead. That age has passed.

I like Jarvis’s explaining of the link economy:

This changes the dynamic of editorial decisions. Instead of saying, “we should have that” (and replicating what is already out there) you say, “what do we do best?” That is, “what is our unique value?” It means that when you sit down to see a story that others have worked on, you should ask, “can we do it better?” If not, then link. And devote your time to what you can do better.

As people adhere to the new rules of the link economy the best stuff is credited and the reader’s ability to get the information they want is improved:

This leads to a new Golden Rule of Links in journalism — link unto others’ good stuff as you would have them link unto your good stuff. This emerges from blogging etiquette but is exactly contrary to the old, competitive ways of news organizations: wasting now-precious resources matching competitors’ stories so you could say you’d done it yourself. That must change.

Publicness and Transparency

I read Jeff Jarvis’s article in Businessweek about openess and the internet.

Comcast has learned that there is a public discussion about its service happening independently and that is why it assigned staff to monitor and respond to Twitterers’ complaints. Every company alive is hiring search engine optimization experts to help them manage their public face for Google and its users. What more powerful business elixir is there today than Googlejuice?

And then I saw this post from techcrunch about a story of a 104 year old twitter user.

What none of those original stories told you, was that poor old Ivy had not joined Twitter just because it was suddenly the talk of the senior citizens home. No. She joined because home PC maintenance company Geek Squad signed her up, propped her up for a photo opportunity – even using her own account to Twitpic the event – and press-released the hell out of it. And the media fell for it.

The one thing worse than not being transparent is being caught not being transparent.

Earning Media Instead of Buying Media

Whatever your business is you need to figure out a way to create content around it. No matter what the product is there has to be at least a million things around that product that people could be interested in. Blogs, flickr, twitter, and other social media serve as a medium for publishing this content for others to engage in. I see this as the direction marking is going. Creating content that people can relate to and connect with and spread around themselves instead of buying air time that forces your message on too many people who don’t care.

Fred Wilson explains:

Earned media is media you don’t buy but earn the hard way. PR is an example of earned media. Word of mouth is another. Earned media has been around forever. But it has now gotten a lot easier, thanks to the Internet and social media, to earn media for your brand, product, or self.

Fred gives the example of a taco truck in LA that is using Twitter to inform customers where the truck will be located to dish out its Korean barbecue tacos. Nearly 14,000 people follow the truck’s Twitter updates and many are willing to wait more than an hour for the upscale urban street food. KogiBBQ maintains buzz at almost no cost and creates an engaged community around its product.

This could be dublicated with most businesses. Its simple but its not easy. It takes creativity, dilligence to keep posting when nothing has happened after the first week and a product that is worth spreading.

Little Guy Marketing

I like Seth Godin’s post on making commercials for the web where he says:

The biggest shift is going to be that organizations that could never have afforded a national campaign will suddenly have one. The same way that there’s very little correlation between popular websites and big companies, we’ll see that the most popular commercials get done by little shops that have nothing to lose.

This again reinforces what I love about the web. You don’t need anyone’s permission, there are no barriers to entry and no gate keepers. If you have an idea that you think is good than you have the ability to publish it for the world to see at close to zero cost. If it’s actually good people will care and it will spread. People will talk about it, link to it and it will grow. If its stupid, then it won’t and you’ll have to try and force people to look at it.