Monthly Archive: June 2012

Reverse Chronology Is Not The Best We Can Do

The Web, and Web logs in particular, suffer from structural difficulties.

Consider “the tyranny of time order,” a phrase from Clay Shirky’s article on recent changes to Gawker’s comments page structure. “Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder and publisher, Thomas Plunkett, head of technology, and the technical staff have re-designed Gawker to serve the people reading the comments, rather than the people writing them,” writes Shirky.

Software developer Dave Winer is another person working on solutions that address these structural difficulties. In a reflective piece on the origins of blogging software, Winer also confronts the tyranny of time order.

Why was blogging so appealing? Why did it work so well? There are lots of ways to pick this up. One is that gave us a structure to hang our writing on. Time.

But time isn’t the only structure we can hang our writing on. That has become more and more apparent as our blogs get overloaded and we get so many of them that we can’t keep track of them. Our ideas are out there swimming in a vague space and we have little sense of its shape or dimension.

Correct. Unlike print, you can’t just turn to the page in question, you have to find it first. Winer points to the problem this creates for prolific bloggers, but it is also a problem for readers, since blogs serve up the latest articles first, and the most recent articles are not necessarily the best articles, or the articles readers seek.

Of course, it’s not just blogs, Facebook and Twitter that present content in reverse chronology. Mainstream news sites also operate within this limitation. And the categorization tools we rely on today–Categories and Tags–have proven insufficient. Online indexes, also, are mostly non-existent. Which leaves the us Search Box, a tool as imperfect as the people who type random phrases into it.

This problem of “too much content, and no good way to organize it” exists on both the micro and macro levels. Google and others have become wealthy by offering solutions to the marco problem, but there’s still plenty of opportunity to bring even better solutions forward. Personally, I see an opportunity for human editors to help people find and organize content. It might seem an intrusive layer for the most ardent of digital hunters and gatherers, but not everyone has the time or the inclination to keep an eye on the latest developments in their field, or areas of interest. Like hiring a personal chef, people who need or want specific information will be able to hire an editor to find it, and package it just for them.

One company already charging down this path is HyperInk. HyperInk provides a crucial service to bloggers who want to pull a book from the material previously published on their site. As Winer says, “Our ideas are out there swimming in a vague space.” HyperInk’s blog to book service solves this by gathering one’s scattered (across the server) content and giving it form.

It’s Friday, Find Someone Fascinating To Follow

Last week, Steffan Postaer, Chief Creative Officer at gyro in San Francisco, named me as one of his five “must follows” on Twitter. It’s fun when someone in your field says nice things about you, and Steffan did.

This week, it’s my turn to step up on the Didgiday stage and name five people I consider “must follows” on Twitter. At first, I thought it would be easy to reel off my top five, but it was not easy at all, because I see a lot of shimmering tweets in the stream each day.

Digiday asked me to refrain from naming clients, colleagues, reporters, media entities, etc. I did put one Portlander, Rick Turoczy, on the list.

Now, I’m taking liberties and making an all-Portland super-short list of writers who pack a lot of intelligence, wit and passion into their 140 character missives:

Jeff Hardison, musician, raconteur and high tech marketer, (@jshardison): Jeff keeps me sane. Because he smells the same bullshit that I smell, whether it is stuck to a drunk hipster’s shoe, or some other poseur’s.

Amber Case, cyborb anthropologist and startup co-founder, (@caseorganic): This lady is smart. In fact, I don’t know what I am going to learn from her next, and that’s what I’m looking for in someone to follow.

Dian Crawford, agency partner and coffee shop owner, (@diancrawford): Dian is an account service pro with a coffee shop for an office. Need I say more? Okay, I will. She’s originally from Oklahoma and a new contributing writer on @adpulp.

Aaron Draplin, designer/frequent flyer, (@Draplin): Draplin is an active man. A blue-collar guy who likes to makes things and get other people excited about making things and doing things.

Chava Nesson Boyett, agency producer, (@chavaboyett): Chava has great taste in music/food/coffee and is fun to be around, on Twitter and in real life.

A Company That Clothes, Also Nourishes Its Customers

Patagonia is an adventure clothing company uniquely committed to identifying important environmental problems. Problems they can help solve with product-based solutions. They did it with their move to organic cotton in the 1990s. Now they’re working to change the score for salmon fisheries.

Clearly, it is counter-intuitive to save wild salmon by eating them, but that’s what Yvon Chouinard and his crew are cooking up with their new Patagonia Provisions Wild Salmon Jerky product line.

This is company’s essential argument for sustainable fishing:

The salmon industry today is a broken model. Too many endangered stocks are dwindling under the pressures of indiscriminate harvest and unsustainable fish-farming techniques. Something has to change. We believe a market-based solution is the best way to effect that change. Our goal, then, is to create a new model, one which demonstrates that adding value to selectively harvested salmon is not only possible, but good business. With your help, our success can create opportunities to reform current fisheries and protect the future of wild salmon.

It didn’t take much to convince me to buy. The jerky comes in three flavors: Smoked Teriyaki, Smoked Chili Pepper and Smoked Black Pepper. It’s $12.50 per pack and the shipping is free. Plus, ‘gonia accepts PayPal, so I am just a few clicks and a mailman away from river-caught wild salmon, smoked in Terrace, B.C..

Patagonia’s decision to use only organic cotton in their products resulted in a shift felt throughout the garment industry. This problem is a bit more difficult though, because unlike cotton, Patagonia’s purchases of wild salmon are small, by comparison. Regardless, we need to start somewhere and Patagonia’s example may have ripple effects within the industry should this new product gain traction with consumers.

One thing’s for sure, Patagonia’s leaders wear their hearts on their fleece sleeves, and they know how to tell a compelling story that moves people. In the video above, everything from the cinematography, to the script and editing work to hold one’s attention, inform and convert.

Patagonia is a visionary company that can be applauded, studied and copied for so many reasons. In this one example, we’re looking at brilliant advocacy marketing supported by beautiful and timely content marketing. All of which spawns positive word-of-mouth.

How can your company benefit from this case-study? Find out what your customers care deeply about (beyond brand preference). Then ask yourself what you care deeply about (beyond boosting market share)? Find the intersection of these things, and you’ll be on to something.