Oct 20, 2012

The best days are really ahead

So powerful and encouraging message from Andrew McAfee, as an analogy for the steam engine relative to muscles.
What we're in the middle of now is overcoming the limitations of our individual brains and infinitely multiplying our mental power.
—Andrew McAfee
I'm finishing a research report about local food system facilitated by the mechanism of infinite intelligence. Obviously, my work is merely a re-mix of great thoughts as I stand on the shoulders of giants: Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Don Tapscott, Andrew McAfee just to name a few. I can't help feeling good fortune and insanely excited to live at such a turning point in human history because, despite a number of historic stuff, we ain't seen nothing yet!

Sep 9, 2012

Relentless Optimism


In one talk, Peter Diamandis tells the reasons both why I hate television news and why I love technology.

First, he explains the nature of news media. “News media preferentially feeds us negative stories because that's what our minds pay attention to… If it bleeds it leads.” This is in particular a problem and even vicious in old-fashioned broadcasting media. They are inherently one-way channels, yet very powerful informing devices. It can be and has been effectively used for brainwashing. Those who have been through some part of late 20th century know everything. So, “It's no wonder that we're pessimistic. It's no wonder that people think that the world is getting worse.

I must admit here that I used to shamelessly describe myself as a pessimist. However, I’m shamelessly saying, we’ve got to be relentlessly optimistic to make the world a better place. It doesn’t matter what ‘the world’ means; it’s your world.
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
—Helen Keller
I was sick and tired with life, so I caught cold. Pessimism is a mental cold just as infectious as a physiological one. Don’t make yourself more susceptible by listening to such news.

Pessimism is an intellectual scam. I was ignorant and desperate for a get-smart-quick scheme. Don’t fall for it like me.
Waxing pessimistic is one of the easiest ways to masquerade as wise.
—Alvin Toffler
As TV has been showing, pessimism looks like a norm. Don't give it a moment’s thought.
Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.
—Steve Jobs
Watch the Diamandis’s talk, it’s full of hopes drawing a bright future!

Aug 29, 2012

しっかり生きる

今朝、親しいものが亡くなりました。彼は2、3日前から全く食べず、ただYo-Yo Maを聴きながら最後までしっかり生きて、そして死にました。
あんたまだ生きてるんでしょう!?だったらしっかり生きて!それから死になさい!!
−葛城 ミサト
言わずもがな、僕たちはあらゆる周りのものに生かされているわけで、だったら、金や石油、愛情だけでなく図らずも誘発された感情の高まりをも新たな行動の契機と評価し、エネルギーとして活かすべきなんだ。

感情というのは僕たちを否応なく支配する欠陥であると同時に、人間美の根源である。僕たちは心身の躍動に美を見、賞賛するわけだが、その心身を突き動かすのはまさに感情である。つまり喜びであれ悲しみであれ、何かが心の琴線に触れるときというのは、またと無い貴重な機会なんだ。そのような図らずして与えられた大きな機会すらきちんと活かせないようでは、きっとこの先もあらゆるものをただ消費してはげっぷを返すだけの人生で終わってしまうだろう。

僕はきっと死ぬまで無知で未熟だろうけど、それを言い訳とせずこうした機会の度に何か一つでもちゃんと学び成長しなければいけないんだ。それが僕なりの与えられたものに対する謝意の表し方であり活かし方なんだ。僕はこうやってしっかり生きようと思う。

差し当たり、僕も今日は何も食べずYo-Yo Maを聴きながら勉強しようと思う。そうでもしなければ、未熟な僕は彼の死から何かをきちんと学べる気がしない。

こなつ、ありがとう、そして安らかにすーぴー寝てください。

Design Concept



I was responsible for creating a poster for the local food research I’ve been involved in. I am by no means a graphic designer; actually a very novice for that matter. It’s been a while, more than 10 years, since last time I played with a vector graphics editor. Even I didn’t know what was CorelDRAW, which I ended up spending tons of hours together. Although I had an image I wanted to somehow imitate, there was literally no clue to where/how to start.

So, as others do I began to google about poster design long before firing up the editor. I encountered Steven Bradley saying “A good design begins with a good design concept.” It made much sense because I had been intensely working on a research design of the project and, as a part of that, designing a case study methodology, both of which I found profoundly based upon clear concepts and theories.

Here’s what I got on a design concept, which the poster is built on.
  • Homey and nostalgic feeling toward local food
  • Two contrasting definitions of local
  • Systemic approach preferred instead of reductionistic approach
  • Different influence among existing channels in local food system
  • Different values realized in different channels
  • Importance of conversation

And the followings are actual decisions guided by the design concept.
  • The title has got a soft font style in brown in order to express somehow prevailing homey and nostalgic feeling toward local food.
  • Two identical maps are used to visualize two contrasting definitions of local.
  • Linear or grid layout has been avoided to emphasize a systemic approach instead of a reductionistic approach.
  • Each of 5 channels has received a circle in a different size reflecting its influence in LFS. Especially, since farmers market is currently the predominant form, it more overlaps other circles.
  • Each value has been placed according to the order of affinity to the channels, shown in the spreadsheet. Although this is by no means successful, some of them tells about their positions. For instance, CSA by definition has a strong philosophical orientation to ‘Support local’. Sensory aspects are a little closer to CSA/Farm stand than FM because of more direct delivery. Social features are more clearly manifested in FM with regard to both consumers and producers due to its more diverse and face-to-face interaction.
  • Speech bubble has been chosen to put brief descriptions due to the irregular layout. Also, it represents the importance of conversation in LFS; i.e. as if participants speak about the values.

Given the limited resources, i.e. human, tools, and time, it was a challenging task but I learned a lot and enjoyed it. It’s not too bad considering an amateur work, is it?

(If you like, a full-size PDF file is available here.)

Jul 24, 2012

Innovate Without Mercy


Source: Bloomberg

I had been in the market for a portable computer, and in fact I was ready to order 11-inch Macbook Air on July 21. It was small, light, fast, aesthetic, yet robust — a perfect laptop. It seemed like a no-brainer to make a decision.

I so excitedly went jogging in the morning with a plan to get a new beautiful laptop after the workout. On the road, an image of iPad popped up in mind. Given the good amount of time spent on it, I was familiar with most features. iPad would, I thought, be more portable and mostly do the same jobs. But, I knew it would be more productive to work on the laptop and I could make great use of the full-fledged computer. Consequently, there seemed to be no point in dismissing the ‘perfect’ laptop...

Exercise is always good for our mind. I got an epiphany without hitting my head. ‘Perfect, so I will take.’ This logic should have been opposite. ‘Perfect, so I won’t take.’ I had been around computers for a long time with reasonable understanding of what they were. Besides, Mac and others seemed to have reached the pinnacle in its category — laptop. So, why did I need to have more intimate time with little expectation of new insight?

In general, it’s just natural to go with the status quo — conservatism or inertia is after all the human nature. However, if someone wishes to somehow succeed, they must get out of the comfortable zone. True innovations have no respect for the status quo. Nevertheless, I should admit here that I’m not a very innovative person nor big risk-taker in most cases. But, with regard to technology, I believe its potentials to change the world in many ways and want to be a useful advocate.

As a result, I decided to take iPad because tablet computer is the field where one of tech & human boundaries has been pushed. I should far more deeply understand not just superficial features but meanings and potentials. There might be fundamental differences in human cognition between manipulating data with a mouse and “touching bits” with fingers. We might be slightly closer to raw computation so as to assimilate its massive capability. I’m looking forward to seeing what we’ve got, where we’re heading, and what the future will look like.

Although this story itself is, of course, a small little decision on the purchase of an iPad, same questions are everywhere in life. So, I’ve got to be used to self-disruption and prepared for much tougher calls awaiting me. Plus, as we age it’s more difficult to be disruptive, I reminded myself on the birthday. Be pliable, at least.

Having said that, it’s certain I’ll miss the laptop whenever I see someone using it while I’m taking out a bluetooth keyboard to write an essay on the iPad. Because that laptop is perfect. Hmm... sounds like breaking up with a nice girlfriend for some reason. It is indeed the same decision, isn’t it? We can’t have it all...

Jul 5, 2012

You Guys are Smelling yet Sweet


Source: wing seed

Carolyn Steel clearly explains the relationship between food and city and the problematic reality.
And this is the kind of city that's devoid of smell, devoid of mess, certainly devoid of people, because nobody would have dreamed of walking in such a landscape. In fact, what they did to get food was they got in their cars, drove to a box somewhere on the outskirts, came back with a week's worth of shopping, and wondered what on earth to do with it. And this really is the moment when our relationship, both with food and cities, changes completely.

Here we have food -- that used to be the center, the social core of the city -- at the periphery. It used to be a social event, buying and selling food. Now it's anonymous. We used to cook; now we just add water, or a little bit of an egg if you're making a cake or something. We don't smell food to see if it's okay to eat. We just read the back of a label on a packet. And we don't value food. We don't trust it. So instead of trusting it, we fear it. And instead of valuing it, we throw it away.
While I learned so many things from the farming days, what I loved most was smell. Each vegetable had quite distinctive smell. I remember I couldn’t help but take a bite of and finish a couple of cucumbers one day while I was picking them with hunger, because they were just appealing and irresistible. Then, I posted the story and my customers did the same.

I’m going to do research on horticultural local food systems in this semester, and make it a springboard for the future. I want to help to rebuild the fabric of communities, reinvent food exchange as social event, and reclaim relationships both with food and people by delivering their smell. Because I believe it it a good thing.

Carolyn Steel: How food shapes our cities

Jul 4, 2012

沈み行く船上で


source: Live Mall Search

今日はアメリカの独立記念日なので、USメディアはもちろんその話でいっぱいです。ニューヨークタイムズの社説の末尾に、
What should America look like? Who should we be to each other? ... It’s a holiday for rethinking who we are.
とあったので、僕も日本について考えてみました。以下は、僕なりの、叱咤・激励のための十把一絡げです。

60–代 不道徳
年金手帳を握りしめ自分たちの余生ぐらいはなし崩しでも安泰だろう。「俺たちはこの船をこさえたんだぞ。後はおまえらでなんとかせい。」

30–50代 無知・無責任
自分だけは身を削ってこしらえた蓄えで救命ボートが買えると信じている。「うちも余裕なくってぇ。それにしても利息低いわねぇ。」

20代 不憫
繊細で賢明なので誰も乗るわけはないが、だからといって他の船もない。「やる気シネぇ〜」

今の20代、そして子達にはただただ申し訳ない。加えて、リタイアした世代に多くを要求するのはこれまた不道徳だし、倫理観というのは別の観点から論ずべきだと思うので今回は割愛します。というわけで、僕も含め30–50代の無知・無責任についてです。

逆転サヨナラホームランは、ない。金融という観点に絞れば、沈むのは世界中見渡してもまともな金融関係者は疑っていないだろう。もちろん「いつ」などは明確には解りっこない(解るなら債券市場が成り立たない)けど、もう手遅れでしょ。出口を探す気のないデフレ、709兆円(GDP比219%!!!)借金、少子高齢化、人口減少、と全てが世界トップもしくはトップクラス。厭世観を競うオリンピックがあれば金メダル総なめです。

4人家族あたり、2,214万円の借金だよ!年次行事のように予算案が通過するたびに、テレビのニュースで歳出、歳入と新規国債のブロック並べてるのを見て「まぁ大変。この国大丈夫かしら。上の子来年から保育園だし貯金しとかなきゃ!」とか気合い入れてる場合じゃないよ。こんな借金返せる家庭がいったい何件あることか。そんなの無理。だったら素直にデフォルト(債務不履行)の危機は他人事でないはず。デフレ=超低金利だから?でも、インフレを心配している日銀に与野党そろって景気対策だっ!って圧力をかけてるんじゃないの?で、選挙のたびに皆「うむ、まずは景気対策だな」って票を入れたんでしょ?ほんのちょっと金利が上ブレするだけでもうおじゃんじゃん。国内の機関投資家(生保、特にゆうちょ)が95%も抱えてるから「帳消し」すれば済むの?そんな魔法がこのフラット化した時代でも何事も無かったかのようにしてくれると期待してると、道行く子供に変な目で見られるよ。

だから、皆で何とかしよう。避けられなくても、もちろん軽減はできるんだから。

蓄えのある人は、別の用途で「今」投資する。単に消費するんじゃなくて、預貯金以外に資本主義を支えられる用途に使う。気概と倫理観と先見性のある企業の株式に投資するというのが最も容易かつ手堅いでしょう。例えば、配当利回りの低めなファーストリテイリングだって1.14%(実績 7/4時点)だよ。もちろん将来の株価なんてわかりっこない。それでも、単純に紀伊国屋で四季報立ち読みして実績と予測をささっと調べてから、この月足見て(特に2008, 09年の金融危機のあたり)、5年10年後に株価が15,850円(7/4時点)より下回っていると思う人は少数派でしょう?最悪の状態で同水準だとしても、年利1%の利回りだよ?定期預金の利率なんて調べる気もしないよ。ほんっとに、まともな知性があれば5年定期預金なんてできないはず。

社会人として、金融の基礎の基礎を学ぶ気がないなら無責任だ。今の日本の状況を知った上で、今日の100万円の貯金が10, 20年後も100万円の価値があると心底信じているなら無知だ。救命ボートも純国産で仕上げられれば、100万円は100万円の価値だ!と言うなら(もし純国産が可能だとしても)、知ってる?岸に着いてもiPhoneも無ければ天然水で車は動かないんだよ。グローバル化は流行語大賞じゃなくって現実だよ。長時間首ひねって内向き過ぎたせいで、頭まで痛いんじゃない?

僕のように蓄えのない人は、お金以外で単純に考えて世の中がよくなりそうな分野で努力する。勉強でもボランティアでも何でもいいから、努力する。今時インターネットさえあれば何でも学べるよ。特に英語さえできれば、MITのプログラムだってただで受講できる。その英語だって、数千円使えば相当なレベルまで学べる。僕が留学準備のために独りで英語を学んだときは、ESL Podcast というサービスにひと月だけ登録し($60)過去の教材を全てダウンロードしてすぐ解約したので、当時で6000円くらいしか英語の勉強に使わなかった。(ちなみに当時僕のTOEICのスコアは、450くらい。)

僕は僕なりの責任をとるために、日本も含め世界にとって僕が最も有益であれるであろう分野で努力しています。だから、皆も貯金を止めて、努力してください。金融システムが崩壊して世界中に多大な迷惑をかけることになっても、それでも世界は善意で満ち満ちているので、ちゃんと努力していれば中国やEUやアメリカだって優しく支えてくれますよ、きっと。

Jul 2, 2012

Dark Apple or Evil Android


source: iDownloadBlog

First of all, I like both brands and philosophies behind them. As far as I know, Google is the best tech company founded during the last 15 years; highly ethical, forward-looking and technically advanced. At the same time, I’ve been a dyed-in-the-wool Mac & iPhone user. So, I can't tell in general which one is more evil; rather, this post is shedding light on just one aspect but yet vitally important in this era – openness.

...After finishing the introduction above, it took me unexpectedly long time to go ahead. When I started to work on this topic, I took things easy by thinking:
Google as a proponent of openness is being in trouble with ‘walled garden’ trends promoted by Apple joined by Facebook. With regard to the freedom of the Web, Google is good Apple is bad.
Although my overall simplified argument is still held in this statement, it turns out the discussion over the Web openness has a number of layers such as censorship, demands for curated information, or impacts on future software innovation. To follow up the last post, the single focus is placed on the openness for networked intelligence.

It appears that Android keeps infringing Apple’s patents. Reflecting on this, there’s a story from Steve Jobs biography; he once said “I'm willing to go thermonuclear war” against Google. Over the last four years, I often wondered how come Google got away with it if the myriad patents were registered. It was really bad impression on Google, to be honest. However, during the same period, Apple itself seemed to deliberately violate the unwritten rule of the Internet. That’s openness.

As you know, the world is increasingly flooded with iPhone apps. With Internet access, they bring tons of goodies to our life. They are cheap yet handy or just fun! So, basically it's good. There is, however, one not-so-fun issue around, which is actually very serious. We cannot search for the information generated by those apps despite online activities.

Activities on apps are as rich as what we do on the web such as discussing, blogging, gaming, sharing videos & photos, etc. Besides, some apps are far more dynamic and interactive; thus, data produced through them may have higher or different values. There's no point of not utilizing such data in order to reach unprecedented heights in any intellectual efforts. Imagine, individual data from medical apps can be combined with professional knowledge for new scientific discoveries. What about educational apps or games, which can contribute rich human cognitive data to the development of neuroscience or education.

I love Apple’s sensibly and aesthetically simplified products & services. But, Apple is not privileged to leave behind such an externality in the name of consumer’s well-being. And I doubt it would considerably hamper the current level of service even if Apple opens up access to the data in numerous Apps.

In addition, we consumers shouldn't give opportunities for excuse. It’s understandable that some people are anxious about their privacy that is constantly scrutinized by our phones. But, at the same time, most of us don’t know how to make good use of them. Instead of hoarding them like assets, why not under the appropriate conditions give them away to someone capable in the interests of human being?

As far as openness is concerned, I cannot help but champion Google’s position and wish Apple would be more respectful to the ongoing evolution. We’re in the midst of networked intelligence age in which:
“Internet gives us to access not just to information but to the intelligence”

Jun 29, 2012

Grandfather Didn't Know This Socialism

Don Tapscott kicked off TED Global 2012: Radical Openness with a great talk.

Especially touching was the last part of starling murmuration as an analogy to collective power accelerated by radical openness. I clearly saw the brighter future brought about by a higher level of human intelligence.


It's safe to guess that Tapscott used the starling murmuration as a correspondence with the notion from Biz Stone – a co-founder of Twitter Inc. He likened Twitter activity to a flock of birds with saying,
A flock of birds flying around an object in flight has no leader yet this beautiful, seemingly choreographed movement is the very embodiment of change. Rudimentary communication among individuals in real time allows many to move together as one--suddenly uniting everyone in a common goal.

Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine calls such a system ‘digital socialism’ and even associates it with a new engine of American innovation. It sounds bold enough to use the word ‘socialism’ in order to describe any aspects of Americans. But how is this time different? More than 150 years ago, Karl Marx had already made half the world dream of the utopia. To get the most, we need to be fully convinced that it is fundamentally different from the grandfather's socialism.


Given the positively shared name of ‘socialism’, benefits are considered to be the same. There are more efficient and secure production and distribution – knowledge creation and dissemination in the new mechanism. Therefore, the difference should lie in disadvantage.


Old-school socialism forced people to give up the nobility of individuality. We are not going to sacrifice it this time. While benefiting from collective power, we will also continue to enjoy our uniqueness, appreciate others’ specialities, and accept a certain level of inequality. So, how is this achieved?


In the old form, by definition, the means of production was owned and regulated by the central authority. But, we no longer need a centralized system for collective production over the Internet. Rather, peripherality is the nature of it. Every single activity happens on the edge. Interaction from edge to edge is the fundamental characteristic of the Internet. We are edglings. Moreover, although this is another big topic, no particular entity should own and control the Internet. I share the serious concern about the governance of the Internet discussed every so often. I believe human being has already been intelligent enough not to eliminate the revolutionary intelligent system.


Openness is another, much bigger factor. According to Tapscott, openness has four principles: collaboration, transparency, sharing, and empowerment. Each of these brings different advantages. The concept of openness itself is by no means exclusive to the Internet; instead, it is ancient value. I don’t think Marxism, in theory, required any closed systems; rather, centralization should have been compatible with openness. But, unfortunately such harmonization was far beyond the reality of human nature and they eventually ended up with detrimental isolations. But, this time is different; we are open to be united. As Stone indicated above, rudimentary communication over social media enables spontaneous, real-time, but temporary collaboration. Yes, it is a weak bond in a sense. But, I think it should be weak and flexible to avoid undesired lock-in and to retain individualism.


We are standing on a turning point of human evolution. At our disposal is whether to build a better world. What an exciting time we live in! Let's do this.

Jun 9, 2012

Social Media does Count in Business

A few weeks ago, after the group research presentation, I was asked a question about whether the traceability system in a food supply chain made financial sense. And the answer was yes not only because it could minimize negative impacts of food safety issues, but also because data collated through the system would be utilized so that more efficient coordination could be achieved. In either aspects, the key were shared information and relationships among the chain participants. Given the time constraint, Hamish (our lecturer) didn’t go further about ‘How?’, but I was prepared to touch on social media.

According to Kimball and Rheingold, when we encounter a problem, basically we need to first:
  1. Find out ‘who knows who knows what’ in order to ask questions.
  2. and then,
  3. Prepare a legitimate reason for the people who know the answer to share it.
These are where the value of our social capital is to be tested. If we share norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness in a given network, we will find solutions quickly. The richer our social capital, the more efficient problem-solvings.

Remember, the central thesis of social capital theory is ‘relationships matter’. And what we do with various social media is all about connections/relationships. Therefore, online social networks, which are inherently worldwide and more sophisticated means of networking, can globalize and accelerate both processes in problem solving. This is just an example of why social media does matter for businesses, but tells us a very strong bearing.

Jun 7, 2012

Technology as an Agent of Change


The title is one of my favorite statements Niall Cook made in his ‘Enterprise 2.0’. He went on saying,
Did people have videos cluttering up their hard drives just waiting to be free before YouTube came along? No. YouTube was the catalyst for an explosion in amateur video production amongst the masses.
Very true. Definitely not the other way around. Especially, in the age where markets are empowered by the Internet, we're not allowed to just expect technology to support the changes we are instilling if we hope to stay in business because:
markets are getting smarter – and getting smarter faster than most companies
The Cluetrain Manifesto
Thus, we should use technology as a driver of change; otherwise, “innovations” would become obsolete as soon as they reach maturity.

Last few months, I have a co-worker on a couple of projects. She & I have different backgrounds from other students, and a bit older I mean maturer. Nonetheless I'm a reasonably ordinary guy, I suppose. However, no one could understand before actually observing her days how she's been social-networking in the real world. That's a phenomenon indeed.

She can’t help going to a birthday party in the very evening when a massive co-project is due in order to increase her most valuable asset – social capital. Regardless of situations I have to spend certain time as a share & currency trader to make a living, and as a technology advocate to catch up with a fast evolving domain.

These are our markets. We are no longer in the ivory tower, rather in the midst of real societies as students. So, every jobs need to be done more quickly. But we've got ample spirit of inquiry at the same time. We do want to learn.

As one of the solutions, Google Docs has been a tool, through which we can see how the other constructs arguments in real time; i.e. we can directly learn from on-going processes without explanations at a later time. This is far more efficient. This is a modern form of collaboration. This is the means whereby we learn in the era.

Google Docs is a dead simple but powerful collaborative application, way ahead of a conventional wiki. I guess when we first used the tool she probably didn’t have much experience. But she just used it, collaborated with me, and learned much. This was a manifestation of the old notion – a good tool is simple then changes our behavior.

Technology has already revolutionized the world but I firmly believe the biggest time hasn’t come yet.

May 13, 2012

週末だわ、孤絶だわ


僕は、控えめに表現しても、週に一度くらい孤絶します。言い換えると、皆と同じく週に一度くらいはリラックスします。

普段32歳の大人を保つために身にまとっている“責任”という名の鎧をドサッと脱いだ瞬間に、世界を構成している寂寥にすぅ〜と包容されるのです。

孤絶するからリラックスできるのではなく、鎧を脱いでリラックスするから孤絶せざるを得ないのです。僕だって、しなくて済むなら孤絶なんてしたかないですよ。でも、これが世界の成立ちだと思うので、あきらめて受け入れることにしています。村上さんに言わせると、
“この惑星は人々の寂寥を滋養として回転をつづけているのか”
ということです。(スプートニクの恋人)

昔は、発狂した。ただ辛いだけではなく、何がおこっているのか、どうして辛いのかが分からないもんだから、気がふれるしかなかった。今は孤独というものを少しばかし理解しているおかげで、少なくとも何がおこっているかは分かるので、正気ではいられる。

でも、この孤独の理解というものは曲者で、一般に言われる何かを理解するという状態とは根本的に異なる概念に思われる。通常、何かを理解すると多少なりともその対象の取り扱いが上手になるものだが、こと孤独に関する限りこの理解という状態は何の救いにもならず、孤絶するときはやっぱりただただ無力で苛まれるしかない。辛さそれ自体は何一つとして軽減しない。

正直、そんなのズルいよ、苦労して理解したって何の役にも立たないなんて、割が悪すぎる。ねぇ、ちょっとぐらい楽になってもいいんでない?と期待したりもした。でも、ほんっとに、なんっにもない!!よって、あきらめて受け入れることにしました。

ふぅ、あと何千回孤絶しなければならないものか、やれやれ。

Apr 20, 2012

Boots or Spring, That is the Question


As Eric Clapton’s proverb goes, to survive the life I firmly believe:
I must be strong and carry on
'Cos I know I don't belong
Here in heaven
And I tended to encourage myself to “be as tough as old boots” because being tough is I thought to be strong. But today, while listening to “Pick Yourself Up”, I just wondered it would be better said “be as resilient as spring”.

Take one typical example of life’s challenge – losing a loved one. Here’s a good excerpt from “Norwegian Wood” (Haruki Murakami)
no truth can cure the sadness we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness, can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see that sadness through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sadness that comes to us without warning.
This made me feel hopeless – my efforts of being tough useless. Although, perhaps because, this seemed very true, I tried to deny it and kept going with old boots. But, that old song told me I could be strong without being tough. That’s a real eyeopener! So, I decided to take off my crappy boots and began to think how to be spring.
Pick Yourself Up
(by Dorothy Fields)
Nothings impossible I have found
For when my chin is on the ground
I pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again
Don't lose your confidence if you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip
And pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again
Work like a soul inspired till the battle of the day is won
You may be sick and tired but you'll be a man my son
Don't you remember the famous man who had to fall to rise again?
They picked themselves up, dust themselves off and started all over again

Mar 25, 2012

Prosumerism Has Come to Fruition


Source: Euro RSCG

When Alvin Toffler coined the word ‘prosumer’ in his prophetic work ‘The Third Wave’ in 1980, there certainly wasn’t any effective means to communicate with mass consumers. So, once businesses noticed there were opportunities for ‘free lunch’, some took the advantage behind consumers’ back. This was accelerated by the advent of World Wide Web, and now it’s in full swing from governments telling us to fill any sorts of online application to grocery stores asking customers for self-checkout.

It appears that some of them have managed to communicate with their customers while others even don’t have such an intention. In New Zealand examples, a supermarket Pak’n Save has successfully conveyed a message to and gained an approval from customers about why doing ‘self-s’. Massey university, on the other hand, has recently rolled out a new online enrollment system that forces students to submit and maintain our enrollment with more steps, explanation, declaration and so on. I haven’t found, to say the least, any enhanced benefits at all. And there was obviously no communication prior to the launch but the annual tuition increase, of course! I’m here at such a university trying to understand the concept of “Markets as Conversation” –The Cluetrain Manifesto. Ironic enough?

30 years after, in the age of social media, I think ‘prosumer’ is still a valid term. Although Bruns (2009) claimed that:
it remains firmly grounded in the mass media age: the prosumer is clearly not the self-motivated creative originator and developer of new content… to expect Toffler’s 1970s model of the prosumer to describe these 21st-century phenomena was always an unrealistic expectation
and promoted the use of ‘produser’, it’s a bit misleading and we don’t need to add one to oceans of new jargons. Of course, it’s not grounded on the explosion in social media; however, as seen in the definition of The Third Wave – ‘Information Age’, the term was expected to cover such activities as creating digital contents. Besides, Toffler himself expanded the concept and proved its validity in Revolutionary Wealth (2006) mentioning those the self-motivated creative originators such as bloggers.

Prosumerism is rather becoming more relevant due to social media, with which we continuously interact, produce & consume. It is not at all only among traditional consumers, amateurs or hobbyists; but also happening between corporates and their markets. In Don Tapscott’s words, technology and the business environment have finally caught up with predetermined ‘The New Organization’ era proposed by Peter Drucker. In which talents are actively exchanged and innovations are made happen. While Drucker’s point might have been restricted to the exchange between only corporates, there’s no point in excluding hidden talents outside thanks to social media and ‘porous membrane’ again. Who knows those outside corporate walls are more gifted and passionate about their products? This is the reason I argued incorporating Twitter straightaway into business is the most effective way of fully taking advantage of this opportunity and promoting these exchanges & innovations.

As a number of thinkers pointed out, the boundary between professional and amateur practices has become really blurred; hence, many of us are no longer pure consumers. It’s finally time for prosumerism to come true and be fully understood & utilized in order to push the human race forward. Prosumerism is one of the simplest way to see the world that is being drastically changed by social media.

Mar 23, 2012

Outdated Approach – 4Cs

Let’s face it. For those who read “Enterprise 2.0” –Niall Cook, how useful is his 4Cs approach? He classified social software according to the ‘actions’ involved or primary ‘functions’ that facilitate those actions. If you ask me, this didn't do the job very well. And it is particularly irrelevant when it comes to up-to-date social networking service like Facebook or Twitter, which are becoming synonymous with social media.

Take Twitter. Although Twitter is relatively simple social software, it has ‘functions’ of Follow (subscription), @Replies & Mentions (comments & trackback), #hashtag (tag), DM (instant messaging), photo & video sharing, yet sometimes itself called microblogging service. And actions involved are really up to users: blogging, social bookmarking, chatting, syndicating or social presence which Cook categorized Twitter into. Who knows which one is Twitter’s ‘primary’ function and action?

His taxonomy alone is too rigid to deal with such a dynamic and revolutionary phenomenon. As he himself appreciated, classification of social software belongs to the realm of folksonomies, allowing a dynamic categorization as time goes by.

Cook’s effort was probably for encouraging businesses to introduce or experiment social software by oversimplifying the nature of it. But, I really don’t think an implementation of social software according to what they do will be successful. Look at Google’s continuous failure in social media. They have been at the cutting edge of these technology and trying to feed us with state-of-the-art social experience. But they kept flopping.

Why is that? To me, social media is all about literally society. People have already found, networked, lived in and empowered by their own societies, in which objective functionality itself is far less important than experience & knowledge shared with their citizen. They don’t want a revolution. It’s a totally different age from the time The Beatles shouted so.

Cook set the scene – “the membrane that separates your staff from the outside world is getting thinner every day and most of them are already operating outside the firewall anyway.” So, if businesses want to truly benefit from Twitter inside the organizations, they should introduce not Twitter functionality, not Twitter inside the firewall, Twitter itself which comes with existing societies out there. Otherwise, as Cook said, “You’re probably better sticking with existing clunky enterprise systems”, which are functional enough. As cited in the book, Dennis Moore gave a reason – “People are bringing from home an expectation of how computing should be.” Nowadays, “how computing should be” is Communicating, Cooperating, Collaborating & Connecting on Facebook & Twitter.

To be fair, I don’t know how relevant it was when the book was published in 2008. But where the term ‘social media’ has evolved and begun to indicate Facebook, Twitter and the alike coming, the approach of focusing on functionality is outdated. What do you have to say about Cook’s 4Cs approach? Please let me discuss with you.

Mar 16, 2012

Next-door Jennifer Grows My Tomato


Souce: lovefood

It’s fair to say that some of you, if not many, wouldn’t choose shiny red but hopelessly tasteless tomatoes from a crowded supermarket on the way home, if those fully ripe with stunning taste were ready to be ordered by mobile from your couch. …Hey wait, it’s not a scam or la-la land story. It’s real. Because, thanks to social media, this is exactly what I did.

I’m not assuming global tomato trade here, of course. Physical distance is restricted within say 30km radius in order to make it a realistic option for any growers. So, in the past what had made it difficult to provide tomato directly from a grower to consumers? The answer is found by looking at what intermediaries do. Basically, they provide various utilities such as place, possession, transaction and time, which are ultimately achieved by coordinating supply chain. Let’s have a look at each of these in the context of local food.

Place: It’s over there. Vicinity is the fundamental definition of local food.

Possession: Actually, no one needs to possess fresh produce; rather their fields and trees can do the job, which are better than controlled atmosphere storage (fancy name!) powered by electricity.

Transaction: This is broken into information search, matching, and exchange. And this is where social media comes in. As Andrew McAfee explained with an acronym – SLATES, information search and matching farmers supply & consumers demand are achieved at a far more advanced level. Both sides can easily express their product availability and requests anytime – Authoring. Even they don’t have to search them – Signals. And this leads to another time utility.

Time: Farmers may not be able to have as long business hours as supermarkets. But there’s another time utility – responsiveness. Since consumers and farmers are directly connected, following requests will be made happen.
“I need young soft spinach for salad.” “I love to eat a bit overly ripe, sweeeeet peach.”
In the conventional supply chain, over-ripe peach isn’t available because it’ll be too soft to be handled and transported in a large quantity. So, they know their requests are special, hence willing to pay more.

To sum up, in the local food system, farmers don’t have to coordinate such a complex supply chain to provide their products to consumers. Of course, they still need farm supply delivered through traditional routes. But, no need for the part between farmers and consumers. Most of utilities are completed as functionally, if not more, as by social media. And ironically enough, those digital social media are more humanized than shrewd middlemen.

These are just an example of replacing conventional intermediaries by social media. The real fruits of local food facilitated by social media are product quality (not availability), business sustainability and enjoyment. In the example of my farming days, I set up a website to sell, communicate and sometimes cooperate with customers through a blog form. They were able to comment not only on blog posts but also on each product. Direct communication with consumers was so fun and very encouraging. Direct feedbacks were ultimately useful and priceless. Furthermore, strong intimate relationship made it possible to cooperate such as customers ß-testing a new mobile website with a wide range of their devices or selecting varieties for a next season. The relationship was so solid that they didn’t go away as long as I kept showing right efforts, not results; hence, the wheels kept turning.

I personally believe this is the future of fresh produce. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could enjoy real fresh produce each season with authentic taste and make it sustainable by giving money back to growers?

Here's an example from U.K. – Sustaination

Mar 10, 2012

1984 Never Comes


Source: 3 News

I think “important points are always made sotto voce” as tweeted before.

Let me explain it. When people try to persuade or perhaps manipulate others, they tend to go to extremes with loud voice both physically and metaphorically. Such exaggeration is an effective gimmick and can mostly work well. But never ever any truth is there. For those who seek some authenticity or sincerity, it's just falling into an object of ridicule. If it's gone too far, oversimplification goes beyond ridicule and always becomes a nice joke, like “four legs good, two legs bad” from Animal Farm.

When it comes to political or sales campaign, the reason is simply due to the innate inability of old media to effectively reach the mass audience, who are originally diverse individuals. Therefore, as I mentioned in the last post, it had been more or less the only approach to make up a new category and throw in prospective targets, instead of respecting our individuality. This is the most ominous and heart of Orwell’s message. Simon Mainwaring, author of We First, put this more gentle way. “In advertising, we fabricate the relationship between the brand and its customers. In social media, you let it happen organically.”

Yes, social media ensures the means to reach diverse audience without distorting our nature, and customers are keen to help business – sounds promising. But, let’s look at a bigger picture. In We First, Mainwaring explained why “the private sector can be the third pillar of social change to help out government and philanthropy”. To me, this is far more natural and realistic a solution to make the world a better place, lying between purely benevolent and greedy organizations or philanthropic and government practices. Thanks to social media, if each of us consumers wants to do some social good we don’t have to take lots of risks but just ask our favorite brands. Because now businesses should know that “one of the most powerful ways to be meaningful to your customers’ lives is to demonstrate a concern for something greater than yourself” said Mainwaring.

Social media not only figuratively democratized our consumer relationship but literally did our society. Governments don’t need to manipulate citizens for their nations. People don’t need to stand up to a revolution for their lives. Now we can talk. But furthermore and more importantly, we don’t need to be allergic to pursuing profits when we want to do something ethically good for the world because that’s how social good can be done. This is a real individualism and revolution.

So, is the future brighter than 1984? I firmly believe so, and this is the fundamental motive for studying social media.

How Brands Are Solving Social Issues With Social Media

Mar 6, 2012

The Future Belongs to Women



It’s been the norm that women like social media more than men do, illustrated by data from comScore. Even when it comes to Pinterest, women make up about 82% of active users according to Curt Finch. Why is this? Helen Nowicka explains it’s simply an intrinsic difference that women are more social than men. For most of us, this comes naturally doesn’t it? Look at your campus, guys are munching hotdogs alone while girls are chatting in a circle. Aileen Lee gives another more specific phenomenon that women tend to adopt new social media technology faster than men.

I think this trend will be accelerated or at least persist. So, if social media is truly revolutionary and becoming a primary communication means which is dominated by women, are women going to dominate the society? I would say it’s probable in a sense and pragmatically it’s not that bad. Although some men must go crazy to keep the reins, I personally wouldn't mind at all as I don’t/won’t have any! Let’s think about this from the marketing point of view.

Nowadays, no one denies the importance of marketing in almost any public activity. And in which considered segmentation is one of the key elements of success. However, as Johanna Blakley told us at TED talks, there’s a pitfall in the conventional marketing tactic where great emphasis is placed on demographical segmentation.

It used to work quite well not because consumers actually fit in one of those segments, rather because traditional media pushed a square peg in a round hole and created such fallacious notions. But now the landscape is completely changing. As Boyd pointed out “Social Media has released us, freed us”, now we don't have to be presumed in a rigid category and it’s much easier to get out of those demographic boxes. “We can also connect with people based on our very specific interests. We don’t need a media company to help do this for us.” Johanna said.

Those connections and communities are very wide-raging & dynamic. Therefore if marketers try to synthesize them in a functional way, a set of new skills and instincts are definitely required. In that case, women’s better ability of grasping such a social environment will be much more appreciated than ever. I don’t think we guys should keep our eyes on Karl Marx with a frown, but give way and do whatever we better at in social media sphere.

Am I being overly feminist? Please share your position on this.

Johanna Blakley: Social media and the end of gender

Mar 2, 2012

Customers are Keen to Help Business

As I tweeted on 1 Mar, Frugal Dad posted an infographic about a series of “social consumer victories” that were recently brought about via Twitter. These are good examples of what’s happening in the relationship between business and consumer. In the era of social media, consumers are empowered by them and able to form a unified message, which exactly cooperations have been doing for decades. Customers are now as powerful as other stakeholders, if not more, to influence business decisions.

This is absolutely phenomenal; however, I still have some hesitation in calling them consumer “victories” because benefits should be mutual, not unilateral at the expense of firms. Although Armani & Versace case seemed to be deliberately unethical decisions, the rest of them were, they thought, rational. They just failed to communicate with their customers and made wrong moves. So, those who were still fond of, or at least interested in, the products were kind enough to take the initiatives and tell the businesses that they were not happy with the decisions and would abandon the relationships.

These are clear indications that in reality some top managements still struggle to understand how to make decisions from customer’s viewpoint even though it’s been a while since marketing departments realized customers sat at the heart of their businesses. And they are right. Customers are those who exchange not only monetary value, but also invaluable information.

Now the door is open and customers are keen to help business for a win-win relationship. I believe that being sincere & ethical in business will financially pay off. Therefore, why not “engage in real two-way discussion with their markets, listening to their questions and concerns and responding openly and honestly” —Niall Cook?


source: http://frugaldad.com