Two Tips On (Not) Sounding Stupid

Two things that, for some reason, I've heard or read a LOT in the past couple weeks. Two things that are widely over-used and very incorrect. Two things I hope you'll learn to avoid saying, because they make you sound stupid. Two things that make me ignore everything else a speaker has to say, because these popular errors do a lot to remove a speaker's credibility.

1. Trying or giving anything more than 100%. Say this and you not only are a liar, but you've proven that you are terrible at math and not thinking about what you're really saying. Do the math. You can't have more than 100% of anything, because 100% is all of it. It's impossible to give 110%, so don't say that to someone if you want them to have more confidence in your abilities. You might as well come out and say "2+2=17".

2. Saying "it's in our company's / corporation's / brand's DNA". Absolutely not. Companies, corporations and brands do not, nor will they ever, have DNA. Claiming that anything is part of your organization's DNA shows that you don't understand what DNA is, and that you are spewing meaningless gibberish. Do your homework before you ape something that sounds scientific, or you'll look like a fool. What you're talking about are ideas, not genetic information. It's likely that, if you're referring to anything at all, it's a "meme" or "meme-complex". Have some respect for science; try not to butcher it just to feel like you sound important.


Piracy is a business model

Interesting post on Boing Boing, quoting a Disney co-chair Anne Sweeney. While the executive's comments at Mipcom seem clearly spurned by the belief that "content is king", Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow rounds out his post with a moment of clarity to which more studio execs and marketers should subscribe:

Content isn't king. If I sent you to a desert island and gave you the choice of taking your friends or your movies, you'd choose your friends -- if you chose the movies, we'd call you a sociopath. Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.

Well put. I'm inspired to put it this way:
Conversation is king because no one can own it.

(Not even Disney, not even with all the pirate references ... coincidentally made as a Disney pirate movie special edition DVD is made available for pre-order.)

In fact, Sweeney goes on to mention that some consumers want to consume content in a timely fashion so as to not miss out on the proverbial "watercooler moment" - conversation, in not so many words. This doesn't jive with her "content is king" stance. You don't bring content to the watercooler, you bring conversation. Let me give you an example:

This week, had I a watercooler conversation, it would have been about how the streaming online player for selected ABC programs doesn't work very well, and how the Disney-owned network was unable to stream more than twenty seconds of LOST without grinding to a halt for minutes at a time (an unpleasant, frustrating user experience). I'd then turn the conversation to the feeling I got, saying "just go buy it at iTunes and be done with this", and how I thought I'd just been teased into buying content I was supposed to have gotten for free. I'd managed to see a choppy two minutes of the episode, and now I wanted to see the rest. This is where I'd let the conversation go parenthetical...

(What do you do when the brand new, free streaming player isn't working? You can pay two dollars for the same content - plus DRM - at iTunes, or you could just watch for the content on a free P2P network, where you can get the content that will keep you in tomorrow's conversations.)

I would have concluded the conversation with mention of the BitTorrent options for freely acquiring the content on which our conversations thrive.


Does that make me lazy? Possibly.

I thought I was edgy in pointing out that at least one lyric changed between the leaked version of Crazy and the album version ("possibly" was originally "probably" in the refrain -- I'll work on getting some mp3s up here to compare). I am now somewhat humbled, because I am so late on this juicy tidbit of trivia:

Crazy is primarily (heavily) based on a song from an Italian movie soundtrack called "Nel Cimitero Di Tucson" [source: Music For Kids Who Can't Read Good].

Aside from the fact that it has been generally over-played for the past several months, the song seems much less crazy to me now.


Common, change your name to Commercial already.

When he still went by Common Sense, I saw this Columbia College drop-out hanging with his buddies at a Wendy's in a suburb of Chicago - that's right, a suburb, not Chicago proper.

A few years later, I watched him "perform" at NIU. It was so uneventful, people in the far-from-sold-out crowd were sitting down on the floor and some even nodding off to sleep.

Fast-forward a few more years and he's done away with all Sense, and openly fancies himself one of those psuedo-poetic, racially charged "issue" rappers. By no coincidence, he also started doing a lot more commercials and fashion spreads. He still claimed to be "representing" Chi Town through all this.

Common, come on. How can you possibly "represent" Chicago when you, like Kanye, don't even live there anymore? Maybe you need a hook to sell your records? Maybe geography isn't your strong suit.

Let's talk about social issues, since you claim that's what you're all about. Did you ever stop to think that the empty calories in Coca-Cola are helping to deteriorate the health of "your people" and contribute to the obesity epidemic? Your role as a shill to promote cola is in direct conflict with the stated mission of your children's charity.

Let's address the real issue: you going commercial. With this new Gap deal you've got, not only are you now potentially mid-shark jump, but you're also wearing out your own moniker. I think you should just change your name to Commercial and spare us all the cognitive dissonance.



Pilfering from Kottke again today, because I love these grammatic non-errors.


Flashback (cont'd)


The show was generally underwhelming. HOB can't seem to get a clear sound with two or more guitars going at once. The muddy sound and the sloppiness of the bands drew more attention to the rehearsed stage antics. This was not the same band I saw at Holiday Star Plaza in 1990.

Though it was, pound-for-pound, the biggest audience I've seen at a Ministry show, or any show in recent memory. I think a lot of these kids, many as old as or older than I am, believe they have to be loud and debaucherous, but couldn't tell you why. It's depressing to see so many people letting drugs to them, presumably an effort to maintain a rebellious reputation.

It's already ironic that a 48-year-old Jourgensen still plays Pied Piper to a lot of people who still live as though they're 16. But when the guys onstage, notorious for their over-indulgences and unhealthy lifestyles, are in far better shape than the audience members a third the age, it's comical. Luc Van Acker may have only inadvertently resembled the Big Boy, but his appearance was far less cartoonish than the innumberable "big eaters" in attendance - many stumbling and lumbering like department-store goth goons through the sold-out crowd.

The other thing that struck me about the show was the frequency with which George W. Bush appeared either in video or lyrics. It reminded me of that way boys and girls will pick on each other relentlessly, but really just because one has a crush on the other... as if Al secretly loves Bush, but can't admit it without alienating his buddies. Ministry doesn't have an act without Bush right now, frankly. Maybe Al's been in Texas too long.



Going to see Ministry and Revolting Cocks tonight. I used to live on this stuff, but I don't think they'll play as far back into the catalogue as I'd like. Jello is in town, however. so I'm hoping for a couple Lard songs.

I'd love it if it happens like the first time I saw them... a Ministry show, plus a showcase of side-projects including Lard (with Jello), Pailhead (with Ian) and Smothered Hope (with Ogre). That's my benchmark, anyway. I honestly think we'll be lucky if we get anything tonight that's pre-"Jesus Built My Hot Rod".


Stigmergy vs. Synergy

I learned a new word today, thanks to Jason Kottke and Wikipedia: stigmergy.

After reading the definition, it occurred to me that stigmergy is potentially the Web 2.0 equivalent of "synergy" - a term notoriously mis-used and abused by account directors and strategists everywhere. Synergy is not always good - it is a compounding of effects from two or more discrete influences. Think of the side-effects of cold medicine... take two or more kinds and the resultant synergy could prove fatal.

Since "synergy" has practically lost its meaning through mis-use (much in the same way "impact" is mis-used as a positive term - usually as the non-word "impactful"), I think "stigmergy" has promise. It affords a more realistic, organic approach to defining the nature a given relationship. That is, until chumps with poor language and communication skills butcher the term into meaninglessness.


CoolHunting loses its cool.

Leading participant in and non-objective observer of fashionable fads, CoolHunting has announced that it is expanding to form a mobile marketing company called Bond Art and Science (which offers a stunning lack of design and dismal brand experience on its own web site). Judging from what Josh Rubin says, this latest effort is all a bit convoluted if not misguided:

“Experiences now span beyond the first and second screen,” says Rubin. “Our solutions are based on a belief that mobility is a critical element that anchors effective communications.” He continues, “Bond designs all digital touchpoints to work cohesively, offering a consistent brand experience. The result is an exponentially positive impact.”

I see a big problem in that statement. Mobility is not what anchors a communication, consistency is. Communication has to be consistent through all touchpoints, not just digital ones. And just because you have digital touchpoints linked together does not in any way indicate that you have created a positive brand experience. Rubin apparently wants us to believe that technology alone makes for a positive brand experience. If you're getting a strong sense of deja vu, you're not alone. This kind of thinking helped burst the dot-com bubble just a few years ago. It would seem that Rubin is now poised to replicate such disaster on a mobile platform.

The technology is not the message; the technology is the vehicle for the message. A good "experience designer" would know this. But Rubin's quote dodges common sense and sinks straight to BS-buzz-word hype. What's cool about that?


GSTV: you can't spend five minutes without TV

Wouldn't the money spent installing televisions in gas pumps be better spent defraying the high price of gas? If my gas station is installing flat screens on the pumps, I get a strong sense that they're making more money than they need. Why compromise my concentration while I'm pouring highly flammable fluids into an automobile, anyway? Why not let me sit in my car with the inane DVD player I installed in the dashboard and use the GSTV money to provide full-service instead?

If it really is so "maddeningly tedious" for you as AdRants claims, you need to start walking, biking, or taking public transportation more often.

Seriously. If you can't go five minutes without television, you probably aren't fit to be driving at all.


The Backlash Bandwagon

It always happens... The industry leader is the brand that takes criticism for the entire category. The brand's competition may very well be worse for you, but it doesn't matter because you armchair activists and podcast pundits aim for the biggest target. I'm not defending McDonald's or Microsoft, but pointing out that "anti-hype" is little more than a backlash bandwagon - based on misplaced emotion more than fact.

You can see the anti-hype around MySpace more frequently now. From the half-assed "Fox bought MySpace" panic that, in the end, only attracted millions more people to the social networking site... to this article. Let me get this straight: a site that has 70 million members is "out" because one 18-year-old out of just 400 high school students surveyed said she's done with MySpace? Can't we just admit that we're tired of stories about MySpace's dominance, instead of publishing superfluous fluff and clutter about it? I'm not defending MySpace, but wondering where our collective common sense went.

We bitch about MySpace being too big, yet we've more than doubled the site's population in the past year. We claim that we don't eat McDonald's any more, yet we actually go to the fast-food giant more often and spend more when we're there since SuperSize Me came out. We bitch about Bill Gates and Microsoft, yet somewhere around 90% of us still claim Windows as our operating system. As consumers have proven that we are lying through our teeth; that we love to complain, but we have no resolve to effect change.

Why not get off the backlash bandwagon and put your money where your mouth is, folks?


The God Delusion

I thought it appropriate to follow that last post with a quick shout-out for Richard Dawkins' new book, The God Delusion. Pre-order it now, so you don't forget about it before the October 2006 release date.

For more info, here's a Salon interview with Dawkins from last year, about how all of America's god-mongering is pushing the country back into the Middle Ages. If you want more, here's another article in which Dawkins claims religion amounts to child abuse. Given the vast amounts of misinformation, false hope and resignation to not understand the world that religion gives us, I have to agree that it's extremely unhealthy when taught as divine truth instead of moral fiction.


To Hell With Religious Tolerance

Douglas Rushkoff moves a little further into Richard Dawkins' "anti-religion" territory with his latest post about "why the Bible is much more useful as a metaphorical guide to life than as a literal document." (quoted from BoingBoing)


Can you dig it, bigot?

Referring to Isaac Hayes' decision to leave South Park, and these quotes from the show's co-creator Matt Stone:

"This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians." ... Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

It's sad that Hayes is so swept up in a cult that he can't treat people fairly. So much for all that equality he used to sing about, huh? That's all a past life on another planet now, apparently.


Get your refix on.

Beastie Boys have made even more acapellas available, complete with BPMs. It's an audio equivalent of what they did with Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That!


Ableton Live
presents this Jack Dangers interview and Meat Beat Manifesto remix contest kit.

[It will be a miracle if I ever leave home this weekend.]


Ape shall exploit ape.

If not at one of A Busy Workshop's painfully hip and sparsely stocked boutiques, kids will pay $100 US or more for one of the relatively simple silkscreened T-shirts you'll see Nigo creating here [via PSFK's "me-too" site of fashion links].

The issue that's bothered me over four or so years of watching Nigo, Bape and A Bathing Ape gain notoriety is, you can't tell a knock-off from an original -- primarily because the design is so easily imitated, and actually stolen from Planet Of The Apes. Nigo built his career on infringing on the film's intellectual property, in fact. He branched out to borrow heavily from Nike's Dunk (or fakes thereof), too. The cool-hunters of the world quietly ignore this fact, presumably so they don't blow major holes through their own inflated senses of "cool". That is so not-cool.

I hope the video is a lesson to us all: don't buy ridiculously priced T-shirts; make your own. That's how Nigo got rich. Otherwise, you might settle for an imposter on eBay, because you'll get the same look for a fraction of the expense. I'd rather have the cash and the look than the demented satisfaction of paying an amount that would've bought plenty of supplies to start my own shirt line. But that's me.

If Nigo wants to curb the bootlegging (which fans of Bape must support at least in principle, since Bape itself is predicated on bootlegs of Planet Of The Apes imagery), he needs more sophisticated designs. Nigo's camo patterns are mediocre; he's no Maharishi. The promo video only underscores the simplicity of much of his design, meaning it's the demand he's manufactured that's really made his brand. But that demand seems like it might be little more than a revisitation of the large-scale merchandising of the original Planet Of The Apes film series.


"VICTOR" Frankenstein

...and other FIRST NAMES you didn't know, from ANGUS MacGyver to FRANK Colombo. My parents always called me by my middle name, which appears to be the strategy many celebrities take, too. What's most fascinating about this list, however, is the comingling of real and fictional characters.

read more | digg story


The Science of Stupidities

Ad-verse's title, not mine... this is a pretty damn good rant about the ineptitude of direct marketers.

Of all the marketers who send their irrelevant "direct" pieces to me, one really needs to read that rant: Micro Center. This computer supply merchant once sent me a sales flyer that had a huge "Your Privacy Is Important To Us!" sticker referring to their great new privacy policy... Problem was, right next to it, they also printed my full name, address and home phone number.

I was instantly livid. My privacy couldn't be more flagrantly violated by a single piece of direct mail. Time for a direct response, and one the company truly deserved. I literally got on the phone and told them to "fuck off", and immediately remove me from every single list they have. I used to shop there at least once a month, but they haven't seen a penny from me since - and never will see one. Ever.


AMP'd Fakes Don't Make It

First off, I have to say that the fad of replacing "extreme" with some variation of "amp" is already old-and-busted. You can all stop using it now. Please.

Speaking of old-and-busted, let's talk about fake sites. Like the one you get to from this banner that ran Comedy Central's site this week (among other sites, I'm sure).

Click "approve" and you go to get AMPD. But click "disapprove" and you get this.

This "fake" site BS seems to come up more often than bad ideas are made into TV spots - but does it help to undermine your own message so readily? Obviously, someone wants to make the point of saying "this is not for some people" in an allegedly "young-adult" fashion. But are these sites made with genuine concern for the consumer, or are they just funny to the interactive marketers who spend their days making this stuff?

Definitely the latter. Every button on this fake site just sends you back to AMPD.com. It's a particularly hollow gesture, as it doesn't even do "fake" right. Irritating and overwhelmingly pointless. It's possible to do "fake" and remain conceptually sound, but this isn't even close. It's such a shitty experience for the user, whoever came up with this should be shot.

To AMPD and it's agency: don't pat yourselves on the back, mistakenly considering this post "earned media" -- you haven't earned anything but scorn and distaste, and this is from an "early adopter" in your target audience, as far as you know. Don't take us for idiots.

(I wonder if Coors was officially involved in any way... theirs is the only product featured in the banner ad, and I'm pretty sure it's done without permission or legal clearance. And is that cat 21?)


Do not smell the cork.

Waiter Rant offers this helpful how-to:
How To Order Wine Without Looking Like An Asshole. Granted, you may still look like an asshole - but it'll have nothing to do with how you ordered the wine.