Holding Your Reader Hostage

I clicked an intriguing headline in my general feed at linked in:
How Do You End a Meeting? Netflix’s HR Rebel Asks Two Simple Questions

Here is the answer:

Have we made any decisions in the room today, and (if we have) how are we going to communicate them?

I found it 1200 words down from the headline at the very end of the article. The 1200 words were a lot about the writer – his lead is a lengthy anecdote of his own about his experience as a newly-minted professor. His promise is a con, bait-and-switch.




Suc·cinct: It sucks if you don’t cinch it.

succinctIt sucks if you don’t cinch it!

Is there any learning going on as a result of all the opportunities that digital technology affords for public discussion? Read from beginning to end a comment thread on any weighty or frivolous topic and see what you think.

What to do about it? Test for focus, knowledge and clarity before pushing the submit button. It any of the areas can be improved, do that first.

Tackle Design Purposefully – Here’s How


Everything I told you and practiced with you as we designed your marketing system came from the Five Canons of Rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.

  • By doing, rather than talking about it, we each called up our own creativity with fearless, playful curiosity, and came up with many possible structures that your system could take.
  • Then we applied the criteria for an acceptable solution to cobble together the parts of the imaginative solutions that could work on their own and in concert with each other to arrive at two or three very good approaches.
  • We developed programs for testing each of them.
  • We learned by observation which of our informed best guesses about audience engagement and fiddled the prototype that got best acceptance to include reactions we hadn’t thought of and to eliminate elements that got bad or apathetic responses.
  • We arrived at a point of view to carry into future refinements to the system.

It was fun. I miss problem-solving exercises.

I know that you were interested in the outcome, whereas I was interested in the process. Now that your system is a habitual standard operating procedure, you might enjoy reading the Stanford d. school’s Bootcamp Bootleg to get your creative juices flowing again. It takes you through the same process we followed, but as a team rather than as an individual project.

I really like the methods section.

I still recommend making charts with pens and rolls of paper when working on your own. Post-it notes on a wall, the modern replacement for index cards spread on the floor, is a better option for a team.

Diagram Your Thoughts to Keep Order in Your Planning

This is the way I’ve always taken notes. In college, I could symbolize the entire content of an hour-long lecture on paper, while I listened, so forever after I could recall all or most of it just from glancing at the notes. I gave the same format to clients to use when they were sitting all alone with nothing more than a pencil and a big sheet of paper, visualizing every aspect of their business operations to arrive at solutions for communication tasks they had to accomplish.

The chart here is for understanding all the influences that shape a company’s public image.

This chart is how the exercise really looks. A lot of it is doodles for focusing the mind on the problem at hand.

I was surprised to see charts very similar to this in an article about teaching creative planning processes to groups of management personnel, offered by IDEO. Not surprised to imagine that my approach is uniquely mine, but surprised that IDEO made such a huge deal of teaching people how to make such elaborate  charts, color and all, for trumped-up situations. That’s pseudo art class for people like my friend Jane, who used to feel like crying when it was time to pull out the crayons. It’s a waste of business time and money.

Normal people have to see it once and get the idea to put into practice their own ways. Of course, then it has to be a freebie – not a $$$ management seminar.

The point of making planning charts isn’t chart making — it’s to get an overview of the elements and issues that comprise a real situation now and to figure where changes can be made and how changes to one part will affect the overall look of the situation.

The revelation for my clients was that their conventional business and marketing plans were no help to them because the plans weren’t structured to reflect the way their businesses actually worked. After all the time that went into typing up the plans in outline formats, the plans went into file cabinets never to be seen again.

The IDEO approach reminded me of teaching sentence diagramming in English classes. Predictably, the kids got so wound up in how and where to draw the lines that the entire explanatory function of the diagram was lost. Their essays remained clumsy and ungrammatical because they thought sentence construction applied only in the diagramming unit.

Joy to the World Company Holiday Card

Mistletoe is enjoying an uptick in popularity this year! It has no political connotation until you try to hang it over the world. mistletoeandglobe-ADHUBWe have such a mess of hatred this season, I thought an invitation to everyone to share in the Christmas spirit was a good idea.

The people are uniformly green for harmony and also because green is the base color I use for mixing complexion tones. What I wish showed up better is that each figure has a cute little antenna on its head, in keeping with the human interconnections enabled by personal neurons and by the “wired” globe.

If you think that’s not a story, Stefan Sagmeister, it’s okay – but I am most certainly a graphical storyteller, have been since my fine art days, when I was describing my work as “narrative.” That was long before your industry copped the expression as the latest newspeak fad without really understanding what it means in the work.

antenna-viewAnd you know what else, Stefan Sagmeister? Even if the work is an object for human use, rather than surface design, it’s still a story about how to use the object as told by the designer.

What? Sell My Content and Keep the Money?

Yahoo/Flickr opened a can of worms when they announced the plan to print their users’ photos on canvas and offer them for sale as wall art, without offering royalties. The move is perfectly legal and allowable under the terms of the user agreement for participants in the free storage and sharing opportunity. Marissa Mayer says selling wall art as a line of business will help to make Flickr awesome again. I thought the deal was to pull every bit of money out of Flickr before scrapping it, or maybe a ploy to show prospective buyers just how lucrative Flickr is.

I expect more free services to attempt to cash in on user content for one reason or another, now that she’s led the way. It will be exciting to find out if the proceeds from user content are worthwhile and if disgruntled freeloaders will kill the services. Imagine being curated out of a content grab.

It would be a horse of a different color if paid website hosting companies started curating their paying users’ content and packaging it somehow for resale, I would have thought. But a browse through my hosting company’s user agreement showed me that paying for the service isn’t enough — the company also lays claim to do anything they want with my content. A condition of being on their servers is a license for all rights to my content. It strikes me as no different than paying rent for an apartment with a lease provision that the landlord can come in at any time and do whatever he wants with my furniture.

I had thought the unspecified rights I was licensing were strictly to do with protecting them in the process of running my content through the technological systems that put it out on the internet and keep it there. Why would I knowingly pay for a service that is no safer for my copyrights than any of the free services run by technological giants whose features for users far outstrip what my hosting company offers? I wouldn’t. When my prepaid hosting contract runs out at the end of 2015, I probably won’t renew it.

I don’t like the provision in the user agreement, but in my case, there is nothing to sell. My sites have been stripped down to bare minimum for a couple of years because the task of keeping them technically correct is too tedious and time-consuming. A website is still a business essential, but a website in traditional format is only slightly more effective than a yellow pages ad. There has to be more, yet time spent fiddling a website is time away from the rest of what  the market expects. Automation is not a luxury.

Server farms, mine at least, don’t do platform development. They wage price wars and offer their customers patchworks of links to external programming services for building the modern features that development companies offer on buttons, with the basic configurations already set. At the end of next year, the freedom that paid hosting services on server farms enable might well be irrelevant. It’s highly unlikely that they can ever be awesome again.

It seems to me that it’s also highly unlikely that my hosting service and others like would benefit much from cashing in on the unlimited license provision they slipped into their contracts. The sad fact is that anything they have on their servers that anybody wants has already been stolen from its website. In twenty years, artifacts on servers from this generation of internet might be interesting and salesworthy, if they’re visible to futuretech.