How to read 3X more than you do today

The democratization of the printing press (by that I mean the internet) has led to a new problem: information overload.

A related problem is the shortage of time we have to read the internet.  If you are someone who makes money or participates in the world otherwise, your work will be more effective, producing more value per labor hour, if it’s informed by the best thinking from your peers around the world. Right? Right.

But how? Who has the time to read very much? 

For the past several months I’ve been reading 3 to 10 articles online everyday, some very long, by using a new tool. I don’t know how much you read but that’s a huge increase for me.

I tell people about it every day and everyone is amazed. It’s Pocket! Specifically the text-to-speech function in Pocket. It’s life changing. 
Continue reading “How to read 3X more than you do today”

Could bots eat the ad economy?

Analyst firm Forrester published a new report this week with this bold title, “The End Of Advertising As We Know It: CMOs Should Shift Billions From Ad Interruptions To Branded Relationships.” Not even could, but should!

Jack Neff at AdAge explains based on an interview with the study’s lead analyst, James McQuivey, that the expectation is that big brands are going to spend far less money on advertising and instead invest in bots, apps, and personal assistants. Technologies that give users what they want (to buy) either when they ask for it, or when the tech believes they’d like it based on their behavior.
Continue reading “Could bots eat the ad economy?”

B2B influencer marketing is an acquired skill

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.27.38 PM“In B2B [vs B2C influencer marketing] you need to spread the net a bit wider, keep the networks alive, keep the content flowing, and the chances are more likely that someone who influences a decision maker will see my content.” So said IBM’s Andrew Grill in a wise and thought provoking interview with marketing thought leader Mark Schaefer today. (“Unraveling the secrets of B2B influencer marketing“)  Right: Andrew Grill stops Tweeting to listen to something important, a nice Creative Commons photo by Guido van Nispen from 2009.

The interview is good, I recommend reading it, and it really got my wheels spinning. Below are my comments on the post, which I posted on Mark’s site but am posting here as well, including with anchor links to the specific parts of the interview that each comment is in response to. Some of it I agree with and some of it I don’t!

Indirect nature of B2B sales. Love it. I’ve been thinking about influencer marketing (B2B and B2C) as having “2nd order effects.” For example, influencer engagement yields press opportunities and press opportunities drive sales leads. Or influencer engagement generates speaking and event opportunities and speaking and events drive leads. It’s not just about how influencer marketing and engagement drive leads directly. Often, it’s about how accumulated influencer relationships lead to opportunities that offer leverage to your brand.
B2B influencers have to be relevant to the product. Love it. Contextually relevant influence will drive more qualified leads – but it will also offer something more to the relationship. Those times when you’ve invited the influencers behind the scenes, shown them your R&D etc? If they’re relevant to your brand – then they’re going to have some great advice about your product and market – and that’s far more value than just short term sales leads. Also, the flip side is true. If you want to engage with a market influencer, it’s good if your brand is relevant to them – it’s even better if you the person doing the outreach is relevant to them as well.
Influencers risk personal brand in exchange for market validation. Yup.
Affiliate sales model: I do not like it. Wasn’t Andrew just talking about the indirect nature of sales via B2B influencer marketing? Who do we expect to always use an affiliate URL? Or are we talking about affiliate specific cookies? Attribution seems to a real cluster here and it feels like Andrew is trying to have his cake and eat it too: on one hand he says you’ve got to play the long game with year-round relationship building, but on the other hand he’s saying we all know it has to drive cold hard cash immediately and measurably. Hmmmm….I’d like to see some examples of this.
Internal influencers, employees. Hopefully. If you’ve got a culture that encourages time spent on social media, taking risks and adding value. How many companies is that true of? Too few. And your employees need to step up to the plate, too. Will you object to their time spent building that influence online because they haven’t sold enough product through their trackable affiliate links back to the company’s e-commerce pages? 😔

Press-investors-influencers as the three external legs of the stool. That’s awesome, love it.
– Long term relationships are great, but why are we presuming we’re paying people cash here? I don’t assume that. A very, very small percentage of the B2B relationships we see or help facilitate are paid. That can be great, but it’s certainly not something I’d assume.
– The measurement discussion here gave short shrift to the way complex sales can be impacted by compound influence that’s built up over a history of engagement. The best deal my team closed last month was with someone we’d been engaging with on social for a year and a half. She didn’t have budget to buy when we first started talking – but we kept in touch online. She’s advocated for us publicly along the way. When her firm had an opportunity to buy, she was an internal advocate. Who wants to go back and record the eventual contract value next to every history of casual ongoing engagement over the past year and a half?

Those are my 2 cents! I spend all day every day thinking about this stuff as we build out the Little Bird influencer discovery and research application inside of Sprinklr. The research part of B2B influencer marketing warrants a ton more discussion too, I believe. You addressed using insights from individual relationships to inform business strategy, but there’s a whole thick layer of valuable insights available from aggregate analysis of B2B influencer activity as well. See, for example, this post titled “4 ways to use influencer network visualization for marketing and intelligence.

Thanks again for covering this topic and so well! Really exciting to know that a world full of marketers are going to read this interview and up level the sophistication of their thinking on influencer marketing in B2B.

There’s some good discussion of this post over on LinkedIn.

If fake news is wrong, what’s it take to be right?

TL;DR: I think it would be awesome if data analysis were used to find critiques of “fake news” that were close to a reader’s existing values, allowing them opportunity to “be right” or at least feel less sure about their wrong opinions. I think that might be a more compelling response to the popularity of fake news than trying to convince people that the news is outright wrong. Because the feeling of being right is more compelling than someone telling you you’re wrong.

Almost everybody secretly likes to say “well actually…” that annoying catch-phrase of the Mansplainer. I think one of the most visceral appeals of fake news on social media is that it gives many people a chance to “be right” for a change. What if the antidote to Fake News wasn’t trying to prove to people that the news they’re reading is wrong – but instead giving them more opportunities to be right?

Reading yesterday’s post on Venturebeat titled “Can AI Detect Fake News?” got me thinking about the nature of truth, our relationships with it, and what data+automation could do to at least dial back some strident opinions where they post danger.

In that post, Hira Saeed concludes “There is a role for AI to play in separating fact from fiction when it comes to news stories. The question remains whether readers still care about the difference.”

At first blush I thought that was a silly conclusion to end with but I’m reminded of something Seth Godin once wrote: “Sometimes we find ourselves in a discussion where the most coherent, actionable, rational argument wins. Sometimes, but not often. People like us do things like this.”

Further, one many matters there may be a clear truth. Eg “Hillary Clinton does not have Parkinsons.” But on many matters, there really isn’t a single ultimate version of truth. I read a few months ago about a paradigm called Feminist Standpoint Theory, which argues that in many instances there isn’t a single bedrock version of truth, but rather the best way to get a picture of reality is by taking into account as many and as diverse a set of lived experiences as possible. I really like that.

In a recent New Yorker piece called Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, Elizabeth Kolbert summarizes research that concludes with two interesting suggestions for the future. First, asking someone with a strident (and let’s say wrong) opinion to explain that opinion leads to much lower self-reported confidence in that opinion than you see prior to an attempt to explain. And second, merely introducing doubt in a public setting greatly deflates the social pressure to go along with a theory.

(Related research says it’s easy to get conservatives to support things like refugees and the environment if you just appeal to their values of authority, purity, and patriotism. Barf! But stay with me here for a moment.)

Put all of this together and what could big data plus automation do about “fake news?” One set of things it could do would be to offer people a chance to be right again, to know more than other people know, by discovering and analyzing a multitude of perspectives, introducing doubt, and maybe offering up the best-explained critique of something you’re reading that’s closest to your own professed values.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 8.12.05 AM

I remember almost 10 years ago, the best political aggregator on the web, Memeorandum, saw outside developers Andy Baio and Joshua Schachter build a visual overlay that told you about the political slant of the linking history of any given blog participating in a conversation. That meant you could sample from across the political spectrum, see which direction a common conversation was leaning, etc. It was awesome!

Imagine if there was something like that people could use to discover and summarize additional perspectives close to their own, but that introduced the burden of explanation and a sense of doubt? (Hopefully there’s enough conversation, enough data, enough diversity of opinions even within common general perspectives, to analyze.)

Then people could say “well, actually…” and deflate some of this fake news themselves. Just an idea 🙂

Bots: Going back to the fundamentals of social media

I’ve been starting all my mobile Tweet reading from a bookmark in Safari to this list of the top 100 influencers in the field of Bots, as compiled by Little Bird’s social graph analysis, and I just keep coming back to this interview with my friend and social media veteran Schlomo Rabinowitz this week on Chatbots Magazine.

IMG_3221I listened to it read aloud (by a text to speech bot in Pocket) while on a beautiful run along the river in downtown Portland, then I used the incredible Mac desktop Summary Service to pull out what really are the three most important lines of the interview.

I want to put these lines from Schlomo here in context but I also want to link to this mind-meltingly great talk by designer Erika Hall given at the Talkabot conference Schlomo put together recently. Hall argues that the rise of bots is going to save application design because it’s going to demand we think through the value and the experience of apps with words and dialogue before we start worrying about how the application looks. Most app design today is like shooting a movie first and then writing the script, she says. Incredible talk, which I also listened to on the same run. (A nice slow five miles on a sunny day.)

Here’s Schlomo…

On the importance of getting the social part of bots right – because it’s the part that faces your customers: “…bot design, just like all work that involves crafting trust, probably should not be delegated to your intern.”

On the opportunity people have today to make a name for yourself and your work in this new emerging medium: “…What I do know is that most people don’t actually try to do anything, so the barrier to entry to be heard is pretty easy — as long as you are intentional in who you want to influence, and don’t carpet-bomb your company name all over the socials.”

On the dynamic nature of the engagement that’s required for success:
“…When I say ‘do the good work,’ I mean that we should respect the fact that a good bot is constantly evolving its conversational narrative; much like how you should constantly tweak your marketing messaging.”

That’s a pretty good summary of this 1500 word interview Schlomo did this week, just those three quotes, but the whole thing is worth reading – or listening to.

The other line I’ve now quoted 3 times in conversations with people in the two days since I read the interview was this one, about the world famous 1977 classic text adventure game Zork. “If people spent as much time writing bot copy as the four coders of Zork did writing their narrative, maybe their bot would be just as memorable.” Yes!

Thanks Schlomo!

Building feedback loops for finding flow in serious work

“Inspiration arrives at surprising times, but it prefers to find you working,” Picasso reportedly said. As someone who aspires to develop my self and my skills, and to make the world a better, more just place, I like to think about working in many different ways.

One of the ways I’m thinking about work is this: building feedback loops to optimize for the conditions conducive to entering a state of flow may be a powerful enabler for competing in competitive endeavors.

“Serious Work” seems like a category in and of itself. While reading the wonderful book Checklist Manifesto, I was struck by the difference between my aspirational checklists (20 things I try to do each morning before leaving the house) and the checklists used in building construction or surgery. My aspirational checklists are really helpful, but it’s not the end of the world if I fail to check of some or many of the items on them in a given day. The same cannot be said about the checklists used at construction sites for complex real-world structures.

This morning when reading about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to China where he used language from the Chinese government that observers say suggested a new willingness to concede to Chinese aspirations of expanded regional dominance, and he said that US media visibility into his trip wasn’t something he needed to accomplish his mission – I thought, “there’s a man I’d like to see using a different checklist for this very serious work.”

Much of our work probably falls somewhere in the middle of the continuum between construction or imperial statecraft on one hand and my morning to-dos that include filling the bird feeders and doing push-ups. Even where our work might not fall into the category of Serious Work, though, I think that inspiration can be drawn from that kind of effort.  I want to be as effective as possible, both at work work and in my work outside of work.

Serious work is competitive and competition requires that winners enter into a state of Flow, at least some of the time. I listened to a wonderful podcast recently, which I’m unfortunately unable to find a link to, about the conditions most conducive to entering a state of flow. I took note of those conditions though: attention, risk, and embodied intelligence.

I’d like to introduce a third concept to this discussion (after Serious Work and Flow) and that’s feedback loops.

“Feedback loops are important for building good systems because they allow you to keep track of many different pieces without feeling the pressure to predict what is going to happen with everything,” wrote James Clear in a recent blog post. “Forget about predicting the future and build a system that can signal when you need to make adjustments.”

I would argue that keeping track of all the factors involved in doing serious work falls outside of a flow state and more into an administrative state. Administering checklists is a great way to do this, and monitoring those and other feedback loops at designated times allows you to focus on entering into a flow state during other times.

So in order to be competitive in a serious work environment, it’s good to use feedback loops that provide infrastructure for consistently entering a flow state.

A feedback loop for how often you’re creating the supporting conditions for a flow state is an exciting idea.

For the past month, I’ve been doing daily and weekly check-ins on four tactics. I just revised the list for the coming weeks and it’s now: meditation, book reading, keeping a log of execution-oriented tasks I’ve completed in a day, and Pomodoros. Those are tactics that help create attention, risk, and embodied intelligence – especially if I can keep a steady routine of exercise going. (Which I struggle with.)

Right now I’m using one page in a BlankieBook for logging each day’s book reading, execution tasks, etc. and then reviewing each Sunday.

I would argue that managing these feedback loops becomes a light form of Serious Work itself. I don’t want to screw it up. If I stumble in recording my efforts to create conditions conducive to flow, or doing weekly check-ins on my logs from the week, then I may just fall off the wagon entirely. As such, these feedback loops require both Flow and feedback loops on feedback loops. Getting into a flow state around tracking and revising behavior based on feedback loops helps imbue that work with a sense of inherent meaning.

Finally, this ends up feeling like a nested pattern of serious work needing flow, which needs feedback loops, those feedback loops being serious work, that serious work needing flow, and that flow being supported by the aforementioned feedback loops. Feedback loops on the conditions conducive to flow can be serious work. And that’s a process I’m excited to explore. Towards no specific goals.

“Inspiration arrives at unexpected times, but it prefers to find you working.”

What I’m working on this month

I love a good log book. “Captain’s log, Star Date…” Etc.

I’m big into keeping a journal, I have been for the past couple years, and I review month and year old entries each day.

A log is great for context, history, accountability, self-awareness, and more.

In that spirit, I thought I’d start a new page on this site: a log of what I’m working on. I’m going to try to update it monthly. If we talk, and you’ve already read that page- then you’ll already know what I’m up to in general and we can jump into specifics. What are you working on right now?

Here’s my log.