Saturday, October 21, 2006

I just had to Scrybe this

I just remembered an old adage that if you are writing software, you are best off making it a platform that others can build stuff on. OK, that wasn't even an adage, let alone old, but whatever. So, why did Google buy YouTube? Other than, of course, that they were getting their hindsides whipped in online video sharing? I suspect YouTube is fast becoming a platform: for expression, for exposure, for home-made-porn-makers, for looking-at-home-made-porn, for marketing, sometimes to searchers-for-home-made-porn, for starting new companies, for ... Wait. Yeah.

Check what I just came across. It's a pre-launch video for a new online calendaring+to-do+offline+ well, take a look. I think it's mighty cool.

What I think is cooler is this - their website. Take your startup that wants to get its new product message out, and wants complete attention from its potential customers when it's delivering that message. And, for bonus points, it wants to build in a powerful system of capabilities so that the message has a chance at getting viral. Oh, and it would be great not to have to pay for most of this.

So, what do they do? Shoot a video in their office and upload it to YouTube. Voila. It's in front of millions of people, some of whom are commenting about this, subscribing to this feed, intriguing some of their own subscribers, some of whom decide to leave some comments, and some others with plenty time on their hands embed this video on their own blogs, and this gets the message in front of an entirely new set of people and the cycle may continue. Help add some spice to this concoction by linking to the same YouTube video from their homepage - to help direct all comers to the center of the tornado, helping it build momentum.

Platform? Getting there, methinks.



Hugs! Free Hugs!

Man, time is a-flyin! I didn't realize it was weeks since I last blogged. Incidentally, about blogging more often. There goes that. So, I came across this video on YouTube today. The description says:

Sometimes, a hug is all that we need. Free hugs is the real life controversial story of Juan Mann, A man whose sole mission was to reach out and hug a stranger to brighten up their life.

In this age of social disconnectivity and lack of human contact, the effects of the Free Hugs campaign became phenomenal.

As this symbol of human hope spread accross the city, police and officials ordered the Free Hugs campaign Banned. What we then witnessed was the true spirit of humanity coming together in what can only be described as awe inspiring.

I wouldn't necessarily endorse their recommendation - In the spirit of the Free Hugs campaign, pass this on to a friend and hug a stranger! After all, If you can reach just one person... - but it is worth a watch. Which would make you the 3,757,697th person to do so. In exactly a month since it was posted. And, maybe you'd want to leave a comment. Which would make you the 10,678th (At the time of posting, of course)

Gotta love YouTube.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Or why KV will be a Genius

[File Under: Course Reviews]

I've discovered an interesting behavioral pattern. I seem to enjoy more the classes I audit than those I am enrolled in. Last quarter, I was in a class on Organizational Behavior and, to caveat - for the 6-odd weeks I actually went to the class, this was the class for which I prepared most thoroughly the cases and readings. This is playing itself out again this quarter. This time, I am in an absolutely fantastic Ph.D class called Social Network Analysis, taught by the way cool Prof. Ron Burt. Proof of Life: I've actually been 'reasonably' on time to both the classes we've had for this course so far ;-)

This is the only professor I've had at the GSB who uses a Mac! And, not one, but two. Earlier today, he was demonstrating how to use the statistical software to do the mucho regressions required of the class, and he was using Virtual PC to run as it is a Windows-only piece of software. He kicked off the software, showed us the results and was about to move on when the rest of the class, working on their PC's, said that they were still waiting for theirs to load. He goes: "A Macintosh pretending to be a Windows machine is faster than an actual Windows machine?" Did I say he was Way Cool? But, I digress.

The class is about understanding social networks, in a broad sense. In the first class, he showed us a short clip about Steve Jobs and his Macintosh team, and a team at DG in the 80's out to develop a faster 16-bit processor. After we saw it, he started to collect what he termed 'emotional data', which was basically what we felt about those teams, the connections that bound their members, how they worked, why they were successful etc. It was a fascinating exploration of these cult-like structures, and how they can be an effective tool to exact an almost slavish productivity from the group, all of it given willingly.

Today, in typical some might Chicago fashion, we went data crunching. We created sociograms and then started to analyze how people find themselves at differing points in these networks. Social networks typically take the forms of several clusters with connections between them. Nodes on these graphs are people, and the lines who they connect. Turns out that there are two typical leadership roles in such networks. One is being in the thick of a cluster, completely interconnected to everyone else inside. The other is that of being a bridge, at the intersection of 'social worlds.' The former is very 'central', but typically wedded to a small group of ideas which are championed by the surrounding group. The latter, on the other hand, brings in variation due to his/her being part of several groups and exposed to heterogeneity of approaches and, more critically, though processes.

We then looked at how this maps to creativity and innovation. Research indicates that innovation can be traced as a chain, with the key transit points being these folks who are the interchange of ideas. But, what is it that makes them valuable? For one, the breadth of information they are exposed to expands, due to an increased likelihood of seeing differing views of doing things. Secondly, due to their plugged-in-ness to disparate networks, they typically get information earlier than most outside of the clusters. Both of these put them in a position where they can effect what my professor calls 'information arbitrage.'

There is an interesting manifestation of this arbitrage opportunity: Genius. Prof. Burt asserted that genius is a social phenomenon, not so much an individual characteristic. When one sits at this social intersection, they can 'see' opportunities. This, to repeat, is due to the fact that s/he can see variations in ways of doing things, and if they come up with an idea, they know where to sell it. Ideas do well not just because they are inhrently great, but "because they find great adherents." The more you live at the intersection of social worlds, the more likely your idea is going to be deemed a great idea. And, since people typically associate ideas with the one who espouses them, your transfering of one set of thought processes from one cluster to the other will deem you a genius to the latter if it is the first time they have been exposed to it. I thought that was pure distilled common sense. Way cool.

Which led me to think: how does this apply to business school? I look around, and there is definitely a social network structure at play. There are 'cliques', if I may, of students who are very close to each other, and there are the 'social butterflies' who are not wedded to one but flit between many.(As well as a decent number of outliers whose connections to the rest of the community are tenuous at best). If the thesis of the class is to believed, the butterflies will be more creative and successful than the clique-sters. But, it is still an overall closed network of MBA-types being groomed towards a mostly similar style of thinking. What would be most beneficial is for each of us to be plugged into clusters that are completely disparate and dislocated from the people we go to school with.

Like, say, surfers in Biarritz.

I did a double-take when I read about KV's plan to stay in Biarritz and commute to school in Londres. But, the more I think about it, the more it seems like a stroke of genius. I learned today that the more one lives inside closed networks, the lesser idiosyncratic their conversations get, and the more they fill with the jargon of the network. They get very 'local' in terms of their language, which is increasingly understood only by their world. Which, if I listen to the people around me at school, is so very true. LPF. TNDC. Closed Lists. Bid Points. Sustainable Competitive Advantage. Surfer Girl. Wait, strike that.

Research presented in class indicates a strong co-relation between idea generation and the heterogeneity of types of network connections of the generators. These people have a 'vision advantage' that translates into higher compensation, better career progression, and even happiness. The last point is due to fewer forced behavioral constrains as they live in these differing social structures.

Translation: KV has a much higher likelihood of being seen as a Genius. And, with a Surfer Girl.

An Auspicious Re-start.

I just got my first ding of the recruiting season.
From a firm that I didn't even apply to!

Everything is Right again with my world :-)

Welcome back, gentle reader. Trust you me when I say that I have missed blogging as much as regular readers tell me they have missed reading my rants. I decided to, for symmetry's sake, mirror my blogging habits with my career path these past few months - and take the summer off! Yup, I am back at school after a relaxing summer. But, that's past. And, as I recall, we focus on the immediate present on this blog.

Like, last night.

So, yesterday was the deadline to apply to one of the top (oh, how they love that word, don't they) consulting firms. After a night of debauchery with the secretly hip Le Voyageur on saturday, I went brunching with a friend I helped move sunday morning, then stopped by CB2 to pick up some furniture etc for my hipster loft in the Chicago Arts District, walked around some of the Open Houses, comissioned my first piece of (very inexpensive) tile art from my artist neighbor Vanessa Shinmoto, grabbed some dinner, and got home around 9 PM to start working on the online application.


See, I just moved into my new place, and as I wait for my internet connection to be set up, I'm leeching off the open network of some kindly neighbor. I guess the said Kindly neighbor decided to get un-kindly and added protection to his network. Last evening. So, I'm sitting here like 2 hours to the deadline and no internet access. Jumped in my car, raced to school, and booted up. Finished up my cover letter (and checked to make sure I wasn't saying firm B instead of M), readied my resume and logged into the website.

Deja Vu. I'm sure that was what it was. I had, once again, not realized that 12 PM is in the afternoon, not midnight! Well, what r'you gonna do. Deadline blown by like 10 hours, I tried to submit just in case, but the system was so broken that it took me 2 hours just to get to page 3. So, I shoot off an email to the recruiting manager with my cover letter and resume, basically apologizing for being a jackass. And, I came back home. Woke up this morning, no internet access at home, so go to school, got stuff taken care of, and check my email. There's one from the recruiter. Basically said that it would be OK if I can send in my office preferences by 11:30 AM sharp. The watch sayeth: 12:35. Of the PM. Yes, I know now, thank you. PM means afternoon. So, I sent an email back, hoping against hope that they would be OK. And, they were. Phew. That was close.

Which is way more can be said for another firm. As I was getting ready to apply, I get an email from them thanking me for applying to their XYZ office and that I was a kick-ass superstar etc but their staffing requirements mean that they can't interview with me. The ye olde it's not you, it's me. Ah well, it's better now than after I've bared my soul to you, my someday darlings.

So, I sit here. Closed wireless network miraculously Open again. I should post before the plug is pulled. And, no, the plug has not been pulled on this blog. It's got another 9 months of life at least. I should be posting much more regularly from now on. Wait ... I've said that before too ya ...