Archive for March, 2015

Summer Wedding

Using Medium as a photo-essay.

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Flickr CC: https://www.flickr.com/photos/smoorenburg/

I originally started the post wrote this post in October 2014 and I finally revisited it in March 2015.

Content is ubiquitous but good writing is harder to find.

Writing that is engaging, delivers value, presents information in an interesting manner; even if its about kitchen mixers is sorely missing in the business context. As this post on HBR by Alexandra Samuel put its, the missing piece is the editor:

“It’s the in-between layer that’s missing: the editor who acts as a proxy for the reader, and ensures your content offers that reader real value in return for their time.”

With the focus on ‘content contents sake’ the story gets buried.

Questions like:

– Does it tell a good story?
– Is this the best medium to convey this story?
– Does it provide some kind of insight?
– Is this adding value to the reader?

are ignored, unconsidered or just thrown out the window.

If you read enough of these blogs, there are patterns and regurgitation of topics and themes:

-The Most Effective Email Subject Line.. Ever. Yes. In the Entire Universe.
– 8 Ways To Hack your Growth like a Growth Hacker
– How to Validate Your Lean Startup in one week as an MVP
– 10 Ways to Hack Press and PR.
– The Leanest Starup Ever. Leaner than the previous Lean Startup.

These posts are fillers with no meat. They are designed to either sell you something, hoard mountains of page views, establish oneself as an ‘thought leader’ (and then sell you something) or tear your precious email address out of your hands; the currency of the internet business.

As traditional advertising fails to deliver results more businesses turn to content marketing as the panacea for their business problems. More and more content marketers are thrown at word-processors with the clear goal of quantity triumphs quality. This culminates in fluff pieces solely for the purpose of keywords and meeting the quota. There’s no focus on quality story telling & being a person. All too often company/startup blogs start sounding the same behind the canned voice. The posts severely lack any knowledge or critical opinions. It’s hard to imagine a person with his or her own thoughts at the other end.

Let’s get some writers to do the writing instead. Let the editors call the shots instead of a suit.

The journalism/writing industry has evolved, but does that mean we all write link bait headlines and celebrate as the numbers go up?

I don’t have a solution; but lets start by being genuine & writing interesting stories after all page views don’t mean much.

Thanks Sophie, John and my family who read drafts of this post. But at the end I just decided to push the button.

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How many networks does it take to generate relevant information?

Flickr CC https://www.flickr.com/photos/stuartpilbrow/

Today like all other days, I opened my twitter account to an ad. I groaned ‘not another social network’ as I shot a tweet back at them casually remarking ‘Quora Killer?’.

The causality behind the off the cuff tweet is that I was one of those hard core Quora users who religiously wrote answers to questions, up-voted and generally to learn new knowledge from the collective human intelligence outside of Wikipedia that existed on the internet. Eventually the novelty wore off as the same questions kept popping up, some answers were more of a upvote game then a thoughtful response and overall it lost its charm. Perhaps it’s the life-cycle of certain products. Some would say ‘Quora hadn’t hooked me in to build habit forming behaviours’ — I would simply put it as the quality of the network was not maintained as it scaled. Admittedly I was part of the corruption as well.

This is not to say that Quora isn’t a fantastic product made by a bunch of very smart people who have achieved a ton in a short period of time. Building a product is hard, especially one based on Q/A — I know first hand with two separate projects here & here.

My “Quora Killer?” Tweet kicked off a microscopic frenzy of retweets, possibly folks assuming I was declaring Kifi to be a Quora killer. Apparently someone from Kifi picked it up and responded with my Medium post as part of a collection in the Growth? section in the network itself [Tweet now deleted].

Back to the question:

How many networks does it take to generate relevant information?

An attempt to break it down:

The closest one is text/email — where its most intimate. Facebook [news feed] is obviously the biggest one, to keep up to date with publications and news I would care about since they’re filtered through my relatively tight social graph. Facebook Groups are another network on its own, with information filtered through an extended social graph; simillar to Twitter. I don’t always personally know the people who I trust to filter the information, but its based on shared interests and industries. Quibb, is a curated network of technology folks who share and discuss technology related news — the filter is based on common interest of tech. The weightage is added via Twitter & the follow model. Quora takes the shared interest model but extends it, thus possibly diluting it. Medium to me is a publication with an added social layer of following authors. Between all thse is networks like GrowthHackers.com, Inbound.Org, work Slack channels and dozens of other niche communities that exist.

But really, how much of that information do I really need?

We probably overload ourselves with information, often the same from different sources just because of the fear of missing out. X raised $Y. Z sold to C. But at the end of the day, I’d much rather spend my evenings reading “Shop Craft as Soul Craft” and reflecting on it, or talking to friends and family.

How many Networks? Probably less then your currently signed up for.

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The first thing that hits you is the smell. It’s not a particularly pleasant smell nor is it unpleasant. It simply is. It’s the post industrialization; factories and gasoline, it’s sharp and it pinches the throat like a cheap cigarette.

The second thing is the scale. Just the sheer size of the city itself even as your stuck in the traffic after a 12 hour flight. Your cab driver decides it’s a good time to trim his nails. Neon lights blazing at your from the numerous banks dotted around the 4 lane road.

Motorcycles are not allowed within the city confines of Beijing so the electric scooter rules. Walking down one of the side streets, I notice a big box that looks like a generator. Sophie points out its a public charging station for electric scooters. I flash back to Better Place for a second, perhaps not a fair comparison but the band aid solution is functional for all intents and purposes.

The lack of my language skills in Mandarin and Cantonese have left me being a passive observer trying to guess at what the conversation is about. It is a game that I am not very good at. We meet Sophie’s friend for dinner. The restaurant is empty but its noisy. A lady pushes a cart selling pickled vegetables. Her friend is politely curious about me. Do you eat alot of lamb in Pakistan? I nod in affirmation and smile. It’s a interesting dinner with limited conversation from me. The pattern continues as we meet friends and family for dinners and lunches.

I am a curiosity from a foreign land.

Beijing interweaves with old world and new world. The Forbidden City is a enormous complex of 980 buildings that sprawls across a chunk of the city. While strolling through, it’s hard not to be intimidated by the power and influence this place accumulated through its 500 year history. Even with thousands of tourists trotting through it a day, its clean, well restored and clearly preserved with great care. It pains me to think about some of the cultural & historic sites in Pakistan and the gross negligence they are suffering from at the hands of our elected officials. The Forbidden City has its modern counterparts, imposing government buildings that always seem to be omni present in every corner.

Sophie is spending a day with her friend from Shanghai, so I take it upon myself to play the brown tourist. I walk through malls and an seemingly endless street shadowed by giant Audi, Prada and Gucci stores. Clearly with the new economic reforms, some people have enough disposable income to splurge on luxuries. Yet others are not so fortunate; the majority of people working in Beijing come from smaller rural towns in the suburbs, the rent here is to steep.

I wonder if I can manage to buy a coke without saying a word. It’s a hot day and I’ve been walking on strange crowded streets for hours. When my turn comes at the Mcdolands counter, I hear the woman at the other end saying something. I assume she’s asking me what I want, so I point at the coke machine at her back. She blankly looks at me. I splutter out ‘Coke’! She grins, ‘Coca Cola’? As I walk out with the Coke in hand, I am amused at how some things transcend language and cultural barriers — even for a mid aged Chinese woman at a McDonald’s.

Thanks to my family and especially my dad for always reviewing my drafts.

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