My latest Prototype column in the New York Times, Making Fast Food Even Faster, looks at the problem that faces innovators when their ideas run into market inertia.
Archive for October, 2007
Business Week’s Steve Hamm wrote A Cautionary Tale for Old Media. It offers a terrific look at why newspapers are struggling so badly with the Internet. It also holds out an odd hope that newspapers with the much-maligned two-tier ownership structure (such as the New York Times and the Washington Post) may be better positioned to survive the Internet turmoil than any others (though it didn’t much help the Wall Street Journal to have that structure).
Perhaps the best lesson from the story is that some newspapers knew what was coming, but it took the Internet too long to get there, and they just couldn’t sustain the investment. In fact, Steve’s piece could have pointed out that Knight-Ridder was involved in videotex systems in the 1980s, another investment that simply couldn’t be sustained.
Games are battling TV and older forms of media for ‘cushion time,’ and right now, they’re winning. That’s what I was told by Jeff Anderson, , who recently stepped aside as CEO of Turbine Entertainment, developer of the successful massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORG) Asheron’s Call and The Lord of the Rings Online.
Anderson was a law student at the University of Chicago shortly after I graduated with my A.B., and we swapped stories about being in the wrong parts of the South Side at the right times, in his case on a Sunday morning. He was generally genial (part of his recovering lawyer program, he would say) and had useful insights about the rise of online gaming, like this one:
There’s a whole generation of kids who are looking at entertainment completely differently—they’ve grown up with computers and portable devices. Small screens will never stop being part of their lives. With both of my daughters [who are 7 and 10], them learning to mouse was more memorable for me than watching them walk for the first time. It was just this epiphany they had one day. They play games, all their friends play games. That’s a fundamentally different dynamic than anything we’ve seen in economics, in media, in entertainment to date.
Here is the full interview, Making Games into Communities.
Xconomy.com, the hyperlocal Boston blog run by Bob Buderi, published a piece I wrote on Virtual Ubiquity, which was recently purchased by Adobe. The piece, Buzzword Brings Beauty, Flash to Word Processing for Adobe
, looks in part at the counter-intuitive aspect of a company started by entrepreneurs in their 40s and 50s. It obviously didn’t bother Adobe!
It’s time to go past living the life of Reilly. I breakfasted this morning with my old freelancing friend Kathleen Flinn. She was in town as part of the tour for her new book, The Sharper the Knife, the Less You Cry. It’s a love story about her year at Le Cordon Bleu (and also her now-husband), and her publisher is giving her major love — she has a 16-city book tour and we dined on $10 oatmeal at the Taj Boston (formerly Boston’s Ritz Carlton). Getting a publisher to pay for a tour, let alone one that involves staying in a high-end hotel, is a pretty sweet thing in this day and age, when most of my book author friends can’t get their publishers to buy an ad for their book.
To think I knew Kathleen when she was just a struggling freelancer in Chicago.
My friend and colleague Michael Goldberg pointed me to ‘God Is Like a Mirror,’ a recent sermon by Harold Kushner, the author of “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” and “How Good Do We Have to Be?” among other texts. Kushner is emeritus rabbi at Temple Israel in Natick, down the street from my church (our congregations occasionally share a service). Kushner’s sermon (there’s no direct link; you’ll have to look at the link to recent sermons and scrolll down; it’s the Rosh Hashanah sermon) critiques two recent books, “God: A Biography” and “The Hidden Face of God.” He takes issue with their suggestion that God has disappeared, like a parent we no longer need, and suggests a different way of looking for God in the world. He argues that God is a mirror for us, showing us what we want to be or do.
It’s not an argument that will satisfy everyone (as if that was possible). But for me, it was a nice way of addressing a basic problem of contemporary monotheism: how we can recognize where God acts in the world?
My old friend Ellis Booker writes about being caught up in the messy effort by Quechup to make its social network grow more rapidly. He complains about being turned into a spammer by the service, which automatically emails all your contacts in gmail and (I think) other email programs, evoking a fin de siecle virus. But the service apparently tells you this and you agree to it, if, as with most of us, you don’t read the fine print of software agreements. I would’ve skipped that part, too, and spammed all my contacts, if not for feeling antisocial — I was invited by the same friend who invited Ellis to join the network, but skipped it because I felt like having somewhere between one and two dozen social networks was a bit much.
Then I started getting invited by multiple people, and figured that there was something fishy with Quechup. But any social network is probably not that far away from such behavior.
There’s an old saying that Sunday at 11 a.m. is the most segregated hour in American life (Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations attributes it to an Episcopalian bishiop, James Pike, in 1960). That’s probably not so true today, as the U.S. in general is a more diverse place than it was. But still, 92 percent of Presbyterians are white, so a church like mine is unusual. And indeed, the church I attend, Hartford St. Presbyterian Church, is one of three congregations to win the multicultural church story contest sponsored by PC (USA), the Mainline Presbyterian denomination. Maybe it’s because we worship at 10 a.m.