Cities are key to our economic future. They represent the center of economic systems, and they are wear national policy either plays out or disappears. Richard Florida is surely right when he says we need to focus on them. But is he also saying that we need to focus on ly on those that are growing? He does not say this directly, but he could be clearer about what he thinks. Because cities that are not growing will become a drag on our economy, long-term. They need a good boost of ideas that are working in other places. It’s clear from the chart he uses that there is not spillover based on geography: Witness the presence of Houston and Dallas-Forth Worth among the top 11 in a ranking of metro productivity, versus McAllen and Brownsville near the bottom of the chart.
We hear a lot about big data, but for most of us it’s really abstract. What does it mean and do we really need it?
Some good answers came out of a recent panel I attended about social media and big data, as part of my work on digital transformation for MIT Sloan Management Review. I wrote this post about some highlights, When social networks and analytics intersect.
Pay special attention to the radical ideas put forth by Shane Green, the founder of Personal.
A box came yesterday, with a variety of electronics-related accessories in it. Three of them were designed to help clean DVD and BluRay players. They were all made in China. One of the accessories, a screen cleaner, was made in the U.S. of U.S and foreign components. The last was a curious little product called the Nest, designed to help store earbuds so they don’t tangle. This one said simply “Made in USA.”
The company that sent these products is Digital Innovations, based near Chicago. I’m interested in it precisely because it decided to make the Nest, its newest product, in the U.S. That proved to be harder than you might expect for a simple bit of silicone (a story I hope to write soon).
It isn’t the first time I’ve heard this story, of an entrepreneurial company that runs into serious challenges trying to make things here. On election day, I’m thinking about The Nest because it shows a long-term issue with our economy: we can’t make many of the things we create.
That wasn’t supposed to matter, one reason why we’ve blithely let most of our manufacturing centers decline for the last several decades. But 15 percent of the U.S. population remains in what some call “legacy cities.” I grew up in one, and over the last 30 years I’ve seen it go from a factory town with a small college to a college town with a small factory. I watched from Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Boston again, waiting for the more prosperous future pundits predicted as we shifted to the service economy. The pundits were wrong. The service economy has become, for many people, a servant economy. Servants add little to the overall economy; their jobs aren’t productive and generally don’t pay well.
No matter who wins tonight, I hope politicians of both parties can come together and bring this massive but overlooked domestic issue to the forefront of policy actions.
We freelancers are always bumping into obstacles. Like, how to pay for our reporting trips. This piece looks at two creative approaches to freelance travel.
Freelancer Amber Nolan has come up with jethiking, or really Cessna hiking. She’s used that to bum rides to 13 different states. I love the idea, though I’m not sure it’s a great way to cut your expenses for freelance work. Her site shows that the last piece she did was in May, and involved travel by kayak. But she appears to have a TV show in the works, based on her travels. If there were a network of pilots offering up rides like this, there might be some way for freelancers to actually leverage this sort of thing, especially for travel writers.
Chris Killian, a freelance political journalist, spent two months covering the presidential campaign in the swing states by living out of an old van. He set up his own site, SwingStateStories, where he published the bulk of his reporting, which was supported by Kickstarter funding. But he also landed this meaty cover story in the Christian Science Monitor’s Weekly. The numbers do keep this in perspective: he raised $4,472 on Kickstarter, and that’s what had to support him for two months on the road. But it is a sign of how unconventional methods are viable, depending on your costs and your interests.
In my work as a contributing editor at MIT’s Sloan Management Review, I’m looking at the way traditional companies are using technology to transform their businesses. We’ve launched a Digital Transformation Hub to cover new research from MIT’s Center for Digital Business and its partners. I’ll be interviewing top thinkers and corporate leaders on how to actually get transformation out of technology, instead of merely substitution or extension effects.
Here’s an interview I did with George Westerman, a research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital Business. [Sorry for the link, but I can’t figure out how to put it in Wordpress, an issue with my outdated configuration, and a humbling example of non-transformative use of technology.]