I have a few quotes and thoughts in the WSJD article At Lavish SXSW Festival, Some Avoid Marketing Circus.
Every year for Lent I try to give something up that I would otherwise find unimaginable or consider myself particularly dependent on. Last year I gave up meat, which isn’t that unusual but you have to remember I’m from Texas.
This year as I surveyed my life there was one thing I kept coming back to as being completely dependent on: my smartphone(s). It’s only been a few years since the iPhone came out, but it’s inconceivable to imagine my life today without my calendar, email, Foursquare, Path, Chrome, Tripit, Simplenote, WordPress, Tweetbot, Sonos, Uber, Spotify and my iTunes library, and most importantly Google Maps. (On my second screen: SmartThings, Nest, Lociktron, Lutron, 1Password, Calm, Authy, NextDraft, Withings, Circa…) These apps and everything they represent weave into every aspect of my life, I’m sure I’m one of those people who looks at their phone at least 150 times a day. My smartphone is my camera, my flashlight, my connection to the world, and my crutch.
And now it’s what I’m giving up for Lent in 2014, from March 5th until April 17th. (Yes, that includes SxSW.) For safety and business reasons I’m going to have a makes-phone-calls-only phone, and might hop in a friend’s Uber, but the idea is there will not be a device on me 24/7 that I’m tethered to, constantly looking at, and lost and hopeless without. You obviously can’t turn back the clock on progress, so I don’t expect this to be a permanent thing, but I’m curious what I miss the most, how it affects my ability to focus throughout the day, and how it changes my relationships with other people, especially the lack of messaging.
I am in the market for a cool feature phone though, maybe a small one like Zoolander had or a slidey one like in the Matrix. Any suggestions?
I’ll leave you with the “I forgot my phone” video from last year:
The chat I had the other week with Reid Hoffman is now online. Reid is such a thoughtful guy it’s my favorite interview in a while. We cover a lot of ground, including expanding WordPress’ (and Automattic’s) mission from “Democratize publishing” to “Democratize publishing and development.” Give it a watch!
For better or worse, a great deal of investment in technology is driven by pattern matching. In that world any company (including Automattic) that generally eschews hype, is largely subscription driven, and has a small number of employees relative to its audience should be thrilled at the 19 billion dollar acquisition of WhatsApp. The deal is incredible.
This has kicked off another round of pattern matching and halo effects, which are currently incredibly favorable but will evolve over the coming years based on how things go post-integration, just like the public perceptions of Geocities, Youtube, Doubleclick, Bebo, and Skype wildly shifted based largely on the press coverage over their latest traded value.
I’m thrilled with the outcome for WhatsApp and the manner in which they built their company, their product, and I hope they bring more of that thinking to Facebook, but I don’t think they should become a playbook any more than Instagram should inspire a no-revenue playbook. The pattern we should take away from this story is that there is no pattern. (In Perl, “there’s more than one way to do it” or Tim Toady.) As an entrepreneur making decisions for your company, always go back to your first principles of what’s important to you and why you started in the first place. As a journalist, try not to fit everyone into arcs you’ve seen before or ascribe value to previous coverage (or lack of coverage). As an investor try to evaluate every situation on its unique merits. Should founders be CEOs or not? Well, it depends on the founders, the company, and what it means to be CEO, not what an over-normalized sample of a few hundred companies did before in completely different contexts.
There are also products that succeed with design that seems childish or terrible on the surface (Myspace, eBay, Snapchat). A lot of what it comes down to is have you made something people want, and are they finding out about it from their friends. That’s often the realm people think of as marketing. The best marketers in the world don’t fit our preconceptions of what that word means because they’re in hoodies instead of suits and create environments and ecosystems rather than the traditional trappings of marketing.
I have a few engagements in the coming week in the San Francisco area and online:
- Later today I’ll be on the WordPress-focused podcast Dradcast.
- This evening there will be a Patent Happy Hour co-hosted by Engine Advocacy, EFF, and Automattic.
- On Thursday the 20th I’ll be speaking with Kent Goldman as part of the First Round Capital Dorm Room Fund Speaker Series at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
- Friday the 21st I’ll be talking with Reid Hoffman as part of the LinkedIn Speaker Series at their campus, and it will also be broadcast online.
- Tuesday the 25th I’ll be on the WP Think Tank panel discussion with a number of other notable WordPress community members.
- On Wednesday the 26th I’ll be interviewing Ben Rattray of Change.org at the Commonwealth Club.
How the north ended up on top of the map by Nick Danforth.