Monthly Archives: June 2007

1840s democracy

1840s democracy

150 years ago, we had pretty much settled on all of the protocols and conventions of the American democractic system. We had figured out the steps and rules of electing a president.

Before radio, before TV.
Before planes or cars.
Before computers or voting machines.
Before YouTube.

Since mass democracy is essentially an exercise in communication and marketing, the fact that this essential process is frozen in time is a problem.

Here’s a few why not questions:

  • Why not have six-hour long debates, and do them once a week on Cspan, with the highlights diced and sliced and put on any number of online or offline channels?
  • Why not use a chess clock style timing device so that each candidate can be free to answer a question for as long as she likes, but each candidate enters the debate with exactly the same amount of time to allocate?
  • Why not have the early state primary voters have the ability to vote for their four favorite candidates? It’ll reward consensus candidates that have a better chance of winning the election.
  • Or, with a small upgrade to voting machines, why not let voters rank all the candidates? It’s been shown to lead to better results.
  • Why not let us vote at ATM machines?
  • Why not run the final elections over the course of a week, announcing the balloting results at the end of each day? It would certainly increase turnout.
  • Why rely on geography as the primary mechanism for districts and electoral college votes? Our issues aren’t farm-based any more. Why not let me pick which ‘state’ I live in?

If I ran a party and wanted to increase my chances of getting elected, I’d figure out how to turn the primary process into something that was simultaneously more interesting and more likely to lead to large numbers of my party turning out to vote in the general election. Instead, it’s almost guaranteed to do the opposite.

The relevant lesson for you, even if you’re not an active citizen or if you live elsewhere? Is your organization just as stuck? Are there marketing dynamics that you’re not discussing, merely because there isn’t even a way to talk about them? [Seth’s Blog]

Excellent tips for getting through the day

Pmarca productivity: Excellent tips for getting through the day. The Pmarca Guide to Personal Productivity

What a fantastic post. And so many great suggestions that I’m hesitant to choose a sample…so I’ll limit myself to three:

Each night before you go to bed, prepare a 3×5 index card with a short list of 3 to 5 things that you will do the next day.

And then, the next day, do those things…

Don’t answer the phone.

Let it go to voicemail, and then every few hours, screen your voicemails and batch the return calls.

Say, twice a day…

Only agree to new commitments when both your head and your heart say yes.

In my experience, it takes time to tell the difference between your head saying yes and your heart saying yes.

I think the key is whether you’re really excited about it.

If you get that little adrenaline spike (in a good way) when you think about it, then your heart is saying yes….

Most of the tips on this page strike me as being very practical, real-world, battlefield advice that works. And even if you can’t totally avoid a schedule or totally keep email checking down to twice a day, it won’t hurt to soak up the spirit of these ideas and let them move by osmosis into the places where they can do you some good. Shake it up a little.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes 43-folders-esque stuff.

(And triple credit for the Robert Evans reference. Did it make me happy? You bet your ass it did.) [43 Folders]

The best creative thinking books

The best creative thinking books.

Between teaching a course on creative thinking at UW, and writing a book on innovation, I’ve read dozens of books on creative thinking, from handbooks, to games, to psychology literature. Here are the four books I’d recommend as a starter library: they range in focus from handbooks to theory to history.

  1. Sparks of Genius: the 13 thinking tools of the worlds greatest creators, Root-Bernstein. This book examines how some of the great creators did what they did. Each chapter takes a tool, such as playing, modeling, imaging or empathizing, and explains how that approach was used by different masters. Provides inspirational historical context and insight to the techniques many of us creators use.
  2. Applied Imagination, Alex Osborn. This is the grandfather of all business creativity books. This is by the man who coined the term brainstorming, and it’s an easy read on how to do it right. There are theory, technique and exercises here, it’s well written, and although there isn’t much supporting research I bet you’ll buy the common sense he offers.
  3. 101 Creative problem solving techniques, James M. Higgins. Many creativity authors annoy by focusing on their own views, rather than the techniques. This book doesn’t. It’s a flat listing of over 100 creativity games and techniques, each covered in a page or less with instructions for how to use the technique. It’s an ugly, 70s style book (even the recent 2nd edition) but it’s a better reference than almost any of the creativity games/technique books I’ve seen.
  4. Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Mihaly has several books with Flow in the title, but this is my favorite hands down. It’s based on his interviews with creators in many fields and their own perceptions of how/why they do what they do.

The Myths of Innovation book has an extended set of bibliographies that goes beyond this, but if you asked me to pick four books for the creative person, these would be the set.

Semantic analysis: Making sense of the chaos of free text

Semantic analysis: Making sense of the chaos of free text.

Matt Hodgson has posted a summary of a presentation he did for our local IA group recently. This is a truly awesome piece of IA work – he analysed a large volume of unstructured text and designed a framework to rewrite it in a consistent, machine-readable, human-readable way: Semantic analysis: Making sense of the chaos of free text [ia/ blogs]

Google get small

Google get small.

Google really are a contradiction. I guess it’s what happens when you become a large organisation with megalomaniacs at the top, ex-Microsoft middle-management psychopaths, and a lot of crazy engineers trying to solve big problems. From Coding Horror:

Google wants to extend that same efficiency outside their datacenter to your home PC. The three page Google whitepaper High-efficiency power supplies for home computers and servers (pdf) outlines how and why:

At Google, we run many computers in our data centers to serve your queries, so energy conservation and efficiency are important to us. For several years we’ve been developing more efficient power supplies to eliminate waste from power supplies. Instead of the typical efficiencies of 60-70%, our servers’ power supplies now run at 90% efficiency or better, cutting down the energy losses by a factor of four.

We believe this energy-saving power supply technology can be applied to home computers, too. So we’ve been working with Intel and other partners to propose a new power supply standard. The opportunity for savings is immense — we estimate that if deployed in 100 million PCs running for an average of eight hours per day, this new standard would save 40 billion kilowatt-hours over three years, or more than $5 billion at California’s energy rates.

[Curiouser and Curiouser!]