Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cognitive Surplus and What to do with 100 Million Hours of TV Advertising Time!

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I get a buzz out of those rare moments when my certainties are confronted. Recently a quote permeated that part of my brain that has nothing better to do than ponder and elicit some profound meaning.

The almost imperceptible buzzing on the edge of my sub conscious related to a comment by a certain Clay Shirkey (I’d never heard of him either!) To paraphrase; how can we waste our time watching TV when there are so many other options?

I found myself pondering this question from the high ground of the devils advocate. What makes watching TV inferior to any other number of past times? There are a myriad of reasons to flop down on the couch and bond with family and pets, disengaging the brain and recharging our flow.

How can you actually waste time anyway? Surely the absolute incomprehensible magic of inhaling breath and functioning as a self-actualized bundle of cells, constituting me and you is of itself breathtaking.

I pondered the relative merits of this apparent inane burning of precious time, and concluded with a sense of self righteous indignation that this chap must be a social snob, looking down with disdain on us unwashed unsophisticated.

I also love Paradoxes, those seemingly irreconcilable contradictions that flavour our daily interactions when certainties collide. Like most hard and fast beliefs, context changes the terrain and hence my paradigm shift.

The real essence of the commentary however concerned an exquisitely elegant term, labeled ‘Cognitive Surplus’. This sounded like one of those mind numbingly boring concepts I remember from Economics 101.

Excuse the rhetoric. Here’s the message.

Once upon a time not so long ago, a whole society shared the experience of TV watching between 6pm and 10pm. This was the source of all relevant knowledge. Discussions around the water cooler pertained to the previous evening’s programming.
If you didn’t watch Johnny Carson, The Football, Saturday Night Live, The Gay Byrne show (that’ll confuse some of you), then you were out of sync with the tribe, marginalised almost as if you were illiterate in a world of academia.

Quite dramatically the shared experience of societies has changed utterly. Choices abound. There are all our social networking sites to update. We need to upload our videos, contribute to our multitude of Blogs, contribute to Wikipedia, invest in our various online ventures, whilst multi tasking with our Skype and ITunes.

Cognitive surplus refers to the additional collective time that has seeped away from the aforementioned TV watching.

Think about this: At its peek just in the US alone, it is estimated that TV accounted for over 200 billion hours of individual time invested. Adverts consumed an estimated 100 million hours!

Imagine the impact of just 1% of this time, now moving towards another medium, more specifically an interactive one, such as those mentioned. That’s 2 billion hours surplus that is compounding its impact elsewhere.

More and more people are becoming increasingly creative with this mass surplus and the effect is tangible.

Change is afoot. The creative juices of a previously dormant section of society are redefining our world, and the architecture of participation is manifested in the evolution we are living through.

I still defend my right to turn off 90% of my brain and watch re runs of shows that I didn’t particularly enjoy first time around, but I feel a little less motivated to be so vocal, and yes I’ll continue to disengage from the adverts and update my Blog!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reverse Tweeting-Radical Twitter Experiment!

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Obscure title I know-but here’s a long dormant thought for you to contemplate.
Last year it occurred to me that there was an inverse relationship between the volume of Twitter ‘followers’ I had accumulated and the quality of the relationships.
This started to become apparent when my ‘following’ reached over the 100 mark, and has been reinforced as the numbers passed 2000.
It seemed popular particularly, thought not exclusively among online marketers to chase the numbers. There would be self-congratulatory tweets exclaiming joy at hitting 1000, 2000 or even 10000 ‘followers’ as if it actually meant anything.  E-books were compiled to educate the ignorant on how to amass tens of thousands of ‘followers’. To what purpose, a few may ask?
You’ve no doubt noted the inverted commas. I use the term ‘followers’ very loosely. This is undoubtedly a misnomer. If you are tweeting regularly on topics of inane pointlessness for periodic relief of boredom-then that’s certainly your prerogative, however I would suggest that the belief that you have 5000 followers taking even the remote interest is, well, delusional.
I doubt the irreverent tone of this Blog is upsetting anyone, unless the afore mentioned delusion was deeply ingrained, but the point of this scribble is to posit an alternate use of this hugely useful interactive tool.
I have a secondary Twitter account that I am just about to launch. It has been sitting sedentary for ages since the first seed of the following proposition popped in to my head. My experiment that I’d love you to join me in is as follows. Create a second account if you are already in Twittersphere and promote it only to those that you can build a genuine connection with. Those for instance whose content you are actually interested in and whom presumably will offer reciprocal dialogue.
My objective is to create a ‘following’ ‘followers’ target of max 100! –Excuse the garbled language! If you could only follow 100, who would you follow? Personally I would only follow those with some mutual connectivity benefits. Those for instance that post interesting, informative, humorous content rich tweets and links, rather than the random anonymous pitching of business links, without any effort to relationship and community build.
Hope this doesn’t sound like I’m pontificating. I will continue to maintain my other Twitter account but the link below is only for those with  whom I can genuinely engage.
So that’s it. The radical concept. Follow a Max 100 and only follow those who have 100 or less followers!  
Would love to hear your thoughts. My firm belief is that the quality of tweeting will improve ten or even 100 fold.
Hook up on and if you’ve got less than 100 followers I’ll follow you back and hopefully engage!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Breakfast and Wisdom with Sir Richard Branson

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As part of a fundraiser for Strike a Chord for Cancer I had the opportunity to glean first hand some insight into the philosophy of Sir Richard Branson. Without eulogizing over the status that this king of branding has attained and the unusually high personal popularity rating his entrepreneurial endeavours have garnered, I’ll cut straight to the content.

A series of questions were posed, crossing a wide spectrum inclusive, business, environment, education and space travel. Despite the diversity of topics some consistent messages emerged.

A core strength of his myriad of businesses is the empowerment of the people. Selecting those with exceptional communication skills seems to be a pre requisite in the hiring process.

Instilling the mindset of his team to not only identify problems but to also take immediate action to rectify.

Focus on the goal rather than the monetary outcome.
Encourage creative thinking in the education process.
Encourage continual feedback from the customer in order to respond hastily to problems.

Global collaboration in the pursuit of peaceful resolution of conflict.
Big goals require the ability to delegate.
Treat everyone with equal respect, regardless of whether they are cleaners or managers.

Have fun.
Take the wisdom of successful entrepreneurs, and elder statesmen and apply some of their strategies to global problems.

Like most true wisdom, it never seems quite so profound when delivered in bland script. The power of a message is compounded by the status of the messenger, and there are few have attained such an iconic status of achievement as Sir Richard Branson. His message therefore resonates so much clearer.

Common sense it would seem is rather uncommon.