Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Our experience is composed rather of illusions lost than wisdom acquired." Joseph Roux

"We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities." Walt Kelly

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe." Anatole France

Today's image: Roatan Beach - Perfect Day by janusz l. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Roger Ehrenberg blogs about lessons learned from a failed startup...

The Seven Deadly Sins

While we certainly made more than seven mistakes during the nearly four-year life of Monitor110, I think these top the list.
  1. The lack of a single, "the buck stops here" leader until too late in the game
  2. No separation between the technology organization and the product organization
  3. Too much PR, too early
  4. Too much money
  5. Not close enough to the customer
  6. Slow to adapt to market reality
  7. Disagreement on strategy both within the Company and with the Board
Read the entire post here. Bravos, Roger. Well done. My thanks to Fred Wilson for the tip.

Roger makes an important point about leadership...

"Instead of having product management as the advocate for the customer and the product evangelist, we had technology running the show in a vacuum. Huge mistake. This allowed us to perpetuate the science project for much, much longer than we should have. There were no checks-and-balances built into the system. This was a recipe for failure."

In my experience, when you do not appoint and empower a C-level advocate for the customer (i.e., the reader, the listener, the viewer, the advertiser, the user, the member) you are doomed to fail. Moreover, the advocate must have authority to match responsibility, anything less is also a fatal mistake the beginnings of which manifest as near-death experiences.

The fourth sin reminds me of a line by the brilliant strategist Gary Hamel... "Money makes you stupid, a lot of money makes you really stupid." The good doctor Hamel also said "We live in a world in which the way you create wealth is variety. You try new things. Well, the whole core principle in finance is that variance is a bad thing--variance from a budget, from a plan. That kind of thinking slowly permeates everything, and people begin to manage to the budget rather than manage to the opportunity."

Bonus: Clay Shirky, the Gothamist interview from April 2004. Killer line..."New York is 45 stars and 7 million extras, but it's a different 45 every day." Read the interview here.

Let the marketplace decide: This week we were witness to Jesse Jackson and Whoopi Goldberg using the N word on TV. Jackson's use was not intended for broadcast while Goldberg's was. My sense is both uses are unacceptable. Jackson and Goldberg know better.

Jackson being caught unawares is not a defense of usage. Goldberg's claim of her color being an explicit permission of usage does not a prima facie or reasonable case make. Let's agree that using the N word in public is racist speech no matter the color of the speaker. Feel free to use that word or any others to your liking when engaging in private conversations with friends and family but please, keep that racist filth to yourself, contained and not introduced into the commons of public speech. Fox News was right to call out Jackson by playing and referencing his remark. Sitting in a TV studio, mic'd and standing by for air is never a safe venue for private conversation, that's broadcast 101. Again, the Rev Jackson, one very media savvy guy, knows better.

Barbara Walters and ABC should have placed Goldberg on double-secret probation and in the process made it clear to her, and every other talent on the program, that no one gets to use the N word or any other racist language on The View. But it appears that will not be the case. Goldberg's use of the word, no matter the bleeping, generated buzz and word of mouth for the show. It seems that getting buzz for the program is more important, more prized than doing the right thing and setting high standards. Civility, good manners and common sense sacrificed for rating points.

Shame on you Barbara. You know better.

Which brings me to the online video controversy of the moment - Loren Feldman. Feldman says he's head of production at the video production company 1938 Media. He also claims to be a satirist and an artist. In Feldman's "official statement" regarding his Technigga video he says "If you think it's funny and clever great, if you didn't like it that's ok as well. That's show biz I guess." Feldman's statement goes on to talk about freedom, the implication being he should be protected by freedom, in this case freedom of expression. To put this into proper context, the video is from last year and was part of a weeklong project that made fun of several groups including (using Feldman's words here) jews, nerds and nazis. The video became an issue when it seemed a national brand might be doing business with Feldman. Members of the black community shouted foul. But it didn't end there.

Feldman decided to use his artistic foil of choice, the puppet, to create another video. In the new video the puppet is black, hired on, so we are told, as part of a new affirmative action program at Feldman's outfit. The video is replete with an anachronistic Amos 'n' Andy minstrel-style "black" voice over. Funny? Clever? My take is patently offensive and stupid without excuse. We should thank Feldman for this second video. It offers insight, shows us who he really is. Tells us what he truly cares about and in the process reveals the core of his so-called art. In my opinion, Feldman's goal here is not to entertain but to stir the pot, to fan the flame, to gain attention, it's all about him, lest we forget. All about his rights to be plainly offensive, all about his liberty of birth to be the online video village idiot. His blatant mockery of the sensibilities of others, the pure insensitivy of this latest rejoinder call his motives and his character into question. The lowest rung on the show biz ladder is probably street performer and Feldman seems to be below it continually reaching up without success but making a great deal of noise in the attempts as if to say "Look at me, look at me." Press on Feldman. Let's allow the marketplace to decide.

Let's see which advertisers and others will stand up and stand by you in support of racial stereotyping for fun and profit. Fair warning. We'll be exercising our freedom of expression too. That's show biz.

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