Wired: Collectivist Versus Individualist Societies and the Individual

An interesting article in Wired on collectivist versus individualist societies and how they treat the individual.

Where Solo Is Sociable (Momus)

<snip>A single person with a free evening in a Japanese city could go to one of these restaurants, a pachinko arcade, a public bath-house, a manga cafe, a cosplay maid cafe, a karaoke bar and other (shadier) places and feel like they were participating socially without being in a couple.

In the West, it seems to me, that isn’t as easy. And that seems counter-intuitive: Shouldn’t individualist societies cater better to the needs of individuals, and collectivist societies cater worse to them? How come it seems to be the other way around?

If the premise is true, then surely some entrepreneur can come up with a way to make more individual friendly establishments in the west.  Incentives…..

Office Move Reminds me of Kitty Genovese

KittygenoveseThe image on the left is of Kitty Genevese from this article on Wikipedia.  I was rereading parts of different books that discussed the bystander effect.

We just moved into a new office, which is cool, but everyone assumes "someone else" sees a given need and surely THEY will fix them.  Two people within the organization are clearly demonstrating civil courage – which if anything causes them to be blamed even more while others continue to say nothing.

Granted, our situation is far less tragic than Kitty’s, but the bystander effect remains in effect.  Even with great people.

Social Software is Bigger than Search

"Social Software is Bigger than Search" is something we say around the office a lot when discussing Tendenci.  So I really liked this quote sourced from  Bubble Generation (via Eric "Mr. Snarky" Rice)

Web 2.0 cannot live up to its (enormous) potential to create value that’s
structurally disruptive until and unless technologists understand consumer

Web 2.0 can’t live up to its game-changing potential until and
unless the geeks step outside and think outside their own box of geekery.

and later in the post

…why are these issues so difficult for the geeks to grapple with?

answer: because for geeks, marketing, branding, advertising, etc are eeeeevil.

A long time ago I met with a VC on a different project and everything went great.  Until the question of "how are you going to market the product" and my answer was (seriously) "I am going to hire a marketing manager."  Straight faced.  I said that.  For the record – that is officially the WRONG ANSWER.

So ironically if you read the bubble generation post, it was a question by a VC that led me to focus on marketing first.  To obsess on the client’s success.  Using technology yes, but the tech serves the marketing and the sociology.  And the truth is after a while programming isn’t so tough and humans remain interestingly complex creatures worthy of study. So it all works. Sort of.

Speaking at PRSA Southwest District Conference Mar 2-3, 2006

FortworthrodeoflagI will be speaking on “Trends in Public Relations Technology: Harnessing the Chaos to Encourage Collaboration and Engagement“ later this week at PRSA’s Southwest District Conference in Fort Worth Texas (reg here).  I will be joining Scott Baradell, President, Idea Grove and Jennifer Peper, Vice President, Aristotle.net, Inc. 

Not sure if I’ll have time to make it to Billy Bob’s or the botanical gardens, but I will be there in spirit while talking Public Relations and Tech at the conference.

2006 PRSA Southwest District Conference – New Technologies Panel

Ed Schipul CEO, Schipul – The Web Marketing Company

Fri 3-Mar-06 9:00 AM to Fri 3-Mar-06 10:15 AM

The image at the top?  That is an actual photo of me joining a panel at a recent event.  Really! Or maybe it comes from the Fort Worth convention and visitors bureau site.  You decide. <g>

Google.org to Build Infectious Disease Early Warning Systems

Rachel Weidinger of San Fran, a NWNB (Nerd With No Blog <grin>), sent me a link to this article on Google.org in Wired.

Brilliant’s Wish: Disease Alerts
Google’s newly appointed philanthropy chief is rallying industry support for an ambitious plan to create a global early-warning system to identify and prevent the spread of infectious diseases and other disasters.

It is possible that Rachel W is psychic, or that I babble about similar stuff, or perhaps she read my very first blog post ever which was on the need for emergency rss.  In fact what tipped me over the edge from being a NWNB myself was Katrina and the response here in Houston.

Yes I am definitely a proud capitalist.  Blame the person who gave me Atlas Shrugged.  But as far as putting action behind talk, since Katrina Tendenci (our software) has evolved to include a first responders module for organization response, a emergency social services module to manage intake at collection centers in a distributed environment and we will soon launch the CAPS module beta.  CAPS stands for Common Alerting Protocol (v1.1 link) and is the OASIS alert standard.  The OASIS News RSS Feed is here to keep up on some of the nerdy stuff related to emergency response (and hopefully prevention!)

Visualization – One Artist on the Importance of Color

A good friend sent me a few shots of Cheryl Tamborello’s work.  I liked this quote from Cheryl’s resume:

Tamborello_leadingmetolibertyxl"Working with layers, allows me to build up subtleties of color that psychologically impact the viewer.  Through the use of color, I hope to jostle the viewer’s memory of a particular place, reminding them of a moment they may have had." – Cheryl Tamborello, Houston Artist (emphasis added by me)

Sort of an attempt at abstract random mnemonics (memory aiding devices) for the viewer.  Performance art in static form through visuals.  The same thing that makes visiting the Rothko Chapel an obligation if you are in the Houston area (pictures never do Rothko justice as I am sure is the case with Tamborello as well).

While the three main learning styles are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic it has been my experience that visual is dominant in almost every individual I have worked with.  This might be self selection based on industry but I doubt it.  You can test learning styles and determine that someone is an auditory learner, but when asked "what car did you drive in high school?" they will picture it first before reliving the engine sound or some other related sound in their mind.

Thanks Rachel!

I Have No Such Aspirations, but YOU can be A-List

11757atrium_1While I have no desire to be a-list, in a recent post called "the A-List is nonsense", Jason points out some very interesting statistics:

The fact
is the top 100 blogs represent < .01% of the traffic in the entire blogosphere… in what other medium do the top
100 artists account for the minority of the work??!?! Chris… any ideas

The "any ideas" link goes to The Long Tail Blog of course.  And it continues:

Anyone can break into the "blogging A-list" in about six to 12 months if they a) blog
every day and b) have something intelligent to add to the conversation.

The picture?  Nothing to do with this post.  It is a picture of the atrium from our new offices looking down.  Cool!  What you don’t see in the picture is the giant sign in our reception area that says "Thank You!" to our clients for allowing us to move into our new digs.


Organizational Behavior – When Smart People Make Bad Decisions

I have been reading a lot lately on incentives for individuals within organization.  What motivates different folks, and of course how that affects group actions.  Interesting stuff and hopefully I’ll get an article posted on schipul.com related to individual incentives soon.

In a different email thread I was pointed to this article (linked below) by Art Berman with the Houston Geological Society (HGS is a client).  The full article is quite lengthy and is somewhat of a tragedy of beaucratic decision making regarding the Tsunami of December 2004.  The full article is worth a read.  My selected excerpts below specifically highlight elements of social psychology that relate to a broader range of situations where individuals apparently lacked incentive to speak up in a convincing manner.

Letters From Jakarta: Indian Ocean Nations Select a Tsunami Warning System

After 12 years of siege, the armies of King Priam awoke one morning to find their Greek opponents gone from the Plain of Troy.  A giant wooden horse stood alone outside the city.  Priam and his men decided to bring the horse inside the walls of Troy to celebrate their victory over the Greeks.  Not all of Priam’ s men, however, agreed with the decision. 

Chief among the king’ s counselors was an elder named Laöcoon.*  Laöcoon and his sons urged Priam to reconsider the decision and to investigate the situation more fully before bringing the horse into the city.  It seemed peculiar, Laöcoon argued, and out of character that the Greeks had departed for no apparent military reason and had left behind a gift.  In addition, he thought he heard sounds coming from inside the horse.  Laöcoon and his sons were killed by the Trojans. The horse was brought into the city and the Greek soldiers concealed within the horse emerged, sacked Troy, and won the Trojan War.

This excerpt below is almost painful to read – mostly because it is likely, inevitable, that gargantuan mistakes like this will occur again in the future!

History is full of astonishing examples of how great states and institutions often consciously pursued policies and strategies that were not in their best interests, and sometimes led to their downfall.  The Trojan horse is the archetypal example of the tendency for smart people to make bad decisions.

In her 1984 book The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, popular historian Barbara Tuchman describes several outrageous examples of smart people who made poor or ill-informed decisions (Conway, 1998).  The Catholic Church managed to lose half of Christendom in the 16th century because seven Renaissance popes consistently ignored advice to abandon secular endeavors and end corrupt practices within the Church.  The British Empire lost America in a war of independence that no one in the North American colony initially wanted or supported, due to failure to adopt minimal measures to satisfy the clear and simple requests from the colonists.  During the decade leading up to World War II, the Japanese Empire convinced itself to attack Pearl Harbor as the best way to avoid violating its cardinal strategy of not becoming involved in a war with the United States!

I will leave conclusions on the Tsunami situation to people far more knowledgeable about nation states and geology than myself.  But after reading Art’s article, I found my mind jumped to something Bishop said at his IABC talk last month.

(in the future) is instantaneous and simultaneous.  If you are not
instantaneous then you’re not there yet.  If your information is not
simultaneously available to everyone then you’re not there yet.“ ““ Peter Bishop Ph.D., Futurist

Communication.  It just keeps coming back to communication which is why I remain interested in social applications of technology.  Like what we are trying to do with Tendenci.

For more fun, see:

Incentive Systems: A Theory of Organizations

Peter B. Clark, James Q. Wilson
Administrative Science Quarterly,
       Vol. 6,
       No. 2
       (Sep., 1961)
           pp. 129-166

View Article Abstract

OnlyInHouston Blog is Online Promoting Creativity in Houston

As a company we have been involved with the OnlyInHouston initiative with the Houston Advertising Federation (also a Tendenci non profit client) for some time now.  Lou Congelio and Ann Iverson really have things picking up speed with the relaunch of the site and a new layout!

Here are some visuals on progress of the site recently.  The charts are simple, and are coming directly out of LiveStats by Deepmetrix with a little bit of cropping.  The first one is visits over time for the last three months.

OiH has a new blog.  And we are also in need of people to post with the flickr tag "oih" which pretty much looks unused at the moment.

And last but not least, here is another visual of the traffic over the last three months.  Hopefully the billboards going up around Houston and the inserts in Time Magazine will help increase traffic and help the creative community in Houston!

TSAE Lunch and Learn – Blogging and Podcasting in Austin Texas

Welcome to a post live from the TSAE Lunch and Learn in Austin Texas.  The PPT slides will be posted immediately after the meeting at:


A direct link to the PPT slides is here: Download ‘Podcasting & Blogging’ Presentation

update: This is probably the only time you will see a Texas Longhorns logo on this particular blog.  Although they were fun to watch in the National Football Championship last year!  OK, I didn’t say that.  My inner Aggie would not approve.  And where would we be without good natured college rivalries?

Flyspy visualization of airline ticket data via Techcrunch

FlyspytechcrunchA visual mashup of airplane tickets.  This is why I am so excited about great visualization.  Huge amounts of data, HUGE AMOUNTS, are easily understandable with the right visual.  Not only is your visual memory unlimited, but millions of data points are easily understandable to a 12 year old with the right visual.  Patterns are apparent, lumpy lines are best according to Tufte, at a glance.

A good example of this was highlighted on TechCrunch today by Nik Cubrilovic in Flyspy Brings The New Web To Airline Ticketing.  First the good news from the post:

Flyspy reverse engineers some of the mystique associated with the airline industry and makes it extremely transparent.


The search result, which returns very quickly, will present me with a graph of flight prices over the next 30 days so that I can quickly look at which days are the cheapest to fly. To book a flight I just click on the point in the graph. Simple.


Overall a very cool service that epitomizes what the new web is about. Flyspy should go public in a few months ““ you will hear more about it here and probably feel the distruption.

Now for the bad news.  You can’t trademark or patent a visual as far as I know.  And this is fundamentally a line graph.  So there must be some other differentiation.  There are definitely a few investment problems with mash ups.  So I love it, but I wouldn’t invest in it without some form of protection.  I definitely wish them the best.

AdAge PR for Only In Houston Promoting Houston Creative Agencies

Only in Houston
, an initiative from the Houston Advertising Federation (both are Tendenci clients), got some great coverage in AdAge today.  This effort is being driven by Lou Congelio of STANandLOU Advertising in Houston.

———from AdAge———-

Houston: We Have A Problem
A creative exodus has walloped the city; now a local ad consortium says it has the solution

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the U.S., with the Census Bureau pegging its population at slightly over 2 million.  But it’s the 18th largest ad market, much to the dismay of local marketing executives, who say companies looking for advertising and production support view Houston as little more than an afterthought – a quaint suburban hamlet in the shadow of creative metropolises like Miami or Portland, Ore.

Even though it headquarters more Fortune 500 companies than any city except New York, few of those tapped local agencies as their primary ad partner.  That’s caused an exodus of agencies – and talent.

"We’ve taken a major hit," Lou Congelio…

Hopefully the article will be posted in full on the OiH or AdAge sites soon!   

Bradley Horowitz on Authorship – 10%?

Via this post on apophenia, she points us to Bradley Horowitz on authorship.  Technically it is on stages of participation. The point that jumps out at me is:

Bradleyhorowitzpyramid The levels in the pyramid represent phases of value creation.  As an example take Yahoo! Groups.

  • 1% of the user population might start a group (or a thread within a group)
  • 10% of the user population might participate actively, and actually author content whether starting a thread or responding to a thread-in-progress
  • 100% of the user population benefits from the activities of the above groups (lurkers)

It goes on to point out:

Mostly this is just an observation, and a simple statement:  social software sites don’t require 100% active participation to generate great value.

And I agree with him that 100% participation is not a realistic goal, and even our focus on distributed authoring is perhaps pie in the sky.  Facts for us don’t point to 10% real authorship so far.  It would be interesting to see the real data from Yahoo! Groups!

The Dumpster interactive online visualization

The Dumpster, a blatant repost from Doc, yet still must at a minimum be in my collection of back links.  From the site:

Thedumpster The Dumpster is an interactive online visualization that attempts to depict a slice through the romantic lives of American teenagers. … The project’s graphical tools reveal the astonishing similarities, unique differences, and underlying patterns of these failed relationships, providing both peculiarly analytic and sympathetically intimate perspectives onto the diversity of global romantic pain.


From a visualization and ethnography perspective it is worthy of recording.  It would be like if Flash had never experienced Joshua Davis as a leader.  Yet like much of Joshua’s work, there is something missing. It is cool, but what did we LEARN?  Is it in any way predictive?  Interfaces are great, but can we load up our friendly neighborhood neural net and get cranking away on what the opportunties are for the team next week!?!

NetSquared San Francisco Trip

Sfnetsquaredfeb2006_2Walked into the NetSquared meeting in San Francisco with Katie (I work with Katie) last Wednesday and two of the first people we met were Marnie Webb and Billy Bickett of Compumentor.  This after being greeted by Britt Bravo and several interesting conversations with Rachel Weidinger. Great first impression of NetSquared

It is very unusual for me to talk about social factors and technology together and not have people immediately glaze over (I guess I am just that exciting).  And here we have 50 plus people actually INTERESTED in the technology and organizations!  The west coast really is weird. <grin>

The one funny part was everyone kept asking "you flew all the way out here for this?!?" (the answer is YES)

The first Netsquared presentor was Mena Trott of Six Apart.  Mena made some interesting points on the state of social software from experiences at Six Apart.  The progression from Publishing to Communication to Community in particular I liked.

Edmenasethkatie_1Another interesting point from Mena is the observation that the average person on LiveJournal has six (6) friends (see "The Magic Number is 6 by Marnie).  I find six people to a group surprising.  Much of our focus on distributed authoring is based on the theoretical limit of 150 close friends.  Dunbar’s Number is explained on wikipedia as:

In a 1993 article, Dunbar used the correlation observed for non-human primates to predict a social group size for humans. Using a regression equation on data for 36 primate genera, Dunbar predicted a human "mean group size" of 147.8 (casually represented as 150), a result he considered exploratory due to the large error measure (a 95% confidence interval of 100 to 230).

Very interesting…. so much for the monkeysphere.  OK, I’m still not sold that 150 isn’t relevant, but the number 6 as the number of friends in a group is very interesting and worthy of much thought.

Seth Mazow of Interplast talked about the challenges of starting the Interplast blog.  From organizational limitations (no marketing budget!) to communication challenges and ease of use (reverse chronological vs chronological).  Hopefully someone recorded his comments. 

You can’t look at the images on the Interplast blog and not feel for those folks.  Hopefully I will find a way to help through link love from our medical web design clients.

Netsquared2Back to NetSquared.  There are a ton of organizations on the web trying to help non-profit organizations.  From software companies focusing just on donation software or big software companies offering academic and non-profit pricing.  Yet I know Tendenci with our realistic non-profit pricing is relevant and different.  We do not offer it for free.  We can’t until Dell donates all of their servers and all of our employees start working for free.  Nor does Compumentor pay their 100 plus employees with just good wishes.  So the NetSquared group strikes me as pragmatic folk, but realistic.  I like that. 

So after talking to Gina Cardazone I took the plunge and started the Houston Netsquared Meetup GroupNow to get some help!  Gina – if you are reading this expect a phone call on Monday!

Blogs are your Inbred Cousins – NY Mag Linkology Visual

Blog060213_linkology_560The image on the left is a "Linkology" map from the New York Magazine article called Linkology by Stuart Luman.  High res PDF version of the visualization of top blog relationships chart.

The point of the linkology article (although it is really more a list with a paragrah intro) appears to be that breaking into the A-List, to be one of the top read blogs, is tough.  Perhaps even tougher than breaking your news into traditional media.  A public relations professional pitches stories in old world media to writers and editors.  News media are looking for something NEW and actually have a NEED for the PR Professional. 

On the flip side, blogging is basically a conversation and we tend to go back to the same watering hole on a regular basis for our conversations.

But back to the graphic.  I don’t think it is fair that the image shows only links between those blogs.  Why not show it more like a network diagram?  In fact, based on the visual it looks like a the good old boy’s club, yet I know that boing boing links out to other random (wonderful?) sites almost hourly.

Hopefully the challenge for bloggers is like the challenge for PR professionals; be interesting and be honest and hopefully the story will develop legs.  If that doesn’t work host a huge party and just throw money at the problem.

And oh ya, I found the linkology map through this Doc Searls blog post.  And he is one of top 100.  I am not.  So I am telling nobody about the popularity of others to perpetuate the blog club.  Go figure. <g>

NetSquared Meetup in San Francisco with Mena Trott and Seth Mazow

NetsquaredHeaded to San Francisco for the NetSquared Meetup tomorrow evening with Mena Trott of Typepad and Seth Mazow of Interplast blogs.

From the Netsquared site:

Today, we recognize a turning point in nonprofit technology adoption. Through the immense possibilities of the Internet, nonprofits can turn hundreds of supporters into thousands, access new reserves of volunteerism, and give their constituencies tools to take charge of change.

This site is the online home of our effort to highlight projects around the world that succeed at the intersection of pervasive access, new tools, and new audiences. (more)

OK, so it reads a bit fluffy and Web 2.0 ish, but given the number of non-profit organizations and associations who use Tendenci (our software), the NetSquared group is definitely something I am interested in learning from.  Hopefully I will encounter a group of like minded people, although perhaps a bit less obsessed with visualization and PR.

Bisley Advertisements – Remixing Elements of Icons

Bisley01Via: adjab.com

"The ads are for Bisley, a company that makes storage units for offices. As you can see, each image (a barcode, a map of the Underground, etc) have all been broken down into their individual parts and neatly stacked together. The text reads, "Perfectly Organized.""

Pictures Lie – Just as Wrong as Lying with Words

Dc_ward_map"DC Mayor Brown’s interactive accomplishments map:
bad Marion Barry isn’t mayor anymore — then we’d get cute little
baggies and crack pipe icons placed on the district map

Via Katya.

Here is my challenge with the map.  As Tufte says, lying with visuals is still lying. It isn’t cute.  It isn’t funny.  It is perjury.  In this case the map has been manipulated to create an illusion of balance and fairness.  The icons are smoothly distributed throughout the district. 

So this 3 Million dollar investment:

HouseThe Department of Housing and Community Development served as funding partner
for Camp Simms, a mixed-use development that will include 110,000 square feet of
retail and a 75 single-family-home community (Asheford Court). The 8.51-acre
Shops at Park Village will incorporate the expansion of an existing strip
center, Giant Food supermarket and casual dining restaurant. Sixteen (16) of the
units will be affordable for families making eighty percent (80) of the Area
Median Income. The Department of Housing and Community Development provided
approximately $3,000,000 to this initiative.

is somehow equal to this new government form???  Oh please.

ShakeThe Department of Human Services developed and released a new, simplified
"Combined Application for Medical, Food Stamp, and Cash Assistance" to make it
easier for District residents to apply for services and to streamline the
eligibility process. The new application is also available in Spanish and the
cover page features messages in Amharic, Chinese and Vietnamese.

So visually, for the sake of politics, a 3 million dollar development is the same as a couple of bureaucrats combining three forms into a new form.  Like the kind you photocopy.  The kind with an icon the same size as a 3 million dollar icon.  I call bullshit. 

Visualization of Social Concepts Requires Software (Open Source?)

Inkscape043diagrams_thumbDigging for low cost tools to allow more people in our company to generate better visualization led me to the following tools:

NVU – A Dreamweaver like open source software application
Inkscape – Vector Graphics Tool, also open source, similar to Illustrator
Gimp – graphic editing similar to a photoshop like app (already a Gimp user….)

And in a somewhat unrelated discovery, check out the Visible Human Server for "slices" of the human body.  Awesome for science class!