The Last Marketing Channel

The last piece of untouched real estate on your iPhone—your iMessages—is under assault. As with all communication channels, this one is no different. Marketers are slowly finding their way in. With Apple’s newest update, iMessages is undergoing sweeping changes. Large companies know it and they are seeking the ways to break through to you.

They’re striving to enter your iMessage because in a busy world where attention is money, it is the last domain that practically guarantees a message is received. Think about the edge on this as a marketer. If they can text you directly in iMessage, there is a little doubt you won’t read it. Early email marketers had 90% open rates in the late 90s. Now, if they’re above 20%, they’re truly golden. With text messages, open rates are well above 90%.

Looking down the road, it is hard not to see a new messaging platform that is no different than email: Messages scattered and littered with promos that you’re going to spend time unsubscribing to. Or replying “stop” to.

“The dream of marketers of frictionless commerce is coming, quickly. With shoppable stickers that allow you to make a purchase, we are moving from conversation to commerce at an exponential rate.” Vivian Rosenthal

I’m not sold that this is for the better.

Looking at China, the proliferation of app messaging and commerce being intertwined is already happening way ahead of the United States. It could be because the newest mobile users didn’t have the legacy system of email, or because they possessed multiple mobile devices and were open to integrating them all into a single digital identity.

Either way, the changes coming are great opportunities for those that don’t abuse it. The companies that walk the line the most carefully will be those that are the most successful.

To Live & Die On Mars

mars1  To Live & Die On Mars Mars1

It is weird to think that there is an actual possibility that people alive today will be living on Mars in the near future. What seemed like science fiction a few generations ago is now a possibility. In fact, Elon Musk believes a million humans could live on mars by the 2060s. Sign me up!

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. ― André Gide

Science fiction and reality are catching up to one another.

damonmartian  To Live & Die On Mars DamonMartian

Work for the Sake of Work

We often find ourselves obsessed with ‘the hustle’ or ‘the grind.’ We show off how hard we’ve worked for what we’ve earned—it is our badge of honor. However, we also forget that there are plenty who hustle and don’t produce anything of value. To put it more cheerfully, there are people who are incredibly productive and make it look easy.

Oliver Burkeman in his post Nobody Cares How Hard You Work explains how we perceive high quality for work that have a perceived high level of difficulty.

Psychologists have long noticed what’s sometimes been called the “labor illusion:” when it comes to judging other people’s work, we might say we’re focused only on whether they did the job quickly and well—but really we want to feel they wore themselves out for us.

The problem is we apply this often to ourselves. Oliver Burkeman calls it the Effort Trap:

We apply the same twisted standards to ourselves. Call it the “Effort Trap:” it’s dangerously easy to feel as though a 10-hour day spent plowing through your inbox, or catching up on calls, was much more worthwhile than two hours spent in deep concentration on hard thinking, followed by a leisurely afternoon off. Yet any writer, designer or web developer will tell you it’s the two focused hours that pay most—both in terms of money and fulfillment.

It’s doubly hard to avoid the Effort Trap because our culture so strongly reinforces its deceptive message: Hard work is ultimately what matters. From childhood, parents and teachers drum into us the moral virtue of effort, and the importance of “doing your best”

The market dictates the value of a service, not necessarily how difficult it was to be completed. In fact, if you can find the highest paying service for the least work possible, that’s exactly the most efficient outcome.

I believe this is one of the reasons we are seeing more freelancers in our economy. Technology is enabling work on your own schedules. Today’s technology is making this more and more of a reality. That is why there are predictions that our economy will be 50% freelancers by 2020.

When you find yourself focused with ‘the hustle’ or ‘the grind,’ keep in context that wearing yourself out by being constantly connected and filling your calendar to the fullest amount isn’t a reliable indicator of a day well spent.

The Innovator’s Playground

The media today often focuses on the narrative of how fast things are moving. There are countless examples; here and here are two examples.

In my opinion, this narrative is harmful. Not because it isn’t important to analyze the speed of change and innovation, but the story repeatedly carries a tone that pushes fear on us. I’m left asking “what does it matter how fast the progression of change is if that knowledge creates a fear of movement and leads to inaction?”

With the proliferation and constant bombardment of information from the media, fear of change is more pronounced in our psyche.

Let’s not focus on the progression of innovation causing jobs to be lost and people being “left behind.” The more important issue is how do we embrace it? How de we understand it better? Embody change and live it out to its fullest? How do we make sure we are ready for the next big thing, and not get caught up in how things were?

The world is indifferent to how you believe it functions today or how it did so yesterday. It is especially indifferent to your attachment to this feeling.

There are countless examples of people and companies being blindsided and left behind because of a lack of understanding of this idea. On the other hand, those companies and individuals that understand it are the huge winners.

Travis Kalanick has a term for this dichotomy and how to work around it. He calls it the Innovator’s Playground:

“When conventional wisdom thinks the answer is over there, and you believe the answer is over here, the largest distance between the two, I call the innovator’s playground. Now, you better be right, because conventional wisdom can be correct. But if you are right, and there is a huge distance between the two, that is where innovators and entrepreneurs find all the value and opportunity. Sometimes its really confusing to know what really is reality and what is perception.”

Humans (and all living things for that matter) have lived in constant change. Even so, our bodies and minds want some level of normalcy. We need it because our body strives for homeostasis. Predictability equals survival.

Surviving and thriving are two different things. Don’t confuse the two.

“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been.” – Albert Einstein

Uber and the Adoption Curve

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A lineup of yellow taxi cabs sit idle in front of downtown Miami’s Intercontinental Hotel. They’re waiting for a hotel guest to pick up. That is, if the guests don’t have cell phones and have been living under a rock.

I’ve seen these cabbies do this for years. They wait, and wait. Every time I pass by, I wonder how can these people be so behind the curve? All facts point to them wasting their time. They sit, waiting to be picked. I think of the time wasted, and the fact that there is a simple solution in existence to make their lives much better. To make their lives more efficient.

This is a quintessential example of late adopters in the innovation adoption curve. The curve illustrates “the process by which an innovation is communicated over time among the participants in a social system,” according to Wikipedia.

The categories of adopters are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

adoption-curve  Uber and the Adoption Curve Adoption Curve

Essentially, different groups adopt a new technology at different rates. Group, by group, adopts the technology until everyone uses it. Each curve moves at its own pace. TV took. Your grandma was a late adopter when joining Facebook.

We all fall somewhere on the adoption line for each new technology. The question is when everything is subject to a new curve, how do you know which curve you’re on. More importantly, where do you fall?

How do we make sure we’re not the cabbies sitting around unaware how far behind we are?

What the First Hire at Amazon.com Had to Say About Technology Today

amazon  What the First Hire at Amazon.com Had to Say About Technology Today amazon

Y Combinator interviewed the first employee of Amazon.com, Shel Kaphan. He explains his initial thoughts in joining Jeff Bezos and what Amazon has become. The most interesting is how he looks and analyzes technology, then and now.

For myself, when I look at technology these days, I see that it’s either doing something to connect people or it’s doing something that isolates people. I tend to make value judgments based on that kind of consideration about what is worth working on.

You walk down the streets, you have to weave around people standing there in random orientations in the middle of the sidewalk looking at their cellphones. Then you see people speaking robotically so that their speech recognizer can understand them. Now they are running around in mobs in parks with their phones in front of them trying to catch imaginary animals. I don’t necessarily see all that as a positive development.

I think technology has a role to play but I don’t see it being exploited very carefully in that way. But this is the kind of economy that we live in. And it’s very, very addictive. Even people who complain about it are still subject to it.

He is spot on in my opinion on how technology does a great job of either isolating or connecting us. It is the job of all of us as makers, creators, and entrepreneurs to keep this front and center. I believe it comes down to empathy. For instance, Slack truly gets this. If you haven’t used their product, it is fantastic and there is a reason they’re a true unicorn. Read their mission statement on culture, and you see building empathy into their product is a very conscious decision.

Building things for others to use is an act of empathy. Every decision made about how a thing is built and how it should be used comes from the worldview of the maker. How well they can see things through the user’s eyes determines the value of their work. No one person can see the world through another’s eyes. It’s all approximation and guesswork. Thus the only way for us to broaden our understanding of our users, to see things the way they do, is through hiring people with as many diverse experiences and backgrounds as we can.

Back to Shel Kaphan and his interview. He gives some great advice for starting something new.

One thing that the Amazon experience taught me is try to imagine what a project or company would be like if it was more successful than you could ever possibly imagine. It’s very unlikely but it’s possible. You have to think about what the environment will be like if that happens, and how the people involved in it might change.

Doesn’t hurt to believe that if you were employee # 1 at one of the most successful companies of our time.