The Wand of Narcissus

A “selfie stick” if you haven’t heard, is something like a monopod and something like a cry for help. These gizmos, used to take photos of oneself and one’s friends (if one has any) at greater than arms-length, are apparently all the rage and mildly controversial. I was blissfully unaware until a recent vacation when I observed numerous tourists using them.

Culture critics and others too cool for selfies have decried the selfie stick as another sign of rampant narcissism and people forsaking real life for life online and refusing to engage with people around them even to ask the small favor of taking a photo. It’s not really clear to me how using a stick makes taking a selfie any more narcissistic than taking one hand-held, though I guess the potential for poking a stranger in the abdomen or knocking over a store display or priceless artifact is somewhat greater. Inflicting random damage while taking your own photo certainly earns you some self-absorption points.

I’ll confess to a bit of analog-photo nostalgia for taking proto-selfies with a tripod and timer or cable release, and also for the momentary bonding with strangers when you get asked to take a photo of them (I used to know how to say “say cheese” in Chinese), or when you ask the same. Maybe phones are considered too personal or too valuable (or too germy) to hand to a random stranger. Maybe people just don’t trust a stranger’s sense of composition anymore. Back in film days, I was tempted more than once to crop out the heads of annoying tourists thrusting their cameras at me, though I almost never did.

My gripes with the selfie stick are more artistic and technical than cultural.  On a purely technical level, putting your camera on the end of a stick that you hold most likely at partial or full extension of your own arm is just a bad idea. Any shaking in your hand or arm is just magnified by the stick, making it more likely that you’ll get a less than sharp shot. Plus, even though phones are getting bigger all the time, your ability to really see the composition in a phone screen that’s several feet away seems marginal at best.

I can name that dome in two notes

Say what you want about the selfie aesthetic, I sort of like the spontaneity and odd geometry of the arms-length shot. It says, “I was here and was having so much fun that I couldn’t be bothered to take a better photo :D” Sure, it would be nice to see more imaginative self-portraits using mirrors, shadows, multiple exposures and other techniques, but those wouldn’t really be “selfies.” Putting the camera on the end of a stick might give a more naturalistic view, but it also makes a selfie just another picture.

Whatever your take, you should enjoy using or complaining about selfie sticks while you can. This time next year, I’ll probably be writing about the clouds of personal drones zipping around people taking photos and video of their masters 24/7.

Marketing New Years Resolutions: Execution is a Strategy

I resolve to focus on execution.

There’s a bias for Big Ideas. I like Big Ideas as much as the next guy, but in my life as a marketer – not a philosopher – I have to constantly tie Big Ideas back to execution. That doesn’t mean having no strategic plan, quite the opposite: execution is my strategic plan.

cupGive me somebody who can get stuff done – even if they occasionally do the wrong stuff or make mistakes – over a creator of Perfect Big Ideas any day. Speed to market and speed of iteration can be incredibly important in marketing, especially for high-tech products. Agile is a great example of an execution-focused method, and it is fast and iterative too.

The bias for Big Ideas means that the makers of such ideas often rise in organizations or become high-priced consultants, while people focused on execution get labels like “worker bees” and less institutional standing. I’m not arguing for a total inversion of this order of things, only saying that the distinction shouldn’t be so sharply drawn. Big Ideas are worthless if they can’t be realized; they must be broken down into doable parts, and done by people who know both how to get them done, and why they’re doing it.

Especially in small companies and startups,  be wary of employees and consultants who want to do the big thinking and become mysteriously scarce when it comes time to execute.

Why I finally gave in and gave google all my email

It doesn’t matter how careful you are, if you’re the last human in a world of zombies, you’re going to get eaten sooner or later. You may not have noticed, but one of the last humans not using gmail – that’s me – recently joined the brain-seeking horde.

I didn’t set out to be That Guy Who’s Not Using Gmail. It sort of happened by accident. When Gmail came along, I was already using a hosted webmail service and at the time I thought that it was a more mature product. Maybe I was right at the time, but probably not for long after.

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Then I became aware of of the unsettling facts around Google reading all your email: the creepily invasive “helping” apps, the probable selling of my data and likely use of it for ad targeting or who knows what else. I was deep in the Google ecosystem but I resisted letting them have my email. That was too close to home, too personal.

Then somebody clued me in. It doesn’t matter if I don’t use gmail; if most of the people I correspond with are using it, then the googles already have most of my email. It’s sort of the opposite of herd immunity. I folded like a cheap lawn chair: reluctantly and with a squeak.

Complementary assets (app ecosystem, android integration, etc.) and oceans of cheap storage got me in the end.

Hooray, it’s Cheese Day

I know what you’re thinking, “silly cow, every day is cheese day!” Well you’re not wrong, but I’ve just learned that today is National Cheese Lover’s Day here in the USA. Says who? Who cares! Is that really where the apostrophe should go? I doubt it!

You've got a friend in cheeses.According to a nutty and herbaceous press release from the estimable Chris Lyons Communications, the Massachusetts Cheese Guild has some suggestions for this special day:

Boston, MA . . . (January 12, 2015)     The 21 artisan cheesemakers of  the 16-month-old MA Cheese Guild are a picky bunch. That’s what happens when you spend your every waking hour dealing with the intricacies of this ancient and magical process. Even those who sell it, or just eat a lot of it, have strong opinions. Take a tip or two from the MA Cheese Guild members below, and seek out a locally produced cheese to savor when National Cheese Lover’s Day rolls around on January 20:

Who am I to blog against the wind? We have a cheese guild, and you can join as one of three member types: “Artisan members are commercial cheesemakers who certify use of Massachusetts milk. Trade membership (retailers/wholesalers/distributors/ journalists) and Enthusiast membership is also available.”

If you’re so inclined, you can certify your status as a cheese enthusiast for just $25 a year. I count 20 artisan members on the site, so I’ve got a local cheesy bucket list of sorts to get working on. I hope you’ll seek out some local cheese today, whatever your locality.