Louisiana, the metaphor for America?

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Can this be true?! The nation’s northern-most banana republic! A city that was a city when the Colonies wore tri-cornered and coonskin hats!

First Katrina, the hurricane that hit Mississippi dead-on, overflowed Lake Pontchatrain and flooded New Orleans. Then the genuine disaster of social, civil and federal response. Nearly completely unprepared for what we – my hometown – knew would occur eventually. After all, the City sinks 3″ per year. Somehow, this Keystone Kops-like response was pinned on President George Bush as the proof positive of his administration’s demeanor. Then one domino fell after another. No matter which state, which city, which issue – whether health care programs, lawmaking, car-making or the educational system – one sensed that none of the entities in authority (I prefer the term, leadership) really had much of a plan for what we all sensed would surely happen if we didn’t do something.

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By now, the collapse of the housing bubble and the attendant revelations of who was trying – and succeeded- to trick whom only serves to diminish our confidence in ourselves and those that we hoped would lead us (the issue of individual responsibility should be a separate discussion). The startling backdrop is what we are discovering is in an era of near complete collapse of the traditional press. These stories have to fall into their laps or word processors to be uncovered.

Now the BP oil rig disaster and the tragic loss of life! As the uncapped oil gushes and oozes ashore, spreading along the Gulf Coast, again I see a metaphor for the nation’s plight. We took a significant risk by drilling at depth without investment in every safety system available (maybe like loans to traditionally unqualified home buyers); we did not prepare for the contingency of an associated failure threatening vital elements of the economy (fishermen in the wetlands); our initial defense measures depend upon those who got us into the damaging situation (BP, in this case, just like, perhaps the big banks in the collapse); we accept the excuse that the probability of occurrence was so small as to dismiss the need for redundant back-up systems (sort of a Too Big to Fail?); now the people most affected (fisherman and residents of Southern Louisiana) are issued paper towels to help clean-up the mess while the majority of us watch from above wondering how far will the damage extend and who will be held accountable for our cost and suffering?!

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Wonder if we’ll find out that someone who sold oil rig safety equipment bought stock in paper towel companies because they knew that this gear would fail when needed?

Microsoft & Yahoo, Giants & New England, Obama & McCain

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras in my hometown of New Orleans.  On this day convention defers to imagination.  And plenty of conventional wisdom has stepped aside already this year: in sports, the seemingly unstoppable mastery of Roger Federer and that of the Patriots ended in startling fashion; in the presidential campaign, Obama seems to have surged into a dead-heat with Hillary; and John McCain, counted-out in October, is now the odds-on favorite for his party’s nomination.

So what is the wisdom of Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo and how might we benefit from this gamble as they try to prevent Google from doing to them what they did to AOL (America on Line).

– AOL’s model was to capture the customer in the AOL-only experience.  No need to ever leave the world of AOL, whether you wanted to or not.  Monthly fee revenue model.

– Yahoo trumped this model by providing a portal where Yahoo aggregated content developed by others around the Internet.  ‘No need to leave, we’ll bring it to you.’  Banner ad & pop-up revenue model.

– Google trumped Yahoo by using their search engine to take visitors all over the Internet where Google would keep track of their searches and visits to deliver related advertising.  Advertisers, not visitors, pay Google.

Let’s imagine what this merger might imply for our organizations aside from the reminder of the recent, sour history of such mega-merger attempts: e.g. HP & Compaq, AOL & Time Warner, Chrysler & Daimler.

The Internet’s emerging technologies and uses are evolving rapidly to being about:

Innovation not Integration by connecting like-minded people regardless of location or employer.  This is a design point for our systems and services.

Information not Application by connecting those who need to know with the content that they require.

Mobility and Advertising on the mobile device.  Remember AOL and its garden wall approach?  This is what the iPhone is doing to the garden walls of the Telecom companies.  Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft spent $10b here in 2007.

As Tuesday’s Rex parade circles Canal Street, the costumed crowd will shout the conventional “throw me something, mister!” Let’s imagine what other opportunities are in store for them.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!  Christopher Perrien

All Souls Day – Social Networking of the 11th Century

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

I grew up in New Orleans where parochial school children enjoyed two entertaining annual holidays:

– the well advertised Mardi Gras, a Tuesday day-off in mid Winter

– the Wednesday after Halloween to celebrate All Saints or All Souls Day

The headlines are occupied by the rise of oil, the fall of the dollar, the kick-off to the presidential race (so far it’s been preseason) and the finale to the sub-prime collapse.  Amidst the dour mainstream news, consider the escalation of the Microsoft vs Google campaign which should influence our own 2008 planning: 

- Microsoft invested $240mm investment in Facebook (1.6% stake) last week and Google countered immediately with an open standards alliance, Open Social, including LinkedIn, Ning, and Orkut (Google’s own social network).  Google does not want Facebook to become the operating system of social networks.  Quick aside: News Corp.’s 2006 100% acquisition of MySpace for $580mm looks brilliant.

Are we blindly returning to Act II of the dot-bom?  I think not and I believe that Social Networking or Community Building as promoted by Facebook and others could be adopted by our own kinds of enterprises to better connect our widely dispersed knowledge bases: employees, customers, partners, supplier in the spirit of ‘What if we knew what we all knew?!’

Right now I have eleven (11) applications opened to manage my work inside and outside of the firewall: email, sms, two types of instant messaging, two browsers, plus the associated tools for calendar, address book, word processing and a mobile phone.  I would value a workspace where I could link all of my activities to ‘connect those who know with those who need to know, regardless of their employer.  I see a Facebook-like model helping me to achieve this.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, is quoted in Monday’s NY Times:  “One of the things to say, very clearly, is that social networks are very real.  If you are of a certain age, you sort of dismiss this as college kids or teenagers.  But this is very real.”  Google closed over $700 today, up 54% YTD.

‘Start small, grow fast, get involved‘ might be a productive way to explore the potential of Social Networking or Innovation Networking in 2008.   No holiday required.

Perrien