JCL Blog

Cool or Fool?

Some time ago I wrote a post about the Apple Brand Promise where I proposed that the magic of Steve Jobs was making his customers feel cool for buying his products.  I still think people buy Apple products because of the way it changes how others view them.  People feel cool when holding an Apple device and not because it makes them more productive or smarter and clearly not richer, but because the Apple brand promise says cool people buy Apple devices.

Cool is almost impossible to fake, and there is no formula for becoming cool.  Just ask any rock band, super model, or San Francisco restaurant owner -- cool is as impossible to predict as stock price.  

Cool is also impossible to copy.  Fake Rolex watches will never be cool.  No one is going to remember the band that tried to be like A Flock of Seagulls.

Those who have been touched by the ferry godmother of cool all know down deep that the chances of becoming cool are about the same as winning the lottery.  Feel lucky if you win, but don't start thinking it was because you deserved it.

Which brings us to Microsoft.  Microsoft makes people productive and enables them to keep more of their money in their pockets.  It is rare that one feels cool with a Microsoft product, but who cares!  I will take smart over cool any day.  Smart matters, smart is lasting, people who are smart got there on more than the luck of the draw.  The Microsoft brand promise should be associated with smart -- not cool.

I think many of us have lost track of what the Microsoft Brand Promise is.  If you know, feel free to post a reply.  

When using W8 the other day (I mostly use W7), I did not feel smart or cool!



Could This Possibly Work for Amex and HP?

“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.”

-Steve Martin

I try to make these posts positive.  The world has enough negativity without me adding to the stinking pile.  However, not long ago I got the most unbelievably dumb direct mail piece from American Express. Not wanting to go negative, I held my tongue.  

Today, I got an equally rediculous piece from HP, and here I am -- joining the screaming hoard!  

That is right, American Express sent me a 30 inch long remote control speedboat!  To buy an equivalent item on Amazon?  $30+!  

Any company doing a direct mail campaign where the item shipped is over $30 must have over $50 invested by the time it hits my door -- particularly with the custom box, shipping...  Any company spending that kind of money per item, must have done their targetting homework... right?


I am already an American Express customer!  One would think that before sending this list off to the mailing house, Amex would have done a quick compare to the current customer list.  

Hmmm... maybe they were targetting current customers specifically.  After all, the name and address matches exactly to my statement.  Why would anyone spend that kind of money to reach out to their current customers?  I have no idea.  American Express must have one talented advertising agency.

According to AdAge, Ogilvy and Mather New York is the agency of record for American Express, who is the 9th largest advertiser in the country with an annual budget of over $2 Billion.  These guys must be super smart -- do you think this campaign could possibly work?

HP and BBDO - Just Keeping Up

Not to be left out, HP sent me a remote control Ferari.  Now this is a bit more modest, less that a foot long, and probably in the under $20 price range.  Also, we are an on again, off again HP customer and partner, so getting in front of us could make a difference in our purchasing habits.  Lower cost, more upside... but I still have a hard time believing that this campaign could even pay for itself.  Incidentally, HP's ad budget is only $1 Billion.

I didn't respond to either and my kids looked at the plastic crap and shrugged.

What on earth will the big spenders think of next?


More Fun than Ever

I started racing sailboats when I was eight years old.  All I needed to do was start, and the rest took care of itself.  I wanted to sail all of the time and I pretty much did that with the exception of a short time when I lived in Spokane -- where there was very little sailboat racing going on.

Motivation is easy when you are doing what you love to do.

Later in life I took some time off from sailboat racing and before I new it more than 10 years had gone by.  I just woke up one day and realized that I was not doing what I loved to do, so I went out and got a little boat and started learning how to race again.  Now I am having more fun than ever, even though I am really not very good anymore.  A few weekends ago, while doing our best to finish something other than last, I turned to Lindsey and said that this was the most fun I had had in a very long time.

No matter how busy you are, time continues to tick away.

(In case you are wondering, this picture is not of Lindsey and me because we don't have a picture of us sailing yet.  Soon though.)

Anyway, this kind of thing seems to be happening in other parts of my life too.  I started my company some 16 years ago and it was a blast.  It was all I could think about and the team was great and the problems were huge and we had more fun than ever.  We learned new things, did our best, and the company grew and we did too.  

Lately, I have been thinking alot about new things and how much fun they are to start.  Right now I am working on a new project with my daughter and it too is more fun than ever.  She is super smart, fun to be around and every day is a thrill.  Each day the time zips by and at the end I cannot wait for the next day to start.  

Always work with people you like to be around.

In all of my adventures there have been wonderful people that have put in tremendous effort and I owe each of them for making things possible.  They inspired me to be my best, taught me new things, and propelled me forward.  

There is no way to get there by yourself.

Let's Rein In the American Taliban

I lived in the Philippines during the height of Marcos' power, including the years where he ruled the country with the power of the military instead of the power of the people.  It is true that he did not need martial law to cause his political opponents to disappear, he had been doing that for years already, but he did need it to exceed the term limits imposed by the constitution.

It is interesting to note that the main justification for his declaration of martial law (1972-1981) was the communist rebels in the southern part of the country.  Leaders wishing to implement desperate measures manage to create desperate times for justification and communism was the villain we feared the most then.  Even though we were aware of Maros' tactics, and knew they conflicted with our values, Marcos was supported by the US government.

In 1987, U2 and Amnesty International collaborated to bring attention to the plight of the citizens of many central and south American nations who's life and liberty were under threat from lawless dictators.  The campaign honored the Mothers of the Disappeared, and was critical of the way the US government supported dictators in countries including Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, and Nicaragua that had turned on their own citizens - taking them away in the night to a fate of torture and death.  No one knows the number, but is likely that these dictators captured and killed thousands of people they did not like -- all with the endorsement of the US government, and all without basic legal process.

Today the New York Times reported that in September 2011 we joined those dictators as a country where our president kills citizens he does not like without due process.  

For what was apparently the first time since the Civil War, the United States government had carried out the deliberate killing of an American citizen as a wartime enemy and without a trial.

I fear that this article is the best possible spin we can put on our actions.  Even with the ugliest parts papered over and painted in bright friendly colors, it is a frightening story that we all hope is not the start of our descent into the horrors of Marcos and Pinochet.  

Also in the NY Times today is an editorial calling for the repeal of the military force law.  This law, passed right after 9/11 makes it easier for our president to do the things we do not believe in.  We must repeal this law and make it harder for our president to kill our citizens.

Journalist Jeremy Scahill has been working to expose these actions for several years now and just released his documentary Dirty Wars at Sundance this year.  I was lucky enough to see it and I recommend it highly.  The movie chronicles the work of Scahill and by the time the credits rolled, all of us at the screening were quite fearful that our government would kill him next.  Very scary stuff indeed.  Here is a review of the movie in The Guardian.  Dirty Wars does a very good job of investigating and documenting the work of the "American Taliban"; bearded US Special Forces teams that dispatch people on kill lists with very little regard for collateral damage.  

It was an incident in Gardez, Afghanistan that got Scahill started on the trail of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the terrifying nighttime raiders in the direct control of the White House.

 In Gardez, they interviewed survivors of that violent raid on the night of 12 February 2010. After watching his brother and his wife, his sister and his niece killed by US special forces, Mohammed Sabir was handcuffed on the ground. He watched, helpless, as the US soldiers dug the bullets out of his wife's corpse with a knife. 

The most frightening part of the movie is an interview with a member of the American Taliban (JSOC) where he says that "we have built a hell of a hammer and are out looking for nails".  Even with the scrambled face and voice it is a credible warning from within our military that the ever expanding kill lists are out of control.  We started with a kill list of 7 people right after 9/11, by the time we invaded Iraq the kill list was the 55 people on the deck of cards (I am guessing this is 52 cards, 2 jokers, and Sadam), and now the list numbers over 3,000 -- with some unknown number of Americans included.  

Have we become like those dictators we supported in the 70s and 80s who used fear to justify desperate measures?  Even though I was only ten years old at the time, I remember talking to a Filipino employee of my dad's church about the men that would appear in the middle of the night and take people away.  Marcos used the fear of communist rebels to justify many terrible human rights offenses.  Now, 40 years later, the rebels in the south are not called communists anymore but members of an Islamist group called al Queda -- the very people we are the most afraid of.  Fortunately, the Filipino people overthrew Marcos in 1986 with the people power revolution.  They have not let their leaders use fear to compromise their values and as a result their citizens are safe at night.  

I would like to be safe a night too, so let's rein in the American Taliban.  

More Drinks and Less Advertisements Please

I like movies.  All kinds.  I like watching them and talking about them and recently I have gotten into documentaries, but that is another story.  

On this the day of the Oscars however, I am thinking about how much worse the experience of actually going to the movies has gotten.  One would think that in the face of increased competition the movie studios and theaters would try harder to attract customers.  Instead they have come to the conclusion that I am going to sit there and watch half an hour of crap before the movie starts.  I don't know about other people, but I don't respond well to being force fed advertisements while strapped into an airplane seat, but have you ridden the train lately?

I don't respond well to the previews that cannot be turned off on DVDs either.  And when the movie on Netflix just starts -- without advertisements or previews -- I get a warm feeling of calm and satisfaction.

Yes we have more options than ever before and no, the movie studios are not giving me any compelling reason to go to the theater.  My house being a mess and my wanting to get out of it and go to a movie does not count as something the movie studios has done to be more competitive -- but if you give me a minute I bet I can come up with a reason my messiness is their fault.

There is one exception however.  Just about every big city now has a handful of theaters that have comfortable chairs, serve food and drinks, and charge a fortune -- but they have reserved seating, so you can hang out at the bar right up to the start of the actual movie.  That way if they are silly enough to try to force advertisements on you, there is an escape.  I really hope this trend continues and the number of movies available at this kind of theater goes up.  

Oh, and one more thing, there is a scene in Argo where the army guy at the airport picks up the phone and just dials Hollywood from Iran -- in 1979!  Come on, really!

Getting Organized for 2013

So February ends next week, making the year 1/6th over.  No time like the present to get organized for the year!  So I have changed the look and feel of this website and am putting some structure to the writing that I do.  

Here is a directory to the places that I will be posting things starting in 2013:

  • CSG Channels:  I run a company that offers marketing services to technology companies.  Accordingly, most of the posts on the jaycleon.com website have been tagged "Technology Marketing".  In 2013 you will find most of my thoughts about our services on the CSG Channels Blog.
  • New Trade Routes:  This year I started New Trade Routes to explore three focus areas including Integrated Systems, Virtual Currencies, and Vendor Relationship Managment.
  • New Trade Routes Foundation:  NTR is going to have a foundation and I am going to post most of my thinking about philanthropy there.
  • IN-Justice American Style: I find that these days just about everything I do somehow involves lawyers and our legal system.  So I am starting a new section of my web site called Injustice American Style -- where I will post thoughts about legal things.
  • My Blog: And in fact my blog will still get posts about all of the other things I write about including books, movies, politics, economics, sailing, boating and all kinds of other ramblings.

For 2012 and before you will have to wade through the jumbled mess of the blog on this site.

New Trade Routes Launched

I have been working for the past few months to create a new vehicle through which I can do the things I like to do most.  These include helping companies sell more stuff, and helping the universe by trying to make a difference.

You can read all about it here at New Trade Routes.

I still have my day job running CSG Channels, and this new project is complimentary to the work that I do there.  

New Trade Routes will enable me to be more focused in my philanthropy, and establish a way for me to do things that are not perfectly aligned with the work we do at CSG -- like helping start ups for example.

Please check it out and let me know if you have any questions.

IBM Gets It

It seems that just about every week I see something that reinforces how IBM is way out front in the customer centric-ness of big data.  Here is a great video they posted on YouTube showing what they are talking about when they say Smarter Marketing:

If you want a bit more of the IBM Smarter Marketing juice, they have a whole bunch of great content on this web site:IBM Smarter Planet: Marketing

Servants to the Old Stuff

I was recently fortunate to visit a beautiful log cabin on the Olympic peninsula.  The 100 year old structure was a great place to hide out in a nasty winter storm, and I can only imagine how much more safe it would have seemed before cars and cell phones.  While talking with the owners I was reminded of how owners of old stuff are both masters of and servants to their passion.  Masters in the sense that their name is on the title, servants in the sense that they are entrusted to preserve it for the next generation. 

So I asked them how often guests offer to buy the place and I was not surprised to learn that there has not been a single offer in over a decade.  I was not surprised because I have experienced the same thing with the Maris Pearl.  People come on board and marvel at the 68 year old machinery, and the extent to which we as its caretakers go to preserve it for the next generation.  Not a single person has ever suggested that they would like to be next in line for the responsibility.

When I tell people that old tugs are not hard to find or buy, no one ever takes the bait.  Here is a sistership of the Maris Pearl that is currently for sale in San Francisco.

Moats Walls and Protection Money

Castles had moats and walls to protect themselves from attacking enemies.  In the times of castles, precious resources were diverted from more productive uses for the building of these defenses because without them there was no point acquiring property when the bad guys could just come in and take it.  As the rule of law advanced, the need for the walls and moats decreased and eventually disappeared.   Resources were still diverted from productive uses because the rule of law was provided by the state and the state levied taxes to pay for defense.  Once the walls and the moats were extended to the borders of the state, the governance of the state became the biggest threat to property rights.  A successful state could stop the marauders at the border, but another citizen could get the blessing of the government to acquire property.  This could be on a small scale: thugs paying off the police to look the other way, or on a larger scale: Goldman Sachs draining the treasury for its own benefit.

Some communities have their own way of protecting property as we saw in The Godfather.  Once again the property owner had to divert resources (pay) for protection instead of more productive uses.  Even though the thought of the mafia seems like something quaint from the past, the dynamic is alive and well today.  Instead of tommy guns however, the current set of bandits wear suits and carry briefcases full of insurance policies and law suits.  And just as the mob mostly protected itself while putting on a good show of protecting its friends, lawyers and insurance companies protect themselves while pretending to protect their clients. 

Even though we like to think that we are safer today than back in the times of the castles, the murderous hoard is just as menacing today and the state is just as ill equipped to protect its citizens.  Having thought a fair amount about this kind of thing lately, I have come up with three potential strategies for our current times:

1)      Have Nothing to Protect:  I think this is the best strategy.  I do believe that people with nothing or very little to protect are the happiest.  In addition to the obvious negativity associated with time and energy spent on your defenses, it can be difficult to know who to trust. 

2)      Security Through Obscurity:  Just like guy said on the fishing trip about the attacking bear:  “I don’t have to outrun the bear, just my buddies!”  Applied to protecting property, the goal is to be a less attractive target than those around you.  This has one obvious weakness.  If you are attacked – you are pretty much dead.

3)      Become a Lawyer or Insurance Person:  If you can’t beat them… join ‘em.  If you are going to have property to protect, this is really the only way to do it.  It does have karmic consequences that could bring you back as a weasel or worse next time – so consider the consequences before going through door number 3.

Maybe that thing about the meek is right.  Just putting food on the table, a roof overhead, spending time with your family, and having friends you can trust – is riches enough.

Three Big Data Articles today

There are several good articles in the NY Times Sunday Business section today that serve to illustrate the coming world of Big Data.  

30% of customers opt in to driver monitoring.  This is Facebook meets car insurance.  I am amazed that this many people willingly subject themselves to this kind of monitoring.  Here is my post about how insurance companies have detached themselves from the basic concept of insurance.  In short, insurance companies are increasingly able to exit the insurance business.  They have always wanted to collect premiums, and not pay claims --- now they can do it.

Building snow skis from skier's DNA.  For $1,750 you can get custom skis made to your skiing DNA (not your biological DNA thank goodness).  It would be very interesting to know how unique the 1,000 pairs of skis this guy made last year are.  I would not be surprised if they all boil down to a dozen or less basic designs.  This kind of short run (run of 1 in this case) manufacturing brings to light IP that is actually protectable - the design process and the distribution of actual designs.  Very interesting.

Dr. Langer's Lab at MIT succeeds at tech transfer.  This one is a bit more of a stretch, but any new medical product involves a mountain of testing data and data proficiency and the cross over from one product to the next is indeed changing very fast due to better data management techniques.

Happy reading.

Good for Ford, Bad for Microsoft

When the rental car web site says Ford Taurus or equivalent I just groan.  Anyone who has done any traveling at all knows the feeling.  Just as fun as finding out your hotel room is next to the elevator winch room, or that your toothpaste blew up in your bag.  

Ford has been making a big push into the tech business.  Advertising on all of the geek sites and pulling out all of the stops at CES.  The revival of the Mustang has been well executed too.  I have rented a few Mustang convertibles while on vacation and really loved them.

Getting your product in front of potential new customers in a real life trial is risky because it produces both potential new customers but if the product is not well matched to the customer, it can easily eliminate potential customers.

In the last two weeks I have been dealt the Taurus card twice and I have to say they have been great.  What a surprise!  Stylish, well put together, and fun to drive.  The rental introduction certainly worked for me with Ford.

Not so lucky with Microsoft and Sync.  I was eager to try out Sync and it is a disaster.  I got it to connect to my phone by bluetooth, but it would sometimes work and other times not work.  The user interface is not intuitive and any of the voice activation stuff will require half a day spent with the manual.  

This is just one more situation where Microsoft shows up on the consumer radar as a company that just cannot make products that work -- let alone that are fashionable.  Lucky for Ford, I have not found other auto computer systems to be all that easy to use either.  So maybe Microsoft Sync will not prevent people from buying Fords.  But Microsoft Sync will turn people off to other Microsoft products.

How Airlines Use Big Data

I cannot remember the last time I was on a plane with a noticeable amount of empty seats.  I also have not seen overbooked planes and crews working to buy back seats.  I also have been impressed with the on time performance of planes I have been flying on.  If you are interested in this kind of thing, there is a great web site tracking this (in the US anyway) and it turns out the number support my experience.  Load factor up, on time performance up, and guess what else - prices are up too.

There was a good article in the NY Times today about how Delta is doing this -- with better data management  There is so much hype about big data but this is a good reminder that through better data management practices -- everyone can win.  Unless you were counting on a few empty seats around you on your next flight.

American Style (Big) Graft

I recently read Bailout by Neil Barofsky.  I am not going to post a review because I really cannot recommend the book.  It is a rant by a guy trying to counter his fear that the people in DC that he crossed will be successful in making sure he never works again - as they undoubtedly threatened over and over.  I mostly agree with this review in Forbes: don't read it because it is a liberal rant.

Despite this, one part of the book is just stuck in my head.  Treasury a secretary Geithner and sidekick Kashkari said over and over again that the bailout terms could not be changed (made better for the taxpayer) because some of the banks may not take the bailout - and it was very important that all of the banks take the bailout.  Why would we want so badly to push our scarce resources onto banks that don't want the funds? 

Well, clearly I am one of those guys that is the last to realize that the joke is on me.  The Wall Streeters (Geithner Et. Al.) were shoveling money to their buddies and needed a dozen non buddies on the receiving end to make it less obvious.  If they got everyone to take the bailout, no one could cry foul. 

I do some business in developing countries and from time to time get into discussions about corruption.  When I say that they should clean up their corruption, they answer:  so should you!  I used to think that we had a thread of moral authority to hold onto.  In fact we don't. We have so much money that when Paulson/Geithner/Kashkari want to give $50 billion to their buddies, they hide it in a $800 billion dollar bailout!  Yow!

It will be very interesting to see who replaces Geithner. I still maintain this is the most important cabinet appointment Obama has on his plate. 

One last note about Barofksy.  In keeping with my political schizophrenia, I am a fiscal conservative that can't seem to vote for a republican lately.   Based solely on his book, I think that Barofsky is a good guy.  I just hope we have no need for his services anytime soon.

Nest Delivers Perfection

What a difference a year makes.  Last year I tried to do a little home automation.  First I bought a whole bunch of Zwave stuff including a Mi Casa Verde Vera 2, a Trane remote energy management thermostat, and a pile of light switches.  I spent a couple of weekends trying to get the stuff to work - it actually did for about 10 minutes, and then the controller got corrupted somehow, the new firmware had to be installed from a Win XP machine.... and well, yah.  

So I thought, maybe the high priced route?  So I signed up with Schlage for their Zwave controller and paid service (Mi Casa Verde is free after you buy the controller) and another few weekends of screwing around and the project was abandoned.  The ironic thing is that my old thermostat was programmable, and the Trane needed the controller to be programmable, so for most of 2012 my functionality was worse than 2011 and before.

Friday I put in the Nest thermostat.  Done in 10 mins.  I can control it from my iPad, my Android phone, or any PC.  Done.  Awesome.  

Now it is learning to program itself from our behavior.  Awesome.

I cannot wait to see what Tony Fadell and his team introduce next.  No matter what it is --- I will buy it.  It is beautiful, it works, and it is an absolute pleasure to interact with the company.

About that interaction.  I have never called them, or emailed them, or tweeted to them, barely had to read the instructions.... so what is this "interact with the company"?

The thought and care that the Nest team put into their product speaks volumes.  It is just as magical to see it on my wall as it was to hold 1,000 songs in my pocket with the first iPod.

I am sure many companies strive for this kind of perfection... but almost no one can do it.

Way to go Tony and the Nest team.

Here is a picture of the screwdriver that comes with the thermostat.  Need I say more?

Yes, But Does The Advertising Work?

The front page of the SundayBusiness section in the NY Times carries a piece by Natasha Singer about Frank Addante's Rubicon Project, a real time trading market for internet adds.  This feature length article dutifully talks about the size of the industry ($2B in display ads bought by auction in the US this year), and other players in the business (BlueKai), the mechanics of the business (cookies), and consumer response (mostly they don't care but the advocates think they should), and advertiser response (apparently they like it a lot).  The author then wheels through a number of anecdotes that illustrate how the auction system can be used.  Anyone dedicated enough to make it to the end of the article is not rewarded with a conclusion but the now tired trope that the customer is the product.  

I am on this rant about the article not because I think it shouldn't have been written or placed prominently in the Sunday edition but because it could have been so much more.  No wonder newspapers are threatened!  So much of the content is disappointing.  Newspapers say that their advantage over bloggers is the interplay between the reporter and the editor that results in better content.  Where was the editor on this one?  

Here are some questions that I would have wanted to see surface in the article: 

  1. Does the targeted advertising featured in the article work?
  2. Is there a causal link between these auctions increased consumer tracking?
  3. Have there been any actual cases where people  have been harmed by the tracking?

 Those seem like pretty basic questions if you ask me.

Here are some other things a reader might like if interested in this subject:

 Anyone want to guess how this article got into the NY Times?  Answer:  The PR firm from Rubicon wrote it.

Uncorking Wireless

Not long ago most WiFi routers were open.  People did not bother to secure them because they did not believe they had anything to worry about.  Then came FireSheep, an extension to the FireFox browser, that showed everyone how they were exposed on public and open WiFi connections.

Now most WiFi routers are secure and I bet people like AT&T and Comcast and Verizon think that is a pretty good thing.  After all, they are selling bandwidth in fixed bundles and no one is maximizing the amount they use.  

Enter the OpenWireless movement.  This group has set about to establish new standards through which the vulnerabilities exposed by FireSheep can be addressed and promoting the idea that everyone should share their internet connection.  Quite a few organizations are supporting the initiative including the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Others including Open Garden are introducing new technologies that make it easier to share bandwidth between devices or people.

This is important because it is yet another way that the Internet can route around obsticles.  The Internet is naturally suited to find the best (easiest / cheapest) way round a blockage and we all need to do what we can to support that kind of thinking.  If the Information Superhighway becomes a toll road, we all lose.

See the Ice - While You Still Can

I was lucky enough to see the big glaciers in action in 2008 when we did the inside passage trip including Glacier Bay.  If you have not been to SE Alaska - I highly recommend it.

This is a picture I took of the Marjorie glacier in Glacier Bay.

The movie Chasing Ice, opening this weekend in Seattle at the Egyptian Theater, is an incredible film that gets you right up close to many of the big glaciers in the northern hemisphere.  It is a good reminder of the absolute majesty of our earth, and an inspiration to go and see for yourself.

If you are not a documentary person, check out this review by Roger Ebert.  He will help you get past any preconceived notions of this film genre.

Earlier this week I attended an advanced screening of the movie in San Francisco and met James Balog and learned more about the project and Extreme Ice Survey, his foundation that is continuing the work chronicled in the film.  Mr. Balog and his dedicated crew are modern day heroes and people we can all look up to as they work to do something for us and for our planet.  

You just may find yourself feeling like you would like to do something for the cause after watching the film.  If so, there is a donate button on the Extreme Ice Survey website -- making it super easy to take action.  


Let's Get Started - You Know, Now!

I just had the pleasure of attending the Audacious Philanthropy conference in Portland.  It was an electric collection of 300 people getting jacked up about being changemakers.  With a limitless supply of things that need changing there was a whole lot to talk about.

Education is my big issue and many people at the conference shared my desire to improve education in the US of A.  Some people wanted to change the current educators, some wanted supplement them, and some wanted to replace them all together.  I didn't do any kind of survey, but three quarters of the people at the conference seemed to be on the education track.  Next most prevalent was talk about SVP itself, how to get the message out, how to grow it, and how to increase effectiveness.   Finally, there was a fair amount of discussion about the way many organizations pursue their missions and at the same time work together towards a common goal -- otherwise know as collective impact.

My favorite line was from Matt Flannery, Founder of Kiva when he said that he learned more on the first day after he decided to start Kiva than he did in the entire year he spent writing the business plan.  Imagine how much more we could have done if we started a year earlier. (not a direct quote, but more or less)

Dan Pallotta did a great job presenting his ideas about how philanthropy is broken in our country.  As with many great speakers he had a way of boiling down big thoughts into easy to remember sentences.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • If we DON'T want to solve problems, we have a system that works remarkably well.
  • Non profits is where we do our penance for making money.
  • Never underestimate the ability of humans to not think about something.
  • It took us 50 years to put wheels on suitcases.
Here are a few other items from my notes:
  • Read "Charity Case" by Dan Pallotta
  • Look into the National Student Clearinghouse for effectiveness data
  • Teachers are surprised and inspired to change when they see the effectiveness data
  • All schools can track student performance and all schools say they cannot
  • Schools hate data because they have been shamed by it (over and over)
  • Check out HomeKeeper and the involvement of Salesforce.com
  • Check out The Learning Accelerator and Scott Ellis and Innosite.

It was a great event.  I will go again next year without a doubt.



My Favorite Line from Obama's Speech

My favorite line from Obama's acceptance speech is:

I am hopeful tonight because I’ve seen the spirit at work in America. I’ve seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors, and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job.

I have had the joy of knowing people that do these things.  They cannot be recognized enough.  At my company we have had people donate vacation hours to a co-worker with cancer, deliver food and clothing to typhoon victims, and collect gifts for less fortunate children during the holidays.  

These people are true American heroes.  I am proud to have had the chance to work with them.  These last four years have been tough for most of us in America and along the way we have had to beat back the looters and other self dealers.  These parasites are not just on Wall Street, but all around us.  Let's not let the shadow of people who would put themselves first take us down.

Here is a link to the full transcript.  No matter your politics, it is worth reading.