September 23rd, 2009, 3 Comments »
I’m at Web of Change, so updates are likely to be pretty intermittent this week. On my way up–I took the train for the first time from Victoria to Nanaimo–I read the latest issue of Wired magazine. In it, there’s a really fascinating article about the placebo effect, and how, remarkably, it’s increasing:
Why are inert pills suddenly overwhelming promising new drugs and established medicines alike? The reasons are only just beginning to be understood. A network of independent researchers is doggedly uncovering the inner workingsÃ¢â‚¬â€and potential therapeutic applicationsÃ¢â‚¬â€of the placebo effect. At the same time, drugmakers are realizing they need to fully understand the mechanisms behind it so they can design trials that differentiate more clearly between the beneficial effects of their products and the body’s innate ability to heal itself. A special task force of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health is seeking to stem the crisis by quietly undertaking one of the most ambitious data-sharing efforts in the history of the drug industry. After decades in the jungles of fringe science, the placebo effect has become the elephant in the boardroom.
The article uses a term I hadn’t heard before: nocebo. Here’s an explanation:
Like any other internal network, the placebo response has limits. It can ease the discomfort of chemotherapy, but it won’t stop the growth of tumors. It also works in reverse to produce the placebo’s evil twin, the nocebo effect. For example, men taking a commonly prescribed prostate drug who were informed that the medication may cause sexual dysfunction were twice as likely to become impotent.
Handy term, eh?
3 Comments »
May 23rd, 2008, 10 Comments »
The first session at VidFest today was Wired editor Chris Anderson, talking about the power and inevitability of free. The following are my somewhat incomplete notes:
Free allows you to be profligate in your resources. It enables a massive global experiment.
Economics has very little to say about abundance and free. What are the economics of free?
Starts by talking about King Gillette, the guy who invented disposal razors. See his Wired article for all the details.
You give away something to establish a pattern of use and a lifetime of revenue. See also cell phones.
Wired costs $10 a year, less than 10% of what it costs them to produce the magazine. Writing a cheque indicates ‘an expression of true interest’.
The Wired model is ‘third party pays’. In this case, the third party is the advertiser.
How would the world change if electricity was free? You could desalinate water for no cost.
Three inputs that are becoming free in today’s world: processing power, storage and bandwidth.
Thus far, this is pretty much a live presentation of his Wired article.
Technologists need to make technology cheap, easy and ubiquitous. The world will tell us what it’s for.
A terabtye costs about $300 – $350. Anderson’s 9-year-old has twice the storage of Wired magazine. “The market price of storage is zero.”
The marginal cost of reaching an audience member is zero. The old economic model drove us to invent mass media on TV. Hence, “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Nobody loves Raymond. Everybody only likes Raymond.
“The things we share are relatively banal.” We disagree about the things we love–we love the things that mark us as individuals.
Today it costs 0.25 of a cent to stream a video to one person for one hour.
YouTube violates every of traditional television.
3-D printing is a physical example of ‘complexity is free’ moving into the physical world.
“In a competitive market, price falls to the marginal cost.” “Anything that can become digital, will become digital. And everything that is digital, will become free.”
New forms of free that leverage digital economics:
- Freemium: give away 99% to sell 1%. See, for example Flickr’s basic and pro model.
- Labour exchange: consumers create something of value in exchange for free goods and services. For example, Google’s 411 service provides voice recognition training for their software.
- Gift economy: open source and Wikipedia.
Attention and reputation are the new scarcities.
He subsequently applies these ideas of free to games.
He’s a great speaker, very smart and engaging. Having read his article and blog, there wasn’t much new for me in this talk. Judging by the audience’s reaction, though, his ideas are very fresh for a lot of people.
10 Comments »
April 23rd, 2008, 2 Comments »
I bought the latest issue of Wired magazine. Why do I only read magazines when I travel? I’m not sure why, but that’s not the point of this post.
Reading through the magazine, I encountered a full-page ad for Delta Airlines. I snapped a photo with my incredibly old and lame camera phone:
If you can’t read that (and I don’t blame you), the main text goes like this:
NO BOGUS “BOOKING FEES”
SKIP TRAVEL WEBSITE BOOKING FEES AT DELTA.COM
First off, that’s a various dubious use of quotation marks. That usage is usually meant to imply that something is not what as it’s described, as in:
Our “free” flight that we bought using Air Miles cost $300.
It’s not like a booking fee is actually something else. It may be questionable business practice (though I don’t think it is for the big travel sites), but it’s still just a plain old fee for booking a flight.
Questionable quotes aside, I thought that was a bizarre message to feature in Delta’s ad in Wired. Booking fees usually are quite small, and they’ve actually been around forever. That’s how travel agents make (or used to make) money.
Is That Really a Differentiator?
Do they really think that Wired readers would eschew the obvious benefits of the Travelocitys (plural agreement? Arg!) and Expedias just to save a few bucks?
Other full page ads in Wired are for cigars, executive class travel with Air Canada and Hyatt hotels. I’m not implying that Wired readers are rich, but other ads suggest that they’re willing to pay for luxury goods.
I just don’t see ‘no booking fees’ as a compelling differentiator? Surely Delta has other offers that would be more compelling.
2 Comments »
March 5th, 2008, 8 Comments »
Kevin Kelly is a great thinker, and his latest piece about surviving as a creative person is no exception. He says that every artist needs to find and foster 1000 True Fans:
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans…
Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day’s wages per year in support of what you do. That “one-day-wage” is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let’s peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.
This is a great, evolved perspective on the Long Tail. It offers a tactile plan that any artist ought to be able to get their head around. The post also reminded me of two terrific articles by John Perry Barlow, published in Wired while Kelly was editor (I think): The Economy of Ideas and the Next Economy of Ideas.
I also like one of Kelly’s caveats:
Not every artist is cut out, or willing, to be a nurturer of fans. Many musicians just want to play music, or photographers just want to shoot, or painters paint, and they temperamentally don’t want to deal with fans, especially True Fans. For these creatives, they need a mediator, a manager, a handler, an agent, a galleryist — someone to manage their fans. Nonetheless, they can still aim for the same middle destination of 1,000 True Fans. They are just working in a duet.
That’s easier said than done, as there are far more artists than there are willing agents and mediators. I’ve seen many an artistic endeavour fail because the creative folks weren’t willing or didn’t know how to promote their project. The most successful artists I know are not necessarily the most talented, but they’re definitely smart, dogged marketers of their own work.
Reading the article, I wondered if I was a True Fan of anybody. I think I’ve read all of Nicholson Baker’s books. I’ve bought all of the Cowboy Junkies’ albums, and seen them four or five times. I can’t think of anybody else. One good indicator of whether you’re a true fan of an artist is if you have them on your Wikipedia watch list.
Who are you a True Fan of?
8 Comments »
December 19th, 2007, Comments Off
I’m currently listening to a really fascinating conversation in Wired between David Byrne and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. It’s an unedited, roving chat about Radiohead’s new album, their unusual release strategy, the industry and so forth:
Yorke: The way we termed it was “our leak date.” Every record for the last four Ã¢â‚¬â€ including my solo record Ã¢â‚¬â€ has been leaked. So the idea was like, we’ll leak it, then.
Byrne: Previously there’d be a release date, and advance copies would get sent to reviewers months ahead of that.
There are text excerpts of the interview, but the audio files are way better. You get to hear them thinking about and stumbling over and revising their answers. They both seem quite unguarded–they’re just two musicians chatting about their work.
October 31st, 2007, 5 Comments »
You know the rest. Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired (when did they change their website? It’s a vast improvement), has posted a rant about PR people randomly spamming him with media releases. He’s gone so far as to publish the email addresses of 329 people who have wasted his time in the last month. As you might imagine, he’s sparked a wildfire of discussion.
Good for him. There’s far too much of this useless send-release-to-a-big-list in the industry, and it needs to go away. That ol’ nugget about public relations being about relationships is 100% true. You don’t build relationships via spam, you build spite and loathing.
Could Chris have taken the high road and not posted the email addresses? Probably, but he wouldn’t have caused the subsequent, compelling conversation.
There are a ton of comments on Chris’s post, and I wanted to extract a few that resonated with me. They’re after the jump:
5 Comments »
September 30th, 2007, 7 Comments »
At least, we certainly can’t find them on Gozo. I’ve looked in every bookstore I could find, and though they have a breadth of English magazines, including some computer ones, there’s no sign of Wired (of course, I’ve had that problem in Vancouver, too). Not surprisingly, there are also no NHL season preview and hockey pool magazines around, either.
The same goes for the Twizzlers, and licorice products in general (James and Monique, this doesn’t get you off the hook–we need to stockpile!). I can’t speak with the same certainty about the hand sanitizer, but our searches thus far have come up empty.
Many thanks to our latest guest who delivered them from the Great White North.
7 Comments »