For Your Radar: The “Economics Of Abundance”

Canary_coal_mineIn a nutshell: Economics, economies and economic theory have all been based on economics of scarcity. That is, scarcity drives the “laws” of economics. A number of things have hit the radar over the last few months that are of note:

Chris Anderson (author of “The Long Tail”): The Economics of Abundance — The speech that Anderson made at Pop!Tech this year.

Mike Masnick: The Scarcity Myth

Nick Carr: Knockoffs roil Second Life – A great example of what happens when one tries to force-fit an economic model based on scarcity into an environment where information is free.

David Hornik: Tough Choices

This idea is going to hit the mainstream press and boardrooms in a big way in 2007.

photo credit. firedoglake

Google’s Marissa Mayer Talks About Google’s Strategy At The Harvard Cyberposium

This morning am at Harvard’s Cyber|West conference, which is running concurrently with the Cyberposium. Keynote was by Google’s Marissa Mayer, talking about Google’s strategy. Many of her points tied to the same points that Eric Schmidt made at Web 2.0 earlier this week, and echoed the theme that “although Google’s process appears chaotic, our strategy is not.” Their strategy ties to four main points:

  • More Content
  • Easier Computing
  • Personalization
  • Better Search

More on these below.

“More Content”

  • The web is important, and indexing books is also important. Books are (usually) vetted, fact-checked. “Google Book Search is “our moon shot.”
  • In 10 years, all digital information online and searchable
  • Google is developing page-turning robots that turn pages, take photos, then do OCR (optical character recognition) of the words on the page, which can then be indexed.
  • Google Earth is also an example of “more content.” Satellite image + user-tagged locations are important, and a melding of Google-created content and user created content.
  • Branching out more and more about more types of information

“Easier Computing”

  • If easier to use computers, people will use google more
  • Muni wifi…when people have free access, they use the internet more
  • “What’s good for the web is good for google”
  • “Google Pack” – google toolbar, desktop, picasa, google earth, etc., and bundle them into a single download, three clicks to set up
  • Google docs and spreadsheets … “easier to create documents and spreadsheets”


  • “Implicit search”…bring interesting content without asking for it
  • Personalized homepage … make it your own
  • Gadgets, API to create, able to syndicate (can add to own homepage)
  • Google notebook … research tool
  • Custom search engine

Why are we doing all these things?

Common theme ties all the issues initiatives together…”although our efforts look chaotic, they all tie to the four key themes in our strategy”


Q: There are a lot of opportunities around social networking…but outside Orkut, there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on
A: Our social networking efforts have been well-recieved, and we’re the social network of choice in a particular geography (e.g. Brazil and India for Orkut). If you look at YouTube and Google Video, they are social networking sites. Content creation and socialization go hand-in-hand. When we look at these applications (GV, docs, spreadsheets, etc.), we make it easy to share them with your contacts, AND publish to the world if you choose to. We have intrinsic social networking coming in more products. “Content creation is a social act.”

Q: Why don’t all the products all work together?
A: We develop in parallel, see what works, then integrate over time.

Q: How is Google advertising different?
A: We have several hundred thousand advertisers. With text-based ads, we lowered the cost of production (instead of a graphic production house to spend several weeks). We also increased the relevance.

Q: What aspect of the business model is tied to others building tools on Google’s tools, and allow developers to use Google as a platform?
A: Gadgets–we do have the ability for companies to use us as a distribution platform. Google Web Toolkit…takes Java, turns to it Javascript to run inside the browser?

Q: Strategy on going local? How do you turn online search to offline purchase?
A: We have been looking at how we can reach out to various small merchants. 1) Local business Center, where businesses can provide hours, location, delivery region, etc. We also learned that a lot of small businesses don’t have web pages, but have click-to-call, which allows the offline business to facilitate contact with businesses that might not have websites.

Q: What are you doing with podcasting?
A: Doing a lot of work in speech-to-text in research, to enable automated indexing of podcasts.

Q: Personalization…does it mean the end of privacy?
A: The amount of privacy that as user needs can be decided by them. We learned our lesson with the privacy firestorm around Gmail. It’s important to adhere to policy transparency around all our products, to tell people what we know about them. For example, you can click and see your search history. We try to be very transparent about how the matching happens between email text and the ads.

Other points…
“There’s no such thing as a ‘success failure’ on the internet…that is, there’s no case where an offering is so successful that it crashes down. once something has great success, we can find a way to monetize it, through advertising, through subscriptions, through other models.

She also spoke about “Extreme Ironing.”

Wanna Buy A Hat?

…otherwise known as “marketing with both eight barrels.”

Rachel Lyra Hospodar is a ridiculously talented artist across a number of media: paintings, prints, clothing, hats, you name it, she does it.

She creates.

One of the challenges in making a living being truly creative, however, is that if you are creating something that is novel, no-one knows to look for it. If the world has never envisioned “an emotionally informative and yet strangely accurate street and transit map of San Francisco and its environs,” no one will ever Google it. That’s where the “getting the word out” part of the process needs to begin.

So, what’s Rachel doing? How about…

Are you using all the tools at your disposal to get the word out about the cool stuff that you’re doing? You could be. None of the tools and techniques that are being used as part of the Medium Reality global microbrand are expensive, or difficult to do. None of them require any arcane knowledge. They just require a dollop of commitment, week in and week out.

Now, go buy a hat.

Bonus scene:

Nigel Tufnel: [on what he would do if he couldn’t be a rock star] Well, I suppose I could, uh, work in a shop of some kind, or… or do, uh, freelance, uh, selling of some sort of, uh, product. You know…

Marty DiBergi: A salesman?

Nigel Tufnel: A salesman, like maybe in a, uh, haberdasher, or maybe like a, uh, um… a chapeau shop or something. You know, like, “Would you… what size do you wear, sir?” And then you answer me.

Marty DiBergi: Uh… seven and a quarter.

Nigel Tufnel: “I think we have that.” See, something like that I could do.

Marty DiBergi: Yeah… you think you’d be happy doing something like-…

Nigel Tufnel: “No; we’re all out. Do you wear black?” See, that sort of thing I think I could probably… muster up.

Marty DiBergi: Do you think you’d be happy doing that?

Nigel Tufnel: Well, I don’t know – wh-wh-… what’re the hours?

source: IMDB

(disclosure: rachel is not a client, is a friend, and this post is uncompensated and unsolicited. however, i think the smarts and energy that are being put into making “medium reality” a real reality are phenomenal.)

Go Vote

Heinlein said it best:

“If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.”

Hello. My name is Squidy.

My name is Squidy.
Originally uploaded by christophercarfi.

The seduction starts simply enough, as soon as you sit down at the table. It starts with a spiral-bound menu, a roughly-drawn caricature, and a simple statement: “My name is Squidy.”

You look around, and realize there are more pictures on the walls, framed as if they are fine art.

You open the cover, and find the first page of the menu. It says:

Tawan’s menu
Originally uploaded by christophercarfi.

My name is Tawan. That means “The Sun” in Thai, and this is my restaurant. My parents opened the restaurant in 1997, and named it after me. You may see me hanging around at the back table sometimes, studying, playing, drawing, or maybe eating. If you see me at the table, be sure to say hi.

I love drawing and creating my characters for people to see. You will find many of my drawings on the menu and some are available on t-shirts that you can buy. I hope you enjoy my mom’s food, it’s the best, just be sure not to order hot unless you can handle it.

The Tawan’s menu is a fantastic example of “social currency.” Or “ooze,”as Hugh McLeod and Johnnie Moore refer to the concept. (“Ooze” standing for “objects of sociability.”)

Deb thinks the menu is pretty cool, too.

So, why am I writing about Thai food? There are really two things at work here:

  • Thing 1: The product itself.
  • Thing 2: The vector that helps the message about the product propagate.

Now, sometimes the product is so different, or amazing, or visible/portable that the product itself is the vector for the message. The iPod is a great example of this. Since the iPods themselves are everywhere, they provide the vector.

In other cases, there is a second thing that provides the vector for the product. In Tawan’s case, the caricature menu is the vector. It is the thing that carries the Tawan’s message from place to place. Through the menu (the vector), folks learn about the food (the product).

So. You have a great product. What’s the vector that will carry its message?

Added later: There is another important concept at work here as well. The vector in this case is more than a catch phrase, or a tchotchki, or an abstract ideal. It actually is a human introduction that starts to broker a relationship between the customer and Tawan himself. It is almost a calling card, in the Victorian sense of the phrase.

Hey, Look Over There!

Ga. It frustrates me when people do this.

Seth writes:


“Check out this chart of the traffic of They’re now 33 in the world. What’s neat is that the progression from one place to another was pretty linear. No miracles, no interventions, no tipping point or inflections.”

Now, that’s just flat out false as soon as you pull back from the picture a little bit. The picture above shows a six-month window.

Here’s their graph over the last year.


And the last two years.


There actually is an inflection point. A significant one.

So…does anyone know what Fotolog did in on March 1st of this year that fueled the rocket ride? It looks like the site took a hit for a couple of weeks, then came back with a vengeance. Site redesign? Easier-to-use tools? New awareness campaign?

Now the funny thing is, I totally agree with Seth in principle on this point he makes:

“The mistake bloggers often make (actually, all marketers make sooner or later) is the believe that being popular is its own reward. That once every one does their line dance or visits their restaurant or wears their fashion or reads their blog, then it will be popular for being popular.”

A great customer experience, combined with a product for which those customers have a need, will fuel the sustainable, steady, solid growth. It’s unfortunate the example that was chosen doesn’t support that concept with facts.

UPDATE: Per my response to Seth’s comment below, I added the red circles in the charts to highlight the point where something appears to have changed in Fotolog’s business, moving the trend from “flat” (which it had been from 2002 – February 2006) to “growing” (which it’s shown from March 2006-November 2006).