Monday, September 04, 2006

Memo to Shel Israel: comments on Global Neighborhoods TOC v.01

Shel Israel (of Naked Conversations fame) is seeking feedback on his first cut at a table of contents for his new book provisionally titled Global Neighborhoods. Overall, I think he is headed in the right direction and likely to be quite successful. Now for some specific comments:

  1. Who is the intended audience and how would you characterize them? Will employees, managers, and executives at established companies find the material "actionable", or is it more of a revolutionary manifesto targeted at newcomers who are attempting to "overthrow the existing order"? There is also the hybrid audience of businesses (and non-business organizations) who are anxious to "re-invent" themselves to exploit economic, social, and political shifts.
  2. Try to tell us something that we wouldn't already have known if we have been following all of the Blogosphere, Web 2.0, social networking, social computing, and social media hype.
  3. Rather than insist that geography has absolutely no relevance, speak of a "New Geography" that seeks to simultaneoulsy exploit geography-independent technolgy and inherent geography-based differences.
  4. Be clear, at least to yourself, what fraction of the book will be loosely focused on "the vision" and what fraction will be actionable "bullet points" that organizations can use in the here and now. Both are critically important, but figuring out the right balance and mix will make or break the effort. I have faith that your instincts will guide you in the right direction, but I am still curious what that direction might be.
  5. It is good for a book to raise questions, but to be a "practical guide" it needs to balance every question with rock-solid answers, or at least robust guidance to point the reader in promising directions for enlightenment and success.
  6. Do you in fact intend for the book to be a "practical guide" for the rank and file, as opposed to a discourse for debate among the elite? I presume the former, but some of the language raised the question in my mind.
  7. What role does "The Cluetrain Manifesto" have in all of this? Is it "by definition" presumed to be an unspoken part of "the gospel", or do you intend to supplant it, or simply extend it? Or are you going to mix and match?
  8. Ditto for Friedman's "The World is Flat." In other words, what is the nice or role of Global Neighborhoods in this, ummmm... "pantheon of intellect."
  9. Are the terms "global neighborhood" and "global community" synonymous, or is their some nuance at work?
  10. When you say "Power is shifting from large central organizations to small, decentralized organizations", is that the reality, or more of a dream or vision of a possible future? A lot of large organizations are becoming distributed or even somewhat decentralized, so I think it may be a little bit too soon to close the book (so to speak) on them. But, if you sincerely believe you can make the case, by all means do so and we will all benefit from the enlightenment.
  11. The hard nut of natural language: Although language is somewhat independent of geography, there is some significant association, and it does work against truly global neighborhoods and a truly "flat" world model. How many regional or language-specific communities exist that are not global due to the language barrier? How global are any so-called global neighborhoods if accommodation is not made for local and regional language and cultural barriers?
  12. When you say "Users generating and sharing everything: digital media; open source code, etc.", I would suggest more of a trend than positing that we are already there with "everything", and I'm not even sure that the trend will go that much fruther than the low-hanging easy fruit that has already been harvested. I believe that there is a valid message here, but it seems a bit muddled right now. By all means, enlighten us.
  13. When you say "Most influential have become people most generous to communities rather than those with largest media budgets", I have a vague familiarity with the "generosity" concept, but strictly contrasting it with the size of a media budget may be a false dichotymy. Why not couple the two? Is there a thesis that says the two *must* be distinct? Or that greater "success" can only flow from greater generosity? Maybe there is. If so, show us with great clarity, and do not ask us to accept any novel propositions as given. If you want to drag "generosity" into the picture... you have a whole lot of explaining to do, literally. I believe that it does have a role, but that needs to be clarified.
  14. Disintermediation has always been a red herring. It is all about re-intermediation, the replacement of one set of intermediaries with another set of intermediaries. Whether I go online through Amazon or walk into Barnes and Noble, I'm still dealing with an intermediary. One could argue that the shift to indirect payment through advertising *is* a form of true (albeit only partial) disintermediation since collection of payment from the user is now *completely* removed.
  15. I'll have to keep thinking about the whole "big" thing. There are a lot of issues there. Certainly your points are at least somewhat valid, but there is an endless list of examples of big organizations opportunistically employing the techniques normally associated with small organizations. The development of the original IBM PC is a perfect example.
  16. It is true that the Internet diminishes the barrier quality of borders to some degree, but there are still all too many obstacles to global commerce that still exist due to local and regional borders, laws, and customs. We have made great progress, but now I sense we may be hitting another wall. If you sincerely believe this not to be the case, please do enlighten us. Privacy is a perfect example.
  17. One barrier to global collaboration is the time zone. The good news is that we have plenty of time-shifting technology, such as email and on-demand webcasts, but real-time technology such as instant messaging, chatting, web cameras, and video conferencing, *are* severely constrained by the time-zone aspect of geography. Somehow, I don't think the concept of real-time, face-to-face human communication can be treated as completely irrelevant, and is a severe impediment to truly global true neighborhoods.
  18. As far as the lobster trap, it is a fair question to ask whether the lion share of the Web 2.0 companies are headed to either oblivion or into into the arms of "big" companies, or whether there might be a new Google or eBay or Amazon or Yahoo or two or three in there. Help us see the potential for the emergence of new leaders and not simply a lot more annoying ants. Might SixApart stand apart?
  19. Here's a related question: If some of the "kids" starting up these businesses really believe in the "generosity" thing, why not structure the business financially so that it can pay employees a decent salary and then pay *private* shareholders a decent dividend, and be truly *sustainable* without having to "flip" to a big company or sell out to the greed of Wall Street. The investors could in turn show their own generosity by granting their ownership to non-profit charities who then benefit from the dividend payments. Create a sustainable loop.
  20. The lobster trap model seems relevant to the startup Web 2.0 "businesses", but I hope your intent is to make "global neighborhoods" relevant to a wider audience than merely those clustered tightly around "the bubble".
  21. Maybe the lobster trap discussion needs to be coupled with a discussion of the basic question of what value proposition is shared by any given global community/neighborhood. Some community members are making more dramatic contributions than others, and some are reaping more dramatic benefits than others. Somehow, that all has to net out to a win-win for all involved, including managers, executives, workers, users, and the larger communities in which they all exist.
  22. I would lobby for an entire chapter on sustainability. Life without bubbles? Is that too much to hope for?
  23. What makes a *real* comunity, as opposed to a mob or a dysfunctional collection of individuals?
  24. What role or roles can, does, or should "the profit motive" play in global neighborhoods? Is financial profit inherently good or inherently evil?
  25. Homework: Think about what Adam Smith would have to say about all of this, and how you would feel about that. Do "nations" or "wealth" have any positive role to play?
  26. Good luck. I'm sure the resulting book will be a big success, no matter how controversial. And the more controversial, the bigger the success. Stay away from merely echoing the echo chamber and we will all benefit.

Other than that, I really don't have much in the way of commenrtary on the preliminary table of contents.

One final comment: Please disregard *all* of my comments and simply write the book that is in your heart.

-- Jack Krupansky


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