Thursday, August 23, 2007

Setting up an Internet Café for a Ghanaian School

I had already been involved in a project getting computers to Kenyan schools for a number of years. When I was visiting Ghana for the first time, my friend Marlene and I went to see the Akosombo dam, which is holding back the Volta river to create the largest man made lake in Africa, and the second largest globally - as I was told. On our way back we were looking for a hotel to spend the night. When we came through the fishermen’s village of Anloga at the coast of Ghana towards Togo, we noticed a large and clean looking building in Western style among all the fishermen’s houses in native style. Our curiosity aroused, we came to the “Pin Drop Inn”, a neat little hotel. Quite unexpectedly, each of the rooms was up to Western standards, offering its own bathroom – with shower, toilet, and running water, air conditioning, and satellite TV. And most surprisingly, everything worked! I then started talking with Jerry, the owner of the hotel. His bright 11-year-old son offered to take me through a tour of the village. When I got back, Jerry’s daughter joined our discussion. The three of them were asking all sorts of questions about computers and the Internet. It soon became clear that their biggest dream was to get an Internet café to Anloga. When I left the Pin Drop Inn the next morning, I promised Jerry to help him set up an Internet café for the secondary school of Anloga.

Back in Switzerland and the US I asked around for used computers. One of my Swiss friends, the CIO of Elektro-Material AG, a large electronics parts wholesaler, offered to donate a dozen used but still usable computers, fully equipped. He even agreed, together with some colleagues, to install Windows XP and Office on the computers so we would only have to plug them in in Anloga. Microsoft had also generously agreed to provide us with free Windows and Office licenses for our school Internet café project. The only thing left to do now was to pack the computers up and ship them to Ghana. I found a shipper who specializes in moving stuff to Africa. He promised to ship the computers to Ghana to be there around July 8th such that they would be ready for us when we would get to Accra on July 24th. I was therefore not too pleased when he called me a few days after I had paid his bill to tell me that the computers had been lost on the way from Zurich to Antwerp, and that the ship therefore had left without our computers. He would put them on the next ship which was scheduled to arrive at the Ghanaian port of Tema July 24th. Timing started to get quite tight now. To get the computers out at the port in Tema I again contacted the Ghanaian Embassy in Berne. This time, the Embassy was very helpful, and – within 2 days – wrote and faxed me back a confirmation letter, also asking the customs authorities in Tema to forego import duties, as the computers were destined to go to a school.

However, getting the computers to Ghana was the easy part. Connecting them to the Internet, once they were in Anloga, proved to be a harder nut to crack. When I was visiting Anloga for the first time more than a year ago, the closest phone land line was still dozens of kilometers away, so the only viable option seemed to be to get Internet through satellite connection - using a so-called VSAT connection. I was told that setting up the station would cost about $10,000, while monthly access fees would amount to at least $800. As this seemed quite excessive to me, I started asking around. Through a friend at the MIT Computer Science and AI Lab (CSAIL) I was referred to Jack Constanza, CSAIL’s infrastructure director. Jack told me about Don, a professor at the University of Maryland, who was involved with similar projects. Don knew Erik Osiakwan, an Internet journalist in Ghana, who in turn referred me to Kwaku Boadu, owner of Ghanaian Internet access provider arrownetworks. Kwaku told me that he might be able to get me Internet access at lower cost than through setting up a vsat connection myself in Anloga. He had an access point in the nearby border town of Afloa, and my location in Anloga might be close enough to get a terrestrial point to point connection. For that, however, I would need the GPS coordinates of Jerry’s Pin Drop Inn. When I called my friend Marlene in Ghana, her husband knew of a surveyor working for the Ghanaian state who might be able to give us the GPS coordinates, but it would be quite expensive because he would have to drive to Anloga, to get a GPS reading right at the Pin Drop Inn. It then occurred to me, that using Google Earth, and locating the Pin Drop Inn that way might be an easier way to get the GPS coordinates.

So, when, I and my children finally arrived in Ghana on July 25th, it was one of my first activites to ask Jerry to come to Accra, and locate the Pin Drop Inn on Google Earth, which I had loaded and cached on my laptop. Jerry was indeed able to spot the Pin Drop Inn on Google Earth, and when I called Kwaku to tell him the coordinates, I got back the good news that we would be capable of getting a terrestrial signal from Kwaku’s access point in Afloa to Anloga. But we still might have to set up a 30-meter high pole to capture the signal directly from the access point in Afloa.

In the meantime, I also tried to get the computers out at the port in Tema. I asked Jerry to look into this. When he contacted the port, he was told that, while the ship had indeed arrived on time, unloading it was backed up by a week, and the earliest time the ship could be unloaded and the computers be obtained would be one week later, on Monday August 6. My children and I therefore decided to do our sightseeing in Ghana during the first week of our stay, and set the computers up during the second week. I arranged with Jerry that he and I would meet again August 6 at the port to get the computers. When I called Jerry on Sunday August 5 to arrange for the computers to be unloaded, he told me that to obtain the computers within the next few days I would not only have to pay customs, but also a handling agent, and a substantial release fee for the local representative of the shipping company which had shipped the computers from Antwerp to Tema. I was also told that while I could indeed claim an exemption from customs for the computers, this would take a few weeks to be approved by the ministry. Also, if I would try to deal with the complexities of clearing goods at the port of Tema myself, this would further slow me down. As I learned I had not only to pay customs duties, but also the so-called documentation fee of the handling agent who would be walking me through the release process at the port, and the release fee of the local agent of the shipping company. I agreed with Jerry that he would come Monday August 6 morning to the house of my friends to pick me up, and we would then go to the port of Tema together.

Unfortunately, Monday morning no Jerry showed up, and when I finally called him around noon, he told me that he would only be able to come Monday afternoon. We then agreed to meet Tuesday morning. I was pleasantly surprised when on Tuesday morning Jerry was only one hour late for the meeting at our house. We then went to the port of Tema, where it turned out that Nick, the handling agent at the port, was a relative of Jerry – and a former customs officer. Nick generously agreed to manage the clearance process of the computers for a reduced fee of $100 (he originally wanted $150). Nick then promised that I would get the computers the same day, but first I would have to come with him to the various offices to pay my dues to the different parties asking for money in return for the promise to release the computers. Off we went in his glitzy new Nissan Infinity SUV, first to the local representative of the shipping line. There, the lady initially requested the equivalent of 247 dollars, but after same bartering accepted 207 dollars. After I had also handed the $180 for customs to Nick, I was sent home, but was promised that next day I would get the computers.

When I came to Nick’s office the next morning – it was now Wednesday, and our return tickets to Zurich were for Friday evening – nobody was there. After a half hour wait Nick showed up. First, he took me to the bank, where he had me wait outside and went inside to pay the customs duties. Afterwards, we drove to the port, where I was handed over to Edward. Edward was one of the young clearing agents who do the actual legwork for Nick. Edward now took me on a tour criss-crossing the port of Tema from one office to the other. After the first four stops I lost track of where we were, I just noticed that one of the stops was with the lady who had wanted to pay me the 247 dollars, and another one was at the customs office, to show our receipt that we had actually paid customs duty. In the evening, with sore legs and totally exhausted from a day walking around at the port with Edward, I was sent home again with the promise that finally, on Thursday, I would get the computers.

Thursday morning, after my mandatory wait for Jerry at Nick’s office, Jerry appeared in a Trotro, that is a Ghanaian taxicab. Jerry had rented this Trotro, a Mazda minivan, including driver and driver’s mate (the fare collector), to shuttle our computers to Anloga. Jerry also told me that the Trotro would cost me about 60 dollars. The three of us, Jerry, Trotro driver, and driver’s mate, went to the port, where Edward was waiting for us. After some more waiting, and after paying an entry fee of one dollar for each of us at the port, we were finally allowed to go to see the container with the computers.

After the customs officer had checked that the lading bill and the contents of the container matched, we were then allowed to load our 12 computers including accessories into the Trotro. I never thought that all the equipment would fit into the Trotro, but in the end Jerry and the Trotro driver succeeded in squeezing everything into our little bus, even the driver’s mate, who could only sit sideways on top of some monitors.

On our drive to Anloga, we had to stop a few times at police barriers, which were supposed to check the safety of the vehicles passing through. Paying a “small gift” at each roadblock ensured that the policemen waved our fully loaded mini bus through.

Two hours later, it was now Thursday at 5pm, we arrived at Jerry’s house, where a group of about half a dozen children was eagerly waiting for the computers. In no time had we unloaded the computers, and set them up.

I was amazed how the kids, who had only seen computers a few times in an Internet café, succeeded, by observing me, to assemble the computers. About half an hour later all the computers were set up, and the kids were already starting to experiment with Microsoft Office.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

How to force the swarm to do the “right thing”

Usually I get along really well with the Ghanaians. Most of the time they are friendly people who are helpful and go out of their way to make guests feel at home. Occasionally, however, there seem to be clashes of cultures. I am still trying to make sense out of two tumultuous encounters with Ghanaian authorities where I only got what I needed after serious yelling, screaming, and threat of force. The first one occurred when I was applying for my visa for Ghana, the second one happened when we tried to check in for our flights back from Accra to Zurich.

When I applied in June for a visa for my two children and me with the Ghanaian embassy in Berne, Switzerland, I was expecting a smooth process. After all, I had done the same thing last year, and had gotten back my passport with the visa stamp three days after I had sent it in. This time, however, things were different. I got the first warning, when, ten days after having sent in the passports, I got back a form asking for missing information instead of the passports. I immediately called back and provided the missing information. I also told the consular officer that I would be grateful if he could process my visas in the next few days, because I would be leaving for the US the following Tuesday. When I still had not gotten back my passports on Saturday, I got really nervous. I checked with the Swiss post, and they told me that no registered letter was underway. I then decided to drive to Berne on Monday – my flight from Zurich to Boston was on Tuesday. I was at the Ghanaian embassy when it opened at 9 in the morning. No consular officer was there, but the friendly lady at the reception checked for me on the desk of the consular officer, and told me that our three passports were indeed on the pile of visas to be processed. At 11, the consular officer finally arrived, and I was promised to get my visas signed by the consul first thing in the afternoon. When I came back in the afternoon, there was only the friendly lady informing me that my passport could not be processed. I now freaked out, and yelled at everybody that I would camp out at the reception and only leave the building with my three passports – and indeed, after another 45 minutes, I got my three passports with the visa stamps for Ghana.

After this tumultuous beginning of my second trip to Ghana, things inside Ghana went mostly fine, except for the few glitches described elsewhere in this blog. The flight back from Accra to Zurich, however, was an altogether different story.

At the end of our stay in Ghana, when we tried to check in at the airport in Accra for our Lufthansa flight back to Zurich by way of Lagos, we were expecting smooth check in. But after I had handed over our tickets to the agent at the check in counter, she continued typing at the keyboard and staring at the monitor, looking more and more worried. In the end she asked us to drag our heavy suitcases off the carrier belt, and move to another counter. There, the same process was repeated, and then we were sent to a third counter. There, the agent told us that she could not check us in because we had two bookings, an e-booking and a paper ticket. I told her that we had traveled to Accra with Alitalia without any check in problems – and the only problem, if there even was one, was that each of us had two bookings, an electronic one and a paper ticket. She then tried to call the Lufthansa head office, which told her to go ahead and check us in. The agent, however, still refused to check us in. I then started yelling at her, in turn she generously agreed to check in our baggage for Zurich, and to give us stand-by boarding cards, but only to Frankfurt. Some more yelling on my side brought her to “informally” promise us three seats together, which she would hold for us at the gate, but for now we could only get in with stand-by boarding passes for Frankfurt. She also proclaimed to be unable to check us through to Zurich. As this seemed to be the best deal for us to be obtained for now, the three of us rushed through security and customs, as we had already spent well over an hour fighting with the different Lufthansa check in agents at Accra airport. When we were at the gate, the agent there took away our stand-by boarding passes, and told us to be patient and wait for our boarding passes. After waiting for another half hour, it was now close to scheduled departure time, we still had not gotten any boarding passes. I now exploded, and started screaming for our boarding passes. Only after me having thrown around a few chairs in the check-in area to show that I was serious, another agent came to the gate, and after unsuccessfully trying to print the boarding passes with the electronic check-in system, manually wrote the seat numbers on our boarding passes and allowed us to board the plane.
Needless to say that in Frankfurt we had no problems to get the follow-on boarding passes from Lufthansa for the final leg of our trip to Zurich.

Obviously, in the end in both instances we got what we wanted – and what was due to us. But I am really wondering if we would also have gotten it without all my screaming and yelling in the very last minute. I have to point out that in both instances, for getting back the passports at the embassy, and to get checked in for our return flight, I had waited until the very last minute until I escalated the process and started making troubles.

So my suspicion is that sometimes the swarm only does the right thing if one makes it more trouble for the swarm not to do the right thing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What happens when the light goes out – made in China

The state-run Ghanaian electricity company is periodically turning off electricity because of power shortages. One night we had no electricity in the house of my friends in Accra. As a precaution they had recently bought two Chinese-made lamps with battery chargers, each giving light bright enough to light a room for reading. That night, unfortunately, one of the freshly charged lamps went out after 5 minutes. I opened the lamp, and fiddled with the electrical contacts between bulb and battery. The light went on again. My friend then decided to go to bed and took the working lamp with her. My children and I were left with the temperamental lamp, which went out again after 3 minutes. Opening up the lamp cover under the weak light of another flashlight and fiddling with the contacts got the lights back on for another 3 minutes. After having repeated this process 4 times, my kids and I decided to give up on reading and went to bed. Next morning both lamps worked fine again, as did the electrical power grid.
Lights made in China can be quite fickle – even more so in Ghana.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

There are different types of snakes in Ghana

Yesterday morning our houseboy killed a poisonous snake in our garden. The property of my friend is not that big, it has a small, but well-tended garden. The garden is fenced in, and the fence is lined by overgrowing flower bushes. When the houseboy was cutting the bushes, he suddenly got really exited and called us to show us a pretty large snake, about 1.2 meters long, with dark green and yellow stripes. The snake was resting high up in the bushes, right within the flower bush which had overgrown the side door where all the visitors were passing through. It was a pretty eerie feeling that we might have come and gone for some days right underneath a poisonous snake. The fix of the houseboy to this problem was as radical as it was short and brutal. He called another man from the neighborhood for help. With a long stick the houseboy threw the snake out of the bush on the street, and then the other man shattered the snake’s head with a large stone – Risk management by eliminating the risks.

Later in the day the children and I decided to go to downtown Accra. My friend agreed to lend us her car. First thing was to fill up the tank at the filling station. After pumping gas, the guy at the station asked for 57 new cedies (about 57 dollars). The meter at the pump station only read 52 cedies. The guy explained that he had first pumped gas for 5 cedies, and then incidentally reset the meter by returning the nozzle into the holder. As this story sounded really fishy to me, I refused to pay. We got into a little argument, the manager of the station also came, and in the end I paid what the meter read, 52 cedies. The 5 cedies the guy at the pumping station was trying to extract from me would have been about one week of wages for him, at least.
There are different types of snakes in Ghana.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sharing with the swarm can lead to bruises

While the driver and I were standing outside the car and waiting to have our inflated tire repaired (see previous post), my children inside the car were eating candy. When they saw a few kids approaching, they threw them out some of the shrink-wrapped candy. First, the kids did not know what to do with the little square pieces wrapped into glittering aluminum foil, but once the first one had unwrapped the candy and put it into her little mouth, a delighted smile lighted up all over her face. More children started flocking to the car, and then even some half-grown-ups joined them. My children were busy throwing candy out the car window. But then things started getting out of control. The swarm of kids became more aggressive, banging at the car door, so I started getting worried for my friend’s car. I took the bag of candies and stepped away from the car. Now the entire swarm, about 20 children, aged from probably three to sixteen years, was surrounding me. I could not get out the candies fast enough for them. Hands were reaching out and touching me everywhere. And now even some adults were joining in. In the end a tall guy, probably half a head larger than I – and I am over six feet – wrestled the torn bag out of my hand. The rest of the candy fell on the ground. Now the swarm started fighting on the floor. Thirty seconds later all the candies were gone, and another few seconds later the swarm had dissolved. The only thing remaining was some dispersed candy paper lying on the floor.
Some times the swarm can get out of control – in particular if the protocol of sharing with the swarm has not been previously established.

Fixing a flat tire in Ghana

At the end of our beach holidays we drove back from Axim to Accra. Our friends had sent their SUV with a driver to pick us up at the beach resort. Suddenly, we were near the old capital of Ghana Cape Coast, our driver pulled the car in a filling station, telling us that he had noticed a strange sound. I then walked around the car, and noticed that one of the tires was flat. At the filling station, however, they told us that they were only equipped to pump gas and could not exchange our spare tire. Suddenly, and without comment, our driver disappeared, taking the car keys with him. We could do nothing but wait in the hot sun and make sure that our belongings left in the unlocked car stayed where they were. We were very relieved when 15 minutes later our driver came back, bringing with him a powerfully built young man in a mechanic’s overall. The young man then searched for our car jack, which, as it turned out, was not working. The young man disappeared again, and 20 minutes later, came back with an old car jack, and ten minutes later our spare tire was put properly in place, and we could resume our trip.

I then asked our driver if it would be possible to have our flat tire fixed immediately. He assured me that this would be no problem, and another ten minutes later pulled over at what appeared to me to be a tiny shack in the midst of a large collection of small market stands along the road. Our particular stand had four broken tires heaped in front of it. It turned out the wiry little man in the shack was operating a bustling flat tire fixing business. Only using the most primitive tools, it took him no time to plug the hole in our tire and put the tire back on the rim. Then, with the one sophisticated piece of equipment he had, a fuel-operated compressor, he put the air back into our inflated tire. It’s amazing how the swarm can fix things.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Getting immersed into the swarm is a learning experience

Yesterday we went to the small town of Axim. Axim is an old town with a similarly old historic slave castle. My children and I walked around in the small town, looking at the slave castle and the street vendors and their stalls lining the sides of the street. While I was quite fascinated by the bustling street live, I was surprised to learn that my kids were less than taken with the colorful scenery. They found the streets and houses very dirty, and the smell coming from the open sewage canals disgusting. While the kids were right in that the red dust was indeed everywhere because the streets are mostly unpaved, and the canals indeed, well, stank, I found the scenery so full of life that I could have watched it for a long time. Not so my kids. After a ten-minute walk, and after quickly drinking a cold coke from one of the street vendors, they insisted to take a taxi and get back to the hotel as quickly as possible.

It seems that becoming immersed into a new swarm is a long learning experience.

Different swarms have different rules – getting the right ice cream in Axim

I frequently noticed in Ghana that while my opposite was trying to do the best for me, his failure to explain me his reasoning converted the result into the opposite. Sometime this can go to some extremes where the motivations on both sides are not really clear. Our experiences in the beach restaurant at the romantic Axim beach resort set an excellent example.

It is no easy thing to get ice cream in Ghana. Electricity breaks down all the time, and frequently it is turned off for half a day which means that it is hard to keep ice cream in its icy state for extended periods of time. The more pleasant our surprise, when the menu of our beach hotel in Axim offered ice cream. When we ordered our ice cream, the three of us chose chocolate and strawberry from the waiter. We were slightly surprised when the restaurant manager himself proudly brought us mixed strawberry and vanilla ice. When we informed him that we had ordered strawberry and chocolate, he deeply apologized and promised to bring us what we had ordered. We saw him throw away the strawberry and vanilla ice and head back to the restaurant kitchen. But a few seconds later he was back, even more apologetic, telling us that the chocolate ice had melted in the hot Ghanaian climate, and that strawberry and vanilla ice was all that was still available. The chef had decided on his own that substituting chocolate ice with vanilla ice was what we wanted. Of course the chef had guessed right – we were starving to get some cold ice cream – but the chef had not bothered to inform the manager about our order and the changes the chef had made without asking us. In the end we gladly accepted a new vanilla and strawberry ice, but the wasted ice cream was a heavy price to pay in a country where ice cream is a highly valued rare treat.

In the same restaurant we experienced a second communication breakdown and misunderstanding of cultures. One day I told the waiter I wanted a chef’s salad as a starter for the three of us – my two kids and I would share one salad as we were not that hungry and would also have a second dish each for lunch. And indeed I got a large heaped plate of salad as the first course of our lunch. The not-so-pleasant surprise came afterwards, when the waiter doubled the price of the salad – explaining that I had asked for a “big” salad. He claimed he had only tried to follow my wishes, and could not understand that I refused to pay the double price.

A trip with Alitalia – locating surplus bags in Lagos

Our adventures started well before boarding our flight for Accra. Seven days before we were supposed to get on the Lufthansa plane from Zurich to Accra – I was still in Boston at that time – I got a phone call in the middle of the night from the travel agent, telling me that the flight to Accra had been cancelled by Lufthansa. He could not explain why. I then started calling around, and in the end the travel agent was able to book a flight for the three of us one day later than planned from Alitalia, through Milan instead of Frankfurt.

The reason Lufthansa could not fly was that it had started a squabble with the Ghanaian government about landing rights. As it was flying from Frankfurt to Accra with a stop in Lagos on behalf of Air Ghana, the Ghanaian government wanted compensation for these flights, which Lufthansa refused to pay. After a week of squabbling, the two parties came to agreement, and our flight back to Zurich should now happen with Lufthansa as planned.

Our flight with Alitalia from Milan to Accra was quite an adventure. It already started in Milan, when we noticed an excitedly gesticulating lady of seemingly Ghanaian descent. It turned out she had four pieces of hand luggage she wanted to take with her into the plane, and refused to let the flight attendants check in the surplus bags. In the end the surplus bags were checked in under police protection, and an obviously very unhappy lady boarded the plane. Everything went well until our stop in Lagos. The plane stayed on the ground for an extended period of time, and in the end the captain informed us that we were short of three passengers – meaning that in Milan three passengers had their baggage checked in, but did not board the plane. It seems this went undetected in Milan, and was only noticed by the Nigerian authorities. In stern words the Alitalia captain now requested the passengers to identify their luggage manually. At this time the already aggravated Ghanaian lady shot up, and asked for more dignified treatment of passengers. The Italian captain came running back through the plane, reinforced by a few male flight attendants. A shouting match followed, and things started getting really ugly. Tempers only cooled down after some Nigerian police officers (they also might have been customs officers, I could not tell the difference) also joined the fray. In the end the Ghanaian lady and some other unruly passengers were forcefully convinced to take their seats again. In the subsequent two hours passengers had to leave the plane in small groups to manually identify their pieces of luggage which were spread out widely on the tarmac of the airport, once this task was completed, they were let back into the plane. With 3 hours delay the plane finally took off for the last 40 minute hop to Accra.

Overall this was a surprisingly eventful trip to Ghana, free entertainment provided thanks to an explosive mix of Lufthansa’s mishandled negotiation with Ghana airline authorities, Alitalia’s mishandling of the passenger count and rough treatment of passengers, and the explosive temper of same passengers.

New impressions from Ghana - Aug 2008

This summer we (my son, 14, and my daughter, 15 years old, and I) are spending our holidays in Ghana. The “official” purpose of our trip is to install 12 computers and set up an Internet cafe for the secondary school of Anloga, a fishermen’s village at the coast of Ghana close to the border to Togo. Unofficially, we are also visiting friends in Accra and spending sunny days at the long Ghanaian beaches.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book Promotion Reports for Coolhunting

Among our objectives on this Coolhunt program was a desire to find new ways to publicize the release of a new book on the Internet. The publisher, AMACOM Books, who paid to have this online program produced, is hoping for sales at the end of the day to cover the marketing costs. The authors, who benefit modestly from sales and more from reputation enhancement, desire that the book gets an opportunity to reach its target audience.

At Patron Saint Productions, we try to find novel ways to bring books to the attention of readers without bothering those who aren't interested. It's a delicate operation, blending these interests into an online publicity campaign. I think you might find this behind-the-scenes look at some of the results to be interesting.

Access to the following reports normally is limited to campaign insiders. We are able to make these reports available here with the blessings of AMACOM Books:

Discussion Group Postings Report

(Microsoft Word document)

Shows the 50-plus discussion groups where we posted a message about the Coolhunt program and offered to send an excerpt from the book upon request.

Blog PR Report

(HTML document)

Shows a couple dozen blogs we approached -- besides those visited in the Coolhunt. We visited blogs listed in the Author Questionnaire completed by Scott Cooper, as well as blogs found through our own searches. At these blogs, we either posted comments or asked the blogmaster to post an announcement about the Coolhunt program. We offered the blogmasters free review copies of the book.

Review Copy Requests
We pitched media contacts, offering a review copy of "Coolhunting" and a press kit. Here is a list of the media who responded to our pitches and requested a review copy of the book. Due to privacy concerns, we are not releasing their contact information:

Kristin Clarke, CAE
ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership
CATEGORY: Magazine, Journal, or Newsletter
TOPICS: leadership, business

Geoffrey P. Lantos, PhD
Professor of Business Administration
Stonehill College
TOPICS: business, marketing
NOTES: Marketing Program Director at Stonehill College, and Book Reviews Editor for Journal of Consumer Marketing, Journal of Product and Brand Management

Roy Bragg
San Antonio Express-News
TOPICS: San Antonio, general interest

Mary Beth Guard
Executive Editor
Bankers Online
TOPICS: banking, finance

Mark Gibbs
TOPICS: technology, computers
NOTES: Contributor to NetworkWorld

Marie Leone
Senior Editor
TOPICS: finance, business

Jason Thibeault
GoWare, Inc.
TOPICS: technology, computers

Paul J. Wilczynski
Krislyn Corporation
TOPICS: business

Ari Herzog
TOPICS: travel, entertainment
NOTES: Freelance writer and reporter for such publications as The Boston Globe; launching new blog

Mordechai (Morty) Schiller
TOPICS: marketing, Judaism

Allan Alter
Executive Editor, CIO Insight
TOPICS: technology, computers

Chris Locke
TOPICS: business, Internet
NOTES: author of Cluetrain Manifesto and Gonzo Marketing

Alan Chumley
TOPICS: public relations, media

Guy Kawasaki
How to Change the World
TOPICS: entrepreneurship, business

Dion Hinchcliffe
Web 2.0 Blog
TOPICS: technology, Internet

Tom Davenport
Babson Knowledge
TOPICS: business, management

Friday, May 11, 2007

Coolhunt Log #20 - Friday, May 11, 2007

Coolhunt Log #20
Friday, May 11, 2007

On Stage:
Scott Cooper, MIT research affiliate with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of Coolhunting
Peter Gloor, MIT research affiliate with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of Coolhunting
Steve O'Keefe, moderator

MODERATOR: This is the last day of our month-long coolhunt. Could you tell us where you're calling from?

SCOTT: I'm calling from my home office in Newton Highlands, MA.

PETER: I'm calling from Switzerland.

MODERATOR: Today, on our last coolhunt I was hoping we could go over where we've been and talk about where we're going in the future with social networking. Can you tell me what you think about the list of all the sites we've visited that Gary Michael Smith posted last night?

PETER: I can't believe we've visited so many sites.

SCOTT: I was pretty impressed when I saw the list.

MODERATOR: Some of the things that jumped out at me is that we had a very protracted and good discussion about who are the news originators, places that have reporters doing research and bringing out facts. Then we looked at how searchers for information would find sites -- the whole yin and yang about new forms and old forms of finding information.

SCOTT: I was struck after looking at the list and reading some of my emails. In an email from the New York Times about a column from David Pogue, Asking the Crowd to Spread the News. He says that we haven't even scratched the surface about the audience supplying materials. Why isn't there a website that says, "Yes, this is going around and you'll be vomiting for two days"? There should be a map of such information. I just reminded me that we really were coolhunting over this past month.


PETER: I would like to know what all the other crowds are thinking and reading. I think it's a double-edge sword, creating news stories and making them available. You know what to expect from certain branded, boilerplated sources. If old-time media does it right -- whatever that means -- there will always be a place for those types of news providers. Getting access is
another story. Will people stumble across it or will there be more organized dissemination that will tell me all the stories that I'm normally interested in.

MODERATOR: The New York Times really never has had an opportunity to know what readers thought about its stories until recently. Now this has changed with journalists' blogs. Let's go to the Apple Store. If you look at this cutting-edge site you'll see "moving stills" as well as video in the advertising and display of presentations. Going into the store and looking for a particular product such as a power cord you'll find eight matches. Under the description of the product is a customer rating. You don't even have to drill down into the product because the customer rating is so important. Based on the rating, the shopper will drill down into the sites of particular products. I'm used to seeing customer reviews on books such as those with Amazon.


SCOTT: We make that obvious in our book Coolhunting by writing that power is gained by Amazon by giving power away in the form of user reviews.

MODERATOR: Reviews probably are only going to grow and wisdom of the hive will grow as well because reviews probably will not ever be removed.

PETER: I noticed the rankings on our Coolhunting book based on ratings. One reviewer says that Amazon nearly always processes orders quickly, but if you have any problems you can almost never get a person on the phone the settle it.


MODERATOR: We looked quite a bit at citizen reviews and ratings. We looked at tagging, digging, rating, and reviewing as well as censorship. Look where it asks if reviews are useful to you, allowing readers to rate the value of the comment. Where does the helix stop?

SCOTT: I think it's linked to the other discussion we had about the news business. If you let the swarm through all these mechanisms, it's empowering the swarm to take early steps toward self organization. I rarely buy books from Amazon -- preferring to go into bookstores -- but I'll look at reviews and listen to snippets of music online. And the reviews will often give totally opposing viewpoints even though they're listening to the same thing. So the collective intelligence allows the swarm to feed off such information.

PETER: This mix can tell us where the next big trends are. The New York Times has added a new feature allowing readers to dig or post information. This will allow them to know more about what people think about the Times' articles.

SCOTT: I notice that U.S. newspapers in general are so far ahead on this. Peter reads the New York Times and a Swiss newspaper and I read the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily newspaper, and the foreign papers are less user-friendly regarding blogs, comments, etc., not allowing web 2.0 services as with U.S. news services. A couple years ago there was an article about the bloglessness of German politics. Politicians still think that handing out pens at a supermarket is more effective, or setting up a table and giving out something for free, including a printed copy of their campaign platform.

MODERATOR: We've seen that in many cases, elitists are afraid of the wisdom of the crowd as with the censorship of Google in China and suppression of news in Afghanistan. Can you talk more about this battle between the receiving elite and the growing power of the crowd.

SCOTT: Here's one specific example of the enabling of the swarm. I listen to a lot German lieder and British art songs. Gramophone, a venerable record review magazine in England that's been around for about 100 years, had long been the arbiter of taste and quality for such vocal music. Reviews from "experts" makes one wonder if they ever actually listen to the music. But now, blogs and forums by younger people make for a much broader discussion of what makes for good music. These experts no longer have hegemony because of new technology.


PETER: "Elite" is the wrong word. Not all bloggers are equal. It's a meritocracy.

SCOTT: Let's talk about what "elite" means. First, it comes from the French for "select." More often than not the elite select themselves. Mike Arrington has not set himself off as one of the elite. He's just a guy who wants to provoke and share in a conversation, whereas others end a blog reminding readers how much of an expert they are on a topic.

MODERATOR: It was fascinating during our visit to Debian that the group had quite an elaborate structure, unlike something like YouTube. The web right now is struggling to come up with guidelines for bloggers' epics. You seem to be saying that the rules already are in force by people blocking you from email.

PETER: In the standards world, there is the International Standards Organization (ISO) group in Geneva. In the networking world, it competed against the much more self-organizing and less hierarchical Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and lost. If given free reign, the crowd is much more capable of setting up its own ethics and rules of operation than a formal group. It's a stable, robust, and self-correcting system. The crowd is very efficient in policing themselves.

SCOTT: Regarding the code of conduct among elitists in the blogosphere, such as Tim O'Reilly who issued a call for a bloggers code of conduct because of the case of Kathy Sierra (Creating Passionate Users) where she was threatened by readers as reported by the BBC and the San Francisco Chronicle.


SCOTT: See his "Lessons Learned So Far."


MODERATOR: Also, see the Word of mouth Marketing Association.


MODERATOR: One person meritocracy is another person's cesspool. People who contribute often are driven offline by the rude behavior of others who post vitriol material. You're saying that the hive can narrow the range into some kind of consensus. How do we deal with the issue of poor manners, spammers, etc.

PETER: The few bad apples such as spammers spoil all our fun but sometimes the entire swarm is spoiled. I think people have learned from the mistakes of the past. Most is self-correcting and self-policing. Many just withdraw from a community when they don't like it, making it self-correcting. I'm quite an optimist.

SCOTT: So am I. I have to say that the swarm on MySpace is self-protecting, keeping off bad programming. I don't know the answer, but I feel that MySpace is populated by so many teenagers, making it a problem. I think it'll work out it's own problems, though.

MODERATOR: Allowing more content to be posted on your sites by the hive is labor-intensive.

SCOTT: You could create a site like Wikipedia and let users create and update it.

PETER: In our case we had to change our community model and start asking for registration in our second version of a website to limit users to a higher quality.

MODERATOR: I wonder if the verification letters required on some sites was a hive-generated concept.

PETER: I think it was a professor who developed the "captcha" algorithm. It's again a great example of the power of the swarm.

MODERATOR: Regarding prediction markets where large groups of people steer decision making on a large scale such as in the stock market, how about using prediction markets in medicine? An op-ed in today's WSJ basically argues that Congress needs to back prediction markets for the gambling industry.

SCOTT: A lot of the ways in which prediction markets could be used turns our stomachs. The military had to take down one model because Congress said it was immoral. But whether you like it or not, it still proves the point about the value of collective intelligence.

MODERATOR: The article talks about a lot cases. A consensus plan suggests that a safe harbor will encourage experimentation. The goal is to allow the federal government to have prediction markets. I'd like to move to my last point on altruism, people releasing copyrights and companies letting go of trademarks. Everything we've covered in the coolhunt seems to say that if you drop your protection and let things go, you'll be better off.

SCOTT: There's a growing recognition for the need to consider stakeholder rather than shareholder value. This is a first step toward altruism. It's a step in the right direction.

PETER: It's a great starting point. The point is that all those communities are driven to a certain extent by altruism. The programmers are motivated by recognition of their peers, and ultimately the well-paying jobs. Prediction markets only work if you have real skin in the game, if you have a stake at risk. In the SpineConnect case they hope to start a company with their
altruistic endeavors. You need to have a healthy respect for your own well-being as well as be concerned with the well-being of the entire society.

SCOTT: Aristotle said "For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it."

MODERATOR: We've been speaking for the past month with Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper, the very generous authors of Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing. Gary Michael Smith, professor at the University of New Orleans, has transcribed our journey to over a hundred websites, and has posted them at Any final words

PETER: This has been an extremely enriching experience.

SCOTT: I'd like also to add Rachelle to the list to thank.

MODERATOR: We're going to post some of the documents from this campaign to give those who are interested the opportunity to view them. I'd like to thank everyone for listening and invite them to comment.

Copyright Notice: Please feel free to duplicate or distribute this log as long as the contents are not altered and this notice is intact.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Coolhunts for 4/16/07 to 5/11/07

Monday, April 16, 2007

New York Times online



Tuesday, April 17, 2007



Who Is Sick?


Open Directory Project

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

They Rule

Free Beer

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Creative Commons


Rite Solutions

Friday, April 20, 2007

Galaxy Advisors




Monday, April 23, 2007

O'Reilly Radar


MySpace is Better Than Porn

Pete Cashmore post



Daugter needs to take summer college classes Max State Int.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New York Times article

Wikipedia, Virginia Tech incident


Assignment Zero

JoVE: Journal of Visual Experiments

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

O'Reilly Radar

Hive-Mind Backyard Beekeeping

Debian Social Contract



Thursday, April 26, 2007


U.S. Politics section of InTrade

Hollywood Stock Exchange

Iowa Electronic Markets


Blog post about the stock option crisis at Apple

Friday, April 27, 2007

We Feel Fine

Trip Advisor



Monday, April 30, 2007


New York Times Online, Got Roomfulls of Stuff? Now sites will help keep track of it

Tuscaloosa News


Groups tab

Get Free Get Wild

Michael profile

Tuesday, May 1, 2007




Kyte TV

Wednesday, May 2, 2007



China google censorship


Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Wall Street Journal online

The Financial Times of London

All Things Digital

The Boston Globe


Friday, May 4, 2007

The New York Times, Are Book Reviewers Out of Print?

Emerging Writers





BookExpo America



Monday, May 7, 2007

Hybrid Vigor

Cooperation Commons

Alliance for Discovery

The Peer to Peer Foundation

Howard Rheingold

MIT Media Lab and Architecture departments

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Forrester Research

Boredom Drives Open Source Developers

Forbes Special Report on Networks: Community


Post about shoplifters at Wal-Mart


Samuel Bowles

Science Magazine last December


Wednesday, May 9, 2007





google belgium yahoo



Democratizing Innovation

Thursday, May 10, 2007

SpineConnect Demo

SOLAS XLIF Discussion link

Possible XLIF with decompression?

Add a Case

Friday, May 11, 2007

David Pogue, Asking the Crowd to Spread the News

Apple Store

Coolhunting Amazon ratings

Gramophone Magazine blogs and forums

Kathy Sierra, Creating Passionate Users

Tim O’Reilly, Lessons Learned So Far

Word of Mouth Marketing Association

Coolhunt Log #19 - Thursday, May 10, 2007

Coolhunt Log #19
Thursday, May 10, 2007

On Stage:
Scott Cooper, MIT research affiliate with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of Coolhunting
Peter Gloor, MIT research affiliate with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of Coolhunting
Raymond Miles, Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the Haas Organizational Behavior and Industrial Relations Group, University of California - Berkeley
Scott Capdevielle, CEO and Founder of Syndicom and SpineConnect
Steve O'Keefe, moderator

MODERATOR: I'm calling from my business office in New Orleans. Could you tell us where you're calling from?

PETER: I'm calling from my home office in Switzerland.

SCOTT: I'm calling from my home office in Newton Highlands, MA.

MODERATOR: We have two special guests with us today. Raymond Miles is Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the Haas Organizational Behavior and Industrial Relations Group at the University of California at Berkeley. We also have Scott Capdevielle who is CEO and Founder of Syndicom and SpineConnect. Ray and Steve, can you tell us where you're calling from?

SCOTT C: I'm calling from Derango, CO.

RAY: I'm calling from my office at the Haas School of Business in Berkeley, CA.

SCOTT C: We're going to start with a website that we've built to help surgeons connect with one another. I can give the user name and password so those following along can log in. This is our demo server. Direct your browser to Log in using "demouser" and "password."


SCOTT C: I was a student at Berkeley and started reading books on organizational design, and I kept running into books by Ray Miles. After reading one particular book I became enamored with the concept so I looked him up and went to his office. Finding him sitting there at his desk we starting talking, and he ended up becoming a consultant to my company and a mentor to me. I started working on a concept later and came to Ray with some needs I saw about being an entrepreneur. Roadblocks I saw included the fact that innovators were at a tremendous disadvantage when they were working with a large company. So back in 2000, Ray was trying to understand why open source software organizations were out performing groups who kept their information more concealed.

RAY: We saw that when knowledge was freely exchanged everyone prospered more.

PETER: As a recent example, we found that the more companies collaborated over the course of a year the higher their productivity and high levels of success.

MODERATOR: so what you're saying is that When there's networking across and between corporations, the performance exceeded those of the more closed off ones?

SCOTT C: What Ray discovered back then is that there's a new organizational form. I wanted to know if I could apply that to medicine, and we chose spine surgery. Orthopedics is the fastest growing medical field in terms of innovation. We had to figure out what would be an appropriate way to use open source. Historically, "Hallway Consult" is the way info was transferred among professionals.

MODERATOR: Can you show us how people interact with this software?

SCOTT C: Click on the Groups link at the top of the page. We find that primary growth is through the fellowship program. this site has become popular when fellows have finished their 1-year training but want to stay connected. Click on the Browse button on the left panel and click on Browse Group. Then click on Cleveland Clinic. Then you can submit a request to join this group. You can also create your own group by clicking on the second button, "create a group," in the left panel.

SCOTT: Thus far, it appears that these are largely communities of practice. Peter and I have recently been discussing differences between COINs and communities of practice. I'm curious: what innovations have emerged from the collaboration among these groups and surgeons?

SCOTT C: What we recognized is that if we wanted to create a collaborative network, we had to get the members together first. Once you create a group you can invite members by sending an invitation. When you look at a member's profile you see their training, interests, and other groups they're members of. Back to the menu bar, select Groups, then click on the SOLAS XLIF Discussion link.


SCOTT C: We've created a "Technology Fellowship" page here because we understand that people learn more effectively by being trained by their peers. SOLIS is a society and XLIF is a product and a procedure.

MODERATOR: It stands for eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion, which sounds painful.

SCOTT C: When you first join, you need to go through the training, then you're free to post your case to get the feedback from the expert doctors who have driven the technology. Now, click on the case "Possible XLIF with decompression?"


SCOTT C: What you see here is a surgeon describing his patient in much detail. You can view case the specifics of his case, as well as x-rays, right there by clicking in the proper section on the site. Participants will discuss the case and how they would approach the it if it were theirs.

RAY: This is appropriate collaborative behavior conducted on the web, which had to be learned since doctors were not use to collaborating using this technology.

MODERATOR: How has it been received by users?

SCOTT C: People have been excited about creating a network of supporting peers. Surgeons are doing more cases because they're getting more confidence by hearing more feedback from their peers.

PETER: How do you get participation?

SCOTT C: There's no reward in the open community. Fundamentally, when people reach a certain level in their career, they get success by sharing their knowledge.

RAY: Scott and his group recognized themselves as examples of excellent consultation. There was recognition, but it was coming from Scott and his group, which was very useful early on, but it carried over to surgical colleagues once they saw the usefulness of this site. Now, appreciation for the site -- and the consequent recognition -- has been growing and has become the norm across the group.

SCOTT C: The surgeons now are coming to us with queries about new applications, so we created a research tool. We wanted to know where we could improve, and the users opened up to their communities. It is important for data collection and reporting to be useful. Go to Add a Case on the left side, select the Private Group radio button, then Continue. This page allows you to add images and files.


SCOTT C: In one situation, a doctor posted his case here and was contacted by someone who currently was reviewing a peer-reviewed research paper on the topic. He gave useful, unpublished, information that probably helped the patient greatly avoid a potentially dangerous and painful surgery. So far we have 10 patents in various stages of submittal for spinal implant treatments and devices. We created a process and methodology to enable teams to form to create patents rapidly. So now we have mechanical engineers with medical device experience involved, as well as patent attorneys, at a cost of less than $1,000 per patent. It's a manual process right now that had to be architected via software and currently is in a design phase. The allocation of equity is part of the software.

RAY: These Colab Comm (surgeons and other skills) have behaved pretty much as we thought they would and they do agree on the distribution of shares. The contributions of the team leads everyone to behave correctly in the allocation of equity. This is becoming model behavior, and we had predicted that this would be emergent -- that collaborative communities would develop the capability to behave in their relationships.

PETER: Who brings in the other experts such as lawyers and technicians?

SCOTT C: I've gone out and talked with dozens of patent attorneys and mechanical engineers to find those with an entrepreneurial mind and attitude. And I've been introduced to the surgical community by others as well. We envision creating a learning community and connecting everyone. Our community is a qualified open community.

PETER: You need 10 years of training just to understand the language.

MODERATOR: Right. Some of the names of the links are such that I can't even figure out what they are about.

PETER: Even looking at programmer's open source community sites, they seem pretty rude to outsiders.

SCOTT: At what point in the innovation process do you find that those involved begin to want to protect their property?

SCOTT C: A venture comes to me typically, and I agree to facilitate a round of interviews with all essential personnel required to take this to submit a patent. I ask the inventor to divide the pie and figure out how much work and what kind of work and complexity is going to be involved.

SCOTT: Do you have any instances of innovation where there's no desire for remuneration?

SCOTT C: I had a knee surgeon come to me about these plates that he uses as standard equipment. He wanted to create his own plate and didn't care if he made any money. He just wanted to stop paying $1,000 for something that should cost $50.

SCOTT: Have there been any discussion of a creative commons approach to some of these innovations?

SCOTT C: You could use the knee plate example and our own example of developing commodity products where patents have expired. We're a small company and doing what we can to keep on our core mission. We'll probably open more in the future to a creative commons format.

RAY: What Syndicom has done is take what we've anticipated would happen and make it happen. Within a domain where everyday behavior was different, it has changed to be more collaborative. These are true collaborative communities where innovation develops. You're tapping into the creativity of the community in a much more generous way than what's happened in the past.

PETER: This seems to be one of the most advanced social communities I've seen. While the software may be nothing more than a beefed up version of a Yahoo group, true innovation has grown from it. I'm wondering if all this trust building is because they know one another only online or is it because they've known each other from face-to-face acquaintances at conferences?

SCOTT C: We've actually seen surgeons who have shared cases online but haven't met until a conference. In our second year now we've seen surgeons go abroad and do surgeries with donated equipment. When they leave, the surgeries go back to the way they were done prior to the surgeons' visits. But we're now trying to change this by having surgeons train others abroad using our software.

MODERATOR: Have you done anything to address language issues for international doctors.

SCOTT C: No, to date everything has been in English, but we haven't had any problem since English seems to be a common language among surgeons.

MODERATOR: How about remote surgery?

SCOTT C: We have one customer who has asked about his, and we might approach that in the future. But our current process really just augments current procedures.

RAY: We had not found anything like Syndicom, so when we wrote our book we created a fictional company. So what Syndicom has done is to become this company -- in real life.

GARY: Are there any plans to create a print version anthology of particularly interesting cases that can be researched and read at a glance, such as the knee plate case or the one where the patient avoided the dangerous and painful surgery? This could prevent surgeons from having to sift through so many cases.

SCOTT C: Good question. We actually do put out an email newsletter to highlight cases. Also, a couple surgeons have approached me to publish a compendium of cases.

MODERATOR: We are out of time. Thank you, Scott, Peter, and our special guests Ray Miles and Scott Capdevielle. Listeners, please post your comments to the blog -- whether they're about any connection problems you're experiencing or commentary on the subject of today's coolhunt. The transcript of today's coolhunt will be posted with previous ones at The Swarm Creativity Blog: Join us on Friday for the next installment of our live, online coolhunt with Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper.

Copyright Notice: Please feel free to duplicate or distribute this log as long as the contents are not altered and this notice is intact.

Thank you.

Coolhunt Log #18 - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Coolhunt Log #18
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

On Stage:
Scott Cooper, MIT research affiliate with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of Coolhunting
Peter Gloor, MIT research affiliate with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of Coolhunting
Steve O'Keefe, moderator

MODERATOR: I'm calling from my home office in New Orleans. Could you tell us where you're calling from?

PETER: I'm calling in today from my home office in Switzerland.

SCOTT: I'm calling from my home office in Newton Highlands, MA.

MODERATOR: I'd like to encourage everyone to see the review of Coolhunting in the Wall Street Journal. Any comments on the review from the authors?

SCOTT: Wow! I like that it's above the fold. I like that it also reviews Chasing Cool, and uses our book to talk about the misconceptions of the other book. They mention how we differ from the marketer authors of the other book by our different definition of "cool." And even though we never mention Jessica Simpson in our book, it's nice that the reviewer points out that our definition of cool would have nothing to do with someone like her.

MODERATOR: It also mentions Paris Hilton as another example of what the crowd wants to see the most of, although it may not really be what the crowd wants. Did anyone post any messages yesterday?

PETER: I posted a comment at Forrester Research, sent a message to the editor at Forbes, emailed Sam Bowles soliciting a comment, and I couldn't think of what to send to Xanga.

MODERATOR: We have some special guests tomorrow, don't we Scott?

SCOTT: We coolhunted to SpineConnent, and Scott Capdevielle contacted us and offered to give us a tour of his website. His mentor was Ray Miles of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, and Ray should be a guest as well. Today, we're going to TechCrunch.


SCOTT: We'll scroll down to the article War of the People Search. Michael Arrington is a blogger we've mentioned before. I'm very interested in talking about how the use of people searching on the web fits in with what we've been talking about. We're writing another book and are very interested in this topic.

PETER: Mike is probably the most popular bloggers in the web 2.0 environment. He is an influential trendsetter.

SCOTT: He's a coolhunter and a coolfarmer.

PETER: Exactly. You can read his posts and reactions to posts, and see that he's very positive. He mentions the CEOs of search companies such as ZoomInfo.


SCOTT: Let's search Peter Gloor in ZoomInfo.

MODERATOR: We noticed that there's no way to comment on the Wall Street Journal's book review of Coolhunting. We need to talk later about online copyright law. Back to ZoomInfo, we notice that the site matches names with job titles and companies.

PETER: You'll notice that there's a number of Peter Gloors because it's a very common name. I'm the fifth one, but one even states that he's not the Peter Gloor at MIT.

MODERATOR: So, about half of these are you but the profiles have not been consolidated into one profile?

PETER: That's correct.

MODERATOR: ZoomInfo is not user-generated content. Profiles are created by ZoomInfo and contain numerous references that they hope are correctly associated with the correct person.

PETER: They must be using statistical information to find information. I think they are doing an extremely good job putting together a conhesive, comprehensive history.

MODERATOR: While you see Peter's PhD and Master's studies work, my name only shows the grade school I attended, which I still think is amazing.

SCOTT: In the second paragraph of Michael Arrington's blog is the article You're nobody until. . . . It's funny and sad about a woman who is an epidemiologist who added her husband's name and fell off the face of the virtual earth. ZoomInfo is a fabulous way to get basic information.

MODERATOR: One of the reasons ZoomInfo an important site is because the swarm puts it there by popularity among browsers.

SCOTT: If you click About, then go to About Michael Arrington, the first link PANEL, you go to another story by Askteruck. It says he cuts through marketing BS to modernize the people search, and Google is probably looking at these engines to see which one it wants to buy. There's a fascinating slide by a guy named Dustin, a link to Facebook data. It takes us to Flickr that shows the slide getting six hundred million searches per month!

PETER: It is all about social networks, us being social creatures, and us using the web to find out about it. Thirty percent of all searches are about people.

SCOTT: Now let's go to Spock. What's interesting about Spock is that it makes it possible to tag people, adding keywords, to enhance profile searchability.


PETER: Compare wikipedia and ZoomInfo: Wikipedia shows that people can correct mistakes, whereas in ZoomInfo the information stays forever. My hunch is that there is a correction way but only by writing to ZoomInfo to ask them to make a correction. In one case, a professor was labeled as a movie director when in fact he only made a 3-minute film years ago. It took him two years to get Wikipedia to change it because they thought he was trying to take away someone's credential.

MODERATOR: Great article about the bad article problem at Amazon regarding correcting bad data, which seems to hang around a long time. I've tried to get negative comments removed from Amazon but it's remarkably difficult. Last year, all the anonymous reviewers' names were revealed for about 2 days at Journalists discovered this and downloaded enormous
examples of authors glowing about their own books.

PETER: This is a great example of the power of transparency. Such examples make people much better behaved.

MODERATOR: The Arrington panel discussed the issue of how these databases get corrected, and it was mentioned that it's policed by the community.

PETER: I'm using the same effect in my class, a virtual mirror to every student so they can see how they're viewed by others.

MODERATOR: I just did an experiment by searching Michael Arrington in Wikipedia and ZoomInfo. At TechCrunch you'll see 151 profiles whereas Wikipedia has only one profile. ZoomInfo offers snippets of info. I hope we'll have time to talk about that copyright issue.

PETER: It occurs to me that all the ZoomInfo information may not be authorized. I notice my information may have been taken
from bio information that I've given at conferences.

MODERATOR: I put my picture on ZoomInfo because it looked like a valuable site for reputation management. I think this shows that people are more interested in the Internet for a) themselves and b) others in that order. It looks like ZoomInfo allows you to groom your own information more than Wikipedia -- the former inviting you to post information whereas the latter asks you not to. You're not supposed to add your own information on Wikipedia.

PETER: Enforcing the rule that someone else must write about you as in Wikipedia shows that another human being must feel that you're important enough to be written about. My hunch is that they have editors to whom others can complain if they feel something is incorrect.

MODERATOR: We don't mean to condemn Wink and Spock by not looking at them. We just don't have the time.

PETER: I actually tried Wink but was pretty disappointed because it didn't find me. And being a researcher in social networking, I know I left traces in MySpace, etc. so I feel I should have been found.


MODERATOR: I'm going into a discussion on copyright now. Go to Google to do a search by typing in "google belgium yahoo." The first and fourth results take you to the same place.


MODERATOR: Now, go to the copyright link at the bottom of the page.


MODERATOR: Google recently came to a settlement on this, linking to websites in Belgium. Papers in Belgium say that pointing people to articles in Belgium newspapers is a violation of copyright law. U.S. law says using snippets are fine, though. However, you can't make money from using others' snippets. Also, titles are not copyrightable. So the Belgians are saying that snippets are too much to use legally. The other article I wanted to take you to is on ZDnet. Type in "journalist at center of youtube case" in the search bar and you get 20,000 matching results -- none of which are the article.


SCOTT: I put "journalist center YouTube Case" and I found it as the 8th or 10th article.

MODERATOR: This is a helicopter videojournalist who had some of his content put on YouTube without his permission. He was the first to sue YouTube for copyright infringement. The decision in this case could dramatically shape precedent of such cases. You can see a discussion of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This is a very interesting case where Google is saying it
has the right to post what it wants.

PETER: I'm on Google's side here.

SCOTT: Me too.

PETER: It's such much more valuable if we can get access to information. But the journalist is afraid of losing market value but really is giving them more visibility, making them more accessible. It's altruism. I once discovered in a website that someone had cut up one of my books, scanned it in, and put it on their website. I ended up linking to this site.

SCOTT: We've talked about this other time -- how giving things away for free can have great value. Our colleague at MIT, Eric von Hippel, put his highly successful book Democratizing Innovation online for free download, and it hasn't hurt the sales. He also has an earlier book from 1998 on his website, also downloadable for free.


MODERATOR: sold 20,000 hardback copies of a self-published book that he posted online. It'll be interesting to see if publishers will become more altruistic in the future.

SCOTT: Peter and I have been talking a lot about -- for want of a better word -- altruism in business. Altruism is not far from self-interest in this regard. We believe that if you give away, you'll reap benefits. One of the principles we incorporate in coolhunting is to gain power by giving power away.

MODERATOR: Letting go of content can actually increase value.

PETER: Ecofarms combines making lots of money while trying to make the world a better place.

GARY: If we could take a minute before we end this coolhunt I'd like to go back to Type in "Gary Michael Smith" then "New Orleans" for location. I notice that 19 of the 20 links are actually me. Why so many?

SCOTT: It seems to be culling information from Google and other search engines since it's not really giving personal information such as what schools you attended, where you worked, etc. But I notice that the Gary Michael Smith I've been working with on these coolhunts over the past month is the same Gary Michael Smith who wrote a book I bought for a friend.

GARY: That has to be The Peer-Reviewed Journal about setting up the editorial office of a peer-reviewed scientific specialty research journal.

SCOTT: No, actually it's The Complete Guide to Driving Etiquette.

MODERATOR: We are out of time. Thank you, Scott. We've been talking today with Scott Cooper and Peter Gloor, co-authors of Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing. We also were joined by Gary Michael Smith, our transcriptionist who also is author of several books. Listeners, please post your comments to the blog -- whether they're commentary on the subject of today's coolhunt or about any connection problems you've experienced. The transcript of today's coolhunt will be posted with previous ones at The Swarm Creativity Blog: Join us Thursday for the next installment of our live, online coolhunt with Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper and our special guests Raymond Miles, former dean of the Haas Organizational Behavior and Industrial Relations Group at UC Berkeley and Scott Capdevielle, CEO and founder of Syndicom and SpineConnect.

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