Monthly Archives: September 2006

The Long Tail- The Changing Face Of Markets

I’m sitting here on a Saturday afternoon, reading a book I heard about on a
local NPR show called “the Long Tail” by Chris Anderson of Wired
Magazine- and I was blown away by the ideas presented in the first chapter- so much so, I wrote a quick letter to a friend who is involved in New media- because if you are interested in Web 2.0 or any other aspect of New Media, this a is a book worth your time. Here is the general gist of what I sent out to my friend:

Chris Anderson has great insights about what is happening these days and
how markets are changing drastically. It used to be that we got all of our information about cool, about products, and about anything at all on the three tv channel and a few fm radio stations- this provided very limited choice, and we watched and consumed what was available and given to us.

But now, in the days of iTunes and Amazon, every single
one of the top 100,000 books sells at least once a quarter; every
track on iTunes has sold at least once. Consumers are now able to
disaggregate their tastes, so to speak, and indulge in any particular
interest or many interests and develop even more new interests,
because access to everything from , let’s say, used or refurbished
podcasting equipment on ebay, to that specialty soap I got on my last
vacation is available to me on the internet, when I choose to buy it.
And businesses are finding that all these onesies and twosies, as
Anderson calls them, are adding up to big sales. In other words,
everything you can possibly want is almost instantly available, rather
than the lmited selection available at the local record store, or the
shows available on main stream media outlets.
This may mean more and more people shunning the
limited selection available on traditional media channels (I started
reading because there may be over 200 channels, but there is nothing
on….) in favor of things available on the Net, often produced by individuals rather than conglomerates; passionate “users” rather than by traditional corporate interests, although certainly corporations are beginning to see the use of supporting and advertising in the niche, so to speak, after all, the internet creates a specific connection between user and content, infinitely specialized to our individual tastes, just like Douglas Adam’s drink machine in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy- it is now all about “Share and Enjoy!”

In fact, I think the whole appeal of reality TV is based on the fact that what we miss in our daily lives is passion and authenticity. For example, the Cosby show was cute, but it was sugary sweet; Roseanne seemed more real, but the
real meaningful parenting lessons and how to solve problems in your
house don’t come from sit coms and the wrap up of plots in 23 minutes, but shows like Nanny 911 and Super Nanny, just for example. (Could this be the reason why sitcoms are dying overall? Perhaps!)
My humble opinion… Check out this book, thoug- it is really great- The Long Tail by Chris Anderson.


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The World Today

I have a big problem with our nation’s politics at the moment.  We have leaders who are using language like “Islamic fundamentalism” and “Islamic Fascism” on one hand, but on the other, are imprisoning people for long periods of time without giving them the basic right of habeus corpus.  They are imprisoned in overseas prisons, where the Government is stripping them of any avenue of legal appeal to their detention.  The whole concept of holding prisoners in Guantanomo Bay to circumvent possible legal complications, and taking advantage of the murkiness of current international law is corrupt and dishonest at best, and dispicable at worst.  Our government has broken just about every possible standard of human rights, and made us the moral laughing stock of the world.  We have become hypocrits in the extreme, and as a result, I firmly believe we are being made less safe, as Americans, when we travel abroad, as well as at home.

In the name of terrorism and fear, our government is perpetrating crimes that are unimaginable previously, except in novels and despotic regimes elsewhere in the world.  And in the name of fear and terrorism, we are letting it occur.

FDR said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  This is perhaps one of the wisest statements ever.  Fear initiates a visceral, reflexive, instant response, rather than a thought out, logical and measured response.  Countries are supposed to be better than third graders with ADHD.  They are supposed to be able to control and plan their actions.  We are supposed to have plans and strategies, but I am afraid we do not.

If we need more troops in Iraq to secure the peace, then we need to do that, regardless of its attendant risks.  If we sit on the fence and refuse to make the hard decisions, – This is the danger of waffling- more people will die, needlessly, because the need to bring security will only get worse- far worse, I fear, before it gets better. Yes, the war is unpopular because it is being run by opinion polls and politics rather than by strategists.  People are dying because despite our country’s early resolve to get involved in this ill-conceived quagmire,  we have decided not to go “ball to the wall” and do the job properly, but are taking measured steps- and this thing is looking more and mroe like a text book case of mistakes made in Viet Nam.

I respect people when they make hard decisions.  We respected Bill Clinton when he raised taxes, in part, because it brought prosperity and a sense of equality to our country.  My family is doing well, and as much as I might whine about taxes from time to time, I feel privileged that we are doing well enough to be able to whine about it.  I don’t mind paying our share, to help others in need.  I think of that as an obligation we have to help everyone, not just a few.  I don’t need tax breaks, because there is some hope I will start a business and employ others- that is a misnomer.  My husband is employed in a field where he doesn;t really have the opportunity to create new jobs, so this tax break only lines our pockets, it does not help anyone else, directly or indirectly.  Tell me we need higher taxes to make our country great and I will pay my share.

But now, the amount we do pay is not only supporting our country, but it is supporting an entire nation overseas.  We’re in a mess that will takes YEARS and DECADES to fix, and I am embarrassed and disappointed in our current government.  This feeling of disillusionment is far more damaging than simple visceral anger. It erodes our sense of ourselves as Americans- once the brightest shining light of freedom and possibility on the planet, now tarnished into something that smacks of greed and hubris.

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Weekend with The Kids

Matt & I made a decision very early on as parents. One day, each weekend, would be devoted to kid friendly activities, and the other- well, we wouldn’t feel guilty if it involved house work, hanging around, or nothing of much importance. As time has gone on, this has just become part of our family ritual or lifestyle.

This past weekend, Kid Day involved dragging the boys to NYC for the day. They were not thrilled. But somewhere during the ride to Princeton and grabbing the train into NY, their attitude gradually began to change. They began to enjoy themselves. Once in NY, we headed to the Empire State Building. The line to buy tickets to the observation deck was over an hour long, so we headed over towards Rockefeller Plaza to see Nintendo World. On the way, there was a huge street fair along Avenue of The Americas. There were vendors selling everything imaginable, street food from every nation- it was positively fantastic. The boys loved tasting zeppoli for the first time, and I got a great knock-off handbag. We walked on, eventually locating video game mecca.
After a brief stop at Nintendo world, we went out for a great lunch (also tried another NYC landmark, Serendipity 3, but again, the line was over an hour- i need to learn to one- get an earlier start and 2. make reservations!) We then took a cab up to the American museum of Natural history, and had a fun time there, as well. By 5 pm, we were tired, and headed back to the train station, ending up at home by 8 pm. It was a great was to spend a family day, and the kids had a lot of great memories for such a short trip.
My point about this is that kids really to value adventures and experiences over things, and one of the best things we have ever done as a family is to adopt the weekend kid adventure policy. It keeps us parents fresh, thinking of different things to do, and it exposes our kids to a variety of experiences they may never have had otherwise.
Other great thigns we’ve done:
Apple Picking
berry picking and making jam (Yes, I have a once a year Martha Stewart moment)
Canoeing and kayaking on a local river
science museums
Art museums
Archeology museums
baseball games
visiting a pretzle or potato chip factory
ice skating
Granted, since we live outside Philadelphia, we have equal access to NYC, Baltimore and DC, giving us alot of options for adventures. But even walks in the woods, visiting a farm or factory where they give tours, or taking a drive together has brought us closer as a family, and lets the parents appreciate things from a child’s perspective on a regular basis. It keeps us young, and an important part of our kid’s lives.

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Busy Day

This has been a hectic day here. Firstly, Ann Richards passed away. I heard her speak a few years ago in Wilmington, DE and she was hysterically funny, smart, and inciteful. We need more women like her going into politics. People not afraid of who they are nor of speaking their minds.
It was Back To School night for the middle school this evening. The transition to middle school is always rumored to be tough, but James seems to be doing well so far. His school is a public middle school in what is probably best characterized as a semi-urban, semi suburban, semi-rural district. It sits on the state line between PA and DE, and many professionals have moved to the PA side of the state line to take advantage of the great public schools, balanced by migrant farm workers working in the mushroom farm business, and just normal people living in the small town. the district is diverse, but the teachers are a knock-your-socks off group. They are universally bright and clearly engaged in teaching. They seem to truly love their jobs, and I think that’s 90% of the battleright there.
I made a point of touching base with James’s teachers, particularly about his illegible handwriting. All were more than helpful, and agreed to keep in touch. I felt like we got off to a good start, and that’s what I need in the beginning of the school year.
I was surprised and pleased by the emphasis across the curriculum on stressingo organization for students and learning how to learn. they want to teach the kids to be independent, but have some smart, fail-safe supports in place. For example, each class keeps a class log. Ina notebook, one student (on a rotating basis) has the responsibility to act as class secretary that day, writing down what happened during class, while 2 other students are the class note takers for that day. The daily agenda and class notes are then put in this binder and are available for kids to check if they missed a class or missed a day because of appointments, absences, etc. The school also has 3 principals- one for each of the three grades, and the guidance counselor and principal of each grade rotates with them through their three years in the middle school, meaning the principal and 6th grade guidance counselor will be responsible for 7th grade next year and the eighth next year- a truly enlightened way to let the administrators really get to know the kids under their care.
So despite all the awful things we are constantly hearing about education, there are some public schools out there that are really doing a good job and being designed with thought and purpose- Good news for parents everywhere.

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