Sunday February 19, 2006: show day for a giant performance art happening in oh-so-chichi Aspen, Colorado. Japanese-born artist Yutaka Sone worked with the Aspen Art Museum to build a pair of Giant Dice (8 feet square) and then roll them down the halfpipe of Buttermilk Mountain. In the name of Art I hightailed it over to Buttermilk just in time to record the festivities.... Click Here to see the video
The Vatican has announced that is is enforcing copyright on the Pope's writings and encyclicals. You heard that right, if you spread the word... you now have to pay a 15% royalty to the Church. And you thought the whole point of the Church was to Spread The Word. Forget it... Now its, "If you quote the Pope, you pay the Man." This isn't evangelism, its antivangelism. The Vatican seems to have learned a bit of "this ain't no fooling around" from the RIAA, Disney, and the New York Subway System:
A Milanese publishing house that had issued an anthology containing 30 lines from Pope Benedict’s speech to the conclave that elected him and an extract from his enthronement speech is reported to have been sent a bill for €15,000 (£10,000). This was made up of 15 per cent of the cover price of each copy sold plus “legal expenses” of €3,500.
At first I thought this was an Onion comedy piece. "Pope Sues To Prevent Spreading the Good Word," is a very funny gag. But.. its true! And further proof that calcified old institutions can act incredibly stupid when it comes to understanding a world where publishing isn't about control but about spreading ideas through a network of influencers. The Times article is full of quotes from the Italian versions of Doc Searls, Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen expressing outrage and confusion at all this.
The article goes on to say that if the Church approves of how and when you use the Pope's words, they would be willing to waive the fees, but only by "prior agreement." This is an egregious mashup of bad copyright policy, bad free speech policy, and Nixonesque strong-arm tactics.
But in the end its only fair to give Vatican the last word:
"A Vatican spokesman said that the Holy See had to defend itself against “pirated editions.”
No, come to think of it, I get the last word. "The Cluetrain will not be making any stops in Vatican City anytime soon."
The Transport Workers Union Local 100 has a blog. The Blog had comments. But no longer. Fortunately the comments were cached before the union tried to make all those angry New Yorkers go away. Bloggers wrote a lot about the strike, but the comments on the union site really seemed to catch the enmity of a lot of New Yorkers towards the union.
Sample Quote: "You guys really have a lot of balls. All you do is drive around in circles. Your job isn't hard at all. You get paid as much as cops and firemen, while much more as teachers. Something is wrong. You're asking for way too much here. Back down and know your roll. You guys aren't as high and as mighty as you think."
Hey, Local 100: you guys weighed the options, asked for support and chose to go on strike. So you ought to own and acknowledge citizen's reaction. Censorship is so lame.
The fact that your leadership---which wrapped itself in Rosa Parks, dignity, and Dr. Martin Luther King--- also embraces censorship and revisionism says more than a little bit about their openness and ethics.
With all the attention on Live8 and Africa relief, its jarring how little content there is on the official Live8 site about the underlying Africa issues and what actually needs to be done to help people on that continent.
The take away from Live8 seems to be its the G8's job to fix Africa and that George Bush is the main bad guy. You're left thinking these poor Africans are helpless, can't do a damn thing for themselves, and are just lying around waiting for the Rich Countries to come on in and clean up the mess. The whole thing is vaguely reminiscent of some LBJ, Really Big Government Approach and of 60's idealism, but not necessarily in good way. So come on people now, lets all get together and try and love one another right now.
Pope Poses Eternal Question: Who’s the Target Market?
Haven't We Seen This Positioning Before?
We’re only days into the new papacy, and already Benedict XVI is honing the Church’s positioning and strategy. And have you noticed how similar the Vatican strategy is to the Karl Rove strategy? "Dictatorship of Relativism" is linguistic genius, up there with "Right to Life” as a meme. What a brilliant way to frame the issue: anyone who isn’t a doctrinal hard-liner is now cast as a wayward westerner, rolling his own morality, with no reliable sense of good and evil, and quite possibly a secular humanist with no need for God. This is up there with Rove implying that all Democrats are faith-free people.
Both Bush and Benedict XVI are playing to a very conservative base. Difference is, if you live in a democracy and you’re outvoted you still gotta obey the law. If the President gets a tax passed, you pay. If gay marriage is illegal, gays don't get married. If conservative judges get appointed, we all get judged conservatively. In religion, when folks get fed up they actually have the option not to go to church, or ignore teachings, or more actively, change sects or religions. Just ask Martin Luther. Ratzinger would prefer to have fewer, but more devout followers.
This is an accepted brand strategy, but implementing it is tricky and I’m not sure it’s the best way to manage an already huge, mass-brand religion. It certainly doesn’t look like a growth strategy. I’ve been around this mass/targeted market issue my whole career, and since the new pope hasn’t appointed his deputies yet, I figure I have a responsibility to chime in.
The blogosphere is pondering the papacy and.... blogging. For example, Tony Gentile asks, "Will The Next Pope Blog?"
Here's my take: the papacy is one of the last great one-way broadcast “we're in control and you’re not” entities left on earth. Popes don’t listen, they hear from God and pronounce. The last pope used lots of travel and communication technology--- but to the end of extending his centralized reach and minimizing the sway of local bishops. The pope doesn’t care about comments. (Confessions yes, but that’s not really the spirit of the blogopshere). The Church is not a conversation. The Vatican is not a particurlarly fertile Cluetrain , the "customer defines the brand" kind of place. Popes seem swayed by big trends over time (the U.S. Church scandals, rise of 3rd world) but the whole short time-frame, fast feedback-loop thing doesn’t seem to be particularly relevant to a 70 year old guy who’s elected for life, is deemed to be infallible, and speaks to and for God. Contrast that with a US elected leader who faces pundits daily, must deal with interest groups that can organize around the blogsphere and is elected every two years. Its good to be the pope!
On the other hand, the Vatican and churches in general will happily adopt any communication technology that lets them preach more effectively. Sermons are one of the killer apps of podcasting--- why settle for reaching just your flock on Sunday morning when you can reach them on their schedule 24/7 with a podcast and easily reach beyond your local parish and speak to anyone who wants to listen. Podcasting is the first technology that lets any preacher preach beyond their local territory easily, instantly and at no cost. They don’t call it Really Super Sermon technology for nothing. If parishioners can listen to any of the priests in town (or anywhere) via podcasts, will that improve the quality of sermons as competition sets in?
Sure marketing's a conversation. And a relationship. But if a brand really got that idea and didn't just pay lip service, what would they do? They'd trust their customer to do some marketing, make the commercials, and be the voice of the brand. (Note to those who haven't spent a lot of time around brand marketers: this is kinda rare behavior.)
This is just what Converse, the shoe company owned by Nike, is doing at Conversegallery.com. They've invited their customers to make 24 second films and submit them. Spots that make it to TV earn $10,000 for the film-making customer.
Converse's instructions to their customer: "Make a film, not a commercial. It’s a great opportunity for you to tell us what Converse means to you". Translation: "We don't want you to just parrot our marketing and commercials, you're the customer dammit, you get it, so interpret the brand as you see it. We're just the guys at headquarters...." That's trust, thats really listening, and that's treating your customer as an equal, not some consumer. And thats definitely unusal behavior for a brand.
Bob Kalsey and I made this brief film for Bill Gates in 1994. It was pre-internet; we still called it "The Information Superhighway." But a decade later the industry is still chasing after the same Digital Livingroom vision. And we're as hopped-up on convergence as ever!
You could read all that stuff on blogs, in the mainstream press, on the left, and on the right about the tango between blogging and journalism. Or you could watch this recent segment on The Daily Show. Longer than most segments, it really uses humor to nail the issues. First half summarizes recent examples of bloggers setting the news agenda (and the mainstream media's response), while the second half is a very funny commentary bit by Stephen Colbert.
In five minutes it not only hits the major issues (mob psychology issue, main stream media playing catch-up, the power of emergent media...) but sums of the last year of this stuff in a pretty coherent manner.
Friendships seen evolving in face of social networking, technology.
Is companionship-light a fad, or a new staple in our emotional diet?
Laura Bellingkamp has no time. This 33 year old New York marketing consultant has met over a hundred cool new acquaintances on services like Friendster and J-date. She goes out every night, but at parties she meets more people, not less. And in addition to her work and social schedule, Laura must leave time to process all the content captured on her TIVO, iPod and four voice mail accounts. She’s exhibit one of what techno-sociologist Linda Stone calls “the continuous partial attention generation.”
Academics say the problem faced by Laura and those like her is how to deal with all those budding friendships. A hundred years ago a person was lucky to meet 15 new acquaintances a year. Now thanks to technology, people often meet that many in an hour. “Our species was never programmed to adapt to such an onslaught of potential intimacy” says Harvard biologist Irving Bockman. “ Yet we still have an innate need to meet people. So you can see the frightening implication of this codependent cycle. We now believe Traumatic Friendship Stress Disorder is rapidly emerging as the premier psychological ailment of our era.”