Join me at NOW: The Rise of the On-Demand Economy

For the past several months, I’ve been working with BIA/Kelsey, a long-time local media analyst and banking firm, to quantify the Local On-Demand Economy. We’ll be holding a conference, NOW: The Rise of the Local On-Demand Economy, at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco on June 12th. If you use the discount code “MR100,” you will receive $100 off the ticket price (currently $495 and going up to $595 in mid-May).

This is a convergence of several technical and socioeconomic trends, including automation (keyed entry record-keeping is dead, along with many of the jobs that perform that function in the enterprise), sharing (the eschewing of “stuff” and emphasis on the value of time and experience, the build-out of the last logistical mile that brings enterprise metrics-driven efficiency to the small and medium-sized business, and the end of full-time work as a means of keeping skills in-house even when they are not immediately needed.

There are many issues to discuss and explore in the Local On-Demand Economy, from the potential commodification of labor, including in specialized fields, to the problems of supporting a thriving middle class that works essentially entrepreneurially, for themselves across many different organizations and customer communities. Join us on June 12th to get a bead on the Local On-Demand Economy. Use the discount code “MR100″ to save $100.

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What will make local marketing work for local business?

I’m working on a project with long-time local media research and banking firm, BIA/Kelsey, to create a new series of sponsored white papers that explore key issues in the local media market from an objective perspective, offering new options and approaches to profitable engagement in local markets.

Our first paper, Optimizing Local Marketing: SMB Marketing Needs Do-It-With-Me Models, which is sponsored by Vendasta, published today. We’re leading a discussion at LinkedIn, which I urge you to join. Do download the paper now and share  your thoughts on how to make local marketing work in the LI forum.

The paper examines the pressing need for consultative marketing services that blend easy-to-use digital presence management tools with hands-on marketing expertise for companies that are too large to continue to market on an ad hoc basis and too small to hire and retain full-time marketers while paying for expensive enterprise tools that are often overkill, and over-priced, relative to the SMB’s needs.”

Specifically, it’s the “troubled teens,” when a company is between 10 and 19 employees, that represent the greatest opportunity for local marketing services players to step into a startling gap in success. Even as smaller and larger firms continue to grow, albeit with very high failure rates among the smallest businesses, it is the teen companies that fail at a rate more than an order of magnitude greater than other businesses of any size.

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Sea-Level Economy Mapping: A big data project for future equality

Here’s something that we can use big data for today: Let’s set the socioeconomic benchmark against which society will respond to rising sea levels across all income levels.

Everyone carrying a phone today is throwing off location data that, if anonymized, collected and analyzed, would show what low-lying land is most used today. From that, we can project the potential economic disruptions that will be caused by various levels of sea level change, as many tools do today. We can look at property ownership, travel patterns, rent and home prices that will be impacted by rising water and, like the Dutch when they decided to hold the sea back, make some long-term decisions that will save everyone, not just the privileged, from personal tragedy and economic disaster as their homes, communities and job networks disappear in the waves.

When the ocean rises, and it will rise enough that many low-lying cities in 40, 80 or 120 years will be under many inches or feet of water, everyone’s lives will be disrupted. If we start tracking the use of public and private property, shared-use common areas and investments, such as the the cost of infrastructure that may be destroyed, and that which needs to be created to holds the seas back, can be mapped to provide the best outcome for all. At least, it will give everyone a baseline against which to measure the impacts. Democracy can take care of the rest, with an assist from the market, but a market-only solution will leave far too many losers.

Without some benchmark to measure the social cost of responding to climate change, the wealthiest people will almost certainly benefit disproportionately to others who live and work in flooded areas. We’ll see cries reparations for lost land from every quarter, but the rich will have the loudest voice, as we know from the state of political speech today.

The homes of the rich that line sea coasts everywhere will be lost, but so will many of the homes occupied (not necessarily owned by) the poor and middle class. Who will get the help necessary to relocate? Who will have new public right-of-ways running through their neighborhoods when existing rail and road infrastructure must be moved inland or raised above the rising seas? Will insurers make the rich whole and, like home insurance today, leave most people less than half-whole when the cost of relocation is counted?

I am not arguing that anyone get resources here, only for a measurement so that, when the crisis comes, we will have had many years, even decades to have the national and international conversation about the mass migration of people fleeing the high tide. We may decide it’s time to move past many of the institutions we rely on today.

If we’re going to go through this together, we need the data to understand the distributed social cost of lands and infrastructure — technical, industrial, social and even personal networks that currently provide support to families. The problem with this statement is that it appears naive, because we live in a society where almost everyone thinks they’ve made their way in the world alone. That myth is going to collapse as the world starts denying us land and resources we used to have.

Yet we can get through this, as humans have done many times in history, if we recognize the real costs and opportunities in radical change. Perhaps, with lots more data and people trained to think through these complex issues armed with real-time and historical perspectives provided by big data strategies, we might actually realize we are in this together.

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Why, I wonder, are we…

as species always just one step away from declaring “We’ll be better off without these kinds of people,” and acting on that nutty reasoning to the detriment of the next poor son of a gun to have their ox gored, until, reason suggests, a few people are left battling over great fortunes while the rest wait to learn our fate? It’s time for a second act, humanity. Now. You heard me.

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Where systems and worlds collide you’ll find politics

Over at Doc Searls’ excellent VRM list, there is a discussion about “governance.” Some like the word, others hate it — the concept is naturally troubling for engineers who generally ignore abstractions. But this is an inevitable crossroads for any large-scale systems development. It’s the Technologist’s Bane: We still have to do society, there’s no building successful systems that will ignore social priorities. That’s what we are arguing about here – the “governance” of the Net, the organization, the partnership all need at every level to be negotiable within a reasonable range in order for transactions to have novel outcomes not reinforcing of previous models.

Government served this function, as the setting for negotiation and enforcer of rights, but we’ve hit the limit of governmental flexibility and responsiveness – thank you, Congress – when crossing the national-transnational boundaries that the Net naturally crosses with impunity. Here, where people’s lives are shaped and reshaped by the system, we cannot shrug off the hard problems because of a distaste for politics, allocating them to the future, so we can “figure them out later.”

This is where trust meets the road, where the cogs have to be aligned, where our initial agreements will be born. Right here is where VRM must say “the battle of all against all” is over and a new alternative exists that can be understood easily and intuitively by all while producing novel socio-economic outcomes.

While working with Dee Hock’s Chaordic Alliance, which worked to establish organizational models that could be adapted, and adopted to specific needs, I repeatedly saw the governance argument derail implementation of a new organizational model. Concerns parochial often won out, preventing organizations from changing too drastically, undercutting the Chaordic model that emphasized self-organization and shared governance to ensure ongoing transparency for NEW members in relation to the founding members. Without the inflow of new members, there is no growth and the system will become moribund.

Rather than reject governance, we need to find a new respect for the nuance of social interaction involved in negotiation and decision-making so that systems can be engineered on standards that include sufficient flexibility for a wide range of experimentation within the model. Instead, people tend to either reject governance or monopolize governance by making the process opaque. Then the system becomes either an ongoing battlefield that quickly destroys the value of the system or it results in a hegemony by the early participants, who know how the system “really works,” which is just another way of saying we’ve found a way to facilitate bald political power in a new environment and you, new people, are on the outside.

This will be the hardest mountain for VRM or any variation on these ideas to overcome. It killed the Chaordic Commons. Tom’s call for analysis and reflection on the existing system and the proposed new system is the only viable next step. Some parts of the old models will still be valuable, represented here by the concepts of private property and fungible value, the ability to engineer a transactional environment in order to profit from facilitating the transactions, among others.

It’s time for experimentation and pragmatic debate.

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Hobby Lobby ruling: Back to the middle ages

Except for Dred Scott v. Sandford, today’s Supreme Court ruling allowing “closely held companies” such as Hobby Lobby to decide what forms of birth control may be available to employees, is the dumbest, most backwardly venal decision by a group of men (all male majority in the case) in the history of the Supreme Court. At least, like Chief Justice Taney, all these men will eventually die and be remembered for this kind of crony capitalist decision, which will be humiliating to live with until it is overturned.

We’ve put women in the back of the medical care bus, a man at the wheel, and decided to close our eyes to gender bias and the influence of money on health care in the United States. Too bad that the conservatives on the Court did not listen to the advice of another conservative Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, who wrote a memo while clerking for Justice Jackson in 1952, when Brown v. Board of Education ended the Scott decision’s influence on public policy by striking down the segregation of schools: “Scott v. Sandford was the result of Taney‘s effort to protect slaveholders from legislative interference.” Taney ignored basic facts to ensure a system of human slavery was sustained, the Court’s majority today is ignoring medical advice to accommodate profit combined with bigotry.

In the meantime, join me in taking a pledge:

I will not shop at any store that places the owner’s religious beliefs above the employees’ freedom to choose medical treatment. America is great when we can each choose a personal path based on our own values, not when it enforces the values of any group, majority or minority, male or female, straight or gay population, regardless of religious affiliation, on the rest of population.

We’ll always have the reversal of the decision to look forward to, which could come with just one more woman on the Court, but we have to wait for it, for now. Hopefully, not for as long as the Scott decision to be tossed out,which took more than a century.

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