April 28, 2007

the echo chamber [revisited]


Is it just me, or would "The Echo Chamber" make a good cartoon for the Microsoft Blue Monster Series?

You know, "MS has got to get outside of the Echo Chamber, outside of Redmond increasingly more often if it wishes to stay relevant long-term" etc etc etc.

I've changed the line from the original red to black. I never liked the red, not sure why...

Meanwhile, the other night at the Girl Geek Dinner, Sarah Blow told me that before I arrived at the event, there was some conversation going on at one of the tables about gapingvoid "being assimilated by Microsoft".

I can see their point, but this is kind of short-term thinking to me. In the past, I've been assimilated by many things in the last few years- the cartoons, the suit business, the wine business, the advertising business, the marketing business, whatever takes my fancy at the time. Somehow the blog keeps ticking along, regardless.

My attitude is, as long as I keep drawing new cartoons, things will stay interesting. If I stop, things will peter out. The cartoons are the canary in the coal mine etc.

[Bonus Link:] It was great meeting David Terrar in the flesh, finally. Here's his take on the Girl Geek Dinner.

Posted by hugh macleod at April 28, 2007 5:03 PM | TrackBack

I've always seen that cartoon as self-parody on your part -- since you do a lot of "talking about the conversation". :)

Posted by: Keith Handy at April 28, 2007 6:51 PM

"MS has got to get outside..."

I agree completely. Changing the contexts and participants of their conversations would go a long way towards helping them catch up with the new cultures of business and relationships which has been developing online. Microsoft has a lot more to offer the world and rebuilding communication with the various communities is probably the most important first step.

On the other hand, I prefer to read that cartoon as a comment on how funny any conversation gets when it becomes self-aware.

Posted by: Robert de Forest at April 28, 2007 9:22 PM

Hugh - David is one of the 'good guys' as I'm sure you discovered by which I mean decent and honest.

Disclosure: He and I are occasional business partners.

Posted by: Dennins Howlett at April 28, 2007 11:58 PM

On assimilation, I think your track record speaks for itself. Regarding Microsoft, I would feel better about their continued relevance with Gates at the helm. I am curious to know what percent of Microsoft's employees, old and new, work in Redmond vs other cities..

Posted by: troy worman at April 29, 2007 2:21 AM

"being assimilated by Microsoft" Ha!

MS is being assimilated by Gapingvoid.


Posted by: Thomas at April 29, 2007 5:53 AM

Hughcutus of Borg, He Who Has Spoken with Cartoons:

We,(speaking for the entire hive) assimilated your cartoons into our own lives. Isn't that Microsoft's same goal? For the hive to continue to assimilate Microsoft into their lives...You are the right representative to unleash "the monster".

Live long and prosper so you can enjoy many and more accomplishments.

Your Gapingvoid Klingon, RKR

(This ridiculous comment was brought to you by 2 margueritas and a need for coffee)

Posted by: RKR at April 29, 2007 6:26 AM

Cheers Den, and thanks for the link love Hugh! It's a shame you're off to SF just as Dennis arrives in the UK. Maybe next time.

Posted by: David Terrar at April 29, 2007 2:28 PM

No Hugh - don't recycle this one. It's very clever but has too many overtones of 'converse with MSFT and hear the sound of your own voice'.

Posted by: Frank at April 29, 2007 6:36 PM

I think the "assimilated" comment is a result of the 'theme of the moment' effect of blogging about what is currently relevant and interesting to you. For a while it was almost nothing but Stormhoek, with the occasional suit and marketing idea. Now it is almost exclusively about Blue Monsters.

It would be great to see all of these things intermingling, and speaking to each other, offering insight and advice. Easy to say, difficult to manage, but could get around the single theme issue?

Posted by: robert mcintosh at April 29, 2007 10:35 PM

Mr. McIntosh: Respectfully, if you put all three ideas (great wine, smart suits, and a blue monster) into one cartoon theme wouldn't you end up with "Beast" from X-men? ;)

Posted by: RKR at April 30, 2007 2:14 AM

That's a good point Hugh, although the echo chamber in reverse would be a far more appropriate concept - the megaphone maybe?
As I mentioned in my post and to Steve, the megaphone (sort of like Seth's) concept allows individuals at Microsoft, however small they may be, to have their say. I think it is a very powerful tool of engagement.

Posted by: Paul Fabretti at April 30, 2007 9:40 AM

Robert, yeah, exactly, easy to say, hard to do. Sometimes the different worlds interconnect, but not all the time.

I just write about what interests me at the moment. If that changes, the blog changes. C'est la vie.

Posted by: hugh macleod at April 30, 2007 10:33 AM

Thomas, you may be right that GapingVoid is assimilating Microsoft.

I had the great honor of spending the entire day with Hugh yesterday. One of my colleagues at MS said after the meeting as he shook Hugh's hand: "Thanks Hugh, you really rocked my brain around". I think that sums it up. Hugh's probably on a plane to NYC now. What's fascinating is that Hugh just 'is'. He doesn't wear his agenda on his sleeve and, as you point out here, his curiosity and additive approach affords him great respect. He opened my eyes to a bunch of things. The ecosystem, the subtleties, the no zero-sum game, heck even music references.

Speaking of music--We met with Steve Ball which I'm sure Hugh will write about it. (I took video on our camera phones). A conversation with Steve is a sensory cornucpia. Steve is responsible for the way that Vista greets you each day. Poor Steve, a mountain of talent, he's trying to inch some of it into the millions of desktops and hampered by the need for Vista to be everything to everyone. (no electric guitars...wouldn't want to offend grandma!) Fascinating conversation between Hugh and Steve. They connected at so many levels conceptually, musically, socially, and there was this "jiffy pop" effect where they suddently were into a zone of thousand ping-pong phrases finishing each other's sentences, etc..

I have to say that the art Hugh practices requires a certain 'Master Po' quality to it. He has to help people realize things on their own by asking questions. You then have the chance to internalize them - own them as your own. Here, I am Grasshopper and while many times I understand what Hugh says, sometimes it takes me a few hours or days to really internalize it, but it eventually happens and Hugh is pretty patient. (I think)

Hugh's curiosity with Microsoft comes not from anything related to 'sell-out' (by any means) It's his interest in the re-invention. The simple models that Hugh was white-boarding with us yesterday were so deep and meaningful, but so simply expressed. I think this symbiotic relationship is far tipped in Microsoft's benefit vs. Hugh's so you should try some different words than 'sell-out'. Maybe 'point-out'?

Quick sidebar that made me chuckle (and it gives me a chance to try on some of what I've learned). Hugh and I used the hand-manipulatable Virtual Earth glass table). The demo lets you use your hands to zoom/pan/move the 3D map and Hugh asked if this was Google Earth.

Now, shutting off my cheerleading tendencies where I normally would say: "yes! It's Microsoft's Virtual Earth which is so cool in the following ways....."
Rather, I'm going to say: Microsoft does have a earth-to-street-level 2-D & 3-D mapping solution. The team who worked on it were asked to build features that would be more compelling and useful than anything currently available. You can try it an see if they succeeded in doing that local.live.com. Google and Microsoft each have areas of strengths in different cities. Many people are comparing different cities and discussing which they prefer and where. e.g. while Google has a 3d rendition of a stadium in San Francisco, Microsoft has a detailed view of the building in the Vegas strip. Which you pick may depend on which areas you focus on. You can see a side-by-side comparison at http://www.jonasson.org/maps/.

A lot of people are infected with the HughTrain bug. Having him explain it in person has been even more enlightening. I think next time, we'll just reserve a room for 500+ and broaden the discussion. Next trip Hugh?

HINT: Hugh's masterplan? Everytime the blue monster is exposed to techies through Microsoft or other channels, Stormhoek's name is embedded directly to its target market. Mwah, ha ha! Happy to oblige, Hugh. It's brilliant.


Posted by: kris fuehr at May 5, 2007 5:21 PM