Posted by: rolfsky | January 3, 2008

playing old tricks on new dogs

Today I found a quote from Seth Godin‘s new book, “Meatball Sundae” that I had to share. It is in reference to a swelling trend towards “New Marketing” which is like old marketing, but better of course:

The bottom line

Feel free to get all excited about the neat things you can do with the New Marketing. But be prepared to fail. If you don’t get your marketing in sync with your organization and your product, game over.

I personally love this type of comment for as much as I could pursue the hype, I generally take the route of anti-hype. As wonderful as New Marketing surely is (and, is needed) it is once again a re-centering on basic principles, the pattern revolving. Humans continue to want the same things and press onward toward their desires achieving them as their environment allows. Because of this, marketing may waver with the times, but never really changes.

Over on the O’Reilly Radar, Jimmy Guterman mentioned that Tim himself was passing around a recommendation for one of my favorite books, The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage. Jimmy mentions that streaming media isn’t new, he used to dial in on a landline (the only type of “line” at that time) to listen to his local radio station as long as his family would allow.

Similarly, he brings up a illustrative tidbit from William C. Carter’s biography of twentieth-century author Marcel Proust.

Carter writes that, in 1911, “Proust subscribed to a new service that brought opera, concerts, and plays into the home. For a fee of sixty francs a month, the subscriber received a theatrophone, a large black ear-trumpet connected through telephone to eight Paris theaters and concert halls…”

The quality was “often poor” and Guterman rightly draws a parallel between this streaming media and RealAudio 1.0, another implementation of “often poor” streaming media across the early internet. Both of these inventions utilized a new technology in an attempt to satisfy a basic human desire: to be entertained.

A (new) sucker is born every minute, so get busy with the old tricks.

And what use are these patterns in the real world or the eyes of business? Let’s lay out a pattern and see how it has played out once again.

The Pattern: “Wild West” con-men
The Environment: unknown or unexplored territory, populated with first-movers and explorers
Trigger: new resources added to an environment, ill-quantified in initial scope or impact
The Players: initial participants (sometimes, investors), hucksters or con-men
The Type: essentially a “confidence trick“, but this is in specifically “new” areas

Summary: in a time and area where resources abound, but specific rules haven’t yet been set down yet, scam artists will prey on those who don’t recognize the dangers of the new environment

Some Past Examples:
– swindling miners in 1849 gold rush by selling “salted” (with gold) claims
– the ongoing phishing attacks of internet newbies

New Example: Ginko Financial as recently reported in Technology Review

Summary: In the online environment of Second Life, “Ginko Financial” created ATM-like machine promising interest-returns on deposited virtual currency. Eventually, all virtual currency invested was lost, perhaps as much as $750K in a classic scam. Linden Lab, creators of Second Life are not responsible, the money was given freely to Ginko Financial as a private party and was not endorsed nor insured.

If you’d like another example of history repeating itself, surf on over to Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s fascinating review of “An ‘Online Community’ of the Nineteenth Century”.

This community was created by the readers of a children’s magazine in a “letters to the editor” gone out of control scenario.

My thesis is that whenever people have had the ability to disseminate their writing quickly, cheaply, and reliably (for variable values of all three), and the ability to reply to each other, communities have sprung up whose histories and characteristics have similarities those of our own beloved fandom.

And viola! You get online communities.

Now, knowing this, what patterns do you see revolving and do they help or hurt your business? Are you on the Trick or Treat end of innovation? Which edge of the curve are you surfing?



  1. […] have yet again run into an area where technology has outpaced the legal and social constraints put around it. But it’s not yet time to run around in a […]

  2. […] As I’ve mentioned before, each invention is an opportunity for someone to get ahead. Usually the first people to explore this are scam artists. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: