Tag Archives: Mary Trigiani

Linwood Holton: How to make politics personal

I grew up in a very small town in a remote corner of Virginia.  Big Stone Gap.

How we got there from an Italian-American enclave in northeast Pennsylvania is a long story.  When we got there, Virginia was dragging itself kicking and screaming into an age of enlightenment.  What I like to think of as an entire society understanding that being reasonable is a continuous learning process.

One of the lights of the age, and there were many, was a native of Big Stone Gap who became the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.  As this article tells us, he now has an autobiography.

Its timing is excellent, as the brief interview in the article demonstrates.  For example.  Governor Holton’s son-in-law, Tim Kaine, is Virginia’s current governor.  And he’s a Democrat.  Both former and current governor have come out for Barack Obama.

Linwood Holton flies out of the pigeonholes that our society so often wants to use for labeling and digestion purposes.  He did it in 1970, and he’s doing it now.  His story reminds us that the most important things are ideas and actions, and in American politics, that the focus should be keeping our nation’s founding principles not just alive but relevant to our daily lives.  Whatever your political philosophy.

In this article, the writer recounts the story of how Governor and Mrs Holton made the decision to send their children to Richmond’s public schools during the big integration ruckus in the state at that time.

Those who knew the Holtons understood this to be neither a political olive branch nor a grandstand.  Like many Virginians, some of whom had to learn it the hard way, the Holtons understood that fairness is the hallmark of a healthy society.

Thumb_holtonAnd something else you should know:  in this famous photograph, Tayloe Holton is wearing a dress made by the people of Miss Virginia, Inc, a garment manufacturer in Big Stone Gap.  Where I worked a couple of summers in the finishing department.  A business my dad started and lost, but one that still managed to produce some winning moments.

Including having the governor of Virginia remember the folks back home as he made a point to a larger world.

Data portability, anyone?

As part of my work with foldier, we are volunteering with dataportability.org — a global group of technology industry people and companies dedicated to researching current standards for giving individuals control of their digital content/property.

When you visit the site, you'll see all the different aspects of portability that the industry must consider.  Our participation has been a real learning experience for me.

And since foldier is all about helping people manage their digital content, our participation is helping us to clarify the features we want to provide and emphasize on foldier.

Click here to read the February activity report — things should really start rolling, now that the collaboration platform is set.

Dis-intermediated, dis-rupted, de-served

We've all heard about how Internet applications and networks are disruptive.  They're rewiring the longstanding patterns of business and commerce, often removing whole channels of players content in established value and supply chains.

This is naturally making a lot of people nervous, especially those with equally-longstanding power bases to protect.

But the rest of us are seeing the possibilities and embracing change — even when it's unclear what that change will actually mean. 

We've got one political candidate who is disrupting the political process of his party, and on Tuesday evening, we witnessed the resistance to his call to action.  There are voters with dependencies they don't want to break.  They went with the old-power candidate.

Candidates can run on platforms promising jobs in outmoded industries and more-than-temporary government aid.  But they can't hide.  We've already seen that.  And any victory, even a big one in November, would just be the last
grunt of a dying beast — not a wholesale resuscitation of Business As

The same is true in industries slow to recognize what digital access means to their performance.  Here are just three examples of many that point to the end of a tired era.

  1. Book publishing.  Last week we had yet another story of a newly-published memoir, heralded by reviewers, rewarded with a large printing run, that was exposed by the author's sister as a complete fraud.
  2. The mortgage crisis.  We are not only seeing the housing market rocked by really stupid loan decisions, those accountable for such decisions are probably going to get away scot-free.  With platinum parachutes.  Who picks up the tab?  Look in the mirror, you folks who live within your means.
  3. The irrelevance of marketing.  Most people in marketing still don't see it, much less get it:  online interaction is changing every possible act of branding, positioning, competition and selling.  And who's paying for the ignorance?  The companies that think marketing is a done-deal, necessary-evil overhead function with no capacity to change.

The obstinate will tell you that these are random events which have nothing to do with digital democracy.  They think of the Internet as a toy best left to young people with time on their hands.  It's good for email and research and stalking old beaus and buying books or old china, but real commerce and communication?  No way.

I submit that the citizenry, in this country and around the world, is waking up to the fact that the old order is just not working very well. 

We're in a moment:  the integration of human need and human capability — an integration that happens at random moments in history around new inventions and innovations.  Using my three examples:

  • Publishing toolmakers such as blurb.com will enable anyone with a few dollars and a manuscript to publish — hard or soft cover.  Instead of a market flooded with dreck, which is what the publishers and agents and writing "consultants" want you to believe will happen, we'll have cream rising to the top, via market demand fueled by word of mouth voiced on the Internet.  Impact:  Who gets published will no longer be in the hands of a tight circle whose center rests in New York and whose pockets get lined just for making an introduction or starting a manuscript bidding war.  Further, we won't have to deal with the outcome of editors who refuse to spend any time checking their authors.  [I mean, come on.  Didn't we learn something from the James Frey episode?  What more do you editors need to see before you'll start doing some elementary fact checking?]
  • Micro loans and person-to-person investment will enable people to invest in other people.  Bankers who reap ridiculous "returns" based on manipulating the deposits of investors, making lousy loans that make them rich but rob the rest of us over the long term, will lose a large part of their franchise.  The new Internet banks that directly connect people who need money with those who have it will change the way decisions are made.  We'll see caution and appropriate risk because people will be using their own money — not playing with someone else's — and earn a reasonable rate of return, not one on par with loan sharks.
  • Marketing will become a function that requires an investment in energetic, strong, quick thinkers — not infrastructures of useless overhead, print waste and advertising campaigns.  Instead of people who spend most of their time networking for the next CMO position, we'll have professionals who actually know how to perform marketing tasks and use real skill to engage markets not preach to them, connecting their brands and brand promises to buyers.  CEOs, CFOs and COOs will be able to measure marketing performance.  Finally.

I've chosen three examples that are personal hot-button issues.  Just as we are seeing landmark change in the American political process, there are many more changes in other realms now and down the road.  Honest, creative, productive — and democratic.

The problem with the semantic web: Semantics! The solution: foldier!

On November 19, VLAB, the MIT/Stanford venture lab, held a panel discussion on what was categorized as a Web 3.0 concept:  the semantic web.  It was excellent.  Thought provoking.  And between the audience and the panelists, the conversation could have lasted well into the evening.  [For Silicon Valley and nearby, this is a strong series on where technology, startups and the market intersect.  Sign up.]

The discussion was perfectly timed.  We’ve had a great deal of talk around here about the semantic web

It’s actually a new-century successor to the artificial intelligence topic that fascinated so many business and technology types in the 80s.  Nearly everyone on the panel agreed that the big difference between the semantic web and artificial intelligence — hence the Web 3.0 classification, I guess — is the impact of the Internet-as-a-platform on both the gathering and morphing of collective intelligence.

The scientists behind "the semantic web" moniker clearly value marketing.  To avoid putting people off with "artificial intelligence," they’ve decided to build interest in the topic by attaching themselves to social networking and online products and services the public is beginning to demand.

Also, to succeed, the scientists need good, old-fashioned traffic.  Because they need to gather the intelligence of the masses and track how they share content and change it.  Because the scientists must be able to manipulate the underlying data if they want to create a huge base of knowledge, or intelligence.  Since the Internet has opened a comprehensive, infinite number of knowledge exchanges, it is the perfect place to chase and capture content.  Today’s scientists know that the Internet is the promised land of intelligence.

Somebody has advised some of the semantic networks to adopt the
behavior and use patterns of Facebook and the like.  Employing marketing tactics targeted to the masses would be fine, except that when the masses get there, they find a serious science project suited — by design and interface — to what I call "high knowledge holders."

I’m actually pleased about this, because I’m working with a company that really does all the stuff the semantic networks understand people want.  And we do it in an accessible way.

Yes, we have a significant point of "competitive" differentiation.  But before I go there, I want to say first that the semantic thing is terrific for all of us, so I’ll catch a ride on their coattails any time.  The semantic scientists deserve praise, support and a lot of attention.  And we’re getting closer to clarity on the whole subject.  [Read this post by Richard McManus, linking to an article by Tim Berners-Lee.]

Eventually, our startup — foldier — will incorporate intelligent, or semantic web, technology.  But first, we’re focused on people and content.  It’s where we believe all of this intelligence, artificial or not, begins.  With people and what they’re reading and doing on the Internet.

For people to gain supreme command over their digital content, whether it’s on their own computers or all over the Web, we have to get in the habit of reaching beyond email programs, instant messaging and social networks to communicate … of using search to use and organize our own data … of thinking of the Internet as a distinctly separate entity.  To gain digital control, we have to integrate our digital actions and sources.  This requires sophisticated technology, yet you can’t lose sight of why you’re doing it:  for private individuals to use among themselves.  This has been foldier’s balancing act.

When the semantic web buzz heated up over the past few months, I would read what the semantics sites said they would do for people and shudder.  We had been keeping a fairly low profile at foldier as our programming team massaged the code, but we had come up with a description for what we’re doing.  Search.  Share.  Relate.  The semantics folks were using similar language.  Plus, they do have dough-re-mi.  That means sponsorships of high-visibility conferences and the like.  Lots of attention.

Since I’m big on differentiation, I began to dig underneath everyone’s market positioning to find what we are doing differently.  Here’s what I found. 

There is some wonderful technology in the wonderful world of semantics, but when you really read what some of the semantic scientists are saying, and when you see demos of their networks, there is a bit of a disconnect between the message and the functionality. 

The scientists are already aiming at the creation of a database that stores our collective intelligence.  They’re way beyond searching, sharing and relating one-on-one.  Note:  this is NOT deception on their part.  It’s semantics!

It may be that the marketing folks throw the messages at the scientists and since they sound good, the messages stick.  Or, the scientists really want their technology to do this stuff — but on the way to building that collective intelligence.

Foldier came from the opposite direction.  It was created purely to enable the founder, and now those of us in the company and our beta users, to search, collect [aggregate], organize and share our content — our digital stuff.  Our revenue model:  a new kind of advertising network.  Right now, though, we want to attract people to foldier so we can see how it works, make it better and entice investors who see that we have something here to offer to people and the advertisers that want to reach them.

We have a blog over at foldier, too.  We’re writing about the many aspects of personal digital content — and showing folks how they can use foldier, too.  I also have a guest essay on FoundRead.  More coming there, too.

The great thing is, foldier is pretty much what you make it.  How you use it.  Some people focus on sharing, others on aggregating and others on searching and organizing their content.  The latter is going to be my favorite, I think. 

On foldier, you can tag your items and never file them.  When you go back later to find an item, you just search by a tag or even just a word that’s in the item. 

For me, no more trying to remember which folder has that article on semantics in it.  Just search for semantics and find all the ways it’s being used this week!