Questions About Readings Week Two 1/23

As noted in the syllabus, readings for this week are as follows:

Read: Briggs Chapter 1

How to get startup ideas by Paul Graham 

Why We Need the New News Environment to be Chaotic by Clay Shirky 

Jarvis, What Would Google Do? book: Read intro and first two sections “New Relationship” and “New Architecture”

Please answer the following questions in a comment on this post before our next class:

1. As succinctly as you can, what is your key takeaway from Paul Graham’s piece on how to get startup ideas?

2. What do you think about Clay Shirky’s argument about the new news environment? Do you agree?

3. Name one other thing in the readings for the week that you found interesting or relevant to you.

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23 thoughts on “Questions About Readings Week Two 1/23

  1. Aidan Galasso says:

    1. Paul Graham had two key findings about getting startup ideas. The first was to find a product that a small number of people want a lot as opposed to a large amount of people that want something on a little bit. The second method was to think of ideas “organically,” which means identifying products or services that would make your own life easier and that you could see yourself using every day.

    2.I agree with Clay Shirky’s points about a chaotic news environment being beneficial because competition usually b leads to taking greater risks, which leads to better more revolutionary ideas. At the same time he mentions creating a news product that people want to spend money on and then later maintains it is impossible to get people to pay enough for news content for newspapers to survive. He also mentions philanthropy, which could be a solution to the financial problems newspapers are facing but could also lead to biased and therefore less desirable content. Finally, competition leads to lower prices, which can make newspapers even less profitable than they are now. He offers several interesting ideas but combining two of his main points may not be a solution. With a limited amount of philanthropy available competition will put some companies out of business anyway.

    3. I think that Jeff Jarvis’ idea of building on top of existing platforms is a great idea for a start up. Especially if one doesn’t have programming experience. It not only can create a news business or service but it can lead to employment by the original platform. This the developer, who is clearly an innovative person, an opportunity to think of ideas without worrying about the bottom line or time constraints. This in turn leads to a better product for consumers. Furthermore, improving an existing platform goes hand in hand with Graham’s organic thinking process because the ideas for improving an existing platform generally come by using that platform and experiencing problems or inconveniences with it.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Excellent. I think part of Shirky’s point more that the problems of newspapers are not necessarily the problems of journalism. E.g. you could perform similar functions in different ways. And definitely, as you say, philanthropy is not only limited but also often not sustainable over the long term.

  2. 1. My takeaway from Graham’s piece: don’t look for “startup ideas.” Look for problems that need solving. At first that seems rather intuitive, but, for me at least, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the exciting “startup universe.” There are so many great ideas revolving around, that it’s easy to be inundated by all the innovation and feel pressure to propose something groundbreaking and cutting-edge. While that would be nice, it’s not always necessary.

    This line especially helped me: “there have to be at least some users who really need what they’re making—not just people who could see themselves using it one day, but who want it urgently.”

    Since class began, I’ve had a few proposal ideas run through my head. But after reading Graham’s thoughts, I will better be able to file away the “startup” ideas, and keep the “problem-solving” ideas on the forefront.

    2. I agree with many of his points. Change is certain, and apparently so is chaos in this ever-changing news environment. It’s unfortunate to see people lose their jobs as a result of these shifts, but it is exciting to watch publications try to innovate and adapt to survive.

    I really liked his last line: “It isn’t newspapers we should be worrying about, but news, and there are many more ways of getting and reporting the news that we haven’t tried than that we have.”

    I often forget that the “demise” of the newspaper does not result in the death of news. The news is a “free agent” of sorts, not tied to any specific vehicle (i.e. newspaper, internet, etc.). There will always be news. It will never “disappear.” How we distribute and receive our news is what will change. I think he Shirky titled this article perfectly—the future will indeed be chaotic.

    3. Although I really enjoyed Graham’s piece overall, I disagreed with his “school” section. While I agree that entrepreneurship is something that cannot be “taught” in the traditional sense, I presume that taking an entrepreneurial class would provide a student with a foundation on the entrepreneurial universe, allowing them to grasp the necessary fundamentals. And I know that there are certain aspects of entrepreneurship that involve skills that are taught in the traditional academic world (business, finances, etc.). I would be interested to hear your thoughts, Dr. Brown.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Hi John, I would disagree with Graham on that one, too, although I think part of the issue is that a lot of people assume that if you are learning something in school, that has to mean a textbook and an exam. If that was true, I would agree with him that entrepreneurship isn’t facts to be memorized and that it can’t be taught in conventional formats. But I think that for a lot of people, first, you have to show them the possibilities and help them understand the mindset. And two, I think innovation is more of a process than something you are just born with – although I do think there are some people better suited to it than others.

  3. rars22 says:

    1. As succinctly as you can, what is your key takeaway from Paul Graham’s piece on how to get startup ideas?

    When I began reading “How to Get Startup Ideas” by Paul Graham, I fully expected it to be another “don’t try to think of an idea…let them come to you” hippie dippie type of piece, which although is probably true, never seems to help me. I’m never satisfied with the ideas that I come up with – probably because i’m TRYING to come up with an idea. You know…something to save my finances and finally answer the question of what the hell I’m going to do with the rest of my life. Too much is riding on my future stellar idea, I suppose.

    I kept reading, and was profoundly surprised. Although, Graham did say that a startup idea needs to be “organic,” or one that comes to you when you are not trying to come up with an idea, he also said a few other things that seemed to speak directly to my hesitations or insecurities with previous ideas.

    Graham noted that one should take special notice of the things that irritate them, because when something causes them to be exasperated, it could be because they “are living in the future.” He believes that if you are on the cutting edge as either a user or a creator in a changing field, such as that of journalism, then you “are living in the future,” and thus more likely to “notice” a startup idea. As a person who is constantly irritated, aggravated, and bothered by many things, situations, pieces of technology, and people, I decided to internally question what exactly made me exasperated, most often. I realized that typically it was because I had seen or experienced something that could be done better, faster, or without as many steps or approvals. Aha! I am living in the future, so maybe I can “notice” the next great startup simply by making note of those things that I bitch about, on a daily basis. Mental note – begin list in a thick notebook and continue reading.

    Graham then reminded me that worrying about being late to the party, so-to-speak, is not a crisis but actually a potential sign of a good idea. I believe that’s a big part of why I have hesitated in the past when I had some startup ideas. I was afraid that other people already “had an app for that,” even though I knew my idea would be different, in one way or another.

    “You don’t need to worry about entering a “crowded market” so long as you have a thesis about what everyone else in it is overlooking,” Graham stated. “A crowded market is actually a good sign, because it means both that there’s a demand and that none of the existing solutions are good enough.” This statement was a much needed lesson, or reminder, for me and hundreds of other people, I assume. It makes sense when you think about it, but only when someone tells you directly, does it become clear.

    Every week you download apps for your iPhone or Android, in hopes that they fix what something missing from your life or that they will make a daily task easier to accomplish. Sometimes there is indeed an app that does exactly that. However, many times you are disappointed with the app’s capabilities. You close the app, only to leave it collecting dust in the ethers of your phone’s storage, with hopes that someday, someone will design a better app. Why not be the someone? And there, right there, that question, that “why not me” thought is what I believe Paul Graham wanted you to remember when you flipped back the stapled pages of his article “How to Get Startup Ideas” and laid it to rest on your coffee table or placed it in one of those paper recycling receptacles that have become so popular in the days of green. For you online readers…you simply clicked the “x” on the tab but hopefully you understood the symbolism I was trying to accomplish.

    2. What do you think about Clay Shirky’s argument about the new news environment? Do you agree?

    What can I say about Clay Shirky other than he is an incredible writer, as well as one who is quickly becoming a go-to source. His interesting style of writing and his tiny nuggets of knowledge sprinkled throughout his articles and books, constantly provide those “must find a highlighter now” moments.

    In “Why We Need the New News Environment to be Chaotic,” Shirky doesn’t disappoint those in search of thought-provoking “highlighter moments.” My printed copy of this article is riddled with yellow streaks covering lines of text that seemed too important to pass by without noting in some manner. I chose the yellow dollar store highlighter as my weapon of choice.

    I agree with Shirky’s overall point that we need the news ecosystem to be more chaotic because we need varying and competing methods to save the news. No single method is going to work for every paper, every magazine, every daily in every market. Geographical regions and communities, as an example, play a role in what works and what doesn’t work. We see this all the time when it comes to other businesses. What is it about the news ecosystem that makes us want to lump all outlets into an identical niche? Are all papers the same? Did all the mastheads match? No, they aren’t and they didn’t, nor do they. In each market, the people want something different.

    Take sports and geography for example. Several articles and blogs note that the college football is king in the southern states but many northern states prefer professional football, the NFL. One example is an interactive map created by ESPN, last year. Richard Florida, Co-Founder and Editor at Large at The Atlantic Cities. Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and Global Research Professor at New York University, , wrote an article entitled “Mapping College vs. Pro Football Fans” in August of 2012 that explained ESPN’s data and map. This map clearly shows that all 8 typically identified as Southern states (Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and Oklahoma) prefer College Football to the NFL. Texas is an exception due to the Dallas Cowboys. 


    What creates this divide? Based on my minimal research, there is no clear answer. The same goes for newspapers and magazines. Each location is different and what method works for one, doesn’t work for another. Chaos provides the news ecosystem with much needed options. The constant influx of potential subsidies and new models from which an outlet can pull, is what will hopefully save the news. This “chaotic environment” is also what works for many new businesses, such as Google. Ask Jeff Jarvis.

    I must admit that I rarely agree wholeheartedly with Shirky and this is one of those rare occasions. As I noted, I usually find tidbits throughout his writing that speak to me. However, if he and I were sitting down to dinner and enjoying an evening of discourse, I can almost certainly guarantee that it would soon turn into a debate. I would find that what I “heard” in his writings and what I took from those highlighted tidbits would not be his intended points. Although, maybe, as a writer, he would find my meanings as important as they ones he intended. Who knows and I could theorize all day but until Clay Shirky and I sit down with two glasses of Pinot Noir we will never know for sure.

    In this particular article, Shirky sprinkled one of his tidbits of knowledge that spoke to me. It spoke so loudly that in fact, many would say it shouted “Stop – highlight me NOW”. Shirky wrote “markets supply less reporting than democracies demand. Most people don’t care about the news, and most of the people who do don’t care enough to pay for it, but we need the ones who care to have it, even if they care only a little bit, only some of the time.”

    At first I cringed, as I typically do, whenever someone refers to our system of government as a democracy. For those who aren’t aware, this information is incorrect. We are a constitutional republic. From ThisNation.com, I would like to drop the following knowledge: “Accurately defined, a democracy is a form of government in which the people decide policy matters directly–through town hall meetings or by voting on ballot initiatives and referendums. A republic, on the other hand, is a system in which the people choose representatives who, in turn, make policy decisions on their behalf. The Framers of the Constitution were altogether fearful of pure democracy. Everything they read and studied taught them that pure democracies ‘have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths’” (Federalist No. 10). By popular usage, however, the word “democracy” come to mean a form of government in which the government derives its power from the people and is accountable to them for the use of that power. In this sense the United States might accurately be called a democracy. However, there are examples of ‘pure democracy’ at work in the United States today that would probably trouble the Framers of the Constitution if they were still alive to see them.”

    Now that this civics lesson has been taken care of, I will explain why the rest of the quote spoke to me.

    In the past two years, I have unfortunately found that the majority of people just don’t give a damn about the hard news of this country and would prefer that this “nuisance” be replaced with a cacophony of sports scores and twerking tweens. Then, the majority of those in this nation who care about the hard news seem to be “sheeple,” simply following the propaganda spoon fed to them every morning as they mindlessly tune into MSNBC, CNN, or Foxnews or skim the front page of USA Today or the New York Times before finding out if today is the day that Lucy finally holds on to the football. However, as disgusted as this version of “caring” makes me, Shirky is right. We need them. Minus the few who according to Shirky, “sound the alarm for the rest of us” in times of national crisis, these people are who we have left, and their half-ass is better than nothing at all. It’s our duty to educate them, and hopefully we can save the news…and the nation.

    3. Name one other thing in the readings for the week that you found interesting or relevant to you.

    My favorite thing about the readings this week is by far the Jeff Jarvis book, “What Would Google Do?” I sat down with a glass of wine (or two) on a friday night and read over half the book. I couldn’t put it down. I spent a friday night reading, for the first time in a very long time and not because I had to, but because I wanted to. The story about Dell and their customer service reminded me of the round and round dance I do with Comcast on a monthly basis. I loved his detailed account of how he reached out to and with other irritated customers and with collective action – he was able to create change.

    I also was very interested in his explanation of how startups should build on existing platforms. After reading, I began to look at the creation of a startup in an entirely new light. I wondered how I could combine Foursquare and Google Maps to help create my app idea. More will be written about that particular startup app idea at a later date. It’s not ready for primetime at the moment but it’s in the works.

    Jarvis spoke about free being a business model which intrigued me and made me quite excited about the potential opportunities. “Do what you do best and link to the rest” is his catch phrase and I have found it used by many in the field such as Mark Briggs and Clay Shirky. Why? Because it is so very relevant and true. I’ve heard so many times that one should focus on one aspect of something that they know they are good at and not worry so much about the rest. This is that tried and true adage applied to the startup and news “industry.”

    Finally, Jarvis inspired me by writing about distribution and how in today’s world the best philosophy is to gather, organize, and distribute and then gather, organize and redistribute. It makes so much sense especially when you look at the news aggregation sites and the apps available for news. What makes them different? Each time they are more narrow than the one before – more focused.

    I could write 50 paragraphs on how well written and inspiring Jeff Jarvis is in “What Would Google Do?” but I would rather just go back to reading it myself. I haven’t really wanted to read a non-political book in a long time – yes, even Sandra Brown’s terrible romance crime thriller novels haven’t enticed me. Lately, all free time – wait, what’s that again? So it’s refreshing to be truly interested in reading something that I have to read – this book is not a chore.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Glad you liked the Jarvis book, and glad I decided to add it to the class this year 🙂 Good examples and linking.

  4. 1.A key takeaway that I got from Paul Graham’s start up ideas is his quote, “when a start-up launches, there have to be at least some users who really need what you’re making – not just people who could see themselves using it one day…” I think this is very important, because when starting a business or creating a product, you don’t just want it to be a “one hit wonder.” You want it to be something that people will always need or want, so that you can forever make a profit off of it.

    2.I agree with Shirky in his statement “News has to be free because it has to be spread. The few people who care about the news need to be able to share it with one another and, in time of crisis, to sound the alarm for the rest of us.” I agree with this because it makes me think of how social media has kind of taken the role as our news source. We share our thoughts opinions, and post pictures of things going on in the world before newspapers. For example, just recently there was a lot of snow in Atlanta, accidents on the interstate, people in traffic for hours, and weren’t able to go home. So many people were posting pictures of what was happening to warn others that the streets are dangerous and that allowed others to see, and prevent from being in the mess. I think that’s when “free” news really comes in handy.

    3.Something I found interesting was from Paul Graham’s start-up ideas. “The way to notice start-up ideas is to look for things that seem to be missing.” I actually wrote an article on the Hattiloo Theatre Founder, Ekundayo Bandele, and he was doing a speech on how to start a business, and he said the same thing. As I said before it is so important to figure out what people need. What don’t we already have? What’s lacking? Or, what can you add to what has already been done? That is the best way to start something. When you figure out what’s missing then you can capitalize on it.

  5. 1. Don’t just conjure up startup ideas. This can be done, but it is not the best avenue to take. Focus on problems that already exist, preferably ones that you face, and find what is missing. These are what Graham calls “organic” startup ideas. They are ideas that usually grow out of the founders’ own experience. The goal is not to “think up” but “notice”. Ask yourself what’s missing? Coming up with a startup idea is seeing the obvious (or what Graham calls “living in the future”). By doing these things you create a mind capable of generating “organic” startup ideas. This is far more important than trying to churn out ideas.

    2. It seems that Shirky is suggesting that news providers need to start focusing on more niche communities. This is consistent with a recent article in the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/01/doesnt-anyone-read-the-news.html) that compares people who consume news to people who follow the NHL. It is a niche hobby at this point. Shirky points out that the revenue gap between what he calls, “Journalism as Philanthropy and Journalism as Capitalism” is too large and this model flat-out isn’t working. For newspapers to survive they need to adopt the chaos and open themselves up new forms of news whether that is citizen journalism, focusing on more niche audiences, or whatever else. Shirky plainly sums it up when he writes, “None of the models being tried today are universally adoptable…. Any way of creating news that gets cost below income, however odd, is a good way, and any way that doesn’t, however hallowed, is bad.”

    3. Pretty much everything we have read this week has been at least somewhat interesting. Graham’s essay about how to approach entrepreneurial endeavors was enlightening because it presented a way for people get in the best mindset for coming up with creative or innovated ideas. This way of thinking seems like it will be not only valuable for the rest of the course, but also for our careers whatever they may be. The Shirky article illustrated many of the concepts we have discussed when dealing with disruptive technology and newspapers. Shirky took a lot of these concepts and was able to posit some sort of suggestion to the problems newspapers face.

  6. Marion Ziegler says:

    1.
    You cannot just think up startup ideas, you cannot predict if an idea will be a promising one: Paul Graham’s approach on how to get startup ideas sounds discouraging at first. And not only at first, but also with almost every new statement he makes.

    Almost! The path to having good startup ideas, according to Graham, is becoming the sort of person who has them. Those usually are persons on the leading edge of a rapidly changing field. As an example he cites the story of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg. He was on a leading edge – maybe not as much as a programmer but all the more as a user of computers and of the internet.

    Graham holds out hope: ‘If you’re not at the leading edge of some rapidly changing field, you can get to one.’ Learning the ropes of something and working your way deep into a field or a topic will be exhausting and above all will need a lot of time. But it is worth it. The development of a startup idea will take a lot of time and investment. So it is worth to invest time and effort to get one in the first place.

    2.
    Shirky attributes three features to news: It has to be subsidized, cheap and free. I fully agree on that. Especially Shirky’s thoughts on subsidies seem very true to me in a worrying way. News business – talking of those news which can be seen as a public good – will just not work as any other business. News is a good, but we do not think of it (anymore) as a good worth paying for.

    News is relevant to citizens as it maintains democracy. But that is a value of news citizens cannot directly experience as long as all goes well. They will not come to appreciate it until they have to live in a political system without a functioning news sector. That is why most people do not care about news. Those who do care do not care enough to pay for it, as Shirky puts it. That is why news has to be subsidized right now, has always been subsidized and will very likely need to be subsidized in the future. That is sad but true.

    3.
    Jeff Jarvis presents a very interesting idea in the first chapter ‘New relationship’ in his book ‘What Would Google Do?’ Basically it says that the most important step for companies to survive in the future is building a new relationship with their customers. Companies should transform consumers into partners – which is to say they should have an open and transparent approach when it comes to product problems or customer service. This idea reminds me of Amazon. Not only do they have an excellent customer service, but they also do treat consumers as partners. As users of Amazon, we buy items. But we also review the items we bought, we create wish lists and thus motivate our friends and family to become Amazon customers as well. Seen as a crowd, we even create data that helps others to find the things they want to buy – and we help Amazon to understand what we will be likely to buy. Thus, Amazon transformed its customers into market researchers, salesmen and advertisers – in short, partners.

  7. Ketevan Dolidze says:

    1. I remember in our first class you told us if we started to think about our business plan, we needed to examine some problems we have encountered with a certain service or product. Paul Graham opens his article with the same idea and goes on to examine it a little further. I love how simple he makes this “perfect” recipe for a successful start-up that everyone is looking for. I have many friends who have been trying to come up with the most successful start-up and make millions, yet failed to focus on the most important part – the users/consumers! Paul Graham urges us in his article to find out if there are any people who would use or want our service/product. Are they so desperate to have this service/product that they are willing to use a less extravagant version of it? (Because the first product, like Facebook, may not be perfect but will be perfected as it maintains its existence.) He also points out that you may not be able to tell right away just how big your service/product can become. If there is a need for your service/product the idea of it reaching out a larger group of users will come to you throughout the process.
    “Live in the future, then build what’s missing” – I love this quote so much. It totally makes sense, if you think about it. I believe this is how many inventors became so successful. The idea of an “organic” start up idea is pretty great. I love that he uses that term to describe an idea that “grows naturally.” I know I would definitely never think of that. Another thing that I got from this article, which reinforced my own opinion, is that people do not like to be wrong nor do they like admitting that their idea is bad. As an entrepreneur, you must put your ego aside and consider the need for your service or product. However, that is easier than done.

    Here are some other things he said in the article that really stood out to me:
    “That’s what I’d advise college students to do, rather than trying to learn about entrepreneurship” – and I could not agree more. Many think that going to college will teach them EVERYTHING they need to know in order to be successful or to be able to get a job. However, the only thing college does is prepare you for the world, for actually doing instead of just learning words for certain practices.

    If you work together with them on projects, you’ll end up producing not just organic ideas, but organic ideas with organic founding teams—and that, empirically, is the best combination” – LOVE this. The world would definitely be a wonderful place, and much more technological and innovative, if all adopted this type of thinking.

    2. I honestly had an extremely difficult time reading this article and had to read it over and over again to wrap my mind around it. It may be because of my lack of sleep for the last few weeks or for the fact that English is not my first language. Either way, I liked his point on non-profit proposals, where he brings up works written by many others who are convinced that this is not going to help the newspaper business. People such as Jack Shafer, Alan Mutter, and Jeff Jarvis, responded to these proposals stating that there is simply no sufficient funds to maintain all news-gathering organizations. However, Shirky states that there does not have to be a forced divide between the Journalism as Philanthropy and Journalism as Capitalism (Jarvis). He furthers explains that “It’s possible that for-profit revenue is shrinking irreversibly and that non-profit funding sources won’t make up for the shortfall.”
    Shirky also discusses competition among various newspapers and how it will only lower the prices. I agree with him on that and think that eventually competition will put some newspapers out of business, whether its competition with the printed newspapers or digital ones.

    3. I really enjoyed reading Jeff Jarvis and Paul Graham, because I believe their ideas go hand in hand. What both authors expressed was that you must think of a problem that already exists with a certain good or service. If you are thinking this way, then you are not spending your time on trying to develop a platform for your idea. You are simply working with one already in place. Though the platform itself can be subject to change later down the road, in the first stages it gives you more time to spend on solving the existing problem with a good or service. It really makes a lot of sense, if you think about the start up process and what it all entails. I also think that Paul Graham’s idea that you must be willing to admit that you are wrong and you must keep tweaking your product to fit its future customers/users.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good, and thanks for sharing some of the quotes on Twitter. Sorry to hear you haven’t been sleeping well lately.

  8. Robert Köhler says:

    1. Paul Graham’s recipe on how to get a startup idea seems to be contradictory at first glance: You should not look for it! Instead, you need to sensitize your mind, transforming it to a founder’s mind. This is my key takeaway from Graham’s text. What does “a founder’s mind” mean according to the author? If you want to build something, let it arise from your own environment, let it grow naturally out of your own experiences. That is what Graham names the organic strategy of coming up with startup ideas. The most promising practice is to notice: Look for things that seem to be missing, identify problems you or other people have, see gaps you could fill. In a way, a founder lives in the future. From this perspective, you can start asking questions to find out if an idea is good or bad: Who needs this right now? Who wants it urgently? If you can answer them, you are probably on the right path to a good startup idea.

    2. From a journalist’s perspective it is quite hard to agree with Shirky’s assumptions that “news has to be subsidized, and it has to be cheap, and it has to be free.” The subsidy aspect does not appear very strange to me, but it affects the independency of journalism. It seems to be logical that news has to be cheap if users do not want to pay for it. Of course news has to spread, but does it only spread if it is free? Basically, journalism financing is not a new problem. Since people receive most of the news online, and they receive it for free, many traditional media companies got into trouble. But is there really no willingness to pay for journalism? Do people who don’t care about news really care about it even if they could get it for free? I am in doubt about it. Maybe we just have not found a model yet that is simple and uncomplicated enough, that matches new habits of receiving news. And that charges users moderate costs, so that news does not evolve into a luxury good. Maybe this point of view is idealistic, that’s why I do totally agree with Shirky’s argument that the news ecosystem has to be “chaotic”, like a “playground” for testing new models and ideas.

    3. As a company, you cannot hide from your customers any more. I think this is the quintessence of Jeff Jarvis’ chapter “New Relationship” in his book “What Would Google Do?”. This is quite interesting, because the “customer is boss” idea is not new, but nevertheless companies often do not listen enough to them. This might be dangerous, especially since every single customer can complain about a company’s product in a blog post, provoke a mob forming around him, and in this way do a PR damage. He is “now competing to define your brand.” That’s why companies have to build a new relationship to their customers. They have to start direct conversations: Which problems do customers have, which wishes? Jarvis proposes a new way of treating consumers: they have to be the company’s partner. So, as a conclusion: a company has to keep in view their customers and interact with them, more than ever – in Jarvis’ words: “The customer is in control. If the customer isn’t in control, there’ll be hell to pay.”

  9. Barry Parks says:

    1. Succinct takeaway from Graham:

    The most sensible startup development advice in Graham’s piece was his suggestion to focus on self-consideration. Spending substantial amounts of time thinking about one’s own habits and, more particularly, one’s own difficulties or problems in making life happen is where Graham suggests the best “light bulb moments” happen. He further suggests that identifying one’s personal challenges can be the most effective means of discovering a more easily testable idea. It’s far easier to test the results of a startup idea on oneself, especially when that idea was initially developed from something that poses a personal conundrum in daily life. This likely can also amplify passion to develop the idea into reality.

    2. Is Shirky right re: chaos?

    Once again, in Shirky’s piece we’re faced with the repeated and gloomy acknowledgement that journalism as we’ve known it is dying. Fortunately, there are people like him out there who are trying to think of ways to keep it alive. In this piece, he struggles with the concept of financing—which is obviously at the root of how to keep the business breathing in the first place. I think he’s definitely right that a chaotic environment is how that will happen. Indeed, chaos prompts entrepreneurship.

    Greater numbers and varieties of new news outlets and designs will prompt each of these new outlets to hone their product. Innovation will become increasingly important. And quality will sooner than later be a by-product. Such is the nature of healthy competition. With many different sources surfacing and evolving that may not altogether even look anything like what we’ve been accustomed to as news sources—for better or worse in the purist’s eye—the opportunity exists for these new sources to play out the classic concept of ‘survival of the fittest.’ It might be most efficient to increase reliance on citizen participation or foundation subsidy might be most effective—or even an unrecognizable combination or permutation of these methods and any number of other unconventional means of getting money.

    But whatever the result looks like, a chaotic news environment will prompt the furtherance of the industry. And in the process, the consumer is not the only beneficiary. In perhaps his most poignant point in this piece, Shirky contends that the main beneficiary must be the “news” itself—the basic democratic function of news being disseminated in the first place. The “news” is what’s most important. A little temporary chaos in the industry can only prompt that news product to pervade and likely even evolve in quality.

    3. Something else relevant:

    When I’ve often alleged while writing for these grad school courses that it gets a little tired to keep reading that old school journalism is dead or at least dying, I realize simultaneously that it needs to be reiterated—especially for me. I’ve made it known that I’m from that old school. Reporting news in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s when I did it was a far different animal than it is now. That’s why I’m re-enrolled in school. So, tired or not, I need the repetition. I especially need it repeated and pounded into my head the way Jarvis does it in “New Relationship” and to some extent in “New Architecture.”

    The way news exists now, as Jarvis and many others describe it, is a conversation. The audience is more powerful and involved in news than ever. And the more I can grab ahold of that concept and learn to become a part of the conversation on the journalism end, the more easily I will be able to slide into this new journalistic world. Indeed, gone are those days when I, as a member of the industry, poured out the news into the public’s container. The public now pours substantial amounts of credible news into the industry’s container. Blogging, comment threads, tweets and the like are all now parts of the news equation, and that’s totally new to me as a graduate student hoping to re-enter the field in whatever capacity after many years away. The sooner I can learn to accommodate the new reality as a new architecture of the business, the more in tune I will be. It’s just hard to let go of the old realities of thinking and news reporting.

    As an example of this conversation between the media and the public, a friend’s house recently burned down back home. He lost everything. It’s obviously been a trying situation for everyone involved. But what’s been most perplexing about the situation is that fire investigators have struggled to determine what caused the blaze. They’re still not sure, but a viewer comment posted on one of the local television station’s website version of the story late last week has pushed the investigation closer to some answers. A neighbor saw evidence of some type of accelerant having been used outside the house where firefighters obviously hadn’t noticed it and had the hutzpah to post it publicly on the website. Investigators are now looking into whether the fire may not have been purely accidental. Tips from the public have always helped the media to get closer to results in their work to cover news. But seeing new media design allow an individual (who turned out to be a volunteer firefighter who lived in the neighborhood) to voluntarily participate in a story so openly and directly and to cause the fire investigation to be reevaluated has further opened my eyes as to how big a role the public can really play in the conversation and the new news architecture. I can see clearly how these new dynamics will definitely require entrepreneurial thinking as to how the media can and must pay attention to and capitalize on this news conversation with the public.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Robert, Excellent response and that’s a great example, though I’m sorry about your friend’s house. I agree with you that the doom and gloom can get old, but the good news is that I think once you understand what’s going wrong, you can see a lot of opportunity for positive change and new business models, which is what we are moving toward discussing in this class.

  10. 1. I really enjoyed Graham’s piece on start up ideas. It was refreshing and inspirational. I liked how he plainly said you have to BE a person who has good ideas. There is no trick or formula. I also liked the idea of branching out to other fields that you aren’t an expert in to get ideas.

    2. I agree with Shirky 100%. News should be subsidized, cheap and free. And it’s a great idea for newspapers to reinvent themselves as nonprofits. News should be cheap to gather a free to the public. It is a public service. I also agree with Samuel on the fact that news seekers have almost become niche readers.

    3. I think journalism students have been beat over the head with the phrase “journalism is dying.” It’s exhausting. I don’t believe that one bit. It’s not dying at all. It’s being reinvented into something I see could be better. We have to take advantage of the opportunities the Internet has given us. The platform was small before the Internet, but now it has quadrupled. Let’s focus on that and not mope over the lost news readers and revenue. There are other ways to make money.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good, Kelsey. I agree on number three, and that is where we move forward in this class. First we have to understand the problem – what is causing disruption, what some of the business issues are. And then we create new things.

  11. alables says:

    1. One of the most interesting things I took from Graham’s article is the part where he talked about how in the future we are going to wonder what we did before ‘x’ was invented. This thing hasn’t been invented yet, but it is guaranteed that one day we will sit around wondering how we ever lived without it, just as we do now with our smartphones and our Netflix and our laptops and everything else. This shows that there are indeed problems out there just waiting to be solved. I believe another key point is his advice to live in the future and build what seems interesting. I like the idea of turning off every filter except the one that asks “what’s missing?” Its like when sometimes someone asks you a question and you respond with “If you hadn’t asked me I could tell you” and then hours or days later it just comes to you when you aren’t thinking about it. Creating a good startup seems to follow this same concept, especially as Graham explains it.

    2. I like that while Shirky does acknowledge that the outlook is gloomy for journalism, he is discussing ways in which we can make it better. I agree that news should be subsidized, cheap and free and that it is a public good. I like that he explains this by saying it is “good for the pubic” as well as “best provisioned for a whole group at once.”

    3. The thing I found most interesting is Jarvis’s account of how his post about Dell’s terrible customer service brought about such an uproar. I owned three Dells before I switched to Mac, all of which were crap. Its cool to see how they have finally started listening to their customers which resulted in a change in their products and customer service. My opinion of the company is no longer absolutely terrible.

  12. 1.How to Get Startup Ideas: I like how Graham added “Live in the future, then build what’s missing”. As most would put it, the obvious takeaway from the article is to generate a startup around a problem. If you have a great idea that’s all well and good unless no one uses it…then it’s just a hobby. Finding out, like Graham did, that your startup doesn’t work and then trying to make it work can be a painstaking process before you finally give in. In any case, from this reading it is apparent that you would need to look into the way the world is going, current trends and such, and see what can be improved on. In Memphis, for example, it is obvious from discussions that our young adults need a way to get connected and enhance their ability to get hired faster. Getting connected in this city is not a hard process to do, but the concept is difficult for most to take in. There is a problem…a quantifiable HUGE problem…so what’s the solution? I also read in there that you don’t have to solve the world’s problems…just one. And you don’t have to solve it all, but attack the piece that is easiest to get into.
    Well, I don’t think that commercial papers should necessarily reinvent themselves as non-profits, but I do agree that the ability to make decent money in the industry is slowing dying away. Those who are avid (physical) newspaper readers are the ones who have grown up with that institution – thus my parents and me. My daughter lives in a world of accessible information at any given moment, which makes anyone wonder how timely newspapers can really be today. However, I do see the need for accurate, honest reporting. As a consumer of news in the digital sphere, I look to reputable tv stations for coverage, blogs nd the results of the google searches for bits of information, and articles in papers and digital newspapers for in-depth analysis. I think people get the most accurate information from reporters who have spent time in the field and have actually researched before writing. I was surprised to read that papers print more soft news and crafted by third party content. That, to me, throws out the purpose for newspapers in general. Reporters who write their own stories that readers can get attached to builds loyalty, and looking at hard news is what gets people interested in stories most of the time today. Towards the end, he starts saying how each newspaper really is finding its own path in everything and what works for one may not be a universal saving grace. It would be interesting if there was a startup that could save the newspaper industry.
    When reading Briggs, I thought it was interesting that it wasn’t really the advent of internet that caused newspapers to decline. They peaked in 1970 but were falling once the TV came about in the 40s. Newspapers were losing ground way before the internet, but it’s interesting because they haven’t learned to really adapt until the Internet came around…and some are still trying to learn that today.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good points. The last one from Briggs is key, and not always well known by many journalism students, I’ve found.

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