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    I’m publishing this Weblog to deepen perspectives on topics that light me up. These relate to my business interests...business communication, disruptive technologies and photography. 

    My work is changing so fast that I can barely grasp it all, much less fully comprehend the implications. Perhaps keeping this blog will help.

    Reid Parkinson

    Sunday
    Aug072011

    Photography: A Dramatic Performance at Sacré Coeur

    I saw an amazing performance at Sacré Coeur. While leaning against a lamp post to steady my camera for a overview of Paris, a guy with a soccer ball climbed onto a gate post about six feet in front of me and began doing stretches. Then he reached down to an iPod Nano, selected some cool music, and began to perform with the ball, keeping it constantly in motion and never using his hands, only his feet, back and head.

     

     

     

     

    He was in constant motion, even removing some clothing while the ball was also kept constantly in motion. It seemed impossible that he could sustain this for very long without dropping it, but he went on for several minutes.

     

    As the music quieted near what we onlookers assumed was the end of the performance, a voice on the boom box shouted, “You don’t know me yet!!” He then carefully left the gate post, balancing himself along the thin gate rail, descended and came directly to me, still leaning on the lamp and until then, pleased to have that location. I soon realized I’d better get out of the way. When I did, he began climbing the lamp post, still keeping the ball in motion.

     

    His name is Iya Traoré; he's from Guiana and he has a Web site at:

    http://www.iya.fr

     

     

    Thursday
    Apr072011

    The E-Book Publishing Revolution

    I went to print something on my laser printer the other day. As I did so, I realized it had been at least a month since I'd printed anything. It may actually have been a couple of months. Why is this is shocking?  Ten years ago, I went though a 10-ream CASE of laser paper every two weeks.

    I like to think I'm on top of trends and I might do better than most. Even so, when forecasts eventually become reality, it can be shocking. They sneak up on you. I felt embarrassed that despite having been aware of the paperless trend for several years, it ultimately ambushed me.

    Now, in what is a bell-weather event, Nicholas Callaway, publisher of some of the world's most beautiful and artistic coffee table and children's books is burning his ships. He's abandoning print and moving completely to electronic publishing. "I have bet the whole ranch on this," Callaway told Reuters. "This kind of juncture happens maybe once in a century."

    An insightful article covering Callaway's defection and the new opportunities that e-books promise appears here. Or here.

    http://j.mp/21stpub

    The Internet is full of informative stuff. This, however is a must read. As Ann Marie Conception tweeted, "This is BEST article on the state of the industry I’ve read all year"

    Tuesday
    Feb222011

    Photo: Minneapolis Got A Snow Makeover Yesterday

    Sunday
    Feb202011

    Education Is Overripe For Massive Disruption

    Thirty years ago, I was blown away by viewing a lesson on a VHS tape about how to use some graphics software. I was certain that using videotape would significantly change education. Students would no longer have to drive to a campus, sit in huge lecture halls  and strain to understand an algebra lesson taught by a graduate student for whom English was just barely a third language. It seemed to me that videotapes of algebra—and other lectures—from superb instructors could be produced and sold at Target for $29–$49, freeing universities to focus on what they do best and saving students thousands of dollars.

    It didn't happen.

    In the meantime, education costs have skyrocketed. Many more students and their families need loans to finance their education. Also, the student loan business was given to bankers who, as in housing, created innovative debt schemes. Schemes such as "helping" students with loans that compound daily and that may take a few decades to repay.

    The system is broken. Students are paying more and more for an education that is becoming less and less likely to result in a job. A horrifying description of this rot is described in a current article describing what law students now face. See here.

    Last year, I watched a TV special about a teacher (Mr. Khan) who was putting math courses on YouTube and educating thousands of people around the world. For free. It gave me a feeling of déjà vu: it was like my earlier experience with the VHS tape. Last week, I saw an article about what Khan has accomplished so far. It's astounding. See here.

    After one reads about the Khan Academy and reflects on the dismal state of current brick-and-mortar education, it seems likely that our education establishment is in for a very disruptive, wild ride.  It's way overdue.

    Wednesday
    Feb022011

    Modern China

    Every day, China influences more and more of our lives.

    I've received two fascinating perspectives on China: 1) a macro perspective via TED on how China developed and how the West does not understand it, kindly suggested by Dean Ziegenbein and 2) A micro perspective delivered through the journal of a young American family (two small children) that was transferred to Beijing a little over a month ago. The wife describes and photographs their adventure almost in real time, giving the reader a wonderful sense of being there.

    TED presentation: 

    The Showalter Family Adventures:  Click here.

    Thursday
    Jan202011

    A Presentation On Education

    My business helps other businesses create presentations. Last night my daughter pointed me to a presentation that is the best one I’ve ever seen. There’s much to learn here, both about building a presentation and thinking about the future of education, which is long overdue for massive disruption.

    Tuesday
    Jan112011

    Photo: Old Delhi, 1972

    In 1972, I was in India and fell in love with it. Tamil Nadu, Mysore, Kerala, Bangalore (before technology), and Dehli/Agra. For a photographer, it's rich, colorful, and exotic. Midway in my trip while changing film and idly checking my shutter, I noticed that the lens diaphram often, but not always, stuck or slowed dramatically. Holding it to the light, I saw some oil had gotten into the diaphram blades. I then realized that most of the photos already taken would be severly overexposed. Blown out. It was heartbreaking. I had an off-brand camera with no way of finding a lens replacement, but I continued taking photos anyway, hoping a few would be OK.

    Later in Old Delhi, while sighting through the viewfinder, these three girls suddenly turned and smiled at me. It seemed like a Cartier-Bresson moment and I instinctively pressed the shutter. The viewfinder image stayed in my mind during the rest of the trip and I prayed that it would be viable when the film was developed. It was.

     

    Tuesday
    Jan042011

    Why Apple is on top today: the top 10 technology decisions

    As regular readers know, I've been reviewing Apple's success disrupting markets, and I've focused on its implicit marketing strategy. Horace Dediu has compiled a list of 10 foresighted and courageous technology decisions Apple made during the 2000 decade. These decisions, combined with Apple's concentration on the quality of the individual user experience, has awesome* implications for future success. I highly recommend the article.

    *awesome is a much overused word in America, which drives our British cousins batty. But it is truly appropriate here. Much more appropriate than their overused counterpart brilliant :)

    Saturday
    Jan012011

    Good News For This New Year

    New information shows our brains are much more capable of learning than ever imagined—at any age. The implication for New Year's resolutions: Don't just resolve to exercise your body; exercise your mind! http://tinyurl.com/22ljj6a

    Tuesday
    Dec212010

    Why Apple Disrupts Markets

    Thoughts About The iPhone, Part 1 described how prominent tech pundits were convinced the iPhone would fail.

    Thoughts About The iPhone, Part 2 asserted that the iPhone succeeded because of Apple’s strategy of maximizing the quality of the individual user experience.

    Recap: Most firms strive for a competitive advantage through 1) market share, 2) becoming the least-cost producer, 3) innovation, or 4) real or perceived product/service quality. I believe that the emphasis on the quality of the end-user experience was decisive with the iPhone. 

    D Edstrom commented: “I'm inclined to say Apple has been succeeding with a convergence of 3) Innovation and 4) Quality. But overall, I agree: ‘Maximizing quality to meet the needs of the end user.’” His mention of convergence leads to something fascinating: Consider the iPad. Before it was announced, the rumor mill reached fever pitch about a possible new tablet computer from Apple. Potential competitors and pundits declared that the success of the iPhone was a fluke because initially, it hadn’t been taken seriously enough and competitors were slow to respond. This time would be different. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gleefully unveiled a tablet prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show just three days before Apple’s event, in an effort to steal any thunder that event might create. Other competitors announced they would quickly respond with tablets that would have more features and capabilities.

    After the iPad introduction, the silence was deafening; everyone went back to the drawing board. Why? One reason: $499. No one could produce and distribute a product of that quality, with those innovations, for anything close to $499. In their bluster, competitors assumed Apple would price its tablet at $999 or at best, $799. Perhaps even a low-end version at $699. PC manufacturers, who specialize in slapping together bland commodities at commodity prices, couldn’t imagine being undercut by Apple. Almost a year later, there is still no Ballmer tablet but it’s rumored he’ll be demoing another one at next month’s CES:)

    Apple’s success in reducing manufacturing costs is itself an interesting blog posting, but I want to stay above the tree line and go on to say that Apple’s success in building quality products, continually introducing innovations to its products and services and further, becoming a least-cost producer has inevitably lead to an increase in market share. This seems simple enough, almost naive. Yet in today’s tech marketplace, the brightest guys in the room go for market share through deals with large entities—Microsoft with PC manufacturers and IT departments, cell phone manufacturers with wireless providers.  Or mergers and acquisitions. It’s all top down. Apple is taking a bottom-up approach. With Apple, you don’t get your assistance from Bangalore; you get it person-to-person at your local Apple store, seven days a week, for free. 

    Currently, there’s no end of analysis of why Apple is enjoying success and why it’s such a disruptive force in markets it enters. However, if you use the framework I’ve just outlined, it’s simple and inspirational: start by maximizing the quality of the end-user experience; keep innovating to improve that satisfaction; and keep the quality/price ratio as high as possible. In terms of end-user experience, Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun-Times said it best: “...Apple has the annoying habit of producing products that make perfect sense once you get your hands on them.”