What I really like about Trent Reznor’s style is that he hasn’t “worked it out”. He hasn’t discovered some magic formula for how to make money selling his music using the internet, and then simply lean back, enjoy the money and not care about developing his business model anymore. There’s no autopilot. He seems to genuinely want to connect and seems to enjoy the work involved in connecting, sharing music and creating new intriguing ideas for how to get his music out – and make a decent income in the process. That’s also why it works so well. He really do connect with fans, he really do give them value for their money. And he enjoys it too.
What Trent Reznor does so remarkably well may also serve as an example for all those engaged in promoting or selling a product online, to quit the thinking that they simply need to “work out” a method, which will instantly make them “connect” with thousands of people and let them become rich and successful overnight. That well will run dry for them sooner or later.
Make real connections. Engage others. Give them something of real value. And have fun!
Had some trouble putting it into the post directly, as the original embed code seems to collect all the images for the mosaic live on this site, and the load time apparently makes WordPress not display the post at all. Would be more clever to combine the icons into one big image, and then “image map” all the links to the Twitter profiles. So I created the above image myself – I did not however imagemap links to the Twitter profiles. Instead the above image links to the embed in a separate file.
Also there seem to be some hardcoded limits in place, which prevents me from creating a mosaic which includes _all_ Kaplak’s “friends” on Twitter.
After posting my article on the anatomy of Kaplak Stream I found this brilliant video featuring Dan “back of the napkin” Roam. Incredibly insightful stuff, about something we all can learn from and be a lot better at : visualizing and communicating our problems, visions and solutions. Please enjoy :
Don’t waste your time trying to build the next cool time-waste application for Facebook or try to figure out how to tap into the money stream. You probably won’t get funded anyway, and if you’re funded, you probably won’t get the second round.
Build something which meets the problems, we face. You will profit and grow from your experience, even if you fail. We all fail, and that’s why we grow and become really good at something.
The video is about 30 mins. but it’s a really worthwhile watch. No bs. For some reason, the sound is not optimal, so the talk is best heard and digested with your earphones on. Thanks for the tip on this video to Start snakken!
Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library gave an entertaining entrepreneurship peptalk at Web 2.0 Expo in New York, on how to build personal branding using the internet : Position yourself to succeed. If you do something, you hate, stop.
At a very young age, Gary took over the family business, a liquor store in New Jersey. Over a period of 6 years Gary and his father Sasha rebranded the business as Wine Library and transformed it from a local store doing roughly $4 million in sales annually to a $50 million national industry leader. The development of the Wine Library juggernaut reached its zenith on August 25, 2006 when Gary was featured with a caricature in the top left corner of the Wall Street Journal, a lifelong goal of Gary’s that he achieved before the age of 30!
Now enjoy his talk :
To sum up Gary’s points :
1. Quit doing stuff you hate. You want to position yourself for great things, and they won’t happen as long as you’re stuck in a daytime job you hate.
2. Stop excusing yourself and think you can’t “monetize”. You can. Even if you collect smurfs, someone will buy into that – smurf it up!
3. Quit watching LOST and you’ll find the afterhours to work for what you want. You won’t get money to do what you want. You work to get it. Find time. Earn a little on the way.
Found this courtesy of Raymond at dltq.org. Thanks for the tip!
This video is a few words about our online method and work ethos, which is greatly inspired by what has been coined “the wiki way”, by our friends at About Us, among others (and yet others).
I’ve previously written about Kaplak’s multi-platform strategy and compared our business aspirations to the world of grafitti painting in our local neighbourhood. We want to create a company, which is capable of inviting “tags” and “shouts”, i.e. inputs from outside our company, so that we may, in the process and with time, learn how to do a great “piece”, so to speak. Inviting outside input is more difficult, than one would imagine, as everything in the business world as is, is built around keeping closed circles closed and creating stiff hierarchies, which are detrimental to the very kind of open, global process, we mean to help kick off and participate in. By all means, we want to steer clear of the corporate thickness, which quickly creeps into a company and prevents it from doing bold things.
Thus, we mean the “wiki way” in broader terms, than for just the work of building a wiki. We consider it a way of doing business and a mindset, which we need, in order to maintain a broad online presence over a number of different platforms and web architectures, without being overencumbered by the sheer vastness of what we’re doing – “making the world’s ends meet”, as we say, i.e. making financially viable connections between niche products and global niche markets.
Building and writing a blog sometimes can be like working against the clock. Posts are time-stamped and articles read and digested in the order they are published.
Not so with wikis. They evolve slowly over time, as additions to the wiki accumulate, from vastly different and otherwise territorially and contextually dispersed contributors. A wiki is built from time to time, when there’s something to add. A page can be an inactive dead end for months or even years, and it can see a sudden outburst of activity from one moment to the other, when it finds it’s use in a new context.
We understand and implement our online strategy much in this way. We use web tools and services, when they are useful to us, and we try to add bits and pieces to our network, when we need to. We don’t write blog posts every day, just for the sake of it or just to draw in traffic. However, we do work systematically to find explicit ways to add information or new contacts to our network. Precisely where the activity occurs – whether it happens on Twitter or Friendfeed, or somewhere else – is less important, as long as our pieces and nitbits are closely interlinked, and as long as we can feed stuff from one platform to another. The last thing is a high priority, which is why RSS and widgets are important. But what is even more important, is that in most contexts, not just in our wiki, we invite replies, comments, reactions, input, if just for the rare case, when someone in some unexpected context stumbles upon one of the bits and pieces, which help he or she activate that page and connect with us.
There’s a place close to where I live in Odense, where I come often to walk my dog. It’s one of those places I call ‘cracks of the industrial city’. As anyone familiar with the lyrics of Leonard Cohen will tell you, the cracks are ‘where the light gets in‘… In this case, it’s a stretch of unused railway tracks grown full with weeds and bushes, and surrounded by the backsides, walls and fences of old industrial buildings.
This place invites two particular breeds of people; dog owners and grafitti artists. It occured to me as a fitting spot to do our first videoblog, on what I term the ‘grafitti phase of a startup’ :
The video is also accessible on YouTube, which didn’t, however, work wonders for the quality of the video. The difficulty of getting compressed video (mp4) into an editing program, and getting it out in the same quality as it got in (mp4), is something I have yet to master. Add to this the further Flash-ification of the video on sites such as Blip.tv and YouTube, and you have a recipe for massacred material – especially if the quality was not that great to begin with.
This post is our first video blog post, and I know we’ve got a lot to learn. There’s a long way to go for us. We’d really like your input on how to improve. Ideas?
We’ve had a number of questions via email, and I’d like to answer and expand on some of them here. The type of question which tops the list is this one :
When is Kaplak ready? When can I start downloading films?
We usually distinguish between two phases of development, Kaplak v1 and Kaplak v2. Kaplak v1 is the first, simplest working solution, which helps meet the two key challenges (so we think) for digital niche producers, visibility and payments. Kaplak v2 is the construction of a backbone structure which utilizes p2p technology, and can be used by our customers for very fast transportation of data. Kaplak v1 has a timeframe of 1-2 years, unless our key assumptions prove to be misguided in the process, and we have to start over or redo parts of our development. Kaplak v2 has an estimated timeframe of 3-4 years.
In the fall of 2006 we initiated a lengthy process of researching and developing our product, organization and market. And we have only just begun. Last month we launched this website in order to reach out towards potential customers. How longwinded our process will be from here, we really don’t know. There’s a lot of financing, consulting, educating, recruiting, data analyzing and software engineering ahead. However, we believe it will pay off to take our time to do this kind of dedicated development, and do it well.
If you want to sell toothpaste, people already know what your product is, and you can go ahead producing, marketing and selling your product right away. Nobody knows what Kaplak is, just yet. Kaplak is not simply about ‘downloading’ stuff, even though we hope our product will make this a very simple (and fast) matter.
Therefore, we have to work very carefully to develop our product, while we simultanously get to know our customers and their key problems. We may think we know a lot of things, but we need to document every last one of our assumptions in order to build the right product, sell to the right customers, create the right business model, recruit the right people and construct the right organization and right type of company. To that end, we need your help. Not to buy our product (just now) but to inform us; to educate us about your product, your business and your needs.
I found this email in my mailbox today and thought I’d share it, as Amazon‘s latest move is an interesting one to note in relation to the Kaplak project.
Amazon.com has been around since the very beginnings of the web, pioneering online mail order business, with all that this entails. Amazon also owns Alexa, which indexes and provides information on global website traffic, ranking the most visited websites in the world. As early as 1996, the company launched their own affiliate marketing program on the web, where participants earn as much as 10% for providing links to Amazon products on their website. Late last year Amazon launched their own online music store (for now available in the US only), and now comes WebStore. To quote the email in plain text:
WebStore by Amazon gives you a branded e-commerce site backed by the support, selection and expertise of Amazon. You can be confident that your WebStore is going to be up when your customers come clicking. Better yet, WebStore is easy to set up and comes with a number of great marketing features so you can start selling in minutes!
It has been comparatively easy to set up and run one’s own online business for some time, with several strong open source solutions around, osCommerce being a prime contender. What’s new in Amazons Webstore is making it a lot easier, and additionally giving users the opportunity to use Amazons payments and recommendations systems. Great move! I can’t believe they didn’t do it sooner. Amazon’s price tag is not so great however, even though it may include reducing parts of the “hazzle” of running your own webshop. It excludes everyone who has not already established a business model, i.e. effectively most on the slimmer end of the ‘long tail’, which means that Amazon loses out on a lot of long tail business. Still, it’s a great move, which no doubt will be embraced by lots of medium-sized to smaller niche-oriented businesses.
I have been looking around for a way to start Kaplak’s looking into the workings of online niche communities. We have some great examples in our own local backyard, but I wanted something, which showed how the internet has come along and changed things.
Looking around I stumbled upon this video by Jake McKee on what we may simply term the “LEGO community”. Everybody knows LEGO, but few know that LEGO is not just a children’s toy. LEGO has a large following of playful adults around the world. See the video and judge for yourself.
One of the interesting points of the video is that all these scattered individuals passionate about LEGO have been connected with the internet. Where many of these people were isolated before, the internet has made them aware of each other’s existance, globally. One gets the impression that this has helped spur a new vitalization and outburst of their creativity. New possibilities to show off creative endeavours (like this video, shared with YouTube, is an example of) and get inputs back, has caused something we may term an “awakening”, with an expression borrowed from Lawrence Lessig.
Personally, I’ve recently refound a lot of joy myself in my old LEGO’s and have been surfing around on sites such as Brickset, which offers an online database on most of the LEGO models ever produced. I’ve also played around with LEGO’s official Digital Designer. This program engages LEGO fans to help design new models, which can also be “uploaded” and sold via an online marketplace. The LEGO Digital Designer and marketplace is one of Chris Anderson’s examples of how a company can utilize the long tail of interests in different LEGO models. If, that is, the program was not artificially limited to a specific range of bricks, which it is, for industrial reasons… In order for LEGO to be able to sell the models you build with the Digital Designer, you have to use bricks currently in production. You can’t use ‘outdated’ bricks. It seems odd to me, that one should re-experience that old problem one always had building things with LEGO, that you always missed a particular piece, in a 100% digital product.
What’s more interesting to Kaplak, though, is the exchanges taking place between LEGO fans themselves, and the eventual capabilities of fans to share and eventually sell their creative endeavours to other LEGO fans. There’s nothing more than trademark issues (i.e. the protectionism of a traditional business model scared of copying, which we’ve touched upon before) to prevent users from creating their own models, trade in bricks on eBay, and share or sell their construction instructions, in spite of anything LEGO has to say. And maybe even issues like these won’t stand in the way. The awakening of this niche community is in many ways also an empowering of individual fans and entrepreneurs, who is so far perfectly capable of building their own databases and wikis.