The geek chorus

Every sub-topic has its geeks. There are geeks who are into pencils, Bob Dylan, futures pricing. There are geeks who obsess about Wikipedia edits, journalism and even geek culture.

When you do something that matters, it will probably matter to the geeks most of all, and the geeks will speak up, dissect, analyze and perhaps extol or criticize. It’s a symptom of doing good work.

The question is this: will you spend a lot of time listening to them?

The more you listen to this audience, the more likely it is you will delight them.

On the other hand, if you want to reach a much larger audience, you have no choice but to figure out when to ignore them.


Holiday shopping head start

I’ve put together some reviews of particularly arcane, wonderful or just nicely giftable items for people you want to indulge this season. Things you can hold and touch and wave around. Or at least listen to.

So far, royalties from my reviews have raised more than $35,000 for Acumen and other worthy causes. Thanks!

Headphones that dramatically change the experience of listening

A coffee table book featuring funny people in poignant poses

An over-the-top MP3 and digital music player for people who love music and gadgets

A flashlight that doesn’t deserve the term. It’s more of a functioning light sabre

A new set of all of Bob Dylan. Well, almost all.

And when in doubt, add a hug.


Levels of marketing magic, the placebo effects of desire

ANTICIPATION: Before the product is released, the true fans are buzzing and speculating and waiting in line. The anticipation is self-reinforcing, a placebo effect of desire.

UTILITY: The album is good, the software is useful, the book changes things. It works better than we hoped. Exceeding expectations pays significant dividends.

REMARK: It’s purple. Remarkable. Worth talking about. The word spreads. Ten people tell ten people and suddenly, it’s abuzz. Not because of PR or hype, but because the remarkability is built right into the product or service itself. And more people enjoy things that are getting buzzed about.

TRIBE: The core group, the true fans, are even more connected than before. The organization has helped them organize, the product creates a culture, commitments are made, conversations persist, a culture is built. To use something that makes us feel as though we belong is magic indeed.


If this sounds like Apple, Bob Dylan, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Dead, gun collectors or Shake Shack, it’s not an accident. It’s definitely not an accident.

Building your backlist (and living with it forever)

Authors and musicians have one, certainly. This is the book you wrote seven years ago or the album from early in your career. The book keeps selling, spreading the ideas and making a difference. The album gets played on the radio, earning you new fans.

“Backlist” is what publishers call the stuff that got published a while ago, but that’s still out there, selling.

The Wizard of Oz, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits and Starsky and Hutch all live on the backlist

Without a backlist, all book publishers would go out of business in no time. The backlist pays dividends long after the work is over.

Advertisers didn’t used to have a backlist. You paid for that magazine or newspaper or TV ad, and within just one cycle, it was gone, forever.

Today, of course, the work you put on the internet has a good chance of staying there for a very long time. The internet doesn’t easily forget.

That TED talk, then is going to be around for your grandchildren to see. The review of your new restaurant, or the generous connection you made on a social network–they’re going to last.

I almost hired someone a few years ago–until I googled her and discovered that the first two matches were pictures of her drinking beer from a funnel, and her listed hobby was, “binge drinking.” Backlist!

Two things are going to change as you develop a backlist:

–You’re going to become a lot more aware of the posterity of the work you do. It’s all on tape, all left behind. Just as you’re less likely to litter in your own backyard, the person aware of his backlist becomes more careful and civic minded.

–You’re going to want people to pay attention to your backlist… in my case, the free videos, various ebooks and printed things I’ve done over the years. In your case, maybe it’s your blog, or the projects you’ve built or the reputation you’ve earned.

Your history of work is as important as the work you’ll do tomorrow.