by Dana Blankenhorn
  Volume VIII, No. XIII

This Week's Clue: Dean's Law

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This Week's Clue: Dean's Law
SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
SP (Shameless Promotion)
The Only Answer To Everything
The End of Web Real Estate
Test The Weakness Of The Web
Clued-in, Clueless

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For the Week of March 29, 2004

Dean's Law holds that, at some point, even the up-take on a wildly popular product will slow. A bandwagon rolls and grows, it loses its intimacy and immediacy, and suddenly there's resistance to it. Getting past that resistance requires, not more noise, but more intimacy.

I named this for Dr. Howard Dean, whose Presidential campaign flamed-out in Iowa despite a big lead in national polls over just this issue. In Iowa, Howard Dean saw just what Pat Robertson and Steve Forbes had seen before him. In order to "get over the hump," you have to scale down in the foreground, actually seem smaller, while building your real infrastructure below the Web.

Under Dean's Law, the S-curve of mass-market acceptance suddenly has a break in it, somewhere near the middle, and instead of sweeping on ahead it slows. That's because the market isn't that wide an ocean. It is more like a swimming pool. You can start a set of waves, but those waves cascade against the far wall, they come back and cancel out momentum.

How does this apply to broadband? Simple, broadband has hit the limits of Dean's Law. Most of the people who are interested in upgrading to broadband have already done so , according to a new study by Parks Associates.

I see no reason to disagree. The percentage of us who wish to talk with their fingers or listen with their eyes (as I am doing now) is limited. Just as the number of people naturally drawn to any political message, no matter how well given, is limited.

How do we push through this? In politics, you go back to intimacy, you expand your range of issues, you trust people and let them come to you. A lot of people, like the new cat we got over the weekend, are naturally shy around any political hoop-de-doo, and are inclined to hide under the bed, hoping it will pass them by. You've got to coax them out, gently, keep the dogs away, pet them when they do come out, give them their space and their time. It's a seduction.

In marketing, you accomplish this seduction with new applications. You adapt your pitch to the customer, rather than expecting them to warm to your pitch. Not everyone likes this newsletter. Reading and sitting passively before entertainment are not the only things the Internet is good for.

We need, as I've said, new applications. Are you sick? Does your health need close monitoring? How about the condition of your air? How about your garden? There must be something you wish could be automated, could be checked on, so you wouldn't have to. What is it?

We can do it now. In the World of Always-On, we can collect any data, we can evaluate it, and we can alert whoever needs alerting, when they need alerting. Or we can hold that data, or that analysis, until you call for it. Yes, call for it, with your voice, no need for a keyboard.

The World of Always-On offers a host of application spaces that use Internet broadband merely as a backhaul medium. Many Always-On applications don't even need broadband speed -- they can live on your local network, in your own PC. These applications can live in your chest, on your things, on your fridge -- it's all up to you.

This is how broadband becomes ubiquitous, with greater intimacy.

The IN in the word Internet -- it stands for intimate. And that's what Always-On applications are all about.


Shameless Self-Promotion

I work as a business analyst with Progressive Strategies, a New York research firm that has the ear of the world's top technology companies.

My last book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards .

You have my permission to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know. Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...


Shameless Promotion

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Takes on the News

The Only Answer To Everything

The only answer to our economic ills is education.

I'm not talking here about schools. I'm talking about you and me.

Most of us think our education ends at graduation. But it doesn't. Mine hasn't. All my college education gave me were the tools with which to learn other things. And so I have kept my skills up for nearly 30 years.

Of course I'm lucky. I was a "liberal arts" major - actually political science, history, and lots of English (which I liked a lot). These things don't change much. The Civil War was still when it was, and Shakespeare's plays haven't changed. Yes, the interpretations are different, the way they're being treated is different, but if you put me into a classroom today I could get along.

This is not true for my lovely wife, and it's probably not true for many people who took technical subjects. Science changes. The engineering landscape changes. Majors exist today where knowledge didn't exist in the 1970s. My wife's first computing class was on a PDP machine, with punch cards.

So our whole attitude about education must change, and the way we organize it must change as well. We're in a global race to the top of the stack in every field, and anyone who can't climb is going to be left behind.

That's the real lesson of the last few years. We've gone from marketing dot-bombs to sorting slacks at Wal-Mart, then we wonder how our standard of living fell.

We're no longer just a World Village. Thanks to this medium we're a World University. Everyone is and must be a student. If our leaders are wise they will work to push every college out into the world, and demand that Americans raise their skills. They will provide incentives for this, and insist that industry do its share.

But we can't afford high school drop-outs anymore. We can't afford many high school graduates. And we can't afford college graduates who think they're done, that they can vegetate in front of a TV every night and wealth will just come to them.

We have to change the message we give people, and we have to demand that they get with the program of continual education. This sounds painful to someone bored with school, but the first task is to find something you want to learn, then learn it in-depth. We love to think of rock and rap stars as ignorant, but they're really avid students, of music and poetry, something they become well-aware of when they get together, and find themselves finally, among peers, speaking the same language.

We all need that. It's the only way any of us will earn a living.

The 21st century is wonderful, but it's also highly Darwinian. And today's fat, lazy, stupid Americans are like gazelles on a veldt. We're easy economic prey for lions, hyenas, and the other economic predators out there. The result of this natural selection will be rapid change, hopefully rapid improvement. We have set this world in motion. Can we live in it?


The End of Web Real Estate

These days, when I visit the beat of Internet Advertising, I feel like an engineering graduate at a college reunion. I feel a little stupid, like the world has passed me by.

One of the most important concepts of Internet advertising in the 1990s was the idea of "real estate." Where was the ad? How much space did it occupy? The idea came from publishing where every page had a specific size. It's also applicable to broadcasting, where you have a certain "inventory" of time to sell.

Well the Web doesn't work that way. Pointroll has been proving this for a few years now. I first saw some of their stuff on Yahoo Finance, little buttons that expanded when you rolled over them, covering larger pieces of content.

But the idea has gone way beyond that, as Robert Levitan of PointRoll explained on a recent call. "This is good for the advertiser, delivering more information and segmenting the audience. The audience doesn't leave the site. The publisher gets better response rates." Even a tiny ad can be opened into a much larger one, capable of handling e-commerce or forms, without occupying much Web real estate. Even a button can become a full multi-page extravaganza.

The original format, called the "Fat Boy," has been joined by two other formats, a "Bad Boy" that floats over content and a "Towel Boy" that opens big and then folds back into a smaller size on the page. I don't care for the latter two, but in advertising everything depends on execution.

PointRoll, meanwhile, has expanded into a complete solution, Levitan said. "I just create an ad, send it to Pointroll, they QA (Quality Assurance) and traffic it, and they give us a lot of metrics. We can track those you scrolled, which parts you opened, where you clicked, whether you signed up for something. We're providing a lot of value there. We're also network agnostic. We can serve ads to any network."

You can have several of these ads on a page without disturbing any content, Levitan noted. Unlike other formats, the PointRoll ads don't disturb the flow of a reader's work for more than a few seconds (in the form of a "towel boy" or "bad boy" ad) and they can be made using any set of creative tools.

So what do you do? Every button or banner can now become a multi-page buy. The limits, in terms of how many and what types of PointRoll ads start to become counter-productive, have yet to be tested. It would be interesting to see this applied by BlogAds , which is just starting to gain a little traction in niches like political advertising.

Just because you graduated doesn't mean the technology world stopped.

Test The Weakness Of The Web

The launch of Google's Local Service gives us a great chance to test both the weaknesses of the Web and of Google's algorithm. It also provides great opportunity for anyone into Web commerce.

The service isn't complete because Google only looks at code words, and its identification of shops isn't always accurate. It's also incomplete because of pure churn - shops close all the time and they don't tell Google about it. But there's some cool stuff here. Your results include a link, for each place, to all the locations where the place is mentioned. You can also get a map of the location (from AOL's Mapquest)and directions with a single click.

Then there's that final weakness. Not every store or shop has a Web presence at all, either directly or through some local directory. This is your opportunity. Find those shops, give them that presence, train yourself on the Google algorithm so they are noticed adequately. By improving Google Local you can build yourself a real local business.

To use the service just input your address (or an address you'll be going to) into the right-hand search box, input what you're looking for on the left side, and click enter. You can search within one mile, or up to 45 miles.

As a test I input the word "sushi" and my home address. The "first cut" was interesting, because it correctly identified my favorite local place first, but its second hit was a clothing store called Sushi Clothing. Using the geographic qualifiers was hampered by the fact that the places were then not in order of their geographic distance. That is something that can be improved, because the results to identify distances within a mile. So group them. Also, when I narrowed the search distance to one mile brought only places that don't sell sushi, even though the first cut on the search had correctly identified a sushi bar within that same distance.

And the "hippest" Sushi bar in Atlanta - one with its own Web site - doesn't show up at all in these listings.

So take it all with a grain of salt (or a splash of wasabi soy sauce), and an eye for opportunity. If you see a place that looks promising and you're thinking of devoting your evening to it, call first. And don't take this as a complete listing, yet. The Web still has a long way to go.


Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Ivan Noble of the BBC . He may be dying but he's not going quietly, and will keep doing his job until he can no longer do it. An example to us all.

Clueless is Vint Cerf who still doesn't see how ICANN has been hopelessly corrupted by a few big corporations.


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