by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume IX, No. XLIV

This Week's Clue: Families

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This Week's Clue: Families
SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
Best of the Week
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in, Clueless
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For the Week of October 31, 2005

I honored an old friend last week.

His name is Martin Edelston. He was being inducted into the Direct Marketing Association's Hall of Fame. The convention was here in Atlanta, and he had a celebratory dinner later that night at the Ritz-Carlton.

Marty's company, Boardroom, deals in information. They get experts to glean nuggets of real truth from their work and their lives. They present these nuggets in paid newsletters. Their direct marketing and list management services were created to sell these newsletters.

In a short autobiography accompanying his induction, Marty said that he had a family company. At the dinner his son revealed that, until fairly recently, this was not the case. The family was spread out until, miraculously, a few years before Marty suffered the first in a series of strokes. Now all three of his kids live nearby, they all work for the company, the grandchildren are coming along great. This is happiness. This is success.

We all have multiple families, which can be functional or dysfunctional at various points in our lives. School families feel beyond our kids' control. Church families can be satisfying. We spend more time with work families than any other. We call those we serve with in the military our "band of brothers." Others get the same feeling through sports.

Politicians have a habit of valuing home life over our other family ties. That's a mistake, both politically and economically. A satisfying work family can lead to a far more satisfying home life, and a miserable job is the first step toward home disaster.

Marty does a lot to satisfy his work family, and they return the love. Non-relatives are as kind to him as the family members who work at Boardroom, and he deserves great credit for that. Their kindness is heartfelt. They, too, are part of his family.

The question becomes, how can you make this happen in your business? Because a group that has bonded together is going to do a better job for you than one that is thrown together. To use an analogy even a right-wing ideologue will understand, a winning team is always a family.

It turns out that money is less important in this equation than we think. Transparency is important. A sense of fairness is important. In other words if the team isn't generating dollars merely burning money won't win you loyalty. But when the rewards come in, you better spread them around.

This is what killed Newsbytes back in the early 1990s. The boss talked a great game of "we" when there was no money, but once the money started flowing it was all "I" all of a sudden. Then anyone who remembered the talk of "we" got the cold shoulder. And pretty soon the company was sold, the boss moved away, the team split up. I personally felt abused.

I'm starting a work family with voic.us, and it's not going that well. I'm expecting loyalty first, before the money flows, and some folks just won't work that way. I know it's a lot to ask, but if we're a start-up team, and the stock we earn today is going to be founder's (pre-launch) stock, then the potential upside is enormous. I don't have time to negotiate with people whose talents are, frankly, replaceable.

Maybe I'm being a little hard on the kids.

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Shameless Self-Promotion

I've got a new job. I'm now editor of Atlanta voic.us, a Web start-up aimed at building a community Web platform with a real business model. I'm also all alone in writing the Open Source Blog for ZDNet. (When this started there were three of us.)

My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."

On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.

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

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Best of the Week

Walter Scott's Internet Power Play

A childhood friend of Warren Buffett is engaged in a power play that could raise your Internet bills.

Economic Lesson of Google Print

The reality is this is about money, about monetizing something that had no previous value and the obligation that places on the person doing the monetizing.

Is the Blogosphere Really Better?

I have seen a ton of blogs lately which have all the pretentiousness, all the assumed (rather than earned) authority, and all the tone-deafness to reality of anything in the so-called Main Stream Media they're criticizing.

The Indian Invasion of America

Next time some Mexican is blowing leaves around your house, look him in the eye. Look closely at his face, his nose, his lips, his hair, his skin color. What you'll probably see is what the Mexicans call Mestizo. You can call it mixed-race if you like, but the race that's dominant in that face is probably native-American.

The Speed of Deciding

The speed of action, and its scale, do not determine success or failure. What determines it is often the speed of deciding.

Are These WiFi Concessions Necessary?

Deals like the Philadelphia tie-in with Earthlink, and San Francisco's pending WiFi concession, leave me asking a tough question. Are these deals really necessary?

Microsoft Plays Ogre

Steve's innovation, which came out in 1977, was a game that cut production costs nearly in half. It was called Ogre and one of the two players had just one piece. If Steve could find one of those old game boxes and ship one to Bill Gates right now, I'm certain Gigadollar Bill would get the reference. Because right now, that's the game Gates is playing in real life. And he's the Ogre.

Yahoo's Blogging Dilemma

Big media's first demand will be to isolate, demean, or ignore little media. And you can't do that as a search engine. You do that and you're discriminating. Internet users route around discrimination, by ignoring you.

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The American Diaspora

Table of Contents


ZDNet Open Source

Flock of Delays Over, Flock Debuts

An Open Source Value Central to the Internet

Moore's Law of Training Defines the Economic Cycle

Eben Moglen's Campaign to Kill the FCC

The Real Threat to Microsoft in Open Source

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Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Tom Delay for looking good in his mug shot. Could be a turning point for his whole party (not). At least it took a weapon from his enemies, one they were looking forward to with great anticipation. (I should add, we.)

Clueless is me (again) for trying to do too much at once and thus making mistakes.

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