I’ve always been a big supporter of the BarCamp concept (a free self-organizing “unconference” where everyone is expected to contribute or participate), although the original BarCamps are way too technical for me to understand, never mind contribute. So I was happy to find out that CaseCamp Toronto is happening again on April 29th. CaseCamp is a marketing version of BarCamp, with people presenting case studies, and because there’s a big crossover with my favoured tribe of web nerds, there’s usually a heavy dose of social media wonkery. For some reason, these only appear to happen in Canada. My only disappointment is that it’s happening at the exact same time as two other potentially interesting events: StartupCamp 2 and Raindance’s free “99 Minute Screenwriting School.” If anyone makes it to either of those two, would you mind reporting back? And if you’re interested in CaseCamp, sign up soon. There are almost 100 people coming already!
Ok, I’ve been back from SXSW since yesterday afternoon, but I’m not quite ready to do the full writeup just yet. In fact, I’m extremely distracted right now. At Jane McGonigal’s amazing keynote last Tuesday, she pointed to a new ARG (alternate reality game) that she’d been working on for the upcoming Beijing Olympics. I’m a HUGE Olympics junkie and the trailer she showed just knocked my socks off. So now, I’m immersed in the mystery of The Lost Ring. This isn’t the sort of thing one person can figure out on their own, so if you decide to try to figure it out, jump into the comments here and let’s join forces.
P.S. One of my favourite things about the game so far is the extensive use of Esperanto, the “world language” that hardly anyone speaks. It’s tied into the hopeless optimism of the Olympic movement, and that gets me all choked up, but it’s also supremely geeky.
Kevin Kelly brilliantly sums up the entire internet economy in an article entitled Better Than Free. His thesis is that the internet is basically a giant copy machine, but that as copies of content become more abundant, they lose their value. For a business to become successful in the age of the internet, they have to offer things that cannot be copied. He lists eight:
In a real sense, these are eight things that are better than free. Eight uncopyable values. I call them “generatives.” A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold.
Another overriding factor he mentions is trust. I suggest that if you or your business have any connection with the internet (and that’s all of us, especially if you’re reading this!), then you read Kevin’s article immediately. I think there are the seeds of a million business plans in there.
Just browsing around this morning, I came across a great example of word of mouth marketing. Michael McDerment is a successful Toronto entrepreneur behind the innovative FreshBooks.com online invoicing service. In a 2005 entry on his own blog, he recommends a company called Landmark Merchant Solutions as a “great business partner” for small companies looking for payment gateway services. In the comments to that entry, there is a link to a bulletin board where an amazing conversation has unfolded. Apparently, Landmark isn’t such a great business partner after all.
Shady business practices, drug abuse, sexual harassment, lawsuits. And I’m only about a quarter way down the page. The thread starter has been participating in this conversation for more than three years now. Word of mouth is real.
I have got to spend a few days here, in lovely Grantsburg, Wisconsin. Who’s up for a JamesMcNallyFest?
I found this, by the way, through the very cool, though slightly creepy Spock.com, which had already built a profile page for me before I ever visited the site. I joked on Twitter that that’s probably exactly why it’s called Spock.com.