Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Grumbles on a Wednesday.

Sometimes I get in early with the best of intentions. I will write my blog, I tell myself, and I'll still have an hour before anyone else gets in to get some work done.

Unlike some of my blogging peers, I don't plan out my blogging week or write my posts early Saturday or Sunday morning. I've tried to keep this thing free from the things that, to me, make it feel like work. Not that I don't feel obliged to have a post every morning. It's just that stacking them up and knocking them off, well, that's not what's comfortable for me.

I thought of writing about a conversation I had with a young candidate.

He came in to the agency like an old-West gunslinger with both .45s firing like Jack Palance in "Shane." (One of the all-time great pictures. Shane is to "The Hateful Eight," what Frank Sinatra is to David Cassidy.)

He told me, virtually before he had his coat off, how messaging was old and dead and dumb. He told me that no one watches TV anymore. (This 36 hours after 100+ million people watched a crappy football game and gabbed ceaselessly about the commercials.) He told me that the agency he entered was completely of the past and a tired, dead shop.

I've heard a lot of the folderol over the years having been a fairly senior player at two major digital shops. I always picture two soldiers in a trench in World War I, pinned down by artillery and machine gun fire. And one says to the other "We have nothing to worry about. Peace is just around the corner."

He told me how we should be making products for consumers.

I looked at myself.

I was wearing a sweater, jeans and a pair of boots. 

No new products there.

I do have a fitbit, I thought, and an Amazon Echo.

Those are new products.

But what else?

So far, it seems to me that the world practically has more products than it knows what to do with. As odd as it may sound, I will never buy hummus that squeezes out from a tube or 99% of the crap festooned with the word "new."

In fact, I can scarcely think of a new product from the last five or ten or even 50 years that's really had a material impact on my life. Most "new" products aren't even new. They do something only slightly better and different than their predecessor products.

Even the Mac I am writing this on ain't that different from the old Royal typewriter my hag of a mother typed 120 wpm on.

This is, by the way, if you want to get all deep dish about it, the subject of a new book by a macroeconomist, Robert Gordon, from Northwestern (where my old man taught) called "The Rise and Fall of American Growth." Paul Krugman, a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner reviewed it for the "Times," and I mentioned that maybe he should read it before he gets all hoity on me. The Rise and Fall of American Growth

I guess my real point today is two-fold.

One: I found something to write about.

And two: Before you start spouting homilies, cliches and cockeyed-so-called verities, do a little research.

Here's a bit from Krugman's review, and something to think about.

“Now, in 1940 many Americans were already living in what was recognizably the modern world, but many others weren’t. What happened over the next 30 years was that the further maturing of the Great Inventions led to rapidly rising incomes and a spread of that modern lifestyle to the nation as a whole. But then everything slowed down. And Gordon argues that the slowdown is likely to be permanent: The great age of progress is behind us. But is Gordon just from the wrong generation, unable to fully appreciate the wonders of the latest technology? I suspect that things like social media make a bigger positive difference to people’s lives than he acknowledges. But he makes two really good points that throw quite a lot of cold water on the claims of techno-optimists.
“First, he points out that genuinely major innovations normally bring about big changes in business practices, in what workplaces look like and how they function. And there were some changes along those lines between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s — but not much since, which is evidence for Gordon’s claim that the main impact of the I.T. revolution has already happened.”

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