Prophets and Pioneers, Preachers and Parishioner

People love causes. They love to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Seth Godin calls them tribes. I believe that every tribe is made up of 4 types of folks. I will use religious terms, but the same type of people exist in every tribe, regardless of their spirituality.

  • Prophets
  • Pioneers
  • Preachers
  • Parishioners

Prophets come first. They see the future – what it can be, what it should be, and at least a general idea of how to get there, and then lead the change. They set down the basic tenants of the cause and have a story and charisma that captures people’s hearts. Most causes have some figure at the creation that stands as a symbol of the movement itself.

Moses – a literal and figurative example – led the major cause of his day. He was led by a vision of freedom, gave his followers laws to live by, had a story that was worthy of Charlton Heston, and led the march through the desert to attain the Promised Land. Beethoven, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and Adolf Hitler led a change and have become icons of their respective causes.

Pioneers follow prophets. Once a prophet has declared their manifesto, a few early converts will join them. These followers may only be known within the tribe, but are crucial in the building up of a critical mass that makes the idea take on a life bigger than the prophet. The New Testament pioneers – Peter, Paul etc – spent their lives, literally, to spread the Gospel of Christ. They weren’t trying to come up with their own ideas, just spread the ones that Jesus had already taught. Without devoted pioneers, an idea can live and die with its founder.

Preachers come later in the story. After a cause has been established, and people have pledged their allegiance, they like to be reminded of who they are and why they are different. The preacher helps to fill this need. The term “preaching to the choir” should probably be extended to the entire congregation. Having someone eloquently reinforce beliefs you already hold is a validating, satisfying experience. It is also very satisfying to the preacher, even financially rewarding. Bloggers like John Gruber of daringfireball.net make a living off of preaching to a congregation of Apple fans.

Usually preachers orate with an understanding that no one but fans will listen. Preachers don’t usually change the group; they reinforce it. It’s hard to get paid when criticize or anger the people you are supposed to be validating.

Parishioners are the boring followers who don’t do much of anything for the group except just belong. They feel good about hanging out at the church, but they do it for the feel good, not for the movement.

So:

Which are you? Probably not a Prophet, maybe a Pioneer, hopefully a Preacher. Or are you just a Parishioner watching someone else be passionate.

The No-Video Nano

My Brother wrote to me on Facebook:

I really don’t get the new Nano. Do you? [My daughter] has the old Nano and she can watch movies on it, with the new one you can’t. Why do you need multitouch to press play and next? I seriously don’t get what Apple was thinking.

A fair question. Not only could you watch video, you could take video. The new nano: not even close.

My answer is that the iPod ain’t what it used to be. Not in a nostalgic way, but in terms of what Apple thinks of it. The notorious Andy Zaky wrote an interesting piece about how the traditional iPod is becoming less and less important to Apple’s revenue growth. He also argues, like me, that the iPod is an entry to the world of Apple.

The big change has been the iPhone. Back in 2007, the “normal” iPod was about the size of an iPhone, had a click wheel, and played video at a starting price of $249. The iPod Nano that came out that year also had a click wheel and video, but a smaller screen and only 4 or 8 GBs for $149 and $199 respectively. Apple is pretty careful about maintaining their price points for their target customers, and even the most recent Nano refresh keeps those same price points. However, at the same event where they announced this Nano, they introduced the iPod touch starting at $299. So back then, $149 got you into an iPod with a screen and video, and for double that amount, you could get into an iPod with multitouch, video, and some lame basic, pre-installed apps.

The iPod touches now are WAY better: Apps, games, Hi-Def video recording, Face Time, gyro, amazing display, AND starting at only $229. That is twenty bucks LESS than the iPod Classic. So now a marginal $80 gets you an upgrade from a Nano to an iPod touch. A jump to be sure, but from an 8 GB iPod Nano, the $20 jump is basically trivial.

What I am saying is that iPod Nano is an entry level product, and one that is primarily still for music, and targeted at a younger (maybe as young as my brother’s daughter) audience. That means that nowadays, the Nano more about appearances that features. Multi touch doesn’t get you anything on the nano really. There is no reason, other than being able to get it small and get rid of the buttons, to have multitouch. But being small and getting rid of the buttons means visibility. That’s why they put a clip on it, and why it is the ONLY Apple product to come in colors.

When my boss saw the new Nano, he said “Imagine the subways in Asia. You are going to see those Nanos everywhere. They are going to sell a lot of those things.” And I think he is right. The old iPod ads used to be about the music – you could barely even see the iPod itself. More recently, the image is all about the image. And multitouch is cool. Kids will love just flicking around and feeling like their parents who have real multitouch devices.

So what was Apple thinking? I think it is all about introducing people, especially younger people, to their super cool products so as they grow up, they buy-up. The Nano is no longer the best selling iPod. If you want video, buy-up, or throw up.

By the way, Have you seen the stats about college freshmen laptop purchases? I mean, when the iPod debuted, these kids were about 8 years old. I’m just sayin….

Fanboys Fanning iPhone Fire?

I often hear people say things like “the only reason iPhone is doing so well is because Apple has such loyal fans.” I am so confused by this statement. First of all, I don’t understand why earning loyal fans somehow is not the very definition of success. Second, most of the iPhone users that I know are not “fanboys.”

At the tech company where I work, 18 people have iPhones. Of those who have iPhones, four of us own Macs, the rest use either Windows or Linux. Some would even be Apple bashers, but still have an iPhone. So 77% of iPhone owners (at my company at least) are not “fanboys.”

To me, this says that iPhone is not successful because of its fan-base; I say it has built a fan-base because it is a fantastic product.

iPhone 4

I have been waiting on the new iPhone for weeks, and I am so excited to see it released.

Top reasons I want one:

Video chatting with my wife and kid would be terrific

The video camera is better quality than the one I bought two years ago

In order to get some of the new OS features, (especially, multi-tasking) I need an updated phone


The improved speed and display would make every moment I use it better, and iPhone and I have a lot of moments. Not to mention that it is completely beautiful.

Global Warming and Bigger Fish

Rather that making a zoological statement about the relationship between ocean/planet temperatures and the size of aquatic organisms, this post is about our immediate health. A lot of folks are getting fired up about the global warming debate. People have made careers out of trying to prove or disprove the notion that the earth is getting progressively warmer because humans are adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. I have not researched the topic enough to form an educated opinion, but it seems like both extremes of the political spectrum have an agenda when it comes to the topic of global warming.

Here is what I don’t get – why don’t environmentalists approach this subject differently? If they are truly concerned about the environment and the people and animals and plants that live in it, why don’t they just talk about air pollution? “Carbon emissions” are the hot topic right now, but even staunch lefties say that it is the potential, not the immediate, problem that concerns them. That is, that the earth will eventually get so warm that life can’t go on. The data on what actually does happen, right now, with pollution is much more shocking.

Google “arden pope” and have a look at his research, or go here or here. Tell me if that does not convince you that the world had better get nasty emissions down fast. If you want to improve nasty emissions, why not just talk about pollution? If you can convince people to emit less of everything, you will get them to emit less CO2. My suspicion is that most people don’t really care and are either just trying to stick with what they are being told, or are just trying to look like they are doing their part.

I think conservatives are just as guilty as liberals in this department. Liberals want to make the argument about global warming, and conservatives just don’t want to have to be bothered by global warming. By neither one of them taking up “pollution” as a broader topic, they just get to keep arguing about something that is terribly difficult to prove.

Rachael and I watched a really dumb movie recently called Man of the Year. It was mostly Robin Williams telling dirty jokes mixed with some shallow politics. The one idea from the movie that I liked was what William’s character called “Weapons of Mass Distraction.” He put flag burning into this category. Don’t we have more important things to worry about? It seems like politicians are forced to “have a stance” on everything. This seems to keep the important conversations down to a dull roar while everyone argues about whether something like the death penalty (which effects about 0% percent of the population) is still a good idea.

So here is my political stance on global warming: both sides, there are bigger fish to fry.

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Steve Jobs=Soup Nazi

A great post from theiphoneblog makes a perfect analogy for Apple. He compares Apple to a restaurant with a temperamental chef. You don’t tell Apple how you want your food – you don’t have good enough taste to know. The chef prepares it and tells you it is the best, and if you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else (and pay less).

I like the article because it reminds us that not every business is right for every consumer, and that variety in business models is helpful and important. I think it is funny when people attack or insult a business based on foundational strategic decisions. It’s like someone criticizing Red Box because they don’t carry enough of the old classics. Red Box could make it possible, but it is not their key strategy. Convenience, not selection, is where they are different. Make sure your business isn’t trying to compete on every factor of difference. Choose the ones where you want to win, then do it.

What I like about water coolers

The water cooler at my office services about 45 people and needs a new bottle quite frequently. Usually this sort of thing bothers me, but with a water cooler, I really like it. There are few things in life that have such a clear indicator that it is time for a change. With toilet paper, toothpaste, lotion, and hand soap, you want to use it all, but you don’t want to be caught without. You sometimes have to keep two out at the same time for that moment when it finally squeaks out its last offering. 

Water coolers are different. When the bottle is empty, you change it. AND if the bottle is empty, there is still some in the cooler. There is a perfect notification for when to change, but you are not left half satisfied if you don’t change it the moment it is empty.

This is usually how I manage my gas tank too. I wait until it tells me to fill it. That means the gas light. And as everyone knows, letting your car get that low on gas is a really bad idea. Not so with a water cooler. If you let the water get down low enough so the bottle is empty, it doesn’t hurt the water or the bottle or the cooler.

What I really don’t like is the razors and toothbrushes that have the lines that are supposed to fade when it’s time to change them. I hate it because it is gradual. Being color blind doesn’t help. How am I supposed to know when the faint blue line turns white? This is why I usually end up using toothbrushes until my teeth rub against the plastic. Now that is a clear indicator that it is time for a change.