Reframing Ideas

One of the greatest techniques for advancing thought has been an ability to reframe ideas. When you can change the problem, or sculpt a new solution with a different understanding, you have an advantage.  And there are more than just a few ways to reframe ideas, from inversion to analogy.

Inversion
Reframing by Inversion is one of my personal favorites because it’s so simple. If you can look at the negatives you can look at the positives; if you can start with a problem, what about starting with an answer. Inversion allows you to quickly expand your perspectives in ways that can show openings. Pivoting the thought process allows some drastic changes. Or it can ease stresses when used for comparative value.

Scope Selection
Reframing by Scope Selection is taking the idea and expanding it to some extreme or shrinking it to others. Think about how it could be applied if some constraint was raised, and what avenues that that may open. Or you can think about how simple you can make something, that still does what you want.

This kind of reframing can be used to increase productivity or target forward thought. If you can simplify the implementation details, you can save time, even if it took a little longer in thinking about the initial process. And if you think about expanding the concept and those avenues, you can project paths forward.

Analogy
Reframing by Analogy is taking the idea and viewing through a completely different lens. It’s like taking an item and representing it as both a 3D object and a split projection draft. They are the same conceptually, but provide very different observations. Analogy also provides a great way for making conversation move a bit more fluidly by providing terms others may understand.

Ultimately, all of these examples of reframing allow changing the perspective in a way that allows growth. And sometimes a new viewpoint is all that is necessary for brilliance to be achieved. Just because something works, doesn’t make it right. And just because somethings right, doesn’t mean it will work. But there are times when you can take chances and see if it will. Play with the concepts. Maybe you’re working at a higher or lower level than necessary.

First Principles

Everything must come from some logical point of understanding, unraveling into more complex forms. First principles are the basis, the irreducible components, of any logical system. If you can understand the basics, you can build up an understanding of incrementally more complex tools and systems. First principles are the foundation, necessary to build a strong structure of robust knowledge, without them you may understand how to use a tool, but not understand the tool itself.

Something of those with considerable, and respectable, intellect that also have successes to show is that they tend to refer to first principles as a huge part of their thought process. That is anecdotal, but over and over again, I’ve seen people bring up the concept of first principles, and it’s started to stick out to me. The most noted moment for me occurred when re-watching Elon Musk episode of Foundation, where he is discussing his various ideas and ventures with Kevin Rose.

For me, it’s not the first time I’ve thought of or heard the concept, particularly in an education perspective. I think it’s very important to understand the basics, at least at some point, to  build from on your own. With a solid foundation to work from granted by education one can learn and expand further from those concepts outside the bounds of education independently. The biggest key is to independent thinking, if you can reason the solutions and then process their expansions, you’re in good shape.

Sometimes you have to jump backward, saying, ‘No,’ to the commonly accepted ideas, and work your way back up. Doing this often means placing constraints within your path; once you know it is possible, the question is how to do it better, for some definition of better.  This is a tool for thinking creatively.

Persistence Of Value

I’ve had several discussions with people lately about various things, from community in my town, arts & tech in school, and also about what and how I ended up doing what I do. I may talk about those later, because they are interesting, but I’ve also noticed the idea of persistence popping up, even as an aside.

A quote of advice I received a few years ago, from someone much younger than me was, “You don’t wait for them to call you, you call them.” I sort of ignored it, probably due to person’s age as well as my assessment of their mental acuity,  though even in that moment I realized it was something I had never considered. Thinking over the recent conversations, it brought me back to that quote, but also recent changes I made. I’d now rephrase that as “Don’t wait for the actions of others to tend in your favor. Come back with a reason for them to act in a favorable way. Present your value, and if they do not see it, come back again and again with something different.”

I lived my life free from most needs, but it also means that stuff is normally easy to attain. Breaking through the walls where I need to, is different, I tend to relax and soften rather than tensing up and getting hard enough to break through. I’ve accomplished this in minor ways, but I plan on continuing further with it. Bring the value, and keep bringing it. Build and build, let the inertia continue to push you all the way. Persistence of value is the key.

Solving the Social Intent Problem, or Why Facebook Will Succeed

This is one of the biggest issue needing to be solved for the current and future crop of social media companies. As I had ran down in the previous post on user intent, Social Intent is lacking a direct monetization system. I believe that it can be solved and will be; this is my run-down of the issues and a few points of focus that maximize potential. Throughout the post, I’ll try to keep the points mostly agnostic, but still make specific points in the case of Facebook.

As is well known by now, Facebook recently had it’s financial potential put into question. The question came in two rather bold points, the faltering of the IPO and GM’s decision to pull it’s ads from Facebook. In my mind, both are wrong-headed if you look at it from a long-term perspective, believing Facebook can solve the Social Intent problem.

The first step in fixing the model is understanding what type of associations and products lend themselves to socializing in the real world where the money is. One area sticks out instantly here, communications and mobile, which I’ll come back to momentarily. The other areas to focus on are where we’re already doing in-person socialization and real sharing: sharing food(at restaurants), sharing music(albums and concerts), watching movies(at home or in the theater), other forms of in-person entertainment, and even things like sharing tools at work.

I have just listed a few different areas where advertising still makes sense on the platform, and enhances it. The next step is figuring out where and how to do the advertising. A few things that I think will work in the environment is promoting deals to groups of friends, using a focused approach to kick-off a word of mouth campaign, or promoting tools that extend or even compete with the platform.

Promoting deals to groups of friends is focused on experiences, and sharing them. Offering small group-buy discounts on services that bring people together would be a good sell. Also things that people would want to share with their friends after buying. The biggest thing though is where this should be, it needs to be mobile. Mobile means you can promote live deals on location data, this will be key for Facebook.

Facebook provides one of the most detailed systems for focusing on specific user for promotion. Using this to promote to a specific market that will love and share it with others will be gold. If you can find a product that is shareable enough, and can get some enthusiasts hyped about it, it makes sense to try this approach to reach a broad base cheaply. Not all products have a broad capacity though. Take GM for instance, vehicles aren’t one of the products that individually have broad capacity. GM’s ads weren’t fit for the market and eyeballs still don’t mean much ever after a decade.

This one is a bit questionable, considering I mention helping to promote competition. Of course, if they’re paying you, you get to see some metrics on how they’re doing, and you the sub-graphs may still be maintained or tightened by them. Promoting extension and competition make sense for a platform as it keeps the network tight, while allowing a form of escapism. In many ways, Facebook has huge advantages over most other companies in that they have both a large network that has hit critical mass and have a successful platform for extension.

This is a market or two and it’s currently anyone’s game to solve. I don’t know who’s going to get to the fruit first, but it’s there and I see it. Time to figure out if and how to sneak past the giant and grab it.

Ok, now mostly FB. There have been rumors and talk about Facebook phones or advanced cameras to compliment their service and photo-based extension of that service. I think, as I pointed out reason above, this is a no-brainer. You want to maximize the sharing on the site, but also promote real world interaction for the substance to share. If you can provide the tools to make this seamless in setting up and sharing experiences, from beginning to end, you’re in control. I’m not saying they need their own device, but it would make it more simple to do.

Facebook as it stands is profitable. They have the time and resources to solve this problem, and most of the secondary and sub-problems that I have missed and would surely arise during the process. If they figure this out they won’t have to worry about the doubt. It’s also why I feel long on Facebook, though I still believe it will come down further.

User Intent

What is the intent of users on the web? I’ve been engrossed by this idea for a few weeks. It’s obviously not a simple question with one answer, as it has many; the value of the question is when used to answer specific cases. Let’s break down the concept into a few quick areas.

Primary Intent:

  •   Looking for something to do (Entertainment)
  •   Looking to buy something (Purchase)
  •   Looking for information (Research)
  •   Creating, Sharing, and in-taking information from others(Socialization)

Those four primary intents, and their combinations, define why users are on the web. Each provides an adequate monetization strategy, though that strategy isn’t always straightforward. Let’s look at a few examples of how I classify things.

Entertainment:

Purchase:

  •   Big Online Stores: Amazon, Newegg, Zappos
  •   Services(categories): Hosting, Web Design, Niche stores

Research:

Socialization:

That is just a quick run down, and I could easily move some of those freely between more than one category, e.g. Reddit could also be placed in Research/Socialization, Zynga in Socialization, and Google Search in Purchase.

Purchase intent is likely the easiest to monetize. There are two primary goals that need to be met, capture that interest and then maximize profit in an optimal fashion. Amazon wins by capturing interest with selection and pricing, then maximizes by setting bars such as Free Super Saver Shipping. Newegg, Zappos, and other smaller niche stores capture by catering to a specific buyer.

Entertainment and Research both have positives and negatives as far as monetization goes. They can both come with a purchase intent, though it isn’t necessarily a given. Both have similar monetization strategies, direct and ad-driven, yet each has inherently different ways of handling them.

Entertainment services are often closer to a direct monetization. The reason for direct monetization is partially due to higher costs, either via licensing, bandwidth and storage, or to protect from cannibalization of physical services. The ad-driven approach works okay at larger scale, but with it comes issues of possible mismatch among intent, interest, and the ad. If the user isn’t interested or has no intent in what the ad is providing, that ad is wasted, this is in general.

Research services however are more commonly using an ad-driven approach and it fits. The reason it fits, particularly in the case of search, is because the user may be looking for a solution and have a secondary intent willing to purchase that solution. If you don’t have the solution, but you and someone offering a solution can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. There are also services that offer primarily direct monetization, like academic journals.

Socialization is the hardest intent to monetize, because it has the least correlation to a intent to purchase. Ads aren’t going to work as well as when the intent was on research or entertainment because the ads are often highly irrelevant to the reason the user is there. Promoting word of mouth will likely be more efficient than ads. And since the services often require users to get and retain other users the up-front direct monetization strategy is limited.

TL;DR: When a user decides to use a service they are doing so with specific intent in mind. There are four primary categories that web-services fit into: seeking entertainment, seeking to purchase something, looking for some information, or interacting with others actively or passively. Of the four, the intent to purchase stands out above the rest as far as monetization goes; entertainment and research have similar models but different usage for them; socialization sticks out due to it’s weaker capacity for monetization using the current models shared by the other areas.