Friday, July 29, 2011

Prima Donnas

Genius talent often carries baggage. Sometimes being really great requires mental wiring that is just different from the rest of the general population, but sometimes it comes from being coddled and pampered in order to continue the production of genius.

But the baggage can easily outweigh the benefits of the genius. At that point a negative reputation is formed, potential work is lost, and a career declines prematurely and for unnecessarily. Genius is wasted.

Everyone needs a jester on their life, the person who is always allowed to speak the unvarnished truth, and keep the genius in check. Without it, genius can become a burden rather than a blessing.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Tempation Of Cheap

I've worked on many projects where I had to overcome someone's decision to go the cheap way, yet when starting my own projects I'm tempted to go the cheap way.

The profit margins using cheap inputs can be enormous.

Yet those cheap inputs and methods create standards and expectations, which future clients and colleagues will measure you by.

This isn't about being expensive- its about being on the good side of the value equation between you and your client. Even if their budget is $50, you deliver (in their eyes) $51 of content. Going the cheap route too often delivers only $45 worth of goods- and eventually the client will figure it out.

In the long run, being known as "the guy/company/organization who does things on the cheap" will cut into future profits.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


If you really want to know what your organization thinks about you and your skills, give yourself a lousy self-review.

Your supervisor then has two choices- A) argue that, no, you are a great employee, or B) agree with your lousy assessment and leave it at that.

It may be one of the few times you get honest feedback from your review, even if you have to read between the lines.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scale Of Enjoyment

I've long suspected that the pricing of books and music backwards.

Most books are only read once, yet are often priced north of $15, $25 for a hard cover. Books are a great value when you divide the cost by the hours of entertainment that book provides, but the initial cost can be steep.

Music, however, strikes me as absurdly cheap, even at $12-$15 for a full CD. If that CD turns into a favorite, you will play it dozens of times over its life. I have a few recordings that I am sure I have listened to over one hundred times. My marginal cost per listen is somewhere around ten cents.

If anything, the pricing should be reversed: cheap books, expensive music.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Death By Slide

No slides is infinitely more interesting that using bad slides.

There's a special place in hell for those who read bad slides to their audience.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Understanding Your Audience

The problem with having a stock presentation is that is doesn't take into account your the knowledge of your audience.

Beginning cooks are not going to enjoy a talk on the nuances between the differing genus of nutmeg. Professional cooks are going to walk out on your presentation on how to boil pasta.

If your audience already knows who your group is, move on to the problems that you see in the world and how you are trying to solve them.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


There's an old joke about a patient complaining to their doctor that they are not as happy as the people in the ads.

Making people feel insecure about their present choice is good in the short run, but I think bad in the long run. When your product doesn't deliver unending bliss to your customer, they are going to grow cynical about your next message.

Set reasonable expectations for your customer and the odds of them coming back go way up.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


An interesting post from an interesting guy: Innovation Occlusion.

Worth the read. Sometimes having too much cash leads to actions that are good in the short run, but bad in the long.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Removing Critics

We all have a layer of critics in our professional lives- those who stand between our art and the customer, the client, the end user, who try to tell us what the client wants, or what will be too scary for the client to accept.

It's a lot faster to go straight to the client and see what they think. You remove the filter and get their honest reaction. It's easier to explain what you hand in mind, what you think your art does for them, and they can tell you more honestly if they agree. The give-and-take is faster.

The product is probably better, too.

Monday, July 18, 2011


A friend of mine who is a doctor explained that medical school got a lot easier once he realized that medicine is about pattern recognition. Med school focuses so much on the small percentage of cases that are actually, seriously sick that those instances jump out at you in the real world. "Normal" is boring in its normalness. Once you are able to recognize the patterns, it becomes easier to focus on the needs of the patient and ignore the ordinary variability of life.

That why exceptional people and exceptional work jumps out to the trained eye- you see enough great work and you are able to separate the great from the mundane. The hard part is keeping your diet of high-quality whatever at a level that it keeps your senses sharp.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The Bit Method podcast The Flyover Effect has an excellent episode discussing craftsmanship.

I can only hope that the Bit Method crew would define me as a craftsman.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I've been reading "Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World of ESPN", and I've found it to be an interesting book, with some caveats.

The book is for insiders, as much of it focuses on the management who are invisible to viewers. Who made what decision and why is a heavy emphasis, so those looking for crazy Chris Berman stories will have to suffer through long stretches of dealmaking between anecdotes.

With a background in media and business (and as a very occasional freelancer for ESPN) I've picked up interesting bits all the way through. One is inescapable: ESPN is very good at making money on every project, which is something we can all learn from. Develop multiple revenue streams, price events properly, control costs, and market like crazy.

Example: The NBA subsidizes coverage of WNBA games because there is no viewer interest in them, thus no advertising interest. On the flip side, NCAA Women's basketball pays its way through advertising, because there is an audience, thus ads can be sold. Understand what your audience wants and doesn't want. Make everything work.

It also helps to have operations in a cheap town like Bristol, CT, where you can pay your staff less and they have fewer opportunities to jump to another job.

Doing everything you can to produce a quality product goes a long way, too.

Even a billion dollar operation like ESPN relies on the basics.