Building A Virtual Reality Social Network For Digital Nomads

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Being a digital nomad, remote employee or perpetual traveller creates as many problems as it solves. Swapping the stability of the office and home environment for a life of travel and adventure on the road also swaps the stability of a supportive, social circle of friends and growth for a multitude of single serving friends, shallow Tinder encounters and continual acquaintance re-engagement. I’ve forgotten your name already but will remember it next time when I feel guilty about it, promise. Another day, another apartment, everything changes, when you live out of a bag, minimalism is key. No posters, no art, no decorations, no books, Kindle is king. Everything becomes digital. Why even have a backup hdd when you have the almighty cloud. #nobaggage.

Can I Backup My Friends In To The Cloud

I stay connected to people meaningful to me, all around the world, through the Internet, many of which I have not seen for 4 or more years now. My monkey sphere is a fixed size, my friendship and acquaintance network is not and is maintained through a series of ‘likes’ on Facebook and Instagram. I can’t talk to all the people I want to talk to and can’t say all the things I want to say but I do my best, giving just a thumbs up and a ‘congratulations 🎉’ to the people who have made massive impacts on my life on their most important life events, with complete sincerity and regretful absence.

What Has The Internet Ever Done For Us?

The Internet has revolutionised the way we communicate and interact with each other. Social networks, Facebook, Instagram; video calls, Skype, Facetime; collaborative suites, Slack, Hipchat. We can communicate, present and share ideas with someone on the other side of the world almost as easily as if they were in the same room. We can even play games, real time and turn based, with friends remotely, PS4 and XBox even insist on it now with more games featuring network play than multiplayer modes.

Digital Rights Management almost lets us own things, almost. Although Kindle owners know the hard truth that Amazon can just pull books away from you that you have paid for if Amazon have a dispute with the publishing house as a lesson to the publisher, and Apple owners know the hard truth that for some reason they now have an aurally offensive U2 album in their collection thats not entirely easy to get rid of. DRM isn’t so much ownership as it is a license to use.

Since DRM, Blockchain technology has come along and created real ownership. With Bitcoin you can own digital money but with Ethereum you can now really own digital assets. Digital books, digital music, digital art, pure ownership can be tracked on the Ethereum network, changing the way we think about ownership and assets.

We Are simulations living in a virtual realm, says Elon Musk

Virtual Home Sweet Home

Combining everything we’ve talked about so far, the social and material challenges that digital nomads face, the impact on social interactions and communication thanks to the internet and the concept of real, asset ownership on a blockchain, a potential solution or at least combination of ideas is taking off with a project called Decentraland.

Decentraland is a Virtual Reality world, similar in scope to Second Life, but with all ownership of virtual assets existing on a blockchain, so they cannot be taken away from you and with all of the technology running the platform decentralised and open source, so the platform can not be turned off and with 0 barrier to entry, so it will go viral.

Please let that sink in.

You actually own all your things in the world, your land, your house, your avatar’s clothes, etc, everything that is yours you own.

You cannot turn Decentraland off. Anything created, your house, your land, will persist forever on the IPFS network and the entire platform is built on open standards and with an open source license. Decentraland is censorship resistant.

Decentraland will be exponentially viral. The client uses WebVR/WebGL as a minimum, an open standard supported by all web browsers and each area is directly addressable via an HTTPS URL. This means I can share my location with you on Facebook with a link, the same way you might share a blog article, and you can click it and come hang out with me. There is 0 barrier to adoption. Users will be able to build VR businesses (Second Life had an economy of over $3billion) and use Facebook or other online marketing techniques to drive traffic to their virtual business presence.

Virtual Ownership

Anyone who has enjoyed playing the Sims will love Decentraland, you can create your avatar, dress it, make it an expression of yourself or whoever you want it to be, you will own it’s outfits, jewellery, everything.

For crypto collectors, your house can also be an extension of your personality. You will be able to acquire furniture, art and decorate it to your hearts content. Creating a crypto demonstration of wealth or a relaxing, tranquil Ubud-esque yoga haven depending on what you want it to be.

Virtual Interaction

My main interest is in the virtual interactivity. I hope Decentraland becomes a place where I can regularly meet and socialise with people in VR as I travel, people I already know and new people as well. The current user base is a crossover demographic between crypto enthusiasts and VR enthusiasts so it’s a bit of a bubble, but with the VR adoption rates becoming main stream and the 100% accessible direction Decentraland is heading in, I’m excited for the number of people who can get involved and the kind of people I might meet in there.

Getting Involved

I’ve already bought some large areas of land with which I’m going to experiment with some VR business ideas and create a VR mastermind retreat, a virtual Necker Island if you will and I’ve had the great fortune to already meet experienced entrepreneurs and VR enthusiasts like Carl Fravel, so early involvement is already paying off.

Decentraland has just reopened its’ LAND marketplace so anyone with an interest can now buy their own parcel of LAND in the world and join in.

You do need, at the moment, a bit of tech-fu to develop your land but developer tools are now available here, so you can create 3D models in Blender or 3DSmax and upload them to your LAND!

6 Tips To Help You Read More Books

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I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always enjoyed reading. My earliest memories are of consistently getting in trouble as a child due to reading Terry Pratchett or Fighting Fantasy at night, it’s always something I enjoyed but ended up getting sidelined shortly after I turned 25 when I become a jaded, adult with a career.

Since leaving the UK I’ve become an avid reader again as it’s one of the best ways to discover new experiences and perspectives on life as well as engage the mind and reduce stress. Reading is my meditation. It’s New Years Day, 2018, and the end of a cycle which is always a good time for reflection, here’s a short list of some of the observations I’ve made looking back over the last 4 years of my reading habit!

1) Always Carry A Book With You

There’s a saying in photography circles, the best camera is the one you have with you and the same philosophy applies to books, if you always have a book to hand you will always have something to read. I don’t have the luxury of a local library or the ability to buy and own real paper books but I am fortunate enough to have both an iPad and an iPhone letting me access the huge Amazon Kindle library with the ability to sync between devices! Now wherever I am, I can always reach in to my pocket and read something with no excuses, and I find reading far more valuable than checking Facebook in my downtime.

2) Form A Regular Habit

I’m a big fan of routine, it helps get things done and having a routine for reading is no exception! In Phuket I’d always read whilst eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. More recently I’ve been getting in to Starbucks when it opens at 7am and then reading until 8am when I go to the gym, getting in 7 hours of reading a week. This blog post was actually inspired by reading in Starbucks earlier this morning and reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to do that each day.

3) Surround Yourself With People Who Read

They say you are the sum of your 5 closest friends and by surrounding yourself with people who share the same values as you do, it will rub off. Everyone I know is always reading and always talking about the books they have read, making recommendations and sharing their conclusions. Being in an environment like this is motivating and inspiring. It really helps to find your tribe that will let you grow and flourish.

4) Create A Reading List

If you have a list of books you want to read, you will always have something to read, no excuses. By creating a reading list, either on Good Reads, Kindle, your notepad etc you will never be stuck with out a book. When doing anything it’s always a good idea to remove as many obstacles and unknowns as possible from your path so by being prepared, when you finish your current book there is nothing stopping you from starting a new one! My reading list has a habit of growing faster than I can keep up though, which just motivates me to read more.

5) It’s OK To Stop Reading A Book You Don’t Like

Until recently I’d never given up on a book, anything I’d started I read through to the end. That is until I picked up How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson. Reading that felt like a painful chore where every line put me to sleep. At first I felt obligated to finish it, I’ve never stopped a book half way through before, if I stopped then I’ve failed this challenge… But why should reading be a challenge? Why should you be forced to continue something you aren’t enjoying? For me reading is a fun activity where I get to relax, be entertained, learn and grow. If a book isn’t ticking your boxes it’s ok to put it down and pick up another. This isn’t University, there’s no required reading, just because someone else likes or recommends something doesn’t mean you have to.

6) Choose Topics You Will Enjoy

It’s always best to front load yourself for success as much as possible. If you want to read more books, choose books, topics and ideas that you’re interested in, passionate about and will enjoy, that way reading will be a pleasant and rewarding experience. When you do have a reading routine in place though, make sure to test yourself with new ideas from time to time to push your boundaries! I know I love reading about trashy thrillers or anything about psychology and evolution so anything by Dan Brown or Richard Dawkins will be read on release! Reading about money or a biography though was never something I thought would interest me so I shied away from them. I’m surprised to say that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story and Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad are the two best books I read in 2017. In fact I wish I could have read Rich Dad Poor Dad 18 years ago!

These are the 6 main things that help me continue reading. I have tried to set goals like read 52 books in a year and I’ve tried to listen to audiobooks and they didn’t really work for me. Blogging about the books I’m reading has slowed down because I’m not able to articulate the benefits of the book sufficiently and as an exercise in formalising my notes to solidify my understanding of the book’s topics, my approach is sorely lacking. I want to work on that in 2018.

What do you guys do that help you to read more?

Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher

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Wishful Drinking – Carrie FisherWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Published by Pocket on 2009
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, General
Pages: 163
Buy on Amazon.com, Buy on Amazon.co.uk
Goodreads
five-stars

In Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher tells the true and intoxicating story of her life with inimitable wit. Born to celebrity parents, she was picked to play a princess in a little movie called Star Warswhen only 19 years old. "But it isn't all sweetness and light sabres." Alas, aside from a demanding career and her role as a single mother (not to mention the hyperspace hairdo), Carrie also spends her free time battling addiction and weathering the wild ride of manic depression. It's an incredible tale - from having Elizabeth Taylor as a stepmother, to marrying (and divorcing) Paul Simon, and from having the father of her daughter leave her for a man, to ultimately waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed.

I was legitimately bummed out when Carrie died, I spent December bouncing between Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok, ultimately spending Christmas itself in Bangkok after watching Rogue One in Ho Chi Minh City!

The amusingly named memoir is fun to read, giving a glimpse in to Carrie’s Hollywood upbringing and partying antics, written in a kind of jovial, this happened, deal with it kind of manner.

five-stars

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life – Neil Strauss

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Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life – Neil StraussEmergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss
Published by It Books on March 10th 2009
Pages: 432
Buy on Amazon.com, Buy on Amazon.co.uk
Goodreads
five-stars

Terrorist attacks. Natural disasters. Domestic crackdowns. Economic collapse. Riots. Wars. Disease. Starvation.

What can you do when it all hits the fan?

You can learn to be self-sufficient and survive without the system.

**I've started to look at the world through apocalypse eyes.** So begins Neil Strauss's harrowing new book: his first full-length worksince the international bestseller The Game, and one of the most original-and provocative-narratives of the year.

After the last few years of violence and terror, of ethnic and religious hatred, of tsunamis and hurricanes–and now of world financial meltdown–Strauss, like most of his generation, came to the sobering realization that, even in America, anything can happen. But rather than watch helplessly, he decided to do something about it. And so he spent three years traveling through a country that's lost its sense of safety, equipping himself with the tools necessary to save himself and his loved ones from an uncertain future.

With the same quick wit and eye for cultural trends that marked The Game, The Dirt, and How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Emergency traces Neil's white-knuckled journey through today's heart of darkness, as he sets out to move his life offshore, test his skills in the wild, and remake himself as a gun-toting, plane-flying, government-defying survivor. It's a tale of paranoid fantasies and crippling doubts, of shady lawyers and dangerous cult leaders, of billionaire gun nuts and survivalist superheroes, of weirdos, heroes, and ordinary citizens going off the grid.

It's one man's story of a dangerous world–and how to stay alive in it.

Before the next disaster strikes, you're going to want to read this book. And you'll want to do everything it suggests. Because tomorrow doesn't come with a guarantee...

I read this book because a group of us were moving to China, just as Trump was getting voted in to be President of the USA and various military exercises(?) were taking place by both America and China that seemed .. awkward. What would we do if something happened? Where would we go? How would we get there? I didn’t know what I didn’t know and now after reading this book I now know a little bit more about what I still don’t know!

Like The Game, the book documents a year or so in Neil’s life as he decides to become prepared for an emergency, engaging in escape and evasion courses, survival courses, shooting courses and meeting people who have ‘flags’ in multiple countries and passports, reading this book alone won’t prepare you for anything but it gives some interesting ideas and directions that you might want to head in if any of these issues are a concern for you, or just of interest.

Whilst our paranoia about China turned out to be unfounded, the Chinese absolutely LOVE Trump and compare him to Chairman Mao… It’s a good read about getting prepared whilst also skipping aside any politics or opinions on whether getting prepared is actually necessary.

five-stars

The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work – Scott Berkun

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The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work – Scott BerkunThe Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun
Published by Jossey-Bass on September 10th 2013
Pages: 258
five-stars

A behind-the-scenes look at the firm behind WordPress.com and the unique work culture that contributes to its phenomenal success50 million websites, or twenty percent of the entire web, use WordPress software. The force behind WordPress.com is a convention-defying company called Automattic, Inc., whose 120 employees work from anywhere in the world they wish, barely use email, and launch improvements to their products dozens of times a day. With a fraction of the resources of Google, Amazon, or Facebook, they have a similar impact on the future of the Internet. How is this possible? What's different about how they work, and what can other companies learn from their methods?
To find out, former Microsoft veteran Scott Berkun worked as a manager at WordPress.com, leading a team of young programmers developing new ideas. "The Year Without Pants" shares the secrets of WordPress.com's phenomenal success from the inside. Berkun's story reveals insights on creativity, productivity, and leadership from the kind of workplace that might be in everyone's future.Offers a fast-paced and entertaining insider's account of how an amazing, powerful organization achieves impressive resultsIncludes vital lessons about work culture and managing creativityWritten by author and popular blogger Scott Berkun (scottberkun.com)
"The Year Without Pants" shares what every organization can learn from the world-changing ideas for the future of work at the heart of Automattic's success.

The Year Without Pants is an insightful look in to Scott’s year working as a team lead for WordPress and Automattic’s company culture that allows remote work. What’s most interesting about it, is the culture works! Running a remote team successfully can be incredibly difficult at scale. Their culture was unconventional, employees are independent, working from wherever they wished and most interestingly, rarely using email to communicate.

The book makes a great case for why remote work can work, especially if you consider how much time at a traditional workplace is spent purely through the computer. I know for myself I could actually spend days during a busy project not speaking to a single soul in my office and just working through the day on my computer and collaborating with the team on IRC and Skype whilst handling tickets in Jira. The principle is sound and in my opinion the things that make it a success or not are employee commitment and competence and the company culture and processes. A remote team with a paranoid and suspicious company culture will never work.

Automatic doesn’t make you run the Google gauntlet of trick questions, e.g. why manhole covers are round or how to upgrade SSHd on servers on the moon but instead hires you by trial to tackle a simple project and work on real things. As an approach this is great and something I experienced myself whilst “interviewing” for a company in Australia and then blockchain.info. It’s a great way to see if people can actually do the job or not, I’m a big fan of hiring people that can do the work, whilst it’s a nice idea to hire people with the capacity to learn what you’re already doing it’s a great idea to bring people on who already know what they are doing and can help you improve what’s already been done!

What is important to note is that whilst Automattic has a remote culture, they also have a head office in San Francisco and regular company meetings, in real life, where all employees turn up and work together in the same place. Reading the book suggested a culture of competent people, all part of the same team, who wanted to be there, working together to solve problems they believe in. This culture was also always there from the start, with the Founder, not shoe-horned in later.

I took so many notes from this book that writing them up would have yielded a book of a similar size and scope. Scott Berkun is ex-Microsoft having worked on Internet Explorer, he knows what he’s doing and is able to succinctly put it in to words. I think that is also why Automattic’s culture of remote work, works. Put the right people in the right place doing the right thing!

five-stars

Peter Diamandis – Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World

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Peter Diamandis – Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the WorldBold by Peter Diamandis, Steven Kotler
Published by Simon and Schuster on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Business & Economics, Entrepreneurship, New Business Enterprises, Science, Applied Sciences, Social Science, General, Technology & Engineering, Environmental, Social Aspects
Pages: 336
Buy on Amazon.com, Buy on Amazon.co.uk
five-stars

A radical, how-to guide for using exponential technologies, moonshot thinking, and crowd-powered tools, Bold unfolds in three parts. Part One focuses on the exponential technologies that are disrupting today’s Fortune 500 companies and enabling upstart entrepreneurs to go from “I’ve got an idea” to “I run a billion-dollar company” far faster than ever before. Part Two draws on insights from billionaires such as Larry Page, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos and reveals their entrepreneurial secrets. Finally, Bold closes with a look at the best practices that allow anyone to leverage today’s hyper-connected crowd like never before.

Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler was fantastic to read after Exponential Organizations and Abundance. If Exponential Organizations discussed the problems and Abundance discussed the solutions, Bold can be thought of as discussing the implementation!

The world’s biggest problems = biggest business opportunities.

Like the previous 2 books, Bold is incredibly optimistic about the future. The first section discusses the 6 ‘D’s of exponentials

  • Digitalisation
  • Deception
  • Disruption
  • Demonetisation
  • Dematerialisation
  • Democratisation

Anything that becomes digitised, e.g. biology, medicine, manufacturing can then leverage Moore’s law of exponentially increasing computational power.

The second chapter is about the democratisation of power, essentially how things that were once the forte of big governments are now attainable by companies and individuals. Where as once manufacturing plastics was a complicated process, only possible with bulk manufacture, the advent of 3D printing now offers affordable manufacture-on-demand services, anywhere in the world.

Whilst once space flight was only possible for organisations the size of NASA, now many much smaller organisations with just a handful of members/employees are putting rockets in to space whilst striving to win an X-Prize!

Section 2 then discusses mindset, opening strong with a discussion about basic income. Once everyone is paid enough so all their basic needs are met, intrinsic rewards that meet your emotional satisfactions become far more important than financial rewards.

Encouraging creative and passionate minds becomes a problem in itself.

Peter’s Laws™ The Creed of the Persistent and Passionate Mind

  1. If anything can go wrong, fix it! (To hell with Murphy!)
  2. When given a choice—take both!
  3. Multiple projects lead to multiple successes.
  4. Start at the top, then work your way up.
  5. Do it by the book . . . but be the author!
  6. When forced to compromise, ask for more.
  7. If you can’t win, change the rules.
  8. If you can’t change the rules, then ignore them.
  9. Perfection is not optional.
  10. When faced without a challenge—make one.
  11. No simply means begin one level higher.
  12. Don’t walk when you can run.
  13. When in doubt: THINK!
  14. Patience is a virtue, but persistence to the point of success is a blessing.
  15. The squeaky wheel gets replaced.
  16. The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.
  17. The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself!
  18. The ratio of something to nothing is infinite.
  19. You get what you incentivize.
  20. If you think it is impossible, then it is for you.
  21. An expert is someone who can tell you exactly how something can’t be done.
  22. The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.
  23. If it was easy, it would have been done already.
  24. Without a target you’ll miss it every time.
  25. Fail early, fail often, fail forward!
  26. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
  27. The world’s most precious resource is the persistent and passionate human mind.
  28. Bureaucracy is an obstacle to be conquered with persistence, confidence, and a bulldozer when necessary.

The 3rd and final section is about implementation using the crowd! i.e. the billions of people across the world looking for things to do! This was quite nice to read as it’s how I personally run my businesses and solve my problems.

By leveraging services like Upwork it’s possible to find affordable, talented people to solve problems all over the world. Other services like 99Designs or Tongal can be used to run competitions to source creative works.

If you genuinely have that one great idea, but are struggling to take it to the next level, crowdfunding can be an option, if you have the right pitch for the right audience. Whether it’s donation based, microlending, equity sales or even prepurchase, sites like Kiva, GlobalGiving and CrowdFunder can help people raise money.

This book is a must read for anyone, if you’re already leveraging the Internet to run your online business you are probably implementing a lot of these techniques and practices anyway so it’s good to be reassured by the inventor of Paypal that you’re doing the right thing! If you’re just starting out (and even if you’re an old hand) you will get great exposure to new ideas that can help you get moving.

five-stars

Peter Diamandis – Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

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Peter Diamandis – Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You ThinkAbundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis, Steven Kotler
Published by Free Press on September 23rd 2014
Pages: 432
Buy on Amazon.com, Buy on Amazon.co.uk
five-stars

The manifesto for the future that is grounded in practical solutions addressing the world’s most pressing concerns: overpopulation, food, water, energy, education, health care and freedom.
Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the hardscrabble majority. Conventional wisdom says this gap cannot be closed. But it is closing—fast.
Breaking down human needs by category—water, food, energy, healthcare, education, freedom—Diamandis and Kotler introduce us to innovators and industry captains making tremendous strides in each area.

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis is a fantastic, tackling the world’s largest and most important problems such as overpopulation, food, water, energy, education, health care and freedom.

This is probably the most optimistic book I’ve ever read.

In today’s hyperlinked world, solving problems anywhere, solves problems everywhere.

Abundance is a great follow up to Exponential Organizations as a lot of the techniques covered to solve the worlds largest problems involve exponential thinking as the human race is growing exponentially.

if you can’t be yourself, it’s hard to know yourself, and if you don’t now yourself, how can you ever tap into your true potential?

Essentially the book applies exponential principles to the different exponential problems we face throughout the world and how they will be used to create a world of abundance for everyone.

Using networks and sensors to plot, track and co-ordinate everything can lead to increased efficiency and much less waste making more resources of every type readily available.

Robotics is automating manual processes, driving costs down whilst creating more at a higher quality with less defects.

Technology is shrinking in size and cost exponentially, just look at how mobile phones have changed in the last 10 years and see how that is effecting medical equipment. I already have a small blood sugar monitor that fits in my pocket, with a tiny pool of blood I can immediately tell my blood glucose levels, extrapolate that out and soon we’ll have ubiquitous devices that can detect viruses, cancers and all manner of diseases for the cost of a cup of coffee. Solving logistical problems with drones will then be able to get this technology to anyone in the world who will need it.

The exponential solutions to these big problems are also massive business opportunities so trying to solve them could be a massive economic opportunity.

I love reading as it exposes me to new ideas and the ideas in this book are incredible, ambitious, optimistic and inspiring, so I definitely recommend it.

five-stars

Salim Ismail‎ – Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, cheaper than yours (and what to do about it)

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Salim Ismail‎ – Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, cheaper than yours (and what to do about it)Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations Are Ten Times Better, Faster, and Cheaper Than Yours (and What to Do about It) by Salim Ismail, Michael S Malone, Yuri van Geest
Published by Diversion Publishing on October 14th 2014
Pages: 326
Buy on Amazon.com, Buy on Amazon.co.uk
Goodreads
five-stars

In business, performance is key. In performance, how you organize can be the key to growth. In the past five years, the business world has seen the birth of a new breed of company - the Exponential Organization - that has revolutionized how a company can accelerate its growth by using technology.

Salim Ismail‎ – Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) is the first of 3 books I’ve read recently, all stemming from Singularity University, and was full of big thinking around what exponential organisations are and case studies of how some were formed, how they scaled and problems that they went on to solve.

I don’t have an MBA in business, I’m a computer nerd who’s worked with successful startups and large enterprise companies, so I still have a lot to learn and this book filled a few gaps with solid explanations. e.g. obviously I’ve been exposed to the waterfall model of software development (since 1997..) but wasn’t aware of the formal New Product Development process, or NPD, which includes the following steps:

  1. Idea generation
  2. Idea screening
  3. Concept development and testing
  4. Business analysis
  5. Beta and market testing
  6. Technical implementation
  7. Commercialisation
  8. New product pricing

Whilst basically being the waterfall approach I learned a long time ago, it’s nice to experience formalised positive reinforcement and see it written down and discussed in an interesting manner.

Entrepreneurial success rarely comes from the idea. Instead, it comes from the founding team’s never-say-due attitude and relentless execution. Those who really want something will find options.

One of the biggest takeaways from the book covered something I’ve always been curious about for a while, how to build business models around products that are given away for free. I registered http://www.idimmu.net November 2005 and every time I had to use the Internet to solve a work related problem, I blogged about it. Over the years I engaged with other Linux bloggers and we all faced a similar problem, how to monetise a blog based around freely available information? Everyone in the industry who is good is self taught based on other people’s blogs and white papers, you don’t generally want to hire someone with an RHCE.. This book covers how to build an exponential organisation around free information.

  1. Immediacy: Immediacy is the reason people order in advance on Amazon or attend the theatre on opening night. Being the first to know about or experience something has intrinsic cultural, social and even commercial value. In short: time confers privilege.
  2. Personalisation: Having a product or service customised just for you not only gives added value in terms of quality of experience and ease-of-use or functionality, it also creates “stickiness”, as both parties are invested in the process.
  3. Interpretation: Even if the product or service is free, there is still considerable added value to any service that can help shorten the learning curve to using it.
  4. Authenticity: Added value comes from a guarantee that the product or service is real and safe.
  5. Accessibility: Ownership requires management and maintenance. In an era where we own hundreds of apps on several platforms, any service that helps us organise everything and improve our ability to find what we need quickly is of particular value.
  6. Embodiment: Digital information has no “body”, no physical form, until we give it one – high definition, 3D, a movie screen, a smartphone. In 1997 I paid for RedHat CDs even though it was free to download as it was more convenient than my 33.6kbps modem 😉
  7. Patronage: Some fans want to pay and will if given an easy way to do so and the amount is reasonable. I personally will buy limited edition vinyl of an album if I love it, despite services like Youtube or Spotify offering virtual, and often cheaper, alternatives.
  8. Findability: Creative works have no value if no one can access them, so putting yourself out there on effective channels and digital platforms so your great content can be found has considerable value in itself. Some of the amazing photographers in Asia who just use Facebook for marketing need to understand this as it took me 9 months to find them and that was only through word of mouth.

I find blogging about books I have read helps the reflection and understanding, and if I could sit here listing all the takeaways I got from Exponential Organizations I’d just end up writing another book.

five-stars

The Science Of Amazon Ranking Graphs And Why They Are Important

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A few people have recently mentioned to me that they don’t understand the usefulness of tools like Amazooka or AMZ Tracker for tracking their products, after all tracking a products BSR or rankings for a particular keyword doesn’t lead to more sales, so I’m going to describe how I use them and why I find them to be important for my business.

Really I should have written this 3 months ago as a lot of people have also been asking about sales drops the last few months due to being in Q3. If these same people had graphs of their BSR and keyword rankings, and knew how to read them, they wouldn’t be asking these questions.

Amazon KPIs

Out of the many Amazon Key Performance Indicators, two that are most important and easiest to track are:

  • Amazon Product’s Best Seller Ranking, or BSR. The ranking of your product in a specific amazon category, e.g. Health & Beauty.
  • Amazon Keyword Ranking. The ranking of your product for a specific search keyword on Amazon

The Science Of Amazon Ranking Graphs And Why They Are Important 1

For some organisations, the process of measuring data can be a complete waste of time, measuring data and KPIs for the sake of it, without using the measurements to reach strategic goals. When used correctly however, KPIs become an important part of a company’s strategy. For the small business owner, measuring the right KPIs, understanding the data and then creating actionable items from the data can elevate a company above the competition.

I’m going to take one of my products as an example and discuss it’s BSR history and it’s keyword history as well as what the graphs tell us about it’s sales performance.

Amazon BSR Graph

The Science Of Amazon Ranking Graphs And Why They Are Important 1

This is the Best Seller Rank graph for one of my products, since it’s launch, you can see a very jumpy first few months during the product launch, followed by an ascent towards March then followed by a slow descent. By looking at this graph, at this scale, with this one single graph, all you can really deduce is that the product had growth until March then the rankings started to slow down after March.

Amazon Keyword Graphs

Keyword Alpha

The Science Of Amazon Ranking Graphs And Why They Are Important 2

This keyword is the main product keyword, the heavy weight. It is the one people are most likely to search for and is the most competitive. For this product there is a lot of entrenched competition.

Keyword Bravo

The Science Of Amazon Ranking Graphs And Why They Are Important 4

This is one of our slightly longer tail keywords, it has less searches and less competition but is still product relevant.

Keyword Charlie

The Science Of Amazon Ranking Graphs And Why They Are Important 5

This is our long tail that keeps us where we are, we identified it during the product research phase, new that it applies specifically to our product and that there was room for us in the market then went all out to target it.

Understanding Amazon KPIs

Right, so we’ve been graphing our BSRs and our keywords and Amazon already does unit and sales KPI reporting for us, now it’s time to tie it all together to understand what is happening in our business.

1) Product Plateau

  • Sales: No change
  • BSR: No change
  • Keyword: No change

This is the easiest case to look at, your sales are constant, your BSR is constant and your keywords is constant. In short, nothing is happening dealing with your product. Some might consider this acceptable but there is a business philosophy you might want to consider

If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

So you might want to have a look at seeing if you can grow the product now rather than worry about clawing it back later.

2) Product Category Slump

  • Sales: Sales are slowing
  • BSR: No change
  • Keyword: No change

If your sales are slowing but your BSR is constant and your keywords are constant then this will be due to a variation in your product category. Simply, for whatever reason, people are buying less products in your category so it’s not that different really to the product plateau case. This is a perfect example for what happens during Q3, which is the slowest time for commerce, so if sales are down but your products meet these KPI criteria, it’s not too much to worry about, but try to focus on growing it some how.

3) Product Niche Slump

  • Sales: Sales are slowing
  • BSR: BSR is dropping
  • Keyword: No change

If your sales are slowing and your BSR is dropping but your keyword rankings have no change, then this means there is a variation in your product niche. Perhaps you are selling Christmas hats during the summer, even if you’re ranked #1 for all your keywords you’re still going to make less sales than you would on the run up to Christmas.

4) Product Slump

  • Sales: Sales are slowing
  • BSR: BSR is dropping
  • Keyword: Keyword is dropping

IF your sales are slowing and your BSR is dropping make sure to check all your keyword graphs because if it isn’t a seasonal or niche slump then it might be because your product is losing keyword rankings which is effecting your BSR and sales volume. This could be your rankings for just one keyword has changed or it could be your rankings for several keywords.

5) Product Category Boost

  • Sales: Sales are increasing
  • BSR: No change
  • Keyword: No change

When sales are increasing but there is no change in your Amazon BSR or keyword rankings then the opposite of #2 is happening, sales in your product category are picking up and taking you along for the ride.

6) Product Niche Boost

  • Sales: Sales are increasing
  • BSR: BSR is increasing
  • Keyword: No change

When sales are increasing and your BSR is increasing but there is no change in your keyword rankings then the opposite of #3 is happening. Sales for your particular niche are picking up again.

7) Product Boost

  • Sales: Sales are increasing
  • BSR: BSR is increasing
  • Keyword: Keyword is increasing

When sales are increasing and your BSR is increasing you again also want to check your keyword rankings as if one or more keyword ranking is increasing that could also be driving more sales for you, again this is the opposite of #4. It could be a single keyword or all of them.

Keyword Observations

Changes In One Keyword

If just one of your keyword rankings is changing, it is more than likely something in your copy has changed that is fundamental to that keyword. It could be a search term has been added or removed.

Changes Across All Keywords

If the majority, or all, of your keywords are seeing change than it is more than likely an issue relating to the conversion rate of your product page. With out going in to too much detail, this could be due to a change in your title, images, review average, number of reviews, quality of the latest reviews or copy.

Graph Observations

So with these case studies in mind I’m going to reflect on several events relating to my product and what the graphs tell us.

July 2015 – August 2015

  • BSR: BSR is all over the place
  • Keyword Alpha: Massive ranking improvement
  • Keyword Bravo: Massive ranking improvement
  • Keyword Charlie: Massive ranking improvement

July to August was the initial product launch so the BSR was all over the place. Keywords Alpha and Bravo were jumpy then found there place whilst our long tail, Charlie, came straight in at 4th due to a properly optimised sales page then move us to 2nd place. This is my launch and product strategy in a nut shell, get a product to rank for a long tail that makes sales, leverage the position over time to grow rankings for other, harder keywords. This is a classic case of #7, a product boost.

September 2015

  • BSR: BSR is dropping
  • Keyword Alpha: Rankings are dropping
  • Keyword Bravo: Rankings are dropping
  • Keyword Charlie: Rankings are dropping

September we had a ‘good problem to have’, we ran out of inventory so sales slowed whilst we got everything back together, as such all our rankings dropped. This is a classic case of #4, a product slump.

October 2015 – November 2015

  • BSR: BSR is increasing
  • Keyword Alpha: Rankings plateau
  • Keyword Bravo: Rankings are increasing
  • Keyword Charlie: Rankings plateau

October to November was great, We saw steady BSR growth whilst keyword Alpha and keyword Charlie plateaued. We can see keyword Bravo steadily increase driving that growth however. This is another case of #7, a product boost, but driven by a single keyword, Charlie.

December 2016 – March 2016

  • BSR: BSR is increasing
  • Keyword Alpha: Rankings are increasing
  • Keyword Bravo: Rankings are increasing
  • Keyword Charlie: Rankings plateauing

December to March was great, everything showed growth, our BSR and our keyword rankings, we made the big time, this is another case of #7 product boost but was driven by all our keywords. You can see the knock on effect take place, our long tail Charlie helped us grow so we could start ranking for the shorter tail Bravo which then got us on to the first page for our actual target keyword Alpha. It has to be said, Charlie was plateauing because we were already at the top, there wasn’t really anywhere for that keyword to grow!

March 2016 – June 2016

  • BSR: BSR is dropping
  • Keyword Alpha: Rankings are dropping
  • Keyword Bravo: Rankings are dropping
  • Keyword Charlie: Rankings plateau

One of the problems with success is Amazon start to take notice and after our period of growth March came and with it so did our page 1 ranking, then from March to June we entered a period of slow decline, so what happened? The first 2 pages or so of most product categories contain very boring product titles Brand Name – Product Name. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about Amazon using short product names as a ranking factor due to this observation to the point of fact some experts recommend going with short titles due to this observation bias. The truth of the matter is the opposite. Amazon have a product listings clean up crew!

I had a slightly longer title that included more description as well as some benefits to our product, Amazon nerfed it in favour of Brand Name – Product Name to make the search indexes more pleasant. This did three things

  • Kill click throughs
  • Kill sales
  • Kill rankings

There are some fundamental problems with what Amazon did to our listing, e.g. consider the effect of the Amazon sales team renaming Acme – Wooden Baby Spoon to Acme – Spoon. Now people searching for a spoon for their baby, or a wooden spoon, or a wooden spoon for their baby, won’t choose our product, but this isn’t the time to go in to the ramifications of that.

In short, due to the title change, our clickthrough rate decreased which caused the product to lose sales and keyword rankings. A classic case of #4, product slump. Our keyword Charlie is still holding on strong.

June 2016 – July 2016

  • BSR: BSR is dropping
  • Keyword Alpha: Rankings are dropping
  • Keyword Bravo: Rankings are dropping
  • Keyword Charlie: Rankings plateau

The big difference between June/July and the previous period stems from just one keyword, keyword Bravo. Because of the title change it removed a descriptive word directly relating to this keyword and we are seeing the ramifications of that clearly now. The solution to this problem is to try and get that keyword back in to the title or in the page to help increase rankings for it. This is the first obvious action item that the graphs have given us. We need to get our rankings back for keyword Bravo asap!

August 2016

  • BSR: BSR is dropping fast
  • Keyword Alpha: Rankings are dropping fast
  • Keyword Bravo: Rankings are dropping fast
  • Keyword Charlie: Rankings plateau

August has been interesting, we still haven’t got keyword Bravo back in yet but we did get something else going on. I’ve been trying for 2 years to join the Amazon subscribe & Save program under the assumption that the subscriptions will drive more sales and I’ll make more money! The truth of the matter is that it’s killed our conversion rate so our BSR and keywords Alpha and Bravo are plummeting faster than ever whilst we are seeing sales decline and no subscriptions occur.

My first action task after this is to get rid of Subscribe & Save.

Summary

Whilst tracking Amazon BSR and keyword positions for your products won’t in themselves lead to more sales, they are very important KPIs to monitor and shouldn’t be ignored as they can let you fully understand what is happening with your business and empower you to make intelligent decisions accordingly.

Whilst most people are already using tools like Amazooka or AMZ Tracker for their product giveaways, the importance of tracking KPIs is often understated as they don’t in themselves have an obvious ROI whilst an auto responder or a product giveaway has an obvious and visible impact on your bottom line.

From observing my graphs I am now going to turn things round by improving my keyword rankings for Bravo and removing Subscribe & Save to improve my on page conversion rate.

Robert B Cialdini – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

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Robert B Cialdini – Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B Cialdini
Published by HarperCollins on 1 Feb. 2007
Genres: Marketing
Pages: 336
Buy on Amazon.com, Buy on Amazon.co.uk
five-stars

Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say "yes"—and how to apply these understandings. Dr. Robert Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.

You'll learn the six universal principles, how to use them to become a skilled persuader—and how to defend yourself against them. Perfect for people in all walks of life, the principles of Influence will move you toward profound personal change and act as a driving force for your success.

Anyone doing any kind of marketing should read this book, period. Covering 6 key principles of influence, Robert Cialdini is a committed genius who not only uses scientific case studies to back up the principles he describes, but also real world experience, having ‘gone under cover’ working in restaurants, etc. to observe influence in action! Not only do you see how the principles play out but Robert goes in to detail about how your mindset can help you not fall for them when used as a marketing tactic.

  • Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.
  • Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. Cialdini notes Chinese brainwashing on American prisoners of war to rewrite their self-image and gain automatic unenforced compliance. See cognitive dissonance.
  • Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
  • Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
  • Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
  • Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.
five-stars

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