Sunday, December 21, 2008

Register for CoolPeople Beta

We have now opened registration for our cool new CoolPeople application. CoolPeople finds influencers, trendsetters, and creators, and even measures their success. This can be done for example for "nanotechnology entrepreneurs in India", but also for "John Smith". It even finds the attributes of the people related to "John Smith".

The picture below shows the CoolPeople network about the topic "Swarm Creativity" as a cybermap social network picture.


The next picture shows the CoolPeople list view of the CoolPeople query "US President"


If you want to see even more before pre-registering, try a dynamic preview: click on the "Condor" picture here which will bring up a dynamic cybermap about "swarm creativity".

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bankers are all Mad(off) – it’s communities we trust!

There are two articles in today’s NYT which resume where we stand regarding trust in ourselves, society, and our future. The first one is by NYT columnist Paul Krugmann, who talks about the Madoff economy. While everybody deplores the criminal tactics of Bernie Madoff, who, in the biggest Ponzi scheme of all times, squandered 50 billion dollars of investor money coming from anywhere on earth, Krugman makes the point that the rest of the Wallstreet bankers is not much better than Madoff. All of them got outrageously rich through outsized bonuses collected on trades in high-yielding, but highly risky assets. As the smoke at Wallstreet is slowly clearing, the bankers are keeping their bonuses, while the investors' money is gone. While Mr. Madoff skipped a few steps, simply stealing his customers’ money while passing on some of it to his earlier investors, the other bankers collected huge fees while exposing investors to risks they did not understand.

The incomes of these employees in “securities, commodity contracts, and investment” have exploded over the last years, to the level where an annual income of a million dollar was nothing special, and even incomes of $ 20 million were fairly common. This has led to a magnetic pull of quick wealth, distracting the smartest students into investment banking, away from science, public service, and everything else. The vast riches that could be earned corrupted their sense of reality and ethics, leading to a society where people like Mr. Madoff, who were making a lot of money, were idolized. To quote Paul Krugmann “What we are looking at now are the consequences of a world gone Madoff!”

Where are people putting their trust and money today, now that they have been let down by the brilliant investment stars at Wallstreet who were most brilliant in optimizing their own bonuses and checkbooks? Part of the answer to this question is in another article in today’s NYT. It seems that in rapidly growing numbers people are turning to the Web for investment advice. Web based investment community sites such as Wesabe, CakeFinancial, and Credit Karma and online banking sites such as Mint and Smartypig have been experiencing double digit membership growth since September, adding up to 25% new members in the last two or three months.

The biggest challenge for these Web sites is to earn the trust of their users. After all, users are asked to upload sensitive information such as their social security number, investment portfolios, credit card numbers and bank account information. Comments by users of these online community Web sites are quite telling:

Because of the crisis, I actually felt more comfortable than if this were some big bank. With everything that’s going on with banks, I’m not ready to give them my money. This Web site makes me feel safer.

Compared to simple old online banking, people particularly appreciate the feeling of community that these new financial communities are offering through Facebook and Twitter feeds. This way they can get immediate feedback and advice from otherwise anonymous people who are in the same situation.
It’s communities we trust!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Not Chief Executives, but Chief Creators we need!

The leaders of today’s companies are still called CEOs, Chief Executive Officers. “Nomen est omen”, the CEOs put their emphasis on execution, and not on creation. They hire management consultants to create their new strategies for them, which they then “execute”. They have obtained their MBA from top-ranked business schools in the US or Europe, where they were taught the ropes of management and leadership. This also means that they all lead in the same way, following the ‘best practices’, blueprints and rules they got hammered in at business school. There they were asked to study zillions of ‘cases’ of how the most successful among them did it ‘the right way’. Not surprisingly, they all were like lemmings, following the management gurus and each other into the abyss of today’s financial crisis, teetering along and pulling each other down to the brink of bankruptcy.

I propose a totally different style of leadership. This new style of leadership is based not on ‘best practices’, not on cookbook recipes of how to do it ONE right way, but on creativity – individual creativity, and swarm creativity. The step I am proposing is a bold one – empowering individual people at the company, instead of massing all the power in the hand of the Chief Executive who is also the Chief Executor. In this new type of organization there is no Chief Executor anymore, this role has been given away to all the stakeholders in the company. Stakeholders are the employees, the customers, the suppliers, and yes, also the management of the company. The managers are not CEOs anymore, but they are “Chief Creators”, Chief Creative Officers. Being highly creative themselves, they really stand out by unleashing the creativity of their swarm – their employees, their lead users, their customers, and anybody they touch through their vision and products.

If we look at the leaders who stand out today, Steve Jobs at Apple, the founders of Google, or Oprah Winfrey, all of them leaders of multibillion-dollar businesses which are highly resilient in today’s acid economic climate. None of them has come the conventional management way. They were never the CEOs of their companies in the conventional sense, never the chief executors. Rather, they are the chief creators of their respective enterprises. They might have assumed the CEO title to make them recognizable in their role to the rest of the world. What they really did however, is not execute somebody else’s strategy, but create radically new products, and create real, sustainable value. They did what they thought would be the right thing, listening first and foremost to themselves and to their swarm. Instead of listening to management gurus, business school professors, and strategy consultants, these leaders not just listen, but immerse themselves into their swarm. While conventional businesses like Motorola, GM, Ford and Chrysler, not to talk about the once mighty banks at Wallstreet, are foundering, the businesses of these creators are thriving. Leaders like Oprah or Steve Jobs are not afraid to go to the front line every day, listening to what their swarm has to say. When Steve Jobs started Apple, instead of obtaining an MBA, he immersed himself into his swarm. He first listened to what others did in the same space, visiting world famous Xerox Parc to learn about personal computers and computer mice, and hitching a job at a computer company to learn even more, until he had figured it out and was ready to start building his own computers at Apple.

These creators also give back to their swarm. Google famously encourages its employees to be creative, come up with new product ideas, which are then given away for free in some form, until the company has figured out a way of making money from it. Google acquired picture sharing Web site Picasa, set up the social networking community Orkut, and converted a startup into Google Docs, the Web-enabled office suite, all available for free to the end user. When Steve Job’s swarm of fanatic iPhone owners complained about a new price cut, he immediately gave back the difference in price to anybody who had bought the iPhone at the old, higher price.

In short, Chief Creative Officers, other than CEOs, immerse themselves into their swarm, they share with their swarm, and go where their swarm wants to go. Just like great farmers, their main task as coolfarmers is to provide a nurturing environment, and let the swarm do it by and for itself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Coolhunting is more accurate than "plain" Web Metrics

Today I stumbled on an interesting web post "Using Web Metrics to Analyze the ‘Palin Effect’ & 2008 Presidential Campaign". It is by Brent Payne, Head of Web Search at the Tribune whose holdings include the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times. He was showing that Sarah Palin indeed is the most Web-researched among the 4 candidates on the Presidential ticket.

The picture below shows the percentage of users explicitly searching for one of the candidates on the Tribune's Web sites:

As we can see, Sarah Palin is by far the most researched. Brent then also shows the corresponding curves on Google Search, which confirm the same picture:


Compare this with our Condorview coolhunting. On the Web, we get a similar picture as Brent did for today. Today Sarah Palin commands 44%, buth then the rankings already change:

The big difference is that Joe Biden (26%) gets more buzz than Barack (16%). This is because Condorview is not counting what people search, but what important Web sites (by betweenness centrality) say about the candidates. As you can see on the right side in the above picture, wikipedia, twitter, barackobama.com, technorati, washingtonpost, facebook, and search.com all talk more about Sarah Palin and Joe Biden these days than they do about the Presidential candidates themselves.

But does this mean that Palin's popularity will translate in a vote for McCain?
To see the short term trend, just repeating the same Condorview Coolhunt for Blogs already shows a different picture:

The Presidential candidates command a larger share than their potential Vice Presidents. McCain leads Obama - for today (actually, for this very minute, Monday October 13, 2008, 5:55pm EDT, as these coolhunts, particularly in the blogosphere, can change by the minute.) This might suggest that Palin is indeed boosting McCain's popularity. But wait a minute!

The Condorview trend curves over the last five weeks show a different picture:

Since beginning of October, Obama beats McCain, consistent with what the polls are currently telling us.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Barack is back

Helped by the faltering economy and Wallstreet banking crashes Barack Obama is rebounding against John McCain. As I had mentioned before, measuring Webbuzz with Condorview has shown for the last few months a solid lead for John McCain.

Well, this seems to have changed for now, both when measured on the Web with Condorview

as well as measured by conventional polls. The picture below is from a poll taken in Florida, one of the key battleground states, end of September.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Galaxyadvisors at CTI Swiss Venture Day (9/3/08)

Last Wednesday we had the chance to present our software startup galaxyadvisors at the CTI Swiss Venture Day in the SWX Swiss stock exchange in Zurich. While small in quantity (there were just 5 startups which could make their pitch to about 40 venture capitalists), we felt in excellent company. CTI also made two very nice videos about our pitch, the teaser video is here, contact me if you would like to see the full length video.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What is more accurate - polls or the Wisdom of the Web?

Polls about US Presidential elections are notoriously inaccurate - that's what Swiss newspaper NZZ (Neue Zuercher Zeitung) says in an article in yesterday's issue. While Barack Obama is still leading his competitor John McCain in the polls by 3 to 6 percentage points, this is far less than the 15 points with which the Democrats lead the Republicans in the senatorial elections.
According to many analysts, one hidden reason for the low-digit lead of Barack is the issue of race. This is an issue that Americans are afraid to admit to pollsters. This is why they lie to the pollster, similarly to how they lied when asked about going to church, doing sport, and drinking alcohol.
When asked in person about whether they'd go to church regularly, 56% answered yes. When asked anonymously, it only were 25%. When personally asked if they did sports regularly, 58% claimed they did. When asked anonymously, this number dropped to 35%. When asked about drinking alcohol regularly, anonymous answers resulted in 53% of people regularly consuming alcohol, personally asked, only 39% admitted to drinking regularly.

This leads one to wonder if people are not telling the truth about planning to vote for a black president? Using our coolhunting tool Condorview, I today checked what the Wisdom of the Web predicts:

It does not look good for Barack Obama, at least on the Web. Who is telling the truth - the Web or the polls? At the latest, we will know after the elections.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Streetparade - Swarm Creativity of another kind

Today (Aug 9, 2008) was again streetparade in Zurich, arguably the second largest Techno party in the world (the largest seems to be the Love Parade in Dortmund), with over 800,000 participants.



This has now been happening every year since it was started by math student Marek Krynski in 1992. A huge swarm, and hugely creative. About 30 love mobiles, huge trucks as mobile dancing platforms, and hundreds of thousands of people dressed up (or down) as creatively and sexy as possible. I have always been wondering: why are people participating in such huge numbers? My answer is: emotional energy. The street party is a unique way of combining collectivism and individualism, the feeling of being part of a huge swarm, while still showing off as a unique individual. The techno rave gives a rythm to the swarm, increasing the we-feeling immensely.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The end of the Federer era - is it close?

The answer seems to be yes, at least when looking at the wisdom of the crowd through Web coolhunting with Condor. There the longtime number two, Rafael Nadal, is ahead of Roger Federer by Web buzz for the last four days.



It has been a masterful four and a half years for Roger Federer, but now it seems there is not much that he still can do to defend his number one position, at least that's what the Web crowd seems to think.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fethullah Gülen - the world's most influential intellectual

Today I read a brief article in the Swiss Newspaper NZZ about the newly published ranking of the top 100 living intellectuals. Over a half million people voted over the Internet to find out the World's top intellectuals in a vote organized by the UK magazine "Prospect and Foreign Policy". This was a rerun of a campaign that concluded in 2005 that Noam Chomsky and Umberto Eco were the most influential intellectuals.

This time, early leaders were Maria Vargas Llosa, Gary Kasparov, and Al Gore. But then a campaign was organized for the Turkish islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, leading him to a resounding victory.
According to Prospect, the leading Turkish newspaper Zaman with a circulation of over 700000 succeeded in rallying its readers behind Fethullah Gülen. However, other newspapers in Indonesia, Bulgaria, or Malaysia launched similar campaigns, with little success.
Here are the top 12 intellectuals (in parenthesis is the ranking of 2005):
1 Fethullah Gülen (*)
2 Muhammad Yunus (*)
3 Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (56)
4 Orhan Pamuk (54)
5 Aitzaz Ahsan (*)
6 Amr Khaled (*)
7 Abdolkarim Soroush (15)
8 Tariq Ramadan (58)
9 Mahmood Mamdani (*)
10 Shirin Ebadi (12)
11 Noam Chomsky (1)
12 Al Gore (*)

There are now quite a few claims that the campaign does not reflect the real world, so I was curious to see what our Coolhunting with Condorview would tell.
Here is the resulting picture:

as well as the spiderweb of Web sites which "voted" Fethullah Gülen to victory


Amazingly, our Coolhunting pretty much confirms the ranking in Prospect and Foreign Policy, although I only checked for five people out of the 100. And none of the top Web sites "voting" for Fethullah Gülen was the Zaman Web site. So it could well be that the Prospect and Foreign Policy poll indeed mirrors global intellectual influence, as the Internet is being used more and more actively also in the developing world outside of the Western World, where a large fraction of the population is Muslim, or at least Anti-US.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Video of Swarmcreativity keynote at IAOC conference

I was in Iceland this week, giving the keynote speech at the annual international conference of the International Association of Online Communicators (IAOC) in Reykjavik June 13, 2008. A video of my keynote is available online (thanks, Luc!), it gives a nice overview of the state of the art of swarmcreativity and coolhunting concepts.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Barack against John McCain

While the race - not just on the Web, see picture below - seems pretty much over for Hillary, John McCain and Barack are pretty close. In fact, today (May 31, 2008), John just got a boost (see line graph today).


Zooming in on the social network of Web sites, John is really popular in Texas. The biggest blue circle in the picture is the McCain Texas Web site, boosted by other Republican Web sites, helping him to beat Barack, at least for today and on the Web.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Time is running out for Barack Obama

When I checked the Condorview blog buzz scores of the three presidential candidates this morning, thinks looked really bad for Barack Obama. The damage done by the inflammatory remarks of his (former) pastor Jeremiah Wright really undermined his standing in the blogosphere. His score (in blue) has never been as low since I started tracking him in March. While scores of all three candidates went down, in relative terms, Hillay seems to rebound (light brown).


On the Web buzz level, Barack still is leading (as in the polls in the "real world"), but the Blogs point the way. Drastic action needed now!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Predicting the Italian Elections

The deterioration of Italian society seems unstoppable. Today and tomorrow there are parliamentary elections in Italy. The assessment of the LA Times today is damning "In Italy, crime pays and may get you elected". This is in sharp contrast to the successful swarm businesses in the Silicon Valley described in my previous post today.

I still was curious to see who of the two top candidates would have better chances to become Italy's next prime minister - Silvio Berlusconi, or Walter Veltroni. Below are the results of a global Web coolhunt using our Condorview tool



It seems they two candidates are in a perfect tie, with 50% of the Web vote for Berlusconi and Veltroni each. I then also did a Blog coolhunt. Here the picture looks quite different.

Berlusconi beats Veltroni by a clear margin. While both coolhunts have been done using the global Web, discussion undoubtedly is most active in Italy, so the coolhunting results should give a fair reflection of the mindshare of the Web and Blogosphere. Let's now see what the Italian voters decide.

Swarm Business is Social Business - in the Silicon Valley

The New York Times today has a great article about social entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley. While many companies in the Silicon Valley have had a social conscience to start with - most prominently Google, whose credo is "don't be evil" - a new breed of non-profits have successfully merged being a vibrant business with doing good to society. High-profile examples are the Mozilla Foundation, maintainers of the open source Firefox Web browser, TechSoup, a distributor of commercial software to non-profits in 14 countries, and the Internet Archive, started by successful entrepreneur Brewster Kahle, storing old versions of Web sites. In the New York Times article, Brewster lists core principles of social businesses like transparency, staying out of debt, giving away information and refusing to hoard.

These are the guiding principles of swarm businesses, where the goal of the business is not to make the owners rich, but to serve all stakeholders. The NYT describes the process of how these social businesses start: "The new companies ... typically begin as small groups of intensely motivated people dedicated to the goal of building a product or service." This is the key part of the definition of a COIN. According to the NYT, these social businesses are evolving into an ecosystem of companies combining solid profits with serving the greater good. This again corresponds to how COINs evolve into entire communities of COINs, CLNs (Collaborative Learning Networks), and CINs (Collaborative Interest Networks). For more see the SwarmCreativity Web site.

It is wonderful to see more and more COINs turning into real world businesses. There are few limits to what the creative swarm can achieve.

Friday, April 04, 2008

COINs featured on CNN Web Site

I recently had an interview with Paul Willis from CNN Europe, his excellent article about Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs) is now up.

Why Swarm Business is much better in dealing with Black Swans

The financial ecology is swelling into gigantic, incestuous, bureaucratic banks – when one falls, they all fall. The increased concentration among banks seems to have the effect of making financial crisis less likely, but when they happen they are more global in scale and hit us very hard. ……. We would be far better off if there were a different ecology, in which financial institutions went bust on occasion and were rapidly replaced by new ones. – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan (2007)

NTT, as Nassim Nichals Taleb calls himself, showed uncanny foresight when he wrote “The Black Swan”, only a year before the subprime mortgage crisis is pulling the largest banks down into the deepest disaster of their history. Banks like Citi, UBS, or Bear Sterns supposedly had ironclad risk management, to precisely avoid the sort of financial meltdown they are currently experiencing. As NTT writes, these banks are extremely good at planning for all sorts of foreseeable risks, only to be hit by the “big one”, the black swan, the one devastating blow that nobody could predict.

Swarm businesses are much better in dealing with those sorts of catastrophes. In a swarm of bees, if some of the honey collectors are hit by accidents, the swarm just continues functioning flawlessly. Even if a really big crisis – a black swan – hits the swarm, it copes extremely well. Take for example unexpected death of the queen. In this case bees will immediately and autonomously engage into succession planning. They will choose an ordinary larva, and start feeding it royal jelly, which will turn it into a queen. They do this without central intervention, by self-organizing decision of the swarm. This way the swarm evades extinction, and quickly gets a new egg-laying queen ensuring further prosperity of the swarm.

The same is true for swarm business. In a decentralized self-organizing business, risk management is not a highly centralized function directly reporting to an imperial CEO, but is part of everybody’s daily job. In a swarm business there continuously will be minor glitches and small catastrophes, but it will not be possible to get the maximum meltdown we are currently experiencing in the financial markets.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why Hillary and Barack should stop bickering

Using our Web Condorview Coolhunting engine we have been keeping track of the political fortunes of the three US Presidential frontrunners for the last year or so. For the last month the wisdom of the crowds (on the Web) and the wisdom of the "experts" (the blogosphere) was predicting the political realities quite nicely, with Barack commanding about 50% of the mindshare, and Hillary and John McCain splitting the rest almost evenly. Yesterday, I noticed a total turnaround, however.
John McCain was passing both Hillary and Barack by a wide margin, and the same was still true today:


Very surprised, I checked the blogosphere also, where I got the same picture: John McCain leading the bickering democrats by a wide margin. This had obviously already been building up for almost a week:



It seems to me the conclusion is simple: Hillary and Barack, if you want to keep the chances of a Democratic President intact, stop bickering and decide on who will be the candidate!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008

Coolhunting in New Scientist and in Vienna

The New Scientist just published a really nice article about trend prediction through Coolhunting with Condor. It took the journalists a few iterations, but in the end they explained the basic ideas in better words than I could myself (unfortunately the full article requires subscription).

I also spoke about Coolhunting recently at an event in Vienna, which triggered a thought-provoking blog post about trend prediction through swarm intelligence by Oliver Nitz and Werner Buhre (in German). The same Web site also has a podcast where Oliver and Werner asked me some provocative questions (also in German)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

It's Barack against Rudy...


.. at least on the Web. When I checked our Condorview trend curves of the US presidential candidates after yesterday's primaries in Iowa, things did not look good for Hillary and Mitt.