How (Not) to Design Meaningful Civic Conversations

My latest post on Medium: How (Not) To Design Meaningful Civic Conversations – Lessons from Starbucks’ ‪#‎RaceTogether‬ campaign controversy; why it’s important to talk to strangers; and strategies for designing dialogue

How (Not) to Design Meaningful Civic Conversations

Cultural Movements Haiku

Here is my tweet submission for the #UprisingGiveaway by Strawberry Frog’s Scott Goodson:

The challenge was to define and comment on cultural movements in a tweet. Given the brevity of the medium, I opted for the haiku form to help give me some constraints, and for the LOLZ. Also, traditional Japanese haiku is more than just the 5-7-5 syllable structure, as the poetic form often references nature. I decided to play with the metaphor of waves to describe the nature of cultural movements.

The idea of “surfing” upon the power of an ocean/cultural wave, rather than trying to control or force it parallels Goodson’s advice to marketers in BusinessWorld:

  • Instead of controlling the message, marketers must learn to relinquish control and let the movement do what it will with that message.
  • Companies must learn to stop talking about themselves and join in a conversation that is about anything but their products.

Some market research on mobile video

Here are some juicy stats and research results I found while doing my homework for Designing The Future of TV:

13.4 million Americans watch some form of mobile video each month, and of those 13.4 million people, each watched an average of 3.5 hours of mobile video per month.  By comparison, the average American watches 153 hours of TV per month.  (Nielsen via Mashable, May 2009)

Also from Nielsen:

Except for the teenage years, viewing of traditional television increases with age; the use of video on the Internet peaks among young adults while viewing mobile video is highest in the teen years.

Men continue to watch video on mobile phones more than women, and women continue to watch video on the Internet and TV more than men.

In a 2007 international survey, a majority of all respondents agreed that “recommendations from friends had the most impact on the type of content they viewed over celebrity, amateur and professional endorsements.” (IBM via REELSEO)

According to a 2008 comScore study: on-demand video was the most popular mobile video format (compared to mobile broadcast), with 3.6 million viewers in the US. The report also gave a breakdown of the kinds of content mobile video users consumed:

on-demand mobile video consumption 2008

See also:
Eyes Wide Open: Video Usage Up, More Watch Cross-Platform
Nielsen: Mobile Video Use Lags Behind

Cut the Corny Crap

I’ve recently seen this ad on TV and YouTube:

The ad was made by Americans Against Food Taxes, an interest group that includes some big agro-businesses and industrial fast food producers who are opposed to a proposed tax on soft drinks and juice drinks, in other words, beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Pardon the pun, but this ad, like HFCS found in soft drinks and juice drinks, is pretty corny stuff.  Let’s cut through the saccharine images of an All-American family and the folksy populist spin.  First, “juice drinks,” as defined by the USDA is different from “100% juice.”  Juice drinks only constitute a small percentage of actual fruit juice, and can contain added water, sugar/HFCS, coloring, and vitamins.  In these USDA health guidelines (PDF), the example juice drink only contains 5% juice.  The proposed tax is on soda and juice drinks, NOT on 100% juice or fresh fruit.  Last time I checked, soda and juice drinks were not essential foundations in the food pyramid.

I’m no fan of big agro-business lobbies or a Federal nanny state, but guaranteeing all Americans basic access to health care is an important issue that needs funding.  So where do we go from here? Well, if we follow the money (and the trail of corn kernels), we find that soft drinks and juice drinks are able to be sold relatively cheaply because of existing government intervention in the form of subsidies.  These government subsides—our taxpayer money— artificially lower the price of corn and corn derivatives like high fructose corn syrup.  When we buy a soda, we aren’t paying the REAL market price because the cost of producing corn syrup, a major ingredient, is subsidized by our tax dollars.  Hey, isn’t that soda socialism or something?

Now here’s the part where I might even get mistaken for a conservative:  Instead of levying taxes on soda and juice drinks to fund health care, why not just cut costs by reducing or even eliminating the corn subsidies, and use the savings to fund health care reform?  These subsidies are taxes that we have already paid that are a standing government bailout that props up an essentially non-market-based business model.

Insert folksy Fox News-worthy soundbite:  “Calm down about socialized medicine ’cause corn subsidies ain’t so capitalist either!

The Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database shows that there were $21.6 billion in corn subsidies in the four-year period from 2003-2006 (inclusive).  The Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University found that HFCS producers received an implicit $234 million dollar a year subsidy derived from overall corn subsidies.  Meanwhile, the WSJ reports that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that “adding a tax of three cents per 12-ounce serving to these types of sweetened drinks would generate $24 billion over the next four years.”  If the amount of money spent on four years of corn subsidies were redirected towards health care, we would already be 90% of the way to the potential $24 billion that could be raised by new taxes on soda and juice drinks.

Why bother with new taxes on struggling American families when the government can just stop using our taxpayer money to subsidize artificially-cheap corn, the staple of the industrial agro-businesses, and use it as a down payment on health care reform?

Brand Well, Raise Money

Nicholas DiBiase (@Hepnova) from Hepnova and Noah Dyer (@WealthNetTeam) from WealthNet Partners give a brisk talk about the basics of branding and how it can affect relationships with potential investors. Geared toward the entrepreneur, this video introduces the essential concepts of branding and why they matter to the startup seeking funding.

Stories, examples, and counterexamples along with an amusing skit keep this first salvo in the struggle against bad marketing fresh and entertaining.

This piece was produced for the online educational resource/expertise marketplace Advisor Garage.

This is the fifth in a series of “This is real DIY” experimental documentary videos. Music by Hepnova.