Monday

Share and Share and Share Alike


We started as cooperators in order to merely survive. Your fellow cavemen threw rocks at the dinosaurs predators so you wouldn’t get eaten, running back to the cave with the Wooly Mammoth meat. Cities, the modern age, factories, greed and cynicism are what did us in. We all felt separate and alone. Shut off from each other in the way that makes you feel as if nothing at all is possible. Jealously guarding our things as if they would ward off death itself.

Thankfully, this era of jadedness is now drawing to a close and our true human nature is returning to us. Even if we can’t find like minded folks in our own home town, the internet has made it possible to find other members of our tribe, no matter how far flung they may be. It’s possible to make really good friends in this medium and yet, never meet face to face. A new era of sharing is taking shape right now and I find it terribly exciting. The collision of ideas and technology is making things possible for the everyman that were only previously available to the wealthy or connected. Book publishing, music production, movies, politics…it’s all within our grasp and as we take baby steps in figuring out how to use this new toy, there is one thing for certain. People want to share. Gone are the days when you have to go to the library or pay someone to explain a simple process to you. It’s all right here, and it’s free. Anyone can be a student and more and more people with specialized knowledge are stepping forward and offering to be our teachers. There is no earthly reason that anyone reading this now should have to suffer through anything due to lack of knowledge anymore. There are millions of people qualified to answer any question that you may have about virtually any subject. So what is standing in the way of everyone knowing everything they want to? Just two things… greed and fear. The great part is that both can be easily remedied, but it’s going to take a massive shift in thinking in order to get it done.

Shift number one involves the idea that ideas can no longer be sold. Ideas are free. You should feel free to give away all your ideas. Your idea is probably already on the internet and if it’s not, while your keeping it a secret, somebody will publish it before you. Even if you’re the first one out of the gate, people are going to buy it and then share it like crazy, if it’s good. The music industry continues to fight against this with poor results. The nature of music now is that it’s free and people want to share it. The sharing part is not new (mixtape anyone?), it’s the volume of the sharing and the $0 price tag that freaks them out. All the brain-power at the record labels can’t figure out how to monetize around sharing so instead, they sue. They send in RIAA storm troopers to levy stiff fines and threats of jail time against 19 year-old kids and soccer moms. Great way to run a business. On the other hand, Matador and some other indie labels are getting it right. They have started reproducing records on vinyl, the ultimate fetish format. Not only that, but when you buy the vinyl record you get MP3 copies of the songs for free. The record is a souvenir of the idea of the band that the buyer is already sold on. This is how Seth Godin got so famous. Seth Godin gives away books online and then charges people for souvenir copies that they can carry around with them. They’ve already read the book online, they have already bought into his brand, but they still want to own the souvenir. Why? Because people want to feel connected. They like to touch things. They like objects. If they read something online that they really like, they want to have a hard copy with binding that they can carry around and highlight and pass on to friends. It seems incongruous, but if you give away your stuff, people will still pay you for it. Godin also has some insights on how you look at producing content. He likens concentration on the monetization of an idea to the people at Disneyland worrying about how to make a better gift shop. It’s a flawed process. Instead, the people at Disney concentrate on making a kick ass theme park and telling a powerful story, the souvenirs sell themselves because it’s a story we all like. They pay attention to story first, paycheck second.

The second shift has to happen around another kind of giving. Giving of your process. A while ago, I wrote a post called 5 reasons to give away your trade secrets. There is a lot of fear surrounding this practice. People think that if they give away their soap, beer, scallopini recipe that the public will then go out and make their own and put them out of business. It just doesn’t work that way. Here’s what actually happens when you give away your best stuff…99.9% of the people who download your secrets, won’t ever use them. They’ll be filed away in a drawer and saved for the time when the person feels they have enough “extra” time to prepare the soap, beer, scallopini. That time will probably never come. People feel momentarily creative when they download stuff. They get off on the potential that an instruction sheet possesses, but what usually happens is that they get crunched for time and never act. Then, they go and buy your soap/beer/scallopini because they remember where they got the very generous instructions. That is scenario one. Scenario two is that the person is successful at making the soap/beer/scallopini and feels good about themselves. They use what they have made and when it runs out, instead of making more, they move on to a different project and simply order your soap/beer/scallopini instead of making any more of their own. Scenario three (the nightmare), is the scene where someone actually ganks your idea and makes a business out of it. These bastards are actually using YOUR recipe and selling YOUR soap/beer/scallopini and reaping a profit! Curses! Well, in a way, this is the best scenario because it contains the largest potential for growth. It’s hard to have your stuff ripped off, but the good news is, you don’t have to worry about it. Karma will take care of these folks without you lifting a finger. Besides, you’ve got plenty more ideas where that came from and anyway, you’ve built your brand around Y-O-U, not soap/beer/scallopini and nobody can rip Y-O-U off. You’ll be fine. It’s the thieves who should watch their backs. They are the one’s who are playing a dangerous game with the universe. Not you. Unless of course you elect to spend your time fretting about it, sending cease and desist letters and litigating. Waste of energy. Pour it back into the work, the thing you love. Let the negative go and concentrate on making something new and fantastic.

It’s funny to me that people want to cling so tightly to the old way business was done. Especially since the new way is here now, it works if you work it, and people are having radical success with it. All the evidence points to the needed shift, but fear is strong. They don’t say “paralyzed with fear” for nothing. It can be completely incapacitating. I get it. If you can overcome it even a little bit though, there’s a big win in your future.

12 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more... The internet has become the new "great equalizer".... providing a new frontier for todays pioneers... It's no coincidence that the World Wide Web has the same initials as the Wild Wild West... now is the time to stake claims, help your neighbors with a fence and build communities....
    Great article!

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  2. While I totally agree with the sentiment of this article I almost didn't read it because the first sentence claims cavemen and dinosaurs existed at the same time. Most scientists agree that dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years before humans evolved. Now that doesn't make for very exciting story telling so authors have written many stories where the 2 overlap...

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  3. El Prez - Thanks for the comment.

    Anonymous. Got me. Article has been corrected to be less exciting but more accurate (see strike throughs).

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  4. Actually, wooly mammoth were around at the same time as cavemen so that part was fine, and if you want exciting what about saber toothed tigers? They're pretty exciting and a more accurate. Anyway, sorry for the nits, just trying to myth bust. Thanks for the edits, the article is great!

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  5. Very nice article indeed. True craftsmanship is hard to come by these days anyway. Even if you do show your process, the average crafter won't be able to capture the same result without practicing over and over and over.

    So is this a subtle way of telling us that there will be more dudecraft TV and tutorials?

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  6. This is one of the many reasons that I read this blog.... "Information wants to be free!" is the motto of the era. Picking through the plethora of data for the bits you want is often the worst part of learning anything, which I think is an excellent problem to have. I think, also, that fear is more of a problem than greed, for fear of profit-loss is a great part of what drives the greedy to act as they do.

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  7. Anonymous - Got it. Tigers and Mammoths okay. Dinosaurs bad. Man, I've really got to get my study on so I don't end up with these egg-on-my-face analogies. How embarrassing.

    Joel - Thanks for the comment. I will try to get some tutorials together for what I've been doing lately. I lost my cameraman to fatherhood, so videos are harder to do now. I will try though.

    Kristen - Thanks so much. I agree. Fear is the thing, in business and in life. Thanks again for the thoughtful comment.

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  8. Same shift has been happening in the IT world... I've been 'sold' on Open Source Software for a while now & the philosophy behind it! The rise of "creative commons" licensing has also been fascinating to follow... ¡Viva la revolución! ;)

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  9. JenMeister - Viva, indeed. Thanks for the comment!

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  10. Paul, you reminded me of a great article I read by David Byrne. He discusses the changing music industry and new ways that musicians can make a living. BUT, he also points out how music is about shared community and shared experience - music as a piece of plastic is only 20th century thinking. Read "What is Music?" in http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/magazine/16-01/ff_byrne?currentPage=all

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  11. One of the reasons this is such an exciting time, I think, is because the internet makes this sharing and collaboration so much easier. I think people are still only scratching the surface of what this will mean from a business point of view.

    I don't know that it's only paralysis by fear that causes people to hold onto the old way of doing things. There's a lot of momentum behind attitudes, and the wide reach of the internet is pretty recent. A widely touted idea is that it takes one generation to get a mainstream change in attitude, which seems pretty close to me. Coupled with that is the fact that for a lot of industries, the old business models are still working ok. The music industry is kind of an outlier in that it probably has to change its thinking or it will suffer in the short term. For most people it's more a case of missed opportunities than a life-or-death decision being forced on them.

    I'm looking forward to seeing how else business models and society changes as people get more used to new realities. Thanks again for another thought-provoking post!

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  12. Matt - Thanks for the comment. I guess there's something to be said for being an early adopter. Agreed that it's not life or death yet out there, but the writing is certainly on the wall. Adapt or perish. Thanks for the comment!

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