NOTE: In the coming months I’m going to write about how we present ourselves online. Digital ID, as I call it, is the sum of:
After two decades of doing business online, I’ve realized that we must know who we are offline to establish the strongest Digital ID. I’ll set out to prove that thesis in my articles.
We’re all learning how to maneuver this wonderful, liberating mess together! So I look forward to hearing this community’s opinions.
I like the image above because it’s how I feel when I wake up in the morning and put on my marketing cap and get on Facebook. I feel like I’m immersed in a pool of people, some of us connected, some of us not, some of us wanting to be connected, some of us not. And I think it’s important to recognize that mess. I think understanding how messy things are makes it easier to understand how we feel about establishing a digital ID. And, just as importantly, what we need to do to set up our own Digital ID.
What do I mean by that?
Here’s my best explanation: I’m a strong believer in the independent storyteller’s power. Not just the power of moving people to think and act and feel, but the power to find an audience on your own that you can tell your story to.
The Slow, Agonizing, Delightful Death of the Gatekeeper
For a long time, storytellers have been ruled by gatekeepers who got to tell us, “That story is good enough and worth this much. But that one sucks and good luck!”
Those days are coming to an end.
And how do I know this?
Because I was a gatekeeper.
I told some brilliant people that their stuff wouldn’t make it in today’s market. Sometimes I was right, sometimes wrong. But the powerful emotions I felt when I saw some of them move on and do great things were undeniable.
I wasn’t regretful.
I wasn’t envious.
I was inspired.
I saw them leveraging brand new tools, online services, ways of connecting that no one had thought of. They found their audience without Viacom, ESPN, AOL, Sony and all those other places where I worked.
Those gatekeepers were wrong.
I was wrong.
For my part, I had enough confidence in my own writing talent to strike out and try this new world on for size myself.
Now, the jury is still out on whether that was a good idea. While I’m doing great, I’m not making a living wage at writing my books. But I like the trajectory and I love the process. The freedom is exhilarating.
And it’s messy. Like this post’s image.
So what does this mean for working artists?
We’re living through a fundamental shift in how people learn about us and how we learn about them. As a writer looking for an audience I know in my heart that I’ll find my readers only if I stay true to myself.
To be clear, I find the incredibly detailed tracking of people by big companies creepy. I don’t trust them with the information. The counterpoint is that most of them are sharing that data with everyone. Some charge (like FB) and some don’t (like Google). Does that make it okay? I don’t know the answer to that.
I do know that I can go online and have a universe of data on my target audience at my fingertips. If I work hard, stay true to myself and my work, I can reach them and I can make a living telling my stories. The sacrifice I make is that my interests, preferences, friends and behavior is also thrown into this messy pool of data — slicing my identity into little pieces for another artist or writer or entrepreneur to scour through and evaluate.
[Tweet "I'm a data point for someone else. And they're mine."]
It’s a fascinating, liberating, terrifying time. And I’m delighted to be a part of the mess every single day.
I’m like billions of people
I love Star Wars
I’m like millions of people
I loved my teens – heartbreaks, embarrassments, and all!
I’m like thousands of people
My first memory is of a hide and seek game
I’m like hundreds of people
I got to work on two Robert Redford movies
I’m like dozens of people
I live on Hidden Ledge Drive
I’m like no one else
I write the Shirley Link mystery series
I’m not even me
When I write
You ever get the feeling that big change is not only around the corner, but under your feet and all around you and ready to concuss? Yeah, I’m there.
May the God of Holy Shit, This Is It look kindly upon me and mine. If She does, we should be in contract to buy one house and in contract to sell one apartment this week. The list of tasks that encompasses all that must be done to switch addresses is swallowing up a megabyte of my hard drive. My hopes and dreams are now recorded on my iPhone’s Voice Memo app for Steve Jobs to listen in on, if he’s so inclined. If he’s not, then the next person to listen to those hopes and dreams will be me, in my new place, with my newness all around me — either happy, or not. Still dreaming, or not. Seeing the forest for the trees. Or not.
Years ago Nintendo sat on top of the game console world. Sega had a share of the market, but Nintendo really bowled people over with new takes on the old platformers. People were hooked.
Then along came Sony.
Before the PlayStation came out I worked at Rizzoli, a bookstore in Soho (since shuttered). With a liberal dress code I wore my Nintendo t-shirt to work one day. Right before store closing, a guy in an expensive suit and ridonkulous tan sauntered up to the register. He took one look at my shirt and pssh’d.
“They are so going down,” he said.
“Pardon me, sir?” I asked, all too accustomed to the arrogance of Soho shoppers, and wondering what beef with the world this bozo was going to take out on the minimum wage monkey.
“Nintendo will fold under Sony’s PlayStation.” His wife came up behind him and did her best to excuse her stupid husband with a “boys will be boys” smirk.
“I doubt it. Nintendo makes good games,” I said. Correct, as usual.
“I’m an SVP at SCE and I can confidently say Nintendo will be #2.”
And with that he looked down his nose and walked away from the guy who just made .0215 cents (before taxes) while ringing up his impulse-buy books.
He was right. And, as usual, so was I. PlayStation kerplowed the world and redefined gaming. They went to #1. For awhile. Now they’re #3. Such is life. I wonder where SCE SVP Man is now.
The point? Besides the historical insight into Soho shopping in 1992, I think we could be looking at a similar shift with the introduction of Windows Phone 7 Series.
It’s familiar isn’t it? The big player in the space in an upstart innovator (iPhone=Nintendo) who stole the crown from a stale gaming market (Sega=Symbian). They seem unstoppable, but what if a big player in entertainment steps in with a better gaming experience at a better price point? That could be Microsoft’s role in the upcoming shake-out. If the hype is even half right, MS is going to release their best mobile OS yet. That may mean nothing, but it may also mean they can carve a massive chunk out of the iPhone’s ridiculously large market share. I mean Apple sells 90-95% of mobile apps. On one device. Uh, there’s room for competition there.
It won’t come from Nokia. They learned their lesson. It won’t come from Google. Their attempt to get into games has been…wait, have they even tried? Nintendo could but don’t seem to want to. They’re a toy company after all.
But Microsoft…well. Microsoft has the urge, the resources, the experience and with W7 Mobile (maybe) the weapon to clear the battlefield and make us re-evaluate what we put in our pocket.
I, for one, will be checking out what they have under their raincoat at GDC. I may even miss the iPhone summit to be there. http://bit.ly/dz1j74