Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Addiction, Sparks, and Comment Value

Umair Haque posted a few days ago about our addiction to consumption.

Our economy is built on firms whose very purpose is to sell; to relentlessly push people into endlessly consuming, without ever considering the long-run consequences.

He thinks those firms are the big problem. He thinks they can be the big solution. And he thinks "the boardroom" has an important choice to make.

Does it continue to hawk stuff that “satisfies” largely artificial needs? Or does it choose to do something authentic, meaningful, and purposive – something that makes us all radically better off than we were before?

What companies, Umair asks his readers, are making the right choice?

It's a great post: passionate, aware, thought provoking. The stuff Umair does well.

Even greater than the post, however, are the comments. Absolutely excellent.

Emil Sotirov reminds Umair not to forget about the attention economy and the huge role media will have to play if we want to transition away from purely consumption driven economics.

Jon Bischke throws it out there that education "doesn't require increasingly excessive levels of consumption to be sustainable."

Taylor Davidson thinks it'll be tough for US firms to break out of the consumption business, but he thinks businesses born or educated in the developing world might swoop in and save the day.

Nicholas Molnar
calls for changes in the way we measure things. Some people won't change without numerical justification (investors, for example), so why not give them new metrics: metrics that inspire long-term focused behavior?

Axel Garcia worries that "addiction to consumption is ingrained in our human psyche," and he thinks we should pay closer attention to the roots of historical inhumanity and societal failure. (Sadly, Axel didn't provide a link on his comment; all four name links above are worth a click for sure.)

And swv says something that I might be misinterpreting but something that feels like an evolutionary argument telling us that we're all descended from accumulation-obsessed silverback males (or bowerbirds, to make the metaphor more substantial, though not as visually evocative). Because of this, he says, we must battle biological propensities and breed for material disinterest. If we really want to meaningfully change, that is.

Big thanks to Umair for sparking the conversation.

And big congratulations to Umair for earning such a valuable response.

Fred Wilson often mentions how much he loves the comment conversations that follow from his posts. Not only are comments useful to him as thought process feedback, but, as they accumulate, they enrich their posts for future readers and multiply the value Fred offers the world.

And, even in my limited experience, I feel what Fred is saying. It's a rare and thrilling moment when I attract more than one or two comments, but, even at that small scale, comments have been good to me. They've kept me in line. They've challenged me to take my thoughts further. And they've inspired me to write a silly story I wouldn't otherwise have written.

I'm happy to be getting the comments I get now, and I'm excited to get more as the More Perfect Market community continues to grow.

I'll have to be consistently good and consistently relevant for a long time if I want to build a community as vocal as Umair's, but seeing the comment value his consumption addiction post has been earning and providing these past few days is certainly motivation to keep working at it.


Taylor Davidson said...

Umair gets fantastic comments, powered by an audience that really thinks about what he writes and pushes him to explain himself. I've learned a lot myself from the people that frequent his writings!

That said, I think the web in general under-leverages the potential of comments and commentators...

Morgan Morgan said...

At first I thought this post was going to be about the alcoholic energy drink Sparks, but alas.

The best part about wide-open blogs is that they're catalysts for quicker and more honest exchange. If relevant questions from commenters go long unanswered, a blogger can lose his accountability. Commenters make a blog more dynamic, allowing it to take the shape that its genuinely interested readers want it to take. This back-and-forth is empowering to both blogger and commenter, as each feels useful to the other.

Your start-up will elegantly model the blogosphere's openness and accountability by requiring companies to answer to consumers' questions and demands. With more perfect information will come a more socially efficient market. Increased accountability to and communication with potential consumers will allow these consumers to shape future business decisions by using their voices and their wallets to demand responsible business practices.

I don't have much to say about consumption; please pardon my prolix prose. Or better yet, ignore this comment, to make things more thoroughly meta in this post about posting and this comment about commenting. The common strand, though, between the blog and with responsible business, is starting a dialogue with sometimes faceless or nameless folks whose approbation you want and need. The [knowledge, responsibility, truth, whatever] will hopefully follow.

Jake de Grazia said...

I'm with you Taylor. Umair's audience is hugely impressive. On some blogs, the sight of 25 comments will exhaust me, and I'll end up skimming through at a full sprint if I look at all. When I see 25 comments on an Umair post, I get excited.

Jake de Grazia said...

Quick and honest exchange for sure. I love the fact that I have a place to throw my thoughts and get feedback. I love that I have a few readers that aren't afraid to put me in my place when I think ridiculous things. It's scary to let go of a post and throw it up here, for I know I might be wrong about something fundamental, and it's a bummer to be wrong. But it's nice to be able to respond after you've gone astray, nice to get to set things straight.

And, you're right, Michael, the best companies will be like the best bloggers: engaged with their consumers, accepting criticism, responding to it conscientiously, and keeping the communication lines perpetually open (and out in public).

I would love it if The Carrot Project can contribute to that. Hopefully, we'll be able to convince the companies that the exchange going on on our site is relevant. We'll probably need to build a reasonable-sized community to get many companies to take meaningful notice, but we'll see what we can do.

Sorry about the Sparks pump fake.

Unknown said...

Wow.What to say.Great post.Well done Umair.

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Jake de Grazia said...

I was actually thinking about cyber addiction tonight. Coincidence. I like it.

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