During our recent San Francisco travels, Skye and I were disrupted by the last of the Universal Soldiers.

His name’s Justin, and he’s revolutionizing something or another with an idea that was bound to come about sooner or later: 24/7 real-time first-person, erm, programming. Though I reckon his is a case study in content-second webcrap, don’t take my word for it. Check out for yourself the exciting highlights of his first week of broadcast, including “sleeping” and “cleaning up after a party” — just like your own life, except in lousy resolution.
[Still, props for follow-through.]

I’ve been mercilessly threatened by thugs at the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies. They’re the ones in the swank flowery shirts.

They insist that if I don’t consider the broadest possible multiplicity of potential outcomes, I may overlook the one I actually want to pursue. And while I couldn’t really hear over the howl of ukuleles, I think they said that if I don’t respect the almighty S in futures, they’ll rub a pineapple against my neck. Not lovingly, either, like Don Ho does to tourists in the front row.

Now, maybe I’ve got a bit of a Honolulu Syndrome thing going on, but I think all that talk of possibilities and pineapples has gone to my head. In a recent client-attended ideation session, all I could feel was the pull of the far-fetched and improbable.

Because we often work to nail down specific principles and specific opportunities for clients, we talk a lot about specific innovations. And though our recommendations are … well … ambitious, we keep them focused on singular goals. Slowly, patterns of creation have begun to emerge and, for my part, I’m now drawn to the composition of Innovation these specifics have revealed (even if, as I write it, it feels bunk). It seems that common threads bind together disparate ideas too tightly for their similarities to be disregarded.

Specifically, I’m compelled by the role of frontiers in an innovation ideation. That an innovation will house something new is a given. As far as invention is concerned, mankind has been at it for a while. New is the new old. It is when an idea passes bravely into a new frontiers that I feel the tingle of innovation. And that the futureboys reminded me that there isn’t just one frontier to breach makes matters much more tingly.

So, in the aforementioned client-attended ideation session, we naturally encouraged them the push their thinking outside normal boundaries. With due respect for Godin’s Edgecraft, we picked variables and turned their knobs both high and low, exploring conceptual extremes of maximum and minimum. And as has been the norm lately, the exploration of these isolated specifics unstitched a common thread: while every idea was new in some way — new to us, new to the client, new to their industry, etc. — those ideas that transcended new and actually threatened foray into a new frontier were the most likely to elicit laughter. In what first may have been misinterpreted as negative feedback, it became clear that this was an earnest laughter, too; one filled with uncertainty and interest as though you’d just been told an outrageous tall tale you secretly wanted to believe.

Jim Dator, another futurist badass who I am likely wholly misrepresenting, probably would have interjected thusly:
“Any useful statement about the futures should appear to be ridiculous.”

Taking a HEEEEEYYYYAAAAARGH from Howard Dean, the Barack Obamaniacs have woven themselves a tapestry of MyBarackObama microsites to motivate, connect, and empower a formidable cluster of web-savvy politiques.

While every viable candidate in the slim pickin pile is using blogs, Flickr, and YouTube to some degree, Obama’s advisors force the question: can they harness enough online energy to offset the disadvantage of a political underdog (whoever that may be)? Will online word-of-mouth supplant the legacy of ever-mounting political contributions?

Regardless of political leanings, it’s worth investigating the emergence of online social networking as the new political networking.

It’s too early yet to get my vote, but they’ve definitely earned a link.

Hearing aids are mismarketed. Right now, I should be trying to figure out how to pay $3000 for some espionage-ready X-man hearing skills. I’m talking targeted, telescopic microamps that add 100 zeros to the Whisper 2000.

Seriously, these things should make the Bionic Man noise when I jut out my neck and crank heavy reverb when I suck in sound, hands on hips.

“Honey, the neighbors have termites.”

My comrade, sharp tack extraordinaire at a respected academic-centered consultancy, posted the following at his organization’s official blog:

Why isn’t there a FAQ on this site?
Good question. We’ll put one up soon.

I can only assume his post is in response to 1) redundant queries or 2) the suggestion of an FAQ, specifically, to field them. His site receives respectable traffic from all sorts, folks who no doubt inundate his whipsmart cohorts with fairly tedious questions. Indeed, FAQs (in their traditional use) are useful for pre-qualifying clients & associates, redirecting lost interlopers, and translating industry jargon. But here’s why I must dissuade said tack from an FAQ: they’re designed to end a conversation before it begins.

FAQs intercept the organic development of discussion. They transform important issues of customer experience into rote resolutions. They abandon the possibility of greater insight in favor of efficient client interactions. Sure, it’s fair that in Circumstance A, a particular company would prescribe that a client performs Action B, but why squelch the emergence of a more elegant, subtle, or profound solution?

The given case of my blogging friend offers even more powerful reasons for eschewing an FAQ section altogether. Though his field is relatively misunderstood, his organization does not require extensive context-setting or process elaboration. Even were it so, they operate a blog — the ultimate ongoing archive of frequently asked questions and an ideal playground for short and long-term idea exploration. With organization features (entry tags, etc.), visitors can still browse content for need-specific posts. Moreover, their fundamental organizational goal is to start the conversation about their discipline’s philosophy. It seems that — tedium aside — any opportunity to do so should be cherished.

Now, it’s important I differentiate FAQs from dynamic help or troubleshooting guides — well-assembled examples of the latter are utterly useful. And FAQ-as-sequential-quasi-interview has particular narrative merit. But most FAQs act as a crutch for inadequate core communications. They acknowledge a recurring audience desire and then satisfy it only an afterthought. FAQs, in an attempt to be exactly the opposite, are the trademark of poorly organized, selfishly commandeered, or haphazard web content. A step above nothing, sure, but diaper stink nonetheless.

Frequently asked questions are not items to be added to a list; FAQs are cues to rethink your core communications or, at the very least, consider the user’s experience with your company, product, or service. Ideally, they are the commencement of a meaningful and mutually beneficial conversation.

VO5: “Hair treatment so revolutionary, even China gets it!”

China: “Saaaay, this V05 hot oil is PERFECT for frying every American man, woman, and child into yankee pigdog rangoon! 21st Dynasty can ya feel me!?”

If you squint a bit, you may be able to make out the details of this shabby snap from my Treo:

Once you’ve gathered that it’s (a small corner of) a bulletin board of some description, you may wonder who spilled their Easter egg paints all over it. You may think these pastels help categorize the content of the individual bulletins, allowing onlookers to sort at a glance. And the (in this photo illegible) headlines must be some important, standardized bit of content (event name or date) to distinguish items within those categories. And these notes, all of which come from the same source, are designed to match a standard template and information structure …

But I’d have to tell you, they don’t and they ain’t.

Well, it’s just a bulletin board, you may say — it’s not like the primary audience is folks with compromised, diminishing physical and mental facilities, right?

Alas, I’d reveal more disheartening news: this bulletin board — the visual equivalent of a shouting match — is the events calendar at my grandma’s senior home, where sucka fool bulletin boards be shoutin’ at my grandma.

No deep insight here, I’ve just gotta give this artist a link: Sarah Roper — illustrator/director of Mastercard’s “A Home for the Holidays” everywhere sweepstakes — has some yummy work. Shag meets 101 Dalmatians, maybe?

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