December 09, 2005

TiVo - Pioneer with a bullet in its back?

Matt has posted an excellent interview he conducted with Michael Cronan, famed designer, and primary force behind TiVo brand identity. Much of the discussion revolves around the name "TiVo," and the perfectness, the inevitability of that name.

And I thought -- could a name be too perfect? Is TiVo *so natural* a word for what the service does, that it is too easy to not think of as a specific brand or product, and just moves immediately into genericism (like Kleenex?)? Is it important, when naming companies, to not come up with too good a name? Especially for a first-mover company that's providing a service that never existed before? Because if that name goes generic, it's easy to neglect the company that made it.

Posted by peterme at 02:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gay cowboys - old hat!

So, with the release of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN comes an awareness of gay cowboys. I grappled with gay cowboys about 10 years ago, when I worked at the Voyager Company. We released a CD-ROM called "Who Built America?" essentially a history textbook come alive with audio, video, photos, diaries, and the like.

"Who Built America?" was bundled with Apple computers sold to schools, and with good reason -- it showed off the multimedia capabilities of the machines. However, what some schools realized, and what some parents' groups didn't like, was that the CD-ROM also dealt honestly with American history -- including illegal abortions and, as the disc called it, "male-to-male intimacy in the west." And these stories are coming from the turn of the century, not the mid-60s.

The ensuing controversy lead to Apple dropping the disc, which lead to a shitstorm on Usenet -- in large part spurred by me (I was pretty much the only Usenet savvy employee at the time.)

It even made the Wall Street Journal.

My favorite Voyager t-shirt is the one we printed up in the face of this controversy, as we were headed to the American Booksellers Association conference that year. It was a screenshot from the CD-ROM, showing the "male-to-male intimacy in the west" entry.

Because of my own naivete, it surprised me that others were surprised by this. I mean, yeah, cowboys are the picture of American manliness, but, come on -- men, alone on the frontier, wearing chaps!

Anyway, the CD-ROM is still worth owning, and you can buy it online. I can't speak to the quality of the second CD-ROM (1914-1946), but it's probably worth a shot.

Posted by peterme at 11:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Google and their knowledge workers

So, I finally got around to ready, "Google: Ten Golden Rules," about how that company hires and manages their employees, and I came away from it unimpressed, and, even, feeling a little icky.

Their rules basically made sense to me (Hire By Committee, Pack Them In, Make Coordination Easy, etc. etc) with the one exception of "Strive to reach consensus." I mean, I guess it's an okay thing to strive for, but trying too hard to reach consensus gets in the way of progress.

Anyway, that's not what bugged me. What bugged me was the tone of the article, written by a CEO, and Berkeley professor. It has a remarkable Us and Them sentiment. At the beginning of the article, they reduce their entire workforce to the class of "knowledge workers," and then, for much of the article, Google employees are referred to as "them" and "their." It struck me as a remarkably distant approach, as if Eric and Hal were talking about how they care and feed the ants in their ant farm.

Another, and possibly related thought, is why are so many afraid of Google when they've demonstrated competence in only three areas (search, maps, and webmail)?

Posted by peterme at 07:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


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