James Governor's Monkchips

Don’t Bounce The Ball Honey: On Attention, gestural economics and loosely coupled ideas

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Right at the beginning of the latest Gillmor Gang, eponymous Jacques Lacan impersonator Steve Gillmor makes an intriguing comment about RedMonk-its not clear whether its intended as positive or negative, but all attention is potentially good attention, so its all good.

While discussing Dana Gardner‘s rather neat new business idea – briefingsdirect – which turns one element of what industry analysts do into entertainment (perfect move, Dana. Very smart. Industry analyst business as entertainer is one direction the sector is decomposing too), Gillmor goes off on one.

That is too much information. Behind closed doors- we’re already hearing too much from Redmonk as it is.”

How do we parse that comment, or should I say gesture? Why bother analyzing it too closely given its an attention driver, which is all good. The Gillmor gang has a wide audience- I had two friends of Redmonk mention the mention within two days.

Notice that Gillmor resolutely refuses to link to people on his blog. He doesn’t believe in URIs. On the flipside – if the market is a conversation he just injected us into it… When he talks about gesture and attention economics he often sounds like a French linguistic philosopher. Gnomic utterances can drive attention.

Thanks Steve.

In case you’re wondering what the back story is, which would cause Steve to says “we’re already hearing too much from Redmonk as it is…” I have recently been talking a fair bit about the industry analyst business in order to drive some much needed transparency into the market conversation. How To Become An Industry Analyst parts (1,2 and 3), What do Numbers Analysts do?

If I talk about how to ” punch above your weight in professional services ” then how great to have someone in the industry say they are hearing too much from us already…

Especially when business gurus like David Maister join the conversation.

As I never tire of pointing out, branding is an operational concept, not a marketing one. You will have a brand if the marketplace can come to depend on the fact that, every time they experience you, you show certain fixed characteristics or behaviors. If you ALWAYS show them, you will become known for them and will have them as part of your brand.

But here’s the kicker: you don’t get a reputation (or a brand) for what you do (only) most of the time. If as a purchaser I come to see that you can’t be depended upon always to live up to what your brand promise is, you don’t lose a little of your brand value, you lose most of it, because you become one more firm who claimed to be what they are not.

Branding as an operational concept… think about it. Opening the kimono  seems to work though. People respond to honesty. I am not about to apologise for being open. I would like to think I might help inspire people to build their own businesses from scratch. What are the tradeoffs in reputation?

Comments and trackbacks have spiked pretty nicely recently, so there is apparently some desire to consume this information. And people like Ryan Tomayko, a developer, have explicitly asked for more information about the analyst business. What do developer and ops staffs know about analysts and how they work with vendors? Not much. I want to help explode the mystique.

All that aside, and coming back to Gillmor there is another way to look at Steve’s comment.

How much information is too much information? Should I have admitted how small we are, and what it was like to startup, and what are some of the decisions we made in driving forward the RedMonk business and brand?

I figure Gillmor’s answer might be yes. You would think anyone with a 21st century hit radio show, the Gillmor Gang, would worry about perfectionism in production values. On the contrary – perhaps what makes the show so good is the asides, the basic humanity associated with asking your daughter not to bounce the ball when you’re in the “recording studio”. This could be seen in context of the sloppy meaning good theme we see in software development.

High production values aren’t necessary for the spread of ideas. On the contrary many revolutions are initially defiantly low-fi. Ideas not surrounded by “professional production values” are effectively more loosely-coupled and so more powerful.

“The forces holding the whole thing together are coming apart”.

We’re seeing decomposition of the media, sloppy and DRM-free allows for idea recombinance and micro-chunking. [How is that for a mouthful of read/write web terminology ?]

Steve takes sloppiness and “good enough to extremes”. At one point in the podcast in question he says: “I forget what I was going to say – I can edit this out.

Needless to say to the unslick stayed in.

So what about my Stephen? Was I too open when I said:

If RedMonk lost Stephen O’Grady and tecosystems, which is somewhat of a brand it its own right (just ask most open source startup bloggers), it would be a huge blow.

I know for a fact Stephen would never have spoken about operational risk in the way I did in my post about small meaning good, but then how can I not talk about the operational risks associated with personal branding, and the fact Stephen is doing such incredible work at the moment.

If Stepho is not a target for headhunters hiring from the analyst firm big 2 (Gartner, Forrester) or the specialist firms like AMR orBurton, then they aren’t doing their jobs. He just keeps getting better and better.

I want RedMonk people to get offered new jobs by competitors, or vendors or enterprises every day. That will mean we’re succeeding.

One of themes of the Gillmor Gang is corporate humility. Humility? Not something me or Mr Gillmor need to worry about too much….

One way to understand why I am trying to be more open is that I see it as part of my drive towards declarative living. Declarative living isn’t perfect. It can have downsides – you never know when your declaration stream will be used against you… Declarative living means personal or professional risk management. There is a lot of information out there that people can use against you. But those that know you, that know your work, will come back for more because of your relationship, as David Maister pointed out.

But risk is no reason to not make the declaration… nice gesture Steve.


  1. Quoth James: “We’re seeing decomposition of the media, sloppy and DRM-free allows for idea recombinance and micro-chunking. [How is that for a mouthful of read/write web terminology?]”

    Is that a gesture to moi? 😉 I’ll gladly take it (although as I told Steve when I met him in October, I always prefer links) :-))

  2. Are “we” hearing too much from Redmonk? Perhaps, it all comes down to who’s we?
    Gartner is the confort of Middle Management. A mid management basically, only has to answer the dreaded question of “why did you do this like this” with the line “because Gartner sayd so”. It’s confortable, they take credit for the execution if things work out and blame Gartner if they don’t.
    With that state of mind, the less you know about the analyst business the more at ease you feel. When you start to realise that analysts are people too, they make mistakes, take chances, have slepless nights and headaches like the rest of us, the godlike aura of Gartner falls and, they became just another source of information.
    If I was Gartner, I would think Redmonk is showing customers how salsiches are made. But, since you talk with your customers and discuss with them your views (and not present your views to them like you had direct access to the creator) understanding what makes you tick just helps me understanding better your point and it’s strenghts.

  3. Step 4: Publish. Its important.

  4. in the case anyone is wondering what richard is on about, I “pulled a gillmor” (one of those jump the shark phrases) and didn’t actually link to the R/WW initially – i figured the meme was richard’s… but he still wants to link. duly corrected)

  5. Thanks for the attention, James. I just got a chance to see this after being away on vacation. But I’d like to point out that while I hope my B2B informational podcasts are entertaining, the main point of them is to be useful. Taking the IT industry analyst briefing from vendors out to the public, from behind the closed and costly doors, brings detailed information on new IT products to those interested enough to listen and perhaps evaluate. The entertainment is icing on the cake.

  6. no slight intended dana. its like the old BBC motto as i see it – “to educate, entertain and inform”… do that and you’ll be in great shape

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