Rice Revolution Ahead?

From the NYTimes >>
“Rising prices and a growing fear of scarcity have prompted some of the world’s largest rice producers to announce drastic limits on the amount of rice they export.”
And The Economist >>
I remember when Indira Gandhi was kicked out of office when the price of onions got too high. And rice is the staple food of most of Asia… It’s all about the price of rice.
And then there’s Marie Antoinette who, it turns out, did not say: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (let ’em eat cake)…

Earth Hour

More fun facts:
The average American produces about 20 tons of the major greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) every year. That might sound like a lot — and Americans do have among the biggest carbon footprints in the world — but the entire world emits around 27 billion tons of CO2 each year, through transportation, electricity use, deforestation.
So now we have Earth Hour.
Let’s rearrange the deck chairs…

Chinese Democracy: Patriotic Education

The Economist story Welcome to the Olympics states:
“Resenting criticism of its handling of unrest in Tibet, China wages a gruesome propaganda offensive…”
“Meng Jianzhu, China’s most senior police official, also toured Lhasa on March 23rd and 24th. His words were not encouraging. Monasteries, he said, should step up “patriotic education”—ie, a much resented government-led campaign that requires monks to state their rejection of the Dalai Lama, who is hugely revered in Tibet.”
Patriotic Education? Sounds a bit like our Republicans…
Read this report as well: “Trashing the Beijing Road

As the Earth Lay Dying…

Here are three stories I came across in the last week or so:
1. Chinook Salmon Vanish Without a Trace – “The Chinook salmon that swim upstream to spawn in the fall, the most robust run in the Sacramento River, have disappeared. The almost complete collapse of the richest and most dependable source of Chinook salmon south of Alaska left gloomy fisheries experts struggling for reliable explanations — and coming up dry.”
Here’s my explanation. Apparently this kind of thing happens up and down the Pacific coast of California.
2. Why are thousands of bats dying in New York? – “Bats in New York and Vermont are mysteriously dying off by the thousands, often with a white ring of fungus around their noses, and scient ists in hazmat suits are crawling into dank caves to find out why.”
3. Massive ice shelf collapsing off Antarctica – “Scientists are citing ‘rapid climate change in a fast-warming region of Antarctica’ as the cause of an initial collapse of the Wilkins Ice Shelf. The damage got started at the end of February when an iceberg dropped off and triggered the “runaway disintegration” of a 160-square-mile portion of the 5,282-square-mile shelf.”
Why is it that we’re still sitting here doing nothing?
I’m amazed at companies like Exxon Mobil – they still try to shirk their responsibility for the damage they cause…
And here’s a story about the Japanese whalers – they’re ready to kill Moby Dick!
Wait, there’s more >>
Please pass the popcorn.

The Ghost of Tiananmen: China, Tibet and the Olympics

When I was a kid in India, one of the fondest memories I have is of a family vacation in the foothills of the Himalayas – eating at a tiny Tibetan roadside dhaba, being fed tons of cho-cho-momo and heaping piles of noodles. The food was great, but what struck me was the poor Indian peasant family sitting across from me eating their fill as well. Why? because the food was so cheap and so good that everyone could afford to eat well. I’ve never forgotten that day.
The family that ran the dhaba were refugees from Tibet, and I was fascinated by the store, the food, and the way they used an abacus to add up the transactions as they happened. That day I became a believer in a free Tibet.
I wrote earlier about China’s country branding issues and the upcoming Olympics.
I’ve also written about how to measure democracy with the “Journalists-in-Jail Index.”
And now we have pictures of the Chinese government beating up on Tibetans splashed across the pages of every major newspaper and magazine.
And don’t forget YouTube:

Here we go again.
This time Chinese officials are blaming the Dalai Lama for the violence. Give me a break. They’ve even got an army of bloggers and hackers working the media sites posting “pro-chinese” accounts all over the place.
Bush, of course, is silent. He knows that China’s in Tibet for the uranium.
I get a feeling the sponsors of the Olympics are in for a rough ride. Here are the brands which stand to get a black eye:
General Electric
Johnson and Johnson
Atos Origin
And let’s not forget the Olympic brand itself. This could do it in completely!
Stay tuned and sign a petition>>
UPDATE: More video >>

Video: Ricardo Semler’s Open-Capitalism

I’ve been following Ricardo Semler for many years now.
In 1993, in a fit of madness I slipped a copy of Maverick into the hands of Riley Bechtel – thinking as I did at the time, that this is the only way to get Bechtel to re-engineer itself. Of course I was a little too naive
Today I don’t think I could work at Semco because I’d rather work for myself. But if I had to get a corporate job again (heaven forbid) I’d choose Semco.
Question: when are they opening a “Semco-proper” office in the US? You can check Semco’s company history here.
Anyway, the revolution has happened and it was televised. Here’s what to expect:

And definitely check this out >> (Journeyman Pictures doesn’t understand YouTube – hence the “Embedding disabled by request”)
Open-capitalism is thriving at Semco, and one of these days, it will show up in your industry. What strikes me though is the fact that this model can be used in non-profits, in government (are you listening, Barack Obama?) and even in the fields without hope – like education. Apparently Bill Gates’ foundation is keeping close tabs on Semler’s schooling experiment.

Online Brand Monitoring: A survey of marketspace analytics vendors and why they fall short

From GE to Target, from IBM to Best Buy, companies of all stripes and sizes are struggling to quantify the effects of Web 2.0 on their companies. What are the blogs saying? Are they positive or negative? What’s happening on Second Life? Where are our customers congregating? Who are the influencers in the marketspace?
The result of this anxiety is a new booming business in “marketspace analytics”—companies that profess to track your brand over time and alert you to news (bad or good) in real time.
Given some of the new findings about buzz in the blogosphere (positive online buzz for cars and trucks doesn’t necessarily translate to volume sales) you have to ask, are they wasting their time?
My take on this is somewhat biased. I view all of these brand monitoring products as the online equivalent of the traditional press-clipping tracking function the PR companies used to cling to as a way to justify their existence.
That said, online brand building is a critical competence for today’s marketer. What matters is not online buzz which is a temporary spike in attention, but what that buzz does to your position in your online ecosystem.
Your competitive position in your ecosystem determines your destiny:
• How do you and your competitors compare in terms of return on marketing investments and relative share of the ecosystem?
• How are the leaders making money, and what is their approach in the ecosystem?
• What is the full potential of your business position in the ecosystem?
• How big is your marketspace—the size of the ecosystem you want to compete in?
• Which parts of the ecosystem are growing fastest?
• Where are you gaining or losing share in the ecosystem or sub-ecosystems you compete in?
• What capabilities are creating a competitive advantage for you in the ecosystem?
• Which capabilities need to be strengthened or acquired to help you compete in the ecosystem?
Because we couldn’t find anything to help us with these questions, we decided to build it ourselves. That’s how our Ecosystem Intelligence™ service came into existence:
(i) to help measure a company’s position in the ecosystem(s) it competes in, and
(ii) to help improve that position in the marketspace over time
Now let’s check out some of the competing brand monitoring vendors:
Biz360: provides customer opinion measurement from thousands of expert and consumer product review websites, shopping sites, blogs and message boards
Cymfony: rated highly by the tech analysts, they claim to “quantify your amount of coverage as well as get expert qualitative interpretation of how effectively your message is being picked up in traditional and social media.”
Skygrid: a search tool that sifts through hundreds of web and mainstream media to show you just one thing: whether the balance of the news on a public company is good or bad, and how the “mood” is changing.
BrandIntel: collects, processes and analyzes online consumer content and applies human analysis to the results in context.
Factiva: monitors your competitors, customers, and industry, with in-depth research and company financial data reports.
MotiveQuest: “sees” the “peaks of passion” in online conversations to understand customer motivations. Again, a combination of proprietary software and human analysts to explore what drives customer behavior.
Nielsen Buzzmetrics: measures consumer-generated media to help companies understand consumer needs, reactions and issues. They use a data-warehouse approach to index customer sentiment.
Scout Labs: allows users to track brands and reactions to those brands. In essence, the company helps companies make sense of positive and negative brand sentiment in blogs, user generated videos, and images.
Umbria: analyzes social media—including blogs, message boards, Usenet, and product review sites. Umbria also adds human insights to their data reports.
And there you have it, all variations on the press-clipping theme.
And unfortunately most companies (including the ones above) don’t get it.
It’s not about tracking buzz, it’s about starting a conversation.
Seth Godin gets it.