A good op-ed by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times about the situation in Iraq.
CREATIVE BUILDER PERSISTENT INFLUENTIAL
You are independent and strong willed and can accomplish great things. You are more serious and grounded than most people know. It is important that you build and develop a solid foundation from you can grow. Your personal color activates the powerful side of your nature. Wearing,meditating or surrounding yourself with Rococo Red encourages you to channel the life force you have within and then share your success with the world around you.
I am hosting a gathering here in Tokyo starting tomorrow. It's a somewhat academic meeting to talk about social science issues and technological issues around mobility and microcontent. Participants include a small group of academics, technologists and business people. I'll let you know if we come up with anything interesting. Some of the other participants will probably be blogging as well.
This is the first time that I've ever worked together with my sister to organize something so that's been fun. It's also been great working with the team at the Insight & Foresight unit at Nokia who are supporting the event. BTW, "Kizuna" is a Japanese word that means a kind of mental linkage between people. "Friendship" and "family tie" are probably close counterparts in English.
A lot of people ask me about Japanese customs. They learn the formal way to hand business cards, they bow deeply when they meet Japanese and they call me "Ito-san." Stop that. It's silly. To some Japanese, the awkward foreigners trying to please their hosts by acting Japanese may look cute, but more likely than not, you'll get a A for effort but you'll be forever the silly foreigner in their minds. It's only the extremely intolerant xenophobe who would really want a foreigner to really act Japanese and you don't want to be hanging out with those anyway. Keep an eye out for indicators of discomfort but bring the flair of your own culture with you.
Rather than trying to act Japanese, I suggest that people visiting Japan be sensitive and aware of the nuances in the interactions. It is more about timing, loudness, space and smiles than it is about how your hold your business card or calling people "Ito-san." When in doubt, shut up and listen. When smiled at, smile back. If you're freaking someone out, back off instead of continuing your interrogation. All of which I believe is not unique to being a foreigner in Japan. The more important Japan specific social behaviors involve cleanliness like taking off your shoes in homes and washing your body before and not taking your towel when entering the bath and not being stinky.
Caveat: If you're meeting someone for the first time, in a very formal setting, and you only have one shot, doing the step-by-step from the "How to Impress Japanese" book is probably a good idea. My comments above apply mostly to normal social situations.
UPDATE: I think many people were offended by this post. ;-) Please read the comments for an interesting discussion.
I just finished watching The Last Samurai. I'm not going to comment on the acting or the historical accuracy, but rather on this notion of a code of honor. Several people told me to watch it because they were impressed with the code of honor in the film. I think there is something comforting about codes of honor and people get goose bumps when they see movies where heros die for honor. Some people identify with the heros as they reflect on the unfairness and loneliness in their own lives. A friend of mine manages the rights to Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, which is one of Japan's most famous heros. He used to get calls almost every year from CEOs of companies wanting to make the film because they realized that THEY were Musashi.
The most honorable person I've ever known is my mom. She didn't talk about or whine about honor. She was just honorable. In my experience, the more people talk about honor, the less they know about it and are either using it as a way to try to convince you to trust them or trying to convince themselves or something. Some of the stupidest mistakes I've made in friendship and business have been when I have assumed that people spouting off about codes of honor would actually adhere to them. "Don't you trust me?" "Just trust me." Bah.
So I'm quite skeptical about Japanese honor. Sure, I bet there were a lot of honorable people though the history of the Samurai, but I see honor every day and they don't make movies about it. So stop making movies about Japanese honor or we might start believing it.
I'm not bashing the notion of codes of honor in organizations since I think it's often necessary to try to aspire to and enforce higher level conduct in these organizations, but having a code doesn't mean everyone will adhere to it and such codes probably cause these organizations to be more trusted than they should.
Via boing boing
See you later Cannes and thanks for all the mussels.
I met some really cool people this trip and got a glimpse into "the other side". Enjoyed myself very much. Weather was beautiful too.
Now I'm off to Tokyo via Frankfurt. I have a horrible 4 hours layover in Frankfurt. Anyone going to be in Frankfurt this afternoon? Maybe we can play scrabble or something...
I just gave a keynote this morning and I initially felt right, but a bit bad. Milia is one of the oldest and leading interactive content conferences and MipTV is a place where content providers meet with people who want to buy content from them. The halls are full of telephone companies, TV networks, Hollywood content providers and DRM technology companies. So here I am asked to give a keynote. What am I going to say? I talked about the shift in value away from packaged content and towards context oriented things like location, presence and transactions. I talked about how DRM would make the user experience suck so bad that they would lose their customers, and I talked about how I didn't think the mobile content download business would work. Easy for Mr. "nothing to lose" Ito to say. ;-p I did throw out a olive branch by talking about Creative Commons and how we can have "some rights reserved" and try to protect their content selling business models. On the other hand, all of the smart people quickly figured out that the technical execution of protecting content while allowing sharing in certain cases requires them to trust their customers much more than they do now.
I also mentioned that the carriers and the content guys really didn't know their customers. In fact, most people don't know their customers. Most success has come from watching how the customer behaves and creating products for that behavior rather than trying to create products that change the customer's behavior, which most arrogant companies think they can do.
I did provide some helpful advice by talking about mobile device UI issues, talking about CPA and stuff.
So, I was prepared for a lot of hateful glares and wrath, but everyone was surprisingly thoughtful and the discussion after the session was really interesting. So just as publishing survived the copy machine and Hollywood movies survived the video tape, I'm sure the smart content guys will survive mobile devices and sharing whether they like it or not. Talking to all of the smart people (even the ones who's business models were screwed and didn't have any way out that I could see...) made me feel like there was a bit more hope in the content industry than I had originally envisioned.
Also, watching people from the big companies interact... I think there is a big company and "I love Hollywood stars/star-struck" aspect to why carriers and other folks want to work with the big studios. Having worked in Hollywood selling content to Japanese trading companies and having worked at NHK buying TV shows from Hollywood I know that Hollywood studios are skilled at making you feel good about working with them. There are many people who have lost a lot of money in Hollywood. Unlike Las Vegas, sometimes they often even don't let you win a single hand before they take all your money. Again, mileage may vary and there are A LOT of great people in Hollywood, but beware. People and companies in Hollywood are not famous because they're nice and give you their money.
Interesting discussion over at Liz Lawley's blog about conference back channels.
Relates to the Continuous Partial Attention discussion.
I just got this via email and don't know the copyright or the origin of this. If someone knows whether I should give credit to someone, please let me know. But it's too funny not to blog.
I just arrived in Canne. I'm giving a talk tomorrow and will be on a panel the day after for Milia...