Mickey Mouse and the Jade Rabbit

“I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I have ever known.”

—Walt Disney, American cartoonist, born December 5, 1901

Steamboat-willieAs well he might. Mickey was very good to Walt Disney.

Disney the corporation is perhaps the greatest example of what I call “cultural cancer.” I mean the endless mixing and mutation of literary and visual arts so that the end product is an undifferentiated, timeless mass of “entertainment,” without any possibility of making fine cultural distinctions or understanding the history of ideas. Please do not get me started on the strange effect any approach to the end of the Mickey Mouse copyright has on the United States Congress.

Continue reading “Mickey Mouse and the Jade Rabbit”

Lean Launchpad Pioneer Valley Fall 2013 Graduation

“I am responsible only to God and history.” —Francisco Franco, Spanish leader, born December 4, 1892

Fear men like Francisco Franco who are on intimate terms with God and history.

We graduated from the Lean Launchpad Pioneer Valley Fall 2013 at Click Workspace last night. We learned a lot and had a great time during the last twelve weeks. Congratulations to Andy Wollner of uChampion, Dan Nelson of Food on a Truck and Randall Smith of receive.ly. We look forward to hearing more about their fantastic startups.


Many thanks to Paul Silva for getting this up and running, and to Rick Feldman, Jim Mumm, Thom Fox, Joe Gensheimer, and everyone else who helped out. There will be a new session of the Lean Launchpad Pioneer Valley starting in February 2014. Get more info and sign up for the course; you won’t regret it.

We’ve found it pretty hard to actually sell stuff with Facebook Ads. The sweet spot we’ve found is to use FB Ads to attract people to an active, fun Fan Page that appeals to their interests. A Fan Page Like is a pretty direct channel to communicate with actual or potential customers, with lots of opportunity to bring them back to the brand’s website. Here’s a case study of the most successful FB ad campaign we’ve ever run. Crazy Orchid Lady Facebook Campaign

And indeed, as John Phillip Sousa worries in this somewhat overwrought piece about the threat to American civilization of then-new (1906) technologies of recorded music, what of the national chest?

Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

7:15–9:00AM Springfield Affiliated Chambers Springfield Business @ Breakfast
1:00–3:00PM Greenfield Basics of Starting a Business
3:30–5:00PM Greenfield Free Information for Small Businesses to Start and Grow
5:00–7:00PM North Adams Berkshire Young Professionals Networking Social
5:00–7:00PM Northampton Greater Northampton Chamber Arrive @ Five
5:00–7:00PM Agawam West of the River Chamber of Commerce Wicked Wednesdays
7:00PM Springfield Innovators Resource Network Celebratory December Meeting
11:45AM-1:15PM Springfield Young Professionals Society Greater Springfield CEO Luncheon
12:00-2:00PM Easthampton Don’t Eat Lunch Alone
12:00PM Springfield Exchange Club of Springfield
4:30-6:30PM Chicopee Chicopee Chamber Holiday Party
6:00PM Longmeadow Bay Path College Young Women’s Leadership Conference


“Then what of the national throat? Will it not weaken? What of the national chest? Will it not shrink?”

240px-Edison2“Sweeping across the country with the speed of a transient fashion in slang or Panama hats, political war cries or popular novels, comes now the mechanical device to sing for us a song or play for us a piano, in substitute for human skill, intelligence, and soul. Only by harking back to the day of the roller skate or the bicycle craze, when sports of admitted utility ran to extravagance and virtual madness, can we find a parallel to the way in which these ingenious instruments have invaded every community in the land. And if we turn from this comparison in pure mechanics to another which may fairly claim a similar proportion of music in its soul, we may observe the English sparrow, which, introduced and welcomed in all innocence, lost no time in multiplying itself to the dignity of a pest, to the destruction of numberless native song birds, and the invariable regret of those who did not stop to think in time….

“It cannot be denied that the owners and inventors have shown wonderful aggressiveness and ingenuity in developing and exploiting these remarkable devices. Their mechanism has been steadily and marvelously improved, and they have come into very extensive use. And it must be admitted that where families lack time or inclination to acquire musical technic, and to hear public performances, the best of these machines supply a certain amount of satisfaction and pleasure….

“When a mother can turn on the phonograph with the same ease that she applies to the electric light, will she croon her baby to slumber with sweet lullabys, or will the infant be put to sleep by machinery?”

John Philip Sousa, “The Menace of Mechanical Music,” 1906

The Last Word

“A lawyer’s dream of heaven: every man reclaimed his property at the resurrection, and each tried to recover it from all his forefathers.”

—Samuel Butler, British poet, born December 4, 1835

InCommN Training


Paragus IT Company Retreat Reinvents the Economy from the Ground Up

rick-1In November 2013, InCommN got a really fun assignment: facilitate the Paragus IT annual retreat. CEO Delcie Bean IV wanted to give his entire staff a quick, entertaining introduction to economics and business. The goal was to get them all thinking like entrepreneurs.

Rick Feldman’s economics training came in handy here: he developed a program of a series of simulations to get the women and men at the retreat involved in and thinking about the origins of value, markets, competition, cooperation, and money. He divided the group into five teams: Farmers, Hunters, Land and Resource Owners, Forest Products/ Builders, and Entrepreneurs/Toolmakers. In a couple of rounds of play, the teams came up with the feudal system, the joint-stock company, and monopoly capitalism. They had a lot of fun doing it, and came away with new insight into business and economics.

What Does Your Enterprise Want to Learn?

Collaborative ClassroomInCommN can offer customized training to enterprises of all sizes. Our expertise includes product development, web marketing, finance, social media, value chain analysis, web software, and much more. We can structure a training to suit your needs, whether it’s a lunch and learn or a full-blown company retreat like the Paragus one.

Contact InCommN Training for more information or to discuss a training.

Crazy Orchid Lady Facebook Campaign

The Crazy Orchid Lady Website is an online community for orchid lovers from all over the world.

Crazy Orchid Lady Forum   An Orchid Community

Social Media attracts new visitors. Some become members and participate in the chat, photo posting, and Orchid of the Day competitions. In November 2011, a Crazy Orchid Lady Facebook Fan Page was established. Most days, the Crazy Orchid Lady posts the Orchid of the Day to the Page.

Orchid of the Day

By April 2013 hundreds of outstanding orchid photos was available in the Timeline Photos Album. We decided that it could serve to attract new Fans to the Crazy Orchid Lady Facebook Page.

COL Fan Page Timeline Photos















We developed some ads for the Crazy Orchid Lady Fan Page. The Facebook Ad platform allowed us to target people very finely by age, gender, location, and most important, interests. One nice touch was that we were able to target the Photo Gallery itself, rather than the Fan Page timeline. Also, we chose the less costly CPM (Cost Per Thousand impressions) rather than the CPC (cost per click) ad payment structure.

Facebook Ad For Crazy Orchid Lady Forum

The results were immediate — and amazing. The ads ran from April 21-May 13, 2013. Here are some statistics for the campaign:

  • Impressions: 1,665,998
  • Clicks: 6988
  • Click Through Rate: 0.419%
  • Spent: $223.78
  • Cost Per Thousand Impressions: $0.13
  • Cost Per Click: $0.03

And here are the results for the Page:

  April 20, 2013 May 13, 2013 Change
Lifetime Total Likes 163 5327 3168%
People Talking About Page, 28 Day 31 7290 23416%
Stories Created About Page, 28 Day 44 14434 32704%

But don’t forget, the true purpose of the Crazy Orchid Lady Fan Page is to get people to visit the Crazy Orchid Lady Forum Website. How did we do at that?

I’m glad you asked:


  Apr 20-Nov 30, 2012 Apr 20-Nov 30, 2013 Change
Visits 5539 6086 9.88%
Unique Visitors 2095 2729 30.26%
Pageviews 26633 31033 16.52%
Pages/Visit 4.81 5.10 6.05%
Avg Visit Duration 7:01 9:43 38.49%
New Visits 36.27% 43.85% 20.91%

Contact InCommN Creative to discuss your Facebook Ad Campaign.

When Snail Mail Was State of the Art

“Why should the Devil have all the good tunes?”

—Sir Rowland Hill, English inventor, born December 3, 1795

Penny blackI couldn’t remember who Sir Rowland was, so I looked him up. He was an educational innovator early in his career, but his greatest work was done in postal reform. Hill transformed a hodge-podge of private services, expensive and poorly managed, into a cheap, fast, efficient communications medium for a society in rapid industrial and commercial development. He received a two-year contract to run the new British Post Office in 1839, and proceeded to lower the cost of a half-ounce of mail first to four pence (about $2.00 in today’s money), and the next year to one penny (about 50 cents). The new penny post was a tremendous success, and served as a model for the rest of the world. We’re at the far end of Hill’s revolution, and “snail mail” seems hopelessly out of date to us, but it was a crucial piece of the development of the modern world.

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InCommN EBooks

logo-incommnInCommN EBooks

Guides to the most asked-about business subjects, written by recognized experts. We’ve been listening to the questions about business in the 21st century that participants in our workshops and seminars have been asking for a couple of years now. We’ve learned that the same subjects come up over and over again. So we’ve decided to put together this collection of ebooks covering the material that people really want to know about. Each ebook is an authoritative guide to its subject. We’ve chosen authors who really know their stuff, and can communicate it in a succinct, easy to understand style.

Published Fall 2013

IMG 1031A Guide to Value Chain Analysis, by Rick Plaut. An expert in product development and marketing, Plaut takes you through the basics of Value Chain Analysis. You’ll wind up being able to evaluate the value chain in your market, a well-known ingredient in successful startups. $10.95 Add to Cart

Business and Economics 101, by Rick Feldman. Economist and financial advisor Rick Feldman has written an incisive, fast paced introduction to the fundamentals of business and economics that every entrepreneur should know. The book starts with the basics of value, markets, money, and winds up with discussion of corporations, venture capital, and regulation. $9.95 Add to Cart

I Speak Geek So You Don’t Need To, by Daniel Lieberman. A former software developer who has been working in Social Media, Web Programming, Analytics, and Web marketing, Lieberman takes you on a tour of the key computer and internet technologies that are so important in today’s business world. The book is written to entertain, while it also provides lots of examples, recommendations, and power-user tips and tricks, while teaching entrepreneurs how to navigate the often-confusing landscape of modern technology. $7.95 Add to Cart

If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride

“Everyone carries around his own monsters.”

—Richard Pryor, American actor, born December 1, 1940

Muybridge horse walking animatedInteresting piece about the often-repeated story of the automobile saving late nineteenth-early twentieth century cities from drowning in a sea of horse manure. The story is not quite as simple as it’s usually told: cars didn’t become very common until much later, streetcars were an important element, and long-established patterns of street use had to be changed by elaborate propaganda campaigns dedicate to reshaping them. For example, “jaywalking” was invented in the 1910s: only rubes from the country (“jay” is a synonym for “rube”) would do something so naïve as to use the street, now devoted to the automobile, incorrectly.

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5 Things To Be Thankful For

“This continent, an open palm spread frank before the sky.”

—James Agee, American novelist, born November 27, 1909

Counting Our Blessings

0 La Paix embrassant lAbondance - P.P Rubens - Yale center for British Art
  1. Peace. After Veterans Day, I read Barbara Tuchman’s classic account of the origins and first month of World War I, The Guns of August. I’m very thankful for peace. I wish everyone in the world lived in peace.
  2. Freedom. We have the right and the ability to say and do pretty much anything we damn well please. We may often wish some of our fellow citizens could be restrained from expressing the awful things they think, but that’s the price. Right now our liberties are under serious threat from governments and corporations taking advantage of technology to infringe on them. It’s an arms race, and we’d better hope that the Internet really does route around obstacles.
  3. Diversity. We were in Springfield yesterday. We got to the excellent Panjabi Tadka Restaurant and found it closed. No problem: we just went on over to Pho Saigon Restaurant and had some wonderful Vietnamese food. We are rich because we have new friends and neighbors from all over the world who bring with them new foods, ideas, entrepreneurial energy, words, art, music…
  4. Medicine. My partner, the Crazy Orchid Lady, is having some problems with cardiac arrhythmia, so I’ve been learning a bit about remarkable range of heart problems that can be fixed in in a few minutes with relatively safe, non-invasive procedures. By the way, the COL’s electro cardiologist attended medical school in Mumbai.
  5. Electricity. Think of how you feel after a few hours without power as a thought experiment. Now try to imagine:
    1. Living in a less developed country where there isn’t reliable electric service. Now you have electricity, now you don’t.
    2. Living in the past before there was any electrical power available.
    3. Living through a major failure of the contemporary electrical grid.

Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

Today you’d better be getting ready for Thanksgiving!


Google “deep learning” Tech: There’s More than One Way to Scan a Cat

Bad Idea Machine lolcat“…a front-page New York Times article revealed that after Google fed its ”DistBelief” technology with millions of YouTube videos, the software had learned to recognize the key features of cats….Google’s deep-learning tech works in a hierarchical way, so the bottom-most layer of the neural network can detect changes in color in an image’s pixels, and then the layer above may be able to use that to recognize certain types of edges. After adding successive analysis layers, different branches of the system can develop detection methods for faces, rocking chairs, computers, and so on.

“What stunned Quoc V. Le is that the software has learned to pick out features in things like paper shredders that people can’t easily spot – you’ve seen one shredder, you’ve seen them all, practically. But not so for Google’s monster.”

If this doesn’t terrify you… Google’s computers OUTWIT their humans

The Last Word

“All the lessons of history in four sentences: Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. The bee fertilizes the flower it robs. When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”

—Charles A. Beard, American historian, born November 27, 1874

Dead Men Don’t Cash Royalty Checks

“Everyone, left to his own devices, forms an idea about what goes on in language which is very far from the truth.”

—Ferdinand de Saussure, Swiss linguist, born November 26, 1857

ArbitraritaetSaussure was a key figure in modern linguistics and semiotics (the science of signs, sign processes, and communication). This stuff gets very technical very quickly, but the notion that signs (words in the simplest case) have an arbitrary, socially-determined relation with what they signify (things in the simplest case) has been a fruitful one since Saussure proposed it. Semiotics and Deconstructionism were all the rage when I was a pretentious young francophile punk, so I was pleased to find Ferdinand de Saussure among my birthday quotes. Pretty pithy thought, too.

Continue reading “Dead Men Don’t Cash Royalty Checks”

Less People, More Connections

“If the Lord Almighty had consulted me before embarking upon Creation, I should have recommended something simpler.”

—Alfonso X, Spanish royalty, born November 23, 1221

How Hard Should We Try to Understand the Future?

157px-Flickr - USCapitol - Car of History Clock 1

I once asked a former Fortune 500 CEO why his peers were so indifferent to credible, dire warnings about the future. He reminded me that for most businesses anything beyond the next five years is the far future, which management can afford to ignore. Besides, they believe in their ability to deal with problems as they arise, push them off onto somebody else, or have moved on to other positions. Heigh-ho!

This isn’t stupid: it’s rational to pay attention only to problems you can do something about right now, or at the appropriate time. But it seems worth spending at least some time thinking about what’s coming. Dwight David Eisenhower said that “Plans are nothing; planning is everything,” worth thinking about as the future becomes the present, as it regularly does, and at an accelerating pace.

The realities of demographic change are not well understood. We’re used to thinking in terms of a population explosion, a concept approximately contemporary with double-knit leisure suits and disco. What’s coming is the opposite: declining population is a reality in a number of advanced economies (Japan, notably) already, and will be happening everywhere by the middle of the century on current trends. It will affect societies from top to bottom. No one knows how to think about how to have a growing economy in a world with declining populations. We’re about to find out. One possible hope is discussed in today’s Reading How to Keep the Economy Growing When Our Population Is Not. Research shows that richer social connections increase the ability of groups to find solutions to problems and exchange information. A more connected world, even with lower populations, could harness the creativity of its members better to continue to innovate and create.

Tomorrow in #westernma

12:00-2:00PM Northampton Don’t Eat Lunch Alone


More Problems with Fewer People

“Zero population growth is a period in future human history that is both hoped-for and feared. If we don’t get to that point, the world 180px-Nullstein Plauecould literally become overrun with humans, straining already taxed resources like fresh water and farmland to the breaking point. But with zero population growth, the global economy—heavily reliant on a young and expanding workforce—could collapse. No matter what we hope, according to projections by the United Nations, it’s likely that within the next century, the global population will level off or even shrink….

“There’s another, more fundamental problem that zero or negative population growth poses, though—the transfer of knowledge. We know that when people come together, they tend to create new technologies, skills, and knowledge. Cities are hubs of innovation, universities are great factories of scholarship, and even smaller groups can inspire people to create wonderful things. Perhaps more importantly, the number and strength of our connections are vital for passing knowledge on to others, two recent studies suggest. Without those connections, our society could fall rapidly behind. Fortunately, the research also suggests a way to escape the declining population trap.”

How to Keep the Economy Growing When Our Population Is Not

The Last Word

“We are built to make mistakes, coded for error.”

—Lewis Thomas, American scientist, born November 25, 1913