THE BLOG

Bald Cats, Putin, Homer and Algorithms

05/13/2013 04:56 pm ET | Updated Jul 13, 2013

"Read Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey and try and figure out why they're still being read, searched for, turned into movies or digibabble digital video content."

The above was my reply to a question I was asked on a recent panel about what young creative types should do today to better prepare themselves for success in our world. And, while it might seem a bit facetious, it's not meant to be -- not in the slightest. Frankly, if you think the answer is to learn social media/technology, you will fail -- unless you understand why people share and why it is that some things share better than others.

BuzzFeed, for example, can talk all they want about their algorithm, but at the end of the day their young and savvy editors find the cat pictures, create the lists and recognize the news items they instinctively know will zoom from person to person -- which in my book makes them that much more powerful and a true example of Digital Exponential, and that is the point.

Yet, sadly, it's still only the holy algorithm that analysts and the digibablers want to worship. Because in their zeal to monetize, just how exciting is a story about hungry-smart editors versus the grail search for software that eliminates the human element?

The joke is that they abandon the latest greatest for the next as soon as the quarterly earnings don't match their initial rave predictions, and of course Facebook, Groupon and LinkedIn are casualties of this fickle market -- although while Facebook and LinkedIn are real, Groupon was a complete fabrication of the digibable financial set who perhaps one day will be called to task for misleading the public.

And more and more, the market leaders are turning to the need for human insight and interaction in order to better their products -- sales -- and earnings.

Bottom line -- learn -- learn from the greats. Don't fall into the conceit that the fabulous technology we have today has created a revolution in human behavior. Understand, rather, that it's an amazing evolution in terms of what we can do and achieve in leveraging and enhancing exponentially our core human values and needs.

I share with you a conversation between Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain (two of my favorites) that took place in Elmira, New York, in June of 1889.

"The two men discuss the difficulties of copyright before moving on to Twain's work. 'Growing bold, and feeling that I had a few hundred thousand folk at my back, I demanded whether Tom Sawyer married Judge Thatcher's daughter and whether we were ever going to hear of Tom Sawyer as a man.'

Twain gets up, fills his pipe, and paces the room in his bedroom slippers. 'I haven't decided. I have a notion of writing the sequel to Tom Sawyer in two ways. In one I would make him rise to great honor and go to Congress, and in the other I should hang him. Then the friends and enemies of the book could take their choice.'

Kipling raises a voice of protest: to him, Tom Sawyer is real."

Source: Hello/Goodbye/Hello by Craig Brown

This conversation could have happened today -- copyright issues, crowd sourcing, social media extensions... but it didn't and that is the point.

But allow me to end with Kipling's final thought, which I believe brings us back to Homer, The Bible... all the great and living ideas and thoughts that will last way after the latest iteration of Bald Cats that look like Putin will be gone and forgotten... and by the way, I'm not knocking that -- just making a point.

Listen:

"'Yes; but don't give him two joggles and show the result, because he isn't your property any more. He belongs to us.'" Kipling to Twain

And there you have it, it always belongs to us -- once the genie leaves the bottle, it can never be put back in. And that is the secret -- not the software, not the technology, not all the digibable in the world.

So Bing Homer (the original, not Simpson) -- and ask yourself why -- and by the way, spend a few minutes with Twain and Kipling too.

What do you think?

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