Words Create Pictures in Our Minds

It pains me as a word slinger, but it’s images that populate our craniums not words per se. Words are merely the “raw materials of thought,” as David Schwartz puts it in The Magic of Thinking Big. He’s right: we do think through images. Yet words are magical nonetheless, for they conjure up the all powerful images that fill our heads and establish how we feel about something. As such, they have to be handled with care.

“When spoken or read, that amazing instrument, the mind, automatically converts words and phrases into mind pictures,” Schwartz writes in the book first published in 1957. “Each word, each phrase, creates a slightly different mind picture. … The mind pictures we see are modified by the kinds of words we use to name things and describe things.”

When you tell people that a project has failed, the words create images of defeat, disappointment, frustration, anger, and grief. To encourage people to try again, Schwartz suggests you say instead: “Here’s a new approach that I think will work.”

“Suppose you say, “We face a problem.” You have created a picture in the minds of others of something difficult, unpleasant to solve. Instead, he writes, you should say, ‘We face a challenge,’ and you create a mind picture of fun, sport, something pleasant to do.”

Schwartz encourages us to turn resolutely away from pettiness and negativity, and to be “big thinkers” who transmit optimistic pictures in their own minds and in the minds of others. Be careful what words you use, spoken or not. Schwartz’s message resonates because it rings true. His book hasn’t sold more than four million copies for nothing.

It’s Google’s Universe, We Just Live Here. Find Out Where…

You know that people looking for particular goods, services or information find your website by conducting a search through Google. But do you know how it works? Of course you don’t, unless your last name is Page or Brin. The methodology and mathematical formula that drives the company’s dominant position in search is secret. Really, really secret. Now, in a move akin to stealing Coke’s recipe, PPC Blog has diagramed how it thinks Google search works. It’s worth studying [] to learn how your potential customers and readers might find you by rummaging around in electronic universe. Just remember that having a fully optimized website can’t deliver everything you need and desire. There’s also social media, a whole other galaxy to master.

Businessweek (Re)Blooms

When Bloomberg LLP purchased hoary old Business Week magazine from McGraw-Hill you could be forgiven for wondering what they were thinking. The multimillion dollar price tag may have been mere pocket change to the maker of ubiquitous and highly lucrative financial data machines. But still, why bother?

After all, Washington Post Co. is jettisoning Newsweek after nearly 50 years of ownership and a recent complete redesign, because it can’t make the property pay.

Now called Bloomberg Businessweek, both the print and electronic versions of the specialty publication have undergone less of a redesign than a re-imagining. And therein lies the promise of its success.

From it’s very name, it’s clear that the reborn media property is part of a new family and new strategy — the new owner  is the brand, and businessweek is its extension.

It’s a larger and more complicated media property now, packed with information packaged all sorts of ways, serving distinct groups from traders to cultural zeitgeistists. There are short, snappy pieces along with narrative features (Meg Whitman on the campaign trail, municipalities deep-sixed by sophisticated financial trades, etc.), investigative pieces (former Lehman CEO Dick Fuld’s perjury, for-profit college scams), and continuation of special areas of expertise (for instance, the importance of design to productivity).

There are lots of moving parts to manage, so Bloomberg’s strength in low-key, by-the-book management will come in handy. In contrast, other recent attempts to reinvent the business magazine such as Conde Nast’s Portfolio failed, in part because of editorial/managerial temperament.

Bloomberg’s challenge (as with whoever ends up owning Newsweek) is less to make print relevant in the electronic age than to revitalize a trusted (and therefore valuable) brand so that it nimbly adopts new technologies to reach varied audiences in varied ways.

Check it:

Caveat App-Developer

More than 70,000 applications make it possible to post photos, shorten URLs, and do other useful things on Twitter. They are a primary reason why the micro-blogging service now boasts 50 million Tweets a day — up from 5,000 in 2007.

Twitter doesn’t pay the developers who created all this utility and, by extension, the company’s unassailable position. Instead, these folks monetize their work by charging users for the app and/or by selling advertising. But they’re starting to wonder where their next paycheck will come from, for there’s a new competitor on the scene – Twitter itself.

Now that it has achieved ubiquity, Twitter is looking for revenue, and spent part of its venture capital hoard last week to buy Atebits, which makes Tweetie for the iPhone and Mac. It also said it is creating BlackBerry’s official Twitter app.

“The time for filling the holes in the Twitter service has come and gone,” wrote Twitter investor and board member Fred Wilson in a blog post cited in the New York Times (4/11/10). “Twitter really should have had all of that when it launched or it should have built those services right into the Twitter experience.”

In other words, you take a great risk when you’re an outsider “filling the holes” in someone else’s product — that is, writing code for a corporate-owned platform. Once you’ve helped build the service into preeminence, the corporation may try to buy you (not bad) or bury you (bad). It may also leave you alone, but the likely choices have narrowed. Happens all the time. As cited in the Times report, outside developers helped make Microsoft ubiquitous by creating tools to enhance its operating system. Then the company re-created these tools and built them into Windows, and the outsiders were shut out.

Twitter, a free service, plans to introduce paid accounts for businesses, including a tool for managing corporate tweets with multiple authors – inspired by a similar program developed by an outside firm called CoTweet, which will now have to compete with Twitter for sales.

How should developers orient themselves on this changing landscape? Wilson recommended that they focus on such add-on services as business tools, analytics, or gaming. The new terrain will be further explained and explored at the first-ever Chirp conference for Twitter developers, which starts today in San Francisco.