I haven’t been very good about updating my blog over the past month. Turns out we have a big project we’ve been working on at New Kind. While I always try to set aside time for writing, this particular project is very important to the future of my home state of North Carolina, so I’ve tried to spend as much time as I can on it.
Yet the dark matter of organizations keeps on, well, mattering in the meantime.
Speaking of dark matter, my friend Laura Hamlyn recently pointed me to some interesting findings regarding the search for dark matter in the universe.
NPR has a great interview here with an astrophysicist named Andisheh Mahdavi, who was part of a team that recently observed a massive collision between two enormous galaxy clusters. According to Dr. Mahdavi, the dark matter in this particular collision acted much different than any collision that has been observed before, and in a way that doesn’t align with many of the current theories about dark matter. The scientists are so far at a loss to explain what is going on.
In completely unrelated news, WordPress.com recently launched a new feature that allows you to see a map showing where visitors to your blog are coming from. Here is what my map looks like:
I thought this was kinda cool. The darker the color on the map, the more visitors. So, no surprise, most of my readers live in the United States, but I also have quite a few visitors from India, the UK, Canada, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. And I couldn’t end this post without a shout out to the folks who clicked on this blog from Kazakhstan, Qatar, Moldova, Guinea-Bissau, Cyprus, Bolivia, and Timor-Leste—I’m glad to have you here as well.
Such a small world. I’m honored to have anyone at all reading this, so thank you.
And don’t forget, if you live somewhere cool (or even not-so-cool) and are willing to take a picture of my book The Ad-Free Brand in your town, I’d love to see it and post it on the blog. Here are the full details of what I’m looking for.
Finally, I promise we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming soon!
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a few people ask me why my blog is called Dark Matter Matters, and since I haven’t told that story in a while, I thought I’d share an excerpt from The Ad-Free Brand explaining it (and appending some more recent information). Here goes:
In late 2008, I was struggling mightily with the question of how you measure and quantify the value of brand-related activities. As someone whose father is an amateur astronomer, I’d long been intrigued by the concept of dark matter in the universe. If dark matter is new to you, Wikipedia describes it as “matter that neither emits nor scatters light or other electromagnetic radiation, and so cannot be directly detected via optical or radio astronomy.”
In other words, it is matter out there in the universe that is incredibly difficult to see, basically invisible, but that has a large gravitational effect. What’s particularly interesting about dark matter is that, apparently, there is a lot of it. Again according to Wikipedia:
“Dark matter accounts for 23% of the mass-energy density of the observable universe. In comparison, ordinary matter accounts for only 4.6% of the mass-energy density of the observable universe, with the remainder being attributable to dark energy. From these figures, dark matter constitutes 83% of the matter in the universe, whereas ordinary matter makes up only 17%.”
I find this fascinating.
And dark matter is still a theoretical concept. Again from the Wikipedia entry: “As important as dark matter is believed to be in the cosmos, direct evidence of its existence and a concrete understanding of its nature have remained elusive.”
But it was actually reading about all the problems with the Large Hadron Collider in 2008 (at the very same time I was having my own problems figuring out how to measure the value of brand-related work) that helped me make the connection between what I do for a living and this concept of dark matter.
The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest particle accelerator. It was built on the border of France and Switzerland and is about 17 miles wide. One of the things that particle physicists hope to prove with this enormous project is the existence of dark matter.
I’m no physicist, but as I understand it, the accelerator shoots protons at super-high speeds around the collider, and, if these scientists are lucky, the collisions eventually might produce a few particles that will exist for only a few milliseconds and then disappear again. And these particles might prove that dark matter isn’t just a theory.
Might being the key word. In fact, noted physicist Stephen Hawking bet $100 that they won’t find anything (a bet which he may soon win). The cost of building a collider to maybe prove the existence of dark matter? About $9 billion dollars. (And as of this post, written in September 2011, three years since its was first fired up, we are still looking for evidence.)
Another attempt to prove the existence of dark matter used the Hubble Space Telescope. This image below (which I also used for the header of the blog) was taken by Hubble and first shown by NASA in May, 2007.
In this picture, you are looking at many galaxies a really, really long way away. But you can also see fuzzy gray areas all over that look like clouds. When the astronomers first looked at this photo, they thought the fuzzy areas were a problem with the image. But after analyzing it for over a year, they realized that the fuzziness might actually be evidence of dark matter.
Their reasoning? The fuzziness is actually a gravitational distortion of the light rays from distant galaxies that are being bent by dark matter on their way to Earth. The effect you see is kind of like looking at the bottom of a pond that is being distorted by ripples on the surface.
So finally, scientists had discovered some real visual evidence of dark matter.
I believe the type of activities I talk about in the book and on this blog—those related to building brand, culture, and community—are the dark matter within organizations. Often brand, culture, and community are extremely difficult to measure well, and sometimes accurate measurement is simply impossible.
That’s not to say we don’t try anyway. I’ve seen and even tried many formulas, processes, and products that attempt to measure the value of brand, community, and culture-related efforts. Some of them can provide valuable information.
Others, not so much.
Yet here’s the kicker: brand, community, and culture are having a huge impact on your organization, whether you can effectively and cost-effectively measure that impact or not.
Just as dark matter is a strong gravitational force within the universe even though it is notoriously hard to see and measure, so are many of the things that will lead to the long-term success of ad-free brands.
So that’s how the blog got the name.
One last thing: I’ve been toying with the idea of changing the name at some point down the road, perhaps re-naming it The Ad-Free Brand and simplifying things. If you have any thoughts on that, or if you like the dark matter analogy and think I should keep it, I’d love your opinion. Feel free to comment below or send me an email at chris(at)newkind.com.
“Surprise is the opposite of engagement.”
When we talk about building communities the open source way, we often mention transparency and openness as critical elements of any community strategy. But when I saw this quote, it reminded me why transparency and openness are so important.
When we are open with people, we avoid surprising them. We keep them in the loop.
Nothing kills someone’s desire to be an active contributor in a community more than when they feel like they’ve been blindsided. By a decision. By an announcement. By the introduction of a new community member.
Few things help a community get stronger faster than simply engaging community members every step of the way. Asking them for input first. Ensuring they are “in the know.”
When thinking about the community you are trying to create, maybe start asking yourself questions like:
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
While we here at Dark Matter Matters continue to investigate the dark matter of corporations (brand, community, and culture), the physicists at CERN are making great progress in their search for dark matter as well.
Earlier this week, the Large Hadron Collider, a $10 billion underground supercollider under the Swiss-French border, set energy and speed records while colliding two proton beams to create 3x more energy than scientists have every seen before (7 trillion electron volts). The search for dark matter is one of the key drivers of the the Large Hadron Collider experiment.
As I’ve mentioned before, the LHC has had all sorts of problems over the last few years, so it is great to see it is finally working correctly. Better stay on your toes, dark matter!
In other related news, the Hubble Space Telescope, which was responsible for creating the image that appears in the header of this blog, has also been hot on the trail of dark matter and dark energy.
According to an article posted earlier this week on the Popular Science website, Hubble tracked 446,000 galaxies in one part of the galaxy, taking 575 images over the span of 1,000 hours. Astronomers then used the data from these images to pull together the composite image you see here, which uses gravitational lensing to identify places where there may be high concentrations of dark energy in the universe. It also makes for a pretty picture.
That’s the big news for now. We’ll continue to report from time to time on the search for dark matter and dark energy, so stay tuned.
I’ve always been a fan of the Mozilla Foundation, and not just because of the Firefox web browser. As catalyst for some of the great communities in the open source world, Mozilla is something of a recipe factory for what to do right when it comes to building community. As it turns out, Mozilla’s Director of Developer Relations, Chris Blizzard, is a long time friend of mine.
In fact, this is not the first time I’ve interviewed him– my first Blizzard interview experience was back in 2002 when Mozilla 1.0 came out and he and I both worked for Red Hat.
I spent some time with Chris to discuss his experiences and learn more about community-building the Mozilla way.
1. When I first met you ten years ago, you were a Red Hat employee with a day job keeping the redhat.com website up and running, and, even then, you were hacking on Mozilla for fun in your spare time. Now you run developer relations for Mozilla, and you’ve had some other amazing experiences, including working on the One Laptop Per Child project, along the way.
It strikes me that you are a great case study of someone who has achieved success in the meritocracy of open source by doing good work. Knowing what you know now, if you were starting from ground zero as a community contributor, how would you get started?
That’s kind of a tough question because I don’t have that perspective anymore. I know too much about how these communities operate to be able to answer that with the fresh face of someone new to a project. But, honestly, I think that that if I were to guess I would say find something that you’re passionate about and just start working on it. My own case is instructive.
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
Today is my last day at Red Hat. What will I miss most? Seeing my friends every day.
In the Polaroids below are some of the people who’ve made the last 10 years a lot of fun. All pictures (except one that she is in) taken by Ruth Suehle at my going away party last Thursday with an old skool Polaroid OneStep 600 camera. I’m the guy in the white shirt.
This is one awesome group of folks. Thanks for all you have done for me.
Well folks, there are gonna be some changes around here in 2010. So let me cut to the chase.
After 10 1/2 years, I’m leaving my full-time position with the greatest open source company in the world later this month.
This was no easy call. Red Hat has been a fantastic ride. I’ll spare you the trip down memory lane, but Red Hat has been the defining job of my career.
I certainly wouldn’t leave Red Hat to join another big company. In fact, thanks to DeLisa Alexander, my wonderful boss, and Jeff Mackanic, my long-time partner in running the Brand Communications + Design group, I’m going to continue to work with Red Hat– just in a different capacity. More on this later.
I’ve always wanted to start my own company, see how entrepreneurship fits, and have never had a good opportunity before. In 2010 I believe we are entering one of the most exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs in decades. I aim to give it a go.
As folks who’ve been reading Dark Matter Matters know, I have a deep interest in seeing how the lessons of open source might be applied to companies outside of the technology industry. I’m excited about taking some of the principles we’ve used to build brand, culture, and community the open source way at Red Hat and finding other companies who could use them too.
To that end, the news that won’t be a surprise to folks who know me well: I’ve decided to join up with two of my best friends, David Burney and Matt Munoz, who have spent the last year building a new kind of communications firm– New Kind.
David and I have worked together for almost 10 years, first when he owned Burney Design and was Red Hat’s creative agency partner, then as my boss at Red Hat for 4+ years. And, of course, he and I still play together in our band The Swingin’ Johnsons.
Matt and I first met while he was working on the Red Hat account at CapStrat. He was an early architect of the modern Red Hat brand identity, leading projects like the Red Hat brand book and the Fedora logo design.
As for New Kind, we have a lot of ideas.
So rather than stretching this post too long, I’ll promise to continue to share my ideas here at Dark Matter Matters if you promise to continue to read.
Thanks to my amazing Red Hat family, especially my brothers and sisters in the Brand Communications + Design team, for 10 great years. The hardest part of this decision was knowing I would no longer be sitting beside you five days a week.
Happy new year, and thanks to each of you for making the first year of Dark Matter Matters a special one.
A New Kind awaits!
Ah, late December. The time when bloggers get lazy and start reposting their old crap rather than writing new material. We here at Dark Matter Matters are no exception. For the Dark Matter Matters top 10 posts of 2009, I’ve split the list into two categories. First we have 5 posts that were popular with readers, followed by 5 posts that were popular with, well, me.
Five posts popular with readers:
Five posts that hardly anyone read. Give them a chance, people:
So as we close out 2009, I just want to say thanks for everything.
I’m approaching one one year of writing this blog, and it sure has been a lot of fun. I still can’t believe I’ve written over 100 posts. What has made it the most fun for me is getting to meet lots of new people, while also becoming closer to people I already know.
I’m looking forward to 2010. I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about.
I figured there might be some people out there in business-land who don’t really understand all this open source stuff too well, and would like to hear more about how the open source way might apply to the issues they face in their work. After all, lots of folks are writing about open source in the macro business context (Chris Anderson, Malcolm Gladwell, Gary Hamel, Tom Peters among many others), but not too many of them work inside an open source business.
I have a sense from the comments I get that there are quite a few readers who have already drank the open source kool-aid too (thank you, friends!). I may not always have as much to offer you, but I love getting your comments and ideas because they make me work harder, give me new ideas, and they often force me to challenge my thinking about open source.
I definitely want to understand who is coming here a bit better. So today, a simple question– who are you?
Thanks for responding, hopefully it’ll help me make this a more interesting place!
As people who’ve been reading this blog for a while know, it’s called Dark Matter Matters because I see some similarities between the struggle that physicists and astrophysicists are going through attempting to find and measure dark matter and dark energy in the universe and the struggle among marketing and communications professionals trying to quantify and measure the value of their investments in brand, culture, and community. Read more in my intro article here.
From time to time I like to keep all the marketing folks up to date on how their colleagues in physics are doing on the whole dark matter thing, and there’s been some interesting news over the past week.
First, there was an article in the New York Times on Saturday saying that scientists have discovered a mysterious haze of high-energy particles at the center of the Milky Way. Some think these particles may be the decayed remains of dark matter. From the article:
At issue is the origin of a haze of gamma rays surrounding the center of our galaxy, which does not appear connected to any normal astrophysical cause but matches up with a puzzling cloud of radio waves, a “microwave haze,” discovered previously by NASA’s WMAP satellite around the center. Both the gamma rays and the microwaves, Dr. Dobler and his colleagues argue, could be caused by the same thing: a cloud of energetic electrons.
The electrons could, in turn, be the result of decaying dark matter, but that, they said, is an argument they will make in a future paper.
Clearly the authors of the research are still hedging their bets, and other scientists apparently believe the findings are inconclusive. There will need to be still more research before anything gets proven for sure.
Meanwhile, our good friends in charge of the Large Hadron Collider, which has been out of commission for the last year, are about ready to roll again after the massive failure last September that caused catastrophic damage. The Large Hadron Collider is an enormous, multi-billion dollar supercollider built underground beneath France and Switzerland by physicists trying to prove, among other things, the existence of dark matter (funny side note, read this article about how the collider might be being sabotaged from The Future). Good article in The Guardian yesterday here on the current status. From the article:
Cern scientists have begun firing protons round one small section of the collider as they prepare for its re-opening. Over the next few weeks, more and more bunches of protons will be put into the machine until, by Christmas, beams will be in full flight and can be collided.
The LHC will then start producing results – 13 years after work on its construction began.
So stay tuned. The physicists are getting closer– if only we marketing folks were doing as well!