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.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time toiling away in wordpress.com hell, updating the static content and look of this blog for the first time since I launched it at the beginning of 2009.
I’ve added some new sections, including one for my forthcoming book, The Ad-Free Brand (Did I mention I wrote a book? Oh yeah, like 1000 times. Sorry about that). Right now I’ve put a draft of the introduction up there, and I’d love any comments or suggestions– still time left to edit before the book comes out!
I also added pages featuring the key communities I’m working with right now, opensource.com and the Management Innovation Exchange. Other than that, it’s a spiffy new template, a few new graphics here and there and, hopefully, some more original articles featuring content from the book over the coming months.
I still have some additional changes I’d like to make, adding TypeKit fonts, customizing the stylesheet a bit, you know, blog nerd stuff. But I’m decently pleased with where it is right now, so I thought I’d point it out.
Thanks for taking a look!