After several happy years here at Mediavorous, I’m moving my blog to my main website: www.bradberens.com.
Why is this happening? When I first started blogging I couldn’t have both a site about moi and a blog, but in the meantime WordPress has galloped forward technologically and I no longer need to maintain two different domains. The archives from this blog have already been moved to www.bradberens.com.
Thanks for your support and enjoy the new site!
What I’m paying attention to for November 10th through November 12th:
- Yahoo! What Women Want – Interesting piece from Yahoo! about how women use the internet in the EU… wonder if they've done a similar study elsewhere?
- Photo Sharing on the Go Is the Latest Hot Investment Niche – NYTimes.com –
- AOL and Michael Eisner’s Vuguru to Produce Video Series – NYTimes.com – "In a deal to be announced Wednesday, Michael D. Eisner‘s Web studio, Vuguru, will produce half a dozen scripted Web video series for AOL." <br />
Why, reading this, do I find myself wondering whether or not a tree falling in a forest makes a noise?
- Online Privacy Is Poised for Regulatory Showdown – NYTimes.com – "After “do not call” lists became popular, more than 90 percent of people who signed up reported fewer annoying telemarketing calls. Now, privacy advocates are pushing for a similar “do not track” feature that would let Internet users tell Web sites to stop surreptitiously tracking their online habits and collecting clues about age, salary, health, location and leisure activities."
- Unleashing the Power of Marketing – Harvard Business Review – Truly fascinating article about changes in GE marketing from HBR. Long but worth it.
What I’m paying attention to for October 27th through November 10th:
- Will We Have High-Speed Internet in Every Classroom by 2015? – Nicholas Jackson – Technology – The Atlantic – WASHINGTON — "Almost if not every school in this country will have broadband" by 2015, said Jim Shelton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, last night at Slate's "Design a Better Classroom" event, where he sat on a panel with several distinguished education experts. "The contracts are signed, the money is spent."
- Beyond Facebook: the Benefits of Deeper Friendships – WSJ.com – "Sara Orr of Chatham, N.J., has about 20 people she counts as friends. But when she hits a rough patch, she turns to one of a handful of truly close ones who already know her "deepest, darkest secret or issues," she says. When she fell gravely ill a few years ago, it was her childhood friend Kristi Balc she called every other day on the phone for comfort. "I can't imagine relying on a 'virtual friend' in a time of real crisis," Ms. Orr says."
- Meet Intersect, where storytelling, time, and location get all mashed up – Interesting layering of geography and presence from the Nieman Lab at Harvard.
- Task Force Out to Prove Procurement’s No Villain – Advertising Age – Agency News – "…Procurement has historically had little interest in buying creativity or strategy — is easier said than done. Especially considering it's not just agencies decrying procurement anymore. In fact, an ANA study this summer found not only a wide disparity between how procurement officers and agencies view how well procurement is doing its job, but a significant perception gap among marketers as well. Only 49% of marketing executives thought their own procurement units were knowledgeable about marketing. "
- 500 Internal Server Error – 500 Internal Server Error
A blogger I follow recently posted a link to “5 Career Lessons from Shakespeare,” an article on Mint.com that was recycled from AskMen.com.
Since I’ve spent more than my fare share of time thinking about Shakespeare’s plays I clicked and was taken to one of the dullest, schmaltziest articles I’ve read recently (and that’s saying something).
The anonymous author culls five lines from Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes as the latter is returning to college in Paris after the funeral of the Danish king (in act one, scene three). Here’s a sample. Read it slowly.
“Give thy thoughts no tongue”
Basic as it may be as far as business lessons go, keep in mind the idea of thinking before you speak; it looms large when you are just starting to feel your way through your career. You must pick your battles wisely and with caution.
Kinda clichéd– both the line from Shakespeare and the lesson the author, right?
There’s a reason: Polonius’ advice to Laertes was already clichéd in 1603 when the first edition of Hamlet hit the printing press. In fact, back when I was teaching Shakespeare at U.C. Berkeley one of my students, upon reading this passage, said to me, “Mr. Berens, I don’t see what’s so great about this play: it’s really just a patchwork of old sayings”—not realizing that Shakespeare is where such saying come from.
Anybody who has had even a half-conscious 11th grade English teacher (or seen it onstage, or one of the many movies) will instantly see that trotting out Polonius as a business councilor is like getting personal decorum tips from Lindsay Lohan or nuance advice from Carrot Top. He is a foolish character who gives idiotically superficial, greeting card advice that the play’s original audience would have found laughable.
The author of this article was probably under deadline, came up with something in a hurry and pitched it to an editor who needed to fill some space. More importantly, this sort of deployment of Shakespeare as a cultural shield behind which lack-of-thought can hide is exactly why most people find the plays boring beyond all comprehension, and that is sad.
However, my point in this post is not to say, “Shakespeare is for trained professionals: kids, don’t try this at home.”
Quite to the contrary, if you want good business advice you should look carefully at William Shakespeare’s career. Yes, read the plays, but don’t just take greeting-card snippets from famous passages. Instead, look at their deep structure and how they’re embedded in the early modern London economy.
Shakespeare was the greatest playwright in the history of the language, but he was also an innovative businessman who vertically integrated the production of his product centuries before “vertical integration” even became a term: he was part owner of the playing company, part owner of the buildings in which the actors performed, the chief dramatist and one of the players.
More on this soon—let me know in comments if you want it sooner.
And here’s the full passage in question—a beautiful patchwork of entry level HR handbook precepts that just happens to be written by the best copywriter ever:
Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stayed for. There, my blessing with thee,
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatched, unfledged courage. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in,
Bear’t that th’opposèd may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy–rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous, chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender, boy,
For love oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulleth edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee!