Friday, March 25, 2005

Viral Marketing and Awareness Campaigns

In Unleashing the Ideavirus, Seth Godin discusses the idea of viral marketing. He's not the only one aware of its importance, and books like The Tipping Point and, of course, Viral Marketing, discuss the importance of this phenomenon. It's been successful in business, and I believe iPod's success is a recent example (though don't quote me on it). Maybe that's why Apple's television ads just show people dancing - we don't need to be told what an iPod does, because all our friends have one and ours is due to arrive by courier tomorrow morning.

So what is viral marketing? All it requires is the creation of a product or service that promotes itself, and allows its "customers" to promote it by simply using it. Hotmail is a classic example. By letting people send free e-mails with a signature promoting the service, users did Hotmail's promotion for them.

It would be interesting to create a similar, viral marketing oriented concept for awareness campaigns in politics and human rights. Specifically, I'm thinking of the Millennium Development Goals. While organizations are toiling to achieve the goals, citizens in developed nations know little, if anything, about the concept. For example, I've met students studying International Development who were not aware of the Millennium Development Goals, even though these goals will significantly affect their careers and lives.

But what if an organization were to create a project, or product, that promotes the goals in a viral way? What if there was an organization that took marketing of these goals and turned it into a cult phenomenon? What if the next time you're on the subway, your ride is interrupted by an awareness campaign that teaches you about the MDGs, and is so unique that you just have to tell your friends? And what if this "awareness campaign" is one that, by simply telling your friends, you unwittingly become a promoter, and convert your social circle promoters as well?

It's doable. All it takes is the right idea, infusion into a social network, and a couple of days to watch it grow.

Monday, March 21, 2005

These Ideas

The last few weeks have been a bit difficult in terms of working on I2R and trying to explore the world, as I found out that I will not be able to study mathematics in as much depth as I'd like. My main focus is international development, and the course load is increasing significantly. This has made me a bit devastated, but I am now back on track with working on the projects.

The ideas and research of the past months has been very interesting and motivating. Throughout the entire intellectual journey, I've had a nagging suspicion that there is something more - something deeper - behind society, economics, and life. "Genetic regression", complexity, artificial intelligence, and in-depth knowledge of the social sciences can shed light on this, and as I've continued my research, my belief that this is so has only gotten stronger.

But what is it? What drives the world and humanity, and the subsystems therein? Is a formal proof possible? Not as we know it, but it is possible to show this deeper, intricate world. Mathematically? Maybe. Qualitatively? Definitely.

More research is warranted, but the ideas below show that thinking outside the box, and entering a more complex and dynamic world is the path to do so.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Development Needs a Better Image

It is difficult to define the term "development", though the connotations are very stereotypical, especially, from my experience, in universities and high schools. If the world is to truly be successful in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other development targets, it must first make the idea more attractive to people.

The connotations surrounding "development" are not positive to the average person. Hemp-wearing activist-types quickly spring to mind when we think of "helping the poor" or "alleviating poverty". Poorly drawn posters and finding your own non-conformist political opinion come soon after.

With such narrow stereotypes come narrow views. What is "development"? It is post-colonial rehabilitation, and giving up two-ply toilet paper to conserve the Amazon rainforest.

What else could we connect "development" to? Emerging markets; multinational corporations; stock options; capitalism; the World Bank.

While most people would shun such ideas of "development", it is important to note that these ideas are also more powerful that most stereotypical "development" movements. The age-old saying of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." comes to mind, and this is true here. Rather than hope for the virtually impossible demise of MNCs, GICs, and SAPs, those promoting "development" should learn to use them to their advantage.

There's nothing wrong with credit, and there's nothing wrong with investment.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Science Through Donations

Space Daily reports that NASA may be cancelling a number of older missions, including the ones that still keep the Voyager spacecraft running. These satellites are some of the oldest launched by humans, and are at the edge of the Solar System. This is not right.

While an argument to decrease funding could be made, completely shutting down the Voyager missions would be a devastating blow to science and the romantic nature of astronomy. These missions still return useful information, and if shut down, will require another thirty years of planning and waiting if we are to launch new satellites so far. Furthermore, with the flagrant record that NASA and the ESA have had with regards to satellites, the ships would probably fail.

Keeping the Voyager mission running, according to the article above, only requires $4.2 million a year. Such costs are so low that it may actually be possible to fund them through donations. If done, this could start a completely new era for science - public, non-governmental donations fueling research that people deem interesting? Sure, it could work - if fans are paying to keep their favourite shows on the air, why not this?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Emerging Markets and the Knowledge Economy

The New Scientist has a special feature in its February 19 to 25 issue on India's economy. The country is doing extremely well in terms of science and technology, and this is why so many people are worried about outsourcing in the United States.

It's interesting to note some predictions that say India may be able to develop by skipping the industrialization process and developing a knowledge-based economy instead. This holds great hope for the country, and may be a positive sign for nations in the developing world. While some "development" plans aim to industrialize and expand resource exploitation, it may be possible to promote knowledge based economies, outsourcing, and research to make nations competitive.

Not only is this a ray of hope for those living in poverty, but is also a good sign for the environment.