The River

Friday, April 23, 2004

Leveraging Market Innovation: A Case Study

By Daniel Smedley-Butler, Esq.
(copyright, New Directions, The Newsletter for Corporate Lawyers)

It appears Al Qaeda is overlooking a major source of funding.

As a corporate lawyer, I’m knowledgeable about such things, and frankly, I’m baffled as why Al Qaeda has fumbled this. All you have to do is read the news stories coming out of the Middle East and many other parts of the world, such as Spain, to get it. Every time a bomb goes off it bears “the hallmark of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.”

Who knew they had a patent on a style of bombing? Certainly they should have. I know the Iraqis aren’t rich, but all those insurgents using bombs to explode with violent force capable of doing damage to buildings, vehicles, and people? They should be paying user fees. Al Qaeda was the first to invent this and market it to the wider world. They’re fools if they don’t exercise patent protection laws to leverage their first-to-market initiative.

I’m sure they’re working on it. With their ability to communicate electronically – voice, e-mail, net conferencing – they surely have leveraged the expertise of each functional specialty in their organization to formulate a strategy and execute it. That they can do all this completely undetected while being public enemy number one of the world’s most technologically advanced nation ™ is further proof of their sophistication.

Yet for all their cleverness, one wonders why they haven’t done a better job with something so simple, and yet vital, as corporate brand consistency. Is it Al Qaida or Al Qaeda? Should Osama always precede “bin Laden” or only on first usage? Is OBL an internal term, or can it be used in public-facing communications?

But there are signs of a sharp marketing department. The enterprise has shown a remarkable ability to morph in the public mind into whatever seems to fit the tumultuous sector. For instance, the entire press corp, turning as quickly and uniformly as a school of fish, recently began defining Al Qaeda as widely distributed collection of groups acting independently with no instruction from a mastermind.

This was accomplished while minimizing the downside of such a shift: Osama bin Laden, the mastermind, was deemphasized, yet the organization as a whole achieved a stronger presence. Few companies as large and powerful have shown such agility. This ability to get everyone on the same page is another sign of the organization’s excellent communications abilities.

I understand that the company grew quickly by tapping into a market the no one knew existed until the American media began to promote it, so I guess it’s no surprise that they exhibit the inconsistencies of rapid growth. It’s a fascinating case study, once one begins to look into it. As a lawyer, I’m no expert on the creative side of the house. For example, I would have never thought of “mastermind” instead of “President” or “CEO.” Yet it works, or it did in the start-up phase (and with such market dominance, it can be brought back when needed). I do know, however, how to work the system to wring profit from the ideas of the geniuses at the top. Maybe I should have gone into marketing, or perhaps government.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Interesting game

Frank points to Doug's dynamic meme propagation, the

Grab the nearest book
Open the book to page 23
Find the fifth sentence
Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions



"I believe the connections between people and their interests are going to have to be made the traditional way -- by reviewers, critics, commentators."

-- Burn Rate, How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet, Michael Wolff, Touchstone, 1998

Plucked from the shelf to my left at work. I skipped over Newton's Telecom Dictionary, 16th Edition, and The American Heritage Dictionary (Third edition, mass market), and, inadvertantly I just realized, The Mentor's Spirit, by Marsha Sinetar, and The Prentice Hall Reference Guide to Grammar and Usage.

Friday, April 16, 2004

The critics often miss

For example, Northfork, a genuine artwork, is dropped in their lap, and they complain -- boring, incomprehensible, precocious. Those are the words used by some of the movie's critics causing the 57% freshness rating at But Larry Carroll of used the word "masterpiece" in the snippet on the movie site, so I clicked on it. I liked his reveiw. He concluded:

Northfork is one of the very finest films to be released this year [2003]. You’ll find yourself eager for an opportunity to watch it all again to unlock a few more of the mysteries that lie within. After you lay your eyes upon it, you'll have a very hard time describing Northfork to friends. But some things just have to be seen to be believed, whether they are angels, miracles, monsters, or a monumental achievement in film.

Thanks to my buddy Bert for bringing this over a few weeks ago. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have seen the film (didn't know it existed), or many other fine films. Maybe I can do the same for my blog buddies here.

Monday, April 12, 2004

I'm with my buddy Ray. It's time for a break.

I'm going to read offline for a while, Thom Hartmann's The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight : Waking Up to Personal and Global Transformation among others.

I recently finished Owning Your Own Shadow : Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche by Robert A. Johnson, and highly recommend it.

And let me take this opportunity to say thanks for everything to all the great bloggers out there.


Wednesday, April 07, 2004


By Jackson Browne

Oh people, look around you
The signs are everywhere
You've left it for somebody other than you
To be the one to care
You're lost inside your houses
There's no time to find you now
Your walls are burning and your towers are turning
I'm going to leave you here and try to get down to the sea somehow

The road is filled with homeless souls
Every woman, child and man
Who have no idea where they will go
But they'll help you if they can
Now everyone must have some thought
That's going to pull them through somehow
Well the fires are raging hotter and hotter
But the sisters of the sun are going to rock me on the water now

Rock me on the water
Sister will you soothe my fevered brow
Rock me on the water
I'll get down to the sea somehow

Oh people, look among you
It's there your hope must lie
There's a sea bird above you
Gliding in one place like Jesus in the sky
We all must do the best we can
And then hang on to that Gospel plow
When my life is over, I'm going to stand before the Father
But the sisters of the sun are going to rock me on the water now

Rock me on the water
Sister will you soothe my fevered brow
Rock me on the water, maybe I'll remember
Maybe I'll remember how
Rock me on the water
The wind is with me now
So rock me on the water
I'll get down to the sea somehow

(c) 1971 WB Muisc Corp.

Friday, April 02, 2004


Please go here and read about Peak Oil.

I wasn't expecting this. It was the first hit on a Peak Oil Google search. I'm no authority on this, but this writer did not set off my bullshit detector. It appears we are on the verge of major changes.

Good morning, blues

I normally don’t listen to NPR’s Morning Edition too much on the drive in to work. I flip over there at the top of the hour to get the headlines, but that’s usually about it. I’m either listening to a CD, WRFG’s Good Morning Blues program, or the sound of the road and the wind. I wrote about the weekday 6-10 a.m. blues show a while back.

This morning, the first thing Bob Edwards said after the intro music was “The White House says the 9-11 Commission has all the information it needs,” confirming for me what I already knew: The commission doesn’t have all the information it needs. It’s a good rule of thumb to flip anything the administration says and turn it back on them. They lie like rugs and project like crazy.

I hit the preprogrammed WRFG button quick. No sense getting worked up about those jackals, or the carefully maintained blindness of our major media outlets. Sinewy electric guitar blew away Edwards’ stupefied drone like a face full of cold water after a three-day bender. Do the Hip Shake, Baby. Yeah. DJ came on, but I didn’t catch the artist. Then he cued up a local band, Delta Moon.

The guitar slides in first, setting up a smoky, dark feel. The song is Wang Dang Doodle, and the band takes the party right though the heart of darkness. Automatic Slim, Razor-totin' Jim, Butcher knife-totin' Annie, Fast-talkin' Fannie and the Devil himself are invited. Gina Leigh’s soulful voice takes us through the dark to the promised land, while the guitar simultaneously stokes the flames and keeps us alive.

Yeah, this is one of those bands that can reach through your car speakers, the high fidelity system in your den, or, if you are so lucky, the amps in a nightclub, and redeem not only your own jaded soul, but that evil little grin of George W. Bush too. Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name. Hoooo! Hoooo!

I’m sure Joey P, who saw them while vacationing in St. Simons, Georgia, would agree. Here’s his review on the CD Baby site:
One minute I was falling asleep in our condo with the in-laws, the next minute my very cool father-in-law asked me to be his designated driver so he could "check out this band" he'd heard about. The two of us snuck out, leaving the women and kids fast asleep, and what a night we had. Cold beer and even better music. I have been around the musical block, and I immediately smelled "professinal" all over these guys (and gal...). The guitarists were tight as hell, and the drummer was all business, totally cool down to the tips of his brand new running shoes that were probably worn more for comfort than for striding out in early morning jogs. You just have to see this band live. As my father-in-law so aptly put it through his jack and coke induced slur, "these fuckers rock..."--and he rarely curses!