Third time’s a charm: “The Ad Astra holiday special 3.0”

adastralogoSo it’s a golden opportunity for that classic TV holiday special. You know, the one where production costs are virtually zero because it’s mostly reused clips and stuff shot on one big party set, and various people show up and say hi and we get to hear about what they’re doing now — and their favorite moments from the last year. “A chance to say hi to old friends — and maybe make some new ones????”

“A very special Ad Astra holiday” , December 2007

For those of you who have gotten to know me over the last few years, Ad Astra (Analysis and Development of Awesome STRAtegies) was a grassroots strategy/culture change project I led at Microsoft.  Our charter to pursue game-changing ideas, positive focus, and attention to diversity — along with a cool logo and hot pink posters and beanbag chairs — attracted some amazing people.  So every year around this time I say hi.

For those who knew me then …

Hiiiiii!  (waves)

What’s up?

jon

PS: I hope everybody has a great holiday season, a wonderful end to 2009, and an even better start to 2010!  Where’s the eggnog?

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Change the way you ask for help (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  Work in progress, feedback welcome! See the first comment for some specific questions

Revised version to appear on The Ideators’ Journey, kicking off a series on collaboration and innovation, perhaps as two posts.

Eve’s Ask for help makes a great introduction to a series that Mikal Lewis and I will be kicking off on collaboration.  Eve, Michael, Mikal, and many of the other people you’ll see participating in this series met on the Ad Astra (Analysis and Development of Awesome STRAtegies) project I led at Microsoft.

During this series, we’ll apply approaches from Change the Way you see Innovation to a real-world problem: designing a free web-based collaboration tool, while simultaneously exploring business opportunities in this space.  In this post, I’ll lay out an initial scenario, and Mikal will take it from there.  First though a little background for people joining our journey in progress.

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“A very special Ad Astra holiday” 2.0

For those of you who have gotten to know me over the last twelve months, Ad Astra (Analysis and Development of Awesome STRAtegies) was a grassroots strategy/culture change project I led at Microsoft.  Its positive focus, wiki-centricity, and network-oriented strategies foreshadowed a lot of work on Get FISA Right and the Voter Suppression Wiki; it’s also where I learned about advertising, something that’s proven very useful in our work with SaysMe.tv.

Wow, what a year!

Welcome to Ad Astrans and friends.  There’s a lot to catch up on and I hope that everybody uses this thread to start doing so.   If you haven’t been tracking it closely, Ad Astra-style wiki/social network activism has gone mainstream over the last six months — poke around the blog for more.  w00t w00t!  More on all that soon …

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Make desire more important than fear: “Change the Way You See Yourself (Through Asset-Based Thinking)”

cover for CTWYSEKathy Cramer and Hank Wasiak’s new book is out, a gorgeous and well-focused follow-on to their Change the Way You See Everything, one of the Microsoft Ad Astra project’s signature giveaways.* In May 2007, we did an amazing two-day workshop with Kathy, Hank and his colleagues from the Concept Farm, and folks from Extreme Arts and Sciences and Telstar oriented around the “Hero’s Journey” archetypal narrative as a metaphor for innovation. We also steadily refined a series of Asset-Based Thinking workshops involving customer-focused brainstorming and problem-solving. So it’s safe to say I’m a fan.

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CFP08 trip report (2): Dear Potus 08

Part 2 of a series; please see CFP08: trip report for part 1

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If the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy community wrote a letter to the next President of the United States about our priorities for technology policy, what would we say — and how would we get him or her to read it?

There’s only one way to find out.

— from the original, now spam-infested, announcement

At the end of the opening plenary session, I followed up a question from Linda Misek-Falkoff (“Respectful interfaces”) by building on her point about accessibility and asking how it was possible for all of us to get involved in a way that helps broaden the dialogue about technology policy to include everybody, not just the voices that are usually heard. Chuck and Danny both agreed with the goal and thought that the CFP community was well-positioned to help here: paraphrasing, they said “build it, and if they come we’ll listen”.

Well then.

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It’s over. Isn’t it? Microsoft/Yahoo, continued

a killer klown“It’s over. Isn’t it?”

— the end of Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Act 1 ended with a temporary resolution: Microsoft deciding not to “go hostile” and instead withdrawing their offer to buy Yahoo! After a brief intermission, Bill Gates’ announcement of Live Search Cashback is bang-up start to Act 2, featuring guest star Carl Icahn, with the finale already scheduled at Yahoo’s repeatedly-postponed shareholder’s meeting … grab some popcorn!

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Mashups and teaching dinosaurs to dance

ad astra logo by Nathan Vogel The hot pink beanbag chairs are a dead giveaway: Ad Astra (Analysis and Development of Awesome STRAtegies) and Mashups are in the news!

In the Yahoo!?!?! thread, Michael Foster posted about Jessica Mintz’ Microsoft-Yahoo could skip culture clash, relevant no matter how the potential acquisition came out:

SEATTLE – Yahoo‘s walls are awash in bright purples and yellows, while Microsoft‘s campus is coated in drab neutrals. Yahoo’s co-founder holds the cutesy title of “chief Yahoo,” while Bill Gates was “chief software architect.”

Yahoo epitomizes California cool; Microsoft is still trying to get over its competition-crushing past. But the culture clash may not be as big a stumbling block to the software giant’s rich buyout bid as some critics may think.

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Notes from underground: Geo Solstice tonight!

string art by andresHeading out soon to Geomagnetic.tv’s Geo Solstice 2007 at the Gingerbread House in SF tonight. Geomagnetic’s Dr. Spook, who did the pscychedelic Ad Astra visuals and rotating globe, is on at midnight; string art by Andres!

The psytrance, dark psytrance, and darkwave scenes are feast-or-famine in SF: sometimes there’s a ton of good stuff going on, sometimes nothin’. Between this, Death Guild’s XMas, a legal absinthe party, and the usual great stuff on New Year’s Eve/Day, Holiday season 2007/8 is shaping up as an abundance of riches!

w00t w00t!

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I love it when stuff like this happens!

Recently somebody who’s interviewing around Microsoft told me that they had brought up Ad Astra in an interview context as a way of demonstrating that they understood viral marketing: “Remember all those hot pink Mashup posters around campus? Well, here’s how we approached it; this was my role; this is what I learned.” And it worked out well!

It’s a great way of framing it, because even though we didn’t do a great job of marketing Ad Astra in general, Mashups were something we got a lot of people to notice and talk about. And best of all, it had measurable results: attendance at Mashups steadily increased by 50% monthly, using techniques like this, emailing, leafletting, … classic viral marketing.

For those of you who haven’t spent time on the Microsoft campus, there are posters everywhere, mostly in blue brown and gold, occasionally in other colors — but never any pink. So these stud out And we put up a lot of posters; in March, the guy who runs the internal postering service told me that we had already put up more posters than Windows or Office had in the previous 12 months. [I pointed out that they had better existing name recognition.] So (at least in the Redmond area) the reasonable odds that the person either heard about it, or knows somebody who has, are pretty reasonable.

Thinking about it afterwards, I realized that there are probably 50 to 100 people who were involved in various aspects of marketing Mashups. Most of them have no previous marketing background; all of them now have at least one anecdote that they can use to show their awareness and understanding of this kind of marketing. That’s kinda cool.

Yay us!

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