Make it easy to share.

Make it easy to share.

Recently, I was at a mixer event and I told the obligatory stories about what it is that I do for work. But, when the topic of environmentalism & other green things came up, I also told the story of 1 of the websites that my wife writes for. She writes for 2. I only told about 1 of them.

"It's like wikipedia for all things green. It's called greenyour - as in '[How To] Green your Car', 'Green your house', etc…"

That's it. That's the whole story. Easy to tell, easy to remember (assuming that you can start with the shared understanding of what wikipedia is). To get more detailed I sometimes add "except it's not a wiki." Often that launches in to the story about who is behind the website and some of their other work. The people behind it don't pay me and I don't have any particular affinity to them. But I still tell their story.


It's easy to tell. And I know that the audience will get it.

The other website (that I mentioned in passing, but didn't delve on the story) is cool too. And, in some ways, I like it more: it's local, I know the people behind it better... but the story is so much more complicated and I don't have a nice sound bite that I can share. I wish I did.

The X Link

I also heard several cool stories this evening. The story that I remember most vividly is one about a phone device. It's called the X Link1.

It's a little black box that you plug into the power, your home phone, and it wirelessly talks to your mobile phone(s). When any phone rings, all the others ring. E.g. When you come home after work and your mobile phone rings, you can pick it up on your home phone.

Easy. Website:

The really interesting thing is that this wasn't the more interesting story to me personally. I usually turn off my mobile phone after hours. So this is not something that I would buy.

But I know some people who will be interested in it. And the story is really easy to tell and to get. It's only after a few hours that you start asking yourself (well, I start asking myself) "how do they do that?"

Sneezers: help them out

If I may borrow Seth Godin's terminology from Ideavirus: make it easy for spread to catch your ideavirus. Make it easy to sneeze it. Make it easy to spread.

People spreading your ideas for you need to be helped. The harder it is to do, the more they need to care. Make it so they can get excited about the idea and it is really easy to share it.

Complicated Ideas

Some ideas are complicated by nature - I find that I am drawn to companies whose ideas are complicated. I think that the more interesting the work being done, the more likely the idea is going to be hard to explain. Things that are outside the normal range of exposure are harder to explain.

That said, if I think about some other non-traditional organizations and how they can communicate what they are about, I can see that it's possible to communicate really complicated things, simply.

  • NASA: "See that thing in the sky? That's the moon. We're going to travel there."
  • The Internet: "It's like the phone system, but for your computer. It uses phone lines: computers call each other and talk - so you can share stuff between them."
  • GUIs (aka mouse-based computing): "Instead of typing in commands to run programs, you can click on pictures that represent those programs. You'll be surprised how much faster it is."2
  • The double-slit experiment: "I have 2 cats. When they eat - sometimes one of them will be a bad cat and will chase away the other - eating all the food. If I wanted to know if my cats were good cats or bad cats, I could watch them eat. But the very act of watching them makes them both good cats - even though if I don't watch them, then they are bad cats. The act of watching them changes their nature. So it is with quantum particles (like electrons): watching them changes their behavior (particles / waves)."
  • Jungle Disk: "All your photos - and everything on your computer - encrypted & copied to multiple computers outside your home. So you can always get it back."

I think one of the similarities in many of these ideas (and the X Link phone device) is that they are very tangible.

They also are limited: they don't tell the whole thing - just the really zesty part.

I think complicated ideas are better - assuming you can get the easy story to start. Because the payoff is that you have a good wealth of follow-up stories.

The only thing better than a story that is easy to share is when there are more good stories lurking behind the first story. It's like stumbling upon a new author (or director or actor or blogger or cartoonist), liking their work and seeing that they've been at it for years. You got hooked on the first story but then you discover, to your delight, that there is a whole bunch more interesting stories to be had. (Recently picking up P.G. Wodehouse for the first time, I have felt this way.)


  1. Until Microsoft gets on their case about the trademark (tech link):
  2. I read an interesting stat on usability of keyboards vs. mice that surprised me: "mousing is [consistently] faster than keyboarding."

Thursday, May 22, 2008, 12:00 AM

tagged: communication, doubleslitexperiment,, ideas, jungledisk, nasa, pitching, stories, xlink