Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at January 16, 2007 11:00 AM
Bill Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google and former Copyright Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, has done some major rethinking. And by major, I mean, um....major.
Bill just completed a massive, seven year solo effort to craft the ultimate treatise on copyright law. He sent me an e-mail last week announcing the availability of the treatise, and described it as "close to 6,000 pages" in "single space, printed form."
Six thousand pages? Solo effort? Yep...just ask Bill: "I did 100% of the research and writing, never using assistants of any kind. " Holy cats.
Surely Patry on Copyright will prove valuable simply because of its extensive treatment of all things copyright. But the actual printed treatise is just the beginning. You see, Bill didn't just sit down for the last seven years and dutifully document current copyright law. Nope...he didn't stop with that conventional thinking. He took it a bit farther and did a bit of rethinking.
And the copyright world stands to benefit tremendously from his effort.
How so? Consider this: Bill's working to back the treatise with a few web resources that, I think, will prove to be the real value in the deal. First, he's launching the Patry Treatise Blog (uh oh, he's got the bug!) that promises to make the treatise interactive. The idea here, according to Bill, is to break out of the one-way nature of the traditional treatise and open the work up to the community....really turn it into a living, breathing document that reflects multiple viewpoints and sources on various points of law. So, go ahead, tell Bill about the typo you found...or, better yet, tell him about "things you think should have been discussed but weren’t, or were discussed in far too brief or dismissive a way."
Books backed by websites aren't new, of course. But the idea of a treatise backed by an interactive community resource? That's some major rethinking that, I think, could prove quite powerful.
Bill doesn't expect to stop there, though. He's also hopeful that a website containing the complete legislative history of the 1976 Act can be launched and integrated into the treatise and blog. Can you imagine the interactive community plugged into a web-based, easily-navigated version of the legislative history behind the major copyright act? Now that's powerful.
Keep an eye on this project. I think Bill's onto something big.
Patry on Copyright is available from Thomson/West. If you're in the market for a comprehensive copyright work, Bill's treatise - thanks to his rethinking - promises to deliver the most bang for the buck.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at December 15, 2006 02:04 PM
When I was growing up, my father was always offering me little life lessons. In between the tidbits like “you can’t go wrong with Craftsman,” he’d throw in some real zingers. As an adult, I’ve really grown to appreciate the zingers, and have found myself passing them along more and more (my wife thinks I sound a bit like Kotter with his frequent stories about his Uncle Kermit, er, Max, er….).
One of my favorite zingers is this little play on the old “where there’s smoke….” axiom: “Where there’s passion, there’s usually excellence.”
I’ve learned to appreciate the value of that one time and again over the years…in all aspects of life. Basically, it’s a shortcut (he had plenty of those, too, much to my mother’s chagrin). While excellence is something that is extremely difficult to measure based on outcomes, passion is easily perceived and, as dad’s advice tells us, it’s a darn good predictor of excellence.
Truly measuring somebody or something for excellence involves a significant amount of time. It takes a keen eye and the ability to judge without bias. There’s no doubt that it’s a tough thing to do. Heck, just look at baseball – even with its numbers driven assessments of careers, we still get carried away with debate about whether certain players are or were excellent (thoughts on Barry Bonds, anyone?).
But passion is something completely different. It can’t be hidden. It reveals itself immediately. Passionate people exude passion. No measurement is necessary. Your gut assesses passion, and it does it very quickly.
So there’s the shortcut. If you want excellence – in a house painter, an author, or, egads, a lawyer – but you don’t have the time or desire to actually measure excellence, go ahead and take a shortcut: look for passion. Let your gut lead the way. More often than not, it will point you directly toward excellence.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at December 1, 2006 02:28 PM
Some rethinkers take baby steps. Some walk at a comfortable pace. And then there are those who leap. Their rethinking of things forces them to bend their knees, coil up the energy in their leg muscles, and spring ahead in one giant rethinker's leap. And those leaps let others take baby steps that benefit everyone.
Want an example? Watch this video of Jeff Han's rethinker's leap. Jeff is a research scientist at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Jeff conducts research on intuitive, "interface-free," touch-driven computer screens. The video, taken at this year's TED conference, shows Jeff presenting his "drafting table screen" publicly for the first time.
How's that for a leap? You can daydream endlessly about possible applications of that technology. For example, can you imagine the power of combining a screen like that with a killer brainstorming app like MindManager? How about a screen that takes up an entire wall...in a brainstorming session, powered by MindManager that works with Jeff's "multi-touch" technology?
It certainly will be fun watching all of the baby steps that come about thanks to Jeff's giant leap.
If you want to see more of Jeff's work, check out this video demonstration.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at November 21, 2006 10:18 AM
I'm a die hard Buckeye fan. Ask Doug and Steve, they'll tell ya.
So, considering Ohio State's victory over our arch-rival *ichigan last week (I told you I was die-hard), I should be sitting back and relaxing as we wait for the other invitation to the Fiesta Bowl national championship game to be mailed, right?
Wrong. If you haven't heard, the football nation is up in arms over whether that team up north (*ichigan) deserves a rematch, especially considering their current #2 ranking in the BCS (Bowl Championship Series).
For the record, I don't really care who the Buckeyes play. The BCS is designed to ensure that #1 faces #2 in the final game of the year; the victor gets the crown. The Buckeyes are #1...and should play the #2 team, no matter which team ends up in that spot (yes, even if its those pesky wol*erines).
But, the whole debate has me thinking that there has to be a better way to do this. Forget the long-debated playoff system...the fact that we haven't put that in place yet tells me that its not likely to ever happen.
Nah....I'm going way out of the box here...a real rethinking.
I say "bring in the lawyers!"
Yep, you heard me right. Let the lawyers rack up some billable hours on the national championship debate.
Ok, once you're done snickering (or screaming), please read on because I am serious.
Right now we've got an arbitrary system that, more often than not, produces some legitimate debate about which teams should be in the national championship game. Right now, *ichigan, USC, and Florida probably have legitimate claims to the second invitation. It's possible that the next two weeks could make things crystal clear (think USC and Florida losses), but, its more likely that a debate will linger at the close of the regular season.
Here's the thought. At the close of the regular season, the BCS should invite the teams that are legitimately in the debate to present their case to a panel of judges that will ultimately make a ruling...a public ruling that can be used as precedent in future years. The BCS could establish a body of "caselaw" that teams could use in the future as they present their case. Teams could argue that a particular ruling (e.g., the *ichigan decision of 2006/2007) supports their cause, cuts against another team's cause, or both. They could distinguish prior rulings, and even argue that a prior ruling was a bad decision that should be overturned.
All of this, of course, would be held in a public forum (ESPN would buy the television and radio rights, I'm sure). December is essentially void of college football action. Three weeks of BCS National Championship Court would fit in nicely.
I'm not saying this solely because it would probably be my dream job as an attorney. Nope...I think it's the easiest solution to a complicated problem. The championship game will always have an arbitrary component to it (even if a playoff system is adopted), and the best way to protect against arbitrary decisions is to have an adversarial system in which parties are loyally represented by advocates in a public forum that makes public decisions.
Bring on the lawyers.
And bring on #2. Go Bucks.
Posted by Douglas Sorocco at June 7, 2006 11:16 AM
I guess the title of this post is fairly explanatory – but it is worth repeating.
What has happened to manners in our society? Rudeness seems to prevail everywhere –which makes me wonder if it is any easier to be rude than it is to be mannered?
Case in point (get ready for a rant):
I have been travelling non-stop the past couple of weeks and as we all know, the airlines are really not doing much to help their customers be comfortable, let alone, enjoy the flight. Planes are crowded, the facilities are cramped, they are charging for soft drinks, checking our bags at the curb and for tinny little earphones — and we are now being treated to the “reserved” first class lavatory – is it absurd to anyone but me that people from row 5 have to traipse 30 rows backward to use the “steerage” restroom.
Air travel sucks. Plain and simple.
So, I guess I have been feeling a bit of esprit de corps with my fellow travelers lately – it is us versus them afterall. The people versus the man. Humanity versus inhumanity.
And I don’t think I am alone… in fact, I witnessed both sides of the coin tonight.
A mother and her two young children board the plane – the mother is in the aisle bulkhead seat while her kids are in the middle and the window seat one aisle behind her. She politely asks the passenger in the aisle seat next to her kids if he would be willing to take the bulkhead aisle seat so that she could sit next to her young children (why in god’s name does the airplane put her in this position to begin with?) – a very simple request and, afterall, the passenger would get the bulkhead seat and more legroom.
So - what do you supposed happened?
If you guessed that the passenger changed seats, you would be sadly mistaken. Instead the passenger refused, pouted and when confronted by the flight attendant, outright whined about having to move – remember, it is only one row forward and in the bulkhead seat to boot.
I think the flight attendant, myself and the mother all must have stood there for at least five minutes with our mouths open. We couldn’t believe it. Since I am mouthy, I asked the passenger if he had a problem – didn’t his mother teach him any manners? Well, that went over well. And then another passenger asked the same thing. And then another. And another. And another. Pretty soon the whole front section of the plane was glowering at the passenger for refusing to move.
Well lo and behold – he succumbed to pressure and moved forward – all the while grumbling about it. In fact, he demanded that his bag stay under the seat in front of the woman who was taking his place. His precious bag couldn’t end up in the overhead compartment. Another one of the passengers picked up the bag and moved it to the overhead compartment for him. I think I heard people applauding, but I am not certain.
Later during the flight the attendant brought free drinks back to me and a couple of the other folks who spoke up. The passenger actually asked why he wasn’t getting something for moving.
And up piped the voice of one of the children in the row behind him:
Because you didn’t do the right thing when it was the right thing to do, mister.
I think the mother was mortified that her son made the comment – if I was her, however, I would be proud of that boy.
I now know of at least one mother who is teaching her children manners. Let’s hope I am still travelling when he is a bit older – I would like to sit and chat with him and see if he remembers this experience and how it impacted his life (or not).
This story is really not about intellectual property - although I could probably twist it in some manner. If the lesson is applicable to your practice, great. If not – I am sorry I wasted your time.
I just needed to rant.
Posted by Douglas Sorocco at May 29, 2006 11:27 AM
Lately, we’ve been a bit critical about the blog carnivals.
In fact, one of us referred to blog carnivals as nothing more than “link whoring” – admittedly, a bit over the top.
Our intention was never to kill off the carnival format: rather, we wanted to get people rethinking the underlying premise of a carnival and advocate that the focus should be on the quality of the links featured versus the quantity of links presented.
Well — the past two weeks of Blawg Review force me to issue a mea culpa:
- Kevin Heller’s Blawg Review #58 rethought the way in which BR is graphically presented. I am hoping that Kevin will share the code/template he used – I am hopeful that future hosts will want to further refine and revise the template and continue to provide the week’s best law blogging in an attractive and easy to read format.
- Anonymous Editor’s Blawg Review #59 literally made me weep this morning – the sense of pride for what our nation’s military men and women have done in service to our country and the ideals of freedom, coupled with a profound sadness for the loss their families have endured, pointedly reminded me of the reason why all Americans should offer thanks and gratitude ever day of the year, not just Memorial Day.
Ed underscores this point with his/her introductory comments — Editor's view: Memorial Day is a holiday we haven't ruined
Memorial Day is one of the best holidays we have because it's one of the few we haven't ruined by shifting the focus to consumption and entertainment.
Memorial Day, thankfully, isn't about us -- it's about them.
Them includes two groups: first, those who died serving our country; and second, children, whom we have an obligation to teach about the sacrifice of those who came before.
Photo Credit: Susan Scott Teachey, ON-Q Design, Inc., from the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally in support of MIA and POW.
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at May 24, 2006 12:30 PM
Note: apparently FeedBurner can "see" draft posts. Oops. So much for deciding whether or not to release this rant I wrote when all cranky. Oh well... Note to self.
My response (tweaked):
We spend the usual amount of time doing it. Each of us read every fricking one of the posts (shoot...we probably thus spend 3x the usual amount of time). We thought they were lame...really lame. As if quite a few of the people submitting posts put no effort into it. It was clear that most of the submissions are merely "oh crap, it is Friday, better submit one of my posts for my weekly BlawgReview link whoring." No consideration is ever made as to whether or not the posts are interesting, timely or useful. A bunch of crap.
So, we decided to “rethink” Blawg Review, picking only the week’s best 3 posts and posting them. (the remainder were dumped into another location)
Some people enjoyed it and agreed. A couple people were pissed. REALLY pissed. How dare we not post their posts! They, after all, followed the instructions and submitted them. A number of people said "they only printed 3, so they must be lazy."
I think Steve Martin explained it best:
You know, everything is not worthy of being in Blawg Review
an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You're a miracle! Your storiessubmitted posts have NONE of that. They're not even amusing ACCIDENTALLY! "Honey, I'd like you to meet Del Griffith, he's got some amusing blog posts anecodotesfor you. Oh and here's a gun so you can blow your brains out. You'll thank me for it." I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They'd say, "How can you stand it?" I'd say, "'Cause I've read posts from been withDel Griffith’s blawg. I can take ANYTHING." You know what they'd say? They'd say, "I know what you mean. The shower curtain ring blawg guy. Woah." It's like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn't pull it out and snap it back - you would. Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! And by the way, you know, when you're telling these little stories in your posts? Here's a good idea - have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener!
--Neal (Steve Martin's character in Planes, Trains and Automobiles).
[note: someone in a blog post in my aggregator mentioned this quote recently (I need to find the source and give credit)…but it fits perfectly]
So…that is what I learned from the process. Of course, reasonable minds may differ.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at May 23, 2006 09:01 AM
Leave it to Kevin Heller to figure out the whole Blawg Review shake-up thing. On the tenth anniversary of our attempt at reinvigorating the venerable carnival, which received less than uniform praise and certainly could be fairly characterized as "stirring the pot," the Tech Law Advisor published Blawg Review #58 with just enough shaking to get it right.
Kevin sliced and diced the usual format for the review, presenting it in a crisp, organized, and very nicely designed package. His shaking largely accomplishes what we had hoped for -- people are actually reading the review instead of just scanning it to find the link to their site.
I've talked to a few law bloggers about this...and they confirm it. Blawg Review #58 is being read, not scanned. Turns out we like our revolutions shaken, not stirred. Who knew.
Nicely done Kevin.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at May 2, 2006 09:52 AM
Yesterday I had a chance to reminisce with an old college buddy. We've both become very interested in policy issues since leaving school, so we talked a bit about a few public policy and management classes we took together.
He asked about "that book." "Remember that book they made us read...? What was it? Everyone was reading it and the professors talked about it like it was the Constitution or something."
Of course I remember it. I actually have two copies of it. Met the authors once. "Reinventing Goverment" by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler. It nearly steered me into public service. "Of course I remember it."
This friend knew nothing of rethink(IP) before yesterday. And he knew nothing of it before making this comment:
"Reinventing Government. Yep, that's it. Dumb, though, when you think about it. Don't try to reinvent something. It's already been invented and can't be reinvented. Don't waste your time. But you can rethink it. Rethink it, innovate around the stuff that has already been done, and invent new stuff. Don't try to reinvent anything."
He was a smart guy back then, and still is today.
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at January 17, 2006 09:09 PM
One of my favorite Rethink(IP) readers I've had the pleasure to trade emails and Skype chats with is Flock design guru Chris Messina. Chris reminds me a lot of Kevin Heller. Chris is open source rethinker extrordinaire.
Chris is a fellow blogger (blog: Factory City) and likes to push IP buttons thereon. For instance: EFF the RIAA and Intellectual Property Perpetuates the Intellectual Police State. With posts like that, you can see why he is a "must read" in my aggregator.
It was his recent post entitled The Case for Community Marks that caught my eye earlier. In that post, Chris makes the point that there is a:
need for a mark that is owned, operated and enforced by a community that isn't driven by purely economic interest. Instead, the motivation derives from the desire to uniformly represent their work product as the output of a specific community. Period.
Section 4 of the Trademark Act (15 U.S.C. §1054), provides for the registration of "certification marks" and "collective marks:"
The term 'certification mark' means any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof--
1. used by a person other than its owner, or
2. which its owner has a bona fide intention to permit a person other than the owner to use in commerce and files an application to register on the principal register established by this Act, to certify regional or other origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics of such person's goods or services or that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization.
The term 'collective mark' means a trademark or service mark--
1. used by the members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization, or
2. which such cooperative, association, or other collective group or organization has a bona fide intention to use in commerce and applies to register on the principal register established by this Act, and includes marks indicating membership in a union, an association or other organization.
Maybe a hybrid of the two????
The comments are open....
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at December 20, 2005 08:49 AM
Remember my story about the new IBM (Lenovo) X41 Tablet that I bought? I relayed the story in last week's post to The World Really is Flat series. Here's the punch-line -- the computer, once shipped, travelled from Shanghai, China to my front door in Perrysburg, OH in one day. How's that for a flat world?
I related that example as a personal experience that allowed me to realize that the world really is becoming flat. After I had that experience, I saw the flat world in everything around me.
So all is good, right? There's plenty of opportunity and no problems in this new flat world, right?
As Lee Corso would say, "not so fast, my friend."
There are plenty of problems in the flat world. Indeed, there are plenty of new problems. The rest of my X41 story illustrates this point...
So there I am, drooling over my brand new X41 Tablet. As I said before, I have zero patience when new tech toys arrive. I tore into the box immediately, threw the instruction manual aside, and began setting up the computer. The out-of-box experience was amazing...the computer is beautiful to look at, and powered up perfectly with a simple plugging in. Ready to roll. The desktop wasn't overly cluttered with useless freebies (AOL, etc.) and the introduction software from IBM/Lenovo did a fine job of introducing the amazing utilities provided with the computer.
So now I'm ready to make it mine. I gathered the discs for my must-have software packages, and prepared for an afternoon of installations. First up, Microsoft Office 2003...just place the CD in the...hey, wait a minute...where's the CD drive? I must have missed it in the box....
Nope. No CD drive to be found (my one complaint about the X41 is the lack of an internal CD drive...but the external drive is so svelte, that I really don't even consider it a complaint anymore).
I checked the packing list...no mention of the CD drive. It's an "accessory" that costs extra. I knew I had ordered it and checked my invoice to make sure. Yep...it was ordered.
I logged into the Lenovo customer service site and checked my order. Sure enough, it was split. The CD drive was shipped separately. OK, I can wait another day as it travels from China to Perrysburg. (Remember...the world is flat and the shipment takes only a day....)
Sadly, that's just the beginning. I tracked that package for the next two weeks. It was sidelined in customs by the FDA (yes, the FDA) on "bird flu concerns" according to the UPS customer service representative. Compare the tracking results for this package (at left) with those of the computer (in the first The World Really is Flat post).
What an amazing contrast.
The CD drive finally arrived. I was somewhat hesitant to touch it, considering the whole bird flu thing. I quickly got over that, though, and finished the setup...two weeks later.
The FDA/bird flu "problem" completely robbed me of the amazing experience I had after seeing the computer shipped from China to Perrysburg in a day. I was left with a sense of frustration and angst. I love the computer...but having to wait two weeks to make it mine really ticked me off.
The lesson I took away from the experience is this. The flat world brings new opportunities and new problems. Bird Flu? Customs delays on computer equipment by the FDA? Crikey. Who in the world expected that? Not me.
While the flattened world presents plenty of new opportunities, it also presents new challenges and new problems. As businesses establish new business relationships without regard (or with less regard) to geographical boundaries, plenty of issues must be addressed. Lenovo is obviously taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the flattened world. Should they have been aware of this problem..and addressed it? Or do old, non-flat-world attitudes still reign - "Hey, we shipped it....you'll just have to wait..."
I didn't contact Lenovo about the problem (I guess I censored myself with that attitude...), so I'm not sure how they would have responded.
New problems will begin to reveal themselves as people explore the new opportunities presented by the flat world. Being an optimist, I view new problems as an opportunity for new solutions...which, of course, bring even more opportunity...
So, on second thought, maybe all is good in this new flat world...
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at December 12, 2005 07:07 AM
Recognition of a major change has to be, of course, the first step in taking advantage of it. Often times, you read or hear about a major change in your world but, without personal experience that allows you to recognize the change as real, you wonder if it’s actually happening or if certain people just think that it’s happening. You may even grow a bit cynical and start to believe that certain people just hope that the change is happening.
That’s where I started with the concept of the flat world. I had heard about it and read about it, but had no personal experience that allowed me to truly recognize that the change was in process. As a result, I had little interest in the concept and, perhaps, a little disbelief.
Then, out of nowhere, a brick hit me in the head and suddenly I realized that major change was indeed underway. After that, I saw the flat world in everything around me, much like you seem to hear a particular word more often after actually learning its meaning.
Here’s the story.
I had ordered a new ThinkPad X41 TabletPC (which, by the way, is the best computer I have ever owned…despite a few hard drive issues). I’m like a kid on Christmas morning when I have a new tech toy on order…I just can’t wait. I checked the status of the order each morning and was disappointed to learn that there was about a two week backorder. Rats.
Finally, I was rewarded one morning when I received an e-mail telling me that my order had been shipped and that I could track it on the UPS web site. Great, I thought…we’re entering stage two.
I immediately clicked the tracking link and was excited to see that the package was ready for shipment, straight from
Here’s the brick. The next morning, UPS.com told me that the package was here and ready for delivery. Holy
That’s right. The computer travelled from
Now, I know there's an international date line in there somewhere, and at least one of my fellow rethinkers believes there is funny business in the whole package tracking thing, but, no matter, the effect was the same -- the computer arrived one day after I was told it was shipped. Very cool.
(imagine the effect had Lenovo/IBM been able to get rid of the two week backorder!)
I tore into the package even before the man in the brown shorts left. As I tossed the instruction manual aside, the realization hit me -- the world really is flat. The day before, a Chinese worker had held the computer in his hands as he packed it for shipment. Now I've got it and it's ready for business.
Suddenly I believed that the flattening of the world…the change…was indeed in process. I couldn’t ignore it anymore because this one simple example had given me the personal experience that allowed me to realize that.
I wondered about the reason for my initial disinterest and disbelief -- this is the only rational explanation I can offer. I was born and raised in the American Midwest, where manufacturing is King. I suspect that my initial disinterest in the change to a flat world was at least partially due to a knee-jerk reaction that a lot of people have in these parts of the country. The reaction is based purely on fear. Fear of outsourcing, off-shoring and the loss of manufacturing jobs, good manufacturing jobs.
But the computer experience had changed something because the knee-jerk reaction seemed to be gone. Now I had the experience I needed to believe in the change, which, of course, gave me the desire to figure out how to plan for and take advantage of it.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at December 6, 2005 10:09 PM
There has been a lot of buzz over the last few months about the so-called "flat" world. If you think I'm referring to naysayers of Christopher Columbus, you've got some homework to do. But, if you know what I mean, you'll likely be interested in a series of forthcoming posts on Rethink(IP).
Over the summer, each of us quickly devoured Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat. Since then, we've had numerous back-channel discussions on the concept of a flat world and its effect on the practice. Our conclusion -- the world really is flat. In fact, we think it has been permanently flattened and the practice of intellectual property law will forever change as this new world is put to work.
The series, so far, includes three posts and will appear over the next week or so. The first post describes a recent experience of mine that showed me just how flat the world is...and highlighted some new problems and challenges of doing business in the flat world. The second post details a theory of mine -- the flatter the world gets, the more important the fundamentals become (you'll have to read it to understand...). The final post details the impact that we believe the flat world will have on the practice of intellectual property law.
We hope you enjoy the series and welcome any comments you have on the posts. If you're still thinking of Christopher Columbus, I suggest a visit to Amazon.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at November 22, 2005 08:56 AM
Did you catch this? Last week, Steve posted another “thing we hate about the USPTO.gov web site.” In that rant, Steve detailed one of our favorite frustrations about the web site — the fact that, before Sunday, you had to include the dub-dub-dub (www) in the URL, or you were out of luck.
Then, magically, the problem was fixed on Sunday.
Hmmmm. It could be a coincidence, right? Yes, but highly unlikely. That problem has existed for as long as the three of us can remember. It’s nearly popped a vein in my head at least 100 times.
The better explanation is that they’re listening. That’s right, the big governmental agency that is the United States Patent and Trademark Office is listening to the blogosphere. And someone, somewhere inside the agency fixed, nay, changed, something as a result. How cool is that?
I wonder how long it would have taken to achieve this simple change had we submitted a letter or formal complaint of some sort?
It’s amazing that such a small technical change can be symbolic for something so big.
We love the USPTO. We really do. We want to see the agency improve…and we’re glad to help. We’ll keep talking, and hopefully they’ll keep listening. You can help with the talking side of the equation — If you have any suggestions, ideas, complaints, etc., let us know…
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at October 27, 2005 09:44 AM
We told you Bill Meade “gets it.”
Bill is a fascinating individual who is truly passionate about the development and management of intellectual property. We consider ourselves lucky to have met him and are looking forward to building on our relationship.
Bill provided us with the Proactive Invention Management article last week — I bet I’ve read it ten times. His description of proactive invention management as “a war with two fronts” is dead on. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t recognize the need to deal with both fronts, or, if they do recognize the need, they choose to fight the war only along the first front — the one between the inventors and the IP department. This choice might be made for any of several reasons, not the least of which is budgetary in nature.
The mantra of these single-front organizations: Increase disclosures! Increase disclosures! Increase disclosures!
Battling that front without addressing the second front — the one of IP capacity — is trouble in the wings. This is particularly true if you begin to actually win the battle on the first front. All of a sudden, the organization finds itself with “full access to the genius of the organization,” (Bill’s wonderful language) only to learn that it can’t efficiently process the genius….and valuable intellectual property is lost.
The answer? As Bill states so aptly – you need to rethink IP business processes and IP business model management.
Now you can see why we’ve grown so fond of Bill. Not only does he “get it,” but he’s courageous enough to “rethink it.” Yep, he’s a rethinker, and we love rethinkers.
What can we add to Bill’s article (and theory)? Simply this — outside patent counsel can help an organization fight the war on the second front.
No, I’m not talking about opening the billables floodgate and adding a massive amount of capacity to the IP department. That would simply be throwing money at the problem.
I’m talking about help with the rethinking part.
We’ll elaborate more on this in future posts. For now, consider the following:
- A rethinker’s firm will help you cast a critical eye on your processes…and is courageous enough to return the favor and continually reevaluate its own processes.
- A rethinker’s firm will help you implement changes to your processes…and will follow-through on proposed changes to its processes.
- A rethinker’s firm will offer ideas on how to increase the efficiency of the relationship.
- A rethinker’s firm will help you build specialization…and will spend some of its own money in the process.
- A rethinker’s firm will offer technology solutions that actually improve your processes, not just the latest, must-have, keeping-up-with-the-Jones & Co.– technology.
In short, a rethinker’s firm will help you with the rethinking.
Look for more on this topic in the future, and more from Bill as well.
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at October 26, 2005 10:28 AM
Proactive Invention Management
A Rethink(IP) Guest Post by Bill Meade, Ph.D.
The biggest problem managing invention is bias. Not overt "I'm going to crush your skull because I hate you" bias, but instead bias that is made up of the compounding of ordinary little negative assumptions that crop up in IP management. These are the cultural assumptions, sociological assumptions, and psychological assumptions that educated, smart, busy people agree about without realizing any agreements have been made. I'm going to call the kind of bias that chills invention "invisibias." Malcolm Gladwell in his book BLINK (page 81) discusses what I would call cultural invisibias in relation to race. He describes a web site at Harvard where you can go to test your bias for or against blacks. Gladwell describes taking the test dozens of times. He describes his incredulity at being measured as slightly biased against blacks. Gladwell is half black.
While I was the IP portfolio manager for HP's LaserJet group I discovered my own invisibias through an odd chain of events. The chain began by giving invention workshops. When clients asked, I would run invention workshops for them. Every client asked for something different. Some wanted short workshops with few people, others wanted medium or long workshops with many people. Over a 6 month period I ran a variety of workshop formats that made up a sort of stratified random sample across who attended, how long the workshops were, and how focused the workshops were.
The next link in my chain of invisibias discovery, was statistical regression. That is, after about 15 workshops I realized that I had enough data to do some regression analysis to see what factors make high quality invention disclosures more likely. I regressed filed invention disclosures against number of attendees, and length of workshop. This produced an explained variation of about 18%. So, the more people at a workshop, the more disclosures. The longer the workshop the more disclosures. But, number of people and length of workshop only explained 1/5 of the filed invention disclosures produced.
This told me that I was missing an important variable. I thought about this and realized that my role as invention workshop moderator was probably an important variable. Like most production process workers I reasoned, invention workshop moderators must go over a learning curve. Learning curves have a well understood shape. This allowed me to look at the 15 workshops in my data, and then estimate where on the learning curve I was for each workshop. I quantified my guestimate and put these data into the regression.
The explained variation of this equation jumped for 18% to over 90%. This told me that I had learned, and that my learning explained a huge amount of the filed disclosures. So, I leaned back in my chair and asked myself what I had learned over the course of these 15 workshops. Two words popped into my head "Shut" and "up."
Shut up? Yes. You see, unconsciously over the first 15 workshops, I had cut down my presentation. In workshop #1 I used a lot of formal information like patent trend graphs and problem framing exercises to help people be creative. These formal techniques put attendees to sleep. As the workshops progressed I dropped the formal slides and created new slides with answers to best questions employees were asking me. By the time workshop #15 came around, I had churned the presentation 100%. My presenting time was down, disclosing time was up, and the quantity of enthusiasm delivered to inventors was way up. So, addressing the felt needs of the audience was a third link in the chain of discovering invisibias.
In East Texas during the oil rush of the 1930s, some of the oil was only 6 inches down. A management professor friend once told me this. After running invention workshops where high quality invention disclosures began to pour in like an oil gusher, I remembered the East Texas example. Think about making money from oil 6" down. What is most important?
The most important problems in proactive oil field management are not the conventional problems of finding oil. The most important problem is to not drown in oil. Problem: How are we going to develop this field so that we can get the oil out without wasting it? Problem: How do we develop the field without painting ourselves into a corner? Problem: Where are the weak points in our infrastructure in handling unlimited quantities of oil down-stream?
Likewise when you reduce invention invisibias, you don't have to worry about the conventional problem of finding high-quality invention disclosures. The problem immediately changes. For example, in IP departments without flexibility to reorganize and hire, the problem becomes maximizing value captured with a fixed department capacity to process IP. Problem: What is the annual capacity in patents, trade secrets, and defensive publications of our current IP office? Problem: How do we optimize our office capacity when we are getting 4x our capacity in good quality disclosures per year? Problem: How do we raise the bar on quality? Problem: Why do we have to raise invention quality? Problem: How do we explain raising the quality bar to inventors? Problem: What do we do about the applications we started last year that are not as high in quality as the inventions we are reviewing today?
Proactive invention management is a war with 2 fronts. First, there is a front between inventors and the IP department. The war on this front is waged to unblock invention and give the IP department full access to the genius of the organization. The second front is indicated with the internal IP problems that crop up if your dream of capturing all the best ideas of your client base comes true. You immediately run out of IP capacity. You need to rethink IP business processes, IP business model management, and IP department specialization. For the rest of this post, I'm going to ignore rethinking IP management in the IP department. If there is interest, I'll write another post on this. For now, back to invention management
After I discovered invisibias I tried to reduce it by making 3 broad positive assumptions to try to cut out the compounding of many little negative assumptions that were costing invention disclosures.
1. Big Assumption: We don't know who the most prolific inventors should be.
It dawned on me that in making assumptions about who my best inventors were, I was excluding the creativity and ideas of the majority of my inventor population. To reduce the invisibias I introduce into the process, I needed to include as many inventors as possible. Operationally this meant I needed to stop trying to focus on high-payoff inventors and switch to inviting all employees to invent equally.
This open door policy was a worry at first, but turned out not to be a big problem. My patent attorneys were delighted to see the inventions they had been hypothesizing they were missing in prior times. IP systems are great at killing invention disclosures down-stream. The biggest problem to IP department capacity comes from invention disclosures that are too good to kill.
2. Big Assumption: We don't know when an inventor will come up with an idea.
My invisibias on this at first, was that inventors invent in the process of releasing a product. So, initially I thought the best time to capture inventions would be just after product release. To minimize the bias I introduced by assuming a clump of inventing after product release, it seemed that I needed to assume that ideas were evenly spread across time.
Operationally this led me to conduct invention workshops at timed intervals and to host weekly "office hours" for inventors where I made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies and scheduled a conference room to help organize isolated inventors into a community of kindred minds.
3. Big Assumption: We don't know what field an inventor will invent in.
IP systems love to assume that inventors invent in the field of art in which they work. But, in the information age just because an engineer works on a gear design team, it is not safe to assume that the engineer's inventions will be about gears. The IP community in the US has for the past 5 years be inundated with ideas submitted by people who work in a technical field of art but who are into Linux, digital photography, or other hobbies. To operationally reduce invisibias assuming a clumping of inventions in one field of art, I assumed that inventions would be distributed across all fields of art.
On Open Mindedness
I'd like to close this post with the importance of open mindedness in proactive invention management. Open mindedness is critical to success because of how people evolved / were created / are socialized. Whatever his/her beliefs are, a proactive IP manager will realize that inventors are hard-wired to look into their eyes and see what is assumed about the quality of their ideas.
Rigid open mindedness is the best big positive assumption I've found to police the compounding of little negative assumptions that hinder proactive IP management. Policing assumptions is critical because little negative assumptions are the essence of bias. After you get past the who invents, the what gets invented, and the when invented, of managing invisibias, you can still screw up. You cannot over-do policing of invisibias. There is always more bias to be removed.
For example, when an inventor looks into your eyes while turning in an invention disclosure. If s/he sees you roll your eyes. If s/he hears you laugh. If s/he detects any favoritism in how you treat disclosures, the inventor will instantly toggle from being an idealist ("I can help the company with my ideas!") to being a cynic ("Good ideas are pearls before the swine of management in this company.").
A strongly held belief that all ideas are worth evaluating will allow you to look back into your inventor's eyes and sincerely thank them for turning in a completed disclosure regardless of novelty, non-obviousness to one skilled in the art, or utility. Think about it, the purpose of an invention disclosure is to capture the minimum information sufficient to allow the company to evaluate investing in an idea. If you can be proactive and force yourself to be open minded, you can conquer invisibias and have more, and better, intellectual property to manage.
The author, Bill Meade, Ph.D., is the president of Basic IP Management, Inc.
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at October 25, 2005 05:09 PM
Following up on Matt's post earlier today...it is not often that I come across someone, who (like my fellow rethink'rs) "gets it," but I had the pleasure of meeting one such person a couple months ago.
I was at a CLE on Grokster, where the speaker asked whether any of the attendees in the room had actually used BitTorrent before. Sheepishly raising my hand, I noticed that there was only one other person in the room who raised his hand....a fact that astonished me. After the CLE I approached this other BitTorrent user (who I didn't recognize as an IP attorney) and introduced myself. Bill Meade was his name, former HP employee who had worked extensively on setting up HP's inventor reward programs as well as conducting countless inventor workshops. The more we talked, the more I realized that he too was an IP rethinker...although from an engineering/inventor side. We instantly hit it off.
Turns out that after he left HP he set up a consulting business (BasicIP) where he does a wide range of IP development services, including: creating corporate IP strategies, compiling databases for patent portfolio management, developing rewards programs for inventors (thereby encouraging them to invent more), competitive intelligence, trade secret management, invention disclosure collection, etc., etc., etc. Consider them IP SeaBees. He might just be able to help some of YOUR clients generate more invention disclosures and otherwise better capture and protect their IP.
Matt mentioned: "Later tonight well describe a project that Bill implemented at HP that met with huge success." He was referring to an email discussion we had with Bill where he was talking about his involvement with HP's "Invent" program. Turns out that Bill built HP's automatic invention incentive payment system, a program that resulted in a tripling of inventing within a month, an amazing accomplishment.
Like I said, Bill comes at rethinking from a completely different angle, bringing his own experiences and opinions to the mix. So impressed was I with what he was saying that I offered him a soapbox...this blog. Tomorrow, you'll see his first (of hopefully many) guest posts.
We are pleased to announce another first for Rethink(IP). Tomorrow, for the first time, we will have a guest author on the blog.
Several weeks ago, Nipper met someone who thinks like we do. “He gets it” is how Steve described his meeting with Bill Meade, President of Basic IP Management, to Doug and Me on a late night Skype session after his lunch with Bill in Boise.
Bill does get it. So we got him.
Prior to founding Basic IP Management, Bill served as the laser printer patent portfolio manager at HP and played a major role in that company’s famous “Invent” campaign. He’s a big thinker with big ideas on the invention process and patent life cycle.
We’re happy to have Bill involved with the blog and hope that you enjoy his post. Please join us in welcoming Bill to Rethink(IP).
Later tonight we’ll describe a project that Bill implemented at HP that met with huge success. Tomorrow, we’ll post Bill’s guest article, which will focus on proactive invention management.
Whoa. Invention management? Proactive? Yep. I told you he gets it.
Posted by Douglas Sorocco at October 15, 2005 03:56 PM
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at October 13, 2005 10:45 PM
Did you know that RSS is a disease? If you've ever had RSS overload-itis, you know what I'm talking about.
Blogging is a bit like (as I've mentioned before) ostrich farming...and ostrich farmers like to promote the eating of more ostrich...leading us to often say "you should read this new blog," "this blog is a must read," "blog, w00t w00t blog," etc.
If you followed all of the "must read" advice you received, soon you'd be overwhelmed with hundreds and hundreds of blogs in your aggregator, reminding me of my grandmother and owls (she collected owls...plates, pictures, figurines, etc...she must have ened up with thousands and thousands). While it makes for an interesting conversation piece, "who" has time for it?
One of the first visible symptoms of RSS overload-itis is an urge to delete blog posts en masse just to clear them. Been there, done that.
However, I've found a solution Dean Wormer would be proud of. Probation, double secret probation.
Most aggregators allow you to create "groups" for your blogs. I have groups for "blawgs," "bored," "technology," etc. (see a picture below). The most important group of all is called "Probation." Into the Probation group goes every new blog I add to my aggregator. EVERY one. Consider it a quarantine tank for your RSS aquarium. Once a month, go through your Probation group and cull the herd, promoting some to the big leagues, while giving others the boot.
Shoot...when a blog starts getting lame, I demote it to the Probation group, a first step on the way out of my aggregator.
So...do yourself a favor and put new blogs on probation.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at October 12, 2005 09:18 AM
My family and friends know one thing about me – football is life. I love it. I love everything about it. Can’t get enough of it.
I’ve been passionately following my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes since Woody threw that fateful punch. I have only missed a single game in the last 20 years – I had a wedding to attend….my own. My wife graciously agreed to schedule our nuptials on a weekend of a relatively easy game…and my groomsmen, all avid Buckeyes, agreed to provide me with updates throughout the day as they deemed appropriate. My wife has since told me that she was happy the Buckeyes didn’t score during the actual service because she wasn’t convinced that my friends would have viewed that as an inappropriate time to pass on such great news.
It’s not just college football for me, though. It’s any football. Heck, if a few kids are lining up in a sandlot on the side of the road getting ready to knock the snot out of each other as one goes deep and another hurls the pigskin, I’ll do a double take from inside the car as I drive past…and analyze the play for several minutes afterwards. My wife really loves this about me.
Lately, I’ve been able to reconnect with high school football. My son and I are having fun watching the local high school team (tough season so far, but they did manage to beat the daylights out of their cross-river rival).
This has tuned me into a rethinking phenomenon that I hadn’t taken note of before — local sports, sportscasts, and sportscasters.
Have you watched the local sportscast lately? Especially the Friday late night edition, in the fall?
I can’t speak for all areas of the country, but here in Ohio, where football is king, the Friday night sportscast is all about the Friday night lights. The newscast has even been extended to show the feature in all its glory (some go an extra 15 minutes…sorry Jay and Dave). Each station has highlights from an unbelievable number of games. The shows have really invigorated the local sports scene. Schools invite the sportscasters (and their cameras) to pep rallies and cheerleaders do special cheers to promote the features (“the Perrysburg Yellow Jackets looooove Friday Night Frenzy….goooooooo Jackets…). Yep — the feature from each network even has it’s own slogan (in the Toledo area, we have “Big Board Friday,” the “Powers Pack,” and, of course, “Friday Night Frenzy” (affectionately known as “the Frenzy”)).
This wasn’t the case when I was growing up in these parts. I played high school football here in Ohio…and, believe me, they never showed highlights from our games or any others.
Something has changed.
I thought about this last Friday evening as I watched the Frenzy. Then it hit me.
No one (in my generation, anyways) gets their sports news from the local guy anymore. If you want news on any of the major pro or college sports, tune in to SportsCenter. Duh-da-dunt. Duh-da-dunt. (yep, my wife loves that, too).
Here’s my thoughts on what happened.
At some point in the last 10 years or so, local sportscasters had probably grown concerned. ESPN was taking over their craft in large measure. What did the future hold? How would they survive in the face of such a beheamoth, especially considering the unbelievable success of the innovative network?
Somewhere, someone did some major rethinking and formulated a plan. From an outsider’s perspective, the plan appears to have been the following:
Focus on the core. Focus on what the local sportscasters can do better than anyone….local sports. And don’t just do it….do it to the nines. ESPN-it. Take it to a whole new level.
They have. And it worked.
These rethinking local sportscasters should be respected by all. ESPN was (and still is) a major threat to their craft, and maybe even their livelihood. But they stepped up. They courageously grabbed the bull and stared it in the eyes while they rethought everything.
In my book, that’s genius.
And everyone has benefited from it. The local guys have developed a beautiful niche that is truly theirs. Local sports fans are getting local sports news like never before. And local athletes are getting a little exposure. In my eyes, these are all good things.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at September 8, 2005 10:32 AM
I noticed in this week’s BusinessWeek a one-page ad for the magazine’s online content.
The lead in — “Check out some of the new ways you can receive business insight and tools to help you stay ahead.”
Among the new “tools” — RSS feeds and podcasts.
That’s right, BusinessWeek is going 2.0 on us. The BusinessWeek audience, I’m guessing, includes many executive level business folks. Hopefully, BW’s move will prompt more business folks to go 2.0.
And of course, we’re here to help. Want to learn about RSS and/or podcasts? All you have to do is ask…
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at September 6, 2005 06:25 PM
Have you ever used Technorati? Technorati is essentially a search engine for blogs. It is great, when it is working.
However, in the last couple months my search results look like this (for whatever I search) 99% of the time:
Come on! What kind of business model is that? I can understand where you might temporarily have issues...but this is a regular occurrence. How many times would you keep going to a restaurant if the door always had a "closed" sign?
Do we need to pass a hat to collect donations so Technorati can buy some newer servers or what? I guess I am going to have to start using Mark Cuban's IceRocket blog search.
Posted by Douglas Sorocco at September 4, 2005 08:56 PM
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at August 25, 2005 10:59 PM
The other day I heard my four year old (referring to the television) say "Daddy, make it go faster!," not realizing that he was watching live TV (and was stuck watching the commercials). The day before, my two year old (who was watching the Wizard of Oz this morning when I told him to come with me to get dressed) handed me the TiVo remote and said "Toss, toss pleeese" (asking me to pause the TV). All three of my kids have no clue of how it used to be [insert rant on walking up hill both ways...]. They have no concept of what TV is like when you can't skip the commercials and pause live TV (aren't DVRs great?).
It makes me think of the changes to the practice of IP law in the past 7 years (since my oldest child was born). Easy access to PDF copies of patents (remember ordering a paper patent or having a service fax you a copy?), online filing, online searching and the rethink(ip)'r favorite....working with patent attorneys who are not in major metro areas. All of this is possible because not only is more and more content available online, but people are becoming more and more used to relying on technology (the Internet in this case) for their business needs.
Most of these changes weren't driven by attorneys wanting to earn more money. It's hard to argue that simplifying things, ease of use and speed are synonymous with billing by the hour. They aren't. Instead, these changes were driven by the public, by entrepreneurs and by access to technology.
Things are changing (in case you haven't noticed it). Those that don't change are going to be left behind.
I'm thankful to be involved with this great rethinking of the practice of IP law...thanks for coming along for the ride. Just wait until you see what ideas, tricks and tools we have in the hopper.
Now, if Daddy could just make it go faster.
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at August 18, 2005 12:40 AM
I’ve looked on with wonder this week as I read the three previous posts left by my fellow rethinkers. First, Doug’s post about ignoring his RSS mistress for so long that he feared revisiting her, then Matt’s post about the need to cut the cord, finally, Doug’s post on bloggers on vacation. What was amazing to me was that I could have written any of those posts. Scary!
It’s clear…we’ve all taken some time off this summer. Our post frequency has been down on our “other” blogs (The Invent Blog, PHOSITA, Promote The Progress) as well as here. Some might say we have “checked out,” but the reality is that the three of us have independently been doing some serious “rethinking” of our own. Rethinking life, rethinking work, and rethinking rethink(ip). For me, I’ve found this rethinking process has resulted in me (1) reading fewer blogs and (2) spending less time late at night sucking at the teat called the Internet.
I’ve been weaned.
I’ve cut the number of blogs I read EVERY day down to 15 from 140+. I stopped checking my email every 10 minutes every hour of the day. I’ve even left Skype and Trillian (slick program that lets me log into MSN, AOL and Yahoo instant messaging accounts) off occasionally. I am making an effort to unplug myself. It makes me want to stand up in front of all of you and say “Hi, my name is Stephen and I’m an information addict.”
What have I learned in the process?
The less blogs I read, the closer I read the ones I do read. My RSS overload had caused me to regularly delete blog posts in my “in” pile as fast as I could just to get through them. The result is that I was missing all sorts of great content. Now I have a “must read” pile and everyone else is in the “if I have nothing better to do with my life” pile. Sorry if you are in that pile. Don’t let the good blogs get diluted by how easy it is to add another blog to your aggregator. Just say no. Reading blogs is not an all you can eat buffet.
I’ve also found that stepping back for a while helps you put things in perspective (see my previous bucket post for exactly what I am talking about). This project is a lot of fun…but the reality is that we are all just a hole in that bucket of water.
Finally, I’ve been reminded that email is a tool, not an organ. It isn’t part of you…you can leave it at the office. You don’t have to feed or water it all weekend. Let it be.
So, if you find yourself suffering from information overload…it might be time to say “no” for a change. Step away from the BlackBerry before someone gets hurt.
Photo via here. Yes, it is another udder pic, deal with it.
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at July 21, 2005 12:23 AM
From the rethink(ip) deja vu files...
Back to my post of yesterday..."What if TiVo is responding to Grokster? Perhaps they are working on distancing themselves from encouraging users to skip commercials. Isn't skipping a commercial the creation of a derivative work? Don't want to be inducing that, now do we????"
Like I said...doing the opposite doesn't make sense. Perhaps TiVo is performing a little "preventative maintenance."
Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at July 20, 2005 12:24 AM
"My name is George. I'm unemployed and live with my parents."
In one episode of Seinfeld, George had an epiphany...by doing the exact opposite of what he would normally do, his luck would turn around.
I'm afraid a little rethinking has made TiVo pull a Costanza.
FACT: 90% of all DVR (digital video recorders) users skip commercials. Yahoo News story.
That article goes on to point out that "[t]he trends are even more foreboding among the 18 to 34-year-old demographic most coveted by marketers, with 97 percent saying they skip ads all or almost all of the time."
Wow...I'd think that TiVo would run with that fact. Maybe come out with new functionality that helps users skip commercials more efficiently.
SO...what'd they do? The exact opposite.
Earlier this week, TiVo announced plans to display a "symbol" on screen to users when said users are skipping commercials to entice them to watch commercials.
Personally, I don't think it is a good move.
OK...let me digress into a crazy rant. What if TiVo is responding to Grokster? Perhaps they are working on distancing themselves from encouraging users to skip commercials. Isn't skipping a commercial the creation of a derivative work? Don't want to be inducing that, now do we????
Something tells me that at least one of my RTIP compadres has a different take...[to be continued?????]
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at July 8, 2005 11:14 AM
I have a three-and-a-half year-old son. All the parents reading this post now immediately understand the title.
Why Daddy? Why? Why? Why?
After ever explanation…he fires it right back at you. Why? The subject doesn’t matter — here’s a brief list of topics from yesterday: rocks, spiders, time, book titles, colors, weather, distance, pool chemicals, bathroom etiquette, money, and (my favorite) the rules of baseball.
Most of the time, I enjoy his cross-examinations. Sometimes I’ll have a little fun with it and give him way too much information — “…because light exhibits properties of both a wave and a particle….” My wife usually rolls her eyes when I do this. I just wait for the inevitable next question — why? “It’s one of the great mysteries of quantum mechanics, son.”
I admit that it can get frustrating, though. He’ll rip off a string of why’s that seems to have no end. Just when you think you’ve taken his line of questioning down as far as it can go, he’ll pause and think, pause some more, and then fire another one at you.
I fight the urge to give the response you hear from so many parents — “because I said so.” Sometimes it can’t be helped, but every time I do it, I immediately wish I hadn’t. I don’t want to do anything to disrupt his natural curiosity about the world.
I was inspired to write this post last night when I overheard another adult talking about her little inquisitor. “I can’t wait until she’s out of this phase,” she said to her friend after her daughter asked a single ‘why.’
A single why? How hard is that?
If it is a phase, I hope to extend it as long as possible. But my ultimate goal is to make sure that my son never stops asking that simple question. And I hope to do the same with his 6–month old brother when the time is right. I want to raise them to be rethinkers, no matter the field they choose.
Adults who continually ask why — the rethinkers of our world — have produced some incredible answers. Q: Why do you have to use an open surgery technique for a certain treatment? A: Turns out you don’t. Q: Why did the island of Krakatoa all but disappear on August 27, 1883? A: Plate tectonics (both of these why’s led to the creation of entire new fields of study, by the way).
Play the game. Have fun with it. Resist the “because I said so” answer as best you can (I don’t think it can be completely avoided…). Teach. Peel the onion. Help them explore (and do some exploring yourself).
You’ll help mold another rethinker if you do. And that’s good for all of us.
The mother never answered her daughter’s single why, by the way. In disgust, I rolled my eyes and muttered to my wife “she never answered the question.”
My son overheard and asked, “Why?”
I have no friggin’ clue.
Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at June 23, 2005 12:31 PM
“Sort of looks like a bag of marbles, doesn’t it?”
So began my latest life adventure. A surgeon said that, with a laugh, to me a little more than four weeks ago. He was holding an ultrasound image of my abdomen that, indeed, showed a gallbladder that looked exactly like a bag of marbles.
Stones. Several of them. Options? Live with the possibility that an emergency situation could present itself at any time, or get rid of the whole bag of marbles altogether.
Hoping to avoid a medical emergency during an upcoming vacation to Mexico, I elected to have my gallbladder removed. Life goes on normally without it and its a guarantee that the marbles are gone forever. I had the surgery on Monday and am enjoying (yes, enjoying) a little recovery time at home.
So where’s the rethinking? It’s in the procedure. A little history gives some perspective:
Just after that initial consultation with the surgeon, my 80–year old grandmother told me that she had her gallbladder removed when she was 20 years old. And her father (my great-grandfather) had his removed before she was born.
The scar from her surgery is still visible…its a long track across her abdomen that leaves no doubt that a surgeon was easily able to fit both of his hands and likely several instruments inside her belly to complete the process. In fact, the thing looks like it conceals an incision large enough for two surgeons to work in there.
And she tells me that her father’s was even worse (she also swears whiskey was used for an anesthetic, but that’s an entirely different post…).
Not me. I am the direct benefit of modern medicine. The surgeon was able to do my procedure laproscopically. No “incision” was necessary. Instead, I’m now the proud owner of four “stab wounds” as the nurses call them. Each of the four provided access for an instrument during the procedure and is no larger than a pencil in diameter. My jokester surgeon explained it this way: one for the gas (the abdomen is insufflated during the procedure), one for the scope, and two for “chopsticks.”
See the rethinking? You might readily see one level of rethinking…someone was brave enough to rethink surgery and, at some point between my grandmother’s procedure and mine, invented laparoscopy.
I see another level, though. Someone was brave enough to convince the medical establishment that the new procedure should be the standard (laparoscopic cholecystectomy was endorsed by the NIH as a safe and effective procedure in 1992).
The second level, the convincing level, took more rethinking than the first. Imagine trying to convince an industry, a powerful and staid one at that, to all but eliminate one of its tried and true methods for some new-fangled approach. I’m willing to bet that the convincer(s) were initially met with loads of skepticism (“What? You’re telling me that you never actually cut the patient open? Have you been playing with the ether again, Doctor?”)
But, as I’m learning, rethinkers tend to be a brave lot. I’ve got four stab wounds to prove it.