Monday, July 04, 2005

LIVE 8 - My Thoughts - Short Term & Long Term Effects

I didn't watch the Live 8 concerts on the weekend. I did use my Panasonic DVD-R to record the shows, so after a day of laboring in the garden, planting water pipes, cutting wood, etc, I tuned in and sped through lots of commercials to catch bits of the shows. The feed I got was from CTV (Canada), so mostly I saw the Canadian show, with a few cut outs to the UK, and one or two to the U.S. I won't get into the performances here, I enjoyed them, but that's not what it's all about.

I missed the Live Aid show in 1985, because I was on a summer University course in Poland. I'm Canadian, but had a great opportunity to spend almost 8 weeks travelling freely inside Poland late in the Communist regime. Twenty years later, I watched part of the broadcast with my 6 year old son, who alternated between watching when he heard a song he liked, and playing on the Lego.com site.

SO WHAT'S THE POINT ???

At one point Bob Geldof came out, just prior to Madonna's set, and introduced one of the 'kids' that the original event had helped rescue. My son got it. That's the point. He saw the images of the children with distended stomaches and their living conditions, and he understood how lucky we all are. Many people around the world saw these same images, and for many, it may have been the first time they ever did see them. Hopefully, some of them 'got it' too.

The Live 8 shows won't likely get the G8 to actually raise aid spending to 0.7%. Not next week. The leaders will pay lip service to it with intangible commitments. Countries like Canada will re-announce debt forgivements. These forgivements are meaningful. But that's not the massive change that the artists who participated will really get. The change is in our attitudes, and in our realization that we can all make a difference, somehow.

The Change will come over the next 25 years. People like me, who are in their thirties today were inspired in some way by what happened in the mid 1980's. We know that there are corrupt governments in many of the poorest of countries, that these are not trustworthy, and will not be entirely helpful. But we know there is a way to have an impact. We also know that the world has changed immeasureably since 1985. Thanks in large part to the Internet, and the tools that it brings to all of us.

It's our generation - the entrepreneurs and business leaders under 40 today whose attitudes have been shaped in some immeasureable way by Live Aid, and empowered by the Internet explosion. We are arguably the first generation in history which not only can appreciate the problems that exist, but can collectively collaborate to improve the world, in diverse and often immeasurable ways.

The Internet is the world's greatest educational tool. It is the greatest education tool the world has ever seen. Today, knowledge can be widely, and immediately shared. Like disease, it does not respect physical borders, nor does it move at a predictable speed. It can be stifled and surpressed, but it cannot be eradicated.

The Change that the Live 8 event brings is in our attitudes - that something can be done, the Internet helps us collectively acheive things on a scale which was heretofor impossible.

Searching for knowledge is the business we all are in, or are wittingly or unwittingly in the business of accelerating.

Someone asked me a couple of months ago what drives our business. What's really our goal. Yes, as heretical as it sounds to many, there is more to building a great business than making money. The money is very nice. It pays for our livelyhood. It helps us attain the creature comforts we desire. But there is more.

We do quite a few charity projects each year - we did them when we couldn't afford to do so, and do more now that we are starting to be able to afford to. Pro bono work, charity, civic minded projects, community support, whatever you want to call it - we do some each year. We don't publicize it - this might be the first time I'm writing about it at all. It's not about us. We can't take on every project we come across. But we do what we can.

Because I am passionate about helping, and getting others involved, I have been telling a few people one story in particular recently. A lot of the projects we take on have to do with children. We believe that if we can get it right with children, we will help everyone in the long term. One project we worked on was a summer camp for deaf children. The camp had been around for a while, but was in risk of closing. Their enrolment was too low for their to justify their continued funding from their supporters. It wasn't that there were not sufficient numbers of deaf children to service in the area, it's that they were not reaching them. One of the projects I work through, www.fcip.ca, took this one on. FCIP built them a new site, and we promoted it. Today, they are oversubscribed, and having to expand their programs. Many of the children they now reach live in communities where they are the only deaf person. Imagine for a moment spending your whole life being completely unique, and detached from those around you. People outside your own close circle do not know how to communicate with you. Everyday you face struggles that none of your peers have to handle. Then, for two weeks in a summer, you get to travel to a place where everyone is just like you! Imagine the joy for someone who never met anyone else 'just like me' in their life?

We do it because we hope that it helps the greater good, and its something we can immediately effect. It helps people. As an aside, FCIP is just completing our first project for an educational program in Mozambique. We want to help people all over the world, but we need help to do it. We need more web design firms to agree to do even 1 web site a year. It's been hard finding any which are even willing to do that! But we know they are out there. This year we had about 100 applications. We could only take on 6 projects. (build a website for a charitable organization which needs help, and promote it so that it reaches its stakeholders). If your firm wants to contribute, please let me know.

What's the vision behind our company? We build search engine optimization software to make the information you NEED easier and faster to reach. WHY? Our vision is to make available a fully automated optimization service which anyone can afford, and everyone uses. Our vision is that a fully optimized Internet means you can find the documents and information relevant to your query immediately. Our vision is that relevant information should be immediately available, which means knowledge can be immediately shared - this brings about ever increasing gains and advancements for people around the world. It also means we have helped the greater good, and will leave the world a better place than the one we entered.

Perhaps it sounds a bit simplistic, but it's not that bad. We already proven we can automated 80% of the SEO functions, without getting into any 'black hat' techniques. We've also proven that it works. We have successful clients in 60+ countries which are being found every day based on relevance to prove it. These include quite a few NFP and NGO organizations which are going the last mile to make a difference. We are merely a cog in the wheel that helps them reach their constituency. But it makes a difference.

Until now, that last 20% was the challenge. We're awfully close to bridging 10% of that gap. Can we get the last 10% after that? Yes, I believe we can, and will.

We are making a difference today. We will make a larger difference tomorrow.

Richard