Marshall Kirkpatrick: Little Bird On Market Street
It was great to run into Marshall Kirkpatrick on Market Street. I was passing the busy Powell Street corner and heard "Tom" from somewhere. I usually ignore such voices because I'm not sure if they are external but this one became louder and I turned to see Marshall.
He used to work as a reporter for ReadWriteWeb, which is now just ReadWrite following his departure, (it's missing the "web" and missing his excellent reporting). Marshall said he was in town from Portland for meetings with investors for his startup Little Bird.
It was good to see Marshall and good to see that he is still writing on his personal blog. He has always been very good at introducing useful tools in content creation, marketing, and importantly, how best to use them: Marshall Kirkpatrick's Blog
He often has good advice for marketers on pitching journalists and related tips on better media relations: How to time your outreach to influencers and press
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A reminder of Japan...
Five years ago we were in Japan together, as guests of Hideshi Hamaguchi and Toru Takasuka, (below, top left respectively) two of Japan's top entrepreneurs, and pioneers in collaborative software development. We spent a very memorable week in Tokyo.
We got to see it from the inside -- its giant corporations, its startup communities, meeting top VCs, and government officials (below) in the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
We saw temples, and a giant Buddha; a bamboo forest, an ancient Zen garden, a traditional tea ceremony.
And we roamed through Tokyo's Akihabara gadget and Manga district, a dreamland for geeks, with tour guides dressed as Manga characters.
We drank coffee in a cafe themed with waitresses in french maid outfits, while Marshall agreed to drink a raw egg and mustard concoction laced with pepper; we scaled a five story bookstore wholly dedicated to women's Manga books. Japanese women love stories about love and romance, however, the characters are all boys and so are the relationships.
Tokyo's many layered worlds were fascinating and I still think about our experiences. Japan is a very strait-laced place yet also hosts colorful sub-cultures such as dressing like cowboys, or french maids -- with very precise rules on length of skirt, placement of garter, and every aspect of the costume. No one seems to know how these sub-cultures arise and why the Japanese so easily assimilate cultural icons, images, and language from elsewhere.
My theory is that it's because of the indigenous Shinto religion and its naturalistic beliefs. They mesh well with our experience of the modern world.
Shinto extremely polytheistic and recognizes 8 million gods, which basically means infinite for all intents and purposes. There's a god of that tree, the rock, this raindrop, divinity is everywhere. That makes it easier to assimilate yet another "god" -- 8 million and one -- no matter that it takes the form of a cultural icon such as Father Christmas, or dressing in Ghetto fashion. It's a good skill in a changing world. I'd love to visit Japan again.
Hideshi is very much interested in how people collaborate at work. He said that in Japan the entire team pitches in to help its weakest member, who might be struggling to keep up with the work.
I was impressed because that's rarely done in the US. A team will often shun its least productive member and gossip behind their back and try to have them removed. Lots of large US companies, such as Microsoft, Adobe, regularly cull 10 per cent of their staff annually, which greatly encourages division rather than cooperation. Secretly sabotaging a colleague's work becomes a rational act under such circumstances.