Recent One Degree interviewee, Robert Scoble is often seen as an edge case (although he “hates being called that). I think Robert sees himself more as “canary in a coalmine” — out ahead of us but doing what will one day become common practice. The term edge case implies a way of using things that will never be seen as normal. In any case, whether Robert is an edge case or not, I’m starting to think that he is a “bright-liner”. You might not know that word, so let me digress for a moment to explain what it is before saying why Scoble might be one and why it might impact your brand.
The term bright-line rule is gaining common use but still doesn’t show up in most dictionaries. I fell in love with the concept after reading Virginia Postrel’s New York Time’s article on resolutions. In it she deconstructs Professor Thomas C. Schelling saying in part:
Another approach is to use bright-line rules, which make it harder to cheat through clever reinterpretation. That may explain why many people find it easier to eliminate whole categories of food, like carbohydrates, rather than simply to cut back on calories. “Just as it may be easier to ban nuclear weapons from the battlefield in toto than through carefully graduated specifications on their use, zero is a more enforceable limit on cigarettes or chewing gum than some flexible quantitative ration,” Professor Schelling wrote. He once resolved to smoke “only after the evening meal.” That rule “led to tortured reasoning Thanksgiving afternoon, or flying west across the Atlantic with perpetual afternoon, and it stimulated lots of token sandwiches on leaving the ski slopes to drive home.”
Yesterday Scoble decided to stop reading Memeorandum. No “I’ll only check it at the end of the day” or “just when I have a few minutes between meetings” kind of stuff. This is a clear brightline. Scoble’s approach to Memeorandum is similar to his stance on full vs. partial feeds — Scoble won’t subscribe to partial feeds. Full stop. Why does this matter? Besides showing us a bit more about Scoble as a person, it also points to the increasing stress we all have in keeping up with an overly complex world. My guess is we’ll see more arbitrary brightlining (like “I don’t watch anything with Ryan Seacrest in it”) in the future. What happens when your brand becomes “dead to me?”
How will you ever get me back?
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on March 6, 2006.