1. Don't Get Mad. Get Gladwell

Another week, another reason to make fun of nanotechnology.

See, we're still trying to get excited about the investment opportunities of nanotech, roughly defined as the science of tiny little stuff.

We're sure that lots of scientists are doing cool things for real companies in the nanotech field. But we can't help noticing that everyone who's boosting nanotech as an investment idea these days feels compelled to make preposterous claims on its behalf -- weirdly optimistic futurology such as "Nanotech will enable us to reduce the Library of Congress to the size of a Jujyfruit." As if that were a pressing need.

Anyway, the whole nanotech movement -- as respectable as it may be one day -- can't move a molecule without sounding like some sort of elaborate investment scam.

Our latest case in point: this week's NanoBusiness News from the NanoBusiness Development Group consultants. In an interview with nanotech VC Josh Wolfe -- an editor of a nanotech newsletter published by Forbes -- we didn't get halfway into the Q&A before the expression "tipping point" creeped into the dialogue three times.

Aieeeee! Tipping point! Will no one save us from the tipping point?
No Gratuities, Please
Tipping point's breaking point
*2003 figures are estimates based on mentions through 6/5/2003. **Articles mentioning tipping point but not Malcolm Gladwell. Source: Factiva

We at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab are aware that one Malcolm Gladwell has written some thoughtful book called The Tipping Point -- a book in which he fills up a few dead-tree fragments talking about how things change. Someday we'll get around to reading it.

In the meantime, what we at the lab notice is that "tipping point" is the catchphrase du jour for people who want a more thoughtful-sounding way to say "a big change."

Yes, "tipping point" is intruding on the turf of the classic "paradigm shift" and his faithful companion "inflection point."

We thought we'd do a little research to verify our suspicions.

Getting to the point here, we've reached the tipping point with the tipping point. When we hear the phrase, it tips us off that it's time to stop listening. Time to drive out into the middle of nowhere and teach some cows about the tipping point.

2. The Customer Is Always


At Your Service
David Dorman goes low-tech

News flash! AT&T ( T) believes it's important to treat one's customers well.

Yes, that was the hard-hitting message that AT&T CEO David Dorman delivered at a telecom industry trade show this week.

"Improving the customer experience is just as important as having new technology deployed," Dorman said in a speech Tuesday at the SuperComm conference in Atlanta, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Is that what those AT&T shareholders paid you $6.5 million for last year, Dave? Insights like that?

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