GRANTING PROPER RESPECT TO HOME-GROWN INTERNET PROPHET
MAY 30, 1999
A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
-- Mark 6:4
beloved, today's story is about the Internet insights of a real prophet who,
to paraphrase Jesus and Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect here in his hometown.
Chunka Mui, 37, who grew up in Bridgeport just down the street from Mayor Richard M. Daley, is that prophet.
Today Mui, a partner
at Diamond Technology Partners , beavers away in an office in the Hancock
Tower writing best-selling computer books and advising a to-die-for stable
of Fortune 500 clients about how they need to suddenly and drastically reshape
their businesses in order to survive the Internet.
This high-tech prophet's
honor seems just fine in New York, Boston, San Francisco and such. Rave reviews
of "Unleashing the Killer App," his latest Harvard Business Press book (co-authored
with fellow Internet consultant Larry Downes) have run everywhere from The
New York Times to the San Jose Mercury News -- the Pravda of Silicon Valley.
I ran a computer check
of back issues of the Chicago Tribune and the only hit I got for Chunka was
for a pop song, "Chunka, Chunka Burning Love."
I am, of course, part of the problem.
When I got a review
copy of "Unleashing the Killer App" last year, I looked at some of the words
but (sadly, I now know) tossed it on the slag heap along with all the Y2K-scare
books and Linux manuals.
Mui recently got my attention when his company out of the blue bought out
one of Chicago's crown jewels of high-tech consulting, a well-known collection
of Internet-savvy hired guns known as the OmniTech Consulting Group.
tend to remind me of New Age luncheon speakers, filled as they are with strange
mantras like these from Mui's book: "Outsource to your customer... cannibalize
your markets... give away as much of your information as you can...."
Sounds painfully like
some New Age fakir in a swami suit telling you to "find your inner child,"
"greet the world with a primal scream" or "visualize your inner perfection."
But when I finally was
able to calm the seething inner child in me who just will not listen, I discovered
not only that Mui's mantras make a kind of twisted sense but that this guy
actually practices what he preaches.
Consider the advice to publishers to "give away as much of your information that you can."
The logic is simple
as silicon. If newspaper A ignores pleas from customers to Web-post its stories
and then newspaper B decides to post its stories, customers will be inclined
to buy the paper (B) that treats them better on the Internet.
So by giving its daily
content away on-line for free, a newspaper lures customers to its Web site,
where they will view paid advertising and thus bring in revenue. Better yet,
many readers will soon decide that they would prefer to read the stuff in
its far more comfortable ink-on-paper form, and the Web site thus becomes
a way to court subscribers.
I interviewed Mui after
the OmniTech deal was signed, and he expanded on this one concept by pointing
to the current flap over MP3 music, which allows mopes like me to record
the songs on regular music CDs into small Internet friendly files that can
be swapped via e-mail or posted on Web sites.
While music industry
executives howl that this piracy threatens their very livelihood, they fail
to appreciate that the same dynamic that lets newspapers prosper on the Web
applies to MP3.
When you get a chance
to hear a great new song on a file that you play on your computer, your immediate
desire is to go out and buy a proper CD so you can hear it on your hi-fi
or play it in your car.
MP3s aren't the end of the world for MCA and other record outfits, they are just another form of advertising.
These sorts of insights
abound in Mui's "Unleashing the Killer App," and he has done something with
that book that none of the other book writing digerati have dared to do to
The entire text of the book is posted at www.killer-apps.com.
"The whole book is there,"
Mui told me. "You can read every word and not pay us a penny. It took a lot
of doing, but we convinced Harvard Business Press to let us post the book
in its entirety.
"We're betting that by giving the book away on the Web, we'll sell a lot more printed copies than ever before" Mui said.
Let me assure you that whatever the price, "Unleashing the Killer App" is one very fine book about Internet dynamics.
I'm betting Mui's New Age Info Age plan to give it all away for free will make him a prophet in his hometown at long last.
If not, there's always
primal scream therapy. Maybe he could record that as an MP3 sound file called
Chunka, Chunka Primal Scream and give it away for free.
Beat readers can participate in the column at http://chicagotribune.com/go/askjim
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail-mail him in Room 400, 435 N. Michigan
Ave., Chicago 60611.