Social Objects and doing the Stupid Passion Thing

damini's daddy avinashThe distance between a "story" and its "audience", intended or unintended, is just two pixels. That is how I described the state of the web / social networking to the Online Marketing Class at the University of Virginia last week.

It was in reference to how much faster information flows, how much faster each of us can find something, how much easier it is to make connections.

Blogging to me is one manifestation of that amazing phenomenon. People that were "six degrees of separation" from you are now just two pixels away. You can reach people you otherwise might never have, you can find inspiration with a click of a mouse.

For me one such wonderful encounter was meeting Hugh MacLeod at UVA, where both of us were teaching parts of the Online Marketing Class.

Hugh is the author of the very famous blog gapingvoid, well known for his "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards".


I am a huge fan of his blog, not just for the cartoons but also for his perspectives on Marketing.

Before blogging I doubt I would have known of Hugh. Before blogging I doubt I would have met him (since I would not have been invited to teach the class at the UVA Darden MBA school!).

Blogging brings the world together. It makes it smaller. It now means there are just two pixels of separation, not six degrees (of Kevin Bacon:)).

I spent a couple of hours of chatting with Hugh, most delightful conversation on a whole bunch of things. But perhaps the most thrilling thing for me was when Hugh penned a cartoon on my business card! How awesome to get someone you admire do something so nice for you!

social objects zqinsights

In his talk Hugh had spoken of term Social Object as a way of highlighting the importance of creating conversations.

Applied to just Marketing, though it is a much wider concept, it means that "new age" marketing is less about pushing / peddling our products and services, it is more about creating products and services that transcend and become social objects that create conversations. Everything else gets filtered out. The challenge the world poses to all Marketers is: What have you done recently that is worthy of a conversation?

The general philosophy of social objects (conversations / context around objects) is inspired from Bronislaw Malinowski's his observations on Kula, a ceremonial exchange system conducted in Papua New Guinea.

I was rather smitten by the idea of Kula, hence the sketch from Hugh replicating my enthusiasm (call is the Kula Kool Aid!). The cartoon above says: Social Objects, Yeah!!! :)

There was one other reason for the excitement behind getting to meet Hugh, the extra ordinary impact that this How To Be Creative manifesto had on me.

how to be creative-macleod

If you were to reflect back on my independent career now you'll notice that it is the near perfect execution of Hugh's Sex & Cash Theory.

Let me back up.

Six months ago I had a choice to go make lots more money in another wonderful job that would be steady. Or I could go do, what someone close to me described as, my stupid passion thing.

The answer might have seemed obvious. SPT. But money and being able to count on money is hard to let go.

As I was thinking through how to do my stupid passion thing I came across Hugh's manifesto and it was a moment of extreme clarification. While I don't draw and don't consider the creative type either (after all I am a Web Analytics Blogger), I found the guiding principles outlined in this manifesto to be inspirational and crystallizing. (#1, #3, #5, #9, #17, #25)

Most of all Hugh's Sex and Cash Theory provided the blue print of how I could do my stupid passion thing and make life work.

Regardless of your current frame of mind I highly highly recommend reading How To Be Creative.

Sure you are dying to find out what the simple yet brilliant Sex and Cash Theory is! I am positive you'll find the whole thing a joy.

Let me thank Hugh for doing a personal cartoon for me (I need a new frame!), for creating the manifesto that has been a inspiration for me, and for spending time chatting at the UVA last week.

Here's to creating Social Objects and doing the Stupid Passion Thing! Because life is too short to just worry about money!! Cheers!!!


  1. 1

    All I can say is wow! What a great way to start the morning. I hadn't read that before (even though I had seen gapingvoid), thank you for sharing it. I can't wait for my SPT to crystalize … if only the manifesto had said what to do about that ;)

  2. 2

    I'm not sure entirely why, but I just dropped everything after reading your post and read Hugh's manifesto. Really amazing stuff; thanks for pointing it out.

  3. 3

    i really enjoyed Hugh's manifesto, thank you for pointing him out to us.

  4. 4

    That's amazing stuff indeed. I discovered Hugh a year ago and have been reading all his stuff ever since. I reread "How to be creative" every now and then, and always gain new insights. I do t-shirts. Before Hugh, it would be only words, powerful messages (try to), after seeing his work I decided to incorporate drawings (sort of crappy, cause I can't draw that well, but it's "my voice" in the end). Inspirational, indeed. Cheers.

  5. 5

    Great story Avinash!

    This post highlights, IMNSHO, the main reason for the great success of your blog. You are just doing you "stupid" passion thing. No hidden agendas, no sales, no look at me I am smart.

    In your blog posts and in your presentations (I have seen you live twice now) your passion is clear.

    Keep doing your SPT. :-)


  6. 6

    SPT's make the world go around!

    Here's a fave recent quote from a writing blog I like: Respect your creativity or it'll get tired of you and move on.

    Thanks, Avinash.

  7. 7
    Jon Whitehead says

    Fantastic. it inspired me to contact a new site about climate change advertising on and offer my services. I really like the sex and cash theory!



  8. 8

    Hi Avinash,

    Indeed, great ideas. Manuela was very happy to receive your email and see the pictures of her business cards design in your post.

    Cheers from Stockholm and see you soon,


  9. 9

    Hi Avinash —

    I too greatly enjoyed Hugh's talk.

    Many thanks to you as well for coming.

    If any folks interested, Darden will be offering the course again in the spring.

    Here's the link.

    While we're still confirming exactly who will be speaking, rest assured the caliber and content will be top-notch.

    Cheers —


  10. 10

    I hope you had had a great time at Darden. I love the school and am amazed about the Online Marketing Program they have built.

    Thanks for your contribution to the school.

    Darden '05

  11. 11

    Hi Avinash

    I just discovered you and your blog last night, when someone nominated you as a conference speaker and sent me a link to a great YouTube video of your presentation on web analytics. Pleased to meet you! You've a great blog and I'm in awe of your blogging success. Great presentation too, who knew web analytics could be so engaging :-) I've already recommended your presentation and blog to friends.


  12. 12


    Thanks for introducing me to Hugh’s work.

    Never thought about the term "Social Objects" before. Its interesting how Hugh describes "Social Objects" in terms of "Social Networking".

    Very thought provoking.


  13. 13

    Excelent post Avinash! The perfect balance between humor and analytics ;-)

  14. 14
    Ned Kumar says

    Avinash, thanks for sharing Hugh’s manifesto..I really enjoyed going through the 'How to be creative'.

    Social objects and Social Media is here to stay and the sooner firms embrace it as a channel, the better it is for them (and the consumers). I was reading on Social Media the other day and it is no coincidence that it resonated very well with your statements like "…it is more about creating products and services that transcend and become social objects that create conversation." In today's world of internet/web2.0 and the like, consumption of goods to a large extent has gone from a "push" to a "pull" as you point out. More and more, [IMHO] it is not the million dollar Superbowl commercial that is generating conversions but the 'conversations' happening on the social media among friends and relatives.

    Another interesting aspect is that social media and social objects has redefined 'cultural' boundaries, going from a national perspective to one more focused along attitude and views. This to me was an interesting paradigm shift considering that with the abundance of information at hand in this technological age, it does not matter any more if you reside in New York or a small village in India, China, or Africa.

    To close out, I agree with your thoughts on how social objects should apply to Marketing …the one thing I am not sure is whether Marketing is ready to embrace social objects :-). It is a high-risk, high-reward proposition.


  15. 15

    Avinash, I read the manifesto last month and had several 'A-ha' moments too.

    Next step – to meet Hugh and have him cartoon one of my cards.

    Cumbria, here I come! :)

    All success

  16. 16

    I did this stupid passion thing 10 years ago and like 99% of first time businesses got burnt, pretty badly! More than the effect of the burns is the memory of how good I felt doing the stupid passion thing. I am getting there now, albeit slowly and more interestingly through the virtual, online world :-)

    Cheers to that `stupid passion thing' :-)

  17. 17

    Good one……excellent analysis and observation.

  18. 18
    Vincent van der Lubbe says

    Thanks Avinash for continuing your STP thing. I actually like to read about it :-) And it seems there is more of us … Have a wonderfully STP and passionate new year!


  1. […] Side note: Biker Jim's cart is a real life example of what Hugh MacLeod means when he talks about social objects. Avinash Kaushik has a great story about meeting Hugh. So do I. And there's a really cool video from Scoble: […]

  2. […] The networking aspects of blogs are huge.  I meet people continuosly through mine.  The topics I write about drive interesting people to me that I never would have known to contact.  The blog also serves as a wonderful introduction when I want to meet someone.  Avinash Kaushik says blogs reduce our 6 degrees of separation to just a couple of pixels through blogs, and anyone who is a successful blogger would tell you they've felt it first hand.  In terms of getting the word out, Fred Wilson writes about how Google launched OpenSocial almost entirely through blogs and it worked beautifully.  Conferences can be helpful for a lot of launch and momentum gathering, but it's hard to imagine one that didn't have a big blogosphere windup to drive traffic to the conference and then to dissect what went on there so the content is repackaged and made available to those who couldn't attend physically. […]

  3. […] Avinash says: “Blogging brings the world together. It makes it smaller. It now means there are just two pixels of separation, not six degrees.” He has a post about passion vs. cash that I highly recommend reading. […]

  4. […]
    We will look back in a hundred years at the past 15, and we will realize that it represents a very small blip in the overall paradigm shift. I fundamentally believe that we are only just beginning to define what the web means, and I am excited for what comes next.

    As for me, I’m off to do my ‘stupid passion thing’. 
I will still be working with the team at iPerceptions, and not swaying too far from the web analytics industry. 


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