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It boggles my mind that there are those who are not familiar with SWOT. This decision-making tool for businesses should be in every start-up’s metaphorical toolbox!

It might as well be called the “Allen Wrench of the Cubicle” for its myriad applications. Analyzing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats implicit in a decision oftentimes helps lead to a more correct decision than that which one might otherwise have made. It is also an opportunity to practice good handwriting, which has sadly declined in this age of keyboards. (Spencerian script? What’s that?) 

We at Pied Piper recently had a knotty decision to make, so I brought out the old SWOT board, and if everyone had not immediately left the room, I have no doubt that it would have been quite helpful.

(Please note: SWOT-ing is not to be confused with SWAT-ing: the hateful “prank” of calling the police and saying a horrible crime is taking place at someone’s home so that law enforcement kicks in their door and terrifies them. I have been SWAT-ed thrice, once while I was in the bath, filling in an actual SWOT board, ironically.)

Comments (51)

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  1. Can you SWOT this idea:
    You make an app for SWOT-ing decisions, projects…etc
    and I get 10% of that app!
    + another 10% for a new feature idea:

    The app lights up red or green automatically whenever Strengths are more than Weaknesses and vice versa .

    Now you get to say: "This decision-making app for businesses should be in every smartphone’s home screen!"

  2. Jared, do you have a background in the field of education? SWOT is similar to "tools" that college students studying education are taught to teach their students. What a powerful tool you have there!!!

  3. I swear in Michael J. Porters model. Imho better suitable for analysing the operational environment in order to come up with a suitable strategy.

  4. the best show ever seen, sorry that the non coders thasn’t appreciate.
    in french because i’m from morocco: la meilleur serie, desolé pour ceux qui ne sont ni nerd, ni gueek ou qui ne sont jamais passer par une start up…

  5. Advice to whoever is running this promotion site: the "photos" you’re taking are as part of blog posts have a very unnerving green color and over-sharpening feel to them. Consider warmer and softer post-processing of the stills?

Problem 1:

Single Points of Failure

Libraries are vulnerable to losing their collection because all of their books are contained at a single location. Say, for instance, that there was a fire, or a flood, or a vandal defaced John James Audubon’s masterpiece Birds of America by giving all the Warblers human genitalia. Even worse, if the vandal recruited bird haters from other neighborhoods and got ahold of all the copies of the book in existence, it could be lost crude doodles forever. It would be a tragedy on par with the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.

The Problem

Because Birds of America is centralized in one public location, it’s susceptible to permanent deletion. The same goes for content on the Internet — storing all your family photos on a single account in a cloud service? They could all be wiped away if someone hacked your account or corrupted the host servers.

The Solution

Our solution: In our decentralized library, we would duplicate and distribute multiple copies of Birds of America to your neighbors — if you need a copy, you would just go to your neighbor’s house. As our Pipernet town of mobile devices grows, so do the number of neighbors who might have a copy of your book. And the more potential copies there are available, the more secure the book is.

That’s what our new internet will allow you to do too: spread your personal files on devices across the world, so they’re completely safe from bad actors manipulating or deleting them.


All copies of your files in a well-known, hackable location = RISKY!

Files copied and distributed to multiple locations = SAFE!

Problem 2:

No Privacy

In order to check out books, you must have a library card — an ID that links back to your real world identity. That library card reveals all the books you’ve ever checked out, where you returned them, and whether they were returned on time.

The Problem

The tech titans collect data profiles on us too, and theirs are far more comprehensive. They amass thousands of personal data points by tracking our activities in both the online and physical worlds.

Users don’t own or control their own data, so it can be used against them. Take, for instance, Richard’s lawyer Pete Monahan, who had his probation revoked when the state retrieved his library records. Which was… probably a good idea. But for this metaphor’s purposes: bad that they can access that information!

On the web, our data profile is far more detailed, the laws around privacy even looser, and more freedoms are at stake. For example, what if Hooli sold your search data to an insurance company who then denied you coverage because you’ve HooliSearch-ed “kindest Palo Alto based Cardiologist” a few too many times?

The Solution

Replace library cards with anonymous identification cards which are impossible to connect to your real world identity. Instead of using a library card (linked to your name, address, etc.) to check out books, you would swipe a nondescript card (containing no personal details). Your activity would be tracked to keep the system stable, but your identity would not be siphoned and sold. I, for example, would no longer check out books as "Donald Dunn," but rather the nom de guerre "h3w0vbk37vpm."

That’s what our new internet will allow you to do too: use its apps and services without compromising your privacy.


Trading your identity and data for online services = RISKY!

Using services anonymously so nobody can target you = SAFE!

Problem 3:

Censorship and Manipulation

Because a town’s library is run by a small group of administrators, they could theoretically decide what books are available to its people. They could even decide to ban Birds of America, depriving young birders of Audubon’s elegant illustrations, pored over page by page under a government-issued blanket after lights out, giving you hope that even a slender-framed, shivering boy could grow to be as majestic as a Hooded Merganser.

The Problem

On the internet, multinational corporations can screen content, or even “adapt” their services to fit the local government’s requests. In both libraries and on the Web, we’re susceptible to data being censored or manipulated by intermediaries.

The Solution

A peer-to-peer lending system backed up by a fully public ledger, allowing you to send and receive books freely to anybody in the world without worrying about censorship or interference. Want to add Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, or your controversial essay on Audubon’s coloring techniques? No problem, even if the town surrounded you with pitchforks to ban them, these vital texts would be available to share neighbor to neighbor, impossible to delete.

That’s what our new internet will allow you to do too: exchange messages and files directly with their intended receiver, disperse ideas and information free from threats of censorship.


Pushing all transactions through a central authority = OPPRESSIVE!

Establishing a peer to peer exchange system based on an immutable public ledger = FREE!

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