Steven Berlin Johnson

Anatomy Of An Idea

Steven Berlin Johnson

People often ask me about my research techniques. You would think this would be a relatively straightforward question, but the truth is that I have to keep changing my answer, because my techniques are constantly shifting as new forms of search or discovery become possible.

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Introducing Findings

Steven Berlin Johnson

I have been dreaming about new tools that would help me capture what I was reading for almost as long I have been reading. During my college years, I lost a semester trying to build an epic Hypercard stack called "Curriculum" that would help me organize all my notes for the courses that I had stopped attending because I was too busy building the software. (Oh, Oh, the irony.)

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Trending Sources

Thoughts on Steve Jobs, The Book

Steven Berlin Johnson

I just finished reading Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography on the flight back to SFO a few minutes ago, and wanted to jot down a few responses while they were fresh in my head. The first is that we are very lucky that Jobs reached out to Isaacson (and that Isaacson agreed to do it.) I can't think of a better biographer for this project--so much so that one of the strange thoughts I had after Jobs died was, "At least we're going to have this book to read."

Where Good Ideas Come From

Steven Berlin Johnson

On Friday, I got the galley copies of my new book, to be published in early October. It’s called Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History Of Innovation. I’ve been working on this one for almost five years now, though in some ways the idea for it is almost a decade old.

The Glass Box And The Commonplace Book

Steven Berlin Johnson

The following is a transcript of the Hearst New Media lecture I gave last night at Columbia University, subtitled "Two Paths For The Future of Text." Thanks to everyone who came out, and to the Journalism school for the invitation.

Introducing Future Perfect

Steven Berlin Johnson

In the spring of 2001, I was finishing up the final chapter of my second book, Emergence: The Connected Lives Of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. That subtitle gives some sense of the book’s specific subject matter, though the primary theme of the book was more abstract: it was an examination of self-organizing systems, like city neighborhoods or ant colonies, systems that lacked traditional leadership structures or command hierarchies but that nonetheless managed to solve complex problems.

Babble Joins Disney

Steven Berlin Johnson

On Tuesday morning, Disney announced that it had acquired the parenting site, Babble,com , which was founded a few years ago by my old friends Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman. I should say up front that I have both a personal and a financial investment in Babble -- I was an early investor in Nerve, the company that incubated Babble, and was on the board of the combined companies before Babble was spun out into its own operation.

The Innovator's Cookbook

Steven Berlin Johnson

What Peer Progressives Really Believe

Steven Berlin Johnson

If you have patience for this kind of online debate, The New Republic is now running my extended response to Evgeny Morozov's review (along with a new response from him). It cites a number of the misleading or innacurate quotes that I reviewed yesterday, but the key passages come at the end.

Eno On Innovation In The Studio

Steven Berlin Johnson

The Innovator’s Cookbook , new on the shelves this month, features a number of conversations with creative minds from technology, business, education and the arts, talking about their methods. For the next week or two, I’m going to be featuring some of my favorite exchanges from those conversations, but I encourage you to go check out the entire book, which also includes many foundational texts about innovation, plus a new introduction that I penned for the collection.

Tilting At Windmills, The Internet Edition

Steven Berlin Johnson

Evgeny Morozov has written a long and entertaining critique of my book Future Perfect in last week’s issue of The New Republic. It’s mostly an attack on the “quasi-religion” of “internet-centrism” that he sees in my work. I’ve written a longer response that TNR is apparently going to publish momentarily, but I thought it would be illuminating to do a purely cut-and-paste response here: quoting Morozov’s cartoon version of my argument, and then actual passages from Future Perfect.

AOL Acquires Outside.in

Steven Berlin Johnson

Almost exactly five years ago, I went out to lunch with my old friends Mark Bailey and Andy Karsch, and somehow over the course of our meal I got to talking about this idea I'd been harboring for several months about building some sort of web service that would organize local bloggers by neighborhood and zip code. By the end of the meal, Andy and Mark had convinced me that I should try to build a prototype, and had offered up seed money and other help to get my little hunch off the ground.

Bill Clinton On "Creative Networks of Collaboration"

Steven Berlin Johnson

Yesterday marked the opening day of the Clinton Foundation’s “Health Matters” conference in Palm Springs. I had heard a bit of advance word about the conference from a friend who was headed down there, and I had armed him with a copy of Future Perfect to give to Clinton if the opportunity arose. But the gift turned out to be unnecessary.

Wonderland, the book (and podcast!)

Steven Berlin Johnson

I’m very excited to announce my next book — Wonderland: How Play Made The Modern World , to be published in November by my long-time publisher Riverhead Books. The book is in many ways a sequel to How We Got To Now, though it also has some thematic links that connect it back to Everything Bad Is Good For You.

A Quick Roundup Of Future Perfect News

Steven Berlin Johnson

I've been so crazed with the book tour for Future Perfect that I haven't had a chance to put together some account of the response the book is receiving. I've tried to capture at least some of this on Twitter, but I finally got some time this morning to put it all in one place.

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Findings Is Hiring

Steven Berlin Johnson

As some of you know, I've been collaborating with the brilliant folks over at Betaworks for a while now on a new service for capturing, managing, and sharing quotations -- in a sense, a digital-age version of the commonplace book that I wrote about in Where Good Ideas Come From. I am incredibly excited about this service, Findings , and will have much more to say about it here and elsewhere over the next six weeks.

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Good Ideas, The Four-Minute Version

Steven Berlin Johnson

I have to admit when the good folks at Riverhead mentioned that they were working on an animated video promoting Where Good Ideas Come From , I wasn't fully convinced it was going to be worth the effort.

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Old Growth Media And The Future Of News

Steven Berlin Johnson

The following is a speech I gave yesterday at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin.

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How We Got To Now, the Book

Steven Berlin Johnson

Last Tuesday was the publication date for How We Got To Now: Six Innovations That Made The Modern World. It’s my ninth book, but the first to be accompanied by a TV series, airing on PBS beginning on October 15.

Ray Ozzie on Lotus Notes and Slow Hunch Innovation

Steven Berlin Johnson

[More in the series of excerpts from the conversations in my new collection, The Innovator's Cookbook. This is part of my exchange with the brilliant Ray Ozzie, who recently stepped down as Microsoft's Chief Software Architect. Ray has been thinking about social software for as long as just about anyone, so I had to ask him how those ideas had evolved over time. ]. SJ: How did the idea for Lotus Notes come about?

The GovLab

Steven Berlin Johnson

Several years ago, my friend and now collaborator Beth Noveck began developing a program that she called Peer-to-Patent, a software platform that allowed outside experts and informed amateurs to contribute to the prior art discovery phase of patent review, both through tracking down earlier inventions that might be relevant, and through explaining those inventions to the overwhelmed examiner in the patent office. (As

What Jelly Means

Steven Berlin Johnson

A few months ago, I found this strange white mold growing in my garden in California. I’m a novice gardener, and to make matters worse, a novice Californian, so I had no idea what these small white cells might portend for my flowers. . This is one of those odd blank spots -- I used the call them Googleholes in the early days of the service -- where the usual Delphic source of all knowledge comes up relatively useless.

Good Ideas Year-End Wrap

Steven Berlin Johnson

It's New Year's eve, and I'm up in the mountains of northern Vermont, skiing for the first time in more than two decades. I wanted to write a quick end-of-2010 post thanking everyone who helped make Where Good Ideas Come From a success: all the folks who bought the book, told their friends about it, blogged and tweeted, and most of all the people who came out to the events.

stevenberlinjohnson.com: Can We Please Kill This Meme Now

Steven Berlin Johnson

Jason linked to this op-ed on the "endangered joy of serendipity": Serendipity is defined as the ability to make fortunate discoveries accidentally. There's so much of modern life that makes it preferable to the vaunted good old days

stevenberlinjohnson.com: The Invention Of Air

Steven Berlin Johnson

I've mentioned in passing here (and on Twitter) that I've been writing a new book this summer, and since I'm now several drafts into it, I figured it was about time I shared some more detailed news about the project

stevenberlinjohnson.com: David Brooks, Deconstructed

Steven Berlin Johnson

Some close reading of the breathtakingly superficial David Brooks column today on hipster parents: Can we finally stop reading about the musical Antoinettes who would get the vapors if their tykes were caught listening to Disney tunes

First reviews for Future Perfect

Steven Berlin Johnson

A couple nice early reviews of Future Perfect have come in over the past few weeks: Publishers Weekly calls it "fascinating and compelling" and says "Johnson’s thought-provoking ideas steer us steadily into the future." Full review here.)

Driven or Distracted?

Steven Berlin Johnson

Back in April of this year, I put up a post with a simple question: Why Doesn’t Facebook Look Like This ? The post contained screenshots of a Facebook redesign that Japanese design firm iA had done for the company back in late 2006/early 2007.

Future Perfect Tour

Steven Berlin Johnson

Here's the latest schedule for my Future Perfect appearances. Hope some of you can come out. In the spirit of a book about collaboration, many of these events are actual conversations with other people, not just me rambling onstage by myself, so that should be extra incentive for folks to show up. I'll post news of other events as they come together. Tuesday, September 18 -- MARIN. 7:00 PM. Book Passage. 51 Tamal Vista Blvd Corte Madera, CA 94925. WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 -- SEATTLE. 7:30 PM.

stevenberlinjohnson.com: The Shanghai Surprise: Urban Planning Is Sexy!

Steven Berlin Johnson

I'm writing this on the plane flying back after a ten day trip circumnavigating the globe. I started in Oxford (for the wonderful TEDGlobal conference) where my wife and I walked alongside the ancient wall built around the original town

Brian Eno Renames My Book

Steven Berlin Johnson

Two nights ago in London, Brian Eno and I did the second in what I hope will be a long series of public conversations at the wonderful ICA.

Searching The "Small Here"

Steven Berlin Johnson

In his essay introducing The Long Now Foundation, Brian Eno tells the story of visiting a wealthy friend in her downtown loft, in an otherwise destitute neighborhood of Manhattan circa 1978: I just didn't understand.

A Theoretical Education

Steven Berlin Johnson

A month or two ago, the Times Book Review asked me to write a short essay on my experience majoring in Semiotics at Brown, prompted in part by Jeffrey Eugenides' new book, The Marriage Plot, which features a number of scenes in Brown Semiotics classrooms in its opening pages. I have very fond memories of that period of my life, and I tried to explain in the essay all the subtle things I got from that part of my education. But I also wanted to document the bizarre effect it had on my prose style.

Me On Twitter On TIME On Twitter

Steven Berlin Johnson

This week's cover of TIME features a story that I wrote about Twitter and innovation. Actually, that's not quite right: this week's cover features a tweet that I posted about the cover story I wrote for TIME about Twitter. I've been chuckling about this cover ever since the folks at TIME proposed it.

A Video Introduction To Air

Steven Berlin Johnson

The Riverhead folks produced this very elegant little interview with me about The Invention of Air, which I meant to link to earlier. I think it gets quite good by the end, but judge for yourself

How To Use Twitter To Land An Interview With David Frost

Steven Berlin Johnson

A few months ago, I flew into London to give a talk at the Handheld Learning Conference, which had put me up at the Hoxton Hotel. I'd arrived late at night, and when I woke up, I realized that, for the first time in my life, I was waking up in London with no clear idea what neighborhood I was in.

All The Good Ideas Links That Are Fit To Print

Steven Berlin Johnson

One of the key things you hope for with an “idea” book like Where Good Ideas Come From --beyond the book sales, or the turnout at the signings and lectures--is that it will actually spark a conversation. While Good Ideas is less conspicuously argumentative than the last big conversation-starter I wrote, Everything Bad Is Good For You , it does make a sustained argument about how societies innovate, and I’d hoped that reviewers and bloggers and op-ed columnists would pick up on that argument.

Good Ideas, Week One

Steven Berlin Johnson

It's been a crazy eight days since the Good Ideas World Tour launched; I've done about thirteen events in six cities, and at least twice as many interviews. Thanks to everyone who has come out, and who has bought the book or tweeted and blogged about it. All that work (and fun!) is paying off: the book will debut on next weeks' NY Times bestseller list at #23, in an insanely competitive week to be selling a new book.

Pub Day

Steven Berlin Johnson

It seems like it's been out for a month now, but my new book-- Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History Of Innovation --officially hits the shelves in a matter of hours. I worked harder and longer on this book than any of the six books before it, and I'm as proud of it as I am of anything I've written. I hope you all get a chance to pick up a copy, and to stop by one of the events on the tour , which starts today in my old hometown of Washington, D.C.

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Good Ideas: The First Reviews

Steven Berlin Johnson

Where Good Ideas Come From doesn't officially hit the shelves until Tuesday, but a handful of reviews started running in the past few days. • In Portland, where I will be speaking at the end of this week, The Oregonian said my "'long zoom' view of fertile idea-ecosystems is engaging, informative and, well, inspirational." Though I was a bit too glib about new tech platforms like Twitter apparently.). •