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DOEP (Daily Open-Ended Puzzle) (intermittent): Markets are

I leave tonight for a conference in Maastricht devoted to the topic “Markets are conversations.” I give the final keynote, which is also the final speech of the conference. So, since I’m carrying the Cluetrain banner and the attendees—Dutch marketers—will have spent 1.5 days on the topic, it’s tempting to announce in an authoritative tone of voice that Cluetrain was wrong about markets. They’re not conversations. Markets are _________.

The aim is to fill in the blank with the most ridiculous plural noun for which one could still make some type of semi-reasonable case. To enter, you have to give the noun and a brief version of the case. For example, markets are petting zoos because, while they’re fun for a little while, it takes days to wash the stink off your hands.

Ok, so that one didn’t make much sense, but I’m sure you’ll do better. [Tags:]

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24 Responses to “DOEP (Daily Open-Ended Puzzle) (intermittent): Markets are”

  1. 1) Markets are markets.
    2) Markets are opportunities – for pairs of people to exchange equivalent items.
    3) Markets are forums – in which groups of people may collaborate to arrange exchanges that would otherwise be difficult with pairs operating in isolation.
    4) Markets are conversations – and have become introverted displays of exhibitionism due to masss production and broadcast technology, but the egalitarian Internet can restore the traditional conversation, especially for digital art.
    5) Markets are important – not to be ridiculed. ;-)

  2. Markets are misheard lyrics.

    My favorite example comes from the Pat Benatar song. People are saying to companies: “Hit me with your best shot.” But the companies hear: “Hit me with your pet shark.”

    The result? Thousands of permutations on this:

  3. I should have linked the original “pet shark” story for anyone who doesn’t already know it:

  4. Markets are brothels

    Dens of iniquity where the oldest professionals provide their facilities for filthy lucre. Places where punters, driven by forces beyond their control, satisfy their genes’ desire for a bargain at any price. Opportunities for despicable parasites to get a piece of the action in every transaction – something neither buyer nor seller bargain for. And apart from the madam with her fat commission, everyone comes away feeling used and abused, or at least wondering if their bargains were worthwhile. But, everyone still returns for more. If you’re lucky, you might even get a little conversation…

  5. Markets are playgrounds

    The majority of participants are naive and inexperienced, exploited by the few bullies who understand how to extract and extort profits from those not in a position to do anything about it.
    Regulation is provided by well meaning but ultimately incompetent monitors.
    The bulk of trade is ephemeral and of little significance.
    Conversation is hoped for, but the tendency is a quick descent into name calling.

  6. Markets are casinos; over time they fleece the rubes and benefit a few old-timers – and the bank always wins.

    Markets are pot-luck suppers – the only way to get out more than you put in is to be greedy and ruthless, and even then you may not like the taste of what you get.

    Markets are to conversations as pornography is to literature.

  7. Markets are toilets

    Most people come to spend a penny or less.
    A few people come to dump their product, and really clean up.
    Most hope to do their business and conclude with as little hassle as possible. Sometimes a few really big deals go down – often against regulations.
    Some hope to come in low and leave high.
    It shouldn’t really happen, but on occasion illicit collusion takes place.
    And as we know, for some they represent opportunities for conversation.

  8. Markets are blogs

    Places where people display their wares, advertise their services, offer items up in exchange for hopefully equivalent reciprocal contributions.
    Visitors hope for conversation, but sometimes things only seem to go one way.

  9. Markets are the wire between telegraph poles

    At the start of the day, they enable small flighty creatures to survey the field as they embark upon their quest for the proverbial worm.

    And perching at the extremes you get the hawks, on the lookout for larger prey.

    When the going gets hot and the less viable are prone to collapse, out come the carrion birds to swoop on the easy pickings, with the lazy vultures cleaning up the bulk of the remains.

    But, right beneath their feet, in the wire that supports them all, are conversations.

  10. Markets are Transactions. Whether cultural or financial, markets provide the infrastructure to facilitate business, communication, etc. Put another way, Markets are networks.

  11. Markets are snakes on a plane.

    They’re risky, but there’s actually no way to avoid them.

  12. Markets are mousetraps

    Fraught with peril – if created by external forces in their misguided attempts to provide social contracts, invariably biased by ulterior motives.

    Economic incentives are generally ineffective, often unsuited to the constitutions of those they’re intended for.

    Apparently attractive deals are designed to ensnare the unwary – and often do. It pays to be suspicious of anything that seems to good to be true.

    And someone always thinks they can come up with a a better one, although the traditional model tends to be soon reverted to – even though its mechanims seem crude and primitive.

    The only ones to profit are fats cats exploiting opportunities on the periphery.

    On rare occasions there’s sharp boom, a brief period of intense activity, and then collapse with a great deal of hurt suffered by those who didn’t get out in time.

  13. Markets are yo-yos

    Although things can go up and down all the time, and you may risk an arm or a leg, it’s generally a a colourful and entertaining experience.

    However, there are always strings attached.

    Market behaviour is always governed by an external authority, although it sometimes seems as if it has a mind of its own. If handled carelessly it can destabilise and even crash.

    Things are always moving too fast to get a grip on, and if you focus too hard, you get dizzy – unless you’re really good.

    A few experts can manipulate it as easily as walking the dog.

  14. Markets are rubber duckies

    When in their own private company, aspirant executives look forward to their floatation.

    They do become distorted when subject to extreme external forces, typically coincident with a release of pent up internal stresses.

    When things get choppy, they can still seem calm to an outside observer. Even if everything else goes down the drain they can quickly recover stability, ready to take whatever anyone can throw at them.

    It tends to require a particularly violent revolution for them to get blown completely out of the water.

    Many economists are amused by their characteristics and fascinated the unpredictable directions they can take.

    People have even been known to behave with them as if they were having a conversation – and been subjected to ridicule when discovered doing so.

  15. Markets are Greek gods

    Very temperamental, very nuanced by human traits, but ultimately unconcerned with the well-being of the humans that worship them. If the abuse of those humans causes them to go away, so do the markets and so do the gods.

  16. Markets are a box of chocolates (with a nod to Forrest Gump).

    You never know what you’re going to get.
    If it’s a hard-core market, you might break your teeth. Otherwise, you might end up with a dripping mess. If you try to swallow a market quickly, you may end up with a great big belly ache. And they are so seductive that their allure means that it’s hard to stop once you’re into them.

    Like boxes of chocolates, markets, when they’re fresh, are very appealing. But after some time, they tend to look stale (although supposedly they’re still okay to consume). And some folks want to preserve the old fashioned ones, long after they are out of fashion, and superceded by newer, more interesting and innovative ones.

    Finally, if you spend too much time in them, you start to get fat, ill, and what used to be your “bite” begins to develop big, painful holes.

  17. Potlucks…

    Romper Rooms

    Cluster F—-s

    These are the ideas that come immediately to mind. Good luck, Dave! Talk ’em dead.

  18. Oops…read the directions, Tripp.

    Potlucks: People bring what they have, guessing at what is enough and what others might enjoy. There are always leftovers. There are always surprises. And they are terrifying.

    Romper Rooms: I have no idea. This just seemed fun. Markets can be fun and need some oversight.

    Cluster F—-s: Do I really need to explain this? It is not just one person who gets screwed in markets. It is a collective screwing with all the benefits and trials therein.

  19. Ants.

    They’re efficient, pervasive and they don’t give a damn about what you think of them. :)

  20. That last one from Tim combines nicely with my misheard lyrics suggestion. See:

    The ants are my friends,
    they’re blowin’ in the wind
    The ants are a-blowin’ in the wind.

  21. Markets are failures, but not perfect failures either :)

    Because no brain is perfectly adapted to a complex world, markets let many brains process more information in real time than one central brain can plan for ahead of time

    Markets are iterative

    Because interactions in a community scale imperfeclty we have to search the network with repeated transactions

    Markets are google

    Not perfect, and open to abuse, but good enough

    Markets are wikipedia

    Idealists say it’ll never work, but they are better than the idealist solution

    Markets are my little finger

    Sometimes I wonder what it’s for

    Markets are a country sinking beneath a rising ocean

    They let people resist the forceful imposition of bad government

    Markets are a red light district

    Backward thinking governments try to outlaw them, forward thinking governments get out of the way

    Markets are bladders

    Odd little organs that organise flows without too much thinking

  22. I’m sure this is too late to be useful, but that’s okay, it’s not an answer to the “Markets are [what?] question anyway. But in a failed effort to stretch my brain around this and make something funny happen, I did gen up the concept that “Marketing is marquetry.”

    While this isn’t particularly funny and I may have sprained something in the attempt, I think the homophonic and elaborate art of “marqueting” would be worth a closer look if you were writing a novel rather than offering up a closing keynote to a room full of businessmen. Still, they are Dutch businessmen, so they probably have an appreciation of fine furniture, inlays, and such.

    The sad fact is that when I read Chris Locke’s “markets are misheard lyrics,” all the oxygen went out of the room and I knew that there was no way I could equal that.

    But wait… seriously now, this isn’t any funnier than the one about the inlaid furniture, but maybe

    Markets are you-pick raspberry patches.

    People wander around filling little containers with sweet and juicy berries, coming away with red stained fingers and lips. As the season goes on, the berries that remain are deeper in the thorny thicket and by the end of the day you can’t tell whether that red stuff on your hands is berry juice or the blood you shed picking the berries.

    Okay. That was awful, definitely not my pet shark, and it flies in the face of economic laws regarding supply and demand. Still, I take heart in the knowledge that the ants are my friends.

  23. Markets are organisms… as in biology.

    They must adapt to new circumstances to thrive and see growth. They are an interaction with outside forces… politics, economic factors, and potentiall hazardous organisms that threaten their food supply or functioning behavior.

    The converstions of the Cluetraiom world are just commentary surrounding the organism but they only impact the organism when they create hazardous circumstances… like a conversation about a product defect that leads the organism to annouce a recall. The conversation is powerful but the oprganisms response is still the essense of the markets vitality.

    Markets are living organisms in a potentially hostile or fertile medium.

    Conversations are still just talk.

    No credit required… run with it and thanks for asking.

    A fellow Dave.

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