Damned if I Niche, Concierge if I don't

Published on May 24th, 2011
Concierge at a Hotel

We all love an expert. When I broke my foot, was I going to go to someone who 'kinda' knew how to repair feet? When I was picking a school, did I want a school that 'sortof' focused on engineering? When I wanted to solve the scientific problem of how carbon nanotubes stuck together by quantum electrodyamic forces caused by differences in their optical properties, did I search and scour the globe for the first wikipedia article author that 'kinda' new what a van der Waals force was?

No. No. And 100% without a doubt NO!

We all love the expert, the person with an unrelenting passion to solve our exact need of the moment. You've been doing this since you were 4 when your dad let you play your first chord on the piano? Perfect! Gave up your inheritance so you could be the best geologist known to man? Let's go mountain climbing together! But not everyone knew they were going to be a Mozart at age 4. I'm 30, and still don't know what I'm going to ultimately be "when I grow up."

Generalist or a specialist

Paul at Experiate wrote an excellent article (Are You a Generalist or a Specialist) highlighting the battle. Companies looking to provide a better social media presence will write a job posting that requires knowing everything under the sun. Clearly, no single person can know everything. The company must make a choice between two distinct options: a generalist or a specialist.

Tribes, Factions, Niches

If you follow the work of Seth Godin and his predecessors, you're at least aware of the internet's drive towards a re-tribalization... where people are no longer identified by their geography as much as they are connected by their ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. Interested in anime? You probably won't find many people interested in that topic in a small town in Alabama, but you can immediately connect with 1000+ member communities in an online forum.

The end game goes as follows: technologies will continue to assist with our ability to connect and find people of similar interest that we'll begin to group into these tribes (or factions or niches) of ideas. This will allow for increased specialization of knowledge (online video publishing, social media, search analytics, etc), just like the move of human populations into towns allowed people to specialize into specific trades (blacksmith, banker, shoemaker).

Concierge Google Loves a Niche

Google wants to do the seemingly impossible: connect you to the exact piece of information to your search query question amidst the trillions of possible pages out there on the internet. And do to the abuse of content farms, they are looking towards niche curators and tribes as a means to collect and polish this data for them. So google loves an established niche because it can more better trust that both the people providing and searching for said information will benefit from that connection.

In short, google is the worlds most effective concierge. What is the best hotel in Dallas? Where can I find a cheap used ipod? Which store carries this particular shoe? And niches are becoming the most trusted source of this information.

I don't Want to Niche!

I have too many interest to keep a single blog on a single topic. Yes, I could create multiple blogs, but I don't want to have to manage them. And to what end? I'd rather be a mini-google. A concierge in front of my own hotel. Hopefully I'm not damned to a vacant super 8. I want the Ritz damn it! But this level of success is unlikely without cramming into a single niche, something my brain simply won't allow me to do. My niche is a little bit about everything! I'm so determined about that, I made it my tagline, damn it!

The concierges that greatly changed my life

  • When I broke my foot, I never thought to look for the foot Dr. Johnson until I received the recommendation..
  • When I wanted to look for schools, it was my math teacher who drove me 3 hours each way and paid his own way just to open my eyes.
  • When I had wasted almost a year struggling to answer a question, it was a gentle prodding of a collaborator that brought me to a series of experts that utlimately led to 5+ papers, a rocking thesis project, and an otherwise happy graduate student.

My point: There will always be a demand for a networker/concierge.

A Continuing Thread?

I have way more to say on this topic and this is already becoming a long post. If there is interest (now or down the road), I'll continue where I left off. Or I'll just write whatever moves me on a given day... google SEO be damned!


Image used under Creative Commons from ilovememphis.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.