Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

When you think of "the best thing since sliced bread" what do you think of? I'm not sure what immediately comes to mind for me, but it's an interesting thing to ponder.

Earlier this month I came across an article about some Search Engine Optimization insiders who called Mozenda, a software program that enables users to harvest and structure Internet data, "the best thing since sliced bread." I saved the link because I thought the sliced bread story was interesting and might make good food for thought. Maybe by adding a few fixin's we can turn this into sandwiches.

The most interesting factoid here wasn't that sliced bread is less than 100 years old, which did surprise me. Rather, what most surprised me was that it still took another 15 years to catch on. In other words, here was this great idea and for fifteen years people said, "So what?" Here's the intro to the article:

Otto Rohwedder invented the bread slicing machine in 1912. While sliced bread is considered the benchmark of good ideas, sales did not take off for Mr. Rohwedder for another 15 years. Why did it take 15 years to convince people that sliced bread is a good idea? Perhaps it was the method of delivering the idea.

Just two months ago Will Critchlow went to a London pub and like many pub conversations for Mr. Critchlow, this one centered around marketing and technology. It was on this night that he was told of a small Utah-based company that was structuring Internet data. To most of us, hearing the words "Structured Internet Data" would glaze our eyes over, but to Will this was very sexy. His thoughts quickly turned to, “What could I do with all of the Internet's data at my whim?”

The rest of the article is about how Critchlow shared the capabilities of Mozenda in an article called Data Visualization Techniques and then at a conference in London, closing with a question as to whether today's social media could have accelerated the acceptance of sliced bread into the popular culture.

Do you know why sliced bread didn't come about sooner than the 20th century? I think that without modern packaging and preservatives, sliced bread would dry out or get moldy too fast.

While briefly researching this sliced bread story I also learned that during World War II the government temporarily banned sliced bread. Why? Because the raw materials used to wrap the bread were needed in the war effort. It was believed that if the paper got too thin the bread would get stale too quickly. Someone made an executive decision and that was that.

Anyways, my question still stands: What would you call the best thing since sliced bread?


Data Mining said...

Very interesting Ed, I like your idea of making a sandwich if mozenda is the bread. Kind of a sandwich mashed full of juicy data. When I think of the best thing since sliced bread, I usually think of things that have changed the way we operate and nothing has done that more then the Internet.

ENNYMAN said...

It could be argued that the Internet would not have become possible had it not been for the electrical grid as infrastructure. Electricity is a bi-product of modern scientific exploration based on the laws of the universe which, instead of being arbitrary are logical and follow fixed rules.... Or it could be argued that the prime cause was philosophically tied to Capitalism, that supply and demand, reward for creative work, all led to the inventions, routers, servers, technologies that made the internet possible...

By this line of thinking we would have to give credit to the industrial revolution for the sliced bread development... hmmm.

Or am I thinking too deeply about all this?