Thursday, April 12, 2012

If you can't beat them, then beat them

Crowdsource this!
Gandhi once uttered "First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they fight you; then you win." It appears as though Canada Post has recently skipped one of those steps and went straight from ignoring to outright fighting.

As some of you may know, Canada Post has recently sued, a website that has been crowdsourcing North American postal codes and zip codes for approximately 10 years now. The basis of the lawsuit being copyright infringement.

But, the purpose of this article is to investigate, not necessarily answer one question: Why has Canada Post chosen to take this action now?

In the late 90s, Canada Post saw a changing tide and reacted with (what they thought would be) a welcomed tool for Canadians. And so it was in the year 2000 that ePost was born. A tool that would allow people to pay their bills online, through Canada Post.

Although it seemed like a great idea at the time, I think it is fair to say that ePost hasn't been the resounding success it was originally meant to be. Thing is, Canada Post hasn't really come up with anything new since then...and if they did, I can't think of it.

This story is not dissimilar to another company that went through this script.


Kodak found themselves in a bit of a quandary as the digital age was rapidly realizing its potential in the mid 90s. Technological progress and societal demands was making Kodak Film largely obsolete. So, how did they respond? By clutching at straws.

In a vain attempt at staying relevant, Kodak tried to create a "home printing" market with Kodak printers and paper. They even tried to play with the big boys by launching their own line of digital cameras.

But, it was all for not. They were either too late to the game, or tried to keep a monster alive that was well past its time.

...and the same could be said for Canada Post in the near future.

When people think of Canada Post, this is what typically comes to mind: "do I have any stamps?" and "where is the nearest mailbox?"

Canada Post has thrown their hat in the ring by going up against FedEx and UPS in the expedited delivery business, but at the end of the day, Canada Post is still best known for delivering your grandma's birthday card and endless amounts of junk mail.

If you're gonna make an impact, you have to stand out in the have to be different...because there's a very clear cut difference between "keeping up with the times" and "creating a new paradigm."

...and visionary companies are the ones who survive. For example:

Apple was losing the home computer battle 5-10 years ago and created new paradigms with iMacs, iPods, iPhone, and iPads.

Nintendo was losing the battle against Playstation and Xbox 5-10 years ago and created a new paradigm with the Wii.

Corning (yes, the people who make your pots and pans) are in the process of creating a new paradigm with their new high-tech glass (check out this video).

On the other hand, Kodak tried to keep up with the times; Blockbusters tried to keep up with the times; BlackBerry tried to keep up with the times (with the playbook)... and now, they are either struggling, if not outright irrelevant.

It saddens me that Canada Post has chosen this very confrontational route instead of being innovative. They're committed to taking head on an unwavering tide of change.

Yes, an unwavering and resolute tide of change because Open Data, Open Government, and crowdsourcing are going nowhere, folks. They are here to stay and will change our daily lives.

These terms will become as common place as "Social Media" and "Reality TV" and Canada Post is punishing the good people at for being innovative.

Canada Post has officially become the crotchety old man on the block and this lawsuit is the proverbial "final nail in the coffin" of what was once a revered Canadian Institution.

With this lawsuit, I feel as though Canada Post is quite literally saying "we're not adapting, and we don't care. If we're gonna lose, we'll make damn sure that you get hurt in the process."