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November 20, 2006


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There is a story that MIT at one time planted grass in an area of new development, and after a while (6-9 months?) paved the areas that were worn away. I can't find any confirmation doing a web search, though.


The version I heard was that, at my alma mater, Northwestern, which has severe Chicago lake-effect winters, they were going to lay steam pipes between buildings. They waited an extra winter so they could see where the desire paths were between the buildings, then laid the pipes there, and put the sidewalks over the pipes. The heat from the pipes kept the sidewalks clear thru the winters.

There's a marketing metaphor here! I've been campaigning for years for tech marketers to focus on customers' desires, not on their product's features. Customers will beat their own path, despite where marketers put down the paving. Smart marketers look at customers' desire path, and then communicate there.

I've always loved the university-only phenomenon where a spontaneous shortcut in the lawn gets official approval within a year of it appearing by asphaltification.

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