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Zeke, the Caldor Fire, and the Emergence of a New Category of Media

If you're like me, you have been on the edge of your seat trying to find data as a devastating wildfire comes ridiculously close to your home or the homes of your loved ones.

Recently, the Dixie Fire (which started July13th) and the Caldor Fire (which started Aug 21st) have become my daily focus, as the High Sierras have been ablaze for what has become an uncomfortably long period of time. 

Two firefighters assess a blaze near Lake Tahoe, California

Here in California, Calfire does daily briefings on what is happening with our fires and they keep the public posted regarding evacuations and updates. The big news outlets do sensational field production and reporting from the front lines.

But something is missing...

Last week, I couldn’t find out what was really happening with the fires near Lake Tahoe because the data was difficult to find online and nearly impossible to interpret.

I'm not much of a Twitter guy, but last week I did a search for #caldorfire and luckily I found @wildland_zko. Zeke Lunder was publishing the most recent infrared (IR) maps of where the fire was precisely located within an hour of the data becoming available.


 Twitter @wildland_zko

Zeke has a Youtube channel called The Lookout where he records videos explaining what is actually happening in real-time through the lens of a strategic firefighter. Click here or on the image below for the video that hooked me. 

The Lookout Youtube

Screen Capture from one of Zeke Lunder's recent "The Lookout" webcasts

The work he does is profoundly compelling and so complete that I stopped looking at all other news sources. I also donated $100 to his website. Turns out I wasn’t alone and a ton of other people who are following along pitched in as well. 

As a Category Designer, I am always fascinated by the entrepreneurial mindset and what we call in our book, Play Bigger, the “Founding Insights." Understanding this concept is the first step in designing a new category.

In this particular case, Zeke Lunder’s founding insight points to the fact that there are a lot of people who want access to data on where a fire is situated, how it's moving, and where it is going to head next. Not just any data, THE data. All distilled through the lens of a seasoned firefighter with 20 years of experience.

Sure, the data is publicly available, but unless you know how to ingest a KMZ (Keyhole Markup Location Zipped) file into Google Earth, then compare it with the previous KMZ file, you don’t have a chance of understanding what is changing in the moment. Let alone understand the topology, winds, fuels, etc.

Zeke is pioneering a new category of media. It's fact-based, strategic in nature, and apolitical. I find it inspiring. He just hasn’t named his category yet.

Our team at Play Bigger wants to help Zeke out by doing some Category Design for him. And we thought it would be a fun and engaging exercise to do it live with all of you.

We are presenting a live Zoom session on Wednesday, September 29th at 11:00 PST -- incorporating the interactive whiteboard MURAL in real time -- to engage with you all, while helping Zeke design his new category!

To get things started, we have created a few key category design artifacts. These are what we call the “null hypothesis” -- a crucial starting point for Category Design discussions.

mural zeke-02

Interactive Mural whiteboard for our Live Category Session

If you would like to join us, please register here.

Looking forward to the design session!


Al and the Play Bigger Team

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