The analog still rules. My takeaway from #140conf NYC 2012

140conf The State of Now

140conf The State of Now

The #140conf was held last week at the 92Y in New York City. We were there.

It seems like every year, going to the conference is like being at Woodstock; the one in 1969, not the fake ones that tried to recreated the magic. At some point in the future, my ability to say “I was there” will stop and define a moment of time.

When you find yourself in a room filled with geeks, the point of view tends to change somewhat where the technology begins to get worshipped far more than the humanity that created and used it. I guess that is human nature to see your point of view as holding an answer to problems but most of life acts as a potentiometer, not a switch. Sometimes what you know or can bring to the table is in the off position or dialed back really far. Other times, it is full-on. Wisdom is in knowing the difference and being able to apply it correctly.

As I was listening to each of the talks, I realized that no matter how great all this twitter and facebook connection stuff is, nothing happened until someone with a belly button cared enough to reach out and touch; using “old media” like a telephone or television or in some cases, a letter scratched out with a pen. Then — and only then — did the wheels turn and the train start moving forward.

To hug a friend during a chance meeting in the hallway; to hear music created with the tips of ones fingers; to extend a hand to an old gentleman climbing the few stairs to the entrance of the building; to feel your butt fall asleep even as the sessions went on; to hear the clamber of the trade show right outside the door, competing with the speaker on stage, to feel your stomach growl. These are the things that are most memorable even though they maybe shouldn’t be. These are the things that have almost nothing to do with the digital marvels that brought us all together in that one place.

Yet it is the digital marvels that we use to justify why we are there.

The more we immerse ourselves in this digital stuff, the more we crave analog contact. Eventually, it will be this very thing, this very messy analog that digital was supposed to bring order to which will once again define us.

* * *

My pick of the 2012 conference is Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt). His presentation* was the right mix of excitement and skill without dipping into the overly-exuberant. He lives and breathes his message and attempts to infect every student, every teacher, every one of us in the audience with an enthusiasm for learning. His story is also told with an analog pivot, a phone call. Read his story, watch the video below and then make something happen in your school, even something really small. But I dare you to just sit there afterwards.

One frustrating note: The speaker who came after him Andrew Rasiej (@Rasiej) wrongly concluded that education in America would be better if every student had access to an iPad.

NOOO!!

In one sentence, he negated the entire point of Kevin’s presentation.

Every student should have access to teachers like Kevin. It is Kevin who is the variable here, not the iPad. I’ll bet Kevin would have been just as effective motivating kids to get excited about music with a couple buckets, some string and a gum wrapper. How very, very sad this was so very wrongly interpreted.

Invest in people first; invest in the analog and the digital will follow. The people you invest in will see and use digital in creative ways. If you just invest in the digital, you will turn students into robot users, not creators.

Kevin’s presentation is between 1:47 and 2:06 below. Kevin’s “conclusion” follows briefly afterward.



Video streaming by Ustream | 140conf Day 1, Session 1

*The harmonica app is awesome, but as an accomplished player of the real thing, I got bored. The banjo tuner was fun only it that is annoyed @chirn9980 when I claimed to be able to play a foggy mountain breakdown in the key of G. He claimed it was just a tuner and I was an idiot. It was still fun.

We should be careful about filling people with ambition

I had a pretty lively discussion with someone on the twitter this morning who had some strong opinions about how everyone should be self-employed and that we should quit relying on “The Man” for a job. I expressed some concern that before cheering them to jump off the ledge, we should perhaps maybe encourage people to first assess the risks, that they should jump with eyes wide open.

Twitter being what it is — by the end of the discussion — I was accused of scaring people, looking for more ways to fail than to succeed and killed fifty people on the highway with a load of wood.

….

I can’t make it to @140conf NYC, so I’m sending my editor

I’m backing out of the @140conf #NYC at the last minute and sending my ne’er-do-well editor, @gerardmclean in my place. This is what the bum .. err, I mean hobo.. looks like so if you see him lurking the hallways, stop him and say hello. He will probably be in the back of the hall making trouble.

Feel free to frisk him while you’re at it; I haven’t been paid in years and sure could use some cash. I’m certain the man is loaded.

Don Draper and potted plants

When I worked at a major retailer many, many, many years ago we would get regular deliveries of potted plants in the spring. They would come in on trailers from some place south and everyone would gather at the dock and help unload them. They were always huge and green — large palms, ficus trees, dieffenbachias — planted in gallon pots and sold for $19.99 or some other low price. Having spent the previous five months buried in the snows of Minnesota, customers were eager for anything green.

The plants sold quickly. They also died quickly.

Apparently, the grower would force the leafy part of the plant to grow quickly and not care about the roots. He made money on quick turn of the product, not on the health of the plant. He knew the big, lush greenery would sell. He didn’t care how long they lasted.

“All of this for such a cheap price? Wow, that would look great in my apartment!”

As I watched “The Other Woman” episode of Mad Men this past Sunday, that lesson leapt into my head.

Taking short-cuts work for short-term results. Anyone who has ever worked in the online space has probably had constant battles with the “SEO v Quality Content” arguments, knowing full-well that a dedicated SEO effort with back links and “black hat” stuff will produce quick results. We know that we will have to defend the “quality content” argument against the seemingly successful SEO push as the client’s site hits page one of Google at a meteoric rise. But we know equally well that the page will drop like a stone once the effort is stopped.

We are rarely given the chance to defend the quality position as the client gets busy popping the champagne cork in celebration.

We know the plant will die because it does not have the root structure to sustain the leafy green top. That might be ok if the client were a white-label brand selling quick greenery to a cabin-fever-infected audience looking to buy cheap plants. But if the client was in the long-term relationship, quality results business such as selling very expensive cars to an exclusive demographic — where their brand is also on the line — that might prove to be a bit problematic.

This is what Don Draper knows. While many reviews out there focus on the morality of “whoring out Joan” or the role of women in the workplace, the real significance of the “deal” was not lost on Don. He now has to decide how to handle a situation where he is contractually tied to a group of people who are willing to game the system to produce leafy green plants with no root structure to sell to an audience who will buy from the nameless vendor willing to sell the leafiest greenery at the cheapest price. His future is tied to these people and he no longer gets a vote. He is feeling too old, powerless and out-of-touch to just leave.

This is what he is processing in the instant Joan and he exchange looks in Roger’s office. He is not judging Joan; he is assessing everyone else in the office. Joan has won 5% of a leafy green company and Don knows it. That is what is in Don’s eyes.

I’m not quite sure what is in Joan’s.

Obligatory 2012 SXSW post

sxsw

sxsw

SXSW Interactive starts tomorrow and I feel like I should be putting up a post on the topic, even though I’m not going. As I watch my twitter stream on the topic, it occurs to me that the experience is vastly different for my crowd vs. the A-lister crowd.

Of course I have a short parable… or metaphor… or whatever to illustrate my point. Here goes.

If Chris Brogan forgets his charger for his MacBook Air, he tweets out something like “Hey, can anyone lend me a charger for a MBAir?” Within minutes, he will have his pick of twenty or so to happily charge his Mac.

If I forget my charger for my MacBook Air, I would tweet out “Hey, can anyone lend me a charger for a MBAir?”

Crickets. Not only would I get crickets, but I may even get RTed with lines like “some idiot forgot his charger at SXSW. LOL”

If you’re going to SXSW, enjoy the show!

But don’t forget your charger.

Mugging for social media

Uggie
Uggie
SOURCE: http://weinsteinco.com/sites/the-artist/

If you’re gonna make a movie that features a dog and that movie wins Best Actor and Best Picture of the Year, we’re gonna have a thing or two to say about it. I’m talking about The Artist starring Uggie and a few human beings in supporting roles, of course.

We don’t do movie reviews here, though this film is certainly worthy of one. After seeing it a few dozen more times, I may write one. For now, though, here are two observations.

“Silent” media gives a voice to the mute or the flawed.
Social media channels are for the most part, silent media. They do not require anyone to actually be themselves or show themselves in photos or video. You are what your words are in blog posts, in tweets, in Facebook updates and such. You do not need to be a great speaker, be able to carry a tune or dance to perform in the social media space. Social media gave to many nerds and geeks what silent film gave to George Valentin (and Uggie the dog if you want to extend the metaphor.) Sorry, you will have to see the film to the very end to understand this reference. Yeah, I know.. but life has no short-cuts.

Unfortunately for most, video is on the rise in the social media space, giving it a real voice in much the same way talkies did for silent film. Many stars will fall by the wayside, but it will also make way for the young. “People are tired of old actors mugging at camera to be understood. Out with the old, in with the new. Make way for the young! That’s life!” (Peppy Miller, The Artist)

Hating on the French
Can we just stop that already? As the Oscars went on and The Artist picked up more awards, my twitter stream filled up with anti-French tweets. I think we may be able to learn a little bit from Jean Dujardin who said in his acceptance speech, “I love your country” and proclaimed his delight for cinnamon rolls on the red carpet. If a big star like Dujardin can find delight in the smallest, pedestrian things about America, why can’t we find these same things about the French?

We all have flaws. Some of us are socially awkward; some are camera-shy. Still others have stage-fright and other have a French accent. Most of us are the dogs that run around the feet of others, just trying to get some attention. The tools you learned to use to overcome your flaws may not help you next year.

The survivors in this game are not the young as Peppy Miller suggested, but those who are willing and able to adapt.

People want to eat but they won’t join the hunt

Hunting Dog

Most people wear your web site, twitter feed or facebook page like they wear a jacket or drive their car. When they want to use it, they do. When they don’t, it is out of sight and out of mind.

People who work in the online space are in a very rarefied space. They live and breathe online all day long and delude themselves into thinking this is reality. When they go outside their front door, life dilutes the online world by about 1:10,000,000,000,000 parts per billion.

….

A monkey with a loaded gun does not make him a marksman

Monkey with a loaded gun

Monkey with a  loaded gun

I wrote four drafts of this #letsblogoff and scrapped every one. I don’t think the world needs another diatribe about how we are all getting stuff for free and think we are owed full service. I’ll let others do that.

Instead, I’ll just list a few things that make me go “Hmmmm…”

Social media experts who have found fame blogging believe they are experts about other things for which they have not spent the time honing the craft.

Soccer moms with crappy cameras who stand on the touchline and say things like, “Don’t waste your money on the photos. I’ll give you mine for free.”

Speakers who speak at conferences where the attendees have paid good money to attend and expect quality advice say things like, “The best thing about this software is it’s FREE!”

People who remix songs from others and claim to have talent and skill. Same with photos, paintings and prints.

Politicians who vote to send kids to war but don’t budget Veterans’ benefits when they come back all shot up.

Overhearing this being said; “Anyone can write.”

Just because a monkey with a loaded gun hits the target, it doesn’t make him a marksman.

* * *

And this video says everything I need to say about the argument against ever increasingly low prices. The only thing I wish were different is if I could somehow spend a few bucks for the privilege of embedding it here in my blog for you to enjoy.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the meal. To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.