Three things I learned at #140conf NYC

To say that I learned three new things at the #140conf (June 15-16, 2011 in NYC) might be stretching things a bit. Perhaps I mean to say that three of my observations and assumptions about human behavior have been affirmed.

Before I start at the 140conf, I need to back up a little to a few days before I left. I had hoped to travel with just my MacBook Air, but had not yet found the time to synch up my user account, preferences, email — everything that makes the Mac a useful road machine. I started the Migration Assistant and figured it would take a couple hours to synch up from a Time Machine backup only to discover after an hour of “prep” time, it would take over twelve hours over WiFi. So, I stuck in a USB drive and found out I would only save an hour or so.

What?!!??!! Grrr….. I have collected far too much stuff. Too bad the MacBook Air did not have a FW800 port. *sigh* So, I travelled to the conference with two laptops; my huge MacBook Pro 17″ and the really light MacBook Air. Let’s stow that experience for a while; it will be relevant later on.

We arrived at the 92Y early, registered, did some light networking and found seats, tweeted, check into Foursquare — all those things that one does at a social media conference. The sessions began and about 11:00, I started to regret my decision to not grab a cup of coffee before hopping the train from the Roger Smith to the 92Y (I know, I know it would have ended badly but maybe if I kept the lid on.) So, we popped out quickly and grabbed a coffee and scone from Juliano’s across the street. And maybe we stayed a little bit. Maybe. The coffee was good and the view out the window was spectacular.

We made our way back to the 140conf and found the house crowded, with standing room only. Why? As we squeezed into the gallery, we heard Ann Curry speaking. Ah, ok. After a few minutes, she ended her speech to thunderous applause and then a mass exodus of attendees.

Cool! Great seats for us!

Affirmation #1: Most people hanging in the social media space are only doing it to be seen and heard in the space of the A-listers or celebrities.

We found some seats and were treated to a short presentation by Krupali Tejura, MD (@krupali) a Radiation Oncologist. Her story was soft spoken but touched a spot in my soul, leaving me to tweet:

You can extend a life with length or depth. I wonder how many of us would choose depth? @krupali #140conf #randomtakeaway

Nobody calculates the ROI of anything worth doing.

Life is fantastic. It is the business of making a living that is tedious.

My next thought was how sad it was that the hundreds of people who rushed past me not moments ago — smug in the feeling they ate the main course of the conference — missed the most important human connection of the entire conference. Krupali was a nobody. She was even pre-empted by Curry who arrived too early. Yet for me, she provided the value for the conference. I only hope that if I ever need an oncologist, she still has the passion for humanity that brought me close to tears.

Affirmation #2: Most people will rush through life and never notice the small flowers life places at their feet. Most even deliberately trample them flat.

When I returned home, I wanted to share Krupali’s story with a lot of people. I knew that Jeff Pulver was life-videotaping the conference and was confident I could point to the video segment at UStream. After over an hour of trying to find the clip, I just gave up. I am sure Krupali’s story is somewhere in the stream; I don’t have the time or desire to sift through two days worth of stuff to find it.

And this is where we started out. While the 140conf would argue they are “curating,” I would argue that they are just hoarding digital stuff. There are no timecodes, no keyframes, no markers to point to any of the workshops. To be useful, the video should link back to the schedule with time codes and clip titles. The titles are even inconsistent with the schedule (Act I, Scene 1? When is that? Wed morning? I think so, but not sure….)

Affirmation #3: Few of us are truly curating all this digital stuff. What we are doing is probably more accurately labeled as hoarding.

Those are my take-aways from the 2011 #140conf in New York. What were yours?

Postscript:
Dr. Krupali found the clip and here it is below. Thank you.

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Why we are engineered for another 9/11; the TSA is working backwards

The media and blogosphere is going nuts with this recent hulla-balloo over the TSA pat-downs and full-body scanners. In news segment after segment, after the guest tirades about lack of privacy, dignity, pornography scan and whatever else is the convenient bumper sticker claim of the hour, the anchor eventually asks the guest, “What would you do differently?”

The question generally sends the guest into a sputtering mutter and the anchor then makes his/her point, “See? You have nothing. This is the best system we have even though it is imperfect, so sit down and shut up. We all want to be safe.”

Only that’s not really true.

All the TSA did after 9/11 is replace a patch-work of private security guards of questionable authority with standardized, uniformed TSA agents with unchallengeable authority and a McDonald-ized set of procedures. All airports must be set up a standard way. All interactions with passengers must be conducted in this manner with this script. All escalations are handled by a supervisor, here’s how passengers proceed through, here is how to wand, etc, etc.

When there is a procedure and a script, employees to fill the jobs are easy to find, easy to process, easy to train, cheap to pay and cheap to replace. It is like changing out a bolt in a piece of machinery. That is how we approached the job at hand; fill 65,000 jobs in less than a year. Instead of asking ourselves why we needed 65,000 TSA agents, we just marched forward to replace the patchwork system we had into a uniform one.

It’s how we handle anything that needs mass-processing in this country. And it is prone to malicious injection because it is standardized and predictable. A smart man who happens to be a retired Dayton police officer told me something right after 9/11 I’ll never forget. He said the minute we go to a national police system is when we become vulnerable. We may find it easier to communicate and coordinate, but it is easy to inject a virus and mole into a system. It is almost impossible to do the same with patchwork.

What I would do differently
Inject unpredictability into the airport environment. That helpless lost young man you helped who couldn’t remember where he parked? TSA agent. That pretty chatty girl who was in the elevator who wanted to know where you were flying off to? TSA agent. That grandmother whose cell phone battery just died and she asked to borrow your cell phone to call her niece? TSA agent. That frazzled businessman who was running late for his flight and wanted to know what time it was? TSA agent. That college student who thought your iPad was really cool, where did you get it and can I see it? TSA agent. That blind man with the dog at the duty-free store who asked you if he was holding a bottle of Absolut? TSA agent. The dog too. That hipster who liked your shoes and where did you get them? TSA agent.

All watching you, all asking you questions to determine how you react in situations that are unpredictable. And all either clearing you or escalating you before you reach security and even after you pass through.

And we all pass through metal detectors set up really high and we put our loose stuff in bins like we did before. We are waved through by cheerful uniformed guards but it is all just a show. Only the passengers who have been escalated past a certain comfort point are channeled through a special “high risk” area where their tickets, documentation, luggage and person is more thoroughly searched. Most of us blithely proclaim the United States is the most free country to walk around in. No planes are highjacked, because we all trust each other. That is how we live with freedom in America.

Or at least that is what the TSA wants us to believe. Just like Walt Disney makes everyone believe the streets on the Happiest Place on Earth are never littered with trash.

We would need less than half of the thousands we employ already with the TSA. We would have to commit to hiring and training people to be really good actors and profilers (not racial profilers) and we would have to be willing to inject new scenarios and outcomes every day into the airports. We would have to pay these people well. We may even be able to save a few from a life as a greeter at WalMart (who can spot a lie better than someone who has raised a teen-ager? AARP, you listening?)

We’d have to be committed to the real security of human beings by applying a human solution, not a blind faith in technology with a promise of automated safety. A system is predictable and predictability can be injected and highjacked.

What about putting people in charge again scares us most?

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Dayton leads region in social media adopters

DAYTON – Internet entrepreneur Jeff Pulver strode, or rather, “surfed” his way into Dayton on Sunday, Aug. 22, as part of a road trip promoting 140Conf.com’s event Oct. 20 in Detroit. About two dozen emergent media/social networking and technology denizens met Pulver for a “meet and greet” at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. in Dayton.

“Detroit will show everything we do,” Pulver said summing up what he hoped the Dayton stop would help accomplish.

At Blind Bob’s Pulver was met by Gary Lietzell, Mayor of Dayton, who presented Pulver with a special proclamation from the city. Lietzell hoped that Pulver’s visit would help “Tell the world about us,” and would entrench his commitment to emergent technology and social networking that he pushed during his run for Mayor in 2009.

“I embraced it during my campaign,” Lietzell said of social networking.

Pulver, the Chairman and Founder of pulver.com, is on a week-long trip that will see him traverse the Midwest well ahead of the Detroit event, to be held at The Fillmore Detroit. He has testified before Congress on the importance of social media, and has been a key shaper in the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts on Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) development and its public policy implications.

Many in Pulver’s audience at Blind Bob’s were either using laptops or hand-held devices displaying the vision of pulver.com’s “Exploring the State of Now.” Many followed Pulver’s trip from Columbus, where held a similar event to the one in Dayton, to Dayton via an Ustream feed. Pulver had promised an Ustream or similar feed of his entire Midwest trip.

When asked why he chose Dayton, Pulver proudly stated, “Because when we announced our plans for the trip, Dayton was the first to shout out ‘Please stop.’”

His two-hour event in Dayton was then followed up by a similar event in Cincinnati before he traveled to Indiana on Monday. His trip culminates in Detroit on Saturday, Aug. 28.

Dayton is home to several social media groups, including New Media Dayton (NMD) led by Carole Baker. NMD is an organization that coordinates speakers and regular meet up between social media and business groups in and around the Dayton Area. Another group that has adopted social media tools is Dayton Most Metro (DMM) led by Bill Pote. DMM strives to be the central source of all things happening in Dayton.

You’re still gonna need a horse to make that plough work

The year is 1837 and a farmer was all giddy about the new John Deere steel plough he just bought. It was a lot lighter than his old piece of crap iron plough. Since his back was starting to hurt as he was getting older, he was happy that the lightweight steel plough would take less effort and a lot less room to store in his barn.

And just as after he signed all the paperwork for the finance plan, the replacement insurance and the optional Telflon* undercoating, the salesman turned to him and said, “You know, you’ll still need a horse to make that plough work.”

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You are not a Ninja or a Rockstar

I read an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today that says the hot new job title in technology is “Ninja.”

Really? Seriously? People like being called the “Ninja?”

Before that, we had “Rockstar” and “Guru” and … [insert other fantasy title here]. All mis-appropriated from a fantasy of a high-school nerd who wished he was a rockstar or ninja back in the day. Now that you are an adult with some power, money and skills you can be these things. But it still makes you look nerdy.

Ninjas are ninjas; rockstars are rockstars. You are just the guy with a really big brain who has skills and the ability to see patterns most of us envy. Is that not enough or is that just too much of the wrong thing? I suppose you reason that if being the really smart nerd in the room was every kid’s fantasy, then we’d all grow up wanting to be a big brainy nerd instead of a rockstar.

Be who you are and quit trying to live out a child’s fantasy in your adult life. Being a nerd back then may have been uncomfortable, but claiming to be a rockstar or ninja in an adult life makes you look ridiculous.

And it makes the rest of us uncomfortable because we’re not sure how grown up you really are.

As long as we are talking creative titles, I would be remiss if I didn’t throw out a few of my own: Lead Dog, Poop Maker, Bone Digger, Whiner, Barker, Butt Sniffer, Leg Humper. Thanks @1sassy_chick and @saintpetepaul for the contributions.

SXSW – on a Mission from Dog

The puppy what nuzzled my knee at SXSW 2010

I was given a marvelous opportunity recently, namely representing DogWalkBlog at SXSW. Jumped on that offer immediately, because who wouldn’t??

I was also given a few tasks to accomplish while I was there, mostly along the line of “see if you can find Chris Brogan, aka @chrisbrogan, and say “hi” to him. Some of these I completed with great success. Others, not so much.

Chris Brogan I saw before I was even registered. I had been in the registration area barely five minutes, when I looked up, and there he was. I really thought that finding everyone else on my meet and greet list would be a piece of cake. Silly me.

SXSW is simply packed with people. Masses and super-mases, moving, standing, talking on cell phones, tweeting on cell phone, sitting in chairs or on the floor and typing away like mad things (more or less as I am at this very minute). Through it all there is the constant buzz of thousands of people talking.

There are two ways to approach SXSW, maybe a third if you mix the first two together. Last year, I mostly socialized. I went to parties, and parties in between the other parties. I talked myself hoarse and tried not to drink too much (mostly because I had been hit and badly mashed by a big-rig truck the month before).

This year, I was determined to attend as many presentations, panel discussions and core conversations as humanly possible. Some have been fabulous, some a little ho-hum, and a one was disappointing, but on the whole, it was a great time for me.

What follows are my impressions of what I have seen so far, touching on those presentations that most impacted me.

Day 1:
The highpoint of my first day, aside from meeting Chris Brogan, was a panel discussion on “Eight Ways to Deal with Bastards.” The content the panel presented and discussed was actually useful, concentrating on the four contexts in which most of us meet the bastards with whom we much deal, and good ways to diffuse otherwise potentially explosive situations.

The panelist who simply blew me away was a lady named Jane Waldron, aka @Chookooloonks. Lovely to look at, delightful speaking voice, and intentionally hysterically funny. She told me later that she was from Trinidad. You would never know it to hear her speak, although, just for giggles she lapsed into a very Trinidadian patois for me, and after scraping my jaw up off the ground, I wanted to vote her in as Queen of the Universe for Life. She’s the type of person you’d gladly follow into battle even knowing that you wouldn’t be coming out of the fray alive.

Day 2:
My apex presentation this day was about “How to Bulletproof Your Finances.” It was really intended for people much younger than I (by 20 to 30 years), but the beauty of it was that I took a ton of good information away with me, information that I wish I had had available when I was 20 or 30 years younger, but that I can still apply to my life today. That one was with Ramit Sethi, aka @ramit (who has written a book, as it seems everyone at SXSW has, the difference being that I might actually buy this book).

Midday, I embarked upon my second meet and greet mission. This time for Julia Roy, aka @juliaroy, manning a booth for @imagespacemedia. I had a lovely conversation with her, and managed to score a free lunch in the process. If there is a God, may he/she eternally bless these folks for providing real non-candy solid food for the masses. (I pulled off the free lunch trick again on Day 3 … amazing, right?)

The disappointment of the day was a panel discussion called “Engaging Your Queer Audience.” It wasn’t disappointing because the panel was not interesting or didn’t present well, and to be entirely fair, it was probably only a disappointment for me. That was because, based on the catalog, I expected it to be about how straight people could open dialogs with and market to the gay community. Turns out it was more of a discussion by and for gay blog writers on the unique problems facing gay blog writers. I’ll cop to expressing my frustration at the end of the discussion, and I ended up having a much more informative discussion with some of the participants after the program was finished.

Informative, and yet still frustrating; this was because I wanted to find out how a straight transactional (business/estate planning) attorney goes about marketing to the GLBT community without pandering to them or misleading them into thinking I am gay, or downright insulting them? The answer I received was surprising, in essence it was “I know plenty of gay attorneys, so I would never hire a straight attorney” and “How many of the attorneys in your firm are gay?” Since I don’t understand how sexual orientation makes a person a better or worse attorney, and since it would never occur to me to ask someone about their sexual orientation in a work context (and isn’t that sort of thing flying in the face of Federal Anti-Discrimination laws?), I began to see a serious communication disconnect.

The conversation was pleasant and interesting, and I liked the people I was talking with, but I found myself wondering how the gay community can complain about the straight world not accepting (or ignoring) their sexual orientation when they are not willing or able to accept or ignore ours? Doesn’t the good of the human community as a whole mean that both groups have to give a little?

Day 3:
The time change didn’t help things much, but when I had driven half way into Austin before realizing that I had left my SXSW badge at home, I think I should have taken that as a hint that this was a day I should have stayed in bed. Drove home, grabbed badge and missed half of what I’d be willing to bet was a fantastic presentation called “Perfectly Irrational: Who Put the Monkey in the Driver’s Seat?” by Dan Ariely, aka @danariely. The little bit that I saw was well worth the drive and meant that two other books were going on my wish list.

Midday (while trying to find a dog to photograph), I felt what I can only describe as a large and cold finger poking me at knee level at the Daskeyboard booth. How lovely, you think “I want to find a dog to photograph at SXSW” and one magically appears! Yet another of my quests completed.

By the time I went to the panel discussion “From Trolls to Stars: The Commenter Ecosystem,” I was dragging. I went by the trade show floor one more time to see if I could find Hugh MacLeod aka @gapingvoid to tell him that all the mutts at the Walk loved his work and his book “Ignore Everybody.” That done, and having picked up enough free t-shirts to dress a small army of large or extra-large people (so shoot me, I like my t-shirts on the baggy side), I had decided that, parties or no parties, I was going home for the day.

As I headed for the exit in the Austin Convention Center, someone behind me stepped on my heels. Who ever it was apologized, and as I turned to acknowledge the apology, someone who must have been moving very fast slammed into to me so hard that they actually spun me around. I never did see who this human equivalent of a Mack truck was, or which way they went, but with the next step I took, I realized that my big toe on my right foot was broken. In this case, I should say “broken yet again” because this particular toe has been broken at least five times in the past 40 years.

I took this to be the universe’s way of telling me that my complete disregard of the hint provided to me this morning had left me open for the follow-up baseball bat to the head. Not as subtle as the hint, but certainly effective.

So, here I sit, staying off my foot as much as possible, downing the occasional Vicodin, and thinking that I met a lot of really nice people, ate some great hotdogs, learned so much, and generally had a great time (notwithstanding the whole broken toe thingie).

Would I go again? You bet!
Even if I had to pay for my own ticket? Hell yes!

Do, I owe @dogwalkblog a huge debt of gratitude? More than he will ever know.

This is Ricky Maveety @rickymaveety reporting for @dogwalkblog from (or at least within 45 miles of) SXSW.

Clearing the clippings

It has happened again, more news story clippings are piling up on my desk faster than I can comment on them. So, here is the quick dump of stuff so my brain can breathe again.

Everyone deserves a second chance
No, no they don’t. You should take the time to do it right the first time. Not everything is a dress rehearsal for the real thing. Life is not a dress rehearsal. An article from the WSJ about how kids are taking the ACT/SATs over and over and how colleges are accepting the best scores from each section, rather than the scores on single exams. Get a clue, colleges! You may be helping your enrollment numbers, but you are not doing these kids any favors.

The fine art of copyright
ed-aj164_infoag_d_20090315210910jpgAn article in the WSJ about Garcia vs Fairey about him using Mr. Garcia’s photograph of Obama for the artwork on the posters, campaign, etc. L. Gordon Crovitz gets to the heart of copyright. The photog Mr. Garcia spent money to fly to the event, waited patiently for the correct pose and lighting ad then took the photo. Mr. Fairey simply lifted the photo from the internet, added a couple Photoshop filters to it and called it his work. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It is bad enough when clueless corporate weenie steal art, but when artists do it to each other, that is more than wrong. Shameful.

How to Twitter
An article by Julia Angwin on how to twitter for business, etc. Just a thing that stuck out as clueless in her article. She called CSS a Web program. CSS is not a “Web program” but a way to apply styles to content on Web pages. I was believing she did her research and knew what she was talking about until I read that, then she just lost me.

Now, seriously, after one article in the WSJ, Julia gets 1,683 followers? Seriously? How can a dog possible compete with that. Old marketing rules still apply, people.

School levy fall of the ballot
In the Dayton Daily News, Neighbors. Apparently, school levies ARE marketing-driven. After realizing that asking for more money during a recession is probably stupid, they tabled the Trotwood levy. Apparently school boards can be taught. I don’t expect the lesson to stick, but for now….

The groundwork has already been laid for Martial Law
This appeared in the Englewood Independent. A year ago, I would have said “interesting.” Two years ago, I would have dismissed this guy as a nut job. Today, he has my attention.

Well, that is all for the clipping desk. I’m sure it will start building up again starting tomorrow, but for now, sure feels good to start with a desktop I can see again!

The ROI of “social networking”

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio
Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio
I received a panic email from a graphic designer at a local city magazine yesterday who desperately needed some photos of a soccer tournament. “Anything you have showing local kids playing soccer!” she said. Since she was referred by someone who had faith that I would come through for her, it was hard to say no, even though I really didn’t have the extra time.

Fortunately, we had commissioned a photo shoot for TourneyCentral a few months back and the photos were still on my MacBook Pro. So, I opened the folder, pulled out a few dozen photos, threw them in a gallery using Photoshop, put them up on some Web space and sent her the link.

“Email me the file names of the ones you want, give the photographer credit,” I wrote back.

Within an hour, she had her local photos, I made another contact in the local publishing community who sent me back a huge “sigh of relief and gratitude” email (on a holiday week), reaffirmed my value with the local chamber contact who referred me, gave some more exposure to a local photographer, subtly plugged the Mead CUSA Cup Soccer Tournament and maybe created some business opportunity for myself later on down the line.

What I did not do was calculate an ROI for this act of networking.

Why didn’t I? I’m in business and the responsible thing to do — I’ve been told — is to have an ROI for everything I do. What was the return on my spending an hour of time and effort I did not really have to spare? How did your actions affect the bottom line of your business? You paid to have those photos taken; why did you just give them away to a publication? What is the ROI on spending another hour writing the blog post you are reading now? All of these things I heard in the back of my head as I was doing this act of kindness for this very desperate graphic designer who probably was behind schedule through no fault of her own.

Again, knowing all this, I did not calculate an ROI.

Is what I did considered social networking? Yeah, I think it is. It is no different than sending folks tweets on Twitter and helping out with requests for code or software recommendations or sharing a MacBook Pro power adapter when someone sends out a “help me” tweet. Nor is it any different than spending time commenting on a blog post that may not have examined all the facts entirely.

I propose a new standard for ROI on social networking: If you ask what the ROI is for social networking, you are already convinced emotionally that you need to do it. Go with that, jump in and tweet, blog and link in and the “financial ROI” will fall into place.

What the Wii?

Wii game Petz Sports
Wii game Petz Sports
I returned from my walk this morning to a tweet from Guy Kawasaki about how injuries caused by excessive Wii play is on the rise.

I tweeted back saying people should just get a dog and walk three times a day. Then, it occurred to me that somebody may have already developed a game for Wii where you can walk your virtual dog.

Get this. A game, Petz Sports, was released last month where you can use your Wii to interact with a pet.

Just plain wrong.

Not entirely an accurate analogy on Net neutrality

Found this analogy about Net neutrality and depite its convincing face, it is not entirely accurate.

Say there was no deal cooked up between Telus and the big pizza chain and everyone was competing equally. But, the local pizza place decided it would make a really delicious, super-duper pizza that everyone wanted, but was not going to pay Telus for extra capacity for phone calls to come in to the shop. They had one line and people could reach them, they claimed.

Moreover, the local pizza chain demanded that Telus install additional lines at no cost to them so they could deliver their extra super delicious pizza that everyone was clambering for. “Pizza should be available to all who want it!” was the battle cry of the pizzeria and their customers.

Yet neither the pizzaria nor their customers were willing to pay extra for the additional phone lines to be installed. “Telus should provide those for free! They MUST be anti-pizza!” came the sequel to the battle-cry.

I am not anti Net neutrality. In fact, a lot of my tax money went to establishing the Internet and without that seed money, the Net would not exist. Nor am I pro Net neutrality. I fight all the time to establish value for web sites we develop that people think should be a free service.

I don’t know the answer, but I know analogies like the one published is not a complete picture of the issue.

Originally published on: GerardMclean.com