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.

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.

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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#TwitterMakesYouStupid – a New York Times challenge

Last night, Bill Keller, Executive Editor, The New York Times tweeted out: “#TwitterMakesYouStupid. discuss”

And of course, this started up a firestorm among the twits, many of whom were not particularly skilled with using the grammar of the English language or the proper placement of an apostrophe, but that probably proves Mr. Keller’s bias a bit too much.

I digress.

I don’t care about how stupid twitter makes you or if stupid people use twitter or any of that. Not one bit. My motives for writing this blog post are just way more selfish than that.

I hopped on over to The New York Times library of blogs and noticed a gaping hole in your catalog: NO DOG BLOG!

That can not stand!

Everybody knows that Americans only want to read stories of cute puppies, dogs being rescued from flooded drainage ditches, loyal dogs saving their owners during earthquakes or rescue dogs doing extraordinary things during times of tragedy like 9/11 (shameless, I know, but watch where I’m going with this before you judge.)

So, Mr. Keller, I propose you hire me to write a blog specifically dedicated to dog residents of New York City. In a city of 8-9 million people, many who own dogs, there has to be at least a hundred stories a year worth reporting, right?

I will be in New York City for the annual 140Conf June 15-16. Please call my people to set up an appointment in your offices.. or Gregory’s Coffee on 7th is fine. I’ll buy.

Unless you think I’m just too stupid to write for your little newspaper.

All you, Mr. Keller.

A thousand words in a million keystrokes

This morning, I pulled the dust cover off the old manual typewriter, rolled a sheet of paper into the carriage and typed something. I wanted to see what it felt like again to be a “real writer.”

In truth, it felt like getting on an old bike after having not ridden for years; slow going at first… a lot of fits and starts but eventually that rhythm… aw, who am I kidding. It was painful as heck. It felt more like learning how to walk and talk again after someone hit you upside the noggin with a hammer and broke both your legs with a Louisville slugger.

….

Fact v truth – a #letsblogoff

karl marx

I once heard someone say that “The truth belongs to he who tells the story first and best.” I think there is some truth to that.

As I was writing this, I was listening to a speech by yet another social media expert who asserted, “The world has changed…” and I thought that was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. That is not a truth. That is not even a fact. The fact is this moment has changed from the last moment and the moment before that. “The world is ALWAYS changing…” is more the truth. The truth is most people either did not notice the changes or lied to themselves about them happening.

The truth is they admit that the world has changed because they can no longer reconcile the facts with their truth.

I grew up Catholic and for most of my life, I have heard the truth that things are “God’s Will.” God wants us to suffer to prepare for the afterlife. It is God’s will that he took Uncle Conrad home to him so young. It is God’s will that your dog Rusty got hit by that car.

The truth is God does not will anything. God — if he exists — does not care. People are the Universe. We make our own “luck” by the relationships we form, forge and maintain with others. We create our own “truths” by what we are willing to admit as fact to ourselves.

Facts are that rain and snow fell, that waters rose, that wind patterns blew, that the Earth buckled under strain. Fact is that people are attracted to the coast, the ocean, the river banks and choose to build there. Fact is that these elements destroy things we build. Fact is nature is more powerful than our puny stuff. The fact is that most people who are affected by bad luck failed to or were unable to plan for the rain.

I used to think there was one Universal Truth, that the Aristotelian A is A was something that we could achieve if we all pulled in the same direction and thought hard enough about the facts. If we could use the right words to define something so narrowly that there would be no ambiguity, we could get to “the truth” about a thing. I remember taking a Marxism class in college and the only things that stuck with me were* a) the professor was very strange and had a bad habit of snorting inappropriately and b) the cornerstone of Marx’s philosophy of physics was A is in the process of becoming A. As I get older, I’m thinking that maybe Marx had it right all along.**

The only problem with Marx’s truth is he admits uncertainty as fact. That loss of control makes lots of people uncomfortable. The truth is this post was going to go an entirely different direction, but I found the words I had originally taken out and arranged to be entirely inappropriate for the task at hand. If it seems like this post wanders around and has no point, then my work here is done. It is a blog post in the process of becoming a blog post.

I believe that all events are neutral, that the Universe is impartial and indifferent. Events are given meaning by people within their understanding of the Universe. The truth is many people don’t strive to understand the Universe because it is depressing and fatalistic. In the end, the only fact is that truth hardly really matters.

*b was probably the more important point, but that snorting is now an indelible part of the story. I’m telling it here, ok?
**I think this theory was disproved or fell out of favor or some other thing, but so what, don’t care.

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 answering the question, What is the difference between fact and truth? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx

Make it work; why newspaper artists make the best designers

tim gunn and lisa grimm

“Just set your resolution high on your monitor, scale it up, take a screenshot and slap it in there,” I said to the panicked marketing artist who was stressing over the jpg of a 1X3 benevolent ad she was given without the high-res artwork or fonts. The client was not returning her phone calls and her submission deadline was twenty minutes out.

“Trust me.”

….

The killing of Osama bin Laden

As the media launches it’s way into the play-by-play analysis of the Osama bin Laden raid, I’m left here struggling to figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I have come to the conclusion that I feel the same about bin Laden’s death as I do about the towers coming down on 9/11.

Brace yourself; it’s not anything an American living in a Red State will ever admit in public.

I do not feel fear. I do not feel joy. I do not feel any great swell of Americanism that compels me to rush out into the street shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A!” at the top of my voice or run to WalMart to buy the largest flag I can find and fly it from the highest flagpole.

I do not feel like anything life-altering has happened.

I do feel a bit ashamed that we are celebrating the death of someone, even if that someone chose to live his life committing evil and fostering evil and hatred. I do not feel happy or sad that Osama bin Laden is dead but I do feel sad that we are celebrating it with the same sort of cheering one reserves for the Super Bowl.

I feel dismayed that we have created an entire generation that has grown up in fear of terrorism and suspicious of each other instead of steeped in optimism and hope. Osama bin Laden did not do that to us; we did that to ourselves to win elections and to grab the reins of power.

I feel a massive tug of manipulation as the media work desperately to shape the “national mood” to fit a narrative instead of reporting it. I feel this event — like the 9/11 event — is being treated by the media like a book tour, a movie premiere or a CD drop complete with PR spin. They raise questions and then answer them, then treat the answers as if that was the news. Then, they report on what they heard based on what they said.

I feel like we’re being told how to feel by the warm-up guy in preparation for an upcoming election show. If we play our part, we’ll be rewarded with attention. If not, we’ll be ignored as fringe. Problem is, there is a lot of “fringe” out here.

I wish media would have stuck to a headline “Osama bin Laden Dead” instead of “Killed.” “Dead” states a face whereas “killed” injects opinion, conjecture and value judgments.

On Sept 11, 2011, the rest of the world was besieged by earthquakes, landslides and massive flooding. I know this because I had access to the AP Newswire all day at the Dayton Daily News. I had to ignore those stories and search instead for some angle, some news on the 9/11 story. These other stories went almost unreported for nearly a week as media crafted new narratives each day around the 9/11 story. And when that failed, CNN ran taped loops of the towers coming down and reconstructed timelines, much as they are doing now with the raid plans.

On May 1, 2011, tens of thousands of citizens in the South are still homeless as a result of horrific tornados. Fires rage in Texas. Oil still washes up from the Gulf. Gas prices are out of control at $4.19/gallon locally. Health care cost continue to rise at twice the rate of inflation. Housing prices continue to fall. Wages are stagnant. Unemployment is still high.

I think we need to start not only thinking for ourselves, but feeling for ourselves as well. I think we need to start embracing real feelings about things that matter more deeply rather that co-opting boogie-man feelings media report we should have.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Osama_bin_Laden_portrait.jpg