March 21, 2013
Al Gore on the Environment, Healthcare, Guns & Democracy at #SXSW
I've met Al Gore a few times now over the years and have heard him speak about a dozen times, maybe more, particularly since he became so entrenched with technology while he was in office and after the fact. It should be no surprise that he was in full form at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year on the main stage in Austin in a fireside chat with WSJ's Walt Mossberg.
Those of us who know his agenda and his passion for climate change were waiting for him to dive full force into his 'green' agenda, which he did towards the end of his talk. They started with the digital revolution, appropriate given the "Southby audience." Print media are devastated he said, which is a very old discussion in the world of social media, where SXSW is the Queen Bee conference that takes such discussions to the next level...and this one started eight or so years ago.
That said, mainstream consumers in small towns are still reading newspapers and while they all may have a cell phone, they don't necessarily all use it to get their news. He refers to the 'now' economy as a 'stalker one,' where kids are even wearing 'chips' and being tracked by governments.
"I hope this stalker economy will create a gag reaction," he said. Gore suggests that we're seeing a shift in power that is bigger than what we've seen in 500 years. He also brought up Asia and how China will quickly surpass the U.S. as the largest economic power in the world.....because of that concentration and shift of power, 93% of extra income has gone to the 1% who are in power.
He added, "that's an economic fact," and then went onto say, "while our country is in serious trouble, it doesn't mean I'm not optimistic," but in order to take that power back, he suggested that "we as a country need to TAKE democracy back." Democracy as we know it he asserted, has been hacked. Said Gore, "Our OS (operating system) for the U.S. is our constitution."
He noted that earlier in this career when he was part of the 'system,' they'd spend about 1% of their time raising money versus the 5 or so hours a day today. While modern democracy has never been perfect, the will of the people did drive policy he believes. He said, "Congress is incapable of passing any reform of any significance unless its passed through special interest groups." Mossberg referenced Shapiro's The Last Great Senate at this juncture, reaffirming just how much has changed between the mid 1960s and the 2013 Congress of today. While the world knows about his hunger to educate the world about the negative impact of global warming, it's not as if Gore wasn't convicted and passionate about a number of other topics and issues, including healthcare and the NRA.
On healthcare, he reminded us that the federal government is the biggest purchaser of medicare and medicaid and if that's the case, then "why can't government negotiate like big corporates can to bring the costs down for American citizens?" That received a huge applause from the audience, no surprise given how many of us have been and continue to be screwed by insurance company premiums, wopping high deductibles and taxes. It would be impossible for guns not come up given the random and shocking killings this year in schools, small towns and beyond, and so when it did, Gore was not shy about how he felt. He scratched his head.
"C'mon, the NRA is a complete fraud. A lot of people belong to it, I used to belong. It is financed by the gun manufacturers and the organization has puppet strings. Same thing with the Smoker's Alliance." I wish they spent more time there frankly. On overall growth, Gore suggested that we should no longer use DGP as a guide for economic policy since it doesn't take externalities into account, like a negative one such as pollution or a positive one such as investment into a city in core areas such as mental health, music, culture, education, all of which counts as an 'expense,' not an investment. "They don't take into account future benefits of that investment in a city or region," said Gore. He threw out a few stats demonstrating just how far behind the U.S. is in so many areas including social and economic growth. He said, "We have worse upward social mobility than Tunisia and Egypt. Inequality is growing in the U.S. and so much of it is because our tax code is ridiculous." Hear hear Gore, go go go, not that these kinds of pep talks ever change anything back in Washington. People I know who were Middle Class are now in a struggling Working Class and those who were Working Class are either now working 100 hour weeks destroying their family life and health or on the streets.
And. then there's a wealthy Silicon Valley which seems to be numb and oblivious to how the rest of Americans actually live and think. I know - I live there. Gore asserted that we need to find ways to communicate with other and more effectively in a way that restores democracy.
"We need to TAKE BACK AMERICAN DEMOCRACY," he said firmly to a packed room in the main SXSW auditorium. And, since he couldn't wait to get to climate change, he finally migrated there but softly starting with garbage suggesting that we toss garbage into our 'country' as if its an open sewer, filling up the 'sewer' of gaseous unhealthy waste that is equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
With 53% of the country in drought, he also suggested that this shift we've been seeing is also related to global warming. Like garbage, like open sewers, like car fumes and everything else we've leaked into this environment without a care for the consequences, he threw out another alarming stat: we've seen $110 billion in climate disasters alone.
On the upside, he claimed that the investment in solar and wind is rising and the more we invest here and use it, the cheaper it will become, making it more inexpensive for us to rely on solar than coal, gas and oil over time. In order to get there however, he said that we need to reverse organizations, not people. Yes, organizations AND government Al.
Photos by Renee Blodgett.
Happiness in the Workplace Panel at #SXSW Interactive
One of the great things about South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive is that you tend to get panels about topics you wouldn't find in other conferences of its ilk. Given that I've been spending a lot of time focusing on the topic of happiness -- in my personal life as well as my professional life -- I couldn't resist going to the HAPPINESS panel with Jenn Lim from Delivering Happiness, Brian Welle from Google and Voodoo founder Chris Shultz. Delivering Happiness started as a book by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, one which I've read personally three times, an integral focus of it is on their commitment to superior customer service and how that transformed their business. Since its launch, it has been translated into 20 languages and has moved into a movement. Jenn cites three areas: company, community and cities, such as what Tony and others are doing to transform downtown Las Vegas.Most of the discussion eventually led to higher purpose and the need for humans to serve a higher purpose beyond themselves. Brian says that at Google they ask not what makes employees happy today, but years from now, the more sustainable happiness? They conducted an experiment at Google where they provided their employees with food and then a choice of plate sizes. Initially, employees chose the larger plate but used research to show them why taking a smaller plate was better for them and for the company. Around money and savings, they learned that giving employees higher anchors as a savings goal resulted in them saving more over the long haul. There's a link between higher productivity and happiness said Brian. He added, "I love data and the more data you have, the better you can predict, measure and create things that will keep employees invested in your company." Chris Shultz talked about positive emotion, engagement and relationships as essential components to achieving happiness and that there must be "meaning." Without meaning, people won't be happy.
They need to understand why we are 'doing this,' and what is their mission. They need to see accomplishments over time and how and where they're actually making a difference to the company and the world. Other takeaways from the panel from some of their slides below: More. Photos by Renee Blodgett. For more on Austin Festivals, including SXSW, go here.
March 07, 2013
Dan Pallotta: Think About a Charity's Dreams, Not Their Overhead
Dan Pallotta's work brought the practice of four-figure philanthropy within the reach of the average citizen who had never raised money for charity before in their lives. 182,000 people of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds participated in these inspiring, often grueling, long-distance events that raised $582 million in nine years - more money raised more quickly for these causes than any private event operation in history. Three million people donated to the events.
Then, he faced issues because of how things are currently structured for non-profits. Dan spoke on the TED 2013 stage this year and below are a mish mash of my notes from his talk.
He notes that there are many discriminatory issues that the philanthropy industry faces today:
1. Salaries: the median compensation for a Stanford MBA is $400K, but for a medical charity, it is roughly $232K. For a hunger charity, it is about half of that. You can’t get people to do that year after year and take that kind of financial hit when in the for profit world, you can yield so much more.
2. Marketing and Advertising: He says, "we don’t like to see our donations spent on advertising and marketing." It has remained at 2% of GDP in the United States and hasn’t grown. How can it grow if you’re not allowed to market?3. Taking Risk on New Revenue Ideas: If you don’t produce 75% return in the first year, then a non-profit's reputation goes through the mud. You kill innovation because of fear for failure.
4. Time: Amazon didn’t produce profits for years and yet we had patience, yet the rules are different for a non-profit.
5. Profits: You can’t pay profits in the non-profit sector. He says, "you don’t have a stock market to fund any of this like you can in the for profit sector. From 1970 to 2009, we were dealing with social problems which were massive in scale but things still didn't grow to help them over that time and they're still not beyond the 2% mark.
Dan says, "this dogma comes from puritan beliefs. The Puritans were Calvinists so they were taught to hate themselves and self-interest was a path to damnation. Making a lot of money was a way to send them to hell so charities were created to deal with that."
In 400 years, nothing has intervened to say that this approach is counter-productive and unfair.
He remarks, "it makes us think that overhead is not part of the cause, particularly if its being used for cause. This belief that overhead is the enemy means that people are reluctant to contribute. The notion is that the less you spend on growth of the non-profit, more can go to the cause."
Fundraising has been stagnant. He shares his own failure which was the result of this broken, out-dated system, "we made $71 million in 2002, our best year and then we went out of business since we reinvested 40% back into the organization. So in one day, 350 of our employees lost their jobs because they were labeled overhead.”
He asserts that this is what happens when we confuse morality with frugality.
How this all impacts the bigger picture? If we could move charitable giving from 2% of GDP to 3% by investing in that growth, that would be an extra $150 billion extra in contributions. He says, "it’s never going to happen by forcing these organizations by demoralizing organizations to keep the overhead low. We need to change the game."
As for advice, he offers, "Think about the scale of an organization's dreams, not their overhead and how they measure the progress towards their dream. Who cares what the overhead is if these problems are getting solved?"
His mission is to change the way the world thinks about these issues and suggests that this needs to be our endearing legacy....that we in fact took responsibility for the legacy that has been handed down to us and change the way we think about philanthropy, so real problems can be solved, changing the scale dramatically.
Photo credits: sunyocc.edu (hands) and Dan's shot from his site.
March 05, 2013
TEDActive 2013: Bubble Guns & Global Conversations on Lawns & Haystacks
As a long time TEDster, I had never been to its offshoot, an event that happens simultaneously every year called TedActive. It's essentially TED, but less expensive and less bells and whistles.
Since it is held a couple of hours from the main event, the speakers are obviously not on-site, however you do experience them through a satellite feed, which includes views of the audience, the main stage and the impact the speakers have on that audience in real time.
For years, TED has something called the 'simulcast' room, which is where you can view the talks in a separate room on a 'screen' not far from the main room.
Why some people love hanging out in the 'simulcast room' rather than the main room is that it allows them to quietly chat in the back, or type away on their keyboard if they have work to get done.
OR, if you're an A++ type who is simply too digitally connected to sit still with nothing but an old fashioned notebook among 1,000 of your "closest" friends, simulcast is the way to go.
All of TEDActive is a bit like that, except that the main room resembles TED's main simulcast room and TEDActive's additional simulcast rooms, which are even more casual, feel like a cross between a silent and creative experiment at a progressive university and an adult's playground.
In some of the rooms, there were tables with paper cut outs and magic markers if you wanted to jot down your ideas in "color" using "scraps". This year, they also had a 'banana' theme and while I still don't know what was behind it, it was oddly amusing to continuously bump into two guys who didn't know each other, yet both of their lives depended on bananas.
From bananas and spirited drinks to cut outs and designs, we moved to species and the Internet in a nano-second.
An idea was thrown out there by four respected illumaries in different fields: Diana Reiss, Peter Gabriel, Neil Gershefeld and Vint Cerf. The question was: could the internet also connect us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species?
In a bold talk, the four of them came together to launch the idea of the interspecies Internet.
There was a 'creative' lab' where Andy Cavatorta set up an exhibit that combined technology, robotics and music.
In that same space, a few of us were inspired to get creative at two am, not long after a martini sipping session where we ate blueberries with M&M's and talked science fiction to young MIT types.
Did I mention that I'm a sucker for fur vests, colored lights and 3D science fiction glasses? And in case you're wondering, yes we were posing.
There was creative energy at the final pool party as well, which included wild hats, squirt guns, funky pants, and bananas of course, all set on a whole lotta grass against a beautiful mountainous desert in a place called LaQuinta you may never have heard of unless a TED Conference happened to be breezing through. Here we consumed some R&R, sunscreen and bubbly whatever.
Speaking of grass, we also had a little lawn time with TED 2013 Prize Winner Sugata Mitra. Known for his work in education research, Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.
He invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) and asked the TED audience for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”
While people were expanding their creative "juices" in whatever way they could, creative "things" were in place at the lab for people to play with and take in...
Below is a fabulous woman I met by the "so done right" coffee and tea bar set up in an area called the Quad, where we gathered on haystacks and picnic tables for lunch most days. She 'wore' her commitment to eco-living and seemed to have a different name each day. If I recall, she was Cool Carol the day we exchanged TEDities.
One of the things I loved about TedActive was its combination of youthful and international energy. Below, I'm with the curator of TEDx Bordeaux Emmanuelle Roques.
With 72 countries on-site, I had 'curious' conversations, all of which had global perspectives, with folks from India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, England, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, China, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Chile, Colombia, Canada, Malta, Lebanon, Palestine, UAE, Turkey, Germany, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, Israel, Belgium and Uganda.
And, those are only the ones that immediately popped into my head without diving into my business cards or the TED mobile app.
If that's not your thing, then the Active experience is a more laid back way to experience TED where you can still stretch your brain, discover new ideas, be inspired, get your creative juices flowing, get off the grid for five days and have 'unique' conversations that make you think differently, then give it a shot.
Personally, there is always someone I know on the main TED stage every year, often more than one, and many more people I have known, worked, played and cried with for years attend the main event. The other thing you're more likely to get at the main TED event is an overdose of "intellectual high."
Comedian Julia Sweeney had the audience in stitches as she made references to her peeps, you know, the Nobel Prize Winners, Scientists, Authors & Inventors that were part (so not) of her everyday world from TED.
Accolades and titles aside, I've never been one for labels and titles: none of them -- celeb labels, CEO labels, soup labels, hair product labels or shoe labels.
Whether you're into them or not, labels and titles are in abundance at TED, all there to expand their mind, gather new ideas, and many later find a way to contribute to something they were exposed to at the event. I must admit, if I were only a little more "label, title and accolade savvy", it would certainly make the Oscars easier to understand.
While we're on the topic of labels and great design, I'd be remiss if I didn't include a shot of some of Yu Jordy Fu's fabulous design work. I found her fascinating.
Later, a random encounter led to an interview with Upstart Business Journal's Teresa Novellino, a TED virgin, over lunch. See her article here, which takes an entrepreneurship angle. I wouldn't call myself a groupie, but I am most certainly a fan of what TED represents: spreading great ideas, innovation, inspiration and helping the world become a better place through a collective effort.
I'm also a huge fan of the in the between stuff that happens before and after all the organized formalities that events "do," to throw people together. When there's space and time and the 'tossing' is cast aside, real magic happens. Incredible dialogues happen. Life changing observations form. Relationships emerge. New initiatives are created.
And, as a result, 'collective' conversations away from your 'collective' and 'individual' conversations in your daily worlds, make you think about the world differently.
In that moment, an idea sizzles, or more importantly, an old way of thinking gets shattered which brings me to an oldie but a goodie, one of my favorite Helen Keller quotes:
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one opening before us." -Helen Keller
Conversations like these remind you that there are always opportunities in front of us but so often, we're asleep and miss the silent intro.
I had another observation from hanging out with such a 'global 'tribe' over the course of five days. The early American "drive" seems to be getting replaced by more of a laissez faire attitude that no longer induces self ignition. See my write-up on Rescue America, a book released last year by Chris Salamone, that fixates on this shift.
Full of historical and philosophical references, he creates clear and specific connections between the loss of our founding values and the current challenges facing our nation. What is necessary, he suggests, is a fundamental shift back toward a national embodiment of the three primary leadership qualities that sustain all lasting human institutions: gratitude, personal responsibility, and sacrifice.
What I noticed at TedActive was how many people showed up from other parts of the world embracing all three.
The notion that the "west" knows how to lead is something Americans do incredibly well. Many are good at doing it and even more are really good at giving the perception that they're good at doing it. My grandparents and parents generations learned that there were less boundaries than the countries they left behind, and were taught that hard work and education pays off.
In other parts of the world, boundaries are overcome through great sacrifice and taking personal responsibility to change the status quo, which can come in the form of political oppression, rapes that are brushed under the table, or worse.
TED speakers and attendees from other parts of the world are great examples of where and how they embrace gratitude, personal responsibility and sacrifice in their daily lives.
Take a look at this year's Yu Jordy Fu, who is not afraid to push boundaries, incorporating "raw beauty" and "love" into her design, art and architecture.
OR, how violinist Ji-Hae Park uses her music to reach people’s hearts. "There are no boundaries,” says Ji-Hae Park on the TED2013 stage. While TED may be a lofty place to perform, she also plays at prisons, hospitals and restricted facilities. She talks about her time when she was depressed and how changing your perspective through music transformed how she viewed music but life itself.
OR, how Lakshmy Pratury with tears in her eyes, talked about the importance of keeping the Delhi rape alive, also reminding us that theres a new kind of revolution happening in India where the youth is breaking down the concept of a leader.
OR, how Hyeonseo Lee made sacrifices to get her family out of North Korea. As a woman who saw her first public execution at age 7, she endured a famine in the 1990s, one which killing an estimated million people. At the time, she didn’t have the frame of reference to understand the government repression going on around her but was later caught by the Chinese police.
Someone had accused her of being North Korean, and she was subjected to brutal tests of her ability to speak Chinese. Every year, countless North Koreans are caught in China, sent back, tortured, imprisoned, publicly executed, and now she is in Long Beach talking to thousands of people who can make a difference with their voices, blogs, connections, social media call outs and their wallets.
Then, there's the Ugandan artist & teacher Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire, who I hung out with at TedActive. He became the first City 2.0 Award recipient of 2012 in Doha Qatar, at the TEDxSummit, which I attended last April.
Tusingwire's big idea is to use waste materials to create a movable amusement park for children living in slums of Kampala.
He is using his award to grow his community, grow an woman eco-artist loan program already supporting 15 women to develop their business ideas, and expand the amusement park from a single plane-shaped sculpture made of recycled plastic bottles into a permanent park. I loved his energy, not to mention his visible sense of sacrifice, personal responsibility and gratitude.
A few of my tweets from the week:
- Humans have made a huge hole in nature! We CAN bring back species we have killed &must repair the damage says Stewart Brand@longnow #TED2013
- .@rodneyabrooks shows off his latest #robot Baxter on the #TEDstage - http://ow.ly/i/1Ayqz #robotics #factories #China #education
- .@bonovox_ shares updates from his activist work & latest #HIVstats:Child mortality down w/7256 kids being saved each day#health #TED2013
- #Education is not about filling buckets, it's about lighting fires says Stuart Firestein! http://ow.ly/i/1ABun #TED2013 #TedActive
- Edith Widder shows #squid video: We've only explored 5% of our#oceans! http://ow.ly/i4Scx + http://ow.ly/i/1ABE1 #TED2013 #TedActive
- Brazilian @SalgadoSebasti shows his strongest B/W images at#TED2013 http://ow.ly/i/1ABSF #photography #rainforests #TedActive#eco
- Cities are living systems but #technology has always been part of "the city" asserts @SaskiaSassen at #TED2013 - #TedActive
- #Kenyan Richard Turere (13 yr old inventor) & LionLights 2save his familys cattle on TED2013 stage 2day http://bit.ly/KybBhL #TedActive
- Its not about making learning happen,its about letting it happen@sugatamitra who subscribes2 self organizing learning #educator#TED2013
- Creative ideas from @ideasandaction @mabuzeinab@justwardah @tedxyouthTbird in #PalmSprings this AM:http://ow.ly/i/1AW5L #TED2013
- Bowmaker @dongwooJANG uses bows 2explore his cultural heritage & create a metaphor for his perfect world #TED2013#TEDActive #design #Korea
- #Music is what restored my soul, changed my perspective & set me free says #violinist. Let music #heal your heart says Ji-Hai Park#TED2013
- Martin Villeneuve aka #MarsEtAvril designs the instruments inspired by a woman's body & the #photographer they both love. #TED2013
Another interesting international 'observation' was what was absent and what was wasn't. A latin band played on one of the nights and I was astonished that my partners on the dance floor were not Brazilian, Argentinian, Chilean or Peruvian, but German, French, Middle Eastern and Italian.
In fact, the Best Dancer Award for TEDActive from a 'partner perspective' goes to Mohammed Abu Zeinab from Qatar who is apparently half Palestinian and half Lebanese. Go figure...and he rocked it to Latin music of all things.
P.S. he even wore funky clothing the rest of the week.
TED reminds you that nothing in your world is really aligned the way you 'think it should be.'
It made me wonder what Wallace Stegner, Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy and Doris Lessing would make of TED talks. Would they be overwhelmed? Would they be able to make sense of the over digitized, over connected world we have created?
Someone who can make sense of it is AutoDesk's Jonathan Knowles who showed up for half of TedActive, wearing fabulous, fun and bright colored socks.
Having just migrated from PC to Mac, I was somewhat sad and somewhat ecstatic that our conversation would end up being largely tech support in nature. Two hours later, I was fully equipped with Mac tricks and tips, though I'm still far less efficient on a Mac than I was on my old trusty Lenovo.
I couldn't help but get a chuckle over one of his tweets shortly after he arrive in Palm Springs.
Lunch at #TED2013 versus Lunch at #TEDActive #maybeExaggerateAbit: pic.twitter.com/IV3PoVIG8J
Although excessive, I must admit, we did in fact have a lawn party with picnic baskets, sandwiches and cookies in 80 degree sunshine, the last time we'll likely do such a thing given that TED's new location is in Canadian Vancouver and Whistler next year.
Occasionally, you hang out with people you know and work with: below with Andrew Carton of HAPILABS.
And as always, they had a TED gift bag, which was a backpack made by Target this year. I went for the Explorer bag, which seemed appropriate given that one of my many hats is a travel editor. This of course included a stuffed elephant from World Wildlife Fund, which I named Gambia, and a gift card from Inventables (thx Zach), among umpteen other things. My pals over at TripIt also included a free year subscription and there was a GoToob Bottle from HumanGear I couldn't quite make sense of since the top didn't seem to stay on, which is a disaster for a traveler.
On the last night of TED, I headed back to Long Beach to have drinks and dinner with old friends and musician Amanda Palmer who performed this year, showed up and shared a few tunes with our intimate group, something which has become tradition for as long as I can remember. (the dinner part, not the Amanda part)
And at the end of the evening, there's always room for a little girl bonding or whatever it is we do that makes us feel feminine and human and connected and just fabulous being together. Below: former TEDPrize winner Jehane Noujaim, who is working on The Square, a film about the Egyptian Revolution, Amanda Palmer, Lakshmi Pratury, Renee Blodgett and Amy Robinson.
International flavors came out once again as Reggie Watts killed it on stage at the end of Ted Active with new sounds I hadn't heard before from him. I remain a fan!
Suddenly I found myself lifted up into the crowd and then over it, my body being passed from hands to hands....a remarkable experience especially when you realize that each set of hands are likely from a different continent.
How cool I thought as I looked beyond the crowds below me as people bumped together, swaying to the hypnotic music that extended beyond us into the lofty palms that give Palm Springs its name.
Behind me were the non-swayers sipping drinks and networking in their respective courtyard corners. In the foreground, I spotted Jill Sobule not far from the stage, and then there was Reggie performing in all his eclectic glory, surrounded by a fusion of pinks and hazy midnight hues and I wondered for a moment if it was all just a dream.
Also see some of my individual blog posts from TED 2013 this year, including:
- Four Ted Speakers Who Appeal To Our Sensory Selves
- TED2013 Prize Winner Sugata Mitra's Wish for Education: "School in the Cloud"
- Ugandan Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire Empowers & Engages Children Through PLAY
- Jordy Fu, Creator & Artist: Create Love Through Design
- Brazilian Photographer Sebastiao Salgado Shares His Story at TED2013
- Rad Hip Gardener Ron Finley Wants to Greenify Inner City Neighborhoods
- Saskia Sassen on the Value of Imperfect & Incomplete Cities at TED2013
- Inspiration at TED2013: From Music & Healing to Endangered Species & Mobile Electric Vehicles
- Dan Pallotta: Think About a Charity's Deams, Not Their Overhead
Photo Credits: All visibly on-stage photos of speakers from the Ted Blog, the shot of Renee and Emmanuelle taken by Teresa Novellino, Yu Jordy Fu with her artwork shot from her site, all other shots by Renee Blodgett.
March 04, 2013
TedActive Write-Up in Upstart Business Journal
What can an entrepreneur get out of TED or TEDActive, where today the lineup includes everyone from a yo-yo champion to a punk, burlesque singer to SpaceX and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk?
I was interviewed by Upstart Business Journal's Teresa Novellino over lunch one day about my experience at TEDActive last week, my first 'Active' event after attending many TED's over the years and a growing number of TEDx events around the globe. Here's a link to her story. Below, I am hanging with TEDx Bordeaux organizer Emmanuelle Roques. Yes, Bordeaux France, the place where fabulous wine comes from and let's just say I'm a fan.
BTW, I spoke to a number of French entrepreneurs, academics and geeks at the event, as well as people from nearly every continent. It's one of the things I really loved about the TEDActive experience: it was incredibly international with over 72 countries represented this year.
Photo credit: Teresa Novellino.
MBA or Not in the New Digital Age?
The Wall Street Journal has a great piece that suggests an alternative route to the traditional MBA. In other words, imagine that you have the option to go somewhere prestigious on paper, such as Harvard or Stanford for your MBA and can spend time with other go-getter types among ivy-covered buildings and high-powered faculty for a couple of years.
Yet, after you're out the door, who would a progressive CEO rather hire? the candidate who built a profitable business in two years, or the candidate who sat in lectures? They suggest that a 'smart investor' would skip the MBA candidate.
The piece suggests that what matters "exponentially more than that M.B.A. is the set of skills and accomplishments that got you into business school in the first place. What if those same students, instead of spending two years and $174,400 at Harvard Business School, took the same amount of money and invested it in themselves? How would they compare after two years? If you want a business education, the odds aren't with you, unfortunately, in business school. Professors are rewarded for publishing journal articles, not for being good teachers."
Read the original article here.
February 21, 2013
Windows vs Mac: Step Out of Your Tribe & Call It What It Is
Of course you have, probably more often than you care to because the market or the media put the pressure on and next thing you know, you're on a new version, a new platform, a new operating system all with new chargers, new software and new rules and behaviors and JUST when you thought you were actually becoming productive. My early write-up on the transition barely touches the iceberg.
In my most recent laptop research, I learned that I would have to pay more to stay on Windows 7 in a new laptop environment than if I went for Windows 8, while tried and 'true' in some early reviewer's eyes, I didn't think I should be forced 'into' a new platform before I was ready and certainly not have to pay more for an older version than a newer one. Where does that apply elsewhere in life? Isn't that sending a reinforcing message to its users? (translation: force is used when love isn't already there to takes its place).
What happened to let the product speak for itself and if the newer version shines which ultimately it should if they did their job right, people will pay more to upgrade?
Bottom line: don't force customers to an environment they don't 'choose', particularly your loyal long-term users. The other culprets who don't get this: legacy-minded companies Verizon and Comcast. Can you imagine Zappos, Dell or Virgin forcing such atrocities on its users?
Forward wind the clock six weeks. I was about to bite the bullet and go for the latest Lenovo, where frankly I've been happy 2x over when I got persuaded to go Mac by a friend who I wouldn't classify as a typical Apple fan boy.
Truth be told. I'm a creative. I'm an artist. I may be a visionary in how I look at business and my client's business and portfolio, but at the end of the day, how I think of the world and respect "it" is through an artist's eyes.
And so, getting pressure from major CEO pals who run start-ups, VC firms and beyond, I thought, t'is time (aka isn't it F-G time?) I migrated to a Mac like so many others in the world of which I subscribe (the one where entrepreneurship meets creativity and the arts?) After all Renee, didn't Herbie Hancock and Gregory Hines (both part of the Apple's evangelism program at the time) tell you insistently 15 years ago to get on a F-G mac within a month of knowing you and how you think?
This part is true: I THINK like a Mac, but I WORK like a PC. In other words, my ideas are MAC-like and my productivity and efficiency are PC-like.
While it's never been truer that I AM an artist, I am a creative and I FEEL the world more than I program it, which ultimately makes me more a Mac user than a PC one, what's even truer, is that I'm obsessed with efficiency and "getting shit done."
I'm in multi-tasking mode constantly. It's true that I've balanced a checkbook, taken two calls, and closed a mega deal in my CAR all at the same time. A lot of entrepreneurs have also done the same and done so, more than once.
It's also true that I've been known to carry on a very 'present conversation' with someone over a four hour period and while on the phone, also worked out, painted a hallway, done the dishes and the laundry and watered my garden. As long as I stay away from a screen that demands my brain and attention, frankly I can multi-task in a way that serves, not deters.
As soon as a screen is involved, I am in conflict with "continuous partial attention" (see Linda Stone's work in this area: she really gets it....I wish more people did).
What's scary is when I googled an image for the term, a photo of me came up in the top ten.
And while the above image may tell part of the story, the below image of three friends together for an evening out who are likely not 'truly' present with each other or with anything on their mobile device screens either, depicts a truer story.
In the midst of my PC to Mac conversion, my gut said DO NOT DO THIS! A handful of people who knew me well also said DO NOT DO THIS. Someone I dated for all of 3 months but 'understood' the way I processed the world (mostly because he processed information the same way) said DO NOT DO THIS. Later, I earned that the President of my new company processed information exactly the way I do.
When he made the PC to Mac converation, he spoke of three years of hell after migrating to a Mac world as a heavy Outlook user and how things still aren't efficient and don't work for him.
Nearly two weeks later and more hours and lost productivity time than I care to share, I learn that there are ALL sorts of limitations for the Mac Outlook user. Here's my point.
For the Mac Fan Boys:
1. I like my MacBookPro. In other words, I get the value-add. It's clean, the icons are pretty, it's got a helluva brand, the operating system is more secure and it's damn easy to search for anything using a simple button click.
2. Mobile: my iPhone is awesome. While I miss my Blackberry from time-to-time because I churn out SO much email, texts, tweets and more, the more visual and navigational screen on an iPhone makes my life more interesting and efficient because 'search' outweights text over the long haul. Bottom line: it's a mobile world where I don't need to be as efficient pr as fast as I do on my desktop. On my desktop, if I don't become insanely more efficient because of an app or a process (the words insanely efficient are important), then there's no reason to 'go there.'
3. Visual Ecstasy: Your bottom of the screen icons are pretty. As a visual snob, I GET the appeal. It's pretty, you're pretty and your simplicity is addictive.
4. Photography: as a photographer addict, I've migrated over to Lightroom and Photoshop in a Mac environment. I'm told that some of the cluginess that I dealt with in Outlook for the Mac will dissipate in my all Mac environment. In other words, Adobe loves Mac mroe than the PC and just performs better there evne though it supports both. GREAT knowledge to know when you're considering the facts and both sides.
THE QUESTION IS: Who Are You?
When people ask me about Canon versus Nikon or Apple versus Mac or iPhone versus Android or Window or Hulu versus blah blah blah, isn't the real question always: who are you and how do you spend your time? What do you care most about?
Sorry folks but as much as I AM a creative and an artist, and I GET and appreciate Apple in so many ways (see my Steve Jobs obit write-up), HOW I primarily spend my time is getting shit done. I do that primarily through:
3. Photoshop and Lightroom
4. Groupmail (A Dublin-based company who doesn't yet support the Mac but I love their app, their team and how they think)
5. Filemaker (I have been loyal to them for years and there's a reason for it)
And sure, Microsoft Word and Excel are a close 6 and 7 and there are a zillion apps that follow. SnagIt rocks and I can't say enough great things about it but I can use SnagIt on a PC and a Mac and there's no glitch on either OS, although frankly I prefer their UI on the PC. Why? It's more efficient!
I wish my professional world looked more like this:
And, while it doesn't resemble this sad image as an hourly existence, my career centers around deadlines, stress and fast turnaround more than it does a serene four hour work day on the grass or the beach.
If you're a power user, which I am:
1. Outlook for the Mac restricts the SIZE of your PSTs or whatever the hell they call PSTs in a Mac environment. While I'm on the most powerful MacBookPro you can buy including the top of the line solid state drive, with an extra 750 gig drive to boot, sub 1 terabyte horsepower. I also went with RAM of 16 versus a sad 4 in my old Lenovo which albeit slow, was able to handle Outlook more efficiency (by a lot) than this mega MacBookPro that I spent a fortune upgrading to.
I also learned that there are other restrictions. Not only does it handle power sized files poorly, but you can't do some of the most basic functions a power user needs to do -- regularly such as file emails in folders and subfolders. A friend of mine is still suffering from this after his PC to Mac Outlook migration three years later.
I didn't want to do a post like this because frankly someone might lump me into a PC or a Mac camp or none of the above (a naysayer and just bitter about technology), which is so unfair.
I expect that as the years go by (have been in this industry for 25 years now), I would become more efficient not less, happier, not less so, more integrated, not less, more organized, not less so (do you konw that you can't integrate mailboxes from several emails in a Mac environment unless they're all on IMAP and even then, it's clugy). In a PC environment, it works and has done so flawlessly for me for 10+ years. I expect smart curation and smart organization - technology that helps automate me not the other way around.
I'm forced onto Google Docs because the industry says I MUST. I had a client give me a wink and a bravo that I responded to something in Google Docs recently saying "Renee is finally on Google Docs." Really?
I've been on it for years but frankly I don't choose to use it as my default because I don't find that it makes me more efficient. I'm sorry, call me a naysayer, but bottom line, EVERY decision for me comes back to more efficient. If the system, process, app, mobile device or platform doesn't make me more efficient, why go there?
I want less time away from my PC or Mac, not more. I want to be less tethered, yet more connected and more efficient. Moving into 2013, shouldn't we be thinking about THIS GOAL as away to improve our productivity so we ultimately improve our lives and how we spend it? Remember the visual?
Think about it Apple fan boys and Microsoft addicts: if a solution doesn't allow you to spend MORE time with your kids, loved ones and friends, then why sign up? VCs, please, the same question applies given the kinds of things you invest in and don't.
While I love my iPhone and even though I SO get Blackberry addicts, I realized I navigate the web more than I thought and therefore the iPhone wins in the end despite the insane number of texts and tweets I do on a mobile device. That said, the same case CANNOT be made for email.
Email needs to be efficient and while some people may argue and complain and go to great lengths ditching Outlook, it has worked solidly for me for over a decade.
Sure, it crashes occasionally (not as much as Mac has in a 7 day period) and sure, it's not always as fast as I want it to be (it's faster than other email programs I have used or server-based email) over the long haul.
Bottom Line: if you're a power user (I had over 90 gigs of Outlook data that was originally brought over to the Mac - and did NOT work), STAY in a PC environment, one which supports productivity addicts. These are the folks, like me, who find productivity and efficiency their life blood even above and beyond simple search, beautiful icons and tighter security.
I USE FOLDERS. And I use them a lot.
I CARE ABOUT ORGANIZATION and it needs to be micro-managed. I'm sorry but I deal with countless entities, companies, non-profits, organizations, conferences, events and individuals (for the latter, I have about 30 categories. You?)
I need simple drag and drop into folders, from and to and I don't want to think about rules or objections. I need it to work and I need it to work FAST.
I am a data hog. If you have a lot of files: megafiles and subfiles, then don't go to Mac, at least not if you're coming from Outlook. There may be other viable options for you if you start native on a Mac, but bottom line, tell your IT guy HOW you spend your time and how you spend MOST of it.
Sure, I love my time in Photoshop and Lightroom and frankly, will likely find that I'll be better off on the Mac moving forward than in my PC environment. Photography is fun for me and while I do spend a lot of time on it, it doesn't make or break my business. Email does. Welcome to my life!
So, Apple fan boys, as much as you may be in love, call it what and like it is. If someone is a power user and needs to process the kind of VOLUME I do, which I'm told is the level of a head of sales for a large enterprise company and maybe more, Mac ain't your best friend.
If you need efficiency, power, support, integration and beyond, Microsoft and Outlook is still a more viable option. While my friend keeps repeating like a broken record, "it's not the Mac," my argument still sits: I'm ON a MAC, aren't I? One that is almost 10x faster than my six year old Lenovo and yet the environment where I spent 95% of my time (Outlook) performed BETTER and FASTER there than it does on my Mac.
The only difference is that I'm on a Mac and one that is 10x faster at that.
So while you want want to argue that it isn't the hardware and the hardware may be a fast purring leopard-like machine, I don't FEEL or EXPERIENCE that if I spend 95% of my time in Outlook, where Mac performs pretty badly compared to my old thinkpad that is on its way out.
If you're running a business (Sorry, but I do) if you're not ONLY thinking about productivity and efficiency, then can we please stop the conversation now? I don't have the time to talk icons, pretty pictures, search and image as much as they all matter to me.
I need to get shit done and SO, after an entire week LOST (and I mean LOST), my Outlook is now set up an older version of Outlook on the PC side of my Pac via Parallels and once again, it's running and my business is no longer DOWN.
As much as you've pained me over the years, thank you Microsoft. I'm more efficient in your world.
While it's not over yet, and I remain inefficient in the Mac world, there are some tools and people behind the tools who have made sure I didn't jump of a roof in frustration:
- Doug Free and his team at Microsoft for commitment to old fashioned PR as we knew it and looking after me, Microsoft's Technical Support Team which surrpised me 3x in a row (they did an amazing job, including Ryan in Seattle who isn't on staff but deserves a raise)
- John Uppendahl and David Spackman at Parallels. John convinced me to move to Mac because I could still have my Windows fix if I needed to (I never knew how important this would be: I have learned so much through both of them, including tips on how to be efficient in both worlds)
- Ken Eddings from Apple who helped me decide which MacBook would work best for me also in some insane hour when no one should be working (can you give this man a raise already - he SO deserves it. Really guys - open your eyes to what kind of employee he really is).
- The Twitter team at @MicrosoftHelps who responded the best they could although it was a much more complex situation. Oddly @Outlook didn't respond at all and my main issue was with them. As much as I'm an Outlook addict and 10+ year user, they're obviously NOT on the #socialmedia bandwagon. C'mon guys, get with the program.
- Adobe: they've been great despite my cries and agony. These guys clearly care and their team have gone to great lengths to ensure I'm ultra happy with Photoshop and more importantly, Lightroom, which remains my "bible" for photo editing. They dealt with my stress levels and venting with grace and I remain a fan.
Image credits: vendor websites, Amazon & Get stuff done image: Wikivillage.
February 20, 2013
BookEndz, a Great Option for MacBookPro Users On-The-Go
When I migrated to the MacBookPro recently, I was astounded at how few options there were for docking stations. As a mobile warrior and traveler who who is constantly on-the-go, I needed a solution that was similar to my Lenovo set up, where I could come home and quickly throw my laptop into a dock, one which connects to everything it needs to be via ports: external drives, printer, my camera reader, my monitor and more.
I wrote about the Henge docks recently, the guys who make great vertical docks, a simple and inexpensive solution if you don't need a ton of ports and want something quick and easy for sub $75. They have options for all the MacBookPro's as do the BookEndz guys who have horizontal docking station options.
The ports included on the BookEndz docking station is a FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and USB Powered hub which allows for 5 USB 2.0 ports, Audio In, Microphone in, and MiniDisplay Port for an external monitor. Unlike the PC docking stations I've used, you have to use your MagSafe Power supply to power up your MacBook Pro since they don't have a master connector to the docking station itself. An AC/DC power adapter (5 Volts) is included for the USB hub however.
So far, so good! It was dead easy to set up and I'm a fan at the simplicity and functionality of the unit. Simple-to-use, the additional USB ports are a huge added bonus I didn't expect. If you have a MacBookPro and leave the house with it more than once a week, what are you waiting for?
February 19, 2013
DEMO Mobile Unveils Angel Alley Program for Startups
DEMO Mobile just unveiled the opportunity for six startups to participate in the Angel Alley program at DEMO Mobile for no charge. This was made possible by generous support of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR), which is sponsoring all six displays at Angel Alley.
There will also be a competition: if you are a bootstrapped start-up without any professional angel investment, apply by February 22nd using this form.
A team of judges will select up to 20 companies from the broader applicant pool to pitch to a panel of VCs and start-up founders at the wsgr|SOMA offices at 139 Townsend Street on March 7th. The top six companies from the pitch competition will be invited to attend and display at DEMO Mobile April 17th in SF. As an added bonus, one of the start-ups in Angel Alley will be selected to present an Alpha-Pitch based on an audience vote.
February 18, 2013
Filemaker & Filemaker GO, Great Solutions for Mobile Warriors on the Move
Most people I know either live in an enterprise world or a start-up world, so when you talk about contact management and databases, they're either on SalesForce or Oracle or they simply use Outlook or MacBook iContacts. Sure, there are plenty of CRM systems that cater to the smaller business owner but they're not as widely used as the larger, more expensive corporate tools and when most of what we need is built into our OS or Office for free, why bother?
I've been a Filemaker fan for awhile now, so long ago I recall first using it in the nineties in a Mac environment, at a time when Macs only came as fat boxes, not notebooks.
Filemaker has so much more functionality that meets the eye. The downside of more traditional databases is that there are all sorts of mapping rules that you need to abide by or your data gets lost or simply doesn't come over. The upside is the depth and breadth of what you can do.
With FileMaker Pro, you can literally drag-and-drop Excel data into FileMaker Pro to get your data over and manipulate from there, or you can get a l'il more techy and build a custom database for your unique needs, including mobile templates.
I created one for my iPhone 5 in about an hour with a little tech help; once you get going, you can change fields and colors on the fly within minutes for the desktop or mobile environment. BTW, they have basic "starter" custom templates if you choose not to build your own, but if you have fields that are personalized for your business, why not go the custom route and create something for your specific needs? remember, you only need to do it once.
For the traveler on the go, Filemaker's iPhone app is ideal. Free to download, you can view any of your data from your Filemaker database on your mobile phone. Whille I don't need some of the more complex business features that Filemaker GO offers on a regular basis, if you're in sales and marketing or a business owner, you can use the app to tackle any business task on your iPad or iPhone. You can go quite deep if you wanted to, such as the ability to display current inventory levels from a warehouse with colorful, eye-catching charts on your mobile phone.
You can even update your project status by sending Excel files or PDFs in a few taps, close sales deals on the road by instantly capturing digital signatures, collect research data in the field by recording video and audio and adding the files directly to your database. And how cool is this ? In the medical world, docs can even swipe through medical records in the emergency room. In other words, the database offers more in-depth capabilities and features than initially meets the eye.
You can connect to databases hosted on the Filemaker Server or Filemaker Pro via a local wireless network or over Wi-Fi or 3G. All changes are instantly updated in the hosted file. This makes it easy to share information with others you wan tto share information with when on the road while traveling or as a small business with your team.
With Filemaker's latest version, you can also publish your databases to the web in a few clicks. You can share that database with others on your team via the web, create surveys, registration sites, customer feedback forms, and more.
I remain a huge fan of Filemaker on the desktop (Mac or Windows - have tried them both). What's great is how flexible and platform compatible they are - Mac, Windows and Mobile. I run Parallels on a MacBookPro and can launch a file in either environment without a compatibility glitch. Even cooler is their iPhone app which allows me to access not just the data but all the information that is mapped to it via its complex or simple fields (depending on how you set it up), all while I'm on the road.
Their tech support ACES it too btw. They went the extra mile to make sure that I didn't just understand the features, but how to customize my fields and use Filemaker GO flawlessly from both my Mac and Windows environments.