July 09, 2012
Is Social Media Turning You Into a Low Self Esteem Anxiety-Rich Freak?
Roughly half of the survey’s nearly 300 participants, reported that their use of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and others reduces the quality of their lives.
Confidence is affected, they say, self esteem is lower they say and two-thirds claim they find it difficult to relax or sleep after spending time on social networks.
This isn't rocket science. Ask anyone you know who spends a lot of time in front of a screen, glued to online games, social networks, management platforms like Hootsuite or sites where they're engaging in any way.
Roughly a quarter cited work or relationship difficulties due to online confrontations and more than half of the participants say they feel “worried or uncomfortable” at times they are unable to access their Facebook or email accounts. I have seen anxiety arise around me when people can't access their worlds online, including something as small as a Foursquare check-in.
Spend more time in an always on digital world and of course you're anxiety will increase. This isn't rocket science. But people are so hooked into the notion that it connects us 'more' that they don't look for the obvious negative side effects.
Sure, I can meet new people across the globe if I am constantly glued to my Hootsuite stream, and given that I run a travel blog, there's a lot of pluses to that, but bottom line, it takes us away from real human connections - there's only so many hours in a day.
It doesn't help that tools like Klout, Kred, PeerIndex and others assign us grades on a daily basis that encourage high school "who's the popular kid of the day" behavior. Offline for a day or a week and your Klout score goes down.
The tools are so one dimensional and dare I say "unheathily addictive" that it keeps you drawn into a social media online game you can never win, particularly if you want to have healthy relationships offline. Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains doesn't lie. Not a new book, but the behavior shift is real whether or not you agree with everything in the book. Also see my post from last year on multiple digital personas.
I find it ironic that a post entitled: How Social Media Makes Romantic Relationship Thrive is immediately above a post entitled: Social Media Fuels Low Self Esteem & Anxiety on Mashable, where I originally learned about the study. Here's a link to a video reporting some of the results.
People I talk to seem to be fighting to get quality time with their other halves and the main culprit in the way? Mobile Devices and their PCs. Enuf said.
July 9, 2012 in America The Free, Europe, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, On the Future, Reflections, Social Media, TravelingGeeks, United Kingdom, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 12, 2012
Relevenz: Your Mobile Calendar Marries Relevant & Hyper Local Promos
Finding things that matter to you amidst the clutter (bring on smart and interesting curators please) is like finding a needle in a haystack. And truth be told, while the content needs to be interesting, it also needs to be relevant.
Relevenz is banking on the fact that people are starving for more and more relevance in a world where so much of what comes our way either doesn't spark our interest or has nothing to do with who we are or what we care about.
Relevenz is a downloadable app (they're starting with iPhone and Android with other mobile support coming later this year) that focuses on relevance within your social calendar. The idea is simple: share relevant plans with people who matter to you (Plancast has demonstrated that sharing events with friends is something people will spend their time doing), and within the parameters of that shared information, you can be informed of local offers, products and services that are most relevant to your world.
Additionally, you can make requests for products and services you want. Who would want to use this? Says co-founder Stephen Oman, "we're targeting people who have extremely busy schedules, such as husband wife teams with children who have a hard time synching up their schedules."
Obviously small business owners and consultants make logical targets as well. If you're a retailer or a vendor, you could use Relevenz to reach your customers in a very targeted way, get notified what your customers might be looking for and with the knowledge, allow you to make useful decisions to best bid for their business.
If you're a business, you can create targeted hyper-local offers in a simple self-service mode.
They have integrated with Google apps to give content "context." For example, if you put Austin Texas in your calendar, Relevenz knows your location so it can push relevant information to you within a few miles of your current destination.
When the merchant wants to throw up a specific offer, that offer will show up under a special "offers" tab to ensure your inbox or calendar doesn't get cluttered with promotions...yet, it's there under a customized tab if you're interested in exploring. Obviously the offer is hyper local adding to the relevancy. The vendor gets charged not the consumer - it's almost like a reverse Groupon.
As far as expansion and business model? They plan to open up their API so developers can build once there's more data. Check out their site for more information as well as links to download their app.
April 10, 2012
LocalSocial: The Bridge Between Mobile, Proximity Marketing & Great Deals
LocalSocial is all about the bridge between mobile and proximity marketing. Targeting business owners, retailers, merchants and venue owners, they're trying to make it easy to create offers and loyalty points rewards that can only be unlocked on the premises.
The goal of course is to drive footfall, repeat visits, and provides deep insight and social context for new and existing existing visitors. It turns anonymous walk-ins in to real people, enabling merchants to better engage with your customers in a way that's convenient and fun for them.
What they're doing is not new, but it is relevant and it is tapping into a massive market, one which a ton of players are banking on the fact that the power of proximity and location mapped with interests and culture will be a goldmine for brands.
LocalSocial's proximity framework uses Bluetooth and other technologies to detect physical proximity to other people and devices to enrich user experiences using multi-player games and marketing apps, presumably useful ones that will provide value to consumers not detract.
Here's How it Works:
Say you run a pizza takeout restaurant, a hair salon, coffee shop, pub or convenience store, LocalSocial allows you to create custom special marketing offers, ads and deals customers can 'grab' on their phones in real-time, so you can better engage with new and existing customers nearby.
The business model is pretty simple and makes sense. There's obviously inherent value in customer data, particularly data on a customer when they're close to your shop. Data this 'targeted' and 'relevant' can increase your customer base and turn existing ones into extremely loyal and "sticky" fans.
Essentially, businesses pay a monthly fee to participate in the network and a little extra for premium analytics.
Brands and Advertisers are already paying for this kind of data and analytics yet may not have the most accurate "proximity" and "behavior" figures. LocalSocial has a compelling "GridView" so you can see deals arranged by shop. What's most useful here however is that "proximity" is flagged, so that as a user, you know which shops are “right here, right now” and have offers of interest and value to you precisely at the time you're nearby.
If you're a retailer or small business, the service seems like a no brainer to check out, particularly if you have locations in various regions. are simply trying to drive more traffic to one of them or your only one.
If you're a Foursquare user or a "social media app" addict, it seems like you could just get hooked. After all, deals just might be more interesting and lucrative than what is being offered in the "fluff" pipeline today. If you're not an early adopter but just thrive on a good deal, it's also an interesting concept.
Remember that the company is still small and hasn't yet expanded to global cities, so give them time to expand their network before you get frustrated that they're not yet available in your country or city yet. The idea however holds a great deal of promise so keep an eye out for their updates and 'new market announcements.' LocalSocial is a very promising start-up with a mobile solution that offers something of value to both customers and small business.
April 10, 2012 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Europe, On Branding, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, PR & Marketing, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Meet Volta, Home of Irish & Worldwide Independent Cinema Online
Volta is the home of Irish and worldwide independent cinema online.
A little history and background is in order for how it got 'its' name. Volta was the name given to the first cinema in Ireland opened by James Joyce in 1909. Over 100 years later, the Volta name remains synonymous with the best of independent Irish and International film.
Today, for anyone interested in independent film and creativity, Volta is a great companion (a non-subscription companion that is) where you can rent or buy top independent titles and interesting and intelligent articles. They are developing the market for "on-demand" film in Ireland.
Obstacles for getting this to expand as fast as they'd like include the obvious ones that nearly every country faces: broadband proliferation outside Dublin and another major cities. That said, there's a huge appetite for cinema in Ireland according to Tom Lawlor who heads up their marketing efforts. He says, "on a per capita basis, the Irish go to the cinema more often than any other European country. There's a hunger, especially for Irish theatre."
Since they're not subscription based, they don't compete with the likes of Netflix, a service albeit useful and popular, releases films a year later or more. Volta is focusing their efforts on "on-demand" independent film. As for how fast they'll grow and whether they'll expand beyond Ireland?
Right now, they're focusing their energy on the Irish market. "We don't see ourselves as a start-up because we're part of a large film company," says Tom. Volta has been developed for the Irish market by Element Pictures as part of the Universcine network.
The goal in the next few years is to increase the number of devices where people can access content, i.e., Android, iPads, connected TVs and so on.
They're also exploring the "social movie watching" concept, i.e., a social channel where people can watch films together and share comments in real time or after viewing. Coming soon is a Facebook player where you'll be able to choose a film, making notes while you're watching it if you choose or later on, if you want to "gift it" it share it with others. Social content is obviously a driver of traffic so it's only logical given the "engagement" aspect of it.
How Volta Now Works:
Simply go to their site and choose a film, which you can do a number of different ways: by genre, by director, by year, by actor, by keyword, by title and even by country if you want to explore. My first "gut" inclination was to search by keyword, but perhaps that's because I live amongst social media geeks in Silicon Valley. My guess is that my sister would search by genre. If you're local and familar with the players, it makes sense that you'd want to search by actor or director.
Once you've made your selection, you simply click on “Rent” (to rent the film for 48 hours) or “Buy” (to download the film to own).I chose "Dance" in my selection since I love everything related to dance and had a choice of how I wanted to view a 'dance' film called Red Satin (great name, non?)
If you go the "rental" option, you have two ways to watch your rented film – by streaming or by download. A film can be streamed by both Mac and PC users but the download option is only available to PC users for now. When you purchase a film to own, you must fully download the film to your computer.
Another thing I love about their site is the ability to read up on various films and updates about the film world. The UI is easy-to-use and quick-to-access; headlines are chunked in boxes on one page, much simpler than many of the newer but quirky and creative blog formats. This section combines a "blogging format" with a catelogue style of viewing, which makes it useful for quick access and catch-ups.
Lastly, and this is something I learned through a little research and a conversation with Tom and a few others. Ever hear of Section 481? Unless you're Irish or perhaps European and in the world of Film and Television, there's no reason why you would have.
Section 481 is the Irish tax incentive for Film and Television made in Ireland. Projects can derive benefit of up to 28% of their qualifying expenditure and this incentive is guaranteed to folks in this space until December 2015. There is a ceiling on each project of money that can be raised (E50m), but for independent film makers, that is a pretty healthy incentive.
If you're a foreign producer and many people who will stumble upon this blog post will likely be from outside the country, you can tap into some of these benefits by teaming up with a local Irish co-producer. More information can be found on the Irish Film Board site and more information on how to discover new "Irish" cinema and talent, check out Volta to learn more.
April 09, 2012
Kavaleer: A FORCE Behind Animation, Short Films, TV Series, Design & Interactive
I first met Andrew Kavanagh during a trip to Dublin a couple of years ago. Introduced to me as someone "interesting to know and meet" because I expressed an interest in arts and culture and write about it regularly, I was pleasantly surprised to discover an expansive world of expertise which unfolded as a result of a one-time "pub" meeting.
He drew an impressive animation sketch for me in some Irish pub way back when and so it comes to pass that Andrew is a huge creative force behind Kavaleer Productions, a well known, savvy and talented studio group, who have created a top notch reputation in the film, design, interactive, animation and television space around the globe.
We had the fortune of spending time together in Austin recently so I could learn about their latest updates. While most known for their creation of award–winning film and television projects, Kavaleer also creates animation, interactive and design services. Aside from creating their own TV shows, where they have been twice nominated for an Irish Film and Television Award and a British Animation Award, their film work has been selected by over 100 international festivals over the past ten years. Impressive, non?
Interactive has been increasingly playing a major role which is no surprise given what is having on the investment front in Silicon Valley, LA, London and beyond. Kavaleer is also a seasoned provider of interactive content and apps for the e-learning and games sector; no surprise given what's happening in the games industry recently.
In 2009 alone, Interactive services accounted for half of their turnover, so much so that they started developing their own apps in 2011. They have also developed a reputation for their e-learning work, a portfolio of apps that range from Sesame Street workshops (Elmo ABCs) to Disney and the e-entertainment world.
While these guys may be based in Ireland, their work is known globally. They continue to work closely with HMH on their Destination Math, Fusion Science and Texas Language Arts programs and have been providing San Francisco-based Playfirst Games with content for their hit iPhone /iPad based‘DASH’ games for the past year.
They're not shy about short film production either. Some of their latest results include the following "shorts."
In addition to film "shorts" and the fact that they're known for their work with Sesame Street on the TV side, they're also behind other TV series including: Bed Heads, theAbadas! (the adventures of Hari the Hippo, Seren the Bat and Ela the Fox), Garth & Bev (time-traveling siblings Garth and Bev live in harmony with nature in a village), Lifeboat Luke, which is set in and around the small seaside community of Donaghadoo, and So Mortified.
They've been around for ten years yet because their creative work is "so behind the scenes," many not be aware of their studio name or their incredible work. While Kavaleer has awards behind their name and a global reputation, Ireland has no shortage of talent in this space.
While many know Ireland to be a country of storytellers, I wonder how many realize its rich history in cinema, television, mobile, games and film. Ireland's animation and digital media sectors are growing both in size and reputation around the globe. For example, Brown Bag Films animated short, Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty, and Cartoon Saloon's animated feature film, The Secret of Kells, both secured Oscar-nominations in 2010. For more on Kavaleer, check out their work and blog. For more on Irish screen producers, take a meander here and for general information on the Irish Film Board, visit their site for more details.
April 9, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Client Announcements, Entertainment/Media, Europe, Events, On People & Life, On Technology, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Billfaster Makes it Easy & Fast to Manage Money, Invoices & Your Business
I come across new start-ups on a weekly basis if not a daily one and when you are introduced to as many as I am, its easy to glaze over the details because so many of the pitches sound the same and are in similar categories trying to do the same thing.
I met with the founders of Billfaster recently who are working on a solution for real businesses with real problems around invoicing, accounting and money.
It is not a widget. It's not a social media or analytics tool and it's not some web app or vertical search engine that is likely to get crushed by Microsoft or Google.
Billfaster is essentially online accounting software as a service that targets small businesses, startups, freelancers and professional service contractors.
They offer a quick, easy and fast way to keep track of and manage money, as well as handle businesses and individual's accounting. You could say pieces of what they provide compete with QuickBooks yet it cleverly does things a little differently and the interface seems to be incredibly simple, at least from what I could tell from an in-depth demo in Austin last month.
Take a look at an overview of Invoice transactions from their system and you'll see what I mean:
Below is a screenshot of how you enter an expense with Billfaster and note the tax bracket piece that you can customize with a drop down menu:
For people on the go with busy schedules (that'd be me), they provide 7 second invoicing, 3 second expense tracking and automated accounting to enable users to be up and running quickly. (It made me think of the fast food ads from ten years ago - if you're not out in 10 minutes, the meal is on us). This is a compelling pitch and offer for those who struggle with complicated user interfaces that require skills of both an accountant and an engineer to figure out how to use.
They offer a free version that includes unlimited invoicing and clients, with premium versions providing more robust features such as reporting, CRM and inventory management.
Said CEO Rod Condell in an interview, "over 25% of our client base is in the U.S., with the UK, Canada, South Africa and Ireland next in line."
How did they succeed globally so quickly? Co-founder Chantel de Paor says that rather than customize tax forms and processes for each individual country, they have a generic tax form so it can be used anywhere.
Although they have a free version, their paid versions are reasonably priced. For $4.95 a month, you can customize forms by uploading your own logo. You also have access to tax reports, expense reports, cash in and out, and pending invoices. Below is what their cash management page looks like where you can view accurate daily, weekly, and monthly cash, sales, and expense reports.
For $9.95 a month, a mini-CRM system is integrated if you want to keep track of customers and customize invoices. It also includes simple Paypal integration which is useful for small businesses, particularly those doing business in multiple locations and who have a lot of online transactions.
Their top of the line is the Gold Edition, which is only $14.95 a month. Here, you get Accounting Journals, support for multi-users, cash planning, order processing, the ability to add and customize categories, and more. And what's also great is the added benefit of free support. Check out this page for more about their features and pricing plans.
It was refreshing to meet a startup focused on solving real problems and with a business model that makes sense. They actually charge monthly fees yet their fee structure is inexpensive...and, the math makes sense, especially given the fact that they have made it easy to go after global customers.
Entrepreneurs: Look Outside Silicon Valley for Innovation, Talent & Money
In the states, Denver, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Portland and Seattle are all making strides.
Just this week, I was informed of a few start-ups out of Montana which just closed small rounds.
Outside the states, many entreprenuers and VCs alike know about the flood of activity coming out of Israel, the UK and mobile apps from developers in Eastern Europe, Asia and South Africa (Memeburn is a growing social media and start-up blog for the developing world and a hot new Cape Town-based start-up conference is unveiling in the fourth quarter).
Paris-based LeWeb is one of the hottest start-up and technology conferences around and given its growth and diversity, it's not just focused on Europe anymore. In the last six months alone, I've met 6 French entrepreneurs who are moving from Paris to the Bay Area to increase their likelihood of getting funded and hiring the "right" names. Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Singapore too are all sprouting up new initiatives and innovations.
I talked to the Singapore folks at SXSW who fed me fabulous chicken wings at their booth. They have a presence in Silicon Valley and are hoping to grow it in the coming months and years, as is Ireland with Enterprise Ireland, who is responsible for the funding, development and international growth of start-up companies in Ireland.
The popularity of the Dublin Web Summit and the F.ounders conference are both strong indicators that the number of entrepreneurs and smart ideas coming out of Dublin and other pockets of the country is on the rise.
Ireland also had a strong presence at SXSW with 30 companies on-site under the Enterprise Ireland umbrella. Part of their pitch to the social media and technology world was not just of their own talent, but to encourage others to bring their businesses to Ireland.
Ireland has a E10 million fund for international start-ups. While it may not be brand new, many may not be aware of it. Why Ireland, besides the natural reasons of it being a gorgeous country with landscape to die for and a country loaded with smart, witty storytellers?
What many may not realize is that Ireland has the most business friendly tax regime of any country in Europe or the Americas, which is pretty attractive when your budgets are small and you're trying to raise early capital.
It is obviously English-speaking as well, which makes it easy for Canadians and Americans to migrate east and Ireland's geographic position and EU membership provides easy access to money flow on the continent. The World Bank's 'Doing Business' report rates Ireland as the easiest EU location to start a business. And, the Irish Government has an assertive pro-business economic policy, offering a 12.5% corporate tax rate and 25% R&D tax credit.
For those soley focused in Silicon Valley, perhaps it's time to think a little more global. With more expansive thinking will come additional resources, capital and creativity not to mention interesting culture, social benefits and economic development outside of what northern California has to offer.
April 03, 2012
Zartis Leverages Social Media & Existing Employees to Mine the Best Talent
There are still plenty of opportunities to create a lucrative business in the "job" and "talent" market. Not only was LinkedIn's entry into the public market a hit last year (its IPO brought the company $352.8 million), but this BusinessWeek article (a GigaOm re-post) from last May touts numerous potential acquisition targets that might complement their business. Among those targets include Hashable, Socialware, Yammer, Indeed and BranchOut.
Sprouting from Ireland, Zartis is a new player in this space, who see the growing difficulty in hiring, particularly technical talent. Jobs boards aren’t returning great or even relevant candidates and recruitment agencies are expensive and can be time consuming.
Unemployment and economic recession issues aside, the growth of new technologies, mergers and acquisitions and start-ups with great ideas around the globe, offer tremendous new employment opportunities, but finding the right person for a position is often like finding a needle in a haystack, a very high and dense haystack.
Zartis, which is part of Enterprise Ireland, who had a major presence at SXSW last month, is an online service designed to help companies with between 5 and 500 employees to “look within” to find the talent they need through employee referrals.
They have taken a clever angle to recruit people, giving perks and incentives to those within an organization who can tap into their own networks to bring fresh new talent to the pool. The service allows a company to add a job, allocate a reward and invite its employees to promote the role to their contacts.
What's very cool about their offering is that an employee can actually tap into their personal social networks by publishing the "vacant" role to their Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook timeline. And, then they in turn get rewarded for successful outcomes.
How Employees Win:
When an employee logs into Zartis, they see the positions available and the rewards that are connected to the position. They can select a job and with one click have the message broadcast to their LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook connections.
They can also make recommendations within LinkedIn for a role based on keyword matching. The employee can then send their contact a private message telling them about the job.
When a job is distributed by an employee there is always a unique code embedded in the message which allows the company to track a job applicant back to the employee. This ensures that the referral reward is always paid to the employee.
Referral hires ensure that people work with people they like. Letting employees source new hires ensures they only recommend people that they actually like to work with which equates to longer term satisfaction for the employee and the "mate" they've brought into the company.
How Companies Win:
According to historical stats, companies already generate roughly 20% of new hires from existing employees, which is pretty good considering how much effort goes into finding new talent who isn't just a fit from a skillset perspective, but from a cultural perspective as well. Referrals from employees only increases the number of like-minded candidates, which is also a win-win from a corporate perspective.
Using Zartis, companies could actually get that employee referral number up to above 50%, which any good headhunter or HR exec will tell you, is significant. Bottom line, great people know other great people. Reliable. Honest. Ethical. Sustainable. And, existing employees are more likely to recruit others with like-minded in thinking, which means that they're more likely to be aligned with the corporate culture. Just look at how great Zappos is at recruiting and keeping people who fit within their corporate culture.
Zartis is designed to work within organizations but it also taps into the power of social media and sites that already do recruitment magic, such as LinkedIn. With the growth of employees using social media inside and outside the organization, it makes it that much easier to get a message out quickly to a wide audience.
If employees are already using social media in some capacity, throwing an incentive their way to go the extra mile to help fill positions only makes logical sense.
A company with 300 employees has theoretically 45,000 first degree connections. There will be overlap in these connections but even if you halved that number, imagine the leverage and power of all of these combined networks from all of your employees.
Another great feature from Zartis is their ability to help companies create their own careers site with a list of all their job openings and a professional application process that even works from a mobile phone. Says CEO John Dennehy, "with no knowledge of HTML, you can have an instant web page with all of your job listings. We also have it set up for mobile optimization."
Job seekers can submit their resume or LinkedIn profile which is sent to the company that is hiring. The careers site can be embedded in any website, WordPress site, or Facebook page.
Jobs can also be pushed to free job boards like Indeed.com and Twitter with one click. It's very simple to get up and running (no programming required) and they're obviously thinking about opportunities worldwide, as it can already be automatically translated into any of 11 languages.
When somebody applies for a job the hiring manager logs in to their secure site and can review all of the candidates in one place. They can add notes, send template rejection or call to interview emails, and share interview notes with colleagues.
Getting Started & Pricing:
If you want to "taste" the power of what Zartis can do, you can test it out for free. (one job posting is free and you can also get a month for free with all of their existing plans). For companies wanting more horsepower, their service is still incredibly reasonable.
To publish up to three job postings, it's only $9.95 a month and for 10 a month, it's $29.95 a month. For high growth enterprise companies with ongoing recruitment needs, it's a one time fee of $499.95 a year. When you consider what you pay a professional headhunter and other online services (often upwards of 15% of an annual salary), it's a very cost effective way to recruit new talent. Employee referrals are charged separately based on the number of employees added to the system.
Investors include AIB Seed Capital, Enterprise Ireland and SOS Ventures. Clients are global; companies using their service are based as far away as Cape Town and Kuala Lumpur, in Europe (Dublin and London) and in the U.S. with more and more customers being added every month. You can find out more about their service on their site and follow them on Twitter @zartis.
February 22, 2012
TEDxBerkeley 2012's Inspiring Innovation Merges Magic, BioData & Technology With Film, Oceans & Plants
Most people in my circles know what a TEDx event is but for those of you who don't, it is a local, self organized event that bring people together to share a TED-like experience, in the spirit of ideas worth spreading.
This video gives you an idea of what these non-profit events are like, which extend far beyond Berkeley. Cities around the world are organizing TEDx events, with a goal to teach, share, collaborate, educate, faciliate and grow. Ideas worth spreading means that some of these ideas can revolutionize (and have revolutionized) the world because of a new relationship or partnership that has evolved as a result of the wider distribution of these ideas and the courage and dedication of people behind making the 'magic' happen.
It's the second year I've been involved as co-curator of TEDxBerkeley, an event held at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall every February. In attendance were well over 1,000 people from a broad range of disciplines and minds - from academic, music and science to medicine, technology and the arts.
15 ground-breaking thinkers, leaders and performers entertained and educated the audience through storytelling, performance and anecdotes from their life experiences.
Given that UC Berkeley is involved, so were some of the professors and students, including the opening act by DeCadence (pronounced dee-KAY-dence, with a capital ‘C’), a vocalist group that sports eye-catching blue and gold capes and creative dance moves at nearly every performance.
The musician in me couldn't help but call out music brilliance first and while we're on the topic of incredible voices, Charles Holt stole the stage with his storytelling and singing of "He Lives in You," my favorite Lion King number.
He had me at "go" is an understatement, largely because of his intuitive nature, the fact that he lives his life through that intuitive lense and his witty and incredibly honest stories of his mother and grandmother from the south, which will leave you crying and laughing at the same time.
From music to dance, Jodi Lomask then awed us through her dance troupe. Known for her work with an organization she founded called Capacitor 15 years ago, she works with world-renowned research scientists to create original dance works that draw attention to critical environmental issues.
I think about people I know who spend their life committed to understanding oceans and I think about the moment it was for me that I got one step closer: deep sea diving off the coast of Australia some 60 or so feet below the surface. In that world, that remarkable world, you truly understand the beauty of a world we need to cherish and preserve.
Her dancers showed us that beauty through a combination of violin, dance movements in and outside of rings in somewhat of a Cirque du Soleil style and environmental videos, all creating an outer world exerience for us to share.
One of my favorite moments of the performance is below...the intertwining of minds, hearts and bodies.
Also involved in conservation and the environment was Dr. Maria Fadiman who I had the pleasure of setting up with a new Twitter account (social media will get us all, the deep hidden voice says, lurking in the background), is a fascinating combination of geologist, comedian, nature lover and ethnobotanist, her work focuses on the relationship between people and plants.
From South Florida, her style was very informal for an academic crowd yet had people laughing as she pounced onto the stage with a machete in hand, telling one humorous story after another of her time in the jungle, the majority of her time spent in the rainforests of Latin America.
She has worked with Tibetan children in teaching them to record their own ethnobotanical traditions and is currently working on a global scale cross cultural study of people’s use of a cultural keystone species (the flora and fauna that are deemed important to the survival of a culture), and how these plants can act as larger ecosystem preservation incentives.
Digital fabrication is where you change the rules about how things are made, referencing 3D printers, showing us examples of various things which can be printed into a variety of materials, including rubber, plastic and metal.
It's amazing what can be printed on a 3D printer now...I ran into BitTorrent's Bram Cohen at SF Music Tech who showed me a very interesting 3D ring he was wearing on his finger. Additionally, imagine 3D buildings and even a 3D-printed human kidney.
We also heard about the rise of information, aka the wisdom of the crowds and the wisdom of the 'cloud.' Not only are we all becoming creators in our own way on our own personal platforms, but we're becoming curators as well.
Then, ARZU's Connie Duckworth, who took the stage in vibrant red, focused on international development sharing things learned from her work in Afghanistan. She says of the current state of international development:
- The international development industry is dysfunctional.
- Big money brings big unintended consequences.
- Hope can’t thrive in the world’s worse places.
She believes that we have an urgent call to change the structure of the international development industry, which holds in its hands the lives of billions of people at the bottom of the pyramid.
Their thinking is that somehow inherently flawed short term thinking will move into sustainable systems. Big money when not hosed in the right direction can create a lot of chaos. She asserts that its a key reason that so many people lose so much faith in their government.
She refers to another unintended consequence of big money going to the wrong places: Brain Tilt, which is when the most highly educated local people (engineers, professors, doctors), all end up working for expats in low level positions. Local smart people are working as drivers and clerks rather than working in higher level positions because they can get paid so much more in the other positions.
Connie defines the quest for peace as security. “We all see the world through our own lens of experience, so for me, success all starts with a job. This is how people start with a way to solve those basic level needs, such as the ability to eat and feed their family.” She encouraged the audience not to just sit back and want peace, but believe in it and take action.
Rather than focus on money, we wanted to focus on giving, in other words, the idea of unleashing the power of compassion capital. “Once you unleash compassion,” he says, it’s amazing what happens. “Stay focused on adding value and discovered untapped capital.”
When small acts of giftivism get connected and activated, it rekindles a gift economy. A gift culture, he says, is marked by four key shifts:
- Shift from Consumption to Contribution – Instead of asking “what can I get,” open with “What can I give?” He says if you open each door with a different question, about what can you give, it changes the entire dynamics.
- Shift from Transaction to Trust: Build synergy. He refers to Karma Kitchen, a restaurant in Berkeley, where you pay for the people ahead of you or behind you rather than for your own bill. 26,000 meals so far and people continue to pay it forward.
- Shift from Isolation to Community: it is not enough that we connect, but rather how we connect. When you serve other people together, you create a network of ‘gift ties.’
- Shift from Scarcity to Abundance: Cultivate inner transformation to arrive at enough. “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
Hear hear Nipun. From gift economies, we shifted to Gopi Kallayil from Google who talked about the power of social and a connected world, particularly during the 18 days of the Egyptian protests, showing us a video where Desmond Tutu is talking to the Dalai Lama on Google+, a clip which has now been watched 2 million times. This is a great example of how social media is driving innovation around the world.
We saw examples from Libya and Kenya to South Africa and Egypt, where during the protests, they were able to express how they really felt and more importantly, people were able to listen to those words on YouTube and other platforms. They sang, “the most important thing is our right and writing our history with our blood – if you were one of us, better not blabber and tell us to go away and leave our dream and stop saying the word “I”. In every street in my country, the sound of freedom is calling. In every street in my country, the sound of freedom is calling.” Powerful stuff.
From the vantage point of healthcare, intuition and communications, Dr. Neha Sangwan encourages everyone to be proud of yourself for "listening to yourself." Often, listening to ourself comes second to listening to opinions of others, whether they be friends and family or a doctor we're seeing for a particular issue.
She asks, "what if communication is the cure that we're missing? What is the way we talk to ourselves & whether we choose to lean into our discomfort & show up in the world? What is this is the prescription for health long before I need to write you a prescription?"
Her talk was highly emotional as she brought us a journey around the world to the Middle East, where she spoke to women, sharing with us insights she learned about their world, their pride and in turn, what we can learn from them in the western world.
A professor at Berkeley, Ken Goldberg who closed the talks, on nothing other than robots. Yes, robots...and what we can learn from them. As someone who worked in speech recognition for years and did a project for the Willow Garage guys (I love PR2 and even danced with one), I was eager to hear his insights.
Ken thinks robots can inspire us and that we have a lot to learn from them. Some of those insights from various projects over the years include: always question assumptions. It's amazing how quick we are to turn to other people's assumptions and make decisions based on them without digging deeper. Secondly, when in doubt, improvise.
I couldn't help but smile but when i realized that both of these recommendations btw are great ones for start-ups as well as for children. So is tihs one: When your path is blocked, pivot. In start-up culture, we learn to pivot a lot, something that Fortune 500 companies should pay more attention to...
Author and thought leader David Ewing Duncan focused on DATA and how do we make sense of it all?', something he thinks is an awesome achievement of humanity, for 'better or worse.'
Because of his background, he centered his talk around bio-data. He points out that today, we can get a micro-analysis of our blood work, which can tell us how just whether we have a high chance of cancer and chronic diseases, but how empathetic we are as human beings. He notes "more experiences, more tests leads to more data."
But, as so many of us know, we have so much data, that its often overwhelming, so much so we can't make sense of the data we have at our fingertips. This is David's point.
Whats needed, he asserts is a new mindset in every occupation. "Enough of all this data, what does this data actually mean?" he says. "We need a revolution in interpreting the tools and the data as well as a radical shift in resources. In other words, how do we go about testing 42,000 genetic traits?"
Clearly, we need a radical shift in resources. There's only 4% invested on translational medicine and he thinks there needs to be a reversal in resource allocation. He also pointed to trends in the future for all the students sitting in the hall: "we're going to need 500 million analysts in 6 years and we only have 100 million today." Clearly, these are the people who are going to be well versed at making sense of all that data and transforming it into something usable and most importantly, actionable by individuals.
Tapan Parikh, a Berkeley University professor brought us back into traditional technology and current trends. Tapan’s research interests include human-computer interaction (HCI), mobile computing, speech UIs and information systems for microfinance, smallholder agriculture and global health.
He showed us photographs and results of some of his work in rural areas. Of his latest projects, Tapan has been designing, developing and deploying information systems in the rural developing world – initially in India, and now also in Latin America and Africa.
Tapan and his students have started several technology companies serving rural communities and the development sector. It was inspirational to see what they have accomplished so far and to see what is possible with resources, tearing down silos, sharing among communities and better access.
What he hopes to represent is the notion of showing respect for where you come from. He says, "Pick a challenge that is important to you" (for him, it was setting up real-time video conferencing, knowledge sharing and instant messaging in India), "and stick to it." He adds, "Don't assume you know what people need for their development - let them speak up, don't act for them."
I was thrilled that Tiffany Shlain was able to join us this year as I've always been a fan of her work. She has been making films for 20 years, and some of them have hit Sundance, Tribeca, Rotterdam and others and her films have won over 36 film festival awards.
Tiffany says, "each time we were able to change the way we recorded film and show reality, we were able to change reality itself."
She showed us snippets from her most recent film: Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology, A Declaration of Interdependence.” Connected had its U.S. theatrical tour this past fall and is now available for people to host their own screenings.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) announced earlier this month the 29 films selected for the American Film Showcase, an international cultural diplomacy initiative that brings people together worldwide through film and Connected made the list.
The movie is enlightening and sad at the same time, taking us deep into what is happening around us in a connected world and how technology is shaping and reshaping us. Bravo!! I have a love/hate relationship with technology myself -- the timing of this film couldn't be more perfect.
"Do something radical and true," she says. "We as humans should declare our human interdependence." Film projects they're working on for others are centered on life's most emotional topics: engagement, power, money, wisdom, death, inspiration, the brain and others.
Now that we're back to Entertainment, the E in TED, the last two speakers this year were performers: magician Robert Strong and violinist Lindsey Stirling.
Robert Strong is known as 'The Comedy Magician' and in watching him, it's so clear that magic is his life passion. He has performed on every major television network, in more than 40 different countries, in all 50 states, and twice at the White House.
I never paid much attention to the word magic until I renamed my own consultancy with Magic in the name. Now, I see 'magic' everywhere and am a true believer that perception is reality and that we can create any outcome we want through our own belief systems.
Lindsey Stirling, who I first saw play at Idea Festival in Kentucky last fall, is often referred to as the Hip Hop Violinist. Her passion, energy, and presence is magnetic, so much so, that you can't help but want to get up on stage and dance as she jumps around, violin and all, around you. Here's some background on her work. Let's just say that I'm a huge fan.
Check out last year's (2011) TEDxBerkeley talks on video. And a few talks from last year to get you inspired were Chip Conley on remembering that we're human in business, Anat Baniel on flexibility and vitality, Lopas Brunjes on carbon reduction, Bryan Alvarez on living organisms in our body, and Shore Slocum on spiritual awakening and awareness and how this can transform your everyday life.
February 22, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Conference Highlights, Entertainment/Media, Europe, Events, Magic Sauce Media, Music, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Poems, Literature & Stuff, On Robotics, On Technology, On the Future, San Francisco, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 18, 2012
Is What I Crave Connected to My Heritage, Where I Live or Both?
It always seems to take over a month for those post holidays sugar and fatty food cravings to disappear. I’ve noticed that those cravings are often more prevalent during certain times of the year and when I visit certain parts of the world, and it’s not just because those “cravings” are the only things that locals eat.
I currently live in northern California and have lived in 10 countries, including more than my fair share of cold-weathered cities. There’s no question that colder climates can make you crave heartier dishes and hotter temperature foods, even though Brits argued that soups and curries helped them cool down in India during the colonial years.
Since living on the west coast, I crave more sushi than when I lived in Boston. When I visit northern European cities, I crave more red meat even if there’s fish or chicken on the menu and the weather is warm.
Culture contributes to those cravings and may explain why my Italian-born friends prefer a crisp Sauvignon Blanc over a buttery Chardonnay and how I developed such a tight bond with South African biltong that it’s hard to convince natives that I wasn’t raised there.
That said, there are some dishes I crave that feel like they’re “part” of who I am, such as squash, kobasa, duck, and toast for starters. Call it comfort food but I wonder, is it a craving for “comfort” or is it connected to heritage, where generations of eating certain things gets passed on, embedded in our DNA if you will?
When my grandfather sat down for lunch, his staple to-go plate included cold meats, pickles and onions. My grandmother would add a bowl of onions to the table since he added onions to more dishes than I’d care to admit.
Observing this behavior was subliminal at best, yet here I am years later craving many of the same things my grandfather ate, and have noticed a “craving” increase of some of his favorite dishes as I get older.
There are examples of this across the globe, such as the thousands of banana varieties in Africa alone, not to mention vegetables and fruits not that plentiful in the west like guava and okra. Whatever we have an abundance of, we eat, another reason I’m thrilled the holidays are over.
When we lived in Florida, oranges were a regular sighting in our kitchen as was coconut juice when I hung my hat in Kenya. I lived on curries in London and ate French fries with peanut butter sauce in Amsterdam.
But, how much of our cravings are connected to other factors such as our body chemistry and general health?
Rest assured, there are lots of foods that make me feel better, such as fruits and vegetables. And, when I eat healthier, my body chemistry changes as do my cravings. When I used to juice regularly, I’d find alcohol and low-alkaline foods hard to stomach. Our bodies adapt just as our ancestor’s bodies adapted to different kinds of foods as a result of changes in climate, food availability and the economy. (Think The Depression).
Many doctors and health experts may argue that our cravings have nothing to do with heritage whatsoever. There’s certainly no shortage of doctor-blessed diets that promise to reduce your cravings, decrease your “bad” cholesterol and add years to your life.
D'Adamo suggests that the human blood type is key to the body's ability to differentiate self from non-self. Lectins in foods, he asserts, react differently with each ABO blood type and to a lesser extent with an individual's secretor status.
One source suggests that orange juice is bad for my blood type whereas grapefruit juice and I should shine. The truth is that while I like both, I prefer grapefruit juice and “feel” healthier drinking it.
One of the noted symptoms of adrenal fatigue, a condition where your adrenal glands become “tired”, is a craving of salty, fatty, and high protein food such as meat and cheese. Some blood type diets observe that Type O’s don’t find dairy products and grains as ‘body-friendly.” It makes you wonder what percentage of people from northern Europe are Type O’s versus those who hail from Africa or Asia?
Chinese Medicine for Maximum Immunity by Elias & Kethum suggest that I should add more “cool foods” to my diet and avoid red vegetables such as tomatoes and red peppers which can make you feel more “irritable & off-balance” and bitter foods and beverages, which are considered more ‘healing.’ They focus on five elemental types: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. After doing a questionnaire, they recommend certain foods based on your results and tell you to avoid others, with the goal of getting your body into balance and harmony.
Albeit not new, Dr. Barnet Meltzer has written about something he refers to as “food swings”, the reactions in your mind and body to what you eat, a link between your diet and your emotional and physical well-being. Female friends have admitted that they may eat more at times when they knowingly don’t want to attract men into their lives.
Those who have tried the Atkins Diet know that it makes you forget about carbs after the first week and soon, its promise to drop the pounds becomes a reality, for a price that is and not necessarily a healthy one.
A highly alkaline and juice diet made me enjoy raw foods in a way I never thought was possible. Being a vegetarian for awhile made me despise the smell of meat for a few years and Rosedale’s diet argues that Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, tells the brain when to eat, how much to eat and when to stop eating.
The time of day you eat is also a factor. When I returned from Italy several years ago, I craved pasta in the mornings and it wasn’t until I avoided carbs until late afternoon that those sharp cravings disappeared.
The Telegraph’s Science Correspondent Richard Alleyne unveiled research in 2009 that examined how the time of day you eat affects how much weight you put on; eating high fat foods during the day led to a 20 per cent weight gain.
This is just the beginning of an exploration of how cravings are connected to heritage, location, time and health. If you have ever documented your cravings and have insights to share, let’s evolve the conversation. Over to you, health afficiandos, doctors, researchers, experts and those who are as genuinely curious as I am about this topic, to offer your opinions and data.