September 20, 2012
Now in its Third Year, Tech4Africa Hits Johannesburg Next Month
Now in its third year, Tech4Africa is a premier mobile, web and emerging technology event held in Johannesburg on October 31-November 1 at The Indaba Hotel, Gauteng.
The theme is “Unlocking the next billion consumers” and sessions will be focused around mobile and content, the enterprise opportunity, entrepreneurship and financing, social business and innovation.
The Developer Day and Hackathon on the kick off day includes three tracks: a day on Agile
software development, a Hackathon with sessions on Ruby on Rails, Python,
Raspberry Pi, PhP etc., as well as workshops for social media marketers on apps
ecosystem and monetization.
Keynote speakers include IBM's Tom Rosemalia and Ralph Simon of Mobilium, with other speakers being Amolo Ng'weno, MD of Digital Divide Data in Kenya; Neal Ford, Director, Software Architect and Meme Wrangler at ThoughtWorks; Vérone Mankou, CEO of Way-C in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Emma Kaye, CEO of Bozza, Josh Adler, social entrepreneur and others.
A Google G+ Hangout will be held live at the conference so that tech hubs from around Africa can be part of the conference and so that delegates can interact with a panel, asking questions and finding out more about what is happening on the ground in Senegal, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Kenya, Congo and other parts of Africa.
Disclosure: we are a media partner of the event.
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 03, 2012
TEDxBerkeley’s 2012 Theme “Innovation” Kicks Off Third Year at Zellerbach Hall on Feb 4
Tomorrow, Saturday, February 4, 2012, UC Berkeley will gather world leading thinkers, visionaries, creative pundits, philosophers, academics and doers to host the third TEDx Berkeley Event (a 501c3) at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. It's the second year I've been involved in the event and we're thrilled to have a stellar line-up of speakers once again.
The theme this year is: "Innovation." 15 ground-breaking thinkers, leaders and performers will cover a diverse number of global issues and topics, ranging from health and toxicity, politics in a new media world, robotics, machine learning, and mobile computing to the arts through life-changing film & storytelling, micro-finance, the gift-economy and “magic.”
Below is a list of the 2012 TEDxBerkeley speakers and performers. Visit the TEDxBerkeley speaker page for their detailed biographies and updates.
- Carl Bass: president and chief executive officer of Autodesk, Inc., the leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.
- Connie Duckworth: founder of ARZU, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, and a retired Partner and Managing Director of Goldman, Sachs, & Co., where she was named the first woman sales and trading partner in the firm’s history during her 20 year career.
- DeCadence: UC Berkeley’s DeCadence (pronounced dee-KAY-dence, with a capital ‘C’) musical group is best known around the Bay Area for their one-of-a-kind quirkiness and lovable eccentricity.
- David Ewing Duncan: best-selling author of seven books published in 19 languages; he is a journalist and a television, radio and film producer and correspondent. His most recent best-selling book is Experimental Man: What one man’s body reveals about his future, your health, and our toxic world.
- Dr. Maria Fadiman: a leader who works with the human/environmental aspect of conservation, who was named one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers in 2006.
- Ken Goldberg: an inventor working at the intersection of art, robotics, and social media. At UC Berkeley, Ken teaches and supervises research in Robotics, Automation, and New Media.
- Charles Holt: speaker & performer, Charles has entertained sold-out audiences around the world, including The John F. Kennedy Center The Turkish-American Association in Ankara, Turkey, and Rikers Island Correctional Facility. He speaks to groups and organizations in order to empower, encourage, and uplift audiences everywhere.
- Gopi Kallayil: does marketing at Google for Google Plus and previously for the Company’s flagship advertising product, AdWords, in the Americas and Asia Pacific and for AdSense, Google’s publisher‐facing product.
- Jodi Lomask: founder of Capacitor, she has been commissioned to create original works for NASA, TED, SFO, Computers and Structures, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Salvadorian Olympic Gymnastics Team.
- Nipun Mehta: founder of ServiceSpace, an incubator of projects that works at the intersection of volunteerism, technology and gift-economy.
- Tapan Parikh: Assistant Professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley.
- Neha Sangwan, MD: an Internal Medicine physician, she is also CEO and founder of Intuitive Intelligence, and acts as a corporate communication strategist to empower healthcare practitioners, organizational leaders and corporate employees in their own self-care.
- Tiffany Shlain: honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” Tiffany is a filmmaker, founder of the Webby Awards, and cofounder of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.
- Lindsey Stirling: a violinist for 19 years with a range that extends from classical to rock and roll. She became known as Hip Hop violinist from the America’s Got Talent contest.
- Robert Strong: the Comedy Magician has been crisscrossing the world since 1985 entertaining audiences large and small, young and old, formal and casual, and everything in between. Twice voted San Francisco’s ‘Best Comedian’, Robert has appeared in more than 40 different countries, in all 50 states, and twice at the White House.
Additionally, TEDxBerkeley has collaborated with AppBaker to release an exclusive iPhone app for the event. The app features an interactive schedule, speaker profiles, Twitter wall, and much more. TEDxBerkeley has also partnered with Livestream to provide high-quality live video of the event.
The TEDxBerkeley team includes curators Kevin Gong, a translator who has volunteered for the Global Lives Project; Renee Blodgett, founder of Magic Sauce Media, We Blog the World, a global blog network that covers every culture in the world and Magic Sauce Photography, and Jennifer Barr, VP/Operations at Northern CA Wharton Business School Club; Volunteer and Logistics Coordinator Eleanor Yang; Director of Logistics Navi Ganancial, serial volunteer and social media marketing guru; Director of Sponsorships Linda Xu; Technical Director Rocky Mullin, production volunteer for EG and TEDMED, musician & producer and Speaker Logistics Coordinator David Allen.
February 3, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Conference Highlights, Events, Magic Sauce Media, On Education, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Technology, On the Future, San Francisco, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 01, 2012
New Years Greetings!!
January 1, 2012 in America The Free, Europe, Holidays, Magic Sauce Media, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On Fiji, On France, On Germany, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On South Africa, On Spain, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 03, 2011
What is REAL Influence? Will Klout & Other Tools Define & Control You or Will You Define Them?
There's been so much buzz -- on and offline -- about Klout's decision to unveil a new formula which supposedly recalculates scores more accurately, the result of which brought most people's "popularity" scores down a few notches, including my own.
While I think what the guys over at Klout are trying to do is admirable and truth be told, we need really smart analytics and measurement tools to break through the noise, what we have today simply isn't accurate enough or "whole" enough to give us the real truth on who's influential and more importantly, in what circles and why.
Wouldn't it be more interesting to know who had a Klout score of 80 in food and wine, 80 in social media, 80 in fashion, 80 in politics and so on?
Wouldn't it also be more interesting if tools like this took into consideration a person's offline influence as well as other things they may have done, such as a bestselling book or created a program that made an African village sustain itself?
Part of the issue is that we're early and all of the vendors trying to innovate in this area are trying to figure it out. I spent time talking to Klout's CEO and founder Joe Fernandez in Dublin recently at a web conference and I think he's a great guy who's trying to do the right thing.
I jokingly complained that I've seen 21 year olds who are new to social media, new to Twitter and new to business whose Klout scores have been higher than mine on some days. There are many things they take into account when dishing out a Klout score, including the level of engagement. Crikey, if you're my niece's age and have thousands of Facebook friends who have a ton of time on their hands and can chat away all day with their friends, regardless of how big the circle is, then no doubt, that online "activity" gets engagement brownie points which goes into the Klout analysis.
While engagement could be high in this 'circle', it is its own ecosystem and the real question is: will this voice influence a certain number of people to buy a certain product or take a certain that builds brand awareness?
I have 3 Facebook pages attached to my name, all of which are mine, but I don't get credit in the Kloutsphere for any of them because they can only give you points for one Facebook account - your personal one. When I asked Joe about this, he had a logical explanation. There are far too many people managing a celebrity or brand's Facebook fan page and they shouldn't get credit for that level of influence when the page is about someone else. Fair enough. But what about those whose Facebook pages are legitimately connected to themselves? Small business owners would also fall into that category.
Yet, despite the fact that the numbers aren't accurate or "whole," tons of vendors and brands are jumping into the lions den and testing things out. Frankly, there's nothing wrong with that. With every evolution and revolution, you need to learn by trial and error just like we did with email after fax, blogging after websites and Twitter after AOL IM.
One of my issues is how much credence we (as an industry) give these early tools and how much of a time waste they are for so many I know including me at times before I kick myself back into perspective, nevermind the cultural impact which has quite honestly turned into a popularity contest. I feel as if everyone is competing to be Ken or Barbie and we're back to high school behavior in a way that's not healthy.
Scores are one way for brand marketers and PR folks to create a list of targeted bloggers and tweeters they can go after, aka a list of the most influential voices who must hear about their product or service. I get it as I've been on the pitching line - both in front of it and in recent years, on the receiving end with We Blog the World.
As Geoff points out, the most influential people in any given sector aren’t necessarily on social media. They hire other people to serve as community managers. As one example, Klout only gives President Barack Obama an Influence Score of 48.
While we do need analytics and tools for measuring, they need to take offline influence into consideration as well as more complex elements and texture that can extracted from people's social graphs.
It's time to bring in the socialogists and anthropologists. One of the best talks I've heard in awhile on a Web-something stage was in October at Web 2.0 Summit by Intel's Genevieve Bell, an Australian born anthropologist and researcher. She is the director of Intel Corporation's Interaction and Experience Research and her talk was begging the question: what if we built data for humans rather than devices?
Looking at data from an anthropoligical and "human" perspective (bring on more women please), means that we can take the science out of the analytics just long enough to get the pieces that make up the multiple facets of what makes someone who they are into the "measurement" pool.
Christopher Poole (aka @moot69 on Twitter) also raised the point at the same conference that who we are online may not necessarily be who we are offline. In other words, my social graph online may be very different from who I am in my personal life or frankly want to be...the games we have to play with social media to be part of the conversation -- authentic voice or not -- in order to keep up with metrics and measurement are currently robotic and linear at best.
Relationships are what really matter and building them take time. I've been working on (yes, while I LOVE it, it's work and takes time), building relationships for over twenty years and yet, my Klout score is lower than someone who's barely been in business or is even old enough to have a relationship with someone longer than a few years of their adult life.
Geoff also refers to this in his post: "without a relationship, it would be extremely hard to get that high scoring influencer to invest energy into your effort. Instead you would have to focus on the magic middle and build your own influence from the ground up."
Gavin Heaten refers to Granovetter’s “strength of weak ties”. While the original post is now a few years old, his point is still relevant. "Social influence and its impact on action is determined by a large number of “weak ties”. So those blogs which are built around an identity which is well-known to its audience (strong ties) is less likely to carry social influence."
Yet, buzz agents, PR people, marketers and large brands are deciding who's influential or beyond that, who can move their brand or sell products inside that brand....all based on these scores.
I went to the Travel Blog Exchange (known among those in the biz as TBEX) in Vancouver for the first time this past year and it was loaded with travel vendors, resorts, hotel chains, restaurants, retailers and more vying for travel blogger's time and ultimately "ink."
While I spend a few hours a day nuturing a travel and culture blog, I also run a business. Many of these bloggers are doing this full time so are spending a lot of time gathering content from the world's most popular destinations and there is an inherent value in that. Yet, many of these 21-25 year old bloggers are enjoying free trips around the world on some brand's dime based on Klout scores and other things like it.
Fair enough, trust me, I wish blogging were around when I backpacked through SE Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe when I was 22. But I think some other form of value will be necessary in the future as online publishing is being rewritten.
I often wonder if I were blogging and tweeting at 22, whether I would have spent less time chatting with a villager next to a fire on some remote mountain had I been loaded down with technology? When I went on those adventures, I wore nothing but a mid-sized rucksack on my back and an old Fujica AX3. My main consideration was making sure my film didn't get roasted in the Southeast Asian sun or when I went through security lines at airports.
Today when I travel, Foursquare and Twitter (via Hootsuite) are close companions. I often tweet in real time as I'm walking down an escalator and see something interesting and at times, can get so wrapped up in following streams, that sometimes I forget to have a conversation with the guy from Chicago or Tokyo standing next to me.
It's far too easy to get caught up in check-ins, status updates and Klout scores and there's no one who can disagree, that its addictive. It's precisely what makes gamification a godsend to marketers today. And yet with all these distractions, what are we losing and are we forgetting what "real influence" and "real relationships" are in the process?
Refer to my Google+ blog post which talks about data overload and over consumption.
Two decades ago, I would have had a Klout score of zero in the travelsphere and yet by the age of 25, I had been to more places than many travel writers at magazines and newspapers I met along the way.
I didn't spend any time building relationships with influential 'travel sources,' but with the locals I met en route and here is where I captured magical stories, most of which were written down in an old fashioned diary every night by a fire or from a rickety bed.
I would argue that in a world where the lines between marketers and content creators and publishers are muddy, that large brands should ask for more than a little link love, or a certain number of tweets. How about strategic feedback based on years of valuable insights, experience and perhaps connections to people where both sides benefit in a mutually positive way? Airlines take note. It's not rocket science, it's called listening to your customers, and not just those with high Klout scores. Pay attention to what customers are saying -- on and offline -- and implement changes so they're singing your praises alongside your marketing department.
Another example of a missed opportunity for "influencer collaboration". This past summer, I was flown out to a conference with about six other bloggers and while I was given hashtag and Twitter data as well as the program in advance, I had no knowledge of who was attending the conference so I could connect with people who shared similar interests and passions in advance.
Imagine the power of my writing a story about the work of a few of the attendees as well as their speakers? Ammunition for selling tickets the following year, especially if a new initiative formed as a result.
At events where everyone is interesting and has a story to share, the magic of what can be discovered doesn't always happen on the stage. 90% of my best stories are gathered off the stage and compelling input is often found from those who are not asked to speak or haven't written a book.
And, did those speakers who authored books know the bloggers and journalists who were attending? They should have known in advance so they could have taken the opportunity to send us a copy of their book to read before their presentation. Insights would have been much deeper and after-the-talk conversations much more powerful.
Sure, we all could have done our own homework and sure, if we were interested in a particular speaker over another, we could have proactively ordered their book on our own. That's not my point. In a world of over data and over pitching, we need aggregators and curators, and human ones are often the most powerful ones.
Proactively faciliating those connections in a way that is more powerful and intimate increases the likelihood of more stories, especially ones may include more depth and texture.
I think that marketing and PR people have to not only become content creators on multiple channels but also strategic faciliators, aggregators and curators as well. I also think that asking bloggers, tweeters and other online influencers for input into their processes, products, services and ways of communicating will be critical to making this new ecosystem purr.
Events like TBEX for the travel industry, BlogWorldExpo for bloggers and social media addicts, TED for those who thrive on ideas and innovation, DAVOS for those who are participating in the global economy in some way, the national auto show for those who live and breathe cars and thousands of others were created for a reason. Sure, someone thought of an event that would draw people together including sponsors and they could profit from the outcome.
But the real draw for those who attend, even those who fork out the money to host, is the networking and the value of that "in-person" networking over the years. It was one of the reasons people were so upset when COMDEX died, the largest computer show of its kind in the U.S., an event that drew together anyone and everyone who mattered in the industry once a year in the ugly sprawling city of sin Las Vegas.
There, we built a community, and old timers still talk about memories they shared -- in the flesh, not online -- where stories, drinks, food, dancing, ideas, demos and deals were all shared. TED is a great example of a community which has been created both on and offline, and now extended through TEDx events throughout the world.
Relationships are built by investing time in people. In Dublin recently, a group of us were brought to the Irish President's residence and a day earlier, we all listened to the Trinity Orchestra at a college older than the U.S. - there's nothing in an online world, social influence or not, that can take away from those shared memories and moments, some of which may have showed a precious vulnerable side to someone you dare not share online for online is not where that "exchange" belongs.
A deeper dive into what really makes up influence, which includes trust, will improve the current ecosystem we now embrace. It may also change the cast of characters we currently hold in high esteem when honesty, real openness and "human influence" replaces old schoolXYZ networks that keeps things in status quo, maintaining the same dozen voices we hear from again and again, particularly in the online publishing world.
Here, Geoff is spot on when he says "when we focus on influence rankings — tools that quantify a media form’s participants like it was run by journalists — we walk away from the basic truth about these particular types of media. They are relational. They are SOCIAL media.
So, by focusing on lists and not dialoguing and adding value through relevant content and investment, a practitioner is not present. Their effort is bound to have fundamental weaknesses. Building relationships in real life at events, meetings, and through social media are the ways to cultivate better influence.
And oh man, I love his ending: "what is the real reason to quantify big social media influencers? If relationships are your desired outcome, why waste time?"
We've paid so much attention to data for data sake and the last century has paid an unfair advantage to scientific knowledge and stats, that we need to rewrite the rules of what holds value in and out of the boardroom. Francis Cholle in his book The Intuitive Compass takes 223 pages to tell you why our intuition (the quadrant which is defined by relationships and creativity) is critical to succeeding in the next century. (book review coming on We Blog the World before the end of the year in the Books category).
A fundamental question to think about is this: will Klout & other measurement tools like it define and control you or will you define and control them? If we are to innovate, shouldn't we step up and tell the data what really matters? In a Genevieve Bell world, we'd start with humanity and relationships and build up and out from there.
Photo credits in order of appearance: Garagehangover, Obama shot unknown, John Ryan & Associates, a Facebook stream, Selfleadership.com.
November 3, 2011 in America The Free, Europe, Magic Sauce Media, On Blogging, On Branding, On Geo-Location, On Innovation, On Journalism, On People & Life, On Social CRM, On Technology, On the Future, PR & Marketing, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 07, 2011
SOCAP 2011 Co-Founder Kevin Jones Zooms in on Razer Scooter
Co-Founder of SOCAP, Kevin Jones who tries out a Razor (mine!) for the first time, kicks off the annual event.
March 09, 2011
Defining Public Relations: From Your Heart or From Your Head?
A week ago, I was asked for my definition of public relations by Heidi Cohen who was working on a blog post about what it is, as is how people define it. Here's her blog post in its entirety here which includes 31 definitions including her own.
What's interesting is how I 'felt' when I got the email....meaning I had a physical reaction to being asked for a definition as if there couldn't be a definition to something that was all about human emotions, connections and relationships. Somehow it was like being asked to define love as ridiculous as that sounds. I thought about the last time I had to write or give a definition of public relations and it was when I was in college in London many (many) moons ago.
She writes: "traditionally, public relations referred to the art of getting mentions of a person, company or other organization placed in the media, namely print, radio and television."
Here's an observation I had in reading that statement: where I studied public relations in the UK, it was primarily not about the media, but about a number of very broad constituencies and the media was just one of them. This could be because the UK was a tad more old school about the way they viewed public relations. It could also be that one of my mentors was a professor who was a master at in-person relationships where coffee, tea, scotch, wine, a meal, golf or croquet were part of nearly every conversation. Lobbying was often part of the process too depending on what the end-goal was, but the media was always just one integral part of the strategy, not everything.
When I moved back to the states, the media was a much larger part of the 'game,' although given that I worked at one of the top crisis communications firms at the time (Cone), we managed everything from roundtables, speaker series, thought leadership boards, crisis communications plans, events and guerilla marketing. And, media, of course, was a part of each plan.
It wasn't until I moved into the world of technology (much more niche back then than it is today), that our teams were primarily focused on media relations and not a whole lot else. This isn't to say that we didn't have a strategy in place, but the focus was much more tactical than it had been in the UK and at Cone. The same applied later on in my life when I did a stint in South Africa where it was 80% strategic and 20% tactical for obvious reasons. (South Africa in the early nineties: you can only imagine)
So, early on, I was 'conditioned' to think about a large number of audiences outside traditional media and perhaps that's why when I was 'forced' into an all media relations role, it became easier to execute. It wasn't long before it became increasingly crowded and the PR industry started losing credibility because so many junior folks were thrown on the phones before they really understood the product or service they were pitching, or more importantly, 'cared about it.'
When I hired agencies, the first thing I would do, was throw the team into the product. If I didn't sense they could live and breathe what they were repping, I asked for another exec to replace them. Seriously, why work on something if you don't love it and really believe in it?
When you're coming from a place of passion, it really isn't pitching at all is it? It becomes 'having a conversation' about something you care about and in the process, you get to magically build a relationship with that person. Imagine that? Isn't that exactly what social media (et hem, I mean public relations) is? Engaging with people?
I sent poor Heidi a rather long definition so she obviously had to edit it down, but here's my original submission. BTW, its long because I had such a hard time 'definining it.'
"Public Relations in its true sense is about human connections and the art of mastering human connections at a deep level. In the early days of the PR "playbook", it was about relationships with not just the press but communities in various forms - the difference was that these audiences were not online. While some argue that the value of public relations has diminished in the world of social media where everyone can be an author and content creator, I would argue that someone who not only knows how to master human connections and relationships, but thrives on it, is more vital than ever. True mastery of anything comes from a passion to serve in some way shape or form. The publicists who will matter in the 'new' world of exploding content will be the ones who thrive on communicating via countless channels not because they have to, but because more than anything else in life, they love engaging with people. From this place, authenticity is guaranteed to come through which can only help the products and services within their social sphere shine.
When public relations thrives, its because those who are 'gifted' with this skill are at the helm. When played from a place of passion and purpose, public relations in the new world will not only take social media, branding and marketing to the next level, but will elevate the people and products that are changing the world." - Renee Blodgett, Magic Sauce Media
As for the other 30, they're all pretty interesting and because each of us were asked for a definition because that was the exercise (I had to admit, it was cool exercise btw), nearly every submission reads like a definition. There was of course this very amusing one below that reminds me of Mad Man and how in many ways, a lot really hasn't changed; its just that the packaging and perception has.
"Advertising: I walk into a bar and tell the first hot girl I see how amazing I am in bed. The hot girl doesn’t go home with me. PR: I walk into a bar and a friend of the hot girl sees me and tells her friend how great I am in bed. The hot girl goes home with me. Peter Shankman"
It also reminded me of my days at Saatchi & Saatchi in London during a year that will inevitably tell my age, so I'll leave that part out. :-)
Definitions aside, how about this one which came to my head only a few seconds ago as I thought about a close to this post:
"Public Relations is the art of truly connecting with people. When the public relations master truly connects, they are sharing a 'gift.' Being a master of public relations means that you love people and building relationships so much that every exchange is seamless, authentic, honest, gracious and empathetic. And, over the course of a thousand seamless conversations, the journey becomes a joyous one of learning and deeper understanding, not just of the people you're pitching to and for, but the products and services in your web. Then, my friends, the public relations 'artist' is nothing other than a storyteller who conveys a series of beautiful and compelling stories over a lifetime, ones that inevitably have a tremendous impact on people and help change the world." - Renee Blodgett, Magic Sauce Media
Ah yes, the story. I prefer my new definition, one that came to me within seconds. I prefer it because it came from the heart and when asked for a definition, it came from the head. Living through the heart is the only way to live our lives regardless of industry.
This is how I think about my life anyway and I've been doing this for uhhh, 20 years.
Photo Credit: contentfactory.
October 12, 2010
Pivot Focuses On Marketers Who Target 18-34 Demographic: #pivotcon
The Pivot Conference, a new conference dedicated to branding, marketing and social media is coming up from October 17-19, 2010 in New York.
The event singularly focused on marketers who target the 18-34 demographic — their attitudes, technologies and preferences – and the media and marketing that addresses them.
Today, the brand marketers' job is made even more difficult by the rapidly changing media and the flood of new technologies and tools. Pivot is designed to help marketers sort through these issues, to better understand their customers and the environment, and to come away empowered to create a successful brand strategy and market more effectively to young consumers.
Speakers from Arianna Huffington to Evan Cohen and Doug Rushkoff (who says "Pivot looks to become the TED of marketing conferences"), will share their ideas and experiences and provoke 'Aha!' insights among attendees who are targeting the largest, most unique and influential demographic we've seen in 50 years.
Highlights of the agenda include:
• Who Are You? Profile of the Always-On Consumer
• Mind the Gap: Measuring the Divide Between "Us" and "Them"
• Motives and Motivations: What Drives the Always-On Consumer
• Media and Advertising at a Crossroads
• The New Marketing Organization
• New Rules of Engagement: Listen, Engage, Measure
• Social Marketing: The Grand Experiment
October 12, 2010 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Events, Magic Sauce Media, On Blogging, On Branding, On Journalism, On Technology, PR & Marketing, Social Media, TravelingGeeks, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 27, 2010
Oh PR2, Shall We Dance?Last night, I had the pleasure (and it was a pleasure) of dancing with a PR2 robot at Willow Garage, the same PR2 that will go off to UPENN next week with the UPENN recipient winners of the PR2 beta program. Until we meet again.
May 27, 2010 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Client Media Kudos, Magic Sauce Media, On Dance, On Innovation, On Robotics, On Technology, On the Future | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 09, 2010
Down the Avenue Gets an Urban FaceliftWelcome to the new Down the Avenue design which went live this morning. Depending on who you ask, the new design either has a more urban and hip feel (brick + warehouse + artist lofts + a stroll down the street of some undefined American city) OR the main drag of a small American town (the majority said it reminded them of the East Coast). Perhaps it doesn't feel like any of the above to you.
The street is in fact based on the town where I grew up in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York. The design is modified from real photographs I took along Main Street within the past decade.
Down the Avenue is about where old meets new. Culture meets technology. Feminine energy meets masculinity. Social media & new voices meet traditional journalism, marketing & branding. It is also an intersection between mobile, productivity, Web 2.0 and travel, and, where a passion for style & design meets a world who has no desire to honor it. Continue on the journey with me.