September 08, 2011
SOcial, LOcal, MObile, the Power Behind LeWeb's 2011 Start-Up Competition
SOcial, LOcal, MObile is the new black for startups this fall say the Guidewire Group who are powering this year's LeWeb'11 Startup Competition, centered on the SoLoMo theme (that's social, local, mobile, for the non-geeks who haven't memorized yet another acronym).
The annual showcase of emerging companies will honor the Top 3 startups creating state-of-the-art apps for the SoLoMo consumer or business markets. They are looking for the most exciting and innovative ideas that exploit the power of social engagement and location awareness of tablet and mobile phone devices. To be eligible, startups need to have less than €1M of investment.
Applicants will use Guidewire Group's forthcoming G/SCORE Analytics platform to profile and take a G/SCORE assessments. Those assessments, along with Guidewire Group analyst and community input, will be select 16 finalists to pitch for a spot among the Top 3 at the december conference in Paris.
To learn more about the competition, visit LeWeb's start-up competition page.
September 8, 2011 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Europe, Events, On Geo-Location, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Search, On Social CRM, On Technology, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
August 20, 2011
The Connecting Flight, The One Following the Mad Tearing Run…
The flight is delayed and you have to make that connection….or else.
It seems to happen to me more often these days and I’m not sure if that’s the result of airlines having less planes available resulting in fewer connecting flights or the fact that systems are just breaking down.
Certainly, most of the internal systems are antiquated or ridiculously absurd and don’t have a lot of logic.
For example, recently I was on an Air France flight to Paris and had to catch a connection to Budapest. I saw the connection time on the flight itinerary and in “theory” it seemed fine. After all, it was a connecting flight and for some odd reason despite how much I’ve traveled, I thought there’d be one of those “side lanes” where you could transfer to another flight within Europe. You know, arrive at gate C and just walk down a hallway to Gate D and board your plane. Logical right?
The flight was actually on time (ish) however it took awhile to settle at the gate delaying gate arrival by 15’ish minutes. Again, in theory, I didn’t think I’d have a problem making the connection. After all, I was arriving in Gate C and I was departing out of Gate D (Gate D2 that is) from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Sure, I knew it was massive but as I was scurrying out, the Air France agent assured me it was close, repeating the C and D twice, which certainly seemed logical to me as well.
I started with a brisk walk but not a sprinting one until I realized that D was nowhere close to C since the signs for it kept reappearing after every corner turn and after yet another walking escalator disappeared behind me, there was another one on the horizon with D2 off in the distance.
We’ve all done a short sprint but this one seemed to never end until I finally stopped to ask an Air France staffer who was lingering in a busy hallway with a clipboard pressed up against her. “Budapest D2” I gasped short of breath. “Pardon,” she replied. “BUDAPEST, DAY-EH DEUX” I said, gasping even more dying for my bottle of water which had fallen from my carry-on backpack by this point.
“Tout de doit and sortie,” she motioned. “Sortie,” I thought, NO, I don’t want Sortie, I have a connecting flight. When I heard Sortie and realized she wanted me to exit, I said to her exasperated, “I have a connecting flight, une connection a Budapest. Je ne reste pas ici a Paris.” She pointed straight ahead and repeated Sortie.
So what does a seasoned traveler do with 15 minutes to go, knowing that their flight “in theory” was supposedly already boarding. She sprints of course.
Now, I’m not a marathon runner and nor am I in the best shape of my life, but having grown up as an athlete, the muscle remains. In other words, it re-emerges when it needs to, in cases of emergency or when you know you’ve spent far too much time in front a PC monitor and your body is desperate for a little oxygen.
I was wearing out and not getting a minute of sleep on my 10 hour flight didn’t help matters. When I saw the long line through passport control, I panicked as my heart raced. “Fuck,” I thought, I really don’t want to miss this flight. It’s not that I mind getting stuck in Paris, but getting stuck at an airport waiting for a small plane heading east after a half day of travel across 4 time zones wasn’t my idea of fun. Besides, Hungary was waiting.
In fact, Hungary was calling in a loud voice, saying, “Renee, you’ve been to Paris hundreds of times, I’ve been waiting for your Gypsy spirit to come taste my wine, come eat my beef medallions and my goose pate.”
I firmly but politely grabbed another Air France rep explaining the urgency, flashing my ticket and pointing to my watch which I had just changed five minutes before the plane landed. She took pity on me and ushered me through an empty line, obviously waiting for loud, late, ill-mannered Americans like me. (after all, aren’t we all?)
Passport control man was in no hurry despite seeing me out of breath and sweating and I knew it didn’t help when I hurriedly said in my pathetic French, “Je ne reste pas ici, Je suis en retard pour mon vol de Budapest.”
Quietly I was cursing, thinking, what the hell are they giving me a stamp for when I’m going to be here for 15 minutes? I also knew that the number of pages and blocks which could be stamped was running out and I still had a few years left on this passport. Slowly and smugly, I got my stamp and flew like a bird running from a cat who hadn’t eaten in days.
Sortie was ahead of me but when I re-entered, I noticed that I was somehow standing in the middle of F. Where the hell did D go I thought? It looked like arrivals and I started to move from exasperated to pissed. What kind of connection was this I thought? 45 minutes to get through Immigration’s long line and find your way half way (no, all the way) across what should be one terminal (C to D)?
Here I could speak the language (enough anyway) and was sprinting like a failed marathon runner but one who had a reason to win, and yet boarding had already begun according to my ticket 20 minutes ago and I had not even gone through a NEW security gate.
Security found me amusing no doubt as I whipped off my belt with fury like I was ready to have quick and passionate sex with a 23 year old lover. My boots came flying off as did my jewelry and I was sweating up a storm, as if the sex was already over and it was the best I ever had.
My hair was tossled, my brow was wet, my light cover up was off which showed that I wasn’t wearing a bra.
FINALLY, a sexy polite French security agent who wasn’t 23 came to my rescue. He smiled as he assured me I would make my flight and that I was in D2. but still had to get to D70 WITHIN D2. But, he added, “it’s just around the corner. I’m trying to help.”
Carry me I thought, that’s how you can help. Show up in one of those airport mini-trucks that shuttle the handicapped and seniors and make the damn thing go faster than you think its capable of going. Whisk me away. Call them and tell them to hold the plane for 30 minutes and let’s do a driveby the Air France First Class Lounge for a Parisian cappuccino & some pate for the road and then drop me off in front of my plane.
I imagined him kissing my hand bidding me Au Revoir after he completely turned my nightmare mad dashing run across the entire Charles de Gaulle airport into a nice sweet travel memory.
Cursing under my breath but remaining focused like a good seasoned traveler always does, I made a hard “gauche” after exiting security where they confiscated my mini-bottle of Merlot from my last flight. I looked up and saw the number 58. Of course I was at 58 and of course, the Budapest flight would be 70, at the EEEENNNNNNDDD of the hall. And, so I sprinted.
Nothing about arriving in Paris felt like Paris but thankfully I had so many positive memories of Paris that it would be easy to give this one amiss.
Even if the plane didn’t screw around at the gate for 15-20 minutes, anyone would be hard pressed to make this connection with the long immigration line, the distance they had to travel, and the likelihood that they didn’t speak French if they got lost on the way…easy to do at Charles de Gaulle and easy to do if you’re not a seasoned travel.
Puffing (and huffing) and puffing, I flicked my passport and ticket at the woman standing behind the gate who was about as calm, collected and type Z as you can get.
It was 12:39 and the flight was supposed to take off (up in the air, take off) by 12:45 pm. Obviously the flight was late, so while I was catching my breathe, I asked how late it was. “It’s not late,” the woman behind her said.
Hmmm, I thought. No one was on the plane yet, I was informed they were still cleaning it, yet 6 minutes before take-off and they didn’t classify it as late. Welcome to Hungary I thought, although both agents were clearly French.
I did one of those circular paces that people do when they need to think for a minute. (clearly that is). I circled around 3 or 4 times and then made a slow-paced walk over to the coffee stand where I learned that a bottle of water with the horrific U.S. dollar exchange rate would cost me $8. Had I ever been to Europe when the U.S. dollar was weaker than the Canadian one? At a time, when there are plays, comedians and talk show hosts talking about China as the new super power and America as a third world country?
I didn’t want to think about the exchange rate or the likely $10 beers and $500 shoes that lay ahead which was unlikely to be the case in Hungary since they weren’t on the Euro and I figured I’d lay low and avoid purchases in Paris to and from until Obama fixed SOMETHING, anything, so I could return and buy those $500 shoes for $200 again.
I opted against the $8 water and flopped down on a bright pink “kitch” plastic couch that wrapped around a plant sitting in a bright pink "kitch" plastic pot. It only then occurred to me that I made my flight and as I was looking for napkins at a nearby café to wipe my sweaty body down, a 15 year old Italian girl came down and sat next to me, bumping into me twice when she did so, despite the fact that there was a ton of space on the other side of her.
As we boarded, I stripped down even more since the mad tearing sprint caught up with me and not only was I sweaty but I was baking.
As I got close to the entrance to the plane, I could see the Paris day through the open crack and feel the August sunshine and feel the warm breeze coming through, hitting my face, blowing my hair back just slightly. AHHH yes, Paris in the summer I thought.
There’s nothing like boarding a plane from a place where the weather is fabulous knowing that you’re going to a place you really want to see and knowing that the weather is fabulous there too. The last time I had been to Budapest was in the mid-eighties. Yes, really.
I flopped in my seat, which had no one next to me and the seats were slightly wider than normal with an actual place to sit two drinks to my left. Recline worked. I was in the front. The Hungarian flight attendant handed me a bottle water when she saw the way I looked and I settled in for my 2+ hour flight on Malev, an airline I had never flown before.
Budapest, I reflected as my heart rate started to finally slow down. Gypsies, artists, dreamers, foodies, lovers of wine, musicians, old souls and historians. I remembered an “old world” dining experience I had with an ex-boyfriend so many years ago, where the violin players circled around us and I thought of how young I was. A kid really. What did I know of violin players and good red wine? Or duck, liver, pork, mousse, goulash and cured ham?
And then I smiled when I remembered I was coming to meet technologists not gypsies. From Silicon Valley to Hungary because there’s a wealth of incredible engineers in Budapest I was told and knew I would soon discover. As for my host?
Look for the bald man he had said. I thought, “would there really only be one bald Hungarian at the airport?” “Some say I’m as wide as I am tall,” he had added. A little more data I thought, certainly more than Air France provided me about my connecting flight.
I drifted off curled in an arch, my last visual memory of blue sky and powdery white clouds through my window, knowing that Germany was below us by that point. Hungary is waiting for me I thought as I drifted off into my thirty minute nap. Hungary is waiting for me.
August 20, 2011 in America The Free, Europe, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On France, On Geo-Location, On Guatemala, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On People & Life, On South Africa, On Spain, Reflections, South America, Travel, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
June 22, 2011
Mashable 's Adam Ostrow Interviews Foursquare's Dennis Crowley: #140ConfMashable's Adam Ostrow interviewed Foursquare's Dennis Crowley this past week in New York at 140Conf. Their on-stage chat captured below in a video from the front row.
This webdoc recaptures various aspects of their interview, all created within minutes. (the power of mixing media together in one central location).
The below webdoc paints a holistic picture of Dennis, which includes aspects of his personality through video, Twitter and images.
Disclosure: I provide some consulting to the Webdoc team.
June 17, 2011
ReadWriteWeb 2 Way Summit: LBS, Gamification, Kidgenuity & More
RWW2Way, an event by ReadWriteWeb at Columbia University this week, combined keynotes (Fred Wilson, Betaworks' John Borthwick) with one-off hour long presentations from folks like Dr. Jeffrey Jaffe of the World Wide Web Consortium, dana Boyd, Chris Dixon from Hunch, Flipboard's Mike McCue and a team of folks from The Onion, which seemed to amuse and entertain the audience.
Comedian Baratunde Thurston has tried to push the envelope of web platforms. Whether personifying The Swine Flu on Twitter or treating a Foursquare mayor battle as legitimate politics or live-blogging his experience clearing an exit ramp on Lakeshore Drive during Chicago's epic blizzard of 2011, he's found ways to do more than post photos and beg for followers. He shared this with humor to the RRW2Way crowd.
Other topics included gamification, location-based services, teen sexting and its impact on business (boyd), productivity tools for collaboration and sharing and building in more sharing and openness into the Enterprise. For example, will future employee recognition on collaborative platforms take the shape of badges, ratings, and leaderboards?
There was a session entitled: Kidgenuity - what we can learn from kids in business and how to apply it to building technology tools that get us out of our traditional (and linear ways) of thinking.
Foursquare’s head of products Alex Rainert and ABC News Radio’s Dan Patterson talked about the present and future place in the location game. Whenever I talk about check-ins or any of the players in the geo-loco space with anyone outside the technology industry, 95% of them give me a blank face. Others who have heard of it on the business side remind me how small the numbers are as a “real business,” yet these are the numbers that Facebook and Twitter started with too.
While checking in isn’t interesting in itself, and frankly for my generation, badges aren’t all that compelling either, new value-adds that brands and venues can offer may change the game within months not years. Their addition of leadership board and tips while you check in offer a little more value than the service did six months ago, particularly when you see where you sit among your friends on the leadership board. People love score cards – it’s something that motivates sales guys vis a vis each other and it’s the reason why tools like Klout are so popular among the early adopters. Game mechanics and location will continue to work together in more compelling ways to engage people with brands.
Speaking of gaming and other "popular apps," the ReadWriteWeb crew chose companies to participate in a Speed Geeking session where developers, creators and founders gave 5 minute pitches at tables and you rotated quickly over the course of an hour to get the scoop on each of them.
Social games are growing and there were at least two free apps I personally saw that have aspects of social gaming, social sharing and social viewing. PeopleHunt is an interactive people discovery game. The goal is to meet and bump phones with as many players as possible, to win points for some awesome prizes and to have interesting conversations with amazing people.
They then calculate your cartoon persona based on the a custom-built algorithms that measure the psychological traits of conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, extraversion and stability.
Soup founder Christopher Clay showed us a demo of their latest “app,” still not quite ready for launch, but they expect to have something to show in more depth within a few weeks.
Storytelling is the Future: (it’s also our past)
Storify co-founder Xavier Damman showed a demo of their latest and game examples of how people are uniquely curating digital-rich stories in other parts of the world.
Enterprise Gamification isn’t a Fad:
Salesforce.com Chief Scientist JP Rangaswami says Enterprise gamification isn’t a fad and it’s not going away anytime soon. It will continue to increase with more integrations in multiple industries, bringing us out of our outdated lateral thinking and managing.
Social Media for Middle East News Coverage:
In the midst of political uprisings in the Middle East over the last several months, seasoned journalist and social media maven Andy Carvin has transformed himself into a near superhuman newswire, providing online audiences with a Twitter-fueled, real-time and harrowing glimpse into the heart of revolution.
Carvin's curatorial approach to real-time reporting is helping to transform how other news organizations report disruptive world events. Columbia University Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism Emily Bell interviewed him on day one.
It was a great event and a welcome retreat to meet up with New Yorkers and other east coasters making things happen outside Silicon Valley. Kudos to Richard, Marshall, Shamus and the ReadWriteWeb team for pulling it together.
March 18, 2011
Seth Priebatsch on Game Mechanics, LBS, Education & Meaning at SXSWSeth Priebatsch who calls himself the Chief Ninja at a company with no vowels: SCVNGR! gave a keynote at the recent SXSW in Austin this past week. Talk about a mouthful....not a name I'll ever remember but luckily his energy and conviction was addictive and engaging. He discussed gamification, location-based services, social media engagement and more as it related to businesses, in education and beyond.
Seth talked about education. School is broken because while it is perfect for ‘game mechanics’ it doesn’t work because there is no engagement in schools. "Kids are bored," says Seth. "Engagement is a critical concept that any good game designer thinks a lot about. When you replace the real reward, i.e., learning for learning sake, with something that feels like a chore, i.e., getting a grade, kids get bored. Right now, grades are a simple game mechanic in education and that’s how we reward today. Grades are naïve implementation of a status mechanic. The problem with grades is that it’s a game where you can lose and in education, you don’t want anyone to lose."
He challenges the audience with this question: “Why not create a grading dynamic based on progressions? Rather than grade on a particular test or one experience, you grade and give points based on progression – focusing on the positive. In this scenario you can’t fail, it’s more how quickly do you move from x points to y points, starting with zero experience for everyone. The idea is to have kids focus on the end result and on progression rather than grades."
He then dissected Groupon and explored various game mechanics, what works and why:
Free Lunch - this is one of the most subtle game mechanics in the deck. It plays off consumers own skepticism. We’ve been taught that no free lunch exists, but what we see with Groupon, we see something that is too good to be true. With Groupon, the free lunch is justified, i.e., so many people need to sign up and if they do, we get the free lunch. The brilliance of what Groupon has done is that they can present the free lunch, play off the consumer’s skepticism, but guaranteed that the consumer doesn’t have to take any action to do it.
Communal Game Play – based on the idea that you can give anyone a complex problem, you can solve it using a community. As a community, if you share the deal with your friends, together you all win. Groupon uses this game mechanic as a kickstarter.
The Countdown – whenever you see a deal on Groupon, you see a countdown, which is a game mechanic that creates a spike in activity as you get closer to countdown zero.
Loyalty: the idea of being a regular, i.e., Norm at Cheers. American Express uses status really well, making you feel really special every time you move to the next level with different colored cards (progression game mechanics).
The Level Up Game Mechanic: unlocking a higher reward. You have different levels, i.e., good, better, best. Levels one and two are locked, they can see them but not have them. New comers move to regulars and they receive rewards for leveling up.
Inclusive Ownership - Exclusive ownership means that you get the benefit from owning something and no one else can benefit from it, i.e., the game of Risk is a great example. Inclusive ownership are group owners – everyone gets a benefit. Community gains from a group checking into a place.
Reward Schedules – the idea behind reward schedules is ‘what do I get for doing this?’ Everyone has introduced something you get for doing something, i.e., badges, lotteries, free drinks, points at a place, something that allows you to engage with a place. Rewards actually work really well.
Communal game play and communal discovery - The idea behind this is that you give a complex problem to a group of people and the community solves it together. The mechanics to make a group give something away that will be bad for them in the short term in order to have a better result long term. Decentralized leadership can solve complex problems so much faster than centralized leadership with communal game play mechanics in play.
People want to be part of something epic and work harder tha you normally would because you’re fully engaged and you want to be part of something greater than yourself. In other words, a Global problem with a local solution.
He also used examples by getting the audience involved in games he created to prove his points. Have a listen:
Gowalla's Josh Williams: LBS Won't Work Unless We Do Something Meaningful With It
In this very short video clip (the last few minutes of his talk at SXSW this year), Gowalla's Josh Williams talks about the importance of contribution. If we're only creating apps and using game mechanics and location-based services (LBS) as a way to increase our social klout and play to our online egos, then the real value of these services will never be realized. The take away is: use these tools for the greater good and to make a difference in the world.
March 11, 2011
A Sad But Historical Day: Migrating from my Blackberry to the iPhone
The Apple fan boys get to you - you know, that nagging effect that makes you 'feel' inferior. The innovators snarl at you as if you don't 'get it.'
The early adopters call you a dinosaur and keep asking you when you're going to move into the next century. Your blogger friends make fun of you because you have no cool mobile apps. Your media pals have more than one mobile device and they wonder why you don't too. Your clients keep developing apps that you need to test even if you're not their target market.
It took me long enough to move from a simple phone to a smart phone, one that did what it was supposed to do well - MAKE calls, text and store an insane amount of contacts, a priority for me. The Blackberry was a smart phone compared to my LG, Samsung, Palm and Motorola experiments, yet no one in the industry will likely agree.
It did what I NEEDED it to do really well - text, contacts, email and phone calls, ones that didn't drop several times during a conference call. That said, the Blackberry did NOT have an easy user interface for apps I would likely use abroad, like Skype and Google Maps or ones that I'd use here, such as Yelp, movie sites and local sites like SF Gate when I had a need to look up a restaurant or cafe.
You could look at this blog post as a nostalgic parting of ways post more than anything else. While it hasn't been quite two weeks, everytime I look down at my cool new bright iPhone screen with its purple cover, I can't help but long for my Blackberry. Everytime I have to type a text message or an email (OFTEN), it takes me three times as long. Yes, three, not two.
Apple fan boys and iPhone addicts will say that its only a matter of time and I'll be whizzing along on my new slick device with the mega memory and boat load of apps, yet what I'm realizing is that I simply don't need a boat load of apps.
Sure, I spent a few hours within the first 24 hours downloading cool apps that would make me more productive, such as Errands and 2Do, the latter I even paid for though I can't seem to see the benefit yet even after tinkering with it for a few hours.
I downloaded cool photo apps, the Wifi-Finder which has yet to work for me in 3 different cities, and all the social apps I might possibly use: Bump, Twitter, Plancast, YouTube, Facebook, Tungle, LinkedIn, Seesmic, My6Sense, and Hootsuite. Then again, I used the important ones on that list on my Blackberry with great ease anyway.
I have folders now with tech blogs, media sites, cool travel and resource references, 6 travel maps, and apps that revolve around music, spirituality and finance. I have icons for my favorite conferences and the sure, the DEMO and TED apps were useful recently and no doubt, the SXSW Go app will be useful this week in Austin.
YET....I used to fly through emails and text messages on my Blackberry. While I was sitting on the runway waiting for the plane to take off, I might send 50 emails that saved me time later on. I could check into Foursquare in a heartbeat while somehow on the iPhone, it seems like I need to go through an extra step. As for tweeting, don't get me started.
While on the DEMO floor, I snapped a photo using the very cool Instagram app everyone has been raving about (which I like a lot btw, but after four days of it, the novelty is already wearing off), and it took me 8 minutes to get the tweet out. No, I'm not exaggerating.
I realize the new 'toy' is just that - new. And, I have no doubt that my iPhone and Apple fan boy friends and early adopters who may no longer glare at me, may be right on the learning curve. In a few weeks time, I may very well be fixated with the beauty and zillion apps my Verizon iPhone gives me, but it doesn't mean I'll be any faster at churning out data.
Let's face it, I'm not a gamer or a mobile web surfer. Deep down, I'm a productivity whore. Seriously, I love things that reduce the time I'm tethered to my PC or to a radiation-ridden cell phone, whether its floating through data one screen at a time, listening to music or watching a video on a 5 inch screen. It's just not for me.
While there's no doubt, mobile is exploding and as barriers come down, and bandwidth and battery life improves, we'll be using our devices for more things, more often and in more places.
That said, right now, I need my phone to do 3 things really well: have a strong signal in as many markets as possible so calls aren't dropped and I can get online, churn out messages as text or email as quickly as possible, and have an interface and keyboard that allows me to spit out tweets in seconds, so I can focus on the content before me rather than trying to get the accuracy right using a keyboard that isn't a real keyboard. God help those with large hands and fingers.
Note the consistent need throughout: as quickly as possible. Productivity whores love efficiency and when they don't get it, they get cranky.
Here's the other thing that my Verizon iPhone won't give me that my Verizon Blackberry did. In December, when I went off to Paris, I turned on an unlimited data plan that allowed me to surf, text and do email as often as I wanted in Europe for a mere $3.00 a day. No can do with the blocked iPhone. Pals on that same trip ended up paying $300+ by the time they got back for what cost me just under $30.
Toys might be fun, but productive and inexpensive they are not. For fun, why not get an iPad and forget a phone that simply doesn't work well as a phone? Sorry geeks, early adopters, design freaks and Apple fan boys alike, I just don't get it. I'll report back in a couple of months so we can see how little or much I've evolved on this new slick toy you all love.
December 31, 2010
2010: The Year of Multiple Digital Personas
This past year was one of my busiest years, largely because of 4 factors: I re-launched two sites, started shooting more (note: Canon 7D purchase), I seemed to be on the road non-stop and clients expected more than ever and yet they want to pay less for results.
Let's start by looking at some of the technology trends and mindshifts in 2010 which led to such a chaotic schedule.
Social media tools exploded. Living in Silicon Valley, you get hit with more beta trials than anywhere else in the world and testing new shit out is what I do among other things, so it's no surprise that I was hit with more than one person could possibly digest. Yet, some of those tools started to go mainstream, so suddenly things that were on my back burner couldn't go unnoticed anymore. For one, location-based services started to get a lot of attention.
Last January, I found myself in a hotel room in Munich desperate to connect and "check in" before heading out for a stroll in the fresh fallen snow.
How F-Ked up is that? Foursquare doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that I'm in another country when I am, regardless of how decent "connectivity" is, yet I can't seem to give in to technology controlling my environment even when it doesn't work. What's wrong with acknowledging that I'm not an engineer, don't try to fix this.....just let things/it be?"
Later in the year, I went through something similar in Paris. Refer to my blog post: When in Paris, BE in Paris, Disconnect.
That brings me to Part B of this story. Technology DID in fact control my environment more than any year in my life.
I relaunched We Blog the World this year because of its organic growth and growing interest from bloggers around the globe who wanted to contribute.
Launching a site isn't what it used to be because of the fact that a site isn't just a site anymore - it's connected to multiple digital personas on the web.
With the site had to be a Facebook "fan" page or whatever they now call it, a Twitter update to match the look-and-feel of the revamped site, as well as photo and video online personas to go with the rest of it.
Then there's maps, mobile optimization, geo-location, custom RSS feeds, online newsletters and editing to ensure the world sees what you want them to see rather than poorly curated clutter on the web. (see Linda Stone/continuous partial attention -- not new to 2010 but still highly relevant).
Enter the growing focus on curation. We're long overdue for attention on intellectual and relevant curation of content that matters to us most.
Since tools can't curate content automatically in a way that is useful to us yet, human curation needs to be part of the process and for anyone who has spent time curating and tagging content on the web knows, it's bloody time consuming. Pearltrees, a curation tool, was a big part of my life this year and I spent time alerting content creators in various vertical markets about the aspect and value of human curation as an integral part of their workflow.
I switched to Chrome this year as my main browser, suddenly I ended up with three phones, one of which was a Google phone that simplified my local calls and texting when in Europe, and I was nearly tempted to buy an iPad so I could carry around yet another device with me to ensure I was connected 24/7 just in case the three phones and two laptops were not enough.
What's important to note is how the 'always on' part of my life which used to largely happen in my office and to and from meetings during my work day migrated into every aspect of my life.
Not only were my digital personas growing in numbers, but so was my attention to them. Suddenly I had a flash page (see about.me, currently still in beta), 3 new sites, 3 new Facebook pages, 4 new Twitter personas, Foursquare and a growing number of international connections to "manage."
By summer, I was seriously feeling the effect of The Shallows (see Nicholas Carr's book: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains). In synthesizing recent cognitive research, he shares his own experiences, something that I could personally relate to. Carr writes "I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something has been tinkering iwth my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going -- so far as I can tell -- but it's changing."
By late July, I found that I couldn't sit still when I was out without a device and moreso, my attention span had shortened dramatically. The same thing was happening to others around me. We couldn't concentrate for long without new digital stimuli, even if that be a simple text message. My reading moved from reading whole books to skimming them, the rest left for online editorial only.
Reading and re-reading books have always brought a sense of calm to my otherwise chaotic world and yet, I had stopped reading novels for awhile. Instead, my reading time was filled with learning how social media was changing our lives and the impact it was having and will continue to have on business and the world. I read about new tools, solutions and trends. Of course, none of it had heart and soul but it was great insight for what to adopt early on.
Carr asserts that "every technology is an expression of human will. Through our tools, we seek to expand our power and control over our circumstances -- over nature, over time and distance, over one another."
And so, with this growing tension between feeling and fearing that my brain was actually changing chemically and the need to be "always" be connected to some device at any given time, I decided to leave the country in August without a device.
Off to South America I went with a friend who brought a Blackberry with her and I, a netbook, largely to be used for checking email once every couple of days, but moreso to offload photos from camera to hard drive. So, while technology wasn't off limits for me, having a device in my hands so I could be reachable and in turn reach out whenever and wherever, was not an option.
When you have close to ten online digital personas you are 'managing' at any given time, not being connected for a few weeks is highly uncomfortable. As I was boarding a plane from Miami to Guyaquil, I noticed how many people fidgeted when the pilot told them to turn their electronic devices off.
Some people stared down at their devices as if they would give them something stimulating even though the screen was blank. A few picked up magazines but flipped through as if bored without the energy of their device, their "adult" pacifier.
I found myself going through the same awkwardness, yet because the device was "home" and not an option when we landed, I was forced to find both my energy and my calm from a static page of a book or an old fashioned notebook which I brought to record thoughts using an actual physical pen.
Since I was with someone who had not made the same choice, I was somewhat forced into the digital world by watching her fiddle with her Blackberry, nose down into its addictive energy while we were driving past the Amazon jungle. It was astonishing that she could get a connection up there and because she 'could,' she did.
There was a moment where I felt like asking her for "it" to check into the Amazon on Foursquare for the world to see, as somewhat of a novelty. There was a moment where I felt like asking her for "it" to tweet out to the world that the Amazon was in trouble and attach a photo of chain saws on the side of the road with piles of timber lined up in rows a couple hundred miles away from the nearest big town.
I had to refocus my energy away from the device and her fingers upon it and onto the lush green wildness out my right window and as soon as I did, slowly but surely, my center found calm. It found presence. It found wonder. It found marvel. It found gratitude. It found wow. It found real physical life that was breathing its beauty into me as I decided to participate IN IT rather than watch or engage with it on a screen.
I didn't blog about my experience that week since we were camping in the middle of the jungle, but I also decided not to blog about it as soon as we were connected in another town. I waited until I returned to the states, and for multiple reasons, it was the right thing to do. Reflections followed - here, here and here. I also wrote about my detaching experience called Hey Digital Maven, How Okay Are You With Silence?
Being present and recalling that presence later on because I had time to reflect on gratitude was key. Being constantly connected doesn't give us the time or more importantly, the 'space' to reflect and go deeper. Our ability to go deeper is limited because of what this constant digital stimuli is doing to our brains, and in turn, our behavior.
As Carr reflects from the discovery he made through his research, "while we know that our brain is an exquisitely sensitive monitor of experience, we want to believe that it lies beyond the influence of experience.
We want to believe that the impressions our brain records as sensations and stores as memories leave no physical imprint on its own structure. To believe otherwise would, we feel, call into question the integrity of the self."
Having a break from managing digital personas for a few weeks reminded me of the essential need for balance -- not just life/play and work balance but digital balance.
While I found that others were going through the same thing, the addictive quality of the lifestyle shift is gradual, and people often find it hard to talk about or perhaps explain.
When I first picked up the iPad and browsed through my blog using Flipboard, a wave of excitement flew through me as the pictures I created in the real world came to life on the screen. A beautiful screen.
The display was magical and an actual device was re-sorting or curating if you like, the content....my content. It was telling my story in its own way and the stories of other bloggers I knew and respected. I thought about how "cool" it would be to have this experience with me at all times, so wherever I was, I could have that dynamic engaging experience rather than a much blander web page.
Yet, when all I sometimes need is the information on the web, having that extra visual pleasure brings me into the web experience more than it does my physical surroundings. When I choose "it" more often than the people around me in the physical world, I'm losing something valuable as well am I not?
Digital addicts will argue not of course since for them, the additional dimension of what these devices bring to their online life (where they spend 90% of their time) is so much greater that they would argue making another choice is 'halting a change' that is not only inevitable but critical.
Inevitable as it is, it doesn't mean we can't be more aware on the impact it is having on our daily lives and decide with our human brains during this explosive evolution and revolution, that human interaction without a digital pacifier at our side, does still hold tremendous value.
Being present without anything in our hands or a list of "online to dos" on our mind makes us so much more aware of a friend's breath across the table as they listen to our words and the intensity in their eyes as they dance with a story they're sharing.
As more and more moves online and away from physical paper and objects, we're reminded of privacy concerns and location-based services knowing our every move and offering products to us as soon as we walk into a store or cafe.
We're reminded that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was a runner-up for Time’s most important Person of the Year regardless of whether you see him as a hero or a villain.
We're reminded that the world has changed as we know it and there's no moving back in time.
While I'm certainly not proposing that we fight the inevitable, or stop technological progress and advancement, I'd like to offer some suggestions as a way to have more physical experiences in our lives amidst the growth of all things digital:
1. Pick a Day a Week to Disconnect from the Digital World: Remember we're talking about only one day a week. Use that day to engage with the physical world - trust me, it still exists. Choose something you're passionate about that is physical and doesn't have a digital extension to it, i.e., skiing down a mountain, cycling through a forest without your cell in your pocket, playing with a child on the beach, or discussing philosophy over dinner at the table with a friend without your iPad or iPhone in a bag by your feet.
2. Practice Using Your Brain Not Just Your Digital Pacifier: When you're tempted to rely on something digital to get you through an experience, choose a time when you don't need to rely on it and use your brain instead. A great example is your car navigation system.
The time to do this is obviously when you're not in a hurry to get from A to B. It's an interesting exercise for those who have relied on a nav system for awhile now. Male friends have commented that they have lost their acute directional sense since they put that part of their brain to rest for awhile. It's not unlike what happened with the introduction of calculators and over time, discovering how hard it was to do math on the fly.
3. Automate some of your Digital Life: While it's important to have a presence on the web if you run a company or work for one, and as part of it, engage, engage, engage, some of it can be automated. Focus on the voices and conversations that matter to you most and automate the rest.
The more scattered your presence, the less you can truly engage and prioritize on the people and passions you most identify with. It's not just about numbers. Quality matters and quality takes time, concerted time and effort.
4. Become the Artist you're Designed to be and Backburner the Rest: Create don't react. Remember that you don't have to respond to everything and everyone all the time. When we're constantly responding to things on our screen, the "lizard brain" is taking over, not the genius inside us. When we're reacting to online chatter, there's less time to "create our true art," which is our gift to the planet while we're alive to share it. In other words, our purpose.
As Seth Godin writes in Linchpins, one of my favorite books this year, "the Lizard Brain often sabotages the progress we have made and stops us from creating our best work." Refer to a great post Seth wrote on 'quieting the lizard brain.'
In my opinion, albeit one of the most useful things to hit this decade, social media has given us so many distractions, that it's difficult to take a step back and realize that we don't have to choose and use it all.
Make the time to create the art you're designed to create and the life you want to have.
Once we realize that we have a choice to pick and choose what's most useful for us and leave the rest, we'll create an opening to create our best art. Let's remember that our digital personas are not the whole picture of our lives, just a piece of it.
As a wise Nepalese elderly man once said to me on my way up a long Annapurna trail many years ago, Patience on your journey grasshopper, patience.
December 31, 2010 in America The Free, Books, Entertainment/Media, Europe, On Blogging, On Branding, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On People & Life, On RSS, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 15, 2010
Foursquare's Dennis Crowley on Managing Their Growth
Foursquare's Dennis Crowley talked to the massive LeWeb audience about Foursquare from its birth to where they are today. He says that many people think they're so much larger than they are, yet they pull off new feature updates and support with only forty employees.
Sadly, my Blackberry didn't seem to want to acknowledge that I was in Paris since every time I did a refresh, a system update and a reboot, Foursquare still had me listed in the Bay Area. I guess all that means in the short term is that I didn't become the mayor of some of the more quaint, boutique bistros and chocolate 'houses' in the less tourist areas of Paris. I am still the mayor of a cafe in Munich a year later so I guess they should get on the bandwagon and start doing promoting themselves to Foursquare users in Germany.
Oh yeah, and I challenged Dennis to a "text bake off" at a dinner - he on his trusty iPhone and me on my Blackberry and let's just say the "man" is FAST without a keyboard and he won, but I might add, only by one small word. I want a re-match :-). Perhaps at SXSW.
As always, I loved his energy and what they're trying to do. Location is hot and Foursquare is primed to take advantage of a very enthusiastic and passionate user-base, which is currently about 60% US-based and 40% international. Below is the video I shot from the front row.
December 15, 2010 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Europe, Events, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, Social Media, Videos, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 30, 2010
Gap Lovin' Foursquare as Part of New Ad Campaign
The ads — which are running on a wide variety of sites including Mashable, Gawker and Conde Nast properties — feature Gap holiday fashions and deals along with the Foursquare button, which when clicked, adds a Gap to-do and enables a 30% discount on one regular priced Gap item.
The ads are location-aware too; users will be able to associate the to-do with a nearby store and be reminded of it when they’re nearby and pull up “Places” within Foursquare. Gap will also be donating $1 for each add to Foursquare’s charity of choice — Camp Interactive — as part of the campaign. Full article here.