May 01, 2012
Remembering the Strong Female Forces In Our Lives
This week, I couldn't stop thinking about them. Among "them" was not THE woman in my life who guided me, took care of me, shaped me. That was my grandmother and like most grandmothers of women in their forties, they're no longer a phone call away.
The benefits of being raised by your grandmother is that you are surrounded by older, wiser women at a much earlier age, all of which have stories, many of which remind you not to take the world....and everyone in it so seriously.
In my grandmother's circle was an incedible group of women who got together for lunches, martinis, and shopping, even in the 1930s and 40s when they were all healthy, raising children and had husbands that they 'navigated.' (see My Mother's Kitchen -- 2004 blogging days) and a dedication to mothers).
All of them strong, yet sweet...the kind of women who didn't tolerate weak character or housewives without some other mission or job. It wasn't the south, yet a couple of them have moved north for some reason or another. Most of us were "baked" in a small town in upstate New York and with that came things like country fairs, football games, horse farms, 4H, piano lessons, and more sewing and craft afficiandos than wine snobs.
Learning the basics of being a 'woman' of that time was part of living in a small town...you know, the traditional stuff: sewing a button, baking a cake, rolling pie dough the 'right' way, dance lessons, serving tea. Yet, they absolutely tolerated if not encouraged sports for women. While I regularly played many a' sport in school, none of these stronger older women who influenced me in my life played a thing.
In their walled garden, which I used to eavesdrop on from time-to-time, they often talked about navigating their family unit. Many women relied on my grandmother's advice (today, they'd call her a 'coach'), to help them negotiate things at home, whether it was getting their husband to purchase something to make their lives easier, or being able to work and play more while raising a family of 5, and so on. She was also the master peacemaker and networker.
The constant, common thread woven into all of their personalities was spunk and perserverance. I think about them often now more than ever, three gone, four still living. I dreampt about one of them a couple of nights in a row recently and woke up with my heart racing. "How old is she now?" I thought. "Could my dream be a sign that she's sick and in her last days" I thought. "Is she already gone and she visited me at night to say goodbye?" I thought.
The number I had for Bernie was disconnected which is never a good sign. She was with my aunt and uncle in the driveway waiting for me the day my grandmother died. I was too naive to believe my grandmother would actually die despite a long battle with cancer -- remember no one talked about stressful situations then...they just smoked and drank more martinis. They didn't tell me the news in the driveway that day nor did they go with me to the hospital. I drove alone and heard the news alone from some fatigued nurse who didn't know who I was and released the information about my grandmother's passing in a not so gentle manner. I was 16. I had no reaction until I belted in the elevator moments later but without shedding a tear - where was everyone I thought?
Among the faces that came in and out of my mind were all the strong women in my grandmother's life...my life. I imagined their pain learning the news I had just been given, knowing that not all of them had known yet.
My grandfather wasn't in the driveway that day but Bernie had been. Perhaps she wasn't 'authorized' to tell me? I'm highly intuitive and yet something blocked me from connecting the dots after seeing Bernie's red blotchy eyes on that very sad and long summer afternoon when I was "sweet" 16.
I learned a lot about Bernie and these strong female forces in my life, almost all intuitively. When we visited her house, I had to pass time while the 'grown ups' played their cards and drank martinis. It was the 70s - there were no cell phones, online games on TV or computers.
And, no one had a parenting rulebook that said your kids had to be in bed by 8 every night. It was a time loaded with boundaries, an era when adults dicated the agenda, not children.
I used to crawl on my hands and knees through their attic, unpacking boxes and snooping inside. I'd roam through the closets, dressing myself up in her hats and oversized jackets. Downstairs, I'd hear her strong laughter dominating the table and that beautiful and feminine way she egged the men on exuding her confidence and wit. A gift. I even knew it then but didn't have a label for it. My grandmother had it too.
Audrey was a little more refined in public yet exuded the same strength and gift. She's 95 now and lives in Florida, alone. I managed to get her on the phone for a long chat a few years ago. I feared she'd barely be able to hear me or keep up with my pace, but the first thing she did was drill me, like I was still 18. I smiled as I listened to her first question, which may have come before hello: "are you still playing the piano? I hope you're still playing the piano" suggesting that my grandmother would be shedding more than a tear had I not let her gift and now my gift, pour out into other people's silence.
Truth be told, I had stopped playing but a piano remains in the house and I told her, I can't imagine any house without a piano and will always feel that way. She tells me she's trying to order music online now (online in her nineties -- really?) but some of the music she's looking for is hard to find. I imagined Colony Music in mid-town would have it I told her, a place I visit every time I'm in New York just because.
Then we got onto men. She's dating a younger man (mid-eighties) but his eyesight is failing so she often has to drive on longer hauls (1-2 hours). Without complaining, it was clear she did most of the work and I kept wondering, is there ever a time when strong women like us ever get 'taken care of?" Before we hit the grave? She told me that her biggest beef was that he was a fan of George Bush and she couldn't really get him to change his mind. "These are the compromises you make for companionship," she said.
I was reminded to listen to my inner voice...the wonderful intuition that women have, rely on and use regularly for all sorts of things, yet it's a skill and gift that doesn't list well on paper or in the boardroom.
When I was 18, I lived out of my car for awhile, not far from where Audrey and her husband lived in Florida at the time. A workaholic from the beginning of 'life' itself, I had three jobs, two boyfriends and was eager to save as much as I could for travel. Frankly, rent just seemed like a waste of money when I was working 6.5 days anyway. Somehow my highly intuitive grandfather discovered this through his Sherlock-skills over 1,500 miles away and sent Audrey to deal with me. What was and is remarkable for a woman born at the turn of the century is how much she understood my need to do precisely what I was doing.
They had traveled in academic circles, lived in Paris for awhile and let's be clear, did not and would not ever have slept in her car or on a park bench in her life. Yet, it was okay that I did, for then. She believed in the process of life and that everyone's process is different. Her handwritten letters which I receive every year and have since I was ten demonstrate her perserverance, her tolerance and her inner strength - letter after letter, word after word, you could sense her gratitude and faith in the world, and her positive role in it.
Marcie was a long time neighbor who grew up in the south on a farm. She was #8 in a line of 11, her youngest sister from Pittsburg being the only other sibling alive. She has also lost two children of her own and her inlaws husbands and wives are all gone from cancer and heart disease.
When I couldn't reach Bernie, and countless Google searches didn't pull up a thing, I called Marcie considering it a universal sign and nod that it's time to reach out to these strong female forces in my life. It's these quiet nods that we have to not just listen to, but act on, for it is action on these nods (messages if you like, from our inner voice aka the universe), that allow US to DESIGN our lives, not let someone else design them for us. From this place, we proactively live life, not react to it. We become the creator, not the victim. The designer, not the canvas.
Alongside my grandfather, she taught me to drive. Through the neighborhoods we went in a beat up old Chevrolet. She asked, "I was trying to recall how long ago that was again?" Its amusing how much easier it is to come up with a precise number to that question to someone in their mid-eighties than it is to the hot 30 year old man you just met from Argentina.
Three things were on her mind: how much harder it was to do physical things, the climate, remarking how much warmer it was this winter and how odd the weather has been in recent years, and the economy.
I on my iPhone and she on the same square black GT phone she has had in her kitchen since 1966, we talked about my life in the "bubble", the Silicon Valley eco-system that doesn't seem to subscribe to recessionary issues that affect the rest of the country. That said, it is increasingly becoming harder for people around me to keep up with the accidental millionaires and billionaires who are sprouting up overnight as a result of some freak paranoia acquisition play by an industry giant.
This led us to gratitude and reality checks. She told me about a time in the early forties when she put an apple on her father's tab in the country grocer on her way home from school one day and her reaction to the scolding she received when it was "discovered." Given that she has the same strong, resilient streak that all the women in my grandmother's circle had, she decided to take charge of her own decisions and got a job in an ice cream shop. It was 1944 she recalls and she made just under $3 for two days of work.
It's hard to imagine numbers like this today, yet despite what salaries have become, the majority of Americans can't pay their bills on time or if you happen to live in a major metropolitan area, afford the $1M+ that it cost to purchase a home today. And so, people don't or they go bankrupt.
It seems as if everything is inflated around me...last time I walked down Fillmore Street, I don't remember seeing so many unremarkable $500 tops and $800 bags. Shopping culture and consumerism despite the economic situation remains high (read my blog post on Qatar's over-the-top growth) and yet, the happiest people I know have less. Only two days ago, I came across a photo with a quote from Justin Wolfers at the Aspen Ideas event saying "Richer countries are overwhelmingly happier than poorer countries." From a viewpoint that poorer countries are full of people with sicker family members and less ability to save them, I agree.
In my experience traveling to 80 countries and living in nearly a dozen, it feels like the people I've met who have had less and live simpler lives with less stuff, are richer in spirit, and are focused on doing rather than earning, less weighted down by money.
So, I'm not sure if I agree with you Justin, but I do agree that communities where economic and social balance becomes far out of whack, depression and a feeling that the world doesn't make sense can certainly be higher.
People from the old world, Marcie, Audrey, Bernie and my grandparents among them, understood contrasts, balance and gratitude and had so much more resilience, kindness and empathy than what I encounter on a regular basis. It's not that the world has become a harsher place, it's that we may all too busy responding and reacting to things being thrown our way (on and offline), that we may have forgotten to tap into what and who we know best - ourselves.
Returning to and relying on ourselves and trusting our own intution for guidance and our life path may be the best gift we can give ourselves. Refer to my review on Rescue America: the urgent calling to return to what made America great.
How well I know these women or knew my grandmother is not as relevant as the impact they had on me, and the inner strength they have provided and still do, even those who are no longer walking on this physical land.
It's always about our journeys and the joy and yes, even sorrow, we leave behind along the way. Within that joy and sorrow are lessons learned and gifts we share and receive, strength, courage and empathy passed on from our tribes, in my case, a tribe of strong fabulous women I think about often. And, when their smiling faces and emphathetic hearts come into clear view, there's sunshine in the house and my day somehow gets breezier and lighter as I think about them weaving in and out of my life. Never gone, just displaced and forever cherished.
A few blog posts on happiness worth referencing:
- What Motivates People Across Cultures
- We're Happier When We Share
- Bhutan's Gross Happiness Experiment
- On Laughing More
- Money Doesn't Bring You Happiness
- On Death (but one that will bring you comfort)
- Tony Hsieh on Happiness & Profits
- First Image (women/wind): 3D Art
- Path: Wharton Executive Management Site
- Bird with wings: Society 6
April 29, 2012
TEDxSummit in Qatar's Doha Brings Together Nearly 100 Cultures to Accelerate Change & Meaning
I recently came back from Doha Qatar, where I attended a week-long event exclusively for TEDx organizers.
The first TEDxSummit was hosted by the Doha Film Institute at the Katara Cultural Center aka the Katara Valley of Cultures. The "village" is a bit like a sprawling outdoor convention center that houses an ampitheatre, tents and domes where you can see live concerts and events.
Katara was born out of a long held vision to position the State of Qatar as a cultural lighthouse of art if you will, highlighting the best of theatre, literature, music and visual art in the Middle East. It sits along the water, so you can watch boats sail by and a sunrise in the early evening off in the distance while you take in your event, whether it be performing arts or meetings, or in our case, a mishmash of both.
Before arriving, I wasn't sure what to expect, from the kinds of content they'd choose to why Qatar and what is Qatar? Refer to my numerous posts on Qatar including a write-up on the Arab Museum of Modern Art, images of the impressive Museum of Islamic Art, a display of work from renowned Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang and the over-the-top Murakami Ego exhibit.
What is Qatar is probably the most mind blowing takeaway from the event as you'll see from my write-ups. At first, it didn't make sense why we were having an event in such a remote place, a country barely known to so many and yet, after returning from the Summit, the location makes perfect sense.
Given that the Summit attracted TEDsters from nearly a hundred countries around the world, it is in fact a fairly central location, though obviously a longer haul for those of us on the American west coast. And, given the diversity of the attendees, Qatar, which rather than having hundreds of years of history and cultural references, really only started to make its marks a few decades ago.
In other words, its a country in search of an identity as demonstrated by the volume of new immigrants pouring in to tap into Qatar's exploding economic growth...less a land of local Qataris and more a land of transplants from Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Lebanon, the list goes on.
And, let's not forget other stats: 75% of those living in Doha and surrounding area are expats/foreign nationals. Doha is preparing for its growing global interest; the city is about as modern as it gets with highrises going up faster than Las Vegas hotels in its prime.
The other reason Qatar makes sense as a location, is that so few of us in the west know "enough" about the Middle East, particularly the complexities of Islam and the culture that goes along with it. Understanding Qatar helps you understand the rest of the region.
Through greater understanding comes compassion, empathy, tolerance, gratitude and a willingness to not just expand your horizons and knowledge base, but reach out and help in whatever way makes sense. This, by the way, is integral to what TED at its core is about.
And so, we all embarked on soil that is new, yet old, to discuss ways we can help each other, sharing best practices, what works and what doesn't.
Some of the sessions included: How to Write About Your Speakers, Sponsorships, Keeping Your Event Sustainable, Social Media Strategies, Building Salons, Blogging, Making Change with Corporate Events, Capturing Great Photo Content, Planning, Stage & Production Tips, Branding, Livestreaming, Working with Tight Budgets and more.
Clearly it made sense for teams from specific regions to pow-wow with each other. Wwe had breakout sessions in large tents in the middle of the desert broken out by parts of the world, i.e., Eastern Europe, Australia, Central America and in the states, it was broken down even further (northern California, Midwest and so on).
Below are ketchnotes of one of the TEDxSummit sessions from C. Todd Lombardo, organizer of TEDxSomerville in the greater Boston area.
While meeting by region helps each group share resources, and even space for meetings, its amazing how much you can learn from organizers in parts of the world that have nothing in common with your own. This is separate of course from what you learned from locals who happened to be hanging out or 'working the event' -- in the middle of the desert.
For example, storytelling on stage is very different at a small event in West Africa, yet what is so natural in a village is often missing from a large TEDx stage that may resort to Powerpoint and a speaker's 20 years of experience and knowledge. The opposite applies too of course; there are clearly things from larger events that small towns can use to expand their presence and brand awareness. In other words: borrow from the formal for the informal and take the informal into the formal and make magic happen by blending the best of both together.
The other surprise for me was the whole concept of "you don't know what you don't know and you don't know who you don't know." I didn't even know all the organizers in my own region (greater Bay Area), nor did I know the depth of where TEDx events had spread.
For example, while the events are largely by geography, there are a few that are connected to brands/companies, universities and other institutions. Did you know that there's a TEDxHouses of Parliament? This isn't just fascinating data - this is revolutionary. Consider the kinds of conversations they have already had and will evolve as a result of this kind of "new" organization and collaboration.
Bringing everyone together to share, collaborate and execute on ideas around the world is brilliant. Let's not forget the 'healing' and compassion that comes as a result of greater understanding, which inevitably comes from bringing such a global audience together in one place.
Well done and hats off to Bruno Giussani, Chris Anderson, Lara Stein, and the NY & Doha teams for turning another great idea into a reality.
Some of the Speaker and Presentation Highlights include:
- 'The Human Arabesque' opening night video sourced inspiration from Doha's Museum of Islamic Art. The team researched traditional arabesque patterns in a quest to incorporate regional culture to create a moving, human sculpture representing the transformative power of x.
- Futurist Juan Enriquez has always been a long time favorite of mine. He contends that science and technology are leading us rapidly towards the next "human species." See excelvm.com.
- Vinay Venkatraman, who is a founding partner at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, has developed an alternative vision to creating a more inclusive world through a design concept he refers to as 'Frugal Digital.'
- TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada demonstrated a bold new design for a sailing craft with a flexible rudder -- on both ends. Called 'Protei,' the robot is designed to sense and clean up oceans.
- I loved Shereen El Fedi's talk on how bad laws fuel and good laws fight HIV. Chart after chart, example after example, she demonstrated her point. Check out their work at HIV Law Commission.
- Amit Sood wowed the crowd with an incredibly impressive demo of the Google Art Project. They have collected and curated the world's greatest art, from museums and beyond, onto the web, making it as easy to access your favorite piece of work or view art you've never heard of or are likely never to see in person. You can even search by sub-category, by typing in for example, red and Picasso for everything that Picasso did in red. There are other filters as well that could keep you glued to this site for hours if not days.
- Rives, who many of us know as a renowned poet, has given awe-inspiring performances on the TED stage before. In Doha, he took us a journey of factoids using his poetic tongue. Bouncing from site to site, we learned about some of the most trivial and not so trivial knowledge on the web, ranging from culture and politics to insects and sex.
- With passion and energy, Indian artist Raghava KK argued why everyone should have a 200-year plan.
- Rare book scholar William Noel fascinated the audience with his research. Using a particle accelerator to read ancient works, he took us on a journey from start to finish. He's a huge believer in open-source and open-data and he and his team are making their work open to others (aka the web of ancient manuscripts).
- Comedian Maz Jobrani intertwined humor with local culture and events. You have depth as a comedian when you can stand on a stage in Qatar and have Americans, Lebanese, Saudi Arabians, Qataris, Scandinavians, Japanese and Aussies all laughing at the same time. He's known for his work on the 'Axis of Evil Comedy Tour,' which traveled around the world, including the Middle East.
- National Food Security Programme chairman Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiya educated me most about where Qatar was a hundred years ago versus where it is today and where's its heading. They're working on a Master Plan, using Qatar, which only has two days of water supply, as a model for sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture in arid regions.
- Yahay Alabdeli who curates TEDxBaghdad created a lot of teary eyed attendees with his story about how he traveled back to Iraq after 34 years to create an event that pulled not just locals but others who had left Iraq but returned specifically for his event. As you can imagine, it was much more than a reunion. He went through a number of obstacles to make it happen, so it seems perfect that his event theme was: "Making the Impossible Possible."
- One of my old time favorites Hans Rosling returned to the TED stage, bringing humor to sex, religion and data once again. What was even more fascinating was having his global trends in health and economics from every country in the world presented in a place where we had representation by nearly every region in the world. All of his talks exude one of his sweetest talents - his dry humor and quirkiness. Beyond the quirkiness he shows in his professional life, which adds to the power of his talks, let's not forget that the man swallows swords for kicks in his spare time. What's not to adore about Hans? (see a video interview with Hans at the Summit here - he uses legos, rocks and humor that reveals deep insight in typical Hans-style).
Because the event was an International Summit where best practices and learning beyond "talks" were a big part of the agenda, the highlights that will inevitably be glued to people's minds and hearts include the experiencial activities.
Below is a brainstorming session in a tent set up in the desert dunes, roughly an hour and a half south of Doha.
There was dune bashing, also in the south of the country.
And, kayacking among mangroves in the north, after which we were guests in the home of a local man, who fed us well and shared some of his photos and life experiences:
A visit to the Al-Zubara Fort:
A boat tour along the water:
The incredibly breathtaking Islam Museum of Art:
Education City has representation from some of the top schools, including Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Northwestern University, and others, with a goal to grow Qatar's knowledge base, making it an attractive place to visit and work in the future.
Below, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar Weill Cornell.
Below is a shot taken at one of the cafes in the Souq Waqif one night (we ended up in the Souq several evenings). Despite the fact that the Souq doesn't serve alcohol, it was a great place to hang out, socialize, shop, drink coffee and eat fabulous local food.
Desert Day in the South. Of course, it wouldn't be desert day without an opportunity to catch a ride on a camel:
A casual shot of TEDx organizers in the desert...
Then there was the late afternoon drumming session, which frankly, I can never get 'enough of...'.
A music jam session in one of the main tents - small but intimate and full of great TEDx talent:
18-year old Jordanian pianist Sima Sirriyeh, who composes her own pieces played for us on the main stage.
Opening night, they danced and sang. And then, danced and sang some more.
We took in the best of the local culture and greater Doha through visits to Souq Faqif, the Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the Cai Guo Qiang and Murakami Ego exhibitions. Also check out Doha's Centre for Media Freedom.Late nights were spent in the hotel bars where we stayed: The W and Kempinski Hotels.
- Katara Village, Fort, Boat, Landscape City Shots, Brainstorm session, Hands, Anderson, Dunes, TedxStage Shot1: Javier Junes
- Yahay Alabdeli, Cesar Harada, Inside Museum of Islamic Art: Duncan Davidson
- Group shot in dunes: taken on my camera by a TEDx-er
- North site visit for lunch, middle of desert scene, Hans sword shot from a previous event, casual desert day shot, camel close up, Souq, Maz Jobrani, opening night, drumming circle, jam session in tent after hours, Sima Sirriyeh: Renee Blodgett
- Education City Weill Cornell University shot - website.
April 29, 2012 in Arts & Creative Stuff, Books, Events, On Africa, On Education, On Health, On India, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Robotics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Travel, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 09, 2012
Kavaleer: A FORCE Behind Animation, Short Films, TV Series, Design & Interactive
I first met Andrew Kavanagh during a trip to Dublin a couple of years ago. Introduced to me as someone "interesting to know and meet" because I expressed an interest in arts and culture and write about it regularly, I was pleasantly surprised to discover an expansive world of expertise which unfolded as a result of a one-time "pub" meeting.
He drew an impressive animation sketch for me in some Irish pub way back when and so it comes to pass that Andrew is a huge creative force behind Kavaleer Productions, a well known, savvy and talented studio group, who have created a top notch reputation in the film, design, interactive, animation and television space around the globe.
We had the fortune of spending time together in Austin recently so I could learn about their latest updates. While most known for their creation of award–winning film and television projects, Kavaleer also creates animation, interactive and design services. Aside from creating their own TV shows, where they have been twice nominated for an Irish Film and Television Award and a British Animation Award, their film work has been selected by over 100 international festivals over the past ten years. Impressive, non?
Interactive has been increasingly playing a major role which is no surprise given what is having on the investment front in Silicon Valley, LA, London and beyond. Kavaleer is also a seasoned provider of interactive content and apps for the e-learning and games sector; no surprise given what's happening in the games industry recently.
In 2009 alone, Interactive services accounted for half of their turnover, so much so that they started developing their own apps in 2011. They have also developed a reputation for their e-learning work, a portfolio of apps that range from Sesame Street workshops (Elmo ABCs) to Disney and the e-entertainment world.
While these guys may be based in Ireland, their work is known globally. They continue to work closely with HMH on their Destination Math, Fusion Science and Texas Language Arts programs and have been providing San Francisco-based Playfirst Games with content for their hit iPhone /iPad based‘DASH’ games for the past year.
They're not shy about short film production either. Some of their latest results include the following "shorts."
In addition to film "shorts" and the fact that they're known for their work with Sesame Street on the TV side, they're also behind other TV series including: Bed Heads, theAbadas! (the adventures of Hari the Hippo, Seren the Bat and Ela the Fox), Garth & Bev (time-traveling siblings Garth and Bev live in harmony with nature in a village), Lifeboat Luke, which is set in and around the small seaside community of Donaghadoo, and So Mortified.
They've been around for ten years yet because their creative work is "so behind the scenes," many not be aware of their studio name or their incredible work. While Kavaleer has awards behind their name and a global reputation, Ireland has no shortage of talent in this space.
While many know Ireland to be a country of storytellers, I wonder how many realize its rich history in cinema, television, mobile, games and film. Ireland's animation and digital media sectors are growing both in size and reputation around the globe. For example, Brown Bag Films animated short, Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty, and Cartoon Saloon's animated feature film, The Secret of Kells, both secured Oscar-nominations in 2010. For more on Kavaleer, check out their work and blog. For more on Irish screen producers, take a meander here and for general information on the Irish Film Board, visit their site for more details.
April 9, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Client Announcements, Entertainment/Media, Europe, Events, On People & Life, On Technology, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
March 19, 2012
Austin's Scene & #SXSW in a Nutshell: My Summary of Sorts...
SXSW aka South-by-Southwest, the event that takes a week of my time every year in Austin, Texas, seems to get bigger and bigger every March, not to mention more global.
Refer to my blog write-up on its international diversity here.
For example, Ireland had the most number of start-ups they've ever had at SXSW (30 in total representing film and interactive).
Also in my international blog post, I covered the sheer volume of brands who had tents (Nokia, Microsoft and others), threw parties (HP, Pepsico and others...I lost track) or carted folks around town (Chevy).
On the interactive side, there was so much activity between the dozens and dozens of panels to the after parties, all of which I couldn't keep up with despite my social media apps buzzing me every ten seconds to tell me what was happening and where. Foursquare remained a popular app for check-ins and to see where your buds were - that said, the private parties were off the grid and frankly, had to be, for the intimacy of the "old SXSW" to prevail, a necessary for those of us who have been going for a decade (or more).
Speaking of Foursquare, they had a private bash where the security was so intense that a friend of mine got 'bounced' before he even made it up the stairs despite the fact that he was buds with 80% of the attendees. "Kids" (early 20-something year old geeks, marketers and wanna-bes) seemed to be clamoring to get elbow time with Dennis Crowley and get into events like this all over town and frankly, it was just not worth the fight, even the ones where I was on the VIP list, because VIP list or not, the lines and wall-to-wall rooms were still maddening.
Some late nights, I retreated to The Driskell which has become a little too crowded as well, but at the very least, you're likely to run into some industry buds who are more in the mood for a quiet drink amidst moose and deer on the wall and antiquated brass and iron statues that mesh the culture of Texas with England somewhere along the way.
The below was taken on my iPhone at some random 3 am hour in the Driskell lobby.
Other nights, after the official invitations of music, film and interactive wore me out, taking in a dive bar where you could take in some off-the-beaten path music was the way to go.
TED decided to have a 'showing' at SXSW this year (aka TED@SXSW) and blocked off a couple of hours two evenings in a row for speakers in a private room at The Driskell. The line-up included folks like TED Fellow Jose Gomez-Marquez, JP Rangaswami, Ayah Bdeir, Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), Ping Fu, Baratunde Thurston (who always has me in stiches), Steve Daniels and others.
Film...so many great ones! I wrote about a number of them earlier in the week, which you can scroll through in the Arts/Austin section here. So many worth listing but since I tend to cover things from a global and international perspective, a few call-outs worth noting include: Sunset Strip, The Taiwan Oyster, Bay of All Saints, Eden, The Black Balloon, Trash Dance, Wonder Women and a handful of others. (see the list of winners for 2012 here). Also see our Scottish Films overview here and Israel at SXSW here.
Songster from Mowgli, the first music-creation social fame on Facebook launched at SXSW this year. CEO Marshall Seese, Jr. came to the table with a recording artist background and says their design is with "everyone’s inner rockstar in mind."
Players follow the compelling storyline of a fledging musician working their way up through the ranks of the music industry. From playing gigs at frat houses and proms, to launching a worldwide arena tour, players can make great music, while allowing their creativity to take them through all levels of the game.
I tweeted up a storm about the on-stage love for Google+ with Vic Gundotra, which was more of an informercial than it was a fireside chat. If he used the word "amazing" one more time, I thought, even the newbies who are eating this up, would have to see through Google's sugar coating. Hey, I'm a Google+ user, not a prolific one, but I'm on the system and giving them tons of my data and creative energy just like I am to Facebook without a whole lotta benefit (yet).
I'm not saying what they're trying to do isn't useful or great online canvas for photographers to share their work or industry celebs like Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble to up their social status without even trying to, but for mainstream folks, it's just not there yet. (not in this cats humble opinion anyway). Just saying - I had enuf with "amazing this and amazing that" after the first 15 minutes.
Kelly Carlin performed again in a breakout room in the main convention hall and although I've seen her before and like her energy (I totally resonated with the 1970s family TV and dysfunctional family of the 1960s jokes), there was something that put me off slightly about her stint and I couldn't figure it out until near the end.
For those of you who don't know the Carlin name, she's the daughter of iconoclastic comedian George Carlin. As a one woman show, she uses storytelling, classic video footage, and family memorabilia, to chronicle over forty years of her life with her famous father.
While she's amusing and gives us countless insights into George, it f-g feels like its all about George. I'm thinking as someone who's only slightly younger than Kelly and had a lot of the same reference points, what about YOU? I'd love to hear more about YOU!
I walked away still not knowing and it was the second time I saw her perform. I just felt that using her dad as a vehicle for her 'show' and 'persona' may have perhaps run its course and what I really wanted to hear was her voice without Dad in the background (or at the very least so prevalent) so I could better learn who SHE was as an artist and more importantly, as a person.
Who didn't have an event? On the music front, B and C listers were all there, Bruce was there, Gary Vee called all wine afficiandos to a so called 'private' venue immediately next to another so called 'private' party I was at and the line was ten miles long by the time I walked outside. Really? Is that really the way to engage with folks? A great way to get SXSW publicity so from that perspective, stints like that really work, but they're far from "real" or intimate. I just wanted to say 'hey' without a thousand pushes and shoves. For the record.
The XPrize folks also held an event and it was invite only and really felt like "invite only." Not a publicity 'stunt' in any way, everyone I met was top notch and showed up because they had a vested interest or cared about the kinds of things they cared about. Quality conversations where people weren't looking at their watch or Foursquare check-ins to see where the coolest cats were hanging next next. A welcome relief.
If you're not famliar with their work, go here: their mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Below, an XPrize team shot: (I love these guys and btw, Peter Diamandis has a new book out entitled Abundance).
My favorite part of SXSW of course is the randomness of meetings at film and music more than interactive, for at the former, there still seems to be more spontenaity, largely I think because of mutual passions rather than a race for check-ins or being 'seen' at the right party and telling the whole world about it on Foursquare, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, yadda yadda yadda.
I'm not saying that politics and social klout doesn't run rampant in the film and music world, but passion for the 'art' still stands tall.....maybe not dominant in Hollywood, but at SXSW.
As for the social bit...of course I tweet at these events. I'm in the biz - who doesn't, but the feeds at SXSW are so much about where I'm at and who I'm hanging out with than providing value. It's hard to tell the difference anymore, and sometimes I even get confused by why I do what I do on social media even when my intensions are pure. The addictive nature of it all just 'ain't all that healthy' in my opinion. I have talked about this before but can't emphasize it enough.
The blogger lounge is on the top floor where it always is, around the corner from the press lounge, which had massages this year. The blogger lounge has occasional 'acts' and social media gurus of sorts popping in and out. (a little red badge gets you into it if you're a blogger).
This was more of a 'center' in previous years, but today, less so. It doesn't mean you can't still show up and meet up with old buds, converse with folks in the biz you haven't seen in awhile or folks you still haven't met, but things are so spread out and there's so much 'more' grabbing our attention that "hanging out" in the blogger lounge seem to be few and far between.
Below: Renee Blodgett, Angel Djambazov, Liz Strauss, Hugh MacLeod
Then there are a hundred or so other folks I'll keep under the radar, except for of course Jeff Pulver & crew who co-hosted a great 140Conf party (if you haven't been to their events, check 'em out), with the textPlus folks. (never enuf time Mademoiselle Heather Meeker).
Below is a snap from the Nokia Innovation Lab, a massive tent set up a few blocks from the convention center, that housed more than fake snow as you entered.
While travel wasn't a big representation at SXSW and I was struggling to find serious foodies, some of the usual suspects were hanging about. American Airlines had a down-to-earth event with fabulous peeps (closer to town or IN town next time PLEASE :-).
To the left (lighting wasn't great) is American's head of Mobile products Phil Easter talking about their latest and demoing some nifty stuff on an iPad that we can't quite talk about yet. Exciting stuff! Other call-outs worth mentioning are Stacey Frantz (corp comm), Dawn Turner (Entertainment Marketing), and Jonathan Pierce & Jon Bird (social media & video), among a handful of others.
The photo to the right has a combination of woven yarn, paint, and wire among other materials.
While the booth was creative and the Canadians fed us French toast, strawberries and homemade maple syrup, the Irish shamrock tattoos that Enterprise Ireland dished out had to be my favorite giveaway. (Sure, I'm biased but it's the truth). A lot more fun than pens, pads, stickers, drives and balloons.
The Cool Sculping guys who were parading around town for days, tried to demonstrate that 'getting naked' can be a positive thing if you own one of their "suits."
The below very 'blurry" image of pianist Eric Lewis, a favorite 'musical' experience by TEDsters who saw him perform a few years back in Long Beach, was taken at a Mashery Party at Sandra Bullock's Austin restaurant. The "blurr" gives you an idea of his energy and personality, therefore is untouched. It's "Eric" in every way. The party was of the classier events held at SXSW this year. Well done Oren!
As always, Blumberg Capital held an incredible meet-up for their start-up companies & friends. Flow, drinks, conversation, networking was top notch. Well done to David and his team.
The below is a l'il local bar and street scene music action, albeit blurry...blurry is in some ways more 'suitable' for SXSW, despite the fact that I had my Canon 7D and 2 good lenses with me.
Two fun 'street scenes' very late at night. Or morning. Or whatever.
There was also an interesting demo on the show floor of Vinyl Recorder T-560 -- analog stereo recording on 5", 7", 10" and 12". A pricey option but for serious audiofiles, an option? The 7-560 starter set includes a stereo clutterhead fuse, heated diamond stylus, 19" main unit with RIAA encoder, groove controller and stylus heating regulation mono microscope, a lamp and all cables and adapters. The price? E3,200 (yes, that's Euros).
The week can be a bit exhausting (okay, very) even when you're not trying to race from event to event. Below is a taste of just a day and a half and a few of these bands fell off. And, all the film stuff was equally thick hanging around my neck.
As a complete aside and for kicks, refer to my insanely hard-to-follow post on "how to stay healthy" in Austin during SXSW if you have the strength to avoid all the free beer and Texas ribs.
March 19, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Books, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Blogging, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Science, On Spirituality, On Technology, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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
December 28, 2011
If You Only Had One New Years Resolution....
If you only had one New Year's resolution, it might be to recognize where this statement applies and do something about it. I'm sure it will lead to countless things you cannot even imagine until you start writing them down.
"Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation.
So does inaction sap vigor from the mind."
-- Leonardo da Vinci.
AND I'd add to this....it also saps vigor from your life.
December 25, 2011
Christmas in Every Language & Customs Around the World
Language is one of the most powerful things we have and when we can't communicate with someone because we don't know their language, we rely on hand gestures, hugs, expressions and the most universal ones: smiles when we're happy, tears when we're not.
I've spend the holidays in several countries over the years including India, Thailand, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, England, the Netherlands, Israel, France and a few places I'm sure I'm forgetting. Celebrations obviously differ even when you're celebrating within the same culture or religion. Jewish friends in New York buy a Hannukah bush, others don't honor it at all. If you've grown up in New England or northern Europe, snow often comes with Christmas and it becomes an association for you. If you live in Australia or Africa, chances are you've never had a white christmas.
Brazilians have a tradition of creating a nativity scene or Presepio, whose origins come from the Hebrew word "presepium" which means the bed of straw upon which Jesus first slept in Bethlehem. The Presepio is common in northeastern Brazil (Bahi, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Maranhao, Ceara, Pernambuco, Piaui and Alagoas).
In Denmark, a christmas feast was traditionally celebrated at midnight, where a special rice pudding is served. In the pudding, a single almond is hidden and whoever finds it will have good luck for the coming year. The bringer of gifts is known as Julemanden and arrives in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, a sack over his back. Sound famliar? He is asissted by Yuletide chores by elves called Juul Nisse, who are said to live in attics.
In Iraq, Christian families light candles, light a bonfire of thorn bushes and sing. If the thorns burn to ashes, good luck will be granted. When the fire dies, each person jumps over the ashes three times and make a wish.
Like in many Latin American countries, Nicaragua retains many of the customs of old Spain. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, people stroll the streets where there are many things to buy: candles, Nativity pictures, toys and foods. Children carry fragrant bouquets to the alter of the Virgin and sing carols. On Christmas Eve, church bells beckon the people to Midnight Mass.
In South America, Venezuelans attend a daily early morning church service between December 16th and 24th called Misa de Aguinaldo ("Early Morning Mass.") In Caracas, the capital city, it is customary to roller-skate to this service and many neighborhoods close the streets to cars until 8 a.m. Before bedtime children tie one end of a piece of string to their big toe and hang the other out the window. The next morning, rollerskaters give a tug to any string they see hanging.
In Japan, Christmas was apparently brought over by Christian missionaries but today, it has become very commercialized largely because gift giving is something that appeals to the culture. This is an interesting and funny story if its true, but in the scene of the Nativity when it first came to Japan, was so foreign for them because Japanese babies don't sleep in cradles. Like the states, they eat turkey on Christmas Day (ham is also common with many families) and in some places, there are community Christmas trees. Houses even have evergreens and mistletoe. They also have a god or priest known as Hoteiosho, who closely resembles Santa Claus, often depicted as an old man carrying a huge pack. He is thought to have eyes in the back of his head.
And, you've gotta love the Scots since they have so many quirky customs considering how close they live to the English. Celebration around the holidays is much bigger for New Years Eve than it is for Christmas, something they refer to as Hogmanay. This word may derive from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year's Eve. The first person to set foot in a residence in a New Year is thought to profoundly affect the fortunes of the inhabitants. Generally strangers are thought to bring good luck. Depending on the area, it may be better to have a dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house. This tradition is widely known as "first footing."
In the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia and before that known as Bohemia), they bring their traditions from the 10th century home of Good King Wenceslaus, the main character in the familiar English Christmas carol. It is said that English troops, fighting in Bohemia hundreds of years later, brought the song home with them. St. Nicholas is called Svaty Mikalas and is believed to climb to earth down from heaven on a golden rope with his companions, an angel and a whip-carrying devil.
An ancient tradition shared by the Czechs and in Poland involves cutting a branch from a cherry tree and putting it in water indoors to bloom. If the bloom opens in time for Christmas, it is considered good luck and also a sign that the winter may be short.
I'm amazed how many of these traditions involve some superficial physical ritual that somehow tells us whether good luck or bad luck will fall upon us, not unlike snapping a chicken wish bone in two I guess...or flipping a coin.
Below is a fabulous and fun list of Merry Christmas and Happy New Years in many languages from around the world. Obviously, we didn't capture them all but we did include a healthy list to get you started with practicing but you never know when you will come across someone from another culture around the holidays.
Alsatian: E güeti Wïnâchte un e gleckichs Nej Johr
Arabic: أجمل التهاني بمناسبة الميلاد و حلول السنة الجديدة (ajmil at-tihānī bimunāsabah al-mīlād wa ḥilūl as-sanah al-jadīdah)
Armenian: Շնորհաւոր Նոր Տարի եւ Սուրբ Ծնունդ: (Shnorhavor Nor Daree yev Soorp Dzuhnoont) Բարի կաղանդ և ամանոր (Paree gaghant yev amanor)
Bengali: শুভ বড়দিন (shubho bôṛodin)
Cherokee: ᏓᏂᏍᏔᏲᎯᎲ & ᎠᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ ᎢᏤ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᎠᏌᏗᏒ - (Danistayohihv & Aliheli'sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv)
Cheyenne: Hoesenestotse & Aa'eEmona'e
Cornish: Nadelik Lowen ha Blydhen Nowydh Da and Nadelik Looan ha Looan Blethen Noweth
Danish: Glædelig jul og godt nytår
English: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Estonian: Rõõmsaid Jõule ja Head Uut Aastat and Häid Jõule ja Head Uut Aastat
Fijian: Me Nomuni na marau ni siga ni sucu kei na tawase ni yabaki vou
Filipino: Maligayang pasko at manigong bagong taon!
Flemish: Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig Nieuwjaar
French: Joyeux Noël et bonne année
German: Frohe/Fröhliche Weihnachten - und ein gutes neues Jahr / ein gutes Neues / und ein gesundes neues Jahr / und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr
German (Swiss): Schöni Fäschttäg / Schöni Wienachte -- und e guets neus Jahr / en guete Rutsch is neue Johr -- Schöni Wiehnachte und es guets Neus -- Schöni Wiänachtä, äs guets Nöis
German (Bavarian): Froue Weihnåcht'n, und a guad's nei's Joah
Haitan Creole: Jwaye Nowèl e Bònn Ane
Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou
Hebrew: חג מולד שמח ושנה טובה - Chag Molad Sameach v'Shanah Tovah
Hungarian: Kellemes karácsonyt és boldog új évet
Indonesian: Selamat hari natal dan tahun baru
Irish: Nollaig shona duit/daoibh (Happy Christmas to you). Beannachtaí na Nollag (Christmas Greetings). Beannachtaí an tSéasúir (Season's Greetings) and Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit/daoibh (Prosperous New Year). Also, Bliain úr faoi shéan is faoi mhaise duit/daoibh (Happy New Year to you)
Italian: Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo
Japanese: メリークリスマス (merī kurisumasu) -- New Year greeting - 'Western' style
新年おめでとうございます (shinnen omedetō gozaimasu)
New Year greetings - Japanese style
明けましておめでとうございます (akemashite omedetō gozaimasu)
旧年中大変お世話になりました (kyūnenjū taihen osewa ni narimashita)
本年もよろしくお願いいたします (honnen mo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu)
Klingon: QISmaS DatIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' DatIvjaj (sg) and QISmaS botIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' botIvjaj (pl)
Korean: 즐거운 성탄절 보내시고 새해 복 많이 받으세요 and (jeulgeoun seongtanjeol bonaesigo saehae bok manhi bateusaeyo)
Kurdish: Kirîsmes u ser sala we pîroz be (and) Kirîsmes u salî nwêtan lê pîroz bê
Lithuanian: Linksmų Kalėdų ir laimingų Naujųjų Metų
Maltese: Il-Milied Ħieni u s-Sena t-Tajba - Awguri għas-sena l-ġdida
Maori: Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa
Mongolian: Танд зул сарын баярын болон шинэ жилийн мэндийг хүргэе and (Tand zul sariin bayriin bolon shine jiliin mendiig hurgey)
Navajo: Ya'at'eeh Keshmish
Nepali: क्रस्मसको शुभकामना तथा नयाँ वर्षको शुभकामना - (krismas ko subhakamana tatha nayabarsha ko subhakamana)
Norweigan: God jul og godt nytt år (Bokmål) and God jol og godt nyttår (Nynorsk)
Old English: Glæd Geol and Gesælig Niw Gear
Punjabi: ਮੈਰੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਮਸ। / میری کرِسمس (merī krismas - not used) and ਨਵਾਂ ਸਾਲ/ਵਰਾ ਮੁਬਾਰਕ। / نواں سال، ورہا مبارک (navā̃ sāl/varā mubārak)
Raotongan: Kia orana e kia manuia rava i teia Kiritimeti e te Mataiti Ou
Romanian: Crăciun fericit şi un An Nou Fericit
Samoan: Ia manuia le Kerisimasi ma le Tausaga Fou
Sardinian: Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou
Slovak: Veselé vianoce a Štastný nový rok
Spanish: ¡Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo!
Swahili: Krismasi Njema / Heri ya krismas -- Heri ya mwaka mpya
Swedish: God jul och gott nytt år
Tahitian: Ia orana no te noere and Ia orana i te matahiti api
Thai: สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส และสวัสดีปีใหม่ - (sùk săn wan-krít-mâat láe sà-wàt-dee bpee mài)
Tibetan: ༄༅།།ལོ་གསར་ལ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་ཞུ། - (Losar La Tashi Delek - Happy New Year)
Tongan: Kilisimasi fiefia mo ha ta'u fo'ou monū'ia
Ukranian: Веселого Різдва і з Новим Роком
(Veseloho Rizdva i z Novym Rokom)
Xhosa: Siniqwenelela Ikrisimesi Emnandi Nonyaka Omtsha Ozele Iintsikelelo
Yiddish: אַ פֿרײליכע ניטל און אַ גוטער נײַער יאָר - (A freylikhe nitl un a guter nayer yor)
The above list was a sample of a longer list from Omniglot, a site dedicated to languages from around the world. Visit their site for more languages including pronunciations. They also made the following note: Christmas is not universally celebrated and there are a number of different dates for Christmas and New Year depending on which calendar is used. Orthodox Christians who use the Julian calendar, for example in Russia and Serbia, celebrate Christmas on January 7. Another collection of phrases for the holidays can be found here. Also check out this link on Christmas Around the World.
December 25, 2011 in America The Free, Belize, Europe, Fiji, Holidays, Israel, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On Fiji, On France, On Germany, On Guatemala, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On People & Life, On South Africa, On Spain, Reflections, San Francisco, South America, Travel, United Kingdom, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 19, 2011
Steve Jobs Life Lessons: How Do They Play Out In Your Own Life?
The 600 page Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson isn't one I've picked up yet but Lance Ulanoff recently finished it and wrote a piece on Mashable about lessons learned -- aka insights -- from the man who was mysterious to so many of us, being described as creative, driven, intense, mean, focused, innovative, entrepreneurial, masterful, and a genius.
He has been ranked up there with Einstein and by others who are either bitter, anti-Apple or who worked with him and just didn't like the man, as lucky albeit smart.
Below is the list of so called lessons gleaned however for Lance's take aways, read the original blog post, which also includes a page of fabulous inspirational quotes, one of which includes this reminder, "don't settle." I think about that phrase today more than ever.
As we get older, we realize that we have less time to "settle" and live an extraordinary life. When we're really young, even if we subscribe to living a life far beyond "settling," we don't have the wisdom or years behind us to know how fast the decades march on. We often live in the moment which is a beautiful place to live, yet the perspective of time has little meaning.
Next to each lesson learned below, are my own reflections and experiences of working in the technology industry, many of which reflect back to Steve's decisions and mindset. Also refer to my "so long Steve Jobs" blog write-up here,
One of the most frustrating things I deal with in working with start-ups with small budgets is how many compromises need to be made on a consistent basis. It has also made me and the entrepreneurs I work with learn how to become more resourceful along the way. That said, I think about the "one chance to get it right" more often than not and this means stepping up to the plate. Work the long hours, hire the right people, don't undervalue marketing or positioning, get the product out there before your competitor jumps ahead of you...the industry just moves too fast.
Make Your Own Reality
My take away from this is connected to "not settling." It's also about building a better life by not accepting the reality you've been given, for you almost always have the power to change a current reality. Sure, you can come up with every excuse in the book: I don't have the money, I don't have the access, I don't have the education, I don't have the resources, yet Gandhi didn't let don'ts, even if they were different ones, get in the way of his success. Steve Jobs didn't either. I say this to teenagers whenever I get the chance: Don't let someone else write your life story or dictate how the chapters should unravel. This one still keeps me up at night sometimes.
Control Everything You Can
This is counter to so much of what the social media afficiandos and purists believe, which is centered around collaboration and giving up control. The latter is also something I see as a new "American" behavior even outside the technology industry where parenting is often about collaborating with your kids rather than disciplining them.
Control helps keep things on target, your vision in tact and products on schedule but it also can result in alienating people around you, not allowing others' creativity to flourish and the inevitable...once you're out of the way, what happens to the company and its products?
Control can deliver great things - look at Picasso's paintings and Steve's iPhone. Yet, those I talk to give Apple three years with Steve gone. I'm not sure that I agree, but you get the idea.
Own Your Mistakes
This is probably one of the hardest things to do, particurly when a bad decision negatively impacts a large group of people. But it's also PR 101: when you do a "dirty," whether it was intentional or not, own it, apologize, commit to fixing it and move on. If Clinton had done that earlier and embraced his actions from a place of leadership, perhaps we wouldn't have spent so many cycles focused on blowjobs more than the state of our economy. Europe trivialized it and we behaved like high school children, including "some media."
I love this one. Sometimes we know ourselves but don't "give" ourselves what we need and so I'd add to know thyself, trust thyself. One of my favorite quotes and it isn't a Steve Jobs one: Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Leave the Door Open for the Fantastic
Is it fantastic or is it outstanding? I prefer the latter because it takes us beyond fantastic. Fantastic is an experience, which Steve Jobs certainly created for us again and again, but outstanding is a way of living, a way of being.
Don’t Hold Back
Ahhh, is this one of the reasons I love Italian culture so much? Or why people like Steven Spielberg awes us time and time again? Don't just give it to them baby, but give all of it to them. As big, as great, as dynamic and as extraordinary as you can.
Surround Yourself with Brilliance
This is a general lesson for great leadership. Outstanding leaders do this time and time again. Choosing and "curating" the right team for a project is a skill of a master. And, rather than be afraid that who you surround yourself may just be more brilliant than you, you embrace it.
Build a Team of A Players
Ahhh, mediocrity. There's nothing that drives me crazier than mediocrity, particularly in business. And "real" A players I'd argue don't waste time trying to convince you that they're A players; they just execute.
Sure, this largely applies to person-to-person contact, whether it's about managing your team or being ethical with your board and calling the right shots. That said, when I see this statement today, I think about truly being yourself amidst a world of cluttered voices on the web.
When I see a tweet, I think "are they doing this as a way to game the system and up their Klout score aka "perceived influence" or are they doing it from a centered, balanced place? aka "this is who I really am and what I really think".
Or, are they trying to deliver an aura or image of what they think is respected by their peers, some of whom haven't been behaving so well lately?
Scrambling to get respect from the gate keepers is all around us and some of the conversations I'm hearing and part of behind closed doors is astounding.
I think to myself again and again, "are we really having this conversation? Is sucking up to X or Y influencer while burying who you really are worth it? It's a game not worth playing because it's a life not worth living. And, yet it's happening all around us. In politics. In technology. In life.
There are some people who you would build a moon for even if 1,000 people in a row told you a moon couldn't be built. Steve Jobs had that gift which resulted in outstanding products that changed the way we live our lives. Richard Saul Wurman had that gift when he developed the TED Conference concept. Tony Robbins has that gift when he stands in front of thousands of people. Obama has that gift through his calm and articulate embodiment. Being persuasive by being "real" and "intentional" is the most powerful gift you can give.
Show Others the Way
We all need mentors whether we think we do or not. Sometimes we're the teacher, sometimes the student and sometimes when we think we're the teacher, we end up being the student. I would add to this that the real talent in showing others the way is finding out how people learn and showing them the way in their modality or language. Some teachers only know how to teach from their own modality which leaves a huge percentage of people either bored, pissed off or simply confused.
While it may seem like an awkward aside to raise here, it feels right as I write this. I wish women would stand up for women in business more than they do. I know a lot of incredible women who help, inspire, nurture, fund, and more, however what I haven't personally experienced is women taking risks to help pave the other for others in their peer group. (risking a powerful relationship behind closed doors by speaking up or making things right, speaking up publicly or simply taking the time to encourage in a deep and meaningful way).
By the latter, I don't mean sharing. As women, we do this well. We listen, we share and show our girlfriends we "understand them."
I get some of the reasoning behind why we say no: we're already overspent and don't have the time or energy, we want to reserve that energy for children and family when we're already doing so much, we don't want to risk tampering with a connection that has been instrumental in getting us to our current positions because quite simply, it ain't an easy compromising ride to get there. And so on. That said, the majority of people who have "shown me the way," have been men.
Trust Your Instincts
Steve Jobs was a master at this and most great leaders are too. Women btw are really good at this in their personal lives and we need to know that its an incredibly rich asset in our professional lives too. The best leaders are strong enough to go to a place of solitude when the noise of external voices telling them what to do becomes so loud that they can no longer hear their inner voice. Our inner voices always lead the way.
Silicon Valley is great at taking risks and it all started with the guys at the forefront, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak being instrumental in the early days. One of the things I see with companies outside the U.S. is that risk taking is less embraced because it's not part of their culture.
There are always exceptions of course: great products are great products, and great leaders are great leaders. That said, I have seen hesitation and uncertainty first hand in working with start-ups and entrepreneurs now from France, Scotland, Belgium, South Africa, Australia, Ireland, Canada, England and others. If you truly believe in something, there's no room for fear and doubt. Trust, believe and take the risk because if you don't, someone else most certainly will.
Follow Great with Great
When I read this, I thought of what those who have been to the top know all too well, "you're only as great as what you've done lately." That said, there are entrepreneurs in the Valley and elsewhere who had a successful exit and never "created" anything else. Yet, they're still part of the conversation, at all the VIP dinners and are even funding other startups because they have the money to do so.
You know the drill: you get access when you have one of the following: power (connections to people or things other people need), money (you can buy that access), position (you hold a title at a major company or in government and can use your influence to help), in the inner circle (are part of a prestigious family, went to college with or are buddies with someone of influence and so the latter three are automatically waived).
What's truly remarkable is when none of those things matter, you push them all aside (or simply ignore them) and just consistently keep building great things that benefit people. Steve Jobs showed that he was capable of that with the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Pixar. Other "greats" do the same.
Make Tough Decisions
Tough decisions often make you unlikeable, at least to one group or person. I had a reflective conversation in a long cab ride recently with someone who worked with Steve Jobs in the very early days. He attended a small gathering of like-folks after his death somewhere in Silicon Valley.
A question was presented to another person in the group who also worked with him: did she "like" him?The response was one of silence and no one said a word. A lot of people didn't like him. A lot of people didn't like Picasso.
I'm not suggesting being an asshole is a formula for success but some great leaders who are also artists are often unliked. Steve Jobs was an artist and while he was unliked by many, he was also a visionary who created great things, including inspiration for others to find their own genius inside of them. A gift. Making tough decisions is part of that gift.
Presentation Can Make a World of Difference
It's amazing how many people still rely on traditional Powerpoint slides for presentations. Boring ones. Frankly, I hate speaking in front of large groups and feel "more secure" about my delivery when I use visual aids. Quite simply, its a crutch that helps us move the presentation along when what we should be doing is telling a story from our heart and life experiences that educate, inspire and ultimately move people to action in some way.
Some of the greatest TED talks have used some visual aids, even a slide or two, but 80% of their presentation is about flow and about story. If storytelling isn't the essence of what you deliver, then it most likely isn't an outstanding presentation.
Find a Way to Balance Your Intensity
I would add to this since balancing your intensity isn't the whole picture; balancing your life is what you need so you don't burn out and can find peace with what you signed up, aka your career. If you're not working part-time or gave up a job to raise a family, you're probably spending more time in your work life than any other thing you do. Striking a balance is critical to sustaining happiness and peace with that decision. Life is a long road. Balance sets you free.
Live for Today
Steve Jobs was much more able to go to that place after he learned about his terminal illness. While intellectually we know that we should live for today even when things are going our way, very few people do.
Isn't living for today just another way of saying "be present"? And yet, even if we've hung out in Buddhist temples, spend quiet time on yoga and meditation mats, it's hard to live a very present life all the time. Our brains aren't wired that way. At the core of our decision making, even important ones is our lizard brain, a pretty unevolved part of our bodies. Refer to my post on Linchpins, lizard brains & getting uncomfortable.
While there are people who share their wisdom and bring others up with them as they themselves rise to the top, I see sharing explode when people hit their forties, whether or not they have children. Something happens when you've reached a certain plateau -- call it wisdom, call it inner peace -- where the race no longer matters. Sharing matters more and for some, it's the only thing that matters.
For the original once again, go here as it was my inspiration for this variation...
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