August 12, 2012
Reid Hoffman on Lessons Learned Over 20 Years
Reid Hoffman is one of my favorite entrepreneurs in the technology industry.
I was introduced to him and 'his world' when I first moved to California six or so years ago. There was even a time I was talking to LinkedIn about working with them though it now seems like it was another lifetime. Things move so quickly in Silicon Valley.
Some people decide to move west for access to technology and money, and so they can work with the smartest and brightest people in the industry'. For me, since I'm more of an artist tha a geek, a big part of it was the opportunity to work with "the smart and bright" but it was also a lifestyle and attitude decision.
Silicon Valley represented a fresher, more aggressive, dive in or die approach to business and entrepreneurship that was intoxicating after working in Boston where most company execs took a conservative and apprehensive approach more often than not, operating from a place of fear rather than opportunity.
And, given that I was in the technology industry, doing my thing here only seemed natural. People who personified the best in entrepreneurial attitude in the early days for me were people like Jeff Hawkins, Dick Costolo (he was building Feedburner at the time), and Reid Hoffman.
It was 'this mindset' that was prevalent when I moved west that Reid emphasized this past week in a fireside chat in San Francisco with Panda Daily's Sarah Lacy.
One of the things that I really like about Sarah Lacy's interview style is that she likes to be and "is" provocative and isn't afraid of 'owning it.' Men never seem to get slaughtered for this approach, but women often do, and playing in a world where Hollywood and creativity meets tech and business, I think Sarah pulls this off consistently well.
She asked him about the very analytic and organized way he approached his career. Reid took a more methodical and structured path than so many others I was inspired by at the time, something he admitted to when Lacy took us through his career and myriad of start-ups. He said he made a list of all the skills he'd need to run a company and went through acquiring them one-by-one: from Apple's eWorld project, Fujitsu and SocialNet to PayPal and LinkedIn and everything in between.
"Entrepreneurship is about jumping off a cliff," Reid says. "You have to figure out what kind of founder you are: Design, Product or Engineering? Once you know, then acquire the other skills you need to get to the next level." For him, it was product management early on in his career.
When you start out as an entrepreneur reminds Reid, "you're never going to know the right thing to do all the time." Of his PayPal days, he laughed as he referenced a Peter Thiel quote who had said "I've never learned so much in my life except between 2 and 3 years old." Adds Reid, "If you're not red lining and failing enough, you're not learning enough. Don't beat yourself up and have to succeed all the time."
Advice he shared from his start-ups and things all entrepreneurs should think about:
1. Think about how your product will evolve and plan for it.
2. Think about how and where you'll raise your next round as soon as you've finished raising your first round. If you're not, you'll die.
3. Hire people with deep expertise in areas you don't have but really need.
4. Hire really fast learners - this is more important with early stage start-ups than someone who has 20 years of experience but may not be a fast learner and can pivot with you when things go south.
5. Hire people who are smart collaborative team players. Ask yourself: can they navigate, learn and adapt quickly and shift gears when you change a strategy overnight. He referred to the fact that PayPal had so many near death experiences.
6. Find something unique and new or be first or second. A Groupon variation could work, but not a third or fourth one.
7. Three things you must have is virality, SEO and differentiators so you can build a set of products that can be built into an ecosystem.
8. You should always have a mindset of being terrified. Be paranoid, especially as a developer. (Note: he subscribes to belief that only the paranoid survive).
9. On choosing your team, go for people who share your vision and can go with you through the bad and the good times.
10. Build a team with people you simply can't 'hire.' (I LOVED THIS ONE and it is so so true).
One of the funniest and truest analogies he brought up was how much creating a team and bringing on an investor for a start-up was like a "shotgun marriage." He says with a grin, "Let's have dinner a couple of times, sign a paper and get married. Then you start running very fast, together and you all have to get along. If the alignment isn't there and you can't get along, it's not going to last."
We moved into company experience and opinions, which included both successes and failures.
In the early days of PayPal, the founders (Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk & Luke Nosek) had different ideas of what PayPal 'should be'. He said, "company direction changed often...we pivoted so many times, that it took us awhile to figure out what PayPal needed to be to sustain itself. Staying independent was highly risky given where we were at."
He says of Friendster, "they failed to get their team to operate well. They also had two minute load times which is essentially like saying F-U, go away."
On Tribe, he says "they got taken over by a community that was mostly Burning Man."
Of gigs he was most surprised that failed? After pondering for a bit, he said, "probably Digg because they had so many users and they had momentum."
Of products that haven't really progressed since they started? Yahoo Mail was his first answer, but then quickly added, "but maybe Marissa will fix this."
Of things which have accelerated faster than he thought they would? Twitter, which he passed up as an investor and is sorry that he had. "I couldn't understand their motivation early on," he said, but then suddently I got it, 'oh, it's a public sphere of attention gestures."
I had to laugh because it was a much geekier way of saying what I was thinking in those days "geeks with egos and ideas who needed to talk using as few words as possible with symbols that didn't make sense." Obviously Twitter has evolved into something so much broader today and rather than a platform designed by geeks for geeks, among other things, it has become a megaphones for brands.
On Zynga, he says noting that he just came from a board meeting and there were obviously things he couldn't talk about, "they have a lot of money in the bank, social gaming is an important category and matters and they have tons of users." On what he advises the team: "Don't worry about the market and what they're doing, just focus on building out your vision. The game is in front of you."
Lacy asked him if he felt that Zynga went public too early. "No, I don't think so," he says, "because it will take so long to build products and the rest of their vision out. They're going through a bit of a storm, but they have the fortitude and the team to pull through it." One of his funnier moments was when Mark Pincus asked him when games would show up on LinkedIn. "His answer? "Never," he said with a laugh. "It's not our business."
Then, there's the Facebook IPO. Reid says, "they decided they could increase their offering and when you do an IPO, you need to create a positive outlook for the future."
On LinkedIn and their IPO, he says, "we decided to go with the New York Stock Exchange, because we felt that it aligned better with our own brand."
Lacy asked him if he felt that Groupon went public too early?
"It's easy to get sidetracked and distracted with an IPO," he says. "They need to focus on building out new products....and when you have to deal with so much marketing and press, it is easy to get defocused, rather than concentrating on the things that you need to do to make your product better. They mishandled some of the things around the IPO and got distracted, but I think the relationships they have with merchants is better than people think." Like his remarks about Zynga, he adds, "the game is still in front of them."
On whether they should have taken the Google deal. "I'm always bullish...I think it's better to go long."
What about now and in the future? He says he wants to work on things that make a difference in the world. As for what that means to him? While Reid isn't Pierre Omidyar or Tony Tsieh in that he hasn't spend a chunk of his life in a business that honors and invests in businesses for social good, making a difference is what inspires him more than making money. Hear hear.
He serves on the boards of Do Something (an organization for young people taking action), The Weekend to be Named Later, Kiva.org, Mozilla and Endeavor Global an international non-profit development organization that finds and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Reid - thanks for sharing your inspiring words of wisdom and lessons learned.
August 03, 2012
Cory Doctorow on the Century of War Against Your Computer
Cory Doctorow spoke this week at the LONG NOW Foundation. The topic? A provocative one entitled: The coming century of war against your computer.
The war against computer freedom will just keep escalating, Doctorow contends. The copyright wars, net neutrality, and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) were early samples of what is to come. Victories in those battles were temporary.
Conflict in the decades ahead will feature ever higher stakes, more convoluted issues, and far more powerful technology. The debate is about how civilization decides to conduct itself and in whose interests.
Stewart Brand's fabulous summary of the event below where Doctorow kicked things off by framing the issue this way: “Computers are everywhere. They are now something we put our whole bodies into---airplanes, cars---and something we put into our bodies---pacemakers, cochlear implants. They HAVE to be trustworthy.“
Sometimes humans are not so trustworthy, and programs may override you: “I can’t let you do that, Dave.” (Reference to the self-protective insane computer Hal in Kubrick’s film “2001.” That time the human was more trustworthy than the computer.) Who decides who can override whom?
The core issues for Doctorow come down to Human Rights versus Property Rights, Lockdown versus Certainty, and Owners versus mere Users.
Apple computers such as the iPhone are locked down---it lets you run only what Apple trusts. Android phones let you run only what you trust. Doctorow has changed his mind in favor of a foundational computer device call the “Trusted Platform Module” (TPM) which provides secure crypto, remote attestation, and sealed storage. He sees it as a crucial “nub of secure certainty” in your machine.
If it’s your machine, you rule it. It‘s a Human Right: your computer should not be overridable. And a Property Right: “you own what you buy, even if it what you do with it pisses off the vendor.” That’s clear when the Owner and the User are the same person. What about when they’re not?
There are systems where we really want the authorities to rule---airplanes, nuclear reactors, probably self-driving cars (“as a species we are terrible drivers.”) The firmware in those machines should be inviolable by users and outside attackers. But the power of Owners over Users can be deeply troubling, such as in matters of surveillance.
There are powers that want full data on what Users are up to---governments, companies, schools, parents. Behind your company computer is the IT department and the people they report to. They want to know all about your email and your web activities, and there is reason for that. But we need to contemplate the “total and terrifying power of Owners over Users.”
Recognizing that we are necessarily transitory Users of many systems, such as everything involving Cloud computing or storage, Doctorow favors keeping your own box with its own processors and storage. He strongly favors the democratization and wide distribution of expertise. As a Fellow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (who co-sponsored the talk) he supports public defense of freedom in every sort of digital rights issue.
“The potential for abuse in the computer world is large,” Doctorow concluded. “It will keep getting larger.”
For more information on future LONG NOW Seminars in San Francisco, visit their site. They bring one amazing speaker after another to speak, so it's worth attending one if you haven't and live in California or don't live closeby but can plan a trip around one of their upcoming events.
Photo credit: Oreillynet.com.
July 26, 2012
MobileDay for Connecting to Your Biz World From Some Exotic Spot
You Want to Talk When? It’s happened to the best of us: we plan for months to get away from it all, leaving the laptop and the smartphone back home, while taking in the cliffs of the Grand Canyon, or the coves of Kauai.
But, as you’re setting up your vacation auto-response with one foot out the door, an R&D team manager says they’ll be ready to present early next week, or your coworker explains that he just doesn’t feel comfortable dealing with a client on his own, or your CEO schedules a review at the exact moment of your tee time.
For business professionals, taking off on a jaunt to some remote location is a fleeting reality when people in your business and personal life expect you to be connected all the time.
MobileDay is a new app which launched earlier this month, which provides one-touch access to any conference call in North America, without the need to remember call-in numbers and access codes.
It's great for connecting when you otherwise wouldn't or find difficult to. Need to discuss last month’s business plan with your boss from the top of Deer Valley? Want to review projections with your team from the scuba rental shop in West Palm Beach? Or, outline next steps with product development from the Victorian Grand’s porch at Mackinac Island?
With MobileDay, you can handle this with ease on your smartphone, which surely you'll need for all the cool Geocaching you plan to do with your family on vacation anyway.
July 20, 2012
Flipboard's 2nd Anniversary: The Team Celebrates in Palo Alto
Flipboard is turning two years old this weekend and celebrated its anniversary this past week in its Palo Alto CA parking lot with friends, family, employees, investors and Silicon Valley influencers.
For those of you who don't know what Flipboard is, you're missing out on a beautiful online experience. Pegged as a 'social magazine', Flipboard is an app for the iPad, iPod and Android which allows you to view content in a way that is stunningly delicious, where photos and simplicity rule.
Part aggregator and part stunning UI for content you already consume, it was listed in the 50 Best Inventions in 2010 by Time Magazine and they describe the experience: "Flipboard ends the chaos by grabbing updates, photos and links from your friends and other interesting people, then reformatting everything in a wonderfully browsable, magazine-like format." Well said and it's spot on.
The team is headed by former Tellme head Mike McCue, who is a natural "marketing machine," precisely because he "isn't one."
Mike one of the most genuine, down-to-earth understated entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, with a heart and brain that are equally matched.
So, when the team said c'mon down and celebrate with us, how could I refuse?
They have attracted great talent who want to make a difference in the way we consume content today.
In a world where we're constantly barraged by irrelevant stuff, whether its from social media or websites and blogs, Flipboard lets you dictate what you want to see in a gorgeous format.
The casual outside party held a number of surprises, such as the photo booth where you could get your photograph taken in front of magazine cover, like Rolling Stone. You could also feel ten years old again, while you fished for a miniature teddy bear wearing a Flipboard T-shirt from a machine. And, they had a buffet of pork, beef and chicken barbecue as well as a variety of salads, beer, soda and wine.
Below Flipboard CEO Mike McCue and Klout's COO Emil Michael
We all know that Scobleizer aka Robert Scoble is a huge fan of the app :-)
Back to the local touch. Sinister Dexter who has an awesome sound, played blues, rock and hopping jazz for several hours and sadly by the time I wanted to kick off my shoes and swing dance to a number, they were starting to pack away their instruments.
Kudos to the Flipboard team for all of their successes to-date. I, for one, am a fan, and no I sadly don't have any stock or work for them.
Photo credits: team show in car and Emil/Mike shot from Eric Alexander of Flipboard, other photos by Renee Blodgett.
CarWoo! Teams Up With AOL Autos: Consumers Get Best Offer Deals on Cars
This week, CarWoo! announced a partnership with AOL Autos.
How it works: the partnership provides "Best Offer" deals from 10,000+ U.S. dealers to arm buyers with the information needed to quickly and easily negotiate great market prices on the car of their dreams while retaining their privacy.
CarWoo! essentially puts consumers in the driving seat so to speak, allowing them to accept the best bids on cars in an open transparent way so they can get the best price for a new or used car.
Below is the CarWoo! interface, but gives you an idea of how the system works.
July 09, 2012
Is Social Media Turning You Into a Low Self Esteem Anxiety-Rich Freak?
Roughly half of the survey’s nearly 300 participants, reported that their use of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and others reduces the quality of their lives.
Confidence is affected, they say, self esteem is lower they say and two-thirds claim they find it difficult to relax or sleep after spending time on social networks.
This isn't rocket science. Ask anyone you know who spends a lot of time in front of a screen, glued to online games, social networks, management platforms like Hootsuite or sites where they're engaging in any way.
Roughly a quarter cited work or relationship difficulties due to online confrontations and more than half of the participants say they feel “worried or uncomfortable” at times they are unable to access their Facebook or email accounts. I have seen anxiety arise around me when people can't access their worlds online, including something as small as a Foursquare check-in.
Spend more time in an always on digital world and of course you're anxiety will increase. This isn't rocket science. But people are so hooked into the notion that it connects us 'more' that they don't look for the obvious negative side effects.
Sure, I can meet new people across the globe if I am constantly glued to my Hootsuite stream, and given that I run a travel blog, there's a lot of pluses to that, but bottom line, it takes us away from real human connections - there's only so many hours in a day.
It doesn't help that tools like Klout, Kred, PeerIndex and others assign us grades on a daily basis that encourage high school "who's the popular kid of the day" behavior. Offline for a day or a week and your Klout score goes down.
The tools are so one dimensional and dare I say "unheathily addictive" that it keeps you drawn into a social media online game you can never win, particularly if you want to have healthy relationships offline. Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains doesn't lie. Not a new book, but the behavior shift is real whether or not you agree with everything in the book. Also see my post from last year on multiple digital personas.
I find it ironic that a post entitled: How Social Media Makes Romantic Relationship Thrive is immediately above a post entitled: Social Media Fuels Low Self Esteem & Anxiety on Mashable, where I originally learned about the study. Here's a link to a video reporting some of the results.
People I talk to seem to be fighting to get quality time with their other halves and the main culprit in the way? Mobile Devices and their PCs. Enuf said.
July 9, 2012 in America The Free, Europe, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, On the Future, Reflections, Social Media, TravelingGeeks, United Kingdom, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
June 23, 2012
Top 100 San Francisco Twitter Users
|#1) @jack - Jack Dorsey|
|#2) @biz - Biz Stone|
|#3) @Veronica - Veronica Belmont|
|#4) @mrdannyglover - Danny Glover|
|#5) @Ustream - Ustream|
|#6) @kevinrose - Kevin Rose|
|#7) @GavinNewsom - Gavin Newsom|
|#8) @goldman - Jason Goldman|
|#9) @travelbargains - Travel Deals|
|#10) @MythBusters - MythBusters Official|
|#11) @dickc - dick costolo|
|#12) @gadgetlab - Gadget Lab|
|#13) @karaswisher - Kara Swisher|
|#14) @wefollow - wefollow|
|#15) @twitter_de - Twitter auf Deutsch|
|#16) @wiredscience - WIRED Science|
|#17) @donttrythis - Adam Savage|
|#18) @GuyFieri - Guy Fieri|
|#19) @Metallica - Metallica|
|#20) @TwitCause - TwitCause|
|#21) @mingyeow - Ming Yeow Ng|
|#22) @RoomtoRead - Room to Read|
|#23) @BrianWilson38 - Brian Wilson|
|#24) @iheartquotes - i heart quotes|
|#25) @Kiva - Kiva|
|#26) @IGN - IGN|
|#27) @klout - Klout|
|#28) @grantimahara - Grant Imahara|
|#29) @Twitvid - Twitvid|
|#30) @TylerFlorence - Tyler Florence|
|#31) @jess - Jessica Verrilli|
|#32) @zynga - Zynga|
|#33) @Kjer - Kjerstin Erickson|
|#34) @womensprosoccer - Women's Pro Soccer|
|#35) @davemorin - Dave Morin|
|#36) @delbius - delbius|
|#37) @Samasource - Samasource|
|#38) @1bog - 1 Block Off the Grid|
|#39) @dougw - Doug Williams|
|#40) @jennadawn - jenna|
|#41) @humphryslocombe - humphryslocombe|
|#42) @aspirationtech - Aspiratio|
|#43) @WeBlogtheWorld - Travel,Ideas,Culture|
|#44) @rsarver - Ryan Sarver|
|#45) @jkalucki - John Kalucki|
|#46) @rk - Ryan King|
|#47) @mrtall - Andy Lorek|
|#48) @JoinTheFlock - Join The Flock|
|#49) @abdur - Abdur Chowdhury|
|#50) @bs - Britt Selvitell|
|#51) @starwars - Star Wars|
|#52) @stop - Doug Bowman|
|#53) @anm - Alex McCauley|
|#54) @Macworld - Macworld|
|#55) @kevinthau - Kevin Thau|
|#56) @kanendosei - Kanen Flowers|
|#57) @Fresh - Davon Scooter Hill|
|#58) @balletrusse - Maria Kochetkova|
|#59) @todsacerdoti - Tod Sacerdoti|
|#60) @CNETNews - CNET News|
|#61) @abduzeedo - Abduzeedo|
|#62) @briansolis - Brian Solis|
|#63) @digg_updates - Digg_Updates|
|#64) @TheKevinButler - Kevin Butler|
|#65) @SocialMedia411 - Social Media News|
|#66) @drkiki - Dr. Kiki Sanford|
|#67) @pcworld - PCWorld|
|#68) @Techmeme - Techmeme|
|#69) @onlyinsf - Only in SF|
|#70) @tyleroakley - Tyler Oakle|
|#71) @djshadow - DJ Shadow|
|#72) @github - GitHub|
|#73) @californiabeat - California beat|
|#74) @thirstyapp - Michael Abehsera|
|#75) @willsmith - Will Smith|
|#76) @Revision3 - Revision3|
|#77) @summertomato - Darya Pino|
|#78) @petecashmore - Pete Cashmore|
|#79) @00joe - Joe Royall|
|#80) @Hameed_Hemmat - Hameed Hemmat|
|#81) @crystal - crystal|
|#82) @Focus - Focus|
|#83) @couponlovin - Coupon Lovin'|
|#84) @dlprager - David Prager|
|#85) @k - Kevin Cheng|
|#86) @pud - Philip Kaplan|
|#87) @fANNEtweetworld - Lifestyle|
|#88) @mickhagen - Mick Hagen|
|#89) @EcoGlam - EcoGlam|
|#90) @Sfkeiko - Keiko Marutani|
|#91) @Jvascellaro - Jessica Vascellaro|
|#92) @sumaya - Sumaya Kazi|
|#93) @patrickklepek - Patrick Klepek|
|#94) @Maggie - Maggie Mason|
|#95) @noah - noah glass|
|#96) @TammyCamp - Tammy Camp|
|#97) @narendra - Narendra Rocherolle|
|#98) @c - Coley Chen|
|#99) @emilychang - Emily Chang|
|#100) @Trace_Cohen - Trace Cohen|
May 27, 2012
WeOttaGo Delivers Relevant Data About Where To Hang Out on the Road
This past weekend, I hung out with the WeOtta founders Forrest and Grant Wernick, who gave me a demo of their mobile app, WeOttaGo -- available as a free download at the iTunes store. WeOtta is all about giving you more accurate refined data about what to do and where to go in a particular location.
Using machine learning and natural language processing (my past life -- aka Dragon Systems days), they harness, process and turn data that is unstructured into contextually relevant results that are most relevant to us in real time.
Example: you're in San Francisco or London and are trying to find a great wine bar that is still open now that dinner has finished and you look at your watch and it's after 11 pm. How many times do you struggle to think of a place to go that is close to where you're already at, even if you know a city relatively well. As an avid traveler, this happens to me all the time.
There a number of filters, including asking WeOttaGo for dive bar, a classy wine bar less than a mile away or a romantic Japanese restaurant.
They are working with major telcos to power their next generation of applications, search companies to enable them to serve up more contextually relevant local results, and a mix of other companies that operate in the local space to improve ad targeting. More about them here.
May 12, 2012
Facebook & Twitter: Lonelier Beings For Using Them?
The Atlantic Validates Our Prediction: Social Media May Make Us Lonelier In this year's edition of our annual predictions of top media stories, one of our prediction was: "We may be immersed in social media, but we’ll spend less time with actual people."
Back in Jan., we wrote, "So many people use social media sites – from Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn, to and more -- that people have less time to spend with their friends and family. We’re not sure if this will get much media coverage..." Well The Atlantic Monthly has validated our prediction in its May 2012 issue.
It's article, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" makes the point that: "Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)—and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill."
Written by Stephen Marche, a novelist who writes a monthly column for Esquire, the article reports on "what the epidemic of loneliness is doing to our souls and our society." It's well worth reading. And today's Boston Globe validated our prediction that "
The desire to be connected 24/7 may change in 2012." Op-ed columnist Joanna Weiss wrote, "Giving screens -- and ago -- a week off," in favor of unplugging from 24/7 and a Screen Free-Week. Check that out, too.
Late-in-the-Day Update: Just got around to reading Jane E. Brody's column in today's Times. She's a must-read health columnist, and her current column, "Making Progress Against Clutter," went beyond thinking of clutter as physical objects. She spent about half the column talking about how much she enjoyed a recent trip to Antarctica because she and her two sons did not spend hours monitoring email and world news.
Instead, We read books and missed not one excursion, lecture, vista or conversation with an interesting shipmate. As I watched others buried in their iPads, laptops and smartphones, I wondered what people did on vacation before we had this plethora of electronic equipment keeping us “in touch” 24/7.
Perhaps they telephoned now and then to see how the dog was faring. Not knowing about problems back home or at work surely meant vacations were more relaxing, a real break from daily stress. Makes a pretty strong case for unplugging.
Reposted from Norman Birnbach's fabulous blog: PR Back Talk. Original link and post here.
See an earlier blog post I wrote on digital life overload last year.
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