Archive for December, 2005
Been really struggling with what to say this year in my irregularly annual Christmas message. So many great and important things are happening in the world right now. Yet many of us carry a heavier heart when considering all of the not so great things that are going on as well. So many things that we would love to see made right, and so little of our effort available to help make it so. It all seems too overwhelming at times – so much though that we get caught in analysis paralysis, considering the thousands of possibilities for things to go wrong with different appraches.
But I know a secret which you also know deep down inside. We all have control over one thing that trumps this sense of overhwheling if we can only remember it is available to us. We have absolute, 100% control over ourselves and what we do with our focus and our energy in the present moment. In other words, we should not worry about what happened in the past, we can nor worry about what might happen in a far off distant future. Rather, learn from our past, imagine the best possible future and put all your efforts into making the most of this very second.
The most important thing each of us can do is to be present, awake and aware of each and every moment in our lives, be happy and make the most of it. I try to meditate in order to hone my ability to be present and pay attention, but it is hard. I will be trying harder in 2006 for sure. I may even try to get together with a small group of people to meditate together since I never did find a sangha that fit me.
I will also be investing more energy in what I do best, which is generating innovative ideas for new companies, new programs, new projects and other activities. Unlike in the past though, I will be giving many of them away here in my blog and tagging with ‘freeideas=chrisheuer‘, One of my latest realizations concerns the need to capture and share the ideas we generate more quickly, in their barely formed state. For if it is true that the universal consciousness does bubble up the same ideas in different forms in different places (like we have seen with people powered search during Q4) it is truly best to engage with those other people in conversation. It is even better when these same people can find a way to collaborate with one another by sharing their insytes and building upon them with even greater innovations.
It seems this is another aspect of what we are doing with BrainJams. It is also why I will be using my blog to give suggestions to companies for how they might improve – some unsolicited advice. It makes you wonder how different things might be if companies had a deep understanding of how to listen to the conversations people have about such things. It makes you wonder if it is even possible for them to listen and respond sometimes. These posts will be tagged with ‘suggestionbox:COMP_NAME=chrisheuer‘.
It just seems to me, that if I can be more present as I meet each moment of my life, bringing my whole self to each moment, that I could develop some understandings that would make things right in many small ways. So rather than being overwhelmed at the size of the task, I need to embrace each moment and take charge of my attention, connect with my true intention and take action in some way. Cumulatively, these small acts will make real impact.
Better still – as more people become connected wth the open web to also do these things. The power will be magnified a hundred fold. I am proud to say, “this is my Noble Pursuit“.
I like what Google is doing with their Google Doodle. I am actually interested to see what it becomes when it is all lit up. Let’s hope it is worth the wait…
Yesterday Ted Rheingold and I organized a Geek Field Trip to the Anchor Steam Brewery. Totally forgot it was the winter solstice when booking the reservation, but it worked out just right. Unlike most other tasting rooms, the folks at Anchor Steam are pretty generous with their pours and we all got a good buzz on for the afternoon. The photos that Kristie and I took are over on her Flickr account.
A few interesting things we learned during the tour:
- The first Christmas Beer was the Liberty Ale (a mighty tasty one still)
- Their Steam beer was the first brewed in the US after the end of prohibition
- They produce about 85,000 barrels every year with only 54 employees
Pretty cool folks, excellent facility and great beer! We were very honored to meet the owner/saviour of the brewery, Fritz, who graciously signed our Magnum’s of the Chrismas Ale.
We are planning to do other Geek Field Trips next year – stay tuned for more details…
This is from a Press Release that I wanted to send out, but did not after conferring with others. It is just too long for a piece of PR. Writing for the blog has let my brevity skills wither…
The emergence of the knowledge economy is changing how we gather and share information, transforming business, community and social networks. BrainJams, a new not-for-profit social venture, takes this idea to the next level by applying the ideals of the open source community and new ideas around knowledge networking to connect ordinary people with extraordinary potential. The idea is to get people outside of their traditional ‘box’ to see the world from different perspectives.
With the primary mission of “connecting the dots” across traditional organizational boundaries, BrainJams facilitates knowledge networking events where people can share their ideas and experiences within a loose structure often referred to as an “Unconference”. While contributing relevant insights to many different people, participants receive much more than they give, just as they do with online communities. The intention of the event is straightforward – share your knowledge with others and everyone gets ahead. These ideals have been proven in the open source community across multiple cultures with diverse people working towards common goals. In essence, BrainJams is striving to apply the knowledge learned from experiences within such virtual communities to real world, real time, real space communities.
The format of BrainJams events can be ‘borrowed’ by anyone and improved upon under the Creative Commons Share and Share Alike license. BrainJams is in the process of building a community of unconference practitioners to share best practices and learn how to best organize similarly intentioned events. Aspiring BrainJams organizers from around the world can use the BrainJams wiki to promote and organize their events. It is expected that there will be no single format that defines BrainJams events other than each event having a simple organizing principle, setting the intention of sharing knowledge and utilizing some basic forms of structure for facilitating the given event.
According to Chris Heuer, founder and Executive Director of BrainJams, “There is no box. The only constraints we have on our thinking are the ones we imagine. Why not get people together from different backgrounds, set a good intention and see what happens? Everyone has their own noble pursuit, and mine is getting sharp people together and watching the magic unfold when they are engaged in ad-hoc collaboration, talking about their individual passions and ideas. The world will only continue to be the way it is as long as people believe it will – getting people to talk about their ideas and how they might affect change is the all important first step on a very long journey.”
Building on the recent success of the BrainJams event held on December 3rd, 2005 at SRI’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA, the community continues to grow with numerous volunteers and contributors joining our efforts each day. BrainJams is now officially establishing itself as a non-profit entity with 501c3 status to further promote the sharing of knowledge across traditional boundaries, and educating people in the practical uses of Web 2.0 technologies (in other words, teaching people how to connect with other people using Open Web technologies). Today, Heuer is pleased as punch to announce that David Gutelius of SRI, Jennifer Myronuk of Storyfield and Kristie Wells of Gupta Technologies are joining him on the Board of Directors. Wells is Heuer’s fiancé and his right arm in developing the organization, while the advice and support of Gutelius and Myronuk has been invaluable in solidifying the plans for BrainJams’ future.
Heuer has also formally announced his intention to raise $1.5 million dollars in 2006 for the purpose of touring the United States, hosting BrainJams in communities large and small. Before the national tour however, BrainJams will be held in select cities as we work out the logistical and ideological nuances of the event format. Dates have been proposed for BrainJams events in Washington, D.C. on Monday January 30, 2006 and Berkeley, California on February 13, 2006. Volunteers and patrons are actively being sought for each event as are event locations. (Heuer prefers to call those who donate money to sponsor the event ‘Patrons’ in the same way that Renaissance artists had patrons who supported their creative work.)
BrainJams is striving to make all of its events free of charge, preferring to seek donations from those who support our vision. Through the generosity of several participants and event Patrons, the BrainJams event in Menlo Park made $290.15, which will go towards incorporation fees. The first BrainJams event was held in San Francisco in October 2005 under the name of “Web 2.1: A BrainJam for the rest of us”. That event garnered enough support to cover all expenses and to donate $1,300 to the Internet Archive and $130 to the Creative Commons.
BrainJams will be operated as a transparent organization with open accounting principles and the open deliberation of issues via Open Web technologies. Notably in this regard is the use of Heuer’s insights on TagSpaces to facilitate conversations of importance to the organization across the blogosphere, through social bookmarking sites and other community tools. The knowledge from the event is captured and shared for others to build upon.
Heuer further states, “The time is right for good people everywhere to rise up and tear down the traditional silos within corporations, across organizations and within their various industries. BrainJams enables people to make new connections across traditional boundaries with the people, ideas and resources that they often could not access elsewhere. These diverse connections are very powerful with the potential to inspire new insights, create new organizations and empower people to make a difference in their communities.”
I was thinking about the political map of the US and the whole Red vs. Blue thing just now. What would it look like if it were colored based on musical interests. In particular, I was thinking about who listens to more heady acid jazz like Groove Salad radio and who listens to poppy mainstream and who listens to country music. I think we could all find some interesting insytes and understandings from such an information tool when correlated with other data points (like overlaying the musical interests against a red/blue map or perhaps a blogger feedmap).
We would need some sort of music sales data coupled with Zip codes overlaid onto Google Maps – but I think the results would give us something pretty interesting – probably already a commercial version of this in some record industry office somewhere being used for a different purpose already. If we could find the data source and get it built somehow it would be pretty cool. I would suggest a UI that enabled people to create their own sorts of comparisons based on different data sources and displayed vis-a-vis zip code based maps. People could then write insytes and commentary on the results. When people entered combinations that had previously been entered, they would see other people’s entries and be able to comment on them as well as create their own new insytes. Certainly valuable for a multitude of business purposes as well as for creating a broader sense of understanding.
Anyway, just the seed of an idea at the moment as I am thinking about new forms of community forming social media tools. I am going to start blogging about more potential social media models over the next couple of weeks since they just keep coming and I don’t have time to pursue them all. Maybe someone else does…
Just a quick note of thanks to everyone who showed up last night. We had a blast and stayed up way past our bedtime…
An interesting piece of news I overheard and wanted to break here – there is now an ‘unconfirmed’ rumour that The Onion is buying Supr.cillo.us for $50 per Feedburner subscriber. Not only is this cool news for the snarky Web 2.0 site, but good news for the rest of us as we now have a new metric upon which to value our blogs! Mine is now worth over $1200.00!!!!
My bet is that if they wanted Snarky Web 2.0 stuff so bad that they bought Supr.cillio.us, they will probably be buying Geek Entertainment TV next!
Congrats guys – you deserve it!
Technorati Tags: Web2.0
We are still working on how to best distribute the knowledge and ideas from our last BrainJams event, so please view this as an open experiment. We would appreciate it if you could please post your comments here with any feedback regarding these maps and this process. You can also add some suggestions to the Wiki, where I have posted a page that links to all the maps available for download, or send me additional notes to include in the maps. I need to work through a few more things to get the RSS feed working, but wanted to get this out before the week ended.
We have also published the maps as Web pages. I will not get too deep into analytics here because I don’t waste any more time in getting these out, but here is a basic overview of what is available.
- Rather than publishing 10 maps as I had initially though, it seemed better to create one big map for the afternoon sessions. The reason being the different note taking styles of our volunteers just seemed to dictate this format. we only have them because of the efforts of Nate Koechley, Charles Merriam, Andy Kaufman and Tom Blosson from MindJet. The tag for this map is BrainJams3Dec2005:AfternoonSessions
- The end of day “surveys” we did were all organized into a separate map and tagged with ‘BrainJams3Dec2005:Feedback‘. With thanks to Kristie Wells for putting this one together (and learning to use MindManager).
- A simple web page is located at http://www.brainjams.org/mindmaps/ which will be the location for all maps from all events.
Each map has its own tag created within the BrainJams3Dec2005 ‘tagspace‘. A tagspace is a new concept I have proposed for dealing with tags. I won’t get into it in detail, but the idea is pretty simple – create a pattern of words which average people can adopt to whatever it is that you are doing that is also easily searchable by the different search technologies. Another example of a Tagspace is BrainJams:Planning or as we are using with the sessions from the afternoon BrainJams3Dec2005:AfternoonSessions (which follows the eventTag:portionOFday format. At one point I almost dropped the proposal for Tagspaces but Chris Pirillo has encouraged me to move it forward so I am.
That is all for today – more to come over the weekend.
Technorati Tags: ad-hoc collaboration, brainjams3dec2005, brainjams3dec2005:afternoonsessions, brainjams3dec2005:feedback, brainjams3dec2005:mindmaps, brainjams3dec2005:teenpanel, brainjams:3dec2005, brainjams:planning, Web2.1
For the past couple of years we have talked about the rise of the amateur. I first heard the term at the Internet Everywhere conference back in 1999, but am sure it was talked about before then. The rise of amateur content has been driven by 3 primary factors cheap and easy to use tools, cheaper distribution and frustration with the status quo of few to many media. An underlying element here is that most people long to be involved in genuine conversation, not talked at. Remember what it felt like when your teacher (or some arrogant prick) talked at you, telling you they know better in that arrogant sort of way. This is the frustration that brings about change when coupled with the right socioeconomic factors like we have today.
The same thing is happening in the conference space as evidenced by our successful BrainJams event from last Saturday and the dozens of other similar events that are popping up everywhere. For the sake of clarity, my take on the types of events are:
1. Meetups/BBQ’s – usually a night time event where drinks and demos are the central stars
2. BrainJams – a day long unconference focused on participant interaction and conversations, borrowing from the Open Space model (and inspired by BarCamp), but unique in other ways
3. BarCamps – usually weekend events that involve more technically inclined folks, with some sleeping the night away in office spaces where the events are held, also borrowing from the Open Space model
All of these events, regardless of the format, share one common thread. They are organized by participants with support from Patrons/sponsors for the purpose of ad-hoc collaboration and communication. In the case of amateur events, they are also driven by the same factors as amateur content and they are often driven by the additional desire for average people with extraordinary ideas to participate and contribute.
This is especially the case when participating in the primary “confersation” costs more than 3% of your company’s budget, or you are self-employed or perhaps even un-employed, between jobs. Unless we are all doomed to judging a book by its cover, I don’t believe that one’s ability to pay upwards of $2,000 for a conference is directly correlated to one’s ability to contribute. It is, however, a convenient way of determining this and ensuring that the people who attend are there with a shared purpose, so I am not knocking regular conferences here, just analyzing the evolution and pointing out the differences. (In fact, the Fast Company Real Time conferences were so invaluable to me that I once took out a loan just so I could attend.)
But when people start getting bored by a conference before even getting there, you know it is time for things to get shaken up a bit. At our recent BrainJams event, many of the people who showed up had no idea what to expect, but invested a Saturday with us anyways. They were excited. They were in charge (ok, not totally, but mostly). Unlike the top down taxonomy of a traditional conference, BrainJams presented them with the chance to develop their own Folksonomy for what their experience would be like. We just provided a framework in which they could move, much like the canvas is a framework upon which one can paint to create art or a small club is for a group of jazz musicians to create music.
I don’t want to get much deeper than this today except to say that there has been a lot of talk lately about how to support conferences where people don’t pay to attend? Our experience (and the experience of TechCrunch and BarCamp) shows that you can do it – but it is not easy. If Judith from BSTV had not come through at the last, last minute, we would have lost a bit of money. However, when the purpose of the event is not about making money, but is instead about making meaning for people, wallets open and smart, wonderful people come out of the woodworks to lend their energy and support. Kristie mentioned that all day long she was pulling 1′s and 5′s out of the ‘tip jar’ at the last event. We even received around $50 in private donations after the event.
Brian Dear of Eventful wrote a good post on the financial aspects of Amateur Events using the term “user generated advertisers” which was picked up by BusinessWeek. Peter Caputa of WhizSpark correctly points out that this has been around for a while, though I disagree with him in that it has not been thought about in this context. When user generated content, meets user generated conferences, meets user generated advertising, wonderful things can happen… and that is one of the keys to the success of BrainJams.
BTW – We never even got mainstream media’s attention for what we did (still don’t really have it despite the piece on KRON4 and a nice article on Internet News) and yet, all the right people showed up, we did not lose money and the patrons received value for their contributions. Am still not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but do want to spread the word wider so we will be issuing a press release next Monday about the prior event and the future.
Also, I should point out that a friend and colleague is working on this problem with his recently announced company SyncPeople in which I was briefly involved that also addresses this problem form a more holistic perspective which I think is right on target.
Technorati Tags: ad-hoc collaboration, ad-hoc+collaboration, amateurevents, barcamp, brainjams, brainjams:planning, confersations, net2, socialconference, The+Open+Web, unconference, user generated advertisers, Web2.0, Web2.1
It used to be a given. The leaders of the Internet ‘revolution’ were all focused on providing an open space that invited people in and made them welcome. They lead by example, and people like Howard Rheingold set a damn good example in how he conducted himself (still does) which was expressed in the book Virtual Community (free read on his site).
Now we have (unnamed) folks who would rather “efff good sense” and “effff civility”. Maybe these statements were merely meant to be antagonistic or just frothy, but I suspect they were generated more from group think that developed amongst a portion of the conference attendees. Those statements certainly shocked me and made me stop to think about this matter deeper, so I am glad for that if not the sentiment.
The trouble is, these are the new leaders and this is the example they choose to set. Sounds a lot like Charles Barkley exclaiming he is no role model and dismissing the notion that he should be a responsible leader. Well guess what, he was a leader/role model and so are you. While anarchists (not referring to any individual here) have some appealing ideas and arguments, those arguments tend to be narcissistic and inward focused. Which is fine if you want to live in a world where no one is looking out for anyone else. But if you truly want people to be empowered and to become self-reliant beyond government hand-outs, we must lead them. In order to lead them we must communicate with them and educate them. As any good parent will tell you, we lead by the examples we set. How we communicate, how we conduct ourselves and what attitude(intention) we take when interacting with others are the most important things every individual has in their direct control. So take control of it and let’s all work towards our common goals while respecting each individual and being more tolerant of the situational and cultural differences.
History has some lesson here I am sure – most likely in the fall of Roman civilization, but I am no historian so that is as far as I will take that point. We do however, stand at a defining moment in our history which could determine the success or failure of our society. Either we continue to wage wars and behave crudely like violent animals, or we can rise ourselves up above all that by being more conscious and aware of the world around us and how we interact with it.
Howard Rheingold wrote an important critique of a paper that presents quite an opposing view to this which I just found researching this post. Am so glad there are people with his insytes in the world who share them so freely. Am so glad that smart people have had the chance to enter the conversation – I certainly don’t want to shut them out as we have done with the political system in America. The biggest problem with American politics (for those of you not living here who can’t see it) is not that the system is broken as some suggested in the back channel. It is that the loudest people with the most aggressive personalities have shouted down and intimidated the moderate centrists who actually represent the majority of my great country. And yes, I am a proud citizen, not for the many stupid things we have done over the course of our history, but for the incredible, soaring spirit of possibility that beats within our hearts and the hearts of millions of people who have come to live here.
So I am glad Mena confronted Ben, but wish she would have done it better. I also have a lot of respect for Ben standing up as he did, but I wish he could have just said why he felt Mena’s presentation was Bullshit. Most of all, I am glad this conversation has come to light at this time – it is seemingly the most important thing to come from Les Blogs. Don Park has one of the best points I have read so far in all this on Ben’s blog post about ‘the civility incident’.
[Update: Apparently Ben does not like the attention as all links to his site are getting the message GONE. If you follow one of those links, just hit the refresh button or enter the URL directly to read the page]
[Background bote: I briefly participated in the backchannel conversation at the end of each day of les blogs and have read through many of the posts about the 'Ben vs. Mena' discussion which I will now affectionately call 'the incident'. I was not there, but I watched the video. I also posted a comment on Ben's blog. This is a much deeper discussion that was brought to light as a result of 2 well meaning people who each would probably wish things went down differently. I saw some people talking about this as if the people being affected were just 'suits' (ie business interests) but the reality is much broader. Even if it were just suits, many people forget that there are people in those suits, and those people deserve as much respect as every other human until they are known personally as being less deserving. Wholesale stereotyping seems to be bad when addressing most groups by many people, but ok when it comes to people in the world of business. This double standard is not fair, nor is it appropriate or inline with the peace/love view of the world that so many of those people are proponents of. Equal justice/opportunity for all, means ALL people, not just the people you agree with.]
It has been a long time since I used that phrase. But back in 1996/1997 we bantered it about quite a bit when we talked about the Internet revolution. In case you don’t know, ‘dead tree people’ refers to the people who work at newspapers. The advent of the web was supposed to have meant the end of them back then just as it is today. A quick search on Google yielded only 57 results which I find odd considering its prior prevalence as a term of less than endearment.
I was in the process of writing a post about the Ryan Blitstein’s whining piece in SFWeekly last week and the fact that the San Francisco Chronicle was working with a direct marketing firm on a new outreach campaign, when I read Mike Arrington’s piece on Lee Gomes write up in the Wall Street Journal on the tech blogs elite. I must say that this is one of the first articles I have read from someone outside the valley that really gets it in a deep way. Kudos to Lee – the Wall Street Journal certainly won’t be disappearing any time soon, and he is one of the reasons why.
When you build an organization of smart people that are empowered to understand and communicate meaning, you are bound to be successful. This no longer requires really deep pockets to fund it, nor does it require advertising budgets. All it requires are the people, their insights, the tools, the organizing principle and the effort. Wow, look at that, a new acronym – PITOPE. A lousy sounding one, but that is really all it takes…
To his point about some journalists complaining of losing choice seats at PR events etc… we should all remember this simple truth. Marketing people are trying to buy the largest influence for their money. If they know that one key blogger like a Scoble or Arrington can influence several thousand people who influence untold numbers of other people in just a few minutes time, why court someone whose influence is not easily measurable and not in real time who will be filtered by an editor and a publisher with potentially competing agendas? Hmmm, this goes much deeper than time permits at the moment. More to come, but now back to the regularly scheduled post I started before I saw the WSJ piece…
The Chronicle has hired a DM firm to do subscriber acquisition for them. Just got the call (on MON):
CSR – “You have been randomly selected for a new trial subscription of the San Francisco Chronicle that runs for Friday, Saturday and Sunday for only $19.95 per year.”
ME – “No thanks we don’t do print any more.”
CSR – “Thank you for your time.”
ME – “Goodbye”
I wanted to write about this because of the cover story I saw in this week’s SFWeekly where the writer bemoans how Craigslist is making newspapers fire people and reduce the quality of journalism because they are taking millions of dollars from newspaper’s classified revenues. The guy forgets that the SFWeekly did the same thing to the Chronicle and Examiner when it launched, and when cable advertising came in and when auto trader launched and when… just about everyone who could come up with an idea for a media product launched. It is called competition and it is seldom good for entrenched monopolies, but usually good for the people over the long term.
In the increasingly connected world in which we live, each of us only has 24 hours of attention each day, so those who can use the least of it and provide the best value for that time are the winners of our economy. Simple is hard. Do it and win.
I believe that the economy favors those organizations who can best leverage the right assets for solving a particular problem. As more and more of the economy is driven by knowledge based products, the right combination of assets is all about collective brain power. Essentially, as Paul Zane Pilzer says, [my paraphrasing] “people’s ability to get along is the single most important determiner of value.”
Craig understood simple and he is helping others to do the same with their all important causes. A population that is better educated will make a better country as long as they have an efficient way of being discovered and heard by people who are passionate about the same things.
if this means the end of the newspaper, c’est la vie. I certainly hope they wakeup from their slumber and start to innovate and kick more ass like the folks over at KRON4 have done. Not only did they launch a local blog aggregator called The Bay Area is Talking to participate in the conversation and remain relevant, but they have also launched a new Video Journalist program (brief explanation on Wikipedia) with the assistance of the modern VJ movement’s principal advocate Terry Heaton. Check out one of Terry’s posts from back on 11/12/2004 describing what he saw as the future.
“Here’s my prophecy. What will begin as a cost-cutting measure on the part of station owners will eventually lead to a transformation in video newsgathering in the U.S. The ability to edit in the field (or at one’s home) will also lead to employment changes and open the door for citizen involvement in the process.”
Things are changing all the time but it seems that several people in the newspaper business just want things to stay the same. Maybe it would be better if only those in the ivory towers could read and write – that way they could tell us what to do like the kings and churches did before Gutenberg? At least there would be more trees I suppose…