Sunday, March 29, 2009

give 'em tha money already

I have been asked to blog in exchange for money before - but only by people who make Babcock & Brown look like a sure fire bet. Jasmin has put out a request to which three brave souls have replied. I was tempted to see how badly I could insult Incentive House (and their mothers) in the course of this post and still get the cash for the deserving but it's been a long day and until I get the Abusive Post Automator, it's too much like hard work.

I know nothing about being poor in the Philippines. Zip. And here's the thing - neither do most of you. So writing about it is tricky. I could just say "look at the photo of the cute kid on the rubbish tip" and let the image do its work.

But by reading this post, you get to be some kind of hard-core, Silion Valley venture capitalist - minus the freaky cosmetic surgery & fake tan. You get to fund someone else's business. Their ambitions and their dreams. I can't promise you an ROI within the next fiscal. I can't even promise you the nasty free T-shirts that most start-ups give away at exhibitions ("it's printed on cotton that we harvested from the dev team's belly buttons after a 3 day coding sesh").

Screw it, the way things are going, these ladies will probably be lending us money in a few years. You'll want them to like you.

There we go, people, it's all about the naked self-interest. Just Do It.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

bring me the head of raymond kurzweil

Raymond Kurzweil is an intriguing science-fiction writer but a lousy neuroscientist. He seems to think that being human is all about having a brain. And that having a brain is all about having computing power.

Ray should remember that it's not size but what you do with it that counts. As Antonio Damasio has spent a lot of time researching, we think with our bodies as well as our heads. If we want to give our machines consciousness then we have to give them bodies (or rather systems that interact their environments and provide feedback from interventions in that environment that can guide future action).

I do not believe in a soul or some vital essence so I do not have any philosophical objections to machines with consciousness. However neither do I believe in some "Singularity" (it seems rather to close to Milllenial religious ideas like The Rapture*).

There's an important point here for those of us who spend a lot of our time working on the digital/virtual/interweb. We neglect the bodies of people at our peril.

Actually Ray Kurzweil can keep his head but let's see how well he thinks without his body.

*I quite like this The Rapture - I do hope that God offers them an opportunity to do the soundtrack.

Hat tip: George Siemens

Monday, March 23, 2009


Barry Saunders has weighing on the comments section of the previous post with some good ideas and some hot! links!

He's also made me articulate another idea that's been running round my head. You may remember this post from a month ago where I state: Innovation = Invention + Entrepreneurship. Let me spell this out in more detail.

The issue I have with most Idea Management Systems is that they only work for really obvious ideas (often ones that meet explicit needs). The wacky ideas don't get past the first stage gate. The ideation bit (where people are encouraged to come up with & discuss ideas) is fine as far as it goes. But then you get some Stalinist committee of judges and a strict project management framework. Which may be necessary if you are spending big bucks. But more money isn't always better.

Market-based approaches are slightly better but for a proper Innovation Support System you need to recreate an entrepreneurship network inside (& even outside) your organisation:
  • You need ways of encouraging your employees to notice things - esp. failures & frustrations.
  • You need ways of linking people with needs to people who have ideas.
  • You need ways of linking people who have ideas to people who can sell ideas to others.
  • You need multiple sources of venture capital inside your organisation.
  • You need to acknowledge & reward creative theft as much (or more) than original idea creation.
  • You need to actively seek out and embrace innovations that could destroy your business model - because ultimately they will, but the edge is in changing faster than your competitors.
  • You need to give simple prototypes of ideas to as diverse a range of people inside your organisation and see what the hell they do with them - because it won't be what you expect.
  • You probably need to engage customers, suppliers, business partners & alumni in this process.
You need the irate, the dreamers, the spivs & the thieves.


The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed.- William Gibson

I've been pondering Sean & Ellen's discussion around explicit, tacit & latent needs. It tied to some thinking I've been doing around innovation.

We expect innovation to come from high-tech research labs because that's where the dollars and the brains are. But that's fundamentally wrong. Innovation comes from where the challenges are. Human beings are generally quite lazy and don't want to learn or change. We only do that when we have to.

You want to find out about a possible future of finance in a resource-constrained world? You'd be better off looking in Bangladesh than Wall Street. Innovation is driven by need. You want the future? Follow the need.

It also suggests that in meeting latent needs, we need to cocreate the solutions with the people feeling the problem. Easier all round really.

Still thinking. More soon.

why having too much money can be bad

In response to a post by John "Desert Storm" Maloney on the Value Networks email list, the thought came to me that the KM scene in Australia is much healthier than in the US (feel free to disagree) and that's largely because we have less money. We can't afford a heavily customised technology solution or heaps of FTE staff. So the focus becomes finding the few things that make the most difference and then doing those.

This isn't unique to Australia. Stan Garfield did great things at HP with only 4 people.

A friend of mine at Microsoft said: "We have too much money. We never have to make tough decisions or focus on one thing".

If you want to reinvigorate your KM programme, maybe you need to cut its budget. Mary Abraham's suggestion of a KM Dept of One is good - but you'd need a KMer outside your organisation you can trust & talk to for that to work.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

open society & its frenemies (3): hypocrisy

Closed societies allow people to say one thing in public and do another in private. We call this difference between public proclamation and private behaviour "hypocrisy" - or perhaps its the difference between what we believe we should be and what we are. The bigger that gap between aspiration and reality is, the harder it is on us and the bigger role hypocrisy will play. There is a point when aspirations become delusions. At that point hypocrisy becomes the only sane choice.

However if you're going to have an open society then it either needs to be either homogeneous or tolerant. Everybody has to either think the same or accept that others think differently. Given that variation is wired into human beings, an open society is hard work. In some ways closed societies are more comfortable than open ones.

The price of freedom is accepting that you don't always have to right to win the argument.

the open society & its frenemies (2)

Libertarian capitalists and anarchists view state power as inherently evil. The opposite of an oppressive, totalitarian state is some kind of money-driven or love-driven utopia.

Of course, it's not. The opposite of the Soviet Union is the Congo. The optimal environment for human beings is not constraint-free.

You might say I'm an asymmetric libertarian. The more power a person or entity has, the more that person requires oversight & governance. Of course, it seems to work the opposite way in the real world - the more power an entity has, the greater protection from scrutiny it can buy.

the open society & its frenemies (1)

Been thinking a lot about government recently.

I quite like free-market competition. I'm not convinced that many people do though. Labour unions don't like it. Many business people don't like it - they would rather have a cosy, lucrative monopoly (e.g. Bill Gates or Steve Jobs). We like competition with the proviso that we win - and everyone knows that a competition where the winner is known before the start is not really a competition.

As tempting as this position is, I believe some form of competition is good for our us - in part because competition is wired into our natures. Of course, cooperation is too. At best we find ourselves driven by a productive tension. We might as well channel our competitive & cooperative desires into something helpful rather than destructive.

We need a free(ish) market (that includes organisations driven by both profit and/or concern). But we also need strong, effective government. If all these people are competing all over the place then someone has to call them out when they try to do something stupid - because they will, they are human. Self-regulation only works when there are reciprocal ties between organisations and their stakeholders - otherwise the temptation to cheat is just too strong.

But the government may also cock things up - so we have to make it as accountable as we can. Governments should thank us for limiting their power (as an alcoholic should thank the person who hides their booze stash) but that's not human nature either.

So we need to ensure that everyone is accountable to someone. The price of freedom is eternal pickiness.

Who are you accountable to? If you can't answer that question then you'd better find someone soon.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Something like this image cropped up in a talk given by Ed Mitchell at Digital Eskimo yesterday around our use of social software 'n' suchlike. The public/private distinction is something that I'm acutely aware (oooo, I have so many secrets from you all and let's face it, that's best for everyone), the personal/professional less so. That's mostly a, well, personal thing: I put a lot of my personal life into my work and vice versa. The idea of keeping them completely separate seems a little odd.

But for many people that division is critical part of who they are and I see their choice as reasonable & legitimate. We all pay a price for our choices.

Another thing that cropped up in Ed's talk was the word affordances. This is an important word because it suggests that our technologies (what we build) and our practices (what we do) need to offer multiple ways of working or being. And I think we are both very comfortable and very uncomfortable with that idea. Formally/Collectively we like the idea of people behaving in a certain way, of following the rules. Informally/Individually we cut each other some slack.

noel edmond's multi-colour cynefin framework

This version of the Cynefin Framework was inspired by a comment from Robert Perey at this. It's still not quite right but it's the best I can do at this time of night & with my limited graphics software. BTW there is no significance in the colours (or is there, Spiral Dynamics fans?)

[Edit: I swear I have seen this model laid out in a similar way before. Who am I ripping off here?]

Sunday, March 15, 2009

why roi is a terrible place to start

This started with Stephen Bounds and then moved on to Sameer Patel. He's along the right lines but I don't think he's pushing hard enough.

Many people in the Enterprise 2.0 community are pondering RoI. It seems to be the Holy Grail of E2.0. This pursuit demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how decisions are made.

If you are selling something that meets a need, it has to be a need that people feel. Not that they see reflected in a spreadsheet that features numbers you've either made up (sorry estimated) or taken from other situations.

Once they feel the need, then you bring out the RoI to keep the CFO happy. RoI follows need.

What does this mean?
  • It helps if your E2.0 solution meets a need that the organisation and senior management feel. That problem may be around connecting my staff in multiple offices. That be around enabling my research team to share their activities & outcomes better. It may simply be about helping me turn my Sharepoint investment into something that I don't cry myself to sleep at night over.
  • Finding an immediately felt need is easy. That means that lots of people will probably have done it already. Finding a need that is on the verge of being felt is a lot harder but more rewarding. Ellen di Resta writes about this well.
  • Once you have identified a problem, shown you have a solution and found those people with that problem then (and only then) does the RoI come into play. The RoI should show that your solution is the best and most cost effective solution to that problem (Remember: All RoIs are always comparative - the alternative is often "do nothing"). That should keep the CFO happy.
  • If the conversation starts with RoI, you are sunk. Walk away. Or find out what the conversation is really about. Conversations about "RoI" are never about RoI.
  • Don't just focus on the numbers, focus on stories & status as well.
Until you can do all this, you are not ready to sell - so how can you expect people to buy?

do you know a blunt instrument?

You may remember Barry Business from PubCamp last year. Barry strikes me as someone that I encounter in Australian business circles a lot. The label that comes to mind is "blunt instruments" (BLs). These are men (very often men) who have progressed up the corporate ladder to senior management. They have the following characteristics:
  • They appear decisive. They claim not to be afraid to make decisions. For some of them this claim is true. Some of them are just very good at the claiming bit.
  • They like sports and mixing with other blokes. They aren't so keen on women unless they can either be a bloke (swearing, beer, sport) or a total chick (very feminine). They really don't like gays, unless that gay happens to their boss. Their mileage of ethnic minorities may vary: wog blokes are OK (as long as they like sport); asian guys are considered geeky.
  • They are cunning. They know exactly who to suck up to. And they know who to kick down on. Never cross a BL, you'll find the knife in your back a few weeks later and the BL protesting innocence.
  • And they are also canny. They may have an MBA. They can certainly calculate EBITDA in their sleep.
  • They are confident. They know this world belongs to them. The favourite topic of conversation for BL is himself (which makes conversation easy but dull: "Please tell me why you are so great again?").
  • But they aren't very imaginative. They didn't get where they are today by being "wacky" or "unusual".
  • They are physically big (hence the label). Wide, square bodies with wide, squre heads. They are certainly willing to use physical intimidation to get their way.
I don't mind BLs. I don't relish working with them but their behaviour is predictable. It's the penultimate point that gets me. So many beedy eyes, so little vision. And yet they play a role in keeping the wheels of commerce grinding on. We need them - but do we need so many?

Do you know a BL? Is this an accurate picture? What have I missed or am I missing here?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

guru triangles

Thanks to a Mark Gould tweet, I encountered Scott Berkun's post: How to call BS on a guru. SB's post kicked me into writing this one as I have been pondered the place of business gurus.

My pondering is simple: I think that we need to get over them.

Do not misunderstand me. We need people with:
  • deep skills & expertise in a particular area;
  • provocative or insightful points of view;
  • the ability to energize and enthuse others.
But under no circumstances should we treat them with deference or undue respect. How would you treat your postman? Well that's how a business guru should be treated. However instead I see a tendency to give undue deference and respect to the "guru" when what we really should be doing is destruction-testing their assertions.

I don't see this as being only the gurus' fault. We bare much of the blame ourselves. You may recall a couple of posts last year on drama triangles. I think we often fall into unhealthy cycles of behaviour. Drama triangles are unhealthy because in playing a role within the triangle and its associated games, we avoid owning our problems. We act like children.


Guru: I am great and all-knowing. I have seen the future of business.
Follower: Truly I am lost. Rescue me, oh great guru! I will pay for your book and your seminar series. Tell me the one true path! I will do anything (except take responsibility for my own future).
Guru: Verily I will show you unworthy one. Remember all other business gurus worship false idols.
{There is a pause. It becomes obvious that not all the guru's sayings are literally true}
Follower: You tricked me, you evil guru! I spit on your Harvard Business Review articles and your incomprehensible lecture notes!!!
Guru: Love to chat, but there's a new fad coming round the corner. Goodbye.
Follower: Truly, I am lost...

It all ends in tears. And haggling over invoices.

So what can we do? Here are three suggestions:
  • Drink from many wells. There are lots of good ideas out there but no perfect ones.
  • Cultivate critical engagement. Ask questions. Lots of them. Start with what niggles you.
  • Develop your own ideas. Everyone wants to buy ideas of the shelf - but homegrown is ultimately more satisfying.
N.B. If you ever find yourself in a session that I am running and you think I am going a bit "guru", I give you permission to throw paper at me. Or anything else that does comparatively little damage on impact. I will thank you for it.

Monday, March 09, 2009

storytelling (2): ken robinson busts some moves

At the Single Origin coffee morning, I was having a chat with Mal about the story thing and he said that there are two TED videos with stories that absolutely blow him away. And before he said it, I knew what one of them would be. You can click on the image above and then scroll through the video on the TED site until you get 15:00 in.

This talk is one that everyone seems to love. There are probably many reasons for that: Sir Ken's ease & charm in front of an audience; the topic of the talk (creativity); etc. However the Gillian Lynne story gets me every time. It's very different to the story Obama told. Here are some of my reactions:
  • It happens near the end of the talk. There's a distinct change in gear that occurs with this story. The previous 15 mins had been very jokey and light and now it gets a little more serious.
  • It's a story told in the third person (the narrator is not a participant).
  • It's quite short (around 2:40).
  • It covers a broad span of time but the real core of the story happens in the doctor's consulting room.
  • It is a true story.
  • There are lots of other stories that could be told around Gillian Lynne's life. Our narrator has picked one that serves his point - and been very focused in telling it.
  • It's a topic that everyone can relate to - having our skills unappreciated, especially at a young age (even if we aren't dancers).
  • Little details: Turning on the radio on the desk as he leaves.
What did you hear? What touched you? Or did you hate it? If so, why?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

storytelling (1): obama gets fired up

Shawn played a similar video to this at a conference I was at in Melbourne about a month ago. Barack Obama tells a story. The story he tells is very well known in the US but comparatively unseen here in Australia. He used it many times when he was campaigning for the presidency. I defy people to watch it and be untouched. This time he actually had Edith Childs there - but many times it was just him telling the story.

I think it's great example of the use of narrative in public speaking - so I'm just going to make a few notes about it:
  • It's a story based on true events, not a fable or a fiction - altho there is some dispute by other participants as to details.
  • It's told in the first person, Obama (our narrator) is a character in the story.
  • It is slyly self-deprecating. He is tricked into doing something. He is crabby when he comes to the meeting. In other words, the narrator is a normal person.
  • It is about an everyday event. It is not about an epic moment in American history - it is about something quite commonplace - a small act by someone that has a big effect on him. It is a situation that many of the audience members can relate to.
  • The story is contained in time & space. It is not his life story, it is not the history of American civil rights. It is focused.
  • The little details matter - for me it was the reference to Edith Childs' hats. Little details can convince us of the plausibility of a story.
  • It ends with a call to action that is consonant with the story itself.
  • It's also quite a long story (8 mins approx) and it takes place near the end of Obama's speech after he's built up some rapport with the audience.
  • Obama has obviously spent some time in Church. His delivery is reminiscent of a pentecostal preacher.
  • What do you see & hear? What have I missed?
Now one of the worst things you could do would be to think: "That kind of story for worked for Obama in that situation, I do the same thing in my next quarterly results presentation!!!" You & I are not Barack Obama.

But reflect on what touched you in the story. Where were you gripped? Where did it meander? Why?

Also there are other versions of Obama telling this story on the campaign trail - and each is a little different. If you're really keen, try finding those too and have a look.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


There's a bit of a discussion going on over a JC's place about "cool kids" and online communities. It kinda got derailed by Adam Ferrier into a debate about what is "cool*". I am not interested in cool (as the contents of my wardrobe will demonstrate) but this discussion raises a few questions for me about the role of "community managers" and what the skills are.

The first thing to note is that generalisations are all well & good (and make nice 6 point lists that blog readers love) but may not be that much help in a particular situation. Communities vary a lot. Do not assume that your community is the same in a key respect as another community. To put it in statistical terms (which I know turns you all on), the variance matters as much as the mean. Or to put it more scientificially: The Lone Ranger & Tonto are surrounded by Indians. The Lone Ranger says: "We're in trouble". Tonto turns & says: "Waddya mean 'we', Paleface?"

Anyway, for comunity management, being a good communicator & listener is probably a non-negotiable. As is actually caring about the comunities' common interest yourself. Beyond that, it kinda gets a bit tricky. Are you "cool" or "warm"? Are you a creator or an appreciator? Are you gentle or brutal? Do you have video-editing skills? Can you sing? Are you a whizz with language or numbers? I dunno. It probably depends on your community.

A few years ago, Patrick Lambe & Shawn Callahan looked at the community archetypes** of actKM. This is a community of IM/KM professionals in their 30/40/50s. I think we have one Gen-Yer - but he acts like a 50 year old anyway. Here are the archetypes that emerged. Let me stress to marketing types that these are not Jungian (Healer, Hero) archetypes - altho some of them may look like that. These are recurring identities & behaviours are specific to that community. Similar archetypes can and do pop up across different places but each time the ecosystem is a little different.

What would the archetypes look like in your online community?

*The only comment I will make is that the question "Who is cool?" is actually "Who is cool to group X?" with the "X" bit often assumed or left unexamined - AF's original research looked a specific group (Australians aged 18-26). I also wonder if he's selected on the dependent variable but I haven't seen the original research.

**Patrick & myself are using a similar approach in our Using Expertise work (e.g. here).

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

social software & worldvision - interview with keith don

A few weeks ago, I had a great conversation with Keith Don from WorldVision about using social software in not-for-profits. KD was so good that it would be a crime not to make it available. So here goes...

When did World Vision first get involved in social media?

World Vision started using social media before I joined. We had a guy called Adam Valvasori involved with our youth team and he was pushing the boundaries in terms of online engagement. World Vision has always taken the approach that we're a middle-market brand that engages with middle Australia. We deal with international social justice and poverty issues and we thought that many people who are online care about these issues and would want to engage with us and with each other. Initially this was through Stir (our youth site) and creating a presence on MySpace. Our first major success was on YouTube. A few years ago we created a video called Teenage Affluenza. That got featured on the front of Facebook and went viral around the world!

We operate on two levels – raising money in Australia to support our work in developing countries and then secondly to engage Australians on the issues that we care about and we hope they care about too. The Teenage Affluenza video is definitely an example of the latter. In the past we had been a pioneer with a lot of activities in traditional media. We were the first charity ever to buy TV ad space. We had dedicated TV specials. Of course that's now very, very expensive so we need to look at other options. If we're looking at engaging then it's about getting those one-to-one conversations with people directly.

What are you doing at the moment?

Still in the youth space we're doing a lot of YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and Twitter (of course). Those are really about trying to meet people where they're at. They can talk to us in their space rather than making them come into our territory. We want them to be comfortable and to care about their issues in their own environment. Right now our strategy is maturing. We now have a conscious digital strategy rather than just responding to things – and that's across the whole organisation rather than just in the youth space.

We want to do three things:
  • How do we engage with Australians in the conversation?
  • How do we talk to them directly about the issues we see around the world?
  • How do we give them the opportunity to act on that (either financially or non-financially)?
Right now our website is large and unwieldy. We want to create a platform for engagement where ever they are and make the interfaces between places (e.g. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook) easier for our users. We have a World Vision Twitter account but it's inactive because we don't want it to be a broadcast feed of press releases. If you're not ready to engage with people in a channel then you shouldn't be using it. If you want people to care about your brand and the work that you do then you have to engage with people directly, you have to respond directly and really answer their questions. I would love our Supporter Services group to be accessible via Twitter like Comcastcares but we're not quite ready for that yet.

What changes does this require of World Vision? Has there been any resistance?

It turns our whole messaging and engagement approach upside down. World Vision is over 40 years old, we are set up to do business in a certain way and what worked for us in the past will likely not work for us in the future. We have been very oriented around direct mail and TV ads and the phone lines ringing but now it's all moving online. One of the things we want to do is pull back the orange curtain. We want people to understand what we do and how we do it, we want to take them on that journey.

Things that were previously overlooked internally have to change. If you want to have one message out there then that's easy if it's just press releases but if you have many people talking externally the you need to make sure that your messaging is right. That doesn't mean sticking to the party line or being a broken record. It means being honest if you don't know something and referring them on or saying you'll get back to them.

Who else do you see doing this well?

I don't think anyone is doing it great at the moment. Most of the people doing it successfully are being opportunistic and being first in. Charity:water are doing Twestival which will probably be successful but we'll have to see how sustainable that is. Most of the older charities are struggling because it is a new part of the world for them. Sean from The Uncultured Project has a big following on YouTube – how does he make sure that what he is doing is sustainable and can he join the activist audience with the need for financial support for international development. A lot of non-profits are simply using social networks as a feed. I think that is the wrong thing to do and that will simply alienate people who would rather be engaging with you.

So there's plenty of opportunities then?

There are opportunities if you take the time to do it well. There are also a lot of opportunities to alienate people if you do it badly. You have an outlet to speak about a lot of different things but every time you go off message then you risk alienating people. The other thing is that word of mouth spreads so quickly online. If you upset one person then it'll move quickly. On the other hand, you hear the discontent early so you can deal with problems as they arise.

How do you avoid alienating people?

If someone asks you a question and your organisation isn't comfortable talking about it then you respond accordingly and give the reasons why. You need to be careful about all your relationships online – who you are engaging with, how you are engaging. You still need to be genuine, polite and you shouldn't pretend to be something that you are not. Being genuine is key.

What's next?

For World Vision it is moving to a new platform that allows people to engage with us on the issues that matter to us. It's a new World Vision. It's not just what people see on the ads. Yes we do child sponsorship, yes we help starving children in Africa but we also have a team setting up satellite internet connections allowing people to communicate with each other. We are involved with peace-building, we have rapid response teams that can be in any part of the world in 48 hours. We want to release those stories and have people engage with us around those stories. And if they care about those things then we want them to be able to do something about that. That may be advocacy, raising awareness or it may be donating money.

For me the key thing is to stay sane and help lead the organisation through that process – because everything's evolving. We can't just focus on what we need now, we have to plan for what we will need in 18 months. We cannot afford to be left behind because if we don't make money, it isn't just “we didn't turn a profit” - there are people around the world who could starve. We have to make people see the real stories and if they share in those stories and their urgency then we can make change happen.

Who do you want to see speak?

You may remember the post about speakers and conferences. I have asked a few people and got the following responses:
  • Daryl Cook suggested Clay Shirky. Daryl would pay AU$100 (or less) to see Clay and reckons that around 400 people would see Clay. Which means that Daryl estimates Clay's value to AU$40k. Coincidentally, I had an email exchange with Clay's agent a couple of nights ago so I now know what CS thinks he's worth (that is not a joke). What do other people think of Daryl's estimate?
  • Laurie LockLee suggested John Seely Brown. Laurie would pay $50 and reckons that 200 people would turn up - so JSB's value would be $10k in LLL's estimation. I will find out what JSB thinks it should be.
  • Cai Kjaer suggest Barack Obama. I haven't got a $ figure of Cai for that one but let me work on it and see what the Big O's people have to say.
  • James Dellow suggested Charles Handy but didn't want to pay to see. Which means he has assigned CH a value of $0. Is that fair people?
  • Stuart French suggested Andrew McAfee - no $ value yet tho.
One thing to remember here is that people pay $000s to go to conferences and they are often drawn in by the "big names" (and most of the other presenters at conferences are not getting paid for this). In trying to reimagine the conference and get over our obsession with the "headline act", I realise it was futile, so why not harness that effect and do something interesting with it?

Please fill out the form below (feel free to do it anonymously).

story challenge: rip kungler responds

Rip Kungler responded to my challenge to his honour on the CSTC list regarding the story competition with this digital poem.

I love Rip's work*: Large Toys Make Indulgent Baggage

*The mix of violence, decadence and innocence in Rip's images reminds of that time in Bangkok when I was kidnapped by an under-age tuk-tuk driver who mistook me for George Harrison's nephew. I was in town trying to pitch my edgy "reimagining" of "The Waltons" to a Thai national broadcaster. We were going to play up the hillbilly angle as I recall but not to Deliverance levels obviously, this had to be a family show. They were "onboard" (to use the industry jargon) if we could set it in a little village not far from Chang Rai. They wanted glamour. And monks, lots & lots of monks. This proved to be a sticking point as we had a provisional deal with Matt Le Blanc to play Pa Walton. It is a little-known fact that MLB (as he is known in the industry) has (due to his Irish Catholic ancestry) a morbid fear of the colour orange. He also suffered from aloplecia as a child and finds it traumatic to work with the bald. Negotiations broke down during a teleconference when MLB's agent suggested that the monk's robes should be dyed green & that they be provided with matching wigs. Apparently the Land of Smiles is not yet ready for punk monks. The attempted kidnapping was the last straw. My left knee still aches on humid summer nights and the enraged face of my would-be kidnapper appears before my mind's eye at every ominous putt-putt of a 2-stroke engine.

People tell me that kind of thing happens quite a lot.

Monday, March 02, 2009

conferences & the cost of organising

It used to be really tricky & expensive to find people. Finding speakers. Finding venues. Finding attendees. You needed contacts & experience & these were high barriers to entry.

It's still hard to put on an event but the economics have changed. Finding speakers is not hard - altho finding good speakers is more challenging - how about a ratemyprofessors* for conference speakers? Finding attendees is still tricky but a lot easier. Venues are falling over themselves to host events in the current climate. Running an event professionally is quite demanding - but there are professional events organisers all over the place.

So the question becomes: "What kind of events do we want?"

Traditional conferences work well for new topics where attendees need "educating". They start becoming boring as soon as the attendees know as much as the speakers. Then BarCamp formats become more interesting - participants start talking to each other. Many conferences get caught in the ravine between the two. Finally, the conference morphs into something else completely - probably closer to Open Space or a similar format.

So one idea I'm toying with is crowdsourcing an event. Doing it at cost. We find someone lots of Australians would like to see and bring them out here. We discuss who they are and what they could do with us. I know of several events that are run on a cost-recovery basis but how can we make this as interesting as possible? As useful as possible for all concerned?

Who would you invite?

What I need is:
  • An international speaker.
  • Some places we want the speaker to come to and do their thing.
  • What you want them to do. Talk, facilitate, whatever.
  • Some software to manage the money side of things. I need something that will collect "donations" but only charge people is a certain threshold is crossed by a certain time.
[Edit 3/3/09] - I'm going to make this simpler:
  • Who would you want to invite?
  • How much would you pay?
  • How many people do you think we could get to see them?
I will then ask & see if the averaged market demand matches the speaker's own perceptions. I already have these figures for a certain famous Web 2.0 speaker & author, let's see what we can find out here...

*If people are interested, I'll take the Pepsi taste challenge & publish all the conference feedback I have got - good & bad.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

story challenge - show me what cha got...

Here is a challenge. I am looking for people to write some stories for me. Why I am doing this is described below (as is the how)*. There will be a prize - I don't know what the prize is yet. That will become clear when the entries come in. The deadline is March 31st 2009.

  • Your story should be inspired by the 5 images represented below.
  • It should be less than 500 words (or 5 mins if you choose to use some audio format).
The stories will be judged by Victoria Ward. Jye Smith has already volunteered to participate. Who will take on the mighty JS???

Stories can be posted on a blog as text, audio or video or sent to me.

And now for the 5 images:

Source: crazytales562

Source: Southernpixel

Source: Potato Benevolence

Source: marymactavish

Source: Aine D


*I had been trying to set a Skype podcast with Victoria for the last few months. It wasn't working for either of us so we have taken to setting story-based challenges for each other in lieu of conversation. I was originally going to ask her to write the story but I thought it would be more fun if some of you did it & then got her to respond.

The method I chose for image selection was to ask 5 random people for a word. They were:
James Dellow: implications
Luke Naismith: help
Marcus Brown: lavatory
Ron Donaldson: trilobite
Nancy White: persnickity

Then I put the keywords into Flickr. Ta Da! Many thanks to the above 5 for their input!