Podcamp Boston 6 Day 2
Still exhausted from Day 1, me and my friend Sean carpooled into Cambridge a bit later, just making the first 10AM session. I was hoping that my renewed optimism for business planning would continue, but rather than focus on exclusively on business-related topics I chose to pick sessions that were being given by people who had piqued my curiosity earlier. If there’s anything I’ve learned from big conferences like SXSW, it’s that following my curiosity is consistently more rewarding. The same applies, I think, in all my endeavors.
Here’s how the day went:
First up, Lane Sutton’s presentation Locking Yourself Up… Online from the Unknown. I’d heard from several people that Lane was very tuned-in, and so I wanted to hear what he had to say on whatever topic he chose to present. Today’s subject was online privacy and the sticky issues that stem from balancing opportunity, reputation, physical security, and convenience. Lane presented several interesting statistics on how online presence has become for a primary concern for the current generation: 92% of toddlers have some kind of online presence, and apparently Facebook access was deemed more important than having a working toilet in Britain. Awareness of the consequences of being so loose with one’s personal data, however, have not kept pace with adoption. Sutton showed us a number of sites illustrating the seamy side of the Internet, from icanstalkyou.com to reputation.com. My takeaway was that there is a need for new forms of “street smarts” in the form of extended media literacy. We’ve learned to not take what the media tells us at face value, but we have not learned how the recording of our actions by third parties can undermine our own security.
One of the magical things about Podcamp are the random hallway encounters. I had just one this time: while I was snaring myself a croissant I happened to exchange glances with a fellow standing nearby. This lead to an hour-long discussion about what people can do to free themselves of a corrupt economic system with fellow entrepreneur Steve Consilvio. While his point of view, outlined on his website behappyandfree.com, is different from my own, we agreed on an important principle: a good society is not based purely on the pursuit of self-interest. Instead, we both believe that expressing compassion for our neighbors and finding ways to build lasting benefits that can be shared is far more desirable. Podcamp, he noted, was a manifestation of that desire. Amen! And, this was a good reminder that though approaches may differ on the surface, it’s possible to find common ground. It’s not a zero-sum game, when it comes to building understanding.
After lunch, I dropped in on Applying Digital Strategy Across Your Business, the second presentation by Dave Wieneke of Useful Arts that I’d caught a bit of the day before. He presented a framework for modeling inter-related business functions, which divides a business into 9 distinct areas. It’s useful, he said, for extracting the “physics” of a business enterprise…I found that a wonderful way to express it. Wieneke showed a few examples of how the framework could be applied to companies like Amazon, and also briefly covered how to use a scaled-up version of the diagram with Post-It® notes to model different company strategies. Why go through the pain of “fail often / fail fast” to test new company strategies when you can spend a couple hours modeling them on paper first? Or better yet, use virtual stickies with the Business Model Toolkit App for iPad. The cool thing about this app is that it easily switches between “visual” and “balance sheet” format…I approve! My takeaway from the session was that perhaps I should look more closely at this “modeling” approach to my own smorgasbord of services. Now that I’m comfortable with the idea of “being myself but expressed in the language of my audience”, the modeling stage could be a nice complement to the master vantage point and status-seeking goals work I’ve been doing.
For the last official session of the day, I chose to attend Teaching Social Media to the Next Generation of Social Media Professionals by Mari Anne Snow. She’s a former financial executive who made a transition to college teaching. I am always interested in how people are teaching anything these days, particularly something as fast-moving as Social Media, and I’d been impressed by Snow’s comments in the first session of the day. The presentation was an engaging mix of insights she had gleaned from her recent teaching experiences. She started by dispelling the notion that college students today, who are perceived as digital natives capable of doing ANYTHING involving computers by older generation, are anything but. While they are expert consumers, this doesn’t translate automatically into being experts in the application of the technology itself; apparently naive companies have been hiring college students expecting them to know how to do magical things with computers. Snow, who considers herself a businessperson first and an educator second, puts her students through social media familiarization exercises designed to condition them toward continuous lifelong learning about technologies and their use. She also puts them to work on real projects with actual businesses, which reminds me of the approach that my friends at Float Left Labs takes outside the classroom. Toward the end of the presentation, Snow reminded us that for those of us who want to continue to improve, we needed to find our gang. We can not, she points out, possibly know everything. The solution? Sally forth and network at events like Boston Tweetup and other social media events. Find the people that you can help, and find the people who can help you. Share, and grow together! This was my main takeaway; the entire Podcamp Boston experience has been a reminder to me that I needed to get out of the house and start making connections again with Those Who Shall Share. Let us all KICK ASS as ONE FOOT!
Chris Penn and ChelPixie closed off the day with a quick wrapup, and we all left the building at around 4:30PM to a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the Charles.
A correction from yesterday: Anne Doherty Johnson (@adjtech on Twitter) is the person who mentioned Right Brained Business Plan to me! I’m planning on checking it out…looks pretty cool!
The Microsoft New England Research & Development Center (NERD) is a pretty awesome facility. Go Microsoft!
The only real snag I noted there was the flaky projector system in Room 4. Ordinarily I expect great things from Projection Design, a very high quality projector I’ve used for museum exhibit design, but this one had a bad red-channel input. The video routing was also pretty strange, giving all kinds of problems for each presenter in the room. The lobby parking machine is also a wonderful example of kluged vending machine technology. And I thought those Charlie Card terminals were bad!
The breakfast goods and cookies from Area Four were yummy! I especially stuffed myself on croissants and ginger cookies.
It is awesome how Podcamp Boston donates money to a charity every year. Last year, they donated over $7000 to the Greater Boston Food Bank’s Kid’s Cafe. This year, a comparable amount will be donated.
I finally got to see one of those Microsoft Surface tables at the NERD Center. Didn’t get a chance to really play with it, though I noted that its underlying 3D accelerated graphics seemed slow, running at maybe 20 frames per second tops. I’d love to have one of these, though, in my own fantasy rec room to replace the limited-function sit-down video game table-style cabinet. A commercial Surface unit apparently costs $12,500 without the dev kit, helping insure that this remains a fantasy. I still may check out the SDK, just for the fun of it.
Microsoft NERD has great furniture. Did you know that Herman Miller makes an Aeron Stool? I didn’t until Podcamp Boston 6! Great modern chairs and tables. Want want want!
Glad I went, glad to have met a few new people and see some old friends, and happy to have gotten a nice boost of inspiration at a fraction of the cost of a trip to SXSW. I feel that I can again find my orientation and sail confidently toward opportunities scattered between here and the horizon, sharing the same sky with people I like and admire. While that might not be the end game for most people, I think that’s all I really want from life.