In my ongoing personal quest as a photographer and a student of inner space, I’m always on the outlook for the next big idea. To find out what this life as a human is all about, you’ve got to be open to ideas.
Lucky for us that we can’t help but run into ideas everywhere these days, especially technological ones. In fact, being in North America, it is impossible to exist as a Luddite unless you are really, really crazy, seriously broke, or a monk, or Amish.
A few years ago the big wave wetting us all with electrons was the social media idea. It was fun to connect with your friends via the web. Let’s be friends everyone. Everyone will know what you are eating, where you are, what you’re wearing, thinking, seeing, feeling and touching. Let’s collectivize into one large amorphous blob of conversation. Twitter, Flickr, Friendster, LinkedIn, Myspace, Yahoo, Brightkite and of course Facebook (to drop a few URLs) invade our space everyday now with this weird synthetic idea of friendliness. You’d not be mistaken to think that the whole world is panting in desperation to be your friend.
Well, that may be sort of true, and I went to the F5 – Expo in Vancouver recently see all the promised new innovations in social media, to discover how we might all get a little closer together — and how we might be able to make money too. Surely now that we’re all friends we have to make some money with all this stuff somehow. After all, Twitter has evolved into an advertising conversation — gee, what an idea.
I travelled over there with my day-job buddies at Clover Point who can truly map anything. Had I gotten lost in the Vancouver Conference Centre, Clover Point would have found me, but no need, the show was just not that big.
The headliner for the day was Malcolm Gladwell, you know Mr. Outliers, The Tipping Point and Blink. He was scheduled to speak at the end of the day so we had to spend the intervening hours listening to a bunch of speakers talking about how it might be useful to use video to promote your business on YouTube (hint: just don’t be obvious and make sure you are funny) and how a search marketing structure might be an important element in your website. If you wanted to learn to podcast or use Twitter for your business, there were mini seminars for that.
They called the trade show the “Idea Zoo” as though a big ferocious idea might just bust out at any minute.
So I wandered around and looked for IT….
I looked under the booths of the ISP pushers (dust balls), behind the scary Revenue Canada booth (very dark), in the feathers of the Hootsuite mascot (stiches), in the coffee cup from the organic coffee company (good grounds). I had a moment with Heavy Lifters and thought I saw a glimmer of an idea in the electrons of Mingleverse.
Microsoft, God bless them, had a wonderful black leather couch to rest on, which was the best idea of the day. I came up a big ZERO and with no ONE to attach it to. (Note the cute little play on digital there.)
I suppose the F5 group tried, but I wanted augmented reality, singularity thinking, consciousness-changing social revolution stuff, touch screens and virtual medical wireless communications. Where was the next idea? I expected technologies and services that would change the world, change my world, or at the very least make my business rich. I expected them to live up to their slogan “Refreshing Business Strategies”. But it was old and felt so yesterday.
Here’s a video clip of the best of what I got:
OK, there was hope yet though…Malcolm Gladwell was there, but damn it, the media pass wouldn’t get me into the event. Think about the logic of that for a moment. Mr. Author, we’re inviting you to present to our conference, but we’re not letting in the media because they might promote you.
Thank you again Clover Point for getting me into the big event.
So Mr. Gladwell, who is a pretty smart thinker and does a wonderful job of stringing complex ideas together, talked about revolution. He even used Fidel Castro and Che Guevara as his prime examples. And that’s ok in Canada of course because we are friends with the Cubans, but if he were using these examples in Miami there would be more than ideas flying through the air in his direction pretty fast.
To summarize Gladwell’s talk: Fidel and Che didn’t use Facebook to change their world. They didn’t even have fax machines. They built strong trust ties, not loose networks like those that most people have with their Twitter buddies.
So here’s the idea about social media — it’s a load of tripe that ain’t gonna change nothin’. You want to change the world? You need to spend time, build strong networks based on reputation and authenticity, and develop very close trusting relationships.
Gladwell wasn’t being glib — he was damned serious about us changing the world, and THAT is a good idea.
But huh? The thousand person crowd was a bit quiet. Who wanted a revolution? They thought this was about business strategy. This wasn’t really what they wanted to hear. How would this make us rich overnight? Use trust — change the world? What an idea.
And that was that.
F5Mini, by Chris Holt, 2010
Video Hooter, by Chris Holt, 2010
Malcolm Gladwell, by Chris Holt, 2010