Published in Online Spin, October 24 2014
Long-time readers of this column may recall I run TEDxChristchurch, an annual event which is barreling down on me for next Saturday. I am neck-deep in speaker rehearsals, volunteer briefings, name tags and goody bags. I am also neck-deep in ideas. As one of our speaker coaches so eloquently put it, sometimes I feel like my brain is leaking out of my ears.
One of our speakers in particular has that effect: Jenni Adams, an astroparticlephysicist who is studying extra-galactic neutrinos as part of the Ice Cube project in Antarctica. These elementary particles have no charge, and as a result see the universe as mostly empty space, hurtling through stars, planets, and people as if they were nothing, exerting no gravitational pull and immune to the gravitational pull of the objects it passes.
Published in Online Spin, October 17 2014
I live in a city that has been almost entirely destroyed by earthquakes. I’m not being hyperbolic, either: over 70% of the footprint of central Christchurch either collapsed in the 2011 shakes, or has been or needs to be demolished as a result of quake damage.
As a result, pretty much the entire city (population roughly 400,000) has become active in conversations they might never otherwise have contemplated, questions like: What should our transportation system look like? How do we make our streets friendlier to pedestrians? What kind of tradeoffs are we prepared to make between the cost of building and the cost of poor quality?
Personally, I’ve become deeply interested in the work of urbanists like Jane Jacobs, Peter Calthorpe, and Brent Toderian. And one of the things these and others like them understand profoundly is that it is the volume and quality of the human interactions that distinguish successful cities from unsuccessful ones.
Published in Online Spin, November 14 2014
“I’m just going to step over here, where she can’t see me,” says Mark Sagar, walking off to the side of the stage. “Now it’s like I’ve abandoned her.” On the big screen, the baby starts to look around, worry growing on her chubby face. After a few moments, her eyes fill with tears. 700 people emit a spontaneous, “Awww!” Mark jumps back into frame. “Don’t worry, darling! I’m here. Everything’s OK.” The baby calms down.
Mark, who has won two Scientific and Technical Academy Awards, addresses the crowd. “We can measure all kinds of interactions. Like, I can check what happens if I dial up her dopamine levels. This is like giving the baby cocaine.” She begins to blink rapidly. Her pupils dilate. There’s an uneasy murmur in the crowd.
Published in Online Spin, October 10 2014
Two years ago in this column, I wrote about billionaire Russian entrepreneur Evgeny Kaspersky and his concerns about democracy in the age of the Digital Native.
To quote myself paraphrasing Kaspersky: “…[O]ne task that we really should be able to accomplish online is voting. But the security specifications for voting are significantly higher than those for Twitter, and if we can’t meet those specs -- and, as of now, we can’t -- there's not much point in allowing it to happen online. If you think elections can be bought now, just wait until they can be hacked; a vulnerable e-democracy is not far removed from no democracy at all. The alternative, that we stick with an analog voting system (or at least an in-person one), produces an equally volatile scenario: that ‘official’ elections engage only the dinosaurs, and that everyone born after the year 2000 unhooks from the framework. It’s not hard to imagine younger voters, in 10 or 20 years’ time, looking at you incredulously: ‘You want me to stand in line? And show physical identification? Are you serious?’”
Published in Online Spin, October 3 2014In 1961, Ray Kroc bought a small restaurant chain from the McDonald brothers. The rest, as they say, is history: the exponential expansion, the investments in real estate that made the parent company so financially successful, the rigid systems and processes — including forced revolution of the potato-growing industry — that ensure every Mickey D’s French fry from Finland to Fiji tastes identical. The idea that consistency and scalability through systems and technology are the foundational pillars of a global franchise is everywhere. From Henry Ford to Walt Disney, from H&M to Home Depot, the Western commercial landscape has become dominated by this type of factory-produced, churned-out offering.
Published in Online Spin, September 26 2014
Last week, my MediaPost colleague Catharine Taylor wrote a post wondering why CMOs aren’t that social. In response, anotherMediaPost colleague, Maarten Albarda, suggested that nobody cares, that it doesn’t matter whether CMOs are on social media, and who can even name the Starbucks CMO, anyway?
Published in Online Spin, September 19 2014
For the past three years, I’ve been attending an annual unconference here in New Zealand: an event with no pre-set agenda, no keynote speakers, no topics declared in advance. It is entirely designed by its attendees. On arrival, the walls are covered with gridded sheets of paper indicating available rooms and session times; when we’re given the cue by the organizer, we run a kind of organic, self-determining scrum, putting Post-its on the wall to co-create the schedule.
Published in Online Spin, September 12 2014
We’ve known each other for a while now, you and I -- since 2007, by my reckoning. So I think it’s time to start being, you know, a bit more real with each other. Maybe tell each other some things about ourselves we’re not so proud of.
Many years ago, I got asked on a date by a guy who lived in my building. He was a lawyer who defended abused children, which I thought was just awesome. He was also legally blind, which didn’t worry me one way or the other but is, as will be apparent shortly, relevant to this story.
Published in Online Spin, August 29 2014
I travel a lot, OK? And, back in the day, I used to try to be clever. Traveling from New Zealand to Denver, I would book the international portion of my flight on Air Tahiti Nui via Papeete, Tahiti. The LA-Denver leg would be a one-way on Delta through Orbitz, and going back would be on United from Denver to San Francisco to LA, where I would reunite with my Air Tahiti Nui flight.
This arrangement may sound complicated, but it let me save tens, maybe even **twenties** of dollars. And in return, when I needed to unexpectedly delay my flight home for family reasons, I had to make multiple phone calls, spend multiple hours listening to smooth jazz waiting for my “turn in the queue,” and pay multiple $150 change fees.
So, yes, I learned the hard way: don’t be clever. Book with one airline. Nonstop flights. Single itinerary. No messing around.