Category Archives: connecting

Blackberry goodness

Sandy read my post on networking and saw my note about Blackberry, that addictive little e-mail-anywhere device. I keep itching to connect with people or otherwise _do_ something during the downtime when I walk from place to place or while I'm waiting in line. Sales people swear by their Blackberries because they're hardly ever at a desk. (Ooh, let me go ping one of the people I know in sales to ask if he's on a Blackberry...)

When I think of it, though, I don't actually spend that much time away from the internet, just the time in transit. I sometimes bring my laptop out and type e-mail anyway, although it's not quite as convenient. I guess that's one of the reasons why I occasionally daydream about having a Blackberry or a similar portable device.

Is that really the right step for me, though?

Maybe I should be spending that time soaking up the scenery and working on becoming comfortable enough to strike up conversations with random strangers. Mike Fletcher told me about one of his friends who carries around a bag of gifts and just gives stuff to random strangers, meeting tons of awesome people along the way.

Maybe I should look up and connect with people. It's going to be tough, but Toronto's a pretty safe place to do this. I won't have to worry too much about giving people the wrong impression, I hope.

I'll just have to be better at managing my time and pinging people more often so that I can keep in touch. =)

I'll put aside time this weekend to ping maybe one of the evangelists you wonderful, wonderful readers (friends!) have suggested and ask how he or she keeps in touch with people. If I talk to lots of evangelists and they love the Blackberry, then I'll either make room for it in my budget or figure out how I can earn extra to make it cost-effective...

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Random Japanese sentence: 悲しいことに私の猫はどこかへいってしまった。 To my sorrow, my cat has gone somewhere.

BBDB pinging code

I love tweaking Emacs to fit the way I work. Here's some code to make it easier to keep track of pinged people.

(defun sacha/bbdb-ping-bbdb-record (bbdb-record text &optional date regrind)
  "Adds a note for today to the current BBDB record.
Call with a prefix to specify date."
  (interactive (list (bbdb-current-record t)
                     (read-string "Notes: ")
                     (if current-prefix-arg (planner-read-date) (planner-today))
  (bbdb-record-set-notes bbdb-record (concat date ": " text "\n" (bbdb-record-notes bbdb-record)))
  (if regrind
        (set-buffer bbdb-buffer-name)
        (bbdb-redisplay-one-record bbdb-record)))

(defun sacha/bbdb-gnus-ping (text)
  "Add a ping for authors/recipients of this message.
Call with a prefix to specify a manual note."
  (interactive (list (if current-prefix-arg (read-string "Notes: "))))
  (let* ((from-me-p
          (string-match gnus-ignored-from-addresses
                        (message-fetch-field "From")))
         (bbdb-get-only-first-address-p nil)
          (list (assoc (if from-me-p 'recipients 'authors) bbdb-get-addresses-headers)))
         (bbdb/gnus-update-records-mode 'annotating)
         (bbdb-message-cache nil)
         (bbdb-user-mail-names nil)
         (gnus-ignored-from-addresses nil)
    (setq records (bbdb/gnus-update-records t))
    (if records
        (bbdb-display-records records)
    (while records
       (car records)
        (if from-me-p "-> " "<- ")
        (or text (message-fetch-field "Subject")))
        (date-to-time (message-fetch-field "Date"))))
      (setq records (cdr records)))
    (setq records (bbdb/gnus-update-records t))
    (if records
        (bbdb-display-records records)

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Random Japanese sentence: 猫がソファの上に寝ている。 A cat is lying on the sofa.

What’s the value proposition of a student?

One of the reasons why I've never quite felt comfortable in networking-focused events is that the value proposition of a student is hard to define. Deal-oriented people will probably overlook me because I can't offer them immediate value. What can I offer people? What's my value proposition?

I don't have much business experience yet, and as geeky as I can be sometimes, I'm not as into technology as are people I know. Why should people want to spend time with me?

I'm a student, a wannabe, an apprentice of life. Right now, I can't really offer anything. No, that's not entirely true. I bring my comfort with technology, my experience of being alien (in a good way), my passion and enthusiasm and peace. Perhaps I also offer people an opportunity to pay back their own mentors for all the opportunities they've received, too.

It's silly of me to doubt life, considering how I've been so, so, so lucky in the past. At conferences and conventions, I've always managed to sit beside or otherwise discover people who totally inspire me. I don't deserve any of the breaks, but I should learn how to make the most of them so that I can share the benefits with other people.

I'm hungry for more knowledge, more learning, more connections. I'm excited and interested and alive. Maybe that's my value proposition for now - not that I'm some subject matter expert or anything, but that I'm curious. I should learn how to ask good questions and how to get to the heart of things. I also want to learn how to tell stories and write articles and books...

Other things: Hmm... I need to know who's who. Note to self: add business magazines to my weekly diet. That's what access to the university library and the dorm reading room gets me. And I _should_ take advantage of the library. We have access to all these journals and educational resources that businesses don't have. I should take advantage of that! Maybe that's part of the value I offer, too.

I can take risks. I can spend time learning about something that eventually pans out. I can try different things and get to know different people. Maybe that's part of it, too.


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Random Japanese sentence: 私たちは庭でかわいそうな小さな猫を見つけた。 We found a poor little cat in the yard.

Purposeful interaction

I realized yesterday that one of my weaknesses is that I'm usually more reactive than proactive when it comes to interacting with people. It's very easy for me to connect with people and help them feel comfortable. I feel good when I help people relax or think.

This has its dangers, however. I've often focused more on what will help other people grow than what will help me grow. Sometimes my schedule can get rather complicated as I try to split time between people or figure out which activities I can merge. It can also be difficult to manage people's expectations, particularly when people start thinking of relationships! So no, that wasn't working for me that well.

Rereading the executive summary for _Never Eat Alone_, I reflected upon its suggestion to involve people in activities about which you feel passionate. When you share something you love and enjoy, you are shown at your best. You also give people the feeling of being invited into something more personal and human and real.

Thinking about that made me realize that if I choose my activities according to what would help me grow, then I can choose people I would like to share those activities with. I would feel like I'm doing just the right thing at the right time and with the right people.

Today, I decided to start doing that. I asked myself, "What's the best thing I could do today to positively affect my life?" Visioning and storytelling resonated with me. I invited a friend whose vision I admire, and we had a wonderful afternoon conversation at Queen's Park. It was a very good decision, and definitely the best possible way I could have spent that time.

I'm a little bit worried that I'll end up neglecting the people who aren't quite related to my current interests, but then again, that's the power of weak ties - and I can ping people from time to time just to say hi, anyway. I'm also a little bit worried that I'll alienate people who might think this too utilitarian. Don't worry, not every get-together has to have an agenda. I also enjoy hanging out. =)

I think the key point is to have integrity in my decisions. How I choose to spend my time should be in line with my values and my priorities. It should be the best thing I could think of doing at that time, or reasonably close to it. The people I spend time with should be the best fit for it that I can imagine. That way, when I spend time with them, they know that it's a conscious, this-is-the best-thing-I-can-do-with-my-time thing. If I get that sorted out, then everything will fall into place...

I'm happy. Good stuff.

Random Japanese sentence: この種の猫には尾が無い。 The tail is absent in this type of cat.

Creative Thursday: Conference commando!

On the way to jazz choir practice, I thought about what I like creating and when people have called me creative. One of the things people have complimented me on is the way I hack conferences, from modding conference T-shirts to posting people's tag clouds along the wall in order to spark conversations.

I _love_ going above and beyond the usual ideas of what a conference should be like. That's one of the reasons why I'm really excited about CASCON 2006: as part of the organizing team, I can try out many cool ideas!

I'd love to start a bigger conversation around that, and I'd love to share my thoughts with more people! I think it would make a great blog. I want to share tips and ideas with participants, speakers, and organizers. It'll also be a great place to post my conference reports and pictures of hacked T-shirts! ;)

I already have a name for the blog: Conference Commando. I came across the term "conference commando" in Keith Ferrazzi's book Never Eat Alone. Good stuff, and I think I've got a lot to contribute to this space.

So I'm going to make it happen! Here's what I need to do:

  • Make a logo so that it's not just a boring WordPress install. ;)
  • Set up a blog and JUST START BLOGGING! I can probably install Wordpress or something like that on some computer somewhere. Maybe Richi will let me virtualhost on his computer. I need a MySQL database. Alternatively, I could host it on, which is currently underutilized anyway. Yup, that's also a possibility...
  • Extract some of the relevant blog posts from my main blog. For example, my notes about the social computing workshop might be of interest to organizers. A review of the relevant section in Never Eat Alone would be handy for participants, and my blog entry about keynote styles would be good for speakers.

Fun! Hooray for Creative Thursday!

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Networking for Geeks: Advertise with your laptop!


The geek shall inherit the earth

Want to meet interesting but don't want to have to make the first move? Use the back of your laptop to get people to talk to you. ;) Stickers are a great way to do that. My laptop reads "The geek shall inherit the earth." I can't count the smiles, chuckles, and conversations I've gotten out of it—and all I have to do is open my laptop! It helps that I have an eyecatching ridiculously small laptop, of course, but this technique would work even for regular laptops.

LapLooks goes one better. They sell a frame that attaches to your laptop and allows you to slip in a photo. I don't think I'll ever find something in my size, but maybe I can cobble something together with duct tape. Actually, you know what this reminds me of? Those little reusable drawing pads. I could so totally rig up a better system.

I'm going to have that up and running before BarCampEarthToronto this Saturday, for sure. I have *just* enough space for a 3x5 index card and part of a business card. So: laminate-style cover, or clear plastic and duct tape? ;)

Which reminds me, I need to get business cards printed. Another thing to take care of tomorrow. =) Good stuff.

I'm so tempted to sell advertising space on my laptop. ;) After all, Stowe Boyd sold his T-shirt rights...

LapLooks link via Solo Business Marketing, via Business Opportunities Weblog.

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