On this page:
  • “What are you planning to do in 2009?”, or thoughts about #lifecamptoronto
  • Why DemoCamp is one of my favorite networking events
  • Tom Purves, Enterprise 2.0 overview

“What are you planning to do in 2009?”, or thoughts about #lifecamptoronto

I’d been meaning to hold a lifehacking-oriented BarCamp since early last year. Timing is particularly good over the next two months: January is when most people make their resolutions and goals for the year, and February is when most people abandon them. By sharing best practices and support, we might be able to inject that extra little bit of energy people need to get over that hump… and by sharing our goals with each other, we can deepen our connectivity as a community.

Here’s a snippet that shows you just how powerful this is:

What are you planning to do – no matter how large or how small – to make the world better in 2009?

One of our Ferrazzi Greenlight thought leaders, Mark Goulston, M.D, recently asked this at a networking meeting of high level lawyers, financial advisors, CPAs, and consultants. Mark noticed something interesting happening: People could recall, almost to a man, what others said their 2009 mission would be. Meanwhile, after having been together five years in this group, they still had trouble remembering who was in what profession! Elevating the conversation to something that truly inspired them connected them in a way that professional small talk never could.

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone

(Check out their discussions, too!)

One of the best things I did during the holiday season (and quite possibly one of the best networking things I’ve done in the past year) was to send out my updates and ask for people’s goals. It sparked wonderful conversations with many of the 200 people in my initial list. If people e-mailed me their plans, I added notes to their address book records so that I could remember their goals. Knowing that about people made me feel much closer to them, and I’m actively looking for or keeping an eye out for things that can help. Based on that great response, I’m now slowly expanding it to my LinkedIn and Facebook contacts as well.

I’d like to do this, but on a bigger scale. I want to start experimenting with facilitating networking events – not the schmoozy, sleazy type of networking events, but something positive, filled with energy, and packed with hacks for making your life better. I want people to come together, learn a whole bunch of useful tips, share what they’re passionate about and what they want to make happen, and meet people who can help them make those things a reality. I want to create an environment for maximum serendipity.

So here’s what I envision:

  • People will submit their goals and tips before the event, on a website that helps people identify people they might want to meet up with.
  • It’ll be a brunch event, because morning’s a great creative time and we need excuses to drag ourselves out of bed (relatively) early on a Saturday or Sunday morning
  • There’ll be coffee, tea, and morning snacks, sponsored by smart companies interested in people interested in developing themselves, personal development coaches, gyms…
  • Everyone’s nametags will have a number and their first and last names on them. The number will be cross-referenced with the website list, to make it easier for people to get back in touch with each other afterwards. Maybe like the way speed dating is set up…
  • The event will have an open mike where people can share their goals and their tips. If people find the tip helpful, they can write the person’s number down to thank them later. If people can help with the person’s goal, they’ll raise their hands and shout out their number. The person at the mike can write down that number and try to bump into those people during the rest of the event.
  • The rest of event will be for networking.
  • After the event, people can use the website to look up people’s web addresses or e-mail addresses. Alternatively, people can drop their contact slips into a box. I can encode and send out lots of connecting e-mails in case of a match or partial match.

I’d like to make this happen in January or February. I need:

  • co-conspirators who can help me plan the event, since I’m new to event-planning
  • a target date
  • a website – we can start with something like eventbrite or a wiki page
  • lists of people possibly interested in attending
  • lists of people attending
  • a bright and sunny place where we can have a brunch event with a sound system, depends on number of people
  • sponsors, or someone who can help me learn to approach sponsors (after we figure out how big the event will be)

You know it’ll be interesting. Let’s make it happen. =) Or borrow the idea and make it happen in your own city – that would be awesome too!

Why DemoCamp is one of my favorite networking events

I love DemoCamp and the whole BarCampToronto scene. I’ve made all sorts of incredible connections there. Let me tell you a story from just this Monday’s DemoCamp17, and you’ll see why.

It was towards the end of the DemoCamp pub night, past the bar’s closing time. I headed over to say hi to Kaleem Khan, whom I hadn’t talked with that evening. He was talking to a woman I didn’t recognize, so I introduced myself and asked whether she had been to DemoCamp before. She introduced herself as Alex and said that this was her first DemoCamp and that her friend had told her about it. Kaleem joked that clearly nobody had told Alex that it would be a conference full of geeks. Alex laughed and said that she works with scientists, so geeks were extroverts in comparison. When she mentioned scientists, I perked up and told her that there was someone she really needed to met. I headed across the room and found Jamie McQuay chatting with a few other people. At the first break in the conversation, I kidnapped Jamie and steered him across the room to where Alex was sitting. I mentioned that Jamie was helping organize a SciBarCamp (an unconference for scientist-types), and I told Jamie about how the topic of scientists had come up. Jamie and Alex started chatting, and the next time I checked in on them, I heard Alex invite Jamie to get in touch with her to see if her organization might be interested in sponsoring SciBarCamp. How cool was that?

That’s a terrific example of the kind of connections I love making. By keeping my ears open, I can come across all these opportunities to connect the dots. If I know what people are interested in or are looking for, then I can connect them with the peolpe, ideas, or tools they need in order to make things happen.

DemoCamp has been a consistently fantastic place for me to make those connections. Why? I think it’s because of these reasons:

People who go to DemoCamp are interesting. They’re independent consultants, startup founders, and even the occasional big-company anomaly like me. They’ve all got something interesting about them, and they make it easy to find out what that interesting thing is.

The demos and Ignite presentations are a terrific way to get the conversation started. High-energy, eye-opening demos put everyone in an optimistic and open mood, and do away with all the small talk about the weather. My favorite opener is, “So, which of the demos and Ignite presentations did you like the most?” From there, I can find out more about why people found them interesting and what else they’re into. Plus, I can carry their compliments back to the speakers for extra karma points!

I know or know of enough people to get network effects. I’ve reached the tipping point. I get economies of scale. When I meet new people, I can usually think of people they should get to know. If I don’t know someone, I know the other connectors can help me find that person – and then I’ll know them too. I’m on hugging terms with many DemoCamp regulars, and I feel warm and fuzzy about people there because I’ve gotten to know and admire them through their blog entries, presentations, comments, and e-mail.

How can I connect even better at DemoCamp?

  • Follow up: I need to ensure I have nothing scheduled for the evening after DemoCamp, or at the very least, I should have a quick e-mail ping ready to go as soon as I get home. BBDB was the best way for me to do that because I could keep notes on people and tie that into e-mail, so I might switch back to doing my mail in Gnus, even though Gmail has been really good to me!
  • Give out business cards: This is mainly to increase the chance of follow up. I usually take the responsibility of e-mailing people, but it’s better if they also have something physical that reminds them of our conversation. I used to print my own double-sided business cards, but my current printer can’t handle the fine-cut business card templates. This is definitely worth getting a better printer. (Preferably one that can also do index cards.)
  • Do another presentation: Hands-down, the best way to network at these events. People still remember the DemoCamp10 presentation I gave on Livin’ la Vida Emacs. I’d love to prepare an Ignite presentation on networking at DemoCamp, and turn that into something that we can share on the DemoCamp signup page so that newbies can make the most of the experience.

How about you? Been to DemoCamp? What do you think?

Tom Purves, Enterprise 2.0 overview

I’m at Enterprise2.0Camp right now. Tom Purves
gave a good overview of what Enterprise 2.0 is and what it means for
businesses. “Social media” is fine for Web 2.0, but it raises eyebrows
in business. Tom suggested “tacit media” as a better term, and went
into more detail.

Bryce Johnson pointed out a difference
between barcamp.org wiki and usabilitycamp.org wiki – barcamp wiki was
where organization happened, whereas usabilitycamp wiki happened after
the organization. Tom shared something from Office 2.0: “A blank wiki
is a room without chairs.” (Esther Dyson)

Comments: Seeding a wiki can affect how it goes. Any best practices?
Tom suggested deliberately making small mistakes, which encourages
people to look for how to edit it. Another person points out that this
also lowers the psychological barrier to entry – things don’t have to
be perfect. There are social issues, though, such as implied
permissions. Bob Logan pointed out that you can’t design emergence.
Alex Petrov noted that you can’t predict innovation if you’re going
bottoms-up. Tom acknowledged the loss of control, but talked about
unorganizations that emerge as well.

Another person explicitly distinguished between innovation and
collaboration. Innovation is never really been successful without some
sort of direction, he continues. A wiki is like a blank piece of
paper, which is difficult to work with. Tom replied that collaboration
is a good stepping stone toward innovation or the dispersion of
innovation. The first person continued that R&D expenditure has no
correlation to the performance of the company. Innovation is a very
different function than collaboration. Another person talked about
skunkworks and the possible value of having a skunkworks wiki, which
could be a very powerful tool. Greg Van Alstyne supported Tom’s point
that innovation requires diffusion and adoption, and differentiated
innovation from invention. You have to see it happening in a network.
The person beside him talked about emergence and levels of complexity.

Another person talked about the nature of a corporation as a tree
structure, push instead of pull. You have to fuse them together. Tom
wondered if wikis need critical mass, and if the software isn’t as
good as they thought.

Deb brought the conversation back to the empty wiki. Anything
successful has at the core of it a real problem, so that people have a
motivation to do whatever. Carsten pointed out that it needs to be
appropriate. Bryce brought up the idea of voice. Tom agreed that
different kinds of media fit different tasks.
Brent Ashley pointed out that there’s a
certain constituency of the population who are going to be involved.
So we need to draw out the people in the organization who would be
good adopters of these tools, so that the tools will be built by
people who care about it. Tom agreed absolutely. Firestoker saying:
“Learn to stop worrying and love your 1%.” Rohan said that the key is
to make sure that something there is important. People don’t want to
be left behind. As long as what’s on the wiki is a hobby thing, then
they’re not going to go there. Jevon of Firestoker: A moment of
crisis. Work gets done and operational efficiencies come into play. In
that moment of crisis, it’s a chance for leadership to let go and give
up some of their silos. It’s after that point that we see innovation
and collaboration really come into play, because that’s when people
trust the space. Carsten: I think what makes collaboration
unattractive is the lack of integration. The browser is the great
equalizer. [But it’s not integrated into the applications that I live
in, like Outlook]. Maybe the wiki is not all that appropriate or
practical.

Jevon: Story about Big 5 banks. They had computers in managers’
offices, but no one was reading e-mail because computers were handled
by their secretaries. Then the CEO sent the final paper memo, and then
everyone used e-mail.

Person: If you build technology that does not conform to the way
people behave, no one will use it. Noted problem with signup wiki. UX
experience is the story. The experience of using a device should
complement what you want to use it for.

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