Saturday, December 03, 2005

BrainJams3Dec2005:Thanks to all Patrons, Participants and Volunteers

Not much lucidity left in my body at the moment, but what a great day it was! We had about 75 people in and out, with a core group of 50-60 that made it all come together nicely. Really looking forward to the next one and reading more thoughts on this one. Let's keep the conversation rolling...

All I can say about it now is it all happened because of you - so much love and thanks to everyone who made it work. I will be offline tomorrow and Monday, back with more notes, thoughts and ideas after that. Really looking forward to reconnecting with you again soon.

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BrainJams3Dec2005: Last minute patrons!

Well, it looks like we might make it through this one without digging to deep into the personal savings account thanks to 2 last minute sponsors. A close friend of mine (fraternity brother, former co-worker, potential co-worker and all around great guy) who works at Fleishman Hillard kicked in $50 this afternoon from D.C. Well, I guess it is as good a time as any to announce we are doing a BrainJams DC in late February.

Then in the lasy possible minute (the checking email one last time before sleeping minute literally and keeping me up an extra hour to work on things a little more) Judith Szepesi of the law firm Blakely, Sokoloff, Taylor, & Zafman, LLP. came through with a lunch sponsorship for $250. That is real big and exactly how the universe responds. I told the 'go to the fridge looking for beer' story previously so won't get into it here - the point, as Zez will tell you, is that you just gotta believe. It really makes a difference sometimes. Way too often it is easier to give up just short of the finish line, but you really do get what you give, so give it all (or as Don Miguel Ruiz says, "Always do your best"

I felt it coming (perhaps because it was already in one of my 20 mail accounts), but the good word from Judith on being a Patron of the event to support our efforts is really, deeply appreciated.

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BrainJams3Dec2005: Last minute patrons!

Well, it looks like we might make it through this one without digging to deep into the personal savings account thanks to 2 last minute sponsors. A close friend of mine (fraternity brother, former co-worker, potential co-worker and all around great guy) who works at Fleishman Hillard kicked in $50 this afternoon from D.C. Well, I guess it is as good a time as any to announce we are doing a BrainJams DC in late February.

Then in the lasy possible minute (the checking email one last time before sleeping minute literally and keeping me up an extra hour to work on things a little more) Judith Szepesi of the law firm Blakely, Sokoloff, Taylor, & Zafman, LLP. came through with a lunch sponsorship for $250. That is real big and exactly how the universe responds. I told the 'go to the fridge looking for beer' story previously so won't get into it here - the point, as Zez will tell you, is that you just gotta believe. It really makes a difference sometimes. Way too often it is easier to give up just short of the finish line, but you really do get what you give, so give it all (or as Don Miguel Ruiz says, "Always do your best"

I felt it coming (perhaps because it was already in one of my 20 mail accounts), but the good word from Judith on being a Patron of the event to support our efforts is really, deeply appreciated.

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BrainJams3Dec2005 - Last minute update...

It is way too late to be writing this, but here I am sitting next to Kristie trying to print out name badges, registration sheets and all that other fun stuff that needs to be done at the last minute. I have a couple of last minute updates, but first, a quick word of thanks to David Gutelius for the moral support and of course, the logistical support in securing the space with SRI. Extra thanks to Nancy Tubbs, Rachel Murray and Kristie Wells for helping get the space setup this afternoon so all you folks can move it all around tomorrow morning.

We should have plenty of food and refreshments for the 70-80 folks who will be in attendance and lots of good energy at the SRI Conference Facility. Speaking of which, if you have an extra power strip, it would be helpful if you could bring it perhaps as we have lots of power drops but not enough surge protectors.

For the morning BrainJam sessions we figured out a simpler way to make it all work (thanks to some ideas from Nancy), so I feel really good about those logistics now. I also finally figured out what to do with regards to the Journal/Notebook for jotting down all those great ideas you will get from other people. Nate Koechley helped put the final touches on it by assembling it to be printed as a double sided document (reason for blank page 2&4). You can download and print one out for yourself if you would like.

For those of you kind enough to make the $10 donation, we have a journal printed for you in the morning, though we only have 50 sets, so get it early if you want to use one.

Well, I have another hour or so of work, so I need to go. Looking forward to seeing you all in the morning!

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Friday, December 02, 2005

BrainJams: Are you more 'Techie' or less 'Techie'

The BrainJams experiment looks to have a solid foundation for tomorrow. There are 65 people signed up on the Wiki (59 of which filled out the registration form) and a few others on Upcoming and a few more who have verbally said they will be there. Who knows what today may bring, but I am very happy and excited we are going to be able to pull this off once again and move forward with developing the BrainJams organization.

In addition to the Audioblog post from yesterday in which Andy Kaufman and I discuss what the day will look like, I wanted to point out what we are going to try to do with the morning one-on-one BrainJamming sessions. In essence we want to split the group into 2, with one being more techie and the other less techie. This is a hard distinction, as I am pretty techie, but not hardcore as I don't write code. We are trying to use the answers people gave about the roles people play to do this better, but you will be able to self direct your path when you register.

Perhaps a better distinction is programmer/non-programmer. Given that the attendee diversity is an unknown, this may work really well for the first portion of the list and then get iffy in the middle and towards the end. Regardless, my real goal is to try to ensure that the programmers of Brat Pack 2.0 dont meet with the other programmers of Brat Pack 2.0 so that everyone can expand their network horizon in new ways and get questions/feedback from people they don't normally talk with.

One last thing. If you are going to give this experiment a try with us, we need you to be conscious that you must be committed to seeing it all the way through the morning. If you start and decide to 'opt-out' this creates a big organizational problem and hurts the other participants who won't have someone to meet when they are supposed to be talking with you...

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

BrainJams3Dec2005 - What to expect at the event...

Andy Kaufman and I discuss what participants can expect from the event on Saturday December 3, 2005. This is a good primer for those people who are attending and don't really know what to expect. We discuss how the morning BrainJamming will work and what the hope is from the afternoon open space sessions.

BrainJams Equipment Borrowing Requests for SAT

One of the things I was hoping we could do with BrainJams parallel with BarCamp is to create a simple who has what inventory of some of the equipment we could borrow for certain events so that people (like me ;) don't have to go out any buy something everytime they try to put one of these together.

For instance, at the moment I have available:

* 2 Easels
* an iBook G4 1ghz with iSight
* an old PC that needs work
* a couple of old monitors (biggies but clear)
* Legos
* A cheapie button maker and some parts

But we still need some things for the event, that perhaps other people might have and be able to let us borrow (with all due and proper care of course). It would be really great if we could find someone who has any of the following.

1 - A dedicated Mini-DV or HD video camera and tripod for shooting some of the main session stuff. It does not even need to be manned insomuch as set up to capture the main stage action, but if someone wants to volunteer for this that would be cool. We will buy the tapes as necessary, but if someone wants to donate, that would be great too!

2 - A Pro-Click Spiral Binding Machine

3 - An extra PC that could be setup in the registration area for people to create quick Vlog entries as they register.

4 - A machine that could be dedicated and connected to the audio system for piping in Pandora radio during breaks

5 - A really cool and easy to use button maker

6 - Tons of crayons

7 - ????

You get the idea I hope. If you have any of these things and can let us borrow it for the day, that would be great. As we get the organization developed and growing, we can hopefully have some of these things donated for us to use at all events by large corporations, but for now, this feels cool with me...

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NetSquared Goes Live! (aka how does BrainJams work with them?)

NetSquared is simply a great idea. Just got the email from Michelle Shutzer of TechSoup on this - congratulations to them for all the hard work. Here is a good bit that describes their purpose,

The conversations will take place both online at through collaborative blogging, tagging and posting, and at Net Tuesdays, a series of face-to-face gatherings in the San Francisco Bay Area. ( These events offer the opportunity for hands-on learning and exchange, and include demonstrations of these new tools.

I am really looking forward to supporting more of their efforts and figuring out how we can best work together. In one sense, what we are trying to do could be considered a project under the same umbrella, though perhaps it should be considered as more of a joint project with them and people from other sectors. In another sense, they serve and attract one of the most important groups of people to what I hope we can ultimately accomplish as more and more people feel empowered to pursue their own Noble Pursuit in this life. I guess it is more of a paramedia effort perhaps that goes beyond the online world of blogs and RSS with out shared goal of empowering more people to understand and better utilize technology.
My approach vis-a-vis BrainJams starts with building trust and tolerance between disparate types of people to for the purpose of sharing knowledge and ideas about things that are important to them. It could be how to launch an idea like BrainJams, how to increase donations to a non-profit, an idea for a fundraiser, an idea for a new tool, a new perspective on how you have been communicating your big idea or even something as simple as how the 49er's might shake things up to make a comeback or how to cook beer can chicken. Then the next piece of the puzzle is to get people out of the conceptual mode into the practical mode of actually doing things towards accomplishing what they are most passionate about more effectively and efficiently. This is why the afternoon session is about real people sharing their stories of how they get things done using the Internet - showing each other step by step, answering questions and receiving group feedback in real time.

As another friend reminded me, this could be a great business.... but that is not the point, this is only the beginning of the Knowledge Economy, there are plenty other business opportunities to come in the near future, but I have digressed too far. Back to the point.

One of the reasons I love these guys at TechSoup so much is because they are just cool and they get it. The other reason is more kizmic (sp?) - when we first met, I just knew I had found other 'peaceful warriors' with similar life purposes. Here is what Daniel Ben-Horin, CompuMentor’s President and co-CEO had to say about the launch of NetSquared.

“Wikipedia, DeanSpace, MoveOn, Firefox Campaign, craigslist - none of these succeeded because they had faster servers or fatter pipes than anyone else. They succeeded because they understood and enabled the power of user-generated content and the power of peer networking."

As I have said previously, the point is people.

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BrainJams Attendee Responses Thus Far

At the moment we have about 53 people registered through the online form but a few more actually coming since they registered on the wiki or just RSVP'd on Upcoming.

One of the reasons it took so long to launch the new home page (still needing to add the other pages before the event) was the problem with registration. I won't get into that too much, but Wiki registration leaves a lot to be desired for events that involve non-technical people (like how to get in touch with people who just add a name when something important happens in regards to an event or the fact that some newcomers dont understand they can edit the page yet). I have some solutions which we will work on after the event - does anyone know a good programmer who wants to work on a simple registration module?

Back to the point. I was looking at the registrations forms that were completed and it looks like there will be an attendee that is not even a person! Wonder what they are.... Since there are no names on this, take a look at the current responses for yourself. Also of note, a whopping 54% of registered attendees have offered to volunteer! How cool is that?

If you offered to volunteer, someone will be in touch with you shortly, but since this is an open conference process, here is a link to the planning page as well - perhaps you see something there you can just jump on? If so edit the page and let us know who you are and what task you want to do. Hint if you surround your name with '''chrisheuer''' it becomes bold using wiki markup. I particularly want to hear from people who want to lead an afternoon (add your suggestions and perhaps name to the wiki) session and people who want to be the note makers for sessions.

Things are coming together...

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The 2 Most Expensive Business Problems

Hmmmm - funny thing what talking to Chris Pirillo can do to someone. Another issue we talked about the other day had me thinking just now about some of the issues I originally brought up with The Noble Pursuit. We were talking about the goals I have for BrainJams and what I hope people can come away with at the end of the day.

One of the main reasons I focus on trying to get a diverse group of attendees is to facilitate people getting to know people who are less like themselves. This exposure not only encourages learning, it also helps people find the similarities we have with each other as opposed to the differences. In short, I think the events can build a greater sense of trust between different types of people. This trust can be the basis for a greater understanding of the world, and a step towards improved collaboration in everything people do. Getting to know someone in the way I envision will happen at a BrainJams event can be a very positive, visceral sort of experience.

Anyway, this line of thinking lead me to my old story about how the geeks and the suits not trusting one another has cost the economy so much money. The other portion of that story is the cost of proprietary systems. Which brings me back to the new insight.

The 2 most expensive business problems I see have to deal with the same issue - compatibility. The compatibility between people and the compatibility between systems. The ability of people to understand and trust one another in order to more effectively collaborate has a dramatic effect on the top and bottom line of a company. This is especially more so in the Knowledge Economy, where connecting the dots and figuring things out together can make all the difference between success and failure. The tremendous effort required to get disparate IT systems working together (because they were not designed, built or purchased from a holistic perspective, but more often than not from a dysfunctional politically charged review environment. Then of course, there is the impact of mergers, system obsolescence, version upgrades and the craziness of trying to keep every user up, stable and connected. USB works though, so there is hope on many fronts.

I wonder if anyone has done a study on the total costs these 2 issues have cost the economy. From missed deadlines that created missed opportunities. From contractual obkigations that were broken. From efforts and large monies expended in a direction to only be abandoned - all in the name of incompatibility of the systems and the people that use them. My best is that it is well over several hundred billion dollars each decade if not trillions of dollars.

Dr. Arky Ciancutti wrote a great book called Built On Trust which is a must read of anyone seeking to further their organizations ability to more effectively collaborate and be successful at what they do.

What might we be able to do to get more people to trust others when their past experiences have taught them not to trust anyone on their word? Does anyone else have some ideas in this direction?

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BrainJams Event Planning & Support

In the true spirit of openness (and a desire to get more people thinking about the logistics), I wanted to direct your attention to the event planning page on the Wiki which I just launched. Should have been done before I left for my trip, but I can not remake the past, only make the best of what we have in front of us now. My apologies to those of you who have worked hard at this who I may have let down in some way by not being more responsive in this regards. I do hope you can forgive my lapse and work with me to create better systems for managing this as we move forward with future events.

There are some ideas which still need to be nailed down in their final form and there are things that need to be done, but most of all, there are things to be coordinated for the event day itself, so I think we are in relatively good shape to pull this one off in just a couple of days.

If you have registered and offered to volunteer, you will be receiving an email from someone shortly about what is needed to be done, but do please review the planning page and edit it as appropriate with your input and/or taking responsibility for items that need to be done.

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What are tags anyway?

I was recording a podcast with Chris Pirillo yesterday when he asked me for my definition of tags. It really drove me into a corner - while I understand them on many different levels and have an idea for tagspaces that would conceivably make the infrastructure simpler, it is really hard to explain them simply.

So I went for the stock answer of tags being keywords plus and then babbled on about explanations and usage (please forgive the babbling, and let me recommend that no one does an interview the day after returning from a 10 day vacation). But this has been bothering me ever since, how do you explain tags to people who don't use them? I really had not been able to come up with a good short explanation until just a short while ago, so I wanted to put this out there and see what everyone thinks - I sure wish I had this one yesterday instead of today...

"Tags are the keywords/phrases that let you into the conversations about things that matter to you and the labels that we put on items of interest such as blogs, photos, and media so that we and others can more easily find them later."

How does that work? Suggestions for improvement? Am I close?

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Further Details on Next BrainJams Event

Wow! I can hardly believe we are doing the first real BrainJams event this Saturday 3Dec2005. Just 72 hours from now, I will be at SRI doing final setup work.

Thankfully, a lot of people have offered to help out and it looks like we will meet our goal of having at least 60 people or so show up, perhaps quite a bit more. At the moment, I know of about 50 or so who are planning on coming and we are still doing new outreach to bring even more people in. As of yesterday, with the addition of Scissor, RateitAll and Keller Williams Golden Gate as Patrons with each putting up $100, we think we have enough money for lunch, snacks and the after party! (though I won't be drinking so we can keep the bar bill reasonable ;) Still, it would be nice if we could get just one or two more companies to step up since the suggested donations of $10 are not really rolling in too fast (which is OK as the events are supposed to be free as long as we can sustain this model)

What we really want to ensure though is that we get a diverse crowd of professionals, particularly for the mornings experiment in BrainJamming (my notes are rough and scary, so please only read them if you have the ability to live with ambiguity - I will be building some graphics to explain this later today) In this vein, Andy Kaufman is bringing a friend who is totally outside the technology industry, which lead us both to come up with an idea that should really make the event worthwhile by extending the diversity of the audience. It's called "Bring-A-Friend". The simple idea is that every technology person who is coming should reach out to a non-techie friend and invite them to the event. It might be that one opportunity for a significant other or BFF to finally understand a little bit more of what you actually do, as well as a chance for them to meet 24 cool people who are doing important things.

The afternoon sessions in particular should be really interesting and open to all levels of understanding as we talk about how we use the Internet to get things done. This is not how to develop a new technology or program something in Ruby - this is covering things like how to do a viral marketing campaign with the new tools, how to search for a job, how to build a reputation as an expert, how to hack memeorandum (ie get attention from the GeekSet), how to pull off an event with no money, how to build a community, how to tag (and why bother), how to organize knowledge with social bookmarking, how to create a cool podcast, how to keep the family closer when far apart, and how to make money from affiliate sales. These are not the set topics though, this is the direction we want to take the afternoon sessions - as Howard Rheingold says, "what it is ---> is --->up to us".

During lunch, a sheet of paper will be put up on the wall where you will be able to sign up for one of the "Break-Through Rooms" to lead a session. This is not going to be a typical conference session where the person leading will be doing all the talking, nor even one where the leader has to prepare some sort of presentation - the leader will facilitate a conversation (which they will begin with their own personal story and demonstration) on a particular aspect of using emerging Open Web technology to get things done (ie Web 2.0 for those of you still versioning things). As many have pointed out to me, this makes it sort of like a "Web 2.0 User Group" where we share our knowledge of which services we use along with hints, tips and tricks for getting the most out of them. Each session will need a "note-maker" who will be responsible for capturing all the knowledge that is shared - this will hopefully include someone podcasting or shooting video of each conversation as well.

[Please note, no company representatives will be allowed to deliver their canned 'use case' pitch. If a company representative wants to participate or lead a session that is totally cool, but they should show how they actually use the service, with their own personal account (as opposed to one with dummy data). We will try to work this out as we go, but I just don't want it to be a company pitch fest - this is about real people using real solutions that are available today.]

We will end the day with a collective BrainJamming session where we create a MindMap of all the sessions that were held, the key user stories that were shared and the services that people use. This will be a guide to the knowledge discussed at the event as well as the beginnings of a way for us to collectively organize and share knowledge about how real people actually use technology, what tools they use and why they use them. I think this is a pretty amazing opportunity to develop greater levels of understanding between the creators of tools and the people who use them. But since this is an attendee lead event and we are just facilitators, this may change a little bit once we get everyone together. As I said with Web2point1, we just want to set some basic structure and a good intention and watch in amazement as it unfolds.

Any other thoughts? Suggestions for sessions? Go to the event details page and add in your thoughts or simply add a comment here.

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I'm Hiring! 1 Top notch personal admin asssistant

Well, I have lots to do in the next 3 days and I won't have time to manage this, but I do need to start looking for someone now who I might be able to hire in January. Basically I need help keeping my organizer straight, ensuring tasks get complete, making travel plans and general administrative stuff that Kristie and I don't really have time for. The pay is not much in the beginning ($400-600 per week for 30-40 hours plus overtime as needed), but could grow as life moves forward over the next year and we establish better working rapport and more cash begins to flow. Would be working mostly on site in the home office with myself, our 2 cats and occasionally my fiance will be working from the home office. It will be challenging, but I can also promise it will be fun, exciting and a growth opportunity for the right person.

Ideally the right person would be a blogger (at least livejournal diary writer), know how to get around a Mac as well as a PC, understand the Internet really well, enjoy going to networking events/parties and be able to deal with a lot of different projects. A desire to understand marketing, event management, new media, emerging technologies and entrepreneurship is key, because this is what you will be exposed to. Startup/Small Business experience in a similar role would be ideal. It would be best if you live in the city of San Francisco but not required.

If you read this and know of someone, please let me know by contacting me directly or by posting a comment with a link to the person and their blog.

Monday, November 28, 2005

BrainJams Patrons Step Up!

Without a lot of promotion or pushy salesmanship, we have managed to get enough cash from Patrons to at least cover lunch. Mike Arrington from TechCrunch was first up with $100 almost as soon as Web2.1 was over. Then David Gutelius came through with the venue from SRI, along with great A/V and much good will. Laughing Squid came through with a big $150 when it was much needed, and then Nate Koechley from Yahoo! stepped up with $100 from himself personally (that is so cool). After speaking with Tim Westegren at the Pandora party, Pandora stepped up with $100 and help with music for the day of the event. Out of the blue, Tom Blossom from MindJet contacted me and between him and Hobie Swanson, they came up with $250 and a few copies of MindManager Pro 6.0 to give away. (which completely coinciedentally I use and love as a great Mind Mapping software) Kristie, being the smart girl she is, contacted Whole Foods about getting some breakfast sponsorship and they kicked in a $50 gift card.

This is so cool!

But, we still need a sponsor (or sponsors) for our BrainOff after party from 5-7 at British Bankers Club. If you know of someone, please do have them contact us.

Also, if you have not yet done so, please register today so we have an accurate count of who is coming and who is heading to Paris for Les Blogges ;)

Back in the USA

We are back in the USA (well sortof, we are in Miami still) and just checking back in with everything that is going on. If you are waiting to hear from me, that will most likely be tomorrow, though a few things are going out shortly. Lots of personal and professional blog posts to come over the next 48 hours.

Very excited to get back to BrainJams and finalize preparations for the event this Saturday 3Dec2005. Lots of other cool ideas to go through in the coming days - we are full throttle until SAT night when we have our BrainOff at the British Bankers Club and then head off to Tahoe for the first shredding of the season!

Life is good mon!