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  • feedwordpress 14:13:11 on 2018/07/30 Permalink
    Tags: bay area, , , Life, marin, moving, , , transition   

    On Leaving the Bay Area 


    I first moved to the Bay area in 1983. I graduated from high school, spent my summer as an exchange student/day laborer in England (long story), then began studies at Berkeley, where I had a Navy scholarship (another long story).

    1983. 35 years ago.

    1983 was one year before the introduction of the Macintosh (my first job was covering Apple and the Mac). Ten years before the debut of Wired magazine. Twenty years before I began writing The Search, launching Web 2.0, and imagining what became Federated Media. And thirty years before we launched NewCo and the Shift Forum. It’s a … long fucking time ago.

    According to my laptop’s backup program, which daily and plaintively reminds me of my nomadic existence, it’s been 35 days since I left my home in Marin for good. For the past five weeks  (and the next three) my wife, my youngest daughter and I have lived out of suitcases; in hotels and Airbnbs, across ten or so cities: Boulder, Cincinnati, Florence, New Orleans, Middletown (RI), Tisbury, and of course a few visits to New York and the Bay (mainly to see our two older kids, who live in Berkeley now). It’s actually been rather thrilling, to be without an address or a home. But even as we embarked, we knew where we’d eventually end up: We’re moving to New York City.

    In the past few weeks we’ve found a home (in West Chelsea, near the High Line), and on August 15th we’ll become eager, anxious, and excited residents of Manhattan.

    Taking stock of 35 years is exhausting. Moving from a home that’s borne the weight of your collective memories for so long… well, it forces reckoning, it shakes you by the shoulders, it demands repair. If you’ve been wondering why I’ve not been writing much, why I’ve been relatively quiet after months of nearly daily posts… here you have it.

    I can’t explain in a headline, or even a few sentences, why we decided to leave the Bay. But if you’ll bear with me, I’ll do what I do, which is write till I’m done, and hope to explain myself to the extent you might care to know.

    First things first: My wife is from New York, and when I courted her from out in California (and I really did court her), I promised that once this Wired thing played out (I foolishly thought it’d be a few years, if that), we’d move back to her home state. Her mother and brother live in New York, and I always have wanted to live there as well. If you’re at heart a writer, a thinker, and a creator of stuff, you have to live at least once in the most vibrant city in the world.

    But as things turn out, three years in California stretched to five, then our first child was born, and we moved to a place we loved: Marin.  Replete with a truly majestic mountain, a community of extraordinary humans, and a lifestyle built for sending down roots, Marin lulled us into near senescence. Five more companies and two more children came, and with them a commitment to schools, to people we came to love, to the companies we struggled to build.

    But even with all that, over the past five or so years, I’ve felt that the industry which once challenged, thrilled, and engaged me was … missing something. A few things actually. NewCo was, in a small way, my attempt at identifying those things and responding to them. Identifying and celebrating companies that valued mission and purpose over profit and growth, in cities around the world, not just in the Bay area…that seemed the right thing to do five years ago. And while NewCo was not a barn burning success as a business, it thrived as an idea, and along the way my founders and I met incredible leaders, thinkers, and fellow travelers.

    But after more than three decades and six companies started in San Francisco, I’m ready to take a break from the West, from the Bay, and from the Valley. Truth be told, the place is starting to annoy me a bit more than I’m comfortable with.

    I can rationalize San Francisco’s adolescent fits – it’s trying to grow up, and it’s terrible at it – and it seems our industry is trying to press past its bro culture and blinkered focus on tech for tech’s sake. But to be honest, it’s the lack of networked, lateral thinking that’s left me wanting. It feels like nearly everyone in the Bay area is so busy making companies (guilty), they don’t have time to have conversations about much more than … making companies.

    I’ve spent my career chasing essentially one story: the impact of technology on society. Whenever I travel to New York, I find a different approach to that narrative. Sure, folks want to talk shop, but they also want to find connection points to culture, to social issues, to politics, to ideas and to the rest of the world. I feel like a lot of the Valley is habitually talking to itself about things that aren’t that interesting anymore. There’s a much bigger story to chase, and the density of connection and dialog about that story feels way more present in NYC. So I’m headed there, to see what might come of it.

    That said, there are thousands of amazing minds in the Valley who are also fascinated by the story I’m chasing. It’s just hard to connect the dots, given how spread out the damn place is – Marin to San Jose can be a two hour slog, both ways. I’ll be back, frequently, but now as a reporter of sorts, with a mission of understanding tech from an outsider’s point of view. I’ve been in NYC at least once a month for the past few decades. Now I’ll be just flipping the bit, as it were.

    How does this effect my current work with NewCo and Shift? Not much, truth be told. NewCo’s festivals around the world are now all run by wonderful partners who have them well in hand. The Shift site is moving to a open web domain, and keeping the Medium site as well, so our readers there can stay in touch with us. And Shift Forum will continue, but probably be a bit later than usual this coming year, given the disruption this move has driven through my life. I’m in remarkable conversations with a number of folks about what else I might do in New York, and as those conversations yield news, I’ll keep you guys informed about them here.

    So for now, goodbye, Bay area, and thank you for making me who I am. And hello, New York – I’m a bit nervous about what you have in store, but I’m jumping in without reservation. If you live there, let me know. I look forward to the conversation.

     
  • feedwordpress 22:30:06 on 2017/01/29 Permalink
    Tags: Life   

    Awareness, Action and Activism: What’s Happening To Our Social Newsfeeds? 

    Activism
    Gotten into an argument on Facebook lately? You're not alone. Find yourself nodding violently in agreement with something someone posted?

    Even more common.

    We find ourselves in an environment where everyone seems to be acting like an "activist" for the views they find themselves aligning with. The rub? It's not easy being a good activist. The worst ones tend to alienate others because they become so deafening, vociferous and one dimensional in service of their cause—they become difficult to relate to. The best ones are able to mobilize those who share their views while building bridges to those who don't. But many of us are mistaking being engaged for taking action or skipping taking action all together and leveraging social media as a form of activism. These things are not the same and build off one another. 

    Awareness In Today's Filter Bubble

    One of the most impactful societal measures of social networks is that they've become our go to sources of information, news, opinions, and an ever stream of feedback based on what's happening in our world. However, as the recent U.S. election underscored—networks are flawed by design in that we often surround ourselves with peer groups "like us" which creates a phenomena that's been labeled "filter bubbles". Our awareness is filtered by our often likeminded peers—and so a steady stream of content and feedback loops that are reflective of our own bias reinforces the way we see things. 

    Engagement vs. Action 
    Another side-effect of social media is that it tricks our brains into thinking being engaged is actually taking a tangible action.

    It is not. 

    Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 4.13.43 PM
    I was recently reminded of this when I read a story about a mosque burning down not long after the Trump administration has signed executive orders to pause immigration from select countries. My first inclination was to "react" to the story and then share it with my peers to raise awareness. I stopped myself however because I realized that although I was engaging around an event that troubled me—I wasn't taking any tangible action to change the outcome of the event. I stopped myself and made a donation to the Go Fund Me page associated with the story. Only after that did I share the story and encourage others to take similar action. Engagement is desirable and on social media—likes, comments, shares are all forms of engagement but they are not outcome altering actions and many of us have confused engagement for action.  

    The Risks and Rewards of Social Media Activism 

    Social networks have empowered us to in some ways mimic the dynamics of activism. It gives us a street corner, a megaphone and even a soap box to stand on so our friends, business contacts and peers know exactly what we stand for. And like the crowds who pass the activist and megaphone—some if not many will engage, after all most of us share the same filter bubbles. But for how long? After passing the activist on the street corner, when we just want to get home after a long days work—we begin to tune out the words no matter how sincere or earnest. With the megaphone and empowerment to become an "activist" for our beliefs and values comes the burden of alienation—there will be times when people just won't want to engage, no matter what their stance on an issue. 

    What's happening to our social newsfeeds? They've become a reflection of what we've curated over time. In some cases, they are a daily validation mechanism for ourselves and like minded peers. In other cases—they foster dialogue and debate. But they aren't a substitute for taking meaningful action even if a like, share or comment satisfies our urge in the moment. 

     
  • feedwordpress 22:51:28 on 2015/03/21 Permalink
    Tags: Crowd Company, Edelman, , , Life, ,   

    It’s Not The Size of SXSW, It’s How You Use It 

    Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 5.09.59 PM

    Before SXSW Interactive had even gotten a chance to take its first breath, media outlets like Mashable were already asking if it had jumped the Shark? The sentiment is understandable. After all these years, SXSW is still kind of enigma. Some call it a conference and others say its more of a festival. Some say this year's SXSW felt "somber" while others asserted that fresh break through technology such as MeerKat, reasserted its relevance as a place where new startups can get their footing and enchant early adopters in the process. Other's still question its value for marketers and agencies (tell that to senior ad execs like Tony Weisman and Bob Greenberg who mingled amongst the geeks).

    The truth is, SXSW is what you make of it. If you want to go there and party all day and all night, you can do that. If you want to spend your time going from session to session to find golden nuggets of insights, you can do that too. If you want to network and explore business opportunities—you can also do that. It's not the size of SXSW that matters, it's how you make it work for you. In that vein, here are some of the ways I made SXSW work for me this year. 

    Finding Opportunities To Collaborate
    SXSW has no shortage of tech companies, platforms or niche players that can make for interesting collaborators. This year I had great meetings with Hootsuite and Spredfast and MeerKat to plant seeds in some cases and in others explore specific opportunities. The face time you can get at SXSW is high quality and the casual setting makes relationship building easy. 

    Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 5.40.45 PM

    Hosting An Intimate Business Function
    Because SXSW can be so overwhelming—it's a great opportunity to create an intimate business environment where professionals can share thoughts and ideas in a salon like setting. This year, we teamed up with Jeremiah Owyang and Crowd Companies and hosted a combination of his council members and some of our clients for an insightful panel featuring executives from Whole Foods, Hallmark and Verizon. Business can be done at SXSW—you just have to plan for it. 

    Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 5.39.39 PM
    Connecting With Colleagues, Clients & Friends

    I'm cognizant that we have all three groups present at SXSW and I make it a point to distribute my time wisely during my few days. Several of our Edelman clients had activations this year and it was great to see how they were doing in real time, while building new client relationships in some cases and reinforcing existing ones. Likewise, many of our colleagues go, and it's a great way to bond with them outside of a formal session. And lastly, there are industry friends I get to see their once a year—a great way to catch up and compare notes. 

    Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 5.50.26 PM

    Attending Panels
    For me personally, it's difficult to squeeze in panels with everything else but I usually manage to get a couple in. This year's highlight for me was Google's offsite "Fire Starters" panel which featured several speakers from the UX, creative and planning sides of the house. I finally got to see Russell Davies speak which was a treat, and in a setting where "new ideas" are prized, his take on "no new ideas" was a good reminder that brands need to work harder at getting the basics right. 

    Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 5.38.36 PM
    Blowing Off Some Steam

    I'm not going to lie—there are some great parties and activities at SXSW. This year I found myself on a dance floor listening to NAZ and in a stadium watching the Flaming Lips do what they do. I also went Spinning with a friend (first time I've ever done that). But the reality is that SXSW is not the only show in town when it comes to parties and entertainment—it goes with the territory and can be fun if you don't overdo it. 

     
  • feedwordpress 02:59:12 on 2014/11/17 Permalink
    Tags: , Life   

    Five Things I Learned In Five Years 

    Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 8.55.26 PMAccording to the US Department of labor—the average tenure at at job for 2014 is 4.6 years. In less than a month, I'll be celebrating five years at Edelman, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect in what can be learned in five years, not just on the job but in life as well. I'm a big believer that looking back can help you look forward, so here are are a few things I've learned over the past five years. 

    Mentorship Comes In Many Forms
    The traditional image of a mentor is someone who takes you under their wing, puts time aside for you, and imparts wisdom—often a more senior person who you view as established or experienced in areas you yourself seek experience in. But mentorship is really another way of thinking about relationships, and growing from them in the process. I can think of several relationships I've established in the past five years both with people senior to me and junior alike, where I learn and grow from. As a result, I've come to view mentorship, both giving and receiving it a bit differently. It's a mindset about relationships more than a formal arrangement. 

    Travel Requires Discipline 
    I do my fair share of traveling. Not as much as some of my colleagues or peers outside of my company but also more than others. One thing I've learned over the years is that it requires discipline. Sleep, food, drinks, work and even socialization—they can all be overdone or just the opposite. Business travel requires a certain level of discipline and balance as it represents a state of living, that isn't the same thing as your everyday life (unless you indeed travel every day) and stresses like flight delays can sometimes threaten to throw the balance off. I've found that all things in moderation help keep the road from getting the best of me.

    The Enterprise Adapts (And That's How It Should Be)
    Five years ago, tablets weren't even introduced in the market and when they first arrived—they weren't seen as viable work devices. Today, it's a different story and the same goes for mobile devices of all shapes and sizes. We've moved beyond work happening on desktops and laptops, and our IT and infrastructure has had to adapt whether they wanted to or not. A lot of technology change happens in five years. 

    We Are A Collection of Our Experiences 
    When we have new experiences, we grow. My biggest professional growth spurts in the past five years either happened from taking on a challenge that was a stretch from my core competencies, jumping on a project or engagement doing something I had not done before. Once we do it—whether we "succeed" or not, we learn from the experience. And learning is growing. 

    You Have To Make Time For Yourself
    The higher you move up in an organization, the more people expect you to give of yourself. Giving is a noble thing and many of the great leaders I know are generous with their time, knowledge and attention. But nobody is going to help you make the time for yourself to replenish your well. I've learned to block out some time on the calendar so I can catch my breath—on weekends, I'll huddle in my office or a coffee shop. In the past five years especially, I've learned that time is precious and should be treated as such. 

    Five years is half a decade—no doubt that I've still much to learn, but it's definitely more fun learning by being surrounded by great people who strive to do great things. 

     
  • feedwordpress 16:20:06 on 2014/08/18 Permalink
    Tags: , Life   

    5 Ice Bucket Envy Filled People To Avoid 

    Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 10.54.15 AM

    Like millions of others, I recently filled a bucket full of ice and water, shot a video and called on a few friends to do the same. While not required to, I also donated to the ALS association because it seemed like the right thing to do.  Is the infamous "Ice Bucket Challenge" working? According to the New York Times, the campaign has raised over 13 million dollars compared to the 1.7 million raised last year at this time. So is there a down side? According to my social feeds—kind of. While I don't agree with them, here's a snapshot of some of the feedback I've seen in addition to the participation. Perhaps you've seen some too:

    The Narcissist Police 
    This person is quick to point out that anyone taking the challenge on is simply enjoying the attention and in it for themselves vs. the cause. They feel obligated to point this out, before they move on to posting another selfie of themselves. 

    The Hard Newser 
    Isn't there enough real news going on the world we should be paying attention to? This person overlooks the fact that part of the success behind the Ice Bucket challenge is probably linked to the fatigue associated with watching the world's problems escalate. Who doesn't want a break from non stop reports of global violence and unrest? 

    The Financial Advisor
    This financial weekend warrior is quick to point out that all of those people pouring ice cold water on their heads are missing out on the financial part of the equation and should part ways with money that the "advisor" has no viable claim to. The advisor conveniently overlooks the fact that many who take on the challenge go on to donate themselves or inspire others to take action but instead places their financial advisor role first.

    The Meme Hipster
    Ice Bucket Challenge? That's so last week. This person can't stand the idea of jumping on a bandwagon and instead is focused on getting on the next trend before it takes off. Godspeed meme hipster—keep your finely tuned ear to the ground.

    The Marketer
    This person won't actually take the challenge or support the cause, but instead prefers to debate the pros and cons of the campaign, dissecting the approach and debating with other peers if it's a case study or one hit wonder. 

    The Ice Bucket Challenge has taken the world by storm and leveraged social media as an engine which keeps it running across all media. But above that—it's an opportunity to take a break from putting yourself first. Personally—I'll take the opportunity. 

     
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