Science

What it takes to “get it.” Kathy Sierra at O’Reilly’s Tools for Change Conference

We all have a left-brain analytical side and a right-brain (the reality is a bit different…but the premise is sound), and if you can figure out how to fully engage the brain, someone’s emotions, and look at what you offer to people from their point of view and incentives, you’ll be wildly successful or, as author and blogger Kathy Sierra discusses in her blog, you’ll at least be “Creating Passionate Users“.

It’s ironic that I’ve read Kathy’s blog, one of her books, and seen her speak at conferences and it wasn’t until I just watched the video interview below with her explaining the subtleties and nuances of her thinking and approach, did I finally “get it” and understand the essence of her value proposition.

This proves part of her point on how to engage a person and it’s NOT just text on a blog page or a few images or graphics supporting it. For visual learners like many of us, if our visual, auditory and kinesthetic styles are engaged, we’re fully learning and are 100% absorbed (and I could go off on a tangent about the power of gaming, in-game feedback and game theory, but not now).

Here’s a personal example: when watching a video on my computer, I’ll collapse the browser window with the video running in it, open another and search or view sites which are sparked by the content of the video. This multi-modality use of the Internet is PERFECT for the way my associative, connecting-the-dots brain works, but most people are wired this way to some degree which is why I said in this post, “My friends, this is the future of television…“.

In a day of limited attention spans and massive amounts of content choices, figuring out how to entice, engage, empower, delight and add significant value — as well as deliver a path for people to stay with you for the long term and continue to learn and grow with you or your company — is a powerful method for creating passionate users who are willing to enter a high value, high attentive and sustained relationship with you instead of one or a handful of lower value transactions.

If you just look at that last paragraph on the surface, doesn’t a relationship sound a lot better (and more lucrative) than a transaction?

Tim O’Reilly just posted audio for his Tools of Change for Publishing conference since Kathy couldn’t attend. Find 30 minutes to watch it and then go hang out at Kathy’s blog. Embracing these concepts will shift your thinking and perspective on how you’re either creating passionate users or creating single, or a series of single, lower value transactions.

What if all human knowledge was free and accessible?

Imagine that for lunch today you had to go into your storehouse and find the peaches you canned last summer, the meat from the cow you slaughtered and smoked, and the grain you packed away after harvesting it while heading up to the kitchen to prepare it all. Pretty ridiculous to consider for we urban dwellers, heh?  We instead go to the grocery store and get what we need all nice and shrink-wrapped or just head over to our favorite local restaurant for lunch to be served to us all piping hot.

The farming, ranching, slaughterhouse, bakeries, food service and distribution system (e.g., refrigerated trains, trucking, grocery stores) ensures that most of us don’t need to think too hard about where we’ll get today’s lunch or tomorrow’s remarkably inexpensive calories. We also expend laughingly few calories to obtain what we need compared to even a generation ago (thus why we’re so fat…but I digress) and this whole food ecosystem has allowed all of us to move to a higher level and specialize in our work in ways our great-grandparents could never have foreseen since we’re not expending so many calories (not to mention time) to grow, gather up, store and prepare them.

One thing is clear if you’re investing any time staying abreast of the acceleration in Internet-centric knowledge repositories (e.g., Wikipedia, Google Knol, Instructables, Connexions), as well as higher learning institution initatives (e.g., MIT Open Courseware), then you’ll begin to understand the vision and promise embodied in a new initiative by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Rich Baraniuk, respective founders of Wikipedia and Connexions, called The Cape Town Open Education Declaration (via Smart Mobs).

We are on the cusp of a global revolution in teaching and learning. Educators worldwide are developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use. These educators are creating a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. They are also planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go.

This emerging open education movement combines the established tradition of sharing good ideas with fellow educators and the collaborative, interactive culture of the Internet. It is built on the belief that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, improve and redistribute educational resources without constraint. Educators, learners and others who share this belief are gathering together as part of a worldwide effort to make education both more accessible and more effective.

Does this mean that your training, learning, knowledge work or content is going to be free or cause you to give it away?

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Light up those cancer cells…

There are many brute force, lack of precision methods with how medicine removes cancer cells regardless of their point of growth within the human body. Today’s New Scientist has a promising nanotechnology (let me reiterate: promising) article that I’ve been waiting for:

A new nanoparticle can multitask as a drug courier and a delivery reporter by glowing when it dumps its cargo inside tumour cells. The technique could allow doctors to see exactly which cells have successfully received a drug – if it gets approval for use in humans.

When I first learned that it was the carrier chemicals in chemotherapy which penetrated the impenetrable cell membranes — and NOT the cancer killing drugs themselves — which caused the devastation of hair loss, nausea and other ill effects of the treatment, I’ve been following any developments in this area that are nanotechnology related. Why? Because the promise is that non-toxic ‘nanobots’ of some type will be able to target cells, carry the cancer killing drugs in to the cells and ensure there are few ill effects.

Alison Ross, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, says: “Using nanotechnology to target drugs to cancer cells is an exciting technique and the nanoparticles engineered in this study are smarter than ever before.” But she adds that “more research is needed to discover whether these particles could be used to benefit cancer patients in the future”.

Still, research like this as well as accidental discoveries like this one are pointing the way to fundamentally different approaches to emerge to ongoing and vexing problems.

Storytelling: The way people remember

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind was howling and rain was coming down in sheets out my home office window. Dressed in sweats with the furnace on as temperatures dipped into the 40’s, I sat before the glow of my flat panel display and read articles that were coming through in my RSS aggregator, content to be indoors absorbing new material and exploring new business models on the internet. What I didn’t know was that this activity — which pleased me since it fits perfectly my strengths of gathering input and learning — was going to present me with a surprise…one that may make you sit straight up in your chair as you realize the same thing I did.

OK….that one paragraph told you a story. You learned what I did last evening, what two of my top five strengths are, and that I learned something surprising on the internet. It also left you (hopefully) with a cliffhanger incentive to continue reading this post.

No one is certain when language first appeared or when human knowledge truly began capturing that knowledge through writing, but one thing is certain: humans have developed a profound capacity for learning, storing and retrieving stories.

I came to the surprise (that a company had built a business model around storytelling and is delivering it via the ‘net) through Australia-based Anecdote. The company, 50 Lessons, is based in the UK and they’ve coupled storytelling with Internet video and created an offering that captures lessons from top business leaders:

Experience is the best teacher — people have learned through stories for centuries.

Fifty Lessons is the world’s leading digital video business library. Using the power of storytelling, our mission is to equip next-generation leaders with the experience and wisdom of the most respected and influential business leaders in the world.

We serve corporations, government agencies, academic institutions, small to medium-sized businesses and individual professionals, to help them suceed in an increasingly complex business landscape.

To date, over one hundred and fifty of the world’s foremost business leaders have participated. Their contributions are housed in a fully indexed digital library of over five hundred short videos.

This content is published in multiple languages in both digital and traditional formats, including internet, print, broadcast, and audio and can be experienced on devices such as PCs, Mobile Telephones, iPods and Handhelds.

Fifty Lessons content is distributed globally by our partners, who include Harvard Business School Publishing, Vangent and Sun 3C Media in China.

This is big company, enterprise stuff and they sell access to these top global leaders geared to organization-wide access. What about small-to-midsize businesses or individuals?

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Brain Hacks: An update on Learning Breakthrough

NOTE TO VISITORS FROM LEARNING BREAKTHROUGH’S SITE: We’ve stopped using this program and you might want to read my June 9, 2008 Final Update on Learning Breakthrough here to find out why.

It’s been a hair over two months since my 12 year old son and I began the brain hacking with the Learning Breakthrough system and I’d promised you an update.

Both my son and I experienced a giddy, major initial boost when we began. If you’ve ever been sedentary for a time, gone out for an exercise session and come back tired but alert, refreshed and eager to continue, you’ll have a sense of what we experienced in the beginning. But just like exercise, it soon becomes something you either relish and look forward to…or start to dread doing.

For weeks Alex was eager. I was so eager and committed that I started packing the balance board and bean bags to take on my trips (four so far) and I’m performing the exercises in hotel bathrooms (tile floor is necessary). I even ripped the DVD to have it on my laptop to ensure I’m doing all the activities. We’re both in a phase now where the twice daily sessions are a motivation challenge, but I’m hyper-committed to go the distance (12-15 months) and will do it right alongside Alex since we’re both experiencing increasing benefits and this is likely to be life-changing for my little guy.

So what are those increasing benefits?

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Vision: THE most important first step…

Nothing happens without a vision. Nothing gets created, manifested, built, or moved forward without a vision of an outcome.

Almost on a daily basis, I’m being bombarded with the benefits of visualization in my work, my personal life and as I guide others. If you don’t already visualize before you set personal goals, build a plan or, especially, if you lead an organization, team, or group, then you owe it to yourself to begin.

Just to illustrate how vision is showing up everywhere, at the Web 2.0 Expo’s Hybrid Designer session Chris Messina said something that hit me in the face and has stuck with me.  In a discussion about the challenges facing designers with a creative vision struggling to get programmers to see the outcome of that vision so they could code to it, he talked about how he mocked up a visual when they were creating Flock, posted it to Flickr so that the geographically disbursed development team could all get on a call and talk about that vision. Without that shared vision, Chris said, the coordination of the team on a shared vision would’ve taken 6 weeks and dozens of threads in a discussion forum. Instead, it took 2-3 days.

No question this sharing of vision — and the co-creating that goes along with that sharing — is the single reason that I’m so incredibly enthused about the accelerating connection of humanity via the Internet and all the open source projects, Web 2.0 startups, and commercial software companies that are rushing to deliver ever-increasingly functional collaborative applications and platforms.

After dozens of people my bride and I know talked about the film The Secret, she purchased it. It was very well done and focused on one piece of sage wisdom: The Secret is a feature length, historic and factually based account of an age old secret, said to be 4000 years in the making, and known only to a fortunate few. The Secret promises to reveal this great knowledge to the world – the secret to wealth, the secret to health, the secret to love, relationships, happiness, eternal youth, the secret to life. The secret? The Law of Attraction which is creating a vision of what you want and expect to show up…and how it works when you align your intent, your energy and your focus on it.

Why should I care about vision Borsch?

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EFF Pioneer Awards

Last night I attended the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Awards. Just simply being at this event and absorbing the vibe was meaningful for me and I’ll bring forth a perspective that may be atypical and worth putting into the conversation about EFF.

Nearly four years ago was the first time that I donated to EFF and began my support of this organization. Though I look like “a suit”, a Republican and a mainstream sort of guy, I’m an independent, a closet liberal, enjoy some Libertarian leanings and am quite open to growing in my perspective as I learn — especially legally and politically — as we all push against the membrane of the future.

Five or so years ago I became more enlightened. I was stunned by the multiple, parallel, onrush of efforts by copyright holders, Congress, world intellectual capital bodies, governments globally as well as intelligence communities, to command, control and infiltrate all aspects of the Internet.  As I started to try getting my head wrapped around even a few of the issues, I realized that there was NO way that I could be competently informed about even ONE of these issues shaping our future….let alone dozens of them at a time!

Enter the EFF. I learned that here was an organization whose mission was to be that competent, informed entity who’d act to intervene, stop or shape the debate about the most important issues facing us in our digital future. With more and more of our relationships, commerce, free speech, entertainment — you name it — being created or delivered digitally, I (and you) could either pull the covers over our collective heads or get involved…and support those who’ve rolled up their sleeves, dug their hands in the muck and are in the fray.

So that’s what I did.  Last night was great for a lot of reasons and validated (in spades) the vital importance of this organization and the people who’ve dedicated money, support and all or part of their lives to the mission.

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Brain Hacks: Will this amazing one continue to work?

NOTE TO VISITORS FROM LEARNING BREAKTHROUGH’S SITE: We’ve stopped using this program and you might want to read my June 9, 2008 Final Update on Learning Breakthrough here to find out why.

Something amazing has occurred that my pragmatic, cautiously optimistic self usually would wait to discuss in such a public way and after being armed with more evidence, but maybe…just maybe…this will be of benefit to others so I’m going to leap forward with my very preliminary results and post about our progress over the next 12-15 months.

As I discussed in my podcast on March 11th, I’ve got ADD and my son inherited mine with a hyperactive twist (i.e., ADHD) which, by the way, I view as a positive and not as a “dysfunction”. Fortunately, his Mom and I have taken an extraordinarily proactive approach to dealing with it in an attempt to shield him from many of the negative effects that often befall young people as they progress through their teen years (e.g., chemical dependency, criminal or aggressive behavior, lack of achievement and failure in school, etc.). So far he’s remained his delightful, 99th percentile IQ, voracious-reading self but is struggling with organizational issues (or should I say the complete lack thereof).

We’ve been to the Amen Clinic and had the Brain SPECT imaging performed which added to our knowledge and really helped us narrow down my son’s ADHD subtype. In terms of regimens, we’ve done diet, exercise, reward, herbal, medicinal and other approaches with only modest success.

Fairly desperate, we’ve continued to be on the hunt. A few weeks ago, after meeting with his exasperated teachers and the school staff due to his missed assignments, disorganization and lack of focus negatively impacting his achievement, I came home and Google’ed my little heart out for hours looking for cutting edge research and approaches.

I found one…and it seems too good to be true and damn, its effects have been almost magical!

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Mobile Global Grid: When the World is At Your Fingertips

Like me, if you’re paying any attention to the signs, trends and foundational elements upon which innovation in technology occurs, then you have to be seeing what I’m seeing…it’s sooo close.  Do you see it?

Right there. Don’t see it yet? OK then, let’s push against the membrane of the future together for a minute.

If you look now you can just make out a mobile device, connected to a ubiquitous wireless network (that you can use even when you’re miles from a major metro area, off the autobahn or Interstate highway system, or at some point in the future on the Serengeti plain in Africa) and is so simple to use that you’re able to connect and re-connect to the global grid in an instant and have all the world’s knowledge at your fingertips.

When you’re in your car, at a restaurant, a dinner party, at a business meeting, at school…anything connected to the global grid you’re authorized or able to grab is yours for the snagging from a device in your hand.

We’re partially there now and more is coming.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Apple’s eagerly anticipated iPhone is the closest concept yet to a just beyond the membrane of the future simple to use, multi-function device that will be useful for the masses to leverage our currently decent wireless network…and is one set to expand dramatically.

According to GigaOM today, there are distinct chunks of spectrum that hold the promise of mass geographical coverage and expanding the grid. An increasing number of mobile communications online applications are proliferating (e.g., this list at eConsultant). The World Wide Web Consortium’s Mobile Initiative adds even more fuel to the fire of a mobile, global grid.

Couple that with the always-on, always-connected, culture of participation (see “Rise of the Participation Culture“) and you have a brew from which all sorts of possibilities come forth!

Though I look like some geek when I do this, at least twice a week I’ll be in a conversation and someone will say something like, “You know…that ocean…the one by (country here)….what’s that called?”  I’ll whip out my Treo, go to Google, enter a search string and, I swear to God, almost instantly I can find a reference to that country and there’s an obvious link that contains the data where I can answer that question. It’s a bit of a conversation stifler at the moment as I futz with the device, but I’m pretty good at glossing over my thumbing on the Treo, we carry on the conversation, and I circle back to the fact and insert it into our discussion. Works great.

Did this at a dinner party one evening awhile back when people were struggling with an artist and a song. No one knew, the conversation continued, and about two minutes later I mentioned the artist. “OH YEAH!” came the head-slap comments and we carried on. Trivial in the scheme of life I realize, but extend this to the DOZENS OF TIMES PER DAY that I look something up on Google, use Google Maps, find a phone number on Directory Assistance, send SMS messages, send a photo/blog post to one of my private client blogs, use Instant Messaging….all from applications that run on my Treo!

So how is this going to transform the world? In ways predictable but mostly ones that are not. Who knows what will be the killer application for the always connected world — especially when better geotracking is in the mix?  What I do know is that some of it is already here…and if you push just hard enough on the membrane of the future you’ll have a good indication of what’s coming.

Qwaq Launches Virtual Workspace

Last week I was delighted to receive an offer to be in a hosted session with Greg Nuyens, CEO of Qwaq, to take a pre-launch peek at a secure, virtual workspace product called “Qwaq Forums”…a product built upon the open source Croquet project (site Croquet Consortium site here).

In April of last year I wrote a post entitled, “Is Second Life the Future of Collaboration and Social Software?” since I’d been thinking deeply about the implications of metaverse world’s like Second Life providing us with ever higher ability to be involved in an immersive, persistent, engaging, fun and creative space. But just like Skype’s proprietary protocol limits the ability to leverage their IP telephony or Apple’s closed iPod (and soon to be closed iPhone launch) limits the expansion, this seemingly needed control limits what organizations can (or will) do with technology.

Qwaq’s approach is that their product, Qwaq Forums, “…enhances the productivity of distributed teams by bringing critical resources together in a virtual place, as if they were in an actual physical location, and providing them with all the tools and collaboration capabilities they need to work more effectively together. With Qwaq Forums, users can work together to establish workflow steps, create or review information in software applications, and evaluate designs in 2D and 3D, all while discussing topics using built-in text and voice chat. Further enhancing employee productivity, Qwaq Forums virtual workspaces are always available so users can return to a forum at another time to access and view changes that have occurred since they last visited the virtual space.”

So what was my experience like and why should you be keenly interested? I think you might be surprised by my perception…

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