Tag Archives: seven billion channels

French Powerpointers Vs. American Powerpointers

I’m going to post on a visual topic without using visuals. Not good. But this is an anecdote from a dinner conversation I thought would be worth noting.

A friend who teaches entrepreneurship for a major university in New York City relayed the curious incident which follows. When he found out my passion is visual literacy for young people,  he was quick to point out his gladness that someone was teaching American kids to communicate visually, then gave his reasons why.

He teaches his entrepreneurship class to mostly French speaking students. Why this is I’m not sure. He notes the stark contrast in visual styles between the French powerpoint presentations, and the US student presentations.

When US students in the class fire up powerpoint, he says, it is the usual bullet-driven, too-small-font-laiden, no-design-beyond-templates visual drivel.

The French students, by contrast, rarely use powerpoint for their presentations. They use interactive-flash, quicktime wired, animation suffused, movie clip peppered, flip video staccato cut “experiences”. (his words)

This is how they (French students) come in from the start. This is the way they’ve been taught to communicate persuasively. I indicated they have been taught visual communication skills as part of their primary and secondary schools in Western Europe. By some estimates, they are 10 years ahead of the US in this respect. Additionally, they are having fun communicating. They feel the need to entertain as they inform.

The US students are trying to catch up.

Ever try to play catch up to someone in college when they have been perfecting their skills since 4th grade?

Seems the US is still not churning out the globally competitive communicators from our high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. A/V is still a nice extra, but not a core literacy competency.

Too bad. We need more global competitiveness these days, not less.


The Seven Dollar Laptop


Seven Billion Channels seem too distant? Check out this.

How the World Wide Web was Invented.

When you are deciding about whether to buy the 1080p or the 720p flat screen TV for your home theater, pause a moment to remember Philo T. Farnsworth.

As a young electrician, he imagined lines, or rows, of electrons forming an image while plowing potato fields in Idaho in the 1920’s. Driving back and forth amongst the potatoes, the young inventor imagined¬† the rows being tightly presented, so Seurat-like images could be transmitted to screens.

This led to the invention of the first purely electronic television and the issues of screen resolution. We are just now fullfilling Philo prophecy that one day, scanlines can be so tightly assembled they’d look like, “pictures hanging on the wall”.

Them is some “High Def” taters.

This talk by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of HTML, URL’s and by default, the internet as we know it, is a must see. Here is the Philo T. of our day. He didn’t invent the internet, but he increased it’s resolution beyond anything the ARPANET offered.

It will take sometime, precisely 16:51, but will bring you up to speed on what may be in store for our Billion Channeled world.

(Notice how little Berners-Lee looks like Al Gore…)

My Nine Year Old Cheats Media

blog cheatsAfter the Holiday rush, I strolled into my home office computer to catch up on some odds and ends. My nine year old was in my chair researching some cheats for the new Wii game the kids were starting to master. This was not news to me. My eleven year-old had done it before him and my fourteen year old has researched cheats for years. It is part of the fun of video games; the assumption that things are rigged to be cheated.

So why, as a parent, am I not afraid of raising cheaters? Because I think the word “cheat” in this case is a misnomer. I could use the word “hack” instead. But I don’t think it fits the definition of hacking either. A hacker wants to access something his target does not want to give up.

The designers in the gaming world intentionally create massive shortcuts which are not advertised on the box or in the basic instructions on the console or help section fo the software. And gradually this information makes it’s way to the web for the researching youth of the world to discover. What a great skill to encourage.

Anyone over fifty would sit down as a neophyte, and work out how to play by the directions displayed on the software interface. They might be able to become proficient in the game too. But they would only be starting. Mastery takes research. It takes finding the cheats.

My nine year old knows he’s part of a vast community of gamers. He also knows the web will deliver if he looks hard enough. It will deliver secret powers for his player, shortcuts through mazes, extra players which come to his aid, button combinations for turbo boosts known only to the programmers, etc.

Game designers and programmers love this. They make a digital onion; layers within layers within layers of playablity and discovery. They know this hooks the player and creates value.

So is it cheating or hacking to find the items on a scavenger hunt? No! The thing is rigged for discovery.

What if we approached learning, or finding new skills, like this?

Tim Ferriss has a great post on his cheats for swimming, tango, and learning Japanese here. He treats these subjects like my boys treat video games. He assumes that the general rules of learning have deeper, more efficient cheats. He then dives in with the total expectation he will find the hidden treasures of whatever subject matter he seeks to master. He might seem like a short cut junky, but I think it is more the drive to find efficiency and effectiveness and the core issues.

This is how I’d like to approach media, health, and economic resources in 2009. I have to adapt to what Tim and my nine year old have come to expect. There is a better way, and you have to dig for it. And if you love the process enough, any subject gives up it’s secrets.

You Trust the Newspaper More than Your Online Friends?

I just finished the book, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Li and Bernoff. They dissect the social-media landscape for executives and corporate types and invent all sorts of metrics by which to drive home the point about social media…that it is changing everything.

Or is it?

Now, on their blog, Li and Bernoff publish this chart:


The good old newspaper still out ranks most social media outlets, including the information your own best friends put on their online profiles. And look at company blogs!

We are in a weird place in terms of our online “trustyness”. Other than emails and critics, we trust algorythms most. Robots are more trusted than your blog posts.

Gravity also helps the Trust-O-Meter. Tangible dead trees still carry a legacy of trust from two centuries of print information products. Oddly enough, the NYTimes.com site ranks sigificantly lower than it’s print-based counter part. Same information, different delivery. Yet the New York Times (the paper) is losing money. Weird?

If Forrester (the pollster) would have included “A Telephone Call from Someone You Know” on their list, I’d wager that would out-do email as the most trusted source of information. Or what if they added, “A One Hour Lunch Conversation with Someone You Know”?

Not fair to lump a lunch into the items on the above list? I think it is very relevant. I believe the reason email out-does all other forms of communication is because it is more likely to be an additional way stay connected with people you also connect with during lunch and telephone conversations. The trust is not inherent in the medium. That source (email) leverages previously developed offline trust.

But why trust me? I’m only good for about 18% “trustiness”, according to this survey. Or maybe, if you include lunches with me and the occasional phone call, I’d be up around 51% trusty. You’ve got to give me more than the robot!


I Have an Urgent Blog Post, But You Can’t See It

Sometimes we forget the power of the headline, the grabber, the opener, the hook. Our message is important enough to be passionately shared with passerby’s. Somehow we have to get the attention, today’s scarcest resource, of our prospect before they go on with their busy day. And if you are lucky enough to receive attention-offering-bystanders, will it be worth their time to read your message? Is it for a decent cause? Can it change their life? Do you call people to action? Will they feel better after they’ve acted? Will you still have your self respect?

Watch this and reflect…

Blogs vs Websites = Conversations vs. Brochures

When someone develops a blog, they develop a conversation. A website, in the traditional sense, is not a conversation, but rather a brochure or a kiosk of offerings. When one shifts from a website-centric relationship with their customers to a blog-centric relationship, one stops doing a presentation and starts having a conversation. This is a key point. Not only do blogs get ranked higher via Google’s, Yahoo’s, and Microsoft Network’s search engines because they keep content fresh. Blogs give your customers a sense there is a living, breathing human force behind whatever offering you might be offering. This has extremely reassuring benefits, and if you encourage your customers to comment on your blog, many times, you can stand back and watch your customers duke out what it is that has been discussed in a particular blog post, and you can comment every once in a while. Very successful blogs have hundreds of comments per post. It is a live channel between you and your customers.

This is an asset, your customer’s input, that is priceless.