100.000 miles

It probably is a clear manifestation of midlife crisis. Or the desperate cry of an ego trying to break out. Or an honest try to order a gazillion of my thoughts in a mostly structured way. It’s certain that I miss playing with words, sentences and magic dust.

So, I’m writing a book. A collection of words and thoughts that will see the light just in time for my beloved SxSW 2019. There, the deadline is set. A book that expresses my thoughts and vision on societal trends, technology and the old ancient art of communication and influencing.

A year to collect, assess, question, write, kill, rewrite and build.

That leaves me exactly 100.000 miles to meet people, interview friends I admire, authors I like, business people walking the talk daily. A gargantuan journey to wisdom. A treasure of views, experiences, debates, talks, interviews and musings.

I will share every single mile of this journey. Every encounter. Every thought.

Romesh Gunesekera  said: “A passenger on a road journey is in the hands of a driver; a reader embarking on a book is in the hands of a narrator.”

Let me be both…

SxSW 2017 – You may all go to hell, but I will go to Texas!

Davy Crockett, king of the Texan Wild Frontier strolled off for the fatal shoot-out at the Alamo mission on March 7th 1836, shouting “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas…

SxSW

Famous last words that I happily cite every time I prepare my yearly pilgrimage to the slightly weird city of Austin in Texas. Austin will be hosting some of the most clever, crazy, unorthodox and fascinating social media and digital people this side of the Milky Way. It’s called South by South West, or SxSW. More than 60.000 social and digital media enthusiasts will attend this Texan Mecca of creativity, best cases, lukewarm beer, successful campaigns, endless discussions and creative sparks. Undisputedly, it is the biggest interactive gathering on this planet (and most of the planets around us, as far as we are aware). There is enough social brainpower in Austin between March 11th and March 16th to catapult a small Greek island in an orbit around Saturnus.

sxsw

Beer, rattle snakes… and you?

Once again I will confront tremendous heat, unbearable thirst, insane steaks, burning sun, and humorless rattlesnakes to be your eyes and ears on the ground. I will sacrifice long days and short nights, and be there for you when the next big thing hits the industry!
So… if you’re in Austin, let’s meet up and talk shop, trends, tools and stuff. Let’s exchange experiences, compare notes. Let’s social this social thing. If you pay for the beer, I’ll throw in the chicken wings… Let’s go for a wild BBQ night at the County Line on the Lake, and talk about connecting the dots, moving the needle and setting the bar in audience interaction.

As Crockett said: “Be always sure you are right – then go ahead.”

Addicted? Just tired of apologizing…

Holidays: It is all about switching off, getting away, unplugging, and forgetting. It’s as simple as that. Put your electronic gizmos in the safe, pack your credit card and just.. go. Except… it does not work that way. For me it isn’t.

My books are on my iPad…, my navigation system, radar detector (sorry), addresses, hotel confirmation, cocktail guide and restaurant finder are on my phone. So are my camera, my pictures, my music and my stellar configuration ranger. I want to blog about the great stuff I see and experience, I want to share pictures, upload reviews, download tips. I want to book and order, with one right thumb controlled click.

Trying to switch off work for me does not mean switching off stuff. Stuff is what I do. Stuff is what I use. Without is just more… complicated. You can frown all you want, but I am happy relaxing, with my phone in the holster. I recharge nicely reading Bruce Sterling on my ebook reader. Yes, I am on holiday. Yes, off work, yes, relaxing. But I will no more apologize for staying digital than half of this beach should for reading glossy magazines made from stone-dead trees. There, I’ve said it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my mojito is waiting…

 

 

If you want to be sheep, get in a flock, if you want to be wolves, form a pack

Bruce Sterling did not disappoint me at the closing of SxSW. A cynic futurist and gifted speaker, he has a tradition of naming the things exactly as he sees them, without dressing them up. While he usually writes with vinegar, he switches to vitriol in his talks.

The closing speech was a 45 minute ranting, where Sterling gave Exxon Mobile, the Catholic Church, politicians, Berlusconi and Google C-levels a full broadside of his legendary fuming.

Women, cast away all the cowards from your embraces, “ gives a good idea of the tone of voice, but it got even better when Sterling invited the young generation to take over an overheating planet from the generation that let it happen:  “Go away, Boomers! You need to take power, millennials. I’ll vote for ya! Move to Austin, take over the town, and create a global youth movement. Boomers, shut up, your days are gone.  What you should study now is collaborative consumption. Days of rage, baby. Be realistic, demand the impossible!

Sterling was steaming about the fact that, while nuclear power plants are burning, and the planet is heating… the people who can move the needle sit on their coach, playing with their PlayStations and Wii’s. He’s convinced that without a revolution, the necessary efforts to save the planet and invest in clean technologies that will allow us a future will never be made.

Sterling points out that it is the millennials who should grab their future now. And they have the ultimate weapon to enforce things: the power of a social net.

All they need now is rage.


Let me earn your business card…

Let’s face it, we roam the endless spaces of the biggest conventions of these planets, spreading business cards around like there is no tomorrow. I literally level singlehandedly a shaming surface of lovely tropical rainforest each year by spreading a couple of thousands of cards.

Hey, how’re you here is mine can I have yours bye”. We both know we did not get any value out of the conversation. We both know we will never call each other. I know he was extremely boring, and will never make it to make it to my secret Christmas card list. Still, cards changed hands. Identity was confirmed. An innocent tree was leveled.

Here comes in a young guy in the blogger lounge. Firm handshake. Nice, but affordable suit (Pablo Nero?) Corporate hair. Good teeth. The works. And a refreshing “Can I steal four minutes to earn your business card?”.

He got me at “hello”: what a refreshing practice. Approach, connect, pitch… and if relevant do the business card thing. Nothing personal, just a fair evaluation of an occasional encounter that more often than not will get us nowhere.

And you know what? Once we determined we’re worth swapping identities, and propel each other into our respective social lives (because we DO will do the Twitter, Facebook and YouTube stuff thing, right?), let’s just “BUMP” our cards electronically. I’m so tired of lumberjacking trees all the time 😉

I’ve got the power!

Here we are, at a world influencing show on digital and social media. More social brain power around than one can fathom and more than 3OO.OOO event related check-ins so far. Every single one of these thousands of people carries a fancy, shiny, expensive smartphone.

It can do everything: from finding you the next location for a real espresso, giving you the time, translating weird looking augmented reality tags into spectacular 3D experiences, updating your status on a plethora of social networks, making embarrassing pictures of friends and clients and showing you the exact amount of aspirin to wash your yesterday’s social networking away.

Except…. It cannot. Because the smart people making these smartphones never actually had us, people who use them in mind. Going full force with any smartphone will give me a couple of hours. Then they die; lack of power. With my Blackberry Storm 2, I burn through 3 (three) battery packs a day. My iPhone4 lasts exactly 4 hours and 32 minutes. With the extended battery pack, I can go a revolutionary 7 hours without having to whack somebody on the head in an effort to steal his power socket.

People are bitching about the fact that most electrical cars do not get further than a miserable 350 miles before needing a new powershot. But nobody seems to find it abnormal that a 700 dollar phone barely makes through half a business day. All over Austin you see people crawling on hands and knees, desperately looking for a free socket where they can plug-in and get a few extra minutes of social life. Pathetic.

The social web is great, and I spent more money than I care to remember on geeky devices to connect-on-the-go. Can somebody now please fix the basics and solve the energy issue. No power, no connection, no more online social life.

It cannot be that difficult: wireless electricity has been around for a gazillion years. It’s called lightning.


30 % certified FROG

So you’re tired. You ask for coffee. A friendly waitress brings you a steaming mug with something black in. So far, so good. And then, you see the giant frog on the sticker claiming it is for 30 percent certified…. certified what. Frog? And the other 70? Heeeeelp! 😉

And what if you really could ASK Google?

As I predicted, IBM’s Watson super computer configuration won a game of Jeopardy from some very smart humans on US national television. A bit humiliating for us, the human race, but on the other hand, we did design the thinking machine… so our pride should not take too big a hit.

Fascinating on Watson winning this brainy contest about hands down, is the machines striking ability to deal with complicated linguistic clues: Watson can process natural language with surprising ease, and is even able to filter and crawl through complicated things as irony and sarcasm, and cynic one-liners (that’s more than some humans I know :-)).

Apart from winning primetime TV quizzes, Watson and a comparable research logarithm Wolfram|Alpha open new horizons that are way more down to earth than thinking machines taking over the planet. “Search” for instance. The best search engines available to the public (Google, Bing, etc) are based on keyword driven search. You type in a series of keywords, and the search logarithm gives you a series of links where those keywords are found. Mind you: neither Google or Bing answer your question, give you an answer to what you want to know. It gives you a suggestion of pages where your keywords can be found. Often, just finding a page where the keywords are featured enables us, humans, to browse ourselves through the content of the page, and find the answer of our question right there. We all got good at this keyword based content suggestion. We even think it gives us answers. But it is not ;-).

Using revolutionary natural language driven concepts like Watson and  Wolfram|Alpha, the game will soon change. With their ability to cope with the eccentrics of our language, we will be able to ask these search engines a question and they will provide us with an aswer. As human-to-intelligence interface this is a giant leap forward, because we’re not taking shortcuts anymore but will be able to elevate “search” to its fullest extent: the ability to ask the web a question. Watch the video: Can you feel I’m excited? 😉

Valentines day : put a little commerce in your heart.

I admit. I am a bad man. A bad, bad man. For more years than I care to remember, I have managed to be utterly and totally unavailable on the universal love feast: Valentine’s day. The global mobile industry holds its yearly conference in Barcelona, schmack on Valentine’s day. Every. Single. Year. So me, and another couple of thousand badly shaved and awkwardly suited techies are leaving our beloved Valentine bunnies at home. Alone.

Now mind, that does not mean you cannot participate in the Valentine frenzy. There are literally countless ways of offering your hard earned paycheck on the altar of commerce, and make your special Valentine extremely happy.  Visa and American Express are the new Cupids and allow you to make wireless donations to Amor to boost your love credits. Flower shops, Tiffany’s, Dior, Chocolate artists, interior designers, champagne brands and the crew from De Beers happily accept digital money streams to make a handsome ,muscular white-van-man deliver a violet-scented, red little package with a pink ribbon at the door of your loved one on valentine’s day.

Looking at most of the techies here at the Mobile World Congress, I’m convinced that sending muscular delivery boys to their significant others on Valentine Monday Morning is an extreme bad idea. To be honest, I’m afraid that a lot of the busy crowd in preparation of the Congress would not even recognize their loved one, is (s)he was not properly #hashtagged, digitally enhanced, augmented reality enabled, and packing the newest Android stack…  They would not make it through the uni-lingual security tweeps anyway.

Valentine. I think it is a bit overrated. Tomorrow, as always, I will miss being home. I won’t send flowers. Nor diamonds. Nothing can pay for the warmth of my coming-home-hug on Thursday. Not even a case of Christal bubbles or the newest Diorette…


Cutting edge Credit Card

Life is not getting any easier for the poor security people at the various airports of this planet… after shoes full of explosives, aggressive belts, murderous nail thingies , ninja throwing star-like cuff links, and mouse cords with murderous potential… Cardsharp comes to market with a vicious Credit Card Folding Safety Knife: this is the first credit-card sized gadget that can actually kill someone.

Barely a millimeter thick and weighing only 13 grams, the CardSharp is about the thickness of an American Express card…. packing a three inch blade, perfect for cutting open boxes… or someone’s throat.

So I can only sigh miserably, thinking of the TSA and other security people ripping open my plastic money, to see if there is no suspicious blade hidden within….

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