Mystic Hippies and the I-Ching: App of Changes

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The Director of How To Change the World, Jerry Rothwell, kindly let the Greenpeace International staff in Amsterdam have a sneak peek at his Sundance-award winning documentary of the early days of Greenpeace. It’s a brilliant, funny, and moving story. It’s also the only documentary I’ve seen that’s done justice to the organisation’s mystic hippy roots. Aside from the standard cosmic adventures of the early 70s, the film documents the ritual casting of three Chinese coins that was once an accepted form of decision-making in those pre-organogram days: the I-Ching.

If you don’t know it, The I-Ching or “Book of Changes” is an ancient Chinese oracle and book of wisdom. It was used to describe the present, understand the past, and predict the future in something close to its present form as early as 600 BC. But elements of it appear in China as early as the Hsia Dynasty (2205 — 1766 BC). Like The Bible, the book is the result of a layering of many texts by many authors (Confucius and Lao Tzu among them) and there is no widespread agreement on its authorship or birthdate. It was a standard text you might find in any North American hippy’s concrete-block bookshelves alongside the works of Alan Ginsberg Ken Kesey, Gary Snyder, Carlos Castaneda, and Tolkien. The reason it might have been there might vary from hippy to hippy though: for some, it was a beautiful exposition of Eastern philosophy. For others, it was a doorway to the subconscious through archetypal imagery and elemental poetry. For still others, it was believed to have powers of divination.

Bob Hunter, the Vancouver journalist/activist who led the early organisation and is at the centre of the documentary, chronicled many consultations of The Book in his Warriors of the Rainbow, the text of which provides’ much of the film’s narration. Decisions about who would join the crew, what the outcome of a journey might be, and even where a ship should go were often made by tossing three coins six times to generate a hexagram of broken and solid lines.

My own decision to join Greenpeace full time was helped along by a reading I did in 1982. I’d cut down on my hours at a good paying job to make room for volunteering at a crazy place called Greenpeace New England in Boston. I was canvassing Saturdays and a night or two a week, which brought in a little money in commissions, but spending most of my time helping out around the cavernous warehouse of an office. There were only two paid staff, and the rest of us did everything else: maintained boats, designed actions, fixed the photo copy machine, answered the phone. We were building something powerful, and I wanted to be a bigger part of that creative pressure cooker of a place, but it would mean trading in the day job, a secure income, and warm, dry, book-lined environment for the uncertainty of the street, the weather, and the very real possibility I was getting into something that was going to get me arrested. But I knew it was time to either commit or quit. I did what any mystic hippy would do: I cast the I-Ching. Continue Reading…

A way of being, a way of meeting

The most difficult challenge facing humanity is not devising solutions to the energy crisis or climate crisis or population crisis; rather, it is bringing images and stories of the human journey into our collective awareness that empower us to look beyond a future of great adversity and to see a future of great opportunity. -Duane Elgin

That was the note on which we started, the pitch pipe to which 30 people in the room adjusted their frequencies as we began a four day adventure into the unknown. Our band of adventurers included the usual suspects: the marine biologists, ex-fisherman, political judoists, an activist climber,  a volunteer coördinator, sailors and salty dogs, the people you would expect Greenpeace to gather to plan some creative mischief in the name of Mother Ocean.  But on this trip, we brought other adventurer-guides: a poet, a visual artist, some storytellers, and a beekeeper.

Never before, in all my years with the sometimes magical, sometimes mystical, always practical, highly mechanical beast we know as “Greenpeace” have I ever been to a meeting like this.  Our challenge was to journey out into the future, to reimagine our Oceans work through the lens of a reimagined organisation and a new story for the planet. It’s a story in which the better angels of our humanity swarm, our ingenuity for survival rallies, and we build a bright, abundant world. A world where we have learned to live and thrive within the beautiful constraints of an exhaustible  planet by taking nature as our model and mentor.
visual notes new Greenpeace story

The big picture, summed up in one board by @YaoXiaoArt and @Imagethink

We had things we usually don’t have at Greenpeace meetings: we had visual art, we had music, we had shaker eggs: the audible “twinkle hands” which allow you to rebel against silence when you agree or love something, without interrupting a speaker.

And in the spirit of using nature as a model, John Poore, our Beekeeper facilitator brought us lessons from the 40-million-year-old decision-making process that honeybees use to agree a new home: the democracy of the waggle dance. When bees need to find a new home, it’s not the Queen that makes the decision. Dozens of scouts head out to find a place which is exacting in its specifications: a small entrance, a 40 litre cavity, high enough off the ground that Winnie the Pooh can’t get in without effort, near to food sources, facing away from prevailing winds, etc etc etc. All of this information is conveyed in the waggle dance that the scout does on return. Scouts dance their findings — which also convey the precise location, so other scouts can fly out to compare, who then come back and dance the winner. At some magical point, enough of the scouts are reporting the same location that the entire hive swarms out to their new home. They make the right choice among available options 90% of the time.

But if we pedal that organisational metaphor back, I want to know how honeybees arrive at the decision that it’s time to move in the first place? How do they agree it’s time to send out scouts at all?  It’s hard to communicate to anyone outside Greenpeace how much courage it takes for a leader to step away from our conventions. By so many measures, Greenpeace is an effective and successful organisation: and yet the death of so many effective and successful organisations is that they repeat themselves endlessly. And for an organisation dedicated to challenging the status quo, we can be remarkably resistant and hostile to change. You can see the antibodies swarm around those who are the first to bring new thinking to the table. The thing that has kept me going for 30 years is the long view of having witnessed how the organisation will eventually embrace and welcome those same ideas it fights at first.

shaker eggs

We heart shaker eggs

Part of  what made this meeting different from thousands of others whose bones litter the vast savannah was a story. We were living a story about a billion acts of courage delivering a better world, and articulating not only what a better world looks like, but what it feels like to work for an organisation that can genuinely deliver on it; an organisation that recognises the very first thing I learned when I picked up a clipboard 30 years ago to knock on doors as a canvasser: we will inspire nobody unless we ourselves are inspired. We will convince nobody unless we ourselves are convinced.

And that in a world in which there is no shortage of nightmares, the greatest act of courage is to dream.

Among the people gathered to talk about the future of the oceans campaign and the future of the organisation, more than a few of us needed a bit of inspiration and courage and a dream. As Greenpeace embarks upon new changes designed to shift resources to the places where the planet’s future will be decided — China, Africa, India, Brazil, Russia,  South East Asia, and the US — many of us have received redundancy notices,  many of us have parted ways, many of us are moulting into new forms.

The job I’ve loved for many years now as Head of Digital Networking and Mobilisation no longer exists as our International office in Amsterdam shifts from a content and campaign lead role to one of support for those functions. We can, and we will, debate the finer points of how effectively our new structure will satisfy Greenpeace’s ambitions to be both a globally coördinated force and a locally unfettered and nimble collective. We seem every five years or so to change up the formula by which we pursue that ambition.  But no matter how much we argue about how to get it right, the ambition remains a worthy one. Nationalism is never going to save the world — but too few people have yet learned to speak universalism.

What I saw over the course of this meeting was a way this organisation can be in the future that would make all the pain and uncertainty that I’ve felt over the last year worthwhile, whether I’ll be a part of the organisation that I got a taste of or not. It was an organisation committed to people-power. One that actively nurtured its people and their talents. A less egocentric, more network-centric organisation. An organisation that cherished creativity and knew a trick or two about how to draw it out. An organisation that knew that how you make a decision can be as important as the decision you make. An organisation that values the power of art and culture and knows the secret of changing society is not to mainstream your organisation, but to mainstream your ideas. An organisation that embraces and champions a radically positive vision of the future and puts all its energy into building the new instead of fighting the old. An organisation which doesn’t forget to dream.

This was one of many waggle dances we will do over this time of change.  I loved the new home that we scouted.  It’s one that would serve the planet, the oceans, and the beautiful creative ingenuity of the human species well.

The poet who joined us at the meeting, Drew Dillinger, sketched the nightmare perfectly:

it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?

I want to answer that I helped build a better dream.

Hashtag-detecting toy protests Shell Arctic oil rig

Greenpeace’s campaign to get LEGO to sever its relationship with Shell  prompted me to  reach out to the maker community on one of my favorite sites, Instructables.com, with this little project. It’s a Shell oil rig being boarded peacefully by a little LEGO minifig who celebrates every time someone tweets the campaign hashtag, #BLOCKSHELL, by making some noise, flashing a light, and sending the little activist dude up his climbing rope. The instructable for how to make it is here.

But seriously, LEGO, building this reminded me of just what an amazing toy you have, and what a huge responsibility you have to be inspiring human ingenuity among old and young alike to do something about the crisis our planet faces, rather than let the halo effect of your wonderful brand get used by an oil company to make more money on its destruction. LEGO, do the awesome thing. Stand up for the future of the kids you inspire.

UPDATE: Thank you Lego, for doing the right thing and parting ways with Shell. If more companies follow your example, we can #SaveTheArctic.

Japan cancels whaling expedition: go celebrate!

 

IWC Brighton

July, 1982. Sidney Holt, David McTaggart, and Iain MacPhail celebrate the passage of the moratorium on commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission.

To: David McTaggart
Hon. Chairman, Greenpeace International
Umbria

Dear David,

About half an hour ago, I heard that Japan cancelled its 2014/2015 voyage to the Southern Ocean to kill whales for “Scientific Research,” an announcement which would have sent you over the moon with jubilation.

The first image that flashed into my head was the picture at right from July of 1982. You were celebrating the hard-won victory in the International Whaling Commission, when they declared a moratorium on commercial whaling — the culmination of years of work that you, Greenpeace, and dozens of other groups and individuals had done in public, as well as behind the scenes, below the decks, and under the table. At the time, you thought that was it, that you’d won, and that Japan’s whaling programme was over.

It wasn’t, of course. Japan would simply disguise their programme as science. You and Greenpeace would fight on — you to the end of your days, Greenpeace for decades after you passed, along with an entire movement that sprung up from those first mist-shrouded voyages to save the whales.

Today’s announcement means that whales in the Southern Ocean won’t be hunted for the first time in 110 years. We don’t know for sure that Japan has given up entirely. They’ve said they’ll “comply” with the International Court of Justice ruling which declared their current programme, in effect, a sham which contributed nothing to science and killed more whales than science would need. The Japanese Fisheries Agency could still, as they did in 1982, find a loophole big enough to fire a harpoon through, but not this year. The harpoons will stay hooded, the factory ship Nisshin Maru will remain moored, and thousands … tens of thousands… millions of people who worked for this day will celebrate.

If you were alive, I can only imagine how many rum and cokes and bottles of champagne you’d power through tonight. But I know right now you’d be on the phone,  and writing letters, and crowing to the press, and saying thank yous. You’d be thanking Paul Spong for convincing Greenpeace to launch a Save the Whales campaign in 1973, Bob Hunter for coming up with the idea of maneuvering tiny boats between the whales and the whalers and so launching the issue as a global “mind bomb” across television sets the world over. You’d thank Paul Watson for the audacious courage he showed with Greenpeace and with Sea Shepherd to end the hunt (yes, you’d have swallowed a lot of pride, but you’d have done that), and while you were clenching your teeth you’d thank Pete Wilkinson and Alan Thornton who were great generals in the war for the whales even if you fell out over their resistance to your command. You’d have thanked Rex Weyler and Fred Easton whose lenses caught those first images of whales dying at sea and the heroics of those who sought to spare them. You’d have remembered how you and Bryan Adams leafleted an entire theatre in Japan when he was playing a concert there, urging the young people of Japan to speak out against the whalers.

You’d have thanked other musicians, from Leonard Bernstein to Paul McCartney to Peter Gabriel to the Waterboys to Midnight Oil to U2 to Steve van Zandt.  You’d have appreciated how support for this cause had cut across society, from the people in the streets to royalty like Prince Charles and Prince Saddrudin Aga Khan, adventurers like Jacques Cousteau and Sir Peter Scott.  You’d have thanked Kieran Mulvaney and Sara Holden and Dave Walsh and John Bowler and Karli Thomas and Frank Kamp and Irene Berg and Grace O’Sullivan and Andrew Davies and Black Bob and Heath Hanson and Pete Bouquet and everyone who ever sailed aboard a Greenpeace vessel into those cold Antarctic waters to play cat and mouse with the catcher ships, everyone who ever signed a petition or sent a postcard or donated to IFAW or WWF or Friends of the Earth or Earth Island or the Cetacean Society or Greenpeace or any of the NGOs that worked the trenches to Save the Whales. You’d have told people to raise a glass to Sidney Holt and Campbell Plowden and Michael Nielsen and Leslie Busby  and Remi Parmentier and John Frizell, who dedicated most of their lives to this cause and spent endless hours in horrible meeting rooms counting votes and lining up political support for various parliamentary judo moves in attempt to counter the bribery and pork projects that the Japanese Fisheries agency brought to bear to buy votes they couldn’t win. You’d have tipped your hat to Steve Sawyer, Kelly Rigg, Patti Forkan, Cassandra Phillips, Domitilla Senni, Michi Mathias, Anne Dingwall, Elaine Lawrence, Cornelia Durrant, Lyall Watson, to Bill de la Mare and Justin Cooke, to the scientists who modelled whale populations, the politicians who had won easy points and made tough stands, the filmmakers who had made films and the writers who had written books and the artists who had created art. You’d have covered your ass about all the names you forgot or left out by mentioning the fact that you’d need an encyclopedia to fit all the names of everyone who did their part, and everyone who walked for whales, fasted for whales, went to jail for whales, baked for whales, did Karaōke for whales, swam for whales, or ran for whales.

You’d have a special place for praise for the dedication and sacrifice of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki of Greenpeace Japan who endured arrest, ostracization, and ridicule in their own country for exposing the theft of subsidized whale meat to line the pockets of corrupt officials, only to have themselves accused of theft for presenting the evidence. And you’d have thanked Peter Garrett and the Australian government of Mark Rudd for having the balls to go to court against Japan and the legal smarts to actually win that high-stakes gamble.

And finally, you’d have told them all to do exactly what you scrawled across that 1982 picture: “Celebrate.”

Celebrate a victory for a threatened planet, and the hope it suggests that if we can save the whales, we can save the world. Celebrate the power of global movements, and the patience and persistence it takes to see the arc of history bend toward justice. Celebrate activism, disobedience, speaking up and acting out. Celebrate courage, and creativity, poetry and song.

That would have been roughly the letter you’d have written, or dictated to me to write for you.

Rest easy, David, and let’s just say you wrote it. Now, let’s you and me go get a drink, knowing there’s a bunch of people out there raising a glass in return to you, and to the cussed dedication with which you worked for this day.

Cheers, you old goat. We won.

Awebest,

Brian

 

#Arctic30: The triumph of oil rights over human rights

Russian Security Services Seize Arctic Sunrise

As I write this, friends and colleagues and a ship I love are in custody in Murmansk because they made a stand against big oil.

Russian Security Services Seize Arctic Sunrise

In an armed assault by helicopter, Russian security services seized the Arctic Sunrise on September 19th, 2013

The place they chose to make their stand was in the Russian Arctic, where Gazprom and Shell are building the first rig to exploit a new opportunity to drill where drilling was once impossible: the newly ice-free waters of the once-frozen North.

Two Greenpeace activists boarded the Prirazlomnaya platform to hang a banner, to throw a spotlight on the dangers of oil drilling in the arctic in particular, and our continued reliance on fossil fuels in general. Gazprom was having none of it. Shots were fired at our activists, knives were brandished at them, the coast guard sent a helicopter with armed agents to seize our entire ship — an  illegal act under the Law of the Sea against a Dutch-flagged ship in international waters.

But this wasn’t about law. This was about message. And the message was painfully clear. Our activists and the two journalists accompanying them were told to shut up. With jail cells. With a very public show of force to let us, and everyone else who might consider speaking up against them, know exactly who is boss, and what fate awaits those who might consider this a cause to join. They’re talking to you.

This is the dystopic vision of a world in which democracy has been bought with petrodollars, in which human rights can be suspended,

Oil spills are a daily routine at the Rosneft fields in Siberia. An oil spill in the Pechora sea would be impossible to clean up.

Oil spills are a daily routine at the Rosneft fields in Siberia. An oil spill in the Pechora sea would be impossible to clean up.

ignored, trampled upon. It’s a world in which Planet Earth is occupied by a global tyrant: the fossil fuel industry. Continue Reading…

Aaron Sorkin: #FreeTheArctic30

Protest Outside The Russian Embassy, Mexico

Protest Outside The Russian Embassy, MexicoPlease don’t read any further until you’ve signed the demand to Russia to free my jailed friends, or taken some action, any action, of your own invention to further their cause.  THEYRE FREE!!!!!

——————————-

Aaron Sorkin, I have your next move. You’ve done politics in West Wing — showing us what politicians ought to be as a hopeful glow and glimmer beneath the dull and finely observed clothing of what they really are.

You’ve done journalism. You’ve shown us the honor and integrity of the people who work in The Newsroom and held it up, in every one of those perfectly penned soliloquies by Will McAvoy, as something all of us can aspire to.

It’s time you tackled activism. Yes, I saw that frustrated cheap shot you took at Occupy. But I saw it as tough love. I saw it as the same cocked eyebrow I throw at my own cause, and the organisation I work for, on any given day when idiocy or complacency saps your strength and feeds the teleprompter of your inner voice with soundbites from your worst critics. But you know as well as I do that’s not what’s real. That’s not what’s at the core. What Occupy or Avaaz or Anonymous or 350 or Amnesty at their best have been, and what I saw today from my desk at Greenpeace, is a magic I know you can capture: bruised, unburnished, and with that ever cynical eye that says this isn’t easy stuff, but which resonates at its core with the music of truth.  It’s the story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things for causes they believe in so deeply that they will go to incredible extremes, risk impossible odds, and keep on believing — sometimes against all evidence — that they can change the world. Continue Reading…

Greenpeace: the story that wanted to come true

This is the (mostly) true story of a story that wanted to come true.

It was February 8th, 1970, and a guy named Jim Bohlen was having breakfast with his wife, Marie, and complaining about what a bunch of hippies he had to deal with. Jim was a member of the Sierra Club in Vancouver.

He was born an American, but he’d moved to Canada to keep his son from being drafted into the Vietnam War, and because of a crisis of conscience about his own job. He was an engineer with Boeing, and had helped design the Atlas Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile, designed to deliver nuclear weapons to the Soviet Union. Like many of the time, he’d become horrified at the prospect of nuclear war, and decided he wanted no part in it.

Vancouver in those days was a hotbed of peacenikkery. And it was particularly bothered about a bomb which the US was going to test at Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands, which wasn’t very neighbourly.

Now this bomb was designed not to test the bomb, but to test the island. The US was trying to figure out what the seismic signal of nuclear weapons were, and how to distinguish a bomb signature from an earthquake signature. So they’d chosen a place where they had seismic data on Earthquakes, because in 1964 the area had experienced the Great Alaska Earthquake, the second largest earthquake recorded in the history of the world at that time, 9.2 on the Richter scale. The Tsunami it set off travelled all the way across the Pacific, and did damage as far away as Hawaii and Japan. 133 people died, and Vancouver suffered millions of dollars in property damage.

So let’s say there was some concern about the idea of setting off a bomb 400 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, drilled into the Earth over a major fault line, on an island, in order to test seismic reactions. You take that and you combine it with the fact that this is Richard Nixon testing a weapon of mass destruction in the backyard of the greatest concentration of war resistors, peace activists, and hippies ever assembled in one place, and you get some idea of the scale of resistance these tests were facing in Vancouver.

But they’d done everything they thought a protest movement could do. They’d picketed the border. They’d waved signs. They’d signed petitions. They’d asked Canada to officially complain. And the war machine ignored them.

Continue Reading…

Greenpeace on-board campaign training

Dave Roberts
Arctic Sunrise

Arctic Sunrise

It’s 4am in the morning and the Arctic Sunrise lies at anchor just off Den Helder, the last Dutch port before you enter the North Sea. I’m in the campaign office, a cabin close by the bridge that reeks of human beings spending too many days in too close proximity under too much stress. Here the action team has just learned that their last 24 hours of planning and training to stop an oil rig from moving into place in the Arctic have been for nought. The rig has got wind of Greenpeace’s presence in the region, doubling its speed. We can’t catch them in time to provide the planned dramatic backdrop to the speech of Kumi Naidoo, our Executive Director, before the United Nations to call for an end to oil drilling in the Arctic.

What the team doesn’t know is that this is a false alarm. It’s designed to test their sleep-deprived decision making, strain the team and its leader, demonstrate the importance of backup contingency plans at sea, and stress their overall performance in tomorrow’s action.  If they analyse the data closely, they’ll figure out it makes no sense and start to question it. If they don’t,  they’ll spend the next hour being observed to see how resiliently they react, what they prioritise, and how well they lay  out contingency alternatives.  Then they’ll learn that the information of the rig’s acceleration resulted from a computer glitch, and they can return to the plan they’ve cooked up with the crew and spent most of the night preparing, but an hour the poorer in preparation time and sleep.

This is an On Board Campaigners Training, a regular feature of the Greenpeace International Action Team’s curriculum to help accelerate the transition of promising troublemaker talent into seasoned salty dogs. Continue Reading…

Storytelling for activists

Are we sitting comfortably?

A while back, a few of us were lucky enough to have a storytelling workshop with Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars and the creative force behind “The Meatrix,” “Store Wars,” and “Story of Stuff.”  Our subject was what the story of Greenpeace might be in the coming year; what new roles we might play in the age old story of the hero, in which a broken world is mended. In the narrative we want to tell, however, Greenpeace plays the role of mentor, not hero: the Obi-Wan who sets someone on a journey or the Lady of the Lake who gives them a magic sword.  Much of our thinking about Greenpeace’s value circled around the idea of awakening people’s inner rebel, and the idea that the hero is the one who hears the story, not the one who tells it.  We played with audience profiles, with archetypes, with narrative arcs, and were set a number of challenges to tell stories featuring some of our fictional creations.  Here’s the product of one of my exercises — it was written pretty close to what you see here in about twenty minutes, but I keep coming back to it as something I may want to develop further. Encouraging noises, constructive criticism, and howls of disapproval all welcome. Continue Reading…

Top 10 tips for infecting your non-profit with the Social Media bug

oreo

You’ve got witty, interesting people with passion, expertise, and the ability to talk the bark off a tree. You wouldn’t expect it to be hard to get EVERYONE in your organisation using Social Media, right? Except sometimes it is.

It’s so hard, in fact, that several dozen Social Media Managers turned up to a workshop at SXSW to discuss nothing but.

Panel organiser Beth Kanter, author of The Networked Non-Profit, makes a compelling case that the most effective non-profits are those in which EVERYBODY in the organisation does social media promotion of the cause, from the Executive Director all the way up to the receptionist.

Amy Sample Ward did a nice write up of the panel presentations here, and there’s a Storify treatment from Beth here. But the really best ideas came bubbling up from the collected experience in the room, and I keep circling back on juicy tips and tweets that came to the surface in this highly interactive panel, and thinking I should gather them up. So here they are as a cheat sheet. Add your own in the comments! Continue Reading…

Broken Clay Pottery and Shards of Google Glass: SXSW 2013

Timothy Jordan of Google preparing his demo at SXSW

Prototype device with unclear purpose other than tripping you up while walking.

The Curmudgeonly Keynote which Bruce Sterling delivers every year at tech conference SXSW riffed heavily this year on the ancient past: the lost desert people of Walnut Canyon, Arizona, who, like the flannel hipsters in the audience surrounding me, were once the greatest innovators of their day. As their climate changed, they created adaptive technologies: they learned to carve into the cliff faces, to harvest condensation, to build clay pots to catch and channel snow and rain. They became “the Stanford of desert survival techniques, the MIT of clay pottery.” But they passed. The cold wind blows through empty stone rooms. Their civilisation burned.

For Sterling, there’s a parable here about technological advance. He had predicted a few years back that the blog would be dead by 2017. Four years early, he asked with some smugness, “where at this SXSW were the keynote panels featuring rockstar bloggers? What startups or rollouts for blogging software were buzzing at SXSW? Did any panel even mention a PC?” His point: you live by disruption, you die by disruption. And when you invent the future, you consume the past. So lets leave the shards of RocketBoom and LonelyGirl15 and the latest Dell Laptop on the floor of that adobe cliff home, and consider what was roasting and eating the past with a side of Nokia this year, and picking its teeth with Blackberry bones.

Timothy Jordan of Google preparing his demo at SXSW

This was the year of the Wearables and the Printables. Tim Jordan demonstrated Google Glass. He talked commands to it and Siri-like, it took his dictation and acted on it. He tapped through email messages on his earpiece and sent images of the audience to Facebook. He looked up a word. He gave the salivating coders in the Audience tips on how to write a “Hello World” app and four principles for designing for Google Glass. There was a super cool video showing Pepsi-generation kids promising our eyeware will make roller coasters more fun.
Continue Reading…

South by So Far

It truly is the place where the future gets marketed to death before it’s invented. Midpoint mini-take-aways: wearable devices WAY beyond google glass are coming soon and present a huge and exciting user interface design challenge: and a social integration challenge. I love BUMP’s new ability to bump a photo or video to your Mac by tapping the spacebar with your cell phone. Grumpy Cat rules. And I’ve learned tons about African mobile devices, Digifrenia and Present shock, tips and tricks for hacking internal non-profit culture to create a more social-media friendly ecosystem, Trigger-ties as a viral engineering principle, and stuff in the Shuttle busses, lunch tables, and coffee breaks about UFO & conspiracy theory, Wal-Mart’s social media strategy, NASA’s space camp, how to build a Lego Tardis, the history of Wired’s internal split over blind optimism and “The Long Boom,” how Sierra Club is structured, the art of making a smokey martini, and a Texas tradition called “Chicken Shit Bingo.” Who knew?


SXSW 2013 Storified

This is a storified curation of most of the panels I saw at SXSW 2013, in reverse chronological order. Next time, I’m going to break these up into individual panels, and hang those on a master file of linked storified stories. It’s difficult to navigate a long piece like this by paging through until you get back to the panel you wanted. These served as notes for my wrap-up blog, Clay pots and shards of Google Glass.
Continue Reading…

Tweeting from the clouds: new Boeing 777 is Digifriendly

Posted this on their Facebook page:

Dear American Airlines,

I’m flying from Amsterdam today to SXSW in Austin in one of your spankin’ new 777s, and just want to say THANK YOU for the wifi over the Atlantic, and for the promotional price of… FREE. You should keep it that way! Any marginal income you might get from a $19 pass would be peanuts compared to the goodwill and preference you’d get from people like me who live online. I’m plugged into a 220v socket so my MacBook’s battery isn’t racing the clock. I’m tweeting from 30000 feet about what a great experience this is. Please, please, keep it that way!

I can’t remember the last time I was seriously excited about an airplane. OK, the Wifi was slow of course, and cut out over the Arctic Circle, and the promise of iPod recognition and USB thumb drive media access on the USB didn’t work. The airport maps are unreadably detailed with no zoom function. The Stewardess told me there’s a system for seat to seat SMS-like communication that’s not implemented yet. And among the bugs yet to be worked out in the plane itself, seat 33C sticks out into the aisle as part of a 3 seat row behind a two seat row, making for tricky meal cart navigation. Ow. OW. Ow.

But the moment when I really felt like I was in the Matrix was on exiting the plane. You look out on a sea of seat-back screens and realise that every one is displaying a different steward or stewardess. Nice touch.