If ever there was a heaven on earth, I imagine it involving unlimited food & drink on a beach. The world’s most talented and intelligent folks would be present, including David Muir and Anderson Cooper (my big news crushes). Cue the right music and they’ll change the world.
What’s described is basically one big cocktail party, only high-achieving and probably out of my reach. Since cocktail parties typically don’t accomplish much more than tipsy small talk (at least in this physical world), I can only hold hope that creating a productive (non-celebrity) one in the digital sphere is possible.
My friend Steve Spalding is working on a network that gets clever people together to discuss difficult (but solvable) questions, form thesis’ about how to solve them, and create actual solutions (papers, products, organizations, events etc…) to help chip away at them. Here are 3 examples of questions that this proposed network would attempt to solve (keep in mind there are a wide range, these are just the top 3 that piqued my interest):
Improving your diet is often as much about where and when you eat as it is about what you are eating, how can we develop way(s) to get people to include more vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and fruit in their diets without making the plan seem like a “diet”?
Crowdfunding technologies have been highly beneficial for small producers, artists, and engineers who need capital injections without the onerous terms often associated with them, however, they don’t allow communities to come together and share both their skills and their capital to create larger more complex projects. How can we develop a system of Crowddoing that brings people, their skills and their capital together to complete big projects?
The reasons for high unemployment are complex and varied, but one solution that has been posed is to increase the ease, diversity and scope of entrepreneurial ventures, allowing more people to build stable companies that help kickstart new industries that can support new employment How can we create better support systems to allow small entrepreneurs to develop more varied businesses faster, cheaper and more easily?
Eating healthier, enabling large-scale collaboration, and solving unemployment – who wouldn’t want this? Yet we need people to seriously think about how. Also, there are more problems that need solving. What would make each of us advance closer to our best selves? How can technology help rather than limit us? Steve proposes that we think about what we’d like to solve and pose it in a question. Perhaps presenting it to a group of other like-minded folks in the arena would yield tremendous progress.
I have a few questions which I will be sharing in the next post. If you have a question you’d like to pose or just want to learn more about this network – leave a comment, or drop Steve a tweet @sbspalding.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica McCarthy, actress, producer, and founder of Show & Tell Stories Productions, a boutique video production company based in NYC that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, artists, and organizations share their story. I talked to her about the importance of storytelling for InnerGap (an upcoming interviewing platform for HR professionals and recruiters), for both those being interviewed AND those asking the questions.
Why storytelling? It’s a buzzword these days, but why is it especially important for those on the job market?
M: It’s important these days for anyone who’s trying to get their message across because these days there’s so much information out there with social media. If you’re just spitting out facts it just gets lost in the deluge of information. So, it’s really important when you want to be able to express something that’s unique to you and why people should be listening to you. You need to have a story.
InnerGap caters to HR professionals and recruiters. How can they ask the right questions to draw out people’s stories?
M: One of the main things that I would say for interviewers is that you’re looking for connection. You already have the person’s resume. One mistake that a lot of recruiters make is that they’re taking time to ask questions that they can get the answer to on the resume (ie. Where did you go to school? What was your major?) Instead they should be using the resume as a starting off point…What they’re ultimately trying to do is to get more information than just a fact on a piece of paper.
Recruiters should also ask questions that don’t require just a yes or no answer. Recruiters usually have a set criteria of questions they’re going to ask, but they shouldn’t be afraid to be present in the moment. If someone says something that is very intriguing, feel free to follow up with that. You don’t have to stick to set questions. That way, you can really find out more about that person.
For those being interviewed, how should they respond to more spontaneous questions that don’t directly relate to their skill set?
M: When you’re being interviewed, you actually have a lot more control over the interview than most people think. Celebrities and politicians are great at this. Several things to note:
1. Be empowered.
2. Know ahead of time what your talking points are.
3. Do your research on the company. Preferably find out who will be interviewing you because again, it’s about the connection…don’t be afraid to show some of your human connection.
4. Yes – and (borrowed from the improv world) Don’t give a yes or no answer, even if you’re asked a question that just seems like yes or no. It’s always, ‘yes’ and then add a piece of information. That really keeps the conversation going and again spawns that connection between two people.
Be sure to check out Monica and more of her storytelling tips at showandtellstories.com!
If you’re reading this from a cubicle, you probably won’t be in 2 years. If you’re reading from a laptop, you likely won’t be doing that either. Space and the tools we use in the space will be drastically transformed in the coming years. I’m not a psychic; this is strictly based on data, trends, and yes, a little bit of New York bias.
Living in New York is a bit like living in a time lapse. At the risk of sounding like an elitist urbanite, the rest of the country (San Francisco and Boston notwithstanding) trails in comparison. This is not meant to be condescending; it is simply a basic truth about metropolitan cities in general. With the sheer number of people (a large proportion being investors, technophiles, and creatives) progress is bound to unfold at a much more rapid pace.
One of the best places to witness the future is at co-working spaces. A co-working space is a shared work space for anyone who needs a place to plop down, get connected, and work outside of the basic constructs of a “normal” office space. Initially, co-working space was used by mostly freelancers as a way to escape the humdrum of working from home. Now, people from a variety of backgrounds flock to co-working spaces (developers, artists, independent consultants, even accountants and lawyers).
Last year when I was completely new to the tech scene, I visited New Work City, largely known as one of the first co-working spaces in New York. I personally believe it should be every New York newbie’s crash course into the tech world. I was immediately enlivened by the quiet energy buzzing inside. It was much better than a coffee shop, mostly because a.) no one was hogging the outlet, b.) no one near you was in an intense gossip sesh as you attempt to do work, and c.) coffee was FREE. Outlets, productivity, and free caffeine yield generally good vibes. Who wouldn’t want that? As a freelancer, I would often go to coffee shops, not because I needed another 3 cups of coffee, but simply because I wanted a positive workflow that was conducive to getting things done. Most of all, I wanted an environment that reminded me I was not the only one. Connection. Something not unlike the college library buzzing with activity at 3 am during final exam week because you’re all in the same over-caffeinated, underprepared, cramming (aka screwed) state. Imagine that everyday, just with more chic chairs and desks, and more “sophisticated” problems to stress about. That’s a co-working space.
The number of co-working spaces in New York has doubled each year since 2006. In that same period of time, New York City has exploded as a tech hub. Vivek Wadhwa recently said, “In 2006, I wouldn’t have put New York anywhere on the map of leading tech hubs. Now it is literally number 2.” According to Tony Bacigalupo, founder of New Work City, there is a direct correlation between the growth of co-working and the explosion of New York City’s startup ecosystem. The reason? Co-working spaces facilitate transitions between jobs. In today’s ever-changing economy, a co-working space becomes quite necessary when you’re transitioning from a full-time gig to work at a startup or as an independent. This trend will only grow as industries continue to be disrupted. This is generation flux after all, and that’s not just a catchy phrase. The flux is real. Chaotic disruption is rampant, not just with the Facebook, Twitter, and Googles, but across industries. You see the writing on the wall in New York, as more and more people quit their corporate jobs and become their own boss by creating pockets within pockets among niche industries.
The future is about self-reliance, and this is another reason why New York paves the way. New Yorkers are famous (or infamous?) for being self-reliant. Tonight at a joint Mashable -BMW iVentures event, Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures likened the age we’re living in now to the period of time when we shifted from an agrarian economy to the industrial age. The possibilities of where we could be post-digital are..who knows. Figuring out how to properly monetize workspace is one issue. Will it take on a sharing model similar to our homes (AirBNB) and cars (Zipcar)? What about the jobs crisis? The jobs of those whose industries are dismantled?
Looks like the future is already here.
*Many of the insights from this post originate from a talk given by Tony Bacigalupo, co-working evangelist, from a Brooklyn Venture Community meetup on November 14. You can download his presentation at nwc.co/bkv-preso. I also highly recommend his blog, Happy Monsters.
*Also, if you’re interested in finding a co-working space in New York, here is a super handy guide compiled by Charles Bonello, a member of the NY Tech community, that includes details on every co-working space in the city. He also shares some interesting stats: “There is currently about 600,000 square feet of co-working space available, which is equivalent to 400 Starbucks, the entire 11 story building that houses Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in NYC and the Port Authority/NYC’s lease at the World Trade Center.” Wow!
My father recently won second place in an essay contest about the American Dream. The contest was sponsored by the Asian supermarket Hmart, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. It just so happens that my parents are also celebrating their 30 year anniversary of living in the United States. In 1982, they emigrated from Taiwan so my Dad could pursue graduate study. He eventually obtained his Ph.D. in engineering, gained employment, and rooted our family of 5 in Americana (suburban house, fence, lawn, and all). The rest is still a story waiting to be written.
The American Dream is an oft-used phrase by politicians these days. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have praised entrepreneurship, innovation, and immigrants’ crucial roles in those fields; yet life usually manifests differently from the shiny tint we often associate with the Dream.
My father said in his essay:
The American Dream is a phrase most immigrants are chasing all of their lives knowingly or unwittingly. It means different things to different people…I believe that a successful and memorable American Dream requires not just determination, perseverance, strong work ethic, continuous improvement and understanding of one’s role; it also includes special joy of savoring the food and cultural heritages of one’s mother country.
The American Dream in real living form can be hard. Sacrifice, struggle, and constant work are the stuff real first-generation dreams are made of. What about for the second-generation? Having adjusted to a country’s customs, do those dreams shift and reappear in the form of comfort, stability, and status?
Two years ago, as a junior in college, I wrote a blog post, titled “A Spectacular Failure”. 5 paragraphs in, read:
I look at myself and know that I’ve been able to lead a comfortable life precisely because my parents struggled for me. This is both a blessing and a curse. I’m tempted to settle for a safe success, and know this is easily attainable because my parents have already set all the stones in place for me. As long as I attend school, get good grades, go to college, graduate, secure a job, make money, marry, and raise a family, I’ll be happy. Ot so I think. But is that it? They’ve made the path easy for me to be comfortably numb. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to choose a path of stability & security…but, I can’t help but feel the itch of my parent’s youthful gamble resurrecting itself in me.
At the time, I used this as justification for the amount of time I was spending on CampusTweet.TV – a multimedia passion project of mine that was not yielding any tangible reward. I filmed restaurant reviews and offbeat stories around campus on my own time. At one point, I was working on it more than my actual school work, receiving no money or external validation. All logic was telling me to close shop, get some sleep, and invest more time in something with a more reliable yield (ie. school and graduating). But stubborn idealism gave me the resolve to build it into something bigger and I continued with the sleepless nights. If I failed, at least it would be a spectacular failure.
Well, I failed. The site is now dead, literally. We killed CampusTweet.TV halfway into my senior year when I started working for ABC. Idealism – 0, Reality – 1. But, this version of the Dream is still alive, and I think it’s even more relevant for all of us now, given the rapidly changing world we live in.
Almost 2.5 billion people use the Internet. We talk about immigrants moving to new countries. But we all live in a new space. We don’t just live in a physical world; heck, some of us spend more time wrapped in the digital and mobile worlds. That’s the new landscape. In the next 2-3 years, cheap Internet-connected tablets will enable hundreds of millions more to move into this arena. Same with the increased accessibility of mobile. Billions more will be able to share knowledge and speedily exchange communication as we, the privileged already do today. The new 3 billion on the Internet will build their own apps, solve their own problems. Vivek Wadwha says, “Over time, Internet access will be cheap or practically free–just like electricity is today.”
In this digital age, we are all immigrants. As new American citizens, my parents knew they had to work harder- not just to get ahead- but to simply be rooted in American society. The wacky world wide web, similarly, is a landscape bursting with new tools and networks. Get to know them. Success won’t be written by established traditions or inherited ties we can take for granted. They don’t exist. Instead, having an immigrant mentality – that of continuous improvement and understanding of one’s niche in the new technological space- will be crucial. Claim your stake. Our roots remain the same, but we’re branching into new territory. Dreams do evolve.
I first heard about Alice Lee last month through Twitter. Amid a flurry of 140-character statements, the headline about a Wharton student skipping class and deserving a job at Instagram caught my eye. Instagram? Skipping class? My mouse honed in. I arrived at Dear Instagram - With Love, Alice, a website with pretty cursive typeface floating daintily among clouds on a clear blue sky. Like a love letter, its greeting words expressed unabashed admiration:
“In a nutshell: I am a huge, huge fan of Instagram. And I want to be a part of your team.”
Love in the digital age? Some have called Dear Instagram an over-the-top ode to the popular iPhone photo sharing portal, Instagram, which has been downloaded more than 15 million times. But beyond the cute and welcoming background reminiscent of a day on the Bay (sailboats and sunglasses adorn the four pages), Dear Instagram is a thoughtful collection of ideas from a 20-year old who just really wants to work for Instagram. Within two days of its launch on February 16, it received more than 40,000 hits – not too shabby for a site built from scratch in 2.5 days. Media outlets from The Atlantic to Business Insider were quick to highlight how many classes Wharton junior Alice Lee skipped to produce the viral sensation- four- effectively using this ‘act of rebellion’ as clicking bait. But for Lee, skipping class is no big deal. Never afraid to breakaway, she took the entire fall semester off to work at the start-upFoursquare, build her photo business, and go to Africa.
I briefly met Lee this weekend while she was in New York for a client meeting. She has maintained a flow of design and photography projects, even since before Dear Instagram was born. Lee began her own photo business two years ago, despite having never taken a professional photo class.
“I learn better when I experiment. I started messing around with photography when my Dad returned from China with a Nikon D100, one of the first DSLRs that Nikon came out with. I learned by following people, reaching out to other photographers, creating a photoblog, and posting my photos to Facebook, ” says Lee. “All the gigs I’ve gotten have been through friends, or friends of friends.”
Naturally, she references these experiences in her Instagram application. But more than a digital resume, Dear Instagram outlines concrete things Lee would actually do if given the opportunity to work at Instagram, which includes revamping the developer site and connecting with more photographers. On the final page of the site, which reads like a storybook, Lee concludes with the question “So why me?”, then quickly summarizes her own answer in a concise batch of sentences and graphics. Perhaps the more logical question to ask, however, is why NOT?
The outstanding nature of a website like Dear Instagram begs the question: Is this the new standard for resumes? Do we all need to create a viral website to receive a second glance from respected companies these days? If so, save my spot in the unemployment line now!
Thankfully, Lee offers resoundingly simple advice that doesn’t require coding. In fact, her number one tip for job applicants is to just be genuine.
“Don’t do things for the sake of doing them, ” she says. “Don’t feel compelled to make a resume-y website just because “everyone else is doing it” – because that’s not a real reason to!”
Lee suggests showing, not just telling, how your strengths will add value. Think about what a company is lacking and provide a solution. If you are a writer, write potential copy for the website. If you are a designer, send a potential design, which is what she did. Lee thought the current Instagram developer site could use some improvement so she redesigned it and sent them a mock-up.
Proactivity is a strategy she often uses to much success. While helping a potential client with something unrelated to design, she decided to create website icons free of charge for the team to use. This established a regular collaboration and she is currently working on a major design project with the organization.
Lee’s interest in Instagram stands uniquely at the intersection of her photography and technology passions. With ten employees based out of San Francisco, Instagram is at the center of the start-up revolution – all the more reason why Lee loves the company. However, she cautions that start-up culture is not for everyone.
“I think that it’s a certain type of person who wants to go into the start-up world and it’s really important to be honest with yourself in deciding if you’re that kind of person,” says Lee. “You have to work hard at your traditional corporate job, but in the start-up world, the onus is really on you and you are truly irreplaceable to the organization that you are a part of.”
Start-up or corporate, Lee’s career advice applies across the spectrum. Professionally, be smart and offer valid ideas, but what is equally important is being likable. This is significantly easier when you love what you do. Lee wakes up with a smile knowing she has “a whole day ahead that I can spend building cool things.”
Lee and Instagram have talked but so far, no work arrangement is set. Rest assured, with or without the InstaGig, this is not the last you will hear of her.
Idealism at its best, but it’s always important to set missions and goals.
1. I believe the next generation is charged with a challenge: to coalesce gracefully with a rapidly evolving world,
2. I believe the current status quo in institutional education does not equip us with relevant tools to meet this challenge, nor does it produce the best version of our selves,
3. I believe in devoting our technological resources toward empowering individuals to explore a wide array of interests, then providing opportunities to hone the skills deemed meaningful to each of us,
4. I believe in the need for a creation-based platform that displays our works as a learning package for others to follow,
5. I believe individuals should create their own curriculum: learning by consistently producing content that contributes to public discourse and education, and doing by connecting with the right people on collaborative projects,
6. I believe in using said platform to simultaneously craft our individual and shared biographies,
7. I believe that when we creatively express, discover, and collaborate among various disciplines, we can reach an unprecedented level of synergy in the world,
8.I believe that by creating this platform our generation will be more than able to meet the challenges presented,
9. And I believe the world will be a better place when we each find our bliss, beautifully giving to the world what it deserves of us.
Imagine a world lifestream. David Gerlenter, professor at Yale, otherwise known as oracle, predicts that in the future all of the world’s data will be consumed through a ‘lifestream’.
A particular goal is to create a lifestream which aggregates the most popular social network streams, and includes email and stuff like that. It will generate revenues the way Twitter and Facebook do—by getting huge numbers of users, beginning at the place we know, Yale University undergraduates, who love glitzy new software.
Read the full Washington Post interview. It’s an insightful foray into the future. I certainly do believe that we need a more elegant and useful way to organize our digital lives and these so-called lifestreams may be key to that. Facebook won’t be around forever.
Today marks the last day of classes for the Spring semester. On a lighter note, it’s also my last day of class as an undergrad at the University of Florida. The feeling is surreal. As I step out of my comfort zone, at this place which I’ve been lucky to call home for the past four years, the question is: What’s next?
I started this blog for my Advanced Interactive News class in January with the full intention of learning as much as I could about the latest technology that bring our worlds together. I even hailed it as a digital revolution. But, perhaps the greatest lesson I learned is that this revolution will never fade. Technology will advance relentlessly, and we can either choose to follow it or stay stuck in our own world.
The Center for Media Innovation and Research (CMIR) at the University of Florida is taking steps to bridge that gap between the old school mediums and the newest technologies. They are “working to create new ways of telling the stories that journalists tell…providing an outlet for student and faculty projects to tell stories in new ways.”
This 21st Century Newsroom and Laboratory is fully convergent and multi-platform. It provides advanced training for UF students, equipping them with tools to combine text, real-time and edited video, podcasts, and other web-based/mobile applications when publishing. Instead of solely utilizing one form of media, all forms of innovation are fused into a completely 3D, real-time experience.
I am thankful that the University of Florida has the foresight to educate future journalists in this way. The assortment of projects that has already been published by the Center is amazing. With crisp photos, movement and sound accompanying every piece, storytelling is taken to a new level. One of the Center’s biggest accomplishments is their comprehensive Election 2010 coverage of Florida’s elections. Real-time results and soundbites from candidates and election figures gave the public an interactive play-by-play of the major developments. CMIR also covered the Gulf oil spill by tying together professional radio, television, and newspaper reports with amateur video and photographs. They even installed a Gulf Oil Tracker on their website, courtesy of PBS Newshour’s widget.
Learning to combine all mediums,old and new, into our reports as journalists is the best preparation for the future. One only knows what new developments will come two, five, ten years from now….but at least CMIR is making efforts to keep up.
Imagine a world where educational content is available online for free. Well, that future is essentially here.
The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that provides high-quality, free education to anyone, anywhere via an online library of more than 1,600 teaching videos. We are providing $2 million to support the creation of more courses and to enable the Khan Academy to translate their core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages.
What started out as the founder making a few algebra videos for his cousins has grown to over 2,100 videos and 100 self-paced exercises and assessments covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history.
I haven’t gotten the chance to check out the videos myself, but the online testimonials are astounding. What do you think about learning on the web? Could they potentially replace in-person learning?