Wednesday Night #1635 with Mitch Joel

Written by  //  July 3, 2013  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

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Mitch Joel as the evening’s headliner brought out a capacity crowd of tech and tech-wary friends, almost all with interest in media (social or not).
As our faithful scribe reports: it was  “unlike any of its predecessors in that the short, compact comments reflect the age in which we live and the rapidity with which information flows globally.  It is to be hoped that the following report, consisting mostly of some of the brief but profound observations by knowledgeable guests, reflects as fully as possible, taking into consideration the limits of the scribe, the incredibly fascinating discussion of the evening.  Any attempt at interpretation and/or expansion of the debate might serve only to detract from the magic of the evening, which resembled more a series of sound bites than a debate; fascinating and fast moving.  It is to be hoped that the resulting electricity is reflected in this report, a series of short, rapid questions, responses and opinions.”

Indeed, Mitch is both articulate and engaging, with the gift of simplifying technical concepts. His subsequent interview on The Agenda Tonight with Steve Paiken (whose son, Zach, was a keen participant in Wednesday Night) gives an excellent, virtually uninterrupted, version of some of  his discussion with us.

Technology has removed the technology from technology
Mitch described his approach to building his company, by writing a blog to attract clients (they now include companies like Walmart, Air Canada, Pfizer) and expanding to podcasts, writing for the Harvard Business review, HuffPost, speaking engagements and publishing his first book Six Pixels of Separation in 2009, which described how new media had changed business.  Devices have now  become very easy to use and are hyper-connnected; businesses have foundationally changed, but  while 15 years ago, people were either intimidated by the change, or perhaps unwilling to adapt to what might be  a passing fad, now it is not only businesses that have to change, but the people. Thus,  CTRL ALT DELETE  is  a ‘why book’ – why there is a need to adapt to  the fully-digital future and why  business, normally the change leader , is  so slow to adapt. More on both books

Impressive fact: Mitch blogs daily – 600 to 1500 words, which he self edits – and finds that his followers are quick to point out any imperfections.

With the immense amount of information that is available, it is questionable how/whether any individual can deal with it. Mitch cited the thesis of Present Shock  in which the author Douglas Rushkoff argues that we no longer have a sense of a future, of goals, of direction at all. We have a completely new relationship to time; we live in an always-on “now,” where the priorities of this moment seem to be everything.

Every day you are building your resumé
Creating a picture of the ‘real’ you on social media is far more effective [and presumably more satisfying] than the traditional one-pager (or more) that if scanned by the corporate computer may, or may not, advance your employment cause. [See Mitch’s blog The New Resume for more on this]
However, as The Web, social networks and search engines like Google have narrowed the world and facilitated the dissemination of information, personal information remains as – if not more – permanent than a tombstone engraving, and can, if not judiciously used, prove to be a mixed blessing. People need to understand the social contract and carefully select what it is they want to publish on social media for the world to see – it is a personal choice.  The definition of privacy has changed and it is we who have opted to change it through our use of social media. [New guest Sophie Tarnowska wrote a pertinent opinion piece for the Gazette last year “The two sides of oversharing: online piracy and Google’s nosiness” outlining some of her qualms about the data mining activities of Google et al  TwoSidesOversharing_Feb2012 ]

It’s not all created equally, it’s simply published equally.
While the power of social networks enables governments to delve into unwittingly disclosed personal information, a  less discussed aspect of change creation is in the corporate world where  public shaming on social media  is instantaneous and sometimes viral – in contrast to the days of letter writing, a very private complaint endeavor. In most cases, the dissatisfied customer would be happy to resolve the matter privately, but feels unable to do so in the face of (possibly perceived) corporate indifference. The problem for corporate entities is how to leverage the narratives of satisfied clients (who rarely say so) as counterweight to the vocal public complaints. On the other hand, even United breaks guitars had little impact on the airline’s balance sheet. The professional services sector  has been slow to adapt to the positive impact of social media and yet depends on personal references – following the popular Rate My ProfessorRate My MD may be the outlier for equivalent Rate My Lawyer, Engineer, Roofer, etc. [Editor’s note: the anonymity of the raters may be problematic; there is lots of room for vindictive clients.] In addition there are ‘awesome’ uses of the platform to enhance the understanding and appreciation of  a specialization within a company, or its products.

Because it’s not hierarchical it can topple a government, but because it’s not hierarchical it can’t run a government
The power of social networks is such that they have the power to create civil unrest and topple governments [this week’s events in Egypt providing a timely reminder of the role played by social media in the toppling of Mubarak some 2½ years ago]; to date, this has generally been accompanied by violence – a reflection of culture rather than the times.

In spite of her move to East Jerusalem, Chantal retains an interest in what is happening in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – the UN-backed war crimes tribunal which is intended to prosecute only the most senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Today, only two defendants survive and there is serious concern that they may die before they are convicted. [Editor’s note: See article in Slate Witness for the Prosecution — Nearly 40 years after Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, will his henchmen never be punished for murdering 2 million people?]

P R O L O G U E

book_ctrlaltdeleteTrusting that all have enjoyed a happy Canada Day ( for your entertainment and information, check out 50 great gifts Canada gave the world and be thankful – or not) and are ready to put their minds to work away from the barbecue, we offer a special treat this Wednesday. Mitch Joel, the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing” according to Marketing magazine, author, journalist, sought-after speaker, and generally guru extraordinaire, is president of Twist Image and author of the recently published Control Alt Delete  and, previously,  Six Pixels of Separation. book_spos Although there is much to learn from Mitch in terms of business and branding, there are many applications for NGOs, along with aspiring politicians and others seeking to enhance their careers.
He may also have comments on the pitfalls of social media for overly enthusiastic political tweeters. Mitch also knows more than a little bit about hacking, which could bring the conversation around to such topics as Wikileaks, Edward Snowden (who may or may not have  just requested asylum in Russia)  and the impact of  Snowden’s revelations on the EU-US Trade Agreement (Bugging row threatens EU-US trade deal) – will this news advance Canada’s negotiations, or have we given up?

We are also looking forward to seeing our good friend Chantal Beaubien who is home on leave from her current position as Legal Consultant at The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, in East Jerusalem.

The Middle East will certainly be on our agenda, given the tumultuous events in Egypt over the last 24 hours, leading now to the Army’s threat to intervene if the parties cannot resolve their differences. So much for the democratic experiment? Of course, the news cycle being what it is (spinning?) Turkey and Syria, along with Iran and Brazil, have temporarily disappeared from the headlines.

The US pundits, meantime, have concentrated on the mixed messages sent by last week’s  Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and voting rights (The Supreme Court Takes With One Hand, Gives With the Other) – and their interpretations are as mixed as the messages. Our preferred analyst is PBS Newshour’s unflappable Marcia Coyle (Justices Wrap Up Term With Blockbuster Week of Supreme Court Decisions).

Last week’s informative session on nuclear power with Douglas Lightfoot and John Jonas, gave us additional reason to pay attention to the rebroadcast of a Quirks & Quarks segment on thorium, a greener, safer, cheaper and more efficient alternative to uranium. There is recent news about Norway’s current testing of thorium.

On another scientific note: a reminder to all that Nigel Penney’s incredibly successful Westmount Science Camp for kids from 6-13 starts its summer season on July 8 and runs until August 16th. The program is ever-expanding and now includes a fantastic extra for some lucky younmgsters: The Ecomaris Foundation, is offering campers the opportunity to enjoy 1 week aboard the 65 ft. sailing ship Roter Sand. The kids will live aboard the ship for 7 days and learn to sail, eat, sleep and collaborate together.

Our abiding interest in bungled thriller plots was piqued by the news that Vatican bank’s Monsignor Nunizio Scarano was caught in his attempt to smuggle one million euros from Switzerland to his “rich shipping industry friends”. So now Vatican Bank Director, Deputy Resign Amid Scandal. Seems there’s a long way to go before Pope Francis can successfully carry out reforms.

Speaking of corruption, Laval is catching up to Montreal – another mayor goes down. But the good news is that Quebec’s construction workers are going back to work – or at least until the construction holiday.

Natural disasters continue to afflict the world and the Arizona fires with the tragic loss of 19 elite firefighters have eclipsed (for all but Canadians) the Calgary floods. Meanwhile, even the best efforts of Calgarians and their Supermayor Nenshi have not managed to vanquish all the devastation – some events of the Stampede have had to be cancelled. This is certainly far more disappointing than the earlier postponement of the Conservative Party’s National Convention – we are glad that the Party elders realized that a bunch of political practitioners would simply hinder the valiant clean-up efforts. Wise decision, particularly in view of comments made about Vic Toews’visit last week. (We will be so glad to see that particular minister disappear into the oblivion beyond cabinet!)

Finally, we wish Mark Carney a very happy (and prosperous) Canada Day, as he starts his new gig at the Bank of England.

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