Torn About Technology

Torn About TechnologyHere’s a transcript of my four-minute Blink! talk Torn About Tech given on Monday, April 23, at the Green Meetings Industry Council 2012 Sustainable Meetings Conference:

“Let me make one thing clear.

I love technology!

I love my iPad, my iPhone! I love my iPod touch! (Three computers in one man purse!)

And I’m a big fan of the appropriate use of technology at events.

That people anywhere with an an internet connection can get a taste of what’s happening at this conference in Montreal, Canada, without having to use significant amounts of energy and resources to travel here is a GOOD THING!

But I’m Torn About Tech at face-to-face events.

I’m Torn About Tech because technology can distract us from what I believe is the core reason for having face-to-face events.

Because we don’t have to travel anymore to hear some someone speak or to obtain up-to-the-minute content.

We can get all that online.

So what is the core reason for having face-to-face events these days?

It’s so we can meet, share, and learn through face-to-face personal connection and interactions.

And there’s a danger, a very seductive danger that I’m certainly not immune to, of focusing on new technology, new gadgets, new apps to mediate our face-to-face experience and, in the process, ignoring much simpler non-tech ways to increase learning, connecting, and sharing at events.

An example: audience response systems, clickers, gadgets we can hand out to audience members to get responses to questions.

Great devices for anonymous polling, where no one in the room gets to find out how anyone else voted. Occasionally that’s appropriate and useful.

But, come on, is this really what we want at a face-to-face event? I’d like to know how you and you and you feel about an issue, and there are a ton of low-tech/no-tech methods we can use to share that information.

We have:

  • hand voting
  • card voting
  • voice voting
  • dot voting
  • Roman voting
  • (one of my favorites) body voting aka human spectrograms

Body voting has audience members stand along a line in the room to show the agreement/disagreement gradient on an issue. You can use it to discover different viewpoints, create debates, create homogeneous or heterogeneous small discussion groups on a topic—all things that gadgets can’t do.

These voting methods involve people moving about which improves learning, retention, and recall. They’re free or incredibly cheap and they’re a lot more fun.

Yes, there are some things that technology does better than the old ways. Having multiple session scribes live blog into a shared Google Doc projected on a big screen is much better than scribes taking notes on yellow pads or flip charts.

But let’s not fall into the trap of believing that new technology is the only way to improve events.

Very often we can simply use different human process to greatly improve learning, connection, and fun at our events.

That’s why I’m Torn About Technology.

Thank you very much.”

4 reasons why I pre-ordered an iPad

iPad presentation
I pre-ordered an iPad. No, I am not an early adopter of technology. My closest brush was to buy the original MacBook Pro three months after it was introduced in 2006. It’s still my current laptop.

So why, twenty-five years after I began work as an independent IT consultant who never subjected his clients to the bleeding edge, have I pre-ordered an iPad that won’t even ship until late April?

  1. Apple got the finger interface right. Yes, the finger interface. Other tablets required styluses in addition to the ten fingers we were born with. Apple built an interface for the iPhone from the ground up that worked better with our fingers than anything else anyone has ever made. The iPhone/Touch offers amazing usability on a 3” x 2” display—an incredible feat. I can’t wait to see what is going to be possible on a screen with over five times more pixels. It’s going to be fantastic, I can tell you that.
  2. I can write on the iPad. My right thumb doesn’t bend the way it should any more, and doctors have told me investigative/corrective surgery’s not worth the risk. And I never learned to touch type. (If I had, forty-five years ago, I’d have had severe carpal tunnel syndrome by now.) Anyway, I can’t thumb type on any small screen device. And even if I could, I wouldn’t enjoy writing long blog posts and emails on one. The iPad gives me the best of both worlds; a large virtual keyboard on which I can hunt and peck for quick text entry and a proper keyboard I can plug in when needed.
  3. I can stop lugging around my laptop for 99% of my trips away from the office. My MacBook Pro is a 7 lb. beast. Yes, I chose it four years ago and I’m glad I did. I wrote my book on it wherever I went, and its large screen upped my productivity significantly. But the book is published and I don’t need that big screen any more. An iPad and keyboard weighs a third as much. The case doubles as a wedge that props up the screen. Nice! Using iWork and the dock connector, I may even be able to run presentations from it (though the resolution may not be high enough for fancy speaking engagements).
  4. Application development heaven. If I still developed software, I would be dreaming up applications to run on the iPad. In fact, I don’t like to think about what could be done with this device, because if I did I’d be tempted to ditch my Conferences That Work evangelism and delve into building a killer app for this platform. (I’d probably make a lot more money too.) Well, I’m not going to develop apps for the iPad, but a lot of people are. And they’re going to create a second cycle of revolutionary applications that are an order of magnitude more impressive than the thousands of significant apps that exist now. Am I sticking my predictive neck out here? I don’t think so.

These four reasons, together with Apple’s track-record (yes, I know it’s not perfect) for quality products, are quite enough to convince me to pre-order an iPad, something I’ve never done before. By the end of this year, we’ll all know how this turns out.

There’s only one downside as far as I can see. My wife is under the impression that once I get my iPad I won’t need my iPod Touch any more. But honey, I will. We’ll work it out—her birthday is coming up. I’ll think of something…

What do you think about the iPad’s adoption? Do you agree with me that the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades? Or do you think I’m nuts?