The storms had broken the hot and humid weather of the weekend, and it was a crisp and clear Monday morning. I had gotten up early to shower, check my email and other social media messages and then hit the road for Internet Week in New York City. Since I was only driving down to the station, I took the old black car. There are plenty of traffic lights between my house and the New Haven Railroad station, and as I approached each one, they turned red. The pessimistic old soothsayer that often joins my thoughts tried to warn me that this was not a good omen, and when I got to the train station, I couldn’t get on to the public Wifi. Yet the more optimistic internal soothsayer pointed out that it was just stop lights slowing me down, and I could still get cellular connectivity. I hadn’t hit any detours, roadblocks or dead-ends.
I skipped the coffee and donut at the train station. I didn’t sit in one of those seats I’ve scoped out that is always squished but has a power outlet. I figured I’d try to get a little more rest as the train propelled me into New York. It was an express which only makes four other stops. Half a sleep, I heard the train whistle as it approached stations and the various rattling sounds as it blew past them.
I love the train ride into New York. So often there are interesting stories to hear, like the young woman from a rich section of the gold coast talking about her struggles with her younger brother’s emotional problems. The story sounded like it could have come straight out of Gatsby. There were no fun stories to listen to, so when I had rested enough, I pulled out my copy of “Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas” that I had picked up at the local library the other day.
It had recently struck me that Hunter S. Thompson captured what blogging and citizen journalism is all about a generation before people started blogging, and I wanted to rediscover his writing and test my hypothesis. No, I did not take a hit of acid and travel with a Samoan attorney, but I carried a little bit of an outsider’s edgy skepticism. Something about marketing people talking about relevancy and authenticity sets off alarms for me. It sounds too much like people talking about things they don’t really do, like some of my nerdy high school friends from years ago that told good stories about their sexual adventures but were probably scared to death of actually talking to an attractive classmate, or the faux-Zen Masters loudly telling everyone what one hand clapping really sounds like.
So, I arrived at the Metropolitan Pavilion ready for the coming week, realizing that it was only stoplights that impeded my progress, and not roadblocks, detours, or dead-ends.
It is a hot and humid Saturday evening in Woodbridge, CT. We were going to go camping this evening, but there are thunderstorms. Instead, I sit in my office and try to write my long overdue daily blog post. Last week was Personal Democracy Forum in New York and Journalism that Matters in Detroit. On Monday, Internet Week starts in New York City and America’s Future Now starts in Washington. This year, I’ll try to catch a few days of Internet Week and miss America’s Future Now.
I’ve been looking over the schedule for Internet Week and trying to decide which events to cover. Unlike other writers, I don’t have an editor or assignment desk to tell me what to cover. At times, I’ve asked my readers about their recommendations, so if there is anything in the Internet Week schedule that jumps out at you, let me know.
A while ago, I wrote about blogging inspirations, and I mentioned E.B.White. I’ve always enjoyed the way he combined the personal and the political in his essays. Another writer I’ve greatly admired for perhaps very similar reasons and very different reasons is Hunter S. Thompson. As I read through the Internet Week schedule, I felt a little Thompson coming over me, or perhaps a little J.D. Salinger.
One of the events for Internet Week is CM Summit, “Marketing in Real Time”. They’ve lined up some interesting speakers. Fifteen minutes for Dennis Crowley of Foursqaure, and another fifteen minutes for “The Buzz on Buzz” with Bradley Horowitz from Google.
Yet the big blocks of time are set aside for “a fireside chat between John Hayes, CMO for American Express, and John Battelle, CEO of Federated Media” and “A Conversation with Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., Chairman, The New York Times Company”. To balance out Sulzberger’s talk, on the second day they will have “A Conversation with Arianna Huffington, Co-founder & Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post”. One of the cocktail receptions will be sponsored by Facebook and the other by Adobe. What would Hunter S. Thompson have to say about the event, or perhaps Holden Caulfield?
It seems like a lot of Internet Week might benefit from some good Hunter S. Thompson style coverage. Perhaps the event that comes closest to the appropriate level of skepticism and irreverence is “Don't Believe the Hype Day” sponsored by Aquent.
On Tuesday, Dennis Crowley of Foursquare gets a full half hour with Adam Ostrow of Mashable at Mashable’s Media Summit. They also have Duncan Watts, Principal Research Scientist at Yahoo! speaking for fifteen minutes. Another interesting session they have is with Alec Ross, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation. They fill out a bit of the rest of the time with folks in entertainment and were only charging half what CMSummit was charging. Perhaps that is why they are sold out. Of course they are only one day, instead of CMSummit’s two days.
The big event on Wednesday is Digiday:Target. I’ve covered a lot of Digiday conferences and have put up posts on Digiday:Daily in the past. They run good conferences with interesting speakers and I look forward to Digiday:Target, especially since digital targeting has my attention for a bunch of other reasons.
Thursday, ThinkSocial and the Paley Center for Media, in conjunction with PepsiCo, are hosting a one day conference called The #Promise at Internet Week's HQ. This is a conference my literary guides could be incredibly cynical about. GE, Pepsi and Nokia talking about “making socially responsible commitments”. Is it too late for BP to try and get a spot on the agenda?
That said, I have friends working at GE and I know there are some good people that really do want to make a difference through helping corporations be more responsible. Likewise, I really like my Nokia N900 phone and was pleased to read about their Bicycle Charger Kit, which they recently introduced in Kenya. Likewise, I am glad to hear that according to Greenpeace, Nokia is currently the greenest electronics manufacturer.
The rain has come now. It is cooling off outside. I’ve been spending too much time reviewing the schedule and trying to put together this blog post. So, I’ll post it without reading it over as closely as I do other posts. Hopefully, I’ll have more energy tomorrow. In the meantime, if you’re going to Internet Week, or simply have read the schedule, and have thoughts about different sessions, please let me know.
It is hard to say which is more frightening to a writer, the blank page, or the empty wallet. There are times that both have been particularly frightening to me. Yet there are other concerns that the writer always struggles with. Is the writing any good? Is anyone reading it? Doesn’t make a difference?
It was late when I got home. I had a bunch of pictures to upload for my blog post and a couple hundred new unread emails. When I did get a chance to check some of my other social media, I saw this message on Twitter
jcnork - @ahynes1 can u go? -New Haven Mayor Destefano joins business & community leaders in promoting #GoogleHaven 100 Campaign http://bit.ly/crRR6o
Twitter can be terse and cryptic if you don’t have the context, but in this case, I know what my friend Jack was talking about. He, and a bunch of other friends have been working on a project to get Google to select New Haven as a location to roll out their gigabit Internet. I knew it would be a busy day, but that it would also be an event that I would want to be at.
The press conference was taking place at Fair Haven Furniture, 72 Blatchley Avenue. Fairhaven, with its lovely views of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, more commonly known as the Q bridge crossing the mouth of the Quinnipiac river, and the looming oil tanks of the Port of New Haven, has never been high on my list of New Haven tourist attractions. As I passed companies like Independent Pipe and Supply, Lynn Ladder and Scaffolding, and New Haven Awning, I wondered what sort of place Fair Haven Furniture would be like. Would it be a struggling furniture manufacturer, trying to hold on to the glories of yesterday when there were many more manufacturing companies in New Haven? Would it be one of those ‘to the trade’ type stores selling credenzas and other office furniture? Maybe it would be a new citizen to our country, trying to make a go of it here in America selling painted cribs imported from China at a really low price.
Since the mayor was there, as well as several news outlets, it was hard to find a good parking place, so I parked in front of a closed gate next to an abandoned building and hoped I wouldn’t get towed. I walked around the corner and found the door leading to Fair Haven Furniture. I was totally unprepared for what I found inside. (If I had of had time to look at the website ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t have been surprised). Fair Haven Furniture is a hidden gem. Since I was there for the press conference, I only had time to look at part of one of the three floors the company has.
The press conference itself wasn’t anything all that special. Mayor DeStefano talked a little bit about the history of New Haven with its port and railroads which fueled the growth of the city. He noted that high speed internet is our generation’s version of ports and railroads and he hoped that Google would choose New Haven as a test bed and that the infrastructure would help lift New Haven out of recession. He noted the importance of the initiative being led by people from the community and embraced by businesses, instead of being a project led primarily by the city.
Andre Yap, Founder and CEO of Ripple 100 also spoke about his hopes that Google would choose New Haven and bring considerable collateral growth. Kerry Triffin, owner of Fair Haven Furniture expressed similar thoughts and spoke with many of the guests who were discovering his business for the first time.
Giulia Gambale Gouge brought cupcakes from Claire’s Corner Copia. The GoogleHaven cupcakes were from suggestions that had been made online for cupcake frostings. Giulia had been working with Claire to help her make better use of social media, and the cupcakes illustrated the value that companies can gain by entering into conversations with their customers on social media.
While I’ve been concerned about what happens to all the energy around GoogleHaven if Google doesn’t select New Haven, I was pleased to see some concrete benefits to New Haven from the Google Haven effort. Businesses and other organizations are working together to increase public involvement in all aspects of New Haven’s social fiber. If that social fiber can ride on top of a high speed fiber network from Google, so much the better.
The Google Haven effort began by citizens stepping forward to help make New Haven better. The city joined the effort and gave it a great boost. Now, we are starting to see some of the benefits of this effort, and are eagerly hoping that Google will join with the effort to give it an even greater boost.
Yesterday, I wrote a blog post, Why Have A Website? where I said that the answer to that question determines many things about the website. One of those things is what the right analytics are. I’ve spoken about aspects of this in other blog posts and I want to pull together those thoughts in the context of Why Have A Website.