On the power and perils of dreams

div class=’posterous_autopost’>”I first saw the site for Disneyland back in 1953. In those days it was all flat land – no river, no mountains, no castles or rocketships – just orange groves, and a few acres of walnut trees” – Walt Disney.

Disneyland to me, summarizes the power of a dream. It was a dream a man had that was literally a castle in the air. It was just an idea – a family park where parents and kids could have fun together, a happy place, something that will keep developing and being added to, an unique amusement park, etc. None of these dreams were concrete. They had no fixed objectives, no details, were very broad, etc. History has several examples of visionaries who shaped futures from thin air. All it started with was a seed of thought that in its original form didn’t even germinate and start to take shape.

Then, and now, one thing has not changed. Visionaries are looked as eccentric and weird people. The culture we live in now has taken a shift and is now the least friendly to people who have grand visions. This is an era where entrepreneurs are encouraged to go after quick money. Investors do not believe in supporting companies that want to build legacy. There are more devil’s advocates these days than dream’s advocates. I was reading Tom Kelley’s “Ten faces of Innovation” and this is what he has to say about a Devil’s advocate –

“The Devil’s advocate gambit is extraordinary but certainly not uncommon, since it strikes so regularly in the project rooms and board rooms of corporate America. What’s truly astonishing is how much punch is packed into that simple phrase. In fact, the Devil’s advocate may be the biggest innovation killer in America today. What makes this negative persona so dangerous is that it is such a subtle threat. Every day, thousands of great new ideas, concepts, and plans are nipped in the bud by Devil’s advocates”.

When I read this for the first time, flashes of visions appeared before my eyes about various people I shared my grand plans of changing the world with. The discussions, advice and the devil’s advocate arguments meant that several ideas never even took shape. The seed got squished before even it could germinate and see the world. This is a peril every dreamer has to deal with. He is surrounded by people who cannot see and share the same vision as he does. Unless, he takes every criticism with a grain of salt and filters out devil’s advocates, the vision will remain a castle in the air that can never be built.

Also, I believe that, the broader and bigger the dreams are, the better the future will be that is created because of the same dream. The quantity of achievements are proportional to the quality of dreams. We need dreamers in today’s world. Not just any dreamer, but the one with the resolve to work his/her way through any hurdles to build the future they believe in. These are the people who will solve climate crisis and poverty. Because these people already are seeing the future that others can not even dream of. To all the entrepreneurs who are reading this and others, “Dream, focus, walk, achieve. Don’t worry about making quick money. Think about writing a few pages in the history. Because, one history is written, it inspires others to follow suit”.</div

Tagging posterous posts

When you send your post through email to post@.posterous.com, your subject line indicates the post title.
Append your subject with ((tag:…) to add tags automatically to the blog post. For instance…

This blog post had a title: Tagging posterous posts ((tag: useful info, posterous))



{posterous x wordpress} issues

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9;posterous_autopost'>When a wordpress blog is connected to posterous blog (meaning posterous autoposts on wordpress), there is one issue you need to aware of –

If you use posterous to post a lot of images, it might be a really bad idea to connect the wordpress blog with posterous. While posterous is quite smart in managing the pictures by creating a scrollable pane, the autoposting on wordpress dumps all the pictures into the post with a relatively meaningless link “click here to view the entire gallery on posterous”.

Flickr might be better for posting large number of images.



Getting tweet stats

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If someone wants to track their tweet stats, you should check out http://tweetstats.com. It is a really neat way to track your tweet count and other statistics. For @ac4d, the students were asked to track their social media scores by aggregating the frequency of tweets, blogposts, videos, etc. Check out the snapshots of my September tweets :)



Want to follow the progress of our students?

We’re starting the third week of classes, and our students are knee-deep in project work and design theory. You can follow their individual blogs to see a bit about the work we’re covering. Design education isn’t just about knowledge acquisition, though; emotional growth and a deep reflection on cultural significance is critical to learning how to think and act like a designer. To formalize this reflection, we ask our students to answer two questions each week: What did you learn? How do you feel?

You can view some of the most recent answers here:

Process Manifesto #1: How to consume, digest, generate and share content using social media

This is my first attempt of a process manifesto. It’s a diagram of how I consume, digest, generate and share content online using different social media channels and tools. This is by no means perfect, but it has worked for me more or less. I’ve tried my best to break it down and include what I think are the most important. Fellow classmates, please:

  1. adopt it, modify it, add to it and make it whatever would work for you
  2. let me know if any of you can help me make this look better (whether a better sketch/diagram, or in Illustrator)
  3. make me explain anything that doesn’t make sense and help all of us refine the process

Here’s a bullet version explaining the diagram: 

  • I primarily use 4 tools/channels: Google Reader, Twitter, Posterous, and Delicious to manage my “social media” life.
Consuming content: 
  • I consume information from 2 places: Google Reader and Twitter. If I like a link I found from Twitter, I add the blog RSS feed to my Google Reader. If I see a blog post that I like, I follow that blogger on Twitter. I usually spend no more than 5-10 minutes scrolling through feeds each time. But I do go back and check often (every ~4-6 hours has been average for me).
Digesting (and sharing) content:
  • When I see an interesting article, it generally falls into 3 categories: “too long to read now”, “worth sharing”, and “want to blog about later”. Each follows a different work flow. 
  • If it’s too long to read, I bookmark it to delicious using my chrome extension and tag it with “read later”.
  • If it’s worth sharing, I do shift+s to share if I’m reading in Google Reader, and RT if I’m on Twitter/Tweetdeck (also see Lessons Learned below).
  • If it’s something I want to blog about later, I bookmark it to delicious using my chrome extension and tag it with “future post”.
Generating (and sharing) new content:

  • With retweeting and sharing, you are only redistributing the content to a different group of people. Whenever possible, you should generate new content to put in the ecosystem.
  • My content generally comes from 3 places: 1) discussions from AC4D classes, 2) daily observations, and 3) opinions and thoughts after reading other articles (where the “future post” tag comes in handy).
  • I use posterous to share my content because: 1) I can post to it using gmail, 2) it lets me cross-post to other channels such as the AC4D blog, twitter, flickr, etc with just one click, and 3) It also auto converts all links, documents, photos, videos, etc into the appropriate formatting. 

As far as lessons learned go, here are my top 3: 

Lesson Learned #1:
I’ve learned that it’s better to post something real-time (whether it’s photos from a conference, a half-finished thought, half of a discussion, a link you intend on expanding later..etc), then add the rest of your thoughts when you have time as a second post. If you wait, it might be another day or two before you get to it. By that time, the content will feel old and you probably won’t end up posting it after all (which happened to me many, many times).

Lesson Learned #2: 
Use browser plug-ins, keyboard shortcuts, and autopost services. They will make your life so much easier. If you have to choose one browser plug-in, install delicious. Learn to close tab (ctrl+w for chrome) and share articles (shift+s for google reader) quickly. Make your Google Reader shared items autopost to Twitter (twitterfeed.com), because it’s much faster. Make your URLs on Twitter auto-bookmark to delicious (packrati.us) because it’s close to impossible to find the links again after a few hours.

Lesson Learned #3:
Create tags such as “read later” and “future posts”. I have them in gmail and delicious. It helps to prevent information overload and makes it easy(or easier) to revisit something later. Clean up and reorganize the tags often – I’d suggest weekly (which I am very behind). Your repository will grow over time and it’ll make a really good resource library for your blog.

When your customers have ideas for new products…

By night I’m a student here at AC4D, however, by day I design toys for a company called Wild Planet Entertainment.  One of the perks of the job is that our customers often submit ideas for new concepts.  These come mostly in letter form, often hand written, in pencil, crayon, or marker.  This past week I received one that I thought I would share:

Dear spygear,My name is Isaac and I am 8 years old and I have an idea for a product that my friends and I would like like to play with.  It’s a pack of 8 walkietalkies.  Each one has 5 buttons, 1 up and 1 down,1 left,1 right and a keyboard that you unfold and a censor, and when you press the censor the letter or space appears on the screen like a normal keyboard. Up or down means go up or down in your inbox.  When you turn it on you have to enter in the time, just like the watch, and at the side there are the buttons that the watch has, and it’s even got the grey button that turns on the torch light.  The spymaster has a radio with 2 buttons, a not send button that gets rid of the message and is not sent, send is sent. you can even make an ID to make spys know what spy sent it!

In a funny way, it is specifically this kind of letter that grounds me, and makes me hungry to design.  We’ve been talking a lot about process in the last few weeks at AC4D, and this is a fantastic example of one of the most important aspects of the design process.  The simple fact that we are designing products for people, people with vivid imaginations, people who see the world differently from us, and people who also have visions of the future.

It is our job to help them articulate that vision in ways far beyond their expectations.  Issac, I’m doing my best buddy, grey buttons and all.

The Universal Traveler: A great resource for creative problem solving

The Universal Traveler” – A soft systems guide to creativity, problem solving, and the process of reaching goals.  By Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall.

This book does a good job of walking you through a creative process from ideation to implementation.  I’ve found it works great to unblock your mind when you find yourself stuck somewhere along in your own process.  The book itself is full of tools and exercises that can help you get moving again.  In my mind, however, the best thing about the book is that it has intentionally huge margins.  This allows plenty of space to note and comment as you read, and as you reference the book later on.  I love the idea that the authors are presenting their process while intentionally leaving room for you to modify, adapt, and change that process to make it your own.

An excerpt from the introduction:

“Caution!! If you believe you are behaving creatively and your behavior is readily accepted in normal society, one of two conditions is probable: either you have conditioned society to accept your abnormal actions or your input is really not as unique as it seems.”

I think that quote ties in nicely to the discussion we had today in class today about the notion that we might learn more if we fail fantastically than if we simply plod along and do our assignments as we’re told… or at the very least we’ll remember more.

I’ll bring in my copy for tomorrow’s class.

Where does your info live?

Time to start thinking more consciously and more conscientiously about both where our data lives and who sees it.

Tech guru Leo Laporte wrote about his frustrations with Google Buzz when he realized his internet sharing had been for naught. Two points: 1) if all your links live on Twitter, Facebook, Google, they don’t belong to you and aren’t archived. 2) sharing on social media doesn’t guarantee eyeballs because everyone’s busy shouting their own news.

I’ve been saying to a lot of people, “You should blog about that.” Because I want it to have a home. I want it to be out of your brain and onto our shared think-write-make space. And I want to be able to search for it again later.

Social media

Tweet it if you don’t mind it getting washed away by the stream in a few hour’s time.

Tweet it if you are directing it at one or two people specifically, and it’s unlikely to start a long conversation.

Tweet it if you don’t want that conversation recorded for posterity’s sake.

Tweet it if it adds dialogue to established communities/hashtags.

Blog it if you think you or your classmate will want to be able to search easily for it again in the future.

Blog it if you think people interested in the program will also be interested in those resources or links.

Blog it if you think it will start an interesting conversation, esp. if that conversation might engage others besides AC4D folk. If you have any links or comments to add to the conversation, add it in the comments section on the blog. (You can tweet it also, but if anyone ever looks back on the conversation, they’ll see comments and not your related tweets.)

Bookmark it if…we have to establish our communal bookmarks sharing first.

Email it if it contains an action item or has a super targeted audience.

Working files

(Ironically) in terms of sharing files and working on ideas together as a class, it’s not real unless it’s online. For instance, we wrote down a potential file-naming structure on the board. Not everyone saw it, and it’s gone now. Things like this—which are collaborative and which will need to be referenced in the future—need to go into Google Docs.

Likewise, if you email something to the class for opinions, it gets washed away in the stream. It’s hard to find again. It’s not as easy for people to give feedback or add/delete/edit items. Put the stuff that needs to get worked on in a Google Doc, and then share it with an email message if need-be to solicit opinions. Especially if it’s a database or a compilation of ideas.

Did I miss anything?

Does this make sense? Is it too much?