Tag Archives: #140conf

Dressing for success in Washington: Suits, shirtsleeves and shorts

Much was made of President Obama’s choice on day one of his Presidency to doff his jacket in the Oval Office. When the White House unbuttoned its formal dress code, it was a symbolic move that reflected a larger shift to more casual business attire in culture. While some may feel the President’s showed a lack of respect for the office, for many Americans, doffing the jacket in office and rolling up shirt sleeves to get to work simply reflected their own experience.

For many people after all, it’s about whether you can get the job done, not what you’re wearing when you do it. That issue came into sharp relief yesterday, when some speakers at the 140 Conference held during Digital Capital Week in the District of Columbia came under criticism for not wearing pants.

I wish I could wear shorts more often around Washington. It’s now officially moved into “absurdly hot season” and wearing a suit is miserable. That said, there’s often no way around it. This week, for instance, I wore a suit to the Center for American Progress for the Law.gov workshop, since I knew I’d be meeting John Podesta and other lawyers who put stock in that kind of professionalism. I’ve pulled my suit on to go to the ballet at the Kennedy Center, to go to Congressional testimony or to attend a landmark event on community health data at the National Academy of Sciences.

That said, I wore linen shorts, sandals and a collared shirt to the Gov 2.0 day at Digital Capital Week, since it was damn hot, and that fit my vision of summer business casual in the District. And yesterday, at the 140 Conference, I wore jeans and an untucked dress shirt, since that fit the image of the tech journalist I am these days.

Mike Schaffer, a self-described social media strategist here in DC, focused on elevating the style of online communications professionals in public. Respectfully, I think he missed the point. In every situation above, what I wore mattered but, to my audience, was beside the point.

Peter Corbett may have worn shorts and a t-shirt, as seen on the left, but, in his role, it didn’t matter. Since I know him and have respect for the work he’d done for D.C. Week, at iStrategy Labs for Apps for the Army, and other initiatives, I know what he’s done.

I also believe that the informal nature of 140 Conference requires no more of us than that we represent ourselves as ourselves and share what matters, much like, perhaps, we might approach Twitter.

Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) may have come dressed in a suit, as you might expect from a Congressman in D.C., but what he said reflected that sentiment:

“It’s about sharing who you are, rather than trying to sell what you’d like to have people believe about you.”

By focusing on what people wore instead of what they said or have done, I’m not sure Schaffer honored the hard work of the organizers, nor the quality of the experiences that, say, Justin Kownacki shared.

Kownacki, whose cargo shorts drew attention at the D.C. 140 Conference, tweeted afterwards that “I don’t believe in wardrobe labels. I judge words and actions, not packaging. I’m amused by the #140conf attendees who think my wardrobe ‘killed my credibility.’ Who knew packaging dictates truth? Wardrobes provide a shorthand by which we can exclude & ignore. Makes life easier for traditionalists & streamliners, I’m sure.”

I’ve been to dozens of tech conferences, many of which featured people dressed to the nines with little substantive tactical or strategic value.

I can frankly say, as someone who has overdressed on occasion, that sometimes wearing shorts and a hip t-shirt is absolutely the right choice.

Tools and Togs both matter

Schaffer wrote that “a carpenter is known for getting the job done, not which saw he uses.”

That’s both true and untrue. Master builders who can afford to work with Bosch or DeWalt tools do so because of the quality of the tools and the precision product they allow. It’s true that someone with lack of knowledge to use them will fare far worse that a worker without, just as a rube with an expensive composite fly rod might be outfished by a boy with a cheap piece of bamboo and string, if the young man knows where and how to apply his simple rig. What you do with the tools matters more than their quality, but don’t overlook the fact that those tools do matter.

If someone contracts with a professional videographer to create a broadcast-quality ad and she showed up with a disposable camera and a vintage iBook, what would the new client think?

Consider the building example again. Carpenters are known for building things out of wood. Getting the job done is dependent upon the general contractor who employs him or her, or the reputation of the master builder that is hired. I have some familiarity with carpentry, after working as an apprentice for 18 months in Massachusetts. In that role, I wore shorts when it was hot, Carhardt pants when it wasn’t and many layers of fleece and polypro when it was frigid. We dressed as needed to get the job done. If someone showed up on the job site improperly dressed, or without boots, a belt, gloves and a full set of tools, he couldn’t get the job done without a loan of same.

Working in digital media is no different, in the sense that what we wear what we need to to accomplish a goal, in the context of the social mores of the space we move in.

Virtually, that might mean creating a well-designed website that is standards compliant. Or developing a mobile app for a conference or service. In the social media world, it means adding an avatar, bio, link and other elements that fill out a profile before sally forth. Dressing to impress can mean many things, but in the end, it’s what you can do and have done that will matter most to your clients, customers and audience. Did I get the story right? Will the house stay sound for decades? Is this a sustainable business? Does the app work?

Given the monumental challenges that lie ahead for government officials in Washington and around the nation, I suspect many citizens would rather they focus on getting real results, narrowing budgets, passing effective legislation and developing effective regulations that address issues in the financial, technical and environmental space, rather than any wardrobe choice.

As for me, I hope I can wear shorts more often around Washington.

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Takeaways from Day 1 of #140Conf: The real-time Web disrupts the media

Newspapers & Twitter panel

Newspapers & Twitter panel

Kudos to Jeff Pulver and his staff for creating what turned out to be an extraordinary day of discussion and learning, not to mention more than a little music and humor.

Following is a digest of some of my favorite moments, as tweeted. I already blogged about the extraordinary discussion that took place between Ann Curry, Robert Scoble and Rick Sanchez: “RickSanchezCNN was listening to #CNNfail: Did Twitter change CNN coverage?

Aaron Strout also liveblogged the 140 Conference and @stevegarfield has added many #140conf pics on Flickr.

I will note, and indeed tweeted, that I was surprised that no one on the Twitter for business panel talked about when NOT to use Twitter, given the legal or compliance issues in regulated industries. I’ll be writing more about that later this trip.

After all, collecting links and ideas from the day from a conference about Twitter from Twitter makes sense, no? I remain sad that I missed the keynotes by @JeffPulver, @Jack, @FredWilson and @TimOReilly that started the day but know that I’ll be able to watch them later and that the hundreds of other attendees here will summarize those words and insights perfectly well for the rest of the Web.

On TV

“Twitter is not cost-prohibitive. @JimmyFallon has 1.3 million followers. He tweeted a Zack Morris pic before the show. That became a trending term before the show aired.”-@GavinPurcell

On Newspapers

Twitter is changing newspapers, both in their relationship to readers and within the newsroom. Editors and writers are collaborating more on news or events, in real-time. As Patrick LaForge (@palafo) said during the panel when he was watching Twitter, he saw a tweet come in that “There’s a plane in the Hudson.” The Village Voice has created a private account to coordinate coverage.

Journalists are receiving tips and sharing news with their followers, engaging in so-called “process journalism.”

On Digital Journalism

JohnAByrne of BusinessWeek shared that perspective, noting that “now journalism” — reporting on news as it breaks and evolves on the real-time Web, is enabled and extended by Twitter. Reporters now use Twitter to report, share & discuss news. The extension of news gathering and sharing into these digital platforms changes it from a product to a process. Indeed, Byrne believes that “Twitter as a collaborative and engagement tool is essential to any kind of forward-thinking journalism.”

A journalist from the Middle East, @moeed, of http://aljazeera.net, stated that “Micro reporting has transformed how we do reporting, particularly in crisis situations, like war.” He shared a number of innovative digital platforms that are enabling Al Jazeera to both disseminate information and to leverage the distributed eyes, ears and phones of people scattered across a region.

On Music

Chris (@1000TimesYes) of http://RollingStone.com and the @VillageVoice) is reviewing 1000 records on Twitter in 2009. Michael brought down the house, too. He was both hilarious & darkly poetic in bemoaning the death of the music critic.Crowdsourcing killed punk rock,” in his view, along with many other alternative or indie genres.

On Love, Microsyntax, @CNNBrk, Kodak & Power

Panels and speeches also included the following, all of which you can find commentary and quotes from or about on #140conf:

  • a love letter to Twitter from @pistachio
  • @stoweboyd on his microsyntax nonproject at Microsyntax.org
  • @imajes on the story behind @CNNBRK (he created a script that posted CNN email alerts into Twitter)
  • @JeffreyHayzlett on Kodak and Twitter, which included a crowdsourced term: “twanker” for a Twitterers that show bad form
  • @ajkeen on Twitter and power (a contrarian’s take to be sure)

Sessions to come include panels on Twitter cewebrity wtih @adventuregirl @ijustine @juliaroy and @chrisbrogan, Twitter for social good, which includes @drew & @twestival.

On the real-time Web

This was aa tremendous day. The conversation that has been unfolding on the tension between information about events coming in over the real-time Web and so-called “old media” organizations that seek to uphold journalistic standards honed over decades is fascinating. It follows on the blog up…er, blow up between TechCrunch and the New York Times regarding process vs product journalism earlier this month. For journalists, getting the story right, with corroboration, attribution and validity is crucial. Finding a way to do that in the context of the torrent of real-time news will be a central challenge of newsrooms in the month to come.

These are tough questions, debated by the world’s best thinkers on digital journalism and technology. My Twitter conversation with Jason Pontin yesterday lingers: what are the opportunities for distributed, “open source” journalism? Twitter and blogs from #IranElection are a novel source. And as Jason pointed out, we know that there’s misinformation and rumors there; how can journalists do real reporting on Twitter?

Journalists are filing links to pictures and video, which helps — harder to fake the latter — but there are real challenges. As Jason tweeted, “reporting requires verification from at least three sources, posted or printed in an authoritative, independent publication. If I were editing #iranelection stories, I’d want: who is the open source? What conflicting interests? Cross-verification? Open source journalism, appropriately handled, could provide verification.”

It’s possible some technologists in today’s audience or  in Silicon Valley, India, Israel or home from MIT for the summer might find a way to provide all of that. For now, I’m looking forward to learning more from the Web luminaries here at the 140 Characters Conference.

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@RichSanchezCNN was listening to #CNNFail: Did Twitter change CNN coverage?

I’m still mulling over an extraordinary panel on newsgathering held here in New York City this morning. One panel stands out, however, and no doubt will continue to for years to come.

It’s not just that I had the chance to meet Ann Curry, who was passionate, thoughtful and deeply insightful.

'll always remember @AnnCurry reading @zittrain in the @NYTimes on #IranElection to @Scobleizer & me at #140conf

I'll always remember Ann Curry reading @zittrain 's quote on Twitter's impact on the election in Iran in the New York Times to Robert Scoble (and me) at the 140 Characters Conference

How can I not admire a television journalist who spoke with such passion and conviction about journalism, facts and getting it right?

She noted with considerable gravitas that she took her responsibility to “never Twitter something that is wrong” seriously.

Curry suggested to citizen journalists covering global stories that “I want you to shoot that story like it’s your sister, brother or mother.”

She also offered a perspective I can appreciate, based upon my own experience:

“My followers are my own newspaper.”

Aside from Curry’s comments, all of which I hope become available online as soon at the conference videographers can manage it, there’s another story to tell.

Last Saturday, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez noticed something happening on Twitter.

That’s nothing new: @RickSanchezCNN has in many ways bet his show, even career, on his integration with social media.

His use has paid off, according to the remarks Sanchez made at JeffPulver’s 140 Characters Conference, and not just in terms of his 95,000 followers: social media, particularly Twitter, has pushed CNN to cover the existence of fraud or overall validity of the elections in Iran.

After his comments on the panel, Sanchez described to me and others how his email about #CNNFail on Twitter went up to the highest levels of the network. And, after the network’s business, PR and marketing staff was pulled in, coverage the next day shifted.

In other words, just as the audience here in New York grew restive after hearing Sanchez and Robert Scoble talk about #CNNfail and asked to hear from Curry, CNN’s online audience on Twitter pushed the network to cover the news differently.

I wasn’t watching CNN on either day — I was focused on tracking Twitter, YouTube and other online sources — but I’m now incredibly curious about how Sunday’s broadcasts on CNN were different.

I do know that Sanchez said to me that CNN stayed with Ahmadinejad’s speech on Sunday much longer than they would have otherwise.

During the panel, Sanchez that “at no time did CNN drop the ball” — based upon his remarks following, however,  I have to wonder whether there was an appreciation in the C-suite at CNN that the online backlash on Twitter was a hint that Amanpour reporting live from Tehran wasn’t capturing the whole scene, and that US citizens were hungry for more information about what was happening on the streets and rooftaps of Iran.

I know now that, on some subtle level, there were changes — and that’s a win for all of those in the US who wanted CNN to cover events in Iran more closely. There’s a long road for newspapers and cable news networks to travel yet as they adjust to the real-time Web and its audience gathering information and publicly critiquing coverage decisions of network.

Even digital natives are still working out the standards for validation, attribution and information sharing. Old school publishers and broadcasters, by and large, are behind. It could be that the events in the Middle East this weekend could change that.

Sanchez was honest about the economic realities there, including the competition with Fox. Unfortunately, given the existance of a profit motive and ratings driven by celebrity stories and natural disasters, there are real barriers to the cable news networks shifting their airtime to just serious news stories.

In a public company, after all, ratings rule when shareholder value must be maximized.

Ann Curry suggested another, more sobering root cause: “It’s hard to get Americans to care about international issues.”

If journalists can frame, analyze and convey the stories of our collective humanity, whether it’s in Darfur, North Korea, Iran, China or some other global spot, perhaps that will change. Nick Kristof won a Pulitzer for his coverage in the New York Times.

Here’s hoping others follow in his footsteps.


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