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Le geek, c’est chic: liveblogging Ohio 2.0

October 10th, 2008 · 13 Comments

Editor’s note: Earlier this week, I blogged over at CONet about a free public tech event called Ohio 2.0 and a subsequent private VIP reception known as 2.Ohio, both put on by the Columbus tech community. I was invited to cover the events via my blog and Twitter. What follows are my live-blogged observations edited only for typos or grammatical errors. I’ve included a few editorial asides where I felt they were appropriate. The entire Twitterstream from the event, including live Tweets from several central Ohio Tweeps as well as yours truly, can be found here.

The Ohio 2.0 event has just kicked off and one thing is clear: this is not your father’s tech crowd. This is a hot event with nary a pocket protector in sight. The cool kids are definitely here – and some of them are actually making fun of me for live-Tweeting the event!

(Sidenote: it was odd checking in at an event’s media/press table instead of being the PR flack sitting behind the table, checking guests off a list. I am enjoying this unique perspective of being both a PR person and a citizen journalist.)

Organizers Ben Blanquera and Angela Siefer opened tonight’s session by saying that this event came to fruition within the last four weeks and that its success can be attributed entirely to volunteers and to the power of social media. Pretty impressive considering I’m sitting in a major hotel ballroom right now with several hundred people who all fought Polaris rush-hour traffic on a Friday to get here. Nice job, Ben and Angela and team!

Ben just called attention to a college student in the audience who drove eight hours to be at this event (I later met him – his name is Ben, too). I feel so fortunate right now to live and work in Columbus so I can experience this top-notch tech event, with first-rate national speakers, not only close to home but also free. Ben just said it himself - Columbus is pretty cool!

Nancy Kramer from Resource Interactive is up now and she echoed Ben’s words about Columbus, offering stats about how tech savvy we are, the fact that we’re still hiring and adding jobs – and something I didn’t know, that we have the second highest percent of college students, following right behind Boston. She’s now introducing Judy Estrin, author of Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy, to speak about sustainable innovation.

Judy says the reason we have social media is because of innovation. But innovation doesn’t just happen, it needs to be nurtured. Innovation drives economic growth quality of life and is the only hope of addressing the major challenges that we face as a nation. Innovation means having the capacity for change.

(Sidenote: Right now I’m trying to live Tweet, live blog, and also simultaneously read the Tweetstream for #2ohio. It’s challenging but fun!)

Judy says the fundamentals of innovation are trying and testing, assessing and learning. It’s a messy, iterative process. You need to be willing to invest without knowing the outcome. And talent matters – a combination of skill, aptitude, passion and drive. Diverse perspectives are critical to innovation.

Innovation builds on innovation. Sustainable innovation requires a healthy, well-balanced innovation ecosystem. Three communities – research, development and application – intersect to make innovation happen. You must have all three.

Our core values determine our capacity for change. Questioning, risk, openness, patience and trust need to be values we have in balance. You can’t have just a few, must have all five. Innovation is a lot like gardening and requires a green thumb. It needs instinct - you need to nurture the plants, have the right soil and be able to transplant those seedlings into your mainstream business.

Everything Judy is talking about applies on small and large scales – to people, businesses, to the country. She says our innovation ecosystem as a country has been in decline since the 70s. We need next generation business leadership and country leadership. One key is leading through inspiration rather than leading through fear. Instead of leading through threats, competition – turn it into a challenge to motivate. Fear creates helplessness. Instead, inspire involvement and engagement, collaboration.

Next generation innovators need a different education system and culture. These are currently working against innovation. 21st century talent needs to embody core values – collaborative, adaptive, interdisciplinary, best of both the baby boomers and gen x/y, scientific and technologic literacy. We each have a role to play – courage, commitment, collaboration, core values. She closed by stating that before she wrote her book, she did not have strong feelings for any one candidate or party. Since researching and writing her book, she is now a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama.

The next speaker is being introduced and Reid Hoffman‘s bio is unbelievable – this guy is connected to just about every social network site you can name in some way, either as a contributor, developer or investor. Most notably, he’s founder of LinkedIn. Not surprisingly, he’s talking about the importance of powerful networks to innovation – as well as to good leadership.

Three things come together for innovation. First, the germ of an idea - which must then be refined through other people. This is why networks are so important – the application of expertise of those around you. The other two elements are capital and execution. The process of how you execute your ideas has to continually improve and adapt.

(Sidenote: Reid had some great things to say but he was a bit more soft-spoken and less high-energy than Judy and the other speakers, so I may not have captured as many of his key points. Definitely check the Tweetstream for more from him.)

Mike Nelson is up next – he is, among other things, Sen. Obama’s chief tech advisor, a PhD in microphysics from MIT and a visiting professor of Internet Studies at Georgetown. He also served Sen. Al Gore and helped create the Internet. Seriously people, I’m not kidding, he really did. Also, he recently participated in a Twebate (debate over Twitter). He’s here to talk about the Obama campaign’s technology policies and says he’s bilingual in technology and policy.

Mike tells us he’s here from Washington to listen to us. He wants to hear what we think about how technology can help create jobs and innovation for this country. He gave us his email address so we can contact him with ideas (email me if you want it) and says he will gladly share our suggestions with the Obama campaign.

He says he’s with Sen. Obama because he’s “an incredibly smart dude with vision, commitment and the ability to synthesize really great ideas into action.” He also says Obama has surrounded himself with brilliant people, and judging from this guy I’d have to agree. He then gives the best quote of the night:

“First rate people surround themselves with first rate people – second rate people surround themselves with third rate people.”

Mike Nelson believes the Obama administration can harness the power of cloud computing in ever more powerful ways – and that cloud computing will be as big as the Internet was during the Clinton administration. He recommended that we read an article that just came out in an MIT publication called Technology Review – the article is ”How Obama really did it.”

(Sidenote: Mike Nelson is so brilliant there is literally electricity crackling around this room at this point – I am too excited to take good notes right now as I am literally riveted, like everyone else - sorry folks! Will have to check out the notes from my Tweeps who are still live Tweeting. My fingers are shaking!)

Nelson began to talk more specifically about Barack, calling him by his first name. Up until now, this evening has not been overtly political in nature, but now we’re getting a very cool inside look at his campaign and priorities. Nelson says Barack is committed to science and technology, and to filling those offices with the right, smart people. He compared this to the Bush administration and how long it took to fill key scientific advisor positions. Nelson says again, with a wry grin, that the quality of the advisor is directly proportional to the ability of the advisee to listen.

He goes on to say this isn’t just about Web 2.0, cloud computing or leading edge information technology. It’s about using the technology tools we have to make our country better – make healthcare more efficient, make government more open and better, make taxi cab companies more fuel-efficient and productive. He is not just clearly a genius (have I already said that too many times? Clearly, I have a serious brain crush at this point), but he’s a tremendous speaker too. Mike was my favorite presenter of the evening.

Angela came back up and said we’re out of time so Craig Newmark, founder of Craiglist, will ask one question. Craig asked the panel how we can use social networking to improve the lot of midwestern states like Ohio and Michigan.

Reid says online personal branding and blogging, can help everyone – he said people should be using the Internet to find information, discuss with others, deliver business solutions online, find customers, develop better practices, and above all market and brand yourself.

Judy says it’s not just about using social networking to make Columbus talent available to Silicon Valley, but also about creating clusters around the country – regions of innovation excellence. Universities, businesses, entrepreneurs and local school system working together for technology, green technology, community and to become an innovation cluster.

Mike Nelson mentioned again the “brain trust” of the Obama campaign – LinkedIn is a great way to surround yourself with exceptional people as well. Mike searched his network for “Internet…Ohio…” prior to this trip to see who he knows. Mike also plugged Dopplr as a way to get in touch with others while traveling (at which point Reid said he’s an investor in Dopplr – no big surprise there!).

Mike says government needs to lead by example – the Clinton administration broke through cultural boundaries to using new technologies. He said social networking opens up government, makes it more transparent and more open to a real two-way dialogue.

At that point, the public event concluded. People mingled and networked for a while – I chatted with and met several Twitter peeps including @cclaypoole, @michaelbowers, @nickseguin, @selicker, @timjeby and @cherylharrison – and then @GaryMoneysmith and I went into the small, private VIP event with fewer than 40 others. 

It’s worth noting that I was unable to Tweet or blog from the VIP event because G-Money hijacked my laptop for his own blogging purposes (Fahlgren folks will be amused to know that our crusty old floater laptop worked just fine, while Gary’s sleek Macbook Pro couldn’t pick up a wireless signal to save his life).

Fortunately, I was also packing an old school notepad so the rest of this is from my handwritten notes. Craig Newmark is a very personable speaker who describes himself rather humbly as a customer service representative for Craig’s List. He said he’s been doing customer service for 14 years and is committed to doing it as long as he lives, though no longer full-time. He said aside from customer service, he sees his job as one of community organizer. He joked that as a geek, he prefers to do his community organizing online so “he doesn’t have to get off his backside.” 

Craig talked about using his community organizing skills to help Iraq and Iran veterans and the grassroots organizations dedicated to getting them the educational and medical benefits they deserve. He said it sounds mundane, but it’s things like that which make a big difference. He also does a lot of work in voter registration and getting young people, especially college students, out to vote. Craig said he does a lot of this on a non-partisan basis, because this year it’s simply too important to American history and to “human history.”

Craig noted that the Internet allows for networked grassroots democracy - what he called true or direct democracy. He said it’s making the dreams of our country’s founders a reality that we’ve moved to direct democracy from representative democracy. In addition, he talked about spending time in Israel and seeing the importance of green technology and innovation, not just for their own sake but also because they create jobs. He said sometimes the most important thing you can do for someone who is suffering is just to give them a job.

After Craig’s brief talk, there was a bit more networking and mingling. I had the opportunity to shake hands with and meet my new hero, Mike Nelson. G-Money was smirking and saying I had a tech crush, but as we both walked away after speaking with Mike, he reluctantly admitted he had one too. The other very cool person I got to meet was Craig Newmark’s PR rep, Mike Smith, who runs a firm out of the DC area. It was nice meeting a fellow PR person in the sea of techsperts at the VIP soiree.

All in all, it was a fabulous night - one that left me feeling really good about Columbus, the future of technology and innovation, and even our country. And now you’ll have to go over to G Money’s blog to read the work of wonder he whipped up on the laptop he whisked away from me earlier this evening!

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Tags: Ohio · PR · social media

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jenny McCutcheon // Oct 11, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Lara,

    Thanks for providing such great coverage of last night’s Ohio2.0 event. I can’t imagine how challenging it must have been to Tweet, live blog, and absorb what was happening. It sounds like the conference was a huge success!

    Jenny McCutcheon
    @jennymccutcheon
    http://www.JennyMcCutcheon.com

  • 2 Tim Eby // Oct 11, 2008 at 10:22 am

    On Judy’s web site you can download a chapter from Closing The Innovation Gap. Here’s the link: http://www.theinnovationgap.com/chapter-two-innovation-ecosystem

  • 3 2.Ohio Private Reception Blog Coverage // Oct 12, 2008 at 10:18 am

    [...] Blogger Coverage [...]

  • 4 James Seay // Oct 13, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Lara, thanks for the recap. I am so disappointed I missed this event, sounds like a really great time.

    @JamesSeay
    http://www.jamesseay.com

  • 5 Tom Williams // Oct 13, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Lara – wow – you did the job of 3 people at once. What great coverage and a tremendous writeup of 2.Ohio. Thank you for the great blog post.

  • 6 2.Ohio Event and Judy Estrin « Andrew Miller // Oct 14, 2008 at 9:33 am

    [...] to do though was attend the event online, keeping up with LaraK’s live blogging of the event (which can be read here) and the twitter stream flowing out of the event from several of my friends who were on site (you [...]

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