Silly

How do you react when our culture starts to all of a sudden use Internet technology in a brand, new way?

Tomorrow evening I have made plans to have a beer with a friend I have known for nearly 30 years. Over Internet video. Now my friend and I have shared many a drink over the decades but never over video. In fact, I don’t think we have ever chatted on video. It’s going to be great.

I can’t be the only one of us to make such plans?

My brother is doing live music jams over live Internet video with his down-the-block neighbor in Seattle who he’s played with for 15 years – also over video.

Meanwhile, my mom hosts letter-writing parties aimed to get out the vote. It’s a paradigm shift in the usage of video chat. They used to come over for cofee and snack and write letters shoulder to shoulder; now my mom hosts them on a Zoom conference call. And by all accounts, attendees love it. Why wouldn’t any of us – we’re all stuck inside now, right?

I asked my 79-year old mom how she found herself partially “changing her little piece of the culture”, as Seth Godin would put it. Her answer:

“Being willing to look silly”.

As she explained it, to go first you have to look silly. Her first ever attempt at a  Zoom letter writing party was two weeks ago; she says it was was a comedy of errors starring her. But 14 people attended – and many letters were written. Fun was had. Community. And she noticed that Seth’s advice to “mute when not talking” doesn’t apply to simultaneous letter-writing events. The ambient noise sets the stage. Just let the dogs bark in the background, is her advice.

Fast forward two weeks and the letter-writing parties are getting bigger. Not only that, but they’re also now turning into training events – what you and I would all webinars. She’s suddenly training Swing Left groups from Colorado and Ohio how to hold their own Zoom-based letter-writing parties.

Or maybe figure out some other way that, “the digital world enables a new kind of conversation”, as Seth Godin writes in his new mini-manifesto, The Conversation

In that article, he talks about scaling conversations using the breakout feature on Zoom, where large groups can be quickly broken apart into breakout groups, then put back together again. This brings back school memories for most of us.. “guys, let’s break into groups of four”. Remember?

But it’s different now. Now the price of oil is 6 times higher than when Cheney was VP. And we’re unmuting ambient noise and dog barks into our conference calls. On purpose.

So I wouldn’t wait until things get back to normal.

Or try to go backward in time. I’d find a new way to conduct your business that leverages the rapid, deep adoption of Internet technology that is happening right now (20 years after the futurati hailed it during the dotcom boom). Even if it makes you look silly.

Have a great and safe week ahead,
Rowan