Commentary

The New Next: Get Off Your Lazy Butt

In this new world of communications, in order to succeed we all have to have an insatiable curiosity about the world around us. If you stop learning, you die - or at least you won't have a future in our ever-evolving industry. Today our business is more exciting than ever before. So many amazing things are happening - old models breaking down, dynamic new models forming, and all of it happening in such condensed time.

Curiosity comes in many forms. It's okay to get it from traditional channels, but to get the richest experience, you have to learn by doing - immersing and throwing yourself into culture. How? Get off your butt, go see things, attend events, participate in culture. If you want to really get in on the future of communications, this pursuit needs to be your hobby both at and outside of work. If it's not your passion, then rethink why you're doing this and consider becoming an accountant. You have to be involved in culture even when you're not in your office.

One of numerous examples of recent culture in which we at Naked gladly immersed ourselves was Wired's NextFest in September. A must-see every year, the event does a wonderful job of illuminating the future of technology. Wired realizes that while it's great to read the content in its magazine and on the Web, creating multiple events - especially NextFest - promotes hands-on learning and experimentation. You could sense energy and awe among everyone who gathered at the events.

At the last NextFest, a wide variety of topics were covered, with many fascinating things to report from every part of the event: a type of biodegradable plastic made from remnants of orange peels; a smart kitchen that tells you what to buy, gives you recipes, and provides numbers of restaurants; Virgin's consumer spacecraft, which can turn anybody into an astronaut. Two favorites, however, were in the Future of Communication section, and understandably so - these things are going to change the way we interact with each other.

>Sticky Notes. Sticky Notes acts as a real-world tagging device, allowing people to mark places all over the world that they want to share with other people via mobile phone. Let's say I go to a sushi bar in New York that I think is fantastic, and I want to share it with everybody who'd be interested. I would simply thumb-text a message on my phone (that has the necessary location-aware software), and my digital Post-It would be attached to the location. The next person with the Sticky Notes software who ventured by the place would be sent a message the instant they were in the vicinity. Sticky Notes takes social recommendation sites like ePinions and CitySearch to the next level and into real-time real life. It lets you share your loves with the world. (Socialight.com)

>Watson. Created by students at Northwestern University, Watson is a "context-aware information system" that provides relevant information on any topic you're currently reading about or working on. Watson scans desktop applications like Microsoft Office and Internet browsers, finding relevant links for you based on the subject matter. Links are divided into categories, such as blogs, news articles, corporate databases, company Web sites, etc., making knowledge easier to consume. (Infolab.northwestern.edu)

Sticky Notes and Watson illustrate two themes that keep coming up in our constant discussions on the enabling power of new technologies: sharing and distillation. Today's Internet makes it easier than ever to share information with peers, and Sticky Notes takes that community aspect to the next level. Watson does a bang-up job of taking an overwhelming amount of information and condensing it down so that it's more relevant to us.

Had I not attended NextFest, I would have no idea about these exciting developments. Our profession depends on our voracious quest for knowledge and experiences around us. This endless quest positions us for the future. If you're only thinking about this stuff during your nine-to-five job and when you read the professional trade pubs, that's just laziness. And it begs the question: What the hell are you doing in this business? People who don't get off their butts will most definitely not have an exciting future ahead. For those who are competing and succeeding, a hunger for new experience is inherent in them; it's in their DNA. Those who constantly learn, consume, test, and even fail, are the ones who will make it - not to mention have more fun along the way.

Paul Woolmington is founding partner of Naked Communications. (paul@nakedcomms.com)

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