When, several months ago, Chris Pirillo invited me to speak at the seventh annual Gnomedex, I was surprised – and proud. As a two-day, single-track conference, there is room for only about a dozen presenters. How did elderblogging get included in such a small mix?
But Gnomedex is not your ordinary tech conference with multiple sessions at once, many of them given in deeply esoteric techie-talk that escapes my limited understanding. As Chris explains on the Gnomedex website:
“While technology brings us together, technology at Gnomedex is ancillary to its role in our daily lives. Software, hardware – it all boils down to experiences, personal and shared…”
As I thought about the truth of that and his invitation, my surprise (but not my pride) diminished. After all, when I tweaked Chris a year or more ago about using “senior” in one of his BLaugh cartoons instead of “elder”, he immediately switched. And in subsequent conversations, Chris revealed his deep interest in elders in relation to blogging and online in general.
But then, on the morning of the first day, I was confronted with a flight of the most elder-unfriendly stairs (especially hauling my way-too-heavy laptop) I’ve seen since Machu Pichu:
Few people – even young ones – were using those forbidding stairs and I found an elevator to whisk me to the conference floor where I settled into a table, hooked up my computer and was soon listening to Chris’s opening remarks:
The speakers who preceded me were daunting. While some thought Robert Steele’s keynote made him appear to be a political crackpot and I thought he crammed too much information into 45 minutes, his overall message was important. Although Guy Kawasaki’s presentation on evangelism was practiced and canned, it was packed with great tips for me in promoting the cause of elder technology. Plus, his charm is irresistible.
Darren Barefoot spoke on using our skills, power and influence for good in the world and I liked his parting advice: “Be the best ancestor you can.”
There were others before it was my turn, but I’m not experienced at public speaking, so growing nervousness overtook by ability to concentrate. Soon, video of all the presentations will be online and you will be able to judge them for yourselves. Meanwhile, here is a still shot of me on stage via Rachel C.
As I approached the stage, Chris and his wife Ponzi welcomed me so warmly and were so encouraging that I didn’t dare let them down. As to what I said, Joared at her Along the Way blog has an excellent recap. Particularly gratifying is the gradual turnabout of the young people who were live chatting on the streaming video page – from “Who is this old woman?” to, eventually, “She is cool.”
Part way through my presentation, someone asked if I had seen an iPhone yet. The audience laughed when I said I had not, and Chris popped up on stage with his own which, I believe, was a recent birthday gift from Ponzi. In person, the iPhone is as cute as it is on television and its touch screen works with a satisfyingly snappy response. Then, Matthew Gifford asked Chris to show me the keyboard.
In two words: Im Possible. The attendees laughed again when I said that. Each letter is about the size of and as close together the type on this blog and I am not built with enough patience to work out how to use it. Plus, a different keyboard is required to add symbols and punctuation such as a slash and colon in a URL. Who at Apple thought that is a good idea?
The geekiest of geeks and those who must have the latest hot gadget before everyone else will love it. As I said, it is cute and alluring, but my bottom line: whatever your age, I don’t think the iPhone, particularly at its price, is ready for prime time.
In the end, my intention was to grab the interest of the technologists, programmers, evangelists and influencers in attendance to empower elders by creating hardware and software that is easy for old computer newbies to understand and accommodates fading eyesight, reduced motor skills and coordination. I think I succeeded…
Gnomedex is a friendly conference and for the rest of my stay, more people than I could count sought me out to tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation.
Some really good news: people from HP and Microsoft (both Gnomedex sponsors) were enthusiastic and genuinely interested in speaking with me further about implementing some of the suggestions I have for improving computer use for elders. As that develops, I will keep you updated.
Joshua McKenty, a terrific young technologist who lives in the beautiful town of Victoria, B.C. and even knew the name of the Chinese restaurant I like there, says it is not much of a stretch to create an “elderbrowser.” We will follow up on that soon too.
When Andrew McCaskey, who is the producer and host of Slashdot Review Podcast introduced himself to me, I was puzzled as to why I know his name; I knew I’d never met him nor seen his podcast. It turns out his father’s name is Andrew McCaskey too and there is a link on the Elderblogger List to his blog, Topic, which I recommend to you all.
And I was most pleased to spend a lot of time with my new friend Stan James who is the founder and CTO of Lijit, another Gnomedex sponsor. (See his blog search engine in the upper right corner of this page; you might want to try it too.) It took me the entire two days of Gnomedex, but he will probably be happy to know that I finally can pronounce Lijit properly; it does not rhyme with widget as I thought – it rhymes with legit.
There were many more people I was pleased to meet and talk with and I’m sorry I can’t name them all here although I am sure some will turn up in future posts on TGB.
As I mentioned above, joared did a magnificent job of summarizing my presentation. Frank Paynter of listics has a good collection of links to commentary on my appearance and as he notes, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gave me a nice mention. Others who might give you an idea of the presentation include Tris Hussey, writing at One By One Media, who headlined me “uber elderblogger” - I like that!
Overall, Gnomedex is the best tech conference I’ve attended. The topics presented were varied and compelling in keeping Chris Pirillo’s philosophy of making “technology ancillary to its role in our daily lives”. I got a lot of new ideas, met smart, interesting people and I was pleased to see more grey heads than I expected.
It was exhilarating to find so many people interested in elders and elderblogging and most of all, Gnomedex was loads of fun thanks, I believe, to Chris’s and Ponzi’s enthusiasm for everyone attending (presenters and attendees), their unflagging good cheer and the hard work they do in making the conference flow smoothly.
Can you tell I'm glad I attended?
[There are not many people who get to know a great grandparent, but Darlene Costner did and she tell us about this indomitable woman in Stories of Gram Norris at The Elder Storytelling Place today.]