A few months ago I was on a weekend cabin trip get-away with a bunch of guys and I noticed something different that happened. Three of the guys brought their iPads and if this had been a trip with the girls along, then there would have been instant protests and complaints about spending the weekend online. But since it was just a boy’s weekend, then playing with electronic toys was perfectly acceptable behavior. OK, so were burping, farting and authentic expressions of profanity, but there is a reason why the guys have to get away from time to time. What was different was the use of iPads in this social situation. They became a natural part of the discussions and the activities. In the middle of a conversation, someone would pick up an iPad, lookup a fact, a quote or a definition on Google or YouTube and then share it with the others. We debated European history details but Wikipedia got the final say. The format of the iPad (and the little table mount cover) made it easy for the other 5 guys to crowd around the pad to watch a funny YouTube video (extreme base jumping & surfing monster waves), watch a music video or to just look at photos from a recent trip to Mexico. With 4 iPads and 8 guys it almost ended up being like a competition. Not dualing banjos, but dualing iPads. A creative entrepreneur game programmer should design something to capitalize on this.
How much time do you spend online alone?
Like most people I am sure that you spend lots of time online, but how much of this is really a group experience? Facebook. LinkedIn and Twitter all allow you to connect with groups, but most of the time you are sitting at your computer screen alone. How often have you been sitting together with a group of people where several are online and at the same time all are participating in an interesting group discussion? My wife says that men cannot do two things at once, but here I must protest. We men can handle our gadgets and still follow a conversation. So there! Finally we have found a social justification for nerdy male behavior!
A new online use – GroupSurfing
When was the last time you surfed the internet with a group? Call it a GroupSurf. I have used devices like an AppleTV to surf the internet while watching TV, but this is different. With multiple people surfing the internet at the same time and all contributing to a live group discussion, I think this is a new kind of internet use. Do you know about any applications that are designed for this type of experience? If so, I would like to hear from you. Leave a comment below. If you are a programmer and have an application to promote that works like this, please contact me.
Understanding men by understanding their gadgets
In the book Boys and Their Toys, author Bill Adler explains that men use toys to assert their independence and freedom, relieve stress, connect to their lost childhood, and even express their nurturing side (without having to admit it). OK, “nurturing” might be taking this a bit too far, but just face it. We men are different and how we use our iPads will also be different. Next time you go to a party, take along your iPad along and don’t be ashamed to whip it out in front of everyone. You might be surprised at how much fun you have and what sort of a positive experience you create (at least with the guys).
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I did a workshop this week in Palermo, Italy for a group of MBA students and startup companies at the ARCA Technology Incubator. Palermo is a fantastic place of chaos, crowds, energy and even innovation.
I once heard a story about an American law professor who was in Italy holding lectures about the American law system. After one of his speeches there were 2 Italian students who approached him and said “Professor – is it true that in America if someone falls down and injures themselves on the sidewalk in front of a building, that the building’s owner is liable and can be sued?” The Professor answered, “Well, yes, this is true if the owner can be proven to be negligent.” The two men started discussing this fervently amongst themselves in Italian with much waving of the hands and loud voices of enthusiasm. Finally the professor said, “So, would you fellows like to go to America to study Law?” The Italians answered. “Oh no, no, no. We want to go to America and fall down on sidewalks!”
The Sicilians are champions at adapting and making the most of any situation. Sicily has been invaded and conquered by the Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Muslims, Normans, Catalan, Spanish and perhaps 10 other different empires throughout history. Governments come and go here, but the Sicilians remain. Somehow they make the best of the situation. The architecture the conquerors left behind is an amazing mix of Gothic, Roman, Greek, Classic, Neo-classic and Tasteless. Most buildings are either in an advanced state of decay or under unorganized reconstruction. The sidewalks are narrow and impassible because there are armadas of small Fiats parked on every available square meter of sidewalk space. If no Fiats, then there are 22 motorbikes piled into a single parking space. The roads are disorganized, chaotic and without any easily visible signs or indications of direction or place. Billboards and garbage everywhere add an ambience that completes the picture. Palermo is hectic and yet somehow still lovely. It has a strange charm that takes some time to sink in. I don’t think that Palermo is really part of the western world. It is more like a third-world country that is disguised as a province of Italy. Silvio Berlusconi and his unique style of leadership was so popular here in the last election that he won 63 of 63 seats in congress. OK, personally owning most of the national media can be a bit helpful.
Amidst all the chaos and the mess, you will find the lovely and friendly people of Sicily. Few speak English. I just went into the information center at the central train station and the two ancient, gray-haired men working there did not speak a word of English and were mildly irritated with me for wasting their time. Amazing, but if you are polite and try to use some travel-guide Italian phrases you will find that most people are patient, helpful and delighted to be of assistance. You will also find many smart researchers, scientists and professors in the technology centers.
Making the best of any situation is a useful skill, both for Sicilians and for entrepreneurs.
“Every $1 dollar invested in this program will put $2.87 into the national treasury” – N.Velazquez (US State Representative)
“The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in our region. What is lacking is the opportunity and ability to tap into ‘the experts’.” – Donna Kilhoffer (Community Education Council)
On July 28, 2009 the US House of Representatives passed a bi-partisan bill called the Educating Entrepreneurs Through Today’s Technology Act. The bill was introduced by New York Democrat Nydia Velazquez, who is the Chairperson of the House Small Business Committee. It provides funds for creating a USA national training program for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. It will finance satellite and advanced network infrastructure as well as leading-edge content and participation by some of the most successful and experienced entrepreneurs on the planet. The delivery will be live, online, interactive and available to small business owners and entrepreneurs nationwide. Whether they live in the backwoods of West Virginia or in the heart of Silicon Valley, they will now have access to instant, interactive and specialized expertise. Now that is the type of government stimulus program I like.
Why is this important for European entrepreneurs and politicians?
- USA entrepreneurs are challenged because there are so many remote geographies and rural areas. Europeans are challenged because there are so many different and also remote nationalities. Europe needs this kind of program.
- USA entrepreneurs are blessed with a single, large and homogeneous market. Europeans need to lower the national barriers so that European Entrepreneurs can service EU markets unencumbered.
- USA venture capital markets are uniform and relatively equivalent across the country (the VC terms in Boston are not that much different from those in Silicon Valley or the Technology Triangle in N.Carolina). Europe needs to flatten the geography.
- USA entrepreneurs struggle with internationalization and cross-border ventures. Europeans understand this innately and should be encouraged to use this to their competitive advantage.
Europe needs to find a way to turn this from a disadvantage into a competitive advantage.
Your comments on this article are encouraged.
Here is more information:
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing roughly half of U.S. workers, and while our communities are experiencing high unemployment rates, the entrepreneurial spirit remains alive and well,” Thompson told the Members. “For many underserved and rural areas, it is critical to have the opportunity and ability to tap into resources that will foster further economic development and provide prospective entrepreneurs with the same access afforded to their suburban and urban counterparts.”
The measure will provide high-quality tele-distance training through a competitive grants process administered by the Small Business Administration. The program will promote peer-to-peer networking for small business development, by using technology to deliver information and share data on-line and through videos and satellite communication.
Satellite seminars and online information services will allow prospective and established business men and women to interact with each other to trouble shoot problems and share best practices for interacting with the Small business Administration. This is a good example of the proliferation of online networking sites, where people can exchange their knowledge and information. This one will offer facts and figures on securing financing, navigating government regulations and learning to get a small business off the ground.
For many entrepreneurs, accessing this kind of information requires driving long distances to a Small Business Development Center. This legislation will bring the information to home computers.
In April, when this bill had a hearing before the Small Business Committee, Donna Kilhoffer, the program manager for the Community Education Council of Elk and Cameron Counties testified, “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in our region. What is lacking is the opportunity and ability to tap into ‘the experts’.”
This measure will allow people throughout the Nation to tap into the experts.
Thompson’s bill passed in May as well when it was included as a part of a larger House-passed bill, (H.R. 2352), the Job Creation through Entrepreneurship Act of 2009. Both measures await action in the U.S. Senate before either can become law.