John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Brilliance in Red Socks

I spent two amazing days last week at the Internet Summit 2010 in Raleigh, NC. I was amazed at the wild collection of brain-horsepower - a group of people that Joe Procopio calls the ”Jocks and Cheerleaders of Nerds”  Who were these people?

There was Paul Lee – who started his discussion by thanking Jonathan Arehart for “tweeting the hell” out of the speakers – and then speaking at length about how game-ifying things provides enormous motivation for people. (Think about THAT: Essentially, he gamed the 1500 attendees into tweeting even more, and particularly about him, proving his point with his own presentation – so smoothly that almost nobody noticed)  He also advised Chip Perry, CEO of, that when he listed competitors, he ought to consider how Facebook was going to change the game for I don’t think Chip knew what hit him.

There was Dana Todd – firey intellect powerfully seeping out to the very roots of her hair – predicting that i-Ads were going to probably dwarf Google, Yahoo & Bing advertising.  If she is correct, Apple is undervalued by at least 200%, and everyone at the conference needs to understand the potential impact.  I’d bet that less than 5% of attendees had considered i-Ads’ potential impact.

Eleanor Hong was calmly riveting with discussion of news, search, and search in news, and – well, how social growth and news ratings interact.  Here’s a link to her presentation. It reminded me a bit of the problem with schrodinger’s cat. If you measure something, the act of measuring it has an impact. News, Media, and Social media statistics, to me, seem to reflect this. An event happens, it is reported, it is blogged, it is tweeted, it is FB’d, etc. It is an endless real-time churn.   Jenny Halasz told everyone about Linked in Signal. When she asked, I am a witness, that not a single person in the room had heard of it. (except perhaps Dana Todd, who had tweeted about it before the summit, but I don’t remember if Dana was there.) That is both a huge compliment to Jenny, and perhaps an eye-opener for Linked-In’s marketing team. (The conference WAS the target audience and NOBODY had heard of Signal.)

There were others who were a bit behind the times. “How many people in the audience have a Facebook account” is really not a valid question for that audience. There were many who were just a wee bit too self promotional. I’m convinced that one of the speaker presented self-promotional information that was either mis-informed, deceptive, or perhaps just plain lying. There were also questions that weren’t asked about every topic. Sometimes the probing should have been deeper. Statistics and sources should be questioned and understood, not glossed over. But these things were sharp in contrast because they were exceptions to the rule of “amazing-informative-powerful” that dominated the Internet Summit. 

And in this bright, shiny intellectual solar system, Bob Young stood out. Bob was pure Brilliance in Red Socks. He spoke with reverence about the people he shared the stage with, a senior Googler, and an IBM Fellow. In the most humble way, he explained how he respected IBM because they put customers first. He explained how he admired Google because he wasn’t smart enough to work there. (Really?) He spoke a bit about his company – - a company that aims to transform media slightly less than Gutenberg did. There was a chart showing how in 2000, there was 1 printing press for every 50,000 people in the world, but now, in 2010, there are 5 devices capable of print for every person.  There was discussion about how 50% of all printed books are never read, and end up in landfills.

Bob impressed as the sort of person who reads business statistics about Amazon selling 24 e-books for every Kindle they sell, and seeing the goodness in saving 12 quarter reams of book paper and a pint of book ink as resources saved for the world… instead of seeing the Kindle as a money printer that will do more for Amazon than it’s cloud services ever will.

So – what did I enjoy most about Internet Summit 2010?  Bob Young in the question and answer section. The unscripted brilliant firey thought, so powerful that his hat couldn’t contain it – so powerful that it ripped right out of his socks.

Bob said:

  • “Before thinking about what’s next, think about what we’ve already done”
  • “Congressmen are not part of “us” – they need to understand … so they might write laws to promote freedom… Freedom is NOT empowered by anarchy.”
  • (in discussing internet fraud) “These guys are evil, but you have to admire it because they do it so well”
  • “good content isnt going to be written unless people are paid to write it”
  • We are raising the most literate generation in the history of mankind- because of technology, not in spite of it.”

Cord Silverstein’s idea is that for next year’s Internet Summit Keynote, just invite Bob, and have him talk about whatever he wants to. He isn’t suggesting that merely because Bob’s Red Socks can be seen from space… and not because Bob’s 64 minute NC State “Leadership in Technology” piece can be seen here…  I think Bob stood out because he wants technology to do good things, humane things, beneficial things, charitable things. Bob’s Aunt may have given “one of the single largest charitable donations in Canadian history“, but Bob is not about money. He is about doing things that will benefit people –  no, rather, he is about doing things that will benefit HUMANITY – things of depth, things of gravitas, things of consequence. 

Bravo Bob! May we all find a way to create a tiny fraction of your brilliance in the work that we do.

November 23rd, 2010 Posted by | Business, Life, People | one comment