Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!

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The Complete “What’s the best use of Sound files Online” Arc

Note: This is the complete “What’s the Best Use of Sound Files Online” arc

What’s the best use of Sound files Online, part 1

Regular reader Susan Prager and some others emailed me questions about using music online, something I alluded to in Music Use on the Web (again). Let me sum up the concerns and questions of these readers the best I can:

  • Autoloading a music file on page load
  • Is there a difference between autoloading music versus other kinds of sounds?
  • Do people respond favorably to “…those terrifying floating and talking heads that are supposed to pass for inventive advertising”?
  • ditto for the video ads that start talking to you on page load. (“Nothing makes me flee a page faster.”)
  • What are best practices for presenting music clips today if you’re not iTunes?
  • If you’ve got a show to promote and it uses some swell music, is it a better to us highly visible link that says, “Hear our swell music”? Or does the music just start on page load (autoload) and
    then there’s a highly visible link to turn it off?

These are excellent questions that go beyond the use of music and touches on using sounds in general.

Sounds and how our minds respond to sound events is a rich field of study. What makes something too loud? What makes something too quiet? Why do some people refer to quiet sounds as being “soft” but not loud as “hard”? What frequencies are irritating, which are soothing and why?

And we haven’t begun to get into gender, age and ethnicity factors, all of which contribute mightily to how people respond to sound events.
My response is going to be intentionally general. Ms. Prager suggested I write a column about the best use of sound events and I think that’s a good idea. In the meantime, I’ll offer this:

Believe it or not, we’re still discussing elements started in Behaviors and Engagement Mechanics, Part 1 because autoloading sound events, etc., has to do with how people respond (behave) to such events. Whether or not to autoload sound events and how to encourage site visitors to favorably respond to them involves engagement mechanics.

The first part of using sound events well is to appreciate what visitors are coming to your site to do, ie, what is their expectation. A reader mentioned iTunes. Well, anyone going to iTunes should know ahead of time that music is going to be there and that listening to music is part of their expectation and desired experience. What about a site that offers several things, some of which are sound events such as music?

What’s the best use of Sound files Online, part 2

Note: We’re not completely sure this is Part 2 and we’re going for it.

The ‘net is still a visual medium and much like driving a car, you need to keep your eyes on where you’re going in order to get what you want. A good use of RIA (Rich Internet Applications) would be, for example, on a page with a bunch of CD covers on it. Hover (as opposed to just cursoring) over any CD cover and the music from the CD starts playing. Users might not expect this at first so the experience has to be a pleasurable one. That could be done by having the volume over time (less than a minute) follow the curve shown at right.


You’d want visitors to hover so that the music doesn’t just cue up due to simple navigation. This also gets them to participate in the experience. Even if leaving the mouse over a specific CD wasn’t their intention, they soon realize that behavior A triggers activity B, and you have them engaging with the page, staying on the site, and as Brian Tomz, Director of Product Strategy for Coremetrics points out, a trackable hence measureable event.

More on the use of sound on the web to follow, as well as information on behaviors and engagement mechanics.

What’s the best use of Sound files Online, part 3

Is autoloading a music file on page load a good idea?

I’m going to start by once again expanding the metaphor from music to sound event (something readers have already written to me that they appreciate). By expanding the metaphor from music to sound event we open ourselves up to a much wider range of possibilities, and what I’m thinking of is jingles (so seasonal pun intended) and more exactly, what the industry knows as earworms (U of Cincinnati’s Marketing Professor James Kellaris has done some interesting work on earworms).

A good use of autoloading sound files is to push an earworm when a site visitor loads a branded site or mouses over a brand. Some earworm examples are:

  • “I’d like to teach the world to sing” – Just that, nothing more, and softly. You want to bring a smile of memory, not a drop off of annoyance.
  • “Can you hear me now?” – Again, nothing more.

One is musical, the other not and both are sound events which are branded.

These types of branded sound events are acceptable as autoloads because most visitors will already associate the sound event with the site their browsing or the product image they just hovered their mouse over. This type of autoloaded sound event can be used because visitors already familiar with the brand will accept the sound event as part of the brand experience and an integral part of their browsing experience rather than an interruption.

What’s the best use of Sound files Online, part 4

Do people respond favorably to ‘…those terrifying floating and talking heads that are supposed to pass for inventive advertising’?

Regular readers of this arc know we’ve expanded the metaphor from music to sound events in general. Thus, the earworms answer the question about autoloading any kind of sound file and not just a music file.

This expansion of the metaphor also allows us to consider something which encompasses both auditory and visual stimuli, or, as one reader put it, “…those terrifying floating and talking heads that are supposed to pass for inventive advertising”?

Answering this question actually causes us to bump into age-based marketing. Consider that sites dealing with the 15-24yo market experienced (in some cases) 90% growth in two years time. Facebook and MySpace, for example, are being used as college recruitment tools with great success based on the research of Dr. Martin Moser at UMass Lowell. There are several reasons for the rapid adoption of such social networking sites with this market and anybody who’s got kids in the 12-19 year old age bracket will understand it in a heartbeat; Popularity isn’t home-based, it’s externally-from-the-home-based.


Yes, this is an oversimplification (how many simultaneous arcs would you like me write about?) and it’s a worthwhile one; The younger market’s focus isn’t internally motivated. They’re exploring, investigating, expanding themselves and their horizons. Readers familiar with NextStage’s research know this is the period with Stage 3 Learning is in effect. Personalities are being tested and defined by interacting with others and, like a blade on a grinding wheel, the more turns the stronger and sharper the personality becomes. In social terms this means the more someone interacts with others, and the broader that spectrum of others is, the more that personality becomes defined.

How does this need for whetstoning demonstrate itself? Via social interaction. How does one get the opportunity to interact socially? By looking and listening for others who want to interact.

And if I fall into that market segment overly simplified above and there’s a talking, moving avatar on the webpage I’m browsing? Well, then, I basically have no choice but to pay attention. I may not pay attention for long, but pay attention I will and that focusing of attention is branding whether it’s online or off.

Taking all of the above into consideration, do people respond favorably etc. etc.? Yes, some do. Not all do, and the difference has to do with advertisers and marketers knowing who’s browsing a given property and why.

What’s the best use of Sound files Online, part 4a

Fellow IMedia contributor Rob Graham, Principal of LearningCraft, is someone I often cite as an excellent marketing teacher. I wanted to share some of what he taught me because it finishes the above thought nicely.

One time when Rob was over our house he picked up one of my science journals and began skimming the ads, chuckling as he did. “If you really want to know who a property thinks its audience is, look at the ads they’re selling.”

I had never thought of it that way and he’s correct. It doesn’t matter if the property is a website, a print magazine, a TV spot, …, look at the ads and you’ll know who they think their audience is. Forget the content as being indicative of audience because the content wouldn’t be there without the ads to fund it.

This realization brings us back to “…the difference has to do with advertisers and marketers knowing who’s browsing a given property and why” and the original reader’s comment that got me there, “Do people respond favorably to ‘…those terrifying floating and talking heads that are supposed to pass for inventive advertising’?”

Don’t like the advertising that’s on some property you’re interacting with? The first question is, “Are you in that’s property’s market?” This was something I touched on in When Advertisements Crash and in Usability Studies 101: Redesign Timing. The worst case scenario is that the individual is debranded, definitely a no-no for marketing and advertising. The best case scenario is that the individual ignores the information (something very difficult to do at a non-conscious level which is where most decisions are made).

But what if you’re sure you’re in that property’s market and the advertising still puts you off? Then someone wasn’t doing their job either buying for or selling to that property and you, as the consumer, have room to complain.

What’s the best use of Sound files Online, part 5

This section will address “Do people respond favorably to those video ads that start talking to you on page load. (“Nothing makes me flee a page faster.”)

The answer to this builds on the floating and talking head response above. Different generations will respond to this type of presentation differently; that’s a basic rule. It’s also true that this type of event will play differently between men and women. The greatest rule is very simple, though, and once again comes back to understanding the market to which this method is being applied. Let me give you an example.

The image above is a NextStage “Tirekickers to Buyers” Breakdown. The specific activity being shown here is where visitors were in their decision making process regarding converting while on a site (this chart is an amalgam of some 30 sites in our system). As I wrote in Listening to and Seeing Searches, “Grazers are people who found your site by accident, although a search might have been involved. In traditional parlance, grazers are the people walking through the mall, looking in different windows but never going into any one store.

“Tirekickers are walking through the mall and going into all the sports stores, gathering information about golf clubs. They might not really want golf clubs, but they’re looking at them anyway. …”

Grazers, Tirekickers and other traditionally low-quality site visitors aren’t in a rush and they aren’t looking for anything in particular. Like someone walking through a mall and stopping to view a presentation at a kiosk, they’re willing to spend some time listening to and watching an autoload video.

What’s the best use of Sound files Online, part 5a

Somewhere in the middle of the chart are people doing research, talking themselves into or out of a purchase (conversion), and the like. Here’s where it gets a little dicey, in my opinion.

Is the visitor talking themselves out of a purchase? Then perhaps a video extolling the virtues of a conversion is a good thing. Are they doing research? Then maybe they want to the information the video provides.

At the high end are those visitors who’ve already made the decision and are on the site for no other reason than to convert. Then, by golly, get everything but the “Buy” button out of their way.

The response “Nothing makes me flee a page faster” is indicative of someone who (probably!) comes to a website in an “action” state of mind, ie, a buyer. Nothing will infuriate a buyer faster than something stopping them from doing what they’ve already made up their minds they want to do, so get that talking head/video/whatever off the page and put a big, fat “BUY” button there instead.

This begs the question, “How do you know if someone is a buyer, a tirekicker or what-have-you?”

What’s the best use of Sound files Online, part 6

This section discusses “What are best practices for presenting music clips today if you’re not iTunes?”

I kind of almost covered this above by writing “…anyone going to iTunes should know ahead of time that music is going to be there and that listening to music is part of why they’re going to iTunes, hence it’s part of their expectation and desired experience.”

This is the whole key to best practices for presenting music clips if you’re not iTunes and once again, it goes back to knowing your audience before you design a site. Does your audience expect music will be playing when the page autoloads? Then better give it to them. Does your audience expect to find music they want to listen to or purchase? Then best let them decide which music should autoload on their next visit. This can be done with a “customize” option on the page, something so common nowadays on so many sites. Best practices for using this type of option to promote branding and return visits can be found in Reading Virtual Minds.

You can get visitors to select music for autoloading using the RIA technique I described (and which Coremetrics folks told me is already being done by their clients) above.

If the question is “How do I design a webpage to best present music clips online?” the answer is “Contact NextStage”.

What’s the best use of Sound files Online, part 7

This section discusses “If you’ve got a show to promote and it uses some swell music, is it a better to use highly visible link that says, ‘Hear our swell music’? Or does the music just start on page load (autoload) and then there’s a highly visible link to turn it off?”

The answer to this question builds off the discussion of best practices above as well as the previous entries listed at the bottom of this entry.

A highly visible “Hear our swell music” link is a good idea, again supposing that visitors are coming to your site to learn of, search for or find music. If your site is a place visitors come specifically to listen to music — perhaps then to purchase — then music should be autoloaded. Visitors should then be given the option to select which music is going to autoload the next time they visit.

A similar option was given in section 2 above. There the suggestion was to use RIA to play small snippits of music as visitors hovered their mouse over some graphic or similar identifying screen element.

The key concept to the questions discussed in this post has nothing to do with music or sound events, however. The key concept is highly visible link. The reader who emailed me this question is probably already aware that whether you autoload some sound event or not, you must must must give visitors a choice in the environment they’re navigating in because — at least with the present state of web development — visitors are still bringing your environment into their environment.

In other words, your webpage is being viewed by someone who has several thousand other distractions competing for the attention they’re giving your webpage. Those distractions are in their real environment. Your webpage exists in their virtual environment. Which of the two do you think they can control most easily? Does the child, dinner, the pet needing to go outside, the parent demanding chores be done, the phone, …, have an on/off switch or does the computer in which your webpage’s virtual environment exists?

You can create the most inviting virtual environment imaginable but if visitors can’t control it, modify it, adapt it so that it integrates with their real environment, your environment gets shut off.

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The Complete “Media Free? That Easy…And Scary. Know Why?” Arc

Note: The original Media Free Arc contained 22 posts [[(Does he know when to quit???)]]. All 22 entries are contained in this one post

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 1)

I read a post on Brad Beren’s Mediavorous blog [[it’s gone)]] entitled “Unplugging… why is it so hard?”. The post deals with why and how people choose to “be free” or not. I followed a post on Brad’s blog to Where’s My Jetpack?’s Going Off the Grid post which led me to Radio Free Babylon’s MediaFreeZones page.

Before going further, let me once again reiterate that I consider myself a Luddite. Fellow KMM blogger Marshall Sponder laughs at that belief. During a concall he said, “You created this incredible technology and consult for Fortune 500’s and you call yourself a ‘luddite’?” and everybody laughed.

Well, I do consider myself a luddite. I don’t go out and get the latest and greatest technology simply because it’s the latest and greatest technology. During a recent vacation talk got onto the subject of Apple’s iPhone and, when it came right down to it, did anybody really need one? I’ve known people with high power PDAs and laugh when I get an email with something like “Sent from my wireless phone… Please forgive typos & brevity.” I often respond with something like “Sent from my laptop on the backporch, listening to the wildlife while sipping some wine. Phphttt!”

I was on a social networking site earlier today and saw that one of my someone I know “…is prepping an RV for a trip to SD. One week off the grid.”

This hearkens back to Eventing [[(no entries added yet)]], turning the fact that you’re going to be gridless into a media event, albeit a personal one.

I do appreciate that the intent might be to let people know this individual won’t be getting emails and such. I also want to offer that I respect this individual and their work. And I should also let you know that this was the first time ever! that I used an autoresponder for my emails while I was on vacation.

But the question remains, why is unplugging difficult?

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 2)

Truth in Advertising dept: I wrote posts on both email bankruptcy and voluntary simplification (links below). I also noted that people are starting to broadcast when they’ll be unplugged (as Brad Berens’ did in “Jumping off the grid for a week”).

Our neighbors ask us to watch their house when they’re away. They are, in their way, alerting us that they’ll be unplugged (so to speak).

These two seemingly disparate events — declaring oneself to be gridless and asking neighbors to watch a house — are linked at a very primitive level.

Before I go any further, I’m going to state now that I’ll make no attempt to connect these threads. Something I and others consider one of my gifts is a “thinking like breathing” ability (that’s the best phrasing in English). Regular readers of my blog have written that half the fun of reading my arcs is following along because of how I tie things up at the end. Students have often commented the same in my evaluations; you have to hang in there and it can be a challenge, but if you do the rewards are incredible.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 3)

I commented in Brad Beren’s “Unplugging… why is it so hard?” post that I didn’t find it hard to unplug. In many ways my life is more under my own control than it has ever been before, me thinks, and that this might be due to my family’s attempts at voluntary simplification.

(Luddite warning)

I got a new cell phone three or so years ago, and only then because the one I’d been using for about four years got stolen. If that one hadn’t been stolen I wouldn’t have the new cell phone. When we went to get the new cell phone I told the dealer, “I want to make calls and receive calls. Voicemail would be nice but isn’t necessary. I don’t want to take pictures, I don’t want to send pictures, I don’t want to see pictures. I don’t want text messages, I don’t want email, I don’t want to surf the ‘net. I want a phone. I’m an old fart. Do you have any old fart phones?”

The salesperson, an exasperated under 25 something, called over an associate with gray in his hair who pulled a phone out of his pocket and showed it to me. “This what you want and lots of stuff you don’t care about, but you can set it up so that stuff you don’t care about never gets in the way of you doing what you want.”


I share this story to let you know that, perhaps, unplugging isn’t as hard for me as it might be for some others.

One of NextStage’s clients use to offer to set me up with the PDA they produced. Never happened, even though our CEO and CTO couldn’t live without theirs and got the newest models every time they came out.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 4)

A local cable provider has a commercial that I love. I don’t think the company’s all that hot and will upgrade away from them when the opportunity arises. The commercial, though, I love. It’s part of a series of commercials featuring two tortoises (husband and wife), living in the suburbs and staying with DSL rather than upgrading to a faster, cable connection.

The commercial that I really like has the husband tortoise downloading a large file. The bar meter pops up on his screen showing how long it’ll take and how slowly it’s happening and he delightfully says, “Ahh…me time.”

Did I mention that the reason I’ll upgrade away from them has nothing to do with connection speed?

Ahh…Me time.

The way this commercial chooses to get it’s point across is fascinating to me. Time to think, to ponder, to wonder, to focus on one’s self…These are negatives and to be avoided.

Heaven forbid, we might miss another YouTube video.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 5)

One of NextStage’s researchers has been observing people doing their jobs in several areas. The findings are fascinating and not a pretty picture. So far we’ve documented…well, oddness. Here are some examples:

One fellow works in government. He gets paid for an 8-hour day and admits that his time in the office is more like 6.5-7.25 hrs/day. He spends ¼-½ of this time surfing the net looking at non-work related sites. He is frustrated that his boss won’t let him telecommute. If he could telecommute, he’d be able to spend more time building up his own business.

Another fellow works in management at a manufacturing company. His objective? Keep his head down and hide in the bureaucracy for the next 12-15 years so he can retire with a full pension.

A woman in a high tech position admits she won’t talk about problems in her organization because she fears reprisals. (we heard lots of horror stories about this one organization)

A fellow is taking on some new responsibilities in his job and feels his new responsibilities may be negatively affecting the rest of his life.

These are a few and the list is painfully long. Sometimes I do not enjoy observing and documenting human behavior.

But I will share something all the above have in common; none of these people enjoy tortoise time.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 6)

According to one of the posts (MediaFreeZones) that spawned this arc,

A MediaFreeZone™ (or MFZ) is a space in your home that you set aside as a quiet place. No computers, television, radio, music (unless you are making it) are allowed in this space. Reading is permitted, as is talking, drawing and writing. Any room in your home can qualify as an MFZ.

It’s a place that family members and roommates know as a quiet area. In the same way that children are taught to respect quiet in a library, they will quickly grasp the concept of the MFZ.

Okay. I’m way out of the loop on this one. We need to set a place aside for this?

We have a music room in our house. And a library. I’ve written about this before, in Paid Search Delivers Magic. Some of our most relaxing evenings are spent on our back porch, listening to the earth fall asleep while we read. I’ll practice guitar on the back porch or in the music room. The piano I always practice in the music room. I was in the piano marching band once but the straps kept on cutting into my shoulders so I had to quit.

I wonder if what I’m describing is cultural. I know several families in Nova Scotia, Scotland, eastern and western Europe and South America who have just the opposite of a MediaFreeZone. They have a MediaRoom. The tv, stereo, computer, electronic games (if any) are in this one room. I know several very talented people here in the US who make a living studying SIMM behavior. SIMMing deals with how people handle multiple media inputs simultaneously.

I mentioned to some folks interested in SIMM one of the women NextStage studied, a Mrs. Goulet. Mrs. Goulet can sit and knit, watch tv, have a radio going beside her, a book in her lap, talk to her husband while paying attention to her two children and the family dog simultaneously. She had no problem at all when I would randomly throw questions at her. The phone rang, she answered it and just added it to the mix.

People who have studied haragei, tan t’ien and similar arts (in their true, native, non-westernized forms) also seem to easily deal with multiple inputs. They also seem to have little trouble unplugging. If they were every plugged in at all.

And to keep myself honest, I also know some non-immigrant American families who limit their children’s access to electronic media and not their access to print or playing music. They also listen to music as a family.

Also yes, the underlying thread is still growing and making itself known.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 7a)

A NextStage researcher spent several months with a company that adopted “Emailless Fridays”. I’ll let her explain:

People were being overwhelmed by the number of emails they were receiving each day. It was taking up a lot of their time responding to each one and they felt the need to answer the emails as they popped up. It wasn’t so much the amount of emails, it was the content. Many of these emails were from co-workers who could have picked up the phone or dropped in and spoken with the person. Many were from colleagues that were in the next cubicle.

Coming to see a co-worker has some advantages: you get the answer immediately and a social connection is made. Co-workers actually get to know each other and a discussion takes place, ideas are exchanged. The disadvantage to this is that a conversation my actually take place. Many people are socially immature when it comes to conversations, especially business ones where their ideas are discussed. They’re fine with the water-cooler talk, but ask them to discuss their ideas and have to defend them is beyond their abilities. Emails are safe. We say things in emails that we wouldn’t dare say on the phone and never to any one face to face.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 7b)

They said that it seemed a rare occurrence for people to stop by each others cubes or offices to discuss business. It’s usually by email or in meetings. Many businesses began noticing this as well. Some have started instituting no email Fridays. If some one wants to discuss an idea with a colleague they must either phone that person or physically go down the hall, or where ever, and see them face to face. I know, it’s a radical idea. This person I spoke with liked the idea so much that they were going to institute it. I had heard about no email Fridays from a posting on the internet.

It’s been gaining on popularity.

At first employees were complaining about it. As the idea grew, employees found that they were far more productive. They actually began to get things done. They weren’t constantly being interrupted. There was no longer a need to check emails every five minutes. Employees began to know one another, exchange ideas, face to face. It was a beautiful thing. So, let’s expand on the idea to no meeting Tuesdays, no phone call Wednesdays. I know these last two won’t happen, but let’s see where the concept can go.

The theme continues to emerge and links everything in this arc so far.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 8)

There is (to me) an underlying theme to the topics mentioned in this arc.

All of the above deal with unplugging being difficult for some folks, not others.

So here goes and I hope it’s worth it.

One of the most powerful tools I use is a simple question; what is gained, what is lost? I use this tool with clients, with students, with co-workers, in life. I can’t think of a decision that it doesn’t apply to and I don’t apply it to every decision I make.

Never-the-less, what is gained by becoming gridless? There are many answers and one that pervades all the above is that people can’t contact you. More correctly, you have to make a more than usual effort to contact others. Whenever effort is involved both economics and physics engage (and yes, I study econophysics. Fascinating papers being written in that field). Increased effort is either a resource or energy issue, and if you start recognizing energy as a resource you’re better than half way there.

Making an effort to contact someone else (a common occurrence not terribly long ago. There was no generally accessible public grid until the mid to late 1990’s. Prior to that, if you had a mobile phone, which meant you also knew your mobile operator, you had capital M money) means you’re making a statement about someone else’s worth in your life.

Whoa! A public statement that I value person A more than I value person B. Oh, my. Person B might be offended. What am I to do? What will person B think?

[Anecdote: at a recent conference I was sitting with a few people. One admitted that I frightened them because they knew that I knew more about what they were thinking than they knew about what they were thinking. Another person concurred. I smiled and responded, “Please understand me. I like you, enjoy your company and think of you as a friend. But do you honestly think you’re so important to me that I’m going to spend my time focusing my attention on you? That’s an amazing statement of ego and vanity, don’t you think?” They were relieved and also admitted that it actually bothered them to be told they weren’t important. Intellectually they had no problem with it, it made total sense and was completely understandable. Emotionally? Ouch!]

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 9)

Let’s reverse the suggestion in the previous post in this arc, that person B might be offended if you were to publicly state some person A had more value in your life because, once gridless, you extend the extra effort to contact A and not B.

The reverse is that people will have to exert additional effort to contact you if you’re off the grid.


Then…if they don’t contact you…if you’re not on the grid and they don’t or aren’t willing to exert that extra effort…?

Then really, Ouch!

And we’re not even talking about people who go semi-gridless; they let calls go to voicemail and don’t get their emails for days on end. What a horrible statement to make about the value of others in your life; You don’t immediately respond to them because they’re them.

Wait a second. I might be in that category. I can go weeks without responding to emails when I’m busy researching. I’ll shut off my phones so as not to be disturbed for days at a time. Then again, I’m not stating someone else is in a definite person B category, only that I’m person A and right now I’m demanding all my attention.

(we’re back to solipsism, I think)

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 10)

We’re now in the summary section. Focus is now on what “accessibility” is all about, who should have it and who needs it.

My last post in this arc dealt with the fun of breaking social access rules. We continue from there.

Heads of state, leaders of commerce, they all have gatekeepers. IE, they all have defined how much of the public they’ll allow to access them.

(We ask) What does that gain them? What do they lose?

One of our researchers, helping me prepare this thread, noted that it use to be only “important” people had cellphones and were accessible via some grid. Now everyone is. Does this mean everybody’s important or that we’ve downgraded the “you have to be this tall to get on this ride”ness of the grid?

If you’re off the grid then someone has to really want to get in touch with you in order to put in the effort.

Ah…Me Time.

If are willing to put in the effort to get in touch with you then they’ve thought about the communication they wish to have.


Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 11)

Focus is shifting from what “accessibility” means to “how important is it to be accessible”.

I left off wondering how important “important” can be and continue from there.

They may decide the communication isn’t that important after all. Or perhaps you’re not that important after all. In either case, the extra effort, the extra time, is a factor. Are you really so important people need to be able to get in touch with you? Is what you have to communicate so important that you need to have access to them right now? Is what you have to communicate so important, period (we’re back to Eventing ones’ self)? Can it wait an hour, a day, a week?

Regular readers know I love quotes so here’s some that apply:

  • There is more to life than increasing its speed. – Mahatma Gandhi
  • It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. – Albert Einstein
  • A most important, but also most elusive, aspect of any tool is its influence on the habits of those who train themselves in its use. …this influence is, whether we like it or not, an influence on our thinking habits. – Edsger Dijkstra
  • Comparing information and knowledge is like asking whether the fatness of a pig is more or less green than the designated hitter rule. – David Guaspari
  • Nasrudin walked into a teahouse and declaimed, “The moon is more useful than the sun.” “Why?”, he was asked. “Because at night we need the light more.”
  • Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? – T.S. Eliot

And here’s the one that brings it all back to the true meaning of society;

  • We are hungry for things that have been touched by human hands. (Truth in Advertising dept: This is my modification of Faith Popcorn’s “We are hungry for things that have touched human hands.”)

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 12)

Focus shifted from what “accessibility” means to “how important is it to be accessible” and now to being all knowing, all seeing, omniscient and omnipresent.

After all, isn’t that what being on the grid gets you? Not omnipotent, at least not yet. But isn’t that where we we’re headed? The sin that got Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden was that they knew too much yet not enough (Gen 3:22ff). If we unplug, get off the grid, go media free, how can we ever hope to become god?

Do people have a hard time getting unplugged?

The grid in general and the ‘net in particular are sources of identity and being pretty much unrivaled in modern history. Bloggers, YouTubers, FaceBookers, LinkedIners, MySpacers, emailers, list-posters, … we’re all broadcasting “This is who I think I am” and hopefully we receive in echo “Yes, that’s right, that’s who you are!” We are looking to be part of something greater than ourselves. This has been a need since humans recognized themselves as humans and touches on my amusement at people who are linked to 5,000 others on a social networking site. Five thousand others? Every anthropologist in the world is rolling on the floor, laughing at that one. Every neuroscientist is leaning against a wall, catching their breath and holding their sides.

Do people have a hard time getting unplugged, off the grid, away from email, cellphone and PDA?

Of course they do. One source of their social echo, their “Am I who I think I am?”-“Yes, You Are!” is gone.

Did you notice the use of capitals in the echo response? That was intentional. DesCartes taught us “I think, therefore I am” and my training went further with “I think, therefore all I know is that an ‘I’ exists and it’s capable of projecting something the ‘I’ calls ‘thought’ into a recognition spectrum.” Traditional western culture only allowed one entity to declare “I AM” and a recurring theme in literature is apotheosis. Now anybody can have their 15 minutes for less than a dollar a minute. Such a deal!

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 13)

What about the people who have no interest in plugging in, the ones who don’t want to taste the joys of omniscience and omnipresence?

Maybe it’s because they’re already experiencing near omnipotence and it’s enough for them.

What about people who have a hard time getting plugged?

Polarity response. These people will broadcast a message. What if the echo isn’t what they hope for? Or are willing to accept?

And the people who are declaring email bankruptcy, doing voluntary simplification, going gridless and so on? Or those that know there’s a grid and don’t care to access it?

These people are choosing to unplug nor not plug in at all, to be media free. It’s not a difficult road to travel. It was the only road to travel up until…oh…five or so years ago? And the people who were on “the grid” prior to that? Heads of state, leaders of commerce, nuclear sub commanders, … you know, people whom you’d really want to be able to get important messages to when you really had to.

But these people — heads of state, leaders of commerce, nuclear sub commanders, … — these folks have something the great majority of us don’t want; power. Power over people’s lives and futures. In some cases, frighteningly, devastating power. These folks are craving omniscience and are relying on highly advanced grids to provide them with a semblance of omnipresence.

Look at before and after images of world leaders. The strain is incredible and shows in their faces. Me thinks these people can’t wait to get off the grid.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 14)

We’re still working our way back home in the MediaFree and Gridless arc. Focus shifted from what “accessibility” means to “how important is it to be accessible” to attempting godhood to figuring out God’s big three — omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience — maybe aren’t the big patooties we thought they were..

After all, the first thing god did (supposedly) was create other beings to interact with. It seems the first thing gods want to do is be social.

Going gridless might be a road less traveled but it’s one which invites us to turn off the radio/CD/book on tape/mpg player and cellphone/PDA, lower the window and listen to the world rushing by. Think about that; just you and the world, alone with each other (okay, forget about all the other drivers on the road and the possibility that you’re in a traffic jam of some kind. And if you are, start paying attention to the people in the other cars as people, as someone like you in the same situation as you. Can you say social network?) Do you know that one of the quickest ways to stop road rage, etc., is to lower your window and apologize, to admit your mistake (assuming it was, of course. Give the other person a chance to lower their window and do the same if they need to own it. Just don’t be surprised when they don’t). This stops roadrage because you stop being isolated from the other people on the road. You’re becoming human. You’re connecting…oh, dare I write it…You’re establishing community. Right there on the road!

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 15)

The focus of this MediaFree and Gridless arc from what “accessibility” means to “how important is it to be accessible” to attempting godhood to figuring out God’s big three — omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience — maybe aren’t the big patooties we thought they were.

We then conjectured that the real demonstration of godhood and god-like ability might be creation, and that the ultimate act of godhood might be the creation of communities. Of course, the community you create can be very limiting. The best communities are always based on individuals and, as the Oracle of Delphi admonished “Know thyself and thou wilt know the Universe and the Gods.”

Establishing community, entering and leaving community, takes time and effort. No wonder people are willing to establish virtual connections with people they’ve never had physical contact with. It takes less time and it’s safer. You don’t have to get out of your car. The more connected we are virtually the less connected we tend to be physically. When someone’s an email or phone call away and it takes much less effort, what’s the point in meeting with them in reality?

But I don’t think we’re psychologically mature enough as a species to recognize the difference between cyber- and physical-relationships. The normal boundaries and limits, the psychic and physical walls we place around ourselves for our own and others’ protection, don’t migrate easily between virtual and real worlds. Second Life is starting to experience real world crime and cyber-adultery is on the rise (I don’t mean “pornography”, I mean people going to a virtual world so their avatars can fraternize (how’s that for an euphemism?)).

You can find cafes in virtual worlds where you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with someone who’s thousands of miles away. Except it’s not real coffee and the avatar rarely looks like the person who created it, at least according to a recent NPR Morning Edition story, Alter Egos in a Virtual World. Part of my training is that anything perfectly imagined is real (shades of Brainstorm!) and the difference is that real imagination requires lots of effort. It is work to generate an internal reality so compelling that the external reality is denied or ignored (don’t think so? Work with the insane for a while). Virtual reality doesn’t require as much imagination because you still need to bring parts of your physical reality with you. You can leave your body behind but your body still needs to operate the controls.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 16)

At this point I’m starting to think accessibility isn’t the real issue. Availability, though? If you can get a message to them then they are accessible. However, they may not be available when you want them to be available.

That’s a totally different issue.

You can find cafes in virtual worlds where you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with someone who’s thousands of miles away. Except it’s not real coffee and the avatar rarely looks like the person who created it, at least according to a recent NPR Morning Edition story, Alter Egos in a Virtual World. Part of my training is that anything perfectly imagined is real (shades of Brainstorm!) and the difference is that real imagination requires lots of effort. It is work to generate an internal reality so compelling that the external reality is denied or ignored (don’t think so? Work with the insane for a while). Virtual reality doesn’t require as much imagination because you still need to bring parts of your physical reality with you. You can leave your body behind but your body still needs to operate the controls.

Email autoresponders, answering systems, gatekeepers, handlers, entourages, … These are also avatars. Email signature files, something I devoted an arc to and that drew quite an email response, are avatars.

All of such things are extensions of ourselves into the real and virtual worlds. Whether an email signature file, gaming avatar, SecondLife sim or handler, these extensions of ourselves — these definitions we place on our accessibility and availability — are attempts at setting boundaries and limits.

Boundaries and limits? Those are the places in our emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological space beyond which we’ll neither pass nor let others enter.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 17)

Boundaries and limits.

They are much more fluid online than off and you don’t have to be “in cyberspace” to notice it. Let me give you some examples:

  • There’s a PR person who use to send me emails about once a week letting me know what his company was up to. I finally emailed him to take me off his list. He apologized and did. Later he sent me an email that he was changing jobs…and telling me what his new company was up to.
  • I gave my cellphone number to a business associate who expressed and interest in flying kites. I actually wrote in the email “Please don’t share it.” The number of people who have my cell phone number is in the single digits. That’s on purpose. That why I also write “Please don’t share it” on those rare occasions when I do give it out. This individual passed my cellphone number on to someone else with “His cell number – which he specifically asked me *not* to share, is…”

What was it Robert Redford said in The Horse Whisperer, “I say ‘No’ in Wyoming and it means ‘Yes’ in New York?” Or in this case, “I say ‘no’ in cyberspace and it means ‘yes’ in reality?”

Boundaries and limits. The ones people have between their real and cyber-lives are blurring, me thinks.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 18)

I quoted Robert Redford in my last entry. I didn’t quote Robert Redford exactly. I quoted a character he played in a movie. Proof, that, that line boundaries between real and not-real are blurring, me thinks.

Going gridless. Getting unplugged. Becoming media free.

It allows us to focus on what’s local to us rather than what’s virtual to us. Does food taste different when you eat and aren’t devoting your attention to some media? Does a virtual kiss mean as much if I can’t taste my lover’s lips, feel their body mold to mine, sense their passion rise as they open themself to me? Evidently some people find a virtual kiss much more meaningful than a real one. At least that’s what I discovered in Second Life? I don’t find you interesting in Real Life

Can appropriate media enhance some non-media sensory experience? Well, according to a recent Weekend America piece, The Cutting Edge of Rollercoasters, probably so.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 19)

Psychological maturity of the species.

Handsome Dude!

Is Einstein correct, our technology has exceeded our humanity and maybe that’s a good thing. NextStage gets requests for help from online dating sites fairly often. The biggest problem use to be that expectation didn’t synchronize with experience (did you know I’m 35yo, tall, curly brown hair and blue eyed, muscular, deeply tanned, …? It should be obvious from my picture…) That doesn’t happen as much in the Web 2.0 world and it does still happen in cyberspace. Avataring (it use to mean “The manifestation of a Hindu deity (especially Vishnu) in human or superhuman or animal form”), Simming, getting on and off the grid, unplugging and (ahem) underplugging


I’m thinking that maybe unplugging or plugging in isn’t the answer, maybe Underplugging is. Of course I’d like the idea, it’s what I’ve been doing all along; choosing to go off the grid to get something more important done, telling people “If you need me, call me. I respond to phone calls much faster than I do to emails.” Then again, I can be playing guitar and not even hear the phone ring. I can be exercising, hear the phone and decide that a few more pushups are much more important than getting the call. And emails? Ha! Sometimes I can’t even get to my emails for less than obvious reasons.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Part 20)

Ah…Me Time.

I use to think that nobody lies on their deathbed saying, “Dang, I wish I’d spent more time in the office.” I know a fellow who claimed that his greatest achievement was that he’d always had a job. His wife left him, his children never talk to him, he owns a beautiful house in a very upscale part of town and lives in the basement. He rents out the upper level just to hear movement in his house.

I wrote in Interesting Experience about a fellow who worked for NextStage for a while and had a briefcase full of recommendations from people who couldn’t wait for him to move on to some other job (Okay, internally we call him “Briefcase Bob”). I once mentioned to him my thoughts about “I wish I’d spent more time at the office” and he shared that he would be honored if, at his funeral, all his friends took the opportunity to exchange business cards, email addresses, to network and see how they could benefit each other businesswise.

We each decide what affirms “value” in our lives. In that we need to be careful. Value, like our dreams, can damn us if we pursue them amiss.

Media Free? That’s easy…and scary. Know why? (Finale)

This entry closes the MediaFree and Gridless arc. A total of twenty-two entries to discover that going media free, gridless and getting unplugged has to do with nothing more than personal values, don’t you think?

Well, probably not. All humans, whether they care to admit it or not, are on a quest to discover what’s important to them. Some people spend their entire lives and never learn the secret. What a curse that must be, to never know one’s own ultimate truth, to always have a sense that somewhere in some place and at some time there’s something else and you’ll never know what it is. Or perhaps even recognize it when it comes.

As for me? I wrote in Tag, I’m It! “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the most wonderful, beautiful thing that has ever happened to me will be the next thing that happens to me.”

One of my regular readers sent me the following to use either directly or as templates for my email auto-responder. I have one active now as I’m actually not getting emails right now. I was tempted, I admit. The one I’m using, as mentioned previously in this arc, is just another avatar of me projected into cyberspace.


Best “Out of Office” email reply #1: I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position. Be prepared for my mood.

Best “Out of Office” email reply #2: You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn’t have received anything at all.

Best “Out of Office” email reply #3: I will be unable to delete all the unread, worthless emails you send me until I return from holiday on July 10th. Please be patient and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

Best “Out of Office” email reply #4: Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged $5.99 for the first ten words and $1.99 for each additional word in your message.

Best “Out of Office” email reply #5: The email server is unable to verify your server connection and is unable to deliver this message. Please restart your computer and try sending again. (When you return, see how many in-DUH-viduals did this over and over).

Best “Out of Office” email reply #6: Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system…You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 19 weeks.

Best “Out of Office” email reply #7: I’ve run away to join a different circus.

Best “Out of Office” email reply #8: I will be out of the office for the next 2 weeks for medical reasons. When I return, please refer to me as ‘Margaret’. Bob.

Send me any you have and I’ll post them. Or just enter them in here as comments. – Joseph

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