It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

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A lot of people had Veteran’s Day off. Not me. Not only did our office remain open (we’re open whenever the market’s open), but my day overflowed with meetings and conferences. I spent the bulk of the day at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery participating in the Social Media Today conference with easily a couple hundred other folks interested in the latest happenings in the Web 2.0 world. Graciously organized by Ana Roca Castro, who did a wonderful job despite forgetting to include bathroom breaks in the agenda, the event exceeded her expectations and deservedly so.


Oddly, it didn’t take long for an eerie feeling of “haven’t I been here before?” to course through my ancient synapses. No, the presentations didn’t tell me things I already knew (quite the contrary). Hmm, how can I describe it? More like teetering on the eager cusp of undiscovered opportunity. (The last time I felt this way occurred nearly 25 years ago in the German House, but that’s a story for another day.)

Chris Brogan, “ten year veteran of using social media and both web and mobile technologies to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations, and individuals” according to his web-site bio, pleased us with a perfect keynote address. My first thought about Chris: “Great first name” No, seriously, he looked a lot more friendly and approachable in real life than his blog’s pictures make it appear. And, indeed, both his presentation and his personal rapport with people during the lunch-time book signing confirmed my complimentary impression.

Chris took the stage with seeming reluctance and, unlike all the other speakers, stood naked before us. I mean figuratively. (In fact, he wore a well worn pair of jeans and an equally well worn tweed jacket over a tee shirt of sorts.) I mean “naked” in this sense: rather than use the omnipresent Powerpoint, he opted for the throw back method. He used note cards, and with admirably rich irony. Here we have an internet guru surfing the leading edge of our techno-future forgoing photons and instead using dead trees to help enhance his delivery. I loved it. Part key-note, part schtick – especially the part when his attempt to open a bottle of water with one hand resulted in a small gusher splashing onto his (thankfully well worn) jacket and down upon the stage (it might have even seeped to the “no food or drinks allowed” sign). Anyway, the whole thing sorta reminded me of Mel Brooks’ concept of the “stand-up philosopher” from The History of the World Part I.

But here’s the beauty of it. Chris Brogan didn’t come across as any different than most of the people in the room. More so, he went out of his way to call upon familiar names in the audience, who just as familiarly responded back. He had no pretension of looming larger than us. Quite the opposite. He clearly understood that, but for a few quirks of fate, he was one of us.

And so it is with this entire social media community. It stands out as an egalitarian society. Sure, some residents possess greater knowledge, some greater experience and some greater resources, but, at least for the time being, they all blossom with the same enthusiasm and all generously share whatever they have with whoever wants it. Even with dinosaurs like me.

But, that doesn’t surprise me. Twenty-five years ago, I did the same.

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