Thursday, May 24, 2007

Interface or Face To Face?

A long, slow wave of understanding has been coming on to me lately, in defiance of the conventional wisdom that the world has moved online. It’s a hunch that my own focus has to be on meeting, being engaged and working with people face to face -- even, and maybe especially, where the subject is the Internet or tech applications in general.

I love the Internet as the meta-tool, and as an evolving art form. It’s the printing press, the mailbox, the soapbox, the radio station, the portfolio, the demo, the business card you can open up and look inside, the jukebox, the movie theatre… I’ve been infatuated with computers and software for over 20 years, and still get that charge of enthusiasm from what they enable me to do.

But the real world is still like the whole grain: it's only full, complete and really works right when all the naturally occurring parts are there. In communicating with people, that includes tone of voice, touch, body language, hundreds of facial muscles that each convey meaning, scent, and there'll probably even turn out to be some other subtle facility that science will chance across in due time.
Web videoconferencing, etc., hasn't changed this, and media truly never will. (Although, as now, lots of people won't know or care about the difference.)

Not that this concept negates the value of the Web; it only puts it in its proper place, which is the printing press, the mailbox, the soapbox, the radio station…

The point is, that with this awesome Swiss Army knife of a tool being utilized to the fullest, there’s still an essential place for meeting and talking with people “in person” -- looking them in the eye, listening to and responding to what they say, on the spot. All in the service of being able to get a gut-level impression of the people, still the most reliable indicator when deciding if you want to work with them.

One meeting is worth a thousand e-mails.

(Okay, or a hundred Webcam video conferences.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The peaceful, Human-powered lawn mower

Just in time for Spring: here’s one for the “appropriate tech” and “common sense” categories, specifically for the owners of “lawns”:

If you’re concerned about potentially catastrophic, globally-local climate change and your input to it, or if you’d just like a more peaceful “lawn solution” with the added benefit of light, invigorating exercise in the fresh air and sunlight (Nature’s own anti-depressants), consider the hand-powered mower.

I thought this would be the perfect time to say a few words in its praise, do a quickie search on it, and pop a couple relevant links in here for your mowing pleasure.

Search results for “hand powered mowers(Google)
The persons at People Powered Machines have models by two or three different makers, comparison charts and all that. They say the new models are lightweight and easy to push, not like your grandfather’s models, and the simplest is well under $200. They're even upfront enough to admit this is a smaller-acreage solution, recommended "for lawns of 8000 square feet or less."

A list there makes for a strong array of selling points:

"What you can hear while mowing with a Reel Mower :"
  • birds
  • your children playing alongside you
  • conversation
  • phone ring
  • phone not ring
  • music
  • books on tape
  • your children fighting inside the house (ok, so the power mower might have it on ths one)
  • your neighbors dinner party which you are not interrupting
  • the ice cream truck!
(From ‘Why we only carry reel mowers’ on
Related, on :

It's a Loud, Loud World
Where the essayist asks why our space-age technology can’t deliver ‘’no-sweat, no-motor’ tools,‘ described as, ‘professional, hand-powered gardening tools that were so finally machined that they matched or bettered their fuel-driven counterparts? ’