KAHNx Academy Please

Just learned that Sal Kahn the amazing force behind the Kahn Academy is visiting SAP Labs in Palo Alto soon. Check out his TED talk. His winning formula has the potential to fundamentally change the way we educate our children as well as ourselves.

This is one of the few moments, where I would love to be back in the Bay Area to be part of the session. I would ask him one question:

When is he going to adopt the TEDx model, and allow external content?

TED used to be this super exclusive conference where once a year for a horrendous amount of money people would share ideas worth sharing over a couple of days. Well the main TED conference is still that, but brilliant idea number one is that they share the recording of all their presentations. Sal Kahn is doing the same, he is where TED was 5 years ago.

TED organizers second amazing idea was, to take a step back and realize, we have a winning formula: Short presentations with no or few slides telling an inspiring story, ideally derived from their own experience.

Now let’s offer that framework to everyone who wants to bring the TED spirit to their local community. There are a few rules, to nudge folks into the framework. They call it TEDx so you know that this is an aspiring TED event, but not the original. For me TEDx is better than the mother ship, because they are local. You get to know the local talent and you bump into each other at other local events or at the farmer’s market. Very powerful.

Now Kahn Academy is also very powerful and has a winning formular/framework: Simple board, off voice and one topic covered per video.

Sal is amazingly prolific in creating these, but at the moment there is only one Sal, he is the bottleneck. For the academy to really explode, Sal should take a page from TEDx, set the framework, call it KAHNx Academy, create a couple of lessons on how to create a topic including exercises and let others try their hand.

First most of the submitted Topics will be lousy, but a simple voting/flagging system will be able to separate the good and burry the bad.

A community will develop that will help not only with the development and ratings, but also improve the process. Sal could review the ones that the community deemed excellent and give them his stamp of approval. You can review many more videos than create.

In the Contribute section of the Kahn Academy’s web site, he asks for help to translate topics, but not for the creation of one.

At least not yet, as I am convinced that this will come. If not by him, then someone else will fill that gap.

Palo Alto colleagues if you are going to his session at SAP Labs, please ask him:  When he will start to accept topics created by others?

Don’t Teach Them To Fish. Teach Them To Dig Their Own Pond!

Happy Labor Day. A good time to take a step back and check out Douglas Rushkoff”s Life Inc. The Movie.

@johnrobb@pixelbase (Michael) and @GregChase had a little Twitter exchange about this theme too.

Everyone’s mind right now is on creating jobs.
John posted and I retweeted:  Not sure jobs are the answer though. It just perpetuates dependency. A focus on platforms for micro-entrepreneurs is better. 3 Sep
Greg brilliant question, that hit it on the nail: Don’t teach them to fish? Teach them to dig their own pond?
Which John sees as: The basis of a resilient community parable.
I think: Your future prosperity depends on your ability to dig your own pond.
Michael commented: Focus on platforms for micro-entrepreneurs is better >> works for me, but not for everyone!
John tweeted: That is a legacy problem.
I also think that this is solvable by changing our educational focus. Schools need to be training grounds for digging ponds.
Globalization, energy and food shortage, accelerated change, automation, robotics, … are forces that will majorly influence our ability to put food on the table for us and our loved ones.
Greg’s tweet today stopped me from laughing out laud because it hit too close to home. Brilliantly shows the core of our current problem:


GregChaseGregChase @johnrobb @finnern Teach them to buy and sell derivitives of futures of fish they might catch if they built their own pond – #TheAmericanWay 6 hours ago

The American Way? Unfortunately the American way of people with money who are calling the shots.

Our way out of this will be via Resilient Communities, Meta CurrenciesTransition Town Movements …  In a comment to the Live Inc movie someone suggested Time Banking. Interesting idea that needs further exploring. This is the new frontier to help create a society that works for all.

Cracking Poached Egg Gromit


Cracked an egg that I thought was hard boiled. It wasn’t. So I quickly poached it in the microwave.

It is really easy: To quickly make a poached egg in the microwave oven, you crack the egg into a small bowl that stands in a larger bowl that has some water in it.

Put the two bowls into the microwave and depending on your preference and the strength of your oven wave it for 1-2 minutes.

In my case I did 1 minute and then additional 30 seconds. Pepper and salt to taste. Yummy!

Check out the final picture. Not that you can see a big difference with a glass bowl on a white porcelain bowl, there is not a lot of contrast to the white egg.

Picture taken by Mark & Marie Finnern.

P.S. I mostly posted this because I wasn’t sure whether posting from Flickr directly to this workpress blog still works. It does, like a charm. Oh and I hope you make one of these eggs too.

Fool Me Once

2012 Today I got a message from Sara El-Amine. She writes:

I’m the national training director at Obama for America. My job is to develop the programs and resources our staff and volunteers use to teach others how to grow this campaign in their communities.

I’m writing because you or someone you know might want to be among a group of people who will play the leading role in our grassroots strategy this fall. They’re called our fall fellows.

Apply to be a fall fellow right now — or pass this message along to someone else you think would be great:


Fall fellow? More like fall in 2012 fellow. Well, no. Actually: Hell No! One of my biggest frustration with the Obama presidency is not, that he kept Bush’s financial advisors, ensuring that Wall Street is continuing to call the shots, or that the folks responsible for the financial breakdown have not been prosecuted, or that we are still in Afganistan, or that he still hasn’t closed  Guantanamo, or that he didn’t even had the backbone to stop or at least put up a good fight regarding the extension of Bush’s tax breaks for the rich. (For a great overview of the continuation of the failed politics from Bush to Obama check http://www.obamatheconservative.com/)

All the above are baffling me, but the most frustrating off all is, that he abandoned Obama Nation the minute we got him elected. With his charisma he was able to mobilize the masses around the hope for change and we were ready to fight for real change. It could have been the 5th branch of power. Obama could have written to the Obama Nation in an email: I hear you loud and clear: Ending the war on drugs is top priority for you. Please work with your Congress representatives to get such a bill introduced and passed and I will sign it. Here is the link for you to coordinate your efforts.

All we get is a twitter Obama town hall stunt now that he is starting to realize, that he needs to get his base mobilized for his reelection.

Sara I don’t envy you and your task to develop programs to grow this campaign in the communities. Where are the tangible results from the amazing groundswell from 4 years ago?

Quoting Bush the younger: There’s an old saying … fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again. ;-)

My conclusion: If the guy on the white horse riding into Washington with the words “Change” plastered on his shield and a backing army of volunteers behind him doesn’t get the job done, or more accurately turns out to be a Bush in sheep/black skin, then that system is broken.

Time to look somewhere else to create a more just world with opportunities for all and Lawrence Lessig’s Fix Congress First is the best organization to do that. This is where we should spend our precious resources. Not convinced? Spend the 2.5 minutes for this amazing video:

No horse was harmed playing this kind of Polo

Scootering around in the outskirts of Savannah’s historic district Nina and I stumbled upon these 6 guys playing bicycle polo. Just loved it and stayed for a while to watch them.

The sticks are mostly created out of old ski polls with a PVC pipe screwed to the end of it.

Some of the bikes have plastic in their wheels to not let shots through and to protect their spokes.

You are allowed to lean on your stick in front of the goal, but not put your foot down.

They were using all kinds of bicycles, some with gears, some single speed. What surprised me was, that non of them had a fixed gear bike, as it is a huge advantage to be able to drive backwards. Especially in the goal.

I loved it, because it is just some folks coming together to play, no super expensive gear our tricot needed to take part. You hack a stick together and the bike you are driving around with just works.

Totally reminded me of the pick up roller hockey games we used to play.

Apparently they play every Sunday and try to get together once during the week too.

Nina now wants to get a pink hockey stick and can’t wait to get her bike that is still somewhere in transition.
Picture taken by Mark & Marie Finnern.

Google+ Ecosystem Advantage

First thing I looked for when I tipped my toe into Google+ was how I can repost my Tweets. Back in the day I did that with Buzz and some rightfully say that is what killed Google Buzz, as people didn’t check back to see what is going on. I didn’t.

Mmmh, what if I send my Tweets to Facebook, that stream to Google+ and from there back to Twitter? Would that Tweet get posted around and around ever faster, as every social network wants to proof their speed? Over time my circle tweet would take up more and more resources everything else would get slower. Eventually everything would get sucked up into my tweet rounds. A small black hole would develop around it and swallow our whole solar system. [Cue up manic laughter] I knew exactly what the text of my tweet would be: All work and no play makes Mark a dull boy ;-)

Alas my little fantasy of my world destruction came to an abrupt halt when reading Yarif Zur’s Google+ thread where he was wondering the same thing: OK. I give up. How to I post on twitter so it shows in G+? The consensus was that it isn’t possible, until this morning, when Orit Zuckerman posted:

Orit Zuckerman's profile photo

Orit Zuckerman – hot from the press: If you haven’t seen it yet:
this will let you share plus posts with fb or twitter 2:39 AM

Mohamed Mansour has developed a Chrome extension that let’s you forward your Google+ posts to Twitter as well as Facebook.

The interesting thing is, that this wasn’t Google developing it, it was a Chrome developer. Turns out it was done a couple of days ago already, as it has been written up on TechCrunch.

I searched and I could not find an extension for Twitter, it may be because there are no Google+ APIs yet. A shrewd business decision on Google’s part to avoid the Buzz history.

Nevertheless, advantage Google+ via their ecosystem and Chrome based platform extension. Have developers on your side you win. Take good care of your developers, they are creating your future.

Of course Seesmic or other universal clients canlevel the playing field.

What Event Organizers can learn from Jerry’s Retreat

Adapted from my SAP Community Network Post: What SAP Inside Track Organizers can learn from Jerry’s Retreat

Jerry Michalski has held his retreats where he invites eclectic people that want to make the world a better place to come together for an extended weekend with no fixed agenda for 14 years. That makes it one of the oldest and longest running, I venture the mother of all unconferences.

Doc Searls and John Locke met at one of the first ones before they wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto.

Jerry engaging during his RetreatAs you may have experienced yourself, the most interesting conversations happen in the hallways. At Jerry’s Retreat the hallway conversations are brought to the center of the event.

Things I learned over the last 3 days that you can use for your events too.

I already posted about the amazing ice breaker: Share a book that changed your life.

In case a participant forgets to bring a book, they just introduce it verbally and don’t get one from the pool. Ideally that game is played the evening before the Inside Track starts in the backroom of a pub.

I also totally loved 60 Minute University. Give a presenter 5 minutes to introduce a topic that she feels passionate about, followed by a 5 minute Q&A before the next presenter takes the stage. Within an hour you get 6 amazing introductions to themes that you may have not known anything about. Mind blown. Important that the moderator of the Q&A is not the time keeper.

Moderation tip: If time is running out and there are still a lot of questions in the queue, let them all quickly ask their question. That gives the presenter a chance to quickly summarize an answer to all of them. Have a longer break right after this exercise, to give the audience and presenters the chance to connect individually. Small groups will form around the themes.

It reminded me of what we do when we introduce new SAP Mentors, although a bigger focus is put on the introduction part and not enough Q&A, we may want to split up the introduction into more sessions and make room for Q&A.

Do something local. Even though the SAP Inside Track is bringing the local SAP passionate folks together, they still may come from a different city. Select the food and the evening get together accordingly. We ate next to a gallery that was showcasing local artists and a chair maker who was there in person and talked what went into making a chair for guitar players and that he so far could not get any consensus from cello players, as most of them are taught to sit on the edge of a chair. How can you build a chair that is just edge? My guess is, that the edge rule is given because there were no adequate chairs available. He dreams that Symphony concert organizers will spend some attention on having beautiful chairs on stage, after all that is what concert goers see first. It would set a different tone, especially for chamber music.

Last tip, engage with your local participants early and share the tasks of organizing your event. It makes it more enjoyable for everyone: Don’t forget to have fun.

My Tweets from Jerry’s Retreat Second Day

Let me know whether the collection of my tweets from the Second Day of Jerry’s Retreat has value. I like to have them at one spot. The consensus in the room at the first evening was that people want to be asked first before they be quoted, which is too much effort and therefor doesn’t happen. I mostly tweeted around book/site tips that came up during the quick exchanges. In my head I am churning the my Quora question: Who are the Bauhaus and Black Mountain Colleges of today? Is there such an learning institution where people come up and implement solutions to our larger societal problems?
Mark Finnern
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Warren Wilson College possibly Bauhaus/Black Mountain College of 21st century. Holistic learning environment http://j.mp/jW5xbl #jtreat
Mark Finnern
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Warren Wilson College hosting #jtreat today is an amazing place: Hands on, community focused learning http://j.mp/mLGfYM
Mark Finnern
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Creating amazing teams: carrots.com http://j.mp/mEEaLH #jtreat11
Mark Finnern
finnern Mark Finnern
Brand new research: Designing Incentives for Crowdsourcing Workers http://j.mp/mS2Zl9 #jtreat11
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Book tip: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us http://j.mp/5qf67 #jtreat11
Mark Finnern
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Tip your life/work towards Infinite Games http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_and_Infinite_Games #jtreat11
Mark Finnern
finnern Mark Finnern
There is good intention and there is good action. Focus on good action. #jtreat11
Mark Finnern
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Cool morning. Blog written http://j.mp/iNJV35 Nice breakfast. Little swim. Mind open/ready for the 2nd #jtreat11 day :-)
Mark Finnern
finnern Mark Finnern
Notes + #lifebook that I would have brought to Jerry’s Retreat icebreaker session http://j.mp/iNJV35 What is your’s? #jtreat11

Notes from the Mother of all Unconferences Jerry’s Retreat

I am fortunate to be at Jerry Michalski’s invitation only retreat in Asheville this weekend. Jerry has organized these for 14 years and I would venture are the mother of all unconferences where the audience once arrived is mostly driving the agenda. One of the roots of it are Quaker meetings. He developed the format after being frustrated with the over production of regular conferences and he is experimenting and fine tuning the format every year. As a community and event organizer I am very intrigued.

We didn’t do it this time, but he told us about a great ice breaker if your gathering is a small enough group. Everyone brings one book that influenced their life tremendously. To avoid to get many Fountainheads or Lord of the Rings the small restriction is your book can’t be a best seller. The moderator picks a random book from the stack and gives it to one person in the room. The one who brought the book introduces the book and why it is important in their life and receives the next random book, until all books are given away. Amazing side effect, you get a great list of interesting books.

I would have brought the book Impro by Keith Johnston

Playing improve comedy is a deeply humbling experience highly recommended. In this book you learn that the corner stone of a successful improv session is the phrase: “Yes, And …”  Embrace the other people’s ideas and develop them further.

We should use this rule in our life too, and I admit that I am the master of “No, but …”.

What would your book be and why? Twitter tag: #lifebook

What we did as an introduction/ice breaker is to name one word that is currently on our mind and tell why. Mine is inspire. After I love you, my favorite three words are: You inspired me. They induce pure happiness :-)

One of the participants word was fun. As he experienced, that if he puts more fun into your life more great things will happen. Jerry told about a university experience, that send students across campus after finding out whether they are more optimistic or pessimistic. The optimistic students found the $10 bill on the ground they was put their for the experiment, engaged with people,  … the pessimistic folks didn’t. Consensus in the room was that a positive attitude and outlook on life makes you more open to the serendipitous opportunities that life throws your way. This is along the lines of Shawn Achor’s Happiness Advantage who’s talk I once saw who gives out 4 simple things to do daily to bring up your happiness.

Another great format that Jerry developed is the 5 minute University. Let someone present for 5 minutes about something that he is really passionate about, with 5 minutes audience questions right after. In an hour you can cover 6 themes and your mind will be blown. Can’t wait to find out what the rest of the weekend brings.

Sandwich and Play

Fun on the wagon during Sandwich and Play

I love to play, I love to be active, but it is a challenge to carve out quality game time with your kids, friends and neighbors.

For the kids we have the concept of play dates. The word alone makes my toes crawl.  I just can’t get my act together to organize them. Alone the diplomatic mine field of which home and how much chaos needs to be swept under the carpet before her royal rascal highness can come over, isn’t worth the effort. There is also feeding time and the butternut scotch allergy business that needs to be dealt with. Too much effort.

Besides, that is just for the kids. I want to run around, skip and play too.

Solution I came up with that is successfully running now in its second year in the San Mateo Highlands:

Sandwich and Play A low effort get together of the neighborhood at the nearest park or school yard.

Three simple bendable rules:

  1. Weather permitting let’s meet at the closest park or school yard.
  2. Bring a sandwich or your favorite food so that you and your rascals are fed. (Sharing optional, but encouraged)
  3. Enjoy your time and play.

There is a small initial effort needed, but once Sandwich and Play is established, it takes almost no effort. All you need is a mailing list, most neighborhood/parents groups have one already, or create your own.  Send out an invitation explaining the concept and talk to every neighbor you meet about it. You may want to start it monthly: Sandwich and Play very first Monday of the month.

In my old stomping ground the San Mateo Highlands they are experimenting with weekly right now. Big advantage, less mental overhead: It’s Wednesday it’s Sandwich and Play day. They actually call it Picnic and Play.  After a couple of weeks it will have developed into a lovely routine: Grab food, kids some games and off you run to the park.

How cool, almost no prep or major cleanup needed folks come together hang out and play in the fresh air. Paradise.

Pattern will develop and one of the things to keep an eye on is: The kids will go off run around and play in small groups and the grown ups will hang at the tables and just talk. Nothing wrong with checking in, catching up and talking. That alone is an evening well spent.

Icing on the cake for me is, when young and old find a way to play together fully using the capabilities of the space as well as the abilities of everyone. What we have forgotten or never had the chance to learn/develop these kind games.

My suggestion is after half an hour or so, once folks are fed and had time to connect. Call everyone for a pow wow to decide what we all can play together. We once brought little red wagons, skateboards, scooters and did soup box races down a little paved hill. Total fun. Would make me really happy if you organize a Sandwich and Play in your hood too.

I stumbled upon the Playworks site with a wealth of game ideas.

This post was inspired in part/interesting additional resources: Playborhood, Free Range Kids