Still Buzzing from the LA Idea Project

This past Sunday, I got to present MemoryMiner at the Los Angeles Idea Project, which is a one day conference modeled after the TED conference. Two years ago, MemoryMiner was in the gift bag at TED, and this past February, while lurking at TED (I’m keeping hope alive for a miracle ticket), I finally got to meet a number of the attendees from TED 2007 with whom I’d been corresponding over the prior year.

One of these people is Cooper Bates, who was truly excited about MemoryMiner and totally got what we’re trying to do with it. I couldn’t believe it when he invited me to speak at the LA-IP: I was utterly flattered. Over the last few months, we collaborted to create a system to visually map and traverse correlations between people, time and place, which after all, is at the heart of the MemoryMiner concept. I built a prototype application, and at 1 AM this past Saturday, it came to life! I shook off fatigue, then got on a plane Saturday afternoon. After a speakers’ dinner at a super cool downtown LA loft (a part of LA I’d never been to), I started entering data from a series of survey questions that some very kind participants filled out. The questions had to do with important places and times in their lives. The next day, I went on as the second speaker, presented a few slides (using the most awesome 280Slides program then demo’d MemoryMiner (an early build of 2.0) and the prototype app, whose features will migrate into 2.0.

The demo gods were with me, because the preso went off without a hitch, and people were blown away. Serious, serious woohoo!

One of the unifying themes of the presentations was “making the invisible visible”, and one of the most powerful presentations was by Becky Kanis of Common Ground an organization that is well on its way to actually ending homelessness. Their strategy is simple: they start by identifying the 50 most vulnerable homeless in a given area. These are the “anchor tenants” who have been on the street for a long time, and whose health conditions are the worst of the worst. The locations of these people are plotted on a map. Volunteers go in at night, then interview and photograph them so that people can plainly understand that they are human beings, not trash. These stories are then publicized in such a way as to force us as a society to answer the question: which of these people are we ready to let die in front of us? Powerful things happen when the invisible is made visible. Money is found, and the right thing gets done: especially when the right thing is the smart thing. It costs way less to house people in homes than it does to arrest them, move them about, and “care” for them in an emergency room or morgue. I spoke at great length with Becky and her colleague Beth, and you can be damn sure I’ll find a way to make MemoryMiner a useful part of their process.

Another great preso was by the world famous photographer Colin Finlay. His photos make plain the the impact of our environmental destruction around the world. We don’t have to save the planet, it will save itself by getting rid of the idiot humans if we don’t stop trashing it. His pictures of famine in the Sudan literally made me bawl, and I wasn’t the only one.

Poet Steven Connell had us all screaming “I felt that shit!” A truly great poet can have you viscerally understand any subject, and this guy is beyond truly great. I found this video on YouTube which is the poem he used to start us off:

Talk about tough act to follow. At the end of the day, he presented a poem that wove together the themes of all the presentations. In so doing, he clearly passed the audition to be the poet who gets a ride on Graham Hawkes’ Deep Flight ocean submersibles. Hawkes told us depending on an engineer to describe what deep ocean flight is like is a losing proposition: only a poet will do.

After the conference, there was an after party (thanks again, Wendy), followed by an impromptu visit to the Griffith Observatory and an after-after party at a Japanese noodle house. I still can’t believe I got to spend so much time with such an incredible collection of poets, heroes and philosophers.

One Response to “Still Buzzing from the LA Idea Project”

  1. MPS Says:

    Wow – sounds like a fabulous time! Congrats on the demo going well! Sounds like 2.0 is gonna rock!

    I assume you meant the Sudan pics made you “bawl”, not “ball” though, unless you’re even kinkier than I thought! 😉

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