The Wisdom of Leo

I’m a big fan of Leo Laporte.  Leo is best known these days for running the TWiT network (This Week in Tech), a podcasting empire that publishes more than a dozen excellent tech podcasts like MacBreak Weekly, This Week in Tech, This Week in Google, FLOSS Weekly, Windows Weekly, Net@Night and quite a few others, but he comes from a background in traditional radio and TV media. Leo has a wonderful, easy-to-listen-to manner, has his finger on the pulse of the tech industry better than anyone I know, and is always covering the latest, most interesting stories in tech.  It’s easy to stay current with the latest tech goings-on just by listening to one (or more) of his podcasts. I listen to at least three of them reguarly, and others when I have more time… my drive to work just wouldn’t be the same without Leo!

This clip is a recording of a live stream from a talk given by Leo to the Online News Association Conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago.  It goes for about 40 minutes, but if you’re looking for some excellent explanations of how and why the media landscape is changing, you really should take a listen to what he has to say.

Some of my favourite quotes from this talk:

On the economics of online advertising: If you think the newspapers and the television stations are in trouble now, just wait a few years, because Facebook and Google offer advertisers the holy grail. When you buy an ad on those platforms, you’re buying an ad from somebody who is interested in buying your product. They’re pre-qualified. Yeah, I can get 18 million on Seinfeld, but I have to pay for 18 million – I only want to talk to 100,000.  On Facebook and Google I get that 100,000 and no more.  It’s hugely valuable, and they’re not going to pay these princely sums for these audiences anymore.  That model is dead.”

On the future of traditional media: “Newspapers were invented to distribute display ads, and they just stuck some stuff in between the display ads. As soon as display ads don’t work, which they’re not, it’s going to go away… (newspapers) will be the realm of the rich person.  We’ve seen revolutions like this before. When Gutenberg invented movable type in the 15th century, before that, only the very rich could afford a book because it had to be hand-written by a monk. The printing press made all this accessible. Did it kill books?  No, but it changed fundamentally what a book is.  So if you look really short term, yeah TV didn’t kill radio or the movies, we still have all that… but I think we are in a much more fundamental transition… Will blockbuster movies go away? Probably not, but I think you’re going to start to see far more small films created by kids with digital cameras.  This YouTube generation is going to change everything.  I think way we understand movies, the way we understand newspapers is going to go away.”

On the role of Twitter: “Twitter is brilliant, but I think it’s just the first iteration of what will eventually be an internet nervous system that you’ll be plugged into, and the zeitgeist will flow around you at all times. I think there’s better ways to do it than Twitter.  I think we participate in it as journalists… we’re actually the input, we’re the ones who are putting content into it, and then people stir it and churn it around.  Twitter is at it’s best, not when you say ‘I had toast for breakfast’, but when you say ‘Did you read this great article?’  If you really use Twitter properly, if you check it regularly, you don’t have any fear any more that you’re going to miss something, do you? Because you just know. If you follow the right people, the stuff you care about, you just know.”

On getting attention online: “The science fiction author Howard Sturgeon said ‘80% of everything is crap’, and I think there’s some of you right now that might say it’s more like 99% of everything is crap. There’s all this stuff now, and how does stuff surface. I believe that the 1% of the great stuff will just surface.  As this internet nervous system gets more developed, word of mouth becomes more efficient and great stuff rises. Soon, you will no longer be able to use mainstream media as a launching pad. The answer, I think now, is the same as it should always have been – the best content. The way to get good is by doing great stuff. Do the best stuff you can, do the stuff you care the most about so that your passion shines through, because people love it when you’re passionate.  And if your passion shines through and you’re doing great stuff, I believe that this new internet nervous system will surface you. So yeah, there’s a lot of crappy YouTube videos, there’s a lot of stupid Twitterers – there’s a lot of crap, there’s more crap than ever before – but at the same time, there’s more great stuff than ever before.  Just do good stuff.”

As an educator, I think that last quote contains the real truth that we need to be encouraging out of our students, ourselves and our colleagues. “Do the best stuff you can, do the stuff you care the most about so that your passion shines through, because people love it when you’re passionate.”

Thanks Leo.

Ways of Working

I hope you’ve all been following the K12 Online Conference this year. There have been some fabulous presentations coming out of this year’s event and, as usual, there has been a diverse collection of topics and ideas with something for everyone. You can check out the entire conference at

I had the privilege of being able to contribute to the conference again this year with a presentation called Ways of Working. I must admit that it deviated a bit from my original submission idea, which was to create a movie that followed the processes used by three different students as they responded to a task from their teacher. I was planning on looking how each of the three students used the web and social technologies to take a slightly different approach to dealing with the set task.

As so often happens, the intention of what I wanted to do was quickly drowned out by the time and resources I actually had to make it happen, so the presentation morphed into what you see above. It’s not exactly what I’d planned, but I’m still pretty happy with it… it still looks at most of the things I wanted to include, but just not in the way I’d originally envisioned.

It was an interested experience to hang all this stuff off a single focus point, in this case, the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition that takes place in Sydney each October/November. I particularly liked the idea of using SxS as the core for the presentation because I know of quite a few schools that do actually use it as the basis for a thematic unit of work for their students so I know that it really does have a “real world” use in education. I was also quite fascinated with the way that social media and web technologies have infiltrated and expanded the event over the last few years, and I think it offers a great example of how the web and the real world can collide in a good way. I also liked the notion that the use of technology in schools can (and should!) be used to support real live physical events, and that technology really can be used to enrich a real world experience. And finally, because K12 Online is such an international event, I wanted to take the opportunity to showcase a little bit of Sydney, this beautiful city in which I feel so lucky to live.

Hope you enjoy the presentation, and that you take the time to check out the other 79 or so presentations that have been part of the conference this year.

I am not a prostitute

In the past six days I’ve received six emails from various companies asking me if I’d please be so kind as to promote their services, talk about their products or otherwise just mention their wares in a blog post.  This is not a new thing – I’ve been getting more and more of these requests over the past 12 months – but the frequency of them has been increasing to the point where it now sometimes averages one a day.  In a weird sort of way, I guess this is an indication of some level of “success” in the blogosphere.

But to anyone considering asking me to be a schill for your wares, can I save you all some time?  The answer is no. This is a blog, not a brothel.

Look, I’m sure your products and services are fabulous, and I have no doubt that someone, somewhere may be interested in them.  I even kind of admire the fact that you “get” the power of new/social media enough to take the initiative of asking regular people like me to spruik the benefits of your products.  It’s nice that some of you couched it in terms of “take a look at what we do and if you think it’s a good thing, perhaps you can tell people about it”… that’s at least a respectful way of asking for promotional assistance.  But the answer is still no.  If I thought that a blogger was writing about something for any reasons other than their own, I would lose all faith in whatever they had to say, never being sure exactly where the line was between opinion and advertising. I’m used to being lied to in the traditional media, but I expect better from new media.

To that online university offering a 3 year degree program… it sounds like an ok idea, but no, I don’t want to include a link to your site on my site.  Actually, what is it with online universities? – I have had a ton of requests from quite a few of them, all asking me to include a “simple text-based link” to them, many even offering me reasonable cash payments to do so.  The answer is still no.

To that multimedia organisation that is “creating a portal into the soul of humanity by championing the selfless acts of others”… thanks for asking, but no.

To the flashcard company that wanted me to review their product on my blog, no, sorry.  Actually, after looking at what your product and educational philosophy is all about, it’s probably better I don’t write a review for you. Any tool that focuses on creating better ways to do rote learning is not something you want me to review, trust me.

To the other flashcard company who also wanted me to write about their “unique free services” in one of my upcoming posts, thanks but no thanks. Again, I’m less than impressed with services that help me learn better at the lowest end of Blooms taxonomy.

To the childrens’ book online website that was keen for me to write a review of their product in exchange for a 6 month premium subscription… nope.  Thanks for thinking of me, but asking me to blog about your product, and then telling me how much my readers would benefit from it is a less than subtle way of disguising how much you think you might benefit from it. Thanks, but again, no.

And to the commercial blog run by an online school that was interested in me reposting one of their recent posts, because it would “appeal to my readers”, thanks for thinking of us all, but no.  If the content is compelling enough, people will find it without my help.

Like I said, I appreciate being asked (although you can all stop asking! The answer is still no!) and I suppose it’s nice to think that other people might consider this blog to be worthy or influential enough to ask for a bit of free publicity.  If this happens to me, I can only imagine how many of these requests are made to other bloggers with some real influence!

The bottom line is that Betchablog is, and will remain, independent.  I’m not interested in writing about anything other than what I’m interested in writing about. I don’t take money in exchange for opinion. I won’t write about anyone’s product or service unless I want to do it for my own reasons.  I certainly won’t put links into my posts that I’ve been paid to put there.  I’m flattered to be asked, but even thinking about doing it makes me feel dirty.

Image: ‘Soho Street