Life Unplugged (well, at least a little bit)


“My name is Colleen, and I am a digital addict.”

Like most digital creatives, I spend a huge chunk of my life in front of a computer. At work, of course, but also at home — checking email, following some Twitter feeds, seeing what’s going on in FaceBook land, reading a number of blogs that I follow, and writing for my own.

After many sleep-deprived weeks of working, parenting, and lots of ongoing projects (including this blog), I decided it was time for a digital break.

Last weekend I traded it all for a well-deserved and long-overdue visit with some friends to share some great conversations and several glasses of wine. Despite being completely unplugged for two whole days, the world kept going without me and I really didn’t miss all that much. (Okay, so I did get a little twitchy once or twice, but all in all it wasn’t that bad.)

This week I’ve tried to continue my somewhat unplugged streak. Instead of spending an hour or so on the computer before bed (which they say is the worst thing you can do, by the way), I’ve been using that time to curl up someplace comfy and lose myself in a good old-fashioned printed book for a while. I’ve been more conscious of how often I just “pop in” to check what’s happening online, and I’m trying to consolidate and limit it to more predefined time chunks.

Today I planted some flowers in the back yard, and then planted myself outside in a chair with a beverage to enjoy them (both the flowers and the beverage). Well, okay, yes — I’m out here with my laptop, too. But I’m enjoying the fresh air and just got buzzed by a curious hummingbird (way cool!) — two things that just don’t happen in my indoor office.

Being connected is certainly important for me personally and the work that I do, so I’ll never abandon it entirely. But there’s something to be said for intentionally stepping away now and then and enjoying what’s right there in front of you.

So when is the last time you really unplugged? What filled the spaces in your life that the missing 1’s and 0’s left behind?

photo by peasap

Digital Potlatch – The case for giving it away for free

These days you can find information on just about anything for free. Home Depot gives away lots of how-to’s on their YouTube Channel. You can download books from Seth Godin and Chris Anderson at no charge. There are blogs, wiki’s, and specialty websites on just about everything imaginable. At no other point in history have so many people had so much access to so much knowledge, so much expertise, so much content. And it’s free.

Seems kind of counter-intuitive from a capitalist perspective. Why would you give something of value away when you could charge for it? What’s the value in that?

The art of giving away actually isn’t all that new of a concept. The indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest practiced potlatch, the redistribution and reciprocity of wealth, long before the digital age. In potlatch the one who dies with the least toys wins; status is raised by who gives away the most resources, not who accumulates the most. This ritual practice ensured that the basic needs of the entire group were met, and established and strengthened bonds between its members. By giving away freely to the people surrounding him, the host of the potlatch invested in his own long-term success through the recipients’ continued support.

Today’s “digital potlatch” works in much the same way, but with information being distributed instead of food and household goods. Those that have the knowledge give it away freely to those around them, which helps the recipients achieve success in some way. The recipients in turn become avid supporters of the knowledge giver, spreading the word about the good stuff the giver has to offer.

By giving away a portion of what you have to offer, you not only help others achieve success but invest in your own success as well. Seth Godin understood this when he gave away Ideavirus – he knew that circulating it free on the internet would get him more eyeballs much quicker than a book sitting on a shelf in the local bookstore (if the local bookstore was interested in carrying it at all), as well as the goodwill generated by “good stuff for free”. He now has an extremely loyal worldwide following that will support his ideas, buy his books, and probably put him up for the night if he asked them to.

Participate in the “digital potlatch” and share what you know. Redistribute the wealth. Be reciprocal. By sharing all this information we better ourselves as a group, and become more interconnected in the process. Isn’t that the real win?


Photo credit: Denise Carbonell 

An Act of Good Karma

My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.  My actions are the ground upon which I stand.  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Yesterday I realized that I had this modest, yet extremely eclectic, group of people in my personal network that I’ve collected over the years but have largely done nothing with.  Everything from performance artists to computer geeks. Writers. Designers. Accountants. Professors. All of them have something important to give. And more importantly, all of them probably have something valuable to give to other members of my network, but they just don’t know each other.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the value of social networking and how we can use it for the greater good, as well as my own place in the social and professional world. And then it occurred to me… perhaps some of the best immediate good I can do is to help my friends and colleagues by actively hooking them up with others I know that they could help in some way, or that could help them. And so the Good Karma Project was born.  I am offering up my network to everyone, and trying to find ways to connect people in beneficial ways. There’s nothing in this for me, other than the good feeling of affecting even a small bit of positive change for someone else.  Some I won’t be able to help out very much; some won’t respond to my requests; a good handful will think that I’ve completely lost my mind.  But a few will be happy to help or be helped.  Those are the ones I’m counting on.

Wish me luck.  And if you are looking for a particular skill/service or have one you can share with others, let me know.  I’ll widen the circle to bring you in.