Buzz Bruggeman and Robert Scoble visited NRC Palo Alto yesterday and presented at our Thursday Lunch Forum. Buzz demonstrated ActiveWords, a Windows utility for customizable keyboard macros that can launch applications and/or insert text in an application. One of his examples was using a few keystrokes to launch Outlook and create an entire email message ... that looked exactly like the one he'd sent me when he proposed some things that he and Robert might talk about. On the one hand, I was very impressed with the potential productivity / efficiency gains offered by this tool ... on the other hand, I have to admit somehow feeling a little less "special" having been on the receiving end of such an easily constructed email.
In addition to specific demonstrations, Buzz raised some more general issues, e.g., articulating the question "why can't computers understand us?" as one of his motivations behind inventing ActiveWords, noting the challenges of being both CEO and inventor (a CEO's primary job description should be Cash Enhancement Officer, not inventor), and describing an "aha" moment with respect to the power of social media when a 4-star review of ActiveWords in USA Today (2M readers) resulted in 38 downloads, but a brief mention in a blog post by Scoble resulted in 4000 downloads.
Robert drew a diagram of the social media space on a whiteboard, introduced us to a number of social media services (well, several of them were new to me), and demonstrated his phenomenal pace of reading, processing, and posting material on some of these services - he has the highest number of feed subscriptions in Google Reader (900), from which he reads approximately 42,000 per month; by the time he'd arrived for our lunchtime forum at the lab, he reckoned he'd already read 1600 items that day.
He also demonstrated using his Nokia N95 - a device about which he has had both positive things and negative things to say - to record and post a short video of an impromptu interview of his host at Nokia on Kyte.tv (in which Nokia is an investor), which was then instantly propagated (syndicated?) to dozens of channel portals he has throughout the web.
[I was actually a bit flustered when he interviewed me, which is glaringly obvious to me when I watch it, but I've been increasingly aware of how full of my self I've been lately, and so am posting it here to practice more humility. [Update: my wife said my fluster was not obvious but confirmed that I have been rather full of myself lately, so I've removed the embedded link.]]
Toward the end of the visit, Buzz - to whom we had given an N95 at Pop!Tech - emphasized the market opportunity for mobile multimedia devices like the N95 to reach the fastest growing segment of computer users, with the largest amount of discretionary time and generational transfer of wealth: aging baby boomers. He ended with a petition, highlighting some of our usability challenges: make the N95 easier to use for people who want to videotape their grandchildren.
Speaking of Pop!Tech (which I've been doing alot lately), I first encountered Buzz - offline - at Pop!Tech, where he described himself as the "hall monitor" for our session on mobile empowerment. For the remainder of the conference, every time I saw Buzz, he introduced me to yet another interesting attendee or speaker. As someone who prides himself on being a connector, and who once even assigned himself the title "Connector-in-Chief" (when I founded the now defunct Interrelativity, Inc.), I felt very much outclassed by the hyperconnectivity that seems to come so naturally to Buzz. When Buzz sent me a note saying that he'd be in town this Thursday, and maybe he and Scoble could stop by to visit our lab, I eagerly accepted the invitation to make another connection.
The note also helped me remember where I'd first encountered Buzz online - Scoble and Shel Israel had referred to him as "The Connection King" in their book Naked Conversations (I'll note that I'm practicing what I preached in the title of my blog post about the book: Blog Early, Blog Often: Naked Conversations in the Morning). I can say, without reservation, that this is a well-deserved title.