Rhodes, an island in the sun
The Arkia Boeing 757-300 just landed in Diagoras International Airport in Rhodes, Greece.
Late afternoon sun welcomed us while approaching Rhodes. It was a shiny and warm day. I could see many tourists that were sunbathing, enjoying the magnificent beaches of the Greek island. It was my first time in Rhodes.
I was invited to deliver several lectures within a educational seminar of an Israeli group they were people from many Israeli corporations, members of an engineering Israeli union, one of my customers, that arranges and manage these seminars in Israel and abroad. We stayed at a fine hotel, Hilton Rhodes Resort, located near the seashore, at the eastern side of the island coast. The hotel was built in a unique architecture colored shape that reflected the beautiful sunsets with thousands of colors. The Taurus mountain were in front of us, the weather was quite comfortable, just like at home, back in Israel.
Apart of my participation in this seminar, it also had a personal significance for me: it happened to be my 50th birthday, so all my family accompanied me, and it seems to be a perfect occasion for both ‘ Business and Pleasure’.
Internet – the cultural and the social context
The first lecture
Among my fields of interests which reflects my topics of lectures that I often deliver, the Internet in its social and cultural context, phenomenon and process, is one of my favorites topics. I enjoy to present and initiate dialogs with the audience at all time. Yet, this topic, which seems to be natural for all – is not always like that in practice. In fact, not many people are aware and know the various options to use the Internet as full as possible. In order to let people experience it, I always prefer to deliver these presentations while I my R51 ThinkPad is connected to the Internet, so I can demonstrate issues on-line, browsing the net, hyperlinking from one site to another. using it this way, people of the audience can see things as they really are, feel involved, and afterwards they can keep on learning in their personal environment. This is the reason why whenever I arrive to a hotel or a conference center, no matter where it is on the globe, I am checking the Wireless Internet access options in advance, so I can maximize he full potential of the lectures, so that real and subsequent learning can take place.
So, as I always use to do, prior arriving Rhodes, I sent an E-Mail to the Hotel group marketing director, asking for further clarification regarding the Internet access options available. We held short virtual correspondence, in which I learnt the Internet Tariff and fees, as well as the locations inside the hotel premises in which there is an Internet coverage at the hotel facilities. More than that, when I arrive to the location I suppose to deliver a lecture, firstly I use to check and see it with my own eyes, and also try connecting to the net to see that everything works just fine.
The seminar took place at the Camiros, a conference center which is a part of the Hilton. It was a pleasant and modern facility: a wide hall with a welcoming lobby for social gathering that enables natural ming-a-ling, sharing and collaborating during the coffee breaks. Later, I was pleased to see that fortunately it had occurred occasionally. I tested the wireless Internet Access that was based on an ADSL line and a hot spot which was installed one floor below. The location of the hot spot forced a low wireless signal up at the conference room, but it works fine.
I remembered Tom Friedman’s insightful book, The World is Flat. I am sure that Friedman knows that the world is not flat but Networked. However, in the spirit of his book, I wanted to get my audience directly to the mood: I told them that I am an Israeli lecturer, delivering this presentation in Rhodes, Greece, in front of Israeli citizens, using my American IBM laptop, purchased in Israel, which was manufactured in China, operating on a Korean Chip, using a Greek Internet access network that was activated by Nicola, the Italian hotel computers engineer that works in this branch of Hilton, an International Hotel network, and all this event is being organized by a charming groups director of this hotel, Michelle, born in South Africa, raised in the UK, married to a Greek guy from Rhodes…..
Ah, yes. the Internet access Fees. It happened to be around 50 Euro for an unlimited time period, which for me was for around four and a half days, say more than 100 hours, which leads to something like 0.5 Euro per one hour of use.
The first lecture was focused on the Internet as an environment that enable creation, development and use of virtual self expression in many formats, all based on sharing and collaboration: Blogs and bloggers, Photos sharing, Contacts sharing, Favorites sharing, Videos sharing. I introduced these applications as knowledge sharing infrastructures that can be used within corporations to generate and promote knowledge. The fact that it was September 11th, 5 years after the terror attack on the US, could not be ignored, and it was very relevant to the issue that we were about to discuss. One of the important signpost within the development of the international Blogosphere was this date in 2001. The events and the fact that thousands of bloggers started new blogs or rushed to update their existing blogs with fresh and updated information and photos taken right at the scene, boosted the blogosphere tremendously. I started my lecture by presenting a relevant blog.
The audience, most of them originally lives in Haifa or other northern regions of Israel, experience a difficult and danger period of time, just few weeks ago, when Hezbollah were attacking Israel. I pointed them also to the Israelis-Lebanese debate on a blog, which reflects how powerful these open communication environment are.
The world is Flat?! well, if you look here, you would see that the world is profoundly Google-Earthed, reflecting this war. Everyone of these people could report directly from the scene to their blog on the missiles and rockets exploded nearby.
People were somehow surprised to see this ‘parallel’ world which appeared to be, in the audience eyes, bizarre, odd and troubling. After all, according to their approach, when someone within an organization position himself as an expert, he act as such by protecting what he knows, and would not want to share it. However, I was impressed that people are willing to hear more and more about the social context of it. we talked about the possibility to generate these changes within their organizational context, and the reflection on Knowledge Management efforts which are being done. As I usually do, I pointed the audience attention to some guidelines while browsing the Internet. Some, it always looks like traffic instructions: keep on your track, do not cross lines without signaling first, etc.
The question I raised in front of the audience, wether one or two from are willing to try and open a blog – left no answer at this time…but, many people were interested, asking questions, and I could feel a sense of exploration starts to meld into these people conscious.
And remember, it cost me something like 2 Euros so far…
Jet Biking – the cultural and social context
The second lecture
September 12th, the third day in Rhodes, my birthday, arrived. It started with my second lecture in front of a warm and enthusiastic audience. Participants of the lecture that was delivered yesterday were eager to continue hear and learn more and see many other applications and services on the net. This time we were talking and demonstrating Social Networks as a critical interest and resource of many corporations nowadays, presenting a vital business need in which organizations put all efforts to explore, map and developed their knowledge.
But this time, I urged people to look at it through the lenses of a Social network: now, each one of this engineers see himself as a knowledge junction in a huge network of knowledge, instead of seeing themselves as Knowledge centers, in which they serves as barrier along the organizational networked flow. I started to demonstrate the audience itself as a human social network. around hundred people from various corporations in Israel were present there. some of them, knew each other in advance. Most of them did not. I asked for two people that do not know each other, to volunteer. These two, happened to work in the same corporation, in different campuses of this organization, but – were strangers to each other. We Using the ‘Six Degrees of Seperation’ idea, originally introduced by the Hungarian Karinthy Frigyes, in a play he wrote called ‘Chains’, we started to build the network, step by step, using other people from the audience, in order to create a complete chain between the two. These people, often called connectors, was defined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘The Tipping Point’ as one out of three type of people in a social network. The other two are Mavens and Salesmen.
There is an Israeli joke says that we do not need ‘six degrees’ in Israel …two degrees are more than enough to chain one with another…. However, It did not worked in this case. What was important in this demo was to realize that the two belong to the same organization, they are involved in two angles of the same project without know each other in advance. It was enough in order to demonstrate how easy, efficient and effective it would be if they would know that beforehand. We follow on by demonstrating Mark Granovetter theory of ‘The strength of weak ties’ in order to demonstrate the importance of connections between people not only to get a new job or to locate a potential employee, but to strengthen the organizational knowledge. I move on by presenting several applications used for developing social networks: LinkedIn, Plaxo, Friendster, as well as analyzing social networks like OrgNet and many others. Again, people were extremely impressed by the full potential of social networks if they were used correctly in the business scene. Many ideas were expressed which reflects the frustration from years of organizational and personal flaxation mindset.
The lecture ended, and it cost me 2 Euros more, around 4 Euros in total.
Then, at the end of the lecture, we made our way to the nearest beach. My daughter Naama, her friend Kineret and my sun Yoni, suggested that we will take a jet bike for sea ride. For them it was not the first time. I suddenly realized that they urged me to join them in this adventure, too. I did not experienced it before, and my driving skills are presented only on the ground. Yet, my son said: “Why not, Dad? after all it is your birthday, isn’t it? you will experience something different!”. I puzzled for a second. Then, he made his final argument: “Dad, everybody is doing it. If they enjoy it, you surly will!”. Well, with that kind of argument, I could only recall the book that I was just reading during our days in Rhodes. It was the Hebrew edition of the “Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki. The book was a brilliant analysis of decisions made by crowds which are better than decisions made by individuals, even though those individuals may have more knowledge as individuals…
So, we approached the booth that operates these Jet Bikes on the beach. It was a small family business with few jet bikes, Wind surfers etc. We looked at the Jet Bikes in the sea, very near to us. Indeed, they looks calm. There was a cashier box with a sign mention the tariff: a two-person Jet Bike, for half an hour cost 30 Euro (!).30 Euros for half an hour ride?! But, it’s a birthday, isn’t it? and the 50th birthday! So, we took 2 two-persons Jet Bikes for half an hour. My daughter and her friend in one, and my son and me in the other. We paid 60 Euros to the happy daughter of the bikes owner who stand in the cashier. She was kind enough to acknowledge that we were from Israel and showed us the tariff in written Hebrew, just to make sure that we understands the differences between 15 and 50…
The bikes were Yamaha XL-700 Waverunner type. The operator gave us some instructions and details before we went to the see: “Br careful out there: these are extremely fast jets, they can reach 45-50 MPH speed in seconds (around 80 KMH), they are very danger, you know that they have no breaks. Keep your track away from other bikes or sailors, and remember, when you see the red flag here, it’s time to go back. when you arrive back, do it slowly, let the waves lead you to approach the docking point”. I recalled that his instructions were similar to the traffic guidelines I am giving my audience while talking about the Internet.
Than we stood for ‘our last’ photo (as my wife put it…) and off we embarked our first naval journey…
The ride started. My son was the first to ride this machine with me in the back, holding him tight. The second bike, with the girls on it, pointed to other direction. It was nice view to see the sprinkle of water arose from the back side of the bikes, while accelerating. Yoni pressed the accelerator handle to gain full speed ahead, seconds passed since we were far from the sea shore.
Suddenly the strange idea of the speeds, costs and fees of Fast Internet and of Jet Bikes caught my mind: 30 Euros for 1/2 hour jet ride, on a Yamaha Waverunner in an average speed of 40 MPH, against 4 Euros for almost 8 hours of ‘riding’ an ADSL modem with Wireless fast Internet access in an average rate of 1-1.5 Megabyte per second?!
What would you prefer to ride on?