VizThink Conference: Not quite the Wrap-up post yet…

I’ve been bad this conference. Usually I try to make a point of blogging at the end of each day but a couple of things kept me from doing it. 1) Each morning was spent polishing and honing my session that I was to deliver on Tuesday – 2) Each evening was spent in great conversations with some of the best Visual Thinkers/Communicators on the planet. The days? Packed wall-to-wall with great content, people and again more conversation.

The truth is, I don’t think I’ve even begun to digest what I experienced in the past few days. As I said above, my waking hours were jammed full – and in the evening hours I haven’t been sleeping well thanks to a combination of a cold, jetlag and being completely unable to switch my brain off at night.

In the final general session, my new buddy Matt Homann from XPLANE, did a couple of exercises with the attendees. Part of it was a “Haiku” of sorts where he asked us to answer three questions – and it was at this point, right at the end that I realized something was shifting in my mindset…

The Questions:

Why am I here? (5 words)

What Have I learned? (7 words)

What am I going to do next? (5words)

My Answers:

Build a Visual Thinking Community

This is where I want to play

? ? ? ? ?

The first two answers came easy. I scribbled something down for the third but it was neither good nor correct, I can’t even remember what it was. It simply filled the space.

It’s interesting, I’ve been running events about this area of interest/expertise for a year now but it wasn’t until this week I really realized how I felt about it. Up until this week it was something I did, now I’m wracking my brain to figure how to make it something I live.

Answering that question isn’t going to be easy for me. In the short term I’ll be dragging as much of this world into what I do each day at work. But when considering future next steps, that’s a whole new question…

(I’m going to post my presentation deck and wrap, as well as a proper conference wrap-up in separate posts shortly.)

Off to VizThink (San Francisco)

In just a few hours I’m hopping on the plane to head down to San Francisco for the VizThink conference (blog)- starting tomorrow night and running through until Tuesday afternoon.

At last check over 350 people are registered including some of the best and brightest in the Visual Thinking space.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be facilitating a session on building visual thinking communities based on what I’ve learned in my involvement with both BarCamp/TorCamp and running five VizThink events last year. I’m looking forward to a few hours of solitude on the plane to finish off my presentation deck. The framework and content is all there, now I just need to pretty it up a bit (a daunting task considering the context of the conference).

From everything I’ve seen Tom Crawford and his team at VizThink HQ have done a great job getting ready for the event – I expect the actual event will be more of the same.

Connecting in SF / at VizThink
If you’re attending the event and are on twitter defenitely follow the VT08 account at – it’ll help you connect with other VizThinkers at the event. If you’re just interested in VizThink in general follow Follow either account and I’ll be sure it follows you back.

There’s also a VizThink Public Skype chat that can be accessed through the link. If your version of Skype diesn’t support the link just add me “ryancoleman” and I’ll be happy to invite you in.

Last but not least – I expect to have some time in the evenings, my schedule is pretty fluid but if you want to grab a drink drop me a line.

– Ryan

Move over America…

… China is about to become the largest online population. Between the end of 2006 and the end of 2007 China added roughly 73 Million users to the Internet.


To put it in perspective – even if Canada doubled it’s population and put an internet connection in the house of every man, woman and child in the country. We’d still come up about 7 Million people short.

On the flip side though there’s two factors at work here. China’s population is roughly 1.3 Billion right now which means a total user base of 210 Million is only a 16% penetration rate. In Canada we have a ~65% penetration and the US has ~71%.

India will no doubt pick up steam in the coming and will definitely rank in the number 2, if not number 1 spot.

So what does this mean for the Internet in general?

The connected world’s borders are no longer geographical – they’re lingual.

The world may be flattening, but there’s still a a few big walls running across the landscape. The reality is the “hidden web” is going to keep growing. As I’ve posted about before, your ability to access information online revolves almost exclusively around the languages you can read/write.

As countries like China & India continue to pump new users online more and more content will be generated in their native languages, likely invisible to you unless you speak (and search in) that language.

Google’s getting better and better with opening access to these sites through their machine translation tools but the reality is there just isn’t enough CPU horsepower to run every Google search through machine translation for all the different language variations.

Language Weaver, through Kontrib, is also making an interesting attempt at opening up more content to a broader audience through a Digg like portal. It’s a great idea although I think they’re going to have a hard time getting the traction it needs. I’d personally love to see them work with Digg directly instead and create a licensing deal similar to what my friends at Idee have done with their image duplication detection technology.

It’s going to be interesting to watch this story play out. Who ever busts the language barrier the mos effectively first will dramatically change the search game. Google is clearly out in front, and the most likely victor, but you never know who’s running in stealth right now and could surprise us all.

The One Thing that Terrifies Me…

There’s a lot of things that should probably terrify me in the world today – but there’s one that stands out above all others. The apparent complete abandonment of “critical thinking”. This may not come as much of a surprise if you’ve read my posts on drivers blindly following their GPS system into life-threatening situations.

Today I read a story on Cnet that had me scratching my head. From what I can tell it was written by a guy who works in some kind of computer repair job. The post (found here) is basically about the hazards of screws when it comes to your laptop more specifically screws you “can’t get undone”.

The line that made my jaw drop was:

Thanks to a single screw the owner of this laptop computer now has to buy a new machine.

Huh? Come again???

Basically he was defeated by a single screw, which had gone form being a Philips head to a perfect little circle. Now, this happens all the time but what shocked me was how easily he shrugged and gave up. His solution was “Hard Drive is stuck, by a new computer”. He then goes onto to detail a bunch of other ways a tiny little screw has defeated him in the course of his job.


Come on people, in this day of persistent & pervasive information most of life’s basic problems can be answered by just stepping back for a second and considering the problem. If that doesn’t provide a solution, ask around – A simple Google search for “Removing a Stripped Screw” turned up 73,000+ results.

At the end of the day here’s one piece of critical thinking I’ll save you from having to do. If you go to a repair shop and the guy behind the counter is named Michael Horowitz just run, run, run away.

VizThink Conference: Just Two Weeks Today

It’s hard to believe that it’s crept up so quickly but the VizThink Conference is just two short weeks away.

At his last update Tom Crawford (CEO of VizThink) indicated that 325+ people had registered for the conference. Registration is still open – this page has all the details details. He also indicated that the hotel has stretched the discount rate by a few more days.

For the value conscious (or those, like me, doing this on their own dime) I got a good deal at the Chancellor Hotel just up the street (on Union Square) for less than $100/night and it includes free wi-fi.

VizThink on Twitter
Also – I was talking with Tom and offered to setup a twitter account for VizThink as well as the conference itself. The general VizThink twitter can be found at Right now this account simply reposts any blog entries and news coming from VizThink but I’m hoping to work with Tom to figure out how to improve it’s output.

There’s also the conference address primarily for those attending this VizThink Conference – . My hope is this account can be used as a bit of an aggregation point for anyone at the conference who twitters to find each others accounts. The premise is simple – If you follow this account I’ll ensure “it” follows you back – you can then use the list of who the account is following as a way to find others who are at the conference. Depending on adoption it could also be used as a way to broadcast any changes or announcements related to the conference. At the very least it’ll be a fun experiment.

Come Say Hi
If you read this blog & are attending the conference please do come up and say hi. I’ll be in town from the evening of the 26th to the 30th. Tuesday night is a bit free fall right now so I’d be up for a drink if anyone is around. You can reach me via email rcoleman (at) clay-tablet (dot) com or through Twitter at

Looking forward to it – hope to see you there!