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Witnessing internet genius--plus Joni

Updated on February 11, 2013

We are of and for and by the media we live with

A web surfing session ended with the Amazon page for Joni Mitchell's new 10 CD boxed set (see below for the link). Not only is it a screaming bargain, but it reminded me (it should remind all of us) of what a difference she made to our culture, what an impact her words and her music had on so many of us.

No one sounds like Joni Mitchell. But in the moment that she stepped forward, a thousand other women could have seen that niche and filled it. But they didn't, she did. And by doing so, Joni Mitchell taught us something about what it means to do work that matters, to do it in a way that the media and the marketplace are able to embrace.

I wanted to highlight three individuals who are doing that sort of work, right now, mostly as a way of demonstrating what's available to each of us, in our own way.

The three basic foundations that lead to exposing genius in our new media world are:

1. CONNECT. All three of these guys have put ideas into the world, ideas we can share, ideas that change us and the people around us. It is no longer a silo-ed world, listening to LPs in our dorm room. The internet connects, and it celebrates those that helps us connect. Each has built a tribe (one even named the phenomenon) and the members of each tribe find each other and benefit as a result.

2. GENEROUS. The most consistent element of those that make an impact today is a relentless generosity. Feed the net first, as Kevin would say. "Here, I made this," is more important than, "Hey, please buy this."

3. PERSISTENT. They all keep showing up. For a decade, all three have shown up, regularly. Shown up with new ideas, important ideas, ideas worth sharing.

Hugh's on first

Hugh Macleod started out drawing cartoons on the back of business cards. In pubs. And then handing them to the folks he was with.

From this inauspicious start (actually, depending on your point of view, auspicious start), Hugh has created thousands of images, written a few bestselling books, found his art hanging in some of the most important offices in the world and generally gone on to make a ruckus.

I can't draw, so it's easy for me to blame Hugh's success on talent. But of course, that's a cop out. Hugh has developed a skill, turned an ability into something generous and yes, important. His cartoons and his words have inspired, connected and cause people to create work they would have hesitated to bring into the world.

Hugh's masterwork

Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

Mostly words (his best images spread online, for free, constantly), this is a timeless book that will change you.


It's tempting to 'other' this

When we read about geniuses, the easiest thing to do is to decide that we're not them.

But of course, we could be.

At the Solvay Conference of 1923, there were 17 winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Of course, most of the people at the conference hadn't won it yet. They were invited BEFORE they won.

Being in the presence of people making a ruckus inspires. It raises the bar. It gives us a foundation to move forward with confidence. That's what's happening on the internet, if you look in the right place.

We don't need more cat memes.

Me and Hugh

V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone
V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone

When Hugh agreed to collaborate with me on this picture book, my year was made. I'm a little biased, but I think this is some of his most important and poignant work.


Kevin is ahead of the curve

Before there was the pop culture/industry changer we call the web, there was Wired. And Kevin was its founding executive editor. He founded Cool Tools (check it out, you'll be delighted) and, while he was at it, laid the tracks for just about every conceptual foundation underpinning business online.

He's part of the Long Now movement, building a 10,000 year clock, and Kevin's book Out of Control was one of three that inspired the Matrix.

Unlike the sometimes frenetic output of Hugh and Cory, Kevin appears to take his time. It can take five or seven years for a new game-shifting book to arrive from Kevin, making it obvious that the internet isn't always about fastest or mostest--it's possible to change everything merely by being smart, relevant and generous with your ideas.

Kevin's optimism resonates with me. With so many doomsday scenarios about the future we face, it's fabulous to see someone who's been optimistic also be consistently correct.

Kevin Kelly's breakthrough

New Rules for the New Economy: 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World
New Rules for the New Economy: 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World

You can read this online for free, but if you're serious about understanding the economic and social underpinnings of the connection economy, you need to read, highlight and dogear this book. Any CEO or investor who hasn't read it is committing malpractice.


Kevin's latest

What Technology Wants
What Technology Wants

Like everything Kevin writes, this will be obvious in twenty years. If being twenty years ahead of the curve, and understanding where we're going is important to you, don't hesitate.


Cory walks it

Perhaps the most difficult part of describing the cutting edge is then having to live there.

As a science fiction author, Cory writes about what happens in the very near future, as near as tomorrow. As a freedom and copyright rationality activist, he dedicates a huge amount of time and effort in setting ideas free.

At the juncture of both of those are projects like his contributions to BoingBoing and the way he consistently and freely shares his ideas in forums around the world.

Again, it's easy to look at his writing and say, "that's a talent, I could never do that," but that's a cop out. In fact, Cory's columns, his multiple-times-a-day posts, his activist work and his relentless efforts to share first and profit second have nothing to do with what he was born with and everything to do with a commitment to improving his community. He's just found a new and different (and very highly leveraged) way to do it.

My favorite Doctorow

Eastern Standard Tribe
Eastern Standard Tribe

This is Gibson meets Stephenson, but better than both.


Joni Mitchell boxed set

The Studio Albums (1968-1979)(10CD)
The Studio Albums (1968-1979)(10CD)

It had never happened before, not like this, and it will certainly never happen again. It might not be part of your youth, but it sure is mine.



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