Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"These tools, bay-beee!"

Mister Weitzsacker arrived mid-term to Pine Rivers State High School. He was an English teacher, but he didn't speak English as we knew it.

He pronounced his 'r's with the tip of his tongue, not in the back of the mouth like us little Aussies. Barrrbecue versus Bahhbecue. Added to his strange accent, he wore hound's tooth trousers and from the neck up was a doppelganger for Gabe Kotter.
That's right. He was an American! How very exotic.
We loved Mr Weitzsacker. But we soon found out that the parallels between he and the sitcom star cut both ways, that if we displayed Sweathogs-esque behavior, we would be punished Kotter-style.
So, one day we transgressed. And Weitzsacker ordered us to leave the classroom and dig some weeds out of the school flower beds.
We wandered off, bemused at this novel penalty, then wandered back again, even more bemused, when we realized we had no shovels, no forks, no hoes.
"Mr Weitzsacker, we can't weed the garden. We don't have any tools."
His 'tache twitched. His 'fro wobbled.
And he held up his hands and waggled them in front of our faces.
"Use these tools, bay-beee!"
That became the catch cry for the rest of the school year, and could just as easily be the lesson for our current times.
How did Obama do it? How did Netflix do it? How did the Somali pirates do it?
By using the tools that are sitting right in front of them, that everyone has access to, that no one is utilizing to even a tenth of the possible effect.
Plenty has been written about Obama's masterful campaign. It's hard to suppress a 'duh' though, isn't it? And now the weekly presidential radio address... on youtube! Duh.
And Netflix. Forget their fascinating search for the perfect recommendation algorithm. That aint simple at all. Instead, the distribution mechanism (Ye Olde Postal Service), and the constant affirming feedback (through plain old email). They're beating the snot out of the more techie solutions. Double duh.
And the Somali pirates. An unpleasant example, but... wow... men in inflatable dinghies overpowering supertankers. Weitzsackian!
We wonder if we're at that place in the communications revolution, where the novelty of what is possible can fade, where the fervor for experimentation can take its proper place in the priorities list, where we can start to harness what's in front of us in new and ingenious ways.

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