Archive by Author - Jeff Saperstein

So What Did We Accomplish?

by on August 10, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Jeff observing Kensington resident grandson Harry This morning I spoke with Roland Harwood, our counterpart at NESTA, who did so much to make The Geeks trip to London as productive and beneficial as we all could conceive. We agreed it was an extraordinary experiment with a leap of faith that our formal and informal encounters would have both short and long term beneficial impact on the region as well as for everyone involved.

Our visit, sponsored by NESTA, EEI and other donors, was a pilot experiment to see what would happen if we could turn bloggers, authors, and videocasters loose to communicate about innovation in London/Cambridge. Using the connectivity and immediacy of the Web in service of extending “knowing” rather than just knowledge about London/Cambridge, we took the leap. (more…)

Handhelds for Doctors

by on July 12, 2009 at 11:49 am
Innovator of Handheld Digital Medical Records

Innovator of Handheld Digital Medical Records

At the Cambridge University Pitt Building, in a program led by Omobono Digital Services, we viewed show and tell presentations by some of Cambridge’s most promising start-ups. Among several good ideas was a great one presented by Dr. Al-Ubaydli. Conversion to digital medical records has been an American national quest for the past decade and a priority for the Obama Administration. Dr. Al-Ubaydli has been working with the Feds (NIH) for the past six years to bring his hand-held medical records download program to fruition. He suggested that University of Cambridge is a great incubator to work from and he collaborates with doctors and engineers in the States and elsewhere to bring the technology to market.

Great example of global technology development, incubated in university labs, solving big problems through collaboration of doctors, hospitals, governments, and industry.

Photo Credit: Renee Blodgett

The Guardian Dialogues

by on July 8, 2009 at 9:23 am

Last night, The Guardian featured three of our Traveling Geeks (Robert Scoble, Sarah Lacy, JD Lasica) on stage with British counterparts for a lively discussion on the demise of the newspaper as we know it and the emergence of Twitter and other less “professional” upstarts as seen by conventional media outlets.

This is a tired argument. Perhaps Sarah Lacy said it best in her wonderfully witty way, ” Maybe we should just shut down the newspapers now and avoid the ordeal of watching the slow death.” JD chimed in that it is like “Shooting dinosaurs in a barrel.” Robert, Sarah and JD each suggested that media companies must change to survive and perhaps incorporate social media, Twittering, and more democratic means of information gathering and distribution into their economic model. Basically, change or die was the message.

However, this topic is fairly narrow. While media journalists are clearly concerned about their own paychecks and pensions, this is much bigger than just whether the Guardian and other print media can survive (the moderator even had the Chutzpah to single out our own Craig Newmark and tongue-in-cheek accuse Craig of deliberately eliminating newspaper classifieds, which had been a honey pot for newspapers).

The Barbarians are at the Gates in every sector of the communications industry. Advertising agencies are being decimated by the Google model, Encyclopedias and paid resource media have been annihilated by Wikipedia, Network television conglomerates have been supplanted by Cable subscription channels and digital narrowcasting, and the movie studios are enraged by You Tube and other web sources to download feature films outside the movie theatres, on and on with the music industry and I-Tunes , etc.

In other words, the journalism industry is not unique in its economic viability being challenged. The Internet/digital media content delivery model is not just a hiccup, but a tectonic shift. Our Traveling Geeks are players and informed commentators  in that shift.

We are here in Britain to both listen and engage with our counterparts. So far, it has been a great ride.

Thank You Britain!

by on June 23, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Swinging with Grandson Harry, who resides in Kensington

Swinging with Grandson Harry Saperstein, who resides in Kensington

“Never have the Traveling Geeks owed so much to such a dedicated few.”

Badly paraphrasing Churchill, I am stirred by and grateful to the phenomenal people and organizational support who have collaborated, hosted, and worked with us these many months to bring the Traveling Geeks to Britain.
Penny Harwood and Richard Stanaro from Think London initially worked with JD Lasica and me to conceive the trip.

Roland Harwood and Rohan Gunatillake of NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, have been our gracious hosts, sponsors, and collaborators for site visits.

Karyn Barnes of EEI, East of England International, has worked very hard to schedule the Cambridge leg of our journey.

Jess Tyrell and Steve Moore have been our gracious organizers for ReBoot Britain Conference on July 6

Barbara Grull-Cacao from Think London who planned the Guardian Media Podcast and coordination with other media.

Ted Shelton of the Conversation Group spearheaded our Tweet Up scheduled for Sunday July 5 at JuJu’s

Clare Laurie of E Consultancy worked with us to develop the round table discussions for July 9.

London/Cambridge is a natural habitat for the Geeks. We share culture, curiosity, and inclination to see what is new, innovative, and beneficial for the common good. Not to be downplayed, we all know how to have a good time with lots of laughs. The Geeks will be blogging, video streaming, presenting, and conversing formally and informally with hundreds of like minded British kindred spirits through a week of intensive morning, afternoon, and evening events.

We are eager to begin.

Cisco Israel Uses Tech to Build Tolerance

by on April 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Can geographically dispersed teens in Israel and the Mediterranean countries create a web based community to increase their own improvement in school, their self-image (believing in themselves and wanting to change), English proficiency, and more their openness to others? Cisco Israel (a branch of the Global Internet company based in the SF Bay Area) is piloting a program that could be scaled to thousands to find out.

Zika Abzuk-Darnell is Cisco Israel Manager of Public Benefit Investment Europe and Emerging Markets.

She manages the social responsibility team. These are large projects that use technology for economic opportunity. Cisco is investing in youth. Web 2.0 technology is a mirror of Western society: the individual is the one who ventures and connects. In the Middle Eastern and African cultures it is difficult to do a program strictly for individuals. They view themselves as part of family and community.

Zika talked about an intriguing pilot program MYTEC ( Mediterranean Youth Technology club).

MYTEC shows how technology can be used for positive social change?web 2.0 with guidance. This enables students to learn about each other and participate. The teens (14-15 year olds) are recruited from Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Greek Cyprus and Portugal. Religion and ethnic identity play an important role in each country. The challenge is: How to foster the interpersonal skills to create business leaders in a global economy that transcends religion and ethnicity.

Cisco selected young leaders (20-30 year olds) in each country to be the instructors for the teen participants. The company brought 20 of these leaders to Marrakesh to teach them English over a two week intensive training program. They also taught them team building and tolerance of others skills. Together they created and built an Internet platform to relate to the kids. One of the instructors was an Israeli Arab. The Arabs who live outside Israel did not know there were Israeli Arabs. They became a team; the social curriculum they developed for kids they experienced themselves. For example, each instructor brought a game from his country and taught it to the group to play together.

Instructors created a virtual development team. The knowledge of the platform is now In seven out of eight countries. Students are in classrooms twice a week in a community knowledge center equipped with computers to learn English, technology skills, and guided activities to learn about each others? culture. The Moroccan kids created a video of how to cook a Tagine. The Turkish kids tried to cook the dish together. They teach each other songs from their home countries. Using video conference software, they have guided conversations and they can post photos.

However, as with any community site trying to bridge differences during national conflict, there can be problems. For example, one of the Moroccan kids posted a message after 140 people were killed in Gaza that Israelis are slayers. Here is when Instructors showed ownership of the program. They took this example and turned it into a lesson on ethics of how to communicate on the Web. First, the instructors enabled a student debate on rules for posting opinions. Eventually, the students agreed on a protocol for confrontational messages in their web community. They discussed the caricature of Mohammed, what is allowed and freedom of speech; Israeli kids spoke of what they thought should be allowed. The kids in each country had their own debate; they developed ground rules of how to communicate. The kids have become ambassadors of change within communities. They learn technology and volunteer what they learn and open the community center and invite parents.

MYTEC is a good example of how Web 2.0 interactivity can be used for positive social change.

The Bedouin Village of Khawalid

by on April 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

With great enthusiasm the Traveling Geeks visited Ishmail Khaldi?s family in his home Bedouin village. Ish’s mother and father hosted us with Bedouin coffee (unbelievably strong), cakes, and candies. Ish gave a moving presentation on pluralism in Israel (video link of speech is posted check out Cathy Brooks’ site).

Bedouins are a part of the Israel societal fabric and their loyalty to the State is a living testament to Israeli pluralism. Their house was solidly constructed and the stone locally quarried turns golden in the afternoon light. While Ish was growing up he lived in a tent and was a shepherd. Check out Ish’s life story.

Ish?s parents (photos to be posted) have the weathered faces of people who have worked in the sun. His father worked over 25 years as an agricultural worker for the local Kibbutz. Amazing to see a Hebrew fluent Muslim man wearing a Kefafiyah, yet fully at home to Israel, free to live within the customs and values of his particular heritage. Amazing not because it is exceptional in Israel, but because this is what peace would look like.

My wife Ilene bonded with Ish?s mother and the photos (to be posted) show their affection.

Check out the other posts of the bloggers about the visit to Khawalid. This was clearly one of the most moving and meaningful experiences we have had as a group in Israel.

Why Israel is an Innovation Leader?Yet Tough Times Ahead

by on April 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Gil Schwed had an intriguing answer: Israel began as an experiment in Jewish history. Innovation was built into the Israeli experience from the beginning.

Also technology development has always been a strategic component of the Israeli military advantage. That knowledge gets transfered to commercial applications better in Israel than anywhere else outside of the US.

Combine these factors with the influx of Russian engineers and scientists over the past fifteen years and Israel integration into the global innovation economy?Voila! You have the ingredients for successful innovation. Israel is considered to be the foremost region (after Silicon Valley) for technology R&D ?lots of venture capital, successful start-ups, attractive to many multi-national corporations.

However, there are clearly major problems Israel faces to sustain and benefit from these advantages:

  • The wealth is more highly concentrated among a few, while poverty and despair increases for many. The digital divide is a wide chasm in Israel.
  • The education system is deteriorating and the continuance of a skilled workforce for technology?essential for sustained economic development in attracting global business?may be seriously limited.
  • The Israeli confidence in themselves is lower. I spoke with a wide spectrum of Israelis from religious to secular, family, friends, and new acquaintances. Collectively they signaled to me they are not pleased with what is happening both within Israel and from without. To put some perspective on this, recently 81% of the American public thinks our country is going in the wrong direction; however, they are mostly happy themselves and have more positive confidence in their institutions than the Israelis seem to do. Many Israelis do not have trust in their government, Arab and Iranian hostile intentions, and believe the quality of life in Israeli society is declining.

While Israeli innovation is a bright spot, Israeli mood seems to be in a slump.

Passover is a season of moving to hope from despair, to freedom from slavery, and to strength from weakness. Perhaps we can also see innovation as a driving force for improvement with positive intent from Israelis collectively for themselves.

The Traveling Geeks Revealed

by on April 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

The Traveling Geeks became a community during our five day visit. We partied in the evening with Israeli hosts and were schlepped in vans from site to site during the day to meet with Israeli VC?s, entrepreneurs, and innovators. We schmoozed, ate, laughed, and kvetched together?so I have come to know these people.

As a group they are bright, funny, curious, passionate and savvy about trends and technology. They are all practitioners of a new electronic journalism that is more experiential, informal and visual than traditional print and broadcast media. Chosen for their audiences and credibility in the technology field, they are as competent and knowledgeable as one could hope for to comment on Israeli innovation. Please read their blogs and view their photos and videos to gain their perspective.

In no particular order, here are my revelations on each of them:

Craig Newmark: One of the best known personalities on the Internet for his Craig?s List, Craig has an amazing following and reputation. He began to Twitter (posts of what he was doing at any particular moment) that had a thousand people for each post within days of his beginning to Twitter. Craig was the resident comic who had us in stitches with his self-deprecating, dry wit. On several occasions he showed what a Mench he really is. Highlight was taking cover together during a rocket attack alert in Ashkelon. So Craig, “We will always have Ashkelon.”

Robert Scoble: One of the most followed bloggers on the Internet, Robert is as cool and funny in person as he is on line. Hard at work or play, Robert has a curiosity and intelligence that just does not quit. He lives, breathes, and snorts technology; his knowledge of tech trends and innovative businesses is awesome. We all agreed Scoble writing for Fast Company is a perfect fit.

Renee Blodgett: Great spirit and lots of energy. Renee is fun, free wheeling, and friendly. Her writing and visuals beautifully tell stories. Her blogs reveal her self and her experiences. She is a great example of the experiential blogger who seeks knowing rather than just knowledge.

Susan Mernit: First time in Israel, Susan may have had the greatest personal transformation of the group. Her personal background combines poetry, creative writing, business, anthropology, arts, and a dozen more interests. Writing from a personal style and interest, Susan brings the social scene and personal interests to her readers with wit and insight. Warm, funny, and bright, Susan is a Techie with heart.

Cathy Brooks: An extrovert, Cathy fills the room with her presence. Her writing is insightful, cool and heartfelt, but her skillful use of visuals and video distinguish her. She is a dynamo. Losing her voice from Laryngitis early in the trip, Cathy still could dominate the conversation just with her facial expressions. Her connection to Israel was awakened a few years ago and this trip had a personal and professional impact on Cathy that you will see in her blog posts.

JD Lasica: A veteran journalist who has focused his talents to expand the reach for groups through the use of technology in the media for social and cause based organizations, JD combines visuals and writing masterfully. JD also blogged on the human side of the Israeli/Arab conflict. He was responsible to get the Traveling Geeks website up and running and made a major contribution through that effort, working with Susan Mernit and her contacts.

Sarah Lacy: A savvy business writer and blogger, Sarah can weave her personality and experience of the moment into her stories. She is about to publish a new book on Web 2.0 (if you want to learn about Web 2.0 check out her book) and understands as well as anyone the potential for business with these new capabilities. Ironically, the moment I will always remember to distinguish Sarah is not from her awesome business and writing acumen, but how emotionally affected she was during the prayers of the Christian pilgrims in the Jerusalem Room of Christ?s Last Supper. Her spontaneous emotion revealed more about the power of the religious experience in Jerusalem than any words or visual images could portray.

Deborah Schultz; The most connected, knowledgeable, and active person with Israel and Israelis among us, Deborah is the best to bridge US and Israel reality in her writing. She knows and feels Israel and her writing shows it. A New Yorker who now lives in the strange land of the SF Bay Area,, her passion, insight, and familiarity with Israelis and new technologies make her the perfect blogger to highlight Israel Innovation.

Brad Redderson: As the only podcaster among us, Brad?s work will be mostly developed from the interviews he conducted with thought leaders and tech innovators on his own time away from the activities of the group. Thoughtful, steady, and dependable, Brad was my volunteer partner in putting the trip together with the Israeli Consulate. He contributed greatly to the project. There were lots of bumps along the way before and especially during the trip when Brad and I could easily consult each other about how to solve problems.

View and read the work on Israel Innovation from these extraordinary people at Collectively we hope to contribute to the better understanding of Israel Innovation for those in technology and for those who just want to know more about Israel.

My Friend Ish

by on April 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

The impetus for this journey began when I met Ishmael Khaldi, Vice Counsel for the Israel Consulate in San Francisco (covering the Northwest US) at Gina and Dan Waldman’s house in Tiburon. We spoke about blogging and began to develop the idea of bringing well-known bloggers to Israel to report on Israel Innovation.

Over the course of a year we struggled through many setbacks and delays, but remained resolute together. Once the trip was approved by the Foreign Ministry Office in Jerusalem, we spoke daily for months to hammer out the details. In Israel, we became like a pair of Kayakers paddling together over many rapids?hey, these are Bay Area metaphors?we came to trust, respect, and count on each other.

In addition to our close association and friendship, Ish has given me a great gift of understanding something important about Israel that eluded me during many past visits for Jewish organizations and activities. Israel is a pluralistic society and its non-Jewish citizens compose a critical element?Israel will succeed and be secure to the degree they feel at home there living as citizens with Jews?they can be the best ambassadors of Israel’s justice and vision. I came to understand that perspective through his love for Israel from my friend Ish.

I will always be grateful.

(Photos of us will be posted)

So What Did We Accomplish?

by on April 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Our visit, sponsored by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, was a pilot experiment to see what would happen if we could turn bloggers and podcasters loose to write about Innovation in Israel. This is a pioneering effort to utilize the connectivity and immediacy of the Web in service of extending “knowing” rather than just knowledge about Israel.

The number of blog posts, twitters, videos, podcasts and photos is prodigious and will grow over the next month as our traveling geeks consolidate their material. These people worked hard to produce a wide range of work that has been collected and will be easily accessible on the site.

The site itself, built by our volunteers, is an example to the government and other organizations who wish to connect people to Israel of what can be done with the new technology to represent Israel. Hopefully, it may affect how technology is used to build community through interactivity on the web for many organizations. It is different than traditional media in that it is informal, personal, experiential, interactive, visual, and immediate (real time reporting).

Tens of thousands have followed the twitters (posts by the bloggers picked up by people following their activities); thousands more will see the postings, photos, and videos and will hear the podcasts. This should increase general awareness and knowledge of Israeli life and innovation.

Perhaps the most important accomplishment is the personal connection for each participant to Israel and Israelis. As Robert Scoble said,” I knew Israelis, but I did not know Israel and I want to come back.”

The generous hospitality of of our Israeli hosts enabled each member of the group to connect individually to Israeli peers?formally and informally. Our women bloggers had a special meeting with counterpart Israeli women bloggers?from that meeting there will be further connection that will reverberate from what people will do with each other.

Hopefully, connecting people everywhere to Israelis through our personal experience on this trip,? then using the web to extend those experiences to the awareness of many?will do good for a long time to come.

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