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Digital Health Summer Summit & Their Digital Health Playground

by on June 23, 2015 at 10:26 am

I’ve experienced some of Digital Health Summit’s energy, largely at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, where it has grown in size over the years and now represents some of the most innovative technologies happening in the health, wellness and medical arena.
Last week, they held their Digital Health Summer Summit in San Francisco, which consisted of a full day of panel discussions, keynotes and something they refer to as Digital Health Playground, which is an expo of companies showing off their latest products.

Photo credit: LearnersOnline.com
The reason I’ve been so interested in digital health lately is not just because of the marketing and communications work I’ve done for HAPILABS and Kolibree over the past few years, both of which announced the world’s first in their respective categories (connected fork and connected electric toothbrush).
This world obviously got me into deeper into the world of quantified self and devices that measure everything you do, from the quality of your breathe, to your sleep patterns and the steps you take every day. While I find quantified self interesting and in some cases, leaps ahead of our time, empowering individuals about their bodies in ways that was never possible before, I’m also concerned about over monitoring since doing so means that the EMFs emitted and other electrical energy that comes from these devices are close to our bodies if not on them 24/7.

I for one sleep more peacefully when I’m far away from anything that has bluetooth or wifi connectivity and when I’m not using my phone for texting or browsing, I turn it to Airplane Mode as a safety precaution. That said, the benefits of self monitoring for more serious medical conditions can be a godsend, particularly for kids and seniors, so that other family members can stay on top of their loved one’s health as well. It’s also useful for sending data back to your family when you’re traveling and they’re not with you.  

Photo credit: www.kpcb.com
The idea of digital health centers on the convergence of the digital and genetics with health, healthcare, medicine, living, and society.
The biggest benefits of digital health as noted above, include the empowerment of consumers to better track, manage, and improve their own and their family’s health. There are of course compliance issues, as well as hospital and corporate adoption curves that run alongside these revolutionary changes happening in the digital world today.
At the Summit, we heard from Chief Medical Officer for AFIA Rob Smythe MD and author of The Digital Doctor, Professor and Associate Chair for the Department of Medicine Robert W. Watchter MD, who addressed the need for digital health to better demonstrate its effectiveness, as well as the issues around privacy, security and regulatory challenges.
With the abundance of health tech accelerators and seed funders pushing out a wide array of digital health companies, we also heard tips on how to avoid the funding valley of death given the long time gap between institutional funding and ultimate launch. Reps from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Launchpad Digital Health, dRx Capital AG and DNAnexus took this subject on, which was soon followed by an interesting keynote from Michael Blum, MD and Associate Vice Chancellor for Informatics and Professor of Medicine and Cardiology/Chief Medical Information Office at UCSF.
Other panels discussed how partnering with strategic companies can better harness the power of talents and resources from both sides.
One of the more interesting dialogues was between moderator Karyn Skultety, Ph.D. and VP of Health Services at the Institute of Aging, and Commercial Lead at Big Health Dickson Waterfield and Co-Founder of Ginger.io Karan Singh. I like what they’re doing at Ginger.io, which uses smartphones to improve mental health care.
Their app uses sensor data collected through the phone and self-reported information to identify people who may need help. Providers can use this data to better deliver support to the right people at the right time, making care more timely, effective and engaging. Ginger.io’s Android and iPhone apps use data from your phone to safely and securely watch for days when your health may take a hit.

The Dealmaking, Piloting and Scaling panel presented the question: You Have What It Takes? Travis Good, MD and CEO & Co-Founder of Catalyze, Molly Coye MD and Sense.ly CEO Adam Odessky took on the topic head on, sharing insights on how to sell, pilot and scale successfully within the healthcare system.
Questions addressed included what healthcare systems looking for when they evaluate new technology, are all hospitals different or are there unified approaches entrepreneurs can take when working with them, and do you have a product that hospitals can actually implement to scale, among others.

Although nature will always win if I had a choice between trees, mountains and lakes and gadgets, toys and devices, I am a bit of a tech nerd when it comes to nifty things that can improve the quality of my life or my productivity. I’d argue that more devices than not add hassle to my life and extra time trying to figure out how they work and their effectiveness than the benefit they may actually provide.
One of the more interesting products being shown in the Expo part of the show, a small area set up for companies to do demos and show off their greatest, was Breathometer. Their mission is to build the World’s First Portable Breath Analysis Platform to help people make smarter decisions, improve healthcare and to save lives.

You download the Breathometer mobile app on your smartphone, power on the Breeze product using the small button on the bottom of the product and the Breeze should automatically pair / connect with your smartphone.
Once connected, confirm it has been 20 minutes since your last drink, take a deep breath and blow into the mouth of Breeze for 5 seconds and Breathometer will give you your results. Beyond providing dependable blood alcohol concentration levels, the Breathometer app is designed to help you make informed, dependable decisions.

Another cool product at the event was Splitsecnd, emergency assistance the instant you need it. Splitsecnd is the only plug-in device that can provide live trip data, detect a crash, call for emergency help in less than 7 seconds and notify your emergency contact in an instant.
This is a great device when you’re traveling of course, but it’s also great for seniors and teenagers — parents can not only detect if and where there has been a crash instantly, but monitor the driving behavior as well. The device plugs into any vehicle’s 12V lighter outlet and uses airbag sensor technology to activate the emergency response system on impact, calling for help even when you can’t respond.
The GPS monitoring features allow you to keep up with family and loved ones on the road. Using build in location software, splitsecnd works with local 911 dispatchers to send emergency aid right away. The splitsecnd response team will call your emergency contact so your family knows within minutes you have been in a car crash.

You can also view the past 10 trips of anyone on your account — where and when they went and even the route they took. For android users only, it currently also tracks how often the driver texts while driving making it easy to see how often they are making safety a priority. Wow!
I also learned a lot about hearing loss — I had no idea it was such a huge problem in the states, how much hearing loss impacts one’s emotional state, how expensive hearing aids are and the fact that they’re not covered by insurance. Huh? When they’re priced in the $2-6K price range per hearing aid, imagine how many seniors go without, trying to live day to day without accurate hearing?
Apparently there are a significant and growing number of kids who suffer from hearing loss as well. I chatted to the Audicus team at the show, who focus on providing affordable hearing aids. Apparently traditional providers and manufacturers mark hearing aids up more than 10x to cover overhead and other miscellaneous costs whereas Audicus cuts out the middlemen by working with a top-tier, independent German manufacturer and delivering it straight to the consumer.
They believe that everyone deserves to “Live Loudly” so are focusing on dramatically bringing the cost of hearing aids down so it’s more affordable to the average American. They also sell accessories — two thumbs up!
Producer Jill Gilbert, Organizer and founder of Living in Digital Times Robin Raskin and their team put together an incredibly enriching event full of great ideas, people, products, services and platforms.
The event was co-hosted by CDHI – Center for Digital Health Innovation at UCSF — more information can be found at www.digitalhealthsummit.com. Be sure to watch for their developments, updates, future event dates and locations.

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Idea Festival 2014, Where Creativity & Innovation Converge

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

Imagine an eclectic conference in the heart of bourbon country that brings together thought leaders, big thinkers, educators, scientists, politicians, urban planners, technologists, authors, artists, students and musicians under one roof? And…that is not by all means an exhaustive list.
Idea Festival is the one event that I’ve jumped on an airplane for every year, bound for Louisville Kentucky to make the time for a four day discussion on creativity and innovation.
Last year’s event coverage will give you a taste of who they attract and while the focus may change slightly depending on who’s on the main stage, the mission remains the same: to Stay Curious.

Hear from founder and the force behind Idea Festival Kris Kimel; a snippet from a video I shot a couple of years ago will demonstrate his passion for the event and why he started it.  
Think of it as an intellectual playground in one of America’s most interesting southern cities where people celebrate ideas, creativity and transformational learning across multiple disciplines, including science, technology, design, education, philosophy, business and the arts.
While not in any of these categories, Walgreen’s Chief Diversity Officer Steve Pemberton received a standing ovation for his talk that not just touched on diversity but what it means to be human.  His childhood was far from stellar, yet he managed to rise above inequality and obstacles thrown in his path to where he sits today.

Truth be told, his talk makes you care about kindness, rethink adversity and if you’re a business, understand the importance of diversity.
 Overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, Pemberton has gone from being a forgotten ward of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to becoming a trailblazing Divisional Vice President at Walgreens and the first Chief Diversity Officer for the 113 year old company.
Prior to that, he made history as the first Chief Diversity Officer and Vice-President of Diversity and Inclusion for an Internet start-up while at Monster.com. His memoir, A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home, chronicles his difficult path through foster care and his determined search for his family.
It is an inspirational story that crosses generations and cultures, but specifically whispers to those who have had the odds stacked against them. Pemberton’s relentless journey to overcome his setbacks, find his biological family and right the wrongs of his parents’ past is a model for all families to follow. It is a true testament of faith, fortitude and forgiveness and his talk brought his personal story to life in a heartfelt and very human way. As an audience, we wanted to cry and laugh with him at the same time. Pemberton believes that who we are, our triumphs over adversity, and our successes begin and end with family.
His rivoting talk was an exceptionally powerful sentiment from a man who fought to find his way and who in the end believes that you can choose your family after all. Hear hear. CEO of Virgin Produced Jason Felts was also very inspirational, earmarking all the reasons why your status in life isn’t the main indicator of whether you’ll be successful in life or not.
As one of the youngest CEO’s within the Virgin Group of companies, he oversees the group’s expansion into the film, television and new media content business. While he may not have had to overcome adversity in the same way as Pemberton did early on in life, Felts isn’t an ivy league college graduate either.
He comes to the business without the external accolades and degrees that a large brand might look for, yet he is now spearheading the Virgin Produced business, successfully bringing it to the next level. Richard Branson saw a gem when he met one and since 2010, Felts has been combining the strength of his raw wisdom, his film experience, his authentic charm and down-to-earth approach to running a business to the Virgin Group.

What I loved about Felts when I first met him was his presence. How rare is it to find someone operating at that level who actually not just has presence on stage, but is truly present with you “in the moment” regardless of what value you can give him.
I have met and worked with my fair share of CEOs and celebrities in my life and more often than not, the charm is accelerated only when they realize you can give them something they need.
Not the case with Felts. Like Branson, he hates the status quo, and word has it that “he’ll cut off your tie if you wear one into his office.”  His background is primarily in film and TV production, so it’s ever so fitting that he’s such an instrumental force behind the entertainment side of Virgin’s business.
Says Jason on the Idea Festival stage, “Create content that inspires. Trust comes first, competency second and then creativity.” He notes that at Virgin Produced, that the culture is a combination of down-to-earth and creative. “People don’t operate from a place of ego,” he says.
“We talk issues out like a family.” He sees Richard Branson as a tremendous mentor, a personality which is hard not to love. As a man who who has always led with adventure, he has never let obstacles get in the way of business or life. Branson chooses his partners, not the other way around Felts learned when he came on in 2010. It was a leap of faith on both sides and it appears to have paid off.
The word trust came up a few times, which is a great way to lead your business. Jason says, “Everything else follows trust! If you surround yourself with people you trust, the rest comes. Revenue follows trust!”

The Virgin brand for him exudes a combination of innovation, creativity and value for the money. He says, “with Virgin movies, we want people to leave thinking there’s a sense of fun, adventure and thrill to the Virgin brand as well as a sense of wish fulfillment and social responsibility. We follow our gut and we’ve been winning so far.”
He feels that the traditional trailer is dead….and deceiving. “There’s way too much content out there and it’s a little misleading,” he says.  Content overload is certainly not a new problem but it has now expanded into all areas of digital content including movie trailers.
He says that their movies are not going to appeal to everyone, but if it touches a certain demographic, then it’s a check box for them since they lead with quality, not revenue.
Felts thinks we need to start tailoring things to the individual and become more personalized. Later in his talk, I learned that it wasn’t Branson who passed on the heartfelt authenticity and warmth that Felts so naturally exudes; it was his mom.
He shared one of his mom’s sayings: “Love the ones you’re with” and it’s something that Felts practices. I met him at the beginning of the conference and every engagement I had with him throughout the event albeit brief, was genuine. Imagine if all leaders and CEO’s could be that present who they could further inspire, motivate and ignite? He ended with a comment that touches on the infiltration of technology in our lives, something he also practices by not using his cell phone when he’s with his family.
His parting comment: “I think it’s up to forward thinking people to keep us together as a community rather than breaking us apart.” Thanks for being so damn refreshing Jason Felts. I loved your energy, your talk and your very fun suggestion to bring the audience up on the stage with you at the end of your talk for a true-blue selfie!

Wired Magazine and New York Times writer Clive Thompson amused us with his tantilizing talk about technology, social media and the changing landscape; how technology is fundamentally changing the way we think….often in ways we don’t fully understand.
He cites an example from a Clarke college professor who said this of her students: they were often content to get a bad grade from me than have the Wikipedia community tell them their research is sloppy.
There’s no doubt that thinking about knowledge, education and the perception of both has changed dramatically over the years.
We still gravitate to what we know and feel comfortable with just as we did 100 years ago and today, our peers are doing very different things and communicating in ways that the last generation doesn’t quite understand.
Texting, sexting, facebook pokes, tweets and Instagram shares have become commonplace, not just once a day but regularly throughout the day, whether or not school or work is part of that day. While like continues to find like, multiples exist more than ever in the past. You know — that big idea you’ve got? Well a couple dozen other people around the world also have it and unlike 50 years ago, they can share that idea instantaneously on the web, whether or not they’ve created a patent for it or plan to.

He has learned through his observations over the years, that as social media has exploded, the way we learn and think has changed. Thompson says, “we try harder, think more deeply and analyze more clearly when someone is watching.”
Citing another piece of research from “Mimi in Tokyo,” he shares that young lovers in Tokyo in the 1990’s found that texting makes them feel closer than even a phone call.” It makes sense in some ways since texting not only provides the immediacy of a response but its lasting and you can scroll back and look at those whimsical and romantic messages hours later.
For those who don’t understand Twitter, he tries to explain its value in this context: a few ambient signals mean nothing on their own but months of them starts to have meaning which ultimately becomes ambient awareness — kind of like what happens when we have ESP and can sense people’s thoughts.” As a regular Twitter user, I see this all the time and over time, learn more about people I’ve known for over ten years by observing their tweets over a couple of months.
It’s astonishing and eye opening, however those who are new to social media or simply don’t want to invest the time, still can’t get their head around it.
Other interesting observations from online behavior found that weak ties in our lives (i.e., people we see once a year perhaps) can be more powerful in some cases than strong ties (people we see every day and are close to). Quite often, the most new and valuable information comes to us from people we don’t know very well.
The notion is that people in our closer circles are too similar to us so we don’t necessarily learn something new from them. The other trend is data gathering and data crunching.
Suddenly people are becoming accustomed to monitoring not just any data trend, but their own personal data, on a regular basis. Fitbit and other digital health connected devices such as the Kolibree connected toothbrush are prime examples.
You can have data about your behavior in real time on your smart phone, data that you can share with your loved ones, doctor or dentist. Is this trend turning everyone into data scientists? And, if so, what will the impact of that be on medicine, healthcare as we know it and general wellness and being?

What about once all of that data becomes connected? AND, what about when our minds can become “connected?” What is the powerful explosion that we could see in the future when we start collaborating on things that collectively and individually fascinate us? 
How do we effectively tap into collaborative thinking? People are already doing it in multiple ways, ranging from individual data collection around a regional environmental disaster to solving a medical research problems.
One of the things we talk about a lot in Silicon Valley is the power of collective data and thinking.  
Crowd-sourcing, crowd-thinking and crowd-creating are topics that are sprouting up as TED talks, at salons in people’s private homes and in my own tech circles.
If gamers can tackle a ten year old protein folding mystery in HIV research, then what else could we solve from human collective intelligence?
I think about the empowerment this approach can have with children. Coming from an era where children were around to be seen, not heard, I know countless people from my generation who have confidence issues as a result of that mantra and way of thinking. I’d love to meet the next generation of students where the power of human collective intelligence is applied in schools and at home.
Thompson points out that private thinking is of course still vital and that we need “metacognition” aka to think about our thinking. Which problems are better to solve in public collectively and which ones to solve privately in solitude?
I agree with this, however the problem with the growing interest in an always on world where everything is open and digitized is that people sometimes forget that some things truly remain private and should. It takes discipline and a little reflection (which I feel that we rarely get in an “always on” world) to know where to turn and when. Philosopher Stephen Cave discussed how the relentless quest to live forever…physically, spiritually or perhaps through a legacy, has influenced and shaped civilization since the dawn of humankind.
He points out that its not just our lives here, but eternity, which is what makes every ‘holy war.’ He notes that we think the world is dependent upon our perceiving ourselves within the world, but in fact, its just an illusion in our brains.
 Every creature is trying to pass on their genes in order to reproduce and survive, so this is part of our desire and fascination with living forever, at least through legacy. If our time is in fact limited and not eternal however, then the way we spend that time matters.

He humorously says, “imagine that you go to an upload enter every week and upload your mind for a new upgrade or app. You could essentially save your brain to this upload center and then if you were to get killed in a car accident, you would simply re-upload your brain into another body and have a replicate of you. But…it’s still a copy.”
In his book, he tackles all the things that compel humans to “keep on keeping on,” including some mind-bending thought experiments you could do yourself. 
He teases out the implications of each immortality gambit, asking, for example, how long a person would live if they did manage to acquire a perfectly disease-free body.  Or what would happen if a super-being tried to round up the atomic constituents of all who have died in order to resurrect them?  Or what our loved ones would really be doing in heaven if it does exist?  Or what part of us actually lives in a work of art, and how long that work of art can survive?
He makes you think about immortality in a very different way and as a result, focus on things that do matter in the process — at least, that’s what his talk did for me. If we could only be present on the hear and now more often, we’d have less fear, uncertainty, doubt and chaos in our lives.

Coming over from London, Claudia Hammond took on the topic of Time, making us think differently about how we perceive time. She talked about how and when time appears to be distorted, such as when we’re not feeling well, are sick and have a temperature, are depressed, or not feeling as confident about ourselves.  
She has been so fascinated by this topic that she has gathered research and examples of people’s interaction with time itself. You could try your own exercise by counting a series of “how am I feeling now?” and Now? And Now? Count up all of these emotional moments and see how you perceive time throughout the process.

What fascinates her about time, is that there have been years, decades and centuries that have passed by before our lives, yet we always have a different idea of the length of time as we get older. Apparently 1 in 5 people visualize time laid out before them.
They might see the year laid out in front of them in space and time for example. This is you if you can see in your mind’s eye what you are doing in February of a particular year.
There are 2 different kinds of time metaphors she notes. The Time Moving Metaphor, where you stay still and time comes towards you and the Ego Moving Metaphor, where you see yourself running and going towards time. Perceptions of time in our personal life are around 3 months.
If you think you saw friends 3 months ago, it might actually be 4 or 5 months. For other types of events, it’s a few years. When you think something happened 3 or 4 years ago, it might be a third longer or in some cases, even longer than that, such as 9/11 or a political event.
People don’t report that days go really fast, but do report that weeks and months fly by. If you ask someone when they’re older, what song they love, they’re more likely to pick a song they loved between the age of 15 and 25. Memories seem to be stronger during that period of time.
Try this exercise out on a few friends and see it this applies. She suggests that if you want to make a weekend seem long, do lots of new things you haven’t done before. For example, do something new you’ve never done before in the morning and something entirely different in the afternoon. Doing so in this pattern will create new memories for you. Creating new memories makes you think less about time because you’re too busy having a good time as you create new and fresh memories, not ones that make you feel stagnant and still.
 If time is going slowly, it may mean you don’t have a lot going on in your life. Then there’s the perception of time in the future. “There’s been less research on how we perceive time in the future and more on how we perceive time in the past,”says Hammond. “We can actually go back in the past and recall our first day at primary school, but if asked to imagine that you’re going to a friend’s wedding in the Caribbean, you can build visuals of what you think it will be like and how the weekend will go, but it’s a entirely different memory and idea of time.”

The general concensus is that we’re bad about making predictions about time and tend to underestimate how long something will take us.
To improve memory and our perception and improvement of time, she suggests picturing yourself doing an activity you need to do over and over again. Fascinating talk. I also loved her energy and it was fabulous to hear a British accent on stage!
I’ve known Virginia Postrel for quite possibly 20 years or so. I have always loved her work as far back as I can remember when she was more focused on politics than style.  Today, and for many years now, she has been focused on style and the power of glamour although her work spans a broad range of topics, from social science to fashion, concentrating on the intersection of culture and commerce.
Writing in Vanity Fair, Sam Tanenhaus described her as “a master D.J. who sequences the latest riffs from the hard sciences, the social sciences, business, and technology, to name only a few sources.”
She has written a few fascinating books worth mentioning. including her most recent one — The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion, as well as The Substance of Style and The Future and Its Enemies.

Her talk focused on the Power of Glamour and how it impacts us in our daily lives, from politics and sports to health and fashion.
She so beautifully separates glamour from glitz, revealing what qualities make a person, an object, a setting, or an experience glamorous. What is it that creates that pleasurable pang of desire—the feeling of “if only”? If only I could wear those clothes, belong to that group, drive that car, live in that house, be (or be with) that person?
Postrel identifies the three essential elements in all forms of glamour and explains how they work to create a distinctive sensation of projection and yearning. She delves deep into what glamour really is—not just style or a personal quality but a phenomenon that reveals our inner lives and shapes our decisions, large and small.
By embodying the promise of a different and better self in different and better circumstances, glamour stokes ambition and nurtures hope, even as it fosters sometimes-dangerous illusions. From vacation brochures to military recruiting ads, from the Chrysler Building to the iPad, from political utopias to action heroines, Postrel argues that glamour is a seductive cultural force.
Its magic stretches beyond the stereotypical spheres of fashion or film, influencing our decisions about what to buy, where to live, which careers to pursue, where to invest, and how to vote.
I saw Peter Van Buren on the Idea Festival two years ago after he launched his book We Meant Well and we all thought he was a brave soul then. His story is a complex one and definitely not short. As a former United States Foreign Service employee, he went through a struggle with the Department of State after writing his first book.
 In detail, Van Buren gives an eyewitness account of the civilian side of the surge—that surreal and bollixed attempt to defeat terrorism and win over Iraqis by reconstructing the world the U.S. had just destroyed.  Van Buren shared his year-long encounter with pointless projects, bureaucratic fumbling, overwhelmed soldiers, and oblivious administrators secluded in the world’s largest embassy.
Since then he has been giving talks about his story but now has a new heartfelt mission. His latest book Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent documents the changes happening in America that are negatively impacting the 99% and helping to make the top 1% earners flourish more than ever.

As documented on the web, Ghosts of Tom Joad is a reimagining of Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath, brought into our own era.
The book traces the dilution of our middle class, their replacement with the working poor, and examines the effects of this not just on our economy, but on our society, our nation, our America. Like Grapes of Wrath, Ghosts is a factual look at ourselves is wrapped in fiction, in this case, a single Ohio family touched by the changes in America from the 1950s through today.
The book is a story about growth, failure, and redemption, tracing the rise of the working poor and the don’t-have-to-work-rich as it follows the fortunes of the protagonist Earl. A product of the post–Korean War era, Earl witnesses his parents’ kitchen table arguments over money—echoed in thousands of other Rust Belt towns—experiences bullying, relishes first kisses, and comes of age and matures as a man before the economic hardships of the 1980’s and 1990’s wear on his spirit.
On the Idea Festival stage this year, Van Buren brought up fact after fact supporting some of the core changes happening in corporate America, particularly the top American employers and the impact on the 99%.
While costs are skyrocketing, wages are not keeping up with inflation and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the now 99% who are struggling to survive in today’s increasingly competitive world. As he did two years ago, he brought this knowledge to life in a very human and compelling way, so rivoting and passionate that you feel as if you want to help in some small way. And as you think about helping in some small way, you realize that you too are being impacted by these economic changes in more profound ways than you may have first realized.
The theme here is the obvious growing divide between the working class and that 1% – in other words, what has happened to the middle class as we knew it? He threw out some stats. 10% of wealth holders own 70% of everything and the U.S. is ranked 85 on the economic inequality scale.
Did you know that Bill Gates could buy Boston and have a billion left over? And, did you know that 1 out of 3 retail workers get food subsidies because they can’t earn enough not to? Poverty is a $14b business he cites. He gave advice to the students in the room – “don’t buy into the myth,” he told them. “The U.S. is in the 20% of nations that doesn’t offer some kind of nationalized healthcare. We have convinced people that if you don’t work, you won’t get healthcare. We’ve convinced ourselves that if we raise the minimum wage that we’ll have less jobs out there. Don’t be afraid. There needs to be more interplay between us and those who control everything.
The people who have the most to gain from the system have created the system. We saw the greatest redistribution of wealth in the 2008 recession. The pattern continues. Stand up and have the conversation so that this pattern doesn’t continue any longer.”
He is working on a new book Post Constitutional America, which will cover what we’ve lost as a nation since 9/11, including our privacy. Insightful, sad and disheartening, yet with knowledge and awareness comes empowerment and power.
Other powerful talks came from Jason Padgett and Joshua Greene (both pictured below). Jason was a former furniture salesman who was violently assaulted, which resulted in a serious head injury.
The result was a brain who thinks differently, so differently that he now sees things in complex mathematical structures and patterns. He shared his remarkable journey with us and whether you’re passionate about math or not, you couldn’t leave the auditorium without feeling intensely moved by his story and more keen than ever to understand the hidden capabilities of the mind, learning and the nature of reality itself…

Joshua Greene is a Harvard professor who connects neuroscience, psychology and philosophy to illuminate the root causes of modern conflict in the world, along with the moral, political and ideological fault line that divides us. His talk was entitled Us and Them.
The real question at the end of the talk to ourselves was are we the “us” or are we the “them?” and how many of us have been both over the course of our lives? His talk was based on his book Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them.
Essentially the notion behind the book comes from the thinking that our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us) and for fighting off everyone else (Them).
But modern times have forced the world’s tribes into a shared space, resulting in epic clashes of values along with unprecedented opportunities. As the world shrinks, the moral lines that divide us become more salient and more puzzling. We fight over everything from tax codes to gay marriage to global warming, and we wonder where, if at all, we can find our common ground.
Through his research, he reveals the underlying causes of modern conflict and lights the way forward. Greene compares the human brain to a dual-mode camera, with point-and-shoot automatic settings (“portrait,” “landscape”) as well as a manual mode.
Our point-and-shoot settings are our emotions—efficient, automated programs honed by evolution, culture, and personal experience. The brain’s manual mode is its capacity for deliberate reasoning, which makes our thinking flexible. Point-and-shoot emotions make us social animals, turning Me into Us. But they also make us tribal animals, turning Us against Them. His work is important as was his talk.

Geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan talked about the rapidly changing global scene and its potential impact on international business, finance and the U.S., Lee Billings took us into a world of five billion years of solitude, Wynton Marsalis discussed the dynamics and irreplaceable role of art and creativity in America and Julia Whitehead led a conversation on the life, ideas and enduring influence of Kurt Vonnegut. Andrea Nicholas and Sarah Eichhorn explored how math and science can help ensure our survival in a zombie apocalypse (no typo here and yes, it was a fascinating talk), Sam Van Aken incorporated art and ideation in a way that can transform and confuse the common sense of practices; the established order of things, Ben Malphrus and Roger McNeil took on the subatomic world of quantum weirdness and black holes, Debbie Millman focused on overcoming rejection and failure and how its presence can be a necessary part to your path to success, and Tyler Cowen explained why being satisfied by “pretty good” in today’s innovation-driven, hyper competitive world may in fact be just a fast track to irrelevance.
An annual presentation at Idea Festival for many years now, Creative Capital shows up with a handful of creative artists. Creative Capital has awarded $30 million to 530 groundbreaking artists nationwide through funding, counsel and career development services.
This year, Ruby Lerner once again brought their latest artists on stage to show off their creative ideas and projects in a session entitled “Art on the Edge.”

Each year as part of Idea Festival, attendees flock to the annual Taste of Innovation event. This year’s Taste of Innovation had an interesting twist to it – it was a Taste of Innovation + Bourbon, so fitting for a Kentucky based food event.
This food lover’s event is always held at Churchill Down’s Millionaire’s Row, also fitting given that it’s the same venue as the infamous Kentucky Derby where people flock to from around to sip some of the finest bourbon in the country, wear exquisite hats that would make the Epsom Downs attendees jealous and watch horses win races that bring in millions.
Below, some of the locals who showed me a night out on the town and introduced me to some of the more interesting bourbon creators and makers.

The Rise Group exuded energy on the main stage, demonstrating all the ways we can operate at a higher level.
Their methods are grounded in everyday language of how we present ourselves and how we think, using tactics and tools to enable us to become more creative and innovative in our daily lives. Their presentation was fun, thought provoking and energetic and these principles can be used in corporate America, at a start-up or in our personal lives.

While every year they have bourbon vendors on-site, this year let bourbon led the way with taste and education. Top bourbon experts were on site to answer questions and give pours, with Chef Dean Borbett acting as the Master of Ceremonies.
With the help of the Kentucky Distiller’s Association and Kentucky Bourbon Trail, tastings were available from major distillers as you also walked through the history of bourbon and bourbon cocktails. Bourbon was also woven into some of the dishes, the best of which was the bourbon braised short ribs prepared Manhattan style by Churchill Downs.

Be sure to see my extensive write up on this year’s Taste of Innovation 2014 event. I loved every taste we had, but another one of our top picks this year was Marketplace who served Italian pork meatballs with a tasso ham sauce, polenta, feta cheese and granulated sumac.
Everyone was talking about their perfectly made polenta all night and in fact I heard a few say, they’d return just to eat the polenta alone it was so delicious. Hats off to Chef Dallas McGarity and his team.

See my write up on last year’s Taste of Innovation, from 2012 Taste of Innovation and 2011. Check out our Kentucky Events section, which will include coverage of Idea Festival from last year (Idea Festival 2013), Idea Festival 2011 and Idea Festival 2012 and also our Kentucky Food & Wine section where you’ll find plenty of recommendations and visual treats on the top Louisville Restaurants.
Louisville restaurants we’ve written about over the years include Proof on Main at the well renowned 21c Museum Hotel, where I stayed this year, Seviche Restaurant (loved their seafood bisque – hats off to chef Anthony Lamas, Lilly’s (I love Kathy’s approach to cooking, her sweet potato gnocchi with country ham, kale and bourbon mustard cream sauce from a previous year was to die for as was this year’s portobello mushroom soup, although we have yet to review Lilly’s), Milkwood, Decca, Game (for every kind of game imaginable), La Coop Bistro, Mayan Cafe, Harvest, Jack Frys and The Blind Pig in Butchertown which is no longer open.
This year’s delicious picks include Basa Restaurant for Vietnamese Fusion style dishes and Rye on Market. Also be sure to read our Kentucky Food section for more details. (Top Kentucky Restaurants / Best Food in Kentucky / Best Food in Louisville).
Photo credits: top photo credit from blogs.uoregon.edu, Digital Overload photo www.principals. com.au. All other photos Renee Blodgett.
Note: I was a media partner of the Idea Festival and have been since the very beginning – I’m a huge fan of the event and think it is under recognized for its talent, work and mission. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Meet the 2014 Travel & Leisure Smitty Award Winners

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

This year’s Travel + Leisure Smitty Awards recently announced their winners for 2014, an Awards Program which recognizes the companies in the travel and tourism industry showcasing the best and most innovative uses of social media.
I am proud to announce that I was a judge this year, together with Skift’s Jason Clampet, Twitter’s Mike De Jesus, Gogobot’s Travis Katz, BuzzFeed’s Ashley Perez, travel photographer Cole Rise, NBC Today Show’s Al Roker, Google’s Rob Torres and travel social media strategist Ann Tran. We reviewed hundreds of submissions and named winners and runners-up in 30 categories.
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts took home the most awards with four wins and Virgin Atlantic and The Hertz Corporation received two wins in two categories each. The winners and their campaigns can be seen on travelandleisure.com/smittys, with additional information available by searching #TLSMITTY on social media. The SMITTY Awards is also featured in the Travel + Leisure July 2014 issue which went on stands in mid-June. To celebrate the SMITTY Awards, Travel + Leisure hosted an event on July 9, 2014 at the Refinery Hotel rooftop in Manhattan. Below are a handful of fun shots I took at the event.

Travel + Leisure’s Editor-in-Chief, Nancy Novogrod, Renee Blodgett, and Rich Beattie, Travel + Leisure’s Executive Digital Editor

Above, Four Seasons’ Laura Fairweather
 

Above, Tadashi Matsushita from ANA (All Nippon Airways), Renee Blodgett and Athanasios “Tommy” Sikolas of ANA (All Nippon Airways)
 

Above, Rich Beattie

Above and below, kudos to the Hyatt team & a few others 🙂

Above, Travel + Leisure reps from social media, digital and design!

Above, Ruth Moran (left) from Tourism Ireland even made a showing 🙂
Below are the Winners:
Best Use of Twitter: Virgin Atlantic; Runner-Up: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company Best Use of Pinterest: VisitBritain; Runner-Up: Explore Georgia Best Use of Instagram: Tahiti Tourisme North America Best Use of Facebook: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Best Use of Tumblr: VisitSweden; Runner-Up: Sofitel Luxury Hotels Best Chat/Hangout: Residence Inn by Marriott Best Long-Form Video: Virgin American; WestJet (tie) Best Use of Foursquare or Other Location-Based Services: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Hilton Hotels & Resorts; The Hertz Corporation (tie) Best App or Technology: Roaming Hunger; Runner-Up: Oberoi, Mumbai Best Blog: Butterfield & Robinson; GrandLife Hotels (tie) Best Use of Social Media for Public Service: Montage Hotels & Resorts; Runner-Up: Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Best Contest/Giveaway: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel; Runner-Up: South African Tourism Best Use of and Emerging Platform: Iceland Travel; Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts (tie) Best Customer Service: Hyatt Hotels & Resorts; Runner-Up: Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau Best Use of Social Media: Independent Travel Journalist/Blogger: Amateur Traveler Best Use of Social Media: Independent Travel Photo Journalist/Videographer: Bohemian Trails; Runner-Up: Let’s Get Lost
Best Overall Use of Social Media:
Airline: Virgin Atlantic; Runner-Up: All Nippon Airways Airport: Singapore Changi Airport; Runner-Up: San Francisco International Airport Attraction: Vail Resorts; Runner-Up: Rocky Mountaineer Car Rental Agency: The Hertz Corporation Cruise Line: Princess Cruises; Runner-Up: MSC Cruises USA Tourism Board/DMO/Marketing Association: Pure Michigan; Runner-Up: Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board Global Hotel or Resort Chain: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Runner-Up: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Individual Hotel or Resort, U.S.: Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel Individual Hotel or Resort, Global: The Westin Bund Center, Shanghai; Runner-Up: Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel Outfitter: Big 5 Tours & Expeditions; Runner-Up: G Adventures Travel Agency/OTA: Expedia Travel Resource: Fathom; Peek (tie) Restaurant/Food Truck/Market: Sam’s Chowder House Non-Travel-Industry Company: Cubavera/Perry Ellis
 
The Travel + Leisure SMITTY Awards 2014 Jury

Renee Blodgett, Founder and Editor, We Blog the World; CEO, Magic Sauce Media
Jason Clampet, Co-Founder and Head of Content, Skift
Mike De Jesus, Head of Travel and Tourism, Twitter
Travis Katz, Co-Founder and CEO, Gogobot
Ashley Perez, Senior Editor, BuzzFeed
Cole Rise, Travel Photographer
Al Roker, Co-Host and Weatherman, NBC’s TODAY Show
Rob Torres, Managing Director of Travel, Google
Ann Tran, Travel Social-Marketing Strategist

Below is a very short video snippet shot at the event of Rich Beattie congratulating winners and giving kudos to his team. They did an incredible job pulling together yet another year’s Awards event. Kudos to Rich and his team!

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Next Generation Power Summit Kicks off on March 5

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

I recently agreed to participate in an online video series on social media in business called Next Generation Power Summit, produced and organized by Australian entrepreneur Rosemary Burnett.

The series will kick off March 5, 2014 and run through March 18 and the schedule of social media gurus and expert interviews are listed below.

The video interview series aims to help businesses with their online and digital strategy through advice and insights from a host of folks living it and breathing it every day. Objectives of the series are to:

Get clear about your core message and brand
Build a following on social media
Attract and connect with your ideal client in the places they are hanging out.
Turn those connections into relationships and sales
Learn the strategies the experts have adopted themselves, to achieve ‘big business’ success.

I’m up on March 17 however there’s a host of great other consultants and specialists in the line-up starting on March 5 beginning with Rosemary’s kick off. Note that it is free to participate but you have to register on the main Next Generation Power Summit home page.
I’m told that this Tele-summit series is similar in approach to a Global Mentor Mastermind event. There will be the opportunity to watch the video interview replays for a limited time if you can’t make it on the launch date however you will need to register regardless to get access to the content.
 

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

The Paris That I Never Seem to Tire Of…

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

I’m in a taxi whizzing down Boulevard de Magenta, one of those wider than normal Parisian streets. There are cheap shops where you can buy mobile phones, bags and wedding dresses in the windows on both sides and you wonder what surprise will come around the next corner.
We pass a sign for a Bach concert at one of the music halls, somewhere around Place de Clichy. My driver hangs a right on Rue de Rocroy and the street gets narrower. Small shops, a coiffure Mixte, a few not so stellar looking 2 star hotels, a cafe brasserie and tabac on every corner, a nail salon and a few optique stores for glasses. In my rear view mirror, I see travel agent and pharmacy signs as we weave in and out of even more narrow alleys and roads.

The meter is escalating and I can’t help but think of the sign that had prefix prices for certain districts of the city. He is miserable and not worth the fight despite his fabulous taste in classical music which he has blaring from some device in the front seat I can’t see. Salt and pepper, a sharp nose, no smile. He refuses to smile in fact and he hates that I am paying by credit card.
It was the first Sunday of the month and the sky was hazy but the day was warm, a rarity on Paris visits. I originally had plans to get out of Paris for the day with a friend, take in some gardens and have a picnic in a park however after the plans fell through, I changed course and decided after a taxi towards a more remote spot on the Seine, I would begin to walk and keep walking until the sun set.
One of my favorite things to do is meander through Paris without a clear purpose and just see what shows up. I had started my morning in a funky part of the Marais, where art and graffiti were plastered across walls before jumping into the cab. As the desire to see more nature and less people increased, it was time to move towards the water. And so….I asked the driver to stop on the Seine where there were very few people.

The Seine
A couple of hours go by and I’m swept with gratitude as I sat along the Seine on that warm afternoon. I received a message at 5 am that same morning from an acquaintance who had just finished a ten day meditation retreat and I couldn’t help but wonder during those reflective hours if I could do something like that knowing how hard it is to shut my mind down. He had asked me how often I meditated and I began to reflect on what meditation meant to me.
A meditative state for me isn’t necessarily a specific place and time I dedicate to silence and breath but more of a state of being, one which I find hard to do in Silicon Valley, yet can so easily be brought into the moment I leave.
With a SIM card in my phone that gives me the ability to text or call, I purposely put it away deep into the bottom of my purse. Instead of the rings, beeps and web page loading distracting me, I listen to the sounds of Paris amidst the haze of the sky.
Most shops are closed, yet locals and tourists alike buzz past me on roller blades and bikes while boats zip past them making their way under each bridge that crosses the Seine as far as my eye can see.
From there, I figured I would pop into the Pont Neuf metro stop on the 7 line and keep going until some visual or sound suggested I get off – I love days like that when you don’t have to be anywhere else other than towards what moves you in a given moment.
Despite my miles of walking, it still felt like a blissfully lazy day. Paris has a way of making even the most unconscious present, for her sounds, textures, smells and historical colors have a way of weaving you into her storyboard, inviting you to share her glory with everyone you encounter after you leave her soil. While her spell is cast on you, you become conscious of all of ‘her’ grandeur, including the most intricate details. A family rides by on bikes, a bright yellow balloon fixated to the boy’s handlebars, an elderly couple walks their Jack Russell, a blue-eyed blonde blades past me alone followed by a dark handsome 30 something year old with Caribbean features.

A gray haired man in his sixties with a professor-like beard sets up shop nearby and pulls out a mahogany hard bound leather book and while I can’t make out the text, my guess is that he’s reading some Eastern European dialect. My gut says he’s Hungarian.
Yanks walk past me with day packs, a baggy t-shirt hangs loosely over the older man’s overweight middle. A brunette with a fabulous brown leather sachet strolls by ever so pensively.
She stops and then…pauses. As she looks out over the river, she pulls out a notebook and writes something down. Then, she raises her face, glances over at me and gives me a smile before tucking her notebook in a side pocket and moving along on her journey to who knows where. I wonder where for quite awhile until that thought was interrupted by a falling chestnut which landed near my right leg. The fallen chestnut dangled off the lengthy stone stair I had been sitting up against for hours.
As I continue to watch a very eclectic world drift by, an out of breath man and his daughter get off their scooters and begin to walk them along the main path that runs along the river.
A Chinese couple and their children speed by on bikes, the nearly bald teenage son’s hands are off the handlebars, as if a symbol of his new profound freedom half way across the world while on holiday with his obviously wealthy family. A well dressed Italian couple give me a warm smile as they walk up the stairs next to me; the man’s face turns to curiosity as he sees me writing with such purpose and speed.
Of course I’m writing about you I wanted to say with the same curious look and warm smile he gave me, but instead I redirect my attention to the sounds of the scooters and motorbikes in the distance, the taxi cab horns and the oh so familiar sounds that rollerblade wheels make, especially when the bearings are loose. I spot my first graffiti — Buble But glares back at me from across the river, plastered in red on the back of a metal book stall, one of the many set up along the Seine to entice tourists to buy.
Then, I see two lovers embrace and I can tell from their energy that they both chose to be here and that it wasn’t one edging the other on for some redeemable lifetime romantic moment of sorts.
Romantic it was however and they brought me into their world for just a moment. Accents told me that he was European and she was an Aussie and I couldn’t help but wonder if Paris was a meeting place to ignite these two lovers to the next level or if they had been together for years.
I decide to walk to Notre Dame since it is almost in my view. I have been to this remarkable church at least a dozen times and yet I always get a slight skip in my walk when I see her beauty emerge as I make my way around the corner and she stands sprawled before me. All the cafes that line up along the edge of her have become tourist haunts — crepes and coffees are twice the price and it’s more crowded than any of the surrounding streets. Yet, I’m called into sit down at one regardless.

I choose the one on the corner at the very end of the road, mainly because the man making the crepes is so obviously French, which isn’t as common as you’d think in Paris anymore.
So many crepes from local stands are now crispy from being cooked for too long. While I typically go for a savory crepe (mushrooms, ham and onions is my favorite), I opted for an apple sauce and coconut crepe and the 40 something year old charming local who made it for me, nailed it – Yum!!
I left the cafe happily with my decaf cappuccino and my perfectly cooked crepe and proceeded to the bridge where I sat along its edge watching a street performer, three massage therapists taking clients on in small chairs in the middle of the street and a not so funny clown who was attempting to get kids to laugh by holding a bicycle upside down while circus music played in the background. Before I left this crowded part of Paris I know so well, I contributed to the lock bridge, which is always a favorite stop of mine….the romantic in me I guess.

Montreuil Market Heading to Montreuil Market was somewhat depressing after the peace and serenity of Paris’ magical river, the same one that artists have painted to and been inspired by for centuries. I remember visiting the market over a decade ago and then again a decade before that and from my hazy recollection, it’s changed significantly. I seem to remember more antiques, paintings and jewelry, knick knacks and appliances.

Now it appears to be more of an old fashioned flea market, the kind you might find in America’s midwest where trucks come for the day and try to sell cheap clothes and shoes for the widest margin they can get. There were aisles with tires, oil, toothpaste, soap detergent, tea kettles and even Middle Eastern traditional shawls, but for the most part, it was a collection of clothes heaped in piles for those with enough patience to sift through for hours on end.

If you haven’t been however, I suppose its worth stopping by for the mishmash experience. Hours are 7 am to 7:30 pm at night and the market is open two days a week on Sundays and Monday’s. The official address is Avenue du Professeur André Lemierre 75020 Paris. Télephone: 01 48 85 93 30.
The best way to get there is on the Metro Line 9 and the stop is Porte de Montreuil. The market is a short walk up the main drag from the exit to the station.
Latin Quarter
I come across fun jewelry with semi precious stones that an adorable Peruvian is selling. He is standing across from La Boulangerie de Papa, a quaint cute blue salon that also has an outside creperie stand on the corner. It’s a mere block away from the Greek eaterie I had so much fun in four or five years ago on a cold winter’s night. Gyros by the dozen….Moroccans nearby calling me to eat at their restaurant, offering deals and sweet nothings I can’t make sense of.

Onion soup or fish soup, egg, salad and beef, chicken or fish followed by chocolate mousse, ice cream, cheese or fruit for E12 to 17 a head all inclusive and every variation in between although they all sound like the same offer after awhile.
Restaurant after restaurant on Rue de la Huchette, one of the main drags, I find that there are too many offerings to choose one, something I often feel when I’m walking through the Latin Quarter. Then, Le Lac de L’ouest for Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food across from the creperie but I’m not in the mood for Asian food, so I keep walking through her narrow streets.
A sweet creperie stands calls out to me with far too many sugar rich toppings to say yes to, such as chestnut, caramel, chocolate, strawberry, lemon, sugar, butter, honey, Nutella, apricot, banana and coconut, all ranging from 3.50 to around 8 euros.
Then a warm smile outside a restaurant on Rue de Huchette stops me in my tracks and so I indulge. Aperitifs start with Kir Cassis ou Peche, Kir Breton, martinis, tequila, cognac, Calvados, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Rum. I have a small Kir Cassis although he tops up my glass before I can say no thanks to another. For E9.90, you can get Provencale or Cocagne or Complete or Bistrot or Basquaise or Kermaria AND a sweet crepe (various choices) with either cider, coke or apple juice.

Boulevard St. Germaine to Boulevard Des Italiens via Avenue de L’Opera Food stalls outside on the street on Boulevard St. Germaine sprawl in both directions. Viva Espana Bodaga grabs my attention with scrumptious looking Spanish food cooking away in large pots.
I sample some ham and then more Spanish food at Monceau Gardens.

I walk into Neo Cafe on 126 Boulevard St. Germaine to make sure my directions are in sync as I begin to realize I’m much further away from my hotel than I had thought.
Florian directs me in a deep dark and sexy voice, one that suggests there’s a wink along with it even when there’s not. Within a block or so from this quaint little cafe, I stumble upon another one called Tennessee Cafe, which isn’t quite as quaint and it seems like it caters to yanks with its burgers and English menus. What is adjacent to Tennessee Cafe however grabs my eye.
There’s a little passage called Passage de St. Andre, which is a narrow pedestrian cobblestone street that runs alongside the cafe. It looks historical and authentic in every way but it’s hard to tell in Paris where everything is ten times older than even the oldest American city.
Cafes, bars and restaurants are strung along the left as you make your way down the cute pedestrian passage. I decide to have a drink at one of the cafes but need to move around a homeless person on his cell phone in the glass entryway to Thomas Travel to do so.
There’s another homeless person along Boulevard Des Italiens who has a giant stuffed tan colored Snoopy sitting near him as he lay tucked up in his sleeping bag. I spot the elderly man perched up against a giant iron box on the same boulevard.
He had set up a fishing pole that dangled a cup from some fast food chain and while it slowly moved to the wind, he occasionally yelped into the dark streets. Then the giant life-sized chocolate lion in one of the windows along Boulevard St. Germaine and a giant pink elephant.

Then, a cafe calls my name. Here I stop and have a cappuccino while I watch people waltz by for the next hour or so.
The Canals
In the spring, summer and fall, a great place to hang out is on the banks of Canal Saint-Martin. People lounge here, picnic here, play music here and hold hands. On Sundays, two streets running parallel to the canal, Quai de Valmy and Quai de Jemmapes, are reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.
The Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood is nestled between Gare du Nord and Republique in Northeastern Paris, in the 10th arrondissement. The main streets around the canal include Quai de Valmy, Quai de Jemmapes, Rue Beaurepaire and Rue Bichat and I’d recommend walking down all of them. It’s a charming part of Paris not to be missed.

Other areas I love to wander through and try to each and every trip I make to Paris, include the Marais near St. Paul, Bastille and Luxembourg Gardens.
Be sure to check out our Paris section for great shopping tips, restaurant finds, and other reflective pieces like this one. There’s also lodging & top hotels in France, and top hotels in Paris as well as general content on France. (travel to France).    

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Meet the 2014 Travel & Leisure Smitty Award Winners

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

This year’s Travel + Leisure Smitty Awards recently announced their winners for 2014, an Awards Program which recognizes the companies in the travel and tourism industry showcasing the best and most innovative uses of social media.
I am proud to announce that I was a judge this year, together with Skift’s Jason Clampet, Twitter’s Mike De Jesus, Gogobot’s Travis Katz, BuzzFeed’s Ashley Perez, travel photographer Cole Rise, NBC Today Show’s Al Roker, Google’s Rob Torres and travel social media strategist Ann Tran. We reviewed hundreds of submissions and named winners and runners-up in 30 categories.
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts took home the most awards with four wins and Virgin Atlantic and The Hertz Corporation received two wins in two categories each. The winners and their campaigns can be seen on travelandleisure.com/smittys, with additional information available by searching #TLSMITTY on social media. The SMITTY Awards is also featured in the Travel + Leisure July 2014 issue which went on stands in mid-June. To celebrate the SMITTY Awards, Travel + Leisure hosted an event on July 9, 2014 at the Refinery Hotel rooftop in Manhattan. Below are a handful of fun shots I took at the event.

Travel + Leisure’s Editor-in-Chief, Nancy Novogrod, Renee Blodgett, and Rich Beattie, Travel + Leisure’s Executive Digital Editor

Above, Four Seasons’ Laura Fairweather
 

Above, Tadashi Matsushita from ANA (All Nippon Airways), Renee Blodgett and Athanasios “Tommy” Sikolas of ANA (All Nippon Airways)
 

Above, Rich Beattie

Above and below, kudos to the Hyatt team & a few others 🙂

Above, Travel + Leisure reps from social media, digital and design!

Above, Ruth Moran (left) from Tourism Ireland even made a showing 🙂
Below are the Winners:
Best Use of Twitter: Virgin Atlantic; Runner-Up: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company Best Use of Pinterest: VisitBritain; Runner-Up: Explore Georgia Best Use of Instagram: Tahiti Tourisme North America Best Use of Facebook: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Best Use of Tumblr: VisitSweden; Runner-Up: Sofitel Luxury Hotels Best Chat/Hangout: Residence Inn by Marriott Best Long-Form Video: Virgin American; WestJet (tie) Best Use of Foursquare or Other Location-Based Services: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Hilton Hotels & Resorts; The Hertz Corporation (tie) Best App or Technology: Roaming Hunger; Runner-Up: Oberoi, Mumbai Best Blog: Butterfield & Robinson; GrandLife Hotels (tie) Best Use of Social Media for Public Service: Montage Hotels & Resorts; Runner-Up: Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Best Contest/Giveaway: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel; Runner-Up: South African Tourism Best Use of and Emerging Platform: Iceland Travel; Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts (tie) Best Customer Service: Hyatt Hotels & Resorts; Runner-Up: Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau Best Use of Social Media: Independent Travel Journalist/Blogger: Amateur Traveler Best Use of Social Media: Independent Travel Photo Journalist/Videographer: Bohemian Trails; Runner-Up: Let’s Get Lost
Best Overall Use of Social Media:
Airline: Virgin Atlantic; Runner-Up: All Nippon Airways Airport: Singapore Changi Airport; Runner-Up: San Francisco International Airport Attraction: Vail Resorts; Runner-Up: Rocky Mountaineer Car Rental Agency: The Hertz Corporation Cruise Line: Princess Cruises; Runner-Up: MSC Cruises USA Tourism Board/DMO/Marketing Association: Pure Michigan; Runner-Up: Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board Global Hotel or Resort Chain: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Runner-Up: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Individual Hotel or Resort, U.S.: Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel Individual Hotel or Resort, Global: The Westin Bund Center, Shanghai; Runner-Up: Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel Outfitter: Big 5 Tours & Expeditions; Runner-Up: G Adventures Travel Agency/OTA: Expedia Travel Resource: Fathom; Peek (tie) Restaurant/Food Truck/Market: Sam’s Chowder House Non-Travel-Industry Company: Cubavera/Perry Ellis
 
The Travel + Leisure SMITTY Awards 2014 Jury

Renee Blodgett, Founder and Editor, We Blog the World; CEO, Magic Sauce Media
Jason Clampet, Co-Founder and Head of Content, Skift
Mike De Jesus, Head of Travel and Tourism, Twitter
Travis Katz, Co-Founder and CEO, Gogobot
Ashley Perez, Senior Editor, BuzzFeed
Cole Rise, Travel Photographer
Al Roker, Co-Host and Weatherman, NBC’s TODAY Show
Rob Torres, Managing Director of Travel, Google
Ann Tran, Travel Social-Marketing Strategist

Below is a very short video snippet shot at the event of Rich Beattie congratulating winners and giving kudos to his team. They did an incredible job pulling together yet another year’s Awards event. Kudos to Rich and his team!

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

The Paris That I Never Seem to Tire Of…

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

I’m in a taxi whizzing down Boulevard de Magenta, one of those wider than normal Parisian streets. There are cheap shops where you can buy mobile phones, bags and wedding dresses in the windows on both sides and you wonder what surprise will come around the next corner.
We pass a sign for a Bach concert at one of the music halls, somewhere around Place de Clichy. My driver hangs a right on Rue de Rocroy and the street gets narrower. Small shops, a coiffure Mixte, a few not so stellar looking 2 star hotels, a cafe brasserie and tabac on every corner, a nail salon and a few optique stores for glasses. In my rear view mirror, I see travel agent and pharmacy signs as we weave in and out of even more narrow alleys and roads.

The meter is escalating and I can’t help but think of the sign that had prefix prices for certain districts of the city. He is miserable and not worth the fight despite his fabulous taste in classical music which he has blaring from some device in the front seat I can’t see. Salt and pepper, a sharp nose, no smile. He refuses to smile in fact and he hates that I am paying by credit card.
It was the first Sunday of the month and the sky was hazy but the day was warm, a rarity on Paris visits. I originally had plans to get out of Paris for the day with a friend, take in some gardens and have a picnic in a park however after the plans fell through, I changed course and decided after a taxi towards a more remote spot on the Seine, I would begin to walk and keep walking until the sun set.
One of my favorite things to do is meander through Paris without a clear purpose and just see what shows up. I had started my morning in a funky part of the Marais, where art and graffiti were plastered across walls before jumping into the cab. As the desire to see more nature and less people increased, it was time to move towards the water. And so….I asked the driver to stop on the Seine where there were very few people.

The Seine
A couple of hours go by and I’m swept with gratitude as I sat along the Seine on that warm afternoon. I received a message at 5 am that same morning from an acquaintance who had just finished a ten day meditation retreat and I couldn’t help but wonder during those reflective hours if I could do something like that knowing how hard it is to shut my mind down. He had asked me how often I meditated and I began to reflect on what meditation meant to me.
A meditative state for me isn’t necessarily a specific place and time I dedicate to silence and breath but more of a state of being, one which I find hard to do in Silicon Valley, yet can so easily be brought into the moment I leave.
With a SIM card in my phone that gives me the ability to text or call, I purposely put it away deep into the bottom of my purse. Instead of the rings, beeps and web page loading distracting me, I listen to the sounds of Paris amidst the haze of the sky.
Most shops are closed, yet locals and tourists alike buzz past me on roller blades and bikes while boats zip past them making their way under each bridge that crosses the Seine as far as my eye can see.
From there, I figured I would pop into the Pont Neuf metro stop on the 7 line and keep going until some visual or sound suggested I get off – I love days like that when you don’t have to be anywhere else other than towards what moves you in a given moment.
Despite my miles of walking, it still felt like a blissfully lazy day. Paris has a way of making even the most unconscious present, for her sounds, textures, smells and historical colors have a way of weaving you into her storyboard, inviting you to share her glory with everyone you encounter after you leave her soil. While her spell is cast on you, you become conscious of all of ‘her’ grandeur, including the most intricate details. A family rides by on bikes, a bright yellow balloon fixated to the boy’s handlebars, an elderly couple walks their Jack Russell, a blue-eyed blonde blades past me alone followed by a dark handsome 30 something year old with Caribbean features.

A gray haired man in his sixties with a professor-like beard sets up shop nearby and pulls out a mahogany hard bound leather book and while I can’t make out the text, my guess is that he’s reading some Eastern European dialect. My gut says he’s Hungarian.
Yanks walk past me with day packs, a baggy t-shirt hangs loosely over the older man’s overweight middle. A brunette with a fabulous brown leather sachet strolls by ever so pensively.
She stops and then…pauses. As she looks out over the river, she pulls out a notebook and writes something down. Then, she raises her face, glances over at me and gives me a smile before tucking her notebook in a side pocket and moving along on her journey to who knows where. I wonder where for quite awhile until that thought was interrupted by a falling chestnut which landed near my right leg. The fallen chestnut dangled off the lengthy stone stair I had been sitting up against for hours.
As I continue to watch a very eclectic world drift by, an out of breath man and his daughter get off their scooters and begin to walk them along the main path that runs along the river.
A Chinese couple and their children speed by on bikes, the nearly bald teenage son’s hands are off the handlebars, as if a symbol of his new profound freedom half way across the world while on holiday with his obviously wealthy family. A well dressed Italian couple give me a warm smile as they walk up the stairs next to me; the man’s face turns to curiosity as he sees me writing with such purpose and speed.
Of course I’m writing about you I wanted to say with the same curious look and warm smile he gave me, but instead I redirect my attention to the sounds of the scooters and motorbikes in the distance, the taxi cab horns and the oh so familiar sounds that rollerblade wheels make, especially when the bearings are loose. I spot my first graffiti — Buble But glares back at me from across the river, plastered in red on the back of a metal book stall, one of the many set up along the Seine to entice tourists to buy.
Then, I see two lovers embrace and I can tell from their energy that they both chose to be here and that it wasn’t one edging the other on for some redeemable lifetime romantic moment of sorts.
Romantic it was however and they brought me into their world for just a moment. Accents told me that he was European and she was an Aussie and I couldn’t help but wonder if Paris was a meeting place to ignite these two lovers to the next level or if they had been together for years.
I decide to walk to Notre Dame since it is almost in my view. I have been to this remarkable church at least a dozen times and yet I always get a slight skip in my walk when I see her beauty emerge as I make my way around the corner and she stands sprawled before me. All the cafes that line up along the edge of her have become tourist haunts — crepes and coffees are twice the price and it’s more crowded than any of the surrounding streets. Yet, I’m called into sit down at one regardless.

I choose the one on the corner at the very end of the road, mainly because the man making the crepes is so obviously French, which isn’t as common as you’d think in Paris anymore.
So many crepes from local stands are now crispy from being cooked for too long. While I typically go for a savory crepe (mushrooms, ham and onions is my favorite), I opted for an apple sauce and coconut crepe and the 40 something year old charming local who made it for me, nailed it – Yum!!
I left the cafe happily with my decaf cappuccino and my perfectly cooked crepe and proceeded to the bridge where I sat along its edge watching a street performer, three massage therapists taking clients on in small chairs in the middle of the street and a not so funny clown who was attempting to get kids to laugh by holding a bicycle upside down while circus music played in the background. Before I left this crowded part of Paris I know so well, I contributed to the lock bridge, which is always a favorite stop of mine….the romantic in me I guess.

Montreuil Market Heading to Montreuil Market was somewhat depressing after the peace and serenity of Paris’ magical river, the same one that artists have painted to and been inspired by for centuries. I remember visiting the market over a decade ago and then again a decade before that and from my hazy recollection, it’s changed significantly. I seem to remember more antiques, paintings and jewelry, knick knacks and appliances.

Now it appears to be more of an old fashioned flea market, the kind you might find in America’s midwest where trucks come for the day and try to sell cheap clothes and shoes for the widest margin they can get. There were aisles with tires, oil, toothpaste, soap detergent, tea kettles and even Middle Eastern traditional shawls, but for the most part, it was a collection of clothes heaped in piles for those with enough patience to sift through for hours on end.

If you haven’t been however, I suppose its worth stopping by for the mishmash experience. Hours are 7 am to 7:30 pm at night and the market is open two days a week on Sundays and Monday’s. The official address is Avenue du Professeur André Lemierre 75020 Paris. Télephone: 01 48 85 93 30.
The best way to get there is on the Metro Line 9 and the stop is Porte de Montreuil. The market is a short walk up the main drag from the exit to the station.
Latin Quarter
I come across fun jewelry with semi precious stones that an adorable Peruvian is selling. He is standing across from La Boulangerie de Papa, a quaint cute blue salon that also has an outside creperie stand on the corner. It’s a mere block away from the Greek eaterie I had so much fun in four or five years ago on a cold winter’s night. Gyros by the dozen….Moroccans nearby calling me to eat at their restaurant, offering deals and sweet nothings I can’t make sense of.

Onion soup or fish soup, egg, salad and beef, chicken or fish followed by chocolate mousse, ice cream, cheese or fruit for E12 to 17 a head all inclusive and every variation in between although they all sound like the same offer after awhile.
Restaurant after restaurant on Rue de la Huchette, one of the main drags, I find that there are too many offerings to choose one, something I often feel when I’m walking through the Latin Quarter. Then, Le Lac de L’ouest for Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food across from the creperie but I’m not in the mood for Asian food, so I keep walking through her narrow streets.
A sweet creperie stands calls out to me with far too many sugar rich toppings to say yes to, such as chestnut, caramel, chocolate, strawberry, lemon, sugar, butter, honey, Nutella, apricot, banana and coconut, all ranging from 3.50 to around 8 euros.
Then a warm smile outside a restaurant on Rue de Huchette stops me in my tracks and so I indulge. Aperitifs start with Kir Cassis ou Peche, Kir Breton, martinis, tequila, cognac, Calvados, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Rum. I have a small Kir Cassis although he tops up my glass before I can say no thanks to another. For E9.90, you can get Provencale or Cocagne or Complete or Bistrot or Basquaise or Kermaria AND a sweet crepe (various choices) with either cider, coke or apple juice.

Boulevard St. Germaine to Boulevard Des Italiens via Avenue de L’Opera Food stalls outside on the street on Boulevard St. Germaine sprawl in both directions. Viva Espana Bodaga grabs my attention with scrumptious looking Spanish food cooking away in large pots.
I sample some ham and then more Spanish food at Monceau Gardens.

I walk into Neo Cafe on 126 Boulevard St. Germaine to make sure my directions are in sync as I begin to realize I’m much further away from my hotel than I had thought.
Florian directs me in a deep dark and sexy voice, one that suggests there’s a wink along with it even when there’s not. Within a block or so from this quaint little cafe, I stumble upon another one called Tennessee Cafe, which isn’t quite as quaint and it seems like it caters to yanks with its burgers and English menus. What is adjacent to Tennessee Cafe however grabs my eye.
There’s a little passage called Passage de St. Andre, which is a narrow pedestrian cobblestone street that runs alongside the cafe. It looks historical and authentic in every way but it’s hard to tell in Paris where everything is ten times older than even the oldest American city.
Cafes, bars and restaurants are strung along the left as you make your way down the cute pedestrian passage. I decide to have a drink at one of the cafes but need to move around a homeless person on his cell phone in the glass entryway to Thomas Travel to do so.
There’s another homeless person along Boulevard Des Italiens who has a giant stuffed tan colored Snoopy sitting near him as he lay tucked up in his sleeping bag. I spot the elderly man perched up against a giant iron box on the same boulevard.
He had set up a fishing pole that dangled a cup from some fast food chain and while it slowly moved to the wind, he occasionally yelped into the dark streets. Then the giant life-sized chocolate lion in one of the windows along Boulevard St. Germaine and a giant pink elephant.

Then, a cafe calls my name. Here I stop and have a cappuccino while I watch people waltz by for the next hour or so.
The Canals
In the spring, summer and fall, a great place to hang out is on the banks of Canal Saint-Martin. People lounge here, picnic here, play music here and hold hands. On Sundays, two streets running parallel to the canal, Quai de Valmy and Quai de Jemmapes, are reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.
The Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood is nestled between Gare du Nord and Republique in Northeastern Paris, in the 10th arrondissement. The main streets around the canal include Quai de Valmy, Quai de Jemmapes, Rue Beaurepaire and Rue Bichat and I’d recommend walking down all of them. It’s a charming part of Paris not to be missed.

Other areas I love to wander through and try to each and every trip I make to Paris, include the Marais near St. Paul, Bastille and Luxembourg Gardens.
Be sure to check out our Paris section for great shopping tips, restaurant finds, and other reflective pieces like this one. There’s also lodging & top hotels in France, and top hotels in Paris as well as general content on France. (travel to France).    

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Meet the 2014 Travel & Leisure Smitty Award Winners

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

This year’s Travel + Leisure Smitty Awards recently announced their winners for 2014, an Awards Program which recognizes the companies in the travel and tourism industry showcasing the best and most innovative uses of social media.
I am proud to announce that I was a judge this year, together with Skift’s Jason Clampet, Twitter’s Mike De Jesus, Gogobot’s Travis Katz, BuzzFeed’s Ashley Perez, travel photographer Cole Rise, NBC Today Show’s Al Roker, Google’s Rob Torres and travel social media strategist Ann Tran. We reviewed hundreds of submissions and named winners and runners-up in 30 categories.
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts took home the most awards with four wins and Virgin Atlantic and The Hertz Corporation received two wins in two categories each. The winners and their campaigns can be seen on travelandleisure.com/smittys, with additional information available by searching #TLSMITTY on social media. The SMITTY Awards is also featured in the Travel + Leisure July 2014 issue which went on stands in mid-June. To celebrate the SMITTY Awards, Travel + Leisure hosted an event on July 9, 2014 at the Refinery Hotel rooftop in Manhattan. Below are a handful of fun shots I took at the event.

Travel + Leisure’s Editor-in-Chief, Nancy Novogrod, Renee Blodgett, and Rich Beattie, Travel + Leisure’s Executive Digital Editor

Above, Four Seasons’ Laura Fairweather
 

Above, Tadashi Matsushita from ANA (All Nippon Airways), Renee Blodgett and Athanasios “Tommy” Sikolas of ANA (All Nippon Airways)
 

Above, Rich Beattie

Above and below, kudos to the Hyatt team & a few others 🙂

Above, Travel + Leisure reps from social media, digital and design!

Above, Ruth Moran (left) from Tourism Ireland even made a showing 🙂
Below are the Winners:
Best Use of Twitter: Virgin Atlantic; Runner-Up: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company Best Use of Pinterest: VisitBritain; Runner-Up: Explore Georgia Best Use of Instagram: Tahiti Tourisme North America Best Use of Facebook: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Best Use of Tumblr: VisitSweden; Runner-Up: Sofitel Luxury Hotels Best Chat/Hangout: Residence Inn by Marriott Best Long-Form Video: Virgin American; WestJet (tie) Best Use of Foursquare or Other Location-Based Services: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Hilton Hotels & Resorts; The Hertz Corporation (tie) Best App or Technology: Roaming Hunger; Runner-Up: Oberoi, Mumbai Best Blog: Butterfield & Robinson; GrandLife Hotels (tie) Best Use of Social Media for Public Service: Montage Hotels & Resorts; Runner-Up: Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Best Contest/Giveaway: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel; Runner-Up: South African Tourism Best Use of and Emerging Platform: Iceland Travel; Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts (tie) Best Customer Service: Hyatt Hotels & Resorts; Runner-Up: Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau Best Use of Social Media: Independent Travel Journalist/Blogger: Amateur Traveler Best Use of Social Media: Independent Travel Photo Journalist/Videographer: Bohemian Trails; Runner-Up: Let’s Get Lost
Best Overall Use of Social Media:
Airline: Virgin Atlantic; Runner-Up: All Nippon Airways Airport: Singapore Changi Airport; Runner-Up: San Francisco International Airport Attraction: Vail Resorts; Runner-Up: Rocky Mountaineer Car Rental Agency: The Hertz Corporation Cruise Line: Princess Cruises; Runner-Up: MSC Cruises USA Tourism Board/DMO/Marketing Association: Pure Michigan; Runner-Up: Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board Global Hotel or Resort Chain: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Runner-Up: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Individual Hotel or Resort, U.S.: Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel Individual Hotel or Resort, Global: The Westin Bund Center, Shanghai; Runner-Up: Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel Outfitter: Big 5 Tours & Expeditions; Runner-Up: G Adventures Travel Agency/OTA: Expedia Travel Resource: Fathom; Peek (tie) Restaurant/Food Truck/Market: Sam’s Chowder House Non-Travel-Industry Company: Cubavera/Perry Ellis
 
The Travel + Leisure SMITTY Awards 2014 Jury

Renee Blodgett, Founder and Editor, We Blog the World; CEO, Magic Sauce Media
Jason Clampet, Co-Founder and Head of Content, Skift
Mike De Jesus, Head of Travel and Tourism, Twitter
Travis Katz, Co-Founder and CEO, Gogobot
Ashley Perez, Senior Editor, BuzzFeed
Cole Rise, Travel Photographer
Al Roker, Co-Host and Weatherman, NBC’s TODAY Show
Rob Torres, Managing Director of Travel, Google
Ann Tran, Travel Social-Marketing Strategist

Below is a very short video snippet shot at the event of Rich Beattie congratulating winners and giving kudos to his team. They did an incredible job pulling together yet another year’s Awards event. Kudos to Rich and his team!

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

Surf Summit, Where Technology, Entrepreneurism & Surfing Meet

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

Imagine a conference that combines surfing, technology and entrepreneurship on Ireland’s magical wild coast. A subset if you will of Dublin’s Web Summit, the first ever held Surf Summit brought 200 attendees to the west coast of Ireland to join in discussions, surfing and other adventurous and cultural activities.

When I told people I was going to an event where they planned to surf in Ireland’s coastal waters in the middle of November, they looked at me as if I was a bit mad, unless of course they happened to be Canadian or from a Nordic or Celtic country.
You see, the Scots, the Welsh, the English, the Scandinavians and the Canadians thought this sounded perfectly normal, for when you come from a country where it is cold and rainy, you need to have a “can-do” attitude regardless of the climate or you simply won’t experience anything at all. I learned this from living in England many moons ago and it has made me a lot more resilient because of it.

Iceland is another great example of where their personal and cultural life infiltrates into their business life in a positive way and adds to the entrepreneurial spirit, rather than detracts from it. I was born into water — in other words, I grew up on lakes, was thrown into one before I could walk and was waterskiing by 5.
None of that quite prepares you for the cold waters of the Atlantic, however the enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs at the Summit made it easier to embrace it all. Below is a beginner lesson on the shores of Keel Beach on Achill Island which is part of West Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
 

Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of West Ireland. The island is a magical place where the light seems to bless the Irish coast regardless of whether its foggy, cloudy, raining or clear blue skies and sunny, a rarity, especially in November. That said, we had our moments.

Other adventurous activities took place as well such as zorbing, rope climbing, zip lining, and archery thanks to the guys at Wild Atlantic Way Adventure Tours.

I had oddly never heard of zorbing and when they told me it involved getting thrown into a massive inflatable ball and being thrown vigorously down a hill, I was thankful I was on the archery team. That said, when I walked past the ball on my way to Archery, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized, so much so that I looked at Jenni, the Finnish girl I was hanging with at the time and said, “let’s do this.”
Next thing you know, we were inside a massive inflatable ball, strapped in on all sides and yes, thrown down the hill. Needless to say, it was a blast and our screams surpassed all the others we were told.

I decided to go ziplining as well, since I’ve always loved the sport. While it may not have been as invigorating as the times I flew through the jungles of Costa Rica, Ecuador or Hawaii, it was fun nevertheless.

Below, people threw themselves towards a target hanging from a tree, with both themselves and the target connected to ropes.
 

Archery wasn’t quite like I had learned it as a child at summer camp in the Adirondacks of upstate New York.

Instead, there were two teams and rather than shoot an arrow into a target (speaking of targets, check out my most recent encounter with guns in Kentucky), you shot rubber objects into the opposing team.
I felt as if I had signed up for a history lesson on what it was like for the Scots to win a war before there was ammunition. Only in a Celtic Land I was thinking to myself throughout the entire process, but with a smile on my face.

Speaking of Celtic Lands, it wouldn’t be a conference in Ireland if it didn’t have plenty of beer and pub culture.
On the main drag of Westport lies a few renowned pubs my old friend Peter told me about, which is worth having a pint or two if you make it to Westport.
Enter McGings on High Street and Matt Malloys on Bridge Street, both popular favorites among locals. Matt Malloys is known for its live traditional Irish music and Matt has purposely kept the pub small, so that they can congregate – as they do, from all 32 counties – to enjoy a pint and a tune.

At the evening sessions of the event, they served Guinness on tap which is always a treat, since regardless of whether you only like Guinness or love it (I’m in the last category), it always tastes better in Ireland.
Ask anyone who has been to Ireland and is a regular Guinness drinker and they’d have to agree. In the midst of all of these physical activities which we never seem to incorporate into our more stationary tech events in the states, was a series of talks over meals.
We heard from John Huikku who has done everything from lighting and compositing, to 3D matte painting, environments and look development. He spent 15 years working at Disney and worked on Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in New Zealand of all places. Edgars Rozenthals talked about drones, Airdog and Kickstarter, Andrew Cotton talked about surfing but also big ideas and equating his daredevil life riding the waves (such as him tackling the surf created by the St. Jude’s  Storm in Portugal recently), to taking risks and chances in business and life in general.
While you may only think risk behavior on waves that could kill if you hit them wrong may only be a male choice, think again! Anastasia Ashley, who was drawn to the ocean as early as she can remember, was body boarding by age 4 and surfing by age 6. 
She has since become a prodigy and has won over 200 amateur events, including the NSSA National championships at age 16, before she turned professional full time.

She loves the immediacy of digital media for reaching fans. She says, “I could be shooting something for a brand or a magazine and it can be up within a few days” which is a great way to deepen the engagement.
She adds, “when you’re in the media, you read everything about yourself,” but has learned to love it all — the good interactions and the bad.

When you’re a celeb female surfer and do a twerking video, you shouldn’t be surprised when it suddenly goes viral and gets 7 million views.
While there are lots of positive sides to what she has accomplished, she acknowledged that “females in any sport get the short end of the stick,” referring to men who still tell her she doesn’t deserve her fame and notoriety.” Jimmy Gopperth and Jonny Golding talked about what you can take from rugby and apply to business, of which trust and teamwork were his top two.
Decision making was another biggie, particularly making decisions under pressure, which happens as much on the field as it does in and out of the board room. Niall Harbison encouraged people to take risks. Being a true entrepreneur says Niall, means that you can’t be afraid to fail. 
Other tips to entrepreneurs included banging the door down no matter how hard it seems, not taking no for an answer, having incredible focus on your main goal, instilling amazing culture into your business and thinking globally beyond your own geographic borders.
He has high ambitions for both PR Slides, which recently raised €500,000 in funding, and Lovin’ Dublin. The latter sells Dublin as a hipster paradise somewhere between London, New York and Berlin, but it has been accused of loving Dublin and not Dubliners.  
He said that he learned a lot going through this process, including that even if you hear people on the street using words like ‘knacker’ and ‘junkie’, it doesn’t mean you should write it. Below, the film panel…

We also heard from Ireland’s prime minister Edna Kenny who talked about a very proud Mayo county.

He stuck around for awhile to chat with entrepreneurs, take photos and share what he does well – storytelling with a dry and charming sense of humor.

Below is a snippet from his talk.

And, of course, there was traditional Irish music wherever we turned — from the classic pubs in downtown Westport and nearby villages to our evening sessions at the Hotel Westport, which is known for hosting conferences and events.

Below is a snippet from their playing.

What was so unique and special about Surf Summit was its intimacy and its location, which almost has spiritual qualities.  The nature, the air, the skies, the rainbows, the breeze, the sand, the long dry grass – all of it was magical!

Combine that with a couple of days of fascinating conversations about start-ups and entrepreneurship with founders from nearly every continent, and apps and products that cross a myriad of industries, from gaming, drones, digital entertainment and mobile social apps, to luxury, lifestyle, healthcare, travel, transportation and insurance, it was all there.
Ultimately, smaller and carefully targeted and curated events are going to win as we see a proliferation of tech events in the same on-stage session formats with crowds too large to make sense anymore.
I think choosing an out of the way location is also a great idea, since it shows commitment on those who sign up — and its not easy to leave, encouraging intimate talks and connections during the days and evenings.
And, in this case, I got to see a little bit of West Ireland, which was as beautiful and special as I thought it would be. Bravo Achill Island, Wesport, Wild Atlantic Way and Mayo County!
All photo credits: Renee Blodgett, except for Malloy’s pub, which is from their website.
Both video credits: Renee Blodgett. OTHER GREAT RELATED POSTS TO READ: See our other posts on Ireland, Food & Wine in Ireland (including Dublin restaurant reviews), Web Summit 2014, the Top Travel Apps from Web Summit this year and Ireland tech events and top Ireland festivals.

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

GlazedCon & Wearable World Expo Come to London This Fall

by on June 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

I’ve attended a few GlazedCon events now and find them to be incredibly useful from both a content and networking perspective. They are specifically focused on an area that is exploding and isn’t going to slow down anytime soon: Wearables.

We’re proud to be a media partner again and this time, GlazedCon is expanding to London on October 22, 2014, where they’ll gather together Wearable and IoT executives, along with other top tech thought-leaders to debate the real business opportunities for the hottest emerging tech ecosystem. 
The event is instrumental for key executives, startups, media, mobile warriers and investors. In conjunction with GlazedCon London, they will be holding the first annual Wearable World Expo where over 50 of the hottest Wearable Tech companies will showcase products so cool you’ll actually want to leave with them….or at least let the world know about them!
We have a special 30% discount code for those interested in attending below:
Discount Code: 30% off tickets glazed_weblogtheworld
Eventbrite: www.glazedlondon2014.eventbrite.com  

(From an original article by Renee Blodgett)
 

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