Feb 192010

Earlier this month I submitted my topic, “Hamming it up!”, to the Ignite Detroit organizers, knowing amateur radio was what I was going to talk about, but not a clue on how. With the support of many people I was selected, along with 15 others, to present my topic on February 25th. I am humbled by being given the opportunity to introduce over 200 people to Amateur Radio, and the process of developing my presentation has made me aware of perspectives I would not have otherwise encountered.

As a geek all my life, predisposed by my father and grandfather’s love of electronics and computers, I have analyzed and perceived just about every aspect of my human experience a little differently. While my wife may sometimes get annoyed, I have an uncontrollable urge to point out snafus in television shows, rather than pay attention to the actual character dialog. It’s something subconscious, something I have long given up trying to fight, and instead welcome with open arms.

Perhaps that’s why Amateur Radio, and technology in general, has appealed to me. The people, groups, and organizations that surround these interests are made up of those who see things differently. To me, these are people who see technology as a putty or clay from which they can build their own imagination into reality. If there is one single thing that I’ve learned from fellow amateurs, and the communities they make up, it’s never fearing to ask, “Why not?” The methods and ingenuity hams typically show in an effort to see their ideas realized are nothing short of amazing and awe inspiring.

The chance to share this passion and insight to the rest of the world, at least as I saw it, forced the pride within me to jump and scream, never relenting until I finally hit the ‘submit’ button. I’m pretty sure that same pride had a mild stroke when I received the email that my topic has been chosen.

When I sat down to put together my 20 slides, I initially wanted to inform the audience about why they should get involved. That urgency to bring new people into the hobby is something felt by most anyone passionate about what they love to do on their spare time. If I had gone that route, no doubt it would have sounded like an elevator pitch that was 4 minutes and 45 seconds too long. Lucky for me I suppose that I didn’t know how to start my ‘pitch’. Eventually I took a break, watched some TED presentations, and thought about how I would feel if someone was presenting a pitch about television character dialog.

One of the greatest abilities that humans have is self-discussion. You can call it self-reflection if you’d like a less psychotic sounding term, but really, who doesn’t talk to themselves in their head? We know exactly what does not interest us, and we know why. It could be due to something else present, winning our attention, or an aspect of what we’re perceiving as negative, or something else entirely. But there’s always a reason, and the human mind was built to reason.

In a world where we are continually fed more and more information, our ability to retain attention and interest has decreased drastically. When you add the fact that people are now more than ever capable of accessing specifically sought information, introducing something new to someone has never been a greater challenge. Perhaps that’s why you’re seeing a growing emergence of people rebelling against this constant barrage of typed information. The number of people actively seeking new and foreign information is expanding, as evidenced by TED, TEDx, Ignite, and other conferences.

And that was it.

I didn’t need to ‘pitch’ my audience. I didn’t need to sell them on my hobby or passion. I didn’t need to tell them why they should associate any subjective adjective to what I love. If there is one thing the social media scene here in Detroit has taught me, it’s that smart people are never disinterested in something, they’re simply interested in something else. They crave new and creative ideas so they can better reflect upon and modify their own perspectives. It’s the same fundamental that drives radio amateurs to bounce their signal off the moon, or ‘foxhunt’ rogue radio signals, or play with radio waves 100 times the frequency of your wireless router. It’s the same fundamental that drives people to innovate and invent; to embrace a certain level of chaos to see new order. Simply put, that which we already know is boring, and I’ve yet to meet a boring person at a tweetup or conference.

From that point on, the hardest part about developing my presentation was finding the pictures to convey various aspects of the hobby, even those that I don’t have an interest in…yet. I hope those in attendance learn something new, whether it’s about amateur radio, themselves, or something completely unrelated. I suppose I’d even be happy with the notion you’ve just discovered that the person in front of you has a crinkle in his left ear that’s not in his right. I simply ask that you reflect on why that’s interesting and learn something new about yourself, because in the end that’s what this is really all about.