At the Reading Odyssey the goal is to use the simplest technology to engage adults in playing with the greatest ideas of humanity. We don’t get excited about technology for technology sake.
We use Twitter, Facebook, blogs (obviously), websites, webcasts, Citrix Online’s HiDefConferencing and Citrix Online’s GoToWebinar, Campaign Monitor and others tools and technologies in the service of our reading groups, phone and web lectures, conferences, Slow Art events and online campaigns.
We have been watching the development of a new Google product, Google Wave, since last May. It is hard to overstate the level of chatter and expectation (and hype) about this new Google product.
Google Wave seems quite complex. According to even TechCrunch, a major source of the Google Wave hype, “Wave is much more complicated than Twitter, and that could well be a downside.”
Charlie Munger, one of the Reading Odyssey’s Accidental Advisors (meaning he doesn’t know he’s advising us) suggests setting filters for vetting new ideas. We have filters for the books we read. We read works by the likes of Aristotle, Darwin, Homer and Shakespeare. Our criteria for book selection is simple: the book has to have been vetted by many people over many years. In some cases, that means thousands of years and in other cases hundreds or tens. Does that mean that a few good things do not come to our attention? Yes. But, we find that the really good stuff has a way of eventually making it through. Munger himself admits that using filters means that once-in-a-while something good is blocked. But, he says – and we agree – it’s well worth the benefit of blocking the 99% that would waste our time.
We apply filters not just to the books we read but also to the new technologies we consider employing. Our filter for using new technology for the Reading Odyssey combines the following criteria:
1. The new technology meets a significant unmet need for consumer/end-user
2. It gains high marks in ease-of-use and good design
3. Wide consumer adoption (we need to know that all of our readers use it).
The phone, for example, is one of the technologies we use the most. Our phone-based reading groups work really well. That technology meets all three criteria above – obviously.
Facebook, which does not get high marks for usability and design, has, however, gained huge acceptance. So, sometimes if one or more criteria are met in an overwhelming way, then that means that technology *may* pass our filter. Facebook is so big and has gained such wide acceptance that it has proven great for reaching much larger audiences than any other avenue. And it indeed has been quite useful – we run the 250,000+ member Darwin campaign there.
We have just recently added webcasts because that technology (and the proliferation of high-speed Internet) has finally made it possible to run a decent webcast without significant consumer pain.
As for Google Wave, it’s not clear that it meets a real need. And it certainly does not gain high marks for usability and design. And wide acceptance may or not come with time.
So we’ll wait.