At a recent Web 2.0 conference in New York, Clay Shirky makes an interesting case about how we have lived in a world of information overload since the Gutenburg printing press. He argues it is not about the surplus of information, which we have always had, but the filters we use to adapt to the environment.

For me, the effect is the same. We are bedazzled by all the data. Where we put our attention is important. And it is all based on choice.

Have a look and tell me what you think!


Email’s Demise

October 14, 2009

Oh goody. Email is going the way of the IBM typewriter. It has long been overdue. After all, aren’t you just so yesterday in the world of gotta-have-it-now? I mean you’ve been around for over two decades. Email, it’s time for you to go.

Jessica Vascellaro of the Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting piece about the demise of Email’s significance in our lives. Why wait for an Email response when you can, say, instant message someone? I mean even the word is sexy. Instant messaging! You get your answer now versus having to wait a full hour for someone to offer up a thoughtful reply.


instant messagingAnd then there is Facebook and Twitter ~ two spheres in which you can shout into the cave and hope to hear your echo, if not a solid response from a few of your buddies. People can read it, if they feel like. Because, according to Jessica, why bother your close network with an Email not addressed directly to them? If you’re going to blanket the universe with your news, then by all means, do it publicly.

I love Facebook and Twitter and all those lovely platforms designed for broadcasting specific information. They truly are useful, and I use them often. But they are much more public and generic in nature than an Email ever could be. Sure, you’ve got your Email blasts, but they are more targeted and direct than spewing out data to a network that might not even be paying attention.

I’m not sure where this conversation is leading us. It doesn’t appear to be in the name of productivity that we rejoice over the instantaneous nature of such communication platforms. We are merely thrilled that it doesn’t take as long, never mind if the actual quality of the communication dwindles by a few bytes.

And here’s where I sound like an old person. Because the Guardian already claimed way back in 2007 that the Digital Generation says Email is for old people.

Instant messaging is great in some cases such as when you truly need an answer, you live abroad (like I do) and you have no other way of getting in touch with the person. On the other hand, it can also be severely annoying because you are obliged to react in a way you need not when crafting an Email response. It is highly distracting when someone pops into your universe unannounced just to chat. It is obvious when your computer is on and you are at it that you are actually doing something else. Don’t make me tell you I don’t multitask, people. You know what Stanford University found out about that topic. It’s not good for you. In fact, it might make you a wee bit dim.

As far as I know,  instant messaging is celebrating its 45th birthday this year. That’s right. It predates the Internet. You better watch out or you too may go the way of the e-Mail-o-saur, Mr. In an Instant Communiqué. Meanwhile, I’ll shuffle slowly back to my desktop Email to see what I missed while putting my full attention right here. 🙂

First off, let us take a moment to say thank you to the plucky Spaniard who set sail to discover the Orient, only to find America. Christopher Columbus, we express our deepest gratitude to your noblest cause and appreciate the error of your compass. You see, making mistakes end up teaching us things. Even though your statute at the harbor in Barcelona has you pointing to the Mediterranean (and most likely, woefully wishing you really had gone East instead of West), you are a star in our eyes.

Barcelona 2009 081Ole Chris took a faith journey into unknown waters. With only his inner strength and navigation prowess, he set off to change the world with his exploration. And he did.

Whether we realize it or not, we are all on some type of faith journey. For some, it comes in the form of exploration. For others, it shows itself as creative inquiry. Jennifer Haupt, a marvelous cyber-buddy/writer friend of mine whose resumé humbles me beyond measure, generously offered to interview me about the power of slow for her blog, My Faith Project. She calls faith the master key to access a meaningful life. She went to Rwanda, for instance, on a leap of faith. She writes:

Faith gives us hope; it’s the knowing that there is something more than what we see in the mirror.

I’m going to New York (not quite as exotic, but equally exciting) to introduce The Power of Slow in just over a week, and I’m tucking some of that faith into my toolkit because, like Columbus, you never know where it will lead you. 

May we unlock the treasures of existence together.

Once upon a Null Meridian

October 11, 2009

Ask any transmeridian worker such as an airline pilot, and you’ll hear how important meridians are for coordinating air travel and the like.

time zone globeOctober 13th marks the 125th anniversary of the Greenwich Meridian that runs smack dab through the lens of London’s Observatory telescope in its Greenwich quarter. The world was then divided into 24 time zones in 60 minute increments. At the time, twenty-six countries reached a mutual agreement on the world’s y-axis. The equator, having always been the x-axis of the planet, now had a perpendicular companion. Nations such as Afghanistan still tend to use their own personalized understanding of time accounting. But nonetheless, the world’s commerce relies greatly on this agreement the folks in DC at the International Meridian Conference agreed upon that autumnal day in 1884. Oh sure, there were minor adjustments with a redefintion of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) called Universal Time, then again in 1972 with UTC  (Universal Time Coordinated) based on atomic clocks that reset in case you goof up the settings. You can get them at any store these days. Much to our chagrin, our children tend to set them at odd hours. The other day the alarm went off at 5 am…

The history of time, along with our collective agreement about what time is, is an interesting one. Happy Birthday, GMT. We transmeridian travelers promise not to hold jetlag against you.

When E-mail kills…

October 7, 2009

My dear friend Guy sent me a link to a story on InternetNews the other day. It addressed the spate of suicides and suicide attempts at France Telecom (a key brand of Orange) in the last year (22 with 13 attempts).  The CFO of the company, Gervais Pellissier, admitted that 24/7 connectivity, thanks to contemporary hand-held devices, has increased employee stress levels exponentially. The very telecommunications industry that spawned our hyperconnectivity is the very one to meet its own demise.

“When you were an average employee in a big corporation 15 years ago, you had no mobile phone or no PC at home. When you were back home, work was out,” he said.

orangeWork was out. Done. Finished. And now people are finishing themselves off as they realize twenty-four hours a day is not enough. Somewhere along the line, people forgot that every business is comprised of people, not just machines.

I claim we have an abundance of time, but we need the heads of corporations, such as France Telecom, to realize there is also a limit to our availability. Just because I have 24 hours a day doesn’t mean the company owns it all.

Ironically, France has the most vacation days in the world. Yet people are ill-equipped to handle the expectations our 24/7 world has placed upon them. We need to return to a state of civility and normalcy in which our time-off is our own.

Just because we can answer the phone at midnight doesn’t mean we have to. I plead for more sanity in our workplace.

Enough is enough.

Slow Mom Movement

October 6, 2009

Kiwi magazine and I had a chat recently about living the slow life. Perhaps indicative of the topic, my phone didn’t work the day we were to have the moms meetphone interview so we had to reschedule for the following day. Embracing the slow, I realized there are many ways to connect with people. Luckily, my email was still working so the writer and I were able to remain in communication despite external circumstances.

The Slow movement is gaining a strong foothold in our society as people realize their current pace is not sustainable. At one point we all give out if we don’t rest and take time for self-care.

As the seasons change (for the Northern Hemisphere, things are turning colder), we need to be reminded to:

1) Breathe.

2) See the big picture.

3) Laugh. A lot!

4) Allow for tears and periods of mourning.

5) Accept ourselves for who we truly are.

Let us remember what is  important. And what is not. It’s not winning the soccer game or getting a perfect score that matters. It is the process of becoming we must cherish most. Slow Moms unite!

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, author of the fabulous Why Don’t You Understand: A Gender Relationship Dictionary, was kind enough to allow me to reprint this article I wrote originally for her blog. If you have a hard time saying ‘no’, listen up. It’s your turn now.

The Art of Slow ~ Just Say ‚No‘!

(c) 2009  Christine Louise Hohlbaum

This is a call for mindful living. Now, more than ever, we need to utilize the tiniest complete sentence the English language has to offer, the reverse of which refers to what you will always be if you do not heed its calling. With a little practice, the simplest, most powerful utterance in our fabulous system of words can be yours. Are you ready? Say it with me now.


If you refuse to occasionally shout out this word, this wholly gorgeous statement, you will be ‘on’ more than you’d like. Trust me. If you’ve ever agreed to organize that two-hour bake sale that took ninety days to arrange, you’ll understand.

As the holidays approach, many of us forget that word, as if we are toddlers all over again, learning the power of ‘no’ to get Mommy mad. During our evolution as human beings, ‘no’ somehow becomes a bad word, along with death and taxes.

But I am here to tell you there are ways to say no and still remain friends. I dedicate a whole chapter to the principles of saying ‘no’ with kindness in The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World. In three simple steps, freedom can be yours.

  1. Acknowledge. If someone asks you to do something, it is because they have faith you can do it or they like you enough to want to spend their time with you. If spearheading a new project or attending that party makes your heart sink instead of sing, acknowledge the person’s thoughtfulness for having considered you.
  2. Express gratitude and interest. Thank the person for their invitation, then show interest in their efforts.
  3. Decline. Once you have acknowledged the person’s request and expressed your gratitude for their consideration, politely decline with a few simple words. If ‘no’ itself is too hard, you can say you have an overlapping commitment.

It may sound like a lengthy process, but the entire thing can be handled in a few sentences. “It sounds like a wonderful opportunity that I am going to miss. Do keep me posted on your progress!” Saying ‘no’ is a lot like flossing. You may not notice an immediate impact, but, over time, you will appreciate the difference it can make in your life.

Still having a hard time pushing those two letters through your teeth and into the air before you? Remember this: saying ‘no’ to someone else is saying ‘yes’ to yourself. It is your personal bank account of time. How you spend it is entirely up to you!