Category Archives: Everything Else

Lauren Bacon can help you ask the right questions.

Lauren BaconI’m going to plug a friend’s services here because a) they’re terrific, b) she’s terrific and c) I think she can help you be more terrific.

Some of the most valuable conversations I’ve ever had have been with Lauren Bacon. She’s a superb listener, offers excellent advice and is relentlessly curious about the world.

Looking back on it, most of that advice didn’t come with a period at the end. Lauren has a gift for asking questions (that’s the curiousity coming into play) — and she’s put it to work helping a lot of people: leaders, creative professionals, companies and non-profits.

And now maybe you. Her newly relaunched website has a wide range of offerings, including the short-but-profoundly-useful e-book Curious for a Living and its free companion workbook, Essential Questions for Purposeful Projects. Continue reading

Robin Williams

Alex and I saw Robin Williams perform in Vancouver several years ago.

A lot of touring comics start with a few thinly localized jokes to win the crowd over, and then launch into their main routine. I expected he’d do the same — and sure enough, he did a Vancouver joke.

And then another. And then an extended riff. And another one.

There must have been twenty minutes of genuine Vancouver material: not boilerplate insert-name-of-city here stuff, but joke after joke that felt organically, authentically of this place. And his material was savvy and current, not just land-of-pot-and-Birkenstocks stuff.

I once read an article about his USO work: how he would usually eschew VIP treatment and official tours in favour of just sitting down and talking to soldiers for hours. When he finally did perform, he’d draw extensively on those conversations.

That’s a precious gift to give to an audience: using your talent as a prism for their own lives and experiences. It requires some real courage — far safer to rely on tested material that reliably delivers the laughs. But in the hands of someone as talented as Mr. Williams, it was powerful.

I’m sorry I won’t have the chance to see it again, and sorrier still for the pain that led him to end his life. There will be plenty of chances to reflect on his work in the weeks to come, but for now, I’m remembering a performer who did far, far more than just meet expectations.

Meet Localty, Vancity’s local-shopping mobile site for Victoria

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Alex and I got to work with William Azaroff eight years ago (good lord! eight?!) on Vancity‘s ChangeEverything. We became friends, and I became a fan of William’s impressive online smarts. So when he announces an online project for Vancity, my ears prick up so fast it makes my chin hurt:

Recently, a project I’ve been working on for the past few months with some brilliant and capable colleagues launched as a test and learn pilot in Victoria, BC. The project is called Localty, because what else are you gonna name a loyalty program focused on local purchasing?

Localty is a mobile web platform connecting our members and the public to discover Vancity business members, and encourage them to promote these local businesses via social media and to shop locally. We want to encourage more people to steer some of their purchases away from multi-national chains and big box stores to small, local businesses.

Continue reading

Compassion and communications: why being human matters

My NOW Communications coworker Kristen Keighley-Wight has a terrific post today about why you need to talk less about yourself, and more about your audience: their values, their concerns, the way your issues affect them.

It’s a welcome antidote to a disease that can strike any of us. We can work so hard for so long on issues that we start to mistake inside baseball for real-world outcomes.

But sometimes it gets much worse than that. Some people get so swept up in scoring points that they forget the human side of an issue altogether.

That’s the most generous construction you can put on Conservative MP Robert Goguen’s appalling questions yesterday to Timea Nagy, who was testifying before a parliamentary committee on a federal bill tightening laws on prostitution. She’s a sexual assault survivor and the founder of an organization helping victims of human trafficking like herself.

I’m not going to include Goguen’s questions here. To see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice try to use Ms. Nagy’s experience of rape as fodder for an intellectually dishonest argument, watch the exchange here or read about it here. (Trigger warning.)

While it’s hard to imagine anyone I work with getting so detached from their own humanity that they could do anything quite this bad, it can serve as a crucial reminder. No matter how contentious an issue becomes, compassion must never be far from communication — and personal suffering must never become a political punchline.

Don’t have a kitten. Save one… with Morgan Brayton.

One of the most staggeringly talented people I know is also one of the most dedicated volunteers I know, working on behalf of the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association.

Now Morgan Brayton wants to take that work — and the organization — to a whole new level:

I want to help raise awareness around VOKRA’s work and convince more people to get involved. I want to help make VOKRA an organization with staying power. I know I can have a huge impact on VOKRA’s future but a couple of hours here and there won’t do it.

Instead, I want to dedicate myself to VOKRA full-time for the next six months and help make it a sustainable organization for many decades to come. To do so, I’m asking for your help.

Morgan’s crowdfunding $10,000 through GoFundMe, and she’s more than halfway there. Hitting her target will mean she can:

  • organize a launch event for VOKRA’s new Operations Centre
  • tell VOKRA’s untold stories online with her unique blend of warmth, compassion and humour
  • craft a long-term fundraising strategy so VOKRA can focus on its core mission, instead of constantly scrambling for the next piece of kibble moolah

There are plenty of great rewards (or “purrks”) for contributors… not to mention a healthy dollop of accountability:

I’ll regularly post about the work I’m doing, here and on the VOKRA blog http://vokrablog.wordpress.com/. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes peek at a rescue organization through blog updates, videos and photos. And you’ll witness VOKRA saving lives as I report on rescue stories, adoption stories and happy endings made possible through my donation of time, made possible by your donation of funds.

Morgan’s campaign culminates on June 25th with her birthday and a fundraising comedy show at Vancouver’s Wise Hall — one that promises to be easily worth the $25 you’ll pay for a ticket.

I’m delighted to see this going so well, because Morgan’s a dear friend and a mighty soul and I want her to succeed. But even beyond that, I admire her innovation and drive: she knows the difference she wants to make, and she’s taken a real risk to allow her to make it. And I know that, given the opportunity, she’ll blow our socks off. I hope you’ll consider helping her do that.

Nine ways to die: the ULTIMATE X-TREME guide to tech thrill-seeking

  1. Ignore the warning alert and install the corrupted font anyway.
  2. Upgrade WordPress without backing up the database.
  3. Throw away your grounding strap.
  4. Just pull out the USB cable without ejecting your drive first.
  5. While it’s in the middle of a Time Machine backup.
  6. Screw it: turn off Time Machine. Use that hard drive for more torrents.
  7. Leave the document unsaved until you’re done with it.
  8. No firewall. All ports open. At a coffee shop. Come and get me.
  9. Compose your blog post in the browser.

Ian Reid

We lost our beautiful, loving friend Ian Reid earlier this month. The Tyee kindly invited me to share some of my thoughts about him, and that article is now live on their site.

The Tyee is a public affairs publication, and I focused on Ian’s political impact. And no question: Vancouver is a more humane city, and BC is a fairer province, because of his years of political service — promoting positive change in government, and helping to stem the reactionary tide in opposition.

Choosing one focus means, of course, leaving out many others. This piece was about Ian the public figure, but there is so much more I could have said to convey something of the sweetness of the man; his groundedness; his dry, subtle and devastating wit. Or the depth and tenderness of the love between him and his husband Paul; the warmth and easygoing pleasure of the many dinners Alex and I shared with them; his indulgence of and delight in our children’s antics… and their adoration of their uncles.

We miss you, dear man.

* * *

Many of us who knew and loved Ian will share our memories at his memorial service, at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, 6393 N.W. Marine Drive on Wednesday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m. He and Paul chose the Stephen Lewis Foundation as Ian’s beneficiary of choice for memorial donations.

Ian’s full obituary, a beautiful loving tribute written by Paul, is posted here on Ian’s blog. You can also read an appreciation of Ian from Paul’s colleagues (and Ian’s friends) at NOW Communications.