The Bloggers

By lex, on May 31st, 2009

Where to begin?

On Friday, October 13, 1775, meeting in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns…

No. That’s probably too far back.

On Friday, May 29, 2009 I mustered with 14 other bloggers – there, I said it! – at Naval Air Station North Island for a distinguished visitor (DV) tour aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68), that ship commanded by an old comrade, CAPT Mike “Nasty” Manazir, and embarking the Commander, Carrier Strike Group Eleven, RADM John “Fozzie” Miller, my former CO aboard USS Constellation back in the not-so-very-far back. Both of them had grown up flying F-14 Tomcats, although you would never believe it, as they are wonderfully intelligent, charming men of great character and insight.

The Naval Air Force public affairs officer, LCDR Charlie Brown (another Connie shipmate – are you beginning to see why I got to accompany Guy Fricken’ Kawasaki, Dennis HallCharlene Li, Beth Blecherman, Jennifer Leo, Jenny Lawson, Pamela Slim, Andrew Nystrom, Jennifer Van Grove, Jennifer JonesBill Reichert, Jefferson Wagner, Robert Scoble and Andy Sernovitz on a blogger embark?) gave the brief that I used to give to DVs going aboard Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, and in doing so demonstrated that continuous process improvement is alive and well in naval aviation.

The bloggers – the real bloggers, I mean, not your host – were a diverse crowd. If by diverse you mean “people who have abjured the lives of tapping away at keyboards in some technology company cubicle farm somewhere in favor of tapping away about technology (and marketing) on keyboards at home.” They are smart, confident people with decided points of view, most of them with books to flog and a knack for self-promotion. Not in the way of someone with something to prove, but rather in the way of people who make a living off their brand and know that it’s important to market it, since we all need a little something to keep the wind and water out. Each of them has a slightly different focus, but the channel of social media as a new word of mouth buzz-generating scheme was a common thread throughout. They document everything via digital still and video cameras. Guy was carrying around his own private, palm-sized WiFi router. Which yeah, I didn’t know they existed until Friday, and now I want one. To share.

I don’t want to go all Diane Fossey and “Bloggers in the Mist,” on the folks, who were an awfully fun and impressive group, but I got the sense that immediacy is very important to many of them. When we hit the passenger terminal and the C-2 Greyhound came up, the IPhones and Blackberries (I’m estimating a 12-3 advantage for Apple over Rim) were buzzing, and the tweets were flying. When they were told that the flight deck would fry their smart phones unless turned off, and that they’d be disconnected from the web until we returned to North Island, I sensed a certain fatalistic acceptance, limned with dread.

I like to use the word “limn” sometimes. Michiko Kakutani‘s got nothing on me.

Robert Scoble, who flies all over the place getting the next-up on technology issues mentioned that he was the first US citizen to notice the earthquake happening in China last year because he noticed four different “tweets” on the issue while at home watching his five-screen work station. He also carried with him aboard ship the Largest. Zoom lens. Evar. You can see the product of his work aboard Nimitz here. The status of “my” camera and the digital pieces d’art therein is very much in question, the assemblage having gone afield with the Kat hier soir on some 15-year old Cali Girl, boys-in-the-band field trip, and failed to return. Still, we hope.

About many things.

Kawasaki has been around the tech scene since the Apple first fell from the tree, and – as a tech guy – suffers from an uncharacteristic excess of personality, literally filling up the room. Beth is a “tech mama” with a sharp eye for detail, Jen Leo is a charmer with a continuous smile, and Pamela Slim’s “Escape from Cubicle Nation” is relevant to my interests – she was kind enough to provide me a copy. Andrew Nystrom is a nice young man who blogs about travel for the LA Times – I asked him how the paper deals with Patterico‘s implacable campaign against the paper’s editorial excesses, and for his own part he said he found it healthy to read the critics. Especially since he’s a blogger rather than an Op-Ed writer masquerading as a news journalist (sorry, couldn’t resist). Jennifer Jones – we were fairly awash in Jennifers – is a marketing expert with a knack for asking The Real Question, and some interesting ideas on leadership in an age of horizontal connectivity via social media. Charlene Li I had not read before, but she was clearly an intelligent and engaging person, and I was intrigued by her comment at dinner on Thursday that she would be “putting her feelings about the military aside” for the embark (she did, and came away, I think, very impressed by what she saw). Jenny Lawson was lovely and very clever, but rather unlike the persona projected on her page – or maybe you’ve just got to know her better. Jennifer Van Grove was cuteness personified, and shoots  handguns to boot. All the ladies were fascinating. Oh, to be young, handsome and single.

Not that, you know: I’d change anything.

Andy is another marketeer, and a ball of restless, contained energy who has published a book, and now travels the country speechifying. Bill does tech venture capital with Guy, brilliant and engaging – he had the willingness to ask hard questions on naval strategy, and keen eye for sensing vulnerabilities. I guess that’s important for a VC guy. My roommate was Jefferson Wagner, a drop dead double for Clint Eastwood. He sells surfboards, trains deploying Marine infantry in cultural immersion and is the mayor of Malibu, fergoshsakes. In case maybe you thought you were busy.

Rounding it out was this old, has-been, ustabee guy. But you know all about him.

(More later)

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