When Was The Last Time You TOLD A Story?

Bedtime StoriesIt's bed time... you go upstairs to the bedroom with your child and watch or help as he/she gets ready for bed. Once they are nestled in, a typical next step is a bedtime story.

But how often have you told a story? Not read a story, but TOLD one from memory?

It's an interesting question and points to a fact that we have as a culture lost a significant amount of the "oral tradition" that dates back to the dawn of history. People have always told stories. In words, songs, poems, etc. It was long the role of the bard, the troubadour, the storyteller to relay those stories and tell the tales. It was that way for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years.

With the invention of the printing press, though, we started to write down those stories and capture them in "books". And that is a truly wonderful thing because it preserved so many of the stories that might otherwise have been lost to the ages.

But the other side of it is that it seems to me that in general we no longer tell but instead read stories.

I was certainly this way. "Pick out a book", I said to our daughters, "and I'll read it to you." And so I did and continue to do so to this day.

But I have also injected telling the occasional story. Just starting with basic timeless stories like "The Princess and the Frog", "Goldilocks", "Little Red Riding Hood", etc. It's been an interesting experiment, really. Partly to see if I can actually remember them (I can) and partly in how you express the story and make it fun and interesting.

As I started telling more stories, maybe 6 or 7 years ago, I found that like the storytellers of old I began to embellish and add to the stories as I told them. Each time it may be slightly different. (Although the girls sometime catch me on that and point it out!)

Over the years I've gone the next step of creating stories set in their own world with their own characters. The challenging part, of course, is when our 10-year-old wants me to tell our 3-yr-old one of those stories I made up and told her 5 or 6 years ago... and I hardly remember it! (The delightful part, though, was when the 10-yr-old recently made up such a story to tell the 3-yr-old!)

I have to say it's turned out to be something rather fun to do... and has been much enjoyed by our daughters.

When was the last time YOU told a story? To kids? To family? To friends? To an audience?

Image credit: claylarsen on Flickr

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Storify Rolls Out New iPad App That Makes It Super Easy To Curate Twitter, Facebook

StorifylogoWhile I've not yet personally used Storify to a great degree, I've been watching what friends have been doing with it and been intrigued by the possibilities. Beyond the "collecting a twitter stream into a story" usage that people commonly discuss - and that is incredibly useful, I've been watching what, for instance, Shel Holtz has been doing to curate websites into ongoing collections. For example, his "Every company is a media company" or his "collection of social media policies".

I may, though, start using Storify a bit more now that they've rolled out an iPad application. Given that the Storify app is free in the iOS App Store, I downloaded it and started playing with it this morning. It's a wonderful example of how the touch interface of a tablet can be such a joy to work with. It's so very simple and natural to drag and drop tweets, photos, etc. to create new stories. Definitely something I'm going to look at using more when I have stories or topics I want to curate into a larger "story" for publishing out to the web.

If you have an iPad, you can download the Storify app and try it out yourself... and if you don't, you can watch the video that shows how it works:

Very cool to see how application designers are continuing to evolve our user interfaces... looking forward to seeing how this all continues...

Inspiring Video: LeVar Burton's TOC Keynote On The Power Of Stories and Storytelling

One of the highlights of attending O'Reilly's TOCCON last week in New York turned out to be a short but incredibly inspiring keynote presentation by LeVar Burton, who some of us may forever know as "Geordi LaForge" from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and others may know from his 25 years with "Reading Rainbow" or as Kunte Kinte way back in days of "ROOTS". As he is of course a professional actor, his delivery was wonderful to listen to, but even more I enjoyed what he had to say about the power of stories and storytelling. Some key quotes to me:
I am a firm believer in the link between that which we imagine and that which we create.

The stories that we tell each other, and have told each other, throughout the history of the development of civilization, are integrally important, are inextricably linked, to how we continue to invent the world in which we live.

That, upon which we focus our attention, is what we manifest in the third dimension.

The stories that we tell each other inform us about who we are, why we're here and where we're going.

You come here to use your imaginations in the service of storytelling.

He spoke, too, about the transition we are in now with publishing and the road ahead.

It was a very inspiring presentation and a great way to start the day... enjoy!

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Video: Oh, the Places You'll Go at Burning Man!

I hadn't really mashed up Dr. Seuss and the annual Burning Man festival in my brain, but a gent named Teddy Saunders did and the result is this amazing video!

It's a wonderfully well-done re-telling of Dr. Seuss' classic book "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" set in the Arizona desert and showcasing many creative people and their structures, artwork and talents. The whimsical nature of Dr. Seuss fits so well with the structures and the people.

For communicators it's an interesting example of taking a well-known story and using video from an event to illustrate that story. I'm not quite sure that anywhere other than Burning Man could illustrate this particular story so well, but the idea is very good to think about for other events.


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My 3 Words for 2010...

iwillwritesomething.jpgAs we enter 2010, I've long been a fan of Chris Brogan's approach of sharing his "three words" for the coming year (and have enjoyed his postings on the topic over the last few years)... and this year thought that, in keeping with one of my own goals, I would share my three words for 2010:


May 2010 marks my tenth year of blogging across the various sites I have, yet 2009 was a challenging year for my writing.

Sure, I wrote many posts here, on Disruptive Telephony, on Voxeo's weblogs and other places. But nowhere near the number of posts I wanted to write - and not with the regularity I desired. My queue of post ideas is up in the hundreds at this point... and as usual I wake up each morning with my head exploding with stories to tell.

Now, 2009 did have some unusual challenges for me personally. For starters, at the beginning of March, I took on a new role at Voxeo heading up all of our external communications. No longer was I just our "lead blogger", but now I also had responsibility for all marketing, PR, analyst relations, collateral, trade shows / events and everything else in "communications". Plus I now had a team of 4.5 people scattered across two continents. There was admittedly a good bit of a learning curve on all the broader pieces of how we were telling our story, how to bring that all together into a cohesive plan, and how to work with a new team. The second factor was that in late April, our second daughter entered the world bringing with her all that glorious joy... as well as all the intense sleep deprivation... these two factors together meant that making time for writing (and being able to do so coherently!) was challenging at best.

But as 2010 dawns, the story is different. Sure, it's shaping up to be an absolutely crazy-busy year at Voxeo with all the great work we have underway, but I've got an outstanding (and growing) team and we're working together real well now... and the daughter? Well, at 8 months she's still not sleeping through the night all the time, but I'm either getting more sleep or just getting used to sleep deprivation.

So my big personal goal for 2010 is to return to telling more stories... writing about the changes happening all around us... chronicling the revolution we are in the midst of ... in the ways and means through which we communicate... that is the story of our time... and I want to get back to doing my part in telling that story.


As much as I want to write more myself, I also recognize that there are a great many other people out there weaving together the threads of this larger story. In 2010, I want to interact more with others... pointing to their stories... commenting on their posts... sharing their work with others. Sure, I've tweeted out many links, because that's easy, but this year I want to be a bit better about engaging in deeper conversations, either through actual comments or responding through blog posts, podcasts, video, whatever...


I'm 42 years old. I have 7-year-old and 8-month-old daughters, an awesome wife and great family and friends in my life. I also have a job that I love and a passion and drive to succeed and do ever more. I work long hours and travel a fairly significant amount... and I love what I do. The downside is that in recent years I haven't been paying enough attention to keeping the body in the best shape... I want to be around for a good long while, and this year needs to be one in which I make some changes. Not just in dropping some weight, but in integrating physical activity on a regular basis. As a home office worker, it's easy not to... but I need to... and maybe by publicly stating it here I'll actually get my tail in gear this year to make it happen. ;-)

So that's my list.... Write. Interact. Health.

2009 was a great year... 2010 looks even better... what are you going to do with this precious year? What are your three words?

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Slidecasting nicely shows off my 243-slides-in-15-minutes presentation...

What if you have a set of slides that really needs audio to make sense?  That all alone doesn't really work?  That was the case with my "story of SysAdmin Steve" presentation that I did back at O'Reilly's Emerging Telephony conference earlier this year.  A number of people commented that without the audio, it was hard to really know how it went.  This was deliberate, really - there was a reason for me doing it that way.

Well, I'm now delighted that the SlideShare folks already updated their "slidecasting" audio synchronization tool so that now I can show the presentation in line with the audio.  So here it is... in all of its 243-slides-in-15-minutes glory... enjoy my little story (and I think that even if you aren't interested in VoIP security, you may (or may not) find the story entertaining):

Press the green play button to begin.  The first slide starts changing about 3:45 seconds into the show - and then they start changing at a rate averaging about once every 2-3 seconds.  I tried as best I could to sync the slides to the audio... I may adjust it in some places (and the cool part is that you can adjust it!).

Feedback is, as always, quite welcome.  This was a fun presentation to do... and using SlideShare's slidecasting interface does let me relive a bit of that fun!

Wonderful use of storytelling in a video...

From Chris Brogan today, I learned of this video which I very much enjoyed:

Per adfreak, the video was a "Gold" winner at the Cannes Lions event.

The question is - how many of you had absolutely no idea why I would reference this video until the very end?  At which point you then went back and watched it again?  :-)

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