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Friday, November 12, 2004

This Tuesday, I'm giving a presentation at TechLearn. This is six years to the day since I described a model for eLearning at TechLearn 1998 at Disneyworld. I talked about a scenario planning exercise I'd just completed and invited people for a ride in the Internet Time Machine, which was modeled on the Back to the Future DeLorean. We were looking way out into the future...all the way to 2004.

These were brand-new ideas at the time. No vendor talked about eLearning until nearly a year later.

On Tuesday, I plan to give an update. The Internet Time Machine has gotten a lot cooler. And we've come a long way in six years. In retrospect, our boundless enthusiasm back then seems naive. Now we've got real business to do. I'm still incredibly optimistic. We are going to change the world. But it's going to be a bit more complicated than we thought back in the last century.

I am concerned about the worker of the future. We have the potential to create wonderful, challenging, inspiring jobs. Or to take a small-minded, short-term, demeaning approach.

Imagine what this guy would do with the ability to monitor work right down to the keystroke. Networks work both ways. Surveillance of workflow creates the oppportunity for surveillance of workers. Join me if you'd like to discuss the Dark Side as well as the upside of the next phase of eLearning. It's a thorny issue, for the very nature of work is changing.

Of course, it's hard to imagine TechLearn in New York instead of at the Coronado in Disneyworld.

While others were paying steep rates at the Coronado ("Have a magical morning!"), I've booked a lot of time in $25/night motels outside the Disney gates in Kissimmee. I've seen gators in Gatorland leap out of the water to grab chickens, bought crap at the big swap meets, piloted an airboat through the swamps, rode a jet-ski, walked the streets of Centennial (Disney's Stepford community), shopped at ersatz factory outlets, and eaten supper in all-you-can-eat honky-tonks, surrounded by over-amped, Disneyfied children and parents whose exhaustion was palpable. What a weird place, Florida.

Moi, riding gator. (Dead gator).

The change of venue is nothing, however, compared to the impending change of maestro. Elliott's contract with Advanstar expires soon. Everyone expects him to arise again, taking the Consortium with him, and leaving Advanstar with little to show for the millions it spent for the franchise. ("Those who do not learn the lessons of history...".) It's as if they bought the barber shop but failed to see that without the barber, all you get is an empty room.

For me, TechLearn has always been Elliott and his entourage. Images pop into my head. Elliott and Cathy personally greeting everyone as they enter Tomorrowland or Main Street for the party. Stan rushing around behind the scenes making things work. Cathy's indefatigable family, the DeMicelis, AnneMarie and the dad and Matt... Elliott's mom, when she was still with us. Jen. Others I can see in my mind's eye but I'm blanking on their names. And the "regulars" like Beth Thomas, Diane Hessan & the SoundBytes, and Wayne Hodgins. These folks create community. In the early days, TechLearn was closer in spirit to Woodstock than to, say, an ASTD conference; we're all in this together, man.

The SoundBytes

The rolling schwag bag

From the stage during Lance Dublin's and my presentation in 2002.
We had an overflow crowd. The program mistakenly said EIliott would be speaking.

I was delighted to run into one of the
Raspini brothers in my local supermarket!

And you thought they were just buttons.
No, this is another way Elliott gets people
to talk with one another.

TechLearn has been a fun ride. I'm a marketing guy and designer at heart. Elliott is a marketing guy, too. He senses what people need and he delivers it. Elliott is the most savvy, effective, natural-born marketer I've even seen. Aside from that, he's a true mensch, with a big heart. I have learned so much at TechLearn I can't begin to describe it.

Elliott and I haven't talked in a year, so I'm unaware of his plans. I'm sure they'll be larger than life, and I hope I can take part. Elliott and Cathy, thanks for a great ride.


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