Out-of-place Serendipity

This is a true story.

It’s been quiet for a week or so … Bob, my boss is out of town, i don’t know where … i’m doing a lot of strategic planning, blue sky thinking, exploring new ideas. Yesterday, a colleague sends me a link about a talk on eBooks (i troll through a lot of information in a typical week), The future of digital textbooks. It’s interesting, though brief and sketchy in the way conference talk reports often are … online books lower the price point, student choice isn’t always aligned with faculty choice, students “want learning that’s more efficient, more portable and more affordable”, yada yada yada.

I put it aside, get on with my work, and finally come back to it later in the day, actually read it, and recognize it’s a talk from the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing (TOC) conference. Oh yeah, that’s going on right now in New York! And last week i had planned to look at last year’s talks and (big surprise) got distracted and forgot.

So i look up the TOC website, intending to follow up on the old talks, which indeed confirms that the conference is going on now, and it has an intriguing link: Watch Keynotes Live Online. Hmm, that’s almost like being there! In fact, i had thought about asking Bob if i could go, but decided it was a little too far afield for me to justify the expense and travel time.

So i click on the link, do the brief registration thing, and sure enough, i’m watching and listening to the conference live, in real-time, as it’s happening. How cool! It really is like being there (except you can’t ask questions). We’re in the part of the program for “Ignite talks”, a rapid pace sequence of 5 minute talks with no more than 20 slides that switch automatically after 15 seconds. Some guy’s giving a talk, i forget who because i’m also reading email and distracted with some other stuff, but it’s vaguely interesting.

His five minutes are up, he walks off the stage, i’m only half-paying attention, and then … Bob walks on the stage, as in, Bob, my boss. He’s at this conference (i guess that’s one reason he’s been gone all week), all the way on the other side of the country, giving one of these Ignite talks, and through this chain of chance digital connections, somehow i managed to tune in 10 minutes before his talk. He gives a great brief overview of Logos 4 from a publishing angle, highlights a few points i hadn’t thought about before (“Logos is like a Bible study answer machine”, and “data sets are like glue”). The physical space between us is collapsed, we’re meeting by the accident of being interested in the same things … all serendipity.

Talk about your Digital Age “Wow” experiences.

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