Yesterday, hundreds of people descended upon the Fillmore Theatre in downtown Detroit for the 140 Characters Conference. And they came to listen to stories.
Stories of how the real-time Web has impacted the way people do business. Stories about how the social Web has lifted spirits, changed traditional media, allowed people to become their own bosses, and helped build a united sense of pride in the Motor City.
To share all of the great nuggets, big ideas and calls to action that were shared yesterday would be nearly impossible. What we will share is some of the highlights from the event — an event that challenged attendees to question the status quo and move beyond just talking.
Filmmaker Erik Proulx shared his antidote to what he calls “ruin porn,” so often touted in traditional media outlets when Detroit is part of the conversation.
“Why can’t we see the reverse? Why can’t we look at hope and optimism and doing good by your neighbor … why can’t we look at that with the same sort of fascination and awe?”
His response: a documentary called “Lemonade: Detroit,” from which he shared a trailer that features local Detroiters who, for one reason or another, have decided the call the city home and set up shop here. But he can’t fund the full-length movie on his own — he needs our help.
For as little as a $1, any individual can purchase individual frames of the film while it’s being made, in turn becoming a credited producer of the film. And not only does this ensure that it gets made, but it also starts to build a sense of ownership and community around the project. To contribute, visit buyaframe.lemonadedetroit.com.
Check out the trailer here. You’ll be glad you did.
Stephen Clark, Detroit interactive anchor for WXYZ-TV, shared his movement that’s flipping traditional news media on its head. “For 32 years, I’ve done news pretty much the same way … I talk, you listen.”
His #backchannel conversation on Twitter has opened the door for a viewers of the newscast to give feedback on what they’re seeing — and also take a proactive approach to what they want to see. “Pretty soon, I was carrying on a conversation with people on the other side of the glass screen. … We were talking.”
Now viewers can submit their own videos, displaying the good news they want to see covered — and if it’s good, Clark will take it from the Web to an actual newscast. And if enough of these videos are newsworthy, it starts to push the bad news aside.
Everything you need to know about the social Web, you can learn from a small town, according to Becky McCray, rural entrepreneur. McCray is from a town of 27 people, so she knows a little bit about community.
As the owner of a liquor store, she knows that if she burns one customer, that one customer will take that bad experience down to the coffee shop, and pretty soon, everyone knows. Sound familiar? As more and more people take to sites like Facebook and Twitter to complain about their latest customer service experience, one misstep now becomes amplified to tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of people.
Residents of her town also know how to diversify, meaning they don’t put all of their eggs in one basket. They focus on the long term and despite limited resources, “We pay attention to each individual, what they like and what they don’t like.”
Nicholas Provenzano, aka @thenerdyteacher, is propelling education into the 21st century. A high school teacher and education blogger, Provenzano sends tweets out to let his students know what their assignments and responsibilities are. “Teachers need to be open to change. … If you’re not willing to change, education is going to fail.”
Of course, there were other memorable moments, like when Becky Johns, Lansing-based communications and PR professional, during her speech urged audience members to capture one moment of the event with their cameras. They obliged, and soon after, the twinkling lights of cell phone cameras and digital cameras filled the room. “I think we need to focus on creating extraordinary moments,” she said.
Or when Anissa Mayhew, who suffered a series of strokes that has limited her physical movement, but not her spirit, shared her story about “Internet friends.” The people who others may see as meaningless contacts in cyberspace went out of their way to send well-wishes, cards, T-shirts and more during the most challenging time in her life. “Anybody who tells you that your Internet friends are not important can kiss my ass.”
Without a doubt, the event’s takeaway was simple. And it was said best by Erica Alexander: “Talk less, act more.”
So what are you going to DO today?