The (Cog)Dog days of summer

Get ready; I’m about to get all sentimental.  Like a lot of Twitterazzi, I recently had a visit from @cogdog, Alan Levine, as he passed through Saskatchewan on his North American tour.  For the few of you who don’t know Alan, take a look at his blog and work backward through it at  It’s an inside joke between us that I blew away my reader just as he was setting up what I’m talking about here, so don’t make my mistake:  pay attention.  Amazing collection of reflections, ideas, intelligence, prescriptions, solutions…and humanity.  What a guy!

Anyway, here’s the deal.  When Alan visited and stayed over at my place in Saskatoon, it was only the second time I’d met him. We were both invited speakers at Ed-Media 2010 in Honolulu (yeh, tough gig), and we met up and went for a long walk along the beach one morning.  I don’t remember much of what we talked about —largely family, work, photography, random stuff— but it was the lack of ego and the friendly playfulness of this guy that stood out for me.  Hey, he’s an A-List guy in the blogosphere, twittersphere, or any other sphere you want to name.  He’s definitely a micro-celebrity, which means that in a defined group, people really follow what he says and does.  But he doesn’t wear his fame. He’s a regular guy. What a thrill it was to finally meet him and spend some time walking around the beaches with him!

Fast forward a couple of years:  Alan bails on his plum job at NMC without much explanation, other than he came into a little money from an Aunt (unrelated, but close relationship) who was a free spirit and who was whispering to him to take the money and invent an adventure.  Yeeeooowwww.  Did he ever.  He decides to spend much of the year driving around North America meeting up with his friends, mostly people he met online and a lot of them he only knew online.  Wow.  Think about that for a minute.  It makes an introvert like me shrivel up and hide in a corner.  I probably would like you, but a cold-call meeting with you and staying at your home makes me crazy with fear.

So, Alan shows up with Rob Wall and we just canoodle on the deck (figuratively), just like we do with people we ‘ve know for years. As a conceit (conceit isn’t a bad thing in this context) Alan developed the StoryBox, a cool device for gathering snippets of stories, eavesdrops, media elements, and just about anything while he is on the road.  His intention is to turn everything he collects into something.  Who knows what it will become?  Not the CogDog.  But it will be something.  You can also contribute anything you want online, and upload it here.

Well, we had a great evening. As luck (or un-luck) would have it, I was leaving in the morning, so I left Alan in our home to meet Heather Ross for lunch before moving along to Regina to deal with Alec Couros and Dean Shareski.  I won’t recount everything, but let’s just say it was a nice opportunity to kindle a friendship. We talked, played, and even did a radio broadcast together on ds106.  He met our crazy aunt-in-law (really — crazy!).  We’ve made tentative plans to re-connect in Hawaii in October. Can’t wait.

But here’s the big thing. Alan made me realize, probably more than I ever have, that what we’re doing with all of this online stuff is way more than what we are doing online.  There are real people behind everything we do.  There are real aspirations, real dramas, real stories.  There are real friendships.  The world sometimes feels like it is flying apart, but you know what?  I think we’re a big part of the gravity that will ultimately hold it together.

I’ve met only briefly, or not yet, a lot of the people who Alan is taking the trouble to turn into very real, very tangible, very corporeal friends.  He’s an inspiration. I’m warning you now, I may be on the road in a few years looking for a good story and a place to stay for the night. But none of you will be able to equal my chilli verde.  I’m just saying.

The connective tissue of the twitterverse, blogosphere – no, of the people who care about each other, will make a big difference in the outcome of who we decide to be as a planet. Yeh, I think it is that important. As I watch the markets do their macabre dance, it’s hard to care about the outcome, when the CogDog has taught me that there are so many great people around.

Most of you have already figured this out, but I think it deserves repeating.  This stuff is real.  There are good people involved, and we have fresh ways to really dig into the lives of each other. It matters.

I know how stupid and naive this will sound, but it’s simple, really. All we have to do is care. Care about ourselves; care about what we do; and care about the people we do it with.  Simple.

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