Here's the video of the first Skeptech event, which I hosted at WFMU in Jersey City, New Jersey on the evening of Wednesday, May 24.

Skeptech was the world's first event to question the tech industry, raise awareness about some of its problematic behavior, and describe positive ways of building, managing, and using technology to actually make the world better.

Summary of the talks:

• In my introductory remarks (minute 4 of the video), I listed four main problems posed by today's tech industry: Security, Privacy, Arrogance, and Manipulation. (If only it had a good acronym, right?)

Douglas Rushkoff (author, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus) argued for why we should join "team human." At roughly minute 31 of the video: "When I say, 'humans are special, we have awareness, we have consciousness,' my west-coast friends say, 'Oh, Doug, you only say that because you're human.'" (Douglas's podcast: Team Human)

Natasha Dow Schull (author, Addiction by Design) presented her concept of "ludic loops" - specifically, how apps and social networks employ design patterns from addictive Las Vegas slot machines in order to "hook" their users. At 1:04 (minute 64) of the video, Natasha describes the Snapchat Streaks feature, which tracks the number of consecutive days two friends have chatted: "The mechanism becomes the point. This becomes about maintaining the streak, not the friendship."

Vicki Boykis talked about life in Stalinist Russia and how there are some uncanny parallels to online life today, like conformity and self-censorship. Go to 1:12 (minute 72) of the video to watch her talk from the beginning.

Liz Berg, Assistant General Manager of WFMU, described how the station continues to create meaningful community with and among its listeners – and then Liz gave specific suggestions for how your team can do the same. Go to 1:38 (minute 98) of the video to watch Liz's talk, called "User Engagement Do-Over." 

Ken Freedman, Station Manager of WFMU, spoke about "The Fine Art of Troll-Whispering," pointing out that trolls pre-date the web – and he listed specific ways that any team can combat or neutralize trolls. Send this to any team that claims to build community online! 1:49 (minute 109) of the video. Watch it.

More Skeptech info, and all speaker bios, at skeptech.info.

And hey! Make a pledge to WFMU if you watched some of the video and enjoyed it. Skeptech was a benefit for WFMU, with 100% of the proceeds going to the station. Donate to WFMU here.

Next Skeptech event: Mark your calendar! On Thursday, October 26, we'll return to WFMU for the next Skeptech event – in person and via livestream.

The secret to creating online community - and defeating trolls - is surprisingly simple. Listen to my podcast interview with Ken Freedman and Liz Berg from WFMU, the free-form radio station that has created a worldwide fan base through its radically innovative approach to radio.

You're invited: I'll be hosting the first Skeptech at WFMU this Wednesday, May 24, in Jersey City:
Sign up to attend (tickets almost sold out!) ... or watch the livestream starting 7pm Eastern on May 24.
Skeptech speaker list, venue, and all event details
My column that launched Skeptech

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(Update: Watch the livestream of Skeptech on Wednesday, May 24, starting 7pm Eastern.)

Friends, we need to talk. About tech.

There's a problem brewing in digital technology. You're probably aware of it - the problem is big, it's systemic, and it's growing. We can name some of its aspects: Surveillance. Manipulation. Addiction. General creepiness.

I've been watching these issues grow and develop for a decade. Ten years ago, seeing people suffering under email overload, I published Bit Literacy - hoping to teach people crucial skills, seeing as tech companies weren't doing the job. But it got worse: the tech industry has found ways to lock users in, launch and promote addictive tools, and build surveillance systems that track users' private communications and actions, often without users' knowledge or consent. It's a totally different world from when I started Creative Good in 1997, naively optimistic about the internet's potential to improve the world.

The emerging tech reality has been hard to ignore while running my Gel conference in recent years, trying to spotlight innovations that I'm excited about. The early years of Gel were highlighted by the first-ever stage presentations of Wikipedia, Khan Academy, Duck Duck Go, and others - great projects benefiting the world - but in recent years it's been harder to find similarly inspiring projects. My customer experience consulting at Creative Good, as well, has felt pressure to become analytics- and algorithm-based, rather than human-based. (I wrote about this in January.) My most recent book, Customers Included, makes the case for good qualitative thinking, and basic human respect for users, but both ideas increasingly seem out-of-step with our new tech reality. So I feel the need to take action.

The world deserves better technology. You deserve better. And goodness knows, we've been promised better from the tech industry. So today, I'm going to do something about it: I'm launching a new project called Skeptech.

Skeptech will be a platform to...
question today's digital technology,
explore how it operates, often to users' detriment, and
discover ways that all of us - product teams and users, too - can create and use better technology that works toward users' long-term benefit.

In particular, I want to spotlight people and projects that are doing things right, proving the viability of a different approach:
people (thinkers, writers, innovators, and product teams) that deserve more exposure for the good work they're doing
tools (apps, sites, communities, even games) that create genuinely good experiences - they do exist! - and
media (books, podcasts, feeds, and articles) that are worth paying attention to, as this is a broad, deep, and swiftly developing issue.

Skeptech kicks off in two weeks with our first gathering: on the evening of Wednesday, May 24, both in person (update: sold out) and via livestream (starting 7pm Eastern on Wed May 24). Skeptech will feature these speakers: Douglas Rushkoff, Natasha Dow Schüll, Vicki Boykis, Liz Berg, and Ken Freedman - and myself as host. (See all Skeptech info.) We'll also include Q&A for attendees to contribute. Skeptech is the Gel conference for this spring - like a mini-Gel evening event! - so I hope you'll join us.

Our friends at WFMU, the freeform radio station run by Skeptech speakers Ken Freedman and Liz Berg, are providing the venue and the livestream. The whole event is a benefit for WFMU, so in addition to the ticket revenue going to the station, I hope livestream viewers will donate to WFMU as well. (Just click "pledge now" on the event page or the livestream page.)

But now I have to ask. Are you with me? Skeptech is an experiment, and it will depend on the community to succeed: Are you on board?

If so, here's what you can do right now:

1. Spread the word about Skeptech: copy and paste this into your Twitter/Facebook/favorite social media account:

Tech got creepy, so @markhurst launched Skeptech: http://creativegood.com/blog/tech-creepy-launch-skeptech

2. Watch the Skeptech livestream (from 7pm to 9pm Eastern), via the livestream page. More info at the Skeptech site: skeptech.info

3. Subscribe to my email newsletter and/or my Twitter feed. (There are also Skeptech Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds.)

4. Let me know your thoughts: Ideas, suggestions, comments? You can email me or post a comment below.

I appreciate your support - and I hope that, through Skeptech, we can change things for the better. -Mark Hurst

New podcast episode: I spoke with siblings Noah Scalin and Mica Scalin about how a creative practice can improve your life (and your social media feed).

Mentioned in this episode...
Creative Sprint, the new book by Noah and Mica Scalin
Skull-A-Day Noah's blog with his skull creations
Noah Scalin at Gel 2009, speaking about his Skull-A-Day project

I was inspired by Noah and Mica to start a creative sprint of my own - see also the @skeptech Instagram feed for 30 days of Skeptech images.

Finally, come to Skeptech! Wednesday, May 24, 2017 in the NYC area - we'll also have a livestream, for the first time.

To subscribe to the podcast:
Subscribe in iTunes
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The principles of "customers included" design are strongly evident at a unique restaurant in New York City. Listen to my new podcast episode as I interview Sam Lipp, Director of Operations at Union Square Cafe and Daily Provisions, to discuss how a beloved New York City restaurant continues to deliver hospitality to its guests, having moved to a new location a few months ago after 30 years in its original space.

Mentioned in this episode...
Setting the Table, by Danny Meyer
Customers Included, my 2015 book about designing products and services (and restaurants) with customers in mind
Bit Literacy, my first book, celebrating its 10-year anniversary, solving email overload for tens of thousands of readers

To subscribe to the podcast:
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