Chasing the magical experience

Pierre's chalet (view from the hot tub)

In all the hype about celebrities over on Twitter and Facebook we’ve forgotten something: experiences you have with crowds of other people are rarely magical unless it’s a concert and, even then, I’ve seen musicians give concerts to four of my closest friends and then go out and give concerts to thousands of people. I would rather have the small experience EVERY TIME. Which is one reason I like Peter Himmelman’s Furious World so much.

I’ve been around the world. I’ve met some of the smartest people in the world. Just this week I shared a Guinness with the deputy prime minister of Ireland.

But as I get around the world I find I’m not chasing the crowds. I’m chasing the magical experience.

What are some of the magical experiences in your life? Bringing a kid into the world is one of mine. Two people. And a doctor and nurse. The power of four again.

Getting married? When done best there are only a few participants: two people, a minister, and a witness. Four people.

A great dinner out? I’ve found that if there’s four people at the table that you love it always is magical. Five or more? Introduces noise and reduces the magic.

Laurent Haug, founder of LIFT conference

This is something I’ve discovered thanks to Laurent Haug, founder of the LIFT Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. He invited me to spend time after the conference at his friend’s Swiss Chalet.

It is still the most magical experience I’ve had with someone I’ve met online.

Just a small group hanging out over a weekend, skiing, eating food that’s not good for us, taking photos, hanging out in the hot tub drinking Laurent’s friend’s expensive brandy. You can see the photo of the hot tub on this post.

Laurent shows us CoComment

It even turned into one of those product launches that really sticks with me, when Laurent (pictured here) showed us something he was working on called CoComment. I no longer use that service, but laid the groundwork for a variety of others, including Disqus who I’m headed to see today.

The point is, that magical experiences in life are — for me at least — those that are small and done with four or so other people.

So, why don’t our social networks try to get us to split up into smaller groups? Facebook and friendfeed do, in their various ways. Yesterday I signed into Facebook for the first time in a while. I tried importing my Tweets and instantly got complaints. Why? Because the usage model there is all about talking with small groups of friends.

While Twitter gets the hype and chases the big crowd experience I’m left noticing that Facebook might run away with the real monetization prize: because Facebook is better setup for having magical experiences online with small groups of friends.

How magical? For the past few weeks Maryam has been showing me some of the conversations she’s been having with old school friends from around the world. She’s giddy that she’s finding cousins and old friends she hasn’t seen for decades.

Magic.

I look at my friendfeed experiences, too. I’m starting to put people into separate lists. Four at a time. I imagine having dinner with them and having a conversation about something.

This is a technique I learned from Linda Stone. When she invited me over for dinner she sat me next to a famous author and a famous Microsoft researcher to see if magic would happen.

This is something that many PR people and big company employees never get. Read Tara Hunt’s experience of trying to find book reviewers. She’s chasing the magical experience. Her PR company is chasing “bloggers with reach.”

Hint: Tara is right. The magic is with people who care. The magic is in small numbers. The magic is in creating an experience that has nothing to do with a committee. That post is something every PR and big company employee should read and understand at a deep level. She wants to create magic (she calls it Whuffie) and she knows that if she has a small number of people who are fanatical about what she’s doing that that’s how it’ll get done.

Anyway, just one of my thoughts as I am working today on Building43 — we’re looking to find people who are fanatical about the Internet and create a magical experience. I wonder who I should invite to dinner?

Here’s another example. Tomorrow at 3 p.m. I’m getting a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium from the guy who does their friendfeed/Twitter communities. I can get three other people into the tour. The first ones who email me at scobleizer@gmail.com get in.

What kind of magical experiences are you trying to create?

Comments

  1. it’s the heart that wins in all place and time.. unconsciously creates magic here and there, in Facebook adn Twitter, even Plurk for Indonesian friends..

  2. it’s the heart that wins in all place and time.. unconsciously creates magic here and there, in Facebook adn Twitter, even Plurk for Indonesian friends..

  3. I’ve known my best friend Bob for over 40 years (since Grade 1). In Grade 3, we promised that we would be the best men at each other’s wedding. In 1993, I flew halfway around the world to fulfill my promise, and in 1997, he did the same to keep his end of the bargain. He moved to Calgary in 2004 so we now live and work in the same city – and in different divisions of the same company! Last summer, while helping my son CJ learn to ride a bike, I saw CJ’s best friend Ben punch his fists into the air when CJ finally got his balance. I later reminded CJ that rejoicing in a friend’s triumphs is a mark of true friendship. I hope CJ and Ben’s friendship will be as durable as Bob’s and mine. These are the things that fill life with magical moments.

  4. I’ve known my best friend Bob for over 40 years (since Grade 1). In Grade 3, we promised that we would be the best men at each other’s wedding. In 1993, I flew halfway around the world to fulfill my promise, and in 1997, he did the same to keep his end of the bargain. He moved to Calgary in 2004 so we now live and work in the same city – and in different divisions of the same company! Last summer, while helping my son CJ learn to ride a bike, I saw CJ’s best friend Ben punch his fists into the air when CJ finally got his balance. I later reminded CJ that rejoicing in a friend’s triumphs is a mark of true friendship. I hope CJ and Ben’s friendship will be as durable as Bob’s and mine. These are the things that fill life with magical moments.

  5. Magic. I love the mixing of the word magic with Internet and community. I use it often. I love to make it happen and see it happen…and this post is one of those magic moments.

  6. Magic. I love the mixing of the word magic with Internet and community. I use it often. I love to make it happen and see it happen…and this post is one of those magic moments.

  7. Thanks for taking the time to kick this around, Robert, especially after your Twitter/Facebook updates the last 24-36 hours. Nice to see the ‘essay’ that formed from those rapid-fire public musings.

    While I’m certain that many companies/PR voices trying to grasp the potential of well known social networking companies fueling the current iteration of the Web today may find themselves at odds with the premise of sparking small-scale conversations where “magic” (or even just a legitimate conversation requiring real engagement beyond nudges, likes, or link-follows) will take place, this seems central to what humans have always known. And it seems central regardless of the social, cultural, or technological frame thrust upon the question.

    What wise sage/mystic/sensei hasn’t eventually told a young student/follower to be “still”, to “listen”, to “engage”? What human myth hasn’t placed the Ying and Yang of human relationships (be one in a sea of many or be one in a pool of few) against each other to drive home the point that at a certain point in our experiences we crave the real, the now, the intimate, the small scale, the fire/drum circle, the eye contact?

    I definitely value the thinking-aloud you’re doing here, Robert, and sense that technology aside, the real game has always been about something ‘human’ for you (based on what I read and the short time we’ve spent together at your mother’s place a few years ago).

    That being said, I’m not sure that this is a Facebook vs. Twitter debate. It seems that the company/tool that gets it ‘right’ will be at best approximating what humans have always known to be true in the simplicity of “being” in the real world.

  8. A Poem: The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams

    so much depends
    upon

    a red wheel
    barrow

    glazed with rain
    water

    beside the white
    chickens

  9. “I’ve seen musicians give concerts to four of my closest friends and then go out and give concerts to thousands of people. I would rather have the small experience EVERY TIME.”

    Robert – you reading my blog today? We’re on the same wavelength :)

  10. “I’ve seen musicians give concerts to four of my closest friends and then go out and give concerts to thousands of people. I would rather have the small experience EVERY TIME.”

    Robert – you reading my blog today? We’re on the same wavelength :)

  11. Regarding birth as a “four” person event. I think you’re forgetting to count the star of the show. Without him/her there would be no reason for this gathering.

  12. Regarding birth as a “four” person event. I think you’re forgetting to count the star of the show. Without him/her there would be no reason for this gathering.

  13. Hello everyone my name is Jim I have to agree having a child is a magical experience. I’ve been fortunate to experience this twice. Another magical experience is seeing your vision for your business come to realization.Not only that when well known people see your business and utilize your services.This is always magical to me. Ex.-I’ve done alot of offline work (non-internet related) for alot of professional athletes. I will never stop looking for more magical moments like this.

    Jim

  14. Hello everyone my name is Jim I have to agree having a child is a magical experience. I’ve been fortunate to experience this twice. Another magical experience is seeing your vision for your business come to realization.Not only that when well known people see your business and utilize your services.This is always magical to me. Ex.-I’ve done alot of offline work (non-internet related) for alot of professional athletes. I will never stop looking for more magical moments like this.

    Jim

  15. Robert,
    I listened to you a while back and started working with Twitter and Friendfeed. I’ve always like the BLOG format and how it really brings people together one on one.

    So I didn’t really care about the noise of the micro-blogs. After a few months I realize that I like Twitter because it helps to focus your thoughts. I don’t follow a lot of people and I enjoy the experience with the friends I have.

    I don’t however like the noise I get with Friendfeed and how it flowed over to my Twitter cause I was following you there (all your likes are so overwhelming). So since most of my friends are in the Twitter world I just follow you in the FF world since you seem to start there first anyway. I guess you could say my FF is RFF – robertFF.

    Anyway, I agree with you, most great experiences in life come in small settings, with people you can connect with, either online or in person.

    I do like Facebook and how it allows you to set parameters with how you get and give information out to new and old friends alike. And with 200 million members we have hit the tipping point that being Geek is Good!

  16. Robert,
    I listened to you a while back and started working with Twitter and Friendfeed. I’ve always like the BLOG format and how it really brings people together one on one.

    So I didn’t really care about the noise of the micro-blogs. After a few months I realize that I like Twitter because it helps to focus your thoughts. I don’t follow a lot of people and I enjoy the experience with the friends I have.

    I don’t however like the noise I get with Friendfeed and how it flowed over to my Twitter cause I was following you there (all your likes are so overwhelming). So since most of my friends are in the Twitter world I just follow you in the FF world since you seem to start there first anyway. I guess you could say my FF is RFF – robertFF.

    Anyway, I agree with you, most great experiences in life come in small settings, with people you can connect with, either online or in person.

    I do like Facebook and how it allows you to set parameters with how you get and give information out to new and old friends alike. And with 200 million members we have hit the tipping point that being Geek is Good!

  17. Nothing more magic than silently farting in a group meeting or elevator and watching people’s reactions. Particularly after eating lots of fiber .

  18. Nothing more magic than silently farting in a group meeting or elevator and watching people’s reactions. Particularly after eating lots of fiber .

  19. Hey Robert!

    I’ve been in Toronto all week, but I’m really excited that you are getting a book. I love this post, too. I’m a big fan of the magical experience. :)

  20. Hey Robert!

    I’ve been in Toronto all week, but I’m really excited that you are getting a book. I love this post, too. I’m a big fan of the magical experience. :)

  21. A few things sprang to mind when I was reading this post. Firstly, I entirely agree with your comments concerning the power of the small group. As you suggest, there is a very different feel between the engagements of small group and those of larger groups. There are still places for the latter engagement types in my opinion, though whether we can classify these as ‘conversation’ is something else. Does Ashton Kutcher ‘converse’ with the 1,000,000+ people following him? I don’t think so. There are a lot of people that would get something from his tweets, but in my opinion, this is actually more reminiscent of the one way communications of the old media.

    To be honest, i’m quite surprised that marketing guys haven’t pushed harder for platforms that encourage engagements between smaller, more focused groups. Highly specific groups would allow for more appropriate targeting of ads. Admittedly, there will be significantly more of these groups as a result of smaller group engagements, but it is more likely that member purchase intentions will be predictable as a result.

    TLR

  22. A few things sprang to mind when I was reading this post. Firstly, I entirely agree with your comments concerning the power of the small group. As you suggest, there is a very different feel between the engagements of small group and those of larger groups. There are still places for the latter engagement types in my opinion, though whether we can classify these as ‘conversation’ is something else. Does Ashton Kutcher ‘converse’ with the 1,000,000+ people following him? I don’t think so. There are a lot of people that would get something from his tweets, but in my opinion, this is actually more reminiscent of the one way communications of the old media.

    To be honest, i’m quite surprised that marketing guys haven’t pushed harder for platforms that encourage engagements between smaller, more focused groups. Highly specific groups would allow for more appropriate targeting of ads. Admittedly, there will be significantly more of these groups as a result of smaller group engagements, but it is more likely that member purchase intentions will be predictable as a result.

    TLR

  23. Ultra-Condensed Translation: Contradictory attempts at some semblance of a thought process, but a feeble excuse for high-life techie name dropping. Social networks are best when small except when not. Small, big. Big, small. Big Tweets, lots of Friendfeed friends, I collect Facebook friends in the tens of thousands, but small groups of richie techy-blubber and/or VIP friends work too, I was here, I was there. You weren’t. Nah nah nah. Big is great. Small is great. Old friends. New friends. Magic experiences (as long as I’m the center of attention). And the magic is also in small numbers, except when I write a book and invite bloggertards over to my private Quackspace Area 43 parties, then I want big numbers. Real big. Oh, this person invited me over for dinner.

  24. Ultra-Condensed Translation: Contradictory attempts at some semblance of a thought process, but a feeble excuse for high-life techie name dropping. Social networks are best when small except when not. Small, big. Big, small. Big Tweets, lots of Friendfeed friends, I collect Facebook friends in the tens of thousands, but small groups of richie techy-blubber and/or VIP friends work too, I was here, I was there. You weren’t. Nah nah nah. Big is great. Small is great. Old friends. New friends. Magic experiences (as long as I’m the center of attention). And the magic is also in small numbers, except when I write a book and invite bloggertards over to my private Quackspace Area 43 parties, then I want big numbers. Real big. Oh, this person invited me over for dinner.

  25. Best post in a while. I read this post while I was holding my 1 year old son in my arms as he slept. I was trying to type without waking him when I realized that Twitter could wait because I don’t have this opportunities very often and very soon, I won’t be able to hold him in my arms. Thanks for a great post.

  26. Best post in a while. I read this post while I was holding my 1 year old son in my arms as he slept. I was trying to type without waking him when I realized that Twitter could wait because I don’t have this opportunities very often and very soon, I won’t be able to hold him in my arms. Thanks for a great post.

  27. “The point is, that magical experiences in life are — for me at least — those that are small and done with four or so other people.”

    Which explains why you brag about having so many Facebook friends and Twitter followers? Get your story straight.

  28. “The point is, that magical experiences in life are — for me at least — those that are small and done with four or so other people.”

    Which explains why you brag about having so many Facebook friends and Twitter followers? Get your story straight.

  29. A nice article – thankyou. I like the idea of creating a “magical experience”. We should be experiencing them every day :)

  30. A nice article – thankyou. I like the idea of creating a “magical experience”. We should be experiencing them every day :)

  31. I want to create magical experiences with poems. I’m reading my poems to a small group at an art studio during my town’s “open studio” day. While it won’t be as small a four or so people, it will be small. We’ll have 10-15 people, which is small for a poetry reading. I’m excited at the possibilities of introducing this person to that person and seeing what magic happens.

  32. I want to create magical experiences with poems. I’m reading my poems to a small group at an art studio during my town’s “open studio” day. While it won’t be as small a four or so people, it will be small. We’ll have 10-15 people, which is small for a poetry reading. I’m excited at the possibilities of introducing this person to that person and seeing what magic happens.

  33. Magical moments come with magical people. You are very lucky to meet so many different people. I’m pretty sure they are not all magical, but you have a greater percentage of chance to meet magical ones that anybody else.

    Thank you very much for sharing these ;-)

  34. Magical moments come with magical people. You are very lucky to meet so many different people. I’m pretty sure they are not all magical, but you have a greater percentage of chance to meet magical ones that anybody else.

    Thank you very much for sharing these ;-)

  35. See…I don’t think people objected to your importing tweets into Facebook because the service is all about “connecting with small groups.” They objected because the _ethos_ of Facebook is completely different.

    Facebook is about networking with people you already know and showing them what you have become/are becoming, whereas Twitter is about sharing and developing ideas. Both social networking spaces are full of people sharing the latest news, but the idea of what’s newsworthy greatly differs between the two. Where Facebook is about personal news and life events, Twitter seems to have developed into much more of an entrepreneurial, collaborative space.

    I’ve certainly gotten that “magical experience” from Twitter, but it’s always come about through sharing and building on ideas/interesting turns of phrase/plays on words. Facebook is not the sort of space where that sort of interaction can take place, perhaps because an account on Facebook automatically comes with a set of inescapable preconceptions related to who a person is, in the form of data re: where they come from, where they were educated, where they live now, who they work for, etc.

  36. See…I don’t think people objected to your importing tweets into Facebook because the service is all about “connecting with small groups.” They objected because the _ethos_ of Facebook is completely different.

    Facebook is about networking with people you already know and showing them what you have become/are becoming, whereas Twitter is about sharing and developing ideas. Both social networking spaces are full of people sharing the latest news, but the idea of what’s newsworthy greatly differs between the two. Where Facebook is about personal news and life events, Twitter seems to have developed into much more of an entrepreneurial, collaborative space.

    I’ve certainly gotten that “magical experience” from Twitter, but it’s always come about through sharing and building on ideas/interesting turns of phrase/plays on words. Facebook is not the sort of space where that sort of interaction can take place, perhaps because an account on Facebook automatically comes with a set of inescapable preconceptions related to who a person is, in the form of data re: where they come from, where they were educated, where they live now, who they work for, etc.

  37. Hey Robert,
    thanks for bringing up these memories, truly magic moments :) Something really special happened at that time, and I experienced it again last year at Lift Asia, shame you could not come!

    This year we will again create a great experience at Lift, this time in Marseille where we are organizing a conference at one of Europe’s most spectacular location: the Palais du Pharo. I would be glad to have you with us as usual! Check the pictures, don’t tell me you can resist!

    http://liftconference.com/new-venue-palais-du-pharo

    See you around soon, I might be coming to California in the very near future!
    laurent

  38. Hey Robert,
    thanks for bringing up these memories, truly magic moments :) Something really special happened at that time, and I experienced it again last year at Lift Asia, shame you could not come!

    This year we will again create a great experience at Lift, this time in Marseille where we are organizing a conference at one of Europe’s most spectacular location: the Palais du Pharo. I would be glad to have you with us as usual! Check the pictures, don’t tell me you can resist!

    http://liftconference.com/new-venue-palais-du-pharo

    See you around soon, I might be coming to California in the very near future!
    laurent

  39. Friday, April 17, 2009 10:25 PM…

    Robert Scoble is chasing the magical experience. “In all the hype about celebrities over on Twitter and Facebook we’ve forgotten something: experiences you have with crowds of other people are rarely magical unless it’s a concert and, even then,….

  40. I find this really interesting, because, honestly, my interactions on Twitter are much more intimate/ less indiscriminate blast oriented than my interactions on Facebook. Maybe I'm just an abberation? But the way I use Twitter is much more one-on-one.

  41. Thanks for taking the time to kick this around, Robert, especially after your Twitter/Facebook updates the last 24-36 hours. Nice to see the ‘essay’ that formed from those rapid-fire public musings.

    While I’m certain that many companies/PR voices trying to grasp the potential of well known social networking companies fueling the current iteration of the Web today may find themselves at odds with the premise of sparking small-scale conversations where “magic” (or even just a legitimate conversation requiring real engagement beyond nudges, likes, or link-follows) will take place, this seems central to what humans have always known. And it seems central regardless of the social, cultural, or technological frame thrust upon the question.

    What wise sage/mystic/sensei hasn’t eventually told a young student/follower to be “still”, to “listen”, to “engage”? What human myth hasn’t placed the Ying and Yang of human relationships (be one in a sea of many or be one in a pool of few) against each other to drive home the point that at a certain point in our experiences we crave the real, the now, the intimate, the small scale, the fire/drum circle, the eye contact?

    I definitely value the thinking-aloud you’re doing here, Robert, and sense that technology aside, the real game has always been about something ‘human’ for you (based on what I read and the short time we’ve spent together at your mother’s place a few years ago).

    That being said, I’m not sure that this is a Facebook vs. Twitter debate. It seems that the company/tool that gets it ‘right’ will be at best approximating what humans have always known to be true in the simplicity of “being” in the real world.

  42. A Poem: The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams

    so much depends
    upon

    a red wheel
    barrow

    glazed with rain
    water

    beside the white
    chickens