Talk: 5 minutes, 3 acts, countless feelings

by Randall Snare

Last week, I spoke at The Dare Conference, a very different kind of get together, organised by the tireless Jonathan Kahn. I gave a lightning talk, just to add some extra stress into my life.



The slides are here, but they won’t make any sense if you look at them on their own.

The three acts were as follows:

Act I: In design, there is a spectrum of giving a shitedness.

The How end is concerned with how the design works. People on this end give a shit about the gears, not the gloss. My client example: Citigroup, who put their design process where everyone can see it.

The What is concerned with what the design looks like. People in the middle of spectrum give a shit about great design. They don’t mind how it came about or even what it’s doing. My client example: Vodafone, who demand pixel perfection.

The Why end is concerned with what the design is doing. People on this end give a shit about the money the design is making (or saving). My client example: Goodyear who talk to their analytics person more than anyone else.

Act II: Sometimes powerful people are evil

So I heard about this study that the University of California did, looking at mirror neurons in the brains of those in positions of power.

Quick mirror neuron 101: Mirror neurons are those neurons that are activated both when you watch something happen and when you do that thing yourself. So if you watch someone pick up a cup or you yourself pick up a cup, the same thing happens in your brain. Among other theories, it’s thought that mirror neurons are the neurological basis of empathy.

Or you can find out about mirror neurons from someone with a degree in brain.

The study found that people in positions of power had less activated mirror neurons. So if you’re trying to convince someone in a position of power, it’s probably best not to play the empathy card.

Note: What I actually said was, “powerful people’s brains are full of dead mirror neurons,” which caused a wee disagreement. But really I was joking. I’m totally powerful and I cry at movies (only those with animals).

Act III: I like to give unsolicited advice

I ended the talk with a list, because I figure I can get rich on top 5/10/100 thing. Turns out my list is about how to not be an asshole. The list begins with “Don’t yell at pregnant women” and ends with “It’s OK to lose an argument” so I guess this means I’m growing.

The rest of Dare Conf

Everyone else gave real talks. Here are some I liked:

  • The always awesome Karen McGrane gave a bravely personal, funny and wise talk about the internal struggles of the professional consultant.
  • The newly discovered (at least by me) awesome Meri Williams gave a really accessible talk about terror, i.e. managing other human beings.
  • Ummul Choundury may be the most brave - she talked about how she works with kids in war torn countries (which is in a very unexpected way).

You can see more talks and, if you want to be a part of an ongoing Dare Conf, you can donate. It’s a place to hear voices you’ve never heard before.

Ok back to me

Actually, I’m done. I only had 5 minutes.


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Randall Snare
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We're two writers who make web things. We're interested in what makes stories go: in our brains, online, in design, fiction, culture and everywhere.

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