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Happy Holidays from Dent

by Jason on December 15, 2014

Sun Valley HolidaysThose of us who Ski or Snowboard are already counting the inches as they fall (8 this past weekend in Sun Valley) and looking forward to our time on the slopes.

We’ve been working hard at filling in the speakers, the sessions, and the very cool activities that will come together for Dent 2015, and with Dent only about three months away we’re starting to get pretty excited about that, too.

In the coming months, look for some really cool content and more fun announcements about who is going to be joining us and what we’ll get to do together in 2015.

Whether you’re spending the holidays at home or traveling, in the sun or in the snow, we hope you have a great time during these last few weeks of 2014, and we look forward to seeing you next March in Sun Valley.

(We’re obligated to mention, if you haven’t registered for Dent 2015 yet, what are you waiting for? Do it now before the price goes up on January 1.)


f_dent_wh_029Amazingly it’s already December. We’re only a few months away from our annual gathering in Sun Valley this March 22-25, 2015, and the schedule is really starting to take shape.

This year, our luck continues in bringing together some pretty unique and unexpected stories to share from the stage. For example:

  • Craig Newmark will join us for an interview about trust and ethics in journalism.
  • Dan Kottke and Ellen Leanse will share a conversation on stage about the books that Kottke & Steve Jobs read together while traveling the world together.
  • Sarah Milstein will talk about the way management and leadership changes as a company goes from 10 to 100 to 1,000 people.
  • Mark Duncan, a real-life Sherlock Holmes (a consulting detective) will share the every day applications of the techniques and secrets he uses to unlock old cases.

Dent is a four-day event, though, and talking about only the sessions is like describing nachos but forgetting to mention the cheese. Some things we have in store for this year include:

  • Parkour Workshop – Parkour competitor and general genius Zachary Cohn will be running a workshop on activity day.
  • Scavenger Hunt – The scavenger hunt was a huge hit in 2014 and we’ll be back with a new iteration this year; split into teams, compete to solve clues around town, win prizes. ’nuff said.
  • Photo Walk – Kris Krug, the amazing globetrotting photographer who led last year’s photowalk, will be back this year to do another one through scenic Sun Valley.

Combine the content with the community and the atmosphere in Sun Valley, ID, and you begin to understand why Dent has such a powerful effect on people. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself and connect with a peer group that goes beyond “networking,” — Denters share your challenges, your ambitions, your doubts, and your smarts.

If you know you’re planning to join us in 2015, now would be an excellent time to register and make your plans: the registration price jumps from $2,250 to $2,750 after January 1, and the Resort has some of its capacity closed off for renovations, so it’s likely to sell out.

We hope to see you next year in Sun Valley!


Sitting on the Job Increases Depression Risk

by Teresa on December 5, 2014

A recent study found that employees who sit at their desks for more than 6 hours a day are more likely to experience moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression, even when those workers are getting the recommended amount of physical exercise outside of working hours:

Data for the study was collected from 3,367 state government employees as part of a broader health outreach program. Participants filled out a short, validated psychological assessment for symptoms of anxiety and depression over the last 4 weeks. The researchers also asked participants to complete a scale assessing their current levels of physical activity, in addition to surveys designed to get at potential confounding factors, such as leisure-time physical activity and general satisfaction with the workplace.

Kilpatrick and colleagues found that there was a significant relationship between rates of psychological distress and sitting. Employees who reported sitting for longer than 6 hours per day had increased prevalence of moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression relative to those who reported sitting for less than 3 hours a day.

Another key finding was that hitting the gym after work didn’t protect workers from the effects of sitting. If people sat for most of the work day, even if they were physically active and getting exercise in their off hours, they still showed relatively higher rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than did workers who sat for less than 3 hours a day.


Broadway Meets Television

by Teresa on December 4, 2014

peterpanliveThe success of musically-driven shows like FOX’s Glee and ABC’s Nashville has been good news for musical theatre lovers everywhere; and now networks are embracing even more ambitious Broadway-style spectacles. NBC, spurred on by terrific ratings for last year’s “Sound of Music Live!,” has made a huge bet on a special effects-heavy production of “Peter Pan,” which will air live tonight at 8pm Eastern.

From the New York Times:

“The Sound of Music Live!,” starring Carrie Underwood was the first time in decades that a network staged a musical for live broadcast, was “a great experiment,” Mr. Meron said, but the fantastical “Peter Pan Live!” aims to marry Broadway spectacle with TV wizardry more ambitiously.

Unlike “The Sound of Music,” “Peter Pan” will include big dance numbers shot on 360-degree sets, using Steadicams and cranes. In addition to the rebellious shadow, other complicating factors include a live, computer-generated Tinker Bell; moving sets; a contraption-heavy pirate ship; and a talented mutt named Bowdie who plays Nana the dog. (An understudy, Lexie, stands ready.)

All told, “Peter Pan” includes roughly 10 times as many technical components as “The Sound of Music,” estimated Derek McLane, the production designer. Prime among them are the elaborate rigs and harnesses that will fly the actors around the studio — always a fraught proposition after “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”

“It’s anxious-making in that it’s a lot for all of us to get right,” he said.

NBC has secured the rights to “The Music Man” for next season’s holiday spectacular, but they won’t make any formal plans until they see how tonight’s spectacle comes off.


cyber-warfareA false sense of security has led American companies, governments, and NGO’s alike to avoid dealing with the potentially catastrophic implications of major data breaches, writes Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times:

The problem, Mr. Kocher and security experts reason, is a lack of liability and urgency. The Internet is still largely held together with Band-Aid fixes. Computer security is not well regulated, even as enormous amounts of private, medical and financial data and the nation’s computerized critical infrastructure — oil pipelines, railroad tracks, water treatment facilities and the power grid — move online.

If a stunning number of airplanes in the United States crashed tomorrow, there would be investigations, lawsuits and a cutback in air travel, and the airlines’ stock prices would most likely plummet. That has not been true for hacking attacks, which surged 62 percent last year, according to the security company Symantec. As for long-term consequences, Home Depot, which suffered the worst security breach of any retailer in history this year, has seen its stock float to a high point.

In a speech two years ago, Leon E. Panetta, the former defense secretary, predicted it would take a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” — a crippling attack that would cause physical destruction and loss of life — to wake up the nation to the vulnerabilities in its computer systems.

New laws and best practices are driving change, but whether they will happen fast enough to avert such a “cyber-Pearl Harbor,” remains to be seen. It seems that new ways of thinking about the problem, approaches that incorporate both strategic thinking and technological expertise, will be required to up level our defenses.


Toilets Can Change the World

by Teresa on November 21, 2014

4.1.1Yesterday was the United Nations’ World Toilet Day and NPR had several worthy stories on the topic. Why toilets? Eric Ng, had a great answer to that question in his Denter of the Week interview:

What world-changing innovation from history do you find most interesting or inspirational?
Toilets. They’re deceptively simple as they elegantly hide the complex infrastructure needed to run them effectively at scale. India’s PM Modi recently pledged to give all Indians access to toilets (2.5b people still live without proper sanitation, including 600M in India). We’re fortunate to have them.

Indeed toilets, or rather the lack of them, is a hot topic in addressing the needs of the world’s poor:

We in the West don’t spend much time pondering that question (on or off the toilet).

“It’s something that’s always in the background that keeps everything else moving,” says Sam Drabble of Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), a London-based nonprofit. “It allows us to live very busy lives, and it’s not something we ever need to think about.”

Others aren’t so fortunate. Geeta has no toilet near her home in northern India; she treks 2 miles in the dark to a field for privacy. If Vanessa’s school had private bathrooms, the 17-year-old wouldn’t have to miss class when she’s having her period. In Ecuador, Reverside, 37, wouldn’t have to visit her brother’s house to use his toilet, which is shared by nine other people from different families.

Singaporean entrepreneur Jack Sim wants to change all that. Sim, who made his fortune in construction, aims to bring toilets to every human being on earth:

What’s a misconception we in the world of high-end toilets have about toilets in the lower-income countries?

That if you give toilets to people, they will use them. Open defecation [in a field, on the street, wherever] has a lot of advantages: It’s free of charge and you don’t have to buy [soap]. You don’t have to empty the toilet. It’s a norm from centuries and generations. So first you have to make owning a toilet not just rational but aspirational. You have to make a toilet come with bragging rights, like a Louis Vuitton handbag.

Aspiration is important, as you can see even rich people have really nice toilets — they go for the highest level all the time. So this is the same as the poor people. They aspire to own products that have bragging rights, like a cellphone or television. The psychology is exactly the same.

What kind of toilet would appeal to the untoileted world?

A toilet should be as good as the house. So if the house is simple, then the toilet should be simpler. When it’s not compatible, interesting things happen. When we donated a toilet to a school [in rural China], later on the principal moved his office into the toilet because he found that the toilet is more beautiful than the school and his office.

[The toilet] must be close-looped. That means you can empty [the waste] and you can recycle the nutrients. If it ends up in the river and the lake and contaminates the water, it spreads disease.

And speaking of toilets as good as the house, this year’s award for America’s Best Restroom went to Longwood Gardens for…well, just click the link and see.


Why You Should Wear the Same Thing Every Day

by Teresa on November 20, 2014

Fashion is not a thing that geeks generally spend a lot of time thinking about. We’re all for the design of beautiful objects; but taking lots of time to intentionally put together a beautiful outfit each day doesn’t tend to be a priority for many of us. The standard uniform of a conference tee shirt and either jeans or khakis suits most of us just fine.

And it turns out that this sartorial monotony is actually good for both our personal brands and our brains:

Simply put, by stressing over things like what to eat or wear every day, people become less efficient at work.

This is precisely why individuals like President Obama, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Albert Einstein decided to make life easier by adopting a monotonous wardrobe.

Whether you love or hate him, it’s hard to argue against the notion that President Obama has the most difficult job in the world. As the leader of the most powerful country on the planet, the president has a lot on his plate.

Regardless of what he does, he will be criticized. Simply put, he’s got a lot of important things to think about beyond his wardrobe.

This is precisely why President Obama wears the same suit every single day. Well, almost every day, we can’t forget about the time the Internet exploded when he wore a khaki suit. Although, that probably says less about him and more about us.

The majority of the time, however, Obama wears either a blue or gray suit. In an article from Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair, the president explained the logic behind this routine:

‘You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits’ [Obama] said.

‘I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’ He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.

As Stuart Heritage puts it for the Guardian, “Barack Obama has pared his wardrobe down to such a degree that he can confidently walk into any situation and make decisions that directly impact on the future of mankind.”


Bob Hope Left a Forgotten Dent in Comedy

by Teresa on November 19, 2014

bobhopeA new book by Richard Zoglin about the life of Bob Hope aims to reinvigorate the legacy of the oft-overlooked comedy pioneer:

This unabashedly ambitious book also makes much of Hope as inspiration, public citizen and inventor of the stand-up comedy monologue, the kind he delivered when hosting the Academy Awards, which he did more than anyone else has. “No one ever looked better in a tuxedo,” Mr. Zoglin hyperbolizes about that.

Why, then, is Mr. Hope so seldom thanked for all he contributed to American life? Why do stand-up comics forget to mention him as the great pioneer?

The answer, it seems, is that Hope became tragically out of step with the times during his later life, which turned the general public off greatly.

If he had ended his career before Vietnam he would have been a beloved American hero. But Hope lived past his 100th birthday and kept performing long past the point at which he could be funny. His vehement, conservative politics were held against him by angry protesters during the Vietnam era, and his efforts to acknowledge the differences between that war and World War II fell flat: From then on, he became unfunny and out of touch. On Woodstock: “Since the dawn of man, that’s the most dandruff that was ever in one place.” On AIDS: “Have you heard? The Statue of Liberty has AIDS. Nobody knows if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Ferry.”

Hope’s story is an interesting case study in legacies. We often ask one another, “what do you want to be remembered for?” but our answers rarely have anything to do with our personal foibles; and yet none of us are saints. So what makes one person a legend and another a forgotten yet impactful force?


The Marijuana Revolution

by Teresa on November 18, 2014

marijuanaAs more US states legalize marijuana, the New York Times has opened its “Room for Debate” series to discussion of the inevitability of “Big Marijuana.”

The debate centers largely around whether the drug should be decriminalized or legalized. Decriminalization would simply lift penalties for small-scale distribution and possession, while legalization would treat marijuana the same way we currently treat alcohol and tobacco distribution.

Three of the four pundits that participated in the debate argued that legalization and commercialization of marijuana would be bad for Americans:

It is especially ironic that as we try to close the painful chapter on Big Tobacco, we seem to be welcoming with open arms its contemporary version: Big Marijuana. And that, of course, is the real danger of American-style legalization. It would be one thing if recent legalization laws simply removed criminal penalties for adult possession – a revision of that nature is overdue – but the current legalization wave is driven by far more than social justice: it is about making a profit. After all, businesses that rely on habit and addiction can only really make money if a proportion of their customers are heavy, unhealthy users.

The dissenter on this point, a lobbyist for the Cannabis Industry Association, argues that full scale legalization and commercialization will increase transparency and safety:

A regulated market provides great benefits to consumers. First and foremost, they are able to enter a safe and secure environment, where they can purchase products grown under controlled conditions with labels that convey THC content and other important information.

But while the discussion of legalization vs. decriminalization continues, the cultural impact of marijuana legalization is not up for debate. This year, the Oxford English dictionary considered the term “budtender” (a person whose job it is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop) for its word of the year; and Time reports that the family of the late Reggae superstar Bob Marley has partnered with a private equity firm focused on marijuana products to create an official “heirloom Jamaican cannabis strain” that will bare Marley’s name and likeness.


Vicky TamaruSteve and I have always joked that we’re really good at putting together “an awesome event” (Biz Stone’s words), but not as good at telling people how cool it is.

Like all jokes, there’s a kernel of truth in it that makes it funny…neither of us has been particularly active in finding sponsorships (though we do manage to find GREAT sponsors, including Buick, SCOTTeVEST, and Silicon Valley Bank.)

Finding like-minded organizations to help sponsor and promote what we’re doing is like filling up the fuel tank on the rocket as we head out to “dent the universe.” In other words, it’s a vital part of making the awesomeness happen.

As attendees of Dent know, we are a community of talented thinkers and doers, and we knew that if we put the word out, we’d find someone who could really boost the engines.

Today we’re really excited to say that Vicky Tamaru (Twitter) is joining the Dent team as our new “Fuel Supplier.” Vicky has spent a little more than a decade adding and keeping happy clients at PlexiPixel in South Lake Union, a web-based development shop / agency she co-founded, so she knows her way around technology, entrepreneurship, and good old fashioned business.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Dent, or if you haven’t met Vicky and want to introduce yourself to someone who is great to know, please shoot Vicky an email: vicky AT dentthefuture.com.