Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gnomedex Proud Elder

(See photos of Ronni at Gnomedex at "Blogging In Paris" in a 8/13/07 link.)

Ronni Bennett's appearance in Seattle at the Gnomedex Convention
made this elder feel proud of how well she presented and represented my views and interests. I just can't think of a better spokesperson with such a complete grasp of aging issues that are of concern and interest to me.

For anyone who isn't familiar with Ronni Bennett, she blogs at "Times Goes By." writing about "What It's Really Like To Get Older." I don't think I am overstating the reality when I say she is a guiding light mentor for many Elderbloggers. She certainly is a primary source for important information about all aspects of aging.

She adopted use of "Elderblogger" to designate anyone 50 years of age and older after Elisa Camahort of BlogHer coined the term. Elder, of course, refers to the multi-cultural centuries old term usage which denotes respect and wisdom for community selected old er members.

Chris Pirillo, tech guru running this second annual Gnomedex Convention asked Ronni to provide a presentation about elderblogging. She did just that yesterday, Friday, August 10, 2007 with live streaming audio and video to our computers. I was able to adjust my schdule to enjoy the experience and want to write some my observations here while they are fresh in my mind. Perhaps they'll be of interest to anyone who may have missed this event.

Ronni engaged the audience with a brief recap of just how many elders there are in this country today and how rapidly our numbers are increasing. This was food for thought since many of the young people in the audience likely can't imagine they will ever be elders, but we all know better. They should hope they become elders, since there is only one other alternative.

I was reminded at the beginning of this streaming video event of the early days of television's live programming. In those days, little glitches (sometimes big ones) occurred, to an audience's delight, and all could see real people coping with unexpected problems resulting in a less than perfect production -- just like the real lives we all live. So it was with this production, there were a few little snafus getting the technical quirks corrected.

As with life sometimes, some good came of the glitches, as lucky Ronni was introduced by Chris to the latest, but, not inexpensive tech gadget from Steve Jobs' called the IPhone. She was promised some hands on time with it.

The streaming audio and video was a bit frustrating to follow at times with brief spurts of content loss more often than I would have liked, but think that's the nature of fine tuning some of these new technologies, just like the issues we each face with our own computers. I'm comforted all these bright intelligent young geek technologists are having such a great time trying to correct all these issues to provide us with more and better system operations.

Ronni brought two convention attendees onstage to demonstrate some of what the aging experience is like for individuals with vision, touch and other sensory problems. The realilty is many people of all ages experience some of these problems and more, but we don't always hear too much about them except from those involved in providing special education and selected therapies.

Among the numerous points she made were some we know from our own experiences. For many people, larger size keyboard letters/symbols are needed. Print sizes, color contrasts are important i.e. black print on white is preferable. I know much of this from my own mother's needs.

Ronni continues to make the case for an inexpensive, less than complex functional computer incorporating other desired features appealing to elders. She offered much more pertinent information than reported here.

One unexpected interesting feature to me on this live streaming vdeo was another real time feature called T Flash Commenters. A viewer could sign up and make comments that would appear just under the video in an ongoing dialogue. I immediately tried to sign up, but my security system wouldn't allow me to do so, and I didn't have time to try to adjust it since I wanted to concentrate on the videocast that was starting.

I could really sense that as Ronni's presentation progressed, her live audience was becoming increasingly interested and responsive to what she was saying. Just to give you a flavor of how I arrived at that perception, I'm going to repeat just a few of the T Flash Comments that I copied from my screen from reactions when she first began to speak until the closing of her presentation. I didn't attempt to write down the names of the commenters, since all was happening so fast. Here are some of the comments:

"Who is she?"

This was followed by a few ageist comments about "old people" and then, "Who cares!" in response to some points she made in the beginning. (I thought, "You better care, because you'll be one of us before you know it.")

Gradually, as some wrote about their parents, grandparents the climate warmed and the naysayers cooled.

"My grandma is 71." ... "Mine 102."

Commenters setting a more postive tone toward elders seemed to mello the earlier negative ones, perhaps making them stop and think. I believe this is why ageism dialogue is so important, and why we should speak up instead of just letting ageist language slide on by.

Chris became involved on stage with Ronni at one point and suggested that maybe what was needed was an Elder Browser. Sounded like an interesting idea to me. I'm just enthusiastic that thoughts and ideas about elders are being stimulated.

More written comments on the T Flash Dialogue about Ronni followed:

"She is making good points."
"Old people need a computer they talk to."
"She is cool."

Ronni mentioned typing as a forerunner of keyboarding and her typing speed of 120 WPM, to which the commenters wrote:

"120 words per minute! Can any of you ignorants out there do that?"

Then ensued a brief written dialogue about typewriters, whether or not anyone had ever used one. ("I have! I have!" I said laughingly to myself, "...and I could type 120 WPM, too.")

Ronni continued with even more intelligent information, to which a commenter wrote:

"This woman is actually making good points."

Later, Ronni turned to the audience for questions and comments. I was pleased when some of the audience responded by expressing interest in devising technical equipment for elders needs. I just hope they met with her afterward, or will have contact later to actually take some action. A man then shared a story about his father's early computer involvement "scanning old slides." These T Flash written comments about Ronni followed:

"I wish my parents knew half of what she does."

"Interests transcend ages."

"She's not a dog!" (My thought to that was, "Is this what some of these younger people think of older people?")

I watched a presenter, Vanessa, (sorry, I didn't get her full name or blog) who followed Ronni, discussing an interesting topic about how much to disclose about oneself on a blog and other privacy issues. Ronni asked her some really pertinent questions and offered some comments that really enhanced Vanessa's presentation. Here's what some of the T Flash Dialogue was about Ronni then:

"Is that the old lady talking?"

"Good for her!"

I wish I could remember what Ronni's comment was that prompted this, but I had a big laugh when I read it:

"Please, lady, your generation is the one that kicked out polite society."

I'm going to have to attend one of these blogger conventions somewhere sometime. I think they need to see and hear from more elders.

Thanks, Ronni!


  1. Terrific recap, joared. Thank you so much for doing it. I enjoyed making the presentation and the response afterward from attendees was heartening in their interest in developing elder-friendly technology.

    I'll have a lot more to say about the conference on TGB when I get home, but first - another day of Gnomedex and then a real vacation.

    Thanks again.

  2. Thanks for this post. I missed out on the live broadcast. I hope to catch it later when they post the video online.

  3. I watched Ronni's presentation, too. (Ronni, you were great!)

    It was good seeing the young techies take a real interest in what she was saying.

    More interesting was seeing the tone of comments on the chat portion change from negative to positive as the responders began to actually listen to what Ronni was saying rather than dismiss her as just an "old" woman. This is exactly what we need to change the perception of elders in our society.


  4. joared, I didn't tune into the presentation but I certainly enjoyed this delightful recap. Ronni has an in-depth understanding of ageism that needs to be delivered to other generations and I am delighted to know she had this opportunity. I am equally delighted that you shared without reservation your own observations of the audience warming to her thoughtful discussions.

  5. Joared,

    Thanks for the recap. I didn't get to see the presentation but liked what I read about it on your post.

    Ronni,I am very pleased that you were so well received and will be anxious to read your observations when you get home.

    Have a great vacation now. You deserve it.

  6. Thanks for the recap Joared. It sounded very interesting and I can't wait to read Ronni's recap after her holiday too.

  7. Thanks for the recap! I was so disappointed to have missed it. And I look forward to hearing Ronni's remarks on it. You did a great job, Joared!

  8. Thanks for the recap; I am looking forward to seeing Ronni's take on it. One thing we all need is a keyboard whose letters don't disappear!!

  9. Ver interesting Joarad....I think I am in denial about being an ElderBlogger...somehow thinking of myself that way makes me feel older...! (if that makes sense)...That there are things that we older folks need to make our computer experience much much better, is undeniable....Maybe as the Baby Boomers grow older yet, the Bill Gates' of this world will supply those very needed improvements...!
    Thanks for this very very thorough recap!

  10. I really enjoyed your recap, since I wasn't able to watch the webcast. But I have trouble reading your blog, which shows up as gray on white. Be kind to vision impaired elders like me and make the typeface larger and bolder.

  11. Thanks for all your comments. I look forward to Ronni's recap at "Time Goes By" when she returns from vacation.

    oldoldlady: I know what you mean about "not feeling old," but then there's the reality of the years. ;-)

    I'm hoping we can have computers that incorporate features that enhance usability for older people now, so we don't have to wait until the boomers are all elders. Besides, they'll benefit, too.

    Ruthe: Thanks for expressing your low vision needs and providing a suggestion for addressing the issue.

    I am unable to adjust the print size for this response due to my current limited technical knowledge about how to do so. I do plan to explore information on the low vision topic and will write a future post about what I learn.

    Meanwhile, you might want to have someone help you set up your computer so that ALL print you receive on your computer is enlarged to the size you need. This may be the best solution for your problem.

  12. Since my connection was too flaky, I didn't get a chance to watch Ronni, and am really grateful for your account of her Gnomedex presentation.
    And I enjoyed your comments too. ;)

  13. Joared, thanks so much for the recap. I wish I could have been there. Maybe some of the technology developed for those who are sight and hearing impaired will be adapted to enhance computers for elders. This was also a fine tribute for our friend, Ronni. She is our champion!

  14. Great post, Joared! Thanks for adding your first hand view of Ronni's presentation. (And thanks to Claude who pointed it out to me).

  15. what a terrific post, joanne! i'm about to pass it along with ronni's to others who desparately need to attend to these issues.

    was the audience predominantly male--or were more women, as well as elders, there than you might have expected?

  16. Thanks, Jorad for the recap. I am severely hearing impaired and I wish someone would convince the computer geeks at YouTube that we need closed captioning below the videos. I miss out on so many things like clips of the Daily Show and Bill Moyers Journal. Darlene

  17. Thanks so much for the synopsis of Ronni's speach. I'm so sorry that those "kids" initially arrived with their heads stuck in the sand, but it's delightful that her clear thinking woke them up.

  18. Right on, Joared! You are on target with elders making the effort to attend more tech conferences. I've been privileged to attend SXSWi for the last two years, and from last year to this, there was a significant increase in the number of silver heads both in the audience and presenting. I think we're making progress, thanks to Ronni and other elderbloggers such as yourself!