Breakfast at conferences is often a place for surprise encounters with fellow participants. Casual talk about the sessions the day before or the ones to come. Yes, some people are not in the mood for conversation that early in the morning, so they used to hide behind newspapers.
At the Emerging Technology Conference last week there was ubiquitous Wifi and everybody equipped with laptops and wireless cards. That totally changed the breakfast scenery.
Circle of laptops on every table united by the need for power given from the extension cord in their middle. The people in front of them wolfing down bagels and coffee while weeding through their emails/newsreader and congratulating Joi Ito for investing in Movable Type.
This is of course only the beginning. We are drifting towards semi attention. Through some strange coincidences I was sitting at the lunch table with Jeff Bezos. (This sounds like name dropping. Sorry, but here is the point I want to make.) From the right he got some ideas pitched and at least twice while in the conversation he would check his Blackberry and quickly answer some emails. Probably to make sure his new space adventure Blue Origin stays on track :-)
It is nothing new, I love to call people and chat while folding my freshly washed cloths. What makes me pause is that this semi attention is creeping into more and more areas of our lives.
When was the last time that you experienced someone who really payed attention to what you said, someone who not only listened to your words, but also understood your current mood and all the things that you did not say? Where you suddenly felt that this person is able to look behind your curtains? These people live a richer live. From now on I will try to be less distracted and more attentive.
By the way, I know it is hard to believe, but Jeff Bezos is laughing as loud as I am if not louder. I think he just knows how good it is / feels and therefore doesn't hold back. Very refreshing.