eScapegoat

Adapted from my sermon at MSU’s Hillel on Yom Kippur

  • I’m sorry I spanked a homeless person with a spoon
  • Sometimes I pass gas near a group of my students and let them blame each other.
  • Thanks to my road rage, my 3 year old daughter has learned an impressive assortment of curse words.

I did not write these. I did, however, produce the app they were submitted to. It was a project for my company, G-dcast.

The app, eScapegoat, got some great press on everywhere from NPR to CNN to the WSJ. It kicked off a month and ten days before Yom Kippur at the beginning of Elul, and sent the user through these screens:

screen1

The eScapegoat is roaming the Internet collecting sins before Yom Kippur. Like in Bible Times, only nerdier.

screen2

Before submitting your own sin, please enter your age. You’ll get to see a short backstory on the next screen and then prepare to atone!

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The backstory: In Bible Times, Israelites atoned with sacrifices. Once a year, on what we now call Yom Kippur, the High Priest paced all the Israelites’ sins on a goat and set it loose in the wilderness. Today we reflect and try to clean our slates during Elul, the Hebrew month before Yom Kippur.

screen4

The High Priest took two goats. He sacrificed one and then he laid his hands on the other, transfrring the community’s sins onto it. Then, he sent the Scapegoat off into the wilderness.
From the goat’s perspective, neither path ended well.

It asked people to share a secret. Something they’re sorry for, and have had a tough time admitting to and telling others. We didn’t know what to expect.

From @SinfulGoat, I tweeted 100’s of the sins people had entered, sorting through the chaff of thousands. While sorting, I was amazed by just how many people go through the same self doubt and issues that I do.

  • I stopped praying sometime last year. Over a year ago. I just started again a few days ago. It felt like cheating.
  • I have lied to my husband about the state of our finances.
  • Feel like a horrible mom sometimes.
  • I cheated at Words with Friends

As I read through confession after confession, certain themes came out. For instance:

  • I cheated on my boyfriend and then lied about the severity of it
  • I’m sorry that I sometimes put down my husband and act pedantic.
  • I blame men when I don’t want to date them when actually I am the problem
  • I cheated on the only man who ever truly loved me.
  • I was never in love with my fiancée and I should have told her.
  • I’m sorry I didn’t leave my wife earlier then I did…. I found a woman who appreciates me for who I am
  • I’m sorry that I gave my ex-wife such a hard time.

The confessions ranged from the lighthearted:

  • I brushed my teeth with my friend’s toothbrush and then lied about it to her.
  • My sister and I stole our bubbe’s false teeth to make maracas.
  • I’m sorry for becoming a Pinterest addict.

LOL
To the incredibly dark:

  • I still need to atone for when I was ten and told a girl who had just lost her dad to “Drop dead like your dad.”
  • I lied about the rape. Now it’s part if my personal narrative and I can’t undo the lie.
  • I’m sorry I couldn’t put my family back together (and didn’t really try)

Family
The majority of sins were sent in over and over again with shifted phrasing by different people. We all go through these same inner torments but keep it bottled up. Yom Kippur asks us to let it out. To share in how we all have the same struggles.

  • I lied to a friend to avoid going to his party.
  • I’m sorry that I have gained so much weight.
  • I’m sorry that I whined so much, especially when my life is really excellent.
  • I’m sorry that I give in to despair instead of taking action

The project evolved into something greater than the sum of its parts and made me acknowledge how we are all going through these same struggles, and don’t need to go through them alone. The undercurrent of so many of the sins surprised me: Not being open with those around you.
Dark
The point of Elul and Yom Kippur is not to admit to sins anonymously. It’s to take the time to go to those you know and set it right,  clean the air. You’re not really atoning unless you make the pact to never do the sin again. The difficulty in apologizing isn’t admitting to it, but in making a conscious choice to shift your behavior.

  • I skipped classes during school simply so I could stay home and have a Netflix marathon
  • I sometimes put the phone down when talking to my mom. She chats away and doesn’t know I’m not listening.
  • I almost never answer the phone when my dad calls, even though I always cash the checks he send me. Sorry

It’s incredibly hard to promise to not do something again. It’s why we come back to this every year.

Finding a way to truly unload is an age old struggle, dating back long before anyone dreamed up the scapegoat 1,000’s of years ago. We all have problems that pull at us. So many times, what makes it a struggle, is the decision to take it on alone. To keep it bottled in. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The act of atoning is the act of opening up.

jewish

We asked people to share a secret. A confession. I learned a lot sorting through them, but for me, there was one big take away:

More than anything, aspire to be as open as possible with those you love (and those you don’t yet know you love).

That’s the secret I hope to take away.

Gmar Chatima Tova.

May you all be Inscribed in the Book of Life.

All Illustrations in this post created by Madelyn Lee for the eScapegoat project. And as long as we’re on the subject, check out Pavel, if you’re ever looking for a quality web app programmer. Coming up with the idea, marketing the app and testing and tweaking it was a collaborative effort of the entire G-dcast team. I coordinated a lot of the spinning plates, but this was a massive collaborative undertaking where so many people made such a major difference. I’m inclined to do an entire other post walking through the process of its creation. We’ll see.

Reshaping How to Memorize…Gaining a new Superpower

Comment I wrote in response to Derek Siver’s article on Memorizing a programming language using spaced repetition software (Go read that now.)

This is incredible. Scratch that. This is life changing. Thank you so much for sharing Derek.

I was skeptical that Spaced Repetition Software would work for me and my terrible memory. I’ve tried plenty of techniques in the past. For instance, I spent a while learning the peg system in an effort to be able to memorize dates, numbers and lists. While it worked, it serves me more as a party trick than an actual life changing approach to memory.

What I particularly love about using Anki, which I’ve been doing for a half an hour a day on the bus since reading this article, is I feel the information is actually sticking. Because of that, I want to spend more time learning, and because of that my memory muscle is actually growing stronger. My ability to memorize quicker and quicker is already improving. I’ve gone from hating the very idea of memorizing to getting excited about learning more. I’ve always been frustrated wasting time memorizing because I knew it was facts I’d just forget in another couple months. This doesn’t feel like that. This feels like I’m gaining a super power.

I did a small test over the course of the last three weeks to see if Anki would really work for me. I didn’t want to jump into something ambitious like a programming language before seeing if it actually worked for a small data set. I challenged myself to use it to learn the names of all of the countries in the world. There’s less then 200. If Anki could teach me those, I had faith I could then go on to more ambitious challenges.

I loaded a shared deck, and three weeks later, I feel confident I know them all. It took half an hour on the bus every day, but that’s a small sacrifice. In a few more weeks it will be cemented for life. That’s incredible. Now I’m excited for what I’ll be taking on next.

In this order

  • Bones of the body
  • Muscle systems
  • Names of all of my facebook acquaintances
  • Street names in San Francisco
  • Biblical Hebrew
  • Music Theory
  • WordPress tags

That should take me well into next year.

Life changing Derek. Life changing. Thank you.

Chris Dorr on Marketing Indie Movies

I went to see Chris Dorr give a talk on promoting indie films and projects through social media. Here’s a collection of my notes from that talk with helpful links throughout.

He stressed the importance of having a strong database of followers, and how important it is to grow that over time. Independent artists can literally support themselves off of 1,000 true fans. Kevin Kelly goes into how with 1,000 fans you can support yourself for life.

Broken down by Industry:

Film maker,  Ed Burns created a movie for $9,000 and this is how he successfully promoted his independent movie through social media.

Indiegame: The Movie have an amazing case study of how they made their film profitable also through social media channels.

Musician, Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter Campaign  has a great case study that notably led to this controversy.

Jeff Gomez talks about being a transmedia producer.

Nick Kristof talks about how to market in the modern era for charity causes.

Clay Shirky gave a TED Talk on how the Internet will (one day) transform government:

“The digital revolution is almost as disruptive to the traditional media business as electricity was to the candle business.”

-Ken Auletta

He ended with some film organizations to help with Funding and for support in the San Francisco Area:

Nothing revolutionary, but a good collection of examples worth sharing, and more importantly, an excuse to share my endless sketches done with my trusty Bic.

The Final Trip

On the outskirts of Nashville, I drove down the freeway weaving in and out traffic, going a little over 85, switching lanes every 15 seconds, as traffic crawled at 55 around me. If a cop saw me, I had no doubt he’d rightfully pull me over. I prayed that that didn’t happen in the eight mile stretch between where I was and the airport. My flight was taking off in 50 minutes, and I still needed to return my rental car, check my bag, and hope that I didn’t hit traffic.

Cut to thirty minutes earlier. T-minus eighty until my flight departed.

When I got to the airport, there were no rental car locations. I searched for Budget’s location on my phone. It was eight miles away meaning if Budget had a slow shuttle I was screwed.

‘I probably should have checked this beforehand,’ I thought.

I started driving in that direction, and about a mile in, saw it was taking me straight towards the center of Nashville. It didn’t make sense. I looked down at my phone, this time looking at the address that they’d listed in my email when I booked the car.

1 Terminal Road.

Searching for directions to that, I saw I was going the wrong way.

The real destination was only a mile and a half away, which still seemed pretty far from the airport for a road with Terminal in the title. Also, it was listed as 1 Terminal Court. Not Road. I’d done that dance before, so I searched again, not letting the autofill correct me. It showed up with the same address. Reluctantly, I drove there.

‘There’ ended up being a dirt road under a bypass with a massive truck depot lot on the left. No Budget Rental Car.

“Shit,” I screamed, knowing I would miss my flight. There wasn’t enough time. I got back on the road, heading to the actual Budget Rental Car place inside Nashville, still feeling this didn’t make any sense. Why would the airport drop off be eight miles away?

Ten minutes and six red lights later, I got to a tiny Budget office. This wasn’t right. I swerved the SUV into the lot and ran into the office.

“Is this the Airport Budget place?” I asked the guy at front.

He looked at me and kind of smirked.

“No. That’s by the airport.”

“Oh, cause I typed in Budget and got this. Do you get that a lot? I’m sure you do.”

“No. Never gotten that before.” He looked at the other guy there. They smiled, “You see-”

He kept talking but I ran out yelling behind me, “Thank you. I don’t mean to be rude, but my plane takes off in less than an hour and I’m pretty sure I’m screwed.”

By the end of the sentence I was back in the SUV, screeching out and heading back to where I’d started. I thought how this was probably going to be a $400 screw up. How I trusted my phone without double checking, and it was likely going to cost me, which is ironic as the whole point of my phone was to avoid situations like this.

This was my very last day on a job I’d had for four years, traveling one week out of the month to teach. On the one hand, it would be a terrible way to end it. On the other, it would be a pretty poetic finish to a run that for all intents and purposes should have ended two years ago. I swore to myself pretty loudly.

‘I’m an idiot,’ I thought, switched lanes, hit my brakes, switched again, and continued praying no cops saw me. The windows were down, country music played at full blast (this was Nashville, after all) and I relished in the air beating against my face at 80 miles an hour, feeling alive.

In less than ten minutes, I got back to the airport, this time from the front where there were all sorts of signs showing where the Rental Car drop off was.

I sped up the ramp, over the Do-Not-Back-Up thingies and came to a halt behind someone slowly removing their luggage from their trunk.

“Hey, my flight takes off in 40 minutes. Could I quickly get a receipt?” I asked as I went for my bag in the trunk.

The Budget Employee shot me a look.

“Give me a minute,” she said. Not an option.

“Can I get it emailed to me?” I asked, as I shut my trunk.

“Sure?” she said.

“Great. The keys are on the seat. I hope that’s all right. We good?” I didn’t wait for a response. I was running with my bag in tow towards the gate. I ran through the lot towards departures and down the escalator. I hoped my projector was fine, as I heard my 45 pound bag clank as it hit each step.

Reaching the Delta front counter, I swiped my card. I wish I could say this was the first time I’d almost been destroyed by an airline’s 40 minute absolute cut off policy. I was prepared for the worst.

This time my card was accepted. It wasn’t a problem. After four years of endless traveling, it was over.

Sketching Sitcoms

A few pages of “notes” from the UCLA Extension class I took on half hour sitcom writing. There are plenty of others filled with words, but I figured I’d limit myself to the important pages.