Heather Gold’s Tools for “Tummeling” at WordCamp SF 2011

So I’m still writing from WordCamp SF 2011 where, following Matt Mullenweg’s “State of the Word” presentation and feasting at lunch, now I’m at a workshop titled “Tools for Tummeling.”

Tummeling? What’s tummeling? I asked at the WordCamp registration desk.The young man looked bewildered. “I don’t know,” he answered. “Have you checked the program?”

So I did: there I learned that “Tummeling” is the Yiddish word for the act of engaging an audience. The presentation is by Heather Gold an “artist, comic, speaker and talk show host best known for her ability to work the room.”

Online communities don’t happen by accident. We’re social creatures, but the web wasn’t set up to facilitate community. However, now, even companies like Google are trying to help people connect and enlarge their social circles.

According to the description of this presentation, “The Web has moved past data awareness to social awareness. This started a few years ago but the launch of Google Plus confirms it. When the biggest web company re-orients their businesses to say that “Today’s web is about people. To organize the world’s data, you have to understand people” then you know that even data is telling people who only want to understand data (Google is a pretty algorithmic culture) that we have met the point of it all and it is us: people.”

How do people connect best with each other? And why should we have to go to one place where our content and conversation will be owned by one company to do it? Heather asks.  The human skillset or practice of creating engaged conversation or connection she calls tummeling, a Yiddish word that describes the job of entertainers hired to get the community involved in the show and have a good time. And that’s what we need, she suggests, folks who can tummel.

Influenced by the web and her community of its earliest makers, Heather Gold says that she began creating a way to involve the “audience” in her shows, scale conversation and hasten intimacy over a decade ago.

The main point she had to offer was personalize everything and customize everything you can and make the site feel like others are really welcome there, like they’re at your home.

Blogging is still broadcasting–you have your message which you broadcast on your blog. Work to make it a more interactive environment. Tea Silvestre is using forums on her cutting edge blog. Tea, by the way, is a master tummeler already!

One idea that intrigues Tea from Heather’s presentation is to figure out how to let people know you’re online so you can say : “Hi I’m listening I’m here!” is important but how can you turn on a switch to let people know?

About the Speaker:
Heather Gold is an innovative artist, comic, speaker and talk show host best known for her ability to work the room. She’s a web veteran with geek cred from Apple’s webcast pioneering team and the start- up that birthed some of the iPod/iTunes experience. She mixes up Net ideas and performance flow and DJs the people formerly known as the audience in her shows. Heather shares her insights on tech, social engagement and authenticity as the host of Tummelvision.tv and in popular keynotes at places like Google and Web 2.0 and YLE, Finland’s BBC. Heather’s written for Alan Cumming, shared the stage with Margaret Cho and  baked over 50,000 cookies in her interactive solo show Cookie was named the Best of the Bay and won Curve Magazine’s national lesbian theatre award. Heather often appears in media like NPR, Wired and TWIT.tv. BoingBoing calls her “one of our favorite comedians.”  You can follow her work atheathergold.com or on twitter @heathr or join her at one of her UnPresenting workshops on 8/17 (http://bit.ly/oWgtFP).


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