The Nature of Crazy

It’s 5:15 AM in Geneva and the train to the airport is getting busy.

Amongst all the bleary eyed travelers is a  seemingly ‘normal’ individual. Rain jacketed, clean shaven and serious looking.

He sits down in the sit adjacent to mine, makes no eye contact and proceeds to read his newspaper.

“Blah blah Federale blah blah” he argues across from me. I look up and now we make eye contact – as in my eyes met his, but all I saw were eyeballs. There was no recognition of connection – as far as I could tell, the lights were on, but no one was home. The argument – as best as I could make it out in French – was fit for the European Parliament. It seemed to be political in nature – he mentions Vladimir Putin and makes some other political references.

This chap was having a full blown emotional political exchange with no one in the carriage that I could see. He got increasingly agitated with his oration. I wish I understood what he was saying. More importantly, I wish I understood how his life, experience, his brain and chemical composition all aligned to bring this guy ranting out a political argument with no one in particular.

Public Reaction

My reaction was “this dude is crazy”. And then I caught myself  analysing both my response and the response of other nearby passengers.

There is a moment in a public space when a member of the group in the space behaves in a way that is not considered ‘normal’. It is an awkward moment. No one wants to engage with the person – either verbally or non-verbally. We look away, we pretend they don’t exist. We hope they will stop being ‘not normal’. As it persists, gazes will find themselves and wry little smiles – acknowledging the awkwardness and recognising another who is trapped in the encounter with mental health.

By and large,  we in European societies – East to West, North to South –  do not know how to treat mental illness. By ‘treat’ I don’t mean medicate or repair. I mean ‘relate to’. I wonder how long this has been like this. Perhaps forever?

I’m Joe Public and so are you. What can we do differently and more humanely relate to people with mental health issues?

My Web Summit 2015 Experience – the really short version.


Web Summit was a major experience.  There were a lot of people – the organisers claim 42,000 people were in attendance – and it felt it.
If you aren’t a people person don’t go.

If you are exhibiting, go to a busy vegetable market or car boot sale a few weeks in advance and learn to engage and trade. Otherwise you are wasting your time.
This is exactly what it’s like.

I personally consider The Alpha track to have been great value. Even after flights and accommodation, it worked out at about €800 per person. We made leads, tested product fit of the app with a wider audience and made some really great contacts.

On the other hand, it is blatantly obvious that profit is a major thing for the organisers – pay very little out, bring as much as you possibly can in. Even if that means screwing people over. The debacle of the food tokens demonstrates this perfectly.

There were some really cool exhibitors and some speakers – I tried to see all the exhibitors but only 3 really sparked my interest. There seemed to be a multitude of people doing things that were not really solving a problem or solving a known problem differently.

If you were attracted by the quality of the ‘celebrities’ and the possibility of rubbing shoulders with successful and influential peeps – you would be out of luck – they were there but not mixing and as my speaker friend said ‘oh they are all in there, but no one is coming out – there is food there and its not so crowded’.  I don’t really blame them.

The WIFI also classically sucked. Given the much reported problem from last year’s event, you would have expected such focus on getting that bit right. I met at least 10 alpha track cohorts negatively affected by this. Such a lack of attention to detail on a sensitive issue speaks volumes to my earlier point about profiteering. We even joked there was a lot of ‘summit’ but not enough ‘web’.

Ultimately the organisers are awesome at what they do – marketing, data mining and building their business – whatever you as the attendee or exhibitor gets seems accidental. They deserve alot of respect for that alone.

I personally got very little value from the talks – with such a huge range of people, I can appreciate the speakers easily going for the lowest common denominator level to pitch their talks.

So, Web Summit – it is like the Eiffel Tower. You only really need to see it once. We won’t be going back.

The long bit is coming in another post. Too busy, can’t complete.