One of the reasons I went to the Christ and the New Media conference was specifically because John Zmirak would be giving two talks during the conference. Yes, I was interested by the other speakers (and subsequently intrigued by the talks they gave), but I jumped at the chance to possibly meet John Zmirak.
Now before I go any further, I want to give you an insight of my preconceived notions of this conference. I thought, there's going to be a whole bunch of people - perhaps hundreds! All of them will be really important and stuff, and then there will be little ole me! Pair both of these notions with my overall tendency to freak out over trivial matters and you begin to see that I was a neurotic basket-case before this event.
In reality, while there were two conferences going on at the same time (ours & the Way of Beauty conference), total participants for both conferences was probably around 50 people. Just our conference had a total of, I think, 17 participants. So - no huge crowds for one thing, which was a comfort and a curse. Yes, I might have had plans to 'hide' in the midst of a lot of people and not really stick my neck out.
The other part of my concern was a little more valid, I think. Yes, I run internet operations (I just gave myself that title, fyi) for my father-in-law's business. Yes, I run this very teeny blog. But the people there were smart, funny, and hugely more important than myself. (Me, a tendency to be self-critical? Say it ain't so!)
At any rate, I never thought that I would get the chance to actually converse with these amazing speakers, let alone with JOHN. ZMIRAK. (Sorry, I'm still geeking out over this fact.) I mean, you never know when you meet a celebrity or author if they will be as cool as they seem, or if they will be humorless, dour people. Happily, that is not the case with Mr. Zmirak, as he is even more funny in person, with off-the-cuff zingers that cut straight to the point (much unlike this post, I've just realized).
John's first talk was "How to Lose an Argument Online Even When You're Right." He suggested using the 4 Cardinal Virtues to judge rightly on the title topic. A quick run-down:
1. Prudence - which is, essentially, practical wisdom. This means, don't write 'in the heat of the moment' and don't give in to a moment of emotional catharsis just because it feels good and you may be right. You're right, but at what cost to another?
2. Justice - a proper balance of self-interest to interests of others. If you act unjustly, it will reflect unjustly upon your own reputation. It means to give each man his 'due'. Always think the best of others and their intentions instead of the worst.
3. Temperance - a sense of restraint; self-control. How much are you online? Are you sacrificing other, rightful duties for being online? There is an attitude of detachment that you must have when online. (I'm still working on this!)
4. Fortitude - strength, courage. Don't be rash or too stubborn; don't be timid or cowardly.Of course, mixed in with each of these virtues were examples from John's own life and his struggles - all of which were very funny. To know that I wasn't off-base in my pick for a Drink Thursday episode was really exciting, and I'm hopeful that I didn't come off as too geeked out or annoying. Beyond his humor, John was gracious, self-effacing, and charming. So, once again, John, cheers to you!