With a little help from my friends

My first thought was “Who the hell is Dave Moody?”

I knew a lot of Daves, but this name didn’t ring a bell. Yet there he was: My first Indiegogo sponsor.

It all became clear after a trip to Facebook. My friend Ray Hansen had shared my campaign and then shamed Dave into donating $25 after Mr. Moody comment-bombed his post. What started as a drunken lark actually continued as real support!

MUCH TO MY SURPRISE, GOOGLE GLASS COMMENTED ON MY CAMPAIGN!

MUCH TO MY SURPRISE, GOOGLE GLASS COMMENTED ON MY CAMPAIGN!

The campaign closed 25 hours later and, despite attracting four more donors, I raised less than 10 percent of what I needed to get Google Glass. But then I started getting phone calls. From friends, from work acquaintances, from my new sister-in-law. “Can we still donate?” they asked. Hell, yeah, I said. The next few days, I happily made the handmade art I’d promised my flirts, friends with benefits and lovers.

EVERYONE WHO DONATED RECEIVED A LOVE LETTER WRITTEN WITH QUILL PEN AND INK ON AN ANTIQUE DESK. (I ALSO SPRITZED THEM WITH MY FAVORITE PERFUME.)

EVERYONE WHO DONATED RECEIVED A LOVE LETTER WRITTEN WITH QUILL PEN AND INK ON AN ANTIQUE DESK. (I ALSO SPRITZED THEM WITH MY FAVORITE PERFUME.)

By the time the Indiegogo funds hit my bank account 15 days later, I’d raised a grand total of $850, roughly half of what I needed. A speaking engagement covered the rest.

Google threw in a free pair of Maui Jim shades. I opted to pay an extra $200 for prescription glasses frames.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to pick up my order in San Francisco, where I wanted to get fitted and oriented by Explorers. The one day I was going to be in town was the day Google Explorers were shutting down the store to prepare for a major party. Silver lining was I saved at least $100 paying Georgia sales tax instead of California sales tax and I got my Glass three days earlier.

I placed my order on Friday. On Monday, a suspiciously awesome-looking package arrived. Heart in mouth and digital designer at my heels armed with a camera, this is what I discovered.

I still have trouble attaching the sunglasses, but I’m obviously not that concerned with looking cool.

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Indiego-go-go!

Moms don’t get a lot of “me” time. My friends and I laugh that staying up late watching trashy TV is our new form of rebellion. It’s something we can only do when everyone’s asleep. That’s the sole time we’re not needed and can do whatever we like. But by then, we’re too exhausted to do anything but watch TV. 

We used to be wilder — the ones who forced others to stay up all night to see the sunrise, experimenting with all kinds of things we hope our kids don’t do. We used to live creative lives — in theater, dance, comedy, music, art, film. And though we still create, it’s not in the balls-out way we used to aggressively pursue those careers.

KCS' PRE-BABY SINGLE DAZE.

MY PRE-BABY SINGLE DAZE.

Recently, I had brunch with a friend who’s still very much in the film world. Chad and I have known each other since the summer of 1990, when we both gained admission into Georgia’s Governors Honors Program (GHP) in Theatre. After a rigorous audition process, we were among the top 30 high school actors in the state offered a tuition-free summer of education in our major area of expertise as well as a minor area of study (I chose mathematics so I could spend time with my best friend Phoebe, a Spanish major). It was a paradisiacal eight weeks. I was surrounded by the top scientists, writers, artists, dancers, musicians and other scholars my age.

Unlike many of us, Chad still acts, primarily in projects he writes and produces himself. (Check this out, friends.) As we sipped champagne and noshed on omelets, he mentioned how he preferred Indiegogo to Kickstarter as a method of raising money because Indiegogo lets you keep however much you raise, even if you don’t make your goal, whereas Kickstarter only gives you funds if you raise the full amount.

I had a lightbulb moment. Maybe I could use Indiegogo to raise the money I needed to get Google Glass!

Making it rain (sorta)

Every mom with small kids has a nightly ritual. In some order, there’s dinner, a bath and books to read. It’s pretty predictable. Recently, my daughter had started asking for time alone to play in the bath. All of a sudden, there were five, maybe 10 minutes a night I had to myself before I had to resume mommy duty. 

“Tonight’s the night,” I thought, as I gathered everything I might need to create an ad-hoc Indiegogo campaign during her “me-time.” I put the supplies on my nighstand, sudsed the little one up, rinsed her hair and made sure there was a towel she could reach in case of extreme “water in my eye” emergency and hunkered down to Indiego-go-go on my iPad.

SPOILER ALERT: IT'S NOT A GREAT IDEA TO CREATE AN ONLINE FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN WHILE THE KIDS ARE IN THE HOUSE.

SPOILER ALERT: IT’S NOT A GREAT IDEA TO CREATE AN ONLINE FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN WHILE THE KIDS ARE IN THE HOUSE.

Challenge No. 1: Coming up with a catchy name.

I was about to head to San Francisco for a tech conference. The news was full of headlines of a #glasshole who’d upset patrons in a San Francisco bar. Knowing my bad girl days were behind me, I thought it’d be funny to play off of that trending story. I cheekily named my campaign: “Make me a #glasshole.”

Challenge No. 2: Setting incentive levels.

During GHP, we all had nicknames. My nickname was “The Sex Goddess” — not because I earned it on my back, but because at 16, I was a bit more, ahem, developed than the other girls. (Not that theater boys were into that, but …)

ME AT 16 IN THE GHP THEATRE PROJECT "UNDER MILK WOOD."

ME AT 16 IN THE GHP THEATRE PRODUCTION OF DYLAN THOMAS’ “UNDER MILK WOOD.”

As a nod to Chad, who’d given me the solution to my fundraising woes, I tied incentives for giving to a sexy theme. Here’s the different levels of sponsorship and what people would get for their contributions to my #glasshole campaign.

  Flirts donated $25 in exchange for a handwritten thank you done with quill and ink Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 7.10.09 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 7.10.16 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-22 at 7.10.23 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 7.10.31 PM

Challenge No. 3: Reading (period)

I thought I was pretty clever coming up with all those categories and descriptions in less than 10 minutes, not to mention the plaintive yet tongue-in-cheek “about text.” Unfortunately, just as I reached the pivotal moment of publishing the campaign, my daughter started yelling for me.

I pushed the publish button in a panic. The pop-up warning said: “Are you sure? You can’t edit after you go live.” Heck yeah I was sure! I pushed that puppy and skittered in to rescue the tot from waterlog.

After she was comfortably abed, I snuck a peak at my handiwork and that’s when I realized my campaign was closing in 25 hours. WTF? I thought. Then I did a little backend research and felt like a dolt. I had thought the date-setting area asked, “When do you want to end the campaign?” What it actually asked was, “When do you need to get your payout?” Because I was traveling to San Francisco in a couple of weeks, I chose the Monday before I flew out. So, instead of having a 15-day campaign, I gave myself about a day to raise $2,000. 

Talk about an “Oh schiesser!” moment. I shared and promoted the page as much as I could on my phone, and went to bed feeling like a total moron.

A small phone alert rocketed me awake: I had my first donor! And I had no idea who he was …

The cost of growing up

@JESSICALEVIN WAS THE FIRST EXPLORER I MET FACE TO FACE

@JESSICALEVIN WAS THE FIRST EXPLORER I MET FACE TO FACE.

The first time I met someone with Google Glass, it was at a tech conference in August 2013. She began by saying, “They’re really cool, but they don’t do much.” Over the next three months, I got the chance to try on a pair and talk to a few other Explorers, one of whom was already ready to put his away for good. But the heart wants what it wants. My heart wanted Glass. Even at $1,500 a pair.

When I was 21, I lived in New York, working for Condé Nast, doing graphics for SELF Magazine’s marketing department. My best friend, Phoebe, lived down the street and we often went out together. One afternoon shopping in Century 21, I was fretting over whether or not I could afford to get a skirt I liked. 

“How much is it?” she asked.

“$40,” I replied.

“How much do you make an hour?” she pressed.

“$25,” I said.

“So get it,” she said. “You’ll work it off in less than two hours, and you’ll wear it plenty.”

She was right. At the time, it was a huge purchase because I was used to thrift store shopping. But I was ready to start buying more grown-up clothes. I wore that skirt to pieces.

A few months later, I noticed a pair of heels in Vogue magazine. Working for Condé Nast, we got copies of all the magazines they printed monthly, so I often paged through them as I was waiting for a large file to load or for something to print. I don’t remember what I was waiting for that day, but I remember those heels and how they affected me. They were ankle booties, but the back of the boot was cut away, exposing the heel of the foot in a very sexy way. The look was edgy, unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I was captivated by how something so simple could make you feel so daring.

Before I go on, I should explain that all through high school and college I’d been a Birkenstock/Doc Marten/duck boot/cleats/mouse slippers in public kind of gal — shoes either had to be comfortable or useful. But there was something about those heels. 

Over the next few weeks, I started seeing the shoes on mannequins in store windows. On the way to work from the Metro or on my lunch break, I’d stop to take in how the bootie’s strap bound the ankle, yet left the heel of the foot bare, unencumbered. I liked the shape of the shoe’s heel too: tall, slim, strong, rectangular. It was a nice counterpoint to the toe of the shoe, which was elongated, almost aggressive. On a few occasions, I even went into the shops to get a price, maybe even buy a pair, but the shoes were for display only.

One fateful day, as I was killing time before an audition, wandering aimlessly through Macy’s Herald Square, I found them in the ladies’ shoe department. I picked up the display model and admired its lightness. I fondled the soft black suede like a cautious lover. I probably spent five minutes under its spell before I peaked at the price tag, which was upwards of $200. All of a sudden, I got a giddy “what the hell” kind of feeling. I asked to see a pair in my size. They added three inches to my height, which felt amazing. The suede uppers hugged my feet like a blanket drawn tight against the wind (which only my heels could feel). It was delightful. They looked sophisticated, sexy. The salesman didn’t have to work hard. “When have you ever had a pair of real, grown-up shoes?” I asked myself. That’s what sold me.

20 YEARS OLD AND STILL KICKING!

20 YEARS OLD AND STILL KICKING!

Nearly 20 years has passed and I still love (and wear) those heels. But when I was a single girl, making my own money, paying my own bills, I never had to think about what things cost or how I’d pay for them.

I have a family now. My money isn’t only for my enjoyment or expenses. There are four of us to cover, so it’s like a being part of a very small socialist experiment where there isn’t much that I can truly call my own. That’s true of money as well as time.

Perhaps that’s why I was so determined to get Glass. Having a pair would allow me to capture my thoughts and experiences to archive or share as I wanted, without having to share the medium with anyone else, the way my kids lay claim to my paint and iPad. (Under 18s can’t wear Glass, I read, heart racing.) 

The idea of technology that would allow me to create and discover the world in a new way was intoxicating, freeing. I didn’t see Google Glass everywhere. They were as unusual as those backless boots were in 1999. When compared to how much I get paid per speaking engagement, they were as affordable as the Century 21 skirt.

Only problem was, I didn’t currently have the cash on hand.

#ifihadglass

What a brilliant marketing campaign #ifihadglass was. For weeks, Twitter was filled with the hopes and aspirations of what social mega-users would do if they could get a pair of Google Glass, 140 characters at a time.

Despite rumors that only social media superstars would win a pair, 61 percent had fewer than 1,000 followers. By April Fools Day 2013, 8,000 people received invitations like the one below.

Two weeks after Dan asked me if I wanted an invite into what Google was now calling the Glass Explorers Program, one had yet to make its way to my inbox. I’d already been waiting a year. But it was still hard.

Then one day, there it was:

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.23.45 PM

I DON’T KNOW WHY ALL THE GLASS MODELS HAVE AWESOME HAIR, BUT THEY DO. AND IT’S ALWAYS BLOWING IN THE WIND.

It all started with this guy

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.27.12 PM

DAN PARKS: MY SUPER GEEK HERO < CLICK THE LINK. HE KNOWS HOW TO ANIMATE HIS G+ PROFILE PIC!

When I was a cub reporter first learning the meetings industry, Plan Your Meetings sent me to cover a conference of meeting professionals. It was large. I’m terribly introverted. Everybody else seemed to know each other. And I knew nothing about planning meetings.

I knew a lot about theater, had written some and was fresh from spending a year in Amsterdam as a Boom Chicago Comedy Theater cast member. When they hired me from the UCB Theater in New York, they said I’d “be a rock star.” But most of the time, I sat in hotel rooms with three other improv comedians, waiting to entertain people who’d just finished having a whole day of meetings, were about to start a whole slew of meetings or were trying to ignore us as they ate. The only meeting planners I’d ever met were the ones who’d crack open our hotel room (or closet) door, tell us they were ready and then either look happy or pissed as we shuffled off to catch a train.

So here I was, on my first remote assignment, at a three-day conference. Alone.

Then I met Dan Parks and Gloria Nelson. Glo is the kind of ballsy lady who’ll hijack your session if you don’t know your stuff, and the lady I’d come to see speak didn’t. Curious as to who Glo was, I started a conversation with her. She introduced me to Second Life, a virtual world where you could interact using avatars, headsets and chat windows on your computer. Then she called over Dan and the good Dr. James Hogg. I had a camera on me (remember the ones with USB sticks?) so I filmed them giving me a tour of the Meetings Community Mansion. Then they took care of me for the rest of the conference, making sure I was introduced to the right people, went to the right parties.

But more importantly, they introduced me to a world of connective technology that became my passion. Second Life and the MeCo listserve they moderated became my gateway drug. I learned to love the meetings industry.

SERIOUSLY, NOW I LOVE MEETINGS.

SERIOUSLY, NOW I LOVE MEETINGS. < I PLAN ABOUT 12/YR.

Years passed. In February, I got a message from Dan. “I have an invitation for Google Glass,” he wrote. “Do you want one?”

“YES!!!!!” I wrote back.

Then I thought, “F#ck. How the hell will I pay for them?”

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