About Dust or Magic

  • Dust or Magic No. 1

    Once upon a time (1996), the world’s oldest and largest children’s book fair wanted to start a prize initiative for “new media.”

    They asked my publication, then called Children’s Software Revue if we’d create it for them. We accepted on the condition that they would agree to pay for and host a juried competition that included a face-to-face meeting of reviewers, in a setting conducive to actual product demonstrations.

    It came to pass. In the spring of 1997, a group of reviewers gathered from around parts of Europe, Asia and the USA to participate in three days of debate and product demonstrations. Participants included some of the top minds in the interactive space — people like Judy Salpeter from Technology & Learning, Dr’s. Ann Orr and Ellen Wolock from CSR, James Oppenheim, Peter Scisco (former editor of Compute!), Dr. Kyung Woo Lee from Korea, Thomas Feibel from Germany , Caterina Cangià and Gigi Tagliapietra from Italy. From France, repeat jurors were Georgia Leguem and Claude Combet; and from the UK came Pam Turnbull and Jon Smith (Editor of CD-ROM Today, and today a producer for Travelers Tales, aka LEGO Star Wars). In 2001, when the market for the software slowed, the Bologna New Media Prize ended. In an effort to keep the spirited conversation growing, we decided to start an annual meeting to be financed only by participant tuition.

    We also wanted to consider the expanding range of children’s technology products, and to personally get to know others who where working in this space. Rather than coming up with a prize, we decided to review the year.

    The title “Dust or Magic” came with the blessing of Bob Hughes, author of the book Dust or Magic: Secrets of Successful Multimedia Design. In the forward of his book, Bob referenced the poem “An idea can turn from dust to magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.” (Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694). Roger Wagner suggested modifying the quote to “An idea can become dust or magic, depending upon the talent that rubs against it.”

    The first Dust or Magic sold out, despite the events of September 11. Right away, it was clear that we had not only captured the essence of those early juror’s meetings, but we’d made it better.

    We (the media) can learn much more about the thinking behind each product without feeling bribed or manipulated. The spirited debates have continued each fall and the quest for the magic has become a bit of a celebration. We are thankful to everyone who has helped make this cooperative event possible, and hope it continues to influence the quality of children’s interactive media products for many more years to come.





    Warren Buckleitner, Editor Children’s Technology Review


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  • Conference testimonials


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      Sanj KharbandaVP Digital Strategy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Dust or Magic Hurricane Edition

      "Unique, inspiring, eye-opening. I would recommend anyone involved in the interactive space for kids to attend at least one. Thank you to everyone for sharing and being an inspiration."

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      Roby JohnCEO, TapToLearn, Dust or Magic Hurricane Edition

      "Thanks for a great first Dust or Magic. Made it totally worth flying all the way in from Mumbai."

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      Valerie ConnellVP Product & Market Strategy, The Waterford Institute, Dust or Magic 2010

      "Top Notch conference with A-list attendees - a pleasure to be included with the best of the best!"

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      Kate WilsonFounder & Managing Director, Nosy Crow, Dust or Magic 2011

      "Relevant, invigorating and mind expanding: a great event. Warren's energetic, warm and informal style of communication and facilitation is key."

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      Krista MarksDust or Magic 2011

      "The best part is the inspiration that comes from being with a group of like minded, passionate, talented humans."

    • Jens Peter de Pedro

      Jens Peter de PedroPlay Designer, Toca Boca, Dust or Magic Hurricane Edition

      "If you are in Children's Interactive Media it's like coming to Church. You got to go for spiritual reasons. And it's only once a year!"

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      Scott TraylorPresident, 360KID, DM '13 Institute

      "Dust or Magic Fall is a must attend event to help increase chances of making successful children's new media products."

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      Charity GerbrandtCreative Lead, Disney Club Penguin, DM Institute '13

      "So great to share with like-minded people in a low pressure, no drama environment. Great size, space and leadership."

    • Kimberley SorensonThe Waterford Institute, Dust or Magic Highlights Foundation 2015

      "A wonderful opportunity to get down and dirty with a lot of different voices in a protected space. Inspiring + energizing on all conceivable levels -- many many thanks."

    • JCC

      Jayne ClarePresident, Teachers With Apps, Dust or Magic Highlights 2015

      "Leaving with a wealth of new knowledge, friends, ideas and inspiration!"

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      Erin ReillyCreative Director, Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC, Dust or Magic eBook Retreat 2013

      "This was just the retreat I needed to learn and to be inspired by others." 

    • Scott_Traylor_200x200

      Scott TraylorPresident, 360KID, DM 2002-2010

      "Come for toys, stay for friendship; leave with knowledge."

    • jlodahl

      Jesper LodahlCEO, SmartTots, Dust or Magic Hurricane Edition

      "Great crowd, great minds, great learning experience."

    • Hans WagnerOwner, Computer Explorers, Dust or Magic 2014

      "Just soaked in all of it. Great environment!"

    • Megan SmithSenior Designer, Interactive Media, Highlights for Children, Dust or Magic 2014

      "Warren and Daren really made everyone feel relevant and comfortable. Perfect balance of healthy criticism and ideas for growth."

    • aleen

      Aleen SteinCEO, Organa, Dust or Magic 2014

      "Even though I'm not making apps right now, exciting and relevant to my life."

    • Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 4.03.01 PM

      Lorraine AkemannMoms With Apps

      While there is no shortage of conferences on kids and tech, Dust or Magic stands out in the crowd. This might be because attendees are required to leave their egos at home, or cast them into the ocean until the sessions are finished.