Well, that was fun!

February 27, 2008 at 12:33 am | In DemoCampVictoria, democampvictoria01, northernvoice, nv08 | 9 Comments

Northern Voice 2008 was amazing.

First off, Matt Mullenweg‘s keynote was amazing. Just for a taste, take a look (er, I mean listen) at this site and look at these photos posted to Flickr or this reverse liveblogging transcript from Stewart Mader.

Some key points that stuck in my mind: Exhortation #1, remove the FRICTION (“we need invisible software”); that volume is going to blow all predictions; that there’s no shortage of information anymore – what we need now are effective filters. Matt also talked about what he called the bloggers’ “hierarchy of needs”: 1 – Expression — presentaton / theme: make your online presence your own; 2 – Public — that you’re sharing with people; viral growth and permissions are in conflict; 3 – Interaction — comments on blogs; 4 – Validation — check stats.

What’s the Achilles Heel of web 2.0? Spam. Anything that takes attention away is spam (relates to the attention economy). This relates to Exhortation #2, Respect people’s time.

Exhortation #3, Kill the megabrands. The Age of Portals is over. Matt referenced Danah Boyd’s one company, ten brands: lessons from retail for tech companies post regarding this point.

There was much more, but don’t miss this photo, which shows Matt’s slide illustrating the 4 freedoms of open source. (Very important!)

Also during the morning session, Marc Canter spoke about putting the social back into software. See these Flickr images and perhaps watch this December 2007 video for an idea of what he presented at Northern Voice on Saturday. He’s a fantastic presenter – engaging, educational, entertaining.

Marc had a most fascinating re-imagining of capitalism, which I wish I’d noted more carefully. I thought at the time that I understood it — if not perfectly, at least implicitly. But now I notice that I can’t quite completely re-articulate what he said. It had, of course, something to do with making the relationship between users and providers more equitable, and with turning those laneways that too often today are one-ways into two-ways, which in turn could subvert the usual scenario of having the capitalists in the center of the picture (collecting the tolls?), and instead put the user-creator in the center, …with capitalists arrayed like happy campers around the flame of you as proceeds are shared out differently — and, one hopes, more equitably? With ideas flying fast and furiously from all angles and some tech/geek lingo thrown in just for fun, however, it’s not as easy to recapture the arguments once the presentation is over.

Marc strikes you as the kind of guy who can play hardball, but at the end of the day I screwed up my courage and introduced myself. I said that I’m one of those Berkman Center bloggers, the blogging enterprise that Dave Winer helped set up at Harvard. So he wanted to know if Dave and I were friends, and I said that I hadn’t ever actually met Dave, but that we were Facebook friends – another one of those weird virtual things. I also had to explain that I don’t live in the Boston area anymore — it’s difficult to explain to people at that sharp edge of the social software wedge that you live in a place like Victoria.

I had a similar P2C2E sensation when, just after registering on Saturday morning, I finally got to meet Roland Tanglao. By way of conversation, he innocently asked something like, So, are you planning on staying in Victoria? I’m getting defensive — I mean, Roland is such a sweet guy! I don’t think he knows the meaning of mean, and the question was just a …well, an off-the-cuff question. But of course for me it’s the question.

Am I going to stay in Victoria?

I guess it depends on what you mean by “stay.” Physically? Probably. I’m not into hopping about (although I don’t mind the occasional jumping-up-and-down event). Intellectually? I’d prefer not to.

But back to the conference and all the great people there.

During a coffee break, Isabelle Mori asked me to sign her digital guestbook, which was something I’ve never done anywhere else before. Thanks, Isabelle!

Mark Lise from Victoria’s Flock office (which Boris Mann and Marc Canter tested at NV08, with Boris giving it a big thumbs up here!) and I exchanged some quick emails during the morning session, in an effort to locate one another. We hadn’t met before, but Mark had left a comment on my blog entry about Rick on Rails, and we sort of agreed to find each other at Northern Voice. As I was eating my lunch, he sent another email that included a link to a just-posted Flickr photo showing him at the conference. So then I knew what he looked like, and was able to find him in the lounge area! Cool, eh?

I had lunch at a table with Mike Tan, who’s one of the founders of Victoria-based TeamPages (company blog here). Mike was there with Naomi Buell, who currently works at TeamPages through UVic’s co-op program. Naomi is a student in UVic’s Commerce Department, which she gave a big thumbs up — good to hear, as my son is very interested in that program.

Also at the table, and busily uploading photos to Flickr, was Carol Browne. We didn’t get a chance to talk, since Mike, Naomi, and I were hashing out the intricacies of the Victoria scene — but check out her blog and her Flickr photos (the NV08 set here).

I got to say a few (good) words about LibraryThing at the conference at the end of one session called “From book to blog or blog to book,” moderated by Monique Trottier. That was a fun panel which included the authors kc dyer, Crawford Killian, Meg Tilly, Pete McCormack, and Robert Wiersema.

Meg Tilly is a firecracker — very funny woman with a most subversive and mischievous sense of humor. At the end of the session, a fellow named Brendon Wilson asked me if I work for LibraryThing, as I had my LT logo-emblazoned messenger bag over my shoulder.

“No,” I answered. “It’s just the only bag I have that’s big enough to hold my very heavy very unhip laptop!”

Well, I obviously didn’t mind being associated with LT, otherwise (a) I wouldn’t have bought the bag in the first place (via Cafe Press, incidentally) and (b) had I minded, I could have duct-taped over the logo, right?

So of course I sang its praises, and it turns out that Brendon is at work on a bar code reader with a twist. Unlike the CueCat type reader, which has to be plugged in to the computer and then passed over the bar code, Brendon’s model would be downloadable directly to one’s laptop, whereupon the omnipresent built-in camera would read the bar code when you hold the book up to the screen. It’s a pretty cool application.

I didn’t get to meet Boris Mann or Kris Krug or any of the other Northern Voice organizers aside from Roland Tanglao, but that was basically my fault for not going to MooseCamp, which took place on Friday, or the introductory party, which happened on Thursday night.

Next year I plan to remedy that. I have nothing but good things to say about the entire day — the vibe, the energy, the people, the whole package was really positive, upbeat, professional, heterogeneous (so many different voices!), sometimes hilarious, informative, goofy, and wise. All in all, a very quirky kind of thing that made me feel quite young but also strangely purposeful.

It’s like genres or niches or germinating things all being given their due in …oh, dare I say it? …in what struck me as a generally very non-judgemental (and therefore signature Canadian) sort of way. The conference was also peopled by many other persons of my sex: it didn’t achieve gender parity, but there were significantly more women there as audience, organizers, and presenters than you’d find at many an other tech conference. That said, you gotta read Gillian Gunson’s blog post, The lame at Northern Voice, where she – a geek and conference organizer – skewers (rightly so) an unnamed boor who chatted her up (or should that be “down”?) with typical male condescension. Let’s hope his ears are burning.

Overall, though, this conference is “two thumbs up” all the way.

Edit: I’ve added the tags DemoCampVictoria and democampvictoria01 to this entry as it relates directly to DemoCamp Victoria01’s genesis.

Victoria: turning into everywhere else? It’s creativity unleashed

February 16, 2008 at 1:19 pm | In creativity, DemoCampVictoria, democampvictoria01, local_not_global, northernvoice, scenes_victoria, victoria | 8 Comments

Perhaps Victoria is “turning into everywhere else,” and that’s a good thing? It is when it means that modern creativity is unleashed, on the streets, and in our coffee houses.

This morning I was cataloging my books on LibraryThing while my husband went out for breakfast to meet Rod O. from Magic Kite at the Cook Street Village Starbucks, which is just one of 4 coffee shops (soon to be 5) in this 2-block area.

As they’re drinking their lattes, they’re surrounded by scads of folks from the neighbourhood, who have come in to check out the people or read books or have business meetings or work wirelessly on their laptops. The crowd includes a man working on a Ruby on Rails application, using the Flock browser. Since the husband and Rod had just been talking about building a little business app on Rails, they chat with the other chap for a while. When the spouse returns home (where I’m still busily cataloging away, trying not to sneeze from all the dust), he tells me about the Flockstar fellow on Rails.

Hmm, I think, Can’t be, can it? The world’s not that small?

Was he quite distinctly hairless as regards the scalp?, I ask. Yes, came the answer. Was his name Rick?, I inquired. Yes, again.

Coincidence? Or an element of localized spikiness? I’ve never met Rick, but it so happened that I used a photo of “Rick on Rails” pulled from Flickr (and uploaded by quaelin on Jan.22/07) next to a photo of a Roland Brener work, “Sculpture” (also posted to Flickr, by striatic), for two talks I presented to local Victoria business / community groups this winter.

The slide I made, which juxtaposed “Sculpture” (above) and “Rick on Rails” (below) includes this bit of text:

The Creative City

“…creativity is revolutionizing the global economy…”

Richard Florida

The juxtaposition was part of my larger point — that creativity needs to be unleashed: it can’t be restricted to areas of fine art, it also has to permeate technology and entrepreneurship. Brener’s Sculpture represented a multi-faceted aspect of “traditional” creativity (and is located where one conventionally expects to find it – in a gallery setting). Rick represents the creativity of technology and entrepreneurship, which you can casually stumble upon at your neighbourhood coffee shop.

(With thanks to “Rick on Rails” for having his picture on Flickr and being a “shining beacon” of technological creativity in Victoria! I hope he doesn’t mind that I’ve reposted this likeness here to make a point!)

And so, let’s hope that Victoria gets spikier and more creative all the time — unleashing creativity is the best way to ensure that it will be “like everywhere else” (that is, one of those places that’s buzzing with goodness & spikiness), while also developing a distinctive, spiky edge of its own. “Becoming like everywhere else” sometimes just means that a place changes for the better and finds its creative groove.

Edit: I’ve added the tags DemoCampVictoria, democampvictoria01, and northernvoice to this entry as it relates directly to DemoCamp Victoria01’s genesis.

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