Image by Josh Bancroft via Flickr
When you go to a convention you really never know what you are really going to get. Sometimes you get something totally cool that makes you stop and think, while at other times you get stuff that is so mind bogglingly dull that it is hard to believe that they ever let this person near a microphone. Gnomedex was like that, overall fascinating and very cool to go visit with small moments of intense dullness that afforded an opportunity to go networking and grab a quick break off schedule. For the most part, Gnomedex was a very satisfying convention to attend over the last two days. Unfortunately real life had to rear its ugly head so I had to leave early, but in passing here are some thoughts on the convention and how conventions like this can often have an effect long past the time the doors have closed and everyone has gone home.
Many of us in the social networking blogging sphere tend to live our lives online. Meeting the real people behind the screen names and blog entries does make people more real. It was good to finally meet Robert Scoble and get to have my picture taken with him. This was important to me, made both of us more real in the longer run.
It was also interesting to watch him work on Friday. While this might seem dull to some, for people who are interested even remotely in human computer interaction can watch Robert and immediately see issues in UI, design, placement of data, and data input. If he could have a button or dial from slow to super fast he would probably use it. I have personally never seen anyone consume data the way that Robert does. It makes many of us look like rank amateurs in how we consume data. I prefer a more leisurely pace to my data consumption, but we also need to look at how we accommodate the Robert Scobles of the world.
The cutting edge gets dull very quickly. While the standard technology convention is to ship early and ship often, sometimes it is good to take a breather and let people work out how they want to approach data and service consumption. I noticed that when a friend of mine made her first account on FriendFeed that she had a whole pile of options I was unaware of (I used grease monkey to have FriendFeed look and feel how I want), some were downright cool. How did I miss that, ohh look shiny, and then I am off to something else. I have ADD, I have it a big way, and I have been trained since birth to love change, sometimes we take change for change sakes regardless of how it ends up being used. Most of the time, we are looking at incremental improvement, wait until the next major version if you really want to see anything new. Even now that is no longer holding true, Windows 7, Iphone Apps, Office 2010, Open Office are all incremental, even when we move between major versions.
Facebook, FriendFeed, social networking, how we use it is important. How we approach it to benefit others is also equally important. What are we using this technology for, is Tweeting Too Hard and Texts from Last Night what we are about, or is it the nearly 1500 dollars we raised to help support Nicholsville in Seattle? How are we going to use this, and are we going to use it shallowly or are we going to use it to help people?
There are no social media guru’s, rather there are people who are very good at social networking, but we are all still working out how to use this technology. This is important, we are still in the experimental stage, we don’t know if we are going to end up in the shallow end of the pool, or if we are going to use this to strengthen ties between people, companies, products, and services. How we use this technology is defining if not critical.
We meet people and this is good. But you really need to make sure that you run around with an open mind, not everyone is going to think like you do. What do they do better than you do, then how do you copy it and make it yours. What is your tag line?
There are many who want to control, but there are many who want to share. How this argument works out over the next 10 to 20 years is going to determine how we as a nation and as a global organism work or does not work in the future. Small pockets of interest abound on the internet all pushing an agenda that favors some while disfavoring others. We should do what we can do to make sure that what we have is equitably shared. Creative Commons, citizen journalism, non-peer reviewed academic articles, and increasing calls for further lengthening of copyright and intellectual property are going to clash and conflict. How this works out is anyone’s best guess but right now copyright is winning. If you look back some 200 years in American History, we stole a lot of great ideas from other countries and then made it work for us; we seem to have lost this ideal.
No matter how bad you think it is, you are probably not here with Drew. If you are not here with Drew looking at Cancer right in the eye, then you are doing ok. Go about doing what you want to do. If you are here with Drew with Cancer, it is still ok, keep on going about doing what you need to do to keep yourself happy and upbeat. You are still going to have bad days, but that is ok as well.
Running on empty is a good thing; it is at this point that truly defines you. If you walked away from the conference empty, then you are ready to be filled with new ideas, new thoughts, new people, and new connections. It is when you walk away from the conference full that you realize you never learned anything in the first place.
These are the take always from the conference. There is a lot of personal in this, but how you digest information and how you internalize the experience is personal. It depends on your viewpoint and how you approach life. But I am ready for the next big adventure, or at least getting ready to actively seek it. Who knows where this will go, but after a very hard six months, this conference was the best thing I could do to recharge.
(Cross-posted @ TechWag)