I've been back for a day from the NetSquared Conference, and have had a little time to reflect on it. Several people have asked me what my take on it was. The short version is superb logistics and people, but so-so sessions, except for the excellent skill share. However, I am sure that the organizers will learn from this year and I will happily go again next year, if I get the chance (and can afford it if it isn't local).
Basics first. Compumentor and their helpers did a superb job with the logistics. There was power at every table, and the wireless was better than at any of the many O'Reilly conferences that I have been to (it probably helped that the conference was held at the headquarters of one of the world's largest manufacturers of routers and wireless devices). The food wasn't gourmet, but it was reasonable, on site and on time. The conference hotel was nearby and was modestly priced (for Silicon Valley). Most people probably won't mention these things, but I have seen what happens when these things aren't true -- a lot of people spent half of this year's Emerging Technology Conference (ETECH 2006) in San Diego complaining for good reason about the wireless (bad), the space (very bad), and the prices (outrageous). The only logistical flaws for this conference were the pre-conference confusion and lack of transparency about registration, and the badges. Everybody's badge was labeled with their role, i.e. volunteer, sponsor, speaker, including one called "scholar", which looked to me like the "poor scholarship kid" label at a fancy private school. While some of this is common at business conferences, I wonder what purpose it served at a conference like this to visibly segregate people that way. Aside from those two issues, the Compumentor crew managed to pull everything together in time, and have my thanks and admiration for doing so.
As always, one of the best parts of the conference was talking with the fellow attendees. I got to meet a number of people whom I had previously only known from their online writings, I got to catch up with a lot of people that I admire but only see once every six months or so at events like this, and I got to meet all kinds of interesting new people that I never would have had a chance to meet otherwise. I also learned about lots of compelling sites/organizations like MomsRising. So Compumentor definitely succeed in bringing an interesting and exiting group of people together for NetSquared.
At our "Making it Happen" table, we discussed how we could use tagging to help make social change, not just organize our own work. We decided that we should come up with a few tags for the nonprofit sector and start getting them out there by recruiting "Tagvocates" who vow to:
Use the tags all over the place
Recruit other tagvocates for their tag(s)
The plan is to get a set of tags out there, the aggregate the content (maybe with Suprglu?), and then foster a discussion about how we can use the content that we're tagging for social change. For example - can a legal services organization use a set of tags to help aggregate content about Seattle area housing for their clients and agreggate it on their site? Can an enviro group use a tag to aggregate info about a local developer to expose ant-environmental practices?
I just want to say thanks again to the CumpuMentor people who made the NetSquared Conference a big success. Thanks to my special buddies: Marnie, Britt, Laura, Gina, Michelle, Billy, and, uh...everybody else. Something good with great potential was started there, and I'm confident you'll keep in moving forward.
And thanks to the sponsors. Cisco, HP, the American Cancer Society (heh, heh) and the rest.
Still a bit zonked after the conference, but wanted to share a couple pics from the Tips and Tricks workshops during the Making It Happen section of the Net2 Conference. It was great to see all the people sharing knowledge around all kinds of topics. As someone who worked in education for a while, it occurred to me that one of the strengths of the Net2 Conference was how it addressed different learning styles. The big sessions were really just for listening, the smaller breakout sessions allowed for more discussion and the Making It Happen sessions were hands-on.
First published at www.lasolidaridad.com (cross-blogging) Learning about the Make Trade Fair campaign of Oxfam was an epochal event for me where I received enlightenment regarding the difference between aid and trade, the latter being a more effective approach on eradicating poverty. The implications are tremendous, knowing that trade is a concept that should entail the cooperation of governments, and for me this sounds too remote if not too utopic. I am looking for something a little bit more on a close proximity, which individuals and organizations can embrace to spin economic development and social transformation, in their own small way.
The whole way home I tried to write this blog post. Figure out what I wanted to say. I keep coming back to the same thing: at the end of the conference people were eager to share the work they'd done during the Making It Happen sessions. You can read Sarah's report to get a sense of what folks did.
And what then I think of what happens next. How do we take the energy and conversations in the room, on the remote conference and in the hallway, and the collected next actions. How do we take all of that and bring it back to our everyday world -- our community and conversations?
So the past hour or so has been a meeting and melding of minds, as geeks of all stripes gathered in small groups to hammer through projects together. Seth got newbies blogging, there was a group talking about Tagging to Save the World, the Drupal geeks gathered to do their thing (this happens all over the world, every time more than two of them get together), some folks Mashed Up some maps, others talked about Microformats (I finally found out what those are), some people got initiated into the Cult of Second Life (I checked it out but my feelings about video games run deep. I'm sorry.), Rolf demonstrated the new Melt social networking tool for climate change action, and I can't remember what else. There was more! Much more!
Transcripts from our May 30th remote conference sessions and May 30th hallway chat are now online. You can find transcripts on the remote conference page or on the hallway page -- or just follow the links below.