I’m glad I decided to go to the Web2.1 BrainJam. I was a bit nervous, since I didn’t know anybody there and I don’t do this stuff for a living, but it turned out to be a good time.
Chris Heuer, the organizer, wanted to try doing what he called Speed Brainjamming, and what Christopher Allen called “Knowledge Cafes”. The basic idea was to sit down with a few people you didn’t know, talk for a bit (10-20 minutes), and then they called time, and you moved on to a set of new people. I enjoyed it a lot, meeting a bunch of new people, and hearing a bunch of different ideas. It was interesting the different directions that people are coming at this from: some were academics interested in research, others were entrepreneurs who wanted to know what the business model was, others were thinking of it as a tool to help their own pursuits, whether real estate or nonprofits, and, of course, for me, it’s a hobby. So it was great to hear about how people are thinking about using these new web tools, and I was always a bit disappointed when we had to stop talking and move on to the next group.
A couple conversations I particularly enjoyed:
- Dave Gutelius mentioned how he had started off learning about social networks by following a Sufi brotherhood through the Sahara desert. Now he’s teaching at Stanford, and advising Ishtirak and PlanetQuest, but it’s still about understanding social networks.
- We had a good jamming conversation going with Dan Saffer, Rachel Murray, Michael Ferguson of ask.com, and Eric Lin. Both Dan and Rachel are interaction designers rather than technologists, so they were more interested in the culture than the technology, a perspective I appreciate more and more as I learn that I’m not a technologist. Eric brought up the issue of making Web2.1 available on one’s phone, and I riffed off of how I want my whole life available on my Sidekick. It’s close (the Sidekick enabled me to go on a three week road trip and still always be in phone and email contact), but it’s not quite there.
After four rounds of conversations, the whole group reformed and went to presentations. This was less interactive, which was a bit of a disappointment. But there were a couple gems.
Jeff Jarvis did a great little talk on Recovery 2.0. I knew Jarvis’s name, but had never read his blog or seen him speak before, and I was really impressed. Quotes I liked a lot included:
- “It’s not a medium, it’s a means”, making the point that users aren’t generating content for the sake of content – they’re sharing their lives as communication
- “We need to swarm better” and “congregate to other communities”, taking advantage of the distributed nature of the blogosphere, rather than depending on mass media to do the filtering for us.
- “There is no it, there’s a lot of different its”, along the same lines.
He also pointed out the three prerequisites for effective swarming, using Recovery 2.0 as an example:
- A place to swarm to, e.g. the Recovery2.0 wiki and the recovery2 tag.
- Standardization and APIs, so that swarms can interact and communicate effectively, using XML or whatever else works.
- Face to face meetings, as the best way to get different swarms talking to each other. Diplomacy is best handled in person rather than through technology.
The other presentation I found inspiring was Adam Kalsey’s presentation of Tagyu. Not so much by the idea of Tagyu, although it’s a pretty nifty idea to have a program figure out the appropriate tags given a URL or text. But by his description of the development process. He had the idea on Tuesday, coded it up Wednesday, tested it on Thursday, and demo’d it on Friday. The tools are getting sufficiently high level that the idea, not the technology, is the limiting factor. Makes me want to start learning more of this web stuff, in case I ever have a good idea.
Overall, it was a good experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the after party due to a prior engagement, so it felt like I had just barely gotten a shallow introduction to these people and the ideas floating around. But I’ll keep my eyes open and hope to make it to more such events in the future.
Thanks go to Chris Heuer for organizing, his girlfriend Kristie for handling all of the logistics, Brian Shields from KRON for finding us the space (it happened in a KRON studio) and producing a piece for the evening news on it, and to everybody else for being interesting and friendly.
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