Tuesday, April 22, 2008

BarCamp Canberra

FYI See the presentation I gave - Game Design (from the school of hard knocks)

A colleague alerted me to the upcoming Canberra BarCamp at the ANU the other week and it was fortunately on an otherwise free weekend.

While I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and my colleague fell sick at the last minute, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable day.

The event, in the style of other BarCamps around the world, was a spontaneously organised conference of online professionals using digital technologies to bring people together.

There are no pre-set speakers or timetables, talks are organised on a whiteboard during the day.

All talks are limited to 15 minutes and people flow freely between rooms to listen to those of interest to them, as you can see in the photos of the event.

In this spirit around half of the 60 or so people who attended took the opportunity to present on a topic as narrow or broad as they liked, generally to an audience of 10-30 people at a time.

I attended some interesting presentations ranging from web design principles to building a free wi-fi network to usability research techniques to open source and while the speaking skills varied, the passion and experience was always high.

WHile I had not come prepared to speak myself, given there was some demand for a presentation on game design from a couple of people I met at the event, I quickly whipped up a presentation based on my game design experience and attracted an audience of about 15 people looking to break into the industry.

While I'm not entirely satisfied with the depth of the presentation, given that it was pulled together in about 10 minutes, the responses were positive and I've loaded it to Slideshow entitled Game Design (from the school of hard knocks).

BarCamp Canberra was sponsored by Microsoft, Acidlabs (who helped organise the event) and Michael McGoogan of AussieHQ (who shouted drinks and dinner).

I've known of Michael for around three years, from when I was looking at the business case for ActewAGL entering the web hosting area. At the time I suggested that ActewAGL consider purchasing his business, which was growing rapidly. This suggestion wasn't pursued and Michael has used the last three years to grow his business enormously. He's one of the lesser known Canberra IT success stories, though, at the age of 21, he has plenty of time for people to become aware of his success.

One of the most interesting parts of the BarCamp experience for me was observing how people flowed natively between physical and online social interactions. At all times during the day, thanks to the free wi-fi network at the venue, people were interacting both with others in the room and with people around the world via Facebook, Linkedin, blogs, Twitter and other online tools.

At least three-quarters of the attendees had laptops with them, including a number of mini-laptops, and others had iPhones (at least five at the event) and other handheld internet connected devices.

I personally used the network to message friends who could not attend, to grab material for my presentation, and to ensure it was up on Slideshare before I gave it - so others could access it as needed. In fact I gave my presentation from Slideshare rather than using the copy on my harddrive.

The ability to participate both physically and digitally at the same time showed me an interesting and positive vision of where we're heading in our social and professional interactions.

Currently strict boundaries exist in many workplaces and conferences between physical and online socialisation. However the capacity with which people were able to multitask and engage in simultaneous social interactions across mediums demonstrated that the enforced boundaries can (and hopefully will) be deconstructed.

Given the widespread adoption and use of mobile phones and increasing penetration of small internet-connected devices, this is already beginning to occur.

As with many other changes, I expect this one will take more time and pain than already digitally connected people would like. Society's norms are hard to shift, particularly whilst power remains in the hands of a pre-digital generation.

But, as they say, the future is a new country...

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Holographic meetings are now

This is the next generation of teleconferencing - telepresence via holographic meetings - where people from somewhere else in the world appear right in the room with you (or in this case on the stage).

All using internet IP-based standards.

Think of the travel savings!

No sense of smell yet though!


And an article about it is at the Human Productivity Lab.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Web Strategy in Sydney

Earlier this month I presented at the Ark Web Strategy conference in Sydney.

It was quite a mixed event, about 40 attendees across a spread of government and industry, although a few less people from the business world than I would have expected.

Having been around for awhile I did know or know of about half of the speakers, and as usual people like Donna Maurer from Maadmob and Rebecca Rodgers from Step Two Designs were both entertaining and provided valuable insights.

In particular Rebecca's presentation made me rethink aspects of our website's search approach, leading my team to make some adjustments to further simplify our search results for a more relevant experience. Less is more!

Some of the less known speakers also did an excellent job, with Josh Borg from AGL providing a very frank and open presentation on his experiences redeveloping the AGL website and Gian Wild from Monash University providing a passionate view of accessibility. I'm reusing some of her examples to help communicate the accessibility message to staff at my agency.

As for myself, as the first speaker I chose to take a big picture look at the purpose and process of online strategy to 'keynote' the event.

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