Monthly Archives: February 2010

Back from Webstock 2010

If the web industry in the USA is anything to go by, there doesn’t seem be a recession. Of the dozen or more speakers from Silicon Valley at Webstock conference not a single one mentioned anything to do with an apparent economic downturn.

Job losses? Shrinking incomes? Not in start-up land.

Indeed we heard about the almost near miraculous opportunities on the web to sweep people from humble obscurity to being super software stars (and still be nice, humble guys).  The pattern of exponential growth on the internet was unchallenged. Reverence for the market is undimmed.

Not wishing to dwell on the downside, these start-up dudes couldn’t really give me the magic answer to how much comes down to hard work, and how much to sheer luck.

The talks didn’t stay on the prosaic level of tips and advice for wannabe software giants or examples of excellent websites/ design/ online community (eg Brooklyn Museum). Once again this year’s crop of thinkers swept us into the future, or somewhere.

I’m not sure what Regine deBatty’s job title is, but her major occupation is reporting on art galleries and installations. Loads of them by the looks from the we make money not art website. Her lateral challenge to participants was to don’t assume you really know what interaction is for everyone. Look again.

Someday virtually everything will be part of the a networked environment, so Adam Greenfield told us. Today we might just have Snapper cards, CTV cameras, eft-pos machines parking meters, displays, cellphone towers, weather gauges and other assorted devices hooked to the network in our urban areas, but in the future many more things will be connected. The chair you’re sitting in perhaps?

Doubtless this will have implications for civil society and the public sphere. This will likely creep up on us whether we choose or not. (Read more Cheap as chips – your networked chair” from the NZ Herald.)

If all this sounds rather grave, thank goodness for the bright yellow yoyos shared with everyone by conference sponsors Intergen. Tactile, non-networked, something my children can play with, without breaking (so far).

Once again, Webstock was a revved-up, idea fest. Not sure where all the web stuff is taking us, but I still want to be a part of it as long as we turn it to social good.

Update (14 March 2010): I spoke too soon. Yesterday Elsa broken the yoyo.

Looking for plums on K Road

A blue bowl containing three plumsWhen I’m facilitating a meeting or workshop I like to have something on the table for people to munch on, gaze at wistfully or even turn over in their hands.

A small offering helps pass the time during any dull bits and it makes people feel valued as you’ve gone to some effort to think of their needs. Offering sweets or peppermints is easy. This is perhaps why all the corporate venues have the hard, little white rocks.

When I was walking from Grey Lynn to the NGO I was working with on Thursday I wanted to get some plums. A generous big bag.

Being seasonal fruit was really appropriate for the group I was working with, not to mention the health benefits. A colourful addition to the setting I hoped.

At this time of the year plums are falling off the trees. But not so on my route along Karangahape Road. Not a plum tree, nor did the shops stock them.

I stopped looking in little dairies after number five. The fruit on offer was, well, totally insipid. One shop, whose owner had the audacity to list on its signage the promise of fruit and vegetables for sale, stocked a desultory bag of yellowing oranges in a fridge. About seven bananas, 20 apples and a few more oranges was all I saw.

Nor did I see a greengrocer on K Road, though there are plenty of stodgy bakers and greasy take away outlets. Makes sense I guess. Who is going to opt for a peach or plum when they’re out on the town.

Packaged foods with long shelf lives (ie crisps, sweets, nuts, etc), starch and fatty foods make money, but fruit obvioulsy doesn’t. How can it be that the market provides all this, but ready access to plentiful, fresh and healthy fruit is scarce. No wonder we’re facing an obesity epidemic.

Fortunately, even without a bowl of elusive plums the workshop went well.

And in the end I summoned up a gift for the participants. The night before the workshop I stumbled on the replica of the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral, created in 1200, at St Columba Church in Surrey Crescent. It’s “a quiet place so that we, who are unable to make long retreats from our busy lives may find refreshment in these small havens of peace.” I thought storing away the idea of a place to step back from the hurly burly of the project (and work as usual) might come in useful.

No plums but maybe something more lasting.

Photo credit: Anushruti RK’s photostream