Dancing at Gnomedex : Day 1

Gnomedex is a very different blogging conference from others I've been to.

The closest I can come to it is a mix of the Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposiums, which always have a backchannel and alternate community applications going simultaneous with the speakers, Blogher, which had a very real-world-meets-tech vibe, and a party hosted by tech people one knows.

First up was Kris Krug, who showed amazing photos full of light and humanity - and great tips on how to look for the catchlight and the humanity as we tote our cameras around to change the world.

- make sure your background is clear (no flagpoles growing out of people's heads)

- look first at your sources of light including the light in people's eyes, reflections, puddles

- isolate variables by looking at aperture first and then tune the rest of your camera (aperture controls light levels but also depth of field)

Second was Tara Hunt and Larry Halff talking about the opening up of magnolia, a social bookmarking site.  They broke the news at Gnomedex so it was interesting to see how

 After a break, we heard from Ben Huh of icanhascheezburger.com. I stood up and asked him a question about how they moderate that site, because he had just finished explaining these amazing facts:

- when the site started it got 50-100 LOLCats a day. In March of this year, they were getting 5,000 LOLcats a day. They now have a database of 800,000 LOLCats.  He answered my question about how they handle bad content by explaining their network of sites, which includes the Fail blog (which isn't always safe for work, but you can find it linked on the main site) gets about 250,000 votes on the content per day which sift good content upward and complain to the team of paid moderators he has hired. The moderators post on twitter and facebook and do other chores besides determine what the LOLCat is really saying.

Danny Sullivan, search engine guru who just moved here from the UK, made a great pragmatic example of how exposed Web search has made us - he phoned one conference attendee while giving the talk, showed another one a car of their friend, and in general reminded us of the spookiness of modern technology life. You can take content out of Google search results - maybe - but then you have to contend with the phone directory posting your phone number online if you haven't rendered it unlisted. People are using information you give them in more contexts than you expect. Youhhur house on Google maps. Your sunbathing neighbor sunbathing with someone not her husband. Etc.

This was a great juxtaposition to the next speaker, 16-year-old Mark Bao CEO of Avecora. He and his schoolmates are not worried about privacy, take texting and Facebook for granted, and email is a forgotten medium to them. He's already sold 3 apps to Facebook and wants to live a life of meaning and make meaningful money in the process. (That might be a bit too flippant, Mark seemed like a genuinely altruistic young geek upstart rather than a materialistic one). Francine Hardaway did a great job of interviewing him and interspersing her own observations on how technology changed the game for her generation. Mark's presentation noted that his generation expects technology to make them connected 24/7, which meant more work time bleeding into other parts of their life, but also that his idea of working wasn't a 9-5 job but an entreprenuerial one.

Beth Kanter and Amanda Koster did a one-two punch set of presentations for using social media for the greater good of humanity. Beth's non-profit fundraising reached new heights where it was discovered she'd raised more than $2,000 online during her presentation for a cambodian child to go to college, and that didn't count the $600+ contributed in the auditorium AT Gnomedex. Amanda Koster, profesional photographer and founder  of salaamgarage showed us what normal amateur photographers could do to raise awareness of conditions in other countries.

The impetus for salaamgarage, which takes amateur photographers to other countries under the auspices of NGOs  like Doctors without Borders...She had gone to Western Kenya to do a photo/video documentary about the effects of AIDS and she chose to focus on the survivors. The most haunting moment for me came when her video subject, Caxton, said "“I want to be seen as someone who exists.”

The IgniteSeattle medley was the usual fast-paced fascinating ride and of course one where I didn't catch all the names. The Digital Fairytale I had seen earlier at another Seattle event - the story of a woman who becomes her digital existence in a disturbing way (I won't spoil it if you have the chance to see it again at Ignite or dorkbot or elsewhere locally), a slice of 3d turned into sculpture as part of a UW degree project, a litany against fear, a political geek manifesto, how to change the world from the guy at worldchanging.com, and the special treat of Matt  Harding from wherethehellismatt.com explaining why he dances and how, and a frenzied minute or so where the audience got up to join him (including yours truly - see Tris Hussey's photo here).

Thus ended Day 1. 🙂

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