This blog was featured in last week’s ebusiness supplement of the Irish Independent. While I was delighted by the publicity, I noted that the impression I’ve made on the journalist is of a kind of tech-scene party girl! It is with some trepidation therefore that I’m posting below my thoughts on Reboot 10 which I attended last week. I will try and keep them serious and meaty and will not make any mention of the kicking street after-party.
Reboot 10 Speakers
I come to Reboot every year to get my brain pulled out and squeezed and then unceremoniously dropped back in again. That’s not entirely what I got this year. There was less optimism about the future and a sense of darkness was evident from some speakers.
- Tor Nørretranders – Share your Shit – was the first message I took from Reboot 10. He made the point that biological organisms exist by consuming the shit of other organisms. So too with us. We must share in order to thrive.
- Stowe Boyd, self-declared webthropologist (I like that title) reminded us that we are living at the end of the Industrial era, the start of the new. Whereas last year, this signalled excitement, this year I detected a dark message of caution. He paints a grim picture of the gap between rich and poor, about the billions of people who live without government in feral cities whose lives are controlled by warlords and criminals. Individuals have discovered that happiness doesn’t come from being a cog in the mass civilisation that’s been sold to us. According to Boyd, the shift to many-to-many communications sees more people living on the edge. So for those on the edge (Edgelanders) with the most connections, we/they owe it to the world to create linkages and build bridges to the ones that are overlooked. The web brings us a sort of freedom, but we must use this freedom to reach out to those people who governments have missed.
Summing Them Up
It seemed to be quite retrospective. I heard too many speakers start off with ‘the history of things’. Even Howard Rheingold did a piece on how the invention of the printing press opened the way for a wave of transformations, and how it’s the same with the web today… yada yada…Maybe I liked it because it was at the start and I was feeling fresh and open. But Lee Bryant gave us a history of how industrial practices have changed.
Jeremy Keith’s talk was billed as ‘a starting point for discussions on ideas such as public domain, copyright, and the emergence of the reputation economy on the web” whereas it was in fact, him talking about the history of Irish traditional music! The art appreciation vibe was carried on by Cennyd Bowles who gave a talk on “Beauty in Web Design” in which he referenced not one website but talked instead about what art is and Don Norman’s cognitive science on beauty.
- The coolest CTO that’s ever walked this earth! He got up and talked on topic (yes folks, the theme this year was free!!) and obviously straight from the hip. He made several succinct points:
- Value is what drives the decision of where something is free and not free. It is the customer who decides that. They are always willing to pay for something they value. He gives the example of his kids who’ll pay £4.99 for a ring-tone but not £9.99 for a music download.
- Artificial scarcity – for each and every artificial scarcity there is an equal and opposite artificial abundance. Hacker culture is simply about trying to get at stuff with artificial barriers. People are fundamentally not thieves. What some companies call stealing/hacking, is where they created an artificial barrier and others are simply trying to overcome it.
- Figure how what people want to pay for and apply it. Stop trying to charge people for what they have an aversion to pay for, and charge them for things they value.
- Raised my awareness of the fact that there there is no ‘view source’ in Silverlight. The ideology is that we don’t want to share (either bugs or ingenuity). The ability to view source is necessary for our evolution of migrating from A to B and something better. This Olympics will see around 2 billion people get Silverlight because all the web content for the olympics is on it. That’s developing the web?
- Who just is Rock & Roll! His background is sociology and I like the way he approaches technology from that standpoint.
- He talked about social objects, they are what connect people. So you’ve always got communities of interest based around a thing. He talked about communities of potato growers in Italy. I thought about all the social networking groups that I am active in are all around areas of genuine interest to me – books, travel, photographs… I’m not an avid FB’er because that’s just about collections of friends. Mine aren’t all online, so it doesn’t hold the same interest to me. “Good web apps take that thing and add value to it. What makes an item interesting is what people say about it and do with it.
- Social peripheral vision. How in the next 2 years we’re going to see services that make us more socially aware, eg. Maps that show where my friends are. Photos with facial recognition, etc.
- When asked the question “Is privacy still dead?” he answered that it’s going more in the realms of audience management.
All up, I enjoyed. And I will be back for Reboot 11. It got me thinking and that’s what counts. Surprised that I was the only one in the Irish delegation. Took it upon myself to take good notes and party with the best of them as a result. My heartfelt thanks to the organisers who are stars. Big love to Copenhagen which wins my heart more every year. (And it’s got cheaper cocktails than Dublin).