otsukare Thoughts after a day of work

Make Web Not War 2011, Vancouver

Make Web Not War is a one day annual conference organized by Microsoft Canada. This year, the third edition of the conference was in Vancouver (West Canada). If you have no idea what the city looks like, take a ride with Google Street View. I was invited by Frédéric Harper (Microsoft Developer Evangelist in Montreal) to give the conference Keynote (Disclaimer: My trip and hotel was paid by Microsoft and I had a mobile phone as a gift for giving the keynote). This is the type of setup I like. A conference sponsored by Microsoft and someone from Opera giving the keynote to talk about the Web show how everyone is working one same goal : an interoperable Web.

City of Vancouver

Organization and Wifi

The Conference was very well organized. 300 persons were attending the conference in Masik Studios venue. Julia Stowell (Microsoft, Toronto) took care of all details the logistics details.

The only bad score during the conference was the wifi, which was difficult to access. With a crappy wifi, the online participation, the voice on the outside becomes severely butchered. The good thing about it, people might listen more what is happening on the talk. I guess there was too many people trying to get an IP address. Think about it, the pool of IP addresses you need in the DHCP and the bandwidth is not the number of people attending the conference. These days people have more than one device with them. There is the laptop, but also the mobile phone, possibly a tablet, and you can imagine in the future cameras and other things, Basically the number of devices often outnumber the number of people. Devices are the real digital citizens of a conference that you have to take care of. It’s why I like the SudWeb take on it (I’m speaking there in a couple of weeks). There will be no wifi during the conference. I’m curious about the social dynamic it will create.

Keynote

I decided to give the Keynote on the Web architecture constraints and how that was empowering the creation of people. The title The Web is the Massage (HTTP for Poets) (with my apologies to Marshall McLuhan). The attendance being a mix of people with technical and marketing background, my goal was to give which was even simpler than HTTP pour les brutes et les naïfs (slides). at Paris Web 2009. I will write a separate blog post about the Keynote content. A bit afraid that the topic will not be understood, I was happy to see tweets such as :

@markreale: bloody hell - the @karlpro talk was so good all I wanna do is go back to work now #webnotwar

— Mark Reale

This was the goal of my keynote. People leaving the room with a desire to create, experiment, and push further what they can do “with the Web” instead of “on the Web”.

Make Web Not War 2011 -
Vancouver

Talks

In between the discussion with people, I attended a few talks:

  • Building a Community Around your Blog by another Montrealer, Brendan Sera-Shriar who is a character by itself. He mainly shared his views on how to manage a community and what are the consequences. One of his sentences sticked with me: “Your privacy has never existed, get over it. It doesn’t exist.”. This is the usual mistake that people do about privacy (being a very strong advocate for or a king of doom). This is just a binary statement. Privacy, or opacity as I prefer to call it, is a lot more subtle than that. The network deeply changes its dynamic but it exists in ways that people do not yet realize.
  • Curious for a Living by Lauren Bacon. She gave an overview of her projects, clients, on how do you manage a fruitful working relationships. She encouraged people to select the clients. If there is a strong sense that the client will be troublesome, or that they do not get it at the beginning of the project, you should not start working for them. You will likely loose more money trying to educate, having conflicts, back and forth arguments instead of working on making the project true. Having been in similar situations in the past when working at Pheromone, I definitely sympathize with this view. Though it is always easy to say no when the money needs to flow in even if you know in advance that it will be messy. Another issue is being able to fail early your work relationship. Indeed sometimes everything is going well until you reach this one issue that jeopardizes everything. She made another point on how to take a part of the budget to make the Web site alive on a longterm, not just something which is released and forgotten.
  • Open source learning by Mark Reale was certainly one of the best talks I have seen at the conference. He went through the community building of the Yorkville Media Centre. What does it mean when you advocate collaboration and open source in a world where other people are doing the same business than you. The promise of sharing and empowering people to create by themselves, to become one day people having the same activities than yours. Basically creating a sustainable environment which relies on openess and participation, an ecosystem where you help the competition to grow with your own ideas. Simply enlightning. There is one thing I would love Mark to talk about is the question of growth. Organizations, ideas, social structures work very well in some constraints related to size, speed of growth, etc. I believe even if I have no data for it, that as much as people should learn on how to grow a business, they should also learn on how to not grow it and make it a sustainable system. Basically it is not because you are a successful cafe that you have to turn it into a big franchise.
  • A panel on Open Data/Open Gov Presentation & Panel Discussion. I unfortunately missed the beginning. I note that the struggles with Open Data and governments are the same everywhere. Montreal Ouvert is having similar issues on how to convince the city officials. I guess one of the issues is that people are often evangelizing that open data is good. period. A more fruitful way is to show governments and city officials how it is good. Gaston Bachelard was praising the nuture the good side of things. Take the data (even in bad shapes), create Web sites which make them useful, which help citizens to solve issues. Then it is becoming a lot easier to convince officials of the goodness of these data. When you are an advocate it takes time to realize that people do not have necessary the same skills than yours, competences on how to manage these data, that will be the investments required on the longterm.

Microsoft and Open Source Panel

The conference had a panel of people discussing about their involvement around Open source and the perception of Microsoft attitude in this world. It is interesting to see a company spending a lot of time and efforts into changing the perception of the community. They pour a lot of money on Web sites, conferences such as this one. I shared a similar feeling than some people in the audience. “Stop throwing money, Participate.” Indeed, there is a struggling from Microsoft to change the company culture or to give the feeling that the company culture is changing. Marketing or real? The only way to change that is really to be involved in opensource projects, not only for fixing things which are related to windows and then harm their own platform, but also to really develop opensource projects. I have two examples which come to my mind. IBM which is a huge company with a gigantic Patent portfolio but still get involves in opensource project such as Apache and CouchDB offering a home or resources for working on these projects. And Opera working on things such as OperaWatir, Dragonfly. Changing a company culture doesn’t happen by only sending the message to the outside world but also by changing the company inside. And this might be the biggest challenge for Microsoft. I can imagine Titan battles between people used to an old culture and moving toward a new one. It takes a lot of time to change the direction of big ship and you can’t do it violently. That will be interesting to see on a longterm.

Thanks to everyone who shared ideas, who talked. I had a wonderful time with you in Vancouver.