I know my site gets a little Gnomedex-centric for a few days around the conference every year, so thanks for your patience. I’ll be done with this stuff soon.
Each year at Gnomedex, I spend less time in the auditorium listening to talks, and more time in the hallways chatting with other attendees. That’s always been the real value for me, and I was pleased to see a bunch of familiar faces and meet some new ones. I just wrote a big list of and linked to all those people, but have since deleted it, as it just felt like useless name-dropping.
Brace for the Gonzo
I always describe Gnomedex as a ‘conference of ideas’, and this year was no exception. However, this year’s program was more questionable than previous conferences, and was book-ended by a couple of highly-suspect talks. I missed most of Robert Steele’s talk, but if I distill the on- and offline reaction, it can be charitably summarized as “gonzo”.
Sterling Allen’s closing talk on ‘open source energy’ featured, among other things, a gratuitous misuse of the term of ‘open source’. He spent plenty of time discussing dubious energy sources that he aptly put in a big bucket labeled ‘crackpot’. If they’re so nutty, why did he spend much of his talk covering them (without, in my view, sufficient skepticism). I was shocked that nobody from the audience called him on it.
Open Money, Open Lives
My favourite talks were Vanessa Fox’s discussion of a life lived online–she skillfully facilitated a lot of conversation with the audience–and Michael Linton’s talk on open money. Michael has some powerful ideas, but I think he needs clearer, simpler metaphors to explain them. The talk unnecessarily went over the heads of a lot of smart people in the audience. I probably only understood about 20% of it, but that was enough to be intrigued. My appreciation of Vanessa’s talk only grew once she revealed herself to be a Joss Whedon evangelist.
Far too much has already been said about a battle of wills between two of our industry’s biggest egos. As one friend put it, “it wouldn’t be Gnomedex until a couple of old white guys started yelling at each other”. I don’t really mind the actual exchange inside the auditorium–I’ve been one of those guys in the past. I do resent that it spills over into the blogosphere and occupies everybody’s attention for the following 48 hours.
It was a nerd fight, folks, and nerd fights ought to be like removing Band aids or the invasion of Poland–swift, painful and over with quickly.
Speaking of egos, I wanted to link to a few comments on my talk for posterity:
- Jamie Nelson
- Ethan Kaplan – Probably the most thoughtful review of the conference I’ve read
- Scott Rosenberg
- Sean Bohan
- Sugar Attack
- Seattle PI
- Steve Krueger
Here’s some video of my talk:
I don’t much enjoy watching those, but it’s useful if one wants to improve. I was clearly a little too jittery to start with, but think I eventually settle into things. It’s a tough room, frankly, so I’m reasonably happy with the result.
Chris had some folks doing cartoons of conference stuff. I quite like this little piece they did of my talk:
Thanks to the folks at MyFridj for the cool drawing.
And last but certainly not least, it was a joy to see Derek’s smiling, thirty-foot tall head during his video chat session. It must take great courage blog about his illness, but I suspect it takes even more to talk about it in real time with his friends and colleagues.
UPDATE: Joseph Thornley kindly did a little interview with me after my Gnomedex talk, and has posted it.