December 18th was the first ever StatusCamp. It was also another ChangeMedium experiment – bringing the context of the medium of change to the developers building its future.
The event was an excellent day with over two dozen folks including the Status.net team and Peter Deitz of SocialActions. It was an amazing event to learn about where Status.net and the OpenMicroBlogging initiative (OMB) are going. The wiki has more details on OMB but it is due for a major new release and will be integrating PubSubHubBub, ActivityStrea.ms, Salmon, and WebFinger. What this means is an integration of emerging protocols to put people at the centre of micro-messaging. Not only is this a positive protocol development, but it signals the collaboration of major participants in this field to create an 0pen, interoperable system – an essential aspect of the medium of change.
I also presented a new pitch (below) on why all this really matters to all of us. It prompted a good session on social uses for Status.net and sparked a number of unexpected side conversations. What I’m learning more and more is that many developers have a social streak – a bent for making the world better. Many don’t publicize it but it seems that most do. This is encouraging as I look forward to future ChangeMedium events and seems to fit with the notion of bringing research, development, and application together to build this medium better.
Following that thread, I received some great suggestions for ways to do just that including compiling social use cases for developers to hack, doing developer challenges – prizing the best apps/hacks, and focused dev days to tackle specific problems. I’m interested in all ideas like this – they give fodder for communities who want to create events that move and make this medium for all of us.
#cmToronto opened on a gray Saturday morning with an introduction to ChangeMedium and the day by Michael Lewkowitz. James Walker followed up with an overview of what to expect during the hack session. The orientation reminded participants that the opportunity is to take us out of our bubble and think about the reach, application, and implications of this medium for society.
Several questions came up after the presentation provoking both developers and researchers alike.
Up next, Kayleigh Platz, Technical Solutions Provider at the University of Waterloo shared her challenges of engaging in anthropological research in the area of culture and technology. Her presentation “Culture and Technology” highlighted the groundbreaking nature of this medium and she concluded with the question of how can the research community support developers provoking discussion on the convergence of research and development – a central theme to the future of ChangeMedium.
The WorldCafe proved the biggest surprise of the day. Participants, many of whom did not know each other previously moved through 3 questions, forming different groups for each question. The questions posed were:
Within the context of the goals of today, what are some of the trends you see developing in the mico-messaging/social change spaces? As a group decide on what you think is the most significant trend.
With your new group share what your group felt was the most important/significant trend. As a group, discuss your thoughts on what these trends mean for the future, where are we headed, what becomes possible?
With the future possibilities in mind, discuss what technology roadblocks exist today that need to be remedied/overcome to achieve this future vision.
The experience was described as “eerie”, “amazing”, and “unexpected” due to the high degree of similarity among participants’ answers and observations in each of the questions. A real sense of community began to form through this process which could have easily been extended from the 5 minutes per question allocated.
The hacklab began shortly after noon and was introduced by James Walker as an opportunity to work on infrastructure, applications, or even have extended conversations. The group identified four topics:
Development commenced on the “Status.net/Open Micro Blogging” and “Local Political Engagement” topics while a lively conversation emerged around the role ChangeMedium can play in supporting the research community.
In reflection a number of observations have surfaced from both direct feedback and convenor conversations:
Future events will benefit from clear descriptions and definitions around ChangeMedium and the purpose of the event.
Converging research and development in the medium for change is a unique, engaging, and valuable approach.
Research presentations featuring examples involving social impact and underserved communities engage developers to step outside their box.
The worldcafe format is very effective in bringing the participants together and should be expanded.
During the hack session, conversation can be as valuable as development. Creating an open space format allows for the participants to make the most of the time available.
Specifically for hacking, it would be helpful to have an ongoing development track such as contributing to the OpenMicroBlogging infrastructure.
Hacking of specific applications could also be aided by pairing participants at the start of the session with the specific objective of creating an application by the end of the day. These pairings could be done between researchers and developers and could be focused on a specific topic or left to each pair to decide.
There is an unmet opportunity to help researchers engage directly with developers. This engagement is conventionally limited by the research incentive structure pointing to the need to offer new incentives to researchers for engaging earlier and iteratively in their research processes
In summary, cmToronto demonstrated the unique value of convening researchers and developers in the medium of change to achieve practical outcomes. Despite the initial ambiguity and Saturday timing, we had 40 registrants with 26 participants coming from as far as Halifax. Active progress was made on the OpenMicroBlogging infrastructure, an application for local political engagement, and the future direction of ChangeMedium itself. A clear call was heard for a series of local events, an online blog-based community, and an ongoing thread of practical development activity culminating in an annual event for the local communities to convene.