1. Creating Building Blocks
    for Independents

    March 11th 2006 SXSW Interactive

    Tantek Çelik Technorati
  2. (cc) Creative Commons BY
  3. definition: independent

    obey giant
  4. definition: building blocks

    1. Tools, resources, or techniques
    2. Built by experts
    3. Usable by non-experts
    4. Combine with other building blocks
    5. Build larger blocks from smaller blocks
  5. example: Blogger

    Blogger logo
    Independent publishing. Blogger was launched in August 1999 and enabled people to easily publish on their own independent sites and since inspired many more: Movable Type, WordPress, etc. Freedom of the press brought to the people.
  6. example: Creative Commons

    creative commons logo
    Re-use, re-purpose, and remix. The initial set of Creative Commons licenses was published on December 16, 2002. CC licenses make it easier for independents to create reusable content building blocks. You can re-use without having to communicate which is another level of independence.
  7. example: wikis

    screenshot of a wiki
    Independent iteration. Asynchronous collaborative authoring. Wikis enable independents to contribute and collaborate, typicaly without having to sync-up or coordinate with others. Independence of time, and a way for otherwise independent folks to more easily collaborate to build something much larger/better together than any of them could have purely on their own. Reduced the barrier to entry so that anyone could make small improvements, and one such result is Wikipedia.
  8. example: irc.freenode.net

    screenshot of irc
    Indepdent realtime discussion channels. While various corporate instant messaging services offer group chat services, NONE of their user interfaces compare in terms of speed, efficiency, and real-time "feel" as IRC. Sure, you can't tell when people are typing, but that's about it. Freenode has emerged as a defacto IRC network for folks looking to chat independently at conferences (AKA the backchannel), or looking to organize and plan something new.
  9. example: tags

    screenshot of tags
    Classification: Tags lowered the barrier for anyone to add keywords and organize anything. Delicious, Flickr, and Technorati aggregate tags and enabled independents to classify collaboratively without any extra effort.
  10. example: microformats

    microformats logo
    Enable millions of web authors, not just programmers, to share structured chunks of information about people, events, reviews, classified listings, etc. This is also about the freedom to easily share chunks of data. Sharing requires interoperability = another word for standards. Thus microformats. We have to make it easy for *content* people - see microformats principles. Other format efforts focus on the programmer. But EVERYBODY is a content person. Only a few are programmers. Microformats focus on the publisher. Think like a content person. Make it easy for publishing and presenting. And relatively easy / possible for coding. For more, come to Monday March 13th 11:30am panel on Microformats: Evolving The Web.
  11. example: SuperHappyDevHouse

    shdh logo

    2005 SuperHappyDevHouse by Jeff (progrium) and Andy Smith, hosted by David Weekly.

    All night hack fests, think LAN Party but with creating brilliances of code and art in the company of other highly enthusiastic peers, fueled by Krispy Kreme, Pizza, sodas, Red Bull, and other energy drinks.

  12. example: foo camp

    foocamp logo

    Tim O'Reilly implemented participant driven tech conferences with FOO Camp.

    Conference grid started empty, then filled up, then changed over time.

    I watched from the sidelines at my lowly position in Microsoft simultaneously envious and inspired by what I saw happening.

    2004 I quit Microsoft and went to Technorati after the great W3C Web Applications / Compound Documents schism of June 2004 (another story for another day).

    Tim did FooCamp again, and this time, I had connected with enough folks at ETech earlier that year, that I somehow I was able to beg an invite out.

    Important lesson: don't be too proud to beg for an invite.

    I was fortunate enough to be there and was at the right time and place to invent hCard and hCalendar, and have Ray Ozzie encourage me to go for it. 1.5 years later he's demoing web clipboard built on it.

  13. example: barcamp

    barcamp logo

    2005 late summer, Tim is putting on FOO Camp again.

    I wasn't sure if I was going to be invited back.

    Heard of other folks getting invited, and the dates were coming up quick.

    Only human: I went through numerous negative emotions: anger, jealousy, envy, frustration.

    Key insight from experience at MSFT: turn negative emotions into positive actions. E.g. people made fun of MSFT for not being standards compliant. I thought, I'll show them, I'll build the most standards compliant browser the world has ever seen, and make them eat their words.

    Back to FOOCamp. So one night, I shared my feelings and thoughts with friend and co-worker Ryan King and I said to him, I remember everything about the events and process of FOO Camp, and I know that a small group of folks could rebuild it.

    I told them the format for the participant driven "Camp" that Tim ran last year that I had the good fortune to experience.

    The 3 word intros. The empty grid beckoning signups. The plentiful space to Camp/crash. The regular meals to syncup, take a break from the keyboard and projector and talk while in line for food, while sitting around round tables. The morning sessions with Tim O'Reilly himself setting the tone for the day.

    I told him: we could do this, and call it BarCamp, the complement to Foocamp.

    What we needed: a venue with at least a couple of rooms with power, wifi, seating, projectors, whiteboards. Easy access to food, preferably brought in to avoid having to leave the venue. Space for tents. Ideally: a place to shower.

    We bounced the idea off of a few more friends, Chris Messina, Andy Smith, and Matt Mullenweg and they sounded interested as well. Yet all were way too busy with their "day jobs", Chris and Andy crunching to get a release of Flock (shot) done for OSCon, and Matt wrapping up things at CNET and assembling his new startup.

    Still the idea was planted, and with such emotional force that rather than be forgotten, it's attractiveness only grew.

    The weekend before, Chris Messina pinged me on IRC and asked if I thought we could still do it. So we (Ryan, Chris, Andy, Matt, and I) went to Ritual Roasters to go figure it out. I invited SF newcomer Eris Stassi to join us as well.

    I repeated the outline of requirements and the group said why not?

    Andy Smith registered the domain name and installed kwiki within minutes.

    We cloned the details from the FooCamp wiki (thanks to Tim for putting all the stuff on a wiki, another inspiration).

    Over the course of the next few days, each person found their natural roles in helping make things happen. With an IRC channel for rapid discussions, and the wiki to capture roles/decisions, progress was made incredibly quickly.

    Friday afternoon, just six days from when the domain was registered, the first BarCamp was kicked off.


    How funny looking back and noting how we were worried about planning BarCamp 2.0.

    Interest from other cities poured in to do their own BarCamps.

    We took the model of FOOCamp of pick a room and do your session and expanded it to: pick a city and do a barcamp. We documented what we learned so others could copy without any permission or direct communication.

    In the weeks and months following, self-organized BarCamps were held in other cities around the country and world as far away as New Delhi.

    Not only have over a dozen BarCamps been held, but it has spawned numerous mutations (as any rapidly growing species does) - MashupCamp, MashPit, Virginia Woolf Camp etc.

    Many more BarCamps are being planned by and for people in their local communities.

    In fact, BarCampAustin happening right now in this very town at the Thistle Cafe and will supposedly be going on until at least 3am.

    For more info go to BarCamp.org.

  14. action: create

    make magazine
     - one person, or maybe just a few, can master it and make use of it
     - anyone can set one up
     - anyone can use it
     - anyone can maintain it
     - inventing new things
     - repurposing old things
      - renaming old things
      - using old things for new purposes
      - assembling old things into new patterns
     - free to take your data whereever you want
     - free to innovate and improve on others works
      - open source
      - reverse engineering
     - developed in the open
     - using open resources
       - irc
       - wiki
     - openly document financial details
       - so everybody can learn from all past experiences.
  15. action: empower

    map of barcamps

    Empower yourself. Your friends. Your community.

    But push yourself to go further, because you can.

    Need to be ok with:
     - giving up control
     - someone taking your stuff and screwing up or failing
     - independence will not be evenly distributed
       - not everyone will be empowered equally
       - goal as i put it forth is to empower more than are empowered today
       - consider looking at specific neglected or underempowered communities
         or demographics, and think about what you can do to help them participate

    The whole crowd at SXSW is "privileged" in some way or another, and that we should all be asking ourselves, how do we help an even broader community of folks become independents?

    The reality is that independence will not be evenly distributed. However, the more independents we can enable, the better. We should challenge the building block creators, folks inventing new technologies, new organizational patterns, to ask ourselves, can we create building blocks that empower less privileged demographics, and people unlike ourselves, in addition to the folks around us?

    Each and every person here is an expert in something. Use the building blocks that others have built before you. Build more for others to use after you.

    Take what you learn and pass it on.

  16. Creating Building Blocks
    for Independents

    March 11th 2006 SXSW Interactive