Barcamp atlanta 2007

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some of my experiences from Barcamp Atlanta.

The general approach in most sessions was “here is something interesting, this is how you use it/do it yourself.” A few of the hot topics were Ruby on Rails, Amazon S3 and EC2, and Facebook apps. The biggest crowd pleaser was the OLPC demo. Aside from being an amazing technical accomplishment and hopefully a world-changing product, it’s simply cutest computer since Fujitsu released a Hello Kitty laptop.

My own session on The Art of Web Cartography drew a half-dozen interested participants. I’d been looking forward to sharing some of the things I learned while working on the mapping application for Southcomb, and I’m glad that several people found my presentation useful. I’ve put my slides online here; they were in LaTeX Beamer format before, so not much is lost in the conversion to wiki markup. What is missing is the commentary and sample files; I’m going back and adding this as I find the time.

A lot of the fun and value at any event like this comes from the time between sessions. That’s really where knowledge is shared, jokes are made, and friendships are formed. Particularly rewarding for me was having all night to pick the brain of Tim Moenk, one of the consultants with What a Concept! and new media strategist for the Young Democrats of Georgia. Another fortuitous meeting was with Joe Uhl of We The Citizens. Both of them are heavily involved in what I call the new social mobilization, which uses new communications tools and technologies to enable self-organizing, personal campaigns. I’ll try to blog a better definition of that term later, but suffice it to say that I think it’s of real political significance and I’m already dreaming of hypotheses I could test with the data they’re generating.

Since as far as I can tell David Cohen doesn’t allow comments on his blog, I’ll include a quick response to this post here: David points out that in his session “The Future of Democracy: Social Software, Gaming, Law, and UI” Tim stretches the concept of Law and loses some analytical clarity from this. Perhaps it might be better to recast the discussion in terms of regulation. Law, norms, the market and architecture (including software code) all regulate our behavior. Even though they vary in meaningful ways, I think that blurring the distinctions like Tim did can be a useful learning exercise.