Well as I sit in my hotel room after spending a couple of days with some of WA’s digerati (I say WA instead of Perth because Duncan Riley lives a few hours away) as well as some ring-ins from the Eastern states such as Nick Hodge, Stilgherrian and Paul Montgomery, as well as Adam and Jared (what happened to you guys? I hardly saw you yesterday and didn’t see you at any of the events today?), I’m trying to distill my thoughts.
The Perth digerati crowd certainly has a lot of energy. I was impressed by the amount of people who turned up to Podcamp, especially as most of them were from Perth. Bronwen Clune seems to be the Mother Goose of the Perth digerati crowd, running around keeping everyone in beer and skittles, with my old mate Richard Giles hanging back, giving both Bronwen and I a lot of shit, but acting as another lightening rod for the digerati here. Duncan lives out of town but his personal brand and the fact that he writes for the hottest geek site on the planet (although there has been a lot of talk over the last few days about whether or not TechCrunch still carries the cache it did 18 months ago) casts a big shadow over everyone here.
Getting back to Podcamp and geek meetups in general… the feedback on my unkeynote has been sparse, I still think I freaked most of them out. Mike seems to agree, although he seemed to like it. Stil called it “passionate” and thinks my use of a picture of Che Guevara gave him permission to use a picture of Goebbels.
I still get the feeling though that we geeks, we early adopters of the new new tools, the Twitterers, the Facebookeranians, the SecondLifers, the podcasters and bloggers, are still running around playing with these shiny new toys like 3 year-olds in a sandbox. When I look at people at gatherings like those over the last couple of days, I think about how wealthy and privileged we are. We all sit around with our shiny Macbooks and our iPhones and play with our communication toys which let us talk to enormous numbers of people all over the world, and yet we seem to lack direction. Whenever we get together at events like Podcamp or MODM, whilst there is a certain level of geek community bonding and a few impassioned conversations, that there is a general lack of BIG IDEAS. I’m including myself in this by the way. I come away from these events feeling slightly hollow, like a great opportunity has been missed. That there should be more going on than just getting together, having a few drinks, comparing toys, exchanging a few anecdotes, swapping business cards. Shouldn’t we be doing something more when we get together?
Nick summed up my rant from our recent podcast as “Geeks For Good” (I love how he describes debating with me as “like fighting a intellectual tornado”), and I think that sums it up pretty well – shouldn’t we be using our geek powers for good? Is it just me? Does anyone else out there feel like us geeks have a responsibility to use our understanding of computing and new communication technologies to make the world a better place? Or is it all just about making ourselves richer and buying newer toys?
Where is the sense of responsibility? The sense of purpose, of destiny, of time and place and manifesting these things to advance the chances of the human race to survive this century? I so much want to meet someone who has an awe-inspiring vision to share with me, something to expand my consciousness, threaten my perspectives, build me a new dream, entice me, invigorate me, dazzle me. Instead I find myself being the guy ranting and raving about changing the world and feeling like everyone is staring at me like I’m a lunatic. Maybe I am. Maybe it’s me, I’m just missing a few screws. Maybe it’s my messiah complex. I just feel like we’re all wasting time, wasting opportunity.
Someone during the Q&A after my session yesterday (I think it was Brett) asked me if podcasts were all just like radio. And yes, I do. I think most podcasts are just like radio. And that bothers me, has done for a long time. Shouldn’t we be doing something new, exciting, fresh? Something that hasn’t been done before? And the more I thought about that issue over the last couple of days, the more the ideas which Duncan’s post a month ago started in my mind have been taking more shape.
There is something new happening and it’s in the emergence arising from a loosely-coupled combination of the new tools – it’s podcasting + blogging + twitter + facebook + second life + real events like MODM or Podcamp. The new form of conversation lies in the intersection of these things, not in any one of them. It is messy and rambling and it is swirling around us, impossible to define or pigeon hole, but it is real and it’s growing stronger each year, a milieu that contains within it the beginnings of the true new communications platform, the true 21st century media. The conversation might start with a blog post then migrate over to a podcast then get expanded on in a Facebook group, debated in Twitter, then turn into a 4 hours group discussion in Second Life.
I don’t know what to call it yet (any ideas?), but I’m intrigued by it, excited by it and determined to harness it and use it for good.
All this talk of Geeks For Good reminds me of that episode of “The West Wing” when President Bartlett says to the new guy Will Bailey:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. Do you know why?”
Will thinks for a moment, then answers ‘It’s the only thing that ever has.’
Cue theme music…
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