Tag Archives: geekery

TED Talk: Greening the Ghetto – Majora Carter

Whilst travelling down to London I got the chance to do some blogging and to watch some Ted. I’m a recent convert to Ted and its safe to say its an addiction, I’ve got some serious catching up to do. If every one I watch compels me to blog about it this might take some time, but here goes.

Majora has a very compelling argument that sustainable grass roots activities can benefit both the local community, be commercial successful and save people money.

Despite her talk being about a incredibly poor area of New York, I can see parallels to her approach within communities like GeekUp and Barcamp. These are not the same, this would do a great disservice to her endeavour and where she has come from but that does not mean the more affluent cannot learn from it, in fact that is, in part, her intention.

There seems to be more in common here than I first imagined, she makes reference to a perception that these endeavours cannot be beneficial to the commercial bottom line, that social responsibility has a negative effect on profitability and that decisions made from the top need, nay require involvement from the grass roots. These challenges and presumptions seem to be those encountered by many socially innovate groups. Whether they be from affluent or deprived backgrounds, we can all learn from this, and to echo Majora, the influential among us need to learn these lessons sooner rather than later.

Also I can’t help but feel that areas like the South Bronx is where the inspiration forĀ  the pragmatic programmers metaphor of broken windows in a code base, the idea that once even minor environmental neglect happens its a downward spiral, in fact Majora picks up on this point herself.

As I referred to in my general Ted Talks post, these observations are leading me on a path (which started not long out of university but has recently gained momentum) that software development and technical innovation are mostly about people and not so much about technology or engineering. It seems as though many of us may have forgotten which is more important?

Barcamp Sheffield – A Barcamp Virgin's Impressions

Last weekend I attended Barcamp Sheffield 2.1 much fun was had by all. This was my first barcamp and I have to admit it had rather a profound effect on me (as some will have noticed on the day or from my tweets).

The barcamp format is unlike any traditional conference, there are no prearranged sessions or talks, its all arranged by the attendees there and then. This invigorates the event with such a dynamic social energy, everyone seems to be drawn to it. I knew what to expect from a barcamp, but I never expected the commitment, openness and friendlyness of all the attendees.

Barcamp Sheffield was a little different to many barcamps, there was no camping and the event ran from Friday to Sunday rather than Saturday to Sunday. Some barcamps use the Friday night as a pre-party, but this tends to preclude virigin attendees, Sheffield used this as an ideal ice breaker and created a big kick of activity ready for Saturday to start in earnest, which helped a lot seen as there was high proportion of barcamp virgins.

I know some of the oganisers, so I was asked to volunteer (disclaimer: this may make me biased, but everyone I met said it was excellent!), turning up just about on time on the Friday night, it wasn’t long before the event was in full swing with some very amusing adhoc presentation voice overs and much beer (some free) being consumed.

The sessions started in earnest on Saturday morning, after much coffee and necessary breakfast. I think I only attended 4 or 5 over the two days, all of which were very interesting. I’d completely forgotten how much functional programming blew my mind, found out how hard it is to organise a barcamp or train students in agile programming and how complicated friendship and language can be.

Equally as important as the organised sessions were the adhoc conversations I had all weekend, I can’t remember the last time I met so many interesting people, full of insights and amusement all in one weekend. I came away feeling refreshed in the spirit of the geek community and hopefully with a number of new friends (and some shocking tiredness, having fun and chatting takes a lot of energy).

Barcamp Sheffield confirmed two things for me, that self organising social groups can and are very effective and that Sheffield (and the UK) has a thriving geek society which I deeply want to become more a part of.

The only downside to all of this, is that I’m completely exhausted and craving more!