Barcamp Auckland 2 – Redux

So, yesterday I attended Barcamp Auckland and as you could probably tell from my Twitter stream, I found it pretty interesting. The following is more a summation of the notes I took – interestingly enough, I found I was tweeting more than I was typing into my laptop so I’ve had to also check my tweets tagged #bca2 or @barcampauckland for a full list.

Session 1 – Technology & Productivity

Take outs from this session (for me) were:

Productivity:

  • Focus on task @ hand via use of music (that you know) to engage one side of the brain (slightly different for dyslexics)
  • Close your virtual door – Turn off from the web, no IM, no email, turn off the phone.
  • Use a (paper-based?) list: Today / This Week / Three Months
  • Increase update delays for applications (15 -> 30 -> 60 minutes) or turn notifications off altogether

Cautions on these approaches however need to be understood. Efficiency versus relationships is a trade-off you will need to balance in accordance with your role/business.

Meetings:

  • Must have agenda /no chairs/time limit
  • Must have an outcome
  • Try having phone meetings / video conf if visual cues required to reduce inter-meeting travel downtime.

Reading:

Session 2 – “Creative Federation”
I thought this session would be good for those of us interested in getting our ideas together and making more of them than we could do on our own. It’s an issue we struggle with where I work and I was looking forward to discussing our issues and seeing how others were faring in the same space.
I was half right, but this session was more a sales pitch around a web site/service for CreativeFed.com who want to act as a hub for idea registration and socialsation.

The idea process:

Idea -> Self Percolation -> Socialise (NDA) -> Acceptance -> Launch Idea

The site was still a work in progress, and the presentation was pretty much off-the-cuff. There’s nothing wrong with that, Barcamp is about having conversations after all, but it all seemed to be unidirectional with little chance/request for feedback or challenge of the idea. Essentially, CreativeFed.com appears to be a destination site for registering ideas, then seeking feedback.

The site is still in its launch phase (pre beta) and taking a SaaS approach (where the money will be made). However, I was unsure how it differs from the likes of BrightIdeas.com as a service, perhaps the collaboration aspect may be new – then, it has been awhile since I’ve used bright ideas so that too may have evolved to offer the option.

Session3 – “Using SocialGraph & OpenID”

This was one hell of a cool session, A bit of an eyeopener at first with the main premise being how to use Googles Social Graph API and OpenID to make registrations easy, but the real value came from the tangent down social acceptance and privacy.

Outtakes:
Leveraging <code>rel:me</code> and <code>foaf:</code> data to pull that info through Social graph API discussion – there is a large amount of info about people available and Google / Plaxo are leveraging this capability a lot to discover interrelationships between people and their different subscribed services.

This page was central to the discussion, and I had a fair bit of fun throwing in my details during the session to see how I was connected (Example FoF feed).

Nonetheless, adoption is still low for OpenID, at least among the ‘normal’ people. What struck me was the number of people in the session who were aware of OpenID but not truly using it to its full potential in either their individual use, or their development projects. This brought up the question of social acceptance. Are people ready to ‘trust’ a single identity broker to hold and federate their online personas?

In terms of visibility, there is little more than a few small “Login with your OpenID” links on supporting sites – again, normal folk won’t see/notice/understand this so will default to a new registration and creating yet another identity silo on the web.

In terms of security, this raises issues for me as most people use only a few personas online, and even more use the same or very similar passwords across all services. Couple those social traits together and you have a massive area of risk for hijacking ones online identities.

Unresolved questions:

  • OPENID identity root, how does this translate to personas based on openid?
  • Regulatory requirements?

Session4 – “Monetising Online Properties”

This session was more of a self(ish?) interest thing, I’ve got a couple of web properties which get a bit of traffic, and ideally I’d like to make them a bit more self funding… if I could make a bit more out of what I write then even better – ideally it’d be great to be able to get paid (via affiliate links/advertising/whatever) to write and share – so anyway, that was where I was at when walking into the session.

A case study for ‘Throng‘ (kind of a MySpace for TV industry) was discussed where AdSense revenue has remained relatively stable while traffic has doubled. Text link ads are still the best performer for this site, and are recommended – if you can make them work – but understand the provider(s) requirements for advertising.

Services such as Google will fingerprint non-compliant sites and down rank them. Remove non-revenue generating link service as they add to the noise without adding anything to the bottom-line.

Takeouts:

  • Gaining clicks requires familiarity – if it looks like YouTube, people know what to do… and do it.
  • Affiliate programs via ebay/Amazongeotargeting these services also works very well.
  • Something for future investigation is Unruly Media who are interested in blogs with reach in different areas.

Session 5 – Politics, meet Web 2.0

This session was, to me – a little disappointing. I was expecting more of a “This is how political parties are embracing Web 2.0” than the “Here’s a 101 for online political activism” which it turned out to be.

On the upside, it was an area which I’d not spent much thought time so it was good to absorb some of the thinking in the space. One-click campaigning was discussed, being a mass reach, minimum required effort/commitment strategy – and countered by the experience that low input effort tends to equate to a minimal required response as the submitters have a low investment in their cause. (e.g. “Click here to form email [Minister in charge of whatever you’re campaigning against] “)

What really struck me from this session (apart from meeting tweeting up with audaciousgloop (Simon Young) who discovered he was in the same room as us) was the prediction market on NZs political scene. Prediction markets are designed to harness the collective wisdom of a community (via virtual money traded (to avoid self-selection bias)).

Self-leveling of the predictive market is maintained by rational members and attempts to spike/influence results are easily seen via the trends.

Session6 – “Privacy & Identity”

The penultimate session of the day was around privacy and identity and was led by Richard O’Brian who is doing a lot of work in the space.

Essentially the premise is to quantify what privacy controls should exist on user generated content, especially in the context of social networking sites, and allow for levels of user understandable social networking site privacy agreements. This would allow for more granular acceptance/control of what interactions the social network/community can have with the users self-generated content.

Social networks are receiving a lot of personal information, but this is conflicting with data portability – how do I pull this data out of a community if I move social sites?
As an example, Facebook blocks open social from Google as Google don’t support dynamic privacy.

What is privacy?

Privacy (when boiled down) is control. It is being able to determine how my information and/or content is used. Given the global context and accessibility of these social networks, privacy must also allow for different jurisdictional boundaries.

So, that’s all fine and good, but the reality of user behavior is that users will often trade their privacy for convenience. If all my friends are on a site, then I must accept that sites terms and conditions to participate in my friends community. The degree and readiness to make these trade offs varies from generation to generation and from group to group.

  • Digital natives tend to be less concerned with privacy based on their perception that anonymity no longer exists (or never did), and the value they place on keeping their data private is outweighed by their desire to participate in the same communities as their friends.
  • Digital immigrants hold a similar view with the caveat that they *do* value their privacy, yet they understand the realities of true anonymity in an increasingly online world and thus will tend to seek out communities with more role based restrictions so they can retain more granular control on who gets to see what information (e.g. Friends can see my location, Followers can see my posts, the community at large can see my basic profile)
  • I’m not sure what to call the last group of people, so – for want of a better phrase, I’ll use the term “Digital Outcasts“. These are the people who will use some internet technologies available to them, but are not embracing services as they develop – my parents fall into this category for example. They tend to see the Web 2.0 / Social network world as a bit of an abomination and are not willing to participate at all because they don’t want to lose (perceived) control of their information. “Why would you tell ‘everyone’ what you are doing?”, “Why do you want to share that photo/white paper/whatever with people you don’t ‘know?” are common challenges they will make to the natives and immigrants. For the most part they are right, their is no driver for them to join these communities, but much of their concern can be addressed if they can be reassured that they *can* control what is seen and shared, but it needs to be non-threatening, non-technical language. It is THIS which is what Richard is driving toward.

Essentially, the current ideal situation would be to have privacy agreements which do for users what creative commons does for peoples data, Privacy Commons if you will. Different levels of acceptance, and a persistent, portable meta format which follows media and describes the originators privacy requirements.

Ideally this would allow a means of expressing privacy and how agents and viewers via agents can interact with the object.

As an example, a photo loaded to flickr – marked as “Family only”. Grandma downloads, copies the image/file to her PC then attempts to forward it on to her friends. At this point, a Privacy Commons compliant  email agent would block the file and explain why..

Big areas for focus:

  • Readibility and user understanding of terms agreements (by region)
  • Meta data (machine to machine readability) of privacy restrictions
  • Dave Moran – Facebook – Dynamic Privacy, contact Richard for more

Session7 – “Mobile Web Stuff”

This was the last session of the day and people were a little frayed, so it wasn’t too surprising that “Mobile Web Stuff” ended up being more “What’s involved in having SMS on your site/as a service”. It was pretty interesting to hear from the development community how their ability to deliver for their customers is constrained by the openess or robustness (or lack thereof) of the mobile infrastructure in New Zealand. Most of my notes of this session appear in my twitter stream which caught the eye of a couple of collegues who couldn’t make it to barcamp – so it was good to see that the message/frustration is getting ‘out there’.

One of the biggest pain points was the (in)ability to zero rate message costs to targeted cellphones, and pay the mobile service directly via the distributing party.

In terms of costs in New Zealand, we’re looking at around NZ$60/mth for low volumes which equates to about ~NZ$0.20/message as a result. Providers in South Africa are a fraction of this price, but, due to the low volumes required for the NZ market, offer almost zero support

Summary

What an awesome day, well worth the time – discussions were good and I’ll definiatly be back next year, with a couple of presentations to lead – and more time afterward to share a few beers 🙂

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