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Vote for making a difference - SXSW 2017 session selection

Vote for open source, open culture, and making a difference. Community voting is open until September 2 for the SXSW 2017 conferences. I've been looking through the proposed session catalog and I've picked out a few that I really like and care about.

You go vote, too!

I encourage you to go have a look and vote, too, since I discovered last year that community voting is 30% of the selection process. You’ll need to register on the SXSW Panel Picker to be able to vote. It only took me a few seconds and the info asked didn’t feel too invasion-of-privacy-y to me ... ymmv, up to you.

Sessions that make a difference

Below is a selection of what I found that looks promising, important, or otherwise interesting to me. From more then 5000 sessions (!), I've voted for seven so far. The ideas represented all have in common that they could make the world a better place somehow. And given my background and predilections, there's a focus on openness, sharing, and the connection between the digital and the physical in all of these. I've put in notes explaining what each proposal is about and why I think they're important and vote-worthy. I make no claims to being comprehensive or impartial :-)

You should go register, try searching on key words that interest you, and vote, too!

Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum

  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: Panelists from respected institutions exploring sharing in culture, including Charlie Reisinger (Penn Manor School District) Aria Chernik (Duke University) and Alicia Gibb (Colorado University, Boulder), will discuss, "the challenges and rewards of some specific efforts to implement open source/free culture in education."
  • Why: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Open source and free culture approaches are old ideas that we urgently need to revive in our societies. The traditional way to master a (creative) skill through much of history was to imitate, copy, and eventually eclipse one's teachers. This was true in visual art just as it was in music. The very new idea that someone can own someone else's creativity long after the creator's death benefits neither creators nor later generations. Another recent idea--that someone can own a certain chord progression or melody in a limited system of sounds like there are in western music--is almost certainly stifling creative learning and expression as it had been practiced for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I'm very interested to see what this panel has to offer in the way of approaches and solutions to today's challenges on the intellectual property front.

Supporting Sustainable Open Source Communities

  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: From the session proposal, "This session will talk about how open source projects like Drupal have successfully adopted codes of conduct and developed governance structures to help support and maintain a friendly and welcoming environment for a large and diverse community of contributors from around the world. We’ll explore some of the tools and techniques these communities use to create a more level playing field that supports positive participation by all."
  • Why: Codes of conduct are like contracts: you make them in the good times because you'll need them in the bad times. They're expressions of good will and a tool you hope you'll never have to use. I feel they also send a message to the world about your project, saying, "We're trying to be grown ups about this. We recognize that it takes a lot more than pull requests to make a healthy open source software platform and community." For my money, the Drupal project's size and success are signs of its long term commitment to treating people right. There's a long way to go still, but there's a lot to learn here.
  • Full disclosure: The presenter, George DeMet is a really smart guy from the Drupal community :-)

Share or Die: Is Future Manufacturing Open Source?

  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: From the session proposal, "How can manufacturers open source their design and products without losing their unique value proposition? This panel debates the challenges of designing open source-based business models for manufacturing and looks at the future of production in a new era. An era increasingly defined by not only the technology of the maker movement, but also its major underlying currents of knowledge sharing, co-creation and crowdsourced innovation. A future where manufacturers and designers will have to learn to share - or die."
  • Why: In the free- and open source software communities, we have been thinking about this problem space for decades. The question of business (or practice) models comes down to how and where to differentiate versus how much to share and collaborate. The answers in the software world have been many and varied. In the physical world, there are already parallels such as freely available (and compulsory) construction standards used to build creatively differentiated structures--compare a prosaic highway or railway bridge to Calatrava's bridges around the world. Open standards used in differentiated solutions to the same problem. But how do you apply this to the physical world when you're not funded by a government to put up a bridge? How and where do you share and how and where do you collaborate with your peers? I am very keen to see, hear, and participate in this discussion.

A 3 Word Wireframe For the World

My favorite place to exercise in Cologne is currently: A map image of this location

jam's favorite place to exercise in Cologne

  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: A neat way of including the whole world in a universal address system.
  • Why: Having been in India a couple of times this year, I am fascinated by the mix of high-tech and tribal knowledge that makes it possible for a place like Mumbai ("Maximum City") or New Dehli to function. While a cab might rely on Google Maps or similar to get you many places, others are not reliably on the map. And if you want to take an autorikshaw, you need to announce your destination to the driver or group of drivers who might pick you up. If the driver doesn't know the place, he takes off and you start waving into traffic hoping to snag the next one. When speaking with a group, after a few seconds of intense discussion, you're presented with the driver who knows that part of town and off you go. Fun times, but even as a tourist, you need to build up knowledge about major landmarks around where you're staying if you want to get around effectively. what3words is a fascinating take on this problem!

Dawn of the Labs: The Next Gen of Tech Innovation

  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: A panel of folks from some companies known for innovation and sharing their ideas come together to talk about the "codified skunkworks" (my description) that are the "labs" where engineers and others are allowed to move fast and break things along the way while coming up with solutions to interesting problems.
  • Why: Nowadays, we hear the word "innovation" and "innovative" so often in advertising, we can forget how important it is. A company fresh out of ideas is a company not long for today's world. So whether large or small, companies need to innovate, bring something new to the table. That's what labs are for. Startups fighting to survive and make something of themselves are practically the freestanding innovation labs of the economy. The names of the successes (and some of the failures) are legends. Once companies are large and established, it's hard for them to foster evaluation in the face of the pressures of maintaining the parts of the business that fund their prosperity. The panelists' companies--Acquia, PARC, HubSpot, and Fast Company--have all run labs operations of one sort of another. I'm keen to hear them compare notes about what worked and why.
  • Full disclosure: One of the panelists, Preston So, also works for my employer, Acquia.

Computers, We Should Talk: The Conversational Web

  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: From the session proposal, "How will voice interfaces become the next big thing for the web, and what needs to happen from a consumer standpoint?"
  • Why: Conversational tech is already here. I ask Siri to set timers and alarms for me every day. What would a dinner party be nowadays without someone fact checking someone else via Google? Talking with our computers hasn't been around that long, but it already feels natural. There must be something to this language thing! The makeup of this panel is fascinating and I can't wait to hear how their perspectives on this clash or harmonize: Dries Buytaert, Drupal Project Lead, who is making a strong push for Drupal as the backend glue behind the internet of things and other digital systems, Chris Messina (Drupalist!) from transport technology enabler Uber, Joshua Brustein's with the business angle from Bloomberg Businessweek, and tying it all together, Gela Fridman from the Huge Inc. agency.
  • Full disclosure: One of the panelists, Dries Buytaert, founded both my home-base open source software project, Drupal, and the company I work for, Acquia.

3 Models for Civic Hacking in an Open Source City

  • Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
  • What: Volunteers around the United States are joining a "civic hacking movement" where they collaborate with government to create solutions for their community. Red Hat and OpenSource.com's Jason Hibbets has been at the forefront of this.
  • Why: I am very interested in ways that technologies can leap the digital/physical boundary and be used to make our world a better place. Jason Hibbets has years of experience in this area. This session is likely to be informative, pragmatic, and inspirational and I can't wait to see it.

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