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Entries in Technology (77)

Monday
Oct022006

The BarCamp Milwaukee Experience

d334.jpgOn Saturday, I headed dowtown to BucketWorks for BarCamp Milwaukee, not knowing what to expect. The sessions on the website looked great, but pixels and reality can often be quite different.

I was not disappointed. In fact, I was very impressed with the entire event, enjoying the BucketWorks space, meeting new and interesting people, enjoying challenging discussions, sharing my passions and learning new things.

Settling In
I arrived at BucketWorks around 2pm, and was welcomed by organizer Bob Waldron at the door. He checked me in and directed me to the schedule and main meeting area. BucketWorks occupies one floor in an old printing warehouse, with wide open spaces, heavy duty beams and old wooden floors.

The space has a warm, lived-in, industrial feel which I liked very much. BucketWorks has a nice mix of both large meeting areas and small, intimate rooms, perfect for the mix of sessions on tap for the day.

Schedule

Sessions were already running when I arrived, so after orientation to the space and a glance at the low-tech schedule board, I dropped into a gadget roundtable with Pete Prodoehl, Jordan Arentsen and abut 8 other guys. Pete had an impressive collection of gadgets, I brought my Dana Wireless and blew several guys away when they realized it could run a browser, email client, a terminal app, IRC client and IM client.

The Flat World Roundtable Session
My first session of the day was a roundtable on the topic of Flat World, and its impact on society, business and culture. At first I was a little concerned as only Jordan and John December, my cohorts in the session, were in the conference room. Campers slowly filtered in, taking their seats around the long oval table. When the session started, there were roughly 15 campers participating the session.

078627722X.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgI shared My Unusual Work Life to kick off the session, then discussion ranged across many aspects of the flat world and Thomas L. Friedman's book, The World is Flat. Some highlights of the discussion: the benefits and drawbacks of working remotely for global clients, and how integral place, people and our preferred culture determine where we decide to live. I thought it was interesting that now some workers can choose the place they want to live and work, while having connections to other distant people and places.

We also touched on the impact of English on the flattening world, whether machine translation would be realistic in 50 years time, debating network access as a utility, the digital divide being spawned by the flat world, how 3rd world countries might enter into the flat world, and whether flattening was good or bad.

Of all the sessions I most enjoyed this one, because of the large group, varied ideas and positions from very smart people in attendance. I was reminded how fun it is to get a good thought-provoking discussion going with a group of passionate people.

Moleskine Custom Planner Hack Demo
While this session was small, with Jordan and Dave Bost attending. A few others mentioned being interested up unavailable to attend (now I need to schedule some one-on-one demos!). it was a nice opportunity to have a more intimate discussion with Dave, who has adopted Getting Things Done and was looking for an alternative approach to managing things in his life.

Moleskine Hacking

I showed Dave what a Moleskine was, explained how I moved from a Palm to a custom-made weekly Moleskine planner and discussed the system and how it was working out for me.

Afterwards, Jordan and I had a chance to learn more about Dave's move from developer to evangelist for Microsoft, and discuss the new XAML and Windows Presentation Foundation. It was a nice time to share and discuss ideas away from the crowds.

Logo Design Process Presentation
Immediately after my Moleskine demo, I was up in the meeting room again for the my Logo Design Process presentation. Jordan and I had to locate a DVI to VGA adapter from Scott Reynen, then fiddle with an old projector before I could begin.

I shared my collaborative, sketch-based process with 7 campers, and had a nice Q&A and discussion time following the presentation. All of the guys had interesting questions for me about the process, and through them I came to realize how fortunate I've been to have such great logo clients.

Again, a few people I knew were unable to attend, so I gave Phil Gerbyshak a personal demo beforehand, and will likely present again at the next Milwaukee Web Designer's Meetup in October. I was very encouraged by the interest in my process, and I quite enjoyed sharing my passion for logo design.

For those interested, I've posted my PDF presentation online for download:

Mike Rohde's Logo Design Process (9.2MB Acrobat PDF).

RSS Feed Uses & Future Ideas
When my session was complete, Jeremie Miller of Jabber fame took over, heading the discussion into RSS and Atom feed territory. He asked our opinions of secured and signed RSS ffeds for viewing sensitive documents (like bank statements), we discussed current interesting RSS feed uses and how many feeds we each followed. Like good geeks, we veered into other territory at the end: del.icio.us vs. other social bookmark tools and various semi-related topics. :-)

Mini-Mash Pit
My final session of the night was Pete Prodoehl's mini-mash pit session, talking about interesting mashups of various services with open APIs. By this time I was starting to loose steam, even though the discussion was quite interesting. At 12:20 the guys were ready to start coding a mashup, so I packed up my gear and headed home for some sleep. :-)

Meeting Cool Campers
I appreciated the opportunity to re-connect with people I knew: Pete Prodoehl, Phil Gerbyshak, Jordan Arentsen, Chad Lawson, Ashley Dryden and Juan Valencia. I also enjoyed meeting new, interesting people like Pehr Anderson, Todd Clausen, Kevin Ciesielski, Dave Bost, Ken Meltsner, Jeremie Miller, Scott Reynen, Tegan Dowling, Clint Laskowski, and Jason Tertadian (to name a few).

I think this aspect of BarCamp was my favorite part: seeing other people interested in gathering and sharing ideas on technology and life. Since I'm a pretty social person, meeting others who share similar passions or are keen on hearing about mine always gets me stoked up.

Constructive Criticism
Of course, there were a few things I felt could be improved for the next round:

1. Reduce amount of sessions happening at the same time. I felt torn in several cases over which event to follow, and heard from several people who wanted to be in my logo design presentation but had chosen another session. I don't know if fewer sessions, fewer tracks or spreading them out over the full span is a solution for this.

2. Setup a public address system. I think it would have been helpful to have some way for organizers to announce things in all of the session areas so everyone could be on the same page.

3. Better WiFi support. The network was pretty flaky and I do know it was being hammered pretty hard — but for some of the demos a network connection was critical.

4. Coffee as well as sodas and water for the evening sessions. At one point in the mashup session I smelled brewing coffee and it drove me crazy to not locate it. I may bring my own espresso machine and brewing gear next year to help those who choose coffee over sodas for caffeine. :-)

5. Consider a Friday night through Saturday Midnight timeframe. I would have loved to start on a Friday night with a dinner together somewhere and the chance to get a few sessions in afterwards, then go the full day Saturday with more sessions.

Hopefully these ideas are helpful for BarCampMilwaukee 2.0.

Final Notes
I think BarCampMilwaukee was a great success, thanks to the tireless efforts of guys like Pete Prodoehl, Bob & Luke Waldron, the BucketWorks people and many others. Thanks to you all for putting on a great un-conference for Milwaukee — I can't wait for BarCampMilwaukee 2.0!

Related Links:
BarCampMilwaukee on Flickr

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Friday
Sep292006

BarCamp Milwaukee 2006 is Tomorrow!

d334.jpgI can't believe the weekend is actually here — BarCampMilwaukee kicks off Saturday September 30th through Sunday October 1st, 2006, at Bucketworks 1319 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

I'm looking forward to meeting many other interesting Milwaukee people, since much of this event is geared around creating a local community and sharing ideas with each other. I'm very excited about sharing on my logo design process, demoing how to create a custom Moleskine planner and facilitating a round table on working remotely with global clients and colleagues.

There are many other sessions being presented, ranging from videoblogging, sharing gadgets and self-publishing, to Drupal, Linux and Thermonuclear Fusion!

If you're near the Milwaukee area and are looking for a way to connect with other technical people, sign up at the Barcamp Milwaukee's Camper page, find a way to get involved and come on down! It's not too late! :-)

Wednesday
Sep132006

Blogging Demystified: Simply Digital Podcast Episode 5

simplydigital.jpgIf you enjoy reading blogs but aren't sure you have the skills to create, write or manage one? Think again!

Michael Ashby and Analog Dave of the Simply Digital Podcast focus on Weblogs in episode 5 of their podcast on technology for regular people.

Mike and Dave describe what blogs are, why you might want to start one and some of the easiest and cheapest places to get into blogging.

Check it out: Simply Digital Episode 5: Weblogs (28:57)

Thursday
Jun292006

Thoughts on Continuous Partial Attention

This week I came across the podcast Attention: The *Real* Aphrodisiac which challenged me about the Continuous Partial Attention in my own life.

The talk, from the 2006 Emerging Technology Conference, was given by Linda Stone, formerly of Apple and Microsoft. She begins the talk asking questions of the audience about their experiences in an Anywhere, Anytime, Anyplace, Always-On lifestyle:

1. When people talk to me I really pay attention.

2. When people talk to me I pay partial attention so I can be aware of other things coming up (my phone, blackberry, other people, etc.)

3. The way I currently use computer and communications technology improves my quality of life.

4. My quality of life is often compromised by technology.

5. Technology sets me free.

6. Technology enslaves me.

Pretty interesting questions for anyone living with technology.

Linda coined the phrase Continuous Partial Attention back in the 90s, as she saw this new type of lifestyle emerging in the high tech sector.

Continuous Partial Attention is different than multi-tasking, where the motivation is productivity: giving equal attention to many activities.

Continuous Partial Attention's motivation: being a live node on the network, gaining meaning from the network, being ready for new opportunities at any moment.

But there is a problem. In Linda's experience, people of various ages living this way, share with her a desire for strategies to deal with an always on lifestyle. They want ways to deal with the flood, overload, and over-stimulation of being a live node on the network. I love this quote:

"But this always on, anytime, anywhere, anyplace era has has created an artificial sense of constant crisis. The adrenalized fight or flight mechanism kicks in.

It's great when we're being chased by tigers. How many of those 500 emails a day is a tiger? Or are they mostly mice?

Is everything really such an emergency?

Our way of using the current set of technologies would have us believe it is."

24/7 lifestyles are great, until you can't turn off the fire-hose. We need limits, natural cycles and downtime, to deal with ever-increasing demands and noise we need to continuously filter.

Rather than a continuous barrage of information, input and connections, we need time to focus, to find purpose, to understand the meaning and wisdom from the constant noise all around us.

Check out Attention: The *Real* Aphrodisiac — It's well worth the 24 minutes.

Related Links:
The Power Of Focus by Michael Ashby

Tuesday
Nov082005

Stas Kovalenko: IT Guy

stasMy good friend Stas Kovalenko, a visitor in the US from Kyrgyzstan, mentioned last week he's hunting for an IT job. I thought it'd be interesting and fun to mention Stas on my blog, along with his resumé.

Stas is a really great guy — funny and fun-loving, curious about technology and just a really nice guy to hang with. He's interested in all sorts of technology, particularly Linux and Unix and has a great perspective visitor from Kyrgyzstan, hoping to stay here and make a life for himself in the US.

Stas just earned his Associate degree at Waukesha County Technical College as an IT Network Specialist, and worked for 5 months at WCTC as a lab assistant, doing troubleshooting, anti-virus updates and networked printer support. He's also had experience doing a computer network support internship at the college, doing all sorts of IT tasks (check out his resumé 64k PDF).

If you happen to have a position or project work for Stas, I'm sure he'd love to hear from you. Stas can be reached directly at skovalenko@sbcglobal.net if you're interested in saying hello.

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