A place where stories, thoughts and ideas come together

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My fieldwork is coming to a natural end...

The team I have observed for 16 months is handing over their project to another team in Europe. The joys of global distribution of software development:-)

So, my time with them has come to a natural closure. And in a way, I'm glad it happened like this - it was so difficult to make up my mind about when to stop!

The team is staying together and will be assigned another project, and I think this was a very wise decision. It takes about 6 months for a newbie to come to full speed (maybe less if he's only changing projects inside the same business unit!). There's so much to learn, not necessarily about coding, but also about people, tools, internal processes and procedures...

If I give it a thought, only 6 of the members we met in the beginning of our study are still part of the team. Probably 9-10 left, joining other projects, sometimes leaving the company, some other times the country... That's life! People are not spending 20 years of their lives in the same job anymore - they're moving, learning, adapting, and I don't think this is bad. It keeps you alive!

As a former software developer, there were times when I felt I got too close to my "subjects", becoming involved in their activities (at least emotionally;-) . Ethnographers call this "going native"!

But now that the circle is closed, and I'll have to move on and do the writing... the most challenging part!

(Originally published in Tales from the Field of Software Engineering)

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|| Gabriela 8:30:00 PM
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

"My" reboot 9.0

Let's start with an introduction for my readers who have no clue what reboot is:

"reboot is a community event for the practical visionaries who are at the intersection of digital technology and change all around us...
2 days a year. 500 people. A journey into the interconnectedness of creation, participation, values, openness, decentralization, collaboration, complexity, technology, p2p, humanities, connectedness and many more areas.

Applied towards us as individuals, citizens, teachers, culture workers, entrepreneurs, creators and change makers." (from the conference website)
Flickering through my green reboot notebook now, to give you my version of reboot.
First thing I had to do after I found a seat was to reboot my machine, who got stalled:-) That made me think about what rebooting means in people's case... starting fresh!

It was very difficult to decide what session to attend, as so many good things were happening in parallel! I'll list here the talks and workshops I attended, and those I'm terribly sorry I missed, for the record.

  • the opening talk - Tor Nørretranders, a Danish scientist, spoke about Civilisation 2.0. He shared the slides on his own blog, His core message was "Dare, care and share!". During his talk, my friend Ina spotted my "reboot" status on Skype and expressed her regret for not being there. Of course I gave her a few leads: there were already images on Flickr, and the Jaiku back channel. Martin sent me the address of the IRC channel, but there was not much going on there...
  • Trusted Space - Nature's Rules by Robert Paterson-loved it! It referred to my ancestors, the Romans, and life in a legion:-)
  • While We Wait For The Babel Fish- by Stephanie Booth-what Stephanie said made a lot of sense: software creators need to understand that the world is not exclusively made of English speakers. She went through different aspects of localisation and translation - right when I was terribly frustrated that Blogger started speaking Danish to me!!!
  • Mobile Social Play- Kars Alfrink - Kars is a Dutch interaction designer who spoke about the ways the physical and the virtual intertwine nowadays. He shared his slides -see his blog!
  • Online Symbols in the offline world - Aram Bartholl - heard an interview with Aram the day before, and it made me curious. I must confess I ran out when someone wrote on Jaiku: "come to the big hall! That's where the fun is!"
  • Contact -Johnnie Moore - well, I got only the second half of it. Johnnie is a great speaker, and he had an interesting impact on the audience!
  • Social - Ross Mayfield - Ross is a great speaker, and he spoke about one of my favourite topics: bringing social software to the corporate environment.
  • Micropresentations -Guy Dickinson -lovely! mind blowing! I wish every conference would have a sort of sneak preview in the beginning, or that this kind of presentations would be uploaded in advance on the conference website, to help people make up their minds. There were 6 people presenting:
Hypertext - Jeremy Keith
New Interaction Rituals - Julian Bleecker
The Art of Looking Sideways - Jeroen Visser
Intimacy - Lee Bryant
Geography - Fred Oliveira
Ambient Intimacy - Leisa Reichelt
My favourites were Jeremy's, Lee's and Leisa's. I guess it was damn difficult for them, but they were absolutely brilliant. I thought of importing this practice in our group - it would help us focus!
  • Conversation: Owning your learning path, facilitated by Ton Zijlstra and Elmine Wijnia. This was another highlight of the conference. Outside on the lawn, good crowd, interesting ideas. Ton has posted the resulting post-its and his reflections on the event.
  • A town called - Lee Bryant; I knew Lee was involved in helping a Bosniac community, but I had no idea about his family ties to that place. The talk was impressive and made the audience think about other similar situations where we might be able to help.
  • New Interaction Rituals - Julian Bleecker
  • An interview with Dave Winer- Thomas Madsen-Mygdal did a great job interviewing one of the legends of interaction on the internet - a few min of video here;
  • Intuition? Oleg Koefoed
  • Rob Patterson and Johnnie Moore's micropresentation on Non-linearity (they submitted a few slides, and Guy Dickinson added random ones) - they were absolutely brilliant!
  • PERFORMANCE Rasmus Fleischer, MAgnus Eriksson- the two presented the story of their Swedish think-tank, Piratbyrån ("The Bureau of Piracy"); there's a video recording here. In my opinion, they weren't able to convey their message properly. I only figured it out after checking Wikipedia.
  • Boosting Our Collective Intelligence: Getting Smarter Together - George Pór and Martin Ludvigsen; this was a conversation about how events such as reboot can be improved even more to boost our collective intelligence. George and Martin gave us the chance to 5 min of action learning in small groups, and this made me realise what bad listeners are we actually.
  • Ambient Intimacy - Leisa Reichelt; I followed leisa's tweets, I read her blog, I lis tened to her pre-reboot interview, I attended her micropresentation - and still I found her talk interesting. She was speaking about the kind of intimacy the social software tools are giving us: you feel like you know someone very well if you happen to know his persona on the web - you read his blog, watch her pictures, are aware of his travels... and still - is this a real person?! Leisa used an expression that surprised me "performing yourself": more or less, we're always playing a role. We show the others the face we want them to see...
Talks I've missed:

I have a couple of bookmarks on my, a set of photos on my Flickr, and a few tweets and jaikus on the #reboot channel.

A lot of people have blogged about reboot - I gave up the idea because I wanted to focus on what was going on. A Romanian writer said once: "you either live, or write", which might seem a bit odd to a blogger. We're living while we're writing - or is it vice versa? writing while we're living? Anyhow, this time there were so many better bloggers around, that I felt like letting go!

For more detailed comments, I recommend Steph Booth, Mathias Muller-Prove, and many others.


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reboot 9.0 - how I saw it!

First of all, I must say I've been trying to get to reboot for the last 3 years. Two years ago, I was waiting for my Irish visa, eager to start working again after having spent 3 months in Romania. Last year in June, I was deeply immersed in my field studies and I couldn't leave for a single day: "my" team was getting close to their first release!

Before saying anything about the talks and the people at reboot 9, I want to share a few things about the organisation of the event. I wish I'd see more such events happening! I have no clue how Thomas and his pals managed all this, but I was deeply impressed! We're organising a conference ourselves here, and I learned a lot during those two days in Copenhagen!

What impressed me most:
  • the venue - the old Kedelhalle turned into a modern conference center - the 3 rooms(especially the big one), the lobby, the terrace and the surrounding lawn- was perfect for allowing people to move from one talk to another, or to take a break(see note by Peter Rukavina on Jaiku!), speak to someone interesting and relax for a few minutes. The smaller rooms were somehow less inviting, but most of the times people found alternatives (like having the workshop out on the lawn!) ;
  • the double-sided name tags, having the names written with large fonts;(finally, reading name tags proved useful for finding people)
  • the reboot notebook, specially designed for meaningful notes;-)
  • the free reboot t-shirts, and the free customisation service provided;
  • power plugs available and wi fi coverage (most of the time);
  • the hacker space in the lobby;
  • the virtual reboot spaces: the continuously emerging conference web site, Copenhagen on Plazes, the Jaiku channel;
  • the big screens in the lobby and in the big conference hall, mainly displaying what was happening on the Jaiku channel;
  • the reboot chairs outside on the lawn;
  • the conference programme posted on a wall at the entrance, with comments and notes;
  • a baby sitting space in the basement; a baby-friendly atmosphere that made the conference much more "human"- without any question mark!;
  • free coffee, tee, fruits and pastry available all day long;
  • free lunches (ok, no vegetarian meals, but the raw carrots and fruits provided allowed me to survive; Geoff Jones and Euan Semple found a Mexican restaurant nearby, but I never managed to hook up with them);
  • a bar with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks - beer was by far the most popular!
  • an impressive gala dinner organised in the very conference hall, with candle-light, video productions and exquisite food;
  • the Nintendo wii in the lobby
  • the do-it-yourself groups for dinner in the second evening; although I found it an excellent idea, the group I joined didn't realise there was no reservation made, and we had to handle that ourselves. We ended up having dinner in three, instead of the group of 15 who signed up for that particular Thai restaurant!;
  • the reboot after party - free entrance.
Speaking to someone during the break, I remember expressing my surprise about how "normal" this conference was. Most of the conferences we go to are artificial environments where you struggle to learn the rules and play by them. This time, I felt at home from the very first minute, and there was food for mind, soul and ...stomach altogether:-)

A Swedish friend who hosted me the night before reboot asked me about the conference site and checked it to get an impression. His reaction surprised me: "How do you find all these 'New Age'-y things?!"
How did he come to this conclusion? The topic - "Human?" The social networking site appearance of the web site? I have no clue. But there definitely is a sort of counterculture. Are we the new hippy generation - now tentatively called "digital bohemians"?!

All these unconferences are an opportunity to meet like minded people and talk about things that matter. reboot's system of values (scheduling the talks participants showed most interest in) is not very common. Most of the conferences count on reviewers. Nobody comes to reboot looking for ready made solutions, immediately applicable in their practice. People go there for having their minds rebooted. Listening to out-of-the-box ideas. Bumping into interesting people. Having their own ideas challenged.


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