A future for conferences

Mark Charmer of Akvo, the innovative water knowledge organization, gives a scathing assessment of big conferences attended by important people.

Mark recalls watching a member of royalty

tell an audience of several thousand water experts, under the watchful eye of the media, that access to clean water was vital to everyone, rich and poor. The air of resonance chamber was overwhelming – two hours x 2,000 people is 4,000 hours of expert time wasted on a series of statements that everyone in the room already knew.

Mark then gives a generous interpretation of this, and a cynical one.

He goes on to talk about the near-complete lack of innovation at these events:

In a session on innovation, I was asked for my impressions. I was scathing. As intimidating as it was impersonal, apart from the presence of mobile phones, I didn’t see anything happening around me that couldn’t have happened here in 1969. Where was the innovation? … Worse was what I didn’t see – there were not many people demonstrating new, low cost technologies, one of the things we care most about at Akvo.

Of course, there are better, more open ways of doing things, including the BarCamp approach to conferences, and Mark gives some specific ideas in his post. Read the whole post on the Akvo blog.

Be informed through Twitter

I must apologize for the silence on this blog. We’ve all been busy – building the wiki is the priority, of course, and blogging is a conversation that we haven’t been making time for.

One reason for the silence is that I’ve been managing Appropedia’s Twitter account. There are different styles of “tweeting,” and the approach I’ve taken is to be informative, post links (not only to new Appropedia content but other great sites and blog posts) ask questions and engage in conversations with kindred spirits – but keeping chatter to a minimum. So if you’re a Twitter skeptic, and are afraid of inane comments about what we’re having for breakfast – fear not. You will be informed – so join the conversation, and follow @appropedia.

Note that Appropedia is also on identi.ca, the open microblogging service. I send a lot of posts via identi.ca to Twitter, but Twitter catches more of the conversations, as there are more followers on Twitter. But I use identi.ca where I can do so and connect with both communities. Open source and open content give us greater freedom, and deserve our support.

I’m also doing a report on open collaborations for appropriate technology for Akvo, the Dutch water NGO that’s really taking a lead with open knowledge. Very soon there will blog posts about that, and then one day I will dig into the couple of hundred draft blog posts I have and start posting on all manner of questions about knowledge sharing to change the world.

The woman who built herself a toilet

I met Akvo in the Netherlands – a group that not only is working for water and sanitation, but really gets the importance of doing all this in an “open source” way.

Much could be written… but more than anything I want to share these wonderful posters. (Note, these are under a CC-BY-NC license, i.e. may not be reproduced for commercial purposes):

indiahighres.jpg by Charmermrk.

africahighres.jpg by Charmermrk.

POSTER WIND AND WATER DEF.jpg by Charmermrk.

POSTER WATER THE MUSICAL.jpg by Charmermrk.

See Akvo’s blog to learn about the man behind those amazing Akvo posters.