Notes from geeKyoto

Quick and dirty notes from geeKyoto, held at Conway Hall, Saturday May 17, 2008. These are pretty much as entered on my phone. The theme of the event was vaguely ‘we broke the world, how can we fix it?’. This isn’t strictly a post about IT, but there were lots of good presentations and discussion about visualisation, data sharing, communication, building online community, IT enabling communication, some excellent websites and examples of APIs in use. There was also something about re-connecting with offline communities with a ‘secular sabbath’.

Christian Nold: in-between the individual and the masses is group and community. Lots on mapping emotions as people walk around.

Alex Haw: spatial control and methods for losing it. Surveillance. Run through stuff. Making the surveillance visible with scaffolding. Re-displaying movement, occupancy. Visualising financial transactions database on physical space. Re-scaling. Coding information analysis. Performance.

Simon Downs, Moixa. Modern design is responsible for climate change, so it should also fix it. Universal design so can upgrade chips instead of throwing out computer when operating system upgrades. Change behaviours with low overhead, easy methods e.g. put balloons on monitors that have been left on overnight. Local dc not remote ac power. How can design work to stop people throwing things away? Batteries rechargeable on USB ports. Disposability is unsustainable. When you buy a phone in China the chargers are standardised so you don’t need to manufacture/buy all the accessories again. Consumers make changes, not governments, in what they buy. There was a question and discussion re price of the USB-chargeable battery.

Adrian Hon, Naomi Alderman: Secular Sabbath. Changing state of anything electrical isn’t allowed, so instead people have meals with friends, read, go for walks, have conversation, sleep, singing. It facilitates relationships. Tested impact on environment, change in usage of devices. A really good point: behavioural changes in environmental energy don’t have to be a sacrifice. Take a day off, get over feeling you’ll miss something. Recommendations: invite friends over for monthly secular Sabbath. Chat, walk, good food. No TV, phone, computers. Don’t travel unless walk. Enjoy a sense of place. Travel can turn into ‘work’, be stressful. Day of rest is good and the environment benefits, yay. Bikes are ok too. It helps you prioritise your day, because you can’t do stuff, only think. [It’s a bit like earth hour, which was quite nice not only in terms of participating in something big but also because it meant remembering that conversation is good and doesn’t require any additional power. But a secular Sabbath also means friends must be nearby or stay overnight, this might limit it to very good friends unless you somewhere comfortable to put them up. I wish there was a non-religious equivalent for ‘sabbath’. That said, I really loved this idea. Even having an offline night sounds like a good idea – I could read or garden instead.]

Avoiding mass extinction: “If all the energy data in the world were accessible, what would you build?”. Dashboards on energy consumption. API. Aggregates data and metrics. Your energy identity. Fed from lots of data sources. Credit card transactions have calculated carbon footprint! Remit to measure all energy in world. Data owned by providers, they’re a neutral platform. 75% of change doesn’t require new technology. Action to measure and compare, design new life, innovate. People aren’t interested in comparisons with the national average, but they do compare themselves with their neighbours. Look to industry for mass production models for energy devices. Make energy *the* performance metric. Questions/discussion: they publish their methodologies on wiki; question about using the tax system to motivate change. Taxes are currently on good things not bad things.

Vincenzo and Bruno from Central St Martins on sustainable development. Sustainable tourism, consumerism. Bruno: play in a changing public realm. Sustainable communities. Observe behaviour and subtle clues to help discover problems. Swings at bus stops! [Cool in so many ways].

Futurelab, beyond current horizons. Images of the future, how and what we think about the future influences what the future becomes. [I wonder if they could be involved with bathcamp?] Thoughts from public. Name-checked blog called Paleofuture. ‘Choose the future you want because it won’t happen if you don’t’.

DIY Kyoto. Create awareness by empowering the individual. Focus on positive messages. Then offer practical solutions. Tangible visualisation of electricity usage: Wattson. Feedback on your usage. Holmes. Download last 28 days data. [It’s expensive for an individual but it would be great for a business, put it somewhere like a reception desk where everyone passes it to encourage people to help reduce electricity usage.]

Africa, communications. ICT4D. Kenya, falling apart within 24 hours of election. People in rural areas were the ones who missed out on information. Government, broadcasters, problematic. People used phones, internet. When the internet meets politics. Erik Hersman, Africa and IT. People reporting problems, putting it on map. Small agile projects are more effective than big slow ones in this environment.

Bryony Worthington, emissions trading. Buy permits back and remove from system, campaign for more caps. Take control, expose issue to public scrutiny, provide potential for mass collaboration and mobilisation. is new campaign to bring emissions trading into public domain. Bring personal responsibility to companies who are trading, real names and addresses. Compare allowance against emissions.

James Smith. Can software save the planet? Socially responsible software. Carbon diet. Visualise your usage. Do the Green Thing: making being green fun, empowering, gives status. Online community around monthly actions. They had a really good list of simple but clever actions you could do. Building a volunteer community of green geeks. Google group: green-web-uk. Using free software and open standards.

Government/policy guys. They did a bar camp at google. Sliding scale from community of trust to universe of discourse, and the problems this creates in getting the right information to the right people when they need it. People in authority have trouble admitting they don’t know everything, asking outside their circles for information is problematic as it can be seized on for political gain (so a bit like some experts in all fields then). They looked to open source for models.

2gether08 – conference later this year. Proposers. Enablers, supporters -> convene -> delivery. Open process. Mapping networks, comparing mapping afterwards to see if event was a success.

[Somewhere along the line I tweeted ‘programming at work/home is like a mullet, .Net business in front, OSS party in the back’. Clearly my brain was starting to fade.]

From discussion: Ch 4 have two twitter feeds from news service, exploring possibilities.

Arctic explorer Ben Saunders: think about what you’re doing with the tiny amount of time we have in your life. Referenced Bill Bryson on how many hours we have in our lifetime, think about what you’re doing with each one. No-one else is the authority on your potential.