Open Tech 2009

4th July 2009

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    OpenTech 2009 Provisional Schedule

    Please note that the order of speakers within any session will be decided on the day, and may no implication of ordering should be implied here.

    The slides that ran at lunchtime to say Thank you to those that helped make the event happen

    Thanks to Richard Elen for his list of links to presentations (also now below).

    Main Hall (101) Upper Hall Room 3E Room 3A
    10:00am Doors Open
    11:00am Session 1
    (Audio recording)

    Community and Democracy in Hijacked Space

    Some of the Space Hijackers talk about what’s interesting them.

    Does FOI work? You bet!

    Heather Brooke talks about getting hold of MPs’ expense receipts. Heather will also join the Freedom of Information workshop later in the day.

    Chair: D Green.

    KenYersel: a web of democratic rationality – Lucas Dixon

    How can we reconcile the internet’s terrible verbosity – just think of internet forums, emails lists, and comment streams – with it’s unique power to let so many people participate and express themselves? KenYersel mixes web-technologies with democratic discussion games, an evolving thought-vine, a web for better democracy.

    The Open Internet – Gervase Markham, Mozilla Foundation

    The Mozilla project is tasked with “guarding the open nature of the Internet”. What happens when you take the principles of ‘open’ – freedom, transparency, hackability, community – and map them to the net? Is it good? And, if so, what can the people in this room do to help it happen? And what threatens it?

    Chair: P Waring

    (Audio recording)

    VOIP radio drama – Richard Elen

    Radio drama is a wonderful medium: it can be inexpensive to produce, extremely evocative, and of course the pictures are so much better than on television. But effective radio drama does not require the facilities of Broadcasting House: using VOIP techniques and an audio editing system you can create it at home and not even be in the same room – you can be anywhere in the world. The Radio Riel Players was founded in 2008 by a group of Second Life residents around the world to produce plays for broadcast on internet radio. So far, we have produced a few public-domain works, including excerpts from Shakespeare for the “Shakespeare in SL” project, an E F Benson short story, and Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”. Next up is “Pride & Prejudice”. The technique is an ideal way of allowing a group of people separated by space to create new and traditional dramatic works for Internet distribution. This talk shows how you can do it yourself. With performers around the world it requires plenty of planning and co-ordination to get people together at the same time and determine which segments to record when. There are steps you can take to maximise audio quality (we use Skype) and post-production is needed to remove latency and polish the final result (though you can do live performances at a pinch). You also need to use public domain or original material, original music and sound effects (or use royalty-free sources or take out a PRS Limited Online Exploitation Licence and use production libraries). The result can be broadcast on internet radio or made available as a podcast.

    Digital Archaeology of the microcomputer, 1974-1994. Steve Goodwin

    In a few years time, it will be impossible to study the history of home computers since everything at the time was proprietary; both in terms of the physical hardware, and all the software that ran upon it since most of it is encumbered by software “protection” to prevent copying. To compound the problem, the hardware is dying (literally) and (being proprietary) can?t be rebuilt in any equivalent manner. In some cases the software is physically disintegrating too since, in the case of many 8-bit micros from the 1980?s, the storage medium was cassette tape; a temperamental mechanism at the time, let alone now. It?s not that no computer innovation took place in the 1980?s, just that none of it will be recorded. This talk looks at the methods necessary to preserve our legacy.

    How can open video become the new TV? – Hamish Campbell

    Intro to the visionoOntv project visionOntv has the goal of making open video activate social change. We have modest foundation funding for 2 years to launch this (starting April 2009).

    Chair: R Whittaker.

    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    12:00 Session 2
    (Audio recording)
    Going beyond ideas to implementation. With Tom Steinberg (mySociety), Tom Loosemore (4iP and more) and Louise Ferguson (OpenRightsGroup and more).
    (Audio recording)
    Part I.

    Standards are Peace, Standardization is War! – Paul Downey

    If standards represent peace, then formal standardisation can be war! Dark, political, expensive and exclusive games played out between large vendors often behind closed doors. There are better ways to forge consensus and build agreements and the notion of a committee taking often a number of years to writing a specification, especially in the absence of implementation experience appears archaic in today’s world of Agile methods, test driven development, open source, Wikis and other Web base collaborations. This talk will draw upon Paul’s personal experiences forged in the wonderful world of XML and Web service standardisation, examine the risks of premature standardisation, unnatural constraints, partial implementations and open extensions, puzzle how to avoid lock-in, and contrast formal activities with lightweight open processes as exemplified by open source, Microformats, OpenID, OAuth and other Web conventions being ratified through open, lightweight, continuous agreement as exemplified in his drawings “The Web is Agreement”:

    Why our internet liability laws are broken – Francis Davey

    I’ll explain why the laws that are supposed to protect the “innocent” (such as web hosting companies) from legal liability do not do the job properly. This affects anyone who puts information onto the internet or who is responsible for moderating such information (including the lowly blogger). The talk will hopefully raise awareness and lead to better public discussion of the issues.

    One Click Orgs: lightweight legal structure for community groups

    Most volunteer and community projects start off informally as groups of people who share an interest. This is fine until they reach a size where they need to start voting on decisions or need a constitution so they can open a bank account. At this point they’re confronted by a bewildering choice of legal structures and a load of bureaucracy to get an organisation set up. We think people have got more important things to worry about. One Click Orgs is building a website where you can automatically create a legal structure and electronic voting system for your group. The platform will maintain a record of group decisions, log how members have voted and provide automatic tools to modify the constitution as the group’s needs evolve. All OpenTech attendees will be offered early access to the One Click Orgs closed beta when it goes live later in 2009.
    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    13:00pm Lunch
    2:00pm Session 3

    (Audio recording)

    Bill Thompson

    It’s fifty years since CP Snow’s famous lecture on the Two Cultures – science and literature. We seem to have a different divide these days, between people like us and the rest. What might be done about this?

    Ben Goldacre

    Beyond the Bad Science Blog

    Chair: Z Margolis

    (Audio recording)

    • Is It Open? Pushing for Open Data in Science – Peter Murray-Rust (University of Cambridge)
    • Database License: Share-Alike for Data and Databases – Jordan Hatcher (Open Data Commons)
    • Open Street Map – Steve Coast

    Open Street Map

    OpenStreetMap (OSM) continues to cause earthquakes mapping the planet. Come and learn where it is and where it’s going!

    Chair: R Allan.

    How to Build Developer Communities – Phil Whitehouse

    Engaging with developer communities is becoming an increasingly popular activity. But whether it’s big business or one-man open source operations, there are some key challenges that need to be considered. In this talk, we explore the common mistakes people or organisations have made when engaging with these communities, and what we can learn from them. Many of these insights have repercussions across not just developer communities, but all communities ? and beyond.

    Open Source and Schools – Miles Berry

    Open source software is receiving much interest in UK education, through web-based applications such as Moodle, wordpress and Elgg, open source programs that run under Windows, like, Audacity and Freemind, and increasing interest in Linux powered netbooks. The presentation will give a flavour of some of the applications used, discuss the work of the Becta supported Open Source Schools community and explore some of the strategies for encouraging open source use and development in schools.

    Ndiyo – a modern, open, robust, thin client system – Michael Dales

    The developing world is no different from the developed world in its desire for access to information technology, but the expense of computers and the unreliability of infrastructure makes it hard for such places to get on an even footing with those of us in the developed world. At Ndiyo we want to redress this inbalance. We’ve developed an ultra-thin client solution that lets one PC be shared between many users. The aim is to produce a thin client that can be made cheaply, is robust, low-powered, and can cope with unreliable power. This hardware, which we call a Nivo, in combination with open software such as Linux and Xen, makes it easy to setup a multiuser system. As a result, bringing computing to a school, library, or internet cafe in the developing world becomes more obtainable. In this talk I’ll explain a bit about the hardware we use, how we use it to turn a single Linux PC into a multiuser system, and the ways in which it can be used, and describe some of the Ndiyo trials we’ve carried out around the world.

    Chair: N Metheringham

    Freedom of Information/WhatDoTheyKnow workshop

    Is there something part of the government is doing that you’d like to investigate?

    Find out everything from MPs’ expenses, to the length of allotment waiting lists, to whether your council’s Nov 5th bonfire is properly checked for hedgehogs.

    This practical workshop will help you make your first Freedom of Information request, including working out what to request, where to request it from and what exactly to write.

    If you’re an old hand, you can get and give tips on how to take requests further.

    We’ve got a team of FOI experts to kick things off and answer hard questions.

    • Heather Brooke used FOI to cause the frurore over MPs’ expenses.
    • Francis Davey is a lawyer with a specialist knowledge in FOI.
    • John Cross is a volunteer for the WhatDoTheyKnow website.
    • Elena Egawhary is a freelance journalist, currently working for Panorama.
    • Francis Irving (mySociety) is a campaigner who works on WhatDoTheyKnow.

    Bring a laptop if you have one. Internet will be provided in this room only, so we can scour Government websites, and make requests on mySociety’s website.

    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    3pm Session 4 (50 mins)
    (Audio recording) (Video)
    • Suw Charman-Anderson – Ada Lovelace Day: what happened, why, etc.
    • Janet Parkinson – Marketing to the Digital Woman – Women in Tech
    • Sue Black – Setting up an online women in tech network – 10 years on, and how a supportive community and role models are really important for women to succeed
    • Kathryn Corrick – interactive brainstorm with the audience to find some women who they think are a modern Ada Lovelace. Kathryn’s writeup of this session

    We look back on the first ever Ada Lovelace Day; tell the story of the BCSWomen network; examine how companies market to women online; and ask the question: Who’s a modern Ada Lovelace? Moderator Zoe Margolis is joined by Sue Black, Janet Parkinson, Kathryn Corrick and Suw Charman-Anderson to take an inspirational look at women in tech.

    Moderator: Zoe Margolis

    (audio recording)

    Web of Power – What’s next? Richard Pope and Rob McKinnon

    Politics is all about how power gets sliced up in society. We’ve used the web make MP’s/councils etc more transparent, but thats only the beginning. There’s a whole other load of warehouses of power out there, companies, journalists, finance, so who’s after the politicians and how do use tech do it?

    How to track corporate influence on the system? Who’s lobbying in the UK? How to build tools to track company information shadows.

    Opening up the Guardian – Simon Willison

    In April, the Guardian released the first components of its new Open Platform strategy: the Content API and the Datablog. The Content API provides access to the last decade of Guardian content, including headlines, metadata and the full text of each article. The Datablog publishes spreadsheets of information collected by Guardian journalists, and encourages people to analyse and explore the data behind the news.

    The Guardian and the Ian Tomlinson story – Paul Roache

    Impact of new media and new methods on the Guardian around the Ian Tomlinson story.

    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    3:50pm Break
    4:10pm Session 5
    (Audio recording)

    ephemerality? Real time web vs persistence – Gavin Bell

    What value has the real time web? How long is something interesting for? How long is permalink permanent? The rush to the bright new thing that is the real time web is not all good. We are self documenting our world, but we seem to want to retain it all. Activity streams give us a huge amount of content to decide about in the future. We have a binary approach to persistence on the web, permalinks are around for ever, in theory. Yet many aspects of the web are intentionally short term, microsites for example. Where are the forgetting processes, where are the attics and abandoned houses of the past. Should we be saving everything or sampling and ‘transcluding’ some content instead The 90s are poorly represented online, the 00s better? what about the 201x?

    Location, Privacy and Opting In not Out – Gary Gale

    The explosion of location based services has moved the concept of a user’s location from a niche to the mainstream. But how do you decide whether to use a location based service and how much location information should you choose to reveal? In this talk I’ll discuss how you should choose to opt in not out and how you should write your own location manifesto.

    Your Energy Identity – Gavin Starks

    As the worlds consumption data is revealed in the name of sustainability, your personal and business profiles are being measured and tracked in increasing detail. Through payment systems, new sensors, smart meters and smart grids to GPS inferring your mode of transport – shouldn’t we be treating this information as carefully as the rest of our digital identity?
    Gavin Starks founded AMEE.

    (Audio recording), Slides part 1, part 2))

    Spread The Web – Fran Sainsbury

    Web 2.0 is still a confusing world for many non techies. But the growth of simple and free online platforms means anyone can blog, network and communicate. ‘Spread the web’ is about my experiences sharing basic web skills to help an NGO communicate better. I helped them open up closed conferences through a basic WordPress site, Youtube, Flickr, Twitter etc. We ended up helping to live blog a conference from Chile! But the organisation now has the skills themselves for the future. How can UK geeks have the most impact? Building web capacity in the third sector by knowledge transfer could be the best thing we do for civil society. Here or in the developing world (see GeekCorps). Each one, teach one.

    Local web beyond the hype – William Perrin

    From an explosion outside my house in kings cross, all the way to my new project, in association with 4iP

    Chair: TBA

    Federated Microblogging – Adewale Oshineye

    from twitter to jaiku and beyond

    Treat Software as a Symbiotic Organism that Needs a Host Geek to Survive – Jeremy Ruston

    Software dies when there is nobody around to care for it, to keep it up to date with the latest version of PHP, or Windows, or the latest foibles of users. In this talk, a slightly silly way of thinking about software is presented, that recognises the peculiarly symbiotic relationship between a useful piece of software and its host geek(s).

    The Infocene – Stuart Smith

    Ever since the dawn of Civilization at the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 years ago, people have used the technology of the age to underpin their existence. At the dawn of the nineteenth Century, the Industrial revolution marked a new frontier for Civilization, whereby fossil fuels could be burned to power machines, factories and engines on a grand scale. Today, we stand on the precipice again, as political, economic and social boundaries collide. We are in an age of great challenge alongside unbounded opportunity, with technology that allows us to interact with anyone, anywhere from any place. We also encounter a boundary, whereby the next stage of human evolution, must reverse and repair the environmental damage of the last. Technology has many of the answers to this quandary, but we will not reap the benefits, unless we undergo the same sort of paradigm shift that was required to traverse the previous ages of human existence. During the talk I will look to explore lessons from the past and pose questions about the future, regarding the cultural impact of technology and it’s consequences.

    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    5:00pm Session 6

    This session will be a continuation of the previous one. There will be an opportunity for people to swap to other sessions.

    4iP – Public service tools for empowerment

    Using and developing tools for empowerment

    Video of Sir Bonar’s Address at the start of this session.
    (Audio recording)

    No2ID and Open Rights Group: Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP)

    Guy Herbert, General Secretary, No2ID

    Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group.

    The IMP is the latest addition to the database state that would turn the entire telecoms infrastructure into a single dataset for Government to use, abuse and data mine. Early rumours of the system stirred major public opposition due to its disregard for individual liberty and huge cost. Plans suggest hundreds of security agencies will have unfettered access to the nation’s communications data, including details of telephone numbers dialled, the location of mobile phones and email headers. IMP may also also field Deep Packet Inspection equipment to look at the content of your Internet traffic, for example your coordinates in Second Life and webmail inbox screen. What can you do to push back against the IMP? Come along to find out.

    What should happen online for the 2010 general election?

    If you’re interested, come along, and talk to others. There is no schedule for this.

    Facilitated by Adam McGreggor

    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    6:00pm: Ends.
    The bar stays open till 10pm
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