GeekRetreat.co.za is live!

geekretreat websiteAs part of the new GeekRetreat at Stanford in the Western Cape, the fabulously talented Jackie Scala (Scala Designs) volunteered her time to develop a new shiny home for the GeekRetreat. Guy Taylor (Telamenta) took Jackie’s design and built a Drupal implementation around it (helped by Noto Modungwa and Skip). We’re slowly starting to find jobs for ourselves as the GeekRetreat community matures. We have a small team working on ‘public relations’ and there are individuals working on sponsorship, nominations and helping out to develop themes and content areas on the wiki.

After working on this kind of self-organising community work for so many years, I still feel that it’s a process with very few rules, and that each time I do this, I feel like I have to start from scratch. So this time, I’m trying to build a process that someone else could follow. It’s not easy, because it seems like every new event will be different, but I’m really determined to at least get some of the way by building templates for invitations, processes, and communication.

It’s been fascinating watching the DrumBeat community at Mozilla go through a similar process. I feel like there is so much great research to do on analyzing these communities and finding easier ways of getting things done in decentralized groups. Maybe *that* would be a good follow-up for GTD in the brave new world of online communities :)

Twitter made me do it – my thoughts on the .za Geek Retreat

The past few months have been an important story in soul-searching for me.

After being shoved gently out of the international non-profit I helped build for three very long years in August, I looked beseechingly to my fellow South Africans. ‘Tell me you’re not as cruel as the rest of the world?’ I seemed to be saying.

Volunteering to judge the SA blog awards was one of my first attempts to re-enter a community that I’d never quite felt a part of. I was a global citizen – a citizen of the world! One toe in South Africa and the others vaguely placed ‘overseas’. I used my citizenship when I needed it, but I was not quite fully committed to the place that only made me sad and frustrated.

The awards only deepened my sense of alienation. A post pointing out what the results of the awards said about the lack of diversity in the South African blogosphere was highlighted by the award-winners, and its henchmen moved swiftly over to hblog to tell me that I should shuddup and go sit on a traffic cone.

As is the case with these debates, a lot of people joined the fray Continue reading

The underbelly of the SA web

picture-1Ziphezinhle Msimango has written a great article for the Sunday Times (‘Surf and Strange Turf‘) about some of the ‘underground’ sites in SA that cover things like ‘boer fanaticism, black pornography and infidelity’.

I often hear people of my parent’s generation talking about how ‘evil’ the Internet is, but sites like this show how the ‘underbelly’ (that was always there – even Before Internet) is now just more transparent on the web. In effect, it’s no longer ‘underground’. And exposing our needs, our hopes, our fears (because that’s all these sites are) can only be a good thing. It’s about accepting our humanity – accepting that we have good and bad in us – that we’re all capable of good and evil. As John Lennon said in the previous post: ‘We’re all violent inside; we’re all Hitler inside; we’re all Christ inside – it’s just to try and work on the good bit in you.’

The illustration is by our friends at Infiltrate – the thumbnail they have on the site doesn’t do it justice, though. The paper version was a double page spread and it’s quite beautiful.

The (new) blog awards

Ok, so this is my last post about the matter. There were so many wonderful ideas that came out of this little storm today that I can’t help put them forward so that something constructive comes out of this. Maybe this will mean that next year, we will have more input into the process, or maybe it will mean that there will be a new SA Blog Award. Whatever happens, this is what came out of conversations today:

  • Big first step is to develop some core principles that will underpin the competition, its process, winners etc. We should know what values the competition stands for.
  • Next is to house the awards with a credible, trustworthy organisation that doesn’t have a vested interest in the awards – either a new media department at a university, perhaps, or a large company like a local bank who can put some cash into the project. Choice of host will probably be determined by the principles.
  • Thirdly, judges should not nominate themselves – they should be chosen for their particular experience in the subject (e.g. photographer if it’s a photography blog etc), perhaps a star blogger from another country etc. and there should be a very specific (limited) number of judges.
  • If this is going to be a national award about representative, good quality content, then I’d say that the public should nominate the blogs and that, in order to go through, the sites should have to meet certain criteria (including user numbers). The chosen judges should discuss the nominees in each category and make the final choice. Peoples’ choice awards are very simple to decide – you just have to look at local user statistics – but quality, representative material needs to be decided by people talking together.

And no, I’m not writing this because I want to be a judge, nor do I want to enter the awards, nor do I want to get the contract to organise the next awards.

I’m just interested in making things better – not because I’m trying to save the world or because I have a halo around my head, but just because.

Oh, and thanks, Seth. I made so many new friends today :) Thank you for caring so much.

The Joburg

Gil Hockman has started a rad project called ‘the joburg‘ – an open calendar for events happening in Johannesburg. It’s a total community-driven, non-commercial project – factors which I think will make it grow exponentially in the future.

According to Gil,

The way it works is a follows:
Google have a very cunning online setup called Google Calender (you can link to it very easily with or without a Gmail account). One of the features of Google Calender is that you can create a calender and share it with a whole bunch of people. Any of these people can then add events to the calender.
So we have created a Google Calender for events that are happening in Joburg and then linked it to this page, which is visible to anyone on the internet. Now, whenever anyone adds and event (a gig, exhibition, show, etc) to the calender, this site is automatically updated.
Easy peasy.
This is a free project. No one is paid and no one makes any money. There is one guy who has registered the Domain name but it only costs about R150 year and he’s cool to pay it.
How to add events:
Step 1) Email thething@thejoburg.co.za to say that you want to add an event
Step 2) You will be linked to The Joburg’s Google Calender (if you do not have a Google Calender account you will need to sign up for one, This it is very easy. All that is required in an email address – and it doesn’t even have to be on Gmail)
Step 3) Login to your Google Calender account
Step 4) Click on the appropriate date on the calender and add your event
If you need any help with this or have any comments or suggestions, email thething@thejoburg.co.za
(ps, this is not a Google project in any way but they do have loads of useful free stuff)