Posted on Dec 8, 2009

Supernova 1006, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory

Continuing my coverage of Supernova 2009 (see Changing Networks, Workplaces and the World), a “forum to examine all of the opportunities and challenges created in the Network Age”, I further dive into my notes/musings from days 2 and 3:

Going with the Flow (Real Time Flow Track with track chair Tantek Çelik)
(Tim O’Reilly, Dick Costolo, Brett Slatkin, Monica Keller)

Real-time information is becoming capillary, but the way in which it’s provided is under great debate. The relationship between real-time information flow and  technology/business decisions can greatly affect how we consume it. Tim O’Reilly raised questions of how the relationship will converge: “king of the hill or interoperable?”.

Brett argued that the debate has nothing to do with business needs – standards reduce costs. “I can write something once and change my provider at any time … [it] has to do with how hard it is to interoperate”. As most point out, a lot of the success of email came from its interoperability.

Dick Costolo from Twitter discussed how they’re spending a lot of time on APIs – making them better and more accessible. He spoke about current debates on if decentralization possible (at this point Blaine Cook, one of the original architects who no longer works at Twitter, spoke up from the audience: “Is it possible!? I built it!”).

But if you as a provider open everything up, do you then lose your competitive edge? For instance, Tim Berners-Lee compared to Google: Tim created the opportunity (the web) but didn’t capture much of it. The panel explained that if you interoperate, the competition can focus on more interesting things and building them better. Tim O’Reilly chimed in, “companies who used to be “content bullies”, like IBM and Microsoft, are now saying they like open source stuff because they now have the short end of the stick”. Blaine Cook spoke up again and shared what Fred Wilson, an early Twitter investor, told him about being open: “You’ll have a smaller piece of the pie, but the pie will be larger”.

Life in the 21st Century
(Esther Dyson, Bernardo Huberman, Linda Stone)

How is technology going to change us? Esther Dyson introduced the panel around this topic. Linda Stone discussed her latest endeavors in creating what she calls “zeitgeist mapping”. Her work in continuous partial attention inspired her to start looking at 20-year social trends as a way of providing clues to other social shifts. By looking into what products were being created and selling well, she plotted them to look for “shifts in dominant mass consciousness attention paradigm”. She argued that her data showed 1985-2005 was all about social networks and as an extreme of being “highly connected” 2005-present is all about security, trust and quality of life due to being overwhelmed and unfulfilled. I personally disagreed with this analysis  – while Linda’s data may be accurate, the analysis to me seemed to be making huge leaps of assumptions that weren’t explained incrementally (though, it should be noted this was a short top-level talk rather than an in-depth walk-through). Another point I disagreed with was how “Twitter started primarily as noise and it is increasingly signal”. I believe it would be more accurate to convey that Twitter primarily has remained the same, but the number of people realizing the value (signal) in it has grown exponentially through word of mouth and storytelling.

The panel continued on to discuss concepts about how technology is accelerating faster than humans can. Though, again, I’d argue that a lot of these concepts are more about cultural acceptance of technology and connected-behaviors as opposed to needing to “re-wire” our brains.

The rest of the presentation talked a lot about attention and attention as a currency. “Attention is the most powerful tool of the human spirit – attention also defines a culture or a community,” said the panelists. Unfortunately, I have to agree with Peter Merholz’ tweet from the session: “We’ve been talking “attention economy” since 2001. let’s move the conversation forward here. #sn09″

Frontiers of Real Time Collaboration
(David Weinberger, Jason Shellen, Paul Lippe, Laura Fitton, Deborah Schultz, Anna-Christina Douglas)

This was an interesting session to attend, as there seemed to be a lot of people in the audience who were passionate to hear what these people had to say about real-time collaboration. I believe the panelists wanted to discuss collaboration as well, but oddly the talk veered way off course – spending the majority of the time talking about Twitter. After Twitter was discussed for several minutes, the talk continued to simply discuss tools (like Google Wave) but spent no time discussing collaboration or concrete examples of how real-time tools can produce successful collaboration. At the tail end of the talk, I raised my hand and said that they had focused a lot on the tools but not anything on collaboration and asked how these tools are helping people overcome current challenges they face in trying to collaborate. I didn’t receive much of an answer, but after the session, I received apologies from the panelists and thank you’s from audience members who felt my same slight frustration. While the panel got off course, it was valuable to me to see how many people cared about discussing the subject. I have a deep personal interest in this area, which is why I organized an upcoming panel for SXSW 2010 called Open Collaboration Between Scientists, Communities and the Unknown. I very much am looking forward to discussing issues/successes around open collaboration more!

Attendee Roundtables
(Brad Templeton, Crystal Y.)

These were quick rapid-fire 10 minute talks on a wide range of subjects from Supernova attendees. I don’t have much other than a link and a couple insights to share from it:

Brad Templeton from the EFF talked about robo-cars:

Crystal Y. (a high school student) shared some insights on her experiences with online communities. She explained that it’s annoying to be private on social networks because then you don’t allow people with similar interests to be able to connect with you. She also talked about how kids don’t focus on “being careful about what you say online” (a common characterization adults place on today’s children) – that actually they focus on “talking about what they stand for online to represent them” (a more positive outlook that aligns with a lot of danah boyd’s research). One of the insightful quotes I most enjoyed from Crystal was “Whenever I read articles that say “teens don’t use Twitter” it really annoys me”.


  1. Crystal Y.
    December 22, 2009

    Thanks for the mention! Congrats on being published too….way exciting! :)

  2. Crystal Y.
    December 22, 2009

    And the presentation can be viewed here:

  3. Miranda Hopkins
    February 23, 2010

    I came across this neat site this morning over coffee, warm congratulations over the publishing. If you ever need any extra marketing, please contact the folks at Schiel & Denver, anthropology is a fave topic.