April 04, 2011
An exhilerating day of collab planning

So, last wednesday I wrote an email to everyone who attended Ersatz last year, inviting everybody to attend a collaborative planning session the next day. The idea was to just do something quick online instead of dragging our feet by having to schedule meetings and so on and so forth.
We ended up co-authoring a Google Doc file with ideas for speakers, sessions and activities. In the end it both worked better than I ever expected and a little less than I had hoped.
It worked way better than I expected because of the rich flow of suggestions we had during thursday. Around 25 people contributed edits to the document during the day, suggesting a diverse range of topics we now need to collate into some meaningful - but that's a fun task. My favorite part of that was suggesting almost none of the topics myself.
There was a lot going on in that document at times during the morning.
It worked less well than I had hoped, because we ended up having a lot of the fun stuff done, not the boring stuff, of making sure we have a venue and so on. For fixing real practical problems you just can't beat picking up the phone and just doing it.
It's probably unfair to expect to be able to de-labor setting up another event using google docs.

But Ersatz is going to happen. It will be in June. It will be about a lot of different things.

Posted by Claus at 11:33 PM
June 25, 2010
My list of Ersatz takeaways

So a week ago some of us met to talk about things and eat marshmallows at Holmen, here's my list of takeaways, a summary of sorts.

I tried to organize the schedule into a friday oriented around people and a saturday oriented around stuff, or a slightly different take, a Friday around how what we do is received, and a Saturday oriented around how it is made. We didn't stick to this plan in a strict way, but it worked out well as an organising principle.


We kicked off with a provocation from Timme Bisgaard Munk - on lazyness, self-interest, and competition, and how it works against some of the common co-creation and sharing ideas we all rely on. It's a welcome provocation, well put too by Timme, but the argument one has had against provocateurs like Nicholas Carr remains: And yet, it's there. Wikipedia exists. Along the way we talked about lazyness, the future of learning, and I had what I consider an interesting idea for how the world of knowing is changing: The cost of trying has gone drastically down. The cost of knowing has stayed the same - experimenting is free in the digital realm, but the cognitive cost of mastering the old reference material is pretty much the same. You're not reading any faster, your biology does not allow for that, but we've been able to replace an awful lot of reading with cheap and fast doing, instead. I'd like to investigate that theory in relation to Marksaved.

Moving on to more hopeful ground, Nadja Pass gave a nice introduction to the hopes behind Borgerlyst, and for me the high point of that was actually a nice discussion I had with Ernst Poulsen and Emme about the plight of local news (and Ernst's enthusiasm for fixing that). Hope to hear more about that in a future KCast.

Morten Gade told us about the "democracy problem" of the largest Danish coop, FDB, after which we moved outside to eat and continue the conversation - and talk about more democracy problems, this time in a public housing setting, from Kristoffer Rønde Møller.
To me a high point of the day was when Kristoffer blurted out - having told us about how hard it is to persuade immigrants to take in interest in the governance of the buildings they live in - "I just don't think you get to these problems in your world", meaning approximately that most of the web technology we make simply doesn't get this close to really hard problems, like overcoming language barriers and cultural barriers on the scale Kristoffer runs into in the environment he works in.

My best bet is, that he is absolutely right. Most of us work in relatively safe domains where the users are more similar to us than we like to admit. Most of us probably - to much to high a degree - design for people like ourselves.
This is good news, of course. It means there's tons of ideas still to be had, and still to be brought to life.

To end out the day, Caroline Beck shared with us some sensible and wide ranging suggestions for urban planning principles. We even got a nice poster of them - get your digital copy here (PDF).


We kicked off with a slight program change, Igor Schwarzmann and Peter Bihr ran down a nice list of the new playful interactions with the city, that are propping up, from foursquare to stickybits and from foodies to... well, there was a lot of stuff. And then we kicked into doer gear, with a nice visual-thinking workshop from Lotte and Sten, my personal choice bit was both firming up a nice way to work and coming up with a nice symbol for doing stuff, an exclamation point, with an iteration swoosh - kinda like the logo from The Incredibles, but with an ! instead of the i. I'll start using that, possibly I need that on a T-shirt as well. I am deeply envious of visual people.

Henrik Føhns came by and gave is an impression of the Singularity University. Mark Wubben gave a really nice presentation with some good dogma rules for fast hacking. I particularly liked that the presentation was based in part on a botched attempt at fast prototyping, and not just cheerleading for "fast is good".
I would like to suggest also the following work principle, not in Mark's slides - but maybe implied: If you don't know how to solve your problem, take away resources - maybe you're just confused by your options, not by the problem.

We saw some demos, from an application specific use of the stickybits/tinyurl principle via soundscape designers for kids and Find maden to Jane's concert scarecrow for short people.

And then we closed out the talking portion of the day by hearing about an interesting project that Riem and Marie are doing, about identifying different "inventive personas" (<- my term) and how they fit into a "proper", commercial invention process. I found the work crisp and memorable.

- I was really happy with the overall level of conversation and participation, this was a very flat 1:1 type of event, and we probably couldn't have done that if we'd filled the venue to capacity, so in the final analysis, I was quite happy with the whisper marketing too, I thought it brough a great crowd together.

I don't know how much of the presentation material I'll be able to get and make available, but if you're interested, leave a note here, or on the Ning network.

Posted by Claus at 11:14 AM