How many tech conferences do you go to where you aren't allowed to use your laptop, text on your cell phone, or chat on an IRC channel during sessions? Where you are encouraged to truly listen and pay attention to what people are saying? Where a Waste Reduction Consultant is brought in to create a green event? Not many I bet.
There was a special air to the first day of the Aspiration Tech Nonprofit Software Development Summit yesterday when about 100 developers and users gathered to discuss usability, disaster management tools, engineering for accessbility, open source software, and activist social networking platforms, among other issues.
The morning started with ice breakers where people were asked to self-organize into groups based on operating systems, favorite email programs and programming language, which produced a lot of laughs, and interesting demographics. Then people were asked to choose a place along a line of tape across the room where one end symbolized "agree" and the other "disagree" in response to statements like, "Nonprofits should make using open source software a priority," "Blogging is over-rated," and "Interoperability is possible." Not as many laughs from that activity, a few raised voices, but definitely interesting.
After a break, participants broke into small groups to discuss what topics they felt still needed to be included on the agenda. You can see the results here.
After lunch, there were two sets of about 5 sessions. I went to the one about Activist Social Platforms facilitated by David Taylor of Radical Designs and Elijah Saxon of riseup.net You can see notes from the session here. The main themes were networks for public organizing vs. networks for internal process, security, privacy and SPAM prevention vs. transparency, and whether or not to connect social networking programs. There was also some ranting about the misery of email, a discussion of whether or not new tools are even needed, and a desire for aggregation of event and meeting calendars and the ability to simultaneously change your profile in all the networks where you are registered. Two social networking software programs that were mentioned were Dolphin and elgg.net (for educators).
You can see notes from all of yesterday's sessions here.
I was sorry to not be able to go back for the 2nd and 3rd day. It was a great event with good people and good energy. I interviewed HumaniNet's Executive Director, Gregg Swanson, strategic technology consultant, Teresa Crawford, and "Green Mary", the event's Waste Reduction Consultant, all of which I will post soon.