Thoughts on Gnomedex and Video of My Talk

I know my site gets a little Gnomedex-centric for a few days around the conference every year, so thanks for your patience. I’ll be done with this stuff soon.

Each year at Gnomedex, I spend less time in the auditorium listening to talks, and more time in the hallways chatting with other attendees. That’s always been the real value for me, and I was pleased to see a bunch of familiar faces and meet some new ones. I just wrote a big list of and linked to all those people, but have since deleted it, as it just felt like useless name-dropping.

Brace for the Gonzo

I always describe Gnomedex as a ‘conference of ideas’, and this year was no exception. However, this year’s program was more questionable than previous conferences, and was book-ended by a couple of highly-suspect talks. I missed most of Robert Steele’s talk, but if I distill the on- and offline reaction, it can be charitably summarized as “gonzo”.

Sterling Allen’s closing talk on ‘open source energy’ featured, among other things, a gratuitous misuse of the term of ‘open source’. He spent plenty of time discussing dubious energy sources that he aptly put in a big bucket labeled ‘crackpot’. If they’re so nutty, why did he spend much of his talk covering them (without, in my view, sufficient skepticism). I was shocked that nobody from the audience called him on it.

Open Money, Open Lives

My favourite talks were Vanessa Fox’s discussion of a life lived online–she skillfully facilitated a lot of conversation with the audience–and Michael Linton’s talk on open money. Michael has some powerful ideas, but I think he needs clearer, simpler metaphors to explain them. The talk unnecessarily went over the heads of a lot of smart people in the audience. I probably only understood about 20% of it, but that was enough to be intrigued. My appreciation of Vanessa’s talk only grew once she revealed herself to be a Joss Whedon evangelist.

Far too much has already been said about a battle of wills between two of our industry’s biggest egos. As one friend put it, “it wouldn’t be Gnomedex until a couple of old white guys started yelling at each other”. I don’t really mind the actual exchange inside the auditorium–I’ve been one of those guys in the past. I do resent that it spills over into the blogosphere and occupies everybody’s attention for the following 48 hours.

It was a nerd fight, folks, and nerd fights ought to be like removing Band aids or the invasion of Poland–swift, painful and over with quickly.

Speaking of egos, I wanted to link to a few comments on my talk for posterity:

Here’s some video of my talk:

I don’t much enjoy watching those, but it’s useful if one wants to improve. I was clearly a little too jittery to start with, but think I eventually settle into things. It’s a tough room, frankly, so I’m reasonably happy with the result.

Chris had some folks doing cartoons of conference stuff. I quite like this little piece they did of my talk:

Thanks to the folks at MyFridj for the cool drawing.

And last but certainly not least, it was a joy to see Derek’s smiling, thirty-foot tall head during his video chat session. It must take great courage blog about his illness, but I suspect it takes even more to talk about it in real time with his friends and colleagues.

UPDATE: Joseph Thornley kindly did a little interview with me after my Gnomedex talk, and has posted it.


  1. Was great to meet you and I’m so glad you enjoyed the discussion. I had a lot of fun doing it.

    It’s good to see that your talk is available on video. The person next to me was taking notes and I kept leaning over and asking if he got particular things you said so I could steal a copy of the notes later.

    I will let you know when I relaunch the Buffy site. 🙂

  2. You were a breath of fresh air and positivity after Steele. Add the fact that you’re a funny dude and a fellow Canuck – well, ’nuff said eh?

    Cheers man. Great job.

  3. I think it was easier to be the 30-foot-tall floating head onscreen when I couldn’t actually experience it as that — I was just lying in my bedroom chatting with Chris Pirillo and whoever else happened to come on camera. It was pretty easy, actually.

    Perhaps too, talking to a big room full of people isn’t so daunting compared to actually having cancer. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen at Gnomedex? Heckling?

  4. Darren, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your talk at Gnomedex. It was funny, interesting and thought-provoking. This was my first Gnomedex and I wasn’t sure what to make of the Steele keynote but you brought us back to reality.

  5. Thanks for the shout out to IESC Geekcorps and our Moulin technology. Its great to know that others share or same passion for technology in the developing world.

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