Northern Voice 2012

I really enjoyed my time on day 1 of the 2012 Northern Voice conference. The conference continues its mission of the personal, individual usage of the web around social media, and as such tends to focus on new users. There is a fantastic crew of people that come back every year, as well as up to 50% newcomers every year. My attendance and participation has been sporadic over the last couple of years, since I find the content to be very beginner focused with a few notable exceptions.

This year I attended day 1, in large part to be there for Moose Camp, which is a block of time that is run unconference style. I really love these free form sessions, since everyone has to kind of get into a flow of what is even going to be talked about, and then (if all goes well), different participants start riffing off each others’ ideas. With the right people in the room, this “idea jazz” is exhilarating.

The keynote by Reilly Yeo - Using the Internet to Save the Internet - was great. From a show of hands, attendees were optimistic about the beneficial uses of technology. But it’s been up to groups like Reilly’s Open Media to rally the troops and make sure that “bad” laws and regulations don’t get implemented.

For me, this linked to a lot of thoughts I’ve been having - that the Internet does, in fact, need saving. In part, it needs more people to be educated and aware of how it works, and to become better participants. This goes back to the old consumption vs. creation topic - are the masses just mindlessly consuming the web? What about media literacy and critical thinking? What about web literacy?

I’ve been mentioning the Mozilla Webmaker initiative as an example of the type of group and activity that is great, and is something that people who are web literate should get involved with.

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“500”] Improv Me session at NV12 - Nancy White, Be Affected[/caption]

Next I went to Improv Me, Baby with Nancy White, Alan Levine, and Rob Cottingham. My basic rule of thumb is “go to any session that Nancy White is involved with”. Of course Alan and Rob are no slouches either ;) Lots of interactivity and group activity in getting people to participate, and to understand what improv actually means. Rob closed things out talking about how the very best improv can in fact be the result of lots of preparation and practice ahead of time, while still using a “go with the flow” approach to tailor presentations & experiences to the people and energy in the room.

The next slot lead me to coffee, catching up with some work, and chatting with Roland, Rob, Theo and others. The picnic tabels in the atrium of the SFU Woodwards space outside W2 were an awesome gathering spot, especially being semi-public with lots of curious onlookers wondering what these geeks were up to. Before I knew it, it was lunch time.

Roland and I gathered Theo, Blaine, and Tim and set off to New Town Bakery. It was lovely sunny weather so it was nice to stretch our legs for a walk.

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“320”] Maureen, Blaine, and Tim at New Town Bakery[/caption]

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“240”] Roland at New Town Bakery[/caption]

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“320”] Theo at New Town Bakery[/caption]

After lunch, it was time for Moose Camp, with Nancy White as the un-organizer.

Kay Slater led a session that was roughly about online advertising and monetization. Kay comes from a media / marketing / advertising background, and ultimately believes that marketers are using the wrong model for advertising online

Here are a few rough notes I made.

  • If you are running an ad blocker and are, yourself, running ads on your blog, you’re a hypocrite.
  • Talked about what “free” means, check out the Wired Magazine issue on free (Chris Anderson)
  • Pinboard is an example of a set of websites / apps that are actively charging money, rather than relying on ads and lots of free users. See the Pinboard About page, the Pinboard “Don’t Be a Free User” blog post, and the Business of Bookmarking (PDF) for a longer discussion on business models and approaches to running services online, and the responsibilities of both the user and the service creators
  • Discussion about subtle differences between free, fremium, loss leader (e.g. free razor, buy the blades)
  • CPC (cost per click) model is broken. Clickers aren’t buyers.
  • Advertising focuses on 4As - awareness, attitude, action, annoyance – are online ads at the annoyance level for most of us?
  • Online media ad buying should go away - degrades the reading experience (hence Reading Lists, Readability). Are those services “stealing” content to make money from publishers?
  • HBO had content that people wanted to watch, so they paid for a cable TV subscription; but today, HBO isn’t letting people pay them for digital content
  • Media / content sites are there for a place to put ads - they aren’t in the content business, they are in the ad business
  • How do content creators make money?
  • Flattr given as an example - micro-transactions model, patronage model
  • Mike Monteiro says Fuck You, Pay Me
  • What about professionals vs. amateurs? Professionals need to get paid, struggle with loss of value from hourly model. Amateurs invest passion, love what they do – but some also get paid, but often charge much less than professionals.
  • Even if content sites are mainly built around ads, does cream rise to the top?
  • Tentacles vs. Chicken Fingers problem – best content for what type of user
I have a separate post on the session I hosted about web literacy.

Thanks to all the organizers, volunteers, and sponsors that make Northern Voice possible. Congrats on the 2012 edition.

Tickets to a restaurant /via @eastgate

Next is a fascinating Chicago restaurant that serves a single, fixed menu that changes every three months. You don’t make reservations; you buy tickets. The current menu is titled “Tour of Thailand.” It’s full of fascinating ideas.

By selling tickets instead of taking reservations, for example, Next builds service into the charge and gets rid of tipping. Everyone is on salary, and servers and cooks both receive the service charge dividends.

If you click through to Mark Bernstein's full post, you can read his description and reaction to the current Tour of Thailand menu at Next Restaurant (I'm linking to the FAQ, since the "home page" is literally just an invitation to create an account and buy tickets; and they're currently sold out).

The food is fascinating, but I'm even more fascinated by the model of selling tickets.

In Vancouver, you might check out the Irish Heather Long Table Series. I really should talk to Sean about switching to using Eventbrite directly, so people can self serve, and he can spend less time wrangling tickets.

What happens when you start having more ticket buyers than space? That is, people who go to every event you put on? Do you get to be wilder, even more creative? Or do you just cater to the audience that you have? Sounds kind of like the concerns of a music artist.

I've only done mass food delivery once. I got Mark Busse, Ben Garfinkel and the Industrial Brand gang (pre-Foodists) plus Robert Scales and myself to prepare / cook / serve 150 people for the Northern Voice 2007 pre-dinner / party. With live slide presentation of Lee & Sachi's world travel. Anyway, that was a crazy / fun experience, from which I learned many things, including that delivering food to 150 people without professional prep facilities is HARD.

I've thought a lot about getting involved with a restaurant/cafe/food enterprise. But I've done it before (dishpig / prep cook a long time ago), and it's a LOT OF WORK. Which is mainly filled with uncertainty, since you have to lose a lot of money waiting for people to show up, then hope they like what you make, and rinse and repeat.

A ticket / event based food experience is a different ball game. KickStarter for restaurants?