Saturday, July 14, 2012

NetHui Part 10 - Networking

10 posts in 3 days. I'm on a roll!

For an awkward nerdy type I found myself terribly busy talking to people for the entire three days.

Today I met a deputy principal who restored my faith (oh let's face it - yesterday's rant about the education stream was a reaction to what I was hearing and didn't reflect the good work that a lot of people are out there doing).

He was talking to another man who was asking, "If you had to put in an application for money to improve education outcomes for say, $100,000, what would that application look like?". The question came up about how to measure the success of any such project. And then it hit me. It was very "Dead Poet's Society". The scene where Robin Williams is telling his students to rip out the first two chapters of a poetry text book. That poetry could not be judged in scientific terms. It's a bit like my thing about art. Art is a very personal thing. The same piece of art has different contexts and relationships to different people. On my wall I have a piece of art entitled "Opening Doors" which features the skeleton of a bird. It could be perceived as negative (i.e. death) but there's a very positive message in there. I should probably take a photo and post it up on this blog at some point. Actually, I'm going to be doing a blog post about the "Orcon Great Blend" - which is going to be on art.

So, how do you measure the success of a student? As far as I'm concerned, it's not quantifiable. Besides which, teaching has to be around the ability to adapt and change for the ever changing world around them. There was a computer game designer at the conference who got up and asked educators if there was any area of the National Standards that he could focus on for educational games. This is an attitude that I feared. If we only teach to National Standards, we're on a horribly slippery slope. It means that we're no longer focused on the students but rather, the standards. Remembering that each and every student learns in different ways on different days.

I've been thinking about the whole idea of valuing contribution to society. As a volunteer I was using up quite a lot of money - bus fares and the like. I was tapped on the shoulder by someone who might actually have a solution for me. The proliferation of cheap cell phones (mine cost around $200 and in terms of functionality isn't as far away from an iPhone as you'd expect given the price differential) and the emerging standards around payments via cellphone (Parts of Africa have been doing this for a while) make it a real possibility that we could value volunteers a lot more highly than we currently do.

By combining both of our efforts we could probably put together something quite usable. My thought was that people genuinely want to do more but are time poor. Those that aren't time poor generally (we're talking very general terms here) quite often don't have the support or funds to be able to take on the costs of volunteering.

What if a volunteer was able to get some sort of token of value based upon their contribution measured on some criteria such as the amount of time spent or scope of the work done (hell, it could be a set of different tokens - more on this in a second)?

How does this differ from money? This wouldn't be as much of a closed system. At the end of it, you'd have a "sink" - i.e. somewhere that the value would have to disappear. Where is the value?

Say I have built up volunteer value. I want to hop on a bus. The bus company could chose to accept this "volunteer value" by allowing all or partial payment to be made by this volunteer value. That would make the bus company a "sink". What do they get out of it? They're doing something positive for the community by supporting those who are out there doing the work.

And how does this fit in with cell phones? Cell phones are essentially computers. They're able to calculate and store value and pretty soon, we'll all be seeing ways of paying for goods/services using our cellphones. A single swipe/tap could have the bus fare paid taking what it could from the volunteer value (based upon the value stored and the conditions set by the payee) and a monetary value to pay off the remaining difference.

You could even have differentiating values. i.e. if I were to work on a project that involved a particular suburb and the merchant/sink only wanted to support work done in that area, then having a tag on that value - i.e. Kansas - would allow them to make that differentiation.

So fun times ahead. And if anything comes out of it - you'll have heard about it here first ;)

I get the feeling that traffic to the blog is about to explode. A lot of people seemed interested in visiting the blog to see what I had to say. So watch that little monthly counter on the side. I guess that it's almost a measurable metric of how well I networked.

Anyway - the most value to be had at these conferences is in meeting people and gaining perspective. Perhaps finding points of collaboration (I also want to see if I can work with libraries to get some interesting hacking things going on - around Arduinos and Raspberry Pi's when they become more available). I had the rather odd situation of someone having heard my name before. After a while of talking he mentioned Tangleball - the creative space that I helped establish in Auckland. I had a very excited "That was one of mine!" moment - as if I had done a great deal of those sorts of projects.

Next year NetHui is in Wellington. I've got a year to decide if I'm going. In terms of conferences with value, NetHui would have to be the best for me (thus far). Oh - and there's another TEDx event in Auckland on the 11th of December. Unfortunately pricing doesn't appear to be up (I expect that it'll be horrendously expensive. I wonder if I could a presentation on Manaiakalani in exchange for a ticket)...


  1. It was great meeting you Nev - I'd like to work out how libraries can start to become hackerspaces too.

    1. I was thinking about that today (was having drinks with a couple of guys involved with TangleBall - think we all just needed a bit of an unwind). Given the amount of incredibly cheap hardware out there (anyone else a little irritated that Arduino's cost more than the Raspberry Pi?) I think we could have something quite serviceable up and running before the end of the year.

      We didn't exchange email addy's did we?

    2. It's definitely been an unwind day - but I've actually felt buoyed by the whole experience, and not that conference wipeout that can sometimes happen.

      I don't think we did do that basic step! sean.murgatroyd at for library-related project work although my mates can always find me in less formal mode as seanfish at gmail :)

    3. :) Ditto. An unwind day. A being obnoxious while I excitedly rambled about the bits that had me excited to people who didn't go day. A day of reflection on the whole sexism issue (is it really so ingrained? I think it might become a bit of a feature of the blog while I try to change my reactions to those things I let slide). And the realisation that I was feeling to be in a bit of a rut before going to NetHui rather than *just* tired. A realisation that I really miss the Free culture/Linux communities. Just... day :)

    4. Yeah, I have to say some of the examples of sexist culture I witnessed was shocking - while libraries definitely have elements of problematically gendered discourse, it at least tends to be nuanced and and isolated.

      Seeing a guy blatantly creep out a woman colleague and friend twice within about 10 minutes, and then appear mystified that she walked away... suffice to say in a library environment the language exists in the discourse to point out people's errors in a way that makes sense to them.

      I remember supporting two friends and colleagues, one of whom (female) was starting to feel harassed by the (male) others' dirty (but not demeaning by gender, and not nearly as dirty as our shared female manager's) sense of humour. It took them oooh maybe 30 minutes to successfully work through the issues and recommence their professional friendship on a new, mutually respectful footing.

      I've also been doing some thinking of privilege as displayed unconsciously by some people seemingly positioning themselves as "key stakeholders", or representatives thereof over the three days. I don't know if something is entirely rotten in the state of Denmark, but certainly I caught a few odorous whiffs...

    5. Actually that was something I was trying to be careful of. It's so easy at times to sit back and imply that "I've got all the answers". What I refer to "smug prat syndrome". So you'll notice at NetHui I didn't get up and speak an awful lot. I think I only really got up 3 times over the 3 days - once to correct a politician, and twice with the Netsafe crowd (the branding isn't all that great - doesn't have a child focus which is where Netsafe's focus has been previously. Any policy they come up with has to be centered around the idea of "empowerment").

      Otherwise it was all listening and talking to people outside of the sessions.

    6. Yes, I had my mouth running off last year. Felt good, but listening bought better results.

      Netsafe - I would have to have a closer look at their programmes to evaluate how I felt about their policy.

    7. I just think they could probably do quite a bit better. Safe is ... well... boring. If targeting kids, it's absolutely the worst word to use.

      "Don't do that, it's not safe" has a lot less impact than "Don't do that, you'll hurt yourself".

      Also it's not something to aspire to when talking about personal safety. CyberSmart, CyberSaavy etc. are all things that feel a hell of a lot more positive.

      As for the policy - I have to admit to having not read any of it. Martin started the session off saying how he'd like to use the session to come up with a policy. A terrible approach on the basis that it's a mass of people in a short amount of time. That's probably only enough time to come to a consensus on a definition of "safety".

  2. Ahh! National Standards! Appeal to those who want to see concrete, measured, comforting, outcomes from Education. The best education is dangerous, it challenges and provokes, but it doesn't win votes in General Elections. Unfortunately there is a high correlation between those who are totally screwed by national standards, and those who don't vote, for whatever reasons.

    1. Those who don't vote - the mighty disenfranchised - are always the ones who are most screwed by these kinds of laws BUT they don't vote so it doesn't matter anyway...

      I can't help but point out just how many times Steven Joyce talked about people (I think he started off with something about "people" wanting there to be more higher paying jobs - though I would dispute this. I don't think a lot of people care about the higher paying ones... How's that for shifting an average - rather than dealing to the bottom results, try and add a few more to the top) - I can't help but take that as a ... emerging truth about this government. They don't really talk about people a whole lot. They may talk about voters (exclude the disenfranchised). They may even mention people as a resource or to back up their own screwy theories. But I don't think they actually see people.

      Perhaps National Standards are actually for their sake. I just realised I missed bits - this post was a summary rather than a real post. I really should do one on the bits and pieces I've heard on it from the people around me.