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Wednesday 21 November 2012

Disorganised post-#ndf2012 jottings

It was fantastic to see the NZ Sign interpreting in so many of the presentations. I'm in awe of interpreters in general (once considered interpreting as a career when I was super keen on French, but ended up deciding it'd be too high-pressure for my taste) but interpreting presentations jam-packed with such varied technical jargon (plenty going over my head) is... well, one example of why it'd be too high-pressure for me. :-) I wonder if/hope recordings of these are to be added to the SignDNA project which I heard people talking about. --Noted just before posting: a PledgeMe campaign to digitise and process the 50 films most at risk of "vinegar syndrome".

I recognised a lot fewer people than I would have at a LIANZA conference, thus forcing me to accost more random strangers and leading to some fantastic conversations which have mostly now blurred together along with everything else. I do recall (related to Andy's wrap-up admonition to not try doing it all) deciding with someone that the key was to find one simple thing you can do - often the simple thing is the most useful thing for users. (I haven't yet decided what the one simple thing I could take away from this is; may have to reread my notes to find out what I wrote.) But also because doing something big and coordinated is hard. But doing something small is easy, and if you do it in an open way (in terms of using standards to accept data in and put data out, and in terms of communicating it) then people can build on it so that it ends up becoming something big.

(Of course sometimes and for some things you need to do something big despite this, but that's another discussion.)

If pressed to make summarise a theme of the conference I'd say something incoherent about community and content: content developed for our community and community-developed content. Also linked data, the buzzword du jour. Connections in general, I guess: between data, between people, between people and data and stories and...

Most everyone I talked with agreed it filled our brains quite full. But if it occasionally felt overwhelming, there is definitely something to be said for an environment where the casual watercooler talk is about ontologies, and coding, and how much data you can get out of conductive fabric; and over-dinner recommendations range from Tufte's "Quantitative analysis of qualitative information" to DJ Earworm's "United State of Pop" mashups (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. As you might tell by all the links, the latter was and remains my recommendation: we were talking about the (mood?) trends you could see by aggregating Time covers, and could one do the same with major/minor keys in music? and I said yes, listen to the mashups this guy's done for each year pulling together the top 25 music hits into a single song.)

Practicalities: fantastic to have powerboards set out along every second row in the main theatre. The wifi held up pretty well considering the number of devices being used, though it did get slow; the worst was when speakers had trouble with live demos. The food was excellent (especially Wednesday afternoon's tartlets with the berries and custard, mmm!) and it was great having a constant table full of fruit and a freezer full of icecreams. The weather and view were stunning: well done those organisers!