Attendees got a third wind this morning, on what many voiced as the best of the 3-day conference (not that we're keeping score--it's pretty great to be present at any of this).
On the theme of Tails and Tales, Chris LongTail Anderson began his talk remarking that his "dangerous idea" was not to give his Long Tail Talk. Much relief in the audience, since lots of these folks had seen the speech, read the book, bought the rights, or had otherwise already assimilated the idea into their worldview and consulting patter. Instead, Anderson talked about "The Economics of Abundance," repackaging a bit of the old deck into new constructs, sure, but impressing the audience with what is an undeniably powerful idea: What happens when we move from models of scarcity to abundance; when we "waste" transistors, waste storage, and waste bandwidth? Well, we get our two paradigms: Amazon instead of Walmart, iTunes instead of Tower Records, Netflix instead of Blockbuster, lonelygirl15 instead of Raymond. And, he had the quote of the day: "Google is the world's best tail-finder." The audience went crazy.
Kent Nichols, co-creator of AskANinja.com, was up next. He took us through the influences and phenomena that helped him put together his plan--HomestarRunner, Rocketboom, Lazy Sunday, etc.--and gave the attendees the 3 rules of success in this new medium: 1. Distribute without judgment (the filmmakers imperative); 2. Grow with your audience; and 3. Content equals form. Wait: There were 5 more!: 1. Tech is a commodity; 2. Experiment and learn; 3. Honesty; 4. Give 'em what they want; then Give 'em more; and 5. Be there with your audience. He showed their famous, hilarious episode on "What is Net Neutrality?" and then screened a custom "What is Pop!Tech" to the delight of everyone in the building. Hopefully it will be on the web soon.Pop!Fave balladeer Jonathan Coulton was next with three great songs, Code Monkey, All We Want to Do Is Eat Your Brains, and an incredible Flickr song, where he accompanied a stream of flickr images, matching lyrics to whatever image was up on screen. I suppose an improve guy would've done this on the fly, but the song was sweet, and you can listen to it and others at http://www.jonathancoulton.com/songs
Neema Mgana, one of the youngest women to be nomintated for Nobel Peace Prize, came to Camden to report on a project that was catalyzed at last year's Pop!Tech. Working with Cameron Sinclair, Architecture for Humanity, and Nicholas Gilliland and Gaton Tolita, she was able to coordinate the building of a medical center in Ipuli, Tanzania, simultaneously setting a template for other such initiatives around the continent. (The project is highlighted in next month's FastCompany.) Zinhle Thabethe then held the stage, taking the attendees' breath away with her story of HIV and TB infection, and repeating the disbelieving mantra, "We are not the same." Displaying a family photo superimposed with graphic icons, she revealed that her sister has TB, her brother--now deceased--had HIV and TB, and her mother and other brother have HIV and TB. It was a devastating story, but Thabete has been fortunate to be receiving anti-retroviral mediation and is strong. Pop!Tech next brought to the stage the all-HIV+ Sinikithemba Choir, 11 of 30 members who'd made the trip. They sang 4 songs--the English "Know your status/If your negative, stay negative/If you're positive, think positive" resonating through ears, hearts and minds.
After the final coffee break of the conference, the Neo-Futurists, of the "Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind" kind, treated the audience to 16 2-minute plays. They didn't make it under 20 minutes, but fudged it in the encore. From there it was on to the final duo--another near-fight--presented to us in the form of a rushed, almost deliberately-incoherent presentation by Roger Brent, and by a suspiciously deliberate, rigorous, measured, and spookily "reasonable" presentation by genome-busting Craig Venter. Brent traced the history of our understanding of "life," leading ultimately to our present time when the possibility of evil-doers creating nasty viruses in their dorm rooms is inevitable. Venter assured the audience that this was not an easy task in the least, and, argued (somehow) that since there haven't been any catastrophic incidences of the bioengineered kind, there (and I'm putting word in his mouth now, but only slightly) won't be. Neither of the speakers were very satisfying in the end, and again, a potential row between them never took place because there was no room for a post-PowerPoint debate. (There were some snide, just-kidding! remarks during the Q&A, but nothing you'd sell tickets to.)
Bob Metcalfe and John Scully wrapped things up with Metcalfe's annual review (the Yes Men did not fare well here), and then it was off to the final dinner at the Owl's Head Transportation Museum. A great third day, and a fitting wrap up to an enriching conference.
Allan Chochinov is a partner of Core77, a New York-based design network serving a global community of designers and design enthusiasts, and Chair of the new MFA in Products of Design graduate program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Allan lectures around the world and at professional conferences including IDSA, AIGA and IxDA, has been a guest critic at various design schools in including Yale University, IIT, Carnegie Mellon, Ravensbourne, RMIT, University of Minnesota, Emily Carr, and RISD. He has moderated and led workshops and symposia at the Aspen Design Conference, the Rockefeller Center at Bellagio, Compost Modern, and Winterhouse, and is a frequent design competition juror. Prior to Core77, his work in product design focused on the medical, surgical, and diagnostic fields, as well as on consumer products and workplace systems. He has been named on numerous design and utility patents and has received awards from The Art Directors Club, I.D. Magazine, Communication Arts, and The One Club.