Sunday, 16 September 2007

A Tale of 50 Cities

It was the best of times, it was the most open of times. It was a time of bravery, honesty, and frankness. We shared our dreams and they were heard, fostered, and reciprocated. Our young men saw visions and our old men dreamed dreams. This was the winter party of our Open Content.

The Open Content party at Deer Park Cafe was a sensual experience in many ways. The heavenly smells drifting from the kitchen, the awesome music drifting from the sound system, the thrill of new acquaintances, and the creative ideas drifting from mind to mind (flying so fast as to almost bypass speech altogether), made this evening a total sensory overload.

The entire evening reminded me of nothing so much as a 60's era love-in. The beards in evidence were not as matted and mangy, the dreadlocks were legitimately African, the drugs were (I think) limited to legal ones, and the quality of the hippy folk music has undeniably gotten better... yet it was a night where the ideas got their clothes off and shagged on the tables in front of everyone. (Thank Tristan for that line, which I must honestly attribute to him. He also had some skanky ideas about Snowy, see below.)

Cross-pollination of interesting ideas was the point of the exercise, and it seems that almost everyone made a point of meeting random interesting-looking strangers. The stiffness evident at the start of the evening had long evaporated into a congenial mood; you could pretty much walk up to anyone and introduce yourself, and be deep in an interesting conversation within minutes.

A few impressions of conversations in which I was either involved with, overheard, or shamelessly eavesdropped on:

  • The Freedom Toasters (link) may be carrying local bands' Creative Commons-licensed music pretty soon. This will serve to promote the artists and make the Freedom Toasters more valuable to the community at large. It is a valuable resource already, but mostly in the fields of Open Source Software... adding creative content to the mix gives it a broader appeal and will almost definitely spread the word on Open Source Software as well. Tristan Waterkeyn (from and Brett Simpson (from the Shuttleworth Foundation) will most likely be collaborating about this very soon.
  • The animation industry in South Africa is frankly almost dead, or at least haemorrhaging badly. "Locally-produced" animated TV series dealing with traditional South African tales and content, is (ironically) outsourced to Korea. Our locally-trained animators are leaving our shores in droves for climes more amiable towards their profession. A lady named Canda Kincses would like to change all that. She has a personal mission to build a world-class local industry in animation, and I believe she has the drive, vision, and determination to do just that.
  • An idea we came up with one night, after a journalist friend was ordered to sit on a story which could have saved lives. The story isn't mine to tell, but the idea was this: A database for journalists to share important information... anonymously, and deniably. Reputations and trust can be built up by a Slashdot-type karma system, so that "reliable sources" can still be that, and yet literally cannot be revealed as you will not know who they are. This has special application in totalitarian states, especially those that still torture journalists. The details still need to be worked out, but strong encryption and data anonymisation will be the cornerstones of this service.

As I write this, I'm humming revolutionary marching songs under my breath and shopping online for beret prices... a grand age of the Communism of the Idea is coming, compadre.

The Brotherhood of Artists and Geeks (BAG) believes that:

0. The Zeroth rule of BAG Club is you have to talk about BAG Club.
1. Keeping an idea to the intellectual elite is the worst form of capitalism.
2. It is a fallacy to say that our ideas make us rich and should be hoarded.
3. An idea, once shared, does not devalue the giver;
4. does not merely give value to the recipient, but add value to the giver.
5. An idea is viral and cannot be killed except by apathy and ignorance.
6. An idea is a virus which incubates in minds. All minds are fertile to ideas. The more viruses your mind cultivates, the more fertile it becomes.
7. Ideas are packets of information living in a mutually advantageous symbiosis with humanity.
8. You have a moral obligation to share ideas with the right people.
9. You need to eat. People's time is precious, and should be compensated appropriately.

That shall be the first rules. I want to hear which rules you can come up with. Add your suggestions for additions to the Manifest on Facebook (link).

I might move a few suburbs up Main Road to Woodstock, in the spirit of the rebellion and this whole psychedelic tripped-out weekend.

PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE: No animals were harmed, and no psychedelic drugs were taken, during this weekend. A foot massage was administered to a hurt foot from kicking the plastic donkey kiddies seat / abstract sculpture. It was promptly named Snowy, and there was a suggestion made to add a pink spiked leather S&M collar around its paw to offset the virginal whiteness of it. In the spirit of the breeding party for ideas, you understand.

It is a far, far more open thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better future for artist-geeks that I go to, than I have ever expected.

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