To Worldchanging on Transit Camp

I left a comment on the Worldchanging blog’s post about Transit Camp, Unconventions and the Toronto Transit Camp, by Alex Steffen. It quickly grew into a blog post, so I may as well republish it here. Full attribution for the “stone soup” reference goes to silo-busting City Councillor (and TTC Commissioner) Joe Mihevc. I met Joe Mihevc at today’s press conference announcing a Provincial funding contribution and an overall project go ahead for the remarkable Artscape Art Barns project at the former TTC Wychwood streetcar barns site. More on that later.

Alex, thank you for mentioning our little unconference on Toronto Transit. The response and interest has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re looking forward to a fantastic day where the unexpected will be commonplace.

The TorCamp Community is looking to this event as a pilot project for other similar events, including one we’re developing with some fellow city-building schemers and dreamers that we’re calling OpenCities.

Toronto Transit Camp is an experiment that brings together the BarCamp event format and community principles, the best “Web 2.0” social media and collaboration tools, and applies those methods and tools to a difficult (intractable, if you know TTC history) problem area outside tech.

Transit Camp is about creating space for play. It is about leaving our organizational roles and business cards at the door and entering an open space that has been carved out for play, interaction, meaning-making and collaboration. It is a new way of working, for social goals as well as for market activity. It is about creating abundance from scarcity. It is a stone soup.

BarCamp’s Chris Messina and Tara Hunt are our touchstones for cultivating and nurturing the open communities that support these events. The unconference format without a sustainable community to support and contribute to it is merely a format. The power comes from what I’m calling Open Creative Communities, which are the life-blood of transformative unconference events that link to ongoing work in those communities and ultimately to tangible results on the ground.

We will be documenting Toronto Transit Camp extensively on the open web and will be publishing a case study (Creative Commons licensed, of course) on the event as an example of the power of Open Creative Communities, how they emerge, how they organize themselves and solve problems and how community gardeners can create space for their emergence. We will also find a way to allow other cities to use the domain to host and organize their own Transit Camps. May a thousand flowers bloom.

Please continue to follow the story as it unfolds (tag=transitcamp). We would love for Worldchanging folks to be involved in future work to develop the underlying concept further and share it with the world. Cory Doctorow is in Toronto for a reading on Thursday, so we’ll talk to him about this as well.

Many TorCampers are Worldchangers too, whether we know it or not. 🙂 Please get to know one of Transit Camp’s key sponsors, Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation. It is ground zero for these kinds of ideas in the city, and I’m proud to say it is my future office space.

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It’s Alive!: Toronto Transit Camp for pre-Superbowl geekery

Wow…this is going to be huge fun. Toronto Transit Camp:

An ad-hoc gathering at the Gladstone Hotel of designers, transit geeks, bloggers, visual artists, tech geeks and cultural creators passionate about transit in Toronto and the TTC. It is a platform for Toronto’s talented design community and enthusiastic transit users and fans to demonstrate their creativity and contribute to a better way for Toronto’s transit system. The content and ideas generated in this open unconference will be delivered to the TTC for their consideration in their work.

Toronto Transit Camp

I have been working like a mad man to get this going with my fellow community tricksters: Jay Goldman, David Crow, Bryce Johnson, Eli Singer, Julia Breckenreid, Rannie Turingan, Joey DeVilla, Misha Glouberman, Patrick Dinnen, Madhava Enros, Mark Surman, Michael Glenn, Amber MacArthur. Special mention to the TorCamp Skype chat swarm for being the collective sounding board and reality check.

Read about the history and origins of the event. I found myself in the middle of a storm of multi-threaded, massively parallel organization and collaboration in the past week (you read right, it took 1 week to pull together from our first planning meeting last Sunday at the Gladstone to being open for registration with all the major pieces in place) and now I have a moment to reflect back on what it means.

Reflecting now on TransitCamp’s origins and how quickly and powerfully things came together, even I am shocked at how the social media and online collaborative tools have made this possible. This is truly a new paradigm of collaborative peer production. Something new, fundamentally important and very powerful. This is Wikinomics meets city-building. BarCamp meets the real world.
Think about it:

From web critique and user feedback to design solutions and cultural transformation in 35 days, volunteer time and a tiny budget…

I didn’t do this. There is no organization that did this. No organization can own it. No one will profit directly from it. It emerged from the community, from the community’s collective dream-space and to the community it owes its life.

This is distributed community-based creative production. The event itself will offer more of the same, and I am so excited to discover how the participants will populate the space for play that we’ve carved out in a small corner of Toronto.

If it isn’t fun, it will fail. If people don’t buy into and live the principles, it will fail. Those principles are borrowed from its mother-ship, BarCamp:

  1. We are all equal individuals in open community.
  2. Leadership can emerge from anywhere.
  3. We are all participants.

Register now.

My interest in Transit Camp is in feeding my research on social media, peer production and the open meme. I am looking at TransitCamp as a pilot project of a much bigger and more audacious proposition called OpenCities.

Update: Nobody does an event announcement quite like Accordion Guy, Joey DeVilla – The Prince of TorCamp.

Toronto Transit Camp is a TorCamp Community Project (cm).

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Social Media, Politics and the Nation-State

The BarCamp/TorCamp community is circulating a survey to discover this rapidly emerging global community’s political orientation. The project was inspired by my recent post Search for a 21st Century Ideology. The results so far indicate that these are strongly individualist, socially libertarian people with varying degrees of economic leftiness. Not surprising perhaps for a group of people who come together in ad-hoc unconferences where we are all equal participants and where leadership can emerge from anywhere.

In discussing the above-mentioned survey, Tom and others have commented on its flaws and the “false dichotomies” in its design. One can distrust both multinational corporations to do good in the world and the ability of governments to effectively address economic and social inequality. Which reinforces my question, what is a relevant political ideology for the 21st century?

Rohan makes some connections for us, and points to the book “The Sovereign Individual” which argues on the basis of “mega-politics” (large political shifts due to technological change and its relationship to the logic of violence), that individuals, enabled by information age technologies, will escape the sovereign clutches of the nation-state which will eventually lead to the collapse of the welfare state. I haven’t read these authors before, but the argument resonates with my question, if in a dystopian Children of Men kind of way. (If you’ve seen the film, watch the commentary by Slavoj Zizek on the Children of Men site. If you haven’t, go see it.)

Those of us who live in the social media world online have a certain amount of confidence in the new technologies and embrace them. Meanwhile, many who do not occupy social media space fear what this radical new world represents in terms of a new, frightening, society of millions of chaotic individual voices. Cultural commentators decry the decline of the cultural reference points of quality in this massively participatory new cultural playing field. It represents a loss of power, and in that loss of power, a loss of a certain sense of identity and stability that underpins our society.

In a boiling sea of technologically enabled individuals, neo-tribal confederations may emerge to supplant the nation-state and other social institutions. However, rather than a Mad Max dystopian future, I see hope in this transformation. One of the reasons for my hope is that online communities and social media technologies allow for the expression of our true multidimensional human nature. We don’t belong to one tribe, but to many, both in virtual and physical space. Our loyalties are therefore federated in a neo-tribal sense within the individual. We belong to business networks and markets, cities and communities, social and political causes and movements, families and national and religious affiliations. There are two implications of this:

  1. The knowledge that violence by one tribe of which I am a member may damage another tribe of which I am also a full member changes the calculus of violence
  2. Social media may be the medium of both the expression of these multidimensional identities and the mode of negotiating new social contracts among sovereign individuals.

This is early thinking, but I think it moves forward the discourse on 21st century ideology a bit for me.

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DemoCamp12: World Class Edition


Responding to recent concerns about a general lack of quality in demos and calls for a retooling, David Crow’s announced DemoCamp12. Get on the wiki, go to Upcoming. It’s setting up to be a great one – World Class, all the way.

The new format includes invited demos/discussions by Will Pate on Flock, Mike Beltzner on Firefox and Albert Lai on Bubbleshare. It’s also an opportunity to review a fantastic year of DemoCamp, with the story by Albert and David on the origins of DemoCamp and 2 minute updates from past presenters on what they’re up to now.

I hope the Conceptshare guys come back, I’d like to see the DabbleDB guys again, and I’d love to know what’s up with Bumptop. What’s up with PlanetEye, Nuvvo, Semacode, Ambient Vector, BlogMatrix, Freshbooks, Radiant Core, Idée? For all the concerns about slipping quality standards, looking back overall there is a remarkable collection of talent and ideas and companies in the mix.

Anniversaries are great opportunities for a reset…appreciate what’s come before, reset expectations, look forward to the future. The community is a friendly, open, cooperative and competitive environment which should be continually raising the bar of quality and expectations. There is now an authentic grassroots tech community that didn’t exist a year ago, which has created excitement in the Toronto tech scene that is drawing them in from Sudbury to Vancouver to Silicon Valley.

I’ll be sure to invite our friends at ICT Toronto to come. But I’m not making bets on whether any of them will, having been disappointed by good intentions in the past.

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OMB Decision on Queen West: Spark a Revolution!

Drake, you ho.
I am stunned. Simply stunned.

The Ontario Municipal Board (“OMB”) has again demonstrated the amazing capacity for an unelected and unaccountable body to wreak havoc on community aspirations. Essentially rolling over and siding with condo developers against the local community and the City, this is a terrible decision. The precious jewel that is West Queen West is at risk, and few options are available. Read the Globe, Toronto Star, Torontoist, Spacing, Reading Toronto.

Read the personal stories on 48 Abell’s A Blog for a Building to understand the cultural fabric that currently exists. Check out this “Bohemian Tragedy” for a hint of the area’s faux-boho future. (Who dresses like that?)

noted (1) red eye

It’s not just a matter of a few artists being displaced from cheap studios, it is the character of the entire area that is at risk. Those condo owners will discover that much of the authentic local culture they bought into will have disappeared when they want to sell. It’s a bad investment unless the cultural fabric of the neighbourhood can be protected and nurtured.

I agree with Rob Oullette, this decision may have sown the seeds of the OMB’s demise. He points out an important precedent and parallel: the Greenbelt Plan was a policy response to unaccountable and ineffective OMB decision-making that threatened environmental sustainability. Other jurisdictions have formally adopted the four pillar model of sustainability; ensuring that environmental, social and cultural sustainability dimensions are brought together with the economic pillar in setting development policies across government. If the OMB incorporated these dimensions into its procedures, there is no question that there would have been a different result. Toronto’s future as a creative city depends on its ability to sustain its creative urban ecology.

First of all, I have to give respect to the Active18 group for being so well organized, for being inclusive and not at all reactionary. Active18’s approach all along has been YIMBY (“Yes in My Back Yard”). These are not people that reject intensification and development. But these are people that will live in the area for another generation and who are interested in sustainable development of a precious creative, cultural and economic resource – the vibrant Queen West neighbourhood.

Active18 is a community group that includes professional planners, lawyers, real estate developers, artists, architects some of whom are very experienced in the world of development. And with all that talent and capability, this neighbourhood and the City’s plan were simply ignored. What hope is there for any other community to fulfill its aspirations and pursue its own dreams of its future?

How can the OMB, a quasi-judicial body, an arms-length agency of the provincial government, be made accountable for helping support sustainable communities? How does the OMB reinvent itself for the Creative Age, where cities need to be supported as they reimagine themselves for the future. The Board is appointed by Cabinet, it’s list of members is here. This is a policy question, and a political one as Ontario enters a new political season.

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A Better Way Website for the TTC

Inspired by Rob Oullette of Reading Toronto as well as Torontoist, BlogTO, Spacing and Transit Toronto and their readers, a small group of BarCamp Toronto mavens gathered at the Radiant Core offices to dream a better future for the TTC and it’s website.  Jay Goldman did a fantastic job summarizing myriad comments and ideas into a coherent framework for action.
There is a unique opportunity here for the TTC to embrace the power of mass collaboration and community. I am hoping that it takes advantage of this tremendous goodwill, energy and free advice to make something that is truly remarkable. A new attitude towards community engagement by the TTC could offer a way forward as it navigates its perennially difficult financial bind.

TTC Thinkers

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Enterprise Camp Toronto, unconference edition

Enterprise Camp Toronto was a success. Thanks to Bryce for organizing, and Navantis and Microsoft for sponsoring. For those who have never been to a BarCamp event before, this is what it looks like:

How to Get Users to Use It 1, originally uploaded by chesh2000pro.

Kind of like group therapy for geeks, except much more fun and creative. Thoughts and analysis after the jump…

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Hire Will Pate: your next Web Strategy, Tech Evangelist, Community-Building super-dude

I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Will Pate over the past week as he has received the David Crow and BarCamp royal tour of Toronto’s tech scene. Apparently Will was suitably impressed by the enthusiasm of our little community and the excitement that continues to build around the TorCamp community and more recent developments like the Indoor Playground. It looks like he’s moving here. Mission accomplished., originally uploaded by kk+.

See Jevon’s post for background on the little guy from PEI, Will’s hire me page and his LinkedIn profile (25 recommendations!). Will’s done a lot in his young life, most recently at Flock, and he appears to be part web slinger part energizer bunny. You enter his event horizon, and can easily be swept away by the enthusiasm and genuine warmth of the guy. Rumor is he’ll be in Toronto starting February. Book him now.

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I attended, along with David, Will, Tom, Eli and another Mark (Raheja) , Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics book launch at Rotman. Wikinomics is co-written with New Paradigm colleague Anthony D. Williams. Anthony is clearly much more than a research assistant. He is an accomplished writer, PhD candidate at LSE, and the accompanying Wikinomics wiki chapter and blog have his fingerprints all over them.

Will and David commented on the interesting collision between the mass collaboration theme of the book and the (mostly) invite-only crowd. My former head honcho from State Street (now Thomson Financial) David Toyne was there, as was former Premier and federal Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae:
354512086 372B991Ea7
Bob Rae Loves Wikis” by Will Pate

I am looking forward to participating in the emerging community around this important new book. It links closely to my thoughts around the role of open innovation networks in regional economic development, a theme I will be pursuing this year with some great thinkers. Watch this space.

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