Without question, this year’s Students for Free Culture conference at New York University was an exceptional experience. So interesting to hear about fashion copyright, problems of textbook access in Brazil and who really let the dogs out. I enjoyed the lively panel discussion and the convenient backchannel for the audience.
But the best was meeting all the great people. Getting to know projects that are being worked on, initiatives driven forward in an effort to spread free culture and how everyone does their little big things which are all insanely awesome:
- Grinnell’s Free Network Movement builds a wireless mesh network
- Rich shares your notes & unionizes Android developers
- Alaric starts a SFC chapter at the University of Oklahoma
- Nicholas makes law more understandable
- Scott and Liz power activism
- Danny advocates free software & builds igloos
- Asheesh, Nelson & Parker support free software development
- John visualizes music
- And everyone I forgot does something even more amazing!
In fact, the unconference day turned out to be my most favorite part. It was my first one so I didn’t really know how it would be organized (or unorganized for that matter). The discussion rounds were really refreshing in the broad spectrum of views from people who know their stuff but also from newcomers interested in the topic. The lightning talks gave quick insight into aforementioned projects and much more. That definitely inspired me to do something similar for the chapter I will be starting next month at Stuttgart Media University in Germany. If you’re in the neighborhood, let me know!
Also, all the great feedback regarding the collection of free web services greatly motivated me to improve upon it. I got loads of suggestions and input to clarify my mission statement, set a structure and make everything more understandable. It wouldn’t be possible without the outstanding projects in the first place!
A major point I got from the conference was how important the interplay of usage and service quality is for web services, especially when we as a free culture activist group utilize them. On one hand, proprietary web services are used by more people, which makes them important for outreach. On the other hand, there should always be a similar free platform to provide that service for those not comfortable with non-free software. We advocate what we use, if we want it or not – we need to select carefully and go the extra mile to lead by example. With more users come more developers, and with a better platform come more users. You are welcome to comment on that or continue this discussion on the mailing list.
By the way: Dan, Rafi and Ilya (no Maxwell) of Diaspora, the decentralized social network, were also there and gave a presentation on it. You should totally get an account for it at diasp.org or geraspora.de – you’re in for some pictures I took of New York City and the conference! (I found that you can actually also view them without an account. You should still get one though.)
Lastly, a big thanks to Adi, Aditi, Parker, Kevin & Andrea from the board as well as the sponsors who generously made it possible for me to get there! And of course Parker, who made me aware of SFC and the conference in the first place. I am excited for a hopefully upcoming free culture conference in Europe and will gladly help out with that.
As for closing words, Isaac of the Free Network Movement really put it best:
»The people I met this weekend will be my peers and colleagues for a lifetime. I cannot adequately express the degree to which this thought excites me.«