Op 20 november a.s. vanaf 20:00 vindt de derde Nederlandstalige Obsidian meet-up plaats! Dit keer geïnitieerd door @CABenstein in het Nederlandstalige kanaal op de Obsidian Discord. Je kunt je aanmelden op Eventbrite, of anders laat even van je horen op Discord.

Tijdens de sessie is er alle tijd om tips en tricks uit te wisselen over het werken met Obsidian. Zelf ben ik altijd erg geïnteresseerd hoe het persoonlijk kennismanagementproces (pkm posts op dit blog) van mensen is georganiseerd, en hoe ze dat in hun tools vormgeven. Over de eerste meet-up schreef ik een impressie, en dat deden Wouter en Frank ook.

Schuif aan!

Today left me wondering if conference backchannels are still a thing and whether organisers need to start organising/designing backchannels to make it useful (again).

I was at the FOSS4GNL conference today, the first large scale event I went to since the Dutch start of the Situation mid March 2020. Or largish event, because there were about 60% of the usual amount of people, with some staying away because they felt uncomfortable in groups, or because of not wanting to submit themselves to QR code scans to verify vaccination or testing status, and a presenter testing positive the day before.

In the run-up I added the conference # to my Tweetdeck columns and mobile Twitter app. Yesterday was a workshop day, and today a conference day, and the 101 participants posted all of 45 tweets during the event. That works out to about .4 tweets per participant and 2 to 3 tweets per tweeting participant. Back in the day ™, aka 2006, I remember how Twitter started replacing IRC as a conference backchannel of the more geeky conferences I went to. A decade later, when visiting the global conference of the Dutch local one I visited today, FOSS4G global in 2016, I was happily surprised to see IRC even used as backchannel.

This time around there’s wasn’t much of a backchannel, not publicly on Twitter, but also not in some other channel. The conference organisers had used a Telegram group for their preparatory work, and beforehand suggested participants to use that as well. That didn’t pan out I think. I don’t use Telegram and wouldn’t install it for a conference either. The organising membership organisations OSGEO.nl and the QGIS-NL user group themselves use a Matrix channel, which I think would have been a much better suggestion as at least community members are familiar with it, and it allows a variety of clients to tap into it.

To me backchannels, and I’m spoilt ’cause Reboot (again: back in the day ™), allow one to be in one track of the conference and follow along with the sessions in other tracks to get the salient bits or know when something out of the ordinary happens because one of the rooms ‘explodes’. This works very well, up to the point where I may well think I remember noteworthy conference sessions, while in reality I wasn’t in the room where myths originated but followed along from the next conference room on IRC.

I dislike conferences where members in the audience are just that, and don’t behave like participants. Backchannels allow you to build connections with others based on content or wit during sessions, not relegating it only to random encounters over coffee or lunch (which is also useful). In events like today where it is primarily a community meeting, that is even more true despite everyone being in a more known environment: I’m a lurker/boundary spanner in the Dutch FOSS4G community, have visited/spoken at their events, have organised related events, but am nowhere near the core of community members, yet I knew some 1 in 10 today and a similar number of ‘colleagues of’, including the international participants.

Twitter definitely isn’t the ‘great equalizer’ of backchannels as it has been for a decade or so any more. In the past few years I saw how the use of Twitter as backchannel diminished already, now at the first event I visit after All This it stands out once more. I don’t see something else naturally taking its place either.

In short I miss well-functioning backchannels. Do others miss them, or never knew to miss them?
If you (like I am at times) are an event organiser, is it necessary to plan ahead for a ‘back-channel experience‘ taking into account accessibility, avoiding silo’s and tracking, with which to add to what it is like to attend your event? Or will the idea of a back-channel be let go entirely, reducing all of us to more singular members of an audience?

Yesterday I had a conversation with Andy Sylvester about the tools I use for my personal process for taking in information, learning and working. He posted our conversation today, as episode 8 in his ‘thinking about tools for thought‘ podcast series. In the ‘show notes’ he links to my series on how I use Obsidian that I wrote a year ago. This is still a good overview of how I use mark down files for pkm and work, even if some details have changed in the year since I wrote it. I also mentioned Respec, which is how I directly publish a client website on a series of EU laws from my notes through GitHub. And not in Andy’s show notes but definitely worth a mention is Eastgate’s Tinderbox.

In reply to A Triumph for Blogging by Wouter Groeneveld

I recognise what you write very much. Blogging for me is about having distributed conversations, and starting my blog all those years ago caused a sort of Cambrian explosion in the interaction I had around the world, which led to conferences, meet-ups, shifting interests, Reboot, and my wife’s and my spread out circle of friends, unconferences for our birthdays, and ultimately also to the type of work I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. It’s not that it automatically happened or followed from blogging, but blogging has turned out to be the loom with which a lot of the fabric of my life has been (inter)woven. Thank you for expressing how that worked similarly for you the past years, and happy to hear my blog played a role in that.

Since taking blogging a bit more serious a few years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some truly wonderful people. This is a short ode to blogging….

Wouter Groeneveld

Early last year I wrote about how I don’t track you here, but others might. Third party sites whose content I re-use here by embedding them have the ability to track you to a certain extent. Earlier I already stopped using Slideshare and Scribd completely as a consequence, self-hosting my slide decks from now on.

For photos and videos the story is slightly different. Where it’s not essential that a video can be viewed inside my posting, I simply link to it with a screenshot, thus avoiding that YouTube or Vimeo tracks you on my page. In other cases I still embed the video.

For images I have been using Flickr since 2005. Back then uploading images to my hosting account quickly depleted the available storage space, and Flickr always was a good way to avoid that. I have and am a paying customer of Flickr, even through the years it was also available for free. Flickr is my online third place storage of images (now over 26k), as well as the place where I share those images for others to freely re-use (under Creative Commons licenses).

Embedding my Flickr photos here provides them with the opportunity to track views to the embedded images. The 2005 scarcity in storage space on my web host package is no longer a concern, whereas reducing readers’ exposure to tracking in whatever shape has become more important.

So from the start of the summer vacation I have stopped using Flickr embeds, and all images are and will be hosted on my webserver. The images do link to their counterparts on Flickr. In the case of my own images to point to re-usable versions of the photo, and the rest of my images. In the case of other people’s images I re-use to point to the source and its author. As before I will keep using Flickr to store and share photos.

Over the almost two decades of blogging I’ve embedded hundreds of images from Flickr, and I haven’t replaced those yet. Over time I will. It will become part of my daily routine of checking old postings made on the same day as today.

It makes ‘I don’t track you (but others here might)’ tilt some more towards ‘I don’t track you’ period.

Favorited Postcards from Italy by Rory Ou.

I love this story about the Italian postal service, chiming with my own experience with them over the years, and especially how the author takes it as the reason for naming her blog Poste Italiane. Added to the feed reader.

Accepting the uncertainty of the Poste Italiane, and sending my postcards anyway: that’s the essential spirit of this blog.

Rory Ou