SXSW Day Two: Tantek Çelik, Creating Building Blocks for Independents

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Tantek Çelik, Chief Technologist at Technorati, is shooting to enable the independents of the world. Building blocks are built by both experts and non-experts to advance the enablement of independents.

  • Blogger did this in new ways. Publishing content on your own site and made extremely easily.
  • Creative Commons is a building block as well, but in legal terms to free up content.
  • Wiki’s enable the independent, because no one needs to manage the edits.
  • IRC allows anyone to download a client and run it without signing up for the service. And it’s coded in a smart, lightweight manner.
  • Tagging has been established to remove the constraints of categories and to tap into an aggregate of perspectives
  • SuperHappyDevHouse was a social building block, where developers could code next to one another (with beer) and get instant feedback.
  • foo camp was Tim O’Reilly’s way to bring people together and allow them to figure out how to spend three days collaborating within an empty program grid, with just whiteboards, power hooks and a wireless network; a completely decentralized social building block.

Tantek created the idea of barcamp out of his experience with foo camp; why not have it on the same day as foo camp? They registered the domain 6 days before the event and reverse engineered the requirements to run it from the foo camp Wiki.

We’re now watching a friggin’ music video barcamp rehash. This should lead to a point (because the video is a bit over the top)… So people around the world jumped on the idea of barcamp. The barcamp Wiki led to replication and building; Building blocks.

The challenge is not only creating building block for ourselves, or friends, or community… but the people who are on the other side of the digital divide. Tantek’s position is that we are the privileged, so how do we provide building blocks for others who are not.

End live-blog (well, pseudo live… the WiFi was down).

Sure… to a degree. This is all good within our sphere of reality. But Wiki’s and tagging and foo camps mean nothing to people stuck in the real; struggling to get by to pay the rent, put food on the table, pay for their children’s education. Tantek’s challenge still applies, but how?

In the Q&A, I asked him how we can apply this concept to the digital divide and people operating outside the context of content creation — people who are stuck in a service based economy. A fair question? Not really, but it opened up the conversation a bit. Tantek feels that creating building blocks saves people time, and time is money and freedom has a cost. Very true, but the question remains.

Disclaimer: This is live blogging; all quotes are paraphrases.