aku-aku: v.. To move a tall, flat bottomed object (such as a bookshelf) by swiveling it alternatively on its corners in a "walking" fashion. [After the book by Thor Heyerdahl theorising the statues of Easter Island were moved in this fashion.] source: LangMaker.com. Aku Aku also has another meaning to the islanders: a spiritual guide.
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citizen summit
Posted by dav at 2006 November 12 03:51 PM
File under: Events

Another unconference, this time held at the new Citizen Space office run by Citizen Agency. Citizen Agency is the new project for Chris Messina and Tara Hunt. As I understand it, it is a for-profit venture that gives community and the greater good at least equal footing with the profits themselves. Alternative business structures that give more weight to humanity are of particular interest to me. The description I heard about the venture made me think of one of my inspirations, Semco.

Semco is a Brasilian company that tore down their corporate structure and made everything transparent to their employees. Everything. Employees collaborated on everything from salaries, hiring/firing and office assignments to which products and partnerships to pursue. Everyone. Every employee that needed it was given lessons on how to read the company books. What happened as a result of this commie takeover? Pure capitalism baby. They made record profits, grew in size and quickly had the lowest employee turnover rate in all of Brazil.


Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Citizen Summit was a gathering dedicated to showcasing some citizen-friendly ventures and networking with other like-minded individuals. The opening talk was by Scott Kveton of JanRain on the OpenID system. This one was right up my alley, as OpenID is basically something I'd been idly thinking of building for several years now. It is the underlying technology for TypeKey, which was my inspiration in the first place but I never knew that it was based on an open specification. It is a single sign on system where the user has complete control over their identity and with whom it is shared (as opposed to something like Microsoft Passport where a corporation controls access to your identity and can sell you out at any time). Even better, OpenID has a plugin for Ruby on Rails! As the maintainer of the Login Sugar rails user system plugin, I was somewhat shocked that I didn't already know about this project. In fact just the day before at the Ruby on Rails Camp the topic of user login packages for rails came up and I don't think anyone there knew about OpenID. I'm looking forward to giving this a whirl and then trying to see how I can promote its usage in the RoR community. There are so many relatively small rails based web sites out there, I think it would be a great thing if they banded together to promote a better Intraweb login system.

Tantek of Technorati gave a sort of feel-good recap of how the emergence of independent building blocks has allowed community efforts to spread like wildfire on the Internet lately. If I remember right it basically went something like IRC -> Blogger -> Wiki -> Del.icio.us tags -> Foo Camp -> Bar Camp. It was a fun walk down memory lane for me as I participated in all of those things in their early days.

Dave McClure led a round of Half-Baked which is a really fun game where 4-5 person teams grab two random words, mash them together into a dot-com and then in about 5 minutes come up with a product, revenue model, marketing strategy, logo and tagline. Each team does a pitch to the 'investors' and a winner is chosen. The DonutDivorce.com "Let's Make Divorce a Spectator Sport" team took first place with their reputation-based rss-enabled social-network collaborative quicky divorce site. My team somehow managed to snare second prize with VaporizeGrass.com, an SMS-enabled FlashMob lawn mowing service. All the winners got a copy of Ori Brafman's new book The Starfish and the Spider.

Ori spoke next about his book. The analogy is that if you cut off the head of a spider, the organism dies. If you cut off the head of a starfish (surely you watch Spongebob) then not only does the organism survive but you eventually end up with two whole starfish. Helllllo Al-Qaida. In fact Ori said he got a number of contacts from special ops folk in our government after publishing the book, because it gives them a new vocabulary to use in explaining what they are facing in places like Afghanistan. Of course in the context of this summit, the hope is to apply the resiliency of the starfish organizations to positive collaborative efforts.

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Comments:

Hey Dav, thanks for the write up... we do definitely place community interests on par with sustainability (in Silicon Valley parlance 'profits') and are very choosy about the work we take on.

I'm glad that you were able to attend -- and that you found the OpenID stuff so helpful! I'll pass my post on to Scott -- he'll be thrilled!

Posted by: Chris Messina on November 13, 2006 03:37 PM

Hey dav,

I met you and Mie last night at that Ethiopian place in the Mission - I was the blog groupie.

Anyhoo your site doesn't have a link for your contact info, so thought I'd drop a line here in the comments section - my blog is at http://mateosmusings.blogspot.com/

When I get back from SE Asia, let's make that ma of parking in the city we talked about. Be in touch, bro.

Posted by: mateosf on November 30, 2006 06:19 PM

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