Giving Balticon a Miss

I remember vividly when I got started in podcasting. I managed to finagle the admission cost and travel expenses out of my then employer to attend Apple’s big developer conference, WWDC, the very year they announced podcast support in iTunes. On the first day, I visited the local Apple store to pick up an audio interface for my laptop, hoping to record my very first audio at that conference. Sadly, thanks to the ignorance of an Apple “genius,” my first recording happened a week or so after I got back.

Live events have been a large part of my experience of podcasting. That has tapered off in recent years but early on I was invited to a lot of interesting conferences, conventions and events due to being a podcaster. One of the earliest was Balticon. I had befriended a few local area podcasters through a now long defunct meetup. One of them got me invited as a participant some eight or so years ago during that early, heady rush. Even as I started scaling back my speaking engagements a while back, I kept going to Balticon. It is local and so was easier on the pocketbook, not to mention including so many of my friends.

The problem is there was a valid reason I scaled back in general. Oddly, the events I got asked to were rarely tech focused. Like Balticon, many of them were science fiction conventions. I happen to like science fiction. I have fond memories of the earliest cons I attended back in college. When trying to find my voice, though, as someone talking about technology, public policy, and society, an SF/F convention is an odd place to find myself. That tension has only grown over the years.

Each of the last three or four years, around this time, I have debated with myself if it made sense to go back to Balticon. Up until this year, I ultimately decided I had the patience, energy and enthusiasm to make the best of it. This year, I don’t think I do any more. Professionally and personally, the past twelve months or so have been trying, to say the least. Many of the reasons I looked forward to Balticon on a personal level have evaporated, or even worse, become reasons not to go.

I honestly don’t know if I’ll go again in the future. It will depend on a lot of things, things I couldn’t even predict right now. If you are going and would like to get together, up to a point, I could probably manage that, since the convention is still local for me. Just message me privately.

Touching Earth

I used to hate travel for work. I’d be stuck in the pressure cooker of modern air travel with people with whom as often as not the only thing I had in common was a job. Can you imagine, long spans of either awkward silence or endlessly rehashing work? For those jobs of the past, the purpose of any given trip was likely to involve some customer glad handing, a chore under the best of circumstances. The destinations were always uniformly nondescript, beige, corporate, even industrial.

The first weeks of the job I took a little over three and a half years ago gave me reason to reconsider. I went to my first conference in several years specifically for work, the Personal Democracy Forum. Many of the talks were life changing, electrifying, provocative. I got to spend time with colleagues with whom I’d only ever interacted online. I had many conversations with a friend who I still see but rarely, our time together as much a function of our respective travel schedules as anything.

Right after that conference, I got to take my very first trip to Europe. Ever. In my life, then almost forty years long.

I spent a week in a reclaimed, run down space in an urban neighborhood in Budapest. A bunch of local makers had made it their home and were hosting another bunch of makers, who travelled from all around the globe. We formed teams and worked during the day on building something, in my team’s case a smart and social door, to present at the end of the week. When we weren’t working, we ate where the working people of the city did, in open air courtyards. We were very lucky to have an almost native guide who helped us form a very authentic impression of the city. We didn’t see any kind of tourist place until the very end of the week, when we walked to the Open University, by the river, for some plenaries.

Unfortunately, after that first year, I made a choice to accept responsibilities I thought the organization needed me to fill at the time. If I encountered an opportunity to travel or to speak, more often than not, I delegated to one of my staff, to give them opportunities to grow professionally and personally. At the time, it didn’t feel like a huge sacrifice. There were tons of other demands on my time dealing with strategy, staffing, budgeting, and managing. I grew in my own way in response to those demands on my abilities and characteristics.

I made a decision recently, to leave my job. I do not yet have something else lined up though I am working almost full time on doing so. My co-workers know of this decision, I was asked to share it just a couple of days after I spoke to my bosses. I have no idea how much more widely it has been communicated and to be honest, two weeks on from my decision, I am not concerned if this is news to the wider world.

A large part of my thinking was that I need to touch earth. I actually didn’t know the origin of this expression and had to look it up, finding it even more apt than I realized. When the man who was to become Buddha was in the midst of his trials before enlightenment, he was set upon by a demon. He touched his hand to the earth, in response the earth roared, causing the demon to back down. There is a gesture, a mudra, that is apparently common in depictions of the Buddha, that demonstrates this act, a renewal of resolve.

For me, it is how the earth is touched as much as it is that renewal. I realized I had been cutting myself off from those things that best charge my resolve–writing, speaking, making, and even travel. Arguably, my intentions were right but I put myself in a position that was untenable in the long run. The more I needed to touch earth, the more it felt like other responsibilities were dragging me away from doing so. In retrospect, my own trial by demon I suppose. Right or wrong I felt that in order to make the opportunity to renew my own resolve I had to introduce a concrete break.

Since my decision, I have written more, coded more, and as a consequence felt a greater resolve than I have felt in a long while. I am also about travel more, definitely in the short term and hopefully more ongoing, for both personal and professional reasons. I have touched earth and am optimistic at my prospects, that the opportunities I am now pursuing will allow me to maintain these very critical connections, for my own well being.

The most promising opportunity on which I am working will allow me to re-connect with the world, in addition to focusing so much more on making and sharing, to once again wear off a little shoe leather touching earth in some of the greatest cities on the planet. I didn’t realize how important that was to me until this chance came along, unrelated to my decision, unrelated to anything other than the voice I have cultivated here, on this site, and through my podcast. However my next steps play out, I am glad of my decision and the renewed resolve I already feel.

TCLP 2009-06-10 Balticon 43: Copyright

This is a feature cast.

In the intro a correction and a reminder about my upcoming 4th anniversary show.

There is no listener feedback this week. There is also no hacker word of the week due to the length of the feature.

The feature this week is the recording of the Copyright panel at Balticon 43. I was joined by Thomas Vincent, a former congressional staffer and known amongst podcasters for his work on the upcoming Parsec Awards for this year.


There are no detailed show notes this week.  You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Schedule for Balticon 43

Here is my detailed schedule for Balticon 43 coming up this Memorial Day weekend from May 22nd to the 25th.

  • Podcasting 101 (50 minutes) – Fri 7pm – Chesapeake
    “What’s it all about, where do I listen? What is this Podcasting thing anyway? If you’ve ever wondered about podcasts, come and get all your questions answered.”
    I am happy to share the benefit of almost four years behind the mic and the mixer to participate in this perennial favorite panel at any convention hosting social media programming.
  • Podcast Hosting – Sat noon – Derby
    “One major requirement for having a podcast is hosting the files somewhere on the Internet. Panelists discuss the different technical and financial merits of hosting solutions from free solutions like Archive.Org, to podcast specific solutions like Liberated Syndication, to do it yourself solutions from generic web hosting providers like I’m Hosted, Blue Host, and Dream Host.”
    I am already working on my notes for this one and have some good detail on alternatives to the commercial services mentioned in the blurb.
  • Peer Media v. Broadcast Media – Sat 4pm – Derby
    “New media, social media, digital media–find out how the model of network based peer production has brought a revolution to all forms of media. Learn how content itself and the acts of creation and sharing are changing in a world with low cost to entry, no central gatekeepers and conversation instead of channel. Blogging and podcasting are the tip of the iceberg, peer media is only limited by the reach of the internet and the imagination of individual creators.”
    I wrote the blurb for this one.  My inspiration here is the peer production model first espoused by Eben Moglen and popularized by Yochai Benkler in his seminal paper, Coase’s Penguin, and expanded up in his follow up book, The Wealth of Networks.  I should have time to finish reading the white paper before this panel and already have many notes to dig into on production and distribution, the more common aspects discussed with a peer model but hopefully we can also get into what I think is a bit under developed for newer peer media, like podcasts, that of filtering for relevence and credibility.
  • Technology: Podcasting’s Rocket Fuel – Sun 3pm – Derby
    “Podcasting and related media are enabled by technology. You don’t need mad hacker skills to use them but to push the envelope of what they can do, it sure helps. Come discuss how podcasting is making technology accessible hence enabling a virtuous circle for creators willing to do a little hacking.”
    If you can’t guess I wrote this panel up, too, well, then you probably aren’t a listener yet.  Can you say, “Hack Your Podcast?”  So much more can be done in terms of content creation, distribution and filtering thanks to technology.  This should be fun to dig into.
  • Copyright and Social Media(50 minutes) – Mon 11am – Salon C
    “Social media hinges on easy sharing of content. It very quickly gets snarled in the laws governing copyright. Come and join in a discussion of what you need to know as a creator or consumer of social media. We’ll dispel common copyright myths, discuss some of the recent developments of particular relevance, and discuss tools, such as the Creative Commons, that help navigate the complexities of copyright laws. If you have specific questions, bring them and our panelists will do their best to answer them or share resources that will help you find the answers.”
    This is the panel I have moderated more than any other at every con within which I have been a participant.  This time out, we’ll have a new round of panelists whose views I am eager to discuss and add to the conversation.
  • After the Recording is Done(50 minutes) – Mon 2pm – Derby
    “What to do after the recording.”
    I am so happy we are including advanced topics like this one this year.  I do a lot, a lot, of production work for the show beyond just recording.  I finally get a chance to part the curtain as well as compare notes with my fellow panelists.  Should be an excellent resource for any podcasters who have made it past their freshman episodes and looking for helping improving their show further.
  • Advanced Digital Recording – Mon 3pm – Derby
    “There are a lot of tutorials, presentations, and classes on how to record a podcast but when it gets to posting and sharing your cast, things seem to get glossed over. There are many components working in concert to make a podcast feed. This session aims to explain what each of those components are and how they function together. Further, we hope to show you how you can save money by picking and choosing what services provide each piece.

    “This session will cover: choosing a hosting provider, choosing blog/podcast software; tagging mp3s; writing show notes; uploading files to a host; posting an episode; feed creation; and finally statistics/tracking.”
    Another advanced discussion which I welcome.  Credit to Chooch of the City of Heroes podcast and Into the Blender for suggesting this one on the schedule and Paul Fischer, our fearless track director for approving and populating it.

I will also no doubt be filling in the gaps volunteering or attending panels on which my friends will be appearing.  I won’t know anything outside my official schedule pretty much until I get there.

If any listeners are going to be there and want to schedule a gathering, let me know.  Meanwhile, back to the grind stone as I have six more panels for which I need to prepare notes.