Notes from the City of Toronto Web 2.0 Summit

Thanks to Aaron Kim’s referral, I participated on a panel about Generation Y and Government 2.0 at the City of Toronto’s Web 2.0 Summit. I told a couple of stories about characteristics of my generation and opportunities (for everyone!) opened up by Web 2.0, including Clay Shirky’s story about 4-year-olds and televisions (hmm, got the details wrong on that one). During the panel, I learned about the City of Toronto’s push towards citizen-centric views of information with their 311 project, some thoughts on using subscriptions, aggregation and filtering in order to deal with information overload, and concerns about digital divides and lack of access to computers or the Net. I also heard a story about how one company uses the Web 2.0 equivalent of a swear jar – people who send attachments through e-mail get poked about how they can be using more effective tools to collbaorate. =)

What went well?

  • People: I enjoyed getting to meet the organizers, the other panelists, and the audience members. People had interesting stories and questions. I particularly enjoyed Mark Surman’s talk about lessons from open source development that may help cities become more open and participative. =)
  • Webcast: There was a live webcast of the event, and Lan Nguyen told me that more than three hundred people from all over Canada logged in to watch the streaming video. Moderators also took questions from the online audience and brought them into the discussion. This was a terrific idea because it allowed more people to participate. People were interested in simultaneous webcasting for all city sessions, and I think that would be a Good Thing.
  • Twitter backchannel: Towards the end of our panel, I noticed that one of the online comments mentioned the #to20 Twitter backchannel. I pulled out my iPod Touch, keyed in the wireless user name and password the organizers gave me, and navigated to the #to20 search page. After I scanned through the previous discussions, I started bringing ideas from the backchannel into our panel conversation. People’s tweets reminded me of interesting points to bring up. I’m really glad I had access to the Twitter backchannel without doing something as awkward as bringing out a laptop, and that I could get to know different aspects of the people I’d just met in person. Good stuff! I’ll be relying on Twitter to keep me up to date tomorrow, as I won’t be able to attend in person and rumor has it that the live webcast requires Internet Explorer.
  • Experience: I’m usually anxious before panels and presentations like this because I don’t feel at all like an expert. Who am I to talk about Web 2.0, or Generation Y, or something like that? I make up for it by reading a _lot_ about the topic, collecting stories, and talking to a lot of people about the topic. This time, I was even more anxious because I’m not a citizen of Canada, I didn’t grow up in Toronto, and I don’t know much about the way the Canadian political system works. But the pre-event call reassured me that they’d be okay with my newcomer perspective, and during the panel, it turned out that I had plenty to share: stories from other organizations and people, ideas I’ve written and spoken about, experiences I’ve reflected on… It all worked out well, and I’m glad I got to share some of what I’d learned. =)
  • What would make this even better?

  • Focus: A development issue pulled my attention away during the last panel session, which was a pity because it seemed like an interesting one.
  • Planning: I really should get into the habit of asking for the registration list or even just looking speakers up so that I can have richer face-to-face conversations with them. Names alone are hard to search for. The next time I help organize a conference, I think I’ll ask everyone for blog addresses, Web addresses, profile links, or a short self-introduction… Hey, maybe I’ll do that for my tea party! =)
  • Linking: Should’ve found the webcast URL before the event and posted it on my blog, so that more people could tune in! I’ll keep an eye out for recordings. =)

Lots of people to follow up with, lots of conversations to continue…

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  • http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

    That Shirky essay is so inspiring, I keep coming back to it and am really excited to read his book.

    It was great following your comments on Twitter today, I got to participate a bit without being there :)

    -Leigh

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  • http://www.fitc.ca Rick Mason

    Your panel was great Sacha. Yourself and others from Toronto’s tech community certainly had the most useful insights to offer to this summit yesterday.

    The live video stream is done with Windows Media, so you don’t need IE but you do need Windows Media (or something capable of playing WM streams). I’ve got it opened up in Chrome right now.

    Definitely inspiring to see our city is aware of and considering how it can use the latest in web technology to better connect with it’s citizens.