So this thing happened last week, a conference on the direction of internet policy in New Zealand. We spoke of a great many things; from how high-speed fibre backhaul will change the lives of underprivileged people, how the recent GCSB activity in the news affects us, and more.
It’s a great event; everyone was passionate about making the world a better place, driven to realise those goals, wanting to work together and do more.
It ran from July 8th through the 10th, and I have the idea there’ll be another event in 6 months or so, in Christchurch1
It’s all a Blur
These big, wonderful conferences are inspiring and enrapturing, but oh so exhausting. Without copious notes it’s difficult to remember any specifics; even referring to the programme doesn’t bring back enough memories.
I remember impassioned voices, ideas I thought interesting and worth pursuing. I remember disappointment at some of the sessions, irritated that they weren’t as good as I thought they could be.
Most of all I came away with a sense of hope, that people wanted to do better.
One of the sessions, on Anonymity, was frustrating. A massive space combined with low engagement and a seeming antipathy towards people who would choose to be anonymous. The space wasn’t positive, or engaging, and I was disappointed.
As a result, Radical Conferencing was born. Radical Conferencing was a micro-idea that took hold amongst friends and I, as well as a small group of people at NetHui. Taking over a small room during a panel, we had our own session on anonymity and privacy.
It was awesome; people came and engaged, talked about their stories and the threats they face, why they act anonymously. As an exploration of self, to support ones’ oppressed beliefs, to challenge the status quo.
Radical Conferencing gave us the permission within ourselves to say, actually, I’m going to do my own session, on what I want, and it will be right now; a BarCamp, but even more chaotic and spur-of-the-moment.
It was the realisation, for me, that I get the conference I choose to participate in. If I stay silent and don’t push for something better, how can it happen?
The real highlight of NetHui was the third day. First thing in the morning we were presented with a lovely parliamentary panel on the internet and issues as seen by our government. We stood in solidarity against the expansion of GCSB powers, we applauded the voices that resonated with us.
One phrase caught my attention and my interest, sparked my passion. Clare Curran2, MP for the Labour Party, said something like “Why not adopt an MP, and work with them to understand technology issues? Don’t lecture, but inform.”
In the moments after that phrase was uttered, Adopt an MP was born. I grabbed the domain. My friends started scraping data. I built out infrastructure. We developed that day, our passion bursting from us as we shouted YES I WANT TO BE A VOICE.
From Clare I heard that our MPs want to hear from us; from people at NetHui I heard that we want to be heard.
The site’s online, and we’re moving to make it better. It existed at adoptanmp.co.nz(defunct)3, it happened in an afternoon, it started at NetHui, all because we care. Enough to give our effort and time to make something, to get the barriers down for others’ voices to grow louder.
For all of this, NetHui was worth every minute, every second. It was more than people just coming together to talk about technology issues. It was all of us coming together to make a real difference.