So I just finished attending my first Reboot - and as many people tried to explain before hand, "it's weird". Not just European Conference weird with completely different crowd, most attendees speaking in a foreign language (their own, or in English which is foreign to them), varying minor variations on "what matters", and of course dealing with wall plug adapters.
No, Reboot is weird in a different way. In attempting to learn if it was more traditional conference, or unconference, the answer was never clear and often just "yes" to the multiple choice question. Now I know why they said that, it actually makes sense. But let me hopefully be slightly more lucid.
What is Reboot?
Reboot asks for anyone to submit topics ahead of time, and these are then chosen both by a committee as well as public voting - so it's a very open system, BarCamp-like, but these talks are then chosen with a speaker and assigned times. So then Reboot becomes more traditional conference with many "stage talks" in a face-forward audience setting. There are some side rooms that will have sessions scheduled that are discussions, but that definitely isn't something to plan on. So the presentations are more traditional.
But then where Reboot was really surprising is the amount of the conference that happens outside of the sessions. This isn't just a "hallway track" discussions - they are full-fledged, conference long sessions working on projects. People are dedicated to building things, gathering together information, creating, ideating, collaborating, advising - all during the conference. I'm quite sure a sizable number of Reboot attendees never go to a 'session' but merely use the venue as a mechanism to gather together many like-minded people who are driven to do something, and leverage the brain-power and thoughts that are coming out of the sessions to act on something bigger.
I love BarCamps - they're discussion-centric, synergistic, and connect people in networks to carry forward and achieve great things in the future. What Reboot does, by comparison, is not wait. Have an idea? Get started on it now. Or at least be very good in capturing the idea, disseminating it widely and getting it moving as quickly as possible.
Now perhaps with a little better, or at least verbose, explanation of what Reboot was like from my perspective - it also makes the name itself more meaningful. The conference is Reboot, not "Reinstall", or "Start-over", or "Redo", just "Reboot". When you Reboot something you retain some measure of the longer-term state it was in; applications are installed, configurations are set, and so forth. But what Rebooting does is to go back to a fresh state, with the long-term memory and skills and infrastructure, and get up and running and back into business.
So the conference is about considering what's around you, what you've built and have, and through the sessions, collaborations, projects, whatever, to take a fresh perspective and jumpstart on moving forward.
The theme, or topic, of Reboot 11 was "Action". Simple, single word: Action. Take action, make something happen. There is a parellel in Tim O'Reilly's "Work on things that matter".
The proposed reasoning behind having Reboot focus on "Action" was that we are in a global economic crisis, there are short-term issues such as disasters, corrupt governments, and long-term problems of environmental quality, health, and education. It was a push for us to work on these issues and figure out how we can help enact change.
However I found through talking with many people that had attended several Reboots that there was "nothing new", or "revolutionary" in many of the topics and that the individual felt they already had a good grasp of what was going on in the space. It was this malais of "amazing things" that made me realize why it's really time to take action - and Bruce Sterling to cast just enough "Gothic Hi-Tech" to make it solidify""
We have the tools, we have the power
The tools we're all using and building with have been in active use for several years now. We have our wikis, blogs, social networks, mobile devices, media devices, connectivity, realtime communications, hardware interfaces, API's, and more. We have all created an amazing toolset that has been used to create many varied, and some quite crazy, applications, worlds, communities, or systems.
And if we have these mature tools, with many choices and the ability to quickly pull them together to accomplish nearly everything - we have to grow up and realize that these are not just toys or hacks nymore. These are the very tools that can, and are already, making the world of the future.
And we, the technologists, designers, thinkers, citizens of the next generation that are now in control. We have grown up with these tools, and in many ways we're already using them to change governments, raise communities, run businesses, and live in our world.
For me, what I took away is to take responsibility and consideration for what I choose to do. Hacks and toys are fun - but as Bruce said, "if it's not beautiful enough to show your friends, and doesn't have a narrative attached to it, throw it away".
Work on things that matter, and make them work by focusing on them like they matter. Your actions will make a difference, and if they don't - you're doing it wrong. Put it down, and move onto something else. Collaborate and work together to achieve great, actionable outcomes. You're an amazing person with many talents, and we can all use amazing people like you. What action are you going to evoke?