thank…

Thank you, TEDx Thessaloniki

Last weekend was a milestone for me: I spoke at my first TEDx event. I am a big fan of TED and learned a lot from watching their talks and using them as teaching materials for coaching other speakers. That’s why this was a big thing for me and I want to take this opportunity to thank the organisers and point out just how much out of their way they went to make this a great experience for all involved.

thanks tedx thessaloniki

Hey, come and speak at TEDx!

I got introduced to the TEDx Thessaloniki folk by my friend Amalia Agathou and once contacted and approved, I was amazed just how quickly everything fell into place:

  • There was no confusion as to what was expected of me – a talk of 18 minutes tops, presented from a central computer so I needed to create powerpoint or keynote slides dealing with the overall topic of the event “every end is a beginning”
  • I was asked to deliver my talk as a script and had an editor to review it to make it shorter, snappier or more catered to a “TED” audience
  • My flights and hotel were booked for me and I got my tickets and hotel voucher as email – no issue getting there and no “I am with the conference” when trying to check into the hotel
  • I had a deadline to deliver my slides and then all that was left was waiting for the big day to come.

A different stage

TEDx talks are different to other conferences as they are much more focused on the presenter. They are more performance than talk. Therefore the setup was different than stages I am used to:

  • There were a lot of people in a massive theatre expecting me to say something exciting
  • I had a big red dot to stand and move in with a stage set behind me (lots of white suitcases, some of them with video projection on them)
  • There were three camera men; two with hand-held cameras and one with a boom-mounted camera that swung all around me
  • I had two screens with my slides and a counter telling me the time
  • I was introduced before my talk and had 7 seconds to walk on stage whilst a music was playing and my name shown on the big screens on stage
  • In addition to the presentations, there were also short plays and bands performing on stage

Rehearsals, really?

Suffice to say, I was mortified. This was too cool to be happening and hearing all the other speakers and seeing their backgrounds (the Chief Surgeon of the Red Cross, famous journalists, very influential designers, political activists, the architect who designed the sea-side of the city, famous writers, early seed stage VCs, car designers, photo journalists and many, many more) made me feel rather inadequate with my hotch-potch career putting bytes in order to let people see kittens online.

We had a day of rehearsals before the event and I very much realised that they are not for me. Whilst I had to deliver a script, I never stick to one. I put my slides together to remind me what I want to cover and fill the gaps with whatever comes to me. This makes every talk exciting to me, but also a nightmare for translators (so, a huge SORRY and THANK YOU to whoever had to convert my stream of consciousness into Greek this time).

Talking to an empty room doesn’t work for me – I need audience reactions to perform well. Every speaker had a speaking coach to help them out after the rehearsal. They talked to us what to improve, what to enhance, how to use the stage better and stay in our red dot and so on. My main feedback was to make my jokes more obvious as subtle sarcasm might not get noticed. That’s why I added it thicker during the talk. Suffice to say, my coach was thunderstruck after seeing the difference of my rehearsal and the real thing. I told him I need feedback.

Event organisation and other show facts

All in all I was amazed by how well this event was organised:

  • The hotel was in walking distance along a seaside boulevard to the theatre
  • Food was organised in food trucks outside the building and allowing people to eat it on the lawn whilst having a chat. This avoided long queues.
  • Coffee was available by partnering with a coffee company
  • The speaker travel was covered by partnering with an airline – Aegean
  • The day was organised into four sections with speakers on defined topics with long breaks in between
  • There were Q&A sessions with speakers in breaks (15 minutes each, with a defined overall topic and partnering speakers with the same subject matter but differing viewpoints)
  • All the videos were streamed and will end up on YouTube. They were also shown on screens outside the auditorium for attendees who preferred sitting on sofas and cushions
  • There was an outside afterparty with drinks provided by a drinks company
  • Speaker dinners were at restaurants in walking distance and going long into the night

Attendees

The best thing for me was that the mix of attendees was incredible. I met a few fellow developers, journalists, doctors, teachers, a professional clown, students and train drivers. Whilst TED has a reputation to be elitist, the ticket price of 40 Euro for this event ensured that there was a healthy cross-section and the afterparty blended in nicely with other people hanging out at the beach.

I am humbled and amazed that I pulled that off and I was asked to be part of this. I can’t wait to get my video to see how I did, because right now, it all still seems like a dream.

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MDN Hack Day Tour would like to thank…

Attention UK hackers: MDN Hack Day London takes place this Saturday May 12, at the newest Mozilla Space, on lovely St. Martin’s Lane. Designers, developers, and friends are all invited to register. Hacky goodness guaranteed.

Many Thanks Yous, One Mozilla

It was a whirlwind week and a half for the crew of the Mozilla MDN Hack Day Tour in Latin America. Over the course of 10 days we visited four cities in four countries in the Conosur, the southern part of South America. We met hundreds of developers in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montevideo, Uruguay; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Santiago, Chile. Thanks to everyone who took the time to listen, to talk with us, and make us feel welcome.

Our message was well-received: The Web is the platform and it’s built from open technologies. On this trip, we were eager to introduce some of the new projects Mozilla is working on now to keep the Web open as more of the world goes mobile. As a non-profit committed to promoting openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web, Mozilla works best with inputs and participation from communities everywhere.

Boot to Gecko Demo by Hernan Colmeiro

In South America, we were a small team, carrying passports from Argentina, Canada, Sweden, Venezuela and the U.S. We spoke in a mix of Spanish and English. Personally I wish more of us had spoken Spanish, but because of my own language limitations, I was extra listen to Spanish-speaking presenters at each of our events.

We talked about HTML5 & friends and new Javascript APIs. We introduced exciting new Mozilla open source projects like Boot-to-Gecko (B2G), our open web phone project that’s just getting started; the soon-to-be-launched Mozilla Marketplace for HTML 5 apps (presented by Mozilla Labs’ Shane Caraveo), and Mozilla Persona, a new identity system for the Web (presented in Spanish by Dan Mills).

In Argentina and Uruguay, Telefonica’s Andres Leonardo Martinez Ortiz introduced BlueVia, the developer program and platform from Telefonica, Mozilla partner and MDN Hack Day sponsor. In Buenos Aires, Kevin Dangoor spoke about the developer tools Mozilla is building and Buenos Aires-based add-ons developer and evangelist Hernan Colmeiro spoke about the beauty of add-ons. In Santiago, Chile, Hernan wowed developers with a Boot-to-Gecko demo.

There were dozens and dozens of individuals who helped make our tour a success, including Mozillians I work with every day and people I’d never met till we arrived in their country. The big risk in writing long thank-yous is that I will unintentionally to forget to mention someone essential, so please accept my apology in advance and don’t hesitate to use the comments.

Buenos Aires

We came to Buenos Aires for MozCamp LATAM, Mozilla’s first community gathering held in Latin America, co-hosted by the amazing, multi-national Mozilla Hispano community and their Portuguese-speaking neighbors from Mozilla Brazil.

Mozilla Hispano Community Day

On the Friday before MozCamp we organized a day-long Hack Day for developers from Buenos Aires. Over 150 developers attended a morning of talks and demos, followed by an afternoon of project hacking. After lunch, a lively group gathered around Add-ons developer Jorge Villalobos, while other attendees were riveted by Philikon’s demo of the Boot-2-Gecko phone.

MDN Hack Day would not have succeeded without the outreach, organizational support and hospitality of Felipe Lerena, Guillermo Movia, and Santiago Hollman of the Moz Hispano community. And I’ll add a special shout-out to the Mozcamp LATAM planning committee: Mary Colvig, Chris Hofmann, Santiago Hollmann, Gloria Meneses, Ruben Martin, Reuben Morais, Guillermo Movia, and the unflappable Katherine Naszradi. This couldn’t have happened without your support!

MozCamp Latam

Montevideo

The crew left Buenos Aires on a sunny Monday afternoon, and crossed the Rio de la Plata by Buquebus ferry, arriving in Montevideo at nightfall, after a choppy 3-hour crossing.

The next morning I met up with old friend and colleague Evan Henshaw Plath, and new friends Diego Algorta, Elena Vilar and the Cubox Labs team who’d been helping us organize, promote and host MDN Hack Day in Montevideo. They work together in a classic 1920s home converted to a co-working space in a leafy residential neighborhood. I met our evening’s speakers, along with Frenchman Jean-Paul Massonnier, an awesome designer, who’d created a poster that was pure Mozilla. I drank delicious coffee and chatted with developers in the kitchen overlooking a garden where coders kicked a football around in the sunshine.

MDN Hack Day 2012 - Montevideo Poster

We headed over to Cafe La Diaria. La Diaria is a subscription-based independent newspaper that is now the 2nd most widely read paper in Uruguay. It is run cooperatively and distributed by employees, with a commitment to the highest journalistic standards. Cafe La Diaria is a venue and community space in the old downtown of the city. Here we met our hosts Damian and Antonieta, who cooked up delicious pizza at the break. Cubox’s Nicolas Barrera gave an entertaining and enlightening talk about responsive design, and Fernando Briano, Cuboxer and noted tech blogger served up a presentation on the web as a tool for Social Change.

In addition, there were two lightning talks: On his last night in Montevideo before moving to Berlin, MDN demo contributor and Developer Derby winner Alvaro Mourino (aka Tuxie) stopped by to talk about our Dev Derby and encourage people to participate. Dario Clavijo, a tech blogger and IT professional in Montevideo, spoke passionately about the importance of free and open software. It was his first ever lightning talk and we were honored to hear from him!

Sao Paulo

Robert Nyman, El Sueco, made the trip to Brazil by himself, since the rest of us yanquis were lacking visas. He’s his report:

“The next leg of the tour, helpfully organized by local company Caelum, [was] a Mozilla one-man show from me giving two talks in Sao Paulo:

  • HTML5, the Open Web and what it means to you
  • JavaScript APIs – The web is the platform

In addition to that, local developer Gabriel Oliveira spoke about CSS3, and from what I could understand, he showed some really interesting things!

There were about 40+ attendees this very rainy night in Sao Paulo, and while there weren’t many people, I was really happy to see the nods of approval in the audience during my talk, when I expressed Mozilla’s values and approach to the web and moving forward. After my presentations, we stood around for a long time discussing the web, -webkit prefixes, H.264 support and more. People seemed to be understanding and pragmatic, and I believe there were some really talented people there.

Additionally, I got to spend some time being guided around by local community members Fábio Magnoni and Clauber Stipkovic, who I got to know in person at MozCamp in Buenos Aires, and had interesting discussions!”

Santiago, Chile

Our final Hack Day of the LATAM tour took place in Santiago, Chile on an overcast Saturday evening. We met in a comfortable classroom at the University of Chile’s Escuela de Economía y Negocios. Jano Gonzalez, a Ruby blogger and all around nice guy made the arrangements. His friends Paulina and Rodrigo took some of the team on a tour of the city.

More than 50 attendees came out to hear from us. Pizza Hut (!) delivered pizza during the break. Hernan Colmeiro came out from Buenos Aires to introduce Add-ons and to demo Boot-to-Gecko. And Jonathan Gonzalez, no relation to Jano, introduced the Monkey Project, a fast and scalable web server for Linux.

Monkey Project, presented by Zeus

We had a strong showing of lightning talks: including presentations delivered in English, with slides in Spanish; presentations in Spanish, with slides in English; a compelling pitch by Ricardo about why you should overcome your shyness and get up at events to give talks about the stuff you know; a hilarious parody of a framework that was probably NSFW, but I didn’t understand enough of the Chilean slang so I can’t be sure; and an introduction to Poderopedia, a database that aims to map the relationships between political and financial power in Chile. We also met some entrepreneurs from the Startup Chile accelerator, and on Monday a couple of us had a chance to visit their lively space.

In conclusion

Huge thanks to the rest of the team – everyone was upbeat, professional, collaborative, and more fun than a barrel of monkeys: Shane Caraveo, Hernan Colmeiro, Dan Mills, Robert Nyman, and a special shout-out to Shezmeen Prasad, event organizer extraordinaire, who invited me along. Props also to Jeff Griffiths, who put it all together behind the scenes, from somewhere in Canuckistan. Gracias!

Photo credits: Prima Leon, thunder, and freshelectrons.

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