Finding your courage

At Hello Etsy in Berlin a few weeks ago, I gave a talk titled “Finding Your Courage.” It was a different subject than what I’m accustomed to talking about and is probably the most personal talk I’ve given, with little glimpses into my background that I don’t talk about much. I really enjoyed giving it, and I hope those of you who watch like it, too (there’s a baby photo of me in there, as you can see in the photo below).

One of the coolest things about the process of putting the talk together was how the Etsy community helped me along the way by telling their stories in the Etsy forums. The whole process was really satisfying all-around, and I thank the community for their help.

Here’s a link to the video from Livestream (and the slides are here.)

Chad Dickerson, HELLO ETSY Berlin, September 17 & 18, 2011

SXSW and eTech

Big week ahead. I’ll be stopping by eTech for about 24 hours (late Tuesday to late Wednesday — wish I could stay longer), then it’s back to SF for meetings on Thursday, then on to Austin for SXSW (arriving Friday night and heading back early Monday). We’re throwing a little Flickr / Fire Eagle party on Sunday afternoon from 4-8pm at the Iron Cactus — here are the details. See you there!

Pumped about London Hack Day / Dopplr

It’s 2:45am on a Saturday morning and all I can think about is the upcoming London Hack Day we’re doing with the BBC next weekend. I arrive in London on Monday to begin some of the pre-event preparation. I can’t sleep thinking about it. I’m turning 35 soon and I’ve flown many miles and been many places, but I still get excited like a little kid when I travel every time. Add in the fact that each Hack Day I’ve been involved in both inside and outside Yahoo! has blown my mind in a different way and you’ve got a recipe for insomnia of the most wonderful sort.

Alexandra PalaceAnd I’m not sure even I have grasped how amazing the location is. In his post “The Ultimate Party,” Ryan explains just how special the venue is:

The event is at Ally Pally (Alexander Palace), a venue with so much tech and media history it puts whole countries to shame. In 1936 Ally Pally became the headquarters of world’s first regular public ‘high definition’ television service, operated by the BBC.

. . . then quotes from the Wikipedia entry on Alexandra Palace:

The palace continued as the BBC’s main TV transmitting centre for London until 1956, interrupted only by World War II when the transmitter found an alternative use jamming German bombers’ navigation systems (it is said that only 25% of London raids were effective because of these transmissions).

After that it continued to be used for news broadcasts until 1969, and for the Open University until the early 1980s. The antenna mast still stands, and is still used for local analogue television transmission, local commercial radio and DAB broadcasts.

Ryan continues:

How incredible is it that the people working at the forefront of the next revolution/evolution of media and broadcasting will be getting together at such a historic venue.

Anyone working in media and or technology in the UK holds Ally Pally close to their heart – I’ve spoken to BBC engineers who see it as a sort of spiritual home – a mecca of media innovation.

Wow. I can’t wait to get there!

Speaking of travel, I’m on Dopplr now. What does Dopplr do? From the About page:

It lets you share your future travel plans with a group of trusted fellow travellers whom you have chosen. It also reminds you of friends and colleagues who live in the cities you’re planning to visit.

Ping me if you want an invite.

At Mix on Tuesday / Wednesday

I’ll be at Mix in Vegas on Tuesday and Wednesday — drop me an e-mail (chadd – at – if you’d like to meet up.

Every time I go to Vegas, I’m reminded of a passage in Jean Baudrillard‘s America (one of the books I read back when I was preparing for a career as an academic, and one of the books that made me think that wasn’t such a good idea):

. . . what is absurd is also admirable. The skylines lit up at dead of night, the air-conditioning
systems cooling empty hotels in the desert and artificial light in the middle of the day all have something both demented and admirable about them.

I'm not at SXSW, but the Shiners are on me

Yeah, I’m not in Austin this year. Between a speaking commitment here in the Bay Area tomorrow and a wedding-related commitment on Saturday, the schedule just didn’t work. Sigh.

Never fear, though — there are plenty of good folks from Yahoo. Be sure to hook up with the MyBlogLog guys, or the Yahoo! Developer Network team — Kent Brewster, Jason Levitt (who moderated this panel), and Dan Theurer. If you see any of them, tell them I said the Shiner is on me. Or just show up at Yahoo! BarTab and cut out the middleman.

See you in Austin next year!

Conference season: where you'll find me

It’s that time of year, and I’ve got a busy but excellent schedule ahead. If you want to meet up at any of these places, drop me a line! (it’s “chad”, then “”).

YUI First-Year Party
Yahoo! HQ (Sunnyvale, CA)
February 22, 5:30-8:30pm

Browser Wars: Episode II The Attack of the DOMs
Yahoo! HQ (Sunnyvale, CA)
Wednesday, February 28, 6:00 PM

“Dreaming in Code,” Berkeley Cybersalon (Berkeley, CA)
From Sylvia Paull’s mailing list (subscribe here): Scott Rosenberg, a founder of, will moderate a panel discussing the challenges of writing major software programs. Scott just wrote a book called “Dreaming in Code,” which follows the tortuous path of Mitch Kapor’s OSAF (Open Source Applications Foundation) undertaking to write a PIM (personal information manager,) code-named Chandler. On the panel will be Eric Allman, email pioneer and creator of Sendmail software as well as Chief Science Officer of the eponymous company; Chad Dickerson, manager of the Yahoo Developer Network; Lisa Dusseault, Fellow at CommerceNet and a former development manager and standards architect at OSAF; and Jaron Lanier, computer scientist and virtual reality pioneer.
Sunday, March 4, 5-7 PM

Evans Data Developer Relations Conference (Redwood City, CA)
Speaking: “Hacking Developer Relations at Yahoo! Developer Network
March 12, 2:00-2:55pm

March 12-13 (maybe)

eTech (San Diego)
Speaking: “Big Company Hacks at Yahoo!
Wednesday, March 28, 11:45am – 12:15pm

See you on the road. . . . .

Knight New Media Center workshop: future of newspapers

I am absolutely thrilled to have been asked to be a discussion leader at a workshop on Monday put together by the Knight New Media Center at USC (the Knight New Media Center is a partnership of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism). The overall workshop is “Transforming News Organizations for the Digital Future,” and my particular session is “The Next Wave of Technological Change.” (apologies for the lack of links — nothing online to link to yet!)

Twenty top editors and online news leaders from ten different metro newspapers across the country will be there (Denver, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Des Moines, Miami, Newark, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego), along with a host of experts to guide the workshop discussions. The goal of the workshop is to give the editors both innovative and practical ideas for changing the culture and the operational focus of their newsrooms to embrace change in the new media landscape.

NandoLand BBSI started my career working for newspapers, mainly because for as long as I could remember, I really wanted to work at a newspaper. I started out at the News & Observer in Raleigh, NC (where we were the first daily newspaper on the web in July 1994 and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time) and then as the first webmaster at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, where my primary task was taking all of the information flowing to AccessAtlanta, their Prodigy-based service (think banks of QBasic-powered parsers running on DOS machines) and re-routing it to the web (yes, there were Perl scripts involved, and lots of them).

Access AtlantaI officially left the newspaper world in the summer of 1996, but I still have great affection for newspapers and their role as watchdogs. Watching All the President’s Men, the story of Woodward, Bernstein and Watergate, still gives me chills. Back at the News and Observer in Raleigh, I was fortunate to have an inside glimpse of Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism, all driven by savvy work with databases. When I wasn’t learning how to code, one of my occasional tasks was running to state government agencies to pick up 9 track tapes with government data. Reporter Pat Stith tells the story of what they did with some of that data for the series of stories that ultimately won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Though this was eleven years ago now, I think Pat’s data-driven approach with journalism still points the way to the future for newspapers (see Adrian Holovaty’s post about structured data), only now we have RSS, Atom, and other standard data formats that didn’t exist then (along with loads of tools to parse them), we have blogs, we have significant broadband penetration into homes, and database software is a commodity (I get unlimited MySQL databases on my dreamhost account for less than $1/day). Where are the data-crunching citizen journalists, and what could newspapers do to enable them? What if all the raw structured data that newspapers gather was syndicated out to the readers? (some government agencies are already ahead of the game). I’ll have more on those trains of thought after the workshop, I’m sure.

I’m going into this workshop hoping to offer some useful advice, not to deliver the usual Silicon Valley “newspapers are screwed, prepare to be disintermediated” spiel (that’s been done before, many times.) Despite some serious challenges, I think newspapers can have a bright future if they have the courage to make some adjustments. We’re in an era where anyone can play — including newspapers.

I’ll post some thoughts from the workshop sometime next week.

(Screenshots: original News and Observer BBS, NandOLand, along with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Access Atlanta service from Prodigy, both pulled from David Carlson’s Online Timeline. Click to enlarge.)