Maker Faire Photos

I spent most of Saturday with my old friend, Scott Loftesness, walking and shooting the grounds of Maker Faire 2010 in San Mateo. We didn’t settle the Canon/Nikon argument, but we did spend most of our time with our respective 70-200mm lenses. Scott’s on his 5D MKII and mine on my D90.

It’s interesting to compare the results in our Flickr sets: Scott’s and mine. Not so much to compare cameras, but rather interpretations. Neither Scott nor I really knew what the other was shooting, and certainly not the composition of one another’s individual shots. Seeing how someone else visualizes the exact same subjects is a great way to critique your own interpretations. A lot of improving one’s photography (for me, at least) is working to get beyond capturing the obvious quick snapshot and instead learning to experiment with position, angle, light, depth-of-field and exposure. Looking at Scott’s photos helps me see ways in which I’m still stuck in the snapshot paradigm.

Taking a Step Back

IT Conversations will be seven years old in three weeks, and as often happens at this time of year I find myself taking a step back from the day-to-day issues surrounding The Conversations Network to try and see the big picture. Where are we and where are we going?

I’ve published the Annual Report and assimilated the results from our annual survey of members as I do every year, but those only address the mostly tactical issues (How well are we doing what we’re already doing?) as opposed to the more strategic ones (What should we be doing?).

This time around I’m going to go through the process more publicly than usual, partly because blogging about it helps me organize my thoughts, but mostly because I want to get input from as many people as possible.

When I started IT Conversations in 2003 virtually no one else was posting free audio recordings of conferences, events and interviews. It was relatively hard to do, so I had to invent many of the tools, processes and even a suitable content-management system for high-volume audio post-production. Over the years this became known as podcasting and hundreds of thousands of people learned how to do it.

Two years ago with help from our Boards of Advisors and Directors I realized that podcasting and video had become so easy and ubiquitous that the needs of the larger community had shifted from “How do you do it?” to “How do you find it?” The discussions that followed led to the creation of, our site for finding and sharing audio and video podcasts.

But while now has metadata for over 640,000 audio and video programs from nearly 7,500 RSS feeds, it hasn’t really caught on in the way that IT Conversations did in those early years. Ask most geeks, and they’ve probably heard of IT Conversations. But aside from our 4,000+ registered members, virtually no on has ever heard of Sure, we haven’t done much to promote it, but neither did we do so for IT Conversations. just isn’t solving a big enough problem for enough people to make it worth our user’s time and effort to tell someone else about it.

Taking stock, what are our assets and our strengths?

  1. We have an excellent team of 35 (active) part-time writers, producers and audio engineers who create IT Conversations, Social Innovation Conversations and CHI Conversations, and good processes for recruiting, training and management.
  2. We have excellent processes and technology for audio post-production, task allocation, content management and automated show assembly.
  3. We have a good metadata directory for audio/video programs and feeds with personal-collection features (
  4. We have an archive of 2,500 of our own programs.
  5. We do this all for less than $35,000 per year.

And weaknesses?

  1. The growth of podcasting (not just ours) is flat.
  2. has a very small user base and in it’s current form isn’t solving any big problems.

Don’t get me wrong. The Conversations Network’s channels are the best podcasts on their topics and is a terrific resource for those who do use it. But I believe we can (and should) do a lot more with what we have.

The Conversations Network is a 501(c)3 non-profit, which implies a mission to benefit the public. So the question to you (staff, listeners, members and readers) is: What should we do next to continue that mission? I’ve got my own ideas, but I want to hear from you first.

Spring Cleaning

What do you do with all your junk? I don’t mean the stuff that’s really worth something. I’m talking about things you’ve accumulated that aren’t individually what it would cost to sell them on eBay and ship them. Things like old cassette players, power adaptors for you-can’t-remember-what, ear buds from long-dead iPods, etc. Like you, I’ve got a bundle of this junk, and I need to get rid of it — to make room for more junk. But I don’t want to just throw it into the garbage and have it end up in a landfill. I’d rather give it to someone else who will throw it into their garbage and have it end up in a landfill.

Is there a website for this or a way to sell it on eBay? I’m happy to photograph and inventory it, but I need to sell it in large tranches — sorta like junk bonds. Got any ideas?

Collecting Glass

In the ’60s and ’70s I was a fairly serious although amateur photographer. Then, for nearly three decades, I just stopped. I was going to write “I don’t know why” but the dates correspond to the years during which I started and ran a software company. I guess I was just too busy working. During those years, my trusty Nikon F gathered dust and any pictures I took were with the point-and-shoot cameras (film and then digital) I bought for my wife.

But in 2008 we started to prepare for a trip to Kenya, and I got back into it. Santa Claus brought me a Nikon D90, so I had ten months to learn how to use it before the Africa trip. I read all I could about the current crop of lenses and ended up renting a few from, an excellent service. In the six months since returning from Kenya, I’ve been taking a lot of pictures, learning more and more about Lightroom 2 and Photoshop and buying more lenses and other gadgets, new and used. The cost of those lenses now dwarfs what Santa spent for that D90 body, but I really like my current collection:

  • Nikkor 18-200m f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR (the upgraded kit lens for the D90)
  • Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D AF (a great portrait and general-purpose lens, which is like a 75mm on a full-frame camera)
  • Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 DC HSM (to cover the wide-angle end of the spectrum)
  • Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR Micro (a terrific 1:1 macro lens, also good for portraits)
  • Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II (cost a bundle, but an amazing lens)

No longer do I have any excuses for not having great photos. Now I’ve got to learn to live up to the quality of the glass.