TechCamp Reflections

Digital Rights Ireland had its first outing into the public eye courtesy of a presentation at TechCamp last Saturday. I just thought it might be good to post what we learned from the experience, and to give people who were there, or who weren’t but were interested in the topic, a chance to dig a little deeper. That comments button is there for a reason, after all.

Firstly, we think that TechCamp was a very successful venture, so we were glad that our contribution was also seen as positive. (Thanks, of course, due to Piarias and Ed who organised the self-organising event. Because somebody always has to.) TJ McIntyre and Damien Mulley managed to draw people into a conversation, rather than give a lecture, and to reassure them that they wouldn’t be made feel foolish if they said the wrong thing. That may sound easy, but as anyone who’s ever stood up in front of an audience knows- it ain’t.

So, our reflections on the event- we had a capacity crowd for our room, we provoked some discussion and thought, and perhaps by the end we won some people over by the reasonableness of our answers to their doubts or queries.

People were interested. They wanted to know more. They were accepting, in general, of our bona fides. It was a good way to introduce ourselves. Having spoken face-to-face with people, we will already have a decent start of a reputation with them. There has been discussion, all positive so far, of our ideas online. We really couldn’t have asked for a better outcome than that. The further that spreads, the better.

So, what did we learn? Well, even at TechCamp, it was surprising to some of us how low the awareness was about a lot of the issues we discussed. The IRMA iPod position has been in the papers, but there was frank disbelief when we told people about it. The data retention issue showed up as the hottest, in terms of being the most contentious, of our menu of topics. And we expected that. But it is invaluable to be able to test those kinds of presumptions in the real world, with real people, before a full launch.

Just from trying to gauge reactions while Damien and TJ were talking, I thought that the question of matters arriving from Europe left people a little bewildered. I’m afraid we may need to find a good beginner’s guide to the EU’s workings to link to, or write one ourselves if we can’t find it. (There’s a search incentive if ever there was one. If you know of one, please point us in the right direction- Save Our Lawyers!). We need to explain in simple terms why leaving things in the hands of elected governments is not the democratic choice at a European level, if we’re to beat attempts to push matters through on Council of Ministers directions/Pillar 3 stuff. Because people will only take action (writing to their MEPs/TDs) if they can see why it matters.

Some of the people there had lovely stories. Robin of the Geared Up blog who told us about his O2 discoveries struck me as having just the right mix of awareness and divilment to make a good contribution. Eval Oren, the Dutchman who didn’t know it was illegal for him to crack DVDs he’d paid for, to play on his Linux computer, was another. We’d love to hear more from those kinds of people.

Does anyone else have any other ideas about what we learned on Saturday? I think it would be very useful to have that kind of discussion, as it is the best way of making use of our opportunities to speak to people and make sure our message gets through, more clearly and smoothly every time.