Thoughts on NetHui 2012

NetHui 2012 was one of the liveliest and most engaging conferences I’ve ever attended.

NetHui is supposed to be a space for people of different backgrounds to come together and discuss  Internet issues in New Zealand.  Plenty of IT movers and shakers were there, along with lawyers, Creative Commons representatives, teachers, health care professionals, and many librarians. As a resident of New Zealand engaged in technical delivery of information, I felt right at home. Interestingly, while there were many web content creators, I didn’t meet any other professional technical writers.

Politics was potent, with international law, open government, and Internet freedom discussed by MPs. For many attendees, like those librarians and teachers, a major topic was the lack of quality internet access throughout NZ. The Accessibility afternoon resonated throughout the conference, and Potaua Biasiny-Tule/@digitalmaori‘s Digital Inclusion talk introduction, delivered with warm wit, was a crowd favorite.

I’m often asked, “What is the point of Twitter?” At NetHui, it was a way for attendees to talk about the conference while attending it. If you could pay attention to two things at once, this was fascinating – some sessions even had Twitter comments projected. NetHui’s Twitter comments are here. A series of events around one of these Twitter comments led to the conference’s most immediate follow on: Judge Harvey, keynote speaker, has stepped down as the judge in the Kim Dotcom case. A contributing Tweeter speaks out here. It’s a disappointing turn of events: Harvey’s keynote talks were calm and balanced, and I didn’t perceive any anti-Americanism on his part, beyond acknowledgement of the political issues.

Lastly, InternetNZ, the organisation, has only 195 members, when the 500+ seats at the conference were fully booked and events were wait listed. They’re good at getting funding and sponsorship but nothing helps a professional organisation like actual members. Membership is a mere $21, and that gets you involved.

NetHui 2013 will take place in Wellington. Who knows who the keynote speakers will be next time?

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