13 November 2017
I use this quote as a reminder to always be on the lookout for ways to expand my horizon, to always strive for something new and to not sit in one place! And also maybe a little bit because I cannot help but quote Bob Dylan; I’d have this quote tattooed but I digress.
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying
And I digress even further. Point being, that if you stop being born then you just stop being. You’ve got to keep the spark alive. Recently, I was given an opportunity to share such a convention with civic tech enthusiasts from all across the globe at the Civic Tech Fest in Taipei, Taiwan.
The CivicTechFest, hosted by Open Culture Foundation, MySociety and WCIT was Asia’s first ever Civic Tech Festival. It had a list of week-long events with the main event being TICTeC@Taipei which was a wonderful and very insightful conference discussing the impacts of civic technology and it once again lived up to everyone’s expectations, which, I might add, were quite high. TICTeC is an annual research conference which brings together researchers, practitioners, and all those with an interest in how technology is changing the way we engage with society.
I reached Taiwan a day before the event started. Since it was my first visit to such an event, I am still unable to find the exact set of adjectives to describe the experience. Fastest immigration process, gracious hosts, beautiful city, sky high buildings, hi tech robots, industry professionals, insightful delegations, appetizing dinners, fancy hello kitty cabs, informative sessions, historic monuments and this is the part where I run out of adjectives. Oh and Squids and Crabs, period. No adjectives needed there.
Below I have listed 5 reasons why you must attend TICTeC:
Reason 1: Future of civic tech
TICTeC has been pushing the envelope to gather civic technologists to share their research and innovations with the global community. Seeing the future of civic technology up on the big stage is exciting, overwhelming and even touching at times. It can also give you a better understanding of what’s to come and inspire you to develop your own ideas.
Reason 2: Learning conundrum
The problem with the web is that we believe that everything is on our fingertips. And maybe it is. But it’s an overwhelming amount of data that we often can’t crack, which in turn keeps us from the best material. Kind of like a Rubik’s cube. You can know all the colours and all the dimensions of the squares, calculations involved and even the 43 quintillion possibilities but you are.going.to.need.help.at.some.point!
At TICTeC, whether you are at the conference listening to the speakers or having a chat with someone over break, you will always be learning something new, always growing, always improving. People often know about certain methods that you haven’t heard about just as yet, which is a given considering the global scale of the event. Techniques that make your processes faster, less prone to costly mistakes, or give you some other sort of edge which just may surprise you. P.s. You may also be of value to others, try to act nonchalant when that happens. You’ve been warned.
Reason 3: Energy of like-minded individuals
There’s nothing like being in a room of like-minded people. Other people who are willing to take time away from their regular schedules to learn something new. Other people who want to “better” themselves. When you sit in an auditorium, you discover that you’re not alone in wanting to improve your skills and bring something back to your office or organization.
That energy is lacking in all online learning channels, regardless of how much chatter there may be around a hashtag. Don’t underestimate the pull of an actual social experience.
Reason 4: Networking
At the conference, it’s entirely possible to have a casual chat with your peers from all over the globe, have a beer with the developer of the Perl 6 (or maybe just stick to pepsi, wink wink) or listen to Hodor’s DJing skills… all at the same time, no less! Networking is a big part of the conference and as an attendee, you have the perfect opportunity to grow your personal and professional network.
Reason 5: Back to home base
One of my favorite things to do is to give back to the community in whatever way I can. Sounds like a cliché but to get a wonderful opportunity to attend a conference and to learn and network is great. But, to truly make it a life improving experience, it has to be brought back and shared with all the interested people who couldn’t attend, but could benefit from my experience. If I can’t bring back grilled Squids for everyone to eat, I can at least warn them!
With all of that being said one last thing, which might not be a part of many participants list, is to have fun. All work and no play can get old fast. Taking an extra day at the beginning or end of the trip to explore or visit friends in the region is also a great way to maximize the investment in travel. Never underestimate the power of a little fun mixed with some interesting people!