My Projects and Action Items from Balticon

I walked away from Balticon in May with a list of things to do. I had three primary ideas/ action items. I’ll lay them out as ideas. Anyone that wants to take these ideas and run with them, go for it. I’d much rather see them exist in the world than be a Dave ™ branded project that never happens.

1) Push the Creative Commons licensing of science fiction conventions events.

I’d like to see every discussion panel at the least be Creative Commons licensed , something like BY/NC/SA type. At Balticon, there were sessions getting recorded but it wasn’t every single one. It was pretty ad hoc. Thomas Gideon recorded and published one session we were on, but that wasn’t universal. There are panels I missed that I’d like to be able to hear. If the con can’t do it, I’d love to have an audience recording at the very least.

The discussions surrounding these are just stultifying. I went through it in 2006 when I recorded panels I was on at Orycon and I really got sick of negotiating with the panelists and crowd every single time. It’s a public event on the record in front of an audience. Make it CC licensed and let anyone do anything they want up to the limits of that license. Maybe authors doing readings would push back, as would filkers doing concerts and such. Let’s start somewhere and make every panel CC, please and we can work out the details of other forms of events later. Science Fiction cons with a heavy nerd liberty focus should take the lead on this and go for it.

2) Create an outreach program from podcasters to working published writers

This is actually happening now, taking the form of a panel at Dragon*Con. I hope it goes further and maybe becomes more formalized into things like workshops at the Nebula weekend or bigger SF cons, etc. Balticon had a big new media track and a big SF/fantasy literature track with a tiny amount of overlap between the two. It’s my belief that the two groups have an enormous amount to offer each other. The fiction podcasters have a tookit and new modes of interaction with ones work and ones audience to bear. Published working writers have access to the ways one can actually make money by writing. I’m sure that both groups would be stronger for interacting more and teaching each other what they know. I’d love to see higher professional standards in podcast fiction and more empowerment and ownership of the relationship with ones fans from the published writers.

For those who want to participate and shop up at this panel, I’ve created a Facebook event and am trying to turn the wall for that event into a psudeo-community to discuss the panel and the ideas behind it. Feel free to spread it around, particularly into communities of writers who might be attending Dragon*Con. I’m trying my damnedest to be of service to the writing community, so having writers participate is pretty much the minimum to make this work.

3) Digital Divide Bridging Widget

This came out of a conversation with Emil Volchek and is the one I cannot possibly do myself. I want to create a device that one can put in urban areas to bridge the digitial divide. The idea is that you have a box with an ethernet port, a wifi card and a low power FM transmitter. There would exist a basic web service that would allow one to configure and manage this device, which would have a unique account and periodically check in with the service. On the box would be a minimal podcatcher and a minimal MP3 player. The box would get files down, and play them out via the low power FM transmitter.

You can get fancier with this, like allowing for certain shows played at certain times, restreaming of other feeds when there isn’t already a scheduled show playing, playing the X newest files in a rotation, etc. In essence, this would be taking the power of podcasting and putting it back out in a low tech manner accessible to those without computers, without internet and without MP3 players. Practically everyone has access to an AM/FM radio of some form or another.

Imagine downtown in some city with municipal wifi. With a power source and a little height, you are done. With a little bit of management, you have a neighborhood FM station. Assuming that you have at least one person connected enough to manage the device, they could also do a local interest podcast and subscribe to their own show and rebroadcast it over the FM. It takes a lot of the power we talk about for the infotopia and puts it where it matters, to the people whose lives might be affected by this. It also allows for a counterbalance to the Clear Channelization of radio. As stations were bought up and homogenized, the amount of local relevance on the radio diminished. By doing this, you can create hyperlocal radio and push it out to your neighborhood. Rock on!

I don’t know what such a beast would cost, but I’d think with an Arduino and some off the shelf components, it could be in the low hundreds. Assume that the transmitter doesn’t need to reach more than say a 1 mile radius or even smaller and it might be feasible to do. Any hardware hackers out there who want to tackle this project?

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.