Using A Skateboard To Control Music

Who would think to strap a MIDI controller to a skateboard? Apparently new media artist Simon Morris did with his project Musique Concrete which aims to “explore sound and the urban landscape through the movements on a skateboard.”

The Musical Skateboard Set-up

This is how it works according to the site:

Mounted underneath the skateboard is an interface which transmits data wirelessly to a laptop computer. Physical actions are detected using three sensors connected to the interface. Acceleration, turns and vibration are monitored by a photoresistor, a flex sensor and piezo sensor respectively. Using the MIDI protocol, a software program enables the skateboarder to control and modify real-time sounds directly from the skateboard.

There are a couple of videos showing the set-up in action but the results aren’t really music, more like a cross between a machine gun and a jack-hammer. It is still a cool idea nonetheless.

Rubbing Elbows With Robert Scoble & Gary Vaynerchuk

Robert Scoble (Scobelizer) and Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library TV) were both in the nations capital today which is a good enough cause for the DC tech community to hold a bash! The Capitol Valley Media group managed to pull together a great event at MCCXXIII on Connecticut Avenue. With nearly 500 expected guests, the place was packed with passionate DC technologists and social media gurus. I caught up with a few friends and managed to have a word or two with New Media Jim and Robert Scoble.

New Media Jim and Robert Scoble

Social mixers aren’t really my thing so I ducked out early to catch the metro home to Glenmont. I hope I didn’t miss anything but it was great to see how big the tech community is in DC. 500 people just to see two famous Internet people, wow!

SocialDevCamp East Was All About The Future Of The Web

Picking session topics at SocialDevCamp East

The DC area is exploding with meetups and unconferences. First it was BarCamp DC in August, then PodCampDC at the end of April, and just this past weekend was SocialDevCamp East which took place in Baltimore. The latest unconference had an emphasis on the future of the web and many of the sessions were theory-heavy about topics that are the very bleeding edge of the next-generation Internet.

Mike Subelsky talked about Amazon’s EC2 web service.

The first session I went to was about Amazon’s web services specifically the EC2 service. The discussion, which was led by Mike Subelsky, revealed the possibilities for new products and services thanks to Amazon taking a lot of the cost and hassle of running server hardware out of the equation with their on-demand virtual server solution. System administration is foreign to me but I could see the benefit of Amazon’s web services.

Dr. Harry Chen discusses the Semantic web.

The Social Media and Semantic Web panel was a real thinker. This was the first time really diving into the nitty-gritty of the Semantic web, which will make the future Internet smarter and easier to manage with data being in a well structured, meaningful format. Dr. Harry Chen led the discussion (see his slides) with some valuable contributions from the crowd about where this web trend was heading. This gave me ideas about how U.S.News & World Report could add Semantic data to it’s upcoming data projects.

Bear, from Seesmic, adding to the Semantic web discussion.

Lunch was provided at SocialDevCamp East and consisted of a make-your-own sandwich buffet. It was probably one of the best spreads at any unconference I’ve been to. During lunch I chatted with Patti, the founder of a Baltimore area start-up called The site aims to help you and your friends find interesting local things, starting with Baltimore and eventually branching out to other areas. I also met Bear who is an infrastructure developer at Seesmic. He mentioned Seesmic is embracing the Semantic web by building FOAF and SPARQL into their API’s. They hope to make everything they can as open as possible which is really encouraging for the future of web video communication. He also gave me a Seesmic t-shirt. Nice!

Shashi knows the benefit of social media to companies.

After lunch I went to see what Shashi Bellamkonda from Network Solutions had to say about Selling the Value of Social Web to Management. Shashi is a very web social guy who I first met at PodCampDC. He cited how lots of companies are opening up direct communications with customers like Comcast with their ComcastCares twitter account. His main point was blogs/Facebook/Twitter are not another marketing avenue for companies to fill, but rather a way to expose the personality behind the company.

The final session was an intimate discussion about the popular JavaScript libraries that are out there. In attendance was Amy Hoy who is engaged to Thomas Fuchs the creator of Clearly she had a bias to Prototype but everyone else seemed to be into jQuery.

I had to duck out after the actual conference part was over so I missed the after party. I met a lot of interesting people who share the same passion for technology as me. Each time I go to one of these unconferences I come out with a bunch of ideas and new perspectives. I can’t wait until the next one which will probably be BarCampDC 2 sometime in the summer. And if you missed this one don’t fret as their are plans for another SocialDevCamp East in the fall.

Other SocialDevCamp East Recaps:

PodCampDC 2008

PodCamp DC Opening Keynote

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the very first PodCamp DC. PodCamp is a new media unconference, meaning the participants decide the schedule of events and topics on the day of the conference rather than in advance. There was quite a diverse set of topics ranging from the nuts and bolts of podcasting in Podcasting 101 to an interactive discussion on the future of Social Media and New Journalism. The attendees were just as diverse as the topics from the young techies like myself all the way up to retired grandparents.

One thing that really surprised me was the number of senior citizens at the event. I saw a guy typing away on his Acer laptop running Ubuntu and another lady who looked to be a grandmother wearing a Red Hat Linux baseball cap. I thought the people that attended these things were mostly young computer nerds though I was pleasantly surprised to see people of all gender, color and creed.

Her Flip video camera (atleast that is what I think it is) matched her glasses.
Her Flip video camera (atleast that is what I think it is) matched her glasses.

Probably the most insightful talk of the conference was given by Gretchen Vogelzang of the MommyCast. She talked about how her and a friend turned a simple podcast about motherhood into a six-figure business attracting big name advertisers like Dixie, National Geographic, and Warner Independent films. Gretchen and Paige put a lot of research into their work and it shows with a loyal following that rivals that of a major media property.

Gretchen Vogelzang gave on of the best talks of the conference about how the MommyCast got where it is today.

Gretchen Vogelzang gave on of the best talks of the conference about how the MommyCast got where it is today.

Social Media and New Journalism was a great talk with old media veterans Jim Long (NBC News) and Andy Carvin (NPR) discussing how new media was shaking things up in the traditional news space. They covered the mass propagation of information via Twitter citing the recent Illinois earthquake which quickly spread around the Twitterverse before any traditional news team even had a clue about what was going on.

New tools like Qik let you stream live video over the Internet from your cell phone. While the quality is low there is the ability for people watching the stream to chat and send comments straight to the cell phone creating a new dynamic between producer and consumer. You can see their whole talk which as recorded using Qik below.

Another product mentioned called Utterz lets you call a phone number and leave a voicemail which will be converted and uploaded to the Internet and pushed out as a podcast. Interactive tools like Qik and Utterz make covering an event in near-realtime a possibility.

This dynamic duo talked about how New Media is disrupting journalism. They demoed Qik and Utterz and sparked lots of good ideas from the packed crowd.
This dynamic duo talked about how New Media is disrupting journalism. They demoed Qik and Utterz and sparked lots of good ideas from the packed crowd. See the footage from their talk below.

When lots of geeks get together, a gadget meet-and-greet is sure to happen. I saw a Nokia N810 Internet tablet and Asus Eee PC. Both were small, portable devices for surfing the web in a Wifi-heavy area.

Lots of gadget gawking going on at a geekfest like PodCampDC

Lots of gadget gawking going on at a geekfest like PodCampDC

The rest of the time was about meeting new people and trading ideas. I helped answer a few questions for a guy named Andrew who wanted to run a blog and video podcast all from his Blackberry. Using WordPress and Postie he can accomplish this as he travels around the country. Everyone seemed to be all abuzz about Twitter and I found a few more people to follow although it is getting harder and harder to keep up with all of my followers. I think I will be cutting back some.

Hard Time Hearing
There was so much discussion and exchange of ideas going on.

All in all, PodCamp DC was light on content but heavy on people. I heard a few complaints about the lack of technical podcasting instruction like the New Media Expo of late last year, but that’s what you get with a free, local conference. I know there will be a whole lot more presentations next year! I still had a great time hanging out with fellow web nerds.

You can see the rest of the photos from the day on my Flickr page. And if you want to see all of the pictures from the event just search for the tag ‘podcampdc

If you missed out on this unconference, there is the Social Dev Camp East coming up in 3 weeks. It is on May 10th, 2008, in Baltimore. I’ll be there and if you’ll be there do say hello.

Other PodCamp DC Recaps: