Portrait of Edd Dumbill, taken by Giles Turnbull

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What I make

expectnation
a conference management web application


XTech Conference
a European web technology conference

Tolling the bell for the gatekeepers

The current gatekeepers of the web and computing industry include publications such as TechCrunch and TechMeme.

I barely ever read these, and here's why. They only tell me things about the big boys, mostly when money is involved. It hardly matters to me who VCs are investing in, what advertising strategy Facebook is pursuing, or the fact yet another social network for cats has been launched.

That's not what I'm in technology for: I want to hear about genuine advance, discovery, code I can read, services I can use, new applications of research. And I want to share with and learn from others in the same ecosphere.

Unfortunately, the gatekeepers can have a stifling, negative effect on the industry and community. Our thinking has become dull, and our attitude one of sniping. (I have a deep urge to rant about various small-minded inaccurate stories I've seen of late. But if you're getting my point, I needn't bother. And if you're not, well, it won't help)

The competition for cash — directly connected to TechCrunch exposure — is odious. I'm not prepared to even start doing the self-prostitution it takes to get into that echo chamber of A-list tech people. By far and away the most interesting and inspiring people I've encountered on the web recently haven't registered at all on the valley meme-o-meter.

It's time for another cycle to start

These things do come in cycles, of course. TC and TechMeme are themselves usurpers of a previous generation of media gatekeepers, and they in turn will be overtaken.

In the space between the installation of gatekeepers it's a great time for innovation, rich discussions, and changing people's minds. When I read tech news, I want to be inspired to build, create and cheer about it.

There was a children's TV programme while I was growing up called "Why don't you?", entitled in full "Why don't you just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead?" I want to read stuff like that.

Some of the places I've been finding worthwhile news recently include:

FriendFeed — essentially a "lifestream aggregator", it's the commenting feature in FriendFeed that has allowed it to become a useful means of gathering news and information. It systematizes the way I've discovered tech news for the last ten years, through a network of individuals whom you are interested in. Additionally FriendFeed presents the opportunity for engaging debate that feels a lot more alive than blog comments (I wonder if this isn't due in part to the neutrality of the venue.)

TechJunk — a new tech news aggregator created by Dave Winer, with the intent of enabling discovery of smaller interesting technical news items, not just what the behemoths and well-connected are doing.

@timoreilly on Twitter — Tim's always been a discoverer and amplifier of important and interesting trends, and what he does on Twitter is a microcosm of what he does for his day job.

It's about the people

One of the things all those sources I just mentioned have in common is people. The kind of people who — whether you agree with them or not — don't get bound up by gatekeepers.

I've always believed that the best publications are those with the best editors. I've never cared for the "daily me" style of personalized news, because I want to learn things outside of my own scope, and neither for the Digg style of populism, because all too often it's folly, not wisdom, one finds in crowds.

In the spirit of this, I'd love to hear where others go for incisive, non-mainstream, news. Let me know in the comments.

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