Reboot Britain – First Stop on Traveling Geeks tour
July 7th, 2009

I knew it would be intense when I said yes to the call to adventure, but if the first day is any indication, the Traveling Geeks tour redefines intense. The day starts with an exercise in cat-herding, with the whole crazy crew piling into three London taxis. Try putting any five of those rather strong individual personalities into an enclosed space and “intense” is the only word for it.

We spend our first day at Reboot Britain, the kind of event I’d love to see in the USA. It was sponsored by NESTA, also the kind of organization I’d love to see on our side of the pond. You can get a sense of what went on by searching our tweets via the #rebootbritain hashtag on Twitter. I was particular nervous because I was scheduled to speak at 6:00. I far prefer to get my talk over at the beginning of the day, so I can relax. The speakers were engaging enough for me to spend all day sitting down, which is not my custom. It was probably the first day in two years that I didn’t take an hour out to walk. I was surprised at the extraordinarily warm response to my talk. It was the first time I had spoken publicly about a subject I’ve grown passionate about – 21st Century Literacies. You know you’ve hit the mark when people are still sitting at the end of the last session of the day. I finished speaking, acknowledged warm applause, sat down — and people kept sitting. So I got back on stage and fielded questions for another 20 minutes. Thank you, London, for making my day!

After Reboot Britain, we were treated to the extraordinary hospitality of the extraordinaryJ.P. Rangaswami and his colleagues at British Telecom, aka BT. I first became acquainted with JP through his blog, Confused of Calcutta. This was not the usual thinking from a highly placed executive at a telecom operator. Not the usual thinking, period. So I started following him on Twitter (@jobsworth) and when I noticed that he was often listening to vintage Grateful Dead tunes, I struck up a correspondence. On one of his visits to San Francisco to visit BT acquisition Ribbit (more about them later), we got better acquainted over dinner. So when he heard the geeks were headed for London, he arranged a mind-boggling capper for our first day – dinner at the top of BT Tower. We were greeted by no less than the CEO of BT, who made some surprising and welcome statements that lead me to suspect that BT might be the kind of un-telecom, un-operator that the world needs to remove the telecom operators’ obstacles to a truly mobile web. We’ll see. Mark my words – just as Xerox PARC changed the world because Bob Taylor was a once in a century people collector, I suspect that BT is going to have a similar impact because of JP. Really. Watch and see.

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