Reflections on NYCCamp 2014

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Chris Sparks
Content Strategy

I dare say I thought rather highly of myself. Walking along the back lawn of the United Nations to the Secretariat building on a cloudy but warmer morning, flanked by developers from my own shop as well as others, it was shaping up to be a beautiful day. My first DrupalCamp outside of Western Mass and first trip to the UN was kind of a big deal.

We walked and joked as my eyes wandered about the East River when suddenly I saw something like a family member I had only heard of but not yet met. There was some vague recognition I couldn’t pin down about this concrete slab with a painted mural. Suddenly I realized that years ago this was part of the Berlin Wall.

The UN itself is a strictly utilitarian affair. There is no opulence, no grandness in design, the feel of the place is more akin to a college campus than an international government instrument. By mid-morning things pick up with the traffic of people going about their business in several distinct languages, rushing with fluttering papers and quick conversations.

The United Nations is a hub for countries to speak and be heard. In the scheme of things it is not unlike the open source community and the Internet itself. To that end, both are mechanisms of democracy. During her keynote address the UN CIO, Atefeh Riazi, spoke with great passion of the overwhelming needs of technological support of several global imperatives including the environment and equality. The two are bound together, of that there is no question. The troubles seems to orbit around access and communication. Atefeh Riazi implored the conference to act on these needs, but also on behalf of our own future.

For those who understood the Cold War as a settled and now purely academic matter there seemed a sense of curiosity about The Wall when we stood before it earlier. A probing exploration. For me and perhaps for others about my age and older the Wall felt a little heavier or roughly the weight of a world on the brink of madness for decades. The Wall is a scar, one worn as a trophy rather than inscribed in epitaph.

The United Nations may wish to more formally invite open solutions to world problems by holding annual awards, directing attention to global imperatives. Clearly identify problems and how the technical community can help. It would be enough to visit and thereafter have an image badge from the UN to place on my shop’s Portfolio page. Such a trophy would go a long way towards substantiating short-term development costs as well as compelling long-term collaboration, even if, truth be told, we all win.

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