Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Highlights from my Morning at PopTech 2008

If the rest of PopTech is anything like the morning of the first day, then I’m not sure my head can handle it. You can follow along live at Poptech.org/live, and track images on Flickr at PopTech08. Finally, follow the PopTech blog, as they liveblog the whole event. Here are my highlights and images from this event so far.

My catapult-driven tinker car

Before I get started on today though, I need to give a quick shout out to Gever Tulley, who helped re-awaken my love of tinkering and creating with my hands. I spent yesterday afternoon bending wire, strapping down chopsticks and creating power with rubber bands. My masterpiece was a catapult-driven car. Best of all, Gever runs the Tinkering School, and he’s a big AfriGadget fan.

Carl Safina and Saul Griffith at PopTech 2008

Saul Griffith started us off with some amazing visuals supporting his studies into energy use by himself over one year. You can join in at his crowdsourcing project of personal energy use at a site called Wattzon. It’s really quite interesting to see the breakdown of energy use by those of us who travel a lot.

Malcom Gladwell at PopTech 2008

Malcolm Gladwell spoke about capital usage by societies – I’ve read both Blink and The Tipping Point, so am also going to buy his new book Outliers when it comes out. Frankly, he’s an amazing speaker and it was just enjoyable listening to him talk. Funnily enough, I got to chat with his mother during the break, which was unexpected.

Language Hotspots

David Harrison is on a mission to save disappearing languages from all over the globe. He’s a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore University, and expressed well the need to save languages as we lose so much human knowledge that cannot simply be translated into a “global language”. Harrison has developed the idea of “language hotspots” – examining where the highest diversity of languages are, where the danger is most and where knowledge that is not widely known exists.

Imogen Heap at PopTech 2008

I actually didn’t know anything about Imogen Heap before I heard her here at PopTech. It was an absolutely fascinating moment for me, as she used technology to start echoing her voice and did a full song with only her voice weaving in and out in a symphony that can only be heard, not explained. Amazing. You can also follow her on Twitter @imogenheap.

It was wonderful to finally meet Rob Katz, who started NextBillion.net – the website that tracks and keeps discussions alive around products and services targeted at the “bottom billion” people in the world. We have big plans of having a good long talk over the next couple days, more after that.

Eric Dawson a PopTech 2008 Fellow

Lastly, a new friend of mine that is also a part of this year’s PopTech 2008 Fellows class, is Eric Dawson. One of the more grounded individuals that I’ve ever met, he exudes peace. This is good, as he runs an organization called Peace Games, focused on ending youth violence. His short talk was well done, asking us to not feed the evil, but the good in ourselves.

Best of all, the bags handed out by PopTech are by Timbuk2, and are excellent bags. However, anyone who wants to can donate their bag to Eric’s Peace Games organization for one of the 40,000 youth taking part in their program.

PopTech 2008 Bag


  1. Amazing.

    Thx for the update! I did follow the Imogen performing via the live stream from the office today.

    How can we attend such an event?

  2. I’m so living vicariously through your tweets and posts.

  3. Ditto Nathaniel’s comment. That catapult driven car may turn out to be your most defining moment at PopTech 🙂 – brilliant!

    On your pending discussion with Rob Katz, there’ a project I’m currently working on that may dovetail with your thoughts in that area. I’m simply giving you notice in advance so that you brace yourself for some conversations I intend to have with you early in the new year. All will be revealed.

  4. @JKE – I think anyone can come to PopTech, provided you pay the fee. I was fortunate enough to come as a Fellow this year because of Ushahidi.

    @AfricanAspects – Maybe I should put a patent out on my new invention? 🙂

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