I've been dreaming about visiting Antarctica for a number of years. At first it was thoughts of completing a visit to each of the 7 continents, then it was wow I've spoken on all of the peopled continents. How can I speak at a conference in Antarctica? Well, as one of the founders of the concept of Sharing the Point the mission of the non profit organization is to reach the ends of the earth, and find those communities and individuals who feel alone and disconnected with the community. Michael Noel, and I did some serious research on how we could not only visit Antarctica, but reach out to the researchers and those on the bases that might benefit from some community outreach. We determined that even if we couldn't get a venue, or wifi, we'd record our sessions and talk to the penguins. No matter what… This was going to happen.
In our research, our best bet of keeping the trip costs to a minimum while having the best exposure was to visit King George Island. The majority of the bases are there. I'd say with the Villa Las Estrellas, Chilean base, Russian Base, Chinese base and Uruguayan base there must be 200-300 people at peak if not more…. Just on King George island. The Villa Las Estrellas (Star Village) and Chinese base are the two largest bases in Antarctica, so staying on the Russian base which is right next to the Star Village was really ideal. The tour program itself would get us over to the Chinese base.
So, with the help of our awesome sponsors who listened and ultimately gave us a chance on realizing our dreams. Mega Special kudos to AvePoint (of the famous DocAve SharePoint 2010 suite of solutions) and FPWeb (SharePoint & Cloud Hosting with flexibility) for helping make these dreams a reality. To me this really shows the commitment and dedication of these special vendors. FPWeb joined us for the first STP (Sharing The Point) tour across Asia where we'd speak in China, Philippines, and Vietnam. Less than a year later, I've seen these communities grow, and relationships that were built based on these visits have made those communities kick start in a huge way. This tour was definitely special, and required even more commitment from our sponsors. It's been great having AvePoint on board. Dan Holme their Chief SharePoint Evangelist joined us on this tour. Mark Miller, of FPWeb also joined us for the tour. He's in a unique position of both understanding what our goals for reaching out to the outer lying community, but also with looking for strategic markets. Each of the cities was a first for each of us in that we had not spoken to these communities. They are a long way from home, but also haven't had much of an opportunity to connect with the rest of the world. So it was really great to see this happen. I had met some of the key players in these southern South America commuties at an event in Costa Rica earlier this year, an event put on by Ricardo Munoz. He definitely has been very important in pulling off this tour. His contacts helped make this happen in a big way.
In preparation for Sharing the Point Antarctica I would bring my two flip cameras so I could capture sessions, Michael brought small bottles of vodka for the Russian researchers, Mark Miller brought NY winter caps, and each of us brought cameras, and other equipment. Ricardo our native Spanish speaker would help us reach out to the Chileans.
In reality we were able to connect one on one with a few of the Russians, find out what was going on in their world and share a little about SharePoint and how it could be useful for them. In my stay in Antarctica I saw at least 5 computers. Each of them was running Windows XP. I did see they did have wifi, wireless connectivity to the internet, and even a small data center or room for storing research data. The most fantastic story was of the Chinese, who have some kind of special satellite connection they've built with an 8GB/Sec pipe to the internet. Our guide proposed that it was the fastest dedicated internet connection on the planet. All of the research, video, webcams, and data collection was being piped through this. I wasn't sure if this was some kind of secret research facility, (of course it was) but the story was nonetheless mind blowing. The Chinese, Koreans, and Chileans are in a bit of a competition lately to see who has the best facility and compete for largest square footage or largest base. The Chileans say they have the most square footage, but the Chinese buildings are definitely the biggest.
Chinese (Secret?) Internet Device 8GB/sec
In addition, we met with the commander of the Chilean base and a few of his cronies. We bought various T-shirts and patches and had a few small chats with them about what they were doing and gave them some background on what we do with SharePoint. As well, would you believe the Chilean Star Village has a post office, a bank, library, and school? Pretty amazing. During our tour, I went into the bank and sure enough I was able to exchange a US $100 for 200,000 Chilean pesos minus 18,000 in exchange fees. We also were able to send post cards from Antarctica.
While visiting the village, we met some Czech researchers who were hitching a ride on a Spanish military vessel. It was fascinating to hear how she as a micro biologist was studying how life would return as the ice melted and glaciers retreated. On this project alone there were all sorts of geologists, and geo physicists and more that would look at how life would appear to come from nothing. Fascinating. I shared a little with her about the power of SharePoint and how it could help in a project like this to not only store the data but in sharing it, collaborating on the various common and disparate data sources, and then allow them to compare notes. She was interested, but it's funny how one thinks they have to be a geek to get the value out of it. I explained that all she really needed was a browser and an intuitive design. Across those of us at the event we did note that there were a few different companies that we knew that had projects going on in Antarctica, but much of the data storage and collaboration was happening off continent. The cloud is definitely in use in Antarctica as well. Storage definitely didn't need to be on site.
The most incredible sessions were with the penguins. On our way to visit them, we all decided we'd spend a little time talking to the Linux crowd. Michael Noel covered infrastructure, Mark covered hosting, Ricardo talked about failures, Dan talked Governance, Paul talked dev, and my session was about Social Intranets, but with this Linux crowd I really focused on some of their pain points around the browser, and how it's gotten some better with 2010.
The Elephant seals got shorter sessions. We had a little argument about service packs, that they won. In my defense I think we have something fairly solid with the December CU, and SP1 was pretty decent as well. Yes, as the seals suggest there has been some rocky times and not so elegant regressions, but it is still getting better.
We'll get the videos uploaded and together so you can get one cohesive place for all of our SharePoint Saturday Antarctica sessions, and I'll add a link here. Thanks for following. I am excited to announce that next year we are planning on Northern South America… Colombia, Venezuela, and Equador. We'll be looking for global and local sponsors and local volunteers.