Geek Speak: Dave Olson, True North Media House

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      Dave Olson knows the 2010 Winter Olympics will look completely different on the ground than they do on television. So, he wants to use the Internet to share a “street-level view” with the world.

      As the communications wrangler for the True North Media House, Olson is the “ringleader” behind a project that he expects will bring together over 300 bloggers, podcasters, photographers, and artists from all over during the Games. In contrast to the W2 Culture + Media House, a Downtown Eastside facility that will host non-accredited bloggers and journalists covering the Olympics, the True North Media House is billed as a “media collaboration campaign”. “Social reporters” can join the project by signing up for “self-accreditation” and agreeing to publish content under a Creative Commons licence and label it with a common tag.

      Olson, who’s 40 years old, was born in Saskatoon, grew up in Surrey, and now lives in North Vancouver. He covered the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, uploading photos and video of 28 events in 13 days. In January, Olson joined HootSuite as its community director, following stints at MovieSet and Raincity Studios. He’s a contributor to Vancouver Access 2010.

      The Georgia Straight reached Olson on his cellphone at work in Railtown.

      Why was it important for you to organize the True North Media House?

      I think documenting the people’s history of how we see our communities ourselves is critically important to augment the mainstream media’s impressions of Vancouver that they’ll be spreading.

      How is the True North Media House turning out differently than you first envisioned it?

      It attracted more attention than I imagined at the beginning—from all over the world—and it’s become more of a thought-leadership, educational project than a resource centre.

      What form will True North Media House take during the Olympics?

      A series of meet-ups, events, get-togethers, photo walks, field trips to what I like to call internationalize—meaning hanging out and collaborating with international people hanging out and collaborating to make media.

      How would you describe the people who are going to participate in the house?

      People like me and my other colleagues who have organized this project, but from other countries. So, for all of us, there’s social-media doppelgangers from all over the world, and, just like here in Vancouver, we’re all ages and all backgrounds and work in all sorts of different media—photography, writing, audio, and so on. Those kind of people but just coming from, you know, somewhere else.

      What are the main differences between the True North Media House and the Olympic social-media centre at W2?

      Well, I can’t really speak for W2, but I know that they’re focused on community media and they have a physical space, and they’re also hosting the legal-observers program and the BCCLA, where True North Media House is about thought leadership, education, workshops, meet-ups, and so on.

      What kind of stories do you expect people involved in True North Media House to tell during the Games?

      I think hidden Vancouver gems; unique art projects, like the stuff that’s coming through the CODE program—the Cultural Olympiad Digital Edition; hospitality houses and what’s going on there; stories of lesser-known athletes—skiers from Ghana and Nepal, for example; and also shining a light on the civic and community conundrums that we see here in the city; and really tell the stories of the communities outside of the core Olympic area. I’m talking about places, like Squamish and North Van and even Surrey and Prince George, that aren’t getting as much throughout the Olympics. I think Squamish, in particular, is a great example of that.

      What will you personally be doing during the Games?

      I’m a guy with a day job and so I’ll have some flexibility. Pretty much every day, whatever I’m doing, I’m going to be listing it up as an event and inviting people to come along. So, for example, meet up at Gassy Jack’s statue at five o’clock with your True North Media badge and we’re going to a special tour of the police museum or the Vancouver neon exhibit, or we’re going to a live site, or we’re going to the Switzerland hospitality house, and so on. Everything I do, I’m going to be doing it publicly and inviting anyone that wants to come along to come along, and other people are doing the same thing as me. Throughout the day, they’re leading photo walks, they’re doing trips out to here, there, everywhere.

      One of the most valuable things that we’ve done to kind of make this all happen is we put together a huge reporter’s toolkit, which also includes a guideline of cans and can’ts—what you can and cannot do throughout the Olympics—as well as practical tips about blogging and Twittering and how to tag things and how to track trends and stuff like that.

      How do you think Vanoc has treated bloggers and citizen journalists?

      They’ve missed a massive opportunity by not embracing and deputizing it—social-media makers. To compare and contrast that with London and what London and Sochi have done, London and Sochi have both embraced social media, where Vanoc has ignored and just simply missed a huge opportunity, especially in light of Mayor Gregor talking about promoting Vancouver as a creative-industry hub. Vancouver is a creative-industry hub, especially in this new-media field, and by not promoting the social-media activity and companies that are going on here, it’s a massive economic opportunity lost.

      There’s some sort of badge, so it’s an alternative accreditation?

      It’s really to kind of snub our nose at the whole accreditation pecking order. You’ll see during the Olympics everyone has some kind of laminate on. Like, everyone has something dangling from their neck. So, it’s kind of a little bit to say declare yourself to the world, and if you are saying you’re a reporter and you are following these best practices, then your work is of value.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at




      Feb 5, 2010 at 3:49pm

      Nice article Stephen I think Geek Speak should run twice a week. The interviews rock. Thanks

      Stephen Hui

      Feb 8, 2010 at 9:30pm

      Thanks Kemp.

      Dave Olson

      Mar 27, 2010 at 7:16pm

      Belated but big thanks for running my quotes and allowing me to outline the reasons behind the campaign and the goodness we managed to brew up together - cheers!