I went to the Emerging Tech conference back in 2003 and had an eye opening week. I didn't know it at the time, but there were important people there (well, important to me as it pertains to my job type). I met Clay Shirky in an elevator and contributed to a back channel doc (we used SubEthaEdit I think) during a talk led by Stewart Butterfield. The resulting doc is still out there on the internet and is still interesting.
The other folks I've met fall into two general groups, O'Reilly insiders who seem to be party geeks, and then everyone else. It kind of reminds me of college for some reason. It's no wonder that social software, or social computing is a big deal here this week. Oddly though, I have only seen one technology segment actually show social software in action, and that would be Flash based apps coming out of Macromedia, Laszlo Systems and GNE. The only compiled social app I've seen in use, or show a compelling use is Hydra.
Due to the high percentage of Macintoshes and OSX users, and the ubiquity of wireless around here, the Rendezvous technology has been showcased in practical ways. I've mentioned Hydra before, and I should also mention iChat. Sometimes when you take a look at the amount of people available thru iChat over the Rendezvous bridge, you will see 20 or so people, sometimes none. I've only seen one iChat chat take place since I arrived on Tuesday.
Today's sessions look to be pretty promising with more talks about social software and web services. After that, it's plane trains and automobiles for me.
ETCON session notes.
April 25, 2003 8:19 AM
I've mentioned several times that Hydra was being used during the conference sessions to take notes, and now you can find them here. There's lots of great stuff in there, and Trevor deserves a ton of credit for taking copious notes.
April 25, 2003 5:44 AM
The presentation from the BBC crew was pretty shocking because it shows me how much I am missing in my day to day work when it comes to real users and the emerging applications that (will) serve them (in one way or another).
What I really can't believe is that some people have enough time to actually do research, consider it, plan on working systems around that considered research and execute those plans in an open fashion to deal with inevitable change. Relative to the world I've been living in, it's revolutionary. Being on that end of the relative scale is sad and disappointing. Perhaps I am in the wrong career, or simply on the backside of the curve.
Essentially, their presentation was a powerpoint'd requirements and use cases document built in such a way as to be spoken to in a presentation. Besides the totally simple (but not simplistic) Google presentation, the BBC presentation is the best (visually) of the conference, and the most tangible.
Interestingly, when they mentioned part of their new product/app/social-software would include a Creative commons mechanism, there was applause, and it downed on me... the O'Reilly Emerging Tech conference, and more fundamentally, the O'Reilly social network is a libertarian movement that I haven't been exposed to in my normal life back on the East Coast. when I mentioned in a recent post that their are two groups at this conference, the 'party geeks' and 'everyone else,' I am part of the 'everyone else' group.
It wasn't until lunch today when I met 'the spring Guy' did I hear about Emergent Man (a party last night) which is a seedling idea and event related to Burning Man, but centered around this conference and those who aren't staying at the hotel and are sleeping in someone's back yard. Very California.
I always knew it, but it's more obvious to me now that I'm very east coast.
Confab to Hydra.
April 24, 2003 8:27 AM
It's not too surprising that Hydra has taken over as the groupware app for the conference. Confab takes so damn long to come up, if it does at all, and can be pretty flaky. Hydra has been more reliable and able to track the conversations in a context that is more centered on the presenter (instead of peanut gallery-like BS'ing). The draw back is that no one outside of the local loop can listen in on the conversation, but I imagine the notes will begin leaking out soon.
Shirky on social software.
April 24, 2003 4:12 AM
Clay Shirky's keynote covered the social software landscape by exploring the problem with groups, moderation, integrity and representation in software. One major theme is that the tech and social aspect cannot be uncoupled. One reason I'd suggest is that a reputation system is required for a successful group dynamic (so that trust and assumptions can be leveraged).
Social software is being used at the conference in the form of a Flash based app called confab and more virally thru the use of Hydra. The assumption that the members of the social interactions within the scope of attendance at the conference allows these apps to be used with a strong signal to noise ratio.
Some further reading:
Anyway, Alan Kay's presentation was a smalltalk application that was pretty visceral in terms of building things and getting them to interact. So far, this presentation got the most applause of any session I've attended. The take away is that the immediacy of editing and changing things affords the user more control. That's not a new lesson, but the app they were showing was a good example of an implementation that takes that concept to heart. It's all alpha ware though, and is way more "R" than "D".
Kevin Lynch from Macromedia is next, and is pushing the rich Internet Application (RIA) again, and this time demo'd "Central" which is a new Macromedia product due 'later this year' that will be sort of an application clearing house (and is based on Flash Player 6). You'll be able to develop your RIA and be able to distribute it thru Central and get paid. That's a good thing, and certainly should be a business model for other technologies.
Laszlo wants to help out with that problem, but of course they add in their own problem into the mix, licensing. As far as I can tell, Laszlo's business plan is to make Flash application building easier by letting you avoid the Flash dev environment and use Laszlo's. But of course they have a server you have to run in order to run the client side application. That server will of course cost you some money.
The good/bad news is: grassroots Flash application development and deployment is getting some attention, but they are mutually exclusive. The focus is 'applications' in either case though.
[Here's a list of blogs covering the conference]
Before the keynote.
April 23, 2003 11:22 AM
I took a little walking tour of Santa Clara yesterday after I had settled in to the hotel room. As near as I can tell, this entire area is one big ass tech park, and probably the nicest tech park I've ever seen. The tech parks in NoVa seem like they were built for the explicit purpose of tearing them down when the land becomes valuable enough to sell to a housing developer.
I walked by 3com, Abbot Labs, WebMD (which had only 8 cars in the entire parking lot, at 2pm on a Tuesday) and several other tech companies I recognized. The utter lack of foot traffic and quality of personal transportation (ie, BMW's everywhere) was kind of weird, but to be expected in a big ass tech park.
Meanwhile, I'm here in the main 'sit around and drink coffee and bath in 802.11b radiation' with about 100 other people. In some cases the folks sitting at tables of 10 are talking, at others is silence only broken by keyboard clacking. Time to go to the first keynote by Howard Rheingold.
Rich Internet Applications.
April 23, 2003 8:53 AM
The Macromedia session was pretty interesting for a few reasons. First, they took the term "Rich Internet Application" and hijacked its meaning to strictly mean a Flash based internet applications. Most of the folks in the session have likely worked on web applications they would consider to be rich internet applications, but contained no Flash code whatsoever. But that's not the point. They were showing off their technology and it was at least interesting.
The second interesting point I posed directly I to one of the Macromedia guys. Does deployment of these apps in production environments suffer from any single points of failure? The reason I care is that the environment I work in is based on production systems where stuff can't break. the architecture they described is essentially a three tiered web app with data modeling, business/application logic and presentation layers, all done with Macromedia products (Any DB you want to use, ColdfusionMX, Flash; respectively). The answer to my question... it's all load balanceable.
Now, back up to the presentation layer. The current web page interaction architecture is based on a request then a response. Compiled applications on your computer aren't and interact in real time. Macromedia, along with Laszlo Systems is working on a putch where these Flash based web applications will bring more usable, dynamic and immediate experiences to the folks who need/want to get something done on the web. It's a good vision, if building Flash wasn't such a hassle.
[Meeting note: I met Danny Goodman at this session. That was cool.]
Some of my Keynote "Take Aways"
April 23, 2003 2:35 AM
Here's a few thoughts from the opening keynote...
[I'm sitting on the floor plugged into a wall socket using the free Airport connectivity available in the lobby area. I'd sit on broken glass if I had to.]