[etech06] Monday evening keynotes – Dornfest, O’Reilly, Sterling

In a very strange bit of scheduling, Etech’s kickoff keynote talks are from 7:30 – 9:30 on the evening before the bulk of the conference gets going. Rael Dornfest (the program chair) kicks it off – Etech is the radar conference, focused on amplifying the weak signals, seeing what the alpha geeks are up to. … Continue reading “[etech06] Monday evening keynotes – Dornfest, O’Reilly, Sterling”

In a very strange bit of scheduling, Etech’s kickoff keynote talks are from 7:30 – 9:30 on the evening before the bulk of the conference gets going.

Rael Dornfest (the program chair) kicks it off – Etech is the radar conference, focused on amplifying the weak signals, seeing what the alpha geeks are up to. It’s about sniffing out new ideas, identifying the small pieces yet to be loosely joined. It’s about making affordances (like iTunes) out of externalities (the fact that CDs are made of bits that can be extracted).

While Rael is talking about how difficult it is to manage attention, my attention is drawn to the witty banter in the irc back channel irc://irc.freenode.net/#etech

Now Tim O’Reilly takes the stage to give the O’Reilly Radar report (or watching the alpha geeks). The filters for what kind of technologies to pay attention to:

– on track with a long term trend (like networking).
– is disruptive (the Internet)
– uptake is accelerating
– has grassroots support – it’s bottom up. (e.g. not OSI, or RSS vs. enterprise standard web services).
– instpires passion
– has deeper social implications

Web 2.0 – the future belongs to information businesses using the Internet as a platform, harnessing collective intelligence. These businesses acn only exist on the Internet because they’re about connection, and take all of us into the application. The key to competitive advantage in the internet app is the extent to which users add their own data to that which you provide.

Tim shows a slide with the top sites on the Internet with their number of employees, they’re all in the tens of thousands except Craigslist – which has 18.

Tim talks about castingwords.com, that does transcriptions of podcasts, using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk as a back end – on the back channel dotBen posits that “MechTurk is the platform for the virtual digital sweatshop for the 21st century.”

Tim talks about Boxet which integrates user voting and feedback (a la Slashdot) to web spidering. This is “intellgence augmentation” as opposed to “artificial intelligence”.

O’Reilly is now interested in hacking the physical world – that’s what Make magazine is all about. Tim shows a short video of a kid who’s built a voice control for a blender – where the blender will go to a speed where the pitch matches that of the voice. Very funny and cool (it’s from a MIT student, of course).

one of the guys from Zimbra comes up to do a demo of their collaboration suite. They’ve created an integration point called zimlets, which allows developers to integrate not just to the web ui but to the server itself. He shows an example of integration with Asteryx that allows clicking on a phone number in an email message that then instructs a cell phone to call the number. He shows another example of dropping a calendar appointment on an icon that instructs the switch to call all the contacts into a conference bridge.

Tim notes that we have to pay attention to how we do interoperability – well, duh.

Now Cory Doctorow comes up, wearing a utilikilt, to introduce Bruce Sterling. Cory says “Bruce is really a machine for inspiring geeks.”

Bruce opens up by saying that he’s living in Belgrade while tryingto write a novel. Bruce is talking about the Internet of Things – he guesses that it will take about 30 years to emerge. Web 2.0 is a loose grab-bage of concepts, but it has people working on products. In the Internet of Things people are still trying to find the grab-bag tgo put the concepts into – it’s basically a literary endeavor. One good example of freezing the language too early is the term “artificial intelligence”. Even the term “computers” implies too much human characteristic – we should’ve used a term like the French – “oreinateurs” – ordinators. What is ordinating? If we had explored that we might have spent more time exploring the things computers actually turned out to be good at.

Google is like Colossus the Forbin Project in many ways – but it’s not presented as a thinking machine (like MS Bob or Ask Jeeves) – it’s a searching, ranking, and sorting engine. A tech world that talked about ordinators rather than computers probably would’ve produced Google in about 1980 – so language is of some consequence.

– Interactive chips – RFIDs – a tag that you can mark, sort, rank and shuffle.
– Geolocating systems that sort out where you and thing sare.
– Searching out meaning through search engines
– Recycling
– 3d virtual design before objects become physical
– rapid prototyping of objects – fabricating real world things from the interactive design.

Bruce calls an object like that a “spime” because it’s trackable in space and time. Why do we need a new word? Because the old ones get in the way. Spimes begin and end as data – they are virtual objects first and physical objects second. Why would we want to do such a thing? Because of how it would feel – I no longer inventory my possessions inside my own head – it’s done for me. I don’t have to remember where I put things – I just have to ask. This relationship puts me “at ease in materiality” in a new way.

A made up word like spime is a virtual attention pointer – the term might not stick – but it gives us a way to talk about the phenomenon.H Hype is a system call on your attention. The opposite of hype is not truth, but argot.

Bruce talks about a book called Everyware, by Adam Greenfield
– Thought it’s a much nicer word than “ubicomp” – but will it scale, will it last? Is it a word that’s been optimized too soon? It’s a sign of health to be bogged down in internecine definitional struggle – it’s the most fertile literary area – the wetlands of language. There is no permanent victory condition in the language. The words are a signifier of a clash of sensibilities that really need to clash!

Bruce looks at the use of the term Web 2.0 – reading Tim O’Reilly’s long-winded definition and deconstructing it.

Bruce quotes from an interview with Alan Liu, author of The Laws of Cool, to the fact that under the guise of empowering users, Web 2.0 is really a movement to turn power back to the elite technologists. A theory object is a hack for english majors.

If nobody thinks what you’re doing is hype, you’re not being loud enough. If nobody thinks what you’re doing is dangerous, what you’re doing doesn’t have enough potential for change.

“the primordial soup of stale thing-ness”

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