[etech06] Final etech thoughts

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I cut out from Etech before it ended, to get back to Seattle in time to see my son in a skit at his school tonight (gotta set some priorities, after all).

Some thoughts on themes that permeated throughout the conference:

Open APIs – Online apps are opening up web service APIs to the world, allowing people to create new combinations of services in creative ways. These are almost all web service APIs, some easier to use than others. This is being done by both the big guys (Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft) and the startups (Technorati, Ning, EVDB). As the Yahoo t-shirt and sticker said – “Mashup or Shutup”,

AJAX interfaces – Ajax has arrived big-time. Offering more immediate feedback by allowing changes in web apps without round-trips to servers is a very powerful technology that resonates with users. Client-side Javascript is the engine that powers this, and has gathered a large following in this community as a very powerful language in its own right, because of its dynamic (lisp-like) properties.

Syndication is happening – while the question “Is the content in your aggregator more important than the content in your email inbox?” wasn’t answered affirmatively by the majority in the crowd, the mere fact that it was being asked is indicative of the amount of information exchange happening via RSS and Atom. Between this and the open APIs for mashups, we need to adjust to a reality where we’re not in control of the context in which people see our content.

Learning from gaming – We can now think about taking what makes games compelling to so many millions of people to design applications that have that appeal with the same emotional resonance.

Coping with community – We need to evolve new and better ways of dealing with very large online communities, numbering in the millions.

So, all in all, how was Etech?

It was really good to get a chance to meet some folks I had only had online communication with (like Tim Bray) or hadn’t met at all (like Robert Kay from MusicBrainz and Matt Pasiewicz from Educause). And it was great to get a chance to hang out some with Ted Leung, Tantek Çelik and Catherine Yang from Educause. I wish there had been some more small-scale unstructured, or perhaps more loosely structured, time – but that’s hard to do in a thousand person conference.

There were some very good sessions – I tended to be drawn to the talks that had the highest conceptual content, as opposed to those that detailed working code, perhaps because I don’t spend a lot of time working with code these days. Linda Stone, Clay Shirky, Amy Jo Kim, and Danah Boyd were real standouts for me.

I felt good about going down and flying the banner of calendaring interoperability work – it’s important work, and people were interested. I look forward to next year – maybe then we’ll get a calendaring presentation on the agenda!

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