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Mar 20, 2005 10:29pm

e-tech, done traveling

I returned from e-tech a few days ago with a wicked cough. We were comped at the last minute by Nathan Torkington, who also extended an invitation to present our MoveOn national town hall at this summer's Where 2.0. More on that later. It was my first time at the conference, and was truly a blast.

Some highlights:

  • George Dyson's talk, Von Neumann's Universe. This was an inspirational look back on the history of computing, through the eyes of an historian and family member of the tight circle of mathematicians and physicists responsible for digital computing.
  • The BBC presentation (Tom Coates, Matt Biddulph, Matt Webb and Paul Hammond) describing experiments in SMS-driven playlist selection. Remarkable less for the technology presented, and more for the difficulty I had in imagining a bottom-line-driven U.S. media conglomerate donating the same effort to skunkworks-style experimentation resulting in actual air-time (10 hours!).
  • Cory Doctorow's talk, All Complex Ecosystems Have Parasites. Cory practically phoned this one in, but the message about learning to love chaos in a vibrant internet is an important one for would-be regulators to understand

Some Not-so-highlights:

  • Jason Fried's talk on Basecamp and Ruby on Rails. The IRC backchannel was truly merciless during this one, most likely because it was a peppy sales pitch completely innappropriate for the context. Basecamp and RoR are both supposedly pretty great, but prefacing almost every sentence in a presentation with "Do..." or "Don't..." is an awful way to address a technology-aware audience, especially if you use constructions such as "Don't worry about [technological concern], except when you have to." Thanks... knowing when you have to worry about something is the the hard part.

Actually, that's the only low point for me. Overall, a fantastic experience.


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