After packing my tent in the rain I missed the first keynote on Microsoft web services, but that wasn’t much of a hardship. The second was about Google and how it works… not from a technical point of view, but as a company; how new ideas are pursued, creativity encouraged, new staff hired. It was inspiring, and one can only wish that other *cough* companies followed similar principles. Some collaborative notes were taken using Hydra. (More on how Google functions in these Fast Company articles: 1, 2.)
K. Eric Drexler was up next talking very precisely about nanotechnology. I expected to get more into it to be honest, but, as people on the IRC channel complained, it didn’t seem like anything new. I guess that’s the problem with nanotech; it’s been promising so much for so long that we just want to see something.
I continued the theme by attending David Pescovitz and Eric Paulos’ talk about tiny devices. Pescovitz was OK, but there wasn’t much new to think about for me (RFID tags, “flexonics”, smart dust, etc.). Paulos was more of a rush through a lot of ideas about who uses devices, and how they do so. Some good stuff about “familiar strangers” (strangers we see every day and mutually agree to ignore each other without this being hostile); how we construct languages to communicate using new devices; what ubiquitous wearable, tiny devices could allow us to do, and more. I took some notes (they were supposed to be collaborative but hardly anyone else was willing or able to contribute).
Next was David Weinberger talking about groups in social software. To be honest, by this point I was trying to concentrate on the talk, the IRC channel and the very busy Hydra collaborative notes, with the result I didn’t take much in other than the occasional interesting and amusing snippet. It’s like when I try and do something complicated on the computer while watching West Wing and completely miss the plot of the show.
I typed most of this up in a talk on developing the social infrastructure for a new online game and didn’t take of much of that in. One problem was that the audience was split between a few people who knew a lot about games and those, who like me, were merely very interested. Chris DiBona was so immersed in his world he seemed to have problems addressing the latter group, and kept having to stop to explain jargon that’s second nature to him, but impenetrable to us.