Random notes from the Friends of O’Reilly camp.

Foo camp logo

What happened was, Tim O’Reilly the host held a brief meeting Friday evening and encouraged us to organize ourselves, and we did, reasonably well, but not so intensively as to not leave time for hanging-out, of which there’s been a lot.

I have Wifi in my tent, just like the logo suggests. My tent is a lousy place to be online, but other people had more spacious accommodations.

Geek online in tent

Joy! · Two—not one, but two—people have spontaneously told me that they like the pictures here on ongoing. This has already made the weekend trip worthwhile. I’m getting ready to switch in ImageMagick for the picture resizing, so they should look quite a bit better real soon now. I asked Matt, who hosts the ongoing server, to apt-get some missing bits & pieces, and he wrote back “I’m in Lima, Peru right now but I’ll be back Monday.” Okay.

X HTML · Anselm Hook said: “HTML is like a poor man’s X Windows, only declarative.” which is obviously true when you think about it, which I hadn’t.

Segway · Segways feel neat but look awkward and dorky. It’s not as though you climb on board and zip away, it takes a few minutes to get a feel for it. They’re big—they will not swarm the sidewalks of the future without some major urban redesign.

Bernie Krause · He is a musician turned environmental-sound guy. He introduces new words: Biophony and Geophony, the sound of living things in nature, and the sounds of the earth itself. During his speech and demo, a geek in the audience asked for a left-right balance correction and that was OK with everybody. Krause has lived in Glen Ellen for ten years and only been down to SF maybe 6 times; I’m a big-city guy myself but I’m impressed.

Foo camp tents

I asked him how to record a windy landscape without the wind creating overwhelming microphone roar and here’s the trick: put the mikes down low to the ground in among the grass.

Krause recommends Paul Shepherd’s Nature and Madness.

Raw Data · Tim O’Reilly and one of his henchman gave a wonderful session which was just a brain-dump on technical book sales over the last year, broken down by publisher, by category (e.g. “Open Source,” “Operating Systems,” “Microsoft Technology,” “XML”). I think one hour of this kind of intense numerical data is worth approximately six months of listening to prognosticators and analysts. I’m not going to try to summarize this universe of information, a couple of things are worth noting: First, Perl used to be a $6M business for them, it’s down around $2M. The Parroteers need to buckle down and create some more book fodder, methinks.

Oh, and by the way, that XML book you were thinking of writing? Forget it.

On the other hand, if you want to try to surf the digicam wave with a graphics-type book, that might not be a bad idea.

Foocamp session on Search

Search · I co-ordinated a session on Search In General, from which the photo above, in which you see Esther Dyson on the left, Peter Coffee on the right, and some guys talking and waving their hands in between. I advanced the following hypotheses and invited people to disagree:

  • Basic full-text search algorithms haven’t improved much since 1978.

  • Metadata wins (examples are Yahoo! and Google), but there is no cheap metadata.

  • It’s more important to know how popular something is than to know what it’s about.

  • Search user interfaces generally suck.

  • Search APIs generally suck.

  • Search is way too complicated and expensive to set up in the Open-Source world.

We had a lot of talk, but nobody really disagreed much. There were a few ideas on how to address one or two of these issues.

Dave Sifry and Cameron Marlow

Technorati/Blogdex Deathmatch · Dave Sifry of Technorati and Cameron Marlow of Blogdex staged this, it was low-key and very friendly. The audience included Doc Searls, Ben & Mena Trott, Jeremy Zawodny, Steve Gillmor, David Weinberger and Robert Scoble. Dave’s on the left in the picture above, Cameron on the right. Some take-aways from the session and from some offline talk with Dave.

  • You can now ping Technorati directly, rather than going through Weblogs.com. They’re getting 72,000 pings a day these days, not all directly.

  • Speaking of Technorati, the little dribs and drabs of revenue are covering the bandwidth but not server costs.

  • Cameron has been doing some work grouping people, with respect to any blogger, into Friends, the people who you’ve linked to and link to you, Fans, people who link to you even though you haven’t, and Favorites, people you link to you who haven’t linked back.

  • Cameron is interested in tracking meme flow, and observes that most hot Net-centric stories last less than a week.

  • More research data: a group of bloggers who are physically near each other and get to talk on a regular basis tend to link to each other less; obviously at some level face-to-face contact displaces blog interaction.

  • How about the idea, Dave asks, of marketing through an RSS feed? Someone like Technorati or Google, who in principle know a lot about you, could offer a channel of advertising allegedly aimed at you that you don’t have to subscribe to and don’t have to read, but if you read and click and even buy, some payment occurs. Imagine that: marketing that has to be good enough that you sign up to read it.

  • Cameron thinks that we are right now today in late 2003 at the point of fastest growth in the weblog population. Dave disagrees, pointing out that most of the world remains unconquered.

  • There was some discussion of comments, and their general unsatisfactoriness; but I know bloggers who love their comments.

  • We talked about the fact that many blogs are abandoned, and yet many others go on posting, unlinked-to and perhaps unread. You have to admire these people.

When they wound up, I said “Thanks for the good software, guys.” and they got a lively round of applause.

Late Evening · There’s an electronic-music jam happening and a skunkworks in progress on the second floor at 11:26 PM, and the event isn’t over, but this is the Web, so I can update it later, right?

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

October 11, 2003
· Technology (76 more)

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