eTech, Day One Keynotes

Lots of stimulating discussion today. If I can boil it down to themes I would say that the both the tutorials that I went to earlier and the keynotes I attended tonight asked us to center back on the individual. Flashy applications and rounded corners are all well & good if they contribute to the community you wish to create but one must never lose sight of the community that is central to the success of your service and the people that make up that community. This includes both the user and the people that run the service.

The other major theme is Attention which is the theme of the conference. How to manage it and the challenges and technical challenges and social implications of the explosion of information and data that is available to us today.

Rael Dornfest talked about the next evolution. People will pay for a service that can properly "attenuate" or filter information down to the core of what’s necessary. 

Tim O’Reilly had an interesting point about the dangers of the desire to simplify. Pointing to the past, he talked about the flurry of memory resident applications that were written to take up the computer’s extended memory and how this jumble of competing applications drove the need for an operating system that could manage, unify, and simplify all these services. We essentially gave up our freedom to sample this variety in the pursuit of conveniences and order. He warned that history may repeat itself in the web services world.

Bruce Sterling elevated the limitations of language as a construct. Labels such as "web 2.0" are powerful in their organizing framework but also dangerous because they limit the imagination. How can we classify current web development as Web 2.0 when we’re still in the middle of developing it? Don’t wallpaper the wall when it’s still under construction. He had an intersesting point in that the universal rollout of barcodes as an information tracking device for objects in the physical world took over 30 years so it is premature to think we’ll get to a world where this is the case for the virtual world any time soon.

The nirvana of an architecture of participation is still a long way off. All the mashups (he calls them "lashups") that are available today are not really "open" in the sense that my mother is not participating in this mashup culture in any meaningful way. The open web is disintermediated by the developer elite, the high priest hacker class.

Bruce riffed on something he calls, "spime," objects that are trackable in space & time, manufactured objects that are so rich in metadata that they are virtual objects first, physical objects second. He then went meta and called the concept of "spime" as a "theory object" which, when you search on it, is a rough collection of associated ideas that he has thrown together and get added to each time he speaks or writes about it and others (like this post) expand upon it. 

eTech, Day One Tutorials

Today I went to the tutorial sessions here at eTech in San Diego. I attended:

Highlights following: 


Containers as Commerce Packets


The first newspapers came about back in the 1700’s to fulfill a need for importers and others with an interest in trade with the New World to keep track of the shipping schedules and see who was due into port that day. Tucked away in the business section of some papers you still see announcements of the day’s arrivals but it’s just a vestige of what I’m sure it used to be and I’m sure no one subscribes for this sole purpose.

Today, Jason Kottke points to Shiptracker which uses voluntary weather reports from ships around the world to track the location of ships in realtime. Imagine each of these dots pilied high with containers and then you get an idea of what kind of logistical problem faces an agency that wants to examine everything before clearing it for commerce. According to one document I found, US Customs cleared 5.7 million containers in 2001 but only checked the contents of 2% of them. There’s also later news reporting a much higher rate to the contrary.

In the old days, sending CDs via FedEx used to offer better throughput for businesses that needed to send large files back and forth to each other. I wonder what the true throughput of today’s shipping network is and how it’s changed since September 11th?


IBM wants to play too

It was a busy day for Bay Area locals involved with startups. First there was the Under the Radar conference which featured a number of startups looking for a little extra attention. Later in the day, Business 2.0 gave a party for all the folks they recently nominated to a list they’re calling the Next Net 25.

I didn’t get a chance to attend either of these events but I did get the chance to get the scoop from folks that did attend (including Jeff Clavier) at a dinner hosted by IBM. Willy Chiu is a VP in the High Performance, On Demand Solutions Software Group and runs an applied development lab at IBM’s research campus down south of San Jose. The dinner could be best described as a "salon" in the spirit of the gatherings hosted in the late-1800’s. The topic was broadly "Web 2.0 in the Enterprise" and covered topics such as applying the concept of mashups to corporate application development.

IBM clearly sees the excitement in consumer application development going on and is trying to understand how they can better participate in the ecosystem and introduce the concepts to the enterprise. Anyone who has worked in a large company knows that there is a growing gap between the tools available to an individual working on the internet and a worker dependent upon corporate systems.

Why does it take less than a second to get to a results page on Yahoo while it takes sometimes minutes to search for something on your hard disk. Why is it so easy to locate someone with expertise on the web but so difficult when you need to resort to often out-of-date company directories? Rod Boothby’s been doing a lot of thinking about this and has some good ideas.

IBM knows there is a big opportunity to bring best practices being used on the web today (interative development, modular and addressable APIs & information, AJAX/realtime UI feedback) and bring them to their large enterprise clients in concert with some of these new startups and are struggling with figuring out how to make this happen while still adding value.

It was interesting because I’ve been listening to a talk that Clayton Christensen (Innovator’s Dilemma) gave back in 2004 and he addresses  some of the very things that IBM is grappling with at this moment when faced with disruptive technologies. As the startups such as Joyent and Zimbra repackage and improve upon components such as shared address books and group calendaring that used to be the sole domain of companies such as Microsoft and IBM, these bigger companies need to realize they can no longer extract value by selling a standard Exchange license. The value is moving up the stack and is going to move to applications that work on top of commodities such as corporate email and calendars. Consulting services around integration is one way to keep creating value, extended services such as mobile access and specialty hardware devices is another.

The Clayton Christensen talk on Capturing the Upside is worth a listen. Download it to your iPod. It’s a little over an hour but worth it if you’re stuck in traffic. Clayton’s voice has a calming effect. 


Cast Your Vote

Yahoo 360 added a cool little voting widget today so I took the opportunity to set up a snap poll on what Tivo is announcing tomorrow. I thought Yahoo Answers was cool, I can see myself creating all sorts of mischief with this feature!

If have a Yahoo ID, click through to my 360 blog and cast your vote. If you don’t hurry up and create one because the announcement is in just 10 hours.