TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Distributing the Future

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: Emerging Technology

Distributing the Future

The O'Reilly Etech 2003 Conference

by Vicki Brown

    "The Future is here; it's just not evenly distributed yet"

    - William Gibson

Innovation Showcase

If asked to say what O'Reilly & Associates does, most people would probably answer that they publish books and run technical conferences. If pressed for more, some might add that the company performs market research, technology advocacy, and technology incubation. Tim O'Reilly, founder and president of O'Reilly & Associates, sees the company's goal as something much broader: "Changing the world by capturing the knowledge of innovators".

To achieve this goal, O'Reilly must be constantly on the watch for innovation, finding new, transformative technologies that they can catalyze. They accomplish this by:

  • Knowing what's cool and important and evangelizing it

  • Recognizing "alpha geeks" (techies that are consistently ahead of the curve) and leveraging their expertise

  • Reducing the learning curve and enhancing the depth and quality of information about new technologies

  • Listening to and speaking up for the interests of user and developer communities

  • Brokering dialogue between competitors in the interest of open standards

  • Exercising common sense

Tim is an avid follower of technology and technologists. He continually seeks out interesting people and ideas, then works to "amplify their effectiveness by spreading the information needed for others to follow them". One place where much of the newest, coolest, most transformative technology is showcased is the annual O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (http://conferences.oreilly.com/etcon).

In his conference session entitled The O'Reilly Radar, Tim explained the philosophy outlined above and argued that the most interesting emerging technologies meet the following criteria:

  • the technologies are "disruptive"; disruptive technologies cause changes to the way we think and work

  • their uptake (adoption) is accelerating

  • they have grassroots (bottom-up) support; support from a few large institutions is less important than support by the larger developer and user communities

  • there's a real need for information

  • the technologies have professional practitioners (with real-world applications)

  • they provide a possible business ecology

  • they have deeper social implications

  • they inspire passion

For the attendees, organizers, and presenters at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference, the future is definitely here. For one week in April, Etech 2003 distributed some of that future.

Day One

The first talk I attended, entitled Biological Computing, was presented by Eric Bonabeau of Icosystem Corporation. The content of the presentation wasn't anything like what I thought I expected. Attendees were treated to a fascinating discussion of biological "swarm" computer models - how to use ideas gained from observing ant colonies, bees, wasps, etc. to make new and efficient computer systems. The ideas were described as "simple rules" and "bottom-up modeling". They sound simple, but they work. When Southwest Airlines applied these models to their air cargo transport, they improved their efficiency by 70% and saved millions of dollars, by using a "traveling sales ant" algorithm.

After lunch, there was a presentation for an Open Source semantic search engine project, given by a speaker from NITLE (the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education). The presentation was made even more interesting because the initial set of data used for the project was from Steven Johnson's book Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. More swarms... apparently there are (no?) coincidences in the area of "emerging technologies".

We then stopped by to chat with the folks at the Internet Archive Bookmobile. The Internet Archive is collaborating with numerous libraries to digitize as many texts and books as possible, The Bookmobile is making "out of print" (and/or out of copyright) books available to people one book at a time from the back of a well-equipped minivan containing an HP duplexing color printer, a couple of laptops, a desktop binding machine, and a paper cutter.

The Bookmobile is a demo of a public domain application. It addresses the basic question: "What good is the public domain?" One thing the public domain excels at is cost reduction. The folks in the bookmobile project estimate that they can print and bind a book for less than it costs a library to lend out and re-shelve that same book. (Of course, this doesn't apply to books currently under copyright, but it's an interesting idea all the same!)

Day Two

The first keynote speaker of the second day was Alan Kay, one of the inventors of SmallTalk. He gave a well-attended talk on User Interface history, entitled Daddy, Are We There Yet, complete with video clips. Many of the things we take for granted today were in research labs 40 years ago... yet some of what was in those labs still hasn't made its way into currently available computing interfaces.

The second keynote, Personal Interfaces, was presented by Kevin Lynch of Macromedia. The talk focused on what Macromedia is doing to turn Flash (originally an animation engine) into a much more functional development system. The result will be the ability to create desktop Internet applications that will still work even after being disconnected from the Internet.

The third keynote was an energetic and very interesting discussion of social structure and social software, with the intriguing title, A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy. This talk was presented by Clay Shirky. Clay has achieved a place on my short list of "must hear" speakers - no matter what the topic, if he's speaking, attend the talk!

Social software is software that supports group interaction. Prior to the Internet, the last invention that really affected the way people communicate with each other in groups was the table. Today we have forums, email, wikis, IRC, and more; all work to one extent or another, supporting some form of social communication patterns. As Internet "grouping" has become easier and more popular, we have passed the mid-scale groups sizes where people can easily have conversations and get things done.

Using real-life examples, Clay showed how groups start out, grow, change and (sometimes) destroy themselves from within. Every group eventually reaches a "constitutional crisis". How the group handles (or mis-handles) that crisis determines its survival. Although our software is technical, groups are social; group interactions (and problems that arise as the result of those interactions) cannot be handled in a strictly technical manner. In group interactions, social and technical issues are inextricably intertwined.

Day Three

We missed the first keynote on the third day, but caught the second. Google, Innovation, and the Web was presented by Craig Silverstein, the first employee hired by Google's founders and now Google's Director of Technology. The talk really impressed me. Google, Inc. combines careful hiring practices, a short but articulate mission statement, innovation, experimentation, focus on user experience, and a firm understanding of the need for process. Not only that, they have been successful with this combination and believe they will continue to be successful. Here's a company that actively pursues code reviews, status updates, engineer testing, and product maintenance - and they admit it in front of an audience.

Eric Drexler's keynote provided a fascinating, animated discussion of the past, present, and possible futures of nanotechnology, entitled Nanotechnology: Bringing Digital Control to Matter. He began with an interesting question: What is the main digital storage system on the laptop computer in front of you? The surprising answer: It's not the hard disk. It's the DNA in the myriad bacteria that are contaminating the surface of the machine and its parts.

Nanotechnology can harness and combine principles demonstrated by the bacteria; principles demonstrated in nature by chemical reactions, biological systems, and physics, as well as the principles of computer science. The starting point in understanding what nanotechnology can be is to realize a fundamental principle: If a given thing exists, things like that other thing are possible. Nature shows us that molecular machine systems can exist: cheaply, cleanly, and working with molecular precision.

If you are interested in the future of nanotechnology, take a look at the sites for the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology as well as Dr. Drexler's organization, the Foresight Institute.

Mac OS X Innovators Contest

The O'Reilly Mac OS X Innovators Contest debuted in March and received nearly 100 entries for its first round of competition. Winners were announced on the second day of the conference, with a reception that evening.

Second prize was awarded to Rob Beale for Spring, described as a "wildly innovative universal canvas". First prize was awarded to Brent Simmons for NetNewsWire, considered "one of the most popular new apps for Mac OS X".

Closing Thoughts

This was easily one of the best conferences I have attended in some time. No session that I attended was quite what I thought I expected going in. Every session gave me something to think about and to discuss for days afterwards. No session was boring or uninteresting. I think this is the first conference I have attended where I can truly make all of those claims.

As the week ended, I was already wondering what technology will be emerging next year. I'll be at the 2004 conference to learn more. You should be sure to attend, too.

References

Session summaries and follow-up coverage of Etech 2003:

http://conferences.oreilly.com/etcon

Information on past and future O'Reilly conferences:

http://conferences.oreilly.com

Swarm Intelligence: An interview with Eric Bonabeau:

http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2003/02/21/bonabeau.html

The National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education: http://nitle.org

The Internet Archive Bookmobile: http://archive.org

Lessons from the Internet bookmobile:

http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2002/10/18/bookmobile

Social Software and the Politics of Groups:

http://shirky.com/writings/group_politics.html

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology: http://crnano.org

The Foresight Institute: http://www.foresight.org/

Mac OS X Innovators Contest:

http://www.macdevcenter.com/pub/a/mac/developer/2003/04/24/innovators.html

Spring: http://www.usercreations.com/spring/

NetNewsWire: http://ranchero.com/


Vicki Brown has been happily following the latest emerging technologies since the early 1980's. Some of her favorites include Unix, Mac OS, PDAs, and the WWW. She can't wait to see what emerges next year.

 
AAPL
$100.96
Apple Inc.
-0.83
MSFT
$47.52
Microsoft Corpora
+0.84
GOOG
$596.08
Google Inc.
+6.81

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

WhatRoute 1.13.0 - Geographically trace...
WhatRoute is designed to find the names of all the routers an IP packet passes through on its way from your Mac to a destination host. It also measures the round-trip time from your Mac to the... Read more
Chromium 37.0.2062.122 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. FreeSMUG-Free OpenSource Mac User Group build is... Read more
Attachment Tamer 3.1.14b9 - Take control...
Attachment Tamer gives you control over attachment handling in Apple Mail. It fixes the most annoying Apple Mail flaws, ensures compatibility with other email software, and allows you to set up how... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.0 - Find and del...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator detects... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.2 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more
jAlbum 12.2 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Quicken 2015 2.0.4 - Complete personal f...
Quicken 2015 helps you manage all your personal finances in one place, so you can see where you're spending and where you can save. Quicken automatically categorizes your financial transactions,... Read more
iMazing 1.0 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (formerly DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and... Read more
Xcode 6.0.1 - Integrated development env...
Apple Xcode is Apple Computer's integrated development environment (IDE) for OS X. The full Xcode package is free to ADC members and includes all the tools you need to create, debug, and optimize... Read more
Apple Safari 7.1 - Apple's Web brow...
Apple Safari in OS X Mavericks brings you all-new ways to find and enjoy the best of the web. It works with iCloud to give you a seamless browsing experience across all your devices. It looks out for... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

View Source – HTML, JavaScript and CSS...
View Source – HTML, JavaScript and CSS 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: View Source is an app plus an iOS 8 Safari extension that makes it easy to do one key web developer... | Read more »
Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail To The King: De...
Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail To The King: Deathbat is Coming to iOS on October 16th Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Just in time for Halloween, on October 16 Avenged Sevenfold will be launching | Read more »
Talisman Has Gone Universal – Can Now be...
Talisman Has Gone Universal – Can Now be Played on the iPhone Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Tap Army Review
Tap Army Review By Jennifer Allen on September 19th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SHOOT EM ALLUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Mindless but fun, Tap Army is a lane-based shooter that should help you relieve some stress.   | Read more »
Monsters! Volcanoes! Loot! Epic Island f...
Monsters! Volcanoes! Loot! | Read more »
Plunder Pirates: Tips, Tricks, Strategie...
Ahoy There, Seadogs: Interested in knowing our thoughts on all this plundering and pirating? Check out our Plunder Pirates Review! Have you just downloaded the rather enjoyable pirate-em-up Plunder Pirates and are in need of some assistance? Never... | Read more »
Goat Simulator Review
Goat Simulator Review By Lee Hamlet on September 19th, 2014 Our Rating: :: THE GRUFFEST OF BILLY GOATSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Unleash chaos as a grumpy goat in this humorous but short-lived casual game.   | Read more »
A New and Improved Wunderlist is Here fo...
A New and Improved Wunderlist is Here for iOS 8 Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Evernote Update for iOS 8 Adds Web Clipp...
Evernote Update for iOS 8 Adds Web Clipping, Quick Notes, and More Posted by Ellis Spice on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Apple Names Ultimate Productivity Bundl...
Apple Names Ultimate Productivity Bundle by Readdle as the Essential Bundle on the App Store Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Mac Pros available for up to $260 off MSRP
Adorama has Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: - 4-core Mac Pro: $2839.99, $160 off MSRP - 6-core Mac Pro: $3739.99, $260... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pros avai...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1379 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more
Previous-generation 15-inch 2.0GHz Retina Mac...
B&H Photo has leftover previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $400 off original MSRP. B&H... Read more
21″ 2.7GHz iMac available for $1179, save $12...
Adorama has 21″ 2.7GHz Hawell iMacs on sale for $1179.99 including free shipping. Their price is $120 off MSRP. NY and NJ sales tax only. Read more
iOS 8 Adoption Rate Slower than iOS 7, 6, Hit...
Apple began pushing out iOS 8 updates to eligible devices around 1pm ET on September 17, 2014. However, unlike with iOS 7, which boasted a wide variety of differences from its predecessor iOS 6, in... Read more
LIkely Final Definitive OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks...
Apple has released what will almost certainly be the last incremental version number update of OS X 10.9 Mavericks (save for futire security updates) before OS X 10.10 Yosemite is released next month... Read more
Fingerprints, Apple Pay and Identity Theft Wa...
On Sep 9th, CEO Tim Cook unveiled Apple Pay, along with the new iPhone 6 and iWatch. Apple Pay is a newly developed technology that utilizes a near field communication (NFC) to enable customer... Read more
Amazon Introduces Two All-New Kindles
Amazon on Thursday introduced the 7th generation of its Kindle dedicated e-reader device: Kindle Voyage, its top-of-the-line e-reader, and the new $79 Kindle, with a 20% faster processor, twice the... Read more
Save up to $300 on the price of a new Mac wit...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
13-inch 2.8GHz Retina MacBook Pro available f...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ 2.8GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1699.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. They’ll also include free copies of Parallels Desktop and LoJack for... Read more

Jobs Board

Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.