One attendee described this months “foo camp” as “two hundred people, all certain that everyone else there is smarter than they are.” This inaugural “Friends of OReilly” (“foo,” get it?) event was literally a campout: many of us brought tents and pitched them around the edge of the yard behind the OReilly campus in Sebastopol, an hour north of San Francisco, while others unrolled their pads and sleeping bags in conference rooms or cubicles. Not that we got much sleep: informal seminars, on everything from RFIDs to great camping tools, didnt break up until around 2 a.m. on either Friday or Saturday night.
Take Peter Coffees virtual tour of foo camp
If the name “OReilly” doesnt ring an immediate bell, this is the OReilly that publishes the serious-hacker books with the line drawings of exotic animals on the covers. Head man Tim OReilly therefore has his finger on the pulse of programmer mind-share, and he had some interesting facts to share in his session on trends in his business (sorry about the odd colors in that photo, he gave it in a darkened room with a video projector, and I had to work up the colors from an infrared NightShot that I took with my DSC-F717.)
Among other tidbits, Tims data show that books about Microsoft technologies with “2000” in the title are still outselling titles containing “2002” or “2003” or “.Net” or even “XP,” which some might interpret as a danger sign for the uptake of new Microsoft initiatives.
If technologists arent religiously tracking the moving targets launched by Redmond, then what are they watching? Answer: the Net, the Net, and the Net. There was an overwhelming sense, in looking at the session topics as they were posted, that the Net is bigger than all of us but that it desperately needs protection from our worst herd behaviors. Tim Bray convened a session on the future of search that drew attendees including former ICANN chair Esther Dyson, with whom I traded bleak scenarios of “real search” (for example, todays Google) versus “faux search” (for example, a retail-site facility that looks like a search tool but really just takes you to the things theyre pushing that day).
Esther and I also joined Internet infrastructure pioneer Paul Vixie for a discussion of the Verisign SiteFinder brouhaha: he shared his dilemma over whether he should deliberately break the BIND protocol to block the Verisign hijacking of .com and .net spelling errors, then decided that “I cherish my relevance: I was assured that there would be a version of BIND with that functionality, that week, and that I could either do it or let someone else do it.”
Paul also shared some interesting statistics on the fall-off of Verisign referrals from sites in China, compared to that in the rest of the world, suggesting that the mechanisms that once blocked Chinese users access to politically sensitive Google retrievals are still alive and well and ready to be used against any other site that incurs that countrys displeasure.
Also on hand at foo camp were lots of great toys: robots roaming around underfoot, electronic musicians tools in the late-night “electronic jam” on Saturday, some impressively complex board games and a Segway scooter: the new, smaller-wheeled version that may bring the price down to the $2k-3k range fairly soon.
I feel sort of guilty about sharing all of this, because the event is limited by space available: its not as if readers have the option of deciding that they really ought to go next year. But people should know that there are folks who will sleep on the ground for two nights in order to have the privilege of talking with each other, all weekend, about how to make the Net a better platform for the decades to come, and about how to build better ways to use it—and apply other technologies in other ways—to make things more interesting and more fun today.
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