While the music industry gathers in Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards, under the watchful eye of Federal Censorship Commission czar Michael Powell, Ill be checking in ninety miles down the road for the OReilly Emerging Technology Conference. While Hollywood remains preoccupied with exposed skin and protecting fading business models, a loosely coupled band of technologists will meet-up to stoke the fires of the peer-to-peer revolution.
This is the third ETech, but actually the fifth in a series of conferences originally branded as the OReilly Peer-to-Peer Conference in February of 2001. That first conference was a technology Monterey Pop, with Napsters Sean Fanning, Sun Microsystems Bill Joy, Gnutellas Gene Kan, and Grooves Ray Ozzie sharing files, protocols and business plans. The follow-up conference in November was rebranded P2P and Web Services, and then morphed into the first ETech in May, 2002.
Today Kan is dead, Joy is retired, Napster is a brand name, and Ozzies biggest client is the Department of Defense. But the peer-to-peer wave continues to roil the media, the entertainment industry, and now, politics. Meet-ups, blogs, wikis, the merging of Instant Messaging and videoconferencing—you can call it what you like, and most will call it “social software.”
Social networks may be the latest bling-bling in the disposable e-conomy, but social software deserves (and gets) its own track at ETech. Some sessions, such as Robert Kayes Next Generation File Sharing With Social Software, have a blatant pitch: “The primary goal of the social software aspect is to keep the RIAA and MPAA out of your social network in order to avoid detection.”
Others sound more esoteric, like Matt Webbs Glancing: Im OK, Youre OK, which “sets a course from the grunts of non-verbal communication to the basic metaphors of how we build and relate to cyberspace.” And therell be glimpses of major vendor strategies in the emerging real-time architecture wars. Microsoft Researchs Lili Cheng will show prototypes developed in the Social Computing Group, including Wallop and the Personal Map.
Venturing over to ETechs Untethered and Business Model tracks, attendees will find more social software types lurking. Howard Rheingold, venture capital blogger Joi Ito, and U.C. Berkeleys Danah Boyd headline Untethering the Social Network session, while Disney Leverages RSS and GI Joe Meets Ubergeeks will take place nearby. The Products and Services track houses some of the Usual Suspects, from Don Box and his innocently titled Peace, Love, and XML to Nelson Minars Google is Harder Than it Looks.
Tim OReilly moved this ETech up from its usual April slot to help influence the presidential campaign, but with Howard Dean vowing to quit if he doesnt win Wisconsin (he later took this promise back), it may still be too late. Mondays concurrent Digital Democracy Teach-in features sessions with Dean architect (and former campaign manager) Joe Trippi, MoveOn.org co-founder Wes Boyd, Meetup.com CEO Scott Heiferman, and Cluetrain co-authors David Weinberger and Doc Searls.
Of course, the talk in the halls, at meals, and via WiFi, IM, and blogs really are the point of ETech. So much so, in fact, that OReilly threw a private spin-off called FOO Camp (Friends of OReilly) that consisted entirely of such conversations and improvised meetings.
These days, large industry gatherings are either collapsing—like Comdex—or turning into quasi-political conventions—like Microsofts Professional Developers Conference (PDC) and Suns JavaOne. Add to that Apples release of an iChatAV bridge to the Windows market, and social software, and this could be the start of a new meeting convention. Layer RSS on top, as the way to collect and circulate attention data, and even todays traditional trade-shows could be on the way out. Each of these technologies will be explored in more detail as the conference develops.
Well be bringing you all the details from The OReilly Emerging Technology Conference. I expect some surprises, and when they happen, well let you know.
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eWEEK.com Messaging & Collaboration Center Editor Steve Gillmor can be reached at [email protected].