ETech Day 1

I'm at the Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego. ETech always expands my geek consciousness, and I can't possibly write a summary of everything I've learned today. Here's a stab at one generic info-packet from each presentation I saw today:
  • One point that Tim O'Reilly and Rael Dornfest made in the O'Reilly Radar session is that data is the next "intel inside" (eg. Navteq powers most web mapping applications).
  • Stewart Butterfield used the term curate when talking about Flickr's favorites feature. This is a nice improvement over sharing favorites, or publishing bookmarks. I think the term curate shows a respect for users and their data.
  • It's not always easy to extend firefox, but at least you can—and in many ways.
  • Danny Hillis demonstrated the value of interacting with technology in a group, face-to-face. He showed video of a table—with an interactive display as the tabletop—which lets the user scroll and zoom around map data. Like rolling a paper map out onto a table, this device allows for pointing, eye-contact, speech, and body-language. But it uses the dynamic digital display, which we're all used to using in isolation. (Also: he showed video of a 3-D topographic map table that looks like it's from the future.)
  • Jeff Bezos introduced an extension to RSS developed by Amazon that lets people syndicate search results. It's called Open Search RSS, and it adds a few tags to describe the results in the file: totalResults, startIndex, and itemsPerPage. (Also: vertical search columns in A9 provided by anyone.)
  • Microsoft Research is working on a wearable computing device called a SenseCam. It measures motion, temperature, infrared, gps position, and takes still photos at various points. It's like a "black box recorder" for people. He mentioned practical uses for patients with memory loss, or "automatic tourist recording" for vacationers—but I can't get past the privacy implications. What if the government could mandate that people wear this, and have all of the data sent to the home office?
  • Yahoo! Research Labs announced a joint-venture with O'Reilly called Tech Buzz Game. It sounds like a virtual stock-market for tech terms that may be able to predict/track tech trends through which words are "bought" and "sold" most.
  • Google Labs has some cool user-interface stuff like the slider for Google Personalization that takes you from min to max personalized results.
  • George Dyson gave a history of Von Neumann's pioneering inventions that are now ubiquitous in computer hardware. One idea that struck me is thinking about each individual node on a network (IP Address) as a cell. Thinking with this metaphor, it seems we're in pre-historic times, and the cells need to evolve into larger, more complex organisms. (Note to self: study more computing history. [And biology?]) Cory Doctorow's notes.
  • AT&T Labs wants to "virtually bleach" the network to get rid of spam, but I wonder what else might be sanitized in the process.
  • Chis Heathcote and Matt Jones talked about taking computing beyond the monitor. They showed that they could exchange business card data by touching their phones together, and mentioned that Dance Dance Revolution is the biggest success in body/digital interaction.
  • Nelson Minar from Google pointed out why SOAP isn't easy.
  • And then Sam Ruby pointed out why "simple" HTTP isn't easy. (Which reminded me that Bertrand Russel said, "Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise." Maybe we're getting to a point where we need the Web to be more precise.)
And those are the Day 1 packets—a lot to think about.

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Amazon's A9 team launches OpenSearch RSS spec
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