ETech Day 2
There was no less information on Day 2 (for me) of ETech, but some packets are definitely being dropped en route. ;) Here are some more generic info-packets from the sessions I was at today:
- The theme of looking to biology for digital inspiration continued today with Neil Gershenfeld linking digital fabrication with ribosomes. He called the human body a machine that includes all of the instructions for making itself. (In a way.) He discussed the illiberal art of making things, and machines that can make machines; fabrication labs that can produce more fabrication labs. (His forthcoming book: Fab: Personal Fabrication, Fab Labs, and the Factory in Your Computer.)
- As the discussion of fabrication continued, Gershenfeld mentioned the value of digital fabrication would be found in the "market of 1" where the prototype is the product.
- Cory Doctorow eloquently discussed the dangers of giving up too much liberty in the pursuit of less complex systems. He said that we've given up a lot in the battle against spam (closed relays, time and effort) but haven't gained a thing. We all still get spam. More of the same type of controls won't fix anything, and what will we give up in the process? (The same goes for DRM.)
- Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia talked about collaboration on a massive scale. The English Wikipedia site has over 500,000 articles—written and categorized by volunteers. (Also: he feels group sites solve problems he called author fatigue and quality control.)
- Clay Shirky interviewed Stewart from Flickr, Joshua from del.icio.us, and Wales from Wikipedia about mass categorization and user-tagging. One point: hierarchies are completely different from folksonomies, so stop comparing them. (Also: tagging doesn't really address individual vs. group tension, but it's "good enough" at what it does.)
- James Surowiecki quoted Pascal, "All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone." (Which sort of sounds like Sartre's "Hell is other people.") But of course it's not that simple for a guy who wrote a book called The Wisdom of Crowds. He talked about the good and bad of group interaction, information cascade, and the value of diversity/randomness in group selection.
- Joel Spolsky discussed the importance of aesthetics in design, and ways to let users feel they're more in control of the applications they use. (He mentioned the book, Learned Helplessness.)
- Jeremy Zawodny gave a tour of Yahoo!'s Web Services, and their new developer network. He mentioned that they used their Web Services to add an RSS-subscriptions feature for Yahoo! search results. (It just took a couple hours to implement.)
- And James Larson showed video of some of his crazy hardware hacks. They included a VCR he turned into a scheduled pet-feeder, and "biometric silverware" that can measure stress (sort of).