E-Tech Notes 2004

The O’Reilly Emerging Tech conference was great. Met many interesting people, saw lots of good presentations, collected lots of good links. Followng are a few notes. I’ll expand on this over time, as I digest everything.

Chris Heathcote’s presentation, “35 Ways to Find your Location” was the last one I went to. It was great. An overview of location methods and technologies. Very practical, gave the big picture tather than delving into any one technology in depth. From his presentation, you could easily begin to research on your own. Check out the slideshow.

Raffi Krikorian’s collecting links to interesting physical computing and hardware hacking projects, both lower-level tech details and higher-level overall descriptions. Send him some links. He gave a great presentation last year on Internet0, but I missed his tutorial on getting started with microcontrollers this year, sadly.

Tomas Krag gave a good presentation on Wireless Networks as a Low-Cost, Decentralized Alternative for the Developing World. Among other things, he talked very frankly and practically about the limitations of tech volunteer work in the developing world. What he’s up to is worth following, and participating in however you can. He and his company are doing a “Wireless Roadshow to teach local technology NGOs how wireless technologies can be used to bring Internet and intranet connectivity to those parts of the world not included in the plans of the commercial telecommunications companies.”

He also showed a nifty and very small wireless mesh router, a cube about 3 inches on a side. Check out also wire.less.dk, the company he’s associated with.

Joichi Ito, Mimi Ito, Howard Rheingold, Scott Fischer and Dana Boyd gave a great panel on “What Happens to Social Networks in the Untethered Wilds“. They highlighted trends in social behavior resulting from and influenced by cell phone applications. I loved especially the examples Mimi gave, talking about intimate communications and small group communications over text and picturephone. Loved the “New Haircut” shot. Hope they put the presentation files online.

We followed on their ideas in a panel from ITP, “Socially Mobile: Experiments in Social Software Applications using Mobile Phones“. Michele Chang,
Dennis Crowley, Elizabeth Goodman, Alex Rainert, and Shawn Van Every all did a good job presenting their work. Thanks to Alex for putting the slides all in one place.

ITP alums Lili Cheng and Sean Kelly did a presentation on Wallop and other work coming out of the Social Computing group at Microsoft research. Lili covered the history of the social computing group really well, and gave great context and setup for Wallop, an environment they’re working on which maps and organizes relationships between you and the people you care about, through emails, photos, shared work, and other documents.

Rael Dornfest’s Mobile Hacks session was mighty geeky, and a lot of fun. Made me want to upgrade my phone to play with Bluetooth, and with the app that identifies the cell tower you’re connected to.

Priya Prakash’s presentation, “Project Miljul“, was a very nice introduction to how to listen to the people you’re designing for. It’s an essential lesson for all designers. She presented her own observations in several cities in India in very anecdotal and approachable session.

Marc Smith’s keynote address, Catalyzing Collective Action on the Net rocked. Some great notes on why summary visualization of online group dynamics is important, how it gives you the flavor of a group before you enter, and much more.

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