2008 Conference Photos

ETech News and Coverage

News Release: O'Reilly ETech Conference Invites Technical Visionaries

[ETech]
by Jackie Hadley, Communications Associate  Sep 06, 2008  

Living, Reinvented: The Technology of Abundance and Constraints
ETech Opens Call for Participation and Invites Proposals

Sebastopol, CA–The O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference will explore the technology of abundance and constraints March 9-12, 2009, at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California. O’Reilly Media and Program Chair Brady Forrest invite proposals for ETech 2009 conference sessions, panel discussions, and tutorials, as well as brief and rapid-fire High Order Bits.

ETech will gather hackers, grass roots developers, researchers, strategists, makers, thought leaders, artists, entrepreneurs, business developers, venture capitalists, city planners, medical professionals, life scientists, CxOs and IT managers, doers, and other technical visionaries. These futurists will turn their energies toward reinventing the ways in which their lives, and those of the entire world, can use new technologies. Centered around the technology of abundance and constraint, the program will define how those technologies can intersect for a better world.

Read more here.

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News Release: Technology of Awareness and Perception Explored at O'Reilly Emerging: Technology Conference 2008

[ETech]
by Jackie Hadley, Communications Associate  Aug 29, 2008  

Sebastopol, CA–How does new technology help us perceive things that were barely noticeable before or draw attention to important issues, objects, ideas, and projects, no matter their size or location? These and many other questions around the future of technology were explored at ETech, the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. This annual gathering of people passionate about computing innovations brought together over 900 developers, technologists, geeks, researchers, academics, artists, activists, and makers in San Diego, California, March 3-6, 2008.

“ETech is a mental battery charge that will last all year, ” observed Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine.

The seventh edition of ETech focused on the brand new technology that is tweaking how we are seen as individuals, how we choose to channel and divert our energy and attention, and what influences our perspective on the world around us. Just a few of the topics participants tackled during the four-day event included food, body, and sex hacking; DIY drones and survival techniques; technology lessons from emerging markets; visualization of data; energy, defense, and genetic policy; crowds and ambient data; gaming, both small group and massive; and much more.

Read about all the details.

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boingboing: ETech 2009 Call for Participation

[ETech]
by Jackie Hadley, Communications Associate  Aug 25, 2008  

David Pescovitz’s favorite geek confab of the year!

The presenters aren’t usually celebrity types but just supersmart nrrrds making fascinating tech and thinking about the impact of innovation on our lives. I’m really excited to be on the program committee again this year. The Call for Participation is now open and we’re looking for big ideas across a huge spectrum of tech/culture, from materials science and synthetic biology to nomadism and sustainable life.

Read more.

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boingboing: ETech 2009 Call for Proposals: "Living, Reinvented."

[ETech]
by Jackie Hadley, Communications Associate  Aug 20, 2008  

ETech veteran Cory Doctorow’s kind words on this year’s conference and the Call for Proposals:

The call for proposals for O’Reilly Emerging Tech 2009 has just gone up: “Living, Reinvented.” I was involved in every ETech from the first P2PCon in 1999 right up to last year (I’m taking a year or two off while I catch up on fatherhood and book-deadlines), and I have had some of my most mind-blowing, life-altering conversations and experiences at these events, which showcase the leading edge of (often impractical but never boring) experimentation, skunkworks, and passionate development. This year’s theme sounds fantastic, too. Proposals are due Sept 17, and the event is next March 9-12 in San Jose.

Read the rest of Cory’s post.

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Kits and Mortar: ETech goes sustainable

[ETech]
by Maureen Jennings, Conferences Publicist  Aug 06, 2008  

Suw Charman Anderson explores this year’s ETech theme and wonders about submitting a proposal. Read more of her thoughts here.

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O"Reilly Radar:ETech 2009 CFP: Living, Reinvented

[ETech]
by Maureen Jennings, Conferences Publicist  Aug 05, 2008  

From ETech chair Brady Forrest:

ETech’s CFP has launched. The theme this year is Living, Reinvented: The Technology of Abundance and Constraints. To that end I spent time with MITs Scratch Team (changing computer education) and the RoboScooter team (changing transportation). We’re going to explore the following themes.

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Worldchanging: How to Become Energy Literate and Battle Climate Change

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Apr 30, 2008  

Alex Steffan shares some of his and Saul’s thoughts from their time at ETech:

Saul Griffith is a remarkable guy: inventor, entrepreneuer, Squid Labs, ThinkCycle and Instructables founder, columnist, genius grant winner and now president of the clean energy start-up Makani Power. A couple weeks ago, I did a talk at eTech, and while I was there, I had the fortune to hear Saul give his presentation on energy literacy and climate change. Saul’s essential point is that climate change is a problem we can choose to tackle: that the means are within our control, if we’ll learn to think clearly about them.

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The Guardian: Is it Possible for Geeks to Fix the United Nations?

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Apr 30, 2008  

Wendy Grossman asks the question, and answers with:

Probably not - or not directly. But some of the same people that have 2 million people tracking their MPs’ voting records via the site theyworkforyou.com and who, through farmsubsidy.org, got the EU to publish full subsidy data, have set up UNdemocracy.com, an attempt to shed light on the inner workings of the UN. The UN has for some time made copies of its resolutions and other information online at un.org, but like a lot of government initiatives the data published is hardly reusable in any meaningful way. URLs are not persistent, and data formats are not open. A small group led by Julian Todd, a “civic hacker” in Liverpool is seeking to change all that by laboriously scraping the data out of the site and republishing it with persistent URLs. That way, even if the UN removes the information it will be retained in Google caches or the Wayback Machine at the internet archive (archive.org). The site also links through to other decisions and debates. When you do that, said Stefan Magdalinski, Tom Loosemore, and Danny O’Brien at the Emerging Technology conference (conferences.oreilly.com/etech) last week in San Diego, some strange voting patterns emerge.

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Nikkei Electronics: OpenMoko to Commercialize Open Source Hardware Mobile Phone

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Apr 06, 2008  

Over at Nikkei Electronics, Tatsurou Hokugou reports on OpenMoko’s announcement at ETech that it will start selling mobile phones to general consumers.

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Wired.com: Lessig Calls for Geeks to Code Money Out of Politics

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Apr 06, 2008  

Another post from Wired’s Ryan Singel:

Stanford law professor and internet icon Larry Lessig called on geeks Wednesday night to be “heroes” who can help Americans believe in their government again, by creating tools to help drive the influence of money out of politics.

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Boing Boing TV: DIY Drones, Whistleblowers, and Party Crashers

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Apr 06, 2008  

BBers Cory Doctorow, Mark Frauenfelder, Xeni Jardin, and David Pescovitz were all at ETech in March and posted these items:

DIY Drones with Chris Anderson

ATT-NSA whistleblower Mark Klein, EFF legal director Cindy Cohn

Nikita Chrusov of Soviet Unterzoegersdorf crashes party

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InformationWeek: Data Visualization and Energy Literacy

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Apr 06, 2008  

Fritz Nelson shot a lot of video at ETech last month, including these two interviews with innovators:

Stamen’s Stunning Approach To Data Visualization

One of the most exciting concepts demonstrated during ETech was a data visualization concept, a phenomenally attractive and useful way to find information so quickly and thoughtfully, it seems at once elegant, clever, and obvious. The company: Stamen, a design studio in San Francisco.


Energy Literacy: Saul Griffith Unplugged

The monumental imperative to save our planet requires launching ourselves over what seems an insurmountable hurdle involving the orchestration of global agreement and policy combined with individual actions that manifest themselves as a nebulous series of micro decisions. So good luck with all of that and call me when the polar bears and penguins are tanning themselves on Fire Island. Or maybe we should completely re-examine our own lives like Saul Griffith, MIT PhD, chief scientist at Makani Power and the most fascinating presenter (despite some 70 slides) at ETech last week.


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Nature: Hacking: Crafters Tinker with Technology

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Apr 06, 2008  

Krista Zala mentions ETech in a piece about the DIY movement:

Capturing the spirit of the emerging culture, the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference that took place this week in San Diego, California, ran sessions on how to make aerial drones and on hacking — beyond gadgets to the body, brain and food.

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InformationWeek: K-Factor's Social Network For Social Network Developers

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 12, 2008  

Another piece from Fritz Nelson

Some companies here at ETech are so new they don’t even have business cards yet. Jing Chen flew in a mere hour before she was expected to demo K-Factor Media’s DeveloperAnalytics at AppNite in San Diego, and it turned out to be one of the more compelling early success stories. In the not too distant future, she won’t have to be giving out slips of paper with her e-mail address instead of business cards.

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Forbes: Inventing The Future

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 12, 2008  

Earlier this week, Victoria Barret posted this article from ETech:

If you want to see the seeds of the future, check out what people with spiky hair and multicolored eyeglasses are doing. At least, that seems the lesson to be learned at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference, held in San Diego earlier this month. The undercurrent here is that exceptions might be the next norm. “The essence of ETech is our idea that you often see the seeds of the future in places where people are having fun with technology,” says Timothy O’Reilly, the founder of ETech, as well as other technology shindigs, and the publishing house that carries his name. So, no shoes? No problem.

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Press Democrat: Human Mind Newest Frontier

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 11, 2008  

“Researchers exploring devices to enhance behavior, sensation,” writes Nathan Halverson in this article on one of the themese of ETech:

In an era where hackers are modifying everything from computers to iPhones, it’s only natural they would turn their attention inward and begin hacking the human body. Technology is increasingly being used to augment human behaviors and sensations, ranging from sex and depression to trust, several scientists said this week at the Emerging Technology conference organized by Sebastopol publisher O’Reilly Media.

Check out the PD’s ETech photo gallery too.

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Wired.com: ETech Yearbook 2008: Meet the Faces of Innovation

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 08, 2008  

Wired photographer Dave Bullock came to ETech this year and shot portraits of some of the participants:

O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference brings some of the brightest minds in the online world together every year for four days of talks, panels and workshops. ETech is really about ideas and the people behind them, so we wrangled a sample of willing geniuses and made them pony up some mug shots and tell us their latest projects.

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Wired.com: DIY Robotics, Drugs, and Body Mods

[ETech]
by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  

Prolific Ryan Singel has posted two more:

  • DIY Robotics: The Rise of Open Source Hardware
  • Hackers have long been used to cranking out code in the morning and having a working prototype by the afternoon, but have been frustrated that they can’t do the same with hardware. That’s starting to change, and fast, driven in part by robotics enthusiasts and do-it-yourself types who are utilizing a new generation of open source hardware platforms and rapid fabrication tools.

  • Drugs, Body Modifications May Create Second Enlightenment
  • Imagine a drug that can reduce your need for sleep, increase your concentration and make you smarter, with minimal side effects.

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    Webware: Fire Eagle Geolocation Service: Halfway There

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  

    Rafe Needleman posted thoughts on the launch of Fire Eagle: “At ETech this morning, a nervous Tom Coates announced that Yahoo’s geolocation service Fire Eagle was leaving the nest, and he began handing out invitation codes to the product’s private beta.”

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    InformationWeek: Bug Labs Looks To Make Mobile Innovation Simple

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  

    “Bug Labs wants to make innovating hardware as simple as innovating software,” writes Mitch Wagner. “So they created the Bug, an open source hardware design and software for building modular mobile devices.”

    Developers can snap together a cell phone, camera, LCD display, GPS, accelerometer, and more to build custom tools. Software innovators have a simpler job than hardware innovators, said Peter Semmelhack, president and CEO of Bug Labs, making a presentation at the O’Reilly ETech Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego Wednesday. “The world of atoms is very different from the world of bits,” he said. Software innovators with an idea for a new application have a wealth of open source code to use, and the Internet handles distribution.

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    Ignite ETech 2008: Scotto Moore's Intangible Method, a Digital Fairy Tale

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  


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    Heise online: ETech: Google Lets Us Look into its Search and Translation Technology

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  

    Janko Rottgers posted this article on an ETech session that peels back some of Google’s technology:

    Yesterday, Google’s director of research Peter Norvig let visitors at the Emerging Technology conference in San Diego look into the technology that his firm uses in search and translation functions. As Norvig put it, a lot of the time Google does not rely on complex models and theories, but simply on large amounts of data.

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    Wired.com: ETech: Hacker Shows How Your TV, Front Door, and iPhone Are Vulnerable

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  

    Ryan Singel reports on a session where ETech program chair Brady Forrest gets his iPhone hacked:

    Your credit card, the lock on your front door, your cell phone’s voicemail, your hotel television, and your web browser are all not as secure as you might like to think, as Pablos Holman, a hacker clad in all black, gleefully demonstrated on stage Wednesday like an evil Las Vegas magician.
    Holman used caller ID spoofing to break into the AT&T voicemail of the organizer of the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference being held this week in San Diego.

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    Ignite ETech 2008: Saul Griffith on Howtoons

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  


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    InformationWeek: Lessig Advocates Technology Tools For Campaign Finance Reform

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  

    “Government-reform advocates plan in two weeks to launch a system for members of Congress to pledge to reduce the role of money in government, Lawrence Lessig said,” writes Mitch Wagner:

    The Change Congress project will ask members of Congress to make three commitments: To reject contributions from lobbyists and political action committees (PACs), work to ban earmarks, and support public funding for elections. Officials who take the pledge will be allowed to wear a badge — like a Creative Commons badge — indicating which of the three reforms they support, Lessig said Wednesday night at a presentation at the O’Reilly ETech Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego.

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    DEMO.com: Adobe and Yahoo! Offer Voice and Location Tools

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  

    Bug Labs Shows News Ways to Build Gadgets writes Mary A. C. Fallon:

    Adobe Systems and Yahoo!’s Brickyard will offer developers new programming tools and Web services for creating content-drive communications and location services, and start-up company Bug Labs announces a new, easier way to build electronic gadgets for niche and custom uses.
    Adobe senior engineering manager Danielle Deibler invited a packed meeting room of developers at the O’Reilly Etech conference here the opportunity to apply for the pre-release, private beta of Pacificia (pacificiabeta@adobe.com), Linux-based tools to create voice plug-ins for Flash widgets and applications. Pacificia is named for a beginner’s surfing point along California’s shore a few miles south of San Franciso.

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    Nature: Hacking: Home Cooking with a Twist

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  

    Jascha Hoffman recently profiled ETech speaker Marc Powell:

    “I think of cooking as hacking,” says Californian computer programmer Marc Powell, who led a ‘Kitchen Hack Lab’ demonstration at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego this week.

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    Ignite ETech 2008: Matt Webb's Science Fiction Tour of the Solar System

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 06, 2008  


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    Really, Really, Really Intimate Interfaces

    [ETech]
    by Robert Kaye  Mar 06, 2008  

    This afternoon I had the pleasure to listen to Kyle Machulis’ talk about teledildonics in his “Really, Really, Really Intimate Interfaces” talk. I’ve been joking about teledildonics to my friends for many moons, only to be met with incredulous looks of “Really?”. Little did I know that teledildonics is real and here today — it may not be as polished as a lot of the gadgets out there, but if you want to have a hand in pleasuring your long distance relationship partner, there is hope today!

    In a stark contrast to Violet Blue’s talk about “Sexual identity online” yesterday, this talk was quite light with lots of humor, laughter and even a demo!

    Kyle started talking about how he got involved in this field (”Electronics are a cover-up for my perversion”) and what sites cover this topic:

    Kyle went on to define teledildonics: Remote controlled sex toys — enact intimate interfaces across any distance. And why is that important? According to Kyle there is only one type of sex toy that is generally accepted: Shaky dildos. People tend not to be all too adventurous when it comes to sticking experimental and new and uncomfortable toys near the genitalia. Research in this area can bring more advanced and interesting sex toys to the masses.

    He then outlined the basic types of toys out there:

    • Shaky: The typical vibrating dildos that you can find in any sex shop.
    • Thrusty/twirly/machiney: Fucking machines and The Drill Hammer are some examples.
    • Shocky: Electro stimulation to your genitals! Kyle says that the ErosTek ET312 is the rolls royce to shock yourself in the nuts with. (at $500 it better be!)
    • Combo-y: The Priceless II is the strangest combo dildo Kyle has seen! Linear actuation, with Fleshlight inserts, driven by an electric screwdriver!

    Ok, as you can see by the substantiated links, I’m not making this up. But, please understand that there was lots of laughter and snarky comments flying about the session. Did I mention things were lighthearted?

    Pressing onward, Kyle mentioned the OhMiBod vibrator that you can plug into your iPod. If you’re listening to a pumping techno beat, then you’re feeling a pumping techno beat! And then there is the Talking Head vibrator that is an actual MP3 player!! And then there is the Sinulator, the first dildo with DRM. You must pay a monthly subscription fee to use this vibrator and its associated online community. You stop paying the fee, you stop vibrating! (And here I thought DRM was dead!)

    Next up was the Je Joue (now discontinued), the vibrator that comes with its own symbolic programming kit, so you can make your own programs and share them with others on the net. Unfortunately too many people thought that programming was too hard for sex and the company discontinued the project. And then there is the Powerhole, a new vibrator from Japan with seven motors to control every aspect of your pleasure. Kyle even had a volunteer come up and stick their finger in it to let the audience know what he felt!

    Kyle also talked about Restrained Life a Second Life viewer that doesn’t let you remove your restraints. He also mentioned the recontextualization of force feedback for teledildonics. And the Drmn’ Trance Vibe project that aims to build an aftermarket version of the vibrator that came with the Rez game. Why? For use in teledildonics, of course. Afterall, Kyle is the maintainer of libtrancevibe, a driver library for this vibrator on SourceForge.

    Kyle presentation was quite enlightening and humorous, but I am not sure if the field of teledildonics has advanced enough to hit mainstream anytime soon. For now its going to be relegated to lovable freaks like Kyle. And the world needs more freaks like him!

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    Futuretainment: The Asian Media Revolution

    [ETech]
    by Robert Kaye  Mar 05, 2008  

    My second day of ETech started off with Mike Walsh’s “Futuretainment: The Asian Media Revolution” presentation. Mike presented a view of how young people in Asia consume media and how their experiences differ vastly from what kids in America and western Europe experience.

    Mike set the stage by explaining that lots of the kids in China were born in the post Mao boom and that their view of the world is a lot more global than in other countries around the world. Most of these kids have never experienced media as a fixed product — they don’t go to a store to buy CDs. Far from it, most kids consume media from their mobile devices.

    Mike presented a number of attributes that describe the asian media revolution:

    • Fun: TV in China sucks bad. Even with many channels, available shows often repeat between the different channels. Kids have tuned out TV and opted to turn to the Internet for entertainment. It turns out that most people use the net for entertainment in Asia — so far that only about 50% of people use the net for email.
    • Mobility: More people use their mobile devices than desktops. Mobile devices even include two tuners; one for voice/data communication and one for digital TV access. Even the GPS devices in cars have digital TV tuners. (Can you imagine the lawsuits if that was allowed in the US?)
    • Identity: The notion of identity in Asia is: “We are who we pretend to be”. You can see this in action with QQ, the predominant IM service in China, where kids will create a whole range of identities that are used for various purposes. QQ identifies accounts with 6 digit numbers (Mike says that Chinese kids are much more adept at remembering numbers than western kids are) and kids will often create new accounts for special purposes, assuming different identities for different purposes.
    • Togetherness: Group functions present a much integral part of Asian cultures than in western cultures. Its common for people to participate in group buying to negotiate for discounts on products — an approach that was tried and has failed a number of times in the US. And the preferred medium for arranging group buys? BBS’es — they never went away in Asia.
    • Hi tech/low tech: Asian cultures blend low tech solutions with hi tech solutions seamlessly. For instance, while nearly everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket, bamboo is still used to build scaffolding for buildings. The ancient and the new co-exist peacefully. Its is even possible to send a gift via a mobile device by sending them a product gift barcode. Imagine sending roses to someone who does not wish to be embarrassed at their place of work. Send the barcode instead and the person can go pick up the roses on their own terms.
    • Status: Status continues to plays an important role in the modern asian societies, but the concept is being transplanted into the online world. People gain status by answering questions online to reach a coveted “honorary intellectual” status.
    • Complexity: Asian consumers are faced with a lot greater density of information — picture the average street scene in Tokyo where every conceivable surface is covered by signs or adverts. This translates to people being able to consume much greater amounts of information presented on one page. For instance, someone studied the eye movements of people doing web searches. In the west people will examine the top two search results, where in Asia people scan much further down the page. Asians can readily consume complex pages of data.
    • Fame: In Asia net personas and even virtual characters can land sponsorship deals to endorse products. And recently the people of Hong Kong took to the streets to protest the Police’s actions in the Edison Chen scandal where racy photos of the performer were leaked onto the net.
    • Now: Media consumption in Asia focuses on instant gratification, which plays a large role in the fact that China hosts so much copyrighted content. Hosting this content allows China to circumvent region coding and provide immediate access to the media.

    Wow! Its clear that things have progressed much more rapidly in Asia than here in the US. The iPhone is the hottest phone on the market, even though it has no 3G capabilities whereas teenagers in Korea routinely watch TV on their mobile phones. While Mike’s presentation opened my eyes, I have tons of questions on how we arrived here. How does the size of the countries involved matter? Its a lot easier to bring advanced services to a smaller nation like South Korea. But China? Are these services ubiquitous in China? What is the coverage like? How come the US lags so far behind? Is it regulations? Are the western societal values inherently different that gives the US and western Europe a disadvantage?

    If you have any insights, please post a comment! Thanks to Mike for the great presentation!

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    Yahoo! Developer Network: Fire Eagle Launches

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

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    Wired.com: ETech: Google Prediction Market Datamining Shows Meatspace Matters

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    Another article from Ryan Singel in Wired:

    For the past two and half years, Google employees have bet on internal company projects — a tool known as a prediction market — providing plenty of data for the company to mine to figure out how information flows internally. The result is surprisingly ironic for the internet giant.

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    Network World: Hack Your Brain

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    “Re-engineered human brains could be in our future, researchers say,” notes Jon Brodkin in this article:

    Your mind: it’s just another piece of hardware. Make sure you download the latest patch and upgrade to the newest operating system. That, in so many words, is the fate of humankind described by David Pescovitz, co-editor of the BoingBoing.net blog and research director with the Institute for the Future.

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    InformationWeek: 11 Lifehacking Tips For Improving Productivity -- And Knowing When That's Not The Point

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    Mitch Wagner posted this piece on one of my favorite ETech topics, life hacking:

    Gina Trapani, the queen of Internet productivity, shared her tips for getting things done at ETech 2008, spilling the beans on best practices for maximizing results and efficiency. Trapani, editor of the blog Lifehacker and a book of the same name about to go into second edition, said that her whole career stems from a presentation at ETech 2004 — one she didn’t even attend.

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    Wired.com: ETech: What Happens When Countries Censor All of Web 2.0?

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    Another Wired article on ETech from Ryan Singel, covering a session called The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism:

    It’s not the governments who censor keywords that worries Ethan Zuckerman, whose job it is to help dissidents around the world. He fears that governments will simply decide to go after the Web 2.0 tools that activists are using to publish. Increasingly dissidents in the Middle East, China and places like Belarus are turning to server-based tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LiveJournal — the communication tools at hand — to get their message out, according to Zuckerman, who works for Global Voices - a group dedicated to spreading online conversation.

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    The Press Democrat: Smaller Footprint - Sebastopol Publisher Gathers Scientists to Share Green Ideas

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    Nathan Halverson focused on Saul Griffith’s ETech presentation on Energy Literacy for this article in our hometown newspaper:

    Saul Griffith drives a hybrid car and thought he was practicing a sustainable lifestyle at his home in San Francisco. But then he decided to calculate his carbon footprint, a measurement of greenhouse gases generated to support his lifestyle. He was distraught to discover how unsustainable his life was.

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    D: All Things Digital: Kara Visits Graphing Social Patterns West and ETech

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    “My head hurts from a full day of geeky wonkery in San Diego, at O’Reilly Media’s overlapping conferences, Graphing Social Patterns West and its ETech or Emerging Technology Conference,” writes Kara Swisher. Her article includes a video she shot during the conferences featuring GSP program chair Dave McClure and O’Reilly Media CEO Tim O’Reilly.

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    San Diego Union Tribune: A Look at Tomorrow's Technology

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    “Conference in S.D. all about the future,” writes San Diego local reporter Jonathan Sidener in this ETech overview.”At the seventh annual ETech, there’s less worry about what sticks to the wall and more focus on having something cool to throw.”

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    Cute Cat Theory of Web Activism

    [ETech]
    by Robert Kaye  Mar 05, 2008  

    This afternoon I had the pleasure to listen to Ethan Zuckermann’s presentation on the “Cute Cat Theory of Web Activism”, which opened my eyes to a side of Web 2.0 technologies I’d never seen before. Ethan started his presentation with this thesis:

    Sufficiently usable read/write platforms will attract porn and activists.

    If there is no porn, the tool does not work.

    If there are no activists, it doesn’t work well.

    Before Ethan could make any headway into explaining this thesis, he stated that “Porn tells you if your tool is working!”. Right as he said that he realized what he’d said and the audience erupted into laughter. Oh, the truth in that statement!

    But, all joking aside, his point is valid. Ethan shared a story from his days at Tripod (back in the early web 1.0 days) when a term that no one at Tripod understood started appearing on sites on tripod.com. A trip to the local university’s political science department cleared up the mystery: Malaysians were using Tripod to spread the word on political reform in Malaysia. Its been commonly accepted that new technology is first embraced to deliver porn to the masses and Ethan suggests that political activism is only one step behind porn.

    Another example along the same lines is the president of Tunisia. Fearing an assassination, the president hasn’t left Tunisia in years, yet Tunisian’s on the net are using plane spotting sites to track the movement of the presidents plane around the world. If the president hasn’t left Tunisia, what is his plane doing all over Europe? Or is it true that the president doesn’t leave? Plane spotters around the world are inadvertently helping people around the world bring a small amount of government transparency to governments renowned for their opacity.

    Next, Ethan outlined the basic forms of Web censorship:

    • Block keywords — filtering traffic based on keywords in the content. This is difficult and very expensive, yet China does this.
    • Block URLs — works better and is still expensive, but not foolproof. For instance, its possible to access the same YouTube video using a number of different URL schemes. Blocking them all effectively requires a lot of insight into the service being blocked.
    • Block DNS — ineffective. Blocks lots of people, but the people who persist to find the content via an IP address have no difficulty finding it. The recent Wikilinks case gives a perfect example of this not working.
    • Block IPs — overly broad. Blocking IPs blocks entire services, even if only a small fragment of the service is objectionable.

    New to this lineup is event based filtering — for instance, Iran is threatening to shut down the Internet during the next election. To see who else is censoring the Internet, see OpenNet’s Censorship Map.

    The next example comes from Bahrain where the government is extremely tight lipped about who owns what land. There Google Maps caused a stir when it allowed Bahrainians to see how the royalty lived by examining satellite maps. When Google Maps was blocked, people started passing around PDF files of the images to circumvent the blockage.

    The point? If you have a committed activist, the only thing you can do is put the activist in jail — nothing else really works to censor people. Egypt employs this strategy with great success and has thrown Alaa, a prominent Egyptian blogger, into jail. Ethan, much like myself, has not seen the purpose of Twitter until Alaa started using Twitter to let his friends know that he is not being held by the Egyptian authorities. Alaa’s supporters are ready to restart a “Free Alaa” campaign should Alaa go missing again — Twitter is his means for checking in and giving off signs of life.

    Ethan went on to talk about China and their censorship practices. It turns out that there are more Web 2.0 companies inside China than outside! Rather than letting Chinese citizens use the normal Web 2.0 companies’ services, those sites are blocked. “Harmonized” (read: censored and approved) Chinese versions of the sites exist to bring that functionality to the Chinese people and to keep the censorship alive and well.

    So, what does China not block? Apparently there are a number of sites that are too important to the Chinese government to block. GMail, Skype and MMOG’s are not blocked — no one inside China has yet to build an email system that rivals the usefulness of GMail. The government apparently also uses Skype heavily, even though the general public uses its teleconference feature to create ad-hoc pirate radio stations by broadcasting podcasts. I’m stunned — that is brilliant!

    So, then how does the title of the talk factor in? Ethan says that the same tools that bring you cute cats on YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Blogger are the very same tools that activists use to spread their message. And: “When you block activist video (e.g. YouTube) adorable cats are collateral damage!”

    Thanks for the eye opening presentation Ethan — I’ve learned quite a few things about governments who censor their people and that the power of the Internet continues to amaze me.

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    Mahalo Daily: ETech 2008

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    Veronica Belmont roams the hallways at ETech to hear what attendees think is the most interesting emerging technology being discussed at the conference.

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    TechWebTV: Dipity

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  


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    Boing Boing: How Alternate Reality Games Work

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    Cory Doctorow posts about a session he attended at ETech:

    I just attended Elan Lee’s presentation “Designing Magnets: Connecting with Audiences in the Wired Age,” a talk on Alternate Reality Game design at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference in San Diego. Lee helped invent the genre of ARGs — working on AI, I Love Bees, Tombstone Poker, and the other defining moments in its history.

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    Wired.com: ETech: Tech Luminaries Told To Dial Back Energy Use

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    Writes Ryan Singel on Wired, “Saul Griffith, the founder of the legendary geek innovation workshop known as Squid Labs, has crunched the global warming numbers and they are grim.”

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    TechWebTV: Hungry Machine

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  


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    InformationWeek: AppNite: Time Well Wasted

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 05, 2008  

    Fritz Nelson reports and shoots from ETech, including some footage from GSP’s AppNite and Tim O’Reilly’s keynote presentation:

    O’Reilly’s ETech (Emerging Technology) Conference features a smaller conference called Graphing Social Patterns (GSP) which dives deeply into the social networking phenomenon. GSP runs straight through to AppNite, a demo contest for developers. AppNite featured both educational and silly games, but a few gems emerged, both on the purely personal side and the business side.


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    Yahoo! Developer Network: Yahoo! at GSP West and ETech

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 04, 2008  

    ETech and GSP West sponsor Yahoo! is participating in both conferences in a number of ways, as this post points out. They’ve already posted video of Ian Kennedy’s presentation announcing MyBlogLog’s APIs at GSP.

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    How billions of examples lead to better models of images and text

    [ETech]
    by Robert Kaye  Mar 04, 2008  

    Its time for my favorite conference of the year! ETech kicked off this morning to some awesome keynotes and moved straight into some killer sessions. The first session I attended was Peter Norvig’s “How billions of examples lead to better models of images and text” presentation.

    Before I tell you about what Peter shared with us, its important to mention that Peter works for Google and thus has access to massive amounts of data and images that most of us can’t even conceive. And having access to these vast data stores is the premise for his presentation.

    Peter started off with a review of the classic scientific model used to understand something that isn’t yet understood. First you observe the system in order to build a model and then you use the model to attempt to describe what the system will do outside of your observation window. This process is tedious and most of the time the generated models are wrong. By having access of millions of examples of data, you can learn from the data and avoid creating faulty models.

    His first set of examples focused on images — starting with a quick overview of the history of images. Peter pointed out that we started with paintings in caves as the first images; from there we moved on to photography and then finally on to making moving images. Each of these advances over cave paintings came about by and advance in technology and improvements in the data rate that our tools can handle.

    Peter gave the concept of Scene Completion as an example for working with images where having access to more images allows an algorithm to function. Scene completion allows an artist to take a picture and remove an undesired element from the picture (anything that distracts from illustrating the point of the image) and have an algorithm replace the removed portions with appropriate portions from a database of images. In his example he showed the removal of a rooftop in the foreground that was obstructing the scenic view of a bay and showed how the algorithm replaced the roof with boats on the water in the bay. His point here was the that algorithm didn’t work when the image database consisted of only 10,000 images. But as soon as a database of 1M+ images was used, the algorithm improved dramatically. Peter mentioned that this example clearly shows how the focus in computer science shifts from computing power to data and extracting as much utility from a vast body of data as possible.

    Finding the canonical images for a concept was probably the most interesting concept that Peter showed in his presentation. Given an image search for “Mona Lisa” you’ll get all sorts of image results that relate to the Mona Lisa. You’ll also get a number of spoof images or other images that incorporate the use of the Mona Lisa. But which image is the canonical image of the Mona Lisa? Google’s approach is to analyze all the images thought to relate to a topic (as based on web crawling results and context from those pages) and then to extract the basic image features of these images. Then, using a “pagerank like” algorithm these image features can be compared to features from other images. From this process the “canonical image” arises from vast quantities of images. It won’t work if you have a few images to throw at the algorithm — you’ll need vast quantities of images for the algorithm to work.

    Peter went on to talk about text models and how large repositories of text can help us build tools that enable more sophisticated tools that are not possible otherwise. One example he outlined is text segmentation — imagine a sentence where all the spaces between words have been removed (e.g. nowisthetimeforallgoodmen…) How can you programatically figure out where the spaces should go? Google built a probabilistic model that determines the likeliness of spaces being placed after characters. This model was then trained on 1.7 billion words of english text with an accuracy of 98%!

    Another text example that Peter gave focused on fixing spelling mistakes — most dictionary based spell checkers have flaws that they cannot recognize any words that are not in the dictionary — like most non-english names. However, using a large corpus of data Google can build a much better spell checker since its seen all many examples and from that tell which words to highlight for the user for review.

    Peter gave a number of other examples (e.g. Google Sets) and outlined some of the techniques used for instrumenting machine learning. His presentation made it clear to me that a whole new class of algorithms is emerging that focus on processing vast quantities of data. And we’re not talking about small data sets either — the scene completion example shows that thousands of images are not enough and that millions of images are needed to make the algorithm work.

    Computer science has focused on processor speed for so many years that once we got close to repealing Moore’s Law, I started wondering what would be in store for computer science. Multiple cores in processors show that we can continue to expand our computing power, but the real future advances in computer science lie elsewhere. Advances will come from using vast quantities of data to create more sophisticated programs that give us abilities that we didn’t have yesterday. This of course makes me happy since I’ve believed in the power of large data sets (especially open datasets) for quite some time.

    Its also been clear to me that more data can be derived from data — metadata, of course. Its also good to see that concrete technology, like new algorithms, can arise from data as well. Rather than closing off areas of computer science, I am glad to see that new ones open up the time.

    And finding those new areas is what excites me about the Emerging Technology Conference!

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    Tech~Surf~Blog: GSP West Posts

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 04, 2008  

    Graeme Thickins has started posting about his conversations and impressions from GSP West and ETech.

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    heise online: ETech - A Question of Perspective

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Mar 04, 2008  

    Janko Rottgers posted a preview of ETech:

    The seventh O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference opened on Monday evening in San Diego, California. The motto for this year’s conference is “Question Perspective” and the conference, which runs until Thursday, aims to illuminate technical innovations and the new insights that arise from them. The programme includes speeches and presentations from productivity guru Timothy Ferriss, editor in chief of Wired magazine Chris Anderson and blogger Violet Blue.

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    KC InfoZine: Open Source Advocate, Canadian Copyfighter, and AT&T Whistleblower Win Pioneer Awards

    [ETech]
    by Suzanne Axtell, Communications Gal  Feb 22, 2008  

    InfoZine posted this article based on the EFF’s press release on the 2008 Pioneer Award winners, which will be celebrated at ETech:

    Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2008 Pioneer Awards: the Mozilla Foundation and its Chairman Mitchell Baker, University of Ottawa Professor Michael Geist, and AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein. The award ceremony will be held at 7pm, March 4th at the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina in conjunction with the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (ETech).

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