Okay…it looks like I’ll be moving again, but this time (hopefully) will be the last. “What’s the new URL?” you ask avidly, drooling over the thought of more nerd tech stuff. Well, I’ve dropped the Simplicitas title and decided upon CliftonSnyder.net. Original, no? Look there for future posts, because this bird has flown the coop!
In all the rush of the conference (and the rather unkind homework assignment that I was attempting to complete) I completely forgot to post the project that we were presenting! The name of the project is WorldMap, and it is
“…a prototype system that provides an interactive visual tool for selecting and displaying geographically coded data about libraries and collections.”
Even if you’re not in the library biz, you should check it out!
The ASIS&T Wednesday afternoon plenary session was easily as interesting as the talk given by Matthew Szulik on Monday. Pattie Maes is a researcher at MIT who has received, approximately, every award known to mankind. Traditionally, information seeking has been considered a proactive activity – i.e., the user knows what she is looking for, fires up a browser, and keys a few search terms into a text box. The research that she was presenting was an impressive array of projects whose overall goal was to learn about the user and bring relevant information to the user’s attention unobstrusively and without the user actively searching for it. Additionally, there was an aspect of decoupling the user from her desktop computer, allowing her to retrieve information automatically wherever she might be.
For example, the next time you meet someone for the first time and shake that person’s hand, imagine having an earpiece that is capable of telling you the person’s Pattie Maes, who you and that person know in common, and any personal interests or preferences that you share with that person. Alternately, imagine shaking that person’s hand on your fourth face-to-face encounter, and having your “magical earpiece” refresh your memory about recent email correspondence and/or phone conversations with that person. It only got better from there.
Another example given was a college student walking on campus. Suppose that this college student needs a particular textbook for a class. What if this student’s earpiece were able to use GIS to determine the student’s proximity to local bookstores, check the prices for the textbook at each of the stores, and alert the student to which of the stores had the lowest price for that book – possibly even negotiate the purchase with the bookstore computers before she even enters the store? Alternately, suppose the student is browsing in the bookstore and all of the books have RFID tags attached to their dust jackets. What if the earpiece could determine which of the books are likely to be of interest to her, and bring those books to her attention along with their respective reviews and prices?
These are only 2 examples of the sort of thing that Pattie Maes is working on implementing (and has implemented), using various cell phone, GIS, Bluetooth, and RFID technologies. It’s exciting stuff, and watching her presentation – complete with videos of working prototypes – gave me a very “the future is now” sort of feeling. For more space age goodness, check out her presentation [PDF].
As I mentioned before, I had the opportunity to see Matthew Szulik speak this morning. I also brought up his intense, tribal intro video, which can be seen here. (Interestingly, while the video is apparently not in a proprietary format, it was played on Windows Media Player…but we won’t hold it against Matt. 🙂 )
While the “Open Source Hippy” part of me has a bit of a “grudge” against Red Hat – after all, they “sold out”, didn’t they? why would I listen to him talk about “community”? – Mr. Szulik said a few rather interesting and poignant things having to do with the “new way” sort of approach of open source in general, and linux in particular. He also tempered this by saying things like,
“[The linux desktop] is a little like teenage sex; everyone’s talking about it, but nobody’s really doing it”
Put in those terms, I guess that makes me one of the “cool kids“. 🙂
Another topic of note was the difficulty of enabling creative, smaht young kids with brilliant idears (it turns out that Mr. Szulik is a New Englander). The difficult part is setting up a management and advancement hierarchy that allows these “creative types” to be creative without either complete anarchy or stifling beaurocracy. An interesting facet of this problem that I had not considered was the issue of promotions. In an organization that relies on the creative collaboration of brilliant youngsters, the typical advancement scheme of Peon->Lower,Middle,Upper Management->VP isn’t necessarily desirable, as the talents of any given engineer in a management position are really wasted. It’s not clear, however, that the solution to the problem is to stick all engineers into permanent peon-itude. (Being an engineer, I can positively say that this latter approach is not The Way).
An additional piece of this problem was brought to my attention by a friend who actually worked for a dot-com during The Bubble at its high point. Like all the rest of the wildly successful dot-coms, her particular company was drunk on VC funds and hemoraghing cash; everyone working for the company became a millionaire, more or less overnight. The difficulty then basically boiled down to this: How does one maintain a collaborative community of dedicated, idealistic, young individuals…when all of those individuals are driving Beemers? Say what you like about “Money isn’t everything”…that kind of differential in means brings about a drastic change in the way in which people think. I’m willing to bet that if every developer on every open source project were to inherit a million dollars overnight, the open source movement would come to a screeching halt…as it necessarily should in that situation, were it to occur. After all, it’s hard to be a “starving artist engineer” when you’re…err…not at all “starving”.
At any rate, these are the sorts of thoughts that came to me as I think about Matthew Szulik’s talk. I’d like to get a chance to talk to him some more about some of these things – in particular, I’d like to ask him how he responds to the attitude of the community toward Red Hat as a “traitor”. Maybe I’ll ask around and see if he’s still in Charlotte…
I’m sitting in on the 10AM plenary, which will be given by Matthew Szulik, president and CEO of Red Hat. I just found out this morning that he would be speaking; I’m looking forward to his talk (if they ever get past the preamble; man that’s an intense intor video!). More after the talk.
I’ve arrived in Charlotte, NC for the ASIS&T 2005 conference. The flight was okay (read: short) other than the 2-hour layover at ATL; one finds some pretty interesting (read: neurotic) people in airport bars.
The Westin Charlotte is a pretty excellent hotel – upon seeing it, my buddy Jopop asked, “You’re staying in the Motorola RAZR?” – and while I haven’t stayed at many hotels, this is one of the nicest hotel rooms that I’ve had. I can attest to the fact that the Heavenly Shower is, in fact, just that.
The downside: wired internet in the room is $10/day, and wireless internet in the public spaces requires a “Group Code”; I’ve been unable to locate said “Code” thus far, but I’ll be investigating it shortly. For now, I’ll just have to keep “posting” to my text editor and hope that a connection to teh Intarwebs presents itself before I get back home.
Update : I seem to have found an access point in the 1st floor lounge. I don’t think that it’s coming from the hotel – I’m most likely hijacking someone’s wireless across the street – but at least it gives me a chance to post and check email…and play my turns on LotGD 🙂