Portrait of Edd Dumbill, taken by Giles Turnbull

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What I make

expectnation
a conference management web application


XTech Conference
a European web technology conference

Foodoo lounge

Time to reflect on Foo Camp, now it's over.

People

Some things to note on attendees: by and large they were North American. Enough people were already upset enough they couldn't come, but at least they prequalified through their nationality. Together with Dan Brickley and one or two others who just happened to be around anyway, I represented Europe.

Everyone was very pleasant and social. Maybe it was the atmosphere of Northern California, but things were very polite and clean throughout. Surprisingly so. The cube where I was camping was opposite the electronic music experiment, which Rob Flickenger had warned me would be loud for quite a while at night. It turned out to be at the volume you'd be very pleased for your neighbours to play music at. So polite....

I hung around a lot with Kendall Clark, who works with me on XML.com. It was good to spend some time with him, as we normally just communicate over IRC. Along with meeting a few other people, it reinforced my view is that online isn't so different: I've yet to meet anyone whose real life persona surprised me by being different to the impression I'd got from their online persona.

As for the most talked-about person who wasn't invited: well, I'll leave that to your imagination. The person I most wish had got an invite who hadn't: Paul Ford.

Sessions

Looking back, I seemed to have missed quite a few sessions that I wanted to go to. Particularly the one on new mobile and PDA gadgets. I guess I still felt superior enough, swaggering around with my P800.

I really enjoyed Simon St.Laurent's tale of the XML specification disaster, told using Playmobil figures and stop-frame animation. Presentations that don't use Powerpoint rock, and his was a nice tale, with plenty of humour thrown in.

Nat Friedman's update on Dashboard was cool, too. I'm jealous of the amount of energy he has. Now the initial rush of the Novell acquisition is passing for him, we might see some more Dashboard work again. The leeway Nat's being given inside Novell is amazing. If it pans out, the Ximian acquisition will be the best news for the open source desktop world since the start of GNOME.

The social software thing disappointed me. I must admit that as I only read very few blogs and generally try to avoid bandwagons, I'd not picked up on the breathless-hype nature of social software. It seems it's pretty much a rebadge of the P2P bubble. I didn't "get" P2P either, I'm afraid. I had previously thought that FOAF would fall into the social software category, but by and large it's on the periphery.

FOAF's a lot of fun for me still. I heard lots of folk talking about it during the weekend, and there was a specific FOAF roundtable chat. The nature of its adoption is an interesting problem. As Dan tells it, FOAF is basically a bit of fun that's gotten out of hand. But as people start taking it seriously, there are all sorts of consequences. The precedent of W3C standards and (ugh) RSS has set an expectation for how the technology should evolve: that seems crazy to me as I'd hardly call out most of current specifications as an exemplar. Dan explains FOAF as a dictionary, which is a great analogy. Some of the terms are stable, some are in testing, some are brand new, and some are obsolete.

What we really need now in FOAF is more applications. I'm trying to get some time to hack on FOAFbot some more, and do something on my P800. I also had an idea for some cool GNOME/FOAF integration, which might be quite easy to get off the ground.

Machines

Foo Camp was a darn walking advertisement for Apple hardware. Seems to me the only cool opinion-formers with Microsoft kit actually work for Microsoft themselves. I don't know if it was self-selecting or not, but it's interesting nevertheless. Happily I wasn't the only one there running Linux on my Apple notebook, so not everybody's a lost cause. I still reckon it's disappointing how many free software hackers now run a non-free OS.

On the way out here I saw a PC that could well be my next laptop, the Sony TR1MP. I've no idea how well it runs with Linux yet, but as there's not too much hope for good driver support for Apple's current line of hardware it looks like I'm headed back into the x86 world.

Conclusion

I had a good time at the camp. The weather was good, the people were interesting, and I had plenty of chance to think. The overall sessions board was a great survey of what people were interested in, working on, and trying to get off the ground. There's plenty more to think about than what the blogging world notices, and in fact the blogging-related stuff was among the most humdrum. The web is ineffably cool, for sure, but all the people making bets on the future aren't placing them on web sites.

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