Portrait of Edd Dumbill, taken by Giles Turnbull

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expectnation
a conference management web application


XTech Conference
a European web technology conference

EuroFoo reflections

I got an enormous amount out of the just-finished European FooCamp, with lots of thoughts sparking off and interesting things to consider.

Jon Mountjoy proposed a theory to me that Web 2.0 and the enterprise weren't in fact as far apart as a naive observe might imagine. He reckons that mashups, tagging and the like do happen within the enterprise, and in fact are often solving harder problems than found in the wilds of the web. There is a lot in common between Web 2.0 and SOA (even aside from buzzword compliance factors). This is a theme I'd like to follow through. Who are the hackers on the inside of companies, and what stories do they have to tell?

Gavin Starks from Global Cool really opened our eyes again to the problem of the environment, and introduced the interesting position that Global Cool are taking. If you want to do anything real right now to avoid catastrophic consequences, it's too late to wait for government initiatives to bear fruit. Private citizens must act too. And that's the aim of Global Cool: educating and lobbying the individual, not the government.

I was struck, as were others, by the unfortunate irony that conferences have a big environmental cost in the travel involved, as we sat there among people from many countries. I want to now investigate how XTech could be better in this regard, through carbon offsetting and similar schemes. I guess being in Paris is already a good start, as trains are apparently only 25% as polluting as planes, though this still seems like a lot!

Claus Dahl led an interesting and wide-ranging discussion about Second Life as a prototyping space for real life invention. Too many themes there to summarise neatly, but we did have an entertaining side discussion about Second Life's potential environmental impact due to CPU consumption and data centers. One suggestion was that objects and activities could be annotated in-world with their environmental cost.

Simon Willison energetically explained OpenID, a decentralized identity system proposed by SixApart and already live in systems such as LiveJournal. It attempts to solve the problem of a username and password pair for every site you visit, without the controversy of centralisation suffered by projects such as Microsoft's passport. Simon demonstrated a proof of concept that I think will be a very neat answer to site providers who ask "why should I support OpenID?" (Sneak preview: because if you don't, it's going to be astonishingly easy for a middleman to provide it, and you wouldn't want that.)

I also took time to learn about something I'd been interested in but not known much about, 3D printing and "fabbing". Simon Wardley led a great overview of current systems for 3D printing and their various attributes, and indicated where the current trends were going. It doesn't seem so unrealistic that there'll soon be affordable 3D printing bureaux similar to walk-in reprographic facilities like Kinkos.

Plenty more went on that I've not got time to transcribe, but I think will flavour my thinking over the months to come. I was fortunate to be among some incredibly intelligent and welcoming people. My thanks to O'Reilly for putting this on, and to everyone else who went for being inspiring companions.

Oh, one more thing. Belgians are excellent at confectionery.

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