October 20, 2005
Herring hot dogs and open source in Amsterdam

I'm back from Amsterdam and the debut of EuroOSCON. I've had fun and broodje haring (which is a "pickled herring hot dog" with raw onion and pickles).
There were good talks and not so good talks and a lot of nice and interesting people.
As a perl hacker it was fun to see all (well, a lot of) the perl hackers on the mailing lists in the flesh and there were plenty of good talks for my tastes anyway.
Overall the vibe was "sharing, simplicity, source" - all the projects were focused on moving on. Tons of projects were in a remake phase rather than a make phase so they were focused on getting it right the second (or third or forth or ...) time around.
Memorable performances in the "it's about the user" category were Ben Goodger's talk on the making of Firefox and Jeff Waugh's talk on Gnome

What impressed me the most was the intense commitment to the social side of software. It's why open source works of course, but it was also top of mind for everyone from perl 6 reimplementers to Linux desktop hackers. Or maybe I just went to those talks were this was top of mind. A conference is after all designed so that you miss 80% of the fun.
I might cover some of the talks on my infrequent hacking addendum (in particular I think I'll expand on the sadness that is perl 6) but here's at least some highlights: The best talk I saw was Autrjius Tang's talk on pugs. I liked that it actually works, that there's heart and courage, vision, friendliness, openness, a complete lack of perl (or any language) bigotry and if you add a nice presentation and the ambition to go on a 10 year hacking pilgrimage a la Paul Erdös I think we have a best of show winner. If I was a benevolent millionaire (I'm not) I would sponsor Autrijus' walkabout in a heartbeat.
The Maker Faire was fun, but as a previous Ars Electronica attendee I have to say I was distinctly underwhelmed by most of the hacks. Each year Ars E presents nothing but hacks thay are way, way superior. That's all fine and dandy this is supposed to be about grassrootsy get involved hack your own stuff like MAKEing, it's not supposed to be perfect - but the secret here of course is that so is Ars E to a large extent.
Couple of good things there though. A couple of projects had vision and heart (not just hacking) in mind. The nodel project is a collection of tools for building an open voluntary people/locations/events semantic web. Fernando Botelho was interested in building cheap computers for the blind from open source software. It's more af a call for action than an existing project but there's scope and heart there.
Other than that, the most admired demo was Beth Goza's tour through Second Life - an MMORPG that has two to three unique enabling features: There's a free basic account if you want to look around. You can script the environment yourself. The interactions are social and not hack&slay. It's simply not about killing people.
I quite liked a demo that wasn't really part of the faire but just an impromtu demo by Liz Turner of her ICONAUT a newsmeme analysis tool that slices and dices news keywords with isometric iconography. It's either informing and eye-opening or just eye-opening, but it's certainly that.

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Posted by Claus at October 20, 2005 11:40 PM | TrackBack (0)
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