May 5, 2003
2003 O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference: "Framing New Technologies into a Coherent Picture"
Sebastopol, CA--The second O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference saw
the best minds of several generations debating--and in some cases,
implementing--the future of technology all day and into the night from
April 22-25. Over 600 seasoned hackers, corporate executives, high
school students, digerati, developers, and forty-year veterans of
Silicon Valley sat side by side in sessions, on stage, and in the
conference common areas in the Westin Santa Clara. They came together
to flesh out and explore technology that not only affects computing,
but communication, lifestyle, business, and education.
Swarming, roboflies, physical computing, and smart mobs were just a few
of the newer--or less visible--concepts explored during the annual
event, organized under tracks labeled Rich Internet Applications,
Social Software, Untethered, Nanotechnology and Hardware, and Emerging
Topics. The progress of more familiar ideas, such as peer-to-peer
computing, web services, wireless, digital rights management, and the
"Internet operating system" were also evaluated. Speakers including
Howard Rheingold, Clay Shirky, Eric Bonabeau, Tim O'Reilly, David S.
Isenberg, Brewster Kahle, Dan Gillmor, David Weinberger, Meg Hourihan,
Mitch Kapor, Eric Drexler, Felipe Cabrera, Craig Silverstein, and Kevin
Lynch led sessions and tutorials.
In addition to Confab, conference-goers sampled other new breeds of
"social software," designed to facilitate interaction and commentary
during the event. TrackBack, a method of linking weblogs and the
brainchild of Ben and Mena Trott, has been in use at previous O'Reilly
conferences and was ubiquitous at ETech. Socialtext provided the
official conference Wiki, Rich Gibson with the NoCat Community Network
created an IRC Channel for the event, and Macromedia (a conference
Platinum sponsor) and mixed grill provided a get-acquainted tool aptly
ETech '03 was the forum for a wide range of announcements:
O'Reilly & Associates CEO Tim O'Reilly announced his company's
commitment to applying the Founders' Copyright, developed by Creative
Commons, to O'Reilly books. "The Founders' Copyright is a contract law
hack," commented O'Reilly. "It clarifies rights, preventing works from
'falling into disrepair' and being lost." One work slated for the
Creative Commons' repository is Dan Gillmor's book on the future of
journalism, to be published by O'Reilly later this year.
Tim O'Reilly later joined Geekcorps' Ethan Zuckerman at a press
conference to outline plans for a joint effort to promote volunteer
activism in the technical community, specifically for aid to developing
nations. A "geek activism" summit is planned for the next O'Reilly
conference, its Open Source Convention, to be held in Portland July
The first round of prizes for the O'Reilly Mac OS X Innovators contest
were awarded to Brent Simmons and Robb Beal at the conference. Simmons'
winning entry, NetNewsWire, is a popular RSS news reader for Mac OS X.
Beal's second-place entry, Spring, helps users work with canvases and
icons to retrieve and manage information, and to communicate with
others. Run by O'Reilly, the contest is sponsored by Apple Developer
Connection, a Platinum sponsor of the conference.
Icosystems announced that it has won a contract from the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to apply principles of swarm
intelligence to the control of robotic swarms of unmanned ground
vehicles, to perform indoor navigation and reconnaissance tasks.
The Internet Bookmobile made a curbside appearance at the conference,
demonstrating how printed books can be created from cyberspace.
Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive and
Bookmobile creator, noted that "At the O'Reilly Emerging Technology
Conference, attendees experienced first-hand how we can use the Net to
put millions of public-domain books into the hands of children."
Several community meetings were held in conjunction with the
conference. One of the most popular was a workshop organized by Amazon,
a Platinum sponsor, which examined the Amazon platform in depth, with a
specific focus on the company's Web Services APIs, launched in the
summer of 2002. Workshop attendees got a sneak preview of the newest
book in O'Reilly's wildly popular Hacks series, "Amazon Hacks," authored
by Paul Bausch and due in bookstores in August 2003.
Observed Tim O'Reilly, "O'Reilly's customers, the hackers and alpha
geeks, are the ones who show us the shape of the future. The Emerging
Technology Conference is a way for us to frame what they're showing us
about new technologies into a coherent picture, think about the
implications, and share it with interested--and interesting--parties."
Added Program Chair Rael Dornfest, "This year's conference was rich
with creativity and community, and we can't wait to see what comes of
O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
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