Gnomedex Wrap-Up

I didn’t really blog the conference. I missed some of it, anyway. I mean, who wants to get up for 9 A.M. talks when it’s a semi-vacation? 🙂 Here’s a smattering of random thoughts about the show.


  • Nelson Minar of Google talked about a lot of aspects of Google, but focused heavily on their advertising. To their mind, Google is not just about searching the web, it’s about presenting information that’s useful to people. To that end, they consider successful advertisements to be another form of search problem: you have to consider relevance and user experience. That’s why Google separates ads from search content (you can’t buy ranking in the search results, period), uses complex algorithms to determine which ads are appropriate, and (most importantly) presents the ads in user- and bandwidth-friendly text only. It’s surprising how well received Google’s ads are in the “everything should be” crowd. It’s thoroughly impressive how much work happens in those 0.2 seconds of search time!
  • Eric Sink of SourceGear talked about his experience using .NET. He points out that these higher level abstractions are supposed to make us faster and more productive developers. We’re whiny and hard to manage, so the less of us there is, the better. That got a few laughs. 🙂 His experience with .NET (from zero to fully-functional source control system in 14 months) are very encouraging. That echoes our experience: our Java prototype was semi-ported and then significantly hardened and enhanced, in a period of 11 months. We’re absolutely thrilled with the productivity of .NET.
  • Rob Malda (aka CmdrTaco) of Slashdot came without a presentation, just intending to fill his time answering questions about Slashdot. Rob’s a walking ad for ADD. 🙂 He rambles and goes off on tangents that are often quite unexpected and entertaining. He had some incredible choice quotes. 🙂
  • Tim O’Reilly had a great talk about paradigm shifts. We started with paradigm shift in hardware; commodity PCs beat proprietary (IBM beats Apple), and commodity add-ons beat proprietary (Dell beats IBM and Compaq). Then we shifted to the point where software was more important than hardware (Microsoft beats IBM). Now he claims the lock-in is moving away from software and into services. Leading the way are services like Amazon, PayPal, Google, etc. The value is in the data, not in the software. You de-couple the application from the software, and the common-in point is the commodity browser. In this way, getting Linux on the desktop is less of a challenge, because you don’t write software for Linux or Windows, you write it for the web. I’m not entirely sure I agree that this is the shift, seeing as the user experience with web applications is terrible compared to rich client. It’s also not like there’s a 50/50 split between Windows and Linux, or IE and other browsers. You hit the vast majority by saying “IE on Windows”, and then you’re still platform locked.
  • John C. Dvorak was the keynote. He was supposed to talk about emerging technologies. The only emerging technology I recall him talking about was a Cisco IP phone, and only then at the prodding of an audience member (“Do you even _like_ technology?”). John spent most of his time rambling and more or less off-topic from his speech. Sure, he was at times really funny, but he also spent a lot of time seemingly trying to piss off the audience members. If you were a cat-owning Mac-using blogger, then your head was on the chopping block. :-p


  • Jason DeFillipo took some awesome pictures of the speakers. He’s clearly very talented (although I bet my pictures would look a little better if I had a $2500 camera, too :-p).
  • I met a lot of people for the first time in person: Randy Holloway, adimiron (Dave K.), Dania, Tom Bridge, Sam Cook, Don, Solonor, Jason DeFillipo, and Mr. Mittens (who I think was simultaneously exactly and nothing like what people expected). I also got a chance to see Samuel and Erica again, having met them previously at a friend’s party in Arizona (not at all related to blogging). If I think of more of the name of people I met, I’ll update this list. 🙂
  • Randy Holloway and Eric Sink were the unwitting recipients of a poorly planned product demo by yours truly. 🙂 (More about the product on Monday, I hope.) Eric had a ton of great input on the product, as I’d expected. That night, Randy and I sat up into the late night consuming adult beverages and talking products and technology. He’s an awesome guy, and I had a great time talking to him. I wonder how much it’ll take to convince him to move to Colorado. 🙂
  • Tom Bridge is using TypePad, so I got a glimpse of it. The web-based UI is a significant step up above MovableType. However, watching Tom upload pictures and manipulate the photo albums makes me long for something that’s admin’d with a traditional GUI.

Well, that’s it for now… 🙂

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