Ted Leung on the air: Open Source, Java, Python, and ...
I spent yesterday at the first day of the Internet Open Space in Vancouver. Vancouver is just close enough to drive it -- three hours each way. I ended up staying in a cheap hotel on Wednesday night so that I would be good for something on Thursday. Once upon a time, I could drive five hours (almost) straight with no problem. Nowadays, I spend such a small amount of time in a car, which has led to a lack of driving endurance.
I've been following the identity space with varying degrees of closeness for a few years now. The open space was a good opportunity to get caught up on the state of the world. I was pretty interested in the Liberty Alliance when it was announced a few years ago. The ASF was listed as a participant, but for reasons which remain a mystery to me, nothing ever actually happened. In the meantime, there has been a small explosion of protocols to deal with single sign on for web applications. There appears to be some coalescing of that work around Yadis and OpenID. Other vendors like SXIP and Microsoft round out the space of identity protocols.
The first session that I went to covered efforts to produce open source implementations of the Liberty specs. Apparently these efforts are just getting underway -- ironic given where things could have been. Nonetheless, a good step. I was pleased to hear about the Lasso C library for Liberty -- this is important for scripting languages. Unfortunately, I'm less excited about the GPL license, which is going to make it hard to use in some of the settings that I am interested in.
David Recordon did an informative session on OpenID 2. OpenID is expanding its scope from authentication into other areas, most notably data transfer / profile exchange. I missed most of Drummond Reed's session on Yadis -- I just caught the end, which was mostly about XRI -- but there was enough discussed in David's session that I have a general feel for what is going on. I was also glad for the chance to meet David and Drummond (for the second time), since I'll be working with them on Heraldry. Meeting people at events like ApacheCon and PyCon has demonstrated that a little face to face contact can go a long way towards easing interactions via e-mail and other mediums.
During and after lunch, I attended a mega session. Dick Hardt's session on protocol convergence and Marc Canter's session on NoID4Me ended up merging. The theme of both sessions really focused on obstacles to adoption. Marc was pretty vocal about the needs that he has for PeopleAggregator, which drove a good portion of the discussion. There's general agreement about the need for convergece of protocols, but of course, each protocol team has a vested interest in their own, and feels that theirs is the protocol that should be converged to. Someone suggested that the various protocol developers take a month off from working on protocol stuff (a deployment sabbatical, Kaliya called it), and go help someone try to implement/deploy their protocol in a product setting. I think that this is a pretty good idea if people aren't doing things like this already. One other potentially positive development from this discussion was the start of a conversation on how to have SAML and OpenID work together. The likely areas seemed to be around authentication, and the use of parts of SAML for the profile exchange mechanism that's being considered for OpenID.
When I saw Kaliya Hamlin at Gnomedex, she told me about the Liberty People Service. This is the kind of thing that would be very useful to integrate into Chandler, so I made sure to attend Paul Madsen's session on the People Service. The session was dominated by technical content as people tried to understand how the service actually worked. Despite being unfamiliar with most of the Liberty specs, I found that I had no trouble following the discussion. I spent a year or so doing some consulting on the WS-* web services stack, and that experience made it possible to follow along. I had also read the People Service whitepaper. which probably also helped. I was disappointed to hear that there are no implementations (other than private prototypes) of the People Service that someone could get a hold of and play with. In this day and age, I expect a spec to be accompanied by a reference implementation or something. Maybe I've just been hanging out with the wrong people.
The last session that I went to was Mary Ruddy's session on Higgins, which is "bus" which allows you to plug in identity protocols/stacks and provides an API for use by a diversity of clients: web browsers (via extensions), web services (via SOAP), and rich clients. There is a reference implementation that is written in Java, and seemed kind of oriented towards InfoCards. Mary said that someone was working on a C client, but she wasn't able to say much about that. I hope there will be news soon, since I am interested in either Python or Ruby implementations.
In the evening there was a nice dinner at a Chinese restaraunt. I had to skip out just a bit early, since I was driving home. Good thing too. I ran into night time highway construction on I-5 that caused me to miss my intended ferry. On the whole though, a worth while experience. I've been interested in getting support for identity into Chandler when the moment was right. It's my personal belief that People are a key way of organizing and relating to information. When I worked at Taligent, I almost worked on the workspace team, which was the team working on CommonPoint's equivalent of the Finder. The user metaphor for the workspace was called "People, Places, and Things". I wasn't there for the design discussions, but I don't think the order of the words is an accident. Bryan Starbuck and the Windows Contacts team are thinking some of the same thoughts that I am - not completely the same, obviously, since they have different problems.
It was good to see what else was happening in the same space of things as Heraldry. I was struck by how different the culture is between Liberty and the "user-centric" (I finally understand where that label came from -- and it's not obvious -- another problem that needs to be fixed in order to help people figure out what is really going on here) camps. Because Liberty is a pay for membership organization, there was often that "Liberty member" only situation. The last time I dealt with this was when I was dealing with the W3C and JCP. I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now. The Liberty stuff is well engineered, and very enterprise oriented - the design dials were turned towards maximum security, a decision which I can understand and appreciate. As I listened throughout the day, it struck me that I was re-living the J2EE vs non-J2EE/Ruby on Rails conversation. J2EE is an enterprise strength stack and there are some organizations that really need all the features and specs that go with J2EE. I think that these are the same organizations that need (and helped start) Liberty.
Other observations: I picked up one or two practices from Kaliya's facilitation of the open space, and maybe we'll try them at the next Mind Camp. There were very few cameras around, which made me somewhat self conscious about taking a lot of photographs. But I did take some, and the set is up on Flickr, including shots of some of the flipcharts.
If you were interested in something that I didn't attend, notes from many of the sessions are up on the IOSVan wiki.
I am going to be one of the mentors of the Heraldry project that has been accepted for incubation at Apache. The initial goals for Heraldry are:
- Expansion of Yadis and OpenID libraries into additional languages beyond the existing Python, Ruby, Perl, and PHP libraries
- OpenID authentication specification revision to fix known security considerations, investigate compatibility with the DIX IETF proposal, describe Yadis integration, and allow either an URL or XRI be used as the End User’s Identifier
- Continue the development of a data transfer protocol on top of OpenID to allow the exchange of profile data as well as other secure messages
- Investigate existing mechanisms for profile exchange, namely Sxip 2.0 and SAML, and investigate how they would be layered atop OpenID
- Integration of the OpenID Authentication protocol with the Higgins framework to provide desktop integration
- Extension of OpenID to support non-browser based authentication use cases. ie authentication to a Subversion server, creation of mod_authnz_openid, using your OpenID Identity without modifying the svn client-side tool
I've been interested in the digital identity space for some time, and I''m looking forward to getting more directly involved. I hope that some of you will too, this is an important area.
This year Chris and Ponzi asked me to shoot some pictures during Gnomedex 6.0, so I spent a lot of Gnomedex running around with a camera in my hand. This post is the usual roundup of impressions of the conference. I'm going to write a second post about the photography experience.
The appearance of John Edwards was one of the big deals of the show, hitting the front page of the Seattle Post Intelligencer over the weekend.
Lots of people seemed focused on whether or not Edwards was "their" candidate or not, and on whether or not he got it. Edwards got lots of props for admitting that it was very hard for him (and other politicians) to break out of the guarded facade that has been the standard for politicians for many years. I think that the public also has to break out of its old way of relating to and viewing politicians. Before Edwards arrived, Chris Pirillo pled with the audience to use this as an appearance as an opportunity to help Edwards learn about "us", the technology world and so forth. I was struck by how a conference full of bloggers slipped right into treating Edwards as a political expert and peppering him with questions about his positions. Since I was shooting the show for Chris, I got the chance to be in the green room with Chris, Ponzi, and Edwards both before and after Edwards went on stage. Afterwards, Chris was apologizing to Edwards because the discussion ended up being much more political and less of the educating that Chris was hoping for. Edwards turned to Chris and said "You know, you just can't stop them from asking the political questions". It seems that the public is as programmed as the politicians. Somehow we need a way to break the cycle.
Amazon CTO Werner Vogels
I found Werner Vogel's session on Network Neutrality to be very informative. It was personally useful to me to get a good summarization and overview of the state of the debate. He cited the Wikipedia entry as a good reference for those interested in tunneling deeper.
Bloglines gave Big Wine for Big Ideas
The juxtaposition of the Bloglines Big Ideas session with Steve Gillmor's Attention session was quite amusing. The winner of the Blog Ideas session was the idea that an aggregator should figure out what you are interested and help filter out the stuff that you aren't. I'd call that an attention+reputation based aggregator, but that's just me. Gillmor announced the "Attention Operating System" - the product of a venture between GestureBank and root.net. This is something I'm going to be keeping my eye on.
An interesting thing that Dave Winer said during his session was something to the effect that manufacturing companies are going to be come outsourced services to make stuff for people that have ideas. I think that this meshes very well with the themes that Eric von Hippel has been writing about in Democratizing Innovation
Kaliya Hamlin, Identity Woman
Kaliya Hamlin (Identity Woman) did a great impromptu session on the gap between the civil society (users) and the social tool building sector (developers). One of the efforts that she mentioned was the Interra project. Kaliya's profile has been rising recently and with good reason. It was good to see Dave Winer and Marc Canter vocally supporting her as the discussion leader. Gnomedex MVP indeed.
There was a much publicized confrontation between Dave Winer and Blake Ross, which seems to be on its way to a resolution. I'm happy that there was a resolution, but as I watched the incident there was one thing which really surprised me. Both Dave and Steve Gillmor chastised Blake (and the Firefox project) for being non-transparent, particularly with respect to product plans. The thing that surprised me is that both Dave and Steve are very savvy, and yet they seemed unaware that the product plans for Firefox are up on a public wiki, that the development is coordinated via public newsgroups and so forth. If people like Dave and Steve think that product plan information is secret the way that it is in proprietary software companies, then we in the open source community as a whole need to really rethink how we are communicating with users.
Chris did a session with some VC's where he pitched them on TagJag in front of all of Gnomedex. I though that this was a pretty educational session for people interested in getting a project funded. Jeff Clavier has more on what happened.
In addition to the zillion posts in the blogosphere, you can also see the notes that the indJet folks were taking with Mind Manager. So far only the day 1 notes are up.
This the first conference that I've attended using the official unconference format (Gnomedex used the regular speaker format last year). Werner Vogels wrote:
Beyond this the conferences that focus on participation are best served by the Open Space approach. I don’t think the “unconference” hybrid model is as effective as Open Space. Unconferences still rely on big names and predefined topics to restrict the conversation. In Open Space all the participants come together on the first day to define the topics to be discussed and anyone can propose a topic within the theme of the conference. Participants then go to take part in the discussions they are most passionate about. There is some additional structure around the process to make sure everyone learns about the details of every topic that was discussed. The outcome depends a lot on the theme or the goals of the conference, but in general I have found that the participants feel extremely empowered by this approach.
The goal of Open Space is to make the whole conference one long coffee break …
I definitely agree with this, and Ethan Kaplan made note of the asymmetrical nature of the format during his session (I wasn't wowed by Ethan's session, but there's a lot of good stuff in his Gnomedex wrapup). For me it was still the case that the very best parts of Gnomedex were single person or small group interactions that I had with people during the parties or in the hallways.
One of those great conversations was with Philip Pearson, whose blog I've been reading for years, and who is now working on Marc Canter's People Aggregator. Philip just put up a post discussing the details of the People Aggregator API.
I consider Thomas Hawk to be one of the superstars in the Flickr's community. He shoots prolifically, and almost every day I see a great shot of his go by. He's also very active in the Flickr on-line and offline communities. Thomas has been very vocal and hands on about photographer's rights. On top of all that, he also maintains a great blog where he talks about photography and technology in general. So when I read that he was going to Work for Zooomr, I paid attention. A lot of attention.
As I wrote previously, the thing that make Flickr sticky for me is the community of people. I have built up enough of a base there that I'm unlikely to switch to another photo-sharing site just for features. But if a bunch of people that are part of my personal community started hopping over to another site, then that would get my attention. The blogosphere is already aflame with the conversation about the technical end of this: should there be wholesale import/export API's or tools, who should provide them, and so forth. That's all fine, and I'm not worried about any of that, because in the end, any system that provides an API will end up having a way to do import/export. The more interesting question is, what could cause a sizable portion of the community to make the jump to a new system.
I think it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out, because Thomas has said he is going to keep on going at Flickr, so for the moment, there isn't going to be a break in the network. But if the day comes that Thomas switches to Zooomr as his primary, that's going to be very interesting. When companies try to build a product or service around a community, prominent members of that community are going to have more and more of an impact.
I wonder whether over time, we'll see further and more crisp stratification of the photo sharing market: Yahoo Photos for families, Flickr for people who want to learn and get serious about photography, Zooomr for the really hard core photographers... I'm not making a prediction about either niches or residents of those niches, but it is interesting to think about.
Mike Arrington wrote about the Yahoo Photos Beta Launch:
Yahoo Photos is the largest online photo site with nearly 31 million unique monthly visitors (compare to Flickr’s 16.5 million). Flickr is for the early adopters. Yahoo photos used to be for the masses, but a few early adopters may be giving it a try, too.
I know that Mike is writing from the perspective of looking at the business and the features, which is perfectly fine thing to do. But the thing that is going to keep me on Flickr is not the features (although I'd like to have them), it's the community of people on Flickr. I've spent time on Flickr discovering people whose work I admire and follow, and Flickr makes it easy to do this. There are groups of people with similar interests, that I can learn from and share with. Groups like the one for the Strobist blog. For me, the Flickr on-line community has also crossed over into the real world. I've been to meetups in San Francisco and Seattle, so the connection is starting to be physical as well as virtual. I don't know if that's important to Yahoo or Flickr from a business point of view, but I know that it sure is important to me.
I'm sure that Yahoo Photos has the functionality to do all of these things. But I don't know if the people that I know from Flickr are going to be there. There are some attractive features on the new Yahoo Photos (I'm not in the beta yet, so I'm basing this on Arrington's piece), and I think that there might be some reasons that I would put some photographs up there. But the tie to Flickr is the community of people, and that's going to be the determining factor in where the majority of my attention goes.
It may be true that Flickr is/was for the early adoptors. But I also think that it's for the enthusiasts.
We headed up there for Moosecamp -- with the exception of the Photocamp track, I mostly hung out in the hallway with the girls, so that Julie could go to sessions. I spent some time hanging with Avi Bryant -- it's only the second time I've met him in person, but he's fun to hang out with, and we're definitely coming from the same place, so it's nice to have someone to commiserate with. This time I also got to spend some time with Avi's partner in Dabble, Andrew Catton, hich was also a pleasure.
Over the course of the few days, we ended up spending a sizable amount of time (in blocks) with Eric and Rose Soroos (and their son). This is another sad instance of people from Seattle needing to go to Vancouver in order to see each other, but that's just how things have worked out. Eric is a camera and Python guy, like me, and we had some fun hanging out an talking. I got to try bolting my 50mm onto my 100mm macro thanks to a cool adaptor ring that Erik was carrying, and for like $8, it's too cool not to make its way onto my equipment wishlist.
We've been slowly getting to know Chris and Ponzi over the last year or so (we first met them at Northern Voice last year). So this as a good chance to get a little better acquainted. In particular, I had no idea that Ponzi is a budding camera freak like me. That ended up making for a fun lunch conversation one day.
I had a bunch of nice personal photos that I shot of these folks (and some others), but the laptop theives have those now. At least Flickr still has some of the good ones.
Ok, on to the topical material.
I thought that the idea of PhotoCamp was incredibly good. When I started looking at the pages, I was kind of jealous of the VanDigiCam group. I'm not aware of anything like that in the Seattle area, much less here on Bainbridge Island. While I enjoyed the sessions, I think that there could have been so much more. There was a wide range of skills in the sessions, and I think that there is a huge amount that you could do. The prospect of a day long Photocamp is pretty enticing, given the right time. I was also astonished to learn that Kris Krug has only been shooting for 4 years. Perhaps there is hope for me yet.
I've seen several suggestions that Moosecamp be after the main conference, and I agree with that. I think that having the structured event up front can lead to a better unstructured event afterwards (although Moosecamp was already fully scheduled before it started). This year the PyCon sprints are after the conference instead of before, and I think that will be better than it has been in the past. We'll know the answer in about a week.
Julie's already written about her talk, and I won't comment, because you won't believe anything I say because you know that I love her.
The Blogs in the Bedroom panel. I had no idea how this was going to go, and I was kind of nervous about it. All the other participants on the panel have fairly interesting situations. Chris and Ponzi had a very public dispute, Maryam and Scoble have a very high and spicy profile, and Jen Wiederick is chronicling her dating (mis)adventures. In contrast, Julie and I don't fight much, we have kids, and we're pretty much non-controversial. It seemed like the audience was much more interested in the other situations represented around the table, which was fine with me. Even so, I thought the everyone on the panel had something to say, and no single panelist hogged the mike. Right there that made the panel better than many panels I have seen (which is too many).
As for the rest of the conference, well, I missed a lot of it, as I was in the kids room for a while. The one presentation that I regret missing was Nancy White's. One of these days I am gonna get to see Nancy go full bore. It's on my list.
That's 2 conferences down, 2 to go.
This weekend marks the beginning of conference season for the Leung family, starting with Northern Voice, where Julie will be keynoting. We will actually be dropping in for MooseCamp, so we'll be around for most of Friday. I'm probably the most excited about the PhotoCamp that's being held during the afternoon of MooseCamp.
Sadly, this means that I won't be at this year's CodeCon. That's a little disappointing because the program looks very interesting this year. Those of you in San Francisco can just show up at the door. I'm sure it will be worth it.
Some of my pictures from Chinese New Year wound up on the NowPublic site. This happened because I tagged the photos with 'chinesenewyear2006'. This is the first time (that I am aware of) that someone has picked up any of my photos because I tagged them. A good incentive to keep on tagging my pictures even though I personally don't use the tags that much.
I spent Tuesday night, Wednesday and most of Thursday at MSN's Search Champs V4. The event is a forum for Microsoft to get feedback on various search related initiatives before they come to market. I did not apply to participate in the event, and I was surprised when Brady Forrest called to invite me, especially since I'm not a Windows user.
I debated with myself over whether or not to attend. I imagined all the flak that I was going to take from open source people for going to a Microsoft sponsored event. I pondered the prospect of actually helping Microsoft improve their products, which could be a double edged sword. And I disliked the requirement of an NDA. So why did I decide to go?
It basically came down to this: if we want the world to be a better place, then people have to start to talk to each other, listen to each other and learn to trust each other. The folks at Microsoft extended a very generous invitation to me (and the other Search Champs). I've been impressed with the degree of openness that I've seen in the post blogging Microsoft, and with the people at Microsoft that I know personally. So I took this opportunity to try and take a step toward the world that I want to live in. Part of the problem with the old Microsoft era was the monopoly situation. In search and many ares of web / internet innovation, Microsoft is the trailer (they are #3 in search). So fostering competition for Google seems like the thing to do unless I want to live under a different company's monopoly, especially in light of Yahoo essentially dropping out of the search race.
As far as the technical content of what I saw, there's a lot that was under NDA, and I think that the public stuff has already been outed by some of the other search champs. I've given up trying to win the first to report on X race. Other people are more motivated to break the news and get the traffic and accompanying ad revenue (still no ads here).
There are two things that I did want to comment on.
Due to the recent DOJ subpoena of search engine logs, there was a discussion on this at the event. For more details and background, read Joshua Porter and some of the blogs that he links. The Microsoft folks were very credible when it came to the issue of whether they had done anything bad for users/consumers as far as releasing information that would allow people to be identified. Despite that fact, after last weeks media blitz, it appears to most of the world that Google is the company that will go to bat for users when it comes to privacy. The Microsoft folks talked about privacy policies and better ways of display privacy policies and so forth. But I didn't think they overcame the perception that they are kind of late on this issue. Even though I believe that Microsoft did the right thing in the recent case, after the conversation, I didn't feel supremely confident that they would go to the mat for users privacy. And that's the perception that they need in the market. For the record, though, I don't feel any better about Google or Yahoo on this score either.
Gary Flake, a Microsoft Technical fellow, gave a talk (ppt) predicting an Internet singularity. All the major points and many of the minor points have been well discussed in the various corners of the blogosphere that I hang out in, but the talk is worthwhile because it ties a whole lot of things together, and because it represents MSN's official vision for the Internet. He also announced a new unit at Microsoft, Live Labs, to be co-founded by MSN and Microsoft Research (MSR). While drawing from those two organizations, there are approximately 130 open positions for Live Labs. The Live Labs idea, mixing research and fast moving product teams seems very similar to Google. Google has a much smaller research group, but many people who would normally be in research groups are intermixed with product groups. It's interesting to me that Microsoft felt it necessary to have a new entity in order to accomplish the same kind of skill/role mix. Also, the Live Labs Manifesto emphasizes collaboration with the outside world, although I'm a little concerned that this will be weighted towards academic collaboration. I was particularly interested to note that Eric Horvitz who has done a lot of work related to the attention problem, is part of the Live Labs staff. Microsoft needs to kick it up a notch, and Live Labs is clearly one effort at making that happen.
I heard (and gave) some pretty blunt feedback on things that we were shown, and I have to say that the Microsoft folks really listened. It's not easy to hear someone say something negative about your work, but I heard many hallway conversations between the champs that said the same thing -- people really felt that they were being listened to. Of course, we'll all have to see if the feedback affects the products, but there was a real earnestness on the part of the Microsoft folks to hear what we had to say. I liked it.
I wasn't really sure what to expect as far as the other champs were concerned. I recognized a few names, but most of the other champs were folks that I was unfamiliar with. Because of that, I had no idea whether or not the majority of people were going to be hardcore Microsoft fans or something like that. But looked to me like there was a very broad distribution of people across the spectrum of positions, and I didn't really hear any sucking up to the people at Microsoft. It looked to me that Microsoft achieved their objective of getting tough feedback on the stuff that they wanted to show us. I definitely met some cool people - both champs and Microsoft employees.
As with most trips, I put up a few photos on Flickr.
Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's new book "Naked Conversations : How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers" is out. Having undergone the process myself, I know that writing a book is an arduous process, and finishing is definitely worth celebrating!
Julie has a brief story on the launch party for the book, which happened last night. Unfortunately, I was already scheduled to be at OSAF last week, including the annual post holiday party for OSAF and all the other Klein/Kapor non-profits.
So in lieu of my in-person attendance, congratulations to both Robert and Shel, along with wishes not only for some nice royalty checks, but for some great reports of businesses changing the way they talk with us customers.
Looks like we will be going to Northern Voice again. Julie is giving the opening keynote, and she and I are on a panel titled "Blogs and the Bedroom: Blogging and Relationships". We had a great time last year, and boy did we like Vancouver...
Apparently it's filling up fast - check out Julie's post for more details.
This is the second year in a row that I forgot my blogoversary. I only remembered because I was trying to remember something that wrote about a while back. This means I actually looked at the sidebar of the blog and saw the year archives running back to 2003. So that's three full years of writing a lot of posts (this one is number 1456!).
So... happy blogoversary to me, a few days late.
Flickr is commonly held up as one of poster children for tagging. Now I like tagging quite a lot (see my del.icio.us if you don't believe me), but for me, tagging is not really the reason that I use Flickr. I use Flickr as a way to "force" myself to think about photography every day. The way that I do this is by subscribing to Flickr content via RSS, and you can subscribe to just about anything on Flickr using RSS, except for say, the interesting photos (cough, cough). I'm not really interested in topical slices (regardless of who did the slicing) of photostreams, which is what tagging gives you (although I do appreciate those who have tagged their pictures with the particular lens that they used to make the picture). About the only time is use tags is to search for conference pictures. I'm taken in by particular people -- their style, their subjects, their settings. It's all about the people in Flickr.
Which brings me to an annoying thing about Flickr. You can add people to your contacts list and then subscribe to a single feed of pictures from the people in your contacts list. The problem is that the RSS feed only gives you the single most recent picture from each person. That just doesn't make it for me, so the other day, I went through and subscribed to the individual photostream feeds from people in my contacts list. There ought to be a setting somewhere...
The college that I went to used to have a saying that getting an education was like "drinking from a firehose". That would make getting e-mail something like drinking from lake. I'm on a lot of mailing lists for various open source projects and beta testing lists and a whole bunch more.
All the e-mail is chewing up disk space on our local IMAP server, and is duplicated on my Powerbook's hard drive, because I have Mail.app set to keep messages so I can do stuff offline. This starts to add up to a lot of space fairly quickly. I've always wanted a way to break down my "old mail" by months, so that I could keep that local cache down to a reasonable size.
I've had a "someday" kind of task to write such a tool, but no more. I discovered archivemail, which will do exactly what I want (I'm using the --date option). It's written in Python in case I need to hack on it, and there's even a Debian package for it.
There are lots of things going on in the building that houses OSAF. Now there's one more. Mitch Kapor and Todd Agulnick have been working on a Firefox extension to syncronize Firefox bookmarks between multiple computers. Foxmarks just went into beta.
I have an affinity for long (and sometimes long-winded) science-fiction and fantasy books. A few days ago, I accidentally discovered that the 11th book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, Knife of Dreams, was released. I would love it if there were a way to get an RSS feed that contained announcements of new Robert Jordan titles. Bonus points for a 1-click kind of interface that takes me to my favorite library or bookseller when a new entry hits the feed. And we're at it, do the same thing for musical artists and movies. If content producers want to sell it, they need to tell me about it, and RSS would be a lot more direct than TV.
The other end of this is that I use the local public library a lot. Jon Udell's library lookup bookmarklets are useful for checking to see if books are in the library, but I would love to have support for the entire "discover a book, get it from the library, return it" lifecycle. A web service that let me access my library account information would be great.
On the first night of Foo Camp this past summer, I was wandering. Julie had decided to go to sleep, since she was talking the next morning. Night owl that I am, I was in no way prepared to go to sleep. So I headed back down to the common areas, looking for, well, I wasn't exactly sure. I ran into a number of people along the way and by the time I got back to the ground floor, it was fairly late.
As I came out of the building I saw a fellow with a big digital SLR taking flash photographs of the boards containing the Foo Camp schedule. Being fascinated, or rather, intimidated by flash photography, I walked a bit closer and asked "Did they come out?". The fellow and I started talking, and it wasn't long before I discovered that I was talking to Stewart Butterfield, one of the founders of Flickr. After I realized this, I waited for an appropriate pause in our conversation. I held up my (still pretty new) Canon Digital Rebel XT and said something like "I don't know whether to thank you or to blame you". Which then took us off onto a different vector of conversation.
One thing I do know is that Flickr truly was instrumental in reigniting my interest in photography to the point where I went from a non-pro account to a pro account, from sharing an economical point and shoot to wanting my own digital SLR, and from taking an occasional picture to hauling that camera just about everywhere. I've become a passionate user. You start spending money. Cameras, lenses, tripods, books, prints, Aperture, Photoshop, etc. Somebody is going to be making a ton of money off the spark that Flickr helped light. Except that Flickr isn't going to see any of that money. Most of it's going to go to Canon, Bogen, Apple, whoever. Maybe Flickr should open a photo equipment store or some kind of affinity program.
Anil Dash and Caterina Fake are having a discussion about whether or not companies like Flickr should be paying the users that put their content up there. It's an interesting discussion, to look at it that way. But it does seem a little strange. I pay (paid) Flickr for a pro account so I could put my content up there (Unfortunately, I'm in no danger of generating enough traffic to get paid for), so it seems a little odd to me to expect that I would then get paid if I generated a certain amount of traffic. But maybe I'm just not thinking straight about all of that. At least for now, I feel that I've gotten quite a bit more than my $29 worth of value out of Flickr, whether I get a reward for traffic or not.