Recovering from a great geek weekend

The scale of particiption at open data 2005

So after a couple of days I was finally able to get my notes together and email some of the people I met. was simply great this year. The line up was full of stars including Ted Nelson, Jeremy Zawodny and Danny O'Brien.

Ted was entertaining as usual but his projects including Transliterature have not moved on a whole lot. Generally the philosopher Ted in my mind is right about the problems with operating systems but the way he goes about it tends to be restrictive and confusing to say the least.

Xanadu alternative views

Ben Metcalfe was in his element at the official launch of backstage.bbc.co.uk (note the lack of beta now), which kicked off well except bbc news published the story a little too early which spoiled it for people like myself who read there aggregator before they went to opentech 05. Anyhow, Ben did a great job of presenting the competition and answering all the questions and even managed my tricky question around people from around the world using backstage.bbc.co.uk. I did want to get the point over that backstage.bbc.co.uk isnt just a developer network, its also for designers who want to submit ideas, thoughts and even get involved.

Ben surrounded by backstagers

Jeremy Zawodny was very interesting and pointed out a couple of things.

  • The rumours about working on a Technorati killer, are true.
  • The aggregator will support Microformats and RSS Extensions, including some of Yahoo's rivals
  • Yahoo will be REALLY opening up more APIs. Zawodny failed or kept very quiet about the Konfabulator take over
  • Yahoo are counting RSS/Atom as a type of API not just as a syndication format

Yahoo! hearts BBC Creative Archive

I then stuck around for Hacking the TV Stream, where BBC R&D and BBCi staff showed off the biggest PVR (promiscuous video recorder), Dirac codec and how to hack Freeview /images/emoticons/laugh.gifVB) broadcast streams. I didnt know how easy it was to do and it came to my suprise that the BBC is encoraging people to do this under a backstage non-commercial type licence. There was also some reference to UKNova in one of the presentations, which I keep meaning to send to the UK nova members. Yes the BBC are fully aware of Uknova, and the people at Opentech had a good laugh when it was mentioned.

Uknova slide

Some of the other highlights included, Tom Reynolds who now seems to be turning into one of those A class british bloggers. Don Young from Amazon services, who talked about all the APIs and services Amazon is opening. Lee Bryant's Collaborative Archives which trigger a whole load of thoughts about how this could/should work across languages. And the Greasemonkey presentations by Simon Willison and Rob McKinnon who I later talked to at a indian resturant about a number of things including Ruby, SVG, Cocoon, Python, American Poltics, Media and many more things. I also have to say Nicola Smyth and her partner were also good company to our quite geeky conversation. Its just so rare to meet some so into SVG as myself.
Talking of which, I finally met Matt Webb, Ben Hammersley, the NTK guys and many more. Its a shame I missed the discussion on where the British EFF was? Cory Doctorow filled me on the main point after the discussion while the afternoon break was on but I cant wait to see the videos of the debate. It also made its way on to slashdot.

I still cant believe the whole event only costs 5 pounds, I would have happily paid 20 plus pounds for such a event. Talking of which, geekdinner prices are getting really silly now. 20 pounds for some cheap nibbles, loud music and no drinks. Yes the company is great, but we could all just meetup somewhere free and talk around a pub table. I'm just thankful Ben came up with the idea of poping down to tesco and getting a ready meal before hand. really needs to slum it for a bit otherwise people will get pissed off and stop going. Its not even like the orginser is making any money. Its all going to the venue owner, and in that case I would rather spend my money else where not give it to some stuck-up Picadilly bar where a cranberry juice costs 2 pounds something.

Overall, it was an enjoyable weekend except the rain which soaked me when riding between opentech and the resturant which I couldnt find for over an hour! Hope to see everyone next year. As usual there are photos on flickr and tons of talk around the blogsphere

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.