O'Reilly's fifth Emerging Technology Conference wrapped up in San Diego on Thursday. The weather was unsettled and unseasonably cool, but it never put a chill on the flow of big ideas or diminished the quality of conversation in the conference rooms, carpeted corridors, or out on the breezy balcony. There were laptops and devices plugged into every available outlet, cameras flashed, people schmoozed in casual circles around pastel-colored inflatable armchairs, and grumbled (per usual) about the wifi.
In quiet corners podcasters, bloggers, and reporters were documenting and commenting the events of the day. Coverage was everywhere. There were plenty of meta-moments -- like when I looked over at the laptop screen of the guy sitting next to me and discovered I was in the middle of browsing his Flickr stream, a pictorial travelogue called 10,000 Miles to ETech.
O'Reilly's coterie of alpha geeks included entrepreneurs, hackers, futurists, designers, developers, journalists, professors, visionaries, storytellers, party people, and business leaders. For four days our collective mind focused on the challenges of managing limitless digital shelf-space, booming bandwidth, endless storage, and the cornucopia of content pouring forth from Web 2.0. We were even treated to glimpses and precursors of Web 3.0. If we figured out how to harness all that intelligent attention we could probably have powered a roomful of roombas to filter more than dust.
This year the theme of ETech was attention and the emergent attention economy. Hint: Imagine designing a Noah's ark to ride out the information deluge. What tools, equipment, and supplies do we need? What can we buy and sell? What creatures do we bring on board to ride out the flood? People brought cool survival gear and new essentials to show and tell.
According to Clay Shirky, we need a pattern language for online community and conversation, page-level strategies that can embrace and accurately reflect opposing points of view. We need social spaces that amplify signal and dampen noise: A space to debate opposing views where we can participate or simply read along without fear.
Peter "Ambient Findability" Morville described why "a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. " And Linda Stone, who coined the term continuous partial attention in the late nineties, asked salient true/false questions, like whether technology improves or harms our quality of life when we think of ourselves as live nodes on the network.
At ETech, Yahoo! was everywhere, going with the flow, giving and receiving attention, serving up Yahootinis at a memorable "mashup or shutup" party.
On Tuesday, Chief Product Officer Ash Patel introduced the Yahoo! Developer Network. Jeffrey MacManus spoke about web services and Yahoo!'s participation platform. He introduced a collection of current and upcoming APIs, including new Y! Shopping APIs recently mentioned here, the soon to be released Y! Calendar APIs, and all the del.icio.us, Flickr, Maps, Search, RSS goodness you're already hacking, mashing up, and building on.
On Wednesday, Bill Scott, Ajax evangelist and pattern shepherd presented The Language of Attention, about the evolving interaction pattern library that we recently released. Later that day, Tom Coates tickled us and made us giggle (really!) with a talk titled "Native to a Web of Data: Designing a Part of the Aggregate Web." Danah Boyd spoke about the mysteries of MySpace, articulated what happens "When Global Information and Local Interaction Collide," and explained about her iconic hat.
On Thursday, Bradley Horowitz elated the audience with a talk about innovation and social media at Yahoo!.
But don't worry if you couldn't be there. The best ideas, memes, applications, and ventures launched at ETech 2006 are likely to be defining new currents, carving new channels, and raising all boats by this time next year. So keep an eye on the rising tide.
Thank you for your kind attention.