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Pizza, HoHos, and MacHack 2002
Pages: 1, 2

Tim O'Reilly Delivers the Opening Keynote

Penn introduced the conference keynote speaker, O'Reilly & Associates president and founder Tim O'Reilly. A bagpiper, fully decked out, led O'Reilly into the room and down the center aisle. The piper ended with a brief passage from the "Can Can." O'Reilly gave the musician money and told the audience that he had always wanted to "pay the piper."

A little before 1 a.m., O'Reilly began his talk by explaining that he was asked to talk about the history of his company and how they hacked the publishing industry. Somewhere around 3 a.m. O'Reilly said that the "big hairy audacious goal" for his company was to "enable change by capturing and disseminating the knowledge of innovators." In between, he described making a lot of mistakes that were corrected because "the marketplace educates you on what you need to do." A recurring theme in the keynote was the need for self awareness. O'Reilly said that an early review of his work ignored the technical content that he had worked hard to produce and instead commented on his apparent lack of knowledge about the business of publishing.

O'Reilly's early jobs were writing technical manuals for various clients. He noticed that clients asked for the same manual over and over and so he was careful to construct his contracts so that he kept his rights. At a Unix show in 1985 he decided to sell two manuals to individuals for $5.00 each. Over the next couple of years whenever there was a lull in the paying jobs he wrote more manuals on technology that didn't have useful documentation. His take was that he did this without concern for marketing opportunities motivated by a "desire to be useful when there's nothing better to do." His big breakthrough was an XWindows book. He sold 10,000 copies of the unfinished manual copied onto 8 1/2-by-11 sheets of paper for $60.00 each.

In the early '90s, O'Reilly published the first book on the Internet. Although there were only 200 Web sites at the time, the book included a chapter on the Web. At the same time O'Reilly hired the former head of activism for the Sierra Club as his public relations representative. Instead of just sending copies of the book to reviewers and the press, they sent copies to Congress. This was a major shift. Now O'Reilly perceived his purpose as promoting technology. At this time O'Reilly became the first to run an online ad (for his law firm). He makes no apologies for opening this door and argues that "real online advertising is the sites themselves." Even is an ad for products.

In 1996 O'Reilly refined his vision of his role in the Internet ecosystem. He saw the need for "a Sierra Club for the Internet." Microsoft, in O'Reilly's view, was taking an Internet standard and polluting it when they crippled TCP/IP on the NT workstation to encourage people to upgrade to NT Server. Similarly, Microsoft was marketing ActiveX using demonstrations that were predominantly built out of Perl. This helped push O'Reilly into the conference business. In 1997 he organized a Perl Conference as a marketing gimmick for Perl. The obvious next step was to get involved in the Open Source Movement. He ran the first Freeware Summit as a way of introducing a lot of people that he knew to each other. The name has since changed to the Open Source Summit because of the ambiguity over the meaning of the word "free" in English.

The remainder of O'Reilly's talk was a familiar theme that he has frequently spoken out on in recent years. He encouraged the audience to think of the Internet as a platform. He cautioned that what you think of as an application may be much more useful when it is considered as a platform. MapQuest is an example of an application that could be used to provide mapping and location-based services in other applications. Amazon is the information resource of record for the publishing industry. The major publishers all use Amazon daily for their research. They need to spider Amazon and capture a great deal more information than they actually use. O'Reilly demonstrated an in-house application that spidered Amazon every three hours and then used the information to track technology books. If instead Amazon considered itself to be a platform then it could provide APIs for accessing the information. Then Library catalogs could be Amazon-enabled and applications such as Microsoft Word could integrate the information from Amazon into the tools that students use for producing bibliographies. Imagine you have a deadline and notice that you didn't write down all of the book information you need for your bibliography. You enter the author and book title and are able to select the edition or publication date and see the rest of the information filled in and correctly formatted.

Related Reading

Building Wireless Community Networks
Implementing the Wireless Web
By Rob Flickenger

His final point (there were many final points) was on supporting Wireless Community Networking. He prefers the term "NoCat" to "WiFi". The origins of NoCat is Einstein's lay explanation of how radio worked. He explained that the telegraph was like a big cat with a tail in New York and a head in San Francisco. When you grab the tail in New York the cat yowls in San Francisco. Radio, he explained, is like that--except that there is no cat. O'Reilly expressed his hopes that we help each other get connected. He told the story of someone who heard his neighbor's modem connecting to the Internet. The person said to the neighbor, "I have DSL, why don't you connect wirelessly through me."

Not Quite Day Two

Today is defunct company day. Attendees are encouraged to wear shirts of companies that are no longer in business. Some choose to wear shirts of companies that are soon "not to be". It's a little disorienting because today is still day one of the conference. The conference began as early on Thursday as one can start and here it is still Thursday--still day one.

This is a great size for a conference. The sessions are small and much of the real fun is talking in the lobby. Each person sitting in front of an open laptop, chuckling over something, and sharing it with those around them. There is a nice variety of sessions and plenty of opportunity to talk to the presenters afterward. Some of the sessions are carefully thought out PowerPoint presentations and some are just the presenter standing up and offering to answer any questions. A small BoF on Bioinformatics was moderated by someone who hadn't yet worked in the field and was hoping to network with others already in the field. An Apple employee ran a session on creating installers for Mac OS X applications. He couldn't talk about NDA'd material and wouldn't make promises about the future of the PackageMaker application, but he did answer all of the audience questions on building and using installers. Members of the iPod team were similarly constrained in their discussion of future features. They were, however, entertaining and informative in their description of how the current iPod came to be.

Day one ended with Commander Taco and the second keynote. Back in Code Stadium, new sessions and moved sessions were announced. A new "Bash Apple" session has been added to the program. Rob Malda, founder of Slashdot, then began his keynote presentation. He began by talking about how setting up an XP box has given him new respect for Apple. He wasn't pandering to the crowd. He took plenty of shots at Apple as well. He talked about his fiancee's TiBook and did his impression of the "interpretive dance" she needs to do to hold her TiBook just right to get a network connection. He said that the "TiBook is neat, except every one of them is dented and here." For the most part, he works on a Linux box. He does, however, need Windows for games. As he explained repeatedly in the next several hours, much of his time is spent watching "Star Trek" reruns, checking out Anime, and playing video games.

Malda fielded questions and told stories in an off the cuff and entertaining presentation. He came across as a young, bright, very likable guy. He thinks a lot about the stories they run and they're obligation to the readers that post on the site. In one story he talked about a post-Columbine book that would have been written using Slashdot postings. After considering the copyright issues, Slashdot decided to post the book on its site but not publish a printed version. He talked about the technology used to filter people who are using scripts to post inappropriately to Slashdot (50 times in a minute) or who publish inappropriate material. Malda said that, contrary to accusations, he doesn't moderate down posts that he doesn't like, disagrees with, or that criticize Slashdot, so long as they are on topic. He referenced the case that caused quite a bit of criticism and explained that he had decided to moderate down a posted criticism of Slashdot because it was included as part of a thread discussing Oracle.

Throughout the evening he kept coming back to his Sims game where he has constructed a lesbian neighborhood with custom skins of female celebrities, where they court and kill men. At the end of his talk he demonstrated his game. Not surprisingly, you learned a lot about Malda and about Slashdot by watching him play. He is very aware of the points in the different attributes for each character. On the other hand, although it clearly wasn't working, he had his female characters use bragging to try to attract the male characters. Before he got a chance to actually kill anyone, the midnight pizza arrived and the room emptied.

Day one officially ended at MacHack and Day two immediately began.

Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.

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