I spent this past Sunday and Monday in Belgium, at Tim O’Reilly’s
Euro Foo Camp 2006. This is
the Europe-version of the Foo Camp he’s been doing for some years, where a
number of people are invited to talk about and discuss whatever they want. Todd Friesen
just did the
US-based one last month.
It was fun, interesting, and I learned a lot. Most conferences I get to are
about search. Here, there was lots of stuff going on about topics I’d heard
about generally through my web travels but not explored more in depth.
There was no preset agenda. Instead, we had two blank charts, one for each
day, divided into session times and rooms. Anyone interested in doing a session
simply wrote down what they’d talk about, then people decided if they wanted to
The first session I attended was run by a friend of mine who I last talked
with about 15 years ago, Douglas
Arellanes. I’d been on the student newspaper at UC Irvine in college; he was
on the paper at UC Santa Barbara, and we knew each other through an annual
newspaper conventions that both our universities helped organized.
It was a great and pleasant surprise to meet up with Doug again at the
been busy helping newspapers and radio stations in developing countries and
places with oppressive governments publish through the web and in other ways, in
particular through the Campware open
source publishing software.
He had some great stories to tell in terms of a "reality check" on bringing tech
to the developing world. Providing computers is fine, but when the power comes
from a generator that can only run eight hours a day, you have a host of other
Gavin Starks did a session on climate change, in particular to highlight the
Global Cool site he’s working on.
There are some nice things in the works to help people better understand the
carbon emissions they generate and ways to reduce or offset those. Gavin’s after
the globalcool.com name that’s owned by a domain portfolio holder, as far as I can
tell. The registration predates the Global Cool site, so it’s not a squatting
situation. Still, if anyone knows the owner and can convince them to contribute
the name that probably doesn’t generate that much ad revenue anyway, I’m sure it
would be appreciated.
At the "Web 2.0: Fact Or Fiction" session, there was a great deal discussion about what
exactly Web 2.0 is, buzzword or reality, and so on. I’d already given Rand Fishkin my thoughts on Web 2.0 over
that I thought too many people were trying to unite too many sites under the Web
2.0 banner more for convenience rather than because they actually were a fit.
Tim O’Reilly was one of the people sharing thoughts in this session, and it was
interesting to hear him describe Web 2.0 as being about building off a community
or community data in aggregate. AJAZ or the lack of an E before the R in your
name wasn’t a requirement.
In particular, we both agreed that something like Google — if you take his Web
2.0 definition — is a great Web 2.0 site in terms of passively making use of
data. Google monitors clicks, surfing habits, actual searches, counts links and
more stuff that’s done by a community as a whole. In other words, making use of
a community doesn’t just have to be active, in the form of encouraging tagging
or saving or sharing. You can passively tap into the data, as well.
The next day, I did a morning session called something like "Why Search Sucks
& How You Won’t Change It The Way You Think." I cover that more in
this post. I hadn’t gone planning to do a session, but
Brady Forrest — who I knew
previously from MSN Search — was there now as part of O’Reilly and gave me a
nudge to try something.
I really enjoyed the session Suw Charman did on digital rights and copyright.
Most of it centered on the work the
Open Rights Group is doing to raise awareness of copyright issues, in
particular to prevent large copyright holders from extending their grips on some
works for extremely long periods of time. There was plenty of debate and
discussion. The ORG is looking for support of all types — so programmers,
designers, others — let them know, if you want to help.