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IT Conversations pick of the week

Spencer Wells Population Geneticist

June 02, 2006
Spencer Wells, a 33-year-old population geneticist, is collecting blood samples from thousands of men living in isolated tribes around the world and analyzing their DNA. In this O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week, Wells answers questions about his quest. Spencer and his colleagues discovered that all humans alive today can be traced back to a small tribe of hunter-gatherers who lived in Africa 60,000 years ago.

Technology and the Developing World

May 26, 2006
The O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week is Ethan Zuckerman's session from Pop!Tech2004. Zuckerman is the founder of Geekcorps which pairs skilled volunteers from US and European high tech companies with businesses in emerging nations. His current projects include a study of global media attention, research on the use of weblogs and other social software in the developing world, and work on a clearinghouse for software for international development.

What's wrong with Politics

May 19, 2006
At last year's Web 2.0 conference, Mitch Kapor, founder and Chair of the Open Source Application Foundation talks about politics and technology. In this O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week you'll consider "What's wrong with politics and what should technology do about it? How technology can help heal a broken political system, and how to make the system work for everyone?"

Ben Saunders Solo Explorer

May 12, 2006
If you think you know what it's like to be cold and alone, you need to listen to the stories of explorer Ben Saunders in the O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week. Ben holds the record for the longest solo arctic trek by a Brit, and became the youngest person ever to reach the North Pole on May 11th 2004. Ben has raised international awareness regarding the extent to which climate change is affecting the Arctic. He noticed conditions that were up to 15 degrees warmer than in 2000, and had to negotiate vast, unprecedented areas of thinning ice and open water.

Emotional Life

May 05, 2006
In her Bloggercon III session Emotional Life, Julie Leung explores the kinds of relationships we build through blogging. Which sections of ourselves do we let others see? How do we choose what goes into our blogs? In this O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week she asks probing interesting questions such as "How does blogging impact relationships both inside and outside the blogging community? Does reading a person's posts provide a false sense of intimacy so that we assume we know someone?"

Big Weather

April 28, 2006
We tend to think in short time spans: the next few days, hours, or minutes. Brian Fagan challenges us to think in terms of hundreds of thousands of years. In the O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week Big Weather, Fagan talks about what we can learn about dealing with the climate from 2000 years of Egyptian history.

Human Nature

April 21, 2006
In Human Nature Joel Garreau argues that over the next twenty years we will fundamentally change human nature. In this O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week he talks about technologies and how they are now aimed inward.

The Rise of the Creative Class

April 14, 2006
The ITConversation pick of the week features Richard Florida who suggests that technology alone in this creative age is not going to make us safe. We need to bring in the kind of creative entrepreneurs who can make great ideas into sustainable business models. We also need aesthetic creativity and we need to pull in political and cultural creativity. Only then, Florida says, will we get real economic growth. In The Rise of the Creative Class, he warns us that unless we're willing to harness the creativity of people, we're going to lose the edge.

The State of Play

March 31, 2006
Even playing around can be serious. Our pick of the week is from the ITConversations series The Importance of ...Law and IT hosted by Ernest Miller. In Games and the Law, Miller talks to James Grimmelmann and Beth Noveck about the legal issues surrounding intellectual property in virtual worlds. That's right - virtual worlds. What are the relationships between real and virtual-world economies? What can these virtual worlds teach us about democracy? Will virtual worlds be regulated?

Online Advertising

March 24, 2006
How do you make money from blogs and more? Our ITConversations pick of the week is a panel discussion on Online Advertising recorded at Gnomedex in October, 2004. Dave McClure, Jeff Barr, Henry Copeland, Bill Flitter, Gokul Rajaram, and Mark Pincus share their experience on how to sell your blog. Although this Gnomedex 4.0 panel predated the podcasting boom, you will find the advice applies to this medium as well.

Connected Politics

March 17, 2006
Joe Trippi asks you to imagine someone offered you a box that contained the fate of the world that you had to be responsible for for the next four years. He says that most all of us would politely (or not so politely) decline. Yet ten people step up every ten years and ask to be given the box - they run for president. In the ITConversations pick of the week Connected Politics, Trippi shares stories about running national campaigns with the Pop!Tech 2004 audience.


March 10, 2006
David Brin and Brad Templeton discuss the issues of Transparency in this ITConversations pick of the week. At Accelerating Change 2004 they explored "The Costs and Benefits of Transparency: How Far, How Fast, How Fair?" In particular, the two explore the tradeoffs involved in increasing transparency without having to choose between freedom and security.


March 03, 2006
Biomimicry is an emerging science that seeks sustainable solutions by mimicking nature's designs and processes (e.g., solar cells that mimic leaves, agriculture that looks like a prairie, business that runs like a redwood forest). This O'Reilly ITConversations Pick of the Week is Janine Benyus' talk Biomimicry from Pop!Tech 2004.

The Creators' Dilemma: Open Source, Open Society, Open Innovation

February 24, 2006
Will software thrive if set free at its most critical, foundational layers? This week's O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week is an Open Source Business Conference 2004 address by Lawrence Lessig titled The Creators' Dilemma: Open Source, Open Society, Open Innovation. This talk sketches the boundaries of protection that intellectual property law should set on code, but argues that extremism is now defeating these limits, just as perpetual copyright has in the media world. The consequence is an environment within which modular creativity is increasingly constrained.

Malcolm Gladwell on Human Nature

February 17, 2006
Why can't we trust people's opinions? In this ITConversations O'Reilly Pick of the Week Malcolm Gladwell answers that it's because we don't have the language to express our feelings. In Human Nature Gladwell provides examples from well known products of where market research has misled companies to make the wrong choices.

Barry Schwartz: Less is More

February 10, 2006
In this ITConversations O'Reilly Pick of the Week, psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that Less is More. He says that "the desire to have it all and the illusion that we can is one of the principal sources of torture of modern affluent free and autonomous thinkers." This session is from Pop!Tech 2004.

Hiring Techies and Nerds

January 27, 2006
Is it easy or hard to hire folks like us? Roy Osherove interviews Johanna Rothman on the topic of Hiring Techies and Nerds in the latest O'Reilly ITConversations Pick of the week. They discuss interviewing strategies, project management and take a look at common problems such as unrealistic project deadlines and running multiple projects at the same time.

Bruce Mau on Global Creativity

January 20, 2006
Bruce Mau suggests we think about design from the receiving end and to focus on human capacities. By focusing on design economies, he notes there is a new kind of distributed potential that is being linked together. Designer Bruce Mau describes an exhibition he and others mounted in his Global Creativity address at Pop!Tech2004 in this O'Reilly Pick of the Week from ITConversations.

MGM v. Grokster

December 30, 2005
On August 19th, 2004, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that distributors of peer-to-peer filesharing software, such as Grokster and StreamCast, could not be held liable for the copyright infringements of their users. This ITConversations O'Reilly pick of the week is MGM v. Grokster from Ernest Miller's series The Importance of . . .Law and IT. Fred von Lohmann of the EFF explains why the case is important to technologists and innovators. Charles Petit talks about what the case does not say. Denise Howell puts the decision in the context of the Supreme Court's famous Betamax decision. Tim Wu talks about the potential for the case to go to the Supreme Court.

Wil Wheaton at Gnomedex 4.0 part 1

December 23, 2005
Whether he likes it or not, Wil Wheaton is still known to most as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. This ITConversations O'Reilly Pick of the Week is Wil Wheaton at Gnomedex 4.0 part 1. but inside the skin of an actor is a geek trying (successfully) to get out. He reads from his books "Just a Geek" and "Dancing Barefoot", takes questions, and sits down for an interview with IT Conversations.

Marc Smith: Catalyzing Collective Action on the Net

December 16, 2005
Marc Smith is a research sociologist who has learned a lot about individuals and groups online. This O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week is Smith's address from Emerging Technology Conference 2004 in which he discussed Catalyzing Collective Action on the Net. He demonstrated "several technologies and concepts that show promise as ways to enhance online communities, making them easier to discover and making it easier to select high-quality content, evaluate that content, and motivate others to contribute significant value."

Doug Engelbart on Large-Scale Collective IQ

December 09, 2005
How do we get collectively smarter? This has been impelling Doug Engelbart throughout his career. This O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week is Doug Engelbart on Large-Scale Collective IQ. He explores how we build and manage our dynamic knowledge repository with capabilities that allow people with new information to add to, modify, and challenge existing ideas. When he was beginning, neither Stanford nor Hewlett-Packard saw computers in their future.

Joel on Software

December 02, 2005
IT Conversations' producer Doug Kaye interviews the author of Joel on Software in this O'Reilly pick of the Week. Joel criticizes extreme programming and makes his case for the importance of formal testing, particularly on large projects, and explains why, "customers don't know what they want." Joel also has plenty to say about Microsoft: the impact of the cast-in-stone file formats for Word and Excel, the split between the so-called Raymond Chen and MSDN Magazine camps, why some developers may not move to Avalon/XAML/WinFX, and what will happen to Win32.

Jim Rygiel - effects supervisor, LotR

November 25, 2005
Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Jim Rygiel, the special effects supervisor for "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy in the O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week. In this edition of Tech Nation, they look at the technology of Hobbits, and they also talk about how the technology of digital effects has changed over its six years of production.

Memory Lane: Dan Gillmor

November 18, 2005
Dan Gillmor is the author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the people. A year ago The San Jose Mercury News to pursue a new venture in citizen journalism. This O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week is Memory Lane with Dan Gillmor. Halley asks which of these technologies are "politically disruptive" -- Blogs, Wikis, IRC, IM, SMS, Digital Cameras, Camera Phones and of course, our favorite -- the iPod. They discuss citizen's journalism and where the blogosphere is headed.

Steve McConnell: Software Engineering

November 11, 2005
You probably have at least one of Steve McConnell's books. The author of Rapid Development, the Software Project Survival Guide, and the best-selling Code Complete is the ITConversations O'Reilly Pick of the Week. When this interview was recorded in February, 2004 Software Engineers were paid, on average, $10K more than computer scientists. But, as you'll hear in Steve McConnell: Software Engineering, the differences don't end there. He talks about "evolutionary prototyping" and responds to the question of "why software seems to be so much less reliable than the hardware on which it runs."

Google's AutoLink - Sound Policy with Denise Howell

November 04, 2005
The O'Reilly IT Conversations pick of the week is the debut show of the Sound Policy series about Google's AutoLink. Denise Howell talks with Cory Doctorow, Robert Scoble, and Martin Schwimmer about what AutoLink and tools like it mean for the future of the Web. " Does AutoLink do enough to make it clear to users which links were put there by the Web page author and which were added? Could AutoLink or something like it alter the meaning and intent of the original page? Don't Web authors have the right to have their work distributed as written? Don't Web users have the right to view material in their browser however they'd like, and can't developers make tools that help this process?"

Marc Fleury on the JBoss landscape

October 31, 2005
In a bonus ITConversations pick of the week, JBoss founder, chairman and CEO, Marc Fleury talks with Scott Mace " about the state of professional open source, Java and EJB3, Eclipse, .Net, Mono, application development for rich Internet clients, Red Hat's success and detractors, Sun's detente with Microsoft, and why trained physicists such as himself make good Internet application innovators."

Paul Graham at OSCON 2005

October 28, 2005
Paul Graham's address from OSCON 2004 inflamed Java developers and sparked a debate that lasted months. In this O'Reilly ITConversations pick of the week, we feature Graham's OSCON 2005 keynote in which he looks at the benefits of being an amateur. He doesn't think the professional environment is conducive to work. He explains why everything from the physical set up, to the hours, to the relationship between employee and employer does little to result in quality work.

Larry Wall's Ninth State of the Onion

October 21, 2005
Each year Larry Wall, creator and benevolent dictator of Perl looks both backwards and forwards in his "State of the Onion". This O'Reilly ITConversations Pick of the Week is Wall's Ninth State of the Onion recorded live at O'Reilly's Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Portland this summer. perl.com has also posted the text and pictures from this spy movie and espionage themed exploration of Perl. You may want to follow the images as you listen to this half hour audio.

Alistair Cockburn - Agile Software Development

October 07, 2005
Agile Software development has a manifesto that spells out that they value "individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. O'Reilly's ITConversations pick of the week is Doug Kaye's conversation with Alistair Cockburn on Agile Software Development.

Memory Lane: Bob Metcalfe

September 30, 2005
You may know Bob Metcalfe from Metcalfe's Law, from his time at MIT working on ARPAnet, from his work at Xerox PARC linking PC's together with what would become Ethernet, from his founding of 3Com, or more recently from his work as a venture capitalist at Polaris Venture Partners. In the O'Reilly pick of the week from ITConversations you will meet all of these "Bobs" in Memory Lane: Bob Metcalfe with host Halley Suitt.

Mark Cuban: A Dinner Conversation

September 23, 2005
Many corporate executives have begun to dip their toe in the blogging pool. Often their posts seem to be vetted by marketing and legal departments - not so for Mark Cuban owner of the Dallas Mavericks. If there's something on his mind, you'll read it in his blog. The latest IT Conversations pick of the week from O'Reilly is the 2004 Web 2.0 presentation Mark Cuban: A Dinner Conversation. This conversation with Mark Cuban is moderated by John Heilemann, a special correspondent for Wired and a former staff writer for The New Yorker and The Economist.

Are You Agile or Are You Fragile?

September 16, 2005
Putting his money where his mouth is, Scott Ambler allowed the SD Forum audience to generate a list of topics that he could cover and then select from the list and even on the order. This O'Reilly pick of the week from ITConversations feature's Scott's address Are You Agile or Are You Fragile? This is nearly a two hour talk about the various principles, advantages, and challenges in implementing an agile methodology.

Tech Nation: William Gibson, author

September 09, 2005
"Apophenia is the perception of patterns and/or the perception of patterns that aren't there." So says author William Gibson to Moira Gunn on ITConversations. The O'Reilly ITConversations Pick of the week is Tech Nation: William Gibson, author. The podcast begins with a reference to Neuromancer, where Gibson coined the word "cyberspace" and quickly moves to his novel "Pattern Recognition".

SofTech: RFID

September 02, 2005
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is turning up everywhere. Companies argue that it makes tracking, inventory, and customer relations much easier. But is there also a dark side to RFID where your privacy is at risk? In this O'Reilly Pick of the Week from ITConversations, a panel of developers and end-user corporations explores this balance of a technology that both empowers consumers and raises privacy issues. The podcast of the SofTech RFID discussion looks at how the technology currently being used, what impact it is having on the business community, and how might it change our personal lives.

Larry Lessig's Free Culture, Chapter 1

August 26, 2005
In chapter 1 of his book "Free Culture" Larry Lessig described "'Walt Disney creativity - a form of expression and genious that builds upon the culture around us and makes something different." The chapter concludes with the other side of this issue, "Free cultures are cultures that leave a great deal open for others to build upon." This O'Reilly Pick of the Week from ITConversations features Doug Kaye reading Larry Lessig's Free Culture, Chapter 1. Although this segment runs less than twenty minutes, be warned that you may feel compelled to listen to or read the rest of the book.

A New Kind of Science

August 19, 2005
Stephen Wolfram says that for years we have tried to understand how things work in nature by trying to find a mathematical equation that describes those systems in nature. Wolfram's talk on A New Kind of Science from SDForum Distinguished Speaker Series is the O'Reilly Pick of the Week from ITConversations. Based on his analysis of simple computer programs, Wolfram, creator of Mathematica and author of A New Kind of Science, addresses many fundamental questions about science and the universe, but also suggests major new directions for technology.

The Think Different Drummer

August 12, 2005
Stewart Copeland has spent the last couple decades out of the spotlight working as a film and television composer. In the O'Reilly Pick of the Week from ITConversations, Copeland talks with David Battino in a recording from a keynote from O'Reilly's Mac OS X Conference 2004. In The Think Different Drummer describes the creative and technical processes for composing and recording scores for some of your favorite films.

Developer Testing

August 05, 2005
Is your software like a big bowl of jello? In O'Reilly's Pick of the week from ITConversations, Kent Beck describes the situation in which companies wait until the day that the software isn't "shaking" and that's the day they do a release. The alternative is to have confidence in the state of your software at all times. Beck's talk Developer Testing details some of his rethinking that led to the second edition of "Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change".

Robert Lefkowitz: The Semasiology of Open Source

July 29, 2005
What happens when words don't mean what you think they mean? Inconceivable you say? In O'Reilly's Pick of the Week from ITConversations, Robert Lefkowitz explores that words may not mean the same to the person saying them as they do to the person hearing them. In his OSCon '04 address The Semasiology of Open Source Lefkowitz begins by explaining that we are careful to define what we mean when we say "free" and "open source" but that's not necessarily what the words mean when someone hears them. Lefkowitz presents an entertaining look at the words we use and what people think we mean.

The Dysons: In Praise of Open Thinking

July 24, 2005
We debut O'Reilly's Pick of the Week from ITConversations with the O'Reilly Open Source Conference 2005 (OSCon) keynote featuring the Dysons. Tim O'Reilly moderated this entertaining discussion with physicist Freeman Dyson and his son historian George Dyson. Freeman's daughter Esther Dyson was also scheduled to appear but was detained in Texas. The podcast In Prase of Open Thinking runs 42 minutes.