Camping out with 200 innovators at FOO camp

by Andy Oram

Someone is mixing some kind of complicated baking project by hand in
the kitchen at O'Reilly & Associates, while I sit drinking weak
coffee and listening to someone who works on a collaborative
story-telling system compare notes with a bioinformatician of Inca
extraction who is describing the oral preservation of Inca culture.
This is the very start of the first full day of FOO (Friends Of
O'Reilly) camp.

I do not want to play up the curiosities of this camp too much,
but use it as an example of the fertility of environments that bring
together people of different interests and expert backgrounds. Some of
the same things go on at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conferences,
or any college.

Last night I joined a group of over 20 people (about one-tenth of the
attendees) who were interested in what Steward Cheshire had to say
about his work to create Apple's Rendezvous service discovery
technology. It was so interesting he gave two talks and I forced
myself to stay up past my bedtime, with results that were personally

I've been writing an article where I point out that the email address
is the only persistent address (or at least something approaching
persistence--ask Comcast customers how persistent it is) that can be
used to reach the average person on the Internet. I have been saying
that it's a shame this persistent address can be used only for email,
and was expressing the wish that DNS could be extended to provide a
general server record that's like the MX record but that could be used
for arbitrary servers and protocols. It might make it easier to
develop peer-to-peer applications.

Well, I found out during Cheshire's talk at 11:30 last night that DNS
actually does boast such a record, the SRV record added some five
years ago by DNS maintainer Paul Vixie.

Thanks to the wireless hub that several O'Reilly employees worked hard
to set up at the camp, I quickly found Vixie's RFC 2782 and other
documents describing the SRV record. In the morning, I found Vixie
himself while he was setting up a complex contraption that made him
some much better coffee than I myself was drinking. I thanked Vixie
for his work and queried him about other uses for the SRV record, and
found out some other interesting background in his still-drowsy state.

Well, the attendees at my table have established that the Inca empire
was probably not the kind of place where this kind of open exchange
could take place. But we could do a lot more of it in our society.