Omniscient Conferencing

by Marc Hedlund

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The O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference this year has been great. But don't just take my word for it -- take a look at what Cory, Wes, Rael, Meg, Dan, Jason, Dave, Matt, or any number of other bloggers have to say about it.

All of the hyperbole, trend-surfing, and blow-driers of the Internet-era conferences are thankfully (for the most part) absent from ETech. What's left is a great collection of geeks who are excited about technology. Some of them are people I've been seeing at conferences for years -- like Brad Templeton. In 1994, the first time I bought a Sun box and set up a commercial Web site, I called UUNet first and Brad's company ClariNet ("the first .com") second. He's probably the best conference heckler I've seen. Others are people I met during the Internet era, who have found a post-bubble home and are still ethusiastic absent the overwhelming commercial incentive -- people like Cory Doctorow. When Nelson and I met Cory in 2000, he left us Keanu-ized ("Whoa.") and happy to have met him. I'm glad he's still around, and I'm glad there's a conference like this to bring this group together.

So often at conferences I'll pass someone once or twice or maybe chat with them for a bit, and wonder what more they would say if I knew them better. With so many Webloggers in one place, I wind up having a chance to know. Some of them are people I've met, but many of them are people I haven't talked to or wouldn't even recognize if I saw them. Their blogs give me a glimpse into what they might be telling their friends about their experiences here -- an omniscient narrative of a shared experience. Yesterday I saw Dave Winer, whom I've never met, look down a row of seats to see another conference attendee reading Dave's blog, Scripting News, on a WiFi-enabled laptop. Dave leaned over and whispered something about it to the guy next to him, but I was too far away to hear it. Now I know.