O'Reilly P2P and Web Services Conference: Program Chair's Best Bets

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Rael Dornfest

Rael Dornfest
Aug. 23, 2001 10:01 PM

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In February, Peer-to-Peer was the hottest term on the Net, and the O'Reilly P2P Conference was the talk of the town. Cory Doctorow of Open Cola (and a member of our conference committee) called it a "a mind-blowing, magnificent event, a Continental Congress of P2P."

Scarcely two months later the backlash charging P2P with over-hyped buzzword-compliance had begun. Where's the business model? Why does P2P matter? What does this bring to the enterprise? Why should IT give a tinker's?

Rumours of P2P's demise are greatly exaggerated. On the contrary, while much of the hype has blown over and the silicon bubble burst, P2P as mindset is going strong. And this is reflected in our conference. We've added a day of tutorials and expanded to over ninety sessions in twelve tracks the likes of: Business Models, Collaboration, Infrastructure, Wireless and Messaging, Legislative and Digital Rights Management.

You may also have noticed the addition of Web Services to the marquee. As we started work on the conference, it became increasingly clear that P2P and Web Services were two streams arbitrarily being held apart despite increasingly convergent themes, protocols, technologies, and applications. The streams just begged to be crossed, if only to see what might happen -- Ghostbusters analogy intended. What emerged was a stone soup very much worth tasting. P2P delivers not only resources at the edge of the Internet but, as a nice side-effect, presence and identity -- two vital ingredients in Web Services. Web Services extend P2P beyond file- and CPU-sharing, instant messaging, and the like to deliver services and resources beyond simple files and computational drones. What we're building is a collaborative computing fabric where every node -- be it person, computer, software -- is part of the network computer, what Tim O'Reilly calls "The Internet Operating System."

We have an action-packed and information-rich week ahead of us. I very much look forward to the conference -- as attendee as much as Program Chair. With so much going on, I thought I'd highlight a few of the sessions I'm particularly keen on.

The conference kicks off with a day chock-full of incredible tutorials. Roll up your sleeves and dive on in!

  • An Introduction to Collaborative Computing
    An introductory yet in-depth tour of the technical, sociological, legislative, and business themes you'll be encountering and diving into all week. Who better to introduce you to the many facets of the conference than the folks who pulled the content together, members the program commitee: Cory Doctorow, Wes Felter, Lucas Gonze, John Scott, Fred von Lohmann, and myself.
  • Building Web Services with .NET
    Would I were able to be in two places at once, you'd find me at Peter Drayton's .NET tutorials. I've just spent an intense three days at DevelopMentor's Conference .NET diving into the deep end of Microsoft's .NET and related technologies and find myself more intrigued than ever. Peter is one of DevelopMentor's wonderful teachers and co-author of the O'Reilly C# Essentials book.
  • SOAP: The Power of Simplicity
    And were I allowed the luxury of tripresence, I'd most certainly take in Paul Kulchenko and Tony Hong's SOAP tutorial. Paul is the creator of the astoundingly simply while incredulously powerful SOAP::Lite Perl module. If you've not been to a magic show of late, this is the tutorial for you.

Each day features two keynotes framing one or more of the themes we'll be considering and developing over the course of the conference.

  • Clay Shirky, renowned for his insight and ability to set the stage for just about any discussion, considers the swirling jumble of memes and technologies underlying the evolution of the Web beyond the simple PC-based browser+server model in "The Great Re-wiring."
  • Sun Microsystems's Simon Phipps is "Peering Beyond Services" at the driving principles behind the harmonization of Web Services, P2P, and wireless.
  • A double-bill brings together Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig ("Preserving the Innovation Commons: What's Really at Stake") and Congressman Rick Boucher, leading architect of federal policy for the Internet, for a look at emergent computing and it's impact on the legislative scene.
  • Michael Conner, IBM Distinguished Engineer, dives into the program-to-program communication model driving "Web Services: The Next Horizon of e-Business."
  • Microsoft Software Architect David Stutz lays out the .NET architecture and it's place in P2P applications and Web Services in his optimistically titled "P2P - The Post Mortem."

The conference takes on not only the technical, but sociological, legislative, collaborative, and business-focused aspects of the P2P and Web Services space(s).

  • SOAP Routing and Message Path Modeling
    To my mind some of the most interesting potentiality on the Web services horizon is imbuing data with enough business logic--or "orchestration" in the current vernacular--to follow a path through one or more intermediaries before making the trip back home or elsewhere. Henrik Frystyk Nielsen is an architect at Microsoft, co-author of HTTP/1.0, HTTP/1.1, and SOAP/1.1 and is a member of the W3C XML Protocol Working Group.
  • Network-Centric Warfare
    Over the course of putting together the conference, I've come across various conversations around the military applications of P2P. This intersection obviously makes sense considering the Internet's roots as a distributed system of autonomous nodes meant to withstand, and continue operations despite, an attack on some subset thereof. Michael Macedonia, of the US Army STRICOM, discusses the military's return to P2P and it's effect on warfare and foreign policy.
  • An Update on P2P and the Law
    The legal scene around P2P post-Napster has grown ever more complex, both in terms of litigation and legislation. EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn untangles some of the threads.
  • The Accidental Web Service: How XML-RPC United Two Systems 3000 Miles Apart
    The Web Services soup is already bubbling over with buzzwords: SOAP, WSDL, UDDI, XML-RPC. Yet with library implementations outshining actual well-known services, where's the beef? Web services abound; they're just not the sexy open services everyone's looking to hold up as exemplars of the space. Tim Allwine and Joe Johnston (co-author of the O'Reilly Programming Web Services with XML-RPC book) have created just the sort of honest-to-goodness Web service to which we should all be paying attention.
  • The ICQ Story: The First Internet-wide Instant Messenger
    ICQ co-founder Yair Goldfinger offers a ground-floor walk-through of the technologies, problems, solutions, and other experiences gleaned whilst building ICQ.
  • Asheron's Call: Lessons from a Massively Multiplayer Online World
    Matthew Ford: "(Note: many of the SETI@Home insights from the last conference could have been lifed out of an online game designer's playbook - United Devices had essentially reinvented the wheel that massively multiplayer RPG guys have been using for years). "
  • P2P and Email: Wherein Lies the Attachment
    Religious discussion of plumbing aside, to most eyeballs the consummate P2P application is email. I'll be sitting down with Michael Tanne, Brian Smiga, Thierry Hubert, and Jon Udell (one of my favourite in-the-large thinkers) and exploring the lessons email brings to P2P, both on the technical and sociological levels.
  • Panel: Open Services
    There's been considerable attention of late given to the wonders and power of Open Source. Not much is said, however, about the array of possible Open Services that are every bit as valuable as source code. This panel is an extension of a dialogue I started with InfraSearch's Gene Kan. For some context, take a gander at Gene's "Next Step for P2P? Open Services" and my "Meerkat: An Open Service API".
  • Cybiko: Wireless Instant Messaging and Entertainment for the Schoolyard and Beyond
    Take a Blackberry. Warp and colourize it. Pack with instant messaging, multi-player gaming, file-sharing, and multitudes of other applications, all freely downloadable. Completely decentralize it. Infuse with a healthy dose of wireless networking. Throw an SDK at hundreds of developers. Now, make it available for under $99 per unit with zero activation or recurring service charges. You've got "teenage bluetooth."
  • Panel: The P2P PIE
    Join the co-authors of the O'Reilly "2001 P2P Networking Overview" as we slice the P2P PIE -- Presence, Identity, and Edge resources -- and delve into what it means and takes to be a PIE player.
  • Panel: P2P meets Web Services
    An exploration of the meme-collision between P2P and Web Services. What problems do XML-based Web Services and decentralized P2P frameworks solve for one-another?

Our first Peer-to-Peer conference managed to bring together just the right mix of people, topics, and applications for a truly multifaceted discussion. One was just as likely to run into incredible buzz in the hallways as the sessions themselves. This conference promises even more in its number and diversity of sessions and speakers, comprehensive tutorials -- and there's even more hallway space for those unexpected conversations.

Rael Dornfest is Founder and CEO of Portland, Oregon-based Values of n. Rael leads the Values of n charge with passion, unearthly creativity, and a repertoire of puns and jokes — some of which are actually good. Prior to founding Values of n, he was O'Reilly's Chief Technical Officer, program chair for the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (which he continues to chair), series editor of the bestselling Hacks book series, and instigator of O'Reilly's Rough Cuts early access program. He built Meerkat, the first web-based feed aggregator, was champion and co-author of the RSS 1.0 specification, and has written and contributed to six O'Reilly books. Rael's programmatic pride and joy is the nimble, open source blogging application Blosxom, the principles of which you'll find in the Values of n philosophy and embodied in Stikkit: Little yellow notes that think.