My wife Air live blogged the first day's talks here at the 9th annual Gnomedex conference, and you can also watch the live video stream on the website. I posted a bunch of photos. Here are my written impressions.
Something feels a little looser, and perhaps a bit more relaxed, about this year's meeting. There's a big turnover in attendees: more new people than usual, more women, and a lot more locals from the Seattle area. More Windows laptops than before, interestingly, and more Nikon cameras with fewer Canons. A sign of tech gadget trends generally? I'm not sure.
As always, the individual presentations roamed all over the map, and some were better than others. For example, Bad Astronomer Dr. Phil Plait's talk about skepticism was fun, but also not anything new for those of us who read his blog. However, it was also great as a perfect precursor to Christine Peterson, who invented the term open source some years ago, but is now focused on life extension, i.e. using various dietary, technological, and other methods to improve health and significantly extend the human lifespan.
- Some stuff Dr. Plait said: "Skepticism is not cynicism." "You ask for the evidence [...] and make sure it's good." "Be willing to drop an idea if it's wrong. Yeah, that's tough." "Scientists screw it up as well." "It sucks to be fooled. You can lose your money. You can lose your life."
- Christine Peterson: "Moving is how you tell your body, I'm not dead yet!" "You see people hitting soccer balls with their heads. Would you do that with your laptop? And that's backed up!" (You might like my friend Bill's reaction on my Facebook page.)
As Lee LeFever quipped on Twitter, "The life extension talk is a great followup to the skepticism talk because it provides so many ideas of which to be skeptical." My thought was, her talk seemed like hard reductionist nerdery focused somewhere it may not apply very well. My perspective may be different because I have cancer; for me, life extension is just living, you know? But I also feel that not everything is an engineering problem.
There were a number of those dichotomies through the day. Some other notes I took today:
- Bre Pettis passed out 3D models "printouts" created with the MakerBot he helped design. "Bonus points for being able to print out your... uh... body... parts." "Oh my god, you should put this brain inside Walt Disney's head!" "What's black ABS plastic good for?" "Printing evil stuff."
- One of the most joyous things you'll ever see is a keen scientist really going off on his or her topic of specialty. Firas Khatib on FoldIt protein folding was one of those. For a given sequence of amino acids, the 3D protein structure with lowest free energy is likely to be its useful shape in biology—and his team made a video game to help people figure out optimum shapes, which in the long run can help cure diseases.
- Todd Friesen is a former search engine and website spammer. He had lots of interesting things today. In the world of white and black search engine optimization (SEO), SPAM = "Sites Positioned Above Mine." For spammers, RSS = "Really Simple Stealing" and thus spam blogs. Major techniques for web spammers: hacking pages, bribing people for access, forum posts and user profiles, comment spam. Pay Per Click = PPC = "Pills, Porn, and Casinos."
- I liked these from the Ignite super-fast presentations: "There are more social media non-gurus than social media gurus. Which means we can take them." On annual reports: "Imagine waiting A YEAR to find out what a company is doing."
We had a great trip down to Seattle via Chuckanut Drive with kk+ and Fierce Kitty. Tonight Air and I are sleeping in the Edgewater Hotel on Seattle's Pier 67, next to the conference venue, and tonight is also the 45th anniversary of the day the Beatles stayed in this same hotel and fished out the window.
Labels: anniversary, band, biology, conferences, geekery, gnomedex, history, music, science, travel