Etech: Secrets of the Alpha Geeks

Ideas rot if you don’t do something with them. I used to think it would be dumb to give my ideas away, that I should hoard them up for that great article or startup I would do. Then they just rotted. Now I just blog on them or otherwise tell people. Sometimes they come to naught all the same, but generally somebody tends to find the idea useful in one way or another.

Edd Dumbill

Danny O’Brien decided to interview a load of geeks to see if he could find out what their secrets are. His survey included Cory Doctorow, Simon Cozens, Eric S. Raymond , Nat Torkington and Jamie Zawinski. Not surprisingly he found that these people had quite a few things in common. It seems that they still use the command line, they organise their lives in a todo.txt file, they will try lots of new things but don’t really trust them and they backup like crazy.

It amuses me that a todo.txt file is used to organise the life of the alpha geek and I can see why they could be embarrassed to let others know that they use these. It seems to be a really low tech solution to the organisation problem. I make lots of todo lists but I don’t have one big global one that I keep everything in. I also prefer to write my lists as this seems to help me to commit things to memory. Typing doesn’t do this in the same way for me. I have worked as an audio typist and learnt to type without really having to put a lot of thought into what I was typing. Of course geeks need to find somewhere to put the important information in their lives as they usually aren’t very good at remembering things like birthdays and anniversaries and a text file is fast and easy to use.

Danny mentioned that blogging software was also being used as an organising application. He found the concept of a private blog fascinating as blogs are usually written for other people to read. He mentioned that people are starting to use blogging software and RSS feeds instead of email and mailing lists. I really like blogs. They are a wonderful way to keep important notes. We have been using them in work for the past year or so as a way of storing information on various projects. We even have a project blog that the system writes to automatically when changes are made to our software.

Danny also talked about trust and software. You can’t trust software unless you’ve written it yourself and then you still can’t trust it but you are much more forgiving. I will never understand why geeks feel the need to write everything themselves.

I still don’t know from all this what it means to be an alpha geek. I am surrounded by people who can’t remember dates or where they are supposed to be, who use the command line for everything, have strange scripts in ~bin and who love writing things from scratch!

Etech: Google - Indexing the World

I was looking forward to the Google talk but must admit that I wasn’t really impressed. It wasn’t that Nelson Minar isn’t a good speaker it’s just that he didn’t say anything about Google that I didn’t already know or couldn’t have found out by doing a quick search on Google…

Etech: Annotate the World

Marc Smith’s opening keynote on Wednesday morning was excellent. I’m really excited by the visualisation tools that he showed for mapping the Usenet community. It’s not that I’m interested in Usenet but by the possibility of finding a way to visually represent the various groups and communities that I’m involved with. We get so used to looking at tabular table that we forget the power of visualisation. There is a paper on TreeMaps that I really must read later on.

I had lunch with some people who seemed to be quite surprised that I enjoyed the talk. I may be actively involved in the Perl community but I really like to find out about new technology – even if Microsoft wrote it.

Etech Opening Keynote

The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.

– William Gibson

Tim O’Reilly gave the opening keynote to the conference. I was really surprised that there was almost nothing new than this. I had forgotten how long it takes for an emerging technology to become an accepted technology and and get into the mainstream. This doesn’t mean that the talk wasn’t interesting – it was – I was just expecting it to be different.

Etech Entries

At the beginning of the conference it was my plan to post entries about the conference at a fairly regular rate. As the entries I posted on my blog on Tuesday only appeared on the network here this morning I lost interest in doing this. One of the things I really like about blogging is the speed at which it is possible to publish information. I know that other people, outside the network I am using, can see the blog but for whatever reason the fact that I can’t see it, without manipulating the URL, has made me loose my initial sense of urgency.

What's wrong with Pen and Paper?

I’ve spent the morning being surrounded by conference attendees who spend their whole time playing with their computers during the talks. The constant clack clack of keyboards will probably haunt my dreams tonight. I probably look really old fashioned because I prefer pen and paper. I know that it could be a good thing to write up notes in real time but I’m not convinced that’s what I would spend my time doing. If I had a computer on my lap the whole time I would get distracted by email and the web (just like most of the people sitting around me) and I want to focus on what the speakers are saying. I’m also starting to wonder if some of the speakers have a better reputation than they deserve simply because lots of the people listening have ten others things to do at the same time.

Etech Begins

The first keynote at E-tech is about to start. I was planning on writing up my initial thoughts about the conference but it has taken me quite a while to get used to the keyboard and the Apple that I’m using.

Not A Bad Day

Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.

– Abraham Lincoln

There are times when absolutely nothing seems to get finished. But thankfully there are other days when progress is made. Today the YAPC::Europe site went live. Today was also the day when we finally got Plucene released. Who knows what might get finished tomorrow?