Saw this walking home from the Lorimer L stop the other day:
Ten years ago, this was cutting edge. O to think what the future may bring…
Twas the facepalm heard ’round the science blogging community when news traveled that Dave Munger, who was slated to present at Science Online London, neglected to renew his passport and would not be attending the conference. But while this may be a high-ranking fail for Dave, it should be documented as a notable win in Science Online history.
I’ve been to more than a few scientific conferences in my day, and at almost every one there’s some kind of technological mishaps that stalls the flow of events. I always notice because, though scientists are typically highly intelligent, they can still make some pretty novice errors with whatever new technology is supposed to enhance their presentation — the kind of errors that leave me wiggling in my seat debating whether I should get up and help or mind social norms. Technology provides remarkable opportunities for enhanced communication in conference settings, but often times these opportunities are not explored for fear of something malfunctioning at crunch time.
But from what I’ve witnessed, technological experimentation is rampant at Science Online conferences (which is one of the many reasons I enjoy them so much). At Science Online London, while the conference was underway, a virtual conference was being held simultaneously in Second Life so that anyone around the world with an internet connection and the Second Life software installed could virtually attend by visiting the Elucian Islands, Nature Publishing Group’s archipelago of scientific wonder in Second Life.
I’ve never really gotten into Second Life, though I have attempted to explore it on two occasions. The first, my old laptop didn’t have enough space on the hard drive to run it; the second, I successfully installed the software and built an avatar, but within the first five minutes of gameplay she got stuck in some kind of vortex. Based on my failures, I will admit I was a bit skeptical that the plan to broadcast in real-time could be executed.
Multiply that by roughly 20 and that’s how skeptical I was when I heard that the new plan for the session on Blogging for Impact was for Dave Munger to beam himself into the conference via his Second Life avatar and actually conduct his presentation through Second Life. It’s not that I have ever doubted Dave or his abilities, or those of the very competent individuals who were in charge of the SL control panel. I guess I’ve just been jaded by my experiences of witnessing technological mishaps.
BUT IT WORKED!! After a few minutes of suspense while the SL techies tinkered around with settings and relayed instructions, Dave’s audio came in loud and clear and everyone in the conference hall — as well as in Second Life — was able to listen to Dave give his part of the presentation. It was like the conference audience was NASA when the Apollo 13 spacecraft came back online after all that dead air time (right around 8:35 in the video). Yep, pretty much exactly the same situation.
I think this was actually the coolest part of the conference for me, because I got to watch technological evolution in action. If it wasn’t for Dave’s passport fail, it wouldn’t yet be demonstrated at a Science Online conference that it is not only possible, put potentially just as entertaining and effective, for someone across the Atlantic to present in an auditorium full of people. It would still be just a theory waiting to be tested by a brave individual willing to risk technological malfunction.
Now that we know if can be done, the sky is the limit, really. Why keep conference presenters limited to individuals who can physically attend the conference when you could have anyone in the world beam themselves in for 15 minutes? Money and time have ceased to be limiting factors, so at Science Online 2010 this January, why not beam in the big names? (/crosses fingers for Nick Denton)
This remix of Halcyon+On+On with a video mash-up from the movie Hackers just made my afternoon. Best enjoyed with noise-cancelling headphones, a top secret project to work on, and an iced latte.
From the instant I heard of you, through the murmured musings on my favorite tech blog, I knew I had to know you. They said you could be the one to finally put the iPhone to shame after all these years of its boasting… that arrogant device. You piqued my interest, dark horse. I had to know more.
I went to your website and that was the first time I laid eyes on you… your sleek frame, your compact numerical keypad, your large, wide screen. You made my heart race, Pre. I knew I had to have you. I surrendered my email address to your makers with confidence, something I am usually reluctant to do. I don’t trust so easily, Pre. I’ve been spammed in the past, and those wounds take time to heal. I don’t just give away access to my inbox anymore.
But you…. you were different. I didn’t know if I could afford you or if you were really as good as they said you were. I have high standards, Pre. But I also have intuition, and it was telling me with forceful persistence that I just had to know when you would be ready. Ready for me to hold you.
The media reviewers started to buzz about you, making me giddy with excitement. They loved you, Pre! Though some were weary to pick a favorite between you and your Apple enemy. I know it is no small feat to convert an iPhone user. They are comfortable in their mediocrity, and to question only makes them defensive. To convince them of your superiority, or even to have them rate you as merely an equal — to me that indicates you have already won the competition.
And you won my heart, Pre. When I saw the novice Gizmodo review of you, I felt a rage wash over me. How could he submerge you in soft cheese?? How could he defile you like that?? I took a stand for you, Pre. Because reading the empty criticisms of an Apple lover in that review, I knew. I knew that you were the one for me.
And then the very next day, I saw it. Waiting for me in my inbox. The alert from your makers:
Today’s the day. The new Palm® Pre™ phone on the all-new Palm webOS™ platform is here.
I knew you wouldn’t let me down, Pre. And it was destiny, you see. Did you know, my precious? Did you know that my Verizon contract had ended June 3rd? Did you know that my other beloved phone was dying? That it struggled to connect the audio when it was open in its primary position, forcing me to talk through speaker phone in the texting form, like it was some kind of Nextel 2-way? Shhh you don’t have to tell me if you knew, Pre. It won’t change how I feel about you.
Alternate title: Why “Mac people” shouldn’t review tech gadgets. In this Gizmodo review of the new Palm Pre, Jason Chen loses much credibility as soon as he gives himself away as a Mac Person by criticizing the Pre’s address book system: “I was able to pull my contacts from Facebook and Google into the phone quite easily, despite the Pre not supporting syncing to OS X Address Book, so it was a near-seamless transition.” The fact that this software is only available for iPhones, is the first clue of Chen’s bias. But in my humble opinion, simply using a Mac product does not make one a “Mac person”. I use a MacBook primarily, but I also appreciate PCs and operating systems oriented towards PC users, and can adapt to virtually any piece of technology if necessary. To me a “Mac person” is someone who values “user friendliness” above all else — even above the ability to use the technology to its full potential and craft it to her own specifications. Mac people generally want everything pre-packaged and don’t care if they don’t have the option to customize or modify specific features. Being a Mac person isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit one’s ability to analyze new technologies, much like Chen’s perspective is in his review. Though he gives it pretty good ratings overall, he is obviously iPhone-centric and has several petty complaints about features that sound like they would be a plus for someone like me:
The first thing you’ll notice as you slide open the Pre is the absurdly sharp ridge digging against your palm. Nowhere—not on the iPhone, the G1, the G2 or any of HTC’s other smartphones—has a phone been so threatening to the integrity of my skin.
Cry me a river, Mac Boy. I like my phones like I like my analyses: sharp. If you cut your finger, it’s your own fault for making a classic Mac person mistake: NOT READING THE DIRECTIONS until after the fact. At least you learned the error of your ways and realized that you’re supposed to push up from the screen to open. I may be a rarity in that I enjoy reading instruction manuals cover-to-cover, but IMO it’s like voting: If you don’t do it, STFU and stop complaining.