ETech 2007: Divining the future

ETech 2007: Divining the future

Summary: I'm at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology conference this week, enjoying the geeky ambiance. The theme for this year's conference is the Arthur C.

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I'm at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology conference this week, enjoying the geeky ambiance. The theme for this year's conference is the Arthur C. Clarke quote: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I've enjoyed myself, but I'm not convinced I've seen the future yet.

I attended a couple of great tutorials yesterday. The morning tutorial was by Marc Hedlund and was entitled "Coder to Co-Founder: Entrepreneuring for Geeks" (see my detailed notes). The goal was to teach geeks how to be entrepreneurs and I think Marc succeeded brilliantly. Of course 3 hours isn't nearly enough time, but he at least hit the high points and crushed some of the myths that keep people from even trying. Based on my experience, Marc was dead on in his advice.

The afternoon tutorial appealed to my inner geek because it promised we'd be writing code to build a Web framework reminiscent of Seaside. The tutorial, by Avi Bryant was entitled "Applied Web Heresies." Seaside is a web framework for Smalltalk that Avi wrote several years ago. The problem with Seaside is you're not going to use it! But, there are a lot of interesting ideas in Seaside that people should know, so this tutorial was way of spreading the ideas outside of Smalltalk.

One of Avi's "Web heresies" is that HTML shouldn't be used for view management--that's a job for CSS. Another is that sessions are too valuable to persist. A third is that meaningful URLs are overused and overrated. If you want to throw out some widely accepted beliefs, those are good places to start.

As promised we wrote code (see my detailed notes). After writing a small framework to get things off the ground, we added code to manage sessions, register actions with generated URLs, and finally manage forms. Avi showed how the framework we'd created supported building Web widgets. It's a very nice model and the tutorial was quite fun.

Monday evening featured the traditional O'Reilly Radar talk by Tim and ended with Arthur Benjamin, the author of Secrets of Mental Math, showing off some of his secrets. The guy is totally amazing, multiplying 4 digit numbers in his head faster than a calculator and filling out magic squares on the fly as he talks. A very entertaining night.

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