Conferences
SVG Open Call for Papers Deadline coming up
The SVG Open is shaping up fast. The call for papers has been out there for a while now but if you're quick you can still present a paper or run a workshop but the deadline to submit for papers and courses is April 18 and that'll be here before you know it. The SVG Open is the conference for people doing SVG. The SVG Open has been running since at least 2002 and seems to get a little broader appeal every year it runs. Look at the broad areas to cover: client-side Javascript toolkits, map overlays like Google's, widgets in Opera, cell phones and other embedded applications, UI elements in Gnome and KDE, desktop tools like Inkscape. Those are just off the top of my head, that kind of a list just didn't exist 5 years ago - not for mainstream applications like these. SVG is growing in adoption and I don't see that slowing down anytime soon. I've been out of the scene for a while but things have really come a long way all of a sudden. There's some great support across the latest browsers - compare that half-green Firefox 3 to the qualified "about half of the tests passed that test features supported by Firefox" from a few years ago. There are solid, supported tools that make SVG creation accessible to anyone. Inkscape may only consider their release 0.46 less than a 1.0 but it's a real practical tool that's adding features in leaps and bounds. Want some graphics to work with? The Open Clip Art Library has piles of subjects covered. There are more and more compelling reasons to choose SVG every day. If you're someone who's been applying SVG already then share what you know and go present it at the Open.
Google I/O Registration Opens, Anyone want to send me?
Google I/O looks like it's right up my alley. I was surprised to see Steve Souders is presenting there. He's the author of YSlow and Yahoo! was printing his 14 tips for speeding up website front-end performance on cards for Blogher last year (under the unusual title of "How to be a Better Binary Babe"). I have used YSlow to improve my own sites' performance though I definitely don't get an A on all of them yet. I'd love to hear what else he has to say on the subject. I also see there's one on Caja, another attempt to make Javascript "Safe". While my first reaction to this and Douglas Crockford's Adsafe is to roll my eyes, I know I'm going to hear a lot more about both soon so it's best to dive in and find out what's what. Really, I think the whole AJAX and Javascript topic is the most interesting part to me right now. Jeff and I started tossing around the idea of making a trip out to I/O a few days ago. It doesn't look like a real possibility but I saw that registration is open this morning so if any generous reader wants to contribute to sending me then drop me a line and we can talk ;).
Technology Day 2007 Notes
The conference went really well considering there was no electricity until 3pm. It wasn't their fault - the power was out in that whole part of the city apparently. Candace went ahead without the PowerPoint Slides she worked so hard to make and gave a great talk on Collaboration Nation. She gave an intro to a bunch of the different ways people collaborate and work together online. It can be a tough topic to approach when you're already using blogs, wikis and every Web 2.0 social site effortlessly. You have to go back to the spot you came in from and try to draw your audience in. I think Candace did a great job of it in the half hour she had. It sounds like U Windsor's got the Open Source bug. The new software they're deploying campus-wide is an open source Learning Management System called Sakai. The executive director of the Sakai foundation, Dr. Chuck, gave the keynote. It sounds like they follow a model a lot like Apache Foundation, in that there's a non-profit foundation which guides the project and a bunch of developers volunteering their time to get the actual work done.
Podcatching: For the Podcast Listener

Intro

I did a poster presentation on podcatching yesterday at the University of Windsor's Campus Technology Day. I liked the other presentations at the conference, but today I just wanted to post to make sure I remembered to share mine. I did some research on podcatching. That's right, not podcasting but podcatching. Subscribing to podcasts and automatically downloading new episodes of those podcasts, then getting those on to a media player. Considering all the copious talk there is out there about podcasting, there's surprisingly little help for the listeners. I've done a couple podcasts, but by and large I just listen, I was just downloading manually the episodes of podcasts I like until a few weeks ago when I started really getting in to the research for this presentation. I was pretty happy with what Amarok can do but for my fellow podcast listeners on Macs and Windows machines, you'll just have to wait. The most-referenced names I saw were iTunes and Juice (formerly iPodder). I was disappointed in iTunes in that it considers subscribing to any podcast not in there directory to be an "advanced" option. Then there's Juice, which claims to be open-source but I can't seem to find the source for it. So my choice is clear but at the conference I tried to give as much choice as I could for an interested user so I've included all three.
Northern Voice 2007 in a Nutshell
Northern Voice was a big day. By the end I was wiped out in every way. We had walked in the Vancouver rain until it soaked us through, my feet were sore and tired, stomach was empty and my mind was stuffed. And I loved it all. The conference was great. I was prepared for a total blog love-in but what I got was a bunch of great ideas, some good technical advice and support from being around like-minded people. After the keynote by Anil Dash opened the conference, we went in to a session on social software in learning. The university scene has changed drastically since I was a full time student. There are a lot of web-based programs to help bring education online. The reason I know this is that most people in the session seemed pretty fed up with them all. D'Arcy Norman talked about success using Drupal to get students blogging and using forums as an extension of the classroom. Specifically, Drupal can remove a lot of the administrative formality and busy work if it is configured well. This allows engaged students to self-organize. I've tried Drupal as an admin and a user and I have mixed feelings about it. I definitely believe that with the right person managing it, Drupal can be the right backend for a lot of different content management applications. Specifically, it does seem well-suited to the field of education. With the wrong admin though, users can be locked out of features unnecessarily and quickly get turned off. I guess that's like any good tool - users make good things great. The interesting thing was that a Jon Beasley-Murray (a later presenter in the same session) knocked the Drupal set up and pretty much all the class extension stuff. He had students go out and make their own blogs and submit some of the coursework via public posts. He showed us an example online where a student was critical of an academic paper and received comments from the author of the paper. That's the kind of interaction that you just can't get with any scale but the web. His opinion was that it also doesn't happen under the auspices of a school. Admittedly, there's a big danger in this kind of involvement, the author of the original paper could have taken offense or tried to claim libel. I think that's what we need though. We need to get students interacting with the rest of the world so they know that they're not "just an undergrad" or "just doing a course." And if a bunch of students get sued frivolously, then that's the cost of having real education and not just lip service to some ideal of people getting excited by reading a book alone in the library. There's a cost for the students and the teachers to get more involved in the education though, and that's time. So it's only going to progress as much as people make the time for their education and that means they have to care about the subject more than they do about other things they could do with that time. The feedback students can get by letting a wider audience read their work, however, fans the flicker of interest that they had when they signed up for the course. So yeah, I got a little excited by the education session. Then I moved on to Dave's podcasting session. I have to admit that the Uncle Weed persona did put me off a bit. I guess I'm a stiff. So the subject matter of his podcasts doesn't excite me, but the session did. Dave knows his shit. He cares about what he's doing and it shows. So he had some great pointers and interesting presentation covering everything from getting a concept through recording and producing all the way up to promoting your podcast once you've got a few in the can. I only went in to the session with idle curiosity - but when he started in about how to vet an idea to see if it's worth starting a podcast, I started to get inspired. I've done a couple podcasts, well they're not episodic so some say that's not a podcast ... so I've recorded a couple audio file of me speaking which were syndicated in the RSS feed from my blog... But anyway, I've done a couple of those and I think I might like to do some more over a limited time, like a short series around a topic I like to talk about. One of the reasons I identified with Dave's attitude was the focus on getting it out there. Get good audio quality but don't go overboard buying equipment before you start recording. He recommended starting with a laptop if you already have one and showed the M-Audio device he uses (a Microtrack 24/96). It looks pretty sweet - two channels of audio and a CF slot. A far cry from the crap RCA puts out (which, by the way, doesn't use any normal formats for files or connectivity). After the podcasting session Candace and I walked all over God's green acre looking for food in the rain. Being a Saturday, nobody on UBC wants to try to sell food. We saw a Subway sign and headed for it like an oasis in the desert. So I have to ask: why leave the signs on if your business is closed? We ended up finding a pretty good bagel place that was open and had a vegan option. After lunch was Vlogging session. I don't have much good to say about it. I think the citizen newscaster is in for a big surprise when they realize that big media's not blind - they can applly a lot of the same techniques to dominating online opinions that they have to dominating offline opinions. Yes they've tried and failed a couple times, but each TV network has piles of money to burn through figuring this out. We live in an interesting time and the conditions that exist now won't last for ever. It's important for individuals who get it to use the advantages they have now, while they last." I liked the rest of the afternoon a lot better but don't have so much to relate about it. The session Darren Barefoot led on why people blog was interesting and inspiring. As a long-time blogger he's got some good insight and some good stories to tell. Both Jeff Henshaw and Catherine Winters were interesting in the virtual worlds talk, but XBox Live and Second Life seemed almost juxtaposed rather than complementary. So, to sum up: glad I came, wish you were here :). If it sticks then you'll see a lot more blogging out of me and maybe a couple more of these introverted blogging-about-blogging posts too.
Yakking at MooseCamp

So it's pretty late here already (12 am Pacific, though my blog is set to Eastern so it's probably going to say it's after 3 when I post this).

So far Vancouver's a cool place, the Blue Horizon is a swanky hotel and the people at MooseCamp were pretty cool too. When Candace and I finally made it to the hotel yesterday we were amazed at the view. Here are a couple samples of the shots we took on the balcony.
[G2:5150][G2:5157]

Last night there was a dinner for Northern Voice attendees. We found our way there by Skytrain (which, oddly enough, we boarded underground at Burrard Station) and a bus. The food was good but more over it was great to start talking to the other people coming to the conference. We ended up sitting with Roland Tanglao, Catherine Winters, Dale McGladdery and some other interesting people whose names I can't find at the moment. We all talked about a bunch of stuff and it really helped to make more friendly faces at today's MooseCamp. In the morning Roland led a session on Social Media Diaspora. The real seed of the idea seemed to be about reconnecting with roots and how social technology is enabling that, but it got us talking and thinking about what it means to be part of different kinds of groups and what the repercussions are. Have a listen to the podcast on that page and you can get more of a sense of what I mean.

Planning for Northern Voice
Wow. Busy times these days. I've been trying to hit 58 with my main in WoW and Candace and I have been having fun with our Shammies, but that's not what's been keeping me really busy. (Today's post is a brain-dump and some personal rambling, enjoy but don't expect enlightenment :) ) Jeff and I have been collaborating on some stuff that's not really ready for public discussion without ridicule. Looks like neither one of us is going to make it to GDC this year and that kind of delivered the kick in the ass to really move on a new project. So Jeff and I have some cool ideas and great progress around building simple games with a do-what-you-know attitude. Still, getting away to GDC has always been something that energizes and encourages me so that left me jonesing for a conference. I need to see some new places, meet some new faces and keep the daydream pipeline full. Jeff and I talked about Mobile Monday New York with SVG goodness. Candace and I almost did Podcast Academy. Both interesting options but neither worked out for us. In the meanwhile some hard working bloggers out around Vancouver have been organizing the third Northern Voice conference and un-organizing the MooseCamp unconference. They've offered Candace a travel bursary to help cover costs of getting there. That's a strong incentive to participate in something one is already in to. Being the friendly person she is, I've been invited to tag along. Last year I read a little about Moose Camp and thought it sounded like a pretty cool chance to get out, see BC and talk to some other bloggers who are probably more active than me. I really wouldn't have expected I could make it out there this year but here I am making plans. I'm excited to talk to some more avid bloggers than me. I try not to talk about blogging in my blog but I guess that any personal writing (which blogging inevitably is) has to include pieces of the author and a piece of that is blogging. I'm part of the crowd and it helps everyone when we share experiences. Since Candace just found out a few days ago, we had to rush to get plane tickets & hotel. I kind of like the sort of pressure I'm under when it's something I know how to do, so it was exciting yesterday finding a hotel that's near the bus route (Route 44 - UBC/Downtown - PDF) and far enough from the stadiums (have a look at the hotel and the P). The short time frame meant flight prices go up daily but I think we did all right flying from Detroit Metro to Vancouver. Unfortunately, flying from Detroit Metro means we're crossing the increasingly important Canada/US border. This leads to the next part of my story... Crossing from Canada in to the US by air now requires a valid passport. This is a change from the historically very friendly relationship shared across this border. What ever the subtext is, I'm not in a position to make a statement, I just want to go to my conference. And my passport is expired. So last night, after the hotel & flight rush, I had to zip across the city to see my friend who can be a guarantor for my passport application. Luckily I'd already got the photos and the rest of the hoops jumped through a couple months ago. Then this morning I realized that even the fastest turn-around the passport office can do is ten working days if you apply in person. Well actually I knew that but realized that the conference is about nine working days from today. So off I went to plead for expedited service. It's actually not hard to get express service if you bring your travel documents.
Looking at Linux and Phone Standards
I listened to a talk John Ostrem gave at the 2006 Emerging Telephony Conference. I got the podcast from ITConversations. His talk is about LiPS, the Linux Phone Standards Forum. The talk went well enough and I learned a little bit but I was left wanting to know more. I guess that's a good side-effect for a standards group. LiPS seems to be interested in the middle layers of software on a mobile phone. They're not in the kernel stuff, that's something that OSDL is working on. They're not at the top layer, that's up to application developers and left for various handset and service providers to differentiate themselves. LiPS sounds like it's there to work with the in-between parts. The window management and some of the UI mechanics - not UI details like layout or design but maybe widgets or something under there.
Lunch is Better than Lines
We're running a little behind schedule, as Candace mentioned, but that's fine by me. I've never been one for standing in line. We're just going to finish lunch and (hopefully) catch the tail end of the line picking up our badges. We'll see how that goes. Seeing as the last couple years we didn't even get here until the second day, we'll still end up with more oppurtunity to get sa much as we can out of the show. From what I read yesterday, it sounds like there's a lot more playable demos and less of the hype. The real thing never seems to measure up to all the hand-waving and "representative" pre-rendered video. While last year seemed to be all about numbers and specs for next-gen consoles, this year we'll see some real-life examples of the titles that are in production for the Wii and the PS3. And of course demos mean screenshots. Lots of screenshots. Watch this space, at the end of the day today we'll be in the hotel, eating Thai and uploading pics.
What do I think about Booth Babes?
Candace has an issue with booth babes, and she's called me out.
I know Rob is going to say that taking the boothbabes out of E3 takes the fun out of the conference - but is that what you really think? Really really? Do you really believe it’s justified to use a woman’s body to sell a game? Would you want your daughter working there?
The daughter card? Right out of the gate? Isn't that something like the thing about losing a thread by comparing the other party to Hitler? I'll go remind her not to stick candy in her butt. Anyhow, let me say that I don't go to E3 for the booth babes. They're definitely part of the show and I don't try to pretend they're not there either. I don't think losing them would take the fun out of the conference, but when you take away a feature that's enjoyable then, yeah, that takes some fun away. I'm not going to appologize to anyone for being intrigued by attractive women - after all, isn't that why models are used in advertising? Because they attract attention?
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