This week I’m attending the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (ETech) in San Diego California. ETech covers a wide variety of interesting topics from MMOG Workshops and Entrepreneuring for Geeks to Flickr for Office Docs.
Today was primarily tutorial sessions (I only have a session pass), but I did attend Monday night’s kickoff events, which was broken down into three parts…
Tim’s 30 minute talk ran the gamut, covering new technologies and the ways they are shaping the world we all live and work in. One thing in his talk stood out in particular for me. O’Reilly talked about what distinguishes web 2.0 – “Systems that harness network effects to get better the more people use them“.
As a demonstration of the power of network effects he showed a Google translation of the Arabic language Al Jezera homepage. The translation was pretty darn accurate and the English version of the text was clear and easy to read. O’Reilly went on the explain that in talking to Google engineers he’d been told that Google doesn’t actually have translation algorithms that are particularly superior to anyone else’s, but that the more data Google has, the better their translations get. They may not have better technology in this case, they just have more data. The more people use Google, the more data they have an the better they get.
The final speaker of the night was Arthur Benjamin, a self proclaimed “math-magician”. As he stood before the crowd he performed seemingly impossible feats of mathematical genius. Squaring big numbers, multiplying big numbers together, creating magic squares - virtually all of them faster than a person can calculate using a hand held calculator. The really interesting part came when he stopped performing the tricks and started to explain them, teaching the crowd how to do the calculations themselves.
This conference is a conference for hackers, for innovators, and for people who just like to geek out. I think I’m going to have fun.