September 29, 2003
ETCon 2003/2004 Thoughts

So the deadline for ETCon 2004 proposals has passed now and true to form my idea came a day late (and possibly a dollar short...)

During the conference, there was an afterhours BoF on the LazyWeb. Ben Hammersley corralled as many people as possible into a room, we sat in a big circle, and dozens of ideas (see the list linked above) came out. Some were big, some were little, and some were solved in situ.

But what happened to the ideas that left the room? How many got picked up and worked on? How many were actually solved in the intervening months, as peoples priorities and projects shifted? How many are running code, how many are still in proposed paperwork form? How many are now stale and unwanted?

I'm not accusing the community in any way of being a Sourceforge with 3000 html editors, but I am curious about how well the methodology worked. As we move forward on resolving problems and seeking solutions, how good are we doing on fixing our own messes? Can we keep the visceral excitement of sitting in a room alive as we go back to our keyboards, weblogs, wikis and irc?

In the Lazyweb site, when proposals come up, there's an immediately available stream for feedback and comments. You can see what has resulted, and what solutions come up after proposal from the hivemind. In the live-world LazyWeb, we never implemented and integrated a full trackback and commenting system. Is this distinction critical? Are there valid comparisons to be made between the result sets of these conjoined projects? Should each of the lazyweb-in-person ideas been copied to the "real" LazyWeb?

For example, one of my requests, "more purple numbering" stares back at me from the list. Has this happened? Yes, the purple-aware wiki and MT plugin are available, but are they being widely used? For my own part, I've fallen down on integrating this into my work. What are the proximate causes of this reduced adoption? Is this too abstract a concept, not seen as useful by the inexperienced?

Other items - which had strong traction going into the conference, like ThreadsML, have moved forward to a fair degree. Was their secret of success to have enough of a pre-existing support structure (and loud enough champions) to make the cut?

But it's a bit late to propose this now. It'll have to be a project outside the scope of ETCon 2004, I expect. So if you had a wish on the list, drop me a line. Have you seen anything come out of it yet? Do you still want to? And if anyone has already proposed this for this year, I look forward to reading (and I hope seeing!) the results.

My second proposal is a LighteningTalks session.

At ETCon 2003, the sharing elements were well exposed. These were soft but critical elements, the community of people and sharing ethos that took place in the hallways and aisleways of the conference. Meeting people offline and online in hydra, shared table conversations in the lounge.

This elements work great and will naturally continue, but one could never get enough ideas. One of the fine elements of the OSCon series (and YAPC) is a set of Lightening Talks. Five minutes each in a conference room, few or no slides, to share an idea. It's like the LazyWeb BoF on its head, only a bit more structured and with a bit of room to breathe. Individuals or groups come in with their current pet project or pet musing that either didn't get a full session, or isn't yet ready for a full session. Talk it up, walk away with new champions and ideas. It becomes another element in the shared knowledge that we all take away from ETCon.

To feed the fire for ETCon 2004, Eric Sigler has created a TopicExchange channel for ETCon Proposals. Watch that space...

Posted by esinclai at September 29, 2003 05:52 AM |