Tires’ smoke & down, back in EDT

Back from San Diego and ETech 2007, with quite a lot to consolidate.

– The talks, honestly, I didn’t get all that much out of, for the most part. The expected exceptions to this rule were Jane McGonigal’s session and Mike Kuniavsky’s keynote – both of which I disagreed with, in interesting ways – and Matt Webb, who was in shirt-foldingly top form.

In the department of things I didn’t necessarily see coming, Quinn Norton‘s talk on bodyhacking, “You Are The Platform,” was far and away the best talk I saw. It was so good that I actually stopped Twittering for long enough to take fairly extensive notes, which I’ll try to get up later on today.

– I guess I’m just not a big Werewolf fan. But danah’s mighty good at mediating a round.

– Joe McCarthy, nice to meet you at long last. I owe Arwen O’Reilly and David Crow apologies for allowing myself to be distracted, and therefore missing the chance to catch up with you. Next time?

– I understand why conferences need to give their sponsors program slots, I do. But when will sponsors figure out that raw and uninflected product pitches just don’t fly, and are in fact counterproductive? If you’re gonna do it, at least situate your product in the context of an ongoing discussion people might find interesting, like the Trampoline kids did.

– I was little short of astonished by the arrogant cluelessness of Jeff Hawkins’ talk on new approaches to artificial intelligence. Within seconds of taking the stage, he had patronized Jane McGonigal, and it was all downhill from there. Verbatim quote: “I and several other people now feel like we understand the way the human brain works.” (That “several” just kills me.)

I don’t mind in the slightest if Hawkins’s approach to machine pattern recognition and inference succeeds at notoriously difficult tasks, nor would I be bothered if he made a second fortune with it. That’s all fine. Just don’t describe it as having anything to do with the way the brain works.

– My favorite moments of the conference were the hour in which Matt Biddulph convoked a gathering of Dopplristas over G&Ts, etc., and a pilgrimage up to Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute in La Jolla, in the company of Mr. Cronin, Mr. Coates and Mr. Cerveny. I’m not 100% a Kahn partisan, but the Salk is something truly special, especially when it frames a sun just beginning to sink into the Pacific: spirit literally made concrete.

Pics of most all the above are now up.

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