BarCamp USA 2007

Wow, if BarCamp USA <<too bad… it’s been cancelled >>really pulls in 5000 technology enthusiasts it could be the best conference of the year, and in Wisconsin no less. At a cost of $50 it’ll also be close to the cheapest.

What? You don’t know what a BarCamp is?

I love the unconference formats. After attending about ten computer conferences over the past 18 months including Microsoft’s MIX06 and WebmasterWorld’s in Las Vegas and Boston, my favorite conference was MashupCamp 1, a dynamic gathering of startups and mashup developers down in Silicon Valley at the Computer Science Museum. Dave Berlind, Doug Gold, and supporters did a fantastic job with these Mashup Camps and I’m sorry I missed the one just held in Boston and will miss Mashup Camp IV in July because I’ll be in Pennsylvania for our family reunion.

Organizers of the BarCamp USA say they expect 5000 but could handle up to 20,000. I sure hope this approach prevails in the conference space rather than the expensive and exclusive conferences that are tailored primarily to support existing large companies and sales efforts. I should say that Brett and his crew do a fine job making WebmasterWorld an inexpensive and great conference compared to the alternatives.

Fancy Las Vegas parties at nightclubs like TAO and PURE are really fun and neat, but the really profound changes in technology are only partly happening over cocktails in Las Vegas. They are ALSO happening inside laptops plastered with goofy stickers, handled by young geeks who haven’t even learned how to do laundry. BarCamps cater to that crowd, and that’s a crowd you want to pay attention to if you want to better understand where tech is headed … and headed fast.

Jim Gray, computing pioneer, missing at sea off California Coast

Click here to help scan satellite pictures and help with the search for Jim Gray.

The New York Times is now covering the story as is Amazon’s Werner Vogels

Current news stories click here

—– earlier ——
My pal Tom, a very experienced sailor himself, just informed me of Jim Gray’s misfortune:

He was sailing offshore, alone, in good weather with a well-equipped yacht. He’s said to have “more than 10 years’ experience,” but reports from friends say he’s been sailing much longer than that.

My guess is man-overboard. He would have known about keeping a harness on at all times when offshore if he’s as experienced as has been said, but he was on a trip to scatter his mother’s ashes and his emotions may have clouded his judgement. Or he might not have been as experienced as his friends thought and he may not have been clipped in.

Honestly, when I was young and dumb I went out alone, but I wouldn’t want to go out offshore alone. Or would I? I’ve been from Salem to Marblehead and to Gloucester without anyone on board. He was going to the Farallon Islands, though, which is ~25 miles out. That’s pretty far out to be alone.

Other possibilities are:

Container collision: containers are a lethal hazard offshore. Containers overboard from a ship float awash for months and can kill a yacht in seconds if the yacht rams them at an angle that staves in the hull.

Ship collision: thought to be somewhat less likely b/c the weather was good and he was out for a day sail.

Catastrophic health issue: he is 63, but in good health.

Equipment failure: As you may recall, this can be a problem.

Who needs a real world anyway?

Glenn’s reporting on the new banking licenses offered for the virtual world.    Although there are obvious potential abuses, on balance I think these virtual world development are fantastic.

Back when I was running more website advertisements from Europe, Paypal was a godsend in terms of making it very easy to collect money from European partner.   It was somewhat expensive – often running 5% or more in total fees, but well worth it in that I did not have to wait for checks in the mail and then wait for them to clear (international checks can take 10+ biz days to clear) .

I’m not clear on all the details but it looks to me like virtual banking is going to empower a LOT of places to compete with PayPal’s quality but expensive services, run their own interest rates, CDs, etc.  Once a virtual bank establishes credibility it should be able to very cheaply and effectively offer better rates than conventional banks with their high costs.     More risk?   Probably some, but with greater risk comes greater reward so … you should sometimes choose to roll the dice on these things.

Zawodny to Beal “Spammer!”. Beal to Zawodny “Get a Damn Clue!”

You’ve got to love these spats between clever and prominent blog dudes. It’s not only the closest onliners generally come to schoolyard or barroom brawling, but often these debates give huge insight into the future of the online world.

When Yahoo bought MyBlogLog, the clever social community application, it fell to Jeremy Zawodny to help refine the project into the robust and scalable environment demanded by the world’s top website. Jeremy also decided to take on a bit of quality control, and accused Andy Beal, a top marketing consultant, of spamming MyBlogLog. Andy had used as his avatar “win a free zune” rather than using the normal convention of a personal picture.

Andy Beal shot back angrily that he was not spamming and even had permission to run the contest from MyBlogLog’s founders. Cheap trick or not, if he had permission I think Jeremy owes him an apology – or at least an upgrade to “officially approved MBL spammy tactic”.

Although I thought Jeremy was too hard on this marketing “trick” by Andy, I certainly agree with many who think that MyBlogLog is now suffering from it’s own popularity. Popularity that has brought a lot of questionable tactics outside of the spirit of a quality community.

There is no great harm in the win a free zune *except* it defeats one of the nice aspects of MyBlogLog which is that you can see the person’s face. Several prominent and clever SEO’s with great blogs like Andy’s “Marketing Pilgrim”, as well as several junk sites and junk SEOs are resorting to similar tactics. The most common is to plant a pretty woman’s face rather than your own face, encouraging signups to your blog community.

Avatars are the heart of this system since they appear at other sites. Therefore to preserve the integrity of MyBlogLog Yahoo should require that avatars reflect either the person or a highly relevant aspect of the community. I’d even consider requiring that if you want to play with MyBlogLog you’ve got to be the real person in the picture.

Andy’s a good guy and a quality SEO, but his claim that he’s helping MyBlogLog with this type of approach rings pretty hollow with me.

Update:  Jeremy retitled his post and apologized.  But hey, it was fun while it lasted!

Fred: Flickr’s Frickin’ Fantastic!

Like any good Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson is trying to figure out what the heck is going on …. online, and looking for great examples of companies that are doing things right.

I could not agree more that Flickr is a stunning example of how to get the new internet right.  The photo handling is superb, the interface is easy and intuitive, the tools are powerful, the basic service is free, the buzz is friendly and cordial throughout the site, and perhaps most importantly it’s easy to share photos and intergrate them with blogs.

No wonder Caterina Fake was hanging at Davos this year!

Carlton College Minnesota – Wind Power!

WindMill Power

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck.
A single HUGE windmill provides most of the power for Minnesota’s Carleton College. Another, about 5 miles away, provides power to Saint Olaf College. Both are in Northfield, MN about 70 miles south of Minneapolis.

I was very impressed with how a single windmill could provide most of the power needs for an entire college, and based on the financials of this other project it looks like these things may even be revenue positive.

Davos: Easterly on Poverty

Thanks to Jeff Jarvis’ Davos blogging I learned about William Easterly, an economist who is very critical of his former employer the World Bank. At Davos he appears to be bashing much of what is now considered good poverty reduction strategy by World Bank and large private funds like the Gates Foundation. I’ve been impressed with Gates Foundation and still trying to find out more about whether the World Bank, on balance, is helping or hurting the poor. Digging a little deeper I found this Easterly quote, which certainly seems very reasonable:

William Easterly, a former research economist for World Bank:

The right response is to demand accountability from aid agencies for whether aid money actually reaches the poor. The right response is to demand independent evaluation of aid agencies. The right response is to shift the paradigm and the money away from top-down plans by “experts” to bottom-up searchers—like Nobel Peace Prize winner and microcredit pioneer Mohammad Yunus—who keep experimenting until they find something that works for the poor on the ground. The right response is to get tough on foreign aid, not to eliminate it, but to see that more of the next $2.3 trillion does reach the poor.

Of course few would disagree with the above, so he’s not really addressing the question of how to “get tough” on foreign aid.    I’ve been very impressed with the ability of the Gates foundation to focus laser-like on key health issues like malaria and fund accordingly.  I’m not convinced a bureaucratic or governmental approach can be nearly as effective, especially because it seems many of the poorest countries struggle with the simplest forms of accountability in business and government.      Clearly one of the great challenges is how to *bypass* ineffective and corrupt people and agencies within the poor countries so that aid can flow to the needy.