Goodbye, ETech

06 September 2009

Since its inception, ETech has been a vibrant gathering of the alpha geek tribe, bringing together some of the most innovative people and projects across the technology community. So it’s with regret that O’Reilly Media has made the difficult decision to discontinue ETech in 2010.

I only went once, but the lineups at ETech never ceased to impress and excite me. Recent years always looked particularly awesome: genuinely emerging, futuristic, and an understanding of “technology” that stretched far beyond the web. The ripples from that conference each March stretched far into the year ahead, even for those of us who couldn’t always go.

Hopefully, we’ll find somewhere else to highlight the genuine outbreaks of the future that we all so dearly need (and, I’d imagine, desire). The tech community is in a different place – and state – from when ETech began all those years ago, but there’s always more future to be pointed to and illustrated.

More photos from Etech

26 March 2006


Julian Bleecker (landscape)
Originally uploaded by Tom Armitage.

I’m slowly getting my pictures from ETech online; the last batch left will be of my time in San Diego after the conference. These ones are slightly better than the ones I uploaded first – in part, because I’ve processed them a bit more. This is one of my favourites – of Julian Bleecker – from the afternoon where we took break on the pool deck. Fun.

So you may (or may not) be aware that I gave a 40-minute talk at Etech this year entitled “From Paddles to Pads: Is Controller Design Killing Creativity In Videogames?“. Well, I’m now doing a 15-minute recap of it in the UK (London, to be precise) at an event which (for one reason or another) is entitled Technology 2.0. If that sounds offputting, consider this: it’s basically ConCon 2006 (and that may still make no sense to you, so in short: people at US conferences recap them for those who couldn’t make it).

Anyhow, details of the event are linked above; it’s free, but it’s also RSVP only. Do come if it sounds interesting (or, more to the point, you want a quick yammer afterwards). I’ll be doing my best to ram an 8000-word, 67-slide extravaganza into 15 minutes, and give a rough overview of my argument (if not all the lovely evidence). There are fewer words in this version of the talk. There are, however, more slides than before, and a new joke about Larry Lessig.

Also, Yoz is talking about Ning, which should be fun (in a UK context) and there’s more promise.tv goodness from the Ludlams. And it’s all chaired by Internet Celebrity, The Dave Green (from NTK). More to the point, there’s drink later. So maybe see you then. Do say hello if we’ve not met before.

(Yes, I know I still haven’t got around to posting my Etech recap and notes. I will get around to this shortly, but it’s still percolating, which is probably a good thing).

Time to leave

12 March 2006

Well, that was America. Thanks to the very generous Dan Heaf, I’m sitting in the Virgin Atlantic Lounge at LAX, sipping free drinks and catching up the world online. The presentation went down well, it seems; I’ve had some interesting emails as a result and some kind words. The PDF isn’t up online yet, but the most indepthwrite-up – featuring pictures of yours truly + slides – is over at Near Near Future. Given Regine was in the front row, hammering away at her notes, there are obviously some gaps but the basic premise is there. I’d argue it’s less a “consumer” perspective and more just a perspective on the gaming industry (rather than academic/research perspectives), but it’s still great to see it out there, and to a huge audience. Thanks very much for the write-up, Regine!

And so I’m about to board a plane and hop back to the UK. I’ve had a great time at Etech – it all began sinking in late on Thursday¬†(and especially very late on Thursday, when I had a fantastic night, thanks to danah, Matt, Alex, and many others).

Many thanks must also go to the organisers of the conference, O’Reilly and especially to all those (friends and new acquaintances) in the British contingent who put up with me, nerves and all, and steered me through safely. It’s slowly sinking in just how wonderful an experience it was. My further thoughts from the conference – and there are, as ever, several, will follow in due course.

Feedback loops

08 March 2006

(this may change at some point in the future; I’m still revising this stuff but thought I may as well put it out there).

Etech06 is going really, really well for me (so far): lots of things emerging in my head, at the least. One thing that’s coming out of quite a bit is a discussion of feedback loops.

Feedback loops are really, really important. Amy Jo Kim touched on feedback as an essential part of ludic design – without feedback, play isn’t satisfying (and play is what all early adopters are doing all the time). Feeedback is what generates challenge/reward structures in games. Feedback loops are how communities emerge – I do something, you do something back; it’s the implicit social structures Amy Jo mentioned. Derek Powazek is currently talking about the “new community” – and mentions MeasureMap.

And, of course, MeasureMap is all about feedback – I can see when I made posts, and when comments came; I can track popularity. I’m no longer sending blindly into the ether; I’m sending and tracking response.

And once you track response, you can write so much better; you can design so much better; you can act on the feedback and you get a loop. And that loop’s really important – it’s what keep things going. If there’s not a feedback loop, things tail off, fall away.

That’s why Google bought MeasureMap: they had Blogger already. People can post to the web; they can broadcast into the ether. Once you give them MeasureMap, they become successful, effective publishers. When people say “what’s the point of blogging?”, they say it as an outsider – they just think it’s publishing. They don’t know about the stat-tracking, the refining. Once you have a feedback loop – once you can see the influence (or lack of it) that you have… that’s when it all clicks. That’s when you get placed into a significance grid – your posts get located in space, time, relevance, authority, etcetera.

Play is about feedback; games are about feedback; publishing is about feedback. A lot of the stuff this morning about attention: it’s all about invisible, natural feedback – tracking eyes-on-screens. We can track hits; now we need to track attention. And when we can measure it, we can value it, and we can price it.

That’s the attention economy. Placing everything into this feedback loop of value.

If you’re a business guy, you see how you can price, monetize, and securitize that feedback. If you’re a player or a hacker, you see what loops you can join together in a mash-up, or where you can generate new feedback, what new variables you can track. And that’s the “connective tissue” that Derek’s talking about.

San Diego so far…

06 March 2006

So, I made it. Been in the states a few days now and I’m pretty much over the jetlag. I think.

ETech kicks off today – I’m sitting watching Cal set up for an eight-hour marathon on How We Built Flickr – well, I missed it in the UK, so I may as well take all the opportunities I can get. My talk is in rude health – pretty much there, just requires a degree of fine tuning.

Have been having a great time in the US so far. The train ride down from LA to SD was just awesome; I’ve got a big stack of gorgeous photos that’ll be gracing Flickr soon, I hope. Then I hung around with Simon and Tom for a while – watching them eat a $200 lunch, hitting up the Apple Store for goodies, and then finally (and much documented), watching the Oscars.

Last night a huge stack of UK geeks went to the Kansas City barbeque joint – as the sign outside said, where the “Top Gun Sleazy Bar Scene” got filmed. Good barbeque, I tell you.

And now the talk’s about to begin. More later…

Off we go

02 March 2006

That’s that, then: one bag packed, everything checked off my list, all my details safely stowed, and I’m checked in onto the plane. All that remains is to get some sleep, and get to Heathrow.

Fingers crossed.

There’s been a long silence here, punctuated by del.icio.us links and the odd post (and the odd picture) but not much else.

There are various reasons for this. The first is the new job – and everything that’s entailed, namely, trying to tie up loose ends at my current job before I leave, today. It’s also been a busy month at work anyway, so that’s made things even more hectic.

And then for the past month or two, at night, and at those weekends, I’ve been working pretty hard on my talk for ETech. I’ve been nervous about that – still am – and it’s taken a fair amount of work to knock it into the shape it’s in. I’m pretty pleased with it now – just hoping it doesn’t bomb at the conference. So that’s the other reason I’ve been busy.

Now, though, it’s practically all done. I’m flying out to LA tomorrow, and then down to San Diego for a week, Saturday to Saturday. I’m really looking forward to ETech. Bar the fear of speaking, I’ve followed it for a fair few years and have always wanted to go; now I’ve got the chance. It’s my first visit to the US, too; the last transatlantic flight I did was Canada when I was 11. So it’s all rather exciting, all told.

If you’re interested in saying hello during ETech, do drop me a line (tom at this domain), or look out for the redhead with the sideburns. I’m going to try and update this blog a bit more frequently when I’m there (which won’t be hard), but it’s not going to approach live-blogging or anything – I’m going to be too busy taking notes, I hope. Keep an eye on my Flickr stream, too.

A bit of a holiday, then, mixed up with a frenetic burst of data that I can’t wait to see. In a few weeks, once I’ve settled into the new jobs, I can start pulling the chocks out of a few other little side-projects. (And, of course, giving myself and the girl some quality time).

That’s the upshot of this weekend.

Over the past few days, I’ve had a slowly growing pain in my right thigh. Like needles, jabbing away, and it really hurts when I bash it into things. By Saturday, it had spread from a single spot to the whole thigh, and it hurt quite a bit. So I called NHS Direct – rather late, I must admit – and they suggested I go to the local hospital. Which is a half hour walk, so I took a taxi.

At one in the morning.

Turns out I don’t have Deep Vein Thrombosis, after all.

No, I have pulled a muscle in my right thigh. The muscle that keeps you sitting upright. “Have you been doing a lot of sitting?” asked the doctor. Yes, I said, yes I have. All day at work, and then all night at home (or for a few hours at least) bashing away at my presentation for Emerging Tech. And it’s not just duration – stress levels are quite high, too, regarding that.

In short: I’ve been sitting too hard.

Then I walked back from the hospital at 1.30am. Which pretty much threw Sunday out of joint.

Big News

30 December 2005

OK, so my big news is public on the internets. I’m going to be speaking at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in March, over in San Diego. The talk is called From Paddles to Pads: Is Controller Design Is Killing Creativity in Videogames? (the title you can see on that page is the one I originally submitted it under, but then I realised that I’d much rather ask a question than answer one).

The talk is about hardware interfaces to games, what they teach us, what’s wrong with them, and how they’re fundamental to gaming as a whole. The precis over at that link is roughly right, but I wrote it a long while ago and it’s definitely subject to change – so don’t hold me to it 100%.

I’m very excited.

I’m also very scared.

Tips, advice, comments, questions, all appreciated. Looking forward to seeing some of you in San Diego, maybe.