Tags: sgfoo2008




At the end of the that I was at two months ago, the good folks at O’Reilly offered attendees the chance to share their thoughts on the weekend. So after 48 hours of sleep deprivation, some of us looked into a camera and performed mini braindumps.

Foo through

I’m back in Brighton after my brief sojourn to California. My workload didn’t take a break while I was away so now I’m in catch-up mode.

The Social Graph Foo Camp was pretty darn great. I was nervous going into it that having one single topic would be too constricting but I needn’t have worried: the word “social” meant that the floor was open to quite a wide range of sessions. As well as the technical talks, there were some great discussions on the nature of society, and play. I could sit and talk with people like Kevin Marks, Gavin Bell and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden about this kind of stuff all day.

The invitation list for SGFoo was put together by David Recordon and Scott Kveton. They did an excellent job, shrewdly ensuring that no one person would know more than 25-30% of the other people there, which meant that everyone had the opportunity to meet lots of new interesting people. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to make it onto the list but I’m very grateful.

My only point of reference for this event was the BarCamps I’ve attended. While there’s a lot of similarity in terms of energy and enthusiasm, there are also some differences—the exclusivity being the obvious one. I think that the two models complement each other very well. A BarCamp is like going down to your local boozer: anyone can get in, you’ll meet your friends but you’ll also meet some new people with whom you have a lot in common. is more like a dinner party: you’ll still meet a mixture of people you know and people you don’t but everyone there has been invited by the host. I like the idea of a social life balanced between pub-going and dinner parties.

Foo fighting

The bulk of SG Foo Camp was staged on Saturday with talks from 10am to 10pm.

It was interesting to get a feel for the recurring issues. The really big issues are social in nature: user expectations, data ownership and, of course, social network portability. On the technical side, I was struck by how big XMPP has become. It’s something I know next to nothing about. It was really gratifying to see how established has become. It came up time and time again as key component in glueing social networks together. It’s going to really explode now that the has launched.

Speaking of which, the day kicked off with Brad Fitzpatrick and Kevin Marks answering questions about the API. The unanswered question right now is also the most exciting: how are people going to use it?

After that, Chris and Steve did a run-down of . During the following break, I was having a nice chat with Rohit Khare about social objects. Somehow we got onto the subject of Hackfight and I mentioned Justin Hall who was a big inspiration. I looked around and who did I see but… Justin Hall! Cue the next conversation.

Matthew Rothenberg from Flickr asked me to come along to a discussion on user expectations to share my story of the Adactio Elsewhere shitstorm. Then I listened to Tom share his excitement about Fire Eagle before slipping out to join in a discussion about games and play.

During the dinner break, I took the opportunity to gather together my fellow South by Southwest panelists, all of whom are here. I have feeling that the panel is going to be teh awsum.

After dinner, it was my turn to host a session. My subject was the password anti-pattern. Brave representatives from Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter, LinkedIn, Dopplr and Pownce showed up to be named and shamed (though most of the shame was reserved for Google in not providing an API for contacts). I can’t talk too much about some of the things that were said but it was by turns frustrating, exhilarating, inspiring and depressing. Someone pointed out that the session was like a bunch of oil barons gathered around a table discussing the impact of environmental issues on the bottom line. I guess I was the tree-hugging activist.

All in all, it was quite a day; full of good chat with interesting people. Needless to say, I’m now exhausted. I don’t know if I even have the energy for Werewolf.

SG Foo Camp schedule

Thanks to my life-saving inflatable mattress, I managed to get a decent night’s sleep. A full day of sessions is about to kick off so I’m going to fortify myself with plenty of coffee.

But markup comes before coffee. I’ve copied down the schedule (as it currently stands) from the whiteboard and turned it into a nice portable hCalendar:


If you’re here, you might want to subscribe to the schedule and stick it on your phone (or any other device with a calendar).

Foo camping

The day that I was flying to San Francisco, Simon and Nat were flying to New Zealand for Kiwi Foo and Webstock so we shared a bus to Heathrow. They both look knackered because they had attempted to “get on New Zealand time” by staying up all night. We parted at the airport: See you in Austin I said. Good luck decentralising the social graph he replied.

Since arriving in San Francisco, I’ve spent most of my time trying to meet up with as many people as possible. A hastily-convened microformats/geek dinner helped to accomplish that.

Now I’m in Sebastopol for the SG Foo Camp. The letters SG stand for Social Graph, which is unfortunate—I’m not a big fan of that particularly techy-sounding term. That said, I’m really looking forward to hearing more from Brad Fitzpatrick about the new Social Graph API from Google. It isn’t the first XFN parser but it’s the only one with Google’s infrastructure. The data returned from spidering my XFN links is impressive but the fact that it can also return results with inbound links is very impressive, although it takes significantly longer to return results and often times out.

For most people, today’s big news was Microsoft licking its lips at Yahoo but that was completely eclipsed by the new API for me. While I was waiting at Tantek’s for Larry and Chris to drive by and pick us up, I spent my time gleefully looking through the reams of information returned from entering just one URL into the API. Just now, I was chatting with John Musser from Programmable Web and we were thinking up all the potential mashups that this could open up.

I’m not going to build anything just yet though. I’m far too tired. I need to find a nice quiet corner of the O’Reilly office to unroll my sleeping bag.