Tags: webstock

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Of Time and the Network and the Long Bet

When I went to Webstock, I prepared a new presentation called Of Time And The Network:

Our perception and measurement of time has changed as our civilisation has evolved. That change has been driven by networks, from trade routes to the internet.

I was pretty happy with how it turned out. It was a 40 minute talk that was pretty evenly split between the past and the future. The first 20 minutes spanned from 5,000 years ago to the present day. The second 20 minutes looked towards the future, first in years, then decades, and eventually in millennia. I was channeling my inner James Burke for the first half and my inner Jason Scott for the second half, when I went off on a digital preservation rant.

You can watch the video and I had the talk transcribed so you can read the whole thing.

It’s also on Huffduffer, if you’d rather listen to it.

Adactio: Articles—Of Time And The Network on Huffduffer

Webstock: Jeremy Keith

During the talk, I pointed to my prediction on the Long Bets site:

The original URL for this prediction (www.longbets.org/601) will no longer be available in eleven years.

I made the prediction on February 22nd last year (a terrible day for New Zealand). The prediction will reach fruition on 02022-02-22 …I quite like the alliteration of that date.

Here’s how I justified the prediction:

“Cool URIs don’t change” wrote Tim Berners-Lee in 01999, but link rot is the entropy of the web. The probability of a web document surviving in its original location decreases greatly over time. I suspect that even a relatively short time period (eleven years) is too long for a resource to survive.

Well, during his excellent Webstock talk Matt announced that he would accept the challenge. He writes:

Though much of the web is ephemeral in nature, now that we have surpassed the 20 year mark since the web was created and gone through several booms and busts, technology and strategies have matured to the point where keeping a site going with a stable URI system is within reach of anyone with moderate technological knowledge.

The prediction has now officially been added to the list of bets.

We’re playing for $1000. If I win, that money goes to the Bletchley Park Trust. If Matt wins, it goes to The Internet Archive.

The sysadmin for the Long Bets site is watching this bet with great interest. I am, of course, treating this bet in much the same way that Paul Gilster is treating this optimistic prediction about interstellar travel: I would love to be proved wrong.

The detailed terms of the bet have been set as follows:

On February 22nd, 2022 from 00:01 UTC until 23:59 UTC,
entering the characters http://www.longbets.org/601 into the address bar of a web browser or command line tool (like curl)
OR
using a web browser to follow a hyperlink that points to http://www.longbets.org/601
MUST
return an HTML document that still contains the following text:
“The original URL for this prediction (www.longbets.org/601) will no longer be available in eleven years.”

The suspense is killing me!

Webstocked

I spent most of February on the far side of the world. I had the great honour and pleasure of speaking at Webstock in New Zealand.

This conference’s reputation had preceded it. I had heard from many friends who have spoken in previous years that the event is great and that the organisers really know how to treat their speakers. I can confirm that both assertions are absolutely true. Jessica and I were treated with warmth and affection, and the whole conference was a top-notch affair.

I gave a new talk called Of Time and the Network taking a long-zoom look at how our relationship with time has changed as our communications networks have become faster and faster. That’s a fairly pretentious premise but I had a lot of fun with it. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, although maybe the ending was a little weak. The video and audio should be online soon so you can judge for yourself (and I’ll be sure to get the talk transcribed and published in the articles section of this site).

Webstock: Jeremy Keith Jeremy Keith

Perhaps it was because I was looking for the pattern, but I found that a number of the other talks were also taking a healthy long-term view of the web. Matt’s talk in particular—Lessons from a 40 Year Old—reiterated the importance of caring for URLs.

Wilson reprised his Build talk, When We Build, the title of which is taken from John Ruskin’s Lamp of Memory:

When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, “See! This our father did for us.”

Another recurring theme was that of craft …which is somewhat related to the theme of time (after all, craftsmanship takes time). Erin gave a lovely presentation, ostensibly on content strategy but delving deeply into the importance of craft, while Jessica, Adam and Michael gave us insights into their respective crafts of lettering and film-making.

All in all, it was a great event—although the way the schedule split into two tracks in the middle of the day led to the inevitable feelings of fomo.

Matt wrote about his Webstock experience when he got back home:

It was easily the best speaking gig I’ve ever had. I’m planning on making this conference a regular visit in the future (as an attendee) and I urge anyone else (especially in America) that has yearned for a top-quality, well-run technology conference in a place you’ve always wanted to visit to do the same.

Webstock speakers

Webstock podcast

Over an after-work beer with Andy yesterday evening, he told me about some of the great presentations he had been listening to from the Webstock conference held in New Zealand earlier this year.

I didn’t even realise there was audio (and video!) available, but there is. Strangely though, there are no RSS feeds. That means you have to go in and manually download each presentation you want to listen to. How quaint.

It doesn’t make it very easy to get the audio from the website to your computer to your iPod. This sounds like a job for a podcast.

I’ve put together a feed of the presentations from Webstock. You can subscribe to the feed in iTunes and listen to the presentations at your leisure.

The weird thing is that podcasts were promised but never delivered. I wonder if perhaps there was some confusion between the terms “podcast” and “audio file”.

Anyway, grab the feed here and get an earful of the great speakers:

Webstock 2006 Podcast