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In which my mind starts to settle after ETech 2005…

I’m in Los Angeles now at the glorious little Farmer’s Daughter Hotel near the Farmer’s Market with Manar, Webb and Biddulph. It is raining outside. The hotel’s suites are awesome – although we’ve already put paid to much of the ambience by dousing the entire place in cables, airport express wifi networks, pizza boxes, beer bottles, bottles of coke, bits of paper and chunks of apple packaging. Ah, beautiful geekdom. I salute thee. Tomorrow it’s off to the airport and back to London.

I’m still in ETech recovery mode – I’ve been processing and reprocessing my notes, trying to find the themes of the year, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait a little longer for that because they’re not ready yet. My general reaction has been a bit subdued though. The last two years I’ve been to the conference I felt as if someone had hit the brain-reboot button a couple of times. This time, for the most part, little came as a surprise. The positive spin on that might be that I’m now so well-connected in the future tech sphere that I’ve become cynical and hard to impress – but I don’t think I believe that for one moment. Matt Jones has taken back his scepticism about this year’s agenda, but I’ve still yet to make up my mind about whether or not he was right all along…

There were more than a few things that got the heart pounding, of course. I’ve never been more delighted to have my cynicism proven wrong than I was during Ev Williams / Odeo / Podcasting talk. In the space of about twenty-five minutes I went from wondering if Ev had burned-out on Blogger through to evangelising Odeo all over the place and wondering if he had any jobs that I’d be good at. I’ll write more about this later, I think, because there’s so much there that people should really be getting excited about and I want to do it justice.

The two papers we were in town to do felt completely different to me. I’ve already written a bit about the Reinventing Radio paper, but I didn’t say much about the reaction to it. In the room somehow it felt a bit flat to me – that people weren’t sparking off it as much as they’d expected to. There was uniform engagement, but at a rather light level. I’ll be posting some more stuff around this area once I’ve had a change to take stock a bit and get myself in the right frame of mind – and I think we’re going to try and open up one of the demos we did during the event as well. That might help people start to get the directions we were talking in.

The Programme Information Pages paper was a completely different kettle of fish though. The room was barely a third full to start off with, and I was worried enough about people getting why it was exciting beforehand that I felt compelled to actually state out loud beforehand that they might not. And then the screen went down in the middle of Gavin’s part of the session which threw everyone off whack a bit. Things did not – in a word – appear to be going terribly well. Even when the paper ended, a good block of the audience seemed entirely non-plussed by the whole thing. But what was extraordinary to me was that there was a proportion of the audience who genuinely seemed to get what we were talking about and when they did they got very excited. After the paper each of us got into separate passionate discussions with three or four people who had really seen some of the implications of the very simplest of ideas implemented properly and what that could mean for a world in which at least one significant group of people were moving into a post-broadcast mindset. I felt much much better about this paper than I did about the radio one – and I’ll be posting up the presentation itself in all its slightly unstyled glory in a few days.

In terms of the BBC presence at the event, I think that Paula LeDieu’s final High Order Bit on the Creative Archive really drew everything together and people who’d seen all of our papers started to see the edges of a unified vision of the future. Or at least I hope that’s what happened. Paula’s brief paper blew the room away at least a couple of times. It’s an exciting time to be at the BBC…

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