In what is definitely a highlight of my weirdest holiday ever, today I got to travel to California Ave on the Caltrain and visit PARC to talk to them about my stuff around Social Software for Set-Top Boxes and the work that Matt Webb and I did over the last couple of years at the BBC. It was possibly a more exciting trip for me than it strictly should have been, I fear – I think even I was surprised by how nerdy I turned out to be. Trevor F. Smith was looking after me – he took a few embarrassing fanboy shots of me lurking by the PARC sign and then gave me a bit of a tour around the floating earthquake-secure buildings, past the self-assembly robot room and around the back of the laser experiments suite. As you do.
Having a native nerd show me around was beyond cool. At a certain point we ducked into a room with an enormous photocopier in it, Trevor pulled back a little door and pointed inside. “That’s the world’s first ethernet cable“, he said. I’m embarrassed to say that this got a little sincere ‘oooh’ noise out of me. But that was nothing compared to when we passed the door with the ‘Smart Matter’ sign on it. The door was very firmly shut, and all the windows had blinds so you couldn’t see inside, but secretly I knew they were developing Flubber. Trevor refused to confirm or deny this speculation.
The session itself went relatively well – I got some interesting questions about some of the work we did on Phonetags and some useful directions to investigate in terms of more formal directions in tagging and hypertext research. I also got to hear a bit about the research that they’ve been doing, and was delighted to see that we were coming to some very similar conclusions from very different directions.
After our chat, Trevor was decent enough to drive me back into San Francisco. The views along the way were completely stunning and he took me up to pose by this really grotesque statue of Father Junipero Serra that points out over Crystal Springs lake. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the pictures, but only in as much as I like to have a record of what I’ve done, not because they’re good pictures of me. Trevor seems to have a particular knack for making men look like shabby balding transexuals in his photographs. I’m not entirely sure I’ll be sharing them with the world.