Terahertz waves vs. Alexaholics… (FOO ’06)

09/07/2006

Wrapping up my coverage of FOO sessions, I just thought I should probably mention the two last I attended, even though I don’t have so much to directly say about them. I’ve got one more post to come though, so don’t get your hopes up. No one gets out of here without hearing about the Space Invaders.

One session that I found astonishingly awesome, but honestly don’t know if I really understood 1/100th of, was on Terahertz waves and imaging and was presented by a guy who used to grow diamonds for NASA. He has since moved on to trying to build a small super-hi-tech terahertz whatsit that he plans to use for everything from building a tricoder to heating up collagen beneath the skin and smoothing wrinkles. His talk was … hard … for a non-scientist, and it probably says something about it that the things my brain caught upon were the beautiful silver wavers with tiny grooves upon them that clearly fulfil some purpose that I was unable to focus upon. It was a talk useful for putting the rest of the talks in perspective I suppose – and maybe reminding you of your limited place in the world – if nothing else. Humbling.

The final talk I went to of the weekend was presented by Ron Hornbaker of Alexaholic. Alexaholic is a service that uses data from Alexa’s traffic rankings and provides ways of interpreting it. It was an unusually well-attended session, with Stewart Butterfield from Flickr and Joshua Schachter from Del.icio.us both in attendenace. According to Ron, Tim O’Reilly is also an enormous fan of Alexaholic and uses it to observe trends in the market. Stewart and Joshua are clearly both well versed in tracking what’s going on in the market through Alexa as well – all commenting on a recent upsurge in Web 2.0 properties that was apparently more of a consequence of the removal of spammers than an unusual upspike in their respective traffics (which continue to grow quite solidly). They particularly commented upon Seth Godin’s List of Web 2.0 properties and their respective rankings. Tim O’Reilly apparently arguing that the removal of sites like Google from the list missed out on the ‘harnessing collective intelligence’ aspect of the emerging ecosystem. It was a pretty interesting session, and the product will – I think – get more interesting still when you’re able to assemble your own list of sites to track regularly which was mentioned as the next stage in functionality for the site.

Right then. That’s the sessions all done. You’ve got one more post to endure about FOO, and it’s a fun one – it’s about all the extraneous activities and projects and installations around the place that I experienced, and I’ll be putting it up tomorrow. Thanks for bearing with me through this long series of posts. Next week – San Francisco and the Future of Web Apps. But for now, sayonara!