Walking in the Foreign Lands of Web 2.0

You ever wonder how to monetize the long tail? Or how to realize cyberinfrastructure? Hopefully you have no idea what I’m talking about, which means you’re thankfully naive to the politics of academic supercomputing and the hyper-fluff of over-paid business leaders “revving the web” at this years Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

I realized from day one I was out of my element, talk of business models and ad placement left me wondering whether academic politics aren’t such a bad thing after all. But are these worlds really that far apart?

Amidst the pretenders and the venture capital monkeys the Web 2.0 conference brought together a collection of like-minded individuals with one cohesive idea: the web as an application platform.

Academics have been pushing this idea for years, albeit in a backwards and borderline retarded method of grid portals and high-latency web services. User experience is an almost alien concept in academia, leaving would-be web portals in a state of chaos and such poor usability that they’re… well… unusable.

Based on my completely unscientific and haphazard estimate, the private sector has been pushing further and faster than academia that it’s at least a few years ahead of academic research projects (especially when it comes to deploying web services and web applications). The idea of REST, RSS, ATOM, AJAX or even CSS are strangely missing from academic projects who are currently pushing such hot new technologies such as SOAP, WSDL, and the ever successful JSR-168.

Hopefully, you’re spending your thoughts on more important topics such as the flying spaghetti monster, but I’ve been up at night wondering why academic web applications are so disparate from their private sector counterparts.

The industry leaders at Web 2.0 may be motivated by money, but they’re inventing their way to successful business models based on technological innovation; building and integrating web services in novel applications creating new levels of connectedness and information sharing; something sorely lacking in mainstream academia.

So what do we do about it? We do what everyone (including Microsoft) is doing: we watch Google and copy everything they do!

Revenge of the Nerds

A dry, sunny San Diego day, and brisk ocean chilled breeze – but only on the outside. Inside the San Diego convention center the sweltering wet warmth of unbathed bodies left you feeling, well, sticky. It was a dank, humid, swampy affair of nerds, Klingons, cellulite super-heroines and some kind of Japanese goth renaissance space fantasy.

That humidity to be sure, is that special kind of trapped-in human sweat streaming from heavy, fluffy costumes. I overhead a teenage girl exclaim “stop touching me geeks!”

I think that best sums up the San Diego Comic Convention International: nubile young women shrieking in fear of the wet touchy palms of hungry geeks.

Various “television and movie personalities” were about, most charging exorbitant fees for an autograph or a photo (Ernie Hudson, how could you?). Fortunately, there were plenty of other astonishing photo opportunities walking about. Not everyone was charging. This lovely young girl was even flirting with me!

We bumped into Ray Bradbury in the main convention area, that’s right, the Ray Bradury! Not to say Ernie Hudson wasn’t exciting, but Ray Bradbury taking time to meet people and chat without asking for money was quite the thing. Definitely a true gentleman, and one of the few speakers at the convention that was memorable for all the right reasons. My girlfriend, on the other hand, missed the entire Ray Bradbury discussion forum because she wanted Starbucks. The aspiring writer passing on the opportunity to hear one of the most influential writers of all time, instead opting for overpriced carmel caffeine. I wish I could tell her she didn’t miss a thing, that there wasn’t several young writers watching in tears listening to Ray Bradbury speak of the inspiration and passion he has for his craft.

I also listened to the Simpsons’ creators as well as the Adult Swim panel. In both cases, I realized I’m not as much of a fan as I thought. Don’t read me wrong, I love Adult Swim and I love the Simpsons and Futurama. But really, they’re just shows! If watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force changed your life, I don’t think I want to hear about your life. Maybe I’m not as much of a nerd as I thought.

Please check out the photos!