Scripting News for 8/21/07

Critique of Gnomedex 2007 

If you go to the Gnomedex website, you’ll see it’s positioned as “The blogosphere’s conference,” and with the usual caveat that there are many blogospheres, if you look at the people who came, you’d see that’s correct.

More specifically it’s a blogosphere user’s conference. Tech companies may sponsor the show, but they are largely observers. When the discussion on stage is focused on blogs the people presenting often are users. And that’s the thing I like about Gnomedex. When you put vendors on stage, they have to get their money’s worth, it’s their job. I know because I’ve spoken at many conferences as a vendor. It’s always a struggle, the temptation to sell, balanced against the audience’s right to get value for their money.

Which brings me to another thing that’s fairly unique about Gnomedex. Most of the attendees pay to be there, unlike most tech conferences where almost no one pays. At Gnomedex, the tradition is so strong that even though I’ve spoken at two of the three shows I’ve been to, I’ve always paid for my ticket. It may be be out of personal loyalty to Chris and Ponzi, or knowing that it’s not a big corporation putting on the show, not sure what it is but it never occurs to me to ask for a comp.

This is a good thing, btw — because its made it inappropriate for people to give commercials from the stage and kept the focus firmly on the users’ interests. There are plenty of tech conferences where sponsors take the stage and pitch their products. At least there you’re not paying to listen to an ad. Let there be at least one conference that is about users.

But this year, the program wandered off-topic too much, imho.

Too many of the speeches were about politics, the speakers were intolerant of discussions, and in two cases even questions were not appropriate. Someone has to say something about this, and surprisingly very few people have.

The opening keynote speaker, Robert Steele, was a total disaster, completely inappropriate, insulting to our intelligence, and way off-topic. He rushed through his complex slides, strung together countless buzzphrases into non-sentences, never completed a thought, and made it clear he wasn’t even taking questions, much less disagreement (and how could you disagree with a presentation that never bothers to make a point). The guy looked and sounded like a poor man’s Rush Limbaugh. I thought for a while maybe he was a joke, a parody, a comedian, but you don’t make your opening speaker of a conference you care about a joke.

The presentation on Open Money was equally confusing and insulting, the speaker refused to even define the concept. And in the end, after supposedly explaining a revolutionary system of finance, he had the gall to ask us for the old kind of money that he was theoretically finished with. It was laughable.

There were other examples of speakers who should not have been on stage at Gnomedex, or should have been given 5 to 15 minutes, but couldn’t make effective use of the hour they were given. That the audience was relegated to being only an audience this year only made it worse.

It’s fine to have one off-topic speaker, a retired politician, a Nobel laureate, a sports hero, maybe an astronaut or former president. But not as a keynote, and not so many, and not such flakes. We are worth it. I don’t think Chris gets that. A lot of accomplished people would like to present their ideas to the people who come to Gnomedex.

If Gnomedex is to continue, it must get back on track, it must reflect our interests, the audience’s interests. Chris is a great entertainer, and a warm human being, but his vision of the political and economic future is not something I share, or would find interesting to discuss.

Chris may choose to run a conference about his political views, but I have a choice too, when I go to political conferences, they reflect my interests. I go to Gnomedex to meet other bloggers and discuss what’s happening in the blogosphere. It shouldn’t be hard to program that, we can help, if asked.

If you have comments, please post them here.

Tris Hussey defends Gnomedex, questions my honesty and value as a human. Sad. 😦

On 8/12 I wrote about the things that worked at Gnomedex.

I’ve been talking with Scoble about GD. He approves of this critique.

Question about the Flickr API 

Popping the stack of pending projects, I want to write an app that creates and maintains a backup copy of all the pictures I’ve uploaded to Flickr. This will make Flickr more valuable, it will become the user interface for my photo archiving system.

I’ve been staring at the docs for the Flickr API and can’t find a way to loop over all my pictures. I must be missing something obvious.

I found, that returns a list of photos that are not part of a set. That will possibly be helpful. Not sure what the format of a “unix timestamp” is.

If anyone has an idea, please post a comment here.

Zach Beane has a clue. Use the search verb, look for nothing. Loop over the pages of results. Sounds good. πŸ™‚

Richer namespaces for Twitter? 

As Twitter evolves, maybe the URLs will get longer?

Imagine what might go at:

All twits that I post while at Gnomedex? If you follow that URL, when Gnomedex is over, the subscription goes away.

Just an idea. There’s a lot of detail that could be added to what now is a very simple namespace.

Embeddable Map 

New feature today, Google maps can be embedded in pages the same way YouTube videos can.

Here’s an example page.

This is going to be very useful for conference websites, restaurants, bowling alleys, Craig’s List ads.

29 responses to this post.

  1. Is this the first time I ever saw the annex? Or is this new? Thanks for building this in, Dave.

    This was my first Gnomedex. My impression, first and foremost, was that I was very impressed by the quality of the attendees, and I was overwhelmed by the kindness of Chris and Ponzi and the family members. It really gave me something to aspire for, with regards to my next intentions.

    Steele bugged me. Some thread of what he said was interesting, albeit impractical. That bit about not having to use the Internet and stringing together routers was technically feasible, but not especially useful. Every time he said “Blog this!,” I wanted to bark like an obedient dog. (only not). And yet, there was _something_ there of note. I’m glad we got the Barefoot chaser, at least.

    I admit that I skipped the money guy. He split my head open so I went to podcast with Kris Smith in some back corner.

    About paying to attend, I think it is definitely worth it. Better than most (maybe all) the other conferences I paid to attend this year.

    As a first timer, I intend to come back. I think the value is there. Topics? Yes. I think maybe the “open everything” didn’t hit as hard as it could’ve. But then, I am not unpleased with most of what I got instead.


  2. Hi Dave.

    Back when there all the kerfuffle about flickr migrating to Yahoo accounts, I shared a scritp I wrote in PHP which will grab all your flickr photos.

    You can click the .phps link to see what’s going on with the PHP. Sure, I know you’re not a PHP coder, but I’m pretty sure if you stare at it long enough, you’ll see what’s going on wit the API. πŸ˜›

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers old bean!


  3. Posted by Zach Beane on August 21, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    The flickr thing stumped me for a day too.

    The easiest thing I found is to use the “search” method with no search terms, requesting page 1 of results. That’ll give you an object that has a list of photos for page 1 and a total page count. You can then search for nothing again, but request page 2, then page 3, up through the total number of pages.


  4. A “Unix timestamp” is the number of seconds that have passed between the time in question and the “Unix epoch” (the beginning of time as far as Unix systems are concerned — midnight UTC on January 1, 1970).

    More info and a conversion tool are available here and here.


  5. Posted by Mark DeVries on August 21, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Theres an Adobe AIR application created by the guys at Adobe that will download every image from a flickr user, not really what you want, but for anyone else that just wants a quick back up.


  6. One other note about Unix time, because I’m a geek about these things πŸ™‚

    As I noted above, Unix systems track time by counting the seconds since the Unix epoch. They typically store this figure as a signed 32-bit integer. But since seconds go by pretty quickly, a signed 32-bit integer is only big enough to count about 70 years’ worth of seconds in either direction.

    Going backwards, that doesn’t matter much, since it means systems can count back to 1901 without problems. But going forwards, it means that January 19, 2038, the integer will become larger than can be contained in 32 bits. When that happens, one of two things will occur, depending on how forward thinking your system’s developers were:

    1) Nothing — if they were smart enough to move to a 64 bit integer; or

    2) Your computer suddenly thinks it’s 1901, and all your time calculations start failing.

    This is often referred to as the “end of time” or “Year 2038 bug“. While it shouldn’t be an issue for desktop systems (which will almost certainly be 64-bit long before 2038), it could still cause problems for embedded systems or any old mainframes that are still soldiering on.


  7. Dave, to clarify, I’m not questioning your honesty or your value as a human being. I just don’t agree with you on your assessment and I think you’re being overly harsh in your post. That’s it.


  8. Tris, to be clear, when you said I wrote my critique because I was pissed at not being invited to speak, you said something complicated, that absolutely did question my honesty, even if you were just saying you think it was because I was pissed.

    If what you said were true (it wasn’t) then I would be have been dishonest in my critique of Gnomedex 2007, because I was omitting an important conflict. Further, I would be intentionally lying, saying I believed something when I don’t (that Steele was a very bad speaker, and the Open Money guy was a joke). You may not agree, but I wrote what I honestly thought. To say I wrote something I didn’t thikn because I was unhappy about something else, that’s so ridiculous, why would I do that?? Shaking my head as I write this.

    But as you now accept, I did not want to speak this year, didn’t ask to speak, and trust me, if I had been asked I would have said no. I’m not doing much speaking this year. I’ve done two conferences, one that I sought out (the Public Media conference) and WordCamp, whcih I was invited to, but it was a community I wanted to talk to.

    Gnomedex is familiar with me, and me with them. I get a lot of attention at that conference, and have found it embarassing in the past. I’m pretty sure I’m overexposed there, so I wouldn’t have spoken there. There’s another reason I wouldn’t go next year, even if the program is fixed, because I htink even my presence in the audience would be disruptive next year after what happened this year.

    I found this whole thing, blown so largely out of proportion, very stressful, unhappy, unpleasant and discouraging. I don’t want to be part of this, no sane person would.


  9. Dave

    I absolutely couldn’t agree more with what you have said here. We’ve gone back and forth about Jason (i agree with you on that count too) but i really think you have hit the nail on the head with your other points – on Steele, Open Money and not having to sit through a commercial for a conference you pay to go to.

    I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on the keynote also – Sterling Allan.



  10. Thanks William. It’s nice to find someone who agrees with everything one says! πŸ™‚

    I can’t offer an opinion on Sterling Allan, I wasn’t there for his speech.

    Were you there??


  11. I totally agree with your note about this year’s Gnomedex too. I really hope that Gnomedex gets back to its roots next year: celebration of technology and putting users at the center. And I have reason NOT to be mad about the content cause I was on stage during lunch one day and was given quite a nice array of baby stuff the next, which I greatly appreciated.


  12. I like the Twitter namespaced URI idea. Not sure what the implications / implementation would entail, but yes, I could use the same thing. I often catch myself holding back on techy tweets for my local friends, and trivial tweets for my techie friends.

    I even set up a second twitter account for local people (but I don’t use it)…


  13. “… I want to write an app that creates and maintains a backup copy of all the pictures I’ve uploaded to Flickr … I’ve been staring at the docs for the Flickr API and can’t find a way to loop over all my pictures. I must be missing something obvious. …”

    Aaron Straup Cope, a flickr developer has written “Net-Flickr-Backup-2.97” which backs up your flickr images locally. It’s useful even if you don’t want to use Perl because you can study the source code. The code also spits out a lot of meta data in rdf format. Maybe not to your taste, but certainly useful.

    some useful links


  14. Dave,

    You wrote – “The presentation on Open Money was equally confusing and insulting, the speaker refused to even define the concept.”

    Slides 10-31 define the concept quite adequately, imho. Where did you lose it? Please give us a number.

    You also wrote – “And in the end, after supposedly explaining a revolutionary system of finance, he had the gall to ask us for the old kind of money that he was theoretically finished with. It was laughable.”

    1) paradigm shift is not revolutionary – nor readily explained, if you think about it. So I was introducing a new concept to give everyone a chance to take a look at it. Release early, release often?

    2) open money is not a system of finance, just as blogging isn’t typing.

    3) I am not theoretically finished with the old kind of money, and said quite the contrary on several occasions. See slides 29, 31, 38, 60.

    4) Coming to Gnomedex wasn’t in my budget. I have no budget. Both galling and laughable, I agree.

    I’m sorry you were confused, you were not alone in that, but must you also be insulting?


  15. Thanks for posting a response. Even if you were able to convey your idea, it seems it had nothing to do with the topic of our conference.

    And asking us for money, when we, like you, paid to get there, is ridiculous. Maybe you should have offered to pay *our* expenses?

    In any case, my feedback was mainly for the conference organizers, about their choice of speakers. I’m sure there are conferences where your talk would make sense. But imho, Gnomedex was not the one.


  16. Dave,

    This was my first Gnomedex (Disclosure: LinkedIn was a co-sponsor) but by the time the event was through, I felt like I was a part of a community with with some truly great minds from the blogosphere – Gnomedex IS truly a blogosphere’s convention.

    I share your feelings about some of the speakers. Michael may have great vision but I lost him midway through the presentation; ditto, for a couple of other presentations. Having said that; the event components w/ Derek K. Miller, Scoble’s baby shower, the JibJab guy, Guy Kawasaki, and a bunch of other presenters (, made my attendance both entertaining and insightful.

    Also, as awkward as it may have been, your debate with Jason is exactly why Gnomedex is such an accurate depiction of the blogosphere (comments, warts et al) and if you choose not to attend next year, it’ll be like turning off comments because of a controversy. Truly hoping I’ll see you at Gnomedex next year…

    Maybe I’ll see Jason and you on stage sometime?


  17. I love the idea of Twitter namespaces (or tags :)).

    I could also subscribe to or


  18. Dave,

    I agree that Gnomedex seemed to lose much of it’s bearings after this year (I am a third timer) and I could not quite put my finger on it until seeing your post today. I had too much fun at the party Friday night, so the blur of Saturday I kinda just ascribed as being my own dullness, rather than the mishmash of off-topicness it had become.

    I’ll admit that for me, I have had different points of dissatisfaction apart from the ones you brought up.. mostly because my obsession is to look for ways to mainstream new technologies rather than talk about them in an echo chamber where there is little acknowledgment of even the existence of a mainstream. Last year is when I resigned myself to the fact that the topic of bringing new technology into the mainstream is not going to be on the radar of Gnomedexers. I feel better having released Chris from offering any kind of go-to-market relevancy to the conference.

    Having said that, it seems this years theme, if there was one, was the idea of open-anything. Put the word open in front of a field of study, discipline or profession, and what do you get? Well, it appears by results we get open-ended, pointless presentations. I think the speakers you highlighted really lacked a clear concise message about their topics when they didn’t have to. Instead, the presentations just spilled out like a random feed of blogged musings.

    Maybe twittering and short posts and all the recent obsessions with immediacy which have reached a new level in 2007 would have made for better discussion. That would have been relevant to what I have gathered in my short 3 years at the Bell as being a truly galvanizing theme for ver 7.0.
    Maybe the random dissonance of the conference is an allegory for the twitterizing of society itself… now I digress.

    Finally, be glad you missed the capstone address of Sterling Allen. It was the absolute worst presentation by far. He spent 10 minutes talking about a wooden toy being some kind of near miss as a perpetual gravity machine. The video demo seemed relevant for him to make us watch, then another demo video of how it was proven to only work downhill.. hmmm that’s compelling conference stuff right there.


  19. Mario, a guy in the row in front of me told me, in all seriousness, how entertaining he found these mob things. I tried to tell him how much I hated being in the middle of such things. You see it as awkward, I see it as a disaster for my career, which it was. So count me out.

    Get over this idea that other people exist just to entertain you — that’s so much a product of watching TV. You get up there and teach the rest of us something, I just want to watch and learn for a while. I don’t mind blogging, but when it gets abusive that’s when the value for me goes negative.


  20. I was watching Gnomedex live over video stream and indeed some presentations were unbearable – like the Linton one that failed to talk about PayPal/GoogleCheckout but talked about disconnected laughable stuff.

    The claim of Chris Pirillo that Gnomedex is “blogosphere’s conference” is equallly laughable and untrue as his claim that his is “blogosphere’s official comic”. It is not! And it was discontinued once sponsorinig finished. I think that Chris Pirillo pretends a lot and at the end he has only one intention in mind: to earn money this or other way. Nothing else.

    Kudos to Dave Winer to have courage to say it all. Since Blogosphere is full of brownnosers it is difficult to find in it objectivitiy.


  21. Just to add to Peter’s reference, there’s a walk-through of using flickr::backup here –


  22. Let me clarify, Dave. I definitely didn’t mean to say that your altercation was entertaining. I’m sure being in the center of it was not fun at all.

    What I found entertaining and educative were sessions by Kawasaki, Spiridellis, Darren and a bunch of others. And, what I found uplifting was the sense of community that envelopes Gnomedex.

    And, I’d definitely love to get up there and share some of my ideas with my blogger community, given an opportunity.


  23. My sympathies to Michael Linton.

    I would have liked to have seen his presentation.

    I recognise the ‘Physician, heal thyself’ stigma (attaching to those in need of funding for development of new funding mechanisms).

    I reckon my funding mechanism would be an ideal intermediate funding mechanism to fund the development of the far more advanced Open Money. πŸ˜‰


  24. Posted by Steve Mays on August 22, 2007 at 4:41 am

    This really feels like piling on, but Gnomedex is too important (to me) not to weigh in, if only to concur with Dave’s well worded review. I want my old Gnomedex back.


  25. Dave & Robert,

    Clearly, you have opinions and you can express them as you chose. Blog on and prosper, please.

    However, Dave wrote –

    “The presentation on Open Money was equally confusing and insulting, the speaker refused to even define the concept.”

    This goes well beyond opinion – it’s a misrepresentation completely inconsistent with the record. And, either carelessly or willfully, it’s potentially damaging.

    Slides 23-26 define the concept of open money. Maybe you missed those while blogging, twittering etc.?

    So, do you want to stand by your statement? Or are you willing to modify, moderate or even retract?

    And does Robert perhaps have any opinion on this specific – whether or not I “refused to define the concept of open money”?

    Just for the record, eh?


  26. You were asked to define the concept in the Q&A and you refused to.


  27. I agree with your assessment of Gnomedex. I was at a bit of a disadvantage for comparison because this was my first year there. But, I, too, was definitely left wondering what the point of some of the speakers were. And Steele definitely threw me off. I was expecting something notable for a keynote and was instead greeted with a political stump speech.

    I came away seeing the speaker selection as representative of the variety we see in the blogosphere. However, was it really that useful to the attendees? Not really.


  28. Dave – a useful clarification, thank you.

    If you say I “refused to define the concept” in the Q&A you’re almost certainly right. I don’t recall but it seems very likely. Time was short, the material was already covered, and easily researched. I would be looking for the next question. Perhaps bad judgement, perhaps not.

    If that’s your complaint – that I didn’t take time to repeat myself – it’s of no importance and I’m happy to drop this and forget it.

    But I didn’t know this until reading your last comment (5:26). Until now, I thought you are saying I “declined to define” throughout the whole of my presentation. In which case you would be quite wrong and I think it matters.

    So let’s see if we can find an agreement – I allow you’re right that I refused to (re)define in the Q&A – do you allow I had already defined open money in the slides?

    Just say yes?


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