IT Conversations News: December 29, 2005

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs Last Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Richard Monson-Haefel – The Rebel Platforms (rated 2.4 by listeners) For enterprise application development, the high-end "superplatforms" like J2EE and .NET aren’t the only choice. Developers can choose from the "rebel platforms," open-source platforms that don’t adhere to industry standards like J2EE or .NET. Burton Group analyst Richard Monson-Haefel describes the rebel platforms, compares then with superplatforms from Microsoft, SAP, IBM, Oracle, and BEA on criteria including flexibility, risk, lock-in, development complexity, and cost.
  • Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle (2.7) Hosts Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle introduce the themes of this year’s Web 2.0 Conference and look back at a year that has seen the term ‘Web 2.0’ rack up a vast number of citations on Google and become a common description for a range of new technology. If ‘Web 2.0’ is to fulfil its potential, the coming year must see a focus on substance rather than a cycle of hype.
  • Progress in Search – Accelerating Change 2005 (3.0) We all rely on search engines to find information we need on the internet, but they really are not as useful as they could be. Rather, it is like trying to have a conversation with a one-year old: you can’t ask the question you want to and you won’t get the answer you need. This debate from Accelerating Change 2005 brings together Ronald Kaplan and Marti Hearst, who discuss with moderator Sibley Verbeck what a conversational user interface might be and when we can expect it.
  • Local Search Faces Off – A Panel Discussion (3.3) The internet is increasingly becoming the first place most people turn to for information, including local material. The large players and independent companies are taking the local search market by storm, with new offerings and applications. John Battelle moderates this panel discussion about the current state of local search and the possibilities for the future.
  • Reinventing Media – Supernova 2005 (3.3) As the internet becomes a greater factor in our day-to-day lives, the role of all forms of media is rapidly changing. Dan Gillmor leads a diverse group of entrepreneurs to discuss the evolution of the internet from a platform for text and pictures into a platform for every sort of media.
  • Mitchell Baker – The Mozilla Foundation (3.3) With over 100 million downloads so far, Firefox is a huge success. Mitchell Baker and her team helped blaze the trail for commercial open source. She shares her insights on The Mozilla Foundation as an organization and the launch of Firefox. From the O’Reilly Media Open Source Convention (OSCON).
  • Josh Bancroft – Podcasting from Mobile Devices (3.7) To produce great podcasts you don’t need a lot of complex equipment or technical expertise. In this session from the first in-person Podcast Academy classes, Josh Bancroft tells how to get good results with a cellphone, PDA or MP3 player.
  • Drew Endy – Open Source Biology (3.8) Now that organisms can routinely be amended by changing their genetic structure, biologists face problems that are more familiar to software developers. Drew Endy argues that we need to adopt an open-source approach to DNA. In this entertaining talk he explains why, and what he is doing about it.
  • Mike Arbidge (4.0) On BioTech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Genencore CEO, Mike Arbidge, who fills us in on biomass, the source for the ethanol that gets mixed with our gasoline.
  • Ray Kurzweil – When Humans Transcend Biology (4.1) Increasing technological advances are certainly making a global impact. However, one may very well ask how new technologies will change daily life. In this question and answer session, Dr. Moira Gunn of Tech Nation talks with Ray Kurzweil about the impact of technological change on large and small arenas of life. This is part 2, the Q&A session. It’s the unedited version of an earlier Tech Nation program.
  • Simon Singh (4.2) Moria also interviews Simon Singh, the author of "Big Bang – The origin of the Universe," who tells us why he chose to explain what scientists are saying, instead of being one himeslf.
  • Ze Frank at Pop!Tech (4.3) Ze Frank kicks off day two of Pop!Tech with his unique style of in-depth exploration of the mysterious art of airline safety card designs. Analyzing examples from the early days of air travel to extremely graphic graphics on Azerbijani Air, Ze makes sure you’ll never look at your personal floatation device the same way again.
  • John Barrow (4.4) Moira Gunn interviews John Barrow, a cosmologist and mathematician at Cambridge University. He’s followed up his "Book of Nothing" and "Theories of Everything," with a new entry: "The Infinite Book…A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless."
  • Todd Kuiken and Jesse Sullivan – Mind and Body (4.4) As director at the Neural Engineering Center for Artificial Limbs at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Dr. Todd Kuiken has found both a partner and a patient in Jesse Sullivan–a double amputee who has become the world’s first bionic man. This presentation at Pop!Tech shows Jesse as he is: a remarkable man, possessing the patience of Job and a remarkable spirit.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week we have two IT Conversations/O’Reilly Picks of the Week:

  • Marc Smith – Catalyzing Collective Action on the Net (3.8) From 2004: This talk demonstrates several technologies and concepts that show promise as ways to enhance online communities, making them easier to discover and making it easier to select high-quality content, evaluate that content, and motivate others to contribute significant value. In short, these tools may catalyze collective action by highlighting participants’ histories and relationships.
  • Wil Wheaton at Gnomedex 4.0 (4.2) From 2004: You may know him as Cadet Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but inside the skin of an actor is a geek trying (successfully) to get out. He’s the author of the weblog, WilWheaton.net, and two books: Dancing Barefoot and Just a Geek. In this presentation recorded at Gnomedex 4.0, Wil reads original unexpurgated excerpts from his books, takes questions, and sits down for an interview with IT Conversations. It was one of the highlights of the weekend. Guaranteed to entertain, whether you’re a Star Trek fan or not.

Big Changes

On January 9 we will officially launch the new website for The Conversations Network, and along with it some major changes in our business model. As I’ve described in nearly every public presentation and interview in the past six months, we’re closing down the Tip Jar and replacing it with a public-radio style paid membership to support the growth of our new non-profit network. (NB: Membership will NOT be a requirement for access to our audio.) It’s a risky transition, but one we have to make in order to move to the next phase of listener-supported audio on the ‘Net.

13 months ago we opened the IT Conversations Tip Jar in response to popular demand, and it was an immediate success. On April 1 we created Team ITC, our volunteer staff who do all of our post-production work in their spare time. We distribute 100% of our donations to the team, which is part of the formula for our success. to date.

We could have just stopped there. IT Conversations was and is successful, and we have an adequate supply of new and talented volunteers to keep things going at the current levels of 10-12 programs per week. But that’s just for IT Conversations, and we want more. We want to expand our concept beyond IT into…well, quite frankly, everything. With the help of a small number of underwritiers, I’ve been footing the bill for the IT Conversations infrastructure and my own (full) time work for more than 2.5 years, but I can’t expect that of others, so The Conversations Network must become a real business that can stand on its own two feet in every way.

Our non-profit status is highly dependent on community support, particularly from you. While we are moving forward with sponsorship and underwriting for each of our new channels, it won’t be adequate. Our research suggests that enough of your are willing to contribute through paid membership to make up the difference. FYI, here in the U.S., roughly 50% of the budget of public radio comes from listener donations and memberships.

Some of the features we currently offer for free to IT Conversations registered members, such as our Personal Program Queues and other services that require knowing who you are, will only be available to paid members of The Conversations Network. Existing members will be given a free limited-time membership in the new network during the transition.

Just 11 more days to go — Yikes! — as we put the final touches on the web site and the new members-only features. I’m sure the changeover won’t go without a hitch, and I look forward to your feedback during and after.

Tech Nation on Hiatus

“Where’s Moira?” my inbox asks.

Dr. Moira Gunn and the Tech Nation team take a few weeks off at this time every year. On broadcast radio, they just play a few oldies, but on a podcast network, there’s not much point in that, since all of the shows are available all the time.

Moira and Tech Nation will be back in a few weeks with all-new interviews. In the meantime, check out the Tech Nation archives and pick up one or two of Moira’s great shows.

IT Conversations News: December 18, 2005

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs Last Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Richard Monson-Haefel – The Rebel Platforms (rated 2.3 by our listeners) For enterprise application development, the high-end "superplatforms" like J2EE and .NET aren’t the only choice. Developers can choose from the "rebel platforms," open-source platforms that don’t adhere to industry standards like J2EE or .NET. Burton Group analyst Richard Monson-Haefel describes the rebel platforms, compares then with superplatforms from Microsoft, SAP, IBM, Oracle, and BEA on criteria including flexibility, risk, lock-in, development complexity, and cost.
  • Heather Gold (3.1) Moria Gunn interviews Heather Gold, high-tech humorist and creator of "I look like an egg, but I identify as a cookie." They’ll talk about high-tech humor — yes, there actually is such a thing.
  • Mitchell Baker – The Mozilla Foundation (3.1) With over 100 million downloads so far, Firefox is a huge success. Mitchell Baker and her team helped blaze the trail for commercial open source. She shares her insights on The Mozilla Foundation as an organization and the launch of Firefox. From the O’Reilly Media Open Source Convention (OSCON).
  • Mary Roach (3.3) Moira Gunn also speaks with Mary Roach. Following her earlier New York Times bestseller "Stiff — The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers," Mary takes on another unusual subject: How Science studies the Afterlife. Mary will tell us what happened when she ran into Alyson Dubois, the real-life clairvoyant whose life is the basis for the hit show, Medium.
  • Robert Beardsley (3.3) Then on BioTech Nation, Moira speaks with Dr. Robert Beardsley, president and CEO of Kereos. He tells us about their new approach to detecting cancer.
  • Reinventing Media – Supernova 2005 (3.3) As the Internet becomes a greater factor in our day-to-day lives, the role of all forms of media is rapidly changing. Dan Gillmor leads a diverse group of entrepreneurs to discuss the evolution of the Internet from a platform for text and pictures into a platform for every sort of media.
  • Josh Bancroft – Podcasting from Mobile Devices (3.5) To produce great podcasts you don’t need a lot of complex equipment or technical expertise. In this session from the first in-person Podcast Academy classes, Josh Bancroft tells how to get good results with a cellphone, PDA or MP3 player.
  • Ray Kurzweil – When Humans Transcend Biology (4.1) Increasing technological advances are certainly making a global impact. However, one may very well ask how new technologies will change daily life. In this question and answer session, Dr. Moira Gunn of Tech Nation talks with Ray Kurzweil about the impact of technological change on large and small arenas of life. This is part 2, the Q&A session. It’s the unedited version of an earlier Tech Nation program.
  • Todd Kuiken and Jesse Sullivan – Mind and Body (too late for reviews) As director at the Neural Engineering Center for Artificial Limbs at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Dr. Todd Kuiken has found both a partner and a patient in Jesse Sullivan–a double amputee who has become the world’s first bionic man. This presentation at Pop!Tech shows Jesse as he is: a remarkable man, possessing the patience of Job and a remarkable spirit.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is a great one from early last year:

  • Marc Smith – Catalyzing Collective Action on the Net (3.8) This talk demonstrates several technologies and concepts that show promise as ways to enhance online communities, making them easier to discover and making it easier to select high-quality content, evaluate that content, and motivate others to contribute significant value. In short, these tools may catalyze collective action by highlighting participants’ histories and relationships.

Update: The Conversations Network

There’s very little news this week. I spent all of last week — and I’ll be spending all of the next two weeks — with my head down writing code for the new website for The Conversations Network. I had hoped to have it ready for you this weekend, but it’s late — of course. If all goes well, we’ll have some pretty new stuff for you on New Year’s Day.

In the meantime, if you want to get the latest information about The Conversations Network, or if you want to find out how you can get involved, the best thing to do is subscribe to the mailing list at the URL below:

Mailing List for The Conversations Network:
http://groups.google.com/group/CN-Public

The Conversations Network Web Site:
http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/

IT Conversations News: December 12, 2005

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs Last Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Theo Jansen – It’s Alive! (rated 3.3 by our listeners) Theo Jansen is a Dutch artist who makes wind-powered robots. These remarkable creations, made principally from PVC electrical insulation tubes, are developed using computer simulations and then evolved by turning them loose on a beach to see which variants succeed. In this talk Jansen discusses his methods. From Pop!Tech 2005.
  • Bruno Haid – Educating our Machines (3.6) Social software, the Semantic Web, and information retrieval are useful and powerful technologies each on their own. From Accelerating Change 2005, Bruno Haid of System One discusses how, when merged together though, the whole becomes greater than the sum of these parts.
  • A Conversation with Omid Kordestani (3.7) As Google’s phenomenal growth rate continues it must face a raft of challenging decisions, such as choosing in which direction to point the company, how to exploit whatever potential remains in its advertising business, and how the company can keep fostering innovation while remaining agile. Omid Kordestani, the person responsible for keeping Google profitable, discusses these issues and more with John Battelle.
  • Joe Whitley – Frontline Security (3.8) How can the U.S.A. protect private data and improve security without blocking progress or harming the economy? Former General Counsel to the Department of Homeland Security Joe Whitely discusses these questions, and more, with Sondra Schneider.
  • Anders Zachrisson (3.8) On BioTech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Anders Zachrisson, vice president of the Swedish firm BioGaia. He tells us what they’ve discovered about "pro-biotics" and gum disease.
  • Don Gould – Pure Water 4 All (3.9) When people ask Don Gould how he knows that his product works, he answers: "Because babies stop dying." As part of a social enterprise consortium, Gould, who is both a product designer and ceramicist, helped to design and deploy simple, effective water filtration devices to the developing world. He talks with host Tim Zak about both the traditional production techniques and the new economy models for collaboration. Together, they deliver simple, life-saving solutions that are as robust as they are elegant.
  • Ronald Ondrejka – The Role of the First Spy Satellites (3.9) In the Cold War era, Ron Ondrejka was on the photoreconnaissance front lines. He oversaw the development of the mapping element of the first military spy satellites to observe and target within the Soviet Union. In a compelling recollection, Ron lifts the curtain on the super secret world of spying from the sky.
  • Anne Thomas Manes – Security in an SOA World (4.5) Anne Thomas Manes tells how best to implement security in a SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) environment. She explains why the end-to-end security of Web Services is better than the SSL point-to-point method still used by most sites, discusses the various WS security standards and makes practical recommendations. If you suffer from "WS vertigo" this should help.
  • Michael Stone (4.7, but only a few votes) Moria also interviews Michael Stone, Former Managing Editor, Whole Earth magazine, and Zenobia Barlow, Executive Director of the Center for Ecoliteracy. They are the co-authors of"Ecological Literacy: Educating our Children for a Sustainable World" and take us on a tour of ecoliteracy. From Alice Water’s edible schoolyard to planting trees for watershed, kids have a new vision of their relationship to the planet.
  • Graeme Gibson (5.0, but only a few votes) Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with environmentalist Graeme Gibson, author of "The Bedside Book of Birds." He tracks the historic perception of human’s relationship with birds, and also his work on the preservation of wetlands in Cuba and beyond.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is a great one from last year:

  • Doug Engelbart – Large-Scale Collective IQ (3.3) From 2004: Dr. Douglas Engelbart invented or influenced the mouse, hypertext, multiple windows, bit-mapped screens, shared screen teleconferencing, and outline processing. But his ideas transcend technology and computer science and reach into the humanitarian. In this presentation, he tells how can we construct a collective vision as to where we are headed and where we should best be headed.