I just went to BIL. It was a fantastic conference. I met a lot of interesting people and saw a wide variety of talks. It was my first BIL. The first BIL was last year and about a third of the people at this BIL were there last year. Repeat attendance is always a good sign. It’s quite likely that I’ll go next year.

The first talk made the greatest impression on me. It was Brad Templeton of the Free Software Foundation talking about the problems with Cloud Computing. I always felt I was giving up flexibility and privacy by having most of my computing take place on an application service provider’s service, but this talk helped solidify that feeling. I’m going to see about getting my email under my control soon (I use GMail right now).

Of the rest of the talks, these ones really stood out:

  • Seasteading: how to homestead the high seas and why it will make politics work better by Patri Friedman – Really interesting idea. But could it actually work? After hearing the talk, I think it might.
  • California’s Water Crisis – What YOU can do! by Ryan Arroyo – As a future California resident and connoisseur of Californian produce this is really close to my heart. He gave lots of good water-saving tips. I asked him what the impact of the water shortage might be on farmers and he said that it looks like it will be tough for small farmers. I’d like to get involved in making sure the organizations that control the water supply are fair to small farmers.
  • Secrets of Social Influence (How to get a Date) by Francisco Dao – I finally got a good definition of what “hovering” is, in the context of flirting. I have done that in the past and will avoid doing it in the future.
  • The art of Conference Crashing by Chris Axton – It turns out that the easiest way to crash a conference is to volunteer. Go figure. Lots of great photos and stories, though.
  • What’s Funny about the Interwebs by Ben Huh of icanhascheezburger.com and failblog.org fame – Even though his work (taking user-generated content for free and slapping absurd quantities of ads on them) annoys me, it was great to hear him talk. And I can’t blame him too much. He talked about the lifecycle of a meme, using RickRolling as the example. Good stuff.
  • Color by Numbers – The Wonders of Algorithmic Art by Matthew Shultz – A fractal art demonstration using both visual tools and code.

This is just a sampling of the interesting talks I saw. I also missed some good talks. I can see many of them online, though.

I took this week off and am going to travel up the coast to San Francisco. I’m in Santa Monica right now. It’s been a wonderful vacation so far!