FooCamp - humans and machines get intimate

A *Camp reward yet again with the ability to completely inspire as well as reveal interesting cross-domain synergies.

I had an interesting discussion with Michael Shiloh on both the attempt, and inherent difficulty, in choosing sessions that you would not typically go to. At a meetup like FooCamp there are more than twelve parallel sessions in addition to the numerous breezeway (no hallways here) tracks and pulling yourself away from someone like Noel Gorelick talking about huge scientific datasets from satellites to instead go to Linda Stone's discussion of attention hacking through breathing is both arduous and surprisingly rewarding.

Curated vs. Crowd-Sourced

Last year I wrote that "Humans are behind the machine", and after this year I think the trend has already flipped. Humans are great for augmenting data creation and retrieval, but there is still a key need to develop methods for supporting human input and proper human-based requests for mixture of user- and machine-generated data.

The first, and one of the most crowded, sessions was led by Esther Dyson and talked about user metadata, or data exhaust. The implicit information users' create as they move through a system. PMOG uses this as a game but there are larger concerns on the privacy implications of data users are leaving behind in systems or even in the assumedly lost information in historic and public records that are now being shared online.

The specific session on Curation vs. Crowd-Sourcing of content was, what I thought, one of my 'give-in' moments of attending a session I'm already very involved in. Fortunately, it was an entirely worthwhile indulgement as the discussion had interesting tones of a variety of perspectives on sourcing, creation, aggregation, curation, and collection.

Some of the better points were on the importance of the aspect Crowd-Sourced, as in a way to get the data. This same discussion came up at CIFoo on the difference between collaboration and collection. Flickr has done interesting demonstration of the capability of Crowd-Curation via their interestingness algorithm. The role of the curator then takes on many aspects. It can be as a guiding persona where their values influence the contribution of community members - or it can be for encouragement.

Another key aspect that Ze Frank made was the importance of the crowd to be loosely affiliated. Digg, SlashDot and similar sites definitely cater and serve a specific community that limits its total effectiveness in finding truly divergent and interesting news.

And there is the question of over-crowd-sourcing. The fascination arises out of the rebound from tightly controlled media and the empowerment publishing and digital tools have on allowing and sharing user-generated content. Through both the use of algorithms as well as limited-contributor sites like FFFFound! are an answer that lie in between.

Unlike last year, I won't be heading to Hawaii afterwards, but instead caught a very packed and tiring red-eye back to DC.

Thank you for another great year O'Reilly Team!

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Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.