WhereCamp PDX Roundup

This weekend was WhereCamp PDX here in Portland. WhereCamp is another Bay Area-born unconference imported here by the great folks at Legion of Tech

As you can probably guess, WhereCamp focuses on geo-geeking. It began in 2007 as a way to extend and build on conversations and topics presented at O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference.

There’s no time like the present for geo-geeking; advances in mobile phones and GPS technology have exposed people to the power of location-based applications. Remember when Apple added the My Location feature to the iPhone?

Apps became much more useful because location adds another known dimension that can be used by an app to present more relevant information. Many of the apps in Apple’s App Store have location-based functionality, and I’m guessing that the same will be true for many Android apps.

Anyway, WhereCamp uses an unconference format, so we all showed up and filled up the grid with session topics. Here are a few of my highlights from the two days.

TriMet’s Web Services
TriMet operates the buses and trains here in Portland. Portland has a very good public transportation system, and many people use it as their only form of transportation. TriMet also has a very strong web presence and provides web services for any developers who want to use transit information.

This was news to me, very cool news. Sean Sullivan presented his work with the web services, including the project on Google Code, which I’m unable to locate now.

Update: Sean provided the location of his code via the Contact form, which was borked for several months. So, I’m just now getting this information. Sorry for the delay.

TriMet actually chipped in to help sponsor WhereCamp, but they were unaware of Sean’s work and sat eagerly in his session.

This talk reminded me of Dan’s comment about the CTA schedule on Matt’s Geode post a few weeks ago. By providing these web services to developers, public transportation agencies can let developers scratch the itch for highly functional apps without taking on additional development costs themselves. The iPhone App Store and Android apps provide places for distribution of these apps, where people like Dan can download them, e.g. there are already several TriMet-based apps in the App Store.

Everyone wins.

On the subject of about apps, specifically Android apps, Don Park showed his new location-aware Android app, IceCondor. Don aims to solve a lot of the challenges he faces each as a nomadic worker about town.

IceCondor can find your location, find people you know who are nearby, and find places nearby you that interest you. It’s an early alpha release now, but judging by the audience at WhereCamp, Don will probably have both new consumers and new participants for his project.

Another great effect of this type of conference is finding people who want to geek-out with you on a project.

Don did mention that his development is constrained by the Android emulator, which apparently does not have a working GPS emulator. If anyone knows if there’s an Android developer program that provides development-licensed hardware and service for app develoers, let me know.

Lightning Talks
Sunday was mellow. There wasn’t enough space to put up a Sunday grid, so I think a lot of people didn’t return on Sunday because they had no idea what was being presented.

This lack of topics spawned a session of lightning talks, i.e. short(ish) chats on a topic or idea with the goal being discussion and refinement, a couple of which I found very interesting.

First was the idea of quantifying where in the World the contents of a consumer object originate, like the nutritional facts for say a Macbook. Ideally, there would be both a high-level percentage by country, and a detailed component list.

Although this would be a difficult task, imagine how it could impact buying habits, e.g. remember the Chinese toy scare from last Christmas? Companies usually don’t disclose this information, aside from where a product was assembled, so this would be a crowdsourced, wiki with the content provided by the curious or concerned.

The second idea that caught my interest came from Wm Lehler, serial entrepreneur. He discussed applying the residual model, used by movies and TV, as a new structure for compensating startup employees, instead of the prevailing model of salaries funded by venture money.

His goal is develop a business model that keeps a company in the control of its principles, self-funded, avoiding the loss of equity and control to venture capitalists. I’ve thought about this myself, and it’s a fascinating exercise that I’m sure we’ll see addressed in the not-so-distant future.

Other Noteworthy Items
The conference used drop.io to collect notes and media from the attendees. I’ve not used drop.io before, and it’s dead simple. It takes input (notes, video, photos) from a number of sources (web, phone, fax, widget, email) and consolidates it into a single location. There are a number of alert mechanisms for new items as well. Pretty smart stuff, perhaps worth a look for next year’s OpenWorld.

PacManhattan is both fun and insane all at once. Check out the video from Adam Duvander.




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