A few weekends ago I went to eRubyCon
: three 9-5:30 days with nearly 100 other Ruby programmers learning about the Ruby programming language
, how best to take advantage of it, related technologies, and general programming practices.
It was really interesting and I learned a lot, but I won't bore you with the details. (If anybody really wants my notes let me know and I can email them.)
The worst part of it was that the weather was beautiful all weekend, and I was stuck inside an office building all day Friday through Sunday.
It was also a little awkward at times because I knew only a few people there and I'm not very good at meeting people in large-group situations. I did meet a couple people though.
I noticed two interesting socio-technological things though. One was that, at this OS-agnostic tech event, about 80-90% of the laptops people brought were Macs. Even the Microsoft presenter was using a MacBook and running OS X. (The remainder seemed to be split between Windows and Linux.)
The other thing I noticed was that Twitter
has become an important way for these tech people to communicate what cool things they're working on. The question people were asking each other all weekend was "What are you on Twitter?" All the presenters gave their Twitter IDs in their presentations. And, when the wireless network was working, people were Twittering during the conference, using it much like IRC (which people were also using). So when I got home I went ahead and created a Twitter account -- to reserve my username if nothing else.
I first heard of Twitter when stega
started using it a couple years ago, but I didn't quite get the point. I still don't, actually. It's most obviously similar to Facebook's "status" feature (and I've semi-linked the two together), but that's just the beginning. It seems to be a single channel used for lots of different things simultaneously -- microblogs, microblog-commenting, conversations within groups, and a fair amount of net-surveying and "lazyweb" research.
One important factor is that Twitter can be used as either a private or a public channel, but that switch is per-account rather than per-message. (I've gotten spoiled by LiveJournal's flexible access controls.) Opening it to the public certainly encourages the community aspect, but may not work so well with the idea of constantly reporting what you're doing. My account is set private for now.
Twitter shares LiveJournal's "friends-list" idea of using your account to see a stream of updates from chosen people, and that alone seems to be a useful way to use it. (Unlike LJ, the people you watch have no special privileges to see what you write.) Other accounts seem to be write-mostly; for example, the Columbus Dispatch puts headlines out on a Twitter account.
While I'm on the social-networking topic, I might as well mention that it looks like the most popular migration target for LJ people now seems to be Facebook. Which of course doesn't have nearly the fine-grained access controls LJ has, shoves the writing into a corner rather than having it center-stage, and promotes meme-like things to top-level constancy rather than making them ephemera. But at least it's sort of community.
One major contrast I've noticed is that LiveJournal is really good for meeting and getting to know new people, while Facebook is horrible for that, but is good for reconnecting (at least superficially) with people from your past.
Oh yeah, one more thing to bring this full-circle. LiveJournal is written in Perl, a language that has been declining in popularity. Facebook is written in PHP, a language that is cursed and annoying while being useful and popular and easy to learn. (MySpace, by the way, is written in ColdFusion, which I thought died five years ago.) Twitter is written in Ruby, the fast-rising language I went to the conference about.