EricSkiff.com Open Source Everything

12Mar/060

Barcamp Austin Relflections

The longer I'm in Austin, the more I like it.

There's an expectation you have of Texas when you live in the northeast, that it's this place of sand and sparse grass and bleached white cattle skulls.

So far, Austin is simply like a smaller new york. Actually, I think it's fair to say that Austin, TX and Rochester, NY share the most similarities of all the towns and cities I've been in. The only real discernible difference here is that the older cars look better. I saw a 1988 Honda accord that made me drool! It was in perfect condition, with none of the rock salt body rot that we face in New York.

I'm writing this from a bus stop, sitting outside in 78 degree weather and just soaking in the breeze.

Let me go back a second.

I'm writing this from a bus stop.

I'm on a open wireless hotspot, provided by chiropractor across the street. It's one of many. in fact, Austin was voted "most wired" city of 2005. I met John Cooper at barcamp, who is working on extending that reach even further, and building out a full coverage wireless mesh network with access points hanging from the lamp posts, which would provide access to every square inch they deploy it over.

How do you make money giving away wifi? Well, many businesses find that it simply attracts customers (in fact, sometimes it attracts them a little too well! Coffeehouses sometimes have to kick the cybersquatters out after a few hours without purchase.)

With a city wide mesh network, you've got an added advantage. You know what node the user is connected to, and you know where that node is. You also know what businesses are local.

Imagine firing up your laptop (or maybe even a smaller device) on any street in your city and having full fast access to the Internet. When you fire up the connection, you hit the portal page, which welcomes you by giving you access to great community tools like a local wiki, customer review site like citysearch. The unobtrusive ads on the sidebar show you tasty looking sushi from a restaurant called Oslo.

You look up. Oslo is right across the street.

There were lots of great talks at barcamp, and as usual I had many more great conversations over a beer or during dinner. Doc Searls, blogger and senior editor of Linux Journal, sat two seats away from me for two presentations, and hung out most of the event.

Not bad for the free little upstart blocks away from the official conference.

Well, my bus is here, but I'll leave you with some links that tell the story a bit better.

GlitchCast 23 features a BarCampAustin wrapup and music from the funny and excellent Pirate Party Band, "The Jolly Garogers"

The Flickr photostream has hundreds and hundreds of photos from the event. BarCampAustin was the #1 tag as of 4:30 yesterday.

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