I went to part of all three days of The Last HOPE (Hackers On Planet Earth) conference this weekend, and it was great as usual. I've been to this conference twice before, and it's always interesting.
On Friday, I went to a session on the "Attendee Meta-Data Project"; the badge was actually an open-source RFID tag which could track your movements around the conference. I think it was Saturday before they got it working properly, but it seemed pretty cool. I also went to a session on hacking urban farms and also one on on sort of cook-hacking, making crazy kinds of food. I had to leave early to have dinner with a friend of mine that night, but I went back Saturday for some excellent sessions. One was on "BagCam", by "algormor" a guy who installed a little video camera in his suitcase and then checked it on several airline flights. Immediately after that talk was one by Steve Rambam, a Private Investigator who has given a fascinating talk at every single HOPE conference. I first saw him four years ago, and was blown away by his presentation, and was amazed (even then) by how much info he could dig up, and how quickly he could do it. Two years ago, just before his talk, he was arrested for allegedly impersonating an FBI officer (he was later totally cleared). In any case, I could only stay for the first hour of Rambam's talk (had to meet some friends for a full-moon kayak trip at Sebago), but it was still fascinating. He loves all the new self-entered information (facebook, twitter, myspace, etc.) because it's now making his job very, very easy. In short, though, it's not the government databases you should worry about, it's the private ones. And it's so far gone that, basically, you have no privacy, so one of his messages was to basically just get used to it.
Sunday I saw a great talk by Lazlow (who worked on GTA, etc) on ridiculing the media, and then it was the person the packed (and very warm) house was waiting for:
Adam Savage (from Mythbusters, of course). Adam is a really nice guy (I've met him at TAM a couple times), and he gave a fantastic talk on his obsessions, and then did a long (but very good) Q&A. One of the questioners asked him why they hadn't done the 9/11 conspiracy theories yet, and Adam gave him a very good answer about not doing it unless they could really do it seriously (early in the day at another talk I was very happy when a questioner at Lazlow's media session was booed from the mic when he started spouting off a whole lot of conspiracy theory nonsense, every thing from the Bilderbergs to mercury in vaccines).
The amazing magician Jamy Ian Swiss came with Adam (I guess he must have a Jamy with him at all times) and I had just been emailing with Jamy earlier in the day but I couldn't catch him before he was wisked backstage at the end of Adam's talk.
After Adam was Jello Biafra (former singer from the Dead Kennedys). Jello has spoken at every HOPE, and while I don't agree with all his political views, he is always entertaining and thought provoking.
The organizers announced too, that while this may be the "Last" HOPE, it's not the "Final" Hope, so there should be another one in two years. And, I will definitely try and be there.
During his talk at HOPE, Adam Savage told a story of why the show decided not to cover RFID myths. Turns out his statements there caused a bit of a firestorm, which Adam cleared up today:
... Savage's incendiary accusation went relatively unnoticed at the time, but caught fire on the Internet over the Labor Day weekend fanned by prominent placement on forums such as Slashdot and Digg.Read the whole story here:
Now it's beginning to appear as though Savage was considerably less knowledgeable about what transpired than he let on, although how much of his backtracking is backside-covering will be left open to speculation (in which I'll indulge shortly). ....
Here's a statement today [9/3/2008] from Savage:
Additional info on and audio from Steve Rambam's talk here.