Space Cowboys and the Steampunk Treehouse.

Space Cowboy UnimogOne of the best discoveries I made at the Yuri’s Night party at NASA Ames a couple months ago was the Space Cowboys, a group of people with a modified Mercedes-Benz Unimog — it looks like a military vehicle — that they’ve turned into a self-contained, mobile, fully street-legal dance machine. Once parked, projection panels swing out from the sides, an array of big speakers get unloaded, a DJ climbs inside, and the music starts pumping. It’s an amazing thing to see and had me totally transfixed once it came to life.

Among other things the Cowboys’ website has a bunch of dance mix tracks, including this insane mix from Nick Thayer, who I’ve never heard of before, but which I’ve been listening to constantly for the past couple of weeks. (There is an incredible remix of “Another One Bites the Dust” from about 11:00 to around 15:00 in this hourlong MP3. Think Queen, but with more cowbell. Absolutely worth the download just for that.)

With Burning Man coming up at the end of the summer the Unimog seems to be popping up at one fundraiser after another, but one, scheduled for 8pm to 2am in Oakland on Saturday, June 9, looks pretty damn cool: It’s a party to raise money for the “Steampunk Treehouse”, a giant, metal, steam-huffing, fantasy Victorian tree in the spirit of the Neverwas Haul. In addition to the Unimog there will also be appearances by One Man Banjo, who does this kind of swamp funk Tom Waits-y banjo show, and what appear to be a bunch of fire arts performers, and no doubt a bunch of other cool stuff. Details at the Steampunk Treehouse site.

Space Cowboys and the Steampunk Treehouse.

The information universe and what it wants.

That modest subject is what I was asked to speak about, yesterday at the meeting of OCLC‘s RLG Programs group in Washington, DC. My presentation gave a quick overview of the web, covered the current state of information management on the internet (focusing on social media, tagging, and the search market) and made some predictions about what the next five years will bring. And, I finished by exhorting the librarians in the audience — the heads of many major academics research libraries — to make their electronic databases more interoperable with web applications via RSS and XML-based web services, and to digitize their print collections, by any means necessary.

If you’re interested, you can download the full presentation (PPT, 13.5MB). You can read my speaker notes (RTF, 64KB). Or you can get my presentation as a PDF, or an MP3 of the Q&A, from RLG’s web site.

And if you’re really in a hurry, you can read the quick, bullet-point version of my main points, right here:

  • The amount of information available online is growing exponentially.
  • Meanwhile, our vocabulary for retrieving information has diminished (one-box text search fields, like Google).
  • Prediction: By 2012, almost all information will have migrated online, and what hasn’t will be increasingly marginal for the vast majority of users. And, we’ll still be using one-box, one-click search tools.
  • How will we organize all this information? Collectively, via social media sites, collaborative tagging, and voting.
  • Prediction: By 2012, Wikipedia will be the dominant reference point for the organization of online knowledge. Tagging and voting will be the primary means of sorting that knowledge.
  • Prediction: By 2012, online desktops will be primary, and we’ll access them via a variety of devices. Interoperability with these desktops will be crucial for every application.
  • Prediction: By 2012, the demand for speed will have turned all publishers into de facto bloggers, and all search engines into Google. (actually already happening)
  • Statement: The explosion of socially-organized culture is an opportunity for libraries. This culture needs libraries (and librarians). But the window of opportunity is closing.
  • What the information universe wants: A hackable library database.
  • What the information universe wants: The books.
  • We want you to DIGITIZE YOUR BOOKS. Sort out the copyright concerns later, and get scanning now, by any means necessary — by recruiting users, if you can, the way YouTube recruits users to digitize and upload videos.
The information universe and what it wants.