Another day of happiness, and so was the lsat day of the conference. Today, I went to Kapor's talk about advocacy, politics, and POV. Given his ties to Linden Lab (which manages Second Life) and Lotus (which he founded), I knew he'd have interesting things to say. His talk mentioned what I'd call combatting spin, which is dealing with one of the two issues in politics, the other being not solvable in the same way: deep differences in values. I think he made the typical failure to understand that they're different and that even with completely honest and intelligent people, deep, paralysing political conflict still can exist. That error in idealism excluded, I think he had a lot of good ideas for how society should evolve.
After that, I went to Florence Devouard's presentation on the Foundation, which was very informative about practices and issues relating to them. This blended into a (plenary) board panel on the same topic. I almost felt like this was all specifically for me and other people running for the board -- I had intuitions covering a lot of what was said, although it's nice to have more concrete info. The foundation appears to be having growing pains, with the usual accompanying great opportunities. I hope that if I am elected, I'll do a good job. It looks like it'll be a lot of work, but I think I can handle it and I think it'll also become a source of happiness.
Next was an analysis of the different types of vandalism (and other rapid edit) waves on Wikipedia, their cause, and different approaches to deal with them. It was kind of interesting, and the author had the interesting tack of using quantum mechanics as an analogy to help people understand. On the face, this seems odd because it involves using a more complex topic few understand to help people understand a less complex topic, but this is really about deep processing (and being interesting), so it was not a bad idea. Next was a presentation going in-depth on the deeper meaning of NPOV and problems with it. I really like the idea this covered (and I largely agree with it), but NPOV is probably a useful concept, even though it's not quite internally-consistent. I am not sure if people could write as we would hope them to write without NPOV (as currently phrased) as an intro to the details of good and appropriate editing, nor that the discussions around NPOV as a policy suffer from this lack of rigour. NPOV might be a bit like Newtonian Physics -- we know that it falls apart if we look at it carefully enough, but it gets us roughly what we want the vast majority of the time, so we use it.
Finally, I saw David Weinberger's presentation on transforming structure of knowledge online, as well as social constructs tied to that. Weinberger was a fantastic presenter (opening with a slight parody of Lessig's earlier presentation), and despite a few wonky ideas (about meaning and the brain), his presentation had a lot of philosophical depth and insight. I will probably review the (openly available) recordings of his talk for more careful review. An overcrafted joke later, a few of us went outside, played some Calvinball (where I invented a golf-mode and after which Linuxbeak had to catch transport home), and eventually went swimming, then swung by an indian food place for some lassi, grabbed ice cream elsewhere, said goodbyes, and split up.
That was the conference. It was enormously fun, intellectually stimulating, and full of personal revelations (including some potential ones). I didn't need so much alone time, and have felt continually happy for the longest continual time in a long time. Part of this is because of a crush, and part of it is because Boston (and also the Wiki crowd) feels like it's a place that could be a good home. I am unsure which is more true, but I have come to the very firm conclusion that I'm rotting in Pittsburgh, hurt both by my long time without dating and by stagnancy. If my life continues the way it has been, I'll be old, lonely, and undernourished by ideas. Either way, I should not consider staying in Pittsburgh for the rest of my life or as a long-term situation. Whether Boston/Cambridge are an answer or I should look elsewhere is another matter entirely. Another conclusion is that I need to broaden my dating horizons a bit -- the vaguely spiritual but strongly non-christian/non-muslim should probably be acceptable too. There are other things I need to think more about too.
These last few days have been the best I've had for a very long time.
Tomorrow, I'm going to volunteer to help cleanup in the morning, then I meet up with Miriam for some sightseeing of the city until I leave on Tuesday, possibly, maybe, meeting up with J also at some point for a bit more hanging out. It's going to be weird going back to work on Wednesday, a return to a place I now know I should not be. I'll put up some photos at some point too -- I don't have as many as I'd like because I kept forgetting my camera in my room, but some of the shots and movies are pretty decent.