The first keynote of the day was by Ewan Birney. He's the Big Cheese over at Bioperl, famous for his hidden markov model software, and many other things besides. He gave a high-level talk on what bioinformaticians do, which you'd think would have bored an audience of bioinformaticians. He was a really interesting public speaker, however, and they soaked it up.
Halfway through the keynote, Gina came over to me and whispered "what do you think about Ewan keynoting at OSCON?" I nodded my head violently--it was just what I was thinking. He can be easily understood without a background in biology, and it echoes exactly why we (O'Reilly) find interesting.
We went up to Ewan after the keynote and congratulated him. Then I very casually said "Ewan, I see you've submitted a talk proposal for OSCON." Ewan nodded. "Would you like to keynote?" He nearly punched the air. "Yes! That's exactly what I hoped you'd say--I wrote my keynote with that in mind." I'm glad he's glad--I imagine Ewan sitting down at a table with Matt, Damian, Tim Bunce, et al., and I nearly cackle at the prospect. There's something infinitely pleasing in bringing very smart people together.
Ah, and I can't talk about the keynote without mentioning Tim's
introduction. Tim talked about how Ewan had invited Tim to speak at
BOSC, and how bioinformatics was interesting all sorts of people.
Then he cited me as an example, and I believe his phrase was
"interested in extending his own biology" or some such innuendo. It
was funny to see the laughter spread around the room, and I have to
admit that my mouth hung open in surprise. It's not every day you're
called a masturbator by your boss during a plenary session
We had a staff meeting in the morning. They're fun things in and of themselves, because we always crack jokes, but compared to what's going on outside, they just can't compare. I missed most of the (packed) visualization and "AI techniques for microarray analysis" talks because of the meeting. These meetings are the places where we get to say things like "we need microphones in the crowd" or "the signage is confusing around the dining room", etc.
There was nearly disaster over a keynote. I was supposed to introduce the afternoon keynote, but spaced on it completely. Fortunately Tim did it and nobody noticed, but we quickly sorted out which of the others I'd be introducing.
I took the Cambridge office's camera around the various afternoon talks, taking pictures. I caught the first part of David Maddison's "Tree of Life" project, an attempt to collate and visualize phylogenetic information (charting how genes move between species). It was very impressive. The BioCORBA and BioPython talks were surprisingly well attended (Perl is the language that gets all the press), and Andrew Dalke's talk on file format parsing was packed. Parsing in general was hot--Damian's tutorial on Monday was really well-attended, and everyone talked about it for the rest of the week.
That night I worked in the staff room, preparing lead and chord sheets for the jam BOF that night. The jam bof had several musicians (me on banjo, James Tisdall on guitar, Jason Stewart on guitar, Gina the conference director singing, and others who popped in and out. We had a blast and played until the wee hours. Even Damian came in and joined in on some of the "The Band" tunes. It's more fun every year! For OSCON, I think I'll try to get it blurbed in the brochure this time, so that more people know to bring instruments.