This week is Internet Identity Workshop XVI in Mountain View, California, and just in time! It is my first time but it definitely will not be my last. The amount of raw talent in the room is amazing and even though the event name seems rather focused on one topic, the scope of disciplines represented is extremely broad. Everyone’s day job seems to be in a related field and most people I’ve met are involved on an informal basis with at least one related project other than the day job. A number of people have plausible solutions to things I had begun to believe nobody was even looking at. I’ll actually sleep a bit easier at night thanks to some of the conversations I’ve had here. It’s that good. Most of the sessions will have some notes recorded on the Wiki so this post will relate a few things I’ve learned that are not likely to make the wiki.
First off, don’t keep your hotel room key in the same pocket as your business cards. There’s a loose but well-practiced protocol around the exchange of a business card and everyone pretty much knows how to handle that interpersonal transaction. It’s an entirely different matter when you hand the same person your hotel room key by mistake.
“Wow, that was fascinating! I’m so glad I met you, we should talk more. Here’s my card.”
Then there’s this sort of awkward pause while the person considers whether this was intentional or a mistake and how to respond. The response I got back was priceless and I only wish I’d realized while it was happening what was going on. At this point I still thought I’d handed over an actual business card.
“That’s, uh, a nice offer and all, but I think we covered everything today. We don’t need to talk again.”
Then when he handed back the hotel room key it all made sense. I tried to recover by fishing out an actual business card but he looked dubious and didn’t take the card. He may have thought this is my plausible deniability cover story after getting shot down but in any case he beat a hasty retreat. Internet Identity workshop is a lot of things but it isn’t a singles mixer.
Ordinarily I don’t mind this kind of thing but this, after all, is the Internet Identity Workshop where we deal with problems of reputation and trust, and practically the first thing I do on arrival is tarnish what little reputation I’ve accumulated here. Maybe someone will have a convenient method to help me rehabilitate it and present that in a session tomorrow.
This morning as I was just about to step out the door, I grabbed the wrong thing and accidentally put shaving cream in my hair instead of mousse. The agenda building was due to start in 15 minutes and I wanted to propose a session, so this really messed with my schedule. You’ve heard of people making a “build or buy” decision? This was a “shave or shower” decision. I had a head full of shaving cream, both options seemed viable, but it cane down to a question of which would be quicker. I elected the shower option and managed to barely make it to the agenda building in time to propose my session.
As it turns out, this shave/shower decision is the one topic in all the sessions I attended where I think we reached a firm resolution. I discussed it with several other attendees and posed the question “under what conditions does the shave option become viable?” After much serious discussion we decided that the answer is “never.” There’s a certain overhead in shaving such that you cannot reach the break-even point with shorter hair. It’s always more work to shave than than to wash out the shaving cream. But as your hair gets longer we postulated that you’d eventually cross the break-even point and then shaving would be easier than washing. However, even in this scenario you don’t’ shave because in order to have grown the hair that long in the first place you wanted it more, and this additional value moves the break-even point back. After much debate we decided that the length-to-value gradient causes the break-even point to always recede faster than the hair grows. On the other hand, if it is the hair that recedes then you don’t need to put “product” in it in the first place and would never mistake shave cream for mousse. So I think we pretty much resolved this one and it’s just a matter of writing up the RFC for submission to IEEE.
The other thing I discovered is that those floor-to-ceiling windows are a hard problem. Not hard in the architectural sense, but rather physically hard. Whilst reaching for my backpack, I bashed my head into the ledge that divides the bottom two rows of windows. To give you an idea of how hard a hit I took, my glasses were perched atop of my head at the time and the impact flattened the nosepieces. Not “bent” but completely flat. They aren’t quite as good as a car’s crumple zones but they did a pretty good job of softening the blow, despite breaking the skin. Faced once again with a shave vs. shower decision, I returned to the hotel to wash the blood out of my hair. About halfway through I thought I might have made the wrong decision this time because it turns out dried blood is a LOT harder to wash out than shave cream. Although you wouldn’t know it to look at me, I don’t have a lot of experience washing blood off so this came as something of a surprise.
Now, at the end of my second day at Internet Identity Workshop, I write this and wonder whether anything I’ve learned is actually topical to the conference, and I’ve decided that it is. Having showered three times in one day I figure I now get three days off. This lapse in hygiene will a) establish a unique identity to which a certain reputation will accrue; b) instantiate a personal cloud with which others around me will be able to interact; and c) rehabilitate my reputation with a certain attendee who would under these conditions perhaps be more inclined to believe my assurances that I wasn’t trying to pick him up. It is this last that concerns me most because no matter how much of a scoundrel you are in real life, at Internet Identity Workshop no-one is supposed to know you’re a dog.