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C4's well that ends well

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I just last night got back from Jonathan "Wolf" Rentzsch's now-annual C4 Mac indie developer conference in Chicago and once again, it was time and money well spent. The conference has been hugely motivating to me as a concentration of extremely bright people in close proximity, feeding off of each others' ideas and energy. In fact, last year's first iteration of the conference was the motivating factor in me finally striking out on my own, which I did within the next couple weeks.

Though less so than last year, C4 was again all hallway. I only say 'less so' because we had the convenience of everything being in proximity rather than last year's Plan 'L'. Regardless, as Wolf said last year, "I often get more out of connecting with individuals than listening to a session." The same is true for me, and this year I had the pleasure of meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones. One of the bits of advice, which I'm going to try to apply to future conferences, was to sit with someone new every time you had the chance. I tended to do this by finding a table all my myself at meals and letting the people come to me, rather than seeking out people I knew and sitting with them. It worked out and I met or got to know better several people, including Philippe Casgrain, Manton Reece, Jeff Czerniak, Jonathan Wight, Christopher Bowns, Marko Karppinen, Alex Payne, our illustrious A/V guy Pat Hughes, and many other bright people.

I'm sure there will be many summaries of this year's event, but one thing that I wanted to document is, I think, rather symbolic of the spirit of the event. During Sunday's Iron Coder Live hacking contest, Craig Hockenberry of the Iconfactory demonstrated his cool hack to do 2D and 3D plots on the iPhone. He also explained an error message that he received in JavaScript containing hexadecimal gibberish. Of course, being Craig (who else would notice this?), he recognized the beginning of the text as a PNG image header, so he copied it out, pasted it into a file, and opened it as a PNG. The result was this:

A hidden, cryptic image on the iPhone
Craig's image (click to enlarge)

Closing out his hack presentation, he made the URL for the image available and invited the attendees to race to decode it, if they could.

This particularly appealed to me, as I recognized instantly that the coded language was the Futurama TV cartoon's alien alphabet. I found a decoder and got to work.

Several of us arrived at the translation pretty quickly, though I have to admit that I think I may have been first, at least in posting it to the C4 Twitter backchannel. The others were Philippe Casgrain of Corel and (I think) Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba. I hastily decoded and mistook "power" for "poker" and Philippe missed the number "50" (maybe Paul got it completely right?), but the resulting message turned out to be:

Enough RDF power
to influence geeks
up to 50 meters.
Leaking of information
punishable by death.

Steve Jobs'
personal aura
harnessed for

Now that's just pretty awesome. This whole hack was representative of the weekend: Code, Culture, Community, Conspiracy -- C4's expanded title -- and represents why I'll be back again and again to the best of my ability.

Thanks again to all of the attendees and I look forward to reading your summaries (I'll leave the panel reviews to the real bloggers) as well as to seeing you all again next year!

Update: I should also link to Mike Zornek's C4 retrospective, which really nails it on the head, particularly on most of the session summaries and Saturday night's, uh, interesting panel.

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That's weird. Because I translated it as "All These Worlds Are Yours Except Europa. Attempt No Landing There."

Go figure.

The other "problem" with no Plan El was that we had no last-minute confined space in which to suddenly remember we had business cards to hand out :)

We didn't get to chat much this year (at all?) - side effect of the growing conference size, I guess!

@Daniel: Yeah... but I really enjoyed your talk. I was one of the hand-raisers for "considering acquisition" (albeit only really toying with the idea) and I really enjoyed your talk. I'm sure we'll meet up again... but I did kind of miss the complete takeover of L cars to become Mac networking locales :-)

Too bad the message didn't say something about when the new Futurama series was going to be released...

Nov 27th on DVD, aired in episodic format on Comedy Central in 2008

3 1/2 months!