Where’s Dave’s stuff now?

Hi! My newer writings are located on other sites:

You can still find my old blog posts here, including this popular one about my PeopleMaps project.

Some current projects you may wish to check out:

To contact me about speaking engagements, writing opportunities, conference participation and the like, please email. I look forward to being in touch!

SocialDevCamp East: Awesome People, Awesome Day

I just want to say thank you to everyone that showed up to make SocialDevCamp yesterday such a huge success. I say it was a success not as an organizer, but as a participant. I learned a ton of practical information yesterday and made contact with dozens of talented people, most of whom are either nearby or a short train ride away.

I can rant and rave about how great yesterday was, but here’s what others are saying:

  • “Dude – we were surrounded by talented folks – I think I talked myself out – so many interesting things happening.” — Bear
  • “I think its official #socialdevcamp is the best event Baltimore has seen in a LONG time.” — Greg Cangialosi
  • “Thanks for setting up #socialdevcamp yesterday. I thought the discussion was quite insightful & well-organized.” — kyeung808
  • “@chrisbrogan Morning chris, you missed an awesome SocialDevCamp yesterday” — Jimmy Gardner
  • “Good day at socialdevcamp (always a good day when you make friends with an MIT post doc)… also, I’m Bill Pardy.” — James Lombardi
  • “Socialdevcamp was perfect. Met so many great people. Totally worth the sore vocal chords.” — Amy Hoy
  • “What a day! socialdevcamp was seriously a lot of fun, the after party even a little more so.” — vees
  • “After working with the highly esteemed @cyberhorse for 5 years, I met him for the first time today at #socialdevcamp” — Keith Casey

Honestly it all makes me a little emotional.  This is our community.  These people are the future of innovation, and we’re committed to making a go of it here along the silicon rails of the Amtrak east-coast corridor. I am so incredibly proud to be associated with this community, and the notion that we all have a stake in making the east coast a better place to start and run businesses.  More on that later.

I also want to especially thank all of the people who helped make the event possible on the unimaginably short time schedule of 25 days notice: our sponsors (listed here) as well as Melanie Kelleher of Kelleher Consulting for her invaluable assistance with the venue, the catering and at the registration table, Jen Gunner with the Greater Baltimore Technology Council for their support and encouragement, my wife Jennifer Troy for her help with a thousand details and the afterparty, and of course the event co-chairs Ann Bernard and Keith Casey who enlisted the support of their networks and helped shape and promote the event.  People wondered how we could do this so quickly, and it was because everybody involved is a superstar in one way or another; you couldn’t ask for a better event team!

We also need to make special mention of one person who was indispensable in making the event the success that it was: Jim Kucher at the University of Baltimore deserves huge kudos for securing the terrific space at the Thumel Business Center at a deeply discounted price.  Without the University’s support yesterday, as we all experienced it, would not have been possible.  Lots of folks mentioned that the space was really exemplary as a Barcamp-compatible space:  a large common area for mixing and meals, a great auditorium with theater style seating, and four, easy-to-find and easy-to-use breakout rooms.  We really could not have asked for a better space.

Also thanks to Brewer’s Art for putting up with the flash mob that colonized their Saturday happy hour.  We warned them that we were coming, but they might not have expected the sheer numbers and zeal that the SocialDevCamp crowd exhibited yesterday!

One thing is certain:  yesterday was a big success and it affirmed our belief that there is a need for exactly this kind of event and community in our region.  We will be planning a second event, SocialDevCamp East Fall 2008, for September.  Date TBD soon!

I will be writing more about my reflections on yesterday in the coming days.  Right now, I need to finish a presentation for the O’Reilly Where 2.0 conference on the openlocation.org initiative I am working on, and get on a plane to San Francisco at 6:00.

My Talk at eComm 2008: Imagining Roomba Asterisk and More

I spoke at eComm 2008, held this year in March 2008 at the Computer History Museum in Sunnyvale California.  I’ve been involved in the VoIP and open source telephony world for the last several years as a contributor to Asterisk, hacker on OpenSER and several other projects small and large involving tearing down the 100 year old telephony infrastructure and replacing it with something better different.

If you’re a part of the Asterisk community, you know that I have a certain amount of notoriety as The Roomba Guy.  In a visionary fit of silliness during the Christmas holiday week in 2005, I decided it would be interesting to play with the Roomba API and see if I could hook it up to a Linksys WRT54G wireless router.

  • The Roomba uses an RS-232 CMOS 3.3V interface
  • The WRT54G has an RS-232 CMOS 3.3V interface
  • The Roomba supplies a 14V DC unregulated power output
  • The WRT54G can run off about 12V DC and has voltage regulators

You can see that based on this, the rest is inevitable.  The Roomba has a 7-pin mini-din connector that provides the power and the RS-232 connection, so I made up a cable that goes from that connector to the 10-pin serial header interface on the WRT54G.

I got the serial port working pretty quickly and could send basic hex commands like start and stop to the Roomba.  My friend made up some mounting “rails” to hold the WRT onto the top of the Roomba, and now the thing was autonomous and could be controlled via an SSH session established via WiFi.  The WRT runs the White Russian OpenWRT Linux distribution.

The prospect of controlling the Roomba using SSH or a web interface wasn’t too compelling.  I happened to be aware that some folks had success getting Asterisk (the open source telephony PBX) working on the WRT.  So, I thought, what if we could put Asterisk onto the WRT and control the Roomba with that?

So, I did.  Asterisk was easy to install on the WRT and in pretty short order I had cooked up an Asterisk dialplan that tied the telephone keypad to actions on the Roomba.  2 is forward, 5 is back, 6 turns right, 4 turns left, 5 stops, etc.

I was demonstrating this at Astricon 2006, a few months later, and my friend John Todd suggested that we contact Allison Smith, a voice artist of some renown and the “voice of Asterisk” — she supplied all the default english prompts for Asterisk.

She was incredibly accomodating and obliged graciously.  She recorded about 20 prompts, including “forward”, “backwards”, “right”, “left”.  We also allowed for control of the vacuum and brushes in the robot.  So, you can press 1 to “start sucking” and press 3 to “stop sucking”.  Did I mention that Allison is an incredibly good sport?

So, the final form took shape.  A talking, SIP-enabled, WIFI, autonomous, cleaning, sucking, four-port ethernet switch able to run a small business phone system and clean it at the same time.  It’s really quite baroque in its overall frilly uselessness, yet still compelling in a circus side-show sort of way.

We’ve experimented with adding a camera to it, but have found that it tends to create too much power draw.  I’ve looked at using other routers that can run embedded Linux, but there always seems to be some reason why it doesn’t work.  I really don’t have the time to spend on this, and that’s probably a good thing.

But, the overall lesson is an important one:  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Einstein said it , but it should be repeated.  As techies, we spend too much time thinking about how to solve a problem, rather than playfully considering new ways of framing problems.  Imagination is truly the plutonium of technology, and we tend to lock it up and not use it that often.  Knowledge is certainly important, but knowledge without imagination is everything that’s wrong with tech today.  Certainly the telecomm industry needs more imagination.

So, Lee Dryburgh, who did an incredible job of organizing eComm 2008 (it’s the successor to the O’Reilly produced eTel conference) posted my presentation from eComm online last week, and I wanted to share it with you.

If you’re interested in more of the Roomba Asterisk specifics, ping me and I’ll blog in more depth about it.


SocialDevCamp East: Your To Do List

Hey folks,

I can’t tell you how excited we are about SocialDevCamp East on Saturday. We’ve heard from so many of you saying that this is exactly the event you wanted, and we have high hopes that we’ll have an engaging event that we’ll want to repeat in the fall.

We’ve been busy doing all kinds of things in preparation. As this is a user-powered un-conference, here’s your to-do list:

1) Visit the wiki page at http://barcamp.pbwiki.com/SocialDevCampEast

2) Be sure you’re signed up as an attendee (or volunteer or sponsor) on the Wiki page (password is c4mp); if you do not list yourself there, there *will not* be enough food for everyone.

2) Know where you’re going. Study the map and photos on the Wiki page.

3) Bug your friends. If there are people who *should* be at this event that are not listed, please reach out to them. We want smart people with interesting perspectives. Be sure they are there.

4) If you’re not coming, please use Facebook to indicate that now; we need as accurate a picture as possible so we have room for everyone who wants to be there.

5) *Think* about the sessions you want to propose and/or lead. Remember, this is an unconference. Everybody should be prepared to lead and share. Lurking is strongly discouraged.

6) Be prepared to make a monetary contribution of at least $10-$20 (if you are not already a sponsor). While a contribution is not mandatory, we are over $1000 in the red right now. If everyone pitches in $10-$20, we can cover all of our costs and have some funds to cover some more food and beer at the afterparty.

7) Bring your brain. Seriously, don’t leave home without it. Everyone is expected to contribute.

SDCE will be featured on WYPR 88.1FM Baltimore this afternoon at 5:30pm, on the Digital Café with Mario Armstrong. We’ll have some other press at the event as well. This is a great opportunity to showcase all the activity in our region! It’s not all about the valley!

We are at over 160 people now and this should allow us to have some great conversations.

Looking forward to seeing ALL of you on Saturday!


Dave, Ann, Keith, and Jennifer