O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference - March 3-6, 2006 - San Diego, CA
Conference Coverage


playsh, the Playful Shell

Matt Webb, Director, Schulze & Webb
Ben Cerveny, Director, Playground Foundation

Date: Tuesday, March 07
Time: 2:35pm - 3:20pm
Location: Elizabeth Ballroom A

> take proposal
Okay. You have taken the proposal.

> examine proposal
A talk proposal for the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2006. It has an abstract on it.

> read abstract
The abstract reads:

The Web is getting better. As a social place, web sites become friendlier and more relevant as you use your social network to filter and categorize information. Wikis, blogs, and ever-simpler application frameworks convert more of us from consumers to producers every day. Representations of data evolve and converge as RESTian interfaces and semantic HTML are used to break down the walls between services. It would be great to have a tool to hack the Web on these terms: social, recombinant, open, improvisational.

A counterpoint follows.

> read counterpoint
The counterpoint reads:

Yet we've seen this before. MUDs, since before the Web, have been shared spaces of production and play.

In the mid 1990s, Pavel Curtis and his team at Xerox PARC began to transform the Lambda-MOO project from a single server collaborative narrative environment to a distributed operating substrate. At the time, Curtis' vision was to have a "virtualized" space that scaled to the entire Internet, in which the narrative objects represented services, devices, and users on the network. The PARC project was never fully realized, but certain aspects of that investigation resonated with the development community.

A conclusion follows.

> read conclusion

Hacking is a playful act. In a primal sense, play is the investigation and experimentation with borders and combinations. It is how children establish a model of their surroundings and how animals explore relationships and social dynamics.

Despite early, highly structured approaches to the sociability of computing in mainframe laboratories, computing has evolved a culture of iterative experimental hacking that is essentially playful.

playsh cooks up the best of Web 2.0, and throws the web browser away. It is a narrative-driven "object navigation" client, operating primarily on the semantic level, casting your hacking environment as a high-level, shell-based, social prototyping laboratory, a playground for recombinant network toys.

You have been eaten by a Grue.


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