Don’t Sniff Those Packets!

There’s a lot of folks at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference, and this is another conference with 802.11b wireless access (aka “wi-fi”) to allow any geek with an antenna to have access to the Net. Well, Rob Flickinger from O’Reilly decided to run a program called EtherPEG to watch the packets of information flowing across the wireless network at the conference. (EtherPEG is a packet sniffer that renders the images that are transferred over the network; it’s only available for Mac.) As Cory Doctrow’s account below attests, the results are a bit odd. To quote Rob himself: “I have stared at the sun, and for the sake of my sanity, will never again look directly at the consciousness of the online ueber-geek collective.”

Sniffing packets to sample the geek groupmind. Holy crap. Rob “Community Wireless Networking” Flickenger ran a packet-sniffer called EtherPEG (which makes collages out of images being moved over the sniffed network) during this morning’s panel on blogs and emergence, with Steve Johnson, Clay Shirky, Rael Dornfest, Geoff Cohen and me. The results are really unspeakably weird. It is to reel.

I was impressed that when Tim O’Reilly stood up to ask about whether bloggers were building a city or living in their own ghetto, virtually all traffic stopped. Evidently, this was something that almost everybody in the room was interested in listening to. And once Tim sat down again, the pixels began to flow once more.
After a little while, the atmosphere took on a bit of a dark turn. Lots of images of law enforcement agency websites, some american flags with an angry eagle bursting through, and possibly darkest of all, a Britney Spears fan site. The theme continued as Clay Shirky was discussing “maps and non-player characters” and the downward gothic spiral expanded… Link Discuss (Thanks, Schuyler!) [ via bOing bOing]

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