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d.Brief

I need to write about all this before I forget it. I attended d.Construct last Friday, courtesy of work. I wrote all my notes down in a little pad, only to leave it in the car park at Asda on the day after (it got recycled for a shopping list). Thankfully, the Asda trolley people aren’t too quick, so when I went back 5 hours later my notepad was still there.

First off, the conference was superbly organised. It was held at Fabrica, which was a beautifully unusual venue (an old church). When you went in, the hall was partitioned neatly into the registration / laptop charging area and the main stage. Everything seemed well thought out and the registration was done well. They did ask to see a form of ID, which seems sensible. Considering it’s the first event that they’ve organised, it was all very smooth.

The speakers were mostly excellent. First up was Andy Budd, who did a lot to enlighten me as to what Web 2.0 actually was. Of the whole day, he came closest to getting the idea across. Yes, it’s a buzzword for a disparate set of ideas, but it’s probably a useful one.

The second speaker was Stuart Langridge, all about DOM Scripting. For something that wasn’t quite as technical as I would have hoped, this turned out to be greatly enjoyable. Stuart is a very fluent speaker and he was really getting his message across well—how to do JavaScript, gracefully. We’re really going to start using his idea of a “behaviour layer” at work. A rousing performance. I only wish he’d had the time to go into some more technical detail.

Simon Willison showed us all around the flickr API. This was a treat, because it was really showing off the advantages of a REST style API. All the interactive bits of Flickr use their own API for Ajax purposes, so the team really has to build the API before they can build new features into the site. Simon demoed the API Explorer, which is a helluva neat tool. I’d love to build one for work, but I don’t think that we have enough metadata… Simon also gave me a huge smile by showing the most awesome photo of Maccu Piccu, where I was only a few months ago. I’m looking forward to seeing him again at the web frameworks shootout on Thursday.

After Lunch, we came back to Ben Metcalfe from the BBC. He was all about how much the BBC is opening up and sharing its data (it’s mostly feeds right now, but more is promised in the future). It’s good to see that we’re getting value for money from our License fees. Of note is that he highlighted MighTyV.com, a product of two london.pm people. He also showed off a new application, which is like IMDB, but for the BBC. Matt Biddulph will be showing this off on Thursday at the web frameworks shootout as a demo of Rails.

Next up was something I didn’t particularly enjoy: Tom Hume on the Mobile Internet. This talk could basically be summarised as “There are more mobile devices than PC’s, so watch out”. Yet it was done in a seemingly very arrogant manner. Whilst it offered lots of impressive statistics about mobile coverage, there was nothing in there to grab me and make want to develop for mobiles. In fact, it sounded like a minefield of incompatibilities and it was a miracle that mobile services work at all. Open standards are frequently ignored or implemented correctly. Not for me.

Aral Balkan’s talk on flash was probably the one I was least lookingo forward to. As an open source web developer, I’ve never really had much use for the proprietary flash stuff. Nonetheless, Aral showed how much the flash platform has developed. In particular, the flex stuff for building UIs looks great, and having all the development tools in Eclipse is a big win. It also looks like it integrates with Java really well through flash remoting. Not only that, there seems to be a good open source Flash community these days, with lots of free tools. Definitely worth a second look.

Finally, Cory Doctorow was on stage. His talk was titled “The Remix Economy,” but it ended up being mostly a rant about the DVB. Personally, I still don’t get why we need Digital TV at all. The only thing it seems to offer is a minor freeing up of spectrum so that it can be sold off to the highest bidder. Certainly not much in it for the consumer—more channels, more crap. Anyway, Cory is a hugely entertaining speaker. Well worth listening to when the mp3 is up.

Sadly, we had to all be out of the hall at 4pm, by which time it was nearly dark. So, in traditional English style, off to the pub. I had to leave early (about 5pm), but by the sound of things, the drinking went on till long afterwards.

But am I any clearer on what web 2.0 really is? Well, like Andy said at the beginning of the day, “It’s a Zen thing.” šŸ™‚

3 replies on “d.Brief”

The main thing that disinterests me (based on your talk; I’ve no other experience to speak of) is the seeming disregard for standards. I’ve been burned so badly by Netscape 4 in the web world that I can’t imagine going back to a place where I’m having to deal with hacks and workarounds the whole time. It just doesn’t seem like a reasonable way of doing things.

But it’s also the whole ethos. You mentioned it in your talk—everything is commerce driven. There doesn’t appear to be the sense of openness, community and playfulness that I value from the “regular” Internet. There’s no “View Source” button. All this makes it great for what it’s being used for, but not for experimentation and amateurs.

Dom: it’s not so much a disregard for standards – the telecomms world is chock full of them. It’s more that the quick iteration through shoddy implementations and improvements of standards which led to the web world settling down in a mere 5 years or so isn’t happening with mobile – thanks mainly to the closed (and tightly bound) software and hardware. We can’t roll out a new version of a handset easily to the installed base, or ask them to upgrade their software.

And yes, this makes things harder: but there are techniques and tactics for dealing with the problem. And hey, if it was easy it wouldn’t be fun now would it šŸ˜‰

On your other point – there’s a strong commercial element to the mobile Internet which is missing from the fixed-line web. But if anything I think this’ll stimulate less overtly commercial content; that’s what happened in Japan (where most I-mode sites are now off-portal, not the subscription-driven on-portal ones). And there’s definitely “view source” buttons šŸ˜‰ The infrastructure of the mobile web is fairly similar to the fixed: HTTP, web servers, etc.

Thanks for replying though, it’s good to hear different perspectives on this stuff.

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