Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BarCamp Scotland 2009

I spent a fun day on Saturday at BarCamp Scotland meeting lots of interesting people (old and new) from the software community in Scotland. After a very amusing and typically Scottish first 20 mins with everybody milling around a safe few paces away from the sign-up boards not wishing to be first, an excellent program of talks and discussions came into being which kept the six presentation zones running for the vast majority of the day.

One of the early speakers was Ewan Mcintosh from 4IP, a major sponsor of the event, who gave an interesting 30 minute outline of what 4IP was supporting and some key tips on how to effectively engage with them. He described how he sees media being divided into a series of spaces: watching, participating, performing, publishing, group, and secret.

The next talk I saw, and at the other end of the corporate scale, was by Cole Henley who in his spare time has created tinyadr, a system for effectively publishing contact details over the web in place of traditional printed and static business cards. It uses the hCard HTML microformat to embed semantic information into the markup which was new to me.

The ever entertaining Mike Masnick of Floor64 and Techdirt fame was in town for the week visiting Informatics and the Business School. On previous days I had heard him speak on the history of Silicon Valley and how they had created floor64. This time he spoke about one of his pet subjects - the danger of protectionism and why giving things away for free can make sense.

The core of his argument is that goods are broken down into two groups - those which can be reproduced at no cost which he describes as "infinite", and those which have real costs to reproduce/create and are thus "scarce". He states that to maximise your market you should give infinite goods away for free and seek to monetize based on associated scarce goods. Creating artificial scarcity in infinite goods - i.e. protectionism of various sorts simply inhibits growth of the overall market.

Next up Michael Clauser of Gadder (amongst many other places!) talked a little about their automatic prospect data-mining solution, which combines automated search of the public internet with sophisticated natural language analysis in order to assist researchers find relevant background on individual prospective partners quickly and effectively.

I then had my turn to speak. The Appleton Tower lecture theatres have great projectors for doing demos of mobile apps which is nice. My slideset is on slideshare:

After a coffee to recover I listened to Fred Howell of Textensor present their new cooperative document review/annotation system. This web based system allows users to upload documents in a number of standard formats. Representations of the document can then be viewed by the user as well as any other users they choose to invite and comments and discussions can be attached to sections of the text using a postIt like metaphor.

Finally Jonathan Brown of Blue Droplet Media presented on his Drupal Openpackage Video module - which handles upload, transoding and serving video within Drupal based web applications.

The day finished in the Library Bar in Edinburgh University's Teviot House where I had an interesting chat with Andrew Williams about the progress and direction of Maven in general, and his own headsupdevelopment project in particular.

All in all it was an excellent event - and look forward to going again next year!

ps. The latest carnival is up over at Vision Mobile.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Technical, Internet and mobile events in Scotland

There are a wide range of interesting events being hosted in Scotland at the moment, and on Saturday I went along to the annual Barcamp Scotland hosted by Edinburgh University Informatics Ventures and 4IP.

I will write up what caught my eye at Barcamp in my next post, but there are many other events worth going to in Scotland:
  • A series of interesting speakers visit the Business School and/or Informatics, and their events are incorporated into The Edinburgh Internet Marketing Meetup etc.
  • On more of a technical theme there is the techmeetup which provides that unbeatable mix of a strong technical theme along with free beer and pizza!
  • On a wireless/mobile theme Wireless Innovation run a series of interesting events at Hillington Park Innovation Centre.
  • For the Rubyists there is the wonderfully successful (and now sold out!) Scotland on Rails at the end of the month. I understand there are still places for the charity tutorial day - learn Ruby and Rails from Chad Fowler and Marcel Molina no less!
  • There are various rumblings about a new mobile group starting up picking up the baton from where I left off with MX Techtalk, possible under the Mobile Monday banner.
  • And finally for those in need of caffeine in less formal circumstances a new Edinburgh OpenCoffee series is kicking off these week (pity about the slightly impractical timing :-<) to join the existing Edinburgh Coffee Morning.
The latest carnival is up over at Ubiquitous Thought. There should be a new one later today over at Vision Mobile but it isn't up at the time of writing.

UPDATE: Mike Coulter has posted an excellent video montage about what goes on at the Edinburgh Coffee Morning.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eclipse Pulsar: Defragmenting fragmented development???

Read an interesting story on el reg this morning about the Pulsar project which is slated to be part of the next major release of Eclipse. This is the new name for the Mobile Application Development Kit project from the Eclipse Mobile Industry Working Group.

The core idea seems to be a cross manufacturer development environment for J2ME incorporating the SDK tooling from all the supporting manufacturers in a single environment which is a welcome improvement.

Interestingly Sun don't seem to be welcome at this party - with JavaFX specifically not a part of the roadmap.

Of course while this does help a little in reducing the fragmentation of development tools when developing J2ME it doesn't reduce the inherent fragmentation of the platform itself - the phones themselves are as diverse as ever!

From this focussed and pretty sensible core idea things start to smack of design by committee with stated intentions to incorporate mobile webapp and native app development within the same environment.

Unsurprisingly there is no sign of iPhone, Android or Palm WebOS support!