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.

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