Open Web Vancouver 2008: Day 1

I'm sitting in one of the meetings rooms here at Open Web Vancouver 2008 waiting for a talk on Google Gears to start, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on day one.

The first two keynotes were probably worth coming to the conference. First, Zak Greant gave a talk "The Age of Literate Machines", talking about the history of communication and the concepts behind free software. He was severely jet-lagged but he soldiered through and was quite coherent.

Next up was Tim Bray's keynote on the status of web development in 2008. Again, another awesome speaker and he touched on the recent paradigm shift in tools available to you to build your applications. Specifically he talked about the research he's done into the fields of agile development, the usefulness of blogging, and what trends he sees having a huge impact.

My favourite part of his talk was his comparison of PHP to Rails, and he gave them a very fair comparison. His recommendation was that you should seriously consider using Rails for your next project, even if you're not going to use it because it's the ideas that led to the creation of Rails that are important. After the talk, he answered a question about Django vs. Rails. He talked about how they took two developers of roughly the same skill level, gave one of them Rails, the other Django and set off to see how fast they could build something. It turned out that it was a dead heat, so it makes my decision to start playing with Django a good one. No point in starting behind the curve, right?

So after that talk, I went to Jeff Griffith's talk on "RIA with open standards". Jeff works for ActiveState (the folks behind Komodo) and he talked about the various options for building Rich Internet Applications and how it was in your best interests to try and build these things with open standards so that you are well positioned to take advantage of new technologies and standards as they become available.

After that, I sat in on Eric Promislow's talk about creating scalable Javascript code. Even though I'm a Javascript newbie, I got a ton out of that talk because the stuff he was talking about is directly related to the stuff I'm trying to do with Rallyhat. Eric also works for ActiveState, helping with Ruby and Perl support for their products.

I went with Kevin to the "Grassroots Open Mobile Technology" talk, and I was incredibly disappointed. It was basically a 15 minute informercial about mobile devices. The speaker is affiliated with Nokia, so he predictably gushed over Nokia's phones. Very rarely do I hate the talks I go to, but 15 minutes when you have an hour slot is just wasting the audience's time. The guy was sure passionate about mobile tech, but the complaints he had (like "why don't we have the iPhone in Canada?") are just so naive and seems to me at least to reflect a disconnect from the realities of mobile technology in Canada. Anyway, enough about that.

Then I gave my talk on using CakePHP's CLI tools. First off, I fucked up the recording of the screencast so I'm not happy about that. Secondly, if I ever give this talk again I'm not going to do any slides. I'm going to have my shell open and the browser and that's it. I found that jumping from Keynote to Terminal to Safari and back just totally threw me out of any sort of flow. Hopefully 3rd time will be the charm.

After that, there was a cool get-together at a local art gallery with some drinks and good conversaton, and then a great dinner with some of the speakers. I sat with Paul Reinheimmer and Brian Shire from Facebook. Good Italian food, good conversation, a good time in all.

Later today I'm giving my second talk about application deployment, that's a more standard slides-and-me-talking presentation so I should be better at that one.