A bit of a jetlagged and groggy day for me, so not really the best time to be sitting in a darkened room listening to people speak, but over all I enjoyed the day. The lack of power outlets in the auditorium was maddening, and meant I ended up missing two sessions so that I could go and power my MacBook.
Highlights certainly were the two Jeffs, Barr and Veen, whose talks were engaging and insightful. I managed to snag Jeff Barr at a break and have a bit of a chat about the way that people from the Amazon developer community (i.e. not from Amazon) are using their APIs to create things like virtual bookstores in Second Life. As will become apparent over the coming weeks, I am obsessed by Second Life at the moment, so a surefire way to get my attention is to mention words like ‘metaverse’, ‘avatar’, or ‘Linden Lab‘. Jeff is going to ping me some locations when he’s next online, so I’ll blog about them then.
The other Jeff, Mr Veen, gave possibly the most entertaining talk of the conference about user centred design. It was great – hysterically funny and very informative, just like I wish my talks were. More to the point, it made me think about how I work as a social software consultant, and particularly how I evaluate clients’ needs and how I assess project ideas. I shall have to investigate a little further, as I have some half-formed thoughts that need fleshing out.
Also a special mention must be given to Jeremy Keith‘s Joy of API talk, which was also very funny. As soon as he showed the photo of a ZX81, half the room sighed with giddy reminiscence of childhood/youth. My first computer was actually a ZX80, then we went to the ZX81 and then the ZX Spectrum. Ahh, those were the days. Remember those little silver paper printers, the ones that burnt the text onto the paper and smelt like the pit of Hell had opened up at the bottom of the garden?
Anyway, Jeremy’s talk was entertaining and I wish I’d been a bit more alert because I’m very interested in how APIs work, but it takes extra special attention for me to decode programmer speak into non-programmer speak. He was talking about how APIs are really only used by the alpha geeks at the moment and how it would be cool if we could make it easier for non-programmers to play with this stuff. I would certainly be one of those people who would love to play with APIs, but who lack the specific skill-set required to do so.
Someone from the audience asked why non-alpha geeks would care, but I think it’s really vital that some of this stuff gets translated across, because the people who try to help businesses grok APIs aren’t necessarily the same people who create APIs. (The point that you don’t need to spend six months creating an API if you use microformats and RSS was well made, but doesn’t entirely solve the problem.)
Overall, a good day, however I’ll reiterate the point for any future conference organisers: fish need water; geeks need power outlets. I know venues like the Corn Exchange are too old to have been wired up with geeks in mind, but electricity is very important, as is wifi. Actually, regarding the wifi I’m not sure what was up with it, but we had to manually specify a DCHP address in order to get a connection. Not ideal, although once we knew that it became easy to get it working.