Friday, November 21, 2008

Report from the trenches: MashupCamp, fall 2008: DAY ONE

Just back from MashupCamp in Mountain View CA where I was surrounded by three days of geek nirvana.

MashupCamp is an “un-conference” that this year introduced elements of measured structure into a program that continues to grow and mature into the coolest event surrounding the mashup phenomenon.

Sponsored by media giant TechWeb, and led by the uber-media guru David Berlind, this year’s event was by far the biggest and best so far (and that’s saying a lot considering the success of the prior conferences!). There were a number of subtle tweaks to the program that cumulatively added to the experience.

The three day geek-fest started with the traditional opening by Dave followed by an introduction to the sponsors and service providers via the much vaunted speed-geeking sessions.

As Dave describes it, speed-geeking is the technology equivalent of speed dating: in this case, thirteen high-top tables featuring a like number of presentations with audience participants assigned to one of the tables to start. After an initial blast of the horn (more like a woo-woo sound), presenters have eight minutes to blow the socks off the crowd gathered around their area. Another woo-woo later, and, like musical chairs, the crowd rotates to the next station until all stations have been visited.

Speed-geeking is an assault on the senses brought forth by presenters and cherished by participants. It is a terrific high-speed fast-talking screen-flickering introduction to (mostly) killer products and technologies. Like falling down the techno-rabbit hole with a bungee cord attached – and an 8-minute return trajectory.

Some of the highlights of the solutions provider speed-geeking included:

In a world of interconnections, Open Calais provides a cool way to generate relations, links, and other meta-tag information automatically from text, feeds, and other web content. This is a very ambitious undertaking and works wonderfully, though my observation is larger conversions are better handled as pre-processed components rather than real-time conversions (due to the time required to execute the conversion). Nevertheless, VERY COOL.

These guys provide back-end functionality accessible via web services that allow users to “easily extract, repurpose, and publish web data.” A number of entrants in the mashup contest (held on day three of Mashup camp) used Mozenda for back-end interaction. Again, VERY COOL.

Adding embedded wikis with off-site storage is trivially easy with WetPaint Injected. Many of the mashup contestants used this functionality in their contest entries, and it made traditionally static content dynamic and interactive.

Helping you create apps that work in Facebook, Meebo, OpenSocial and more is these guys’ forte. They even provide application hosting options.

There were lots of other cool products and technologies demonstrated by the sponsors and solutions providers, including: IBM, AOL Developer Network, Elfenworks Foundation (they weren’t really a provider, but as a sponsor they represented a great cause and inspired a bunch of awesome mashup contest entries), Google, JackBe, OpenAjax, RadWebTech (editor disclosure: this is my company and publisher/creator of DistroMash, Scrapplet, xWinLib, and more), The Web Service, and even Yahoo.

One of the coolest things I saw at MashupCamp was from IBM, yup the big blue one! IBM is part of the OpenAjax alliance and co-hosted the first-day cocktail party. There they demonstrated an awesome variation on using the web collaboratively with independent synchronization across multiple browsers including hi-res video, audio, and event sharing (keyboard, mouse, and programmatic integration). This goes way beyond screen or whiteboard sharing and truly makes the web collaborative.

Since RadWebTech was also one of the co-sponsors of the MashupCamp event, I too was a speed-geeking presenter showing off our latest products and technology, including DistroMash, xWinLib, and Scrapplet. It was a GREAT conference for us (more on that later), and I can say with some authority that the best thing for a strained voice (inflicted from and hour and a half of frantic speed-geeking) is Sam Adams!

[This is part one of a three part series. Stay tuned for more]


Unknown said...

IBM informs me that the killer stuff I saw was called "Blue Spruce" -- and whatever its name, it is VERY COOL!

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, Glad you liked our Cooperative Web Technology. For more details on IBM's Project Blue Spruce your readers can refer to this review on the ReadWriteWeb. Thanks Dan Gisolfi