The Future of Web Apps 2007

Code Comments, Journal

The Future of Web Apps 2007

I expected to return from FOWA 2007 with my head overloaded by the brain candy I’d undoubtedly be consuming during the presentations and workshops, but in reality it was a little bit different than I had anticipated. While most of the presentations were undeniably slick, the content was a little too general for it to be of much practical use when I’m back at my desk. Fortunately, being immersed in such a rich environment for picking up the pulse of the web development community at large was an energizing experience in itself.

As I walked back to my hotel at the end of day one I was more than eager to get up to my neck in some code, purely due to the enthusiasm of speakers like Kevin Rose of Digg and Matt Mullenweg of WordPress. I was really gutted that I was missing the FOWA party to go and play five-a-side with Cousin Iain, but I’d agreed to play so I didn’t want to let him down. I was actually surprised that the FOWA party was on the opening evening anyway – I didn’t think they’d do that. Shame, because next day it looked like the Diggnation filming and the Carsonified party were a blast.

With a little bit of a hangover from drinking with Iain after the football the night before, Thursday felt a little flat for me. It could also have been that the presentations were not up to the standard of Wednesday’s and in some cases were covering similar ground. During the afternoon I managed to catch up with JQuery and Mozilla developer John Resig, who was surprisingly approachable and seemed like a really nice guy – much like he came across on stage during his talk on The Future of JavaScript and Firefox.

Annoyingly, our conversation about JQuery browser compatibility was continuously interrupted by Kai Hendry, whose claim to fame was that he was on the HTML 5 working group. Just like people who want to be politicians shouldn’t get to be politicians, people who want to be on a mark-up language working group shouldn’t really get anywhere near one. I told John I’d get back to him online because I knew our chat was going to be impossible whilst Kai felt like wading in all the time. Bloody annoying, that was – the only bit of networking I went out of my way to do and it got sabotaged by an ego of quite staggering proportions.

During the afternoon intermission I’d talked to some Adobe folk about their AIR environment after sitting down at their stand to watch a demo of it. They seemed a little crestfallen when I asked why anyone would pay Adobe for development environments to create widgets when they could create Yahoo! Widgets and Google Gadgets without the outlay, but seemed convinced that the fact developers could use Flash and ActionScript would be a difference maker. Myself, I’m not so sure, but I took the free book and CD-ROM all the same.

Later that evening I joined Demian and the PHP-London guys at the Old Crown pub near Holborn. This was more by accident than design – I’d gone to the venue to try and meet up with other WordPress users and it just so happened that it was the same venue as PHP-London had chosen for their meet-up.

After the top floor PHP-London presentation on creating Facebook apps (first time I’ve learned anything of substance in a pub since I actually lived in London), a few of us made our way to the ground floor where we got talking to Matt from WordPress. Matt was a top guy – he laughed off some major slicing from Demian (who had no idea who Matt was at that point) and put up with my drunken ramblings, too. It was really interesting to compare notes with people from contrasting areas of the industry, although the night seemed to pass all too soon.

Leaving with Demian and a friend of his, I think I was fortunate to catch one of the last DLR trains running out of Bank in order to make it back to my hotel. Needing some time to unwind before I went to bed, I set about filming a tour of my suite on the PSP. Tiredness and drunkenness played a part in creating many bloopers before I arrived (read: gave up) at the final article: Tour of Ramada Docklands Room 325. I really should just go to bed when I get back in that kind of state. 😉

The Workshops

Next morning I got up and made the most of breakfast at the hotel, before checking out and making my way to ExCeL for my first workshop, pausing to film a plane landing at London City Airport on the way. Essential Web App Security with Chris Shiflett, despite the dry nature of the subject, I found to be really interesting – possibly because the examples were in PHP (one of the few development presentations at FOWA that wasn’t fawning over Ruby on Rails) and the fact that the speaker was very polished. After becoming increasingly annoyed by the um’s and erm’s of most of Thursday afternoon’s presentations I really welcomed the fact that Shiflett put good effort into what he was saying – catch him if you can at a future conference.

I took a bunch of notes during the morning, although a lot of the examples were things that could be avoided with good practices and I was pleased to note that some of the things I do already as a matter of course (like MD5‘ing certain user input prior to the query) went some way to avoiding many security issues. I took some good stuff with me, though, and I’ll look to incorporating the techniques in future web apps I’m working on.

The afternoon session on Interface Design For Web Apps with Michael Kowalski was kind of patchy. The speaker had a bit of a noise issue with the headset, which he gave up on for the second half of the workshop and that went some way to making him easier to listen to. I didn’t think it was possible, but somehow the subject matter ended up drier than the security presentation and for the last hour I was really struggling to stay with it, while a few folk left early. Still, I’m glad I saw it through – there were a good few notes to take from the seminar and the practical exersize of critiquing a web app showed that I’m heading in the right direction as far as that stuff goes.

When the day was done I caught the DLR from ExCeL with a couple of other guys and we chewed the fat until each of us went our separate ways at Green Park station. And with that, FOWA 2007 was over with.

What did I take from it?

  • A handful of pictures that I’ve placed on Flickr.
  • I really need a smaller laptop with batteries that work…
  • …because the network card in the PSP is no match for hundreds of high end laptops when I want to access a shared wireless network.
  • Networking by way of a badge with your name on it which also recommends people you might want to meet is utterly pointless.
  • There are people who turn up late to every single seminar regardless of the lead time. These people are pricks and the doors should have been locked.
  • I have been detached from the development community for far too long.
  • I should really go ahead and execute the ideas I have for good web apps – seems like everyone else is doing just that.
  • San Francisco is the global epicenter of web development. 😉
  • Most importantly; it’s that web development actually excites me again.

3 thoughts on The Future of Web Apps 2007

  1. man i can’t understand anyone that gets excited about IT, especially someone that has been involved in it – it sucks big time!!

    i wish i could piss off an polish trees for a living or something

    no matter how mundane it would be it would still be more interesting

    but it would not pay as well

    or require as little work

    or allow me to hungover

  2. To my mind you have to be able to get excited about the work you’re doing. Otherwise what’s the point?

    Once you find yourself going through the motions it’s probably time to look for a career change.

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