andrew burke






Posted on: 2006-07-05

Or should that be demo_camp_toronto_7?

Went to my first DemoCamp, number seven, last night at No Regrets down in Liberty Village. A lot of interesting stuff, and some great discussions.

Just as I arrived, I got a call from one of my clients about something not working with their system, so I found a table - hi Josh! - got on the No Regrets wireless network, found and fixed the problem, and deployed it. Sure, there were five presenters, but who else actually wrote and deployed code there - crouching at a table since there were no more chairs and before finishing their first beer?

It's great to see what people are up to. All of the demos went well and they all had pretty impressive things to show. The entire thing is going to be podcasted and/or vlogged (or whatever), so you can see it all for yourself - but here are quick summaries of the presentations:

Portal Prophet Platform - from Domainer, Inc.
This is a package that makes it easy to put useful stuff in any unused domains you may have lying around. You can bring in RSS feeds, set up your own content, etc. It has a very nice DHTML/AJAX interface for setting up pages.
The main presenter had a t-shirt with the word 'web' and a picture of a candle then '+' and a picture of a monkey. I never got to ask him what that meant. 'Web Burning Monkey'?
A well thought out upgrade of Yahoo or Motley Fool stock discussion boards, inspired by The Wisdom of Crowds. People can talk stocks, but any predictions they make are stored and compared with the actual stock performance - and good predictions add to a person's Reputation. Like browsing Slashdot at +4 only lets you filter out most (most - not all!) of the idiots and juveniles, reading about stocks only from people with high reputations should let you filter out the pump-and-dumpers and the get-rich-quick nut cases. If not this site, at least something like it will probably create the next generation of stock experts - yet another blow to newspapers and traditional media and their authoritative 'experts'.
The site design was well thought out - all dynamically loading (real-time 'quotes' running along the left side) with lots of charts and graphs for the whole AJAX Web 2.0 experience, but also using greens and blacks to give it a comfortable, conservative, "we're dealing with money here" feel. Makes me want to put on a tie and suspenders.

Paruba! - teehan+lax
The first dot com I've seen that's named after a line in Seinfeld. In their words, 'An e-commerce tagging shopping thing'. At once very Web 2.0 (mash ups, AJAX, community) and Web 1.0 (e-commerce). You can set up lists of items that you want and tag them and review them etc. Extra cool feature - you can import items from, Target, etc., and it'll pick out the appropriate fields and occasionally even the graphic.

I noticed their demo catalogue included the state-of-the-art DynaTAC 8000X cell phone.
They also had some interesting comments about making an e-commerce site 'in your spare time' while running an agency: "You don't get things built until you're feeling the pain." How do you get to feel pain? "We actually paid developers and committed time and resources for it".

What's very 2006 about this, though, is that they built the whole thing in a concentrated 2 months of work.

I wondered if they were concerned about lawyers and such since they're allowing people to 'borrow' graphics and catalogue items from Amazon - they said 'not yet!'. Considering Amazon still gets the sale, it's probably not going to be an issue.

The Glove - Cameron Browning.
A cool system for representing web site layout in 3D - extra cool because it uses a bluetooth-enabled glove keyed to an iSight camera to move things around during the presentation.

All through this, I was reminded of those old issues of Mondo 2000 I have from 1992, full of articles from people like Jaron Lanier talking about the future of Virtual Reality and new interfaces. Things didn't quite go in that direction - the Web came along and took everyone's energy - but this was totally in that spirit. What was new and exciting about this (and the kind of thing Mondo 2000 would have appreciated) is that it ran in real time on a PowerBook G4 and the glove was built for $40 from a bluetooth keyboard, an old rollerblading wrist guard, and some free video analysis software.
Obligatory question from the back of the audience: 'Can you make one that shoots webs?' - 'I've got one that shoots Ninja Stars, for stupid questions.'

Perl 6 - Damian Conway.
Wow. I love the computer world because it has more people like this than almost any other field - cheeky erudite genius is valued in software, unlike, say, government financial policy.

Damian is the number 3 PERL developer. He's they guy who rewrote the language to support Latin and Klingon. He's on a tour drumming up excitement for Perl 6 ('What you'll all be using when you're sick of Ruby' - response from the Peanut Gallery: 'Oh so this is a Python demo!').

He was told he can't use PowerPoint, so he hacked up VIM to become an ersatz presentation system, complete with, er, graphics.

Tons of fun stuff in his fifteen minutes:

He's giving a talk at the University of Toronto tonight (July 5). Fun With Dead Languages. I am so there.

The chatting between demos and afterwards was, as always, great. There's a fun community in Toronto, and after attending several of these events, I'm beginning to actually recognize and remember people.

Looking forward to Number Eight.

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