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FOWA Expo London 2008 – Day 2 October 13, 2008

Posted by Michael Kowalski in work.
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Bit late with this as the Diggnation after-party left me rather hungover.

Friday at FOWA kicked off with a keynote from Tim Bray, who decided to abandon his planned talk in favour of a sober evaluation of survival techniques for a post-GFC world. Ouch. His more innovative suggestions included getting into regulatory technology (a growth market!) and brushing up on those old Cobol skillz. 

Terrible so-called “keynote” from some Salesforce guy: nothing more than a sales pitch. I walked out, and I sure wasn’t the only one. You’re wasting your sponsorship money if this is what you do with it. Shame, because I think Salesforce is quite interesting, and I didn’t expect to see them pushing into the UK yet. They must employ some smart thinkers – why not send one of them over?

Caught a sidetrack talk from the YDN team re YUI 3. I’ve got some concerns about this because we use YUI extensively at Kitsite. The reason we chose it over, say, JQuery, was the widget set. YUI widgets are robust and cross-browser, without feeling that they include the kitchen sink or forcing you into a particular style of coding (both criticisms I would make of Dojo). Yet the 3.0 prerelease doesn’t include any widgets! Nor it is it remotely backwards compatible. I’d been wondering if the YUI team were just trying to make their API more elegant because of inferiority feelings cf JQuery. But actually it looks better than that: Christian made clear that a key element is instancing, so that it will work in a widgety environment, eg. in mashups. Still not 100% convinced, but I will go along to their meetup this week to find out more.

Jason Calacanis gave some fairly convincing schtick on the merits of smart people and ruthlessly excising dead wood in your business: “You can’t fix someone’s pyschology”. His utter scorn for (lip curled) “lifestyle businesses” like 37signals was endearing. “Sure,” he snarls, “if you want to be mediocre, go work for 37signals”. Got a laugh. 

Another sales pitch, this time from some Amazon guy touting AWS. At least it was in the business track. 

Huddle talking about surviving – no, prospering! – outside Silicon Valley; in fact, here in London. What struck me was the sheer, numbing frequency of networking they seem to do. Like a grinding quest in WoW – “You must schmooze 20 journalists and 10 VCs before you advance to the next level.” Hm, why don’t they introduce Entrepreneur as a player class in the next upgrade?

More anti-UCD sentiment from Gavin Bell. The most academic talk at this conference by far, and the only time I’ve heard the suggestion that we bring in woolly Marxist thinking to resolve issues of social interaction design. He’s probably right there’s a problem here – but I doubt he’s going to get many takers for Lev Vygotsky being the solution…

Skipped Zuckerberg. Saw him at Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin last year, and he is terminally boring. Seen enough anodyne sales pitches today.

And then, finally, there’s Diggnation. I’m afraid I still don’t get it. Maybe I’m just too old; certainly most of the more evangelical whoopers here are much younger. Two guys, on a sofa, drinking beers, reading funny stories off their laptops, and (mainly) loving themselves. The thing is, they’re not that funny. They are, after all, Americans. Two British guys doing this might be worth watching, plus we wouldn’t have the whooping. Also, is it just me, or is the product placement now way over the top?

Free drinks afterwards, followed by hangover. 

Not a bad conference, and a bit more sure of itself than previous years. But still not much about the future; something that was brought home by the way even the present (ie. the financial crisis) only occasionally surfaced as a theme. And obviously it needs to be funnier.

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