Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Etech Tuesday On Rails | by Adrian Cockcroft | 8th March 2006

A long day with lots of interesting talks, and I got to chat with several new people and also to try out my FLORWAX pitch. "Its the equivalent of AJAX but for Wireless" is my instant summary. To get this out of the way, the general reaction is that the name gets a chuckle (not too many groans yet), that there really is a big problem in wireless platform fragmentation, and that no-one seems to know of any other initiatives that have picked on this as a problem to solve. I think most people look at wireless, see this problem, and give up, as its too hard to make something work. Since I'm interested in a longer term perspective than most people, its seems fair game to try and provoke a discussion on what a sensible core set of wireless platform technologies would look like.

As Jesse James Garrett said in the tutorial yesterday, the key elements of AJAX are that it uses a common standard bundle of browser based technologies and that it is asynchronous, so you don't have to click-and-wait......click-and-wait......
If we apply these principles to Wireless, we need to define a bundle of standard technologies (I suggest Flash Lite 2.0, Ruby on Rails, XML web services - FLORWAX = FlashLiteOnRailsWirelessAsynchronousXml, but the actual bundle doesn't matter as long as a common set emerges). However the asyncronous problem is far worse in wireless than in desktop applications, we really need to have wireless apps that talk to the backend and update the screen without the click-and-wait-for-ages mode that is the norm.

At the end of the day I attended the Ruby on Rails BoF. I have heard good things about RoR but haven't used it. I think they converted me, and I took the opportunity to mention FLORWAX to the group. It does seem like the right technology fit.

The conference itself started with Ray Ozzie showing how to do cut and paste on the web. It seems so trivial, why hadn't been done before? A very useful way to make web apps behave more like regular apps. We then had a very cool hardware demo by Jeff Han, he has a touch screen that can see all his fingers separately and has created a very nice new set of user interaction paradigms.

Amazon has created a way to harness real people to do the stuff that AI can't do. Its called the Mechanical Turk, and its another simple idea with quite profound and wide reaching uses. Dick Hardt from Sxip gave an interesting talk on indentity, but the way he presented it with one word per slide and rapid fire transitions reminded me of Steve Colbert presenting his "The Word" section on The Colbert Report. I enjoyed it but I don't remember much of the content.

Next we has a talk from Felix Miller of last.fm on how they collect the metadata on what you are listening to and use it to help you find new music, I've been playing around with Pandora and training it to play the music I like, and I think I'll have to have a go at last.fm as well. I have eclectic tastes, and its hard to keep the recommendations from veering back to the mainstream in Pandora.

After the break, there were several presentations that didn't grab my attention or told me things that seemed obvious to me. The highlight was a presentation on Second Life that was presented using a billboard in the virtual world and lots of interactive explanations of how it all works. Fascinating, but I don't have enough time to play as much as I'd like in the real world....

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2 comments:

  1. These were two really easy training sites that I used to pick up RoR.

    http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2005/01/20/rails.html

    http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2005/03/03/rails.html

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