This isn’t a comprehensive review of dev8d, checkout the twitter stream (that link uses twapperkeeper by the way, the guy who created it was there and it was great talking to him), and wiki for and much else on the web for what went on.
Things I saw that I liked:
- An iphone app developed which allowed you to point your iphone in different directions (think augmented reality) and show what was currently on in the room your iphone was pointing in.
- This was possible because the wiki and programme exposed data in a machine readable way, using RDF & ical for each event, geo co-ordinates for rooms. With out this the above would not have been more difficult to produce. It proves the saying: the coolest thing to be done with your data will be thought of by someone else. And likewise, set your data free.
- Another app, little more than a simple iphone switch, allowed you to turn a light on and off. Of course the iphone could have been anywhere in the world when it turns the light on and off, the app calls a REST web interface on a notebook running a webserver which was connected to the light. Simple implementation of a nice idea, which much potential (someone was discussing how they want to be able to control their heating from their phone if they are out for the night, or if they are coming home early).
- RFID tags connected to the door of each room, each attendee had a small RFID tag so they could record if they entered or passed a room. A web interface was built to display this data and lots of ideas of how we could build on this. The RFID readers where a simple consumer model (from Touchatag), connected to netbooks and similar near by, and a mac mini acting as a central place to collect all the data. It was coded in ruby and used Redis as a quick and neat way to collect the data.
- A Developer Happiness iphone app which shows a number out of 10 representing on average how happy those at Dev8d are. It builds on the Happiness Pipe site built last year.
- I’m not sure how far they got, but some explored an open source OCR code library. They had the idea they could use these to try and OCR a frames from a videos on the web. This would have massive potential. indexing words from videos (say on youtube) whether super implanted on the screen, or signs and general wording in the image, would help improve searching for videos no end for starters. (of interest to us whose work includes resource discovery).
- A cheap 3D printer, which can almost replicate (print) itself. Clearly a device that can build a huge array of items (from wine glasses to children’s shoes, though made out of a plastic like substance) has potential to change the world we live in. Was very impressive to see it.
- Lots of hardware hacking going on and clever genetics stuff too, in fact loads not covered here.
I created a twitter account which posts the latest blogs, videos and photos. You can read about it here (this is more for info, sounds stupid when coming after the amazing things above). I also started to learn Ruby on Rails and python.
I was somewhat envious of those who by the end of the few days were able to say ‘look what I’ve built’, but then I’m no a developer as such, and certainly not as clever or geeky as some at the event. That is not to say I wasn’t busy, trying out lots of little things, discussing things with others, meeting lots of new people, attending expert talks and a couple of coding labs and trying out lots of things.
An example of 45 minutes: On seeing a tweet saying Ed Summers (LCSH Linked Data fame) was starting his expert talk for 15 minutes I went running in to that room to catch it (with power cable tailing behind me), great talk and was followed by a couple of guys from Mendeley – a great app and like last.fm they are collecting a lots of data which we should be able to do some interesting things with using the new API. This was followed by a great talk from Kate Pekacar from the MLA explaining their efforts to open the data of various collections and their keenness that the likes of Dev8D create useful new ways for people to discover these collections. Three different talks yet all interesting stuff and related to the day job.
I was lucky enough to attend the awards ceremony on the Friday night. One of those receiving an award was Garry Bulmer, who had run the popular Arduino workshops, who said teaching and working with those who were so enthusiastic and smart was a joy. This seemed to sum up the event well. It works because those attending want to challenge themselves, try something new, work with new people and move sightly outside their comfort zone. It would be easy to not do much at barcamp style events, but the reverse actually happens as people try and squeeze so much in to the few days, often working on tasks late in to the night.
If I had to sum up what I got out of this – a difficult task not due to lack of quantity but the sheer broadness and soft qualities of what has been gained – I’d add to what I’ve already out above:
- There were 15 minute expert lightening talks that have informed and got me thinking more than entire one day workshops and conferences.
- In terms of hard facts, getting started with two programming languages both very useful when working and developing for the web. Learning these would have taken days in themselves, it’s hard to stress how much you can pack in to an afternoon when you have an excellent expert leading the session working with bright people in the room (my brain hurt a lot throughout).
- Motivation is hard to identity, quantify and where exactly it originates, but I come away from this even with a higher opinion of the industry I work in, the Tech/dev community around Higher Education and our ability to break through old ways of working and needless bureaucracy. I think it helps those attend see a bigger picture to what they are doing. Tired yet with a fresh urge to build new things and Get Things Done.
- I ended up talking to lots of people I wouldn’t do normally, neither personally or socially. This is useful in itself, but I think the experience itself is useful (especially for the socially inept like me). I found myself a few times suddenly talking to people (often from the States) who have created high profile web apps, including those which have nothing to do with HE or libraries.
All in all. Tired. Good event. Good food. Metropolitan line crap. Well organised. Nice people. Brain hurts. Learnt lots. Shambrarian meeting a success . Chatted Lots. Drank a moderate amount while adhering to medical daily recommended limits. Obviously.