15 Sep 2007

Barcamp Brighton 2007

Playing css specificity snap

Tick… I’ve now attended a BarCamp. I absolutely loved it: many topics + small groups = a great opportunity to learn and chat about lots of stuff.

Some of the stuff I managed to sit in on, included:

  • CSS Selectivity Snap. Earlier in the day I’d jotted a reminder: “must learn more CSS properly”, and then Jon Linklater-Johnson (pictured above, right) steps in with a fantastic crash course in selectivity. Huge fun.
  • Jay Caines-Gooby chatting about backups. Nice idea: grab a NAS drive, stick Linux on it, and then schedule syncing to S3.
  • QR (quick response) codes, from Tristan Roddis. I didn’t know QR codes were an ISO standard or that there were different variants. I hope Tristan’s laptop has recovered from the water spill :-(
  • An enlightening presentation called “Take my wallet but don’t hurt my face: Teenagers & the social web” by Daniel Morris. Another presentation I learned a hell of a lot from: teenagers don’t use mobile internet, don’t send MMSs, and visit a bunch of web sites I’ve never heard of (of course).
  • “Building a recommendation engine from tagged content”: it was great to see the inside of an application exposed in terms of how worldreviewer.com is handling user recommendations. They’re taking the tag cloud for users and for activities, and computing a dot product to get a measure. The problem is that if you want to do this real-time the calculations get expensive quickly. The solution being explored is to reduce the space to a fixed-size vector (manually at the moment, but they’re looking to do some form of proper feature extraction).
  • Matthew Somerville’s Is Cornwall Part of England? talk was superb. Turns out Cornwall probably has a case for an independent government, but best not to mention it. Statutelaw.gov.uk looks a fun place to spend a few hours.
  • Behaviour driven development (BDD), which is “TDD done well”. Appears to be a good way to structure and express unit tests, and I need to go and check out JDave.

I spoke about Mac OS X Server, which is something no-one seems to use. I’ll maybe write up my presentation at some point.

The hosts and sponsors were enormously generous, and the organizers really pulled it all together well. Thank you, Paul, Matt…well, so many people seemed to be making it happen. Check out the blog and the wiki to get an idea of how many people were involved.

The one particular memory I have is, surprisingly, not of the Champagne jelly. It’s of sitting in a presentation on a warm summer’s night. Through the window drifted sounds of the young and beautiful people of Brighton starting their evening of partying, while inside a group of 10 or so geeks sat around discussing dating and how it could all be “fixed” with a large and elaborate XML schema.