August Tech Meetup (Edinburgh)

26 August 2009

Augusts Meetup was uninterrupted even though the Edinburgh festival(s) are keeping everyone busy, hedout provide the official festival iPhone application(here) and both festbuzz and edtwinge both recently launched review guides for festival shows.

As we kicked off with a round of introductions as usual, this month there were a lot of companies looking to hire, so any programmers looking for work would do well to come along next month.

Before the talks started Greg Soper started the night with an announcement of the upcoming Scottish Open Source Awards. The awards are looking to promote open source within the small business community and to reward those who have made valuable contributions. The awards night is coming up soon so check out http://www.opensourceawards.com/ for more information.

Ben Werdmuller - User Centered Web

The first talk was by Ben Werdmuller, co-founder of elgg, the talk was part of an ongoing discussion about the current and future state of social web applications, while there wasnt a lot of conclusions to be drawn, there was some very interesting observations about what the web application developers of today should be looking towards.

Ben started by taking back the term “social network”, warning people against putting up sites with social software such as ning and elgg and hoping that communities will somehow form around them. Instead, looking at the 2 main approaches that have been used for current popular social networks:

  1. An existing social network that can also be served online (Craigslist - San Francisco, Facebook - Harvard)
  2. A tool that is useful for the first user (flickr, delicious, last.fm)

As Joshua Schachte said “If you need to scale in order to create value, its hard to get scale, because theres little incentive for the first people to use the product”.

Since web applications(particularly social based ones) are often monetised through advertising, their inventive is to get as many users as possible and keep them there. This has lead to the proliferation of online identities where poeple often have accounts registered on 10’s or possibly even hundreds of different sites, Ben talked about the problems caused by having seperate identities, the problems that can occur by joining them together and why current initiatives such as OpenID arent a complete enough solution.

Neelima Alluri - Developing for the Microsoft Surface

Neemila came to talk about developing with the Microsoft Surface after her experience in the touchscreen development competition.

“its not about getting the job done but the experience you get while doing the job”

For those that arent familiar with the Surface, it is a touchscreen interface in the form of a table top, it allows multiple users to work on it at the same time due to its size and support for multiple orientations, it has multi touch for more intuitive commands for actions such as resizing and also has a basic object recognition based on a tag system (similar to barcodes) that need to be placed on objects.

The Surface is a step towards “natural user interfaces” which is aim to make user interfaces more intuitive to the user and less like you are performing a series of steps instructing a computer to do what you want.

Neemila gave a pretty extensive overview of the Surface, explaining the overall architecture, along with an introduction to its software development environment, its features and its limitations. For anyone who is interested in developing for the Surface I would certainly check out the video below.

Watch The Videos

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Ben Werdmuller talks about building a user-centered web from TechMeetup on Vimeo.

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Neelima Alluri talks about Microsoft Surface from TechMeetup on Vimeo.