Six things I learned at BarCamp today

snipshot_iwkjbk9cl.jpgToday was the second Denver area BarCamp (previous coverage here), and I found this one to be really interesting. Thanks to the sponsors and organizers for a great event. Let’s do more!

Here are six interesting things I learned today at BarCamp:

6. Single sign on and identity management still sucks. There were several people in attendance who were struggling to figure out if they should adopt some type of identity management standard, just build their own sign on, or both. Sxip and OpenID are two interesting solutions that were discussed. I was wishing that Andre Durand or someone from Ping Identity was here to join the conversation. We had an interesting discussion about the laws of identity and how they relate to these platforms. Many people in the room seemed to think that the issues associated with managed identity and the trust required to make it work may be a bigger headache than the advantages that would otherwise be gained.

5. “Flash vs Ajax” lives. First a quick rant. This was a bit of a sales pitch from Adobe, and was more one way than you would expect at BarCamp. I’d encourage the presenter (Kevin Hoyt) to make the discussion more interactive in the spirit of BarCamp in the future. Anyhoo, it was still pretty damn interesting. This debate has been raging for a while, but it was good to get an update from one of Adobe’s own Flash specialists, Kevin Hoyt. Kevin showed a little Ajaxy web demo that grabbed 1,000 rows from a database, which took about 3 seconds to execute. Kevin talked about scaling of Ajax apps and the problem associated with the fact that in the end Javascript is handling the work. He showed the same demo using the Flex Ajax Bridge (presumably with the same back end database, etc.) which executed in about a tenth of a second. Basically, while Flash still uses the browser stack, it doesn’t have to depend on Javascript to parse and handle the resulting XML. He also showed that with 6,000 rows, the Ajax app really started to break down with browser timeouts, etc. after about 30 to 45 seconds. The Flash demo, of course, returned 20,000 records in about half a second. Cool little demo that makes it pretty clear that Flash is something to consider if scale is an issue for your Ajax app.

4. Some new web sites. At any conference (ok, unconference) like this, I always seem to learn about some cool web sites out there that I didn’t know about before. My favorites from today were Delicious Monster, Steep And Cheap, Motion Based, Swarm, and Getting Real (book).

3. Using Me.dium is pretty cool at a setting like BarCamp. Half a dozen people in the room at Barcamp where Me.dium users, and it was neat to be able to see what they were looking at as the conversation in the room meandered. I could see flocks of people looking at related articles that I would not have otherwise found. This isn’t necessarily the reason behind Me.dium (that’s here) but it’s a neat one none the less. It’s also really fun to “tailgate” people you know around the web while you’re bored between sessions.

2. Functionality is the new beauty. Andrew Hyde led a discussion of web design trends. He cycled through a bunch of sites asking how we felt about the look of each site. People booed at the MySpace design, cheered for the Google design, and generally dug Digg. What I think the room really missed was that that there are two types of responses to web site design. The creative types in the room (designers, Mac freaks, etc) were really looking at the graphic design to make their judgement and they focus in on things like rounded corners and shadows. But I would argue that most people in the room (and certainly most people on the web) don’t focus in on that. It’s secondary to the emotions and overall experience that the site provides. Really, functionality is the new beauty. How else do you explain the runaway success of dead simple sites like CraigsList and Google, or sites with hideous and overbearing designs like MySpace?

1. It’s dead simple to make up a web 2.0 business plan. Ari Newman and Team Hyper pitched a fictional new company, HOTT (Home of Tomorrow’s Technology) and it’s new product Knife Robot. Given just a few keywords to work from, Team Hyper came up with the company, business plan, revenue model, and investor pitch just moments before as part of the “Half Baked” competition. The company provides RaaS (Robots as a Service) and delivers Google Adwords on the robotic knife LCD. But wait, there’s more! HOTT is also introducing an affiliate program with local grocery stores. “How do we make money?” Ari asked out loud, and then followed immediately by saying “Next Slide Please” which of course detailed an amazing hockey stick effect. Fantastic! The Hypersites guys then figured they’d show off and threw up a pretty snazzy KnifeRobot web site (including a blog, online store, etc.) in about 45 minutes in front of the room. There were a total of 5 such spoofs including (including RAIV, a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Violins), Daily Trace (“no need for a chip in your ass” to track your wife), AirOil (A bottled spray to help start that awkward web 2.0 conversation – “one bottle lasts a full funding cycle”), and FarmStory (RFID for food – “See where all that shit you’re eating has been before it got on your table”). These Web 2.0 business models showed that we get some pretty damn funny and creative people at Barcamp. I’m sure you could license one of these ideas on the cheap if you want to implement it for real.

It was a fun and worthwhile event today. Thanks again to everyone who sponsored it or participated.

file under: Blog, Startups