Archive for the 'blather' Category

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Live blogging from Ajax Experience East

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

I’m in Boston this week for the Ajax Experience conference.

As usual, it’s got a stunning array of speakers and keynotes. I’ll be blogging as I go, so stay tuned.

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GData library extends cross-domain mashup capabilities

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Dion Almaer recently announced Google’s GData library, which allows you to securely access Google’s Calendar API (more APIs to come) for reading and writing calendar data.

I have long been a vocal advocate of the development of secure cross-domain methods in the browser. This is just the latest in a series of developments that make it apparent that the way forward is going to be built on existing browser technology without waiting for the browser vendors to bake in the necessary objects to support mashups.

Take note, I see this as the most important development on the internet today. I’ve said it for years – getting over the cross-domain hump securely will open the floodgates to a new level of Web interop.

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Strategic internet development technologies

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Joel Spolsky has had more than a modicum of success reading the tea leaves of the software industry, so when he writes an incisive essay about the future of application development and platforms, it’s worth not only taking a look, but pursuing an understanding of some of the relevant issues and technologies.

I’ll provide some links here which will help the reader to understand how many of the points Joel makes in his essay are supported by existing technologies in various states of readiness. It’s a big pantry of ingredients that is waiting for the right chef to come along and combine them in a way that inspires the world to follow.

This list is far from exhaustive but I just want to give you some clues that are representative of each topic to help you get started. Please let me know if I’ve missed any important topics.

Javascript (language):

Javascript (engine):

Libraries/Widgets:

Higher abstractions:

Frameworks/SDKs:

Rich Web Application Runtimes:

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CrossSafe secure cross-domain scripting

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Kris Zyp (rhymes with Skype!), founder of Xucia, introduces CrossSafe, a small Javascript library to enable secure cross-site scripting:

CrossSafe provides secure cross domain JSON requests and partially implements the JSONRequest specification (the get and cancel methods). XMLHttpRequest follows a same origin policy, and because of this, when developing mashups that involve retrieving data from servers other than the origin, developers have typically had to decide between a secure, but slow connection that through a proxy, or a direct, faster, but unsecure dynamic script tag retrieval of information. CrossSafe allows fast, direct, and secure connections to foreign servers from the browser. CrossSafe uses the JSONRequest API as it provides a subset of the JSONRequest features.

I’m really happy to see that Kris has not only come up with a viable cross-browser solution to the secure mashups problem, but has taken the initiative to implement it via the first-ever released implementation of the JSONRequest API proposed by Douglas Crockford nearly 18 months ago.

Not only that, but he has implemented it in such a way that should browser manufacturers ship a JSONRequest object, it will gracefully step out of the way:

CrossSafe does not implement the entire specification. However, developers can use the JSONRequest API in CrossSafe to make cross domain requests (which is one of the primary motivations for JSONRequest), and if and when browsers implement JSONRequest natively, CrossSafe will simply leave the JSONRequest object alone, and code will continue to operate with the benefits of a native implementation.

CrossSafe apparently uses a technique similiar to that described in the Subspace document I blogged about recently. I’m looking forward to inpecting the CrossSafe code since there was no code released with the research paper.

I met Kris in San Francisco in July at The Ajax Experience. I found him more than once in advanced conversations with people like Douglas Crockford and Brendan Eich – definitely a player to keep your eye on. You can see Kris speak in October at The Ajax Experience East.

Thanks, Kris, for stepping up to the plate. Great work.

Update:

Douglas Crockford points me to Collin Jackson’s JSONRequest Firefox Extension. Collin was also one of the authors of the Subspace document.

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Discover and become a part of your local tech community with DemoCamp

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

I’m often asked for advice from people who are just starting to work in technology or who want to take their career to the next level and prepare to become an independent contractor or consultant.

Invariably my number one recommendation is that they begin to build a network of contacts in their local technology community. More often than not, they have no idea how to get started.

In the Toronto area, we’re fortunate to have a vibrant tech community. It wasn’t always so – it has grown significantly in the past couple of years largely due to David Crow’s importation of the BarCamp unconference, an event held a few times a year, generally over a weekend, where people interested in internet technology get together to collaborate.

Even more significant to the growth of Toronto’s tech community was the Toronto birth of DemoCamp, a more lightweight gathering featuring demonstrations from players in the local (and sometimes wider) tech community. Since it takes place in a single evening and is preceded and followed by informal mixing and discussion, it has become a fantastic venue to come out and observe the electricity and creativity of the community and even insert yourself into the fray.

Bootstrapped by the community and now gaining limited corporate support, DemoCamp is growing but still maintains its most important feature – an atmosphere where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and participate.

If there isn’t already a DemoCamp in your community, I strongly encourage you to take the initiative to start one. If you’re in the Toronto area, I hope to see you at Toronto DemoCamp 14 on September 17th, 2007.

My first DemoCamp was DemoCampToronto3, where I demoed BlogChat, an Ajax chat app I developed in early 2002. I have been to almost every subsequent DemoCamp and have witnessed its phenominal growth, as well as the various BarCamp offshoots such as DrupalCamp, EnterpriseCamp and a host of others. I’ve even participated at Geeks and Guitars, playing drums and bass with Joey DeVilla and James Walker.

It has been my pleasure to meet literally hundreds of local people who are passionate about technology, and to collaborate with some of the core people who continue to make DemoCamp a success. This month, I’ve personally pledged $200 to help towards the venue and I encourage others to find ways to lend their support.

The Toronto community also has a “Toronto Global Swarm” Skype channel that is open 24/7 and allows people to come and go and communicate with one another. You can get an invitation from anyone who is already in the chat.

So now you know the not-so-well-kept secret of how to get involved in your local tech community. Spread it around!

Update: David Crow has some details of the presentations lined up for DemoCampToronto14

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Ajax Evolution

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Not only are the tools and techniques surrounding Ajax development maturing, the very scope of the Ajax meme continues to expand even now, two years since Jesse spake those immortal words back in 2005.

The latest class of techniques to come under the umbrella of Ajax is offline browser applications. At the Ajax Experience conference in SFO last week, there were a few presentations about the Dojo Offline Toolkit, which provides offline application and synchronization abstractions on top of the Google Gears local storage engine. I spent quite a bit of time with Brad Neuberg and his work on DOT is impressive.

Another topic that got much more coverage this time around was Performance Analysis and the tools you can use. Ryan Breen had a great talk that described some very useful tools and Steve Souders presented his new tool YSlow.

I had a chance to hang around with lots of other great folk while I was there – Douglas, Brendan, Sean, Dylan, the charming but unlinkable Stephanie Trimble, John, Pete and Dori to name a few. And of course, Ben and Dion, congenial hosts as always.

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Why you won’t see me at Ajax World

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Although you will indeed see me at the Ajax Experience show in SFO at the end of the month, I’m afraid you won’t find me in Santa Clara in September.

Today I received yet another in a series of communications asking me to be a sponsor for the Ajax World conference hosted by Sys-Con Media.

I first had contact with Sys-Con when Jeremy Geelan asked me to participate in an expert survey in 2005 [addendum: Jeremy is no longer with Sys-Con, having left to found Social Computing Magazine][addendum2: Jeremy is back with Sys-Con - whether he actually left or not is unknown, but it's clear he's not been entirely frank with me]. I freely gave a bit of my time to come up with a series of responses which were quoted and which apparently were helpful in making it a successful article, ostensibly generating interest or revenue for them.

Based on the success of that interaction, Jeremy invited me to speak at Ajax World in Santa Clara, but it soon became clear I was expected to pay my own travel and accomodation and displace 3+travel=4 days of client business, altogether a significant cost to me – greater than $5000. I said that as an independent with no product to pitch, I would require travel, accomodation and compensation. I was told that expenses were my responsibility and all I could expect in return for speaking would be to get into the conference – a $1595 “value” to me.

Some time after declining this “generous” offer, I started receiving emails and even couriered packages filled with glossies and CD media from Carmen Gonzales, Sr. VP of Sales & Marketing, entreating me to pay big bucks to sponsor the show and get myself a speaking slot.

Jeremy later sent me an email inviting me to submit my presentation for the NYC show last fall. I did so, and reminded him of my requirements, wondering aloud whether his position had changed since he was asking me again. I never received a response.

After receiving further unsolicited emails [from Carmen] about sponsorship, I wrote to Carmen, copying Jeremy, to make it clear that not only had I no such interest, but that their continued efforts were beginning to wear on me.

Since that time I have received numerous messages and even packages via courier, entreating me to spend up to multiple tens of thousands of dollars to become a sponsor. It’s apparent that your business model consists of charging people to attend conferences to hear vendor representatives who have bought keynote and speaking slots and other speakers who have paid their own way and given their time for free, all sponsored by other companies who pay you handsomely for the privilege. It’s abundantly clear that any disinclination to budget for speakers has nothing to do with a lack of available funds.

Obviously there are many speakers whose situations differ from mine, and I salute you for your ability to maintain a cash cow with such a lopsided balance sheet, however, I’m not the least bit inclined to spend any of my own time and effort to further enrich your gain with no recompense to me, and your continued misdirected effort is doing nothing but alienating me from any desire to be supportive of your organization in any way.

For what it’s worth, I presented and participated on panels at both of the Ajax Experience shows last year with no such issues and was made to feel that my time and contribution were very much appreciated.

I was nearly knocked over when in response to my email direct to Carmen a customer service rep contacted me and I was offered a Gold Pass Badge to the NYC show.

Brent,

Our apologies for the oversight and mixup. We would love to invite you to AJAXWorld as our guest with a complimentary Gold Pass badge.

SYS-CON Events Customer Services Team

P.S. Jeremy and/or Carmen will reply to your email. Our apologies again!

In order to use this “complimentary” pass of course, I would have to fly from Toronto to NYC, pay for a hotel, taxi, etc, and of course jerk around my clients on short notice to realign my schedule.

I never received an email from either Carmen or Jeremy as promised by the Customer Service rep. I figured whatever, that’s the end of that.

So, today I start receiving the sponsorship emails [from Carmen] again.

Platinum Sponsorship: $30,000:
10×20 Exhibit Space & 50 minute vendor presentation

Gold Sponsorship: $20,000:
10×10 Exhibit Space & 30 minute vendor presentation

Silver Sponsorship: $15,000 8×10 Exhibit Space & power panel spot

Exhibitor Packages: Plus package $10,000 / standard $5,500

The entrance fee for the conference ranges from $1500 to $1900 depending on when you sign up.

It’s too bad they can’t afford to compensate their speakers or even pay their expenses.

It’s also a shame that their disinterest in stopping the mailings and their lack of response (even when promised) would lead me to moan publicly about it.

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JoCo in Toronto

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Jonathan Coulton is playing in Toronto, 9pm on Friday night at the Reverb, upstairs at the Big Bop, as part of NXNE. I’ll have to miss it on short notice, but see him if you can!