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The Future of Web Apps Conference

The Future of Web Apps Conference

The Future of Web Apps Conference

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, a bunch of us from PlusNet attended the Future of Web Apps (FoWA) conference in London. This blog entry will give a brief overview of what we saw and what we thought. I've hyperlinked everything in sight, so if there's anything you're not familiar with or want to read more, just click away... For those who are not aware, this event is generally regarded as the UK's (and probably Europe’s) premier event for the web app industry. Attendees descended on the venue at London Docklands from all around the world to hear from the great and the good of the web's most successful and most innovative developers and founders. We had speakers from Flickr, Digg, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Dogster, Plazes, Adobe, Microsoft, Feedburner, Dopplr, Dapper and lots more sharing their advice and experience with the 1000+ audience in attendance. It was a great opportunity for the guys from PlusNet to see what’s going on out there, what up and coming technologies to look out for and to compare our own experiences with others in attendance. I’ll not go into great detail about everything that was discussed at the conference (in a few day’s time the official FoWA website will have published each of the presentations in MP3 format for everyone to hear anyhow), but I’ll pick out a few things that were of personal interest to me. Dapper.net and the Practical Semantic Web The Dapper guys were continually frustrated by the lack of compliance by most websites to the ideal of the Semantic Web. If you're not familiar, the Semantic Web is a set of design principals that will enable the ease of interoperability and accessibility of data from website to website. Read the Wikipedia article I linked to for a detailed explanation. In order to address this issue they have built some tools to enable anyone to create an API to access information from a website of their choice, manipulate the data that is extracted and then re-use it for their required purpose. Whats more, this API remains available to the community at large. Have a look at the website and I'm sure it'll give you some ideas as to how to leverage this technology. The Dapper guys are also blogging their progress if you want to keep in touch with developments. Daniel Burka – Creative Director from digg.com and pownce.com This was an interesting presentation, revolving around a subject I have blogged about previously. In June of 2007 Digg.com made some fundamental changes to the functionality of their website; changes that were made without talking to their users and changes that resulted in a user revolt. Well, on Wednesday we got to hear from the guy at Digg.com who carries full responsibility of what happened on his shoulders. It was refreshing to hear him fess-up to his mistakes and how he’s learned his lesson. Daniel Burka blogs here.. We learned many years ago that if you F-up, you need to come clean, apologise and let people know what you're doing about it. Nobody is perfect in the world of the Internet; things go wrong, people make mistakes - it's how you deal with it that determines how people will judge you... Start-Ups Many of the presenters talked about their experiences of “doing a start-up” and the lessons they had learned, be it as a result of a successful or failed venture. Paul Graham, another FoWA attendee blogs about his views on the future of start-ups. The key message is that creating a new Internet venture today is easy; it can be very low cost and if you’re disciplined enough you can do it outside of your 9 to 5 job. Gone are the days when you needed to build your infrastructure (Amazon EC2 & XCalibre), your storage (Amazon S3), your software framework (Django), your content management software (Drupal), hire some staff (Elance) and write and distribute your press release (Pressbox). You're adding no value to your organisation by reinventing a wheel that exists much cheaper elsewhere, that's supported by a business dedicated to making the service work and who achieve far greater economies of scale that you could ever hope to; so outsource all that stuff and buy yourself some time to focus on your true differentiator; your idea. Today, if you have an idea and a couple of grand in the bank you can be up and running in a few months; you don’t necessarily need a bagful of Angel and VC funding. When you can leverage a community to provide your idea with the viral marketing traction it deserves then there’s really not a great deal of barriers in the way of turning your good idea into reality and building yourself a new business. The Americans are clearly several years ahead of the UK with this mindset, but there’s really no reason why that needs to continue to be the case… Simon Wardley delivered one of the most memorable presentations I've seen on this topic at FoWA. 300 Powerpoint slides in 25 minutes on Software-as-a-service, Platform-as-a-service and Hardware-as-a-service and held the attention of the crowd throughout. This whole topic is something we debate at PlusNet each day. He'll be uploading these slides to his blog in the next day or so, you can check it our here. There’s a bunch of photos up on Flickr from this event, including many of the live filming of Diggnation that took place on the Wednesday evening. You can also have a read of the many FoWA blogs that people have written in the last few days via the Google Blog Search facility. All in all, a very interesting event, lots of interesting people, and a great motivator for a bunch of guys from Sheffield whose livelihood depends on this stuff. Some of us PlusNet veterens have a whole host of experience in this arena and have ridden the roller-coaster of Dotcom boom and bust and boom again and have many tales to tell from the experience. Maybe we should get one of ourselves up on stage at the next FoWA event next year and share some of these experiences... Matt Grest Head of Future Development PlusNet

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Hi Matt, Memorable? ... well I hope it was a pleasant memory rather than one of those ... OMG moments or as I call them "Poet Master Grunthos" moments. Thank you for the kind comments, I do appreciate this as I'm a fairly nervous speaker. Anyway I've now posted a video of the talk to blip and and put a link on my blog. http://swardley.blogspot.com/2007/10/fowa-video.html Kindest Simon W