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10 things I learned at the Irish Web 2.0 event

Yesterday we presented the Irish Web 2.0 Event at the Morgan Hotel , Temple Bar , Dublin – the other half of ‘we’ being Fergal Breen of IrishDev. Being a Web 2.0 event, we made it a bit more interactive than your usual presentation, so I ended up learning a lot. Here are the top things that I didn’t know before yesterday:

1) In Ireland at least , awareness of Web 2.0 is highly concentrated in the tech , and not the business community. 90% of the audience described themselves as technical , despite the event being co-hosted by the Irish Internet Association (IIA), a business group. I expect this to change over the next 6 months following patterns elsewhere.

2) Walter (from Sxoop.com) described the recent Web 2.0 conference in London. One thing he said surprised me: He said that there was a feeling that developers in the area were doing it to ‘scratch their own itch’ (a good thing) but were hostile to ‘Enterprise’ development (bad as somebody has to pay the bills!). A gap in the market for an ‘Enterprise Web 2.0’ conference perhaps?

3) 10% of the Audience were Johnny Cash fans. Johnny Cash is a perfect example of the ‘long tail’. 18 months ago (before his untimely demise and biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix) it was nearly impossible to get his records (in Ireland at least) – a classic case of ‘long tail’ demand. Now, he’s a blockbuster again, so mainstream shops are stocking his CD’s in high profile positions. In 18 months time , will be back on the long tail again?

4) Google has huge mindshare amoung Ajax developers and Web 2.0 people. Nearly every single person present had used Google maps (so much so that we didn’t need the demo video). Most were also aware of the awesome Ajax stuff coming out of the Googleplex such as the Ajax based XSLT transformation and image handling libraries.

5) People don’t want to do Javascript. While Ajax has rekindled their interest in this language, there was almost a relief that that frameworks such as DWR and Dojo do most of the work for you. To be fair, many people’s opinion are based on Javascirpt circa 1999, but there was a definate preference for using Atlas ,Ajax.net and Java Server Faces (JSF) / Oracle ADF.

6) There was a healthy representation of Microsoft people. Given that the consensus is that Web 2.0 and it’s Ajax capabilites are the most serious challenge to Redmond on the Desktop, it’s healthy to see such a strong interest. Healthy as in competition (from Firefox) has given us Internet Explorer 7 and will continue to drive innovation.

7) Nobody can agree what Web 2.0 is. This is not surprising considering that Web 2.0 is about individual experience. Big, shared, events like the Superbowl (or Champions League final , for us that prefer our football in other formats) are now the exeption rather than than norm. Even these events will be customised – choose your own camera angle, choose which sports blogs you read leading up to the game , choose the device (TV , PC, Mobile) that you want to watch on, and when you want to watch.

8) There is a healthy balance of Buzz and scepticism around Web 2.0. A lot of the companies (such as eats.ie) that are ‘doing’ Web 2.0 would not use the web 2.0 label. They’re doing the Ajax / online hosting / word of mouth marketing / self funding / continual updates thing , but they find that the label just gets in the way.

9) Some people were concerned about ‘how do you test Web 2.0 and Ajax apps?’. The answer – the same as before , only involve your users. While Ajax gives us incredible power (including the ability to ‘break’ the web browser), people have got used to certain conventions with Web and PC apps that will take time to evolve.

10) There was a lot of interest in using Agile techniques to deliver Web 2.0 apps (e.g. Flicker s update of code every half hour). Which is a nice lead in for the Agile event at the Irish .Net Developers Association.

Finally , if you are going to a joint presentation (with the two speakers stepping in and out as required), try to see the final version of the slides more than 10 minutes beforehand. You know who you are (Fergal!). Luckily , the feedback from the people so far has been good (e.g. Robert Burke. I think the word ‘superb’ was used. Was Kieran at the same event ? !

If you’re looking for the slides / materials , they’re available at this blog post.

JBoss Workflow JBpm and JBoss Rules (Drools)

Notes from this Post on the Serverside

 I recently wrote an O’Reilly article on one of the related JBoss projects the Drools / JBoss rules engine.

Just to get the difference between jBPM and Drools / JBoss Rules straight in my head:

– Workflow tends to be ‘wide’ where Rule Engines tend to be  ‘deep’.

– Workflow is wide as the flow is spread over different people / actors and over time.

– Rule Engines are ‘deep’ as they apply simple rules to solve complex problems, but in general the rules are applied ‘all at once’.

Some of the confusion (in my head at least) comes from the fact:

– It is possible to implement workflow using a rules engine, much as it is possible to write your own workflow using Java. Of course , you don’t get the graphical designer that JBpm has.

– Both JBoss Rules (Drools) and JBoss Workflow (jBPM) see to
‘externalize’ part of the solution outside of Java. By stepping outside
of Java to use an XML / Graphical based approach, it makes the solution
easier to configure and understand.