NLUUG Fall 2009: The Open Web

Just returned from the semi-anually dutch UNIX user group conference. This fall’s edition, which was today, was titled The Open Web. I had a presentation scheduled, titled Freeing the web from the browser. I talked about ways how we can overcome limitations of the web, such as fitness for very small and very large screens, different input methods, caching, and generally making online data available to rich client applications in a meaningful way. I managed to completely avoid using the term “Cloud”, I’m proud of that. A combined roadshow for Akonadi (while my fellow KDABians are chipping away at the Kontact/Akonadi porting) and Silk, so to say. The talk was well received by its estimated 70 attendees (ok, given the size of the conference this year), with only one person asleep (front row, and at least he was a VIP speaker). I also did a first public demo of Selkie, the standalone web application Richard Moore and I have been working on after Akademy. I’m planning to do a screencast shortly, for those two or three people online that would like to see what it is as well.

A couple of notable things happened today in the Marketing of today might also be interesting to share. Jos Poortvliet (of Dot fame) and Frank Karlitschek (fellow board member and social desktop swabian) and Adriaan de Groot (of FSFE and pink whip fame; no whip this time around though, that must be an Akademy thing). We talked a bit about next steps in an effort to put more structure into the various brands KDE has. Right now KDE has many different meanings (a desktop, applications, a community, …). This leads to real practical problems, it is for example hard to explain to everybody that you can run KDE applications also in GNOME, Windows, Mac OS, on Maemo … — it’s called KDE applications because it’s part of the KDE desktop, right? Wrong. That needs fixing though. This probably involves creating a more distinct identity (“brand”) for the desktop / workspace environment and individual applications. This effort is a longer term process, and is well underway already.
Schuberg Philis, the conference’s main sponsor impressed me with a very sensible idea. Instead of having a huge booth with big machines, interesting for geeky folks, the brought in a battery of espresso machines and (so I heard) the dutch champion barista to make coffee. And good coffee it was (I’m still bouncing). Quite a nice marketing performance, not so “in your face”, still a presence suitable for a conference’s main sponsor, in a way that really adds value to a conference — excellent coffee.
The third thing that struck me was the appearance of rekonq’s new icon (rekonq is a webkit-based web browser which integrates well with other KDE applications and the desktop). The rekonq team has taken Konqi (a young dragon) and turned it into an adult dragon. We’ve been playing with this idea in the KDE’s marketing team some time ago, taking our teenage Konqi and make it a full-fledged dragon, sharp teeth and fire included. Cool to see this in rekonq, I think it’s a neat metaphor especially for this app. I’ve just pulled the latest code from its git repo to give it a whirl.
Fourth, Qt marketeer troubalex a.k.a. Alexandra (sometimes referred to as “trouble alex” by certain very funny people), didn’t make it to Ede due to someone in the family being sick, get well soon from the Netherlands.
I also met Koen Vervloesem, who recently did an interview (the link should be publically accessible by now) with me.

One of the talks I attended was held by Bastiaan Jacques. Bastiaan talked about the status of GNASH, and why it’s important to have a Free flash content viewer, even if Flash sucks and is actually not a piece of technology the “Open Web” should move forward with. During his talk, I downloaded the source and tried to build it. There were some issues building it with my Qt 4.6 installed in a non-standard path, which Bastiaan helped fixing after his talk. I’ve added to my “interesting things to investigate” list to further look at gnash and see in how far it’s suitable for displaying content we really cannot get in a better format than flash (and, by design, easy to integrate also in native client applications).

Another talk I attended was the one by Mozilla hacker Paul Rouget. Paul showed some things that are part of the HTML 5 standard, for example the new video and canvas tags, and then quickly went over to show a bunch of demos what you can do with JavaScript, CSS transformations, SVG and the video tags and canvas tags. Pretty fun stuff, although I have concerns if shipping large amounts of JavaScript code that can even do pixel-based transformation and analysis of image is really the way to go for the web of the future. It doesn’t at least solve problems such as accessibility of data for other applications, it is in fact encouraging putting more and more application logic into web pages, mixing content and presentation and making it hard to actually use the resulting content in a meaningful way (think caching, attaching semantic information or making web pages suitable for different input methods and displays). Pretty entertaining, and a good final presentation anyway (let’s be honest, after a long day of technical talks you’re entitled to some bling).

After the conference, I was invited to the speakers’ dinner, held in a nice restaurant in Ede. Food and conversations were good, and it was nice to learn a bit about others view of various topics. All in all a very interesting, enjoyable and generally worthwhile conference.

One thought on “NLUUG Fall 2009: The Open Web

  1. hey, I can’t find your contact information but your web design layout looked messed up on opera and internet explorer. Anyways, i just suscribd to your rss.

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