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FOWA londen 2008 - Roundup
the Future of web apps – Londen 2008 - roundup

First: I really had a super great time, the list of speakers was excellent, the expo hall was interesting and to the point, the organisation was better then excellent, the Carsonified people were very reachable and more then friendly.Probably one of the most concentrated and effective ways to supercharge your passion about web development.

Some videos of the speakers can be found at events.carsonified.com

That being said, some thoughts in random order:
Lot of talks that were listed as being a birds eye views about the industry were actually little more then product sales pitches.
Kevin Rose talked about Digg instead of “the future of news” like maybe he was suposed to do), Kevin Marks talked about Open Social instead of “the future of enterprise web apps” and so on.

Off course people talk about their product because that's where they pour their passion and vision into, but still: it's important to keep oversight.
its OK for people to just present their product, but please label the talk accordingly, so people don't leave the presentation with a hunger for more.

And was I the only one who found it a tad odd that Kevin Rose would put his twitter profile on his presentation instead of his Pownce one?

It shows how ubiquitous Twitter is: I don't think there was a presentation that didn't refer to it at some point. Maybe it's the most valueable web app at this moment ?

It's a great idea to split the schedule into a developer and a business track: a developer is not always interested about the business side, and vica versa.
Weird enough, I found myself often in the business track, for the reason I stated above: I was more interested in the broad vision then a concrete case of a new technique or product.

The speakers were of course top notch: it's not often that you get to ask questions to the creators and architects of the worlds most visible webapps like facebook, digg, twitter, friendfeed, .... Their expertise is remarkable.
But: their problems are probably not your problems and are not always things you can relate to.
How many websites have 20 billion pageviews a day, or have multi-terrabyte databases with billions of rows ?
Not that many, and probably none of the sites you are working on,
The bottom line of scalability seems to come down to this: it doesn't matter what language or platform you use.
As long as the architecture of the infrastructure includes read-slaves and you use memcacheD, you will cope (if not then you're doing something really really wrong)
MemcacheD is the magic ingredient of the big platforms: Twitter uses 3 terrabytes of memory cache, Digg uses 4 terrabytes, Facebook 7 and Google ... nobody knows.

The Meebo people had some interesting views specifically for startup apps: don't worry about scalability unless it becomes a problem.
You would better spend your time building the actual app, then trying to solve a problem you don't have (yet, or maybe never will have) because the actual bottlenecks , when they occur, will most probably be different then the ones you anticipated.

One thing that really had a major impact on the event, as on the rest of the world, was the global financial crisis.
you really could sense that it has got people worried or just plain scared.
Most see a dark time ahead for new startups.
Tim Bray, one of the heavy weight web giants, even canceled his planned talk and changed it to a doom and hell speech about how a large part of the audience would loose their jobs and presented some strategies on how to dig in and survive the bad times.
by the way: Tim is a great speaker: it really was refreshing to see someone with enough authority on his own to disregard the politics of entertaining and being nice to the sponsors.

I was kind of disappointed by the quality of the slides though ... Come on people: your presentation matters, ditch the standard powerpoint and keynote slides and spend some brainpower on how to present your message.
I'm saying powerpoint here, but I dont think i saw a single speaker presenting from a windows laptop: it was all mac mac mac.
I also was wise enough to leave my windows laptop at home and brought a linux eeepc, which was ok too.
(yes, even developers are vain about these things)
Pleasant exceptions were e.g. Simon Wardley on “Why nothing is ever simple”, who is clearly a very smart and professional presenter. Yes, people like to be entertained.

Oh, I even got to get on the big stage myself.
Being one of the 3 finalists of the Adobe AIR competition, I had 60 seconds to present my application in front of 3 “dragon juries” and a 1000 soul audience.
I got 3th place and got to choose some Adobe products.
Not bad !
More on that in another blog post.

The Dutch startups present, like Soocial, Wakoopa and HelloMyNameIsE enforced the obvious truth that the Dutch are arrogant loudmouths by sticking their promotional stuff all over the place, even outside the FOWA halls.
Come on guys, some respect for the venue and the organisation ?

Next to the FOWA halls was a Christian Chruch convention which gave some extra spice to the experience: imagine the hallways, entries and exits filled with over-enthousiastic youngsters, all smiling and waving at you while yelling “GOODMORING fabulous person”, “HAVE A NICE DAY”, “GOODEVENING” .... all .... day ... long ....
Pretty creepy, but their stamina was remarkable and it really was an effective PR stunt.

to wrap up: if you're passionate about web development, FOWA is the best porn you can indulge yourself.