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    Mashup Camp Brings together more than 300 people with mutual interest in the mashup ecosystem PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Stephen O'Grady   
    27 February 2006
    Closing Thoughts on Mashup Camp -- from the Weblog of Stephen O'Grady. Stephen was one of some 300 mashup enthusiasts in attendance at Mashup Camp... bloggin from the event, Stephen graciously share's his thoughts from the event with GISuser... enjoy!
     
     
    One of the core tenets upon which RedMonk (Stephen's Company) was founded was that context matters - A lot. Mashup Camp was, in my view, an excellent reminder of this belief. Is this the perfect conference format for everyone? Absolutely not. But for me, it was ideal. I was free to wander around, chatting with some of the best and brightest within the development community - with no barriers.
     
    Apart from the unholy start time, however, this has been a phenomenal first day. We'll see what tomorrow brings, but this is shaping up as the best conference I've attended in a long, long time. Maybe ever. While that undoubtedly smacks of hyperbole, any conference that includes the following:

    A session with a room full of developers talking mashup economics
     
    A session in which Chicagocrime.org is deconstructed piece by piece
     
    Professor Lessig soliciting opinions on how the Creative Commons can help create a Mashup ecosystem
     
    And a free ranging discussion of the possibilities of search, open, vertical or otherwise is pretty much worth its money. All the more so since there was no entrance fee. That, of course, doesn't include the hallway conversations with and introductions to folks like Wayfaring (and CNET)'s Mike Tatum, Technorati's (for now) Niall Kennedy, Partysync's Anu Nigam, and Sharpcast's Adam Tow (of Apple Newton fame).
     
    The ratio of signal (read: developer) to noise (read: everyone else) here is outstanding; the best of any conference that I'm aware of. To be sure, there were a few obvious marketing types doing intros this morning, but the overall quality of the people here is outstanding - despite the inability of some highly qualified folks like Alan Taylor to attend.
     
    Here are a couple of key takeaways from the sessions I was able to make (it was really difficult to pick):
     
    Business Models in Mashups:
    This session, moderated by Dave Nielsen (StrikeIron) and Eleanor Kruszewski (Yahoo - and Eleanor, if you run across this, we'd love to set up a briefing about the Yahoo Developer Network), was outstanding. The least technical of any of the sessions I attended, it was a really free ranging and engaging discussion of what some of the potential economic models were for monetizing the effort put into sites (build a viable business, build a business to flip, build a portfolio to get hired, etc), and what some of the factors were that factored into success or failure here. Interesting datapoints: asked about who was creating Mashups and on what basis, 12 were doing it on behalf of their employers (i.e. DeWitt for A9), 20 were attempting to build their own businesses, and 5 were doing it purely on a hobbyist basis. Irrespective of the group, there was a general un-enthusiasm for the prospect of taking on VC money at the expense of control.
     
    Chicagocrime.org, Scraping and Reverse Engineering:
    This was probably my favorite session of the day, not least because I got to meet one of the developers I personally invited to Mashup Camp on behalf of the organizers, Adrian Holovaty. If you're not familiar with Adrian, you should be: he's one of the Python devs behind the popular DJango framework, just created a Python library for those condemned to using Exchange on a non-Microsoft platform (such as yours truly), leveraged his success on the web into a gig with the Washington Post, and, of course, is the creator of the brilliant Chicagocrime.org. I'd break it down for you as Adrian did, but I couldn't do it justice. A couple of interesting tidbits about the site that the Chicago PD found 'interesting' - it runs Postgres, leverages PostGIS for some of the computational geographical calculations, relies on the geocoding (address to lat/lon) API from Yahoo, and was reverse engineered using the Live HTTP Headers extension for Firefox. Adrian's key lessons in doing exactly what the original data source - the Citizen ICAN site - was unable to do?
    Make the site browsable by every data type (beat, neighborhood, ward, street, type of crime, etc)
     
    Everything that can be a link, should be a link
     
    Expose searches and filters as a permalink
    If you get the chance to hear Adrian speak, I highly suggest it. This was brilliant.
     
    Creative Commons and Mashups:
    Before last week, I'd never actually seen Lessig speak in person. I've caught many of this talks before either on webcast or through things like IT Conversations, and I've enjoyed his blog, but I never got the chance to see his particular style - the Lessig Method - live and in the flesh. Having had that opportunity at OSBC, I can safely say that Lessig is one of maybe 2 or 3 people in this industry that I would pay to see speak on a regular basis. He's so good that you do worry a bit that the style can impress so much that the substance gets lost, but he's definitely worth the price of admission. Today was very different, in that it was the sort of scripted, seamless session that he put on last week but rather a more back and forth discussion. My first question was whether or not he believed that the Creative Commons ran the risk of having its "Some Rights Reserved" message lost in a "they're all about free" meme (as I heard this morning). His reply was "Absolutely. There is every risk of that happening." He acknowledged that in the grand scheme of things, the Creative Commons are not professional marketers and they need help getting the word out. My last question, was whether or not he believed that the Creative Commons could play a role in simplifying the issues around fair use, liability and so forth that plague Mashup developers. His response was basically not really, because the laws in the space are so convoluted. His plea was that we all a.) begin to catalog a set of normative or reasonable behaviors in the space to form precedent, and b.) to argue more strenuously for the reform of said twisted legislation. I'm on board, and of course we at RedMonk - having licensed virtually every piece of content we have under CC licenses - are happy to do what we can to help.
     
    Mashing Up Search:
    Last, but certainly not least, was a session led by A9's DeWitt Clinton that discussed the possibilities of search. The interesting thing, as I was discussing with several folks at cocktail hour, is how so many have prematurely (IMO) concluded that search is over, and that everything that can be done in the space has been done. Nothing, as near as I can determine, could be further from the truth. Topics of discussion included vertical search (does a query for Vioxx return litigation attorneys or relevant drug information?), APIs for search, Yubnub's community oriented search, and - of course - my personal hobby horse, the latency of search results. It would have been nice if Google and Yahoo had more folks here, but DeWitt did a fine job of articulating some of the challenges and opportunities in front of A9's search efforts.
       
    Photo - Adam Tow Discussing Sharpcast (Image Credit: Stephen O'Grady)
     
     One of the core tenets upon which RedMonk was founded was that context matters. A lot. Mashup Camp was, in my view, an excellent reminder of this belief. For example, my feedback from day one of the show drew criticism from my colleague, who believes that my signal to noise comment was potentially insulting to our regular audience. And in a hallway conversation, ZDNet's Steve Gillmor indicated that he didn't share my belief that this was one of the better conferences in a while, if not ever.
     
    But it's a question of context, I think. My opinions of the show, and its value, cannot be divorced from it. As has been covered any number of times before, the most important constituency for me to track is the developer community, and Mashup Camp was a camp all about developers. Developers provided the content, developers set the agenda, and developers competed for the rights to a tricked out Sun server.
     
    Is this the perfect conference format for everyone? Absolutely not. But for me, it was ideal. I was free to wander around, chatting with some of the best and brightest within the development community - with no barriers. Want to talk to Chicagocrime.org's Adrian Holotavy? Pull up a chair. Want to hear about what Mashup Camp's Grand Prize winner, Taylor McKnight, built his application on? Just ask.
     
    So while I'm sure that many will have their opinions on what Mashup Camp got right or wrong, not to mention its ultimate value, I'm with Jonathan Schwartz: I personally hope this is the future of trade shows, because it prioritizes the voices of the constituency that I care most about - the developers. YMMV, as always.
     
    Other news & notes from the show:
     
    I was going to bring you summaries of the highlights from the 'speedgeeking' portion of the show, but Dan Farber's already done that here.
    Of the mashups, which were my favorites? Well, I did think Taylor and Daniel Westermann-Clark's Podbop.org (Perl) winner was pretty cool, but Adrian's second place Chicagocrime.org (Django/Python/Postgres/PostGIS) got my nickel. What he's done with that site is remarkable, and there's more on the way. In addition, to those two, I liked David Schorr's Weatherbonk.com/Skibonk.com (Java) and travel services Flyspy and TrainCheck. I'm almost certain to also be trying out Eventful's iTunes to calendar synchronization service.
     
    Any other posts of interest? Tons - just hit one of the blog search engines. But in the meantime, check out the wrapups from the folks I had dinner with yesterday: FeedLounge's Alex King and Sharpcast's (looks awesome) Adam Tow. As an aside, Adam took the time to demo some of the Newton functionality for me yesterday - yes, that Newton - and it's amazing how ahead of its time that device was. Linking the calendar with notetaking with contacts? I can't do that on my desktop.
     
    Language preferences: the lack of Ruby apps was notable. Apart from Eventful, I don't know that there was another Ruby app in house Eventful is apparently not done in Ruby on Rails, but John Herren's very cool mastrbeta.com is a Rails app. The informal results said that PHP led the pack with a reported 12 applications, Perl checked in with 4, 2 in JavaScript (as if that wasn't in most?), and 2 in - surprise, surprise - C++. As reported below by Adrian, Python checked in with at least 3 applications of its own - Chicagocrime, traincheck, and Attendr. Again, the results are entirely unofficial not to mention statistically irrelevant, but still interesting.
     
    Someone on Day 1 had reported that there were in total (as I understood it - correct me if I'm wrong - maybe there was a qualifier I missed) 160 APIs available for consumption by mashups; that number seems insanely low to me. eBay alone claimed that they had over a 100, so I'm not really sure where they came up with that figure.
     
    Monetization: I mentioned briefly yesterday that selling the application was not the only way to monetize the efforts behind these mashups, and yesterday confirmed it. I personally witnessed four separate "interviews" of developers during the conference, and I'm sure there were tons that I didn't see.
     
    To wrap up, it was a show well worth the trip and I look forward to attending the next iteration (hopefully, with later start times), whever it might be. From the signup page there, it seems as if most of the attendees of Mashup Camp 1 feel the same way.
     
    Some Suggested Weblinks:
    This event recap has been generously provided by Stephen O'Grady of RedMonk. He's a software industry analyst, and opinions expressed are - his own. Reproduction in part or whole in any way of this material is not permitted. Article/photos (c)2006 Stephen O'Grady - Thanks Stephen!
    Last Updated ( 02 March 2006 )
     
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