Conferences and Aikido

Future of Web Apps conference

I was down in London for the The Future of Web Apps conference/summit on Wednesday, where everyone got terribly excited about this Web 2.0 stuff (I loathe the phrase Web 2.0, along with Blogosphere, but unfortunately it seems to have slipped into common use on the web). The whole day was a bit random, it started with me standing next to someone on the tube and realising that he was one of the BPP law lecturers that I’d seen on the open day a few weeks ago. I felt like saying something, but I was only going a couple of stops so there wasn’t really time to ask him anything.

When it came to the speakers, I felt there was a mixed bag ranging from the cringeworthy self-promotion to the occassional insight on how things might progress in the next six months or so on the web. Andrew Shorten was clearly pushing Flex (sort of Flash’s answer to AJAX), although Adobe was sponsoring the conference so I suppose it’s only fair that they get their five minutes of advertising space. David Heinemeier Hansson spent most of his talk saying how great Ruby on Rails is, with sufficient conviction to make me look into it a bit more, although he did go on to slag off PHP as the tool of the Devil. Cal Henderson’s talk about building web applications (in particular flickr) was very useful, as was Tom Coate’s discussion on how to make money from them. By far the most interesting talk though was from Ryan Carson about budgeting, where he not only managed to change a usually boring subject into something interesting, but also imparted a lot of advice gained from personal experience, including actual figures as to how much his company had spent developing DropSend.

I felt a bit of an idiot over the course of the day though, because I realised as time went on that I was probably one of perhaps twenty people (out of about eight hundred attendees) wearing a suit. I thought with it being a conference some people would make the effort to look smart, but most of the audience were wearing jeans and t-shirts and one of the panel was wearing shorts(!). I know I’m bad for overdressing, but I was disappointed to see that hardly anyone else had made an effort.

All in all, I probably picked up a few useful tips and tricks over the course of the day, but I don’t think it was worth the £100+ that I paid to go (the summit itself wasn’t that expensive as these conferences go, but when you factor in travel costs it suddenly hikes up the price by about a third). I managed to scribble down some notes and ideas for further site development, but I don’t think I’ll have time to work on them at any point in the near future. I wish Virgin would make trains that ran more smoothly though, as I find that attempting to write whilst the train is moving just results in an illegible scrawl across the page.

Hilary Benn lecture

Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for Internation Development, was giving a lecture at Holy Cross College (where I used to study), and I got invited along by Liz from Manchester Friends of the Earth. As talks from politicians go, this one was different to what I expected, as Benn managed to not only keep on topic but he also sounded genuinely enthusiastic about tackling issues like third world debt and unfair trade rules. He even managed to stay away from saying how great the Labour party was, which earned him some respect from me, although when I spoke to him afterwards he did have a mini rant about how none of this would have been possible under a Tory government.


Saturday’s Aikido session was a bit crazy, as nearly everyone managed to get injured in some way, shape or form. I was trying to break Peter’s grip on my arm when we both heard a loud “crack”, although it turned out that I’d only sprained the left side of my hand. Unfortunately that has stopped me from doing any writing since then, but I think it will be back to normal tomorrow after a good night’s sleep. Other than the various accidents, we had a lunging competition whereby you had to go down on one knee, pull back and then go down on the other knee, whilst maintaining eye contact with your opponent on the other side of the mat. If you can’t keep up, or lose your balance, you’re eliminated and the process continues until only one person is left. Somehow I managed to last until right near the end when it was only Bendy Dave and myself still going, but eventually I had to concede. I was surprised that my legs didn’t feel like lead this morning though, I guess I must be fitter than I used to be, which is a good thing.

By the time I’d got back to my flat, washed and had something to eat, it was time to set off to Kro for Justine’s party (or pre-party pub meet I guess). I intended to stay a bit longer than I did, but in the end tiredness, pain and the fact that I had to a huge amount of work to do the next day lead to me being in bed by ten o’clock. 🙁 I think I must have a bit of a cold or something, as I didn’t feel at all well today either, so now I’m sitting watching the Firefly DVDs that David has returned to me and generally taking it easy for a couple of hours.

4 thoughts on “Conferences and Aikido

  1. I’ve been wanted to go to one of these crazy web conferences in london for a while. Sounds interesting.

  2. If you ever think of going in the future, make sure you take someone else with you as it’s really boring when you’re sat there on your own. Everyone is a bit antisocial because they’ve all got their laptops out using the free wireless and talking in their own little groups rather than with other people.

  3. Well Benn has one of the best debaters that the house has ver seen as his Dad so I would hope that he could talk well! (his mum wasnt a bad speaker either from what I hear)

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