Philly Emerging Tech – Day 1

Today was the first day of the annual Philly Emerging Tech conference. Here’s a quick rundown:

I left about an hour and a half early to allow plenty of time for Philly traffic but despite my GPS’s estimate of a 40 minute commute, I wound up arriving 15 minutes late. The bad weather and a wrong turn into Camden didn’t help anything either.

Today’s keynote speaker was Michael Tiermann, Vice President of Open Source Affairs at Red Hat and President of the Open Source Initiative. To give you an idea of his vision, here are a few quotes from his presentation:

“Lots of innovation results in an increase in productivity”

“Now that we can do anything, what should we do?”, quoting Bruce Mau

“How can we be better?” quoting JP Sloan

“Leave your system open to innovation”

Did you know… Somebody did a study of contributions to Apache and calculated that 1 developer did about 20% of the work, 5 did about 50%, 15 about 80%, and an amazing 388 people to do all 100%? Also, proprietary software averages 20-30 defects/1000 lines of code. Open source: less than 1. The linux kernel is about 5M lines of code. An automated software scan came up with 985 errors and with the help of the community, they were all fixed within six months. Now compare that to Vista, which is estimated to be about 50M lines of code, which does not have an extensive community to help fix what must be at least a few hundred thousand lines of defective code.

He said something else that I thought was good. I forgot the context, but it was something like “The cost to the developer is less than the value to the customer.”

When he finished I went to an introductory presentation about iPhone software development by Bill Dudney. I never really appreciated how easy it is to create an application’s interface. I thought you had to program the behavior of the tables, the sliding buttons, etc. Turns out most are just customizable controls. He walked a packed room through the creation of a simple app in under 40 minutes. He was very well spoken and definitely knew his stuff.

I bounced around a bit during the next hour. I started off in a presentation about Android development then went to Exhibitionism in Software Development and finally wound up in a talk being given on the importance of accessibility in web development.

After that was lunch. I thought we would have to leave to go get lunch, so when I came out of the accessibility talk and a buffet was already set up, it was a pleasant surprise.

I ate with a few other people from the Philly on Rails meetups–Chris, Jon, Angel, and Randy. Colin, Alex, Aaron, JP, and a few others were around too. Also met Chris, the CTO of a Philly startup called Vuzit that has created a novel Ajax-based document viewer.

After lunch was a talk called Innovation in Ruby given by Jason Seifer and Gregg Pollack of Rails Envy fame. Their presentation was excellent both in terms of content as well as how they spoke and interacted with each other. For some reason I kept thinking “Batman and Robin” the whole time. Anyway, a lot of it was over my head, but I left with a much greater appreciation for the brilliant work being done in the Ruby and the Rails communities. I also briefly met Ezra Zygmuntowicz, who apparently founded Engine Yard and created merb. Nice guy.

Next was John Resig of jQuery glory. Before the talk I asked the guys why use jQuery over Prototype. I don’t remember what Randy said, but it was something poetic about how code just flows from his hands or something to that effect. John’s talk was good, despite the Public Address problems that resulted in us hearing the presentation being given in another room and eventually a full blown rock song. Next project is going to be with jQuery. I’m convinced that it kicks ass.

Last but not least was Mike Culver from Amazon Web Services who spoke about and demoed Mechanical Turk. I thought his presentation was the most interesting one all day. What an amazing technology.

Tomorrow: Day 2, where I continue to learn more about just how much I don’t know. :)

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