BarCamp Texas Day 1 Sessions

The sessions were quite diverse and interesting on the first day of BarCamp.  Since most sessions were only 30 minutes, it was difficult for the presenters to go in to much depth.  However, 30 minutes is good enough to give a good introduction to a topic you might not know very well and give direction as to where more information can be obtained.  Here is a brief description of the sessions I attended.

Startup Methodology

I am not sure that this was the exact title, but James Lancaster of Research Valley Innovation Center gave an excellent overview of his methodology for working with startup companies.  The methodology, INNOVATEnRV, describes the stages of company startup and James explained the types of issues that startups would and should be concerned with at each stage.  This presentation was the most polished of the day, at least of the sessions that I watched.

Drupal in 30 Minutes

Chip Rosenthal, from Unicom Systems Development, presented an overview of Drupal.  For the uninitiated, Drupal is a content management system written in php.  I felt is was a good introduction since I had never taken the time to look over Drupal.  The one interesting nugget in this presentation was that Chip recommended looking at the Zen Drupal theme, that is not one of the stock themes in the installation, because it is very configurable and can give your site a look that is less like every other site running Drupal.

Social Media Marketing

Nikhil Nilakantan, from Social Span Media, gave a session on marketing on social networking sites.  I have to admit that this is not a segment of the internet that I have paid much attention to.  I am fascinated that these sites are as popular as they are with people over 22 years old.  I understand LinkedIn, but I do not understand why I would want to really participate in the others.  Nonetheless, Nikhil presented statistics on social networking site traffic that did make me take notice.  He stated that the top 10 sites attracted 131.5 million unique visitors during December 2007 alone.  The more interesting statistic was that the average visit on MySpace lasted 30 minutes (20 minutes for Facebook).  Nikhil estimates that $1.8 billion were spent on social network related advertising last year.  I have no doubt that someone will find out how to make advertising work properly with this type of market and usage pattern.  The market is simply too juicy to pass up.

GWT and Gears

Tom Peck, from AppEngines, presented a session on both GWT and Google Gears.  This was one of the sessions that really could have been an hour long or maybe even longer.  GWT is a framework that allows developers to code web application GUI layers in java while using an api that is quite similar to swing.  I have seen demos of this technology before and it is quite impressive.  Google Gears is in beta and allows the development of applications that run in a browser and allow offline data storage on the local machine.  Gears accomplishes this via a browser plug-in that utilizes the embedded SQLite database engine for the storage.  There is an api available from both GWT and javascript.  Whoever figures out offline storage in browsers can potentially make a gazillion dollars so it is weird to me why Google is giving this away.  Since there are many people working at Google that are much smarter than me, I am sure they have a strategy.  Here is my prediction for a competitor to Gears:  When Silverlight 2.0 is released, someone will provide this capability via the .Net Isolated Storage api (and no I haven’t spoken with anyone already working on this).

Introducing AlphaBetaFinder.com

Anita DuBose presented the freshly launched AlphaBetaFinder.com from AppEngines.  The site is a matching service for software and hardware vendors looking for alpha and beta testers for their products.  The idea is that potential testers can register and provide information about what they are willing to test and what equipment they have available.  Vendors can then search the database for matches and send invitations for testers.  The site will inform the vendor when testers are interested and they can purchase the contact information for the testers.  For now, everything on the site is free because AlphaBetaFinder is currently undergoing its own beta testing.

Tips on Podcasting

Jonny Dover presented some tips on Podcasting and Brad Dressler joined him to demo Audacity, an open source audio editing tool.  I was quite interested in this session because podcasting is something I would like to try.  Good tips were given such as eliminating pauses, working from a prompter or script (CuePrompter.com was recommended), and finding a way to include more than one voice on the podcast were given.  I spoke with a few guys in the audience (sorry guys, I forgot to get your names) that mentioned GarageBand was great to replace using Audacity if you are using a Mac.  They also pointed me to PumpAudio if you need low cost music to mix in to a podcast or the Creative Commons Audio section if you need low cost podcasting solutions.

GeoDjango

Justin Bronn and Travis Pinney presented GeoDjango, which is the GIS branch of the Django project.  Django is a rapid web application development framework for python, similar to what Ruby on Rails does for the Ruby developers.  I felt is was a good presentation but really was limited in depth due to the 30 minute length.

LINQ

I missed some of this presentation and I did not get the names of the guys presenting.  The session introduced LINQ and the new C# 3.0 language features that make LINQ possible.  They also gave a brief introduction to LINQ to SQL.  This was one of the more interactive sessions that I attended.  The audience was clearly interested.

Dinner

Several of us adjourned to a local pizza place, which claimed to have the world’s greatest pizza.  It was good but a claim like world’s greatest is difficult to verify.  I sat across the table from Eric Fortenberry, Cayce Stone, and Jeff Jurica from OrgSync.  These guys have a website product that is targeted mostly at universities to give their organizations (fraternities, student congress, etc.) a way to manage their membership and calendars and such.  I did catch a portion of their demo earlier in the day and site was quite nice.

After dinner, I retired to my hotel room but activities continued late in to the night.  A party went until 2am and folks continued to talk until around 4am.  Scott Riggins, a good friend of mine from Social Mobility, filled me in.  I wished I had kept going but a late night working for a client the night before kept me from pressing on.

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