We've been through three sessions so far, and I've met a few of the usual suspects, and a couple of folk I know online but not in the flesh. It's a very male audience, but that's not unpleasant as it means queues for the loos are small during breaks. Ah, Dave Winer, eat your heart out.
First up was Jeff Barr from Amazon Web Services. To be honest, it felt like a very shiny hour long sales pitch; there was little information there that I hadn't picked up from generally reading stuff on the internet (appart from some of the technical gubbins, which made a lovely X-wingy noise as it flew over my head). Best Slide: the ten thousand mechanical turk sheep were extremely fine, and it's always useful to get usage figures for big sites:
59 million active customers (logged in and purchased something in the last year)
25TB of business and historical data in warehouse
1,080,000 active seller accounts
180,000 software developers registered over 4 years on AWS.
Alexa web services have 3 100Tb web crawler indices, containing 10 billion pages, that roll over every 2 months
The cheerful travelling pantechnicon of Messrs. Hammond and Willison, purveyors of fine APIs to the masses were up next. They were funny, and mentioned the Yahoo Monkey. they didn't sing the song, though, which was a loss. Their facts and figures
1/2billioon users/month for Yahoo worldwide
200,000,000 have yahooid - active users
Yahoo itself is a coallition of 40 smaller product groups
Best Slide: they have one of the biggest problems with hackers in the world - they are the worlds' most hacked website. They illustrated this with a picture of a radical haxxor with his laptop, sitting on a streetcorner. The face was pixellated, yet he looked strangely familiar...
They talked about the internal benefits of a web services framework within a big company; not just the fact that the developer community love you and build stuff, but that actually it frees up innovation within a company - you can prototype stuff fast, without having to ask permission and build on something produced by another business unit. It gives you agility in your innovation and development, and makes testing ideas a quick, easy and creative process. You encourage an internal mashup culture; it allows large organisations to build new products faster, and with lower 'communication overheads'. This is an appealing thing, particularly within the BBC where we're just begining to crack open our systems internally. Nicest thing they showed was the potential to use a flash API (gasp!) for a mapping service, demonstrated by Justin Everett-Church's Pirate and Radar maps. Their key message was 'Find a way to contribute back to the ecosystem' - and that the improvements on international mapping for Yahoo maps were coming soon - in the order of months, rather than years. The most compelling argument for external APIs from a business case was that unless you unlock your data, you offer a market opportunity - and potentially market share - to your competitors. Ordinance Survey take note...
(ooh, apparently the Widget men know someone who 'did fucking insane things when the BBC were going fucking mental setting up their ISP which was madness and there was this Monkey called Babbage as the Icons... all you do is go round your mates in big corporations and bamboozle them with new tech...'. Gosh, I do hope they get the money they want from MySpace.)
An interesting point was raised in their questions; How does one ensure that web APIs remain available in the future? By comitting to build on someone else's platform, and create a business relying on that data, where do you have a long term guarantee that that source will remain there. There isn't an answer to that, but it raises interesting issues about the mayfly existence of web sites (and web2.0 ideas, perhaps). I found myself wondering if Brewster Kahle and the internet archive should start capturing back end server architecture so creative sites could be accessed in twenty, fifty, a hundred years time. Something like flickr could become the Doomesday laserdisc project of the next twenty years unless someone starts capturing script and code and server 'snapshots' going forward. I often wonder what happened to flickr's real time picture IM service...
Next up was Jeremy Keith, on the Joy of API. His talk - from the point of view of the lone developer learning to make products around others' APIs - was excellent. he made an interesting point that his joy reactions to sites over the years have been emotional reactions to the story possibilities therein - when design follows the story, and story flows from design. best slide - a ZX81. His comments on MicroFormats and classes such as hCard and hCalendar turning the whole web into an API were... inspiring. I need to do more research here, though.
So, now it's lunchtime. I'm guarding Yoz's laptop whilst we steal hot 'lectric juice to power our lightup thinking books. More later on this afternoon's sessions if the RSI holds out. And I can get the wifi to work properly on the laptop.
There is, incidentally, a horrible rising queasiness about sitting in a room full of alpha geeks, and realising that you shouldn't have brought the boyfriend's MacBookPro instead of the tablet PC - you might be getting an additional 2 hours battery life, but you'll feel like a complete twat when the rows behind you watch you struggle to work out how to make it connect to the free wifi. Thank god Yoz was there to inform me it was DHCP playing silly buggers, and not just onrushing senility...