I was very impressed with the UnConference section of Mashup Camp, held at the Guinness Brewery Storehouse in Dublin. The format offers great potential for sharing of knowledge, and a challenge to the more traditional conference formats.
Mashup Camp consisted of an initial 1.5 days of Mashup University, which, to be honest, was similar to many other conferences in our industry, mixing non-specific marketing and sales pitches with more brazen product promotion. I did learn a lot about Yahoo!’s Developer Network and what they offered, and loved the PowerPoint-ridicule format of the presentation by AOL, delivered without speaking.
However, the bulk of the balance had a sameness that was all too familiar. The presentation by Salesforce prompted some interesting questions about internationalized and localized mashups (although, er, no-one knew of any examples), but other than that, such topics remained well off the radar at the University section of the event.
Furthermore, the contributions from AOL, IBM, Microsoft et al had problems relating mashup use cases to Irish scenarios, and we were left to ponder the localized possibilities of the demoed examples relying on ZIP codes and NYPD crime reports, 3D virtual maps of London, iPhones (still not available in Ireland), and so on.
The selling and pitching over, we then moved into a more interesting format where the participants proposed topics they were interested in exploring (suggestions taped to a wall in a very non-technical way), and participants were free to attend what appealed to them.
A full list of the different discussions held over the 1.5 days of the Camp proper is here.
I prepared an ad hoc presentation on global mashup usability – including such areas as user experience, localization, internationalization, and accessibility. The gathering of about 20 that it attracted provided for a lively, candid exchange of experience, tips, ideas, and resources. I’ve captured as much as I can in the final presentation, now available online (Google
Docs Drive Presentation format).
Other events including speedgeeking (I declined), mashup competitions, and a social evening downtown. There is more MSDN blog coverage here.
So, whatever about the promise of mashups (there is, but there are many issues, a lot of which – legal, security, quality, accessibility, internationalization – even making money – are not new), I think there is great promise for the UnConferencing approach. Will someone dare do a complete localization conference this way?
That said, the business challenge of funding such an event and participants obtaining travel authorization from a boss for a camp with no agenda fixed in advance remains another one!