it@cork Web2.0 Conference

Event type: Conference

Date: 2006-06-08

Rating: 4 out of 5

For out and out geekful rapture, Walter’s presentation was a joy. I think it was a very necessary presentation to give (and provided a very nice counter-point to Rob’s which followed). There is a perception I think, particularly amongst a lot of the Web 2.0 tech press who appear to have no technical background, that creating a new Ajaxian WebApp is a weekends work mashing a few libraries and services together and alakazamm, it just works. Walter showed otherwise.

His application pxn8 is a web based photo editor which works with either pictures on your PC or pictures you have previously uploaded to Flickr. It is a sweet piece of software that I have used on many occasions when stuck as non-Admin on a machine and some pictures for my blog needed a quick touch-up before publication.

The topic of his presentation was “Developing Rich Internet Applications” and he used pxn8 as the basis for the presentation.

Walter has been doing web development on and off since 1997. I have seen some of the work he has done in an enterprise context and it is superb. He started pxn8 over a year ago and launched the web-site at the start of this year.

Shockingly for new kids on the block, the bulk of the back end is written in Perl and uses the ImageMagick libraries. As Walter says, Perl may be old but that does not mean it isn’t good. I was reminded of the Dudley Moore movie “Crazy People” where they came up with the ad for Volvos - “Boxy But Good”.

Walter then did an excellent overview of what I still call scripting languages (Perl, Python, Ruby) but are generally now called agile languages. Their advantages are clear:

  • greater productivity
  • less code
  • rich object literals
  • no compilation required

He then popped up a slide which contained something I haven’t seen in a PPT in many years - actual code! I could smell the fear in the room. The next topic was Domain Specific Languages which I hadn’t really heard of before (unless “make” counts).

His overview of Client Side Technologies was very nicely pitched and he covered:

  • javascript has a bad name but huge comeback
  • If it’s good enough for Google…..
  • Rich Object Literals (JSON). Javascript Object Notation
  • Unobtrusive javascript. Behaviour added after page loaded
  • - live updates - using XMLHTTPRequest - javascript’s secret sauce
  • CSS - separate presentation and structure
  • scriptaculous - javascript effects library

Architecture came next and the opening slide was very impressive indeed. But of course he pointed out that it evolved from very simple beginnings.

  • A web-service emerged as development progressed
  • Focus on data, not pages
  • discrete chunks of data from client to/from server
  • bandwidth required is less
  • XML vs JSON

In summary from Walter - javascript/css/html/dom is good enough for most applications.

It really was great to see the sort of technical depth required to build what appears to an end-user to be a nice simple photo-editor. The other important thing to note about pxn8 is that Walter has been generating revenue from it almost from day 1. The options available to purchasers really make a lot of sense.

The icing on the cake was that he made several sales whilst sitting in the conference.

[tags]it@cork, Web2.0, Web20, Web2Ireland, Walter Higgins, pxn8, sxoop[/tags]