Geeks Find an Alternative Way to Spend a Summer Evening

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What with the football and the tennis, and the Glastonbury Festival and Reboot 10, we had no idea how many people might turn up at the Jericho Tavern for our latest Oxford Geek Night. So it was with relief that we finally counted around a hundred geeks through the door, thanks to our master-stroke of handing out Moo cards to all-comers, to be exchanged for the Google Open Source Team's kind hospitality at the bar.

Keynote speakers are generally industry experts, standard bearers, or just well-respected enthusiasts in their field. This time our keynote was delivered by Tom Taylor from Headshift, talking about not so much his day job as the “beautiful pointlessness” of mashups and automations he had built in his spare time (turning automatic webservices into Twitter feeds, such as @lowflyingrocks), and how other people’s similar work had inspired his own. This was followed up by a brief announcement from the Oxfordshire branch of the British Computer Society and a short break.

Our usual mini-presentations, a.k.a. microslots, then came in thick and fast, in two batches of three. First up was Andrew Godwin, whose music graphing software LastGraph reduces CPU cycles to smoking rubble; Drew McLellan followed him, accompanied by 1970s British TV characters The Clangers in an explanation of the advantages of microformats; then Matthew Westcott took us into the break with the lowdown on the new AJAX “push” technology Comet, and provided us with a soon-to-be legendary description of long and short polling in relation to a tedious car journey with your dad.

After much poking and prodding while everyone else relaxed, Matthew began the second set of microslots with his live demo of Comet, and from this we moved on to a walkthrough of Google App Engine by Tom Dyson; Simon Whitaker imagined in lurid detail and deadpan enterprise jargon how one might use the OSX address book; and Duncan Parkes finished by taking us behind the scenes of PlanningAlerts, yet another focussed, simple, successful, society-changing application from the mySociety stable. The night was rounded off by a book raffle, back after a brief hiatus for OGN6 thanks to Friends of Ed.

You can check out videos for any of these talks, all of which are linked from the Oxford Geek Night #7 page.