Day three from stormy Austin. Incidentally, the degree to which this town is taken over by SXSW is pretty impressive. The event is well-organized, particularly given the scale of the individual Music/Film/Interactive festivals all going on at once, and the community as a whole seems to buy in. So without further delay, here we go:
3/10 10:00 am – Scalability Boot Camp
Blaine Cook (Twitter) and others
- Good problem
- Doesn’t have to cost
- It’s an “everybody” thing
Get it on the radar.
- Understand the pain points
- Live and die by monitoring
- Monitor EVERYTHING
- Disk I/O, memory, bandwidth, page load times
Tools to Google:
- Ganglia, Hyperic, sar and systat (simple and you already have it)
Your disk IO is never gonna be a hero – there are finite limits.
Use what you have.
- Don’t waste capacity
- Use someone else’s space
- DRBD + OCFS, Amazon S3, MogileFS, lustre
The Database Layer
- Everybody screws up the database.
- What scaling means is optimizing the schema, optimizing the IO, cacheing
- Important to test SQL
- Fuzz testing – using a small number of users but huge amount of data to simulate huge volume
- Horizontal scaling (multiple databases)
- Memcache, HiveDB, CouchDB/Hypertable, MySQL Consultant
Parallel Processing (you don’t have to do it all right now)
- Smarter, not stronger: consistent for current user, not everyone
- Starling, Gearman, TheSchwartz
- Important to develop a business continuity plan so that technical administrators can create expectations with non-technical management on when it’ll be necessary to procure additional servers and other resources.
3/10 11:30 am – Social Networking and Your Brand
Steve Smith (Ordered List), Paul Boag (Headscape), Jina Bolton (Sushi & Robots), Steve Ganz (LinkedIn), Mark Norman Francis (Yahoo)
* Note: this panel focused on PERSONAL social networking, but there are applications to a general corporate or institutional brand as well.
Social networking defined:
- Everything we do with another person online (IM, email, twitter, msg boards, podcasts, flickr, myspace, facebook, etc.)
Your brand defined:
- Not just logos and letterhead
- Your brand is simply the promise of an experience – what the person who will interact with you will experience
Ways to use personal brand:
- Boag: Headscape decided to promote knowledge, services, experience through his personal brand w/blog on web design. Used brand to sell design and services.
- Bolton: image connected to speaking & writing; perceived as energetic
- Smith: business purposes of course, but also hobby development
- Ganz: uses tools to let work speak for itself
- Social networking is also useful for obtaining knowledge about things outside of your scope/expertise.
Establishing your brand online is important for networking purposes, and to be recognizable. Be consistent with your brand – screen name, photo, avatars, etc. Also be consistent with the way you write and communicate, from blog posts to comments on posts/networking sites. The brand isn’t established overnight. Everything you post contributes to your personal brand.
Google yourself (or your company) regularly to know what your brand is, or how you’re perceived.
Think about what you’re posting in terms of how others will perceive you. (i.e. twitter or facebook status updates)
Freelancers: Do you post personal things on a business blog/site? Yes, if they help describe you as a person and humanize you, and attract the type of clients that you’re trying to attract. They help add personal touch. If people feel like they’re engaging with you individually, you’re most likely to receive questions and feedback as opposed to a Contact Us form on a corporate site.
Main tools used:
- Ganz: Twitter
- Boag: Podcasting (not entirely social networking tool, but creates rapport because people get to know you)
- Smith: Campfire, private forums, emails, IMs – more personal one-on-one tools to build relationships
- Bolton: All of them. Remember that the tools aren’t social networks, but enable the creation of social networks. Uses Upcoming, Pounce, Verb, Doppler, LinkedIn
Tangible benefits from using social tools?
- Boag: gains work from expertise established by podcast.
- Ganz: LinkedIn is THERE to help find work, new projects, contacts, etc.
- Smith: An unprovable yes. No way to track, but any way to get self out there is a plus. Uses social networking tools to drive traffic back to personal web site, at which point he can control his brand and bring people in.
How do you manage all of the tools? Do you kill them if they’re not fresh?
Might want to reserve your name, even if you’re not using it right now, for possible future use.
The real world:
- Boag: If you meet someone in person, uses twitter and flickr to follow them without interrupting each other’s lives (like email might). Also assigns pics to address book entries for people to help spur memory of them for next meeting.
- Smith: If you’ve appropriately branded yourself online, then you should come across the same way in person. Be genuine both online and off, and people will find you more legit and real.
- Bolton: Finds that social networking tools online and real life integrate well, even if her online persona isn’t the same as she is in person.
- Ganz: Big fan of lifestreaming (flickr, twitter)
How do you balance maintaining a public persona and your personal privacy?
- Be aware of what you’re publicly broadcasting; use privacy controls for social networking applications to limit the broad access to everything for everyone
- Set limits about what you talk about online and what you don’t; how much do you want to share? Think about the downsides to sharing huge amounts of info online to public.
- Boag: tries to communicate who he is, his personality, as opposed to the specific details of his life.
- Smith: make sure you’re comfortable with anything you put up (pictures, etc.)
How do you make the argument for a personal brand within a company?
- Cultural question – point to examples of other companies that are allowing personal branding to happen, and the benefits they’ve derived from doing so.
- If you know the face behind the products that you’re buying, you might be more inclined to feel comfortable about buying.
- Your company is made up of your people.
Where to start your brand?
- If your name is available as a domain, buy it. Start a website, blog, etc. to showcase what you do.
- Begin participating in community. It takes time. No one is going to become popular in communities overnight.
- Don’t create something artificial – just decide on how much of yourself you want to show and be consistent in doing that.
- Be authentic.
- The tools you use are just an expression of you.
- Transparency, honesty is key. Be yourself.
- Commit for long-term. Stick at it, it’ll take time to build your brand.
- Be careful, but don’t be afraid to allow some personality to come out.
*** OK, so the above deals with social networking for individuals and how they use it to promote themselves. But I think a lot of this could spur a discussion on whether social networking tools are worth exploring for a university or a division/college/department within that university. Thoughts?
3/10 2:00 pm – Browser Wars: Deja Vu All Over Again?
Disclaimer: Apple would not provide anyone for this panel. Other major browsers are represented.
Lot of controversy among main browsers. IE and Firefox reps talk about wanting to get along, Opera rep acknowledges there’s a war and wants to build the best one. Opera rep says the battleground is the browser’s functionality itself, not the access to which browsers are defaults for operating systems.
Q&A format (Please note that there are NOT exact quotes – they’re summaries of the conversations - so don’t quote the panelists from this. These are my notes of the panel’s content. For full quotes, refer to the podcast later.)
Moderator: They talk about web developers, but seem to be pitching Silverlight (proprietary) primarily in other conferences. What’s the deal?
FF: Silverlight not on the same footing, because PDF has been open since 1.0, and plain text isn’t proprietary technology. Good to take on Flash/Silverlight, but seems a little different from the web – more gamelike, less accessible, etc.
MS: That’s why I’m on the team is to uplift the standard-based platform. But we run into scalability problems with the base platform, thus the opportunity for Silverlight.
Mod: Opera does something interesting – everything it does it tries to standardize – nothing is proprietary, everything is open. What’s your take on all of this?
OP: Yes, it needs to be in the open. The mobile web does happen, and building applications in Flash/Silverlight where you rely on getting platform for your devices. The web is far and away the best distributor of content. Opera prides itself in putting web everywhere, to benefit from open standards. That’s the only way you can offer platform to developers and make them work on every device, for every user. That’s why the standards are important, so that all developers can build on it.
MS: True that many different priorities are at play. Hopefully IE is a standards-based product that advances that movement.
FF: Anything you do to fight Microsoft has to be guerilla warfare. Not traditional head-to-head Adobe vs. Microsoft.
Mod: Opera puts browsers on all kinds of phones. But you don’t get distribution deals b/c devices come with own tools. What’s the plan here – what are you trying to do?
OP: The iPhone is a pretty good browser if you don’t need the back button. If you get Opera Mini you don’t have the bouncy effect, but you do have a cursor. Mini is a browser, which you can run from even a RAZR. Can run AJAX, surf, etc. Opera does get distribution deals (HTC devices). Sony Ericcson phones as well. Mobile space is different – OEMs go out and evaluate what’s the best browser. In that sense, much more open than desktop. Makes it a nice place to compete – just go build a better browser. For us, also important that mobile space is just part of browser market. We’re not trying to build iPhone browser – Opera Mini shipped 40 million copies last year, vs. 2 million iPhones. It’s about having an open market where people can compete on the quality of the browser.
Mod: How many people CHOOSE their mobile browser?
OP: Mini has 40 million downloads, quite a lot for a market that doesn’t exist because no one browsings on mobiles (joking).
FF: Agreed, it should be possible to have really good web browsers on mobile devices.
OP: Browsing on a phone and desktop is different. Some things I sit down and do on my desktop. Sometimes I’m on the go and want the mobile web, and the applications should work. Apple came out and said the iPhone was the real web, and then went to developers and said they should make iPhone-only web sites. Can’t have it both ways. Made it hard.
MS: I think the real question is why don’t web developers make their sites adapt to mobile? W3C-based sites do that, but many big sites don’t, because that’s not their focus.
Mod: With Firefox going on mobile devices, can you shed light on what you’re doing?
FF: Part of vision to support add-ons, should be possible to write same content and have it adapt through CSS and other ways to the device. FF should be as extensible to devices as it does on the desktop. FF has gotten smaller (MiniMo wasn’t best solution).
Mod (to MS): You get beat up a lot. HTML 5 – W3C site – actually says designed to be open-standards technology unlike Silverlight. Chris is chair of working group on HTML 5, how do you balance that, and what’s going on with HTML 5?
MS: Not sure I can detail what’s going on in HTML 5 in 20 minutes. Somewhat chaotic effort, but lot of great contributions going into that. Looking at breadth of areas that are attacked is exciting. Not everything in there is something I personally agree with.
Mod: Is canvas back on?
MS: Canvas has actually never been taken out of HTML 5 specs. I have a concern with following policies of W3C and adhering to charter. Must do due diligence in signing up to any standard. Someone may have patents that aren’t in W3C or working group, so we have to be cautious what we sign up for.
Mod: What are kind of things that developers can start looking forward to?
OP: The big thing is, a SPEC, that we can actually build around. We’re not through with that process – must be reasonably mature. Still some really big differences to figure out. MS actually sat down and ran through tests and provided feedback on what they don’t do. In very near future, we’ll have identified issues that come up in real world and find solutions. Then there’s the XHTML 2 spec (binary requests, cross-site access, etc).
Mod: Audience questions?
Aud: Does Silverlight mean that IE will not support scalable vector graphics?
MS: No, having Silverlight doesn’t mean we can’t support that in IE. As for where they fit, it’s something I want to take on. One challenge is when and how to do that, where it fits into priorities. I think IE 8 takes on most important things first, not to say vector graphics aren’t important. More than one way to do vector graphics – must determine what’s interoperable, which is what we’re trying to do.
FF: SVG is this mammoth spec with bugs. I’m glad Opera did it, but we’re not gonna do that – developers don’t want every last detail. There’s something wrong here – the problem with making interoperable web content is that it gets more and more bloated, and takes five years. That makes Flash and Silverlight more attractive. That’s why I’d like to see standards go faster, so they need to be smaller, and SVG is too big.
FF: Not really. We’re trying to put common elements through standards process. Helps unify the web, instead of having this second-class status of Flash.
Aud: Flash allows users to select multiple files for upload at once, and playing back MP3 clips inline. Any way to do this in standards approach?
OP: FileUpload spec hasn’t been finalized. Part of problem with standards process is that it’s based on participation. Opera will have its own spec. It’s a known gap. An API is needed. HTML 5 has work on audio/video elements. Still a patent issue. It’s not that far from being interoperable, but not standard yet.
FF: MP3 is going to be unencumbered (patents run out), so no fee to implement.
Aud: What would it take to get browsers to agree on how to parse CSS padding and margins???
<RAMPANT CLAPPING AND CHEERING FROM AUDIENCE>
MS: There’s a spec. I’m sure you’re asking when we’re going to follow this spec. In IE 8 we spent a tremendous amount of time building a layout spec from ground up using CSS 2.0 spec. I’d hope we’re headed toward that – if not, tell us it’s not in the Beta.
OP: What it actually takes is the browsers to sit down with each other in the development process. MS supports ARIA now. Opera developer wrote flame blog about them doing it differently. It’s true that what they recommended won’t work in other browsers. What they implemented is probably a good idea, if we all sat down and did it together in the development process. Just DOING it, without telling others and working together, won’t do it. When you go away and implement in a corner, you interpret it differently – it was written by people after all. Occasionally when you write stuff, it’s not interpreted the same way. What it’ll take is the companies working together and communicating now.
Audience: OK, can you guys exchange business cards before you leave, and set something up?
*** Note: pretty funny because much of the panel’s conversation was centered around theory and long-term goals, and the biggest reaction by far from the audience of the day was a simple request to get padding and margin right. Speaking as someone who’s always been frustrated by those differences, I couldn’t agree more.
MS: There are now test suites. We offer them to W3C, and to public in general, so that we could test and make sure that we get the same thing in padding and margin order. That’s turned up a number of catches already.
Audience (co-chair of W3C): I’d like someone to show me the test case of one browser doing it right and one wrong. Let’s get momentum on it.
Aud: Any update to Javacript debugger tool?
MS: Yes, we’ve released first beta of developer tools, which are now built into IE now. One click away. Debugging tools.
Mod: Still skirmishs, but getting closer.
3/10 3:30 pm – Design Eye for South By
Andrei Herasimchuk (Involution Studios), Bronwyn Jones (Apple), Paul Nixon (Apple), Keith Robinson (Blue Flavor), Ryan Sims (Virb)
- Started thinking about SXSW, and that it’s not ALL about the technical information. It’s about the experience, the connections made, etc.
- Idea: People interacting, meeting people.
- Didn’t want to use social networking tools alone – wanted to use technology to enable in-person interactions.
- The idea is to get people to the panels, events, parties to interact – not be tethered to their laptops
- Wanted to focus on portable social networking
*** Basically, they did a possible redesign of the SXSW site that fully integrated social networking, Google maps API’s, flickr streams, etc. to make the site be more social and to enable the in-person social interactions. The mockups are available at http://www.designeye.org/.