Google Developer Day 2007 (London)

On Thursday, I attended the Google Developer Day 2007 event in London, and overall, I’d say it was worth the day out of the office. My headline excuse for going was that I’m working on a project that requires some Google Maps integration, and as there was a 1.5 hours hands-on workshop on it, I figured it’d save me some investigation time in the office – and it turns out that I was right, so thumbs up there.

It didn’t start until 12 (11 am opening to allow one to stuff one’s face full of V nice free food), which meant I could drive up that morning. Leaving at 6 am I pulled up outside my mate’s house (in Crouch End) at 9am so I had plenty of time to have a quick meeting over at Fresh and then to walk over to the North of the City Nr. the Barbican – incidentally a stone’s throw from the first offices I ever rented for a very young Acksys (before it got renamed Exponetic).

When I got there (10 mins until kick-off) there, I was immediately presented with the obligatory Free Branded Tat, including some Google Goo, a Mouse mat, a USB key, yo-yo, a pad, a pen, and sweets all in a little Google bag. I was still rifling though the FBT when I met up with Ben Francis from PHPWM in the ‘Bloggers Lounge’; it’s always nice to put a name to a face and it turned out that we’d both met a few of the other list members.

Soon after it was time for the keynote which was pretty interesting and a good summary of what Google were looking to get across during the day. My summary would be:

  • Google are nice and good. If the Internet works well then it works for them.
  • They are big on open source and open standards. (I don’t have enough data to say whether they are or not, but it certainly sounded as if they’re doing more than just paying lip-service)
  • They are BIG on geographically tagged data
  • They’ve just announced Google Gears and they are very excited by it

After the keynote is was lunch, which was more nice free food, not that I was hungry. Over this I bumped into Marcus Kirsch who I’d worked with a few years back at Exponetic. He was there to see if anything was interesting going on with Google using Flash, apparently there’s some interest in using Google Maps and Flash.

So onto the main reason for the day, the talks. The ones I visited are summarised as follows:

Session 1 and 2 -The API workshop:

We all had our laptops out and it was immediately down to work. We were given some simple code and a bunch of loose instructions. There was 1.5 hours to come up with a simple mashup-mashup using the new Google Mapplets with a prize for the best ones. Problem was that the initial examples that we had to work though (whilst useful in the greater scheme of things particularly for my upcoming project) did not apply 100% to the final task. The majority, including me, ran out of time and had we ignored all the simple examples and gone immediately to the task of attempting to win the prize then even building a really lame mashup and inserting into a mapplet would have probably won (the prize was a special mouse for navigating Google Earth).

Still it was useful and I sat next to a guy called Ben Parrish who gave me a quick demo of Flex (his primary development language) which apparently is the new Actionscript.

Session 3 – Google Gears

“This will do for off-line what XmlHttpRequest did for web”.

It sounds really cool: you download a browser plugin and then have the ability to cache pages transparently for offline usage, there’s a SQL lite implementation for writing data to should you be off-line and there’s a ‘worker pool’ which is a way of asynchronously connected to the remote server (to re-sync) without hogging the request (e.g. it does it behind the scenes).

It is all pretty early stages and there is currently no way of managing replication between local and remote. Anyway it gave me a big enough bee in my bonnet to try out a proof of concept application which I’ve already started and may even finish.

Session 4 – The Google Web Toolkit Bet

I lasted 5 mins. It was a company MD talking about his web enabled product. It was pretty dull so I left and caught the last few minutes of the Gadgets talk instead.

I’d already decided to miss the final international talk/link-up thingy so I hung around in the front waiting for Jim Morrison a fellow [_] member (at time of writing that link has been broken for around a year but a few of the members are also on Facebook). During this time of hanging around I also got a poncy photo taken of me.

So as I already said overall I thought it was worth the journey and loss of doing billable work. I got to meet a few new people, got to save a bit of time on a project and I got a night out with some mates in London which is never a bad thing.


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