May 14 2009

The Free Technology Conference

Large conferences such as JavaOne or Wordwide Developer Conference can cost over $1,000, just for the pass alone. When you add air fair and hotel accommodations this can easily reach over $2,500! This is all well and fine if your company is going to reimburse you. But during these tough times companies are making all sorts of cuts.

There are plenty of regional conferences such as MountainWest RubyConf and Gold Gate Ruby Conference and conferences tours such as No Fluff, Just Stuff and Future of Web Apps that are more reasonably priced. But even at $99, there are cheaper alternative options!

Find the local user group for the technologies that you are interested. User groups typically meet up once a month to discuss latest trends and demo recent products. No matter where you live, there is probably a Java or Python user group. If there isn’t one start one up and coordinate using blogs, forums, meetup, and Twitter.

In addition to user groups, I’ve attended to barcamps and unconferences. There are all sort of regional barcamps organized around all a variety of topics. When the iPhone first came out, I attended a barcamp in the Adobe office in San Francisco were geeks got together to experiment, collaborate, and program.

If you live close to a university, the Computer Science department might offer a colloquium series where they bring on different speakers, from entrepreneurs to visiting professors.

In addition to user group meet ups, barcamps, and academic presentations, there are tons of video presentations from top quality presentations online. Many of the presentation put on by Google are posted on YouTube under Google Tech Talks. You can find some of the RailsConf 2009 presentations on Blip. Confreaks has a slew of videos from all sorts of Ruby conferences such as Goruco and MountainWest RubyConf. If you want to catchup with the content of from a recent conference, but for whatever reason you are not able to attend, don’t feel left out. Most presenters put up their slides of their presentations, and many conference organizer put up video of the presentations.

These are just a few ways that you can keep up with the developments your field.

May 14 2009

Conference as a Business Model

There is an interesting rant over on Coding Context on how Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood are brilliant assholes because they are organizing Stackoverflow Dev Days. It may be true that Joel and Jeff are self obsessed ass wipes, but I am note sure it is because they are trying to cash in from the inadequacies and inferiority complex of other developers.

Micah, the guy behind Coding context, brought up the point that the guys behind the Stackoverflow Dev Days conference are exploiting their developer community to build their personal brand. According to Micah’s calculation, the series of six conferences can net nearly $200,000 and as of yet they don’t even have the presentations or speakers lined up!

Personally, I am put off by their floating point error size ego, dismissive attitude, and general writing style while a loyal following finds them eloquent. That said, Micah is totally right, they are building their brand! There two respective blogs attracts a large portion of developer eyeballs. Their joint venture, a question and answer site for developers, gets millions of hits monthly. In addition to this, Joel Spolsky runs a job board which he claims has made him over a million dollars. But is this all bad? Is this devexplotation?

In regards to their tech days, they are not the first to realize that there is good money in running a conference, look at Future of Web Apps, No Fluff/Just Stuff, and all the Web 2.0 O’Reilly conferences. A few years ago, I was part of the executive committee that put on a one day conference for a non-profit. With just corporate sponsorship alone, in a good year, we would net $35,000-$50,000 cold hard cash without even trying!!! And remember, in addition to money for ad space, conference organizers are able to get companies pay for printing material, goodie bags, giveaways, and even lunch. To a good organizer, everything including the Wi-Fi identification and mailing lists, can be had for the right sponsorship level.

From a conference like this, I would be concerned by the quality of speakers. What I feel happens, specially when there is corporate sponsorship, is that the sponsors will use the presentations to pitch their tools and try to up sell the audience to their proprietary tools and services. No matter what they say, Conferences like this are used as promotional tool, and they will sell out to sponsors to use their allotted time and space to pitch to a captive audience. Similar remarks have been said of JavaOne. One complain that I have heard of is that JavaOne is to Sun centric, even though they are the ones that put it together. There is a fine balance between corporate sponsorship and speakers so that the conference does not seem like one long infomercial. It always helps if there are different tracks!

In Slashdot style, here is the formula for a business model for running a conference!

  • Schedule a conference
  • Ask for volunteers in exchange for badges and shirts
  • Sellout presentations to sponsors
  • Give out sponsors’ marketing material in goodie bags
  • Have sponsors buy lunch and provide wi-fi
  • Charge per seat
  • Sell books, shirts, and anything else
  • ?????
  • Profit!!!

This is not all to different from the open source business model which includes building a community, charging for training, selling books, licensing technology, providing certification, and putting on a conference …. and profit!!!

May 5 2009

Top JavaScript and Web Performance Presentations on Google Tech Talks

Google has a YouTube channel with over 1000++ videos of presentations on a large number of programming and software development topics. Here are the top videos recently released in the Google Tech Talks channel regarding JavaScript and web performance that every web developer should see.

  • JavaScript: The Good Parts / Douglas Crockford – In JavaScript there is a beautiful, highly expressive language that is buried under a steaming pile of good intentions and blunders. The best nature of JavaScript was so effectively hidden that for many years the prevailing opinion of JavaScript was that it was an unsightly, incompetent abomination. This session will expose the goodness in JavaScript, an outstanding dynamic programming language.
  • Drop-in JavaScript Performance / John Resig – Browsers are continually upgrading – providing new features from the latest specifications. We’ll look at modern JavaScript and DOM techniques that you can easily drop in to your applications for instant speed-ups.
  • Best Practices in Javascript Library Design / John Resig – This talk explores all the techniques used to build a robust, reusable, cross-platform JavaScript Library such as jQuery.
  • High Performance Web Sites and YSlow / Steve Souders – Yahoo!’s Exceptional Performance Team has identified 14 best practices for making web pages faster. These best practices have proven to reduce response times of Yahoo! properties by 25-50%.
  • Life’s Too Short – Write Fast Code / Steve Souders – Techniques to help yoru web site perform better are discussed such as coupling asynchronous scripts, use iframes sparingly, and flush the document early.
  • Debugging and Testing the Web with Firebug / Rob Campbell – In this talk we explore web development and debugging strategies with Firebug. An overview of new and improved features and how to use them is presented. We wrap-up with a peek at FireUnit, a new Firebug extension by John Resig and Jan Odvarko, and it’s role in unittesting Firebug itself.
  • Faster HTML and CSS: Layout Engine Internals for Web Developers / David Baron – How fast Web pages load and how fast they change dynamically depends on both the Web page and the browser it’s running in. Browser makers put significant effort into making their browsers faster, but there are also things that Web page authors can do to make their pages more responsive.
  • jQuery / Dmitri Gaskin – jQuery is a JavaScript library that stands out among its competitors because it is faster, focuses on writing less code, and is very extensible.

May 4 2009


Techies don’t get much sun as it is and to avoid direct exposure with sunlight many of technology conferences are scheduled around May and June. Most tech conferences cluster around the early summer months but there are other great technology and programming conferences held around the year and the country. Below is a tentative schedule of important software and programming related conferences. And don’t worry, if you missed or can’t make it out to your favorite conference this year, they are usually scheduled at about the same time each year.

May 3 2009

The Rubyist: April 2009 Edition

Here is a recap of the top Ruby-related links for the month of April 2009. Links for The Rubyist are provided by A Rubyist Railstastic Adventure, a tumblelog.

Ruby – Earlier in the month the hot topic in the Ruby community involved Twitter and their use of Scala for some back-end processes. Just suggesting that Ruby, and in particular Rails does not scale starts the debate all over again. This time Dave Thomas chipped in with a defense for Twitter’s right to choose the right tool for the right job. Other highlights are the NetBeans’ support of Ruby 1.9 and MountainWest RubyConf 2009 videos.

Rails – A favorite post this month regarding Rails was an article from Chad Fowler and a list he compiled of 20 Ruby on Rails development no-no’s. Chad gather much of the material for the article from fellow Rubyists via Twitter. Also of interest was the Ruby on Rails template for creating Twitter applications.

JRuby – Google recently released Java support for Google App Engine, this means that there has been a lot of activity around JRuby on Rails on App Engine.

GoGaRuCouchDeBate – Scalability is not the only stigma in the Ruby community. The other hot button has been the brash attitude and behavior of certain key members in the community. This all came to boiling point, yet again, at Golden Gate RubyConf when Matt Aimonetti gave a presentation entitled CouchDB: Perform Like a Pornstar. The subject matter of the presentation was overshadows by the images of scantily clad women, then the allegations of male chauvinism amongst the rank and file in the Ruby and Rails community. The way recent Ruby conference have been shaping up, I think RailsConf 2009 in Las Vegas will have strippers giving presentations on cache girth and performance.

Dec 30 2008

TechKnow Year In Review 2008

It is that time of year where we reflect on the accomplishments of the passing year and look forward to the one to come. Here is a window into the past year in technology through this year’s popular posts on TechKnow Juixe.

Top Favorites 2008




Google App Engine



Rants and Raves


Top Tips and Hot Hacks


Year in Review