The last few days saw several hundred developers, designers and web entrepreneurs flock down to Excel in the London Docklands to attend the Future of Web Apps. The yearly conference managed to attract a lot of companies showing off their products and networks and web celebrities and poster-children of the startup world told the interested audience what they needed to know. This is an account from the perspective of us as exhibitors - there'll be coverage of the talks attended by Yahoos - Rajat Pandit to be exact - later on.
The Yahoo Developer Network came along with 5 people, 3 working in shifts to man the stand and answering questions of attendees and 2 speakers delivering 3 talks on Yahoo technology.
We arrived early on day one to put up the YDN stand and get the freebies ready for the attendees. We had YDN foldout maps, sticker collections and YDN bottle openers in the shape of keys.
On day one Jose Palazon of the Yahoo mobile team showed the audience the hows and whys of our Blueprint mobile development platform in one of the University sessions. These were 30 minute presentations in smaller break-out rooms held during the breaks in between the keynote presentations. Slides of that talk will follow later.
We were pretty amazed that the subway maps of the YDN went away like there was no tomorrow. I guess they can be pretty handy to put up on an office wall to have an overview of what you can use. Of course this makes us very happy - especially me as I had to carry them over to the venue in the morning and paper is heavy.
Day one started great with a lot of people coming to our booth and asking us all kind of questions ranging from "so what is the Yahoo Developer Network?" up to details about implementations of APIs.
The myspace bus situation
Then disaster struck in the form of the people from rummble and myspace starting the impromptu before-the-after-party in the myspace bus. Beer emerged faster than it normally does at the parking lot of a high-school party and someone had to keep an eye on these crazy internet kids not to hurt themselves. I took this burden onto me and ensured to keep the party contained by bringing in new stock of beverages from the nearby supermarket. We thought we had overdone it by bringing in 48 cans of fermented hops and malt, but they were gone in about an hour.
The after party - day one
About that time the normal procedures of the conference were done for the day and those about to party congregated in the nearby Fox bar where Media Temple sponsored the after-party. There was a slight moment of confusion when people wearing an "expo" badge instead of a conference one weren't allowed in. This would have made sense except for the fact that all the sponsors had one of these. When Ryan Carson, the conference organizer, arrived with the same badge things got sorted and we could commence the festivities.
Day two started less cheerful and loud than day one as a lot of attendees still suffered from the post-party effects. Many people didn't bother leaving the Docklands (as it is tricky with public transport and streets back into London are packed at that time of night) and instead just checked in at a nearby hotel.
YUI3 and Yahoo Open Strategy presentations
In terms of presentations I delivered a tech university talk on YUI3 and told people about the YUI video conference this Thursday in London. In the afternoon I substituted for Neil Sample, who couldn't come over to introduce the attendees of the Future of Web Apps to the Yahoo Open Strategy. I managed to be
the first speakers to feature pictures of kittens in my slides (come on people!) and bemoan the lack of rainbow-vomiting pandas on other photo sharing sites than Flickr.
Getting out while we could
We had to skip the after party of the event as diggnation turned out to be an amazingly successful event with people queuing up all over the expo floor to get in and we wondered if there'd be any chance to pack up and get our gear back to the office.
My personal highlights (add grain of salt here)
All in all the Future of Web Apps was a great event and we had a lot of good questions from the attendees and managed to knit some closer bonds with other company representatives. For me, there were several highlights when it comes to the expo and non-presentation side of the event:
- The video coverage, editing and release speed of the Carsonified folk is very impressive indeed - check the FOWA web site for more and more videos of talks to appear
- The idea to have barcodes on the attendee badges to allow exhibitors to scan them was great, as was the idea to have drink and snack vouchers on the badges. The procedure of punching a hole through the badge to indicate which voucher has been used up - thus destroying the barcode less so :)
- Sun brought along a very cool surf simulator (which I originally considered to be a bouncy castle) and refrained from adding 1997 slogans like "surf the web here" - kudos for that.
- fav.or.it invited attendees to build a Lego Death Star with them live on their booth. Luckily I did not find this out until it was too late - else I might have missed most of the conference.
- Adobe had their very impressive stand put up in the blink of an eye and provided Wiis for people to play.
- Both O'Reily and Apress came with a lot of books sold at a massive discount and didn't take many back with them - well done.
- MySpace had a bus - the rest was a blur, somehow.
- Rummble had people inside massive foam letters walking around spelling their logo (at times - sometimes they re-arranged themselves to ruder versions)
- Microsoft had the normal array of xboxes, showed off the beauty of Silverlight and most impressive of all brought along one of their surface tables which stole the hearts and imagination of many a developer watching the demos of what is possible with this piece of hardware. They completely failed to assess my £5 offer to get me one and deliver it back to my house so they don't have to carry it home though.
- The AOL Developer Network had a massive amount of stuff to give out and I loved the T-shirt designs - but failed to bag one.
- BT didn't bother much to show off what they have but instead offered a lot of tables and deck chairs for people to lounge and network - good idea, this is *always* lacking at conferences.
- AbilityNet did a great job advocating accessibility to an audience (and other exhibitors) showing very inspiring interview footage of disabled users using web products and finding ways to use them the original developers hadn't thought of putting in from the beginning.
All of the above is my personal experience and should not diminish the efforts of all the other exhibitors. All in all, we had a great time and will probably be back next year. So, if you are at some conference, watch out for the kung-fu stand and have a chat with YDN.
You can find my photos of the Future of Web Apps on Flickr - I did not take all of them so I am not to blame.
Yahoo Developer Network