Future of Web Apps tour in Cambridge

Yesterday the Future of Web Apps Tour 2009 came to Cambridge, UK. Around 150 developers, managers, and startup owners came to the University to listen to the speakers talk about cloud computing, starting and running a successful web company, and remixing the web.


With Tuesday being the hottest day in the UK this year - a whopping 28 degrees centigrade - (our U.S. friends should just multiply by 9, divide by 5, then add 32 to get an idea of what that is) it was quite ironic that the first three presentations dealt with the cloud.

Mark Quirk of Microsoft showed off Windows Azure, Tony Lucas of flexiscale showed off their UK-based cloud computing service, and Simon Wheeldon of Salesforce showed their enterprise solutions.

After lunch, Wil Harris of Channelflip Media gave an amazing talk entitled "Lessons learned starting a successful digital media publication with no budget, no technology and no idea." The talk was exactly what it said on the tin: Wil had started the "The UK's Finest Video Channel for Switched On Men" with no funding, no idea how to build it, and no hardware. They used out-of-box free solutions like WordPress and cloud storage for their content, and built the whole site in a month just to iteratively change and improve it according to user feedback. His talk was very inspirational and proved something I keep saying in my presentations: we have solutions already in place, all the building blocks for successful web products are out there. Clever entrepreneurs can take them and build with them rather than spending their time re-inventing the wheel. Just take a look at YUI or our Pattern Library to see what I mean.

Stefan Magdalinski of Moo came next and talked about "lessons from a physical web2.0 startup" covering the idea of moo - selling very individual and high quality business cards on the web - the barriers they faced and how they got around them.

Dorothy Briggs followed, on the topic of "Building a web 2.0 solution that?s fit for the enterprise."

I gave the last presentation of the day, and talked about using YQL to remix the web:

If you want more, check the notes of the talk here.

Afterwards we went outside to start the speed-networking session. This worked much like speed dating, except that instead of tables the attendees stood in two concentric circles. They had three minutes to chat with each other and exchange contact details (yes, cards). After every three minutes the inner circle would shift one person and two new people would start "speed networking". According to Twitter, all this went down really well.

After that we went to the pub and the rest of the evening is classified.

All in all the FOWA Tour was a nice, affordable conference and Cambridge is a beautiful setting for events. Carsonified did a great job running the show and making it easy for everyone involved to have a great time.

Chris Heilmann
Yahoo Developer Network