As befits YDN's first developer event in the Middle East, we have several perspectives on November 29's successful "Morning with the Yahoo! Developer Network." We start with participant Anas Al-Far's take, followed by YDN International's director Murray Rowan's insider view, and include some attendees' comments as well.
Anas Al-Far, Technical Yahoo, Amman, Jordan
A lot of IT people here in Jordan start their regular day with a cup of coffee, and perhaps a cigarette. Well, yesterday was a little bit different: a lot of us started the day with the same cup of coffee, but tinged with purple. On Monday morning in Amman, Jordan, Yahoo! offered technical training on its developer products for the IT community.
Many large technology companies have been watching the IT community here in Jordan since Yahoo! acquired Maktoob Inc. in 2009. With this event, Yahoo! confirmed its support to the developers communities here in the Middle East.
130 people of all flavors showed up — students, developers, designers, managers, CEOs, and business owners from the MENA Region — to attend "A morning with YDN." They were there to hear about YUI, YQL, and Geo technologies. About 25% of the attendees were women, which is large percentage compared to other developers events worldwide, in my experience. Of course, many professionals who work on Web technologies were there: professionals in PHP, Ajax, Silverlight, .NET, Webmasters, Mobile Development, Python, MySQL, and others.
The event started with a non-technical appetizer from Laith Al-Momani. He talked about Maktoob.com, how it started, its history, and its development through to the moment of Yahoo!'s acquisition.
Christian Heilmann, YDN developer evangelist, started the technical talks with a discussion of how he started with Yahoo! and how Yahoo! technologies really affect his way of thinking. Developers who work for large companies need to be mindful of performance issues, handling massive numbers of users, supporting large numbers of devices/handsets adopted, and other high-level issues that small companies don't bother thinking of.
A great introduction to the Yahoo! Developer Network followed: Why does YDN exist? What does it offer for developers? Why do people needs such a tools? This was followed by a great walk through the YDN website to cover most of its tools, utilities, and APIs. Not forgotten was the great documentation, which is the main source of knowledge on YDN. Each product on YDN has its own documentation, with samples and a community forum if you have any issue to discuss.
This was followed by a quick preview for YSlow with all its features and tricks, as a performance test tool — really, a performance guidance tool for any website.
Next came a deep dive into YQL: How can developers use it? Why should they use it? How simple it is? How much integration has been done? Here was one check point where I was able to feel the wow! experience, not for Yahoo! users, but for developers. In fact, a lot of participants agreed that YQL is awesome, and is really worth the time to learn it and use it.
Geo Technology API had its chance on this event too. Christian introduced Yahoo!'s Map and Location-Based Services, products that allow users to tell people where you are on the planet, find a certain place on earth, add places to the Yahoo! data, find my location, find different sites around me that I can go to, and so on.
An important question was asked from the audience: "Why does Yahoo! offer such tools and APIs to the community?" The answer was that "We built YQL for ourselves, and the best way to test any platform right now is to give it to the world and play with it and find problems for us. We fix them and make our products better."
As lunch was served, people were still talking about the event and how much they benefited, how amazing the sessions were. People were dazzled when comparing what they knew with what they learned in few hours... After all was done, I believe that we were all still on the same planet, but this time it had been purpled.
Murray Rowan, Director, YDN International
On the morning of the 28th of November in Amman, Jordan, YDN presented its first ever event in the Middle East. Amman is the home of Maktoob, the Arabic portal that was acquired by Yahoo in 2009. The Middle East is a key area of growth for Yahoo!, and YDN is playing its part in this by engaging with developer communities in the region. We hear that there are not too many events like this happening in Jordan, particularly on the open-source/open-technology end of the spectrum. So, we're excited about helping to improve that situation for local developers.
The event was marketed as "A Morning with the Yahoo! Developer Network," and was attended by 130 developers from the Middle East. Interestingly, the audience consisted of 25% women, which is higher than we have seen in any other YDN event that we have hosted anywhere in the world.
I opened the morning by introducing the event, and was followed by Laith Al-Monami, who gave an overview of the Yahoo!-Maktoob story. The main event was Christian Heilmann talking about Yahoo developer products, with a particular focus on YQL, YUI, and the Geo technologies.
The audience was engaged with the talks and many folks played along on the YQL console whilst Christian demoed the technology. As usual, Christian was flocked by attendees at the breaks and at lunch. Most folks were wowed by YQL. It always steals the show at these events. YUI grids, demoed via grids builder, was also very much complimented.
The event was streamed live on Facebook, with a number of people watching remotely.
All in all, this was a very successful event. We've got the attention of the Middle East developer community, and hope to engage with more developers in the region in 2011.
Comments and Tweets
There were a number of complimentary tweets like these two:
Some quotes were also received from some attendees, including these:
It was great, I really enjoyed the event, especially the YQL and the integration with facebook, 4square and google. Also the [YQL] html parser is awesome! — Mohammad Lahlouh, DBA, SIM (Smart Interactive Media)
I like YQL, it was really awesome, Christian is a great speaker, a lot of knowledge flow on the air. It was a good thing that it wasn't a high level training for experts, it was for everyone. — Tamer Ennaser
I have attended the event over online streaming and it was really good. The feedback for some of our developers that have attended the event was great too, they all like it. — Noor Alhajri, Online Adv Sales, Bayt
It was cool, I like it very much, my friends did too. We'd really like to learn more about these technologies and more in-depth. — Sima Naffa, CS Student, Jordan University
Thinking of start using some of Yahoo! technologies. All feedback from my colleagues also was great. The event was very nice, especially YUI. — Mohammad, Developer, eSense Software
I think that this event was oriented to junior developers. The organization was good. Great Technology. — Maen Jitawi, CEO