DevHouse Boston Wrapup

Published Sunday, September 16, 2007 by Bryan

Just got back from DevHouse Boston. Thought I'd spill a few thoughts here for reference later.

The day was amazing. Where else would you expect to walk up to a random brick house in the middle of a city at 10 on a Sunday morning and expect to find ten 20-something guys hanging around discussing the finer points of locking in the Python VM? Yep, that's the kind of day it was - lots of guys who are fairly knowledgable about a wide set of web tools, ready to sling some code at whatever comes their way.

I spent the day hacking with four other guys at an idea that started for me at a blog post I read last week, but mutated in many ways as the day progressed. The blog post I read lamented the lame way that RSS readers do nothing but provide a big list of links to follow (okay, maybe with a snipet or two, but still just a big list).

The idea that finally took us through the day was to use an external site's popularity metrics (Digg for us, since that was easy), and layout news stories with summaries in a way reminiscent of newspapers. More popular stories got prime placement with larger headlines. Topics were grouped into distinct sections. We were only able to get to proof-of-concept stage, but everyone who saw the demo was interested in seeing it progress.

I'm not sure I'll be the one doing the progressing, though. We did everything in Python/Django, and I'm just not sure I'm interested in delving deeper into it. Although, it would probably be a good springboard for doing so, since I already understand what the app is supposed to do. The code's in a Google Project, but I'm going to make you search for it, because if you really want to try it out, the search is going to be the easiest thing you do. You think there's time to write documentation at one of these things?! ;)

Here's a screen cap to prove I'm not making things up:

NewsGraf Demo

Anyway, as for the rest of the projects, visualization was a key theme. And, even more specific, simplification of visualization was big. A calendar that does nothing but let you write five lines of text on each day (no categorization, contacts, etc.). A wiki edits tracker that doesn't bother with the specifics of edits, but only the fact that edits happened, and that they probably related to edits that happened on "nearby" pages. A way to just send REST requests and view their results, without having to get into lots of code. And that's only covering half or less of the projects that presented - the rest were amazing too.

I have to say, the day made me miss college. There's nothing like the feeling you get when you and a small group of people focus on some strange goal for a few intense hours. In the "real world", I've tended to let "real world" things (like grocery shopping, car maintenance, a day job, etc.) get in the way of that. It's good to get it back once in a while.

Anyway, a big thanks to Betahouse for the space, the sponsors for the food, and my team mates for keeping things going. I wish DevHouse Boston many more successful years.

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