David Recordon’s XTech keynote

I’m at the first non-workshop day at XTech 2008 in Dublin’s fair city. David Recordon is delivering the second of the morning keynotes. I missed most of Simon Wardley’s opening salvo in favour of having breakfast — sorry Simon. David, unlike Simon, will not be using Comic Sans and nor will he have any foxes, the natural enemy of the duck.

Let’s take a look at how things have evolved in recent years.

Open is hip. Open can get you funded. Just look at MySQL.

Social is hip. But the sheer number of social web apps doesn’t scale. It’s frustrating repeating who you know over and over again. Facebook apps didn’t have to deal with that. The Facebook App platform was something of a game changer.

Networked devices are hip, from iPhones to Virgin America planes.

All of these things have common needs. We don’t just need portability, we need interoperability. We have some good formats for that:

  • Atom and to a lesser extent, RSS.
  • Microformats (David incorrectly states that Microsoft have added a microformat to IE8).
  • RDF and the Semantic Web.

We need a way to share abstract information …securely. The password anti-pattern, for example, is wrong, wrong, wrong. OAuth aims to solve this problem. Here’s a demo of David authorising FireEagle to have access to his location. He plugs Kellan’s OAuth session which is on tomorrow.

We need a way to communicate with people. Email just sucks. The IM wars were harmful. Jabber (XMPP) emerged as a leader because it tackled the interoperability problem. Even AOL are getting into it.

We need to know who someone is. Naturally, OpenID gets bigged up here. It’s been a busy year for OpenID. The number of relying parties has grown exponentially. The ability to get that done — to grow from a few people on a mailing list to having companies like Yahoo and Microsoft and AOL supporting that standard — that’s really something new that you wouldn’t have seen on the Web a few years ago.

But people don’t exist at just one place. The XFN microformat (using rel=”me”) is great for linking up multiple URLs. David demos his own website which has a bunch of rel=”me” links in his sidebar: “this isn’t just some profile, this is my profile.” He plugs my talk — nice one!

We need to know who someone knows. The traditional way of storing relationships has been address books and social networks but this is beginning to change. David demos the Google Social Graph API, plugging in his own URL. Then he uses Tantek’s URL to show that it works for anybody. The API has problems if you leave off the trailing slash, apparently.

We need to know what people are doing. Twitter, Fire Eagle, Facebook and Open Social all deal with realtime activity in some way. They’re battling things out in this space. Standards haven’t emerged yet. Watch this space. If Google ties Open Social to its App Engine we could see some interesting activity emerge.

Let’s look at where things stand right now. Who’s getting things right and who’s getting things wrong?

When you create an API, use existing standards. Don’t reinvent vcard or hCard, just use what people already publish.

Good APIs enable mashups. Google is a leader here with its mapping API.

Fire Eagle is an interesting one. You will hardly ever visit the site. Fire Eagle doesn’t care who your friends are. It just deals with one task: where are you. Here’s a demo of Fireball.

It’ll be interesting to see how these things play out in the next few years where you have services that don’t really involve a website very much at all. Just look at Twitter: people bitch and moan about the features they think it should support but the API allows you to build on top of Twitter to add the features you want. Tweetscan and Quotably are good examples of this in action.

David shows a Facebook app he built (yes, you heard right, a Facebook app). But this app allows you to publish from Facebook onto other services.

Plaxo Pulse runs your OpenID URL through the Google Social Graph API to see who you already know (I must remember this for my talk tomorrow).

The DiSo project is one to watch: figuring out how to handle activity, relationships and permissions in a distributed environment.

And that’s all, folks.

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