Tags: openid

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97 Bottles

Almost two years ago, I was having a drink with Keith in The Alembic Bar on my last night in San Francisco:

Keith buys me a beer from the local microbrewery. I opt for an amber ale while he plumps for an IPA. After the first sips, we compare tasting notes and once again speculate about a beer-oriented version of Cork’d.

Well, like Tom says, everyone’s got ideas. It’s following through that counts. So that’s exactly what Blue Flavor have done. They built 97 Bottles:

97 bottles is a totally free, new service that lets you review, recommend, and learn about all kinds of beers. Use it to keep track of your favorite brews, find drinking buddies, and more.

It’s currently in private beta or, as they put in their nicely-crafted copy, in the cask fermenting. But here’s the twist: if you have an OpenID you can sign in with that without waiting to be added to the list of beta testers. That’s smart. As Jeff put it:

It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. It’s OpenID evangelism!

So head on over and sign in with your OpenID. I’ve been kicking the tyres, adding some new beers to the site and reviewing existing ones. It’s a well-crafted social network: fun and useful.

All it needs is a little sprinkling of microformats.

App Engines of Creation

At last night’s £5 App gathering, after Glenn entertained us with the story of setting up Madgex, Paul and Simon unveiled a little thing they’ve been working on called WalRSS. In a nutshell, you point it at a URL and it makes a nice iPhone/iPod Touch version by styling the associated RSS feed.

Simon talked about all the headaches involved in such a seemingly simple concept. All the problems boiled down to the fact that the app needs to consume/parse/scrape third-party content. It turns out that consuming/parsing/scraping HTML and RSS is an order of magnitude hairier and scarier than pointing at a nice shiny RESTful API. In a textbook example of , Simon needed to be ultra-paranoid about malicious users potentially taking down his server while being overly-generous in the kind of malformed, invalid RSS/Atom he accepted because, as it turns out, a helluva lot of feeds out there are bozo-compliant. With all sorts of clever server-side solutions at his disposal to handle polling, load balancing, caching and message queueing, he quickly came to realise that he was becoming more of a sysadmin than a web developer.

Ironically, just the day before the £5 App meetup, Google announced their App Engine. WalRSS is almost exactly the kind of app that the App Engine is designed for: it’s written in Django and it needs to do the kind of processing that Google’s infrastructure was made to handle.

I for one welcome our new App Engine overlords. I quite like to dabble in the occasional bit of backend coding but I have no desire to delve into the domain of systems administration.

There’s already an OpenID provider built on Google App Engine. This means that anybody with a Google account potentially has an OpenID URL. You’d have to log in through the app first but from then on, you could use http://openid-provider.appspot.com/[your username] as your login.

Right now I’m using http://adactio.com/ as my OpenID URL, delegating to http://adactio.myopenid.com/:

<link rel="openid.delegate" href="http://adactio.myopenid.com/" />

Should I ever tire of MyOpenID, I guess I potentially update my delegate link to use Google:

<link rel="openid.delegate" href="http://openid-provider.appspot.com/adactio" />

I’d still need to update my openid.server link though.

Oh, you think this is geeky stuff? You should have heard Simon last night. Actually, you could have if you tuned into Ribot’s live broadcast on Qik.

MicroformatID

Tom Morris was in town today today so I invited him to take shelter from the miserable weather ‘round at Clearleft Towers. Which reminds of something Tom showed me at BarCamp Brighton that I’ve been meaning to share for a while now.

Tom has an hCard on his blog. By default the information provided is fairly basic: an email address, a URL and a vague physical address. Right by the hCard, there’s a simple form that allows you to log on using OpenID. If you log on and you’re on a white list of Tom’s friends, the hCard is updated to reveal more information: telephone numbers and a complete physical address.

That’s pretty clever. And when you consider that OpenID is a URL-based authentication system and XFN is also based around URLs, it would be pretty easy to have the white list correspond to an XFN list on the same page as the hCard.

hCard | OpenID | XFN… it’s like Unix pipes for the Web: small pieces, loosely joined.

Mashed

It sounds like Mashup Camp was a hive of very productive activity. Kevin Lawver gave a presentation on portable social networks but instead of just talking about it, he wrote some Ruby code. Kevin is using OpenID for log in, followed by hCard parsing and XFN spidering (see also: Gavin Bell’s work). Superb stuff!

Meanwhile, Plaxo is now supporting OpenID and microformats thanks to the efforts of Kaliya and Chris.

And just in case you think that this is still a niche geek thing, here are the job details for Program Manager of Internet Explorer over at Microsoft:

Does the idea of redefining the role of the Internet browser appeal to you? Do the terms HTTP, RSS, Microformats, and OpenID, excite you? If so, then this just might be the opportunity for you.

The Future of Web Apps, day two

I’m feeling quite refreshed and ready for another day of geekery. There weren’t too many drinking shenanigans going on last night.

The official watering hole for the FOWA drinkipoos turned out to be a yuppie nightmare. The entrance hallway was filled with gaudy images that were probably intended to recall 1950s pin-ups but actually just looked like page 3 pages torn from a tatty copy of The Sun. The drinks were ludicrously overpriced and getting out of the toilets required a significant toll charge. All of this would have been mitigated if there were some ancillary benefits such as watching young nubile bodies gyrating on a dancefloor but a sign at the entrance made it very clear that dancing was forbidden. This being England, the sign added, “we apologise for the inconvenience.”

Before long, a rebellion was organised and a gaggle of geeks made a mass exodus to a lovely cosy pub across the street. Happiness and chattiness emerged. After that, there was time for one civilised nightcap in the hotel bar with the dynamic duo of Tara and Chris, Google’s Jonathan Rochelle (a scholar and a gentleman) and Natalie—free from Simon’s clutches while he worked frantically on his slides.

It’s day two of FOWA now and there’s still no sign of free WiFi. Khoi has kindly given me a BT Openzone scratch’n’sniff WiFi card he got yesterday so I’ll use that to dip in and out of the river of connectivity and expand on this running commentary throughout the day.

Mark Anders

Adobe kicked off the day with a Flex demo. Having attended Flash on the Beach, there wasn’t anything new for me here but it was interesting to watch other people’s reactions to the speed of Actionscript 3 and the ease of downloading an Apollo app.

Chris Wilson

Microsoft’s Chris Wilson is on stage giving a state of the Web address. He talked about the origins of Ajax, gave a nice shout out to microformats and he mentioned the power of tagging (Hi, Chris!). There’s plenty of talk about security which isn’t that enthralling to me personally but its probably the most important aspect of IE7 for most people on the planet. Alpha transparency in PNGs; now that’s more like it.

Khoi Vinh

Khoi is talking about The Future (capitalisation intentional) which will, as he says, be awesome. But first, let’s hear about some of the design challenges at The New York Times. He’s showing some nice examples of what art direction is. You’ll see art direction in the print version of the paper all the time, but the online counterparts are just templated. There are exceptions like the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the infographics for the November elections, but of course these are events that are predictable and can be planned for. For breaking news, real-time design just isn’t possible… yet.

Khoi makes an interesting point about the schizophrenia in new technology. At the same time that we’re getting into hi-def television and DVDs, we’re also flocking to YouTube even though the video quality is really lo-fi. And while SLR cameras are getting more and more powerful, we’re using crappy little camera phones more and more. This schizophrenia throws up some design challenges for a media outlet like The New York Times.

There’s no such thing as a free feature, says Khoi. And remember, the more expressive a designer gets, the more the user has to pay for it (download times and such). So for any new feature, there must be a really valid reason for it to exist. Oh, and options are obstructions. Too many prefs are a sign of unresolved design issues that couldn’t be squeezed into the main interface.

Thank you, Khoi. And now it’s Simon’s turn. Hmmmm… I wonder what he’ll be talking about: OpenID, perhaps?

Simon Willison

Oh man, Simon’s on a roll. Talking a mile a minute, getting jibes in at Microsoft, cracking jokes about Ben and Mena Trott… he’s got the audience in the palm of his twirling, whizzing hand.

Long story, short: OpenID rocks. If you’re creating any kind of membership-based site, you need to check this out. If you’re member of a lot of different sites, you need to check this out. Oh, and in case you missed it, both AOL and Digg announced support for OpenID over the past few days. The momentum looks unstoppable at this stage.

I love the fact that the evangelism for OpenID is coming from passionate developers like Simon, not from some corporate representative. Like the microformats movement, it’s bottom-up rather than top-down. Other companies are buying slots at this conference to pitch their products but Simon gets to talk about OpenID because it’s so freakin’ cool and can’t simply be ignored.

Ah, OpenID and microformats: now there’s a cool combo. Simon has won my heart and the hearts of everyone else in the audience, I suspect. He’s talking about portable social networks and everything. Bravo, Mr. Willison!

Jonathan Rochelle

After a pleasant lunch with some of the Last.fm posse, I’m back in the auditorium to hear what Jonathan from Google has to say about Google Docs and Spreadsheets (killer name, indeed). These aren’t the kind of Web apps I’m likely to use myself but I’m interesting in the technology behind them. I’m assuming that, given the complexity of the applications, the Ajax used will be of the non-Hijax variety.

Open Mic

Time to break out into something a little unusual. This, as Ryan puts it, is the user-generated part of the conference. Over the past few weeks, delegates have been able to log on to the FOWA site and vote for some short presentations they’d like to see at this point. The three highest-scoring subjects will now present.

  1. The virtual office. Okay, that works.

  2. A documentation technique called Jedi — Just Enough Documentation for Interactions. Great backronym!

  3. The topic with the most votes is… which apps will succeed and which will fail in 2007? Who knows?

Daniel Appelquist

And now it’s time for a talk on mobile. Let’s hear from Daniel Appelquist from Vodaphone. I’m not entirely sure that a provider is necessarily going to be the most subjective voice on this but we’ll see.

Actually, there’s something interesting stuff here, especially around the intersection of mobile and Ajax. There’s plenty of talk about standards, so that’s all good. I’ll have to corner him later for a chat.

Rasmus Lerdorf

Now let’s hear from the creator of PHP, Rasmus Lerdorf. He’s taking us on a trip down memory lane, looking at Mosaic and early versions of HTML and PHP. Rasmus basically wrote PHP to scratch his own itch—it’s the typical open source story.

Here’s a reassuring confession from someone who has written a programming language:

I hate programming. It’s tedious. It’s no fun. It’s like flying: sitting in a smelly metal tube with other people. But I love problem-solving.

Looking at PHP today, it’s a lot more verbose. The Computer Science geeks like it now but it sure has moved far away from being a quick and dirty tool for getting something done. Ironically, there are students today that only have a background in object-oriented programming and have to be taught what procedural programming is.

Here’s an interesting idea on why people join an open-source community: oxytocin, a neuropeptide otherwise known as nature’s trust hormone. That’s in addition to the usual incentives like self-interest and self-expression. It’s the same motivation that drives people to play World of Warcraft in a big way. Open source projects like PHP are like Web 2.0 community sites: Flickr, Digg and Wikipedia would be nothing without the user-contributed content. The same goes for any open-source project.

In addressing the issue of performance, Rasmus has lost me but that’s due to my own mental deficiency rather than any fault with his presentation style.

Security is even tougher. As he says, “basically, you can never click on a link.” He has two browsers: one for browsing and one for sites that have personal data. It’s kind of paranoid, it’s kind of sad but, when you understand the consequences of cross-site scripting, it’s entirely justified.

PHP5 makes it trivially easy to take XML from Web services and do stuff with it. I can vouch for that.

Time for a quick announcement.

Tariq Krim

Tariq is from Netvibes. I haven’t played with it myself but Mike Stenhouse was raving about it yesterday.

There’s a big announcement coming right now. Here it is… a Universal Widget API or UWA if you prefer a TLA.

If you care, you heard it here first folks.

Wait, here’s another announcement: support for OpenID. Yay! All the cool kids are doing it.

Right. Make way for the guys from Moo.

Richard Moross and Stefan Magdalinski

Print is dead? Bollocks says Richard. And of course he’s right. Derek Powazek would agree, I’m sure.

Moo cards are cool. I’ve got some: little cards with my Flickr food pictures and the URL of Principia Gastronomica. A significant proportion of this audience also have Moo cards. Best of all, anybody here can get free Moo cards if they give these guys a business card in return.

Business cards don’t have to be boring. They can tell a story.

With Moo cards, the difference makes all the difference. Y’know, Qoop launched much the same product—business cards made with the Flickr API—a week before Moo cards launched. But Moo could compete on the differences: unusual size and high-quality recycled card. Everybody talked about Moo cards; nobody talked about Qoop’s cards.

Partnership is everything for Moo. Without Flickr, they’d be nothing.

Marketing is a four letter word: free. Giving away free cards is great marketing. I concur: the free cards I got from Moo clinched the decision to buy cards from them.

The attention to detail in Moo’s physical package really seals the deal. There are little Easter eggs in there and the luggage-tag card that comes with every pack gets everyone talking. There’s an incredible amount that has to be done by hand but that’s what guarantees the right level of quality.

Now Stefan is giving a peak behind the curtain at the technical side of Moo. If you want to know what he’s saying, well, you should have come to the conference then, shouldn’t you? You can’t expect me to do everything now, can you?