First off, I listened to an american guy with a very loud voice called Henry S. Thompson (gotta love the initial!) who spoke rather excitedly about XML Pipelines. Gotta say I didn’t understand what this was about but was impressed nonetheless. He warned people to stay away from Yahoo Pipes, a cool tool for aggregating and manipulating feeds, for some reason I didn’t get at the time and don’t remember now.
Next off Austin Tate spoke about stuff to do with AI and Second Life. He heads up AIAI and he showed us around the office that’s been set up in Second Life. I have read snippets of info around the web about Second Life but have visited the virtual world myself. Austin spoke of the future, where it’d be possible to set up an intelligent agent to act on your behalf when you’re not on the web. For instance, your agent could pay bills, answer emails and make decisions on your behalf. Setting up something in Second Life is a good way to explore such things. Scary.
I hung out with James Turnbull who, amongst other things, runs the popular Google Sightseeing blog. He was evangelising Django, a web framework running atop of Python that I really must check out one day.
I caught a few more talks and finished up listening to Morna Findlay, the School of Informatics schools’ liaison officer. Morna was trying to find out why there has been a sharp decline in students applying for university computer related courses. She divulged that, for Edinburgh University, the intake for computer related degree programmes has halved in actual numbers since 2001, even though there has been an overall rise in the number of students attending university. The general consensus in the room was that schools curriculums were to blame. Pupils tend to think that computer related degrees will involve learning how to use word processors and spreadsheets, just basic office applications, rather than getting down to the nitty-gritty of theory, programming, application design and all the good stuff. Also, I tend to agree with what James Turnbull said about experience is more important to employers than 3 years stuck at university, even though I value the deeper understanding a student will get from a degree.
Then we headed next door to Teviot for some free beers. I met the guys from groopit.com, who were very switched on, answered effortlessly any questions that were thrown at them about groopit. John Sutherland succinctly described groopit as
Twitter on speed. Best of luck to them and I recommend you sign-up now, even though they’re still in beta.
Before I knew it, it was 10:30pm and beer vouchers had run out and it was time to leave. May be next time BarCamp is in town I will have something to contribute now that I have seen how things are done.