FOWA 2009 – Day 1

Dafydd Vaughan on 12 October 2009

Last week I attended the Future of Web Apps conference in London. For those who haven’t been before – this event is run by Carsonified (a web agency based in Bath) and covers the latest thinking around developing Internet applications. I went along to the FOWA event in Dublin earlier in the year, but this one was much bigger and spread over two days.

The event covered topics such as how to market your web applications, new development methods to make development quicker, HTML5, accessibility and cloud computing.

For the benefit of those that couldn’t make it to FOWA, or want to refresh their memory, here are some of my (very) rough notes from day 1 of the event.

Kevin Rose (Digg) – Taking your Site from One to One Million Users

This talk was all about how to get the most out of your users, based on Kevin’s experience with Digg. Communication is key, but it also helps to feed user’s ego a bit!

View the notes

Mike McDerment (FreshBooks) – Three Vital Marketing Systems for a Successful Web App

Mike’s talk outlined three elements a site needs to help you market your application: tracking, storage and reporting. While Google Analytics does a fairly good job of the tracking and reporting, you can’t drill down to a per user basis (based on your user accounts). Nothing quite makes up for having your own raw user data.

View the notes

Dustin Dias (Twitter) – The Future of JavaScript Design Patterns

Dustin talked about JavaScript with a surprising number of references to corn. The thought was that JavaScript frameworks are not necessarily the best way to go as they frame and affect the way you work. Either way, the best thing to do is love the language, because JavaScript is not going anywhere.

View the notes

Addison Berry (Lullabot) – Passion and Paychecks: Open Source Lessons

I don’t really have any notes from this talk, but Addison was talking about open source and money. Essentially, it is a myth that there is no money to be made in open source. It is also important to be passionate and happy about what you are doing. If you are not passionate, and if the people who are working for you are not passionate, then you won’t do a good job.

Francisco Tolmasky (280 North) – Introducing Atlas: A Visual Development Tool for creating Web Applications

Again, no notes for this one, but Francisco showed off a new visual development tool. 280 North are the makers of Cappuccino, the open source framework for building applications. Atlas is a visual editor for making these applications (there will be both Windows and Mac versions). With Atlas, you can produce an application in minutes, and it looks fantastic. Can’t wait for this to be released.

David Prager (Revision3) – Get Niche, Rich, and go Mainstream

David’s talk was all about how to start off your web application. The overview is to pick a niche (or “nitch” as he pronounced it), and build out from there.

View the brief notes

Osama Bedier (PayPal) – Payments innovation will unlock the Web’s potential

Osama talked about micropayments and PayPal’s new APIs. PayPal believe that micropayments will change the way the web operates. Their new APIs will make this possible.

Chris Abad (Spymaster) – Advanced Web App Marketing Strategies

Chris talked about the annoying but very successful Spymaster game on Twitter and how they planned it. It is essentially a standard viral marketing technique – make something interesting so people will share links (or better still, just post it to their twitter stream automatically).

Cat Lee (Facebook) – Going global: The Future of Facebook Connect

Facebook showed off the latest extension to Facebook Connect. Now any website can make use of their crowdsourced translation engine to make their sites multi-lingual. While the talk was pretty much a sales pitch for Facebook Connect, the topic was interesting. I’ll be having a play around with this when I get the chance.

Bruce Lawson (Opera) – The Future of HTML5

This was probably one of the most interesting talks from the event. Bruce showed off some of the new aspects of HTML5, explained the new tags, which browsers they work on, their accessibility and their backwards compatibility. There is some fantastic stuff coming out of HTML5, but I can’t help but think it is a slightly backwards step and we could end up with horribly messy code with unclosed tags. That is one of the reasons why I like XML and XHTML. Anyway, HTML5 is not yet ready for production environments, so we will have to see how it is used in real life.

View the notes

Chris Thrope (The Guardian) – How The Guardian is using APIs, Frameworks and Tools to Build a “Mutalised” Newspaper

Chris talked about the Guardian’s efforts to embrace new technology. Unlike some other newspapers, they are embracing the new way of dealing with things. Chris also talked about how they built some of their online applications such as their MP expenses site and their twitter conversations engine. I’m probably going to come back and write a seperate entry about the expenses site shortly, as I had a bit of my own experience in this area. Chris showed off their Guardian DataStore and how people are using it to produce other data and statistics.

View the notes


For me, this first day didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It spent a fair amount of time talking about marketing and the past, but not enough about the future and going into the development aspects that I enjoy. That said, as I’ve been reading through the notes, there seems much more useful and interesting information than I first thought.

I’ll be posting my notes from FOWA day 2 tomorrow.

Any views stated here are my own and not those of my employer unless otherwise stated.