kiwifoo 2008

On the weekend, I’ve been once again to Baa Camp the New Zealand Foo Camp. After last year’s disaster, of nobody showing up to my talk (OK, I have to admit I was competing with Google’s open-source guru Chris DiBona), I decided to enjoy the camp by attending as many interesting talks as possible, talk to lots of people and not give a toss about a non-existing audience. 🙂

OK, the sessions I went to:

  • Secret Life of Java (Structure of large Java Systems)Ewan Tempero and a colleague of his, James Noble, analyzed inheritance in open-source Java projects. Quite interesting, how the distributions for bigger projects look like. [paper, Weka-specific]
  • You dumbass, you’ve hardcoded your app for HTML 4 – a very interesting talk by Matthew Cruickshank Holloway. His company developed a framework that uses XML as backend and transforms the documents stored in this format on the fly to all kinds of formats, HTML4, XHTML, PDF, ODF, etc. Very impressive!
  • Inside OpenID and XRI – I have to admit that I didn’t know squat about OpenID before I attended this meeting. Yahoo’s support for OpenID 2.0 was just hot off the press, so enough to talk about. Two things that I found interesting about OpenID: first, it’s decentralized and therefore not a single company/organization gathering all the information, second, one can finally have one ID to comment on blogs (as long as they support it, of course), web-sites, etc. without having to remember all the different IDs around the globe…
  • Standards Wonderland: How Bill Gates tried to rule the world and what we did next – given by Colin Jackson, Don Christie, Matthew Cruickshank. An interesting session about how the ISO standardization process around OOXML was being influenced by Microsoft. It will be interesting whether this inferior format will get ISO certified. Hopefully not… The New Zealand Open-Source Society doesn’t like it, that’s for sure.
  • Intro to Genetic Algorithms. How they work & how to make them – by Robin Sheat. Reminded me a lot of my diploma thesis, years ago. Back then I was initially considering to include GAs in framework, but I found that neural networks were better suited for my application that I was developing (automatic transformation of legacy documents into XML). That was more or less the start of my interest in machine learning. 🙂
  • IE8 Doctype Smackdown – a guy from Microsoft New Zealand and Robert O’Callahan the project leader of the Firefox development in New Zealand. IE7 already broke quite a few webpages and IE8 will do so even more. Apparently Microsoft got bullied by big companies like Oracle and SAP into providing longer support for IE6… 😉 Notably the best thing that happened at this session: as answer to how to test the compliance of web-pages with the upcoming IE8, the MS guy replied that if it works with Firefox it’ll work with IE8 as well!!! Hahaha!!!!
  • Open Source Community: Lessons Learned – having maintained an open-source project myself, I know how hard it is to motivate the community to participate. Especially, in such a highly specific area as machine learning. It looks as there is just not enough critical mass to create a healthy community. Other communities, like Django or Ruby on Rails, gather too much momentum and the core team can no longer cope with the administration of the posts on the mailing lists, etc.

But there wasn’t only talks, talks talks… No, I spent a lot of time talking to people and even playing games! Ever heard of Witch Trial? It’ll cure you from playing too many card games. Took us newbies 3.5h to get one game played. But still, was good fun! 🙂 If I can point you to another game, Munchkin is a lot more fun!

Apart from the usual snoring in the Marae – was already prepared for that based on last year’s experience – we also had to few mattresses to sleep on! Too many people booked in, even though there were only 30 seats, ah mattresses, available. Had to bunk up with a guy from Uni. Cozy! 😉 Usually, I got to sleep between 3am and 6am. 3am was when I finally fell asleep despite the snore-orgy, 6am because some nutty guys got up again…

Ah, yes… Photos… Kiwi Foo Camp 08, kiwifoo08, kiwifoo, baacamp.