DrupalJam in 7 tweets (Awesöme?!)

Arjen Vrielink and I write a monthly series titled: Parallax. We both agree on a title for the post and on some other arbitrary restrictions to induce our creative process. For this post we agreed to write about DrupalJam 6 by commenting on 7 tweets that have a #drupaljam hashtag. You can read Arjen’s post with the same title here.


DrupalJam 6 was held in Amsterdam on March 19th 2010. I have never really used Drupal, but as a project it has many similarities to Moodle and that makes it interesting to me. Just like Moodle it was started by a single very sociable person with a vision, just like Moodle it is a PHP application and just like Moodle it is the de facto mindshare (if not market) leader in its field. All the similarities make looking at the differences even more interesting. Moodle has commercialised through a decentralised network of Moodle partners, whereas Drupal has chosen a venture capital backed route with Acquia.Martin Dougiamas has decided to commercialise the Moodle trademark through a decentralised network of Moodle partners, whereas Dries Buytaert has chosen a venture capital backed route by creating a company specialising in Drupal services: Acquia, allowing other companies to (often freely) license the Drupal trademark too. (Text deleted and added after a comment by Bert Boerland, thanks!) The DrupalJam was more product focused (in the sense of software focused) than your standard Moodlemoot. This makes sense: DrupalJam visitors only share the fact that they use Drupal (the contents of their site can be about anything) whereas Moodlemoot visitors usually also share a passion for education.

Let’s cut to the chase: During the DrupalJam I kept monitoring the #drupaljam hashtag using Tweetie 2. I then favourited every tweet that I thought was interesting and could be used for this post. Out of the twenty or so favourites I selected these 7 to share with you.

1. tkeppens: Het zou fantastisch zijn de #drupaljam sessies na de conf als screencast te kunnen zien. Drukke agenda laat niet toe er te zijn. : – ( #drupal
A quick translation: “It would be fantastic if #drupaljam sessions would be viewable as a screencast after the conf. Busy agenda doesn’t permit me to attend”. Technology is now at a stage where even for a non-commercial event, this should be feasible. Presentation capturing is something that I have been exploring in my role as Innovation Manager for Learning Technologies recently and it is a market with fast maturing products. I have looked at Presentations 2Go and am also very interested in Echo 360‘s offering (see here for a more complete list of options I explored). I believe it is good practice to separate the video of the speaker from the video of the speaker’s laptop. Does anybody know what is the easiest way of organising this on the cheap for conferences like the DrupalJam or a Moodlemoot?

2. ellishettinga: 2 werelden komen samen, #drupaljam in de Microsoft-/Sogetizaal, Microsoft als hoofdsponsor? Gezellig.
Translation: “2 worlds come together, #drupaljam in de Microsoft-/Sogetihall, Microsoft as the main sponsor? Convivial.” I have a distaste for giving rooms names of sponsors and have tweeted about that before:

Corporate Sponsorship
Corporate Sponsorship

However the fact that it is Microsoft sponsoring an open source event is pretty new to me and apparently something we should be getting used to.

3. ijansch: #drupaljam dangerous question in opening. ‘how many women are here’ is so eighties… Make them feel normal, not special.
Women in technology is a pretty contentious topic. Ada Lovelace day has just passed and could be seen as a symptom of more ground needing to be covered. DrupalJam did not have a lot of women attending. As nooble wrote: Op #drupaljam met 2^8 mannen en 2^2 vrouwen (“At #drupaljam with 2^8 men and 2^2 women”). I agree with ijansch that the organiser did a terrible job in the way that they brought this to the attention of the complete audience. Instead they should have asked themselves why this is the case and how it can be changed for the next event. I’ve recently listened to two podcasts that discuss women in technology as a (sub)topic: FreeBDSgirl and Fernanda Weiden both on Floss Weekly. Another interesting project to stay in touch with is Women & Mozilla. Open source projects should never forget that there are also many other diversity and inclusiveness lenses to take into account outside of gender.

4. ijansch: Would be nice if #drupaljam was on http://joind.in for talk ratings
It is always nice to learn about a new web service through a tweet. I checked out Joind.in and have decided to register for an account and try and use it at the next conference I am organising (Moodlemoot on May 26th). Joind.in allows you to add tracks and talks to your event and then provide an easy link to a summary, slides on Slideshare and a way to score and comment on the talk. They have an iPhone app and an open API (so other apps should be on their way). The only thing that might be a problem is that it doesn’t seem to allow for localisation: the whole site is in English, making Dutch summaries stand out a bit.

5. ekes: apache solr stats #drupal understand what people look for on your site. Genius. @robertDouglass #drupaljam
The first tweet that has any relation to Drupal. Apache Solr is an interesting Apache project that sits on top of the Lucene search engine library. It is a very fully featured and fast search platform with things like faceted search out of the box. There is a Drupal project that integrates Solr with Drupal, bringing very rich search functionality to any Drupal website. Good stuff!

6. askibinski: Just learned about the ‘Levensthein distance’. A way to compare similarities between strings. #drupaljam
This tweet had me whipping out my phone to do a Wikipedia search (I use the excellent and free Wikipanion app for that) on Levensthein distance. It is a way to see how similar two strings of text are measured by their edit distance: how many steps do you need to transform one string into another. I have no idea why this concept came up during DrupalJam (I wasn’t at the talk), but I do now have another trivia under my belt.

7. bramveen: Maybe the speaker should remove his chewing gum #drupaljam
Every open source project seems to have a least one “rock star” and Morten Heide self-named “King of Denmark” was the rock star of the day. Morten loves umlauts, the name of his company is “geek Röyale“, and his two favourite words are “awesöme” and “shit”.

Morten's Cöntact form
Morten's Cöntact form

Morten is a web designer and was giving the final talk of the day, speaking about the new way of doing themes in the as yet unreleased Drupal 7. The only problem with the talk was that Morten was chewing gum while talking. That and the rest of his behaviour turned the talk into more of a show about Morten then a talk about Drupal theming. Afterwards Mortendk showed some remorse on Twitter: #drupaljam next time im gonna drop The gum it was an #epicfail hope ppl got The awesome shit in drupal 7 anyways. I would say: Keep the gum, the world needs more completely self-involved rock stars…

Simon Phipps: from “hub and spokes” towards a “mesh” society

I just listened to another fascinating edition of Floss Weekly. They had an interview with Simon Phipps, Sun‘s Chief Open Source and Open Standards Officer.

His outlook on the way that the Internet changes society and how this will affect business is inspiring and thought provoking:

If you look at what is happening in society around the world ever since the Internet became endemic. There has been a topological shift in the structure of society: Society used to be structured on a hub and spoke basis with people controlling rare resources and communications at the hub and citizens, employees and consumers at the spokes. What the pervasive nature of the Internet made happen was that the topology of society gradually changed from hub and spoke to mesh. And as that has happened, the way that business interests have been conducted has gradually been migrating from a world of secrecy giving confidence and security to a world of transparency with privacy giving confidence and security.
We have looked at that trend and are convinced that if we want to be a leading technology company in the 21st century we have to adapt the company to live in that mesh society and to fit in with the emerging norm of transparency with privacy.

What does this have to do with open source? According to Phipps:

Open source is the natural consequence of a society that is heading in this direction. Because, what characterises open source is the synchronisation of the self-interest of many parties. And to create an environment like this […] there has to be transparency.

He also talks about how hard it is for businesses to make this shift, the “succes trap” for businesses: you cannot make a profitable and succesful company do worse on the short term to become a better company in the long term. Companies have to exploit their fallow periods to reinvent themselves: “the blessing of failure” (like IBM in the 90s and Sun early in this century).

This interview is a must-listen for all managers in technology companies. So please don’t hesitate and download the mp3 file or listen online.

Finally let me try out the new poll feature in WordPress:

[polldaddy poll=1013281]

Why we should stop using Twitter and switch over to Laconica

The biggest implementation of Laconica
The biggest implementation of Laconica

A lot of my colleagues at Stoas Learning including myself are having a lot of fun using the microblogging service Twitter. It has changed the social interaction between some of the team members and we have gotten to know each other better through a very simple service delivering 140 character messages at a time.

I like the service a lot but have been worried about one thing: the fact that all this information is only on Twitter’s server. This point is extra poignant whenever Twitter is down (which happens quite often).

Imagine a world in which people with a Hotmail email address could only email somebody if they also had a Hotmail address. There would be no way for somebody who is registered at Gmail to email somebody at Yahoo. Luckily this is not the case: email is collection of open protocols which can be implemented by anybody. Unfortunately we cannot say the same about instant messaging. I personally have a MSN account, a Skype account and a Yahoo account and there is no way for me to talk to a Skype user with my MSN account.

So what about microblogging? Will we go towards a future which is similar to instant messaging with multiple microblogging services which are not connected to each other? Will Twitter be so dominant that there will be no alternative (creating a monopoly with all its disadvantages)? Or will we move towards a future where microblogging is like email: you can choose the provider you want and connect to people using other providers?

I prefer the last option and feel that I should be principled about it. That is why I will stop using Twitter, temporarily abandoning the people I follow and the people that follow me and switch over to Identi.ca, currently the largest Laconica installation. Here is how Identi.ca explains in what way it is different from services like Twitter:

Identi.ca is an Open Network Service. Our main goal is to provide a fair and transparent service that preserves users’ autonomy. In particular, all the software used for Identi.ca is Free Software, and all the data is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, making it Open Data.

The software also implements the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, meaning that you can have friends on other microblogging services that can receive your notices.

The goal here is autonomy — you deserve the right to manage your own on-line presence. If you don’t like how Identi.ca works, you can take your data and the source code and set up your own server (or move your account to another one).

I will spend the next couple of weeks trying to convince everybody around me to make the switch and maybe even get Stoas to start its own Laconica server.

If you are interested in hearing more about Identi.ca and Laconica I can recommend episode 37 of Floss Weekly where Evan Prodromou, the creator of both is interviewed and explains how Laconica works and what the plans for the future are.