BarcampBristol 12-13th October

BarCamp Bristol logo

BarCamp is an international network of user generated conferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants

Bristol will be holding its first-ever BarCamp this year on Friday October 12th and Saturday 13th. It costs a fiver to sign up, and the first rule of Barcamp is that if you are attending BarCamp, you must present.

The wiki page with all the information is here, and links through to payment details. Sign up!

I have no idea what I can talk about. My Arduino maybe? XMPP? I don’t really know anything – PVR/media shifting and how it filters to consumers? I’m going to guess that the audience will mostly be non-heavy techie. Any ideas?

What’s on telly instead?

What’s on telly instead is a stupid Greasemonkey script that displays what the BBC are broadcasting on TV and radio at the same time as an event marked up with hCal. It’s very basic and only supports events where dtstart and dtend are specified using expanded iso8601 (i.e. of the format yyyy-mm-ddThh:mm:ssZ). It uses the BBC Web API which means that it is “supported by“. If and when the script ever works, it looks a bit like this:

screenshot of script in action

Jabber transports and reliability

There is an open letter up on the Cocinella website about why IM clients which come bundled with support for multiple protocols are actually bad for interop.

I actually agree, but the problems listed about using transports as the solution are not merely theoretical.

I have been a Jabber user for more than six years and I have not found a single remotely hosted transport that I can rely on for the critical task of actually communicating with other people.

As far as I’m concerned, should be hosting the most reliable transports on the planet and then making sure that other servers who want to run them can do so in a reliable way. There is nothing more likely to turn someone off than the promise of practical cross-protocol support turning out to be nothing more than wishful thinking.

The dangers of relying on others

Since I am too lazy to manage my own subscriptions, I was subscribed to Planet Intertwingly. At 269 feeds though, the signal/noise ratio has taken a bad hit (what do you mean Sam doesn’t tailor his blogroll for me personally?) and I’m going to have to actually import the OPML and weed out stuff I’m not interested in. How annoying.

I strongly recommend any other subscribers tired of my witterings to do the same thing and remove me 😉

Personal Unit Tests with a dash of magic

I love this idea of Personal Unit Tests.

It’d be easy enough to fill in a piece of paper each day or remember to fill in the wiki page with my details, but I think I can do better than that (read: that’s too easy and dull, and would get me started sooner).

How my thoughts progressed:

  • cron a script (maybe even a GUI with wxPython) to popup at the start of each day and ask about the previous day’s tests from a hard-coded list, taking pass/fail answers and saving them to a wiki similar to how I record my daily work
  • cron a jabber bot to send me a data form with pass/fail radio buttons for hard-coded tests and save to a wiki page
  • cron a jabber bot to send me a data form with pass/fail radio button for hard-coded tests and save to Google Spreadsheets
  • cron a jabber bot to read questions from the first column of a Google Spreadsheet, present them to me using a data form, then save the results back to the spreadsheet

Doesn’t that all sound so much more like Web 3.0?

So let’s look at some practical issues. Data Forms is XEP-0004 – the last time I looked for supporting clients was 2005 and they were thin on the ground.

The important issue back then was that according to the spec <jabber:x:data> stanzas can be sent as a child of either an <iq> stanza or a <message> stanza but only the former was supported in most tools and I needed the latter.

Looking again, apparently Smack now supports this (and so hopefully Spark, the client based on Smack, should do too – this page seems to confirm it) as does Gajim . Exodus has supported this since As far as I remember Psi supported the type in 2005, so I can only hope that two years has been enough to also support data forms.

So it looks like there’s enough client support for this to be feasible. Next post I’ll see about getting some of this running in practice – in the meantime you can play with one of this year’s Summer of Code projects, the Data Form Designer Suite for XMPP.