What a crazy week. On top of a busy work schedule, I’ve also found myself at some tech events that really deserve a full write-up but, for now, will have to make do with a summary…
Amazon Web Services 101
One of the events I attended this week was a ”lunch and learn” session to give an introduction/overview of Amazon Web Services – kind of like a breakfast briefing, but at a more sociable hour of the day!
I already blogged about Amazon’s reference architecture for utility computing but I wanted to mention Ryan Shuttleworth’s (@RyanAWS) explaination of how Amazon Web Services (AWS) came about.
Contrary to popular belief, AWS didn’t grow out of spare capacity in the retail business but in building a service-oriented infrastructure for a scalable development environment to initially provide development services to internal teams and then to expose the amazon catalogue as a web service. Over time, Amazon found that developers were hungry for more and they moved towards the AWS mission to:
“Enable business and developers to use web services* to build scalable, sophisticated applications”
*What people now call “the cloud”
In fact, far from being the catalyst for AWS, Amazon’s retail business is just another AWS customer.
Adobe Marketing Cloud
Most people will be familiar with Adobe for their design and print products, whether that’s Photoshop, Lightroom, or a humble PDF reader. I was invited to attend an event earlier this week to hear about the Adobe Marketing Cloud, which aims to become for marketers what the Creative Suite has for design professionals. Whilst the use of “cloud” grates with me as a blatant abuse of a buzzword (if I’m generous, I suppose it is a SaaS suite of products…), Adobe has been acquiring companies (I think I heard $3bn mentioned as the total cost) and integrating technology to create a set of analytics, social, advertising, targeting and web experience management solutions and a real-time dashboard.
Milton Keynes Geek Night
The third event I attended this week was the quarterly Milton Keynes Geek Night (this was the third one) – and this did not disappoint – it was well up to the standard I’ve come to expect from David Hughes (@DavidHughes) and Richard Wiggins (@RichardWiggins).
The evening kicked off with Dave Addey (@DaveAddey) of UK Train Times app fame, talking about what makes a good mobile app. Starting out from a 2010 Sunday Times article about the app gold rush, Dave explained why few people become smartphone app millionaires, but how to see if your idea is:
- Is your mobile app idea really a good idea? (i.e. is it universal, is it international, and does it have lasting appeal – or, put bluntly, will you sell enough copies to make it worthwhile?)
- Is it suitable to become a mobile app? (will it fill “dead time”, does it know where you go and use that to add value, is it “always there”, does it have ongoing use)
- And how should you make it? (cross platform framework, native app, HTML, or hybrid?)
Dave’s talk warrants a blog post of it’s own – and hopefully I’ll return to the subject one day – but, for now, that’s the highlights.
Next up were the 5 minute talks, with Matt Clements (@MattClementsUK) talking about empowering business with APIs to:
- Increase sales by driving traffic.
- Improve your brand awareness by working with others.
- Increase innovation, by allowing others to interface with your platform.
- Create partnerships, with symbiotic relationships to develop complimentary products.
- Create satisfied customers – by focusing on the part you’re good at, and let others build on it with their expertise.
Then Adam Onishi (@OnishiWeb) gave a personal, and honest, talk about burnout, it’s effects, recognising the problem, and learning to deal with it.
And Jo Lankester (@JoSnow) talked about real-world responsive design and the lessons she has learned:
- Improve the process – collaborate from the outset.
- Don’t forget who you’re designing for – consider the users, in which context they will use a feature, and how they will use it.
- Learn to let go – not everything can be perfect.
Then, there were the usual one-minute slots from sponsors and others with a quick message, before the second keynote – from Aral Balkan (@Aral), talking about the high cost of free.
In an entertaining talk, loaded with sarcasm, profanity (used to good effect) but, most of all, intelligent insight, Aral explained the various business models we follow in the world of consumer technology:
- Free – with consequential loss of privacy.
- Paid – with consequential loss of audience (i.e. niche) and user experience.
- Open – with consequential loss of good user experience, and a propensity to allow OEMs and operators to mess things up.
This was another talk that warrants a blog post of its own (although I’m told the session audio was recorded – so hopefully I’ll be able to put up a link soon) but Aral moved on to talk about a real alternative with mainstream consumer appeal that happens to be open. To achieve this, Aral says we need a revolution in open source culture in that open source and great user experience do not have to be mutually exclusive. We must bring design thinking to open source. Design-led open source. Without this, Aral says, we don’t have an alternative to Twitter, Facebook, whatever-the-next-big-platform-is doing what they want to with our data. And that alternative needs to be open. Because if it’s just free, the cost is too high.
The next MK Geek Night will be on 21 March, and the date is already in my diary (just waiting for the Eventbrite notice!)
Photo credit: David Hughes, on Flickr. Used with permission.