OSDC 2008, Day 0

No, I’m not using a developer’s way of counting (’cause every good language starts counting in 0, anyway — like the GPL v2 had a “rule 0”), but the first day I can’t really call it a “conference”. It was more like “Google Showing You What They Have — And helping you building stuff with that”.

They shown three of their open technologies: OpenSocial, OpenLayers and AppEngine.

OpenSocial is the API for building social network applications, something like the Facebook API for applications. Not hard, just a bunch of JavaScript commands you can use to get the current user, the
user who’s the owner of the profile, the profile information of the user looking at the page and things like that.

OpenLayers should be the API for accessing Google Maps but the really gem in the presentation was Mapstraction, a JavaScript API layer abstraction (what a mouthful) to several map providers, like Google Maps and OpenStreetMap. And, because it’s an abstraction, you can easily switch between providers without having to rewrite your whole application.

AppEngine is the famous web-app development environment that Google provides for free, unless you have a huge userbase and need more space/bandwidth. Honestly, it looks a lot like Django, except that
the configuration files are WAAAAY simpler and the API looks a little bit more logical to me: you have an URL, which points to an object, which should have a get() and a post() methods, which are called depending on the HTTP call the application received. The hard bit is the DataStore object. You create your databases model much like Django models (with a few diffrent properties) but there is no relational
references in that. Google answer is that it’s hard to keep relational data safe when you’re using a cloud and massively distributed databases and, with my experience with a simple MySQL replication I have to agree with that. So, because you don’t have relationships, you need to build things using a flat table all the time (in other words, goodbye database formal norms.) It’s a little bit tricky to get over it, but not impossible.

The coolest thing of that is that, after about 20 to 30 minutes of explanation and some URL pointing, you were given a task to build something using those tools. And you had like one hour to put something together. I failed my OpenSocial application (still want to complete that), my Maps looks a little bit cool (you can see it here) and I had some issues with that flat structure of DataStore, so I couldn’t finish my project (but I still want to complete that and put it online.)

Besides that, nothing else. But, for a “Developers” conference, it was pretty cool.