Google Developer Day 2007

Went to the Google Developer Day 2007 yesterday. It was held at 9 locations worldwide. The Sydney one was the second-largest one, with 700 developers attending.

To summarize the event down to a sound bite, it was about Google APIs and mashups. (and I’m sort of hoping I won’t hear to word “mashup” again for at least a week…)

Here are my notes, and I have indented the bits that seemed to me to potentially be relevant or useful to MediaWiki or the Wikipedia:

  • All their APIS are at http://code.google.com/apis/
  • GData / Google Data APIs – provides simple read/write access via HTTP, and authentication with Google. See also S3 for a similar idea (docs here).
  • Google Web Toolkit. Also known as GWT, and pronounced “gwit”. Converts Java code to JavaScript, in a cross-browser compatible way. AJAX development can be painful because of browser compatibility problems. GWT is one solution to this problem. Licensed under Apache 2.0. Develop in any Java IDE, but recommend Eclipse. Launched a year ago (almost exactly). Using Java as source language because of its strong typing.
  • Google Gears, was presented by the creator of Greasemonkey. Gears is a browser plugin / extension, for IE + Firefox + Safari, that that allows web apps to run offline. I.e. can extend AJAX applications to run offline, with access to persistent local SQL data storage. Means users don’t always need to be online, as there is access to persistent offline storage for caching data from the web, and for caching writes back to the web. Released under BSD license. Uses an API that they want to become a standard. Idea is to increase reliability, increase performance, more convenient, and for all the times people are offline (which is most of the time for most people). It’s an early release, with rough edges. Use local storage as a buffer, and there is a seamless online-offline transition. For the demo he disconnected from the net. What talks to what: UI <–> Local Db <–> Sync <–> XmlHttpRequest. Gears has 3 modules – LocalServer (starts apps), Database (SQLlite local storage), and WorkerPool (provides non-blocking background JavaScript execution). WorkerPool was quite interesting to me – non-blocking execution, that overcomes a limitation of JS – different threads that don’t hog the CPU … really want the whole Firefox UI to use something like this, so that one CPU-hogging tab doesn’t cause the whole browser to choke.
    • Thoughts on how Gears could potentially be applied to MediaWiki: An offline browser and editor. Will sync your edits back when go online, or when the wiki recovers from a temporary failure. Could also cache some pages from the wiki (or all of them, on a small enough wiki) for future viewing. Basically, take your wiki with you, and have it shared – the best of both worlds.
  • Google Mapplets. Mapplets allows mashups inside of google maps, instead of being a google map inserted into a 3rd party web page. “Location is the great integrator for all information.” URL for preview. Can use KML or GeoRSS for exporting geographic information.
    • Thoughts on how to use this for the Wikipedia: Geotagging in more data could be good. E.g. Geotagging all free images.
  • Google Maps API overview. A lot of the maps.google.com development is done in Sydney. Talk involved showing lots of JS to centre google maps, pan maps, add routes, add markers, change marker zones, add custom controls, show / hide controls. A traffic overlay for showing road congestion is not available for Sydney yet, but will be available soon. Some applications of the Maps API: Walk Jog Run – see or plan walking or running routes – example; Set reminders for yourself ; Store and share bike routes.
    • Thoughts on applications for the Wikipedia: Perhaps a bot that tries to geolocate all the articles about locations in the world? Will take a freeform article name string, and convert to longitude + latitude, plus the certainty of the match (see page 16 of the talk for example of how to do this). Could get false matches – but could potentially be quite useful.
  • Google gadgets. Gadgets are XML content.
  • KML + Google Earth overview. KML = object model for the geographic representation of data. “80% of data has some locality, or connection to a specific point on the earth”. Googlebot searches and indexes KML. KML de facto standard, working towards making a real standard.
    • Already have a Wikipedia layer. It seems to be 3 months out of date, and based off of the data dumps though.

Misc stuff:

  • Google runs a Linux distro called Goobuntu (Google’s version of Ubuntu).
  • Summer of code – had “6338 applications from 3044 applicants for 102 open source projects and 1260 mentors selected 630 students from 456 schools in 90 countries”.
  • My friend Richard, one the organisers of Sydney BarCamp, spoke with some of the Google guys, & they were quite enthusiastic about maybe hosting the second Sydney BarCamp at a new floor they’re adding to Google’s offices in late July or early August. If that works out, it could be good … although if it could not clash with Wikimania, that would be better!
  • Frustration expressed by many people about the way the Australian govt tries to sell us our own data (that our tax dollars paid for in the first place), restricting application of that data. Example: census data. Much prefer the public domain approach taken in the US.

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