BarCampMontreal3 And Acts of God

The 3rd edition of BarCampMontreal was held on November 3rd. It was a great event really well organized. I could take the time to write about every presentations, but I won’t do it. If you want a better recap of BarCampMontreal3, have a look here or here instead.
Instead, I’m going to be selfish and talk about our own presentation only. It’s because it is so an interesting story… I thought I had to dedicate a post to it. So here is the full story of the TimmyOnTime presentation.
November 2nd : 11:30 PM
It’s late, really late… but we have to stay awake anyway. I never saw Dan as tired as he was on this night. Maybe it’s because he is the drummer of a band and that lately he had tons and tons of shows in various bars… I don’t know, but he was like a zombie, a very tired zombie. Anyway, we were still awake because we had decided to record our demo with a screen recording software… you know, just in case that the real demo would have to suffer from some technical problems. So, after a short seance of trial/error, we had 6 lovely AVI files containing the actual presentation. Nice backup solution! We are so clever. We were done for now. It was definitely the time to get some sleep before the presentation. We had to be there at 9 AM… but we are from Trois-Rivieres which is a city located at 1h30 from Montreal.
November 3rd : 6:45 AM
In my car, waiting for Dan near his appartment… he’s not showing up. I’m really starting to wonder if he destroyed his alarm clock. I told to myself : That’s it, Dan died from lack of sleep. I will have to do the presentation alone. Oh yeah and it sucks to lose a good friend, too. Finally, I saw someone opening a door… it was him. He was alive!
Before getting to the highway, we stopped at a store to buy some coffee. And then something happened : Dan bought the friggin’ biggest coffee in history. I thought he was joking… but he really bought it without batting an eye. It was huge and scary… and unfortunately in the end it tasted like crap.
9 AM
Oh well this part was pretty usual stuff. We registered, met some great people and we had a look at the visual and sound setup. We learned that our presentation would take place at 11AM, just after the coffee break. It was a pretty good time to do our presentation according to me.
11 AM : The presentation
I was feeling the stress burning inside. I had the microphone in my hand and people looking at me waiting for the start of the presentation. And so it began…
Dan and I agree that our intro was pretty good. We had planned a little joke a few minutes before the presentation. You have to know that when we were practicing, it was like a running joke to clap our hands before saying “Bonjour à tous” (Hi everybody). We thought that it was a pretty lame way to look dynamic and self confident… well it just made us laugh. So I tried this joke right away. It worked! Some people laughed, other didn’t… but we planned it this way. Then I told Dan : “Ok take the following in note Dan : Never try this again, it didn’t work.” Dan on his side was taking notes like crazy, he took an incredibly nervous voice and said : “Ok ok ehhm, laughter : 3, confused people : 12 …”. It was great. People seemed to like the intro and we had their attention!
So we began to introduce ourselves and bla bla bla. Pretty usual stuff. And then, it was time for the Demo.
Just in case you don’t know, TimmyOnTime is a time-tracking tool that works with instant messaging. You add the contact [email protected] to your friends list and you can start tracking your time right away by typing commands like “create project corporate website”, “start task building mockups” and so on.
Back to the demo.
We didn’t want to use the real contact for the demo, that’s why we had configured everything to run on our laptop. The first step was to add the contact [email protected]. That’s what we did… but that &!”*(/ contact decided to remain offline… just for the time of the demo, how great! You do realize that, without a responding Timmy to understand our commands, we were in big trouble. We couldn’t show a single thing to the audience.
Option #1 was dead. We went to Option #2
Option #2 consisted of using the real contact “[email protected]” that runs in production. The thing is, our shared host is having a lot of stability issues recently and they are rebooting all the time. At the time of the demo, the real Timmy was down. Option #2 was dead. Let’s go to Option #3
Remember those AVI videos we recorded the night before? These videos were Option #3.
Option #3 died tragically when we realized that we hadn’t installed the AVI codecs in our Ubuntu distribution. All options were eliminated. We then started improvizing and talked about some basic stuff concerning the application. It wasn’t very good but at least we used our full 15 minutes!
In a technical sense, this presentation was a complete disaster, a total mess.
In a practical sense, We think that what happened to us was a good thing. Hey, we’re pretty sure everyone will remember our presentation for a long time to come! Sure, it might be associated with something negative, something that didn’t work… but who cares. A lot of people came to see us after the presentation to told us how they were sorry for us and how cool they thought our product was. At this time we realized that our terrible demo was not that important. This adventure allowed us to talk to more people. We also made another demo (smaller and more intimate) later that day. We even had the chance to impress Sylvain Carle (from Praized media) with our Product.
For Dan and I, this event was a meeting with the unexpected… and even though it may look like a failure at first sight, we strangely feel that what happened at the last BarCampMontreal is the best thing that could have ever happened to us.

The good ol' crappy days of Web 1.0

There was a time where Drag & Drop code editors were cool. You just had to select your desired visual component on a toolbar and drag it on your form to see it magically appear in all its glory. Wow, Exactly like the old Win32 days… « We can develop for the web without having to learn how the Web actually works! Oh my God it’s too cool! No need to learn that crap they call HTML neither… because we are REAL programmers and thus we don’t have the time to learn these primitive technologies. It’s way cooler to drag & drop a shitty user interface as fast as we can so we can do real event-driven programming. »
Sarcasms asides, the Web had to defend itself against a ferocious win32 invasion. In fact, this dark force almost succeed to kill its true essence, shooting all kind of projectiles at it : Active X, HTML generating code editors, Java Applets, WPF and other “rich” obscure interfaces… but in the end, the Web held its ground and triumphed with its simplicity. CSS, XML, XHTML, Javascript and AJAX fought bravely… and won.
Those who said that the current Web was not modern enough to survive were wrong. They were wrong to think that you couldn’t design fast, pretty and usable user interfaces with only (X)HTML , CSS and Javascript. They underestimated what one could accomplish with these simple technologies. They were simply wrong to think that the Web was wrong.
Today, and you know it, I’m in love with Rails. Why? Because Rails got it right. This framework fully embraces and respects the true essence of the Web. It lets you full control over your HTML (no “Panel” UserControl that creates, depending of your browser, a “div” or a “table” in the resulting HTML without letting you know. Ehm, you know who I’m talking about right?), it also understands and implements the REST nature of the Web. To sum it up : Rails works side by side with the Web, never against it.
I have the certitude that to consider yourself a web developer, you have to know how the web really works and understand each of its components. You cannot say that you are a web developer if you are using Rails but at the same time don’t give a damn about Javascript or proper HTML and CSS. You just can’t, I’m sorry. You take the Web as a whole, or you don’t take it at all.
Yes, this post was biased.