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product experience strategy and design

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May 31, 2005

What can you build in 24 hours with Ruby on Rails?

This Saturday, June 4, I'll be one of the judges for Rails Day, in which teams of developers compete to build the best Rails application they can in 24 hours. But it's not just a fun way to show off your Ruby chops -- there are some great prizes for the winning teams as well.

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Adaptive Path/O'Reilly Ajax Summit

When we published my Ajax essay on the Adaptive Path site back in February, nobody was more surprised than I was at the volume and enthusiasm of the response. Particularly surprising was the range of different audiences the essay reached. The Adaptive Path site has historically reached (and been written for) the user experience community, but this essay provoked reactions from developers and business people as well. So many people were talking about so many different aspects of Ajax, staying on top of the conversation practically became a full-time job.

That's when we got the idea to try to bring the discussion into the real world -- to bring people who had been active voices in the public conversation together with people we knew had been working with Ajax, and see what developed in a small-scale, discussion-oriented setting. We knew O'Reilly had found some success with events like this in the past, and we asked them to help us make this one happen.

To build on the forward momentum of the public conversation, we decided to arrange the event on very short notice. As a result, we weren't able to get all the people we'd have liked -- many of those invited couldn't fit us into their schedules, and a few people didn't cross our radar until after all our seats had been filled. I was especially disappointed by the number of women we were able to bring in.

Still, I think everyone who attended would agree that the event was tremendously productive. We heard from a lot of people doing interesting work; for me, some of the most valuable perspectives came from experienced hands like Brent Ashley and Douglas Crockford and Brendan Eich (the guy who invented JavaScript!).

What we saw at the Summit reaffirmed the assertion that I made at the end of my Ajax essay: that although there are significant challenges for Ajax developers to overcome, the big problems in Ajax applications are design problems. There will be a lot of great design work done in Ajax, but for every great solution to an Ajax design problem there will be a dozen terrible ones.

It became clear that for Ajax to move forward, the kind of cross-pollination we saw at the Summit -- designers talking with developers, open-source advocates talking with platform vendors -- has to continue. The problems and possibilties raised by Ajax are too complex for any individual group to try to resolve on its own.

All of us came out of the Summit with a shared sense of manifest destiny. Ajax may not be the end of the story for web applications, but it's clearly the next chapter, and it's a chapter all of us look forward to helping to write.

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May 06, 2005

More people I can't keep straight (postmodern edition):

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If you're in Australia (or even just near it) and you're at all interested in blogs, you'll want to check out Blogtalk Downunder May 19-22 in Sydney. Speakers include weblog authority Rebecca Blood and hypertext pioneer Mark Bernstein, and right now they've got a special refer 5, get in free deal. I won't be presenting, but I will be there.

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