Report from DemoCamp 12

DemoCamp Logo

After a brief hiatus in December, the 12th DemoCamp took place on Monday at a packed-to-the-rafters No Regrets restaurant in Toronto’s Liberty Village, a neighborhood of factory-to-office conversions and a hub of many local high-tech businesses.

DemoCamp is a monthly “show and tell” gathering for Toronto’s high-tech community. Each DemoCamp features four or five presentations in which presenters have a set amount of time to demonstrate their current project and then answer questions from the audience. People are encouraged to stay at the end of the presentations to socialize, meet other members of the tech community and exchange ideas. DemoCamp has grown from an initial gathering of two dozen people in an office boardroom to an event that attracts more than 100 people a month, with up to one-third of the attendees being first-time participants.

One of the most important rules of DemoCamp is “No slides”! DemoCamp is really about design and technology, not marketing and promotion. The idea behind the “no slides” rule is that we don’t want to see people recycle their marketing deck. What we do want to see is a prototype or actual working project in action, with some explanation of how it works and why it was made. Any sort of project, from personal hobby or experiment to enterprise application, is fair game, as long as you can keep the audience interested and engaged.

DemoCamp is also a good place to make announcements to the community. Between presentations, we make the microphone available to anyone in the room. Many people use this as an opportunity to promote upcoming events or to announce that their company is hiring. Tucows, for whom I am the Technical Evangelist, has benefited at least twice from these announcements — we got a couple of great developers as a result of these announcements.

DemoCamp 12’s presentations were:

Distributed development for Mozilla by Dave Humphrey. Dave talked about the programming assignments of his Seneca College students in which they did work that may eventually wind up being rolled into the Firefox 3.0 browser. Among the projects he showed were his students’ work on support for animated .PNG graphics, the “Buggy Bar” bug-reporting extension, work to integrate better integrate buildbot with the Mozilla development process and porting their CSS Guide over to Mozilla. The demo provided a wide assortment of student contributions to the Firefox browser project, from code for the browser itself, to code that supports the development project, to documentation. Dave wrote more about his presentation in this blog entry.

What happened to Bubbleshare by Albert Lai. Bubbleshare is a web-based photo-sharing application that has been designed specifically to be very easy to use by non-techies and supports private photo sharing. Its design make it particularly well-suited to families who want to share photos and don’t want the entire world seeing them, and it also made it a pefect fit with Kaboose’s offering of family-oriented portal sites, hence the acquisition. Albert put it to a show of hands as to whether he’d talk about the deal or about Kaboose’s new features; the crowd voted for his story about the deal, so that’s what he talked about.

Talk-Now by Alec Saunders. Talk-Now is an interesting “presence management” application for BlackBerry devices that lets you specify when you are and aren’t avilable for a conversation and see the availability of your preferred contacts for a conversation. It ties in nicely and smartly with the calendar app on the BlackBerry so that it can make reasonable assumptions about when you’re available to take a call. This demo had an intersting twist; in order to show the screens of the collection of BlackBerry devices he used for the demo, Alec made use of a clever little videocamera rig run through our projector. He put on a great demo and showed us why he won a Demo GOD award at the Demo 2006 conference.

Flock by Will Pate. Flock is a Mozilla-based browser with sharing and blogging utilities built in. The internet connectivity wasn’t all that hot that night and Flock crashed the entire OS at one point (treating us to a very rare view of the Mac OS multilingual grey translucent screen of death), but Will still managed to put on a great demo.

We also had a number of “quick updates” in which people who presented at previous DemoCamps updated us on their projects’ status.

I’m very pleased that DemoCamp is still packing the house after a year in operation and especially since Monday was a bitterly cold night. It’s a testament to the enthusiasm and vibrancy of the Toronto tech community. My thanks to the presnters for doing a great job, No Regrets restaurant for hosting the event, David and Jay for always being there to get the ball rolling, Kristan for capturing the event on video, Bryce and Mark for their support and assistance and to the attendees for being there!