"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

More on QCon

The couple of posts about QCon so far were parts of my experiment with the email-to-the-blog capability. It's simple and it works, and I did not have to lug my laptop around the conference.

However blogging at a conference wound up with the my usual pattern: start out with some items on the first couple of sessions, then the inevitable happens. I meet people on the breaks and the conversations fill up available time, and are more interesting than anything I could blog about.

So to catch up on some thoughts...

Stefan Tilkov kept a pretty good log of the sessions he attended. He put together the agenda for Thursday's SOA/REST track. That whole day was great fun and engaging. The combination of speakers was pretty much a full complement of who you'd like to hear address the issues from any of the perspectives.

The RESTful presenters overlapped little in their content. Anyone attending (or viewing the videos after -- need a link here) should have come away with a good sense of what it means to work with HTTP rather than against it. I mentioned Steve Vinoski's introduction to REST that launched the day (and subsequent back-and-forth salvos with the WS-* folks.) Pete Lacey demo'd a RESTful expense report example using a browser, command-line scripts, Excel, and Word. Well done. He had a lot more to show -- his suite of examples would make a good hands-on tutorial.

Dan Diephouse (who really knows how to order wine, but doesn't quite know when to stop :-) talked about atompub in particular. The Q&A got into some back and forth on "batch" and other topics that kind of stretch the current atompub specification, leading me to wonder: what does anyone *mean* by "batch" -- I can think of several variations -- and why do we try to squeeze any of these activities into atompub per se? Certainly the feed format is a useful one for learning about the results of batch activity. Finding some RESTful but not necessarily atompub mechanisms useful for "batching" may make some good experiments.

Earlier in the day Sanjiva Weerawarana's session included valid explanations of the complexity of HTTP and atompub, and the effort expended getting atompub settled. My thoughts were that observation does not really speak well about the WS-* specifications. Sanjiva repeated that WS-* are mired in vendor politics, poor implementations, and that we end users should have to understand much about them. Arguments I've heard more than once before, but still make me uncomfortable. Are these supposed to put me at ease?

Well, we went out and had fun later anyway. The WSO2 folks are looking, learning, and supporting REST just like the rest of us. So to speak.

I like that atompub has not attempted to specify too much (yet), and fear things could get out of hand, but at least we have something far simpler and easy to use right now. Technical details HTTP and atompub were discussed all day because doing so is *practical*. They are fairly easy to understand even if there are devils in some of the details. There is little hope or encouragement for taking a similar approach to WS-* and best advice we are given is not to worry about them, let the implementors handle it for you, rely on the "tooling".

Which gets back to Pete's presentation: his use of Excel, Word, Firefox, and Ruby was a great demonstration of leveraging the web. The web has won, of course. Thinking back to the Inforworld SOA conference held a year and a half prior to and two blocks away from the QCon conference seems like light years ago, with vendors pushing all kinds of proprietary nonsense on the unsuspecting.

As Sanjiva joked, the new "RESTful Web Services" book is the New Testament. But REST is more of a science to WS-*'s religion. The WS-* leaders ask us application developers to take a leap of faith following their proprietary tooling. REST / HTTP is simple enough to prove to yourself with the tools at hand.

Oh and Jim Webber's presentation is not to be missed, when you can get to the video. I laughed throughout. (Paul Hammant was at QCon the day before but could not attend Thursday. What I'd give to catch Jim and Paul in the same room!)

Jim's presentation rounded out the REST / HTTP agenda -- his illustration of following a workflow via HTTP makes the whole "engines of hypermedia" or whatever you want to call it very clear.

Thanks, Stefan, for organizing a really great day. The audience discussions were great too, with Stu Charlton and others saying stuff.


Anonymous said...

I wasnae at the conference the whole day Pat, just for an hour to demo Swiby to a motley crew of ThoughtWorkers.
See you soon, hopefully.

Dan Diephouse said...

"who really knows how to order wine, but doesn't quite know when to stop" - LOL. You weren't forced to drink it you know ;-)

Was great meeting you, the whole thing was a blast.

Patrick Logan said...

Oh, it was *great* wine, Dan. And I felt fine the next day.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.