Heroku at a2div

Last night was the third a2div meeting. Majd Taby spoke about SproutCore at the inaugural meeting in September, and I spoke about CommonJS in October. November’s meeting, which was to be about Google’s Closure library, was canceled because of a confluence of factors… Three JS talks in a row led Trek Glowacki to declare that

so far a2 <div> has turned out to be “A2 Javascript Lovefest”

While I certainly like JavaScript, that wasn’t intentional. We have to run with what people want to hear and are willing to talk about. Luckily for us, Trek himself was prepared to do something about it and gave a great talk last night about Heroku.

Trek had a demo ready to go, involving getting the open source code for RubyFlow running and customized. He had a neat way of doing the demo without resorting to live coding: he had the demo code in a git repository with separate branches for each step of the demo. It worked quite well and Heroku looks awesome. Video of the demo is available online.

In the loosely structured part of the meeting that followed, we had bits of discussion about a few different things, including a quick demo of Node.js by Majd. We also talked about what topics we’d like to hear more about in future meetings. Here’s the list that came up:

  • Comparison of NoSQL engines
  • Node.js or other Comet serving technologies
  • The Microsoft stack for web development (Jay Harris offered to talk on this topic)
  • Something involving designers + programmers (maybe even a “basic principles of design” intro to help us avoid creating designs with misaligned bits and eye bleed inducing colors)

The January meeting will be at its usual time and place (January 28th, 7PM, SRT Solutions). Topic to be decided.

Thanks to Trek for a great meeting at the spiffy Workantile Exchange!

Exploring Google Closure: a2div, GTUG joint meeting

Due to Thanksgiving falling on the same day as the normally scheduled date for a2 <div>‘s monthly meeting, we decided to find a different date and possibly join up with another group for a complementary topic. And, indeed, that’s what we’ve done!

a2 <div> and the Google Technology User Group will have a joint meeting on Tuesday, November 17th. The meeting will be at the SRT Solutions office at 7PM. I realize that there are conflicts that day, but there is so much going on during the month that it’s hard to find a date without conflicts!

We have a hot topic: Google Closure. Sure, new JavaScript libraries appear every day, but not like this one. Closure has a maturity that comes from years of use within Google, on some of Google’s busiest properties. It has an amazing toolset (Firebug plugins, super squishy compiler), great docs and a nice collection of features. Of course, not many people outside of Google know much about Closure right now, so this meeting is a group exploration of Closure. Read more in the RSVP form below to see how it works.

I hope to see you there!

a2div meeting #1: SproutCore with Majd Taby

A few days back, I announced the creation of the a2 <div> group: devoted to learning new tools and techniques for building the best webapps. Meetings will be on the 4th Thursday of each month, so the first meeting is on September 24th at 7PM at the SRT Solutions office in downtown Ann Arbor. Meetings are free, so join us (please let us know that you’re coming using the form below — reason for that in a minute).

The general meeting flow that we’re going to start off with is:

  1. A presentation/demo of something awesome (for about an hour with questions interspersed plus maybe a few extra minutes for questions afterward)
  2. 5 minute lightning talks (proposed beforehand using the form below)
  3. General discussion (either collectively or in groups. Individuals having discussions with themselves is not encouraged.)

This is a rough outline, and I expect a lot of flexing based on the topics du jour.

I’m asking for RSVPs because I’d like to encourage folks to give lightning talks and the form gives a space devoted to that. Lightning talks, for those unfamiliar with the term, are simply 5 minute or shorter talks to introduce people to a topic or to give a quick demo of something new and useful. They can also be a good way to spur new discussion. RSVPs are also good to ensure that a really hot topic doesn’t overwhelm the space we have.

For the first meeting, the main event will be Majd Taby showing off SproutCore. SproutCore, for those who have never seen it, is an amazing open source JavaScript UI toolkit that is highly optimized for speed and reduction of the amount of code you need to write. It borrows liberally from concepts in Apple’s Cocoa framework, and Apple themselves use it for their MobileMe service. If you’re building a “website”, you probably want to use something else. If you’re building something that is an honest-to-goodness app, you owe it to yourself to check out SproutCore.

There aren’t any lightning talks lined up yet, so be sure to toss your name into the hat if you want to give one.  Also, there’s a form online if you want to give a talk at a2div and another if you have a topic you’d like to hear about.

Introducing a2div web development user group

I’ve been interested in doing cool stuff with web technology for a long time. I still think that web development is harder than it should be, but new tools, processes and ideas come along all the time to make it easier and more fun.

Many people probably view me as a “Python guy”. Sure, I’ve done a good deal of work with Python over the past few years. But, there are many, many good ideas on the server side that come from places other than Python.

And, the browser as a platform is an entirely different thing than it was a few years ago, particularly when you restrict yourself to “modern browsers”, as we do on Bespin. The performance difference between today’s browsers and those from a couple years back is huge, and that new performance opens the door for all kinds of new applications and toolkits to help us build those apps.

I want to learn firsthand from people using modern tools to make development faster and more fun. I haven’t seen a group here in Ann Arbor that is devoted to the broad range of web development topics, so I decided to get one going. It turns out that Majd Taby sent a message to the a2geeks mailing list in April about starting a web dev group, but I somehow missed that. Majd and I exchanged some email this week and worked out the details of the new group.

The new group is called a2 <div> (or just a2div) because it has the same topic focus as cu <div> and I liked the idea of joining forces in some sense with a similarly minded group. cu <div> has a bit of a student focus that a2 <div> does not (it’s been a long time since I was a student). Thanks to Cameron from cu <div> for giving us the go-ahead to start an Ann Arbor offshoot. Thanks also to Dug Song for passing along the link to cu <div> and connecting me with Majd.

a2 <div> will be a loosely organized group as MichiPUG is… bringing the right people together for good discussion is far more important than creating a formal organization. Meetings are free. Our meeting format will likely be something along the lines of 1 hour presentation/demo followed by lightning talks and discussion.

An important aspect of a2 <div> is that’s non-denominational. Are you doing client and server in Java (for example, with GWT)? Neat. How about in Python (with Pyjamas)? Groovy. Doing the server in Lift and the client side with Cappuccino? How about PHP+Dojo? SproutCore+WebObjects? Using ASP.NET MVC with jQuery? Do you use Cucumber to test your apps? All are welcome, all are interesting.

Our meetings will be at the SRT Solutions office in downtown Ann Arbor. This is a great space to meet at (projector, whiteboards, flexible table arrangement), and the location is nice because it’s easy to walk out for drinks and food afterwards. Thanks to Dianne Marsh for letting us use their office!

Meetings will be on the 3rd Wednesday 4th Thursday of each month at 7pm. That means our first meeting will be on September 16th 24th (less than two weeks away). You can subscribe to our calendar in XML or ical formats.

The first meeting topic is not fully decided yet. Please join the a2div googlegroup and let us know what you might want to hear about or talk about!

If you’re near Ann Arbor on September 16th, join us at SRT Solutions for engaging discussion on all webdev-related topics! See you there!

Update: Date tentatively changed to the 4th Thursday based on conflicts on the 3rd Wednesday.