After my great experience last year I was eager to attend the second edition of WhiskyWeb and it has to be said that the organisers (in random order, Juozas “Joe” Kaziukėnas, Michael Maclean, Max Manders, Paul Dragoonis and Ben Longden) didn’t let me down. The atmosphere was incredible and once again they managed to create something really special.

Day One

The gathering started in front of the Scottish parliament where a crowd of about 100 people slowly grew. We then got on coaches to Airth castle, how many other conferences can get credited with being held in a Scottish castle? After some refreshment and the registration process, we got straight into the mood of the conference.

How Google Builds Web Services (Ian Barber)

Ian’s talk was quite technical and very interesting; it gave fresh perspective on how web services and APIs should be designed and the importance of isolating your core API from third parties. If you have an API you are proud of and you want to share it, consider creating a wrapper for it rather than exposing it as it is. Ian showed how Google failed to avoid coupling the core API feature set to clients requirements in the past, by discussing how products like GData didn’t have the expected success because of lack of consistency, documentation and a common interface.

He then demonstrated how Google are now providing a new API layer on the top of all their services, how it’s been documented, and how everyone can now easily access it via a “discovery file” that describes the APIs.

Building Better Developers (Rowan Merewood)

Rowan introduced the crowd to various practices we constantly use here at Inviqa, and he also gave an idea about what we should look for as a developer in order to have fun everyday and keep on enjoying what we do. It’s not the amount of things you know that makes you better but it’s how efficiently you do what you are good at; to improve that, a little bit like an athlete you have to practice, practice and practice. It’s important to realise you work in a team, whether this team is within your company or within the community, so it is better to collaborate than to be a superhero.

Real Time Web Apps in the Wild (Phil Leggetter)

I was impressed by the number of use cases and applications running on Pusher and how we can nowadays make the web more immediate where the technology allows us, however I would have expected less of a marketing focus to the talk. I’d have preferred to see a showcase about how to easily implement the Dolphin race game that was demonstrated; this would have been more relevant to the developer audience.

Identity, responsiveness and the future of the web (Ade Oshineye)

The last talk of my day and probably one of my favourites of the entire event. Ade is an incredible speaker and I was excited to hear him tell how all these responsive design buzz words are leading us in the wrong direction. He clearly pointed out how developers should stop focusing on the idea of content, while they should instead pay more attention to the context. While surely content is relevant and important, Ade asked the crowd what a mobile user wants? And the answer is simple: he wants features, features which are beneficial to him having a better service and experience from the service provider.

Evening Festivities

After Ade’s talk, in perfect Whisky Web tradition, we then all moved into Airth Castle itself for our whisky tasting masterclass – this year sponsored by Dewar’s. Sadly for me their production specialises on blended whisky while I happen to be an Islay single malt lover, however they were able to impress me with their full cask strength single malt used as base of any of their blends.

Day Two

Day two took us back to the centre of lovely Edinburgh. The event was held within the walls of the beautiful Surgeon’s Hall, the major medical museum in Scotland, considered a museum of national relevance and one of the many tourist attractions in Edinburgh.

Coming Soon to a Browser Near You (Alan Greenblatt)

Do you remember the days when Adobe was leading the market when people were talking about interactive online experiences? Things have changed quite a bit since then, but it seems like this amazing company is coming back with some interesting ideas. No more flash this time, simply a pioneering approach to HTML5 and other delights that the W3C is planning for us in the near future. WebSockets is just the beginning of the revolution and Adobe seems to be willing to push the standards; bringing tools to meet our publishing needs into our browsers, offering the ability to shape content with ease and present our website like a press magazine in a way that has been impossible until now.

The down side? These experimental features only work in the latest chrome dev build and not even automatically. Let’s see what will happen in the future!

Scaling Applications with RabbitMQ (Alvaro Videla)

If your application needs a focus on performance, scalability, or language-agnostic communication between services, then a message queue system could be your answer – and RabbitMQ possibly one of the best. What Alvaro highlighted very well during his talk was that having a good messaging queue service in place will help you improve decoupling between your systems.

Decoupling between systems means better load distribution, better control on your streams of information, and also an improved user experience. For example in a Publisher/Subscriber scenario, the application does not need wait for something to happen since the relevant message will be provided at the appropriate time, allowing me to carry on doing other things without any need to worry.

3rd Talk: Open Search (Chaitanya Mishra)

Before I saw this talk, I was aware of OpenGraph by Facebook, but I didn’t know that Facebook plan to release a new feature called Open Search on top of it. Open Search will basically allow people to perform complex queries on any public content stored on Facebook servers using a human-readable language. A simple example, we will be able to type a phrase like “photos of people living in London who are friends of my friends” and this will produce the expected results. The Facebook engineer gave a complete overview of the project, its current status, how they architected the system, and how they solved some of the performance problems they encountered while developing this incredible and amazing feature.

Closing Keynote (Josh Holmes)

Josh did a great job last year opening the conference, and this year he did another great job closing the ocnference talking about change. In a different light he once again tried to motivate people to do more, to search for innovation, to experiment, to share ideas, to share credits and fame, as well as failure. At the same time he tried to induct responsibility, and probably the most memorable sentence I took with me out of his talk was “Don’t change just for the sake of it”.

Wrap Up

Whisky Web’s organisers wanted to create something different once more and once more they succeeded in their aims. This year they created a smaller conference with a limited number of available spots to give people a sense of familiarity and to enforce human interactions. One of their goals was “we want you to leave this conference having spoken with everyone” and I think that all the attendees created new connections and strengthened old ones. Many thanks to everyone who made this event happen.