Phew – the inaugural whistle stop Future Of Web Apps (FOWA) UK Tour has finished. I attended 3 of the 4 Tour stops: Leeds, Cambridge and Bristol. The Tour was a condensed version of the highly successful Carsonified FOWA conferences. This was the first time Carsonified had taken the UK tour on the road. The aim of FOWA is to help developers, freelancers and entrepreneurs learn and socialize. On the Tour we met many wonderful people and heard some great talks.
Taking the Tour out of London (a conceptual London bus)
The Tour followed the same format for each venue: big company demo in the morning and other talks in the afternoon. This was followed by speed networking and then drinks in the evening. The demo from Microsoft’s David Gristwood was on the Azure’s solid architecture and road map; Simone Brunozzi from Amazon Web Services gave a very useful demo of EC2/S3; and Doug Merrett/Simon Wheeldon from Salesforce.com showed how simple it was building an app on fly with Force.com. Tony Lucus of Flexiscale also demonstrated their Cloud platform at the Cambridge event.
Many of the attendees I spoke too at each event felt that the corporate sessions were too much of a pitch. I guess they were sponsoring the event to keep ticket prices down. The managed hosting providers EveryCity also sponsored the Tour and took heaps of photos of attendees wearing EveryCity stickers in the most unusual places:
2st Stop – Leeds – “Fares.. please”
Simon Collison from Erskine Design gave an entertaining talk about building client trust. Simon high recommended involving customers in an Agile feedback loop to create a usable app. An important point we need to remember. Dan Rubin then gave a wonderful talk on designing intuitive user interfaces which mimic non-frustrating real world physical interfaces. Dan used great images of taps, buttons and door handles/locks. Like his slide deck: Keep it simple, don’t over design and “don’t give instructions to users” – if you do the apps not intuitive. Next up was Lorna Mitchell, a senior developer from iBuildings, who talked about developing in PHP and database architecture. Click for Lorna’s slide deck. Finally Ryan Carson of Carsonified gave an excellent talk on marketing web apps through on-line measurement and building social capital. Ryan’s slide deck to follow..
3rd Stop – Cambridge – “Hold tight..”
First up was Wil Harris of ChannelFlip with a wort’s n’ all presentation on “Lessons learned starting a successful digital media publication with no budget, no technology and no idea”. The key message was start something, NOW! Then learn and iterate. With an offering in 87 countries Stefan Magdalinski of Moo.com gave an insightful talk about scaling and growing an international business. The American market proved to be the most demanding. Dorothy Briggs of Rabbitsoft then gave a talk on using Web2.0 in the Enterprise. Our startup knows all about Enterprise 2.0. Last but no means least was the charismatic German Christian Heilmann from Yahoo. Christian gave an enjoyable and entertaining talk on Yahoo’s exciting YQL API platform. The Tech crowd loved it!
4th Stop – Bristol – “All alight”
Our good friend Andy McLoughlin from Huddle give an excellent talk on partnering. Click here for Andy’s deck. His advice to finding partners was as to über network and get lucky. Once found, partnerships take a long time to develop and can be challenging to finalize. You also need the ability to scale rapidly. The next presenter was Ian Broom of Weboo. Ian give a useful reminder on goal setting, having fun and staying fit to be being super effective. Richard Healy from BaseKit then gave a talk on their exciting new DIY website building app. Like our website monitoring app they are also in alpha 🙂 Last up was Dan Rubin again, who gave a very similar presentation to his outstanding Leeds talk.
The speed networking was very intense. After the sixth person I generally started to loose all ability to speak. However it was good to meet so many people in such a short period as we made some great new friends 🙂
I last attended a 3 day London FOWA in 2007 and taking FOWA into the regions proved to be a great idea. It shows there is startup life and thriving web community outside of London. Roll on the next Tour!