I had the pleasure of attending the BarCamp Vancouver (un)conference this weekend. A BarCamp is an open, participatory workshop-event, where the meeting logistics and the tech-oriented content are organized collaboratively by the attendees. BarCamp Vancouver was part of the worldwide BarCampEarth, a series of simultaneous BarCamps taking place around the world between August 25-27, 2006.
I sat in on some great sessions on Search Engine Optimization, Digital Identity, User Authentication, Social Music Services, Tagging, Improving Presentations and Tech Activism. I think the most representative photo of all the shots that are now posted over at Flickr is the one above (taken by John Bollwit who has some good session summaries over on his Audihertz.net blog).
In the foreground is James Sherrett giving a presentation about AdHack, a recently launched d0-it-yourself advertising community, while behind him Sarah Pullman is leading a Yoga for Geeks session. I love the Vancouver tech community!
In true ad-hoc BarCamp style, I changed the topic of my own presentation during the morning scheduling session, when we organized the conference schedule on the spot using yellow sticky-notes. I had intended to talk about the Symfony MVC PHP5 platform that I am using right now to develop the ICA-AtoM open source archives management package. However, during the Friday evening BarCamp social, I spent a lot of time talking to people about the work I do as a digital archives consultant.
I had forgotten that the long-term accessibility and usability of digital content is still a concern to the tech-savvy as well. So at the last minute I decided to wing-it and threw together a quick rant on digital archiving which, by now, I can (and probably do) in my sleep. Of course, I mentioned the OAIS reference model concepts as a starting point and put in a plug for the European CASPAR digital preservation community, which is taking an open, collaborative approach to the digital preservation problem. Of particular interest is their goal to facilitate the creation and use of inter-operable digital archiving components using existing and new protocols, tools and platforms.
All in all, it was a whirlwind 24 hours. Made especially interesting as I was obsessively debugging my ICA-AtoM application while sitting in on sessions and chatting with other attendees. I was especially interested to hear from Bryght‘s James Walker and Boris Mann about the progress that has been made with Drupal’s CCK and Views modules since I last investigated Drupal as a platform option for ICA-AtoM. This now gives Drupal the ability to define custom domain models which, along with the poorly organized documentation, was the main reason I did not choose to use Drupal for my project initially.
Given the problem I was having on the weekend with a dumb-founding user session error, I came very close to picking up Drupal again to give it another whirl. It’s hard to resist Boris’ evangelical zeal for attracting converts into the Drupal fold. One of the main draws is the large community of Drupal implementors and developers who continue to pump out great websites and new Drupal functionality (e.g. an Amazon S3 interface). There is just a great economy of scale in the Drupal community which can be put to good use if you’re willing to handle a little clutter in your application architecture and a little confusion in your documentation.
Anyway, I did manage to resolve my user session error (of course, it was Microsoft’s fault. Internet Explorer doesn’t allow servers with underscores ‘_’ in their title even though I am just running the virtual server locally on my development machine). So I am back, full-steam ahead with developing ICA-AtoM on Symfony today. Other than the odd hickup here and there I have to say that I am extremely pleased with Symfony’s simplicity, flexibility and power, not to mention the excellent documentation which will soon be complemented with an Apress published book.
Nevertheless, I will be closely following Mark Jordan’s prototyping of Drupal as a digital repository and hope to find some time shortly to test-drive the new Drupal CCK & Views modules myself…because if I don’t, Boris Mann will hunt me down and beat me with a left-over BarCamp BBQ smokie!