Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Monday 5 February 2007

Post Baa Camp

Baa Camp ended yesterday. It was a whole lot of fun and very educational. I'd definitely go again if I got the chance. Some random thoughts...

I gave two presentations. One was on time-travel debugging, and got some good comments. The other was on Firefox of course, discussing and demoing some of the new stuff in Gecko 1.9. Unfortunately my Macbook crashed early on so I didn't get to show most of the demos (boo! hiss!). Nevertheless the audience (mostly Web developers) seemed keen, especially about the offline application support. This was by far the most highly anticipated new Gecko feature.

I gave my presentations early in the camp ... I selfishly like to do this because it maximises the likelihood that people I talk to will already know who I am and what I'm doing, or actually seek me out to talk to me.

I had some good followup conversations with people. I particularly enjoyed talking to Lars, the Google Maps guy from Sydney, who had a number of wish-items and was very interested in offline support. (Contrary to some blog reports I did not promise to implement all of Lars' requests! :-) ) I also really enjoyed talking to some guys from Shift, a local Web design company. We had good discussions about CSS, typography and AJAX, especially about how they use these when building real sites. This information is very valuable to me --- for example, it has implications for the units changes, and I think they've convinced me to change our approach slightly. I don't have time to keep up with the wide world of the Web design community so I may want to go and talk to them from time to time; fortunately their office is close to where my office will be.

I went to Nigel Parker's XAML/WPF presentation to see what the Microsoft pitch looks like. As expected it is very impressive. We definitely have a lot of work to do if the Web is to keep pace. On the other hand, the relationship between WPF and the Web is a difficult issue for Microsoft both politically and technically. For example, Nigel showed a XAML RSS reader, which was very nice except that if you have HTML markup in your RSS enclosures, as a very large number of feeds do, it doesn't know what to do. Anyway, Nigel gave a good presentation. He can also really slog a cricket ball!

The session with David Cunliffe about broadband was very good. It was actually an amazing feeling to be in a small classroom with a senior Cabinet minister, a diverse and (politically) unscreened audience, and no handlers or bureaucrats in sight, having a frank discussion of the issues. David really understood the issues, too, and seemed to take on board the primary message people were pushing (namely, that local loop unbundling is good, but it's equally important to have good local peering arrangements, which fortunately should be a lot simpler to resolve than the unbundling). It makes me feel optimistic about politics in this country --- one of the advantages of being a small country, perhaps.

It was amazing how much of people's energy was focused on the Web. Maybe that reflects Nat Torkington's selections, but it was pleasing in any case. It was also pleasing to see how much mindshare Firefox has in this space --- almost all of it. A number of people were building Firefox extensions, and Web designers were telling me how they design in Firefox and then backport to IE7. It almost made me squirm, it felt over-the-top. Nevertheless we mustn't take anything for granted.

I ran into a number of people who assumed I want Firefox to rule the world, making statements like "you could crush Opera by ...". I tried hard to put the message out that as far as I'm concerned, Firefox is just a vehicle for making the Web better; we need market share to achieve that, but attacking other good browsers does not actually serve my goals. In fact, trying to do so could hurt those goals by wasting resources.

People were excited by the fact that Mozilla development is happening here in Auckland, and that it's not just me. I got to explain my story many times.

I was surprised by how parochial the people from outside Auckland were --- lots of half-serious joking about how much better Wellington is (or Christchurch, or ...). The funny thing is that every complaint they have about Auckland just makes me think about how much worse that problem is in New York!

Wii Tennis is really fun! The Wii weather globe is very impressive too. That's a neat platform there.

Update Thinking more about the units issues that were brought up, I think we're actually OK with our current plan. No need to panic yet.


Hey Robert. Thanks for your chat (and we didn't really mind your mac crashed!) You mentioned CSS3 columns; these have been in Firefox 1.5+ with a "moz" prefixes. Are you implying that with FireFox 3 you will allow without the prefixes?
Keep up all the good work!
Robert O'Callahan
It depends on the status of the CSS3 columns draft. I just wanted to mention that columns are there and we're still working on them.
I was wondering if this was a website about you:
Robert O'Callahan
No, definitely not :-)
very nice blog , but wanna say to sorry you . because i don't understands your blog , what it is mean??? thanks.