Joseph Smarr

Thoughts on web development, tech, and life.

Category: Papers and Talks (page 2 of 4)

A collection of academic and professional papers, presentations, and talks that I have given.

The Widgets Shall Inherit the Web (Widget Summit 2008)

The Widgets Shall Inherit the Web
Widget Summit 2008
San Francisco, CA
November 4, 2008

Download PPT (7.1MB)

For the second year in a row, I gave a talk at Niall Kennedy‘s Widget Summit in San Francisco. My my, what a difference a year makes! Last year, I was still talking about high-performance JavaScript, and while I’d started working on opening up the social web, the world was a very different place: no OpenSocial, no OAuth, no Portable Contacts, and OpenID was still at version 1.1, with very little mainstream support. Certainly, these technologies were not top-of-mind at a conference about developing web widgets.

But this year, the Open Stack was on everybody’s mtheind–starting with Cody Simms’s keynote on Yahoo’s Open Strategy, and following with talks from Google, hi5, and MySpace, all about how they’ve opened up their platforms using OpenSocial, OAuth, and the rest of the Open Stack. My talk was called “The Widgets Shall Inherit the Web”, and it explained how these open building blocks will greatly expand the abilities of widget developers to add value not just inside existing social networks, but across the entire web. John McCrea live-blogged my talk, as well as the follow-on talk from Max Engel of MySpace.
Most of the slides themselves came from my recent talk at Web 2.0 Expo NY, but when adapting my speech to this audience, something struck me: widget developers have actually been ahead of their time, and they’re in the best position of anyone to quickly take advantage of the opening up the social web. After all, widgets assume that someone else is taking care of signing up users, getting them to fill out profiles and find their friends, and sharing activity with one another. Widgets live on top of that existing ecosystem and add value by doing something new and unique. And importantly, it’s a symbiotic relationship–the widget developers can focus on their unique value-add (instead of having to build everything from scratch), and the container sites get additional rich functionality they didn’t have to build themselves.

This is the exactly the virtous cycle that the Open Stack will deliver for the social web, and so to this audience, it was music to their ears.

PS: Yes, I still voted on the same day I gave this talk. I went to the polls first thing in the morning, but I waited in line for over 90 minutes (!), so I missed some of the opening talks. Luckily my talk wasn’t until the afternoon. And of course, it was well worth the wait! :)

Performance Challenges for the Open Web (Stanford CS193H)

Performance Challenges for the Open Web
Stanford CS193H: High Performance Web Sites
Stanford, CA
September 29, 2008

Download PPT (6.8 MB)

Open Web brings new performance challengesWeb site performance guru Steve Souders is teaching a class at Stanford this fall on High Performance Web Sites (CS193H). He invited me to give a guest lecture to his class on the new performance challenges emerging from our work to open up the social web. As a recent Stanford alum (SSP ’02, co-term ’03), it was a thrill to get to teach a class at my alma mater, esp. in the basement of the Gates bldg, where I’ve taken many classes myself.

I originally met Steve at OSCON 07 when I was working on high-performance JavaScript, and we were giving back-to-back talks. We immediately hit it off and have remained in good touch since. Over the last year or so, however, my focus has shifted to opening up the social web. So when Steve asked me to speak at his class, my first reaction was “I’m not sure I could tell your students anything new that isn’t already in your book”.

But upon reflection, I realized that a lot of the key challenges in creating a truly social web are directly related to performance, and the set of performance challenges in this space are quite different than in optimizing a single web site. In essence, the challenge is getting multiple sites to work together and share content in a way that’s open and flexible but also tightly integrated and high-performance. Thus my new talk was born.

Lots of open building blocksI provided the students with an overview of the emerging social web ecosystem, and some of the key open building blocks making it possible (OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, XRDS-Simple, microformats, etc.). I then gave some concrete examples of how these building blocks can play together, and that led naturally into a discussion of the performance challenges involved.

I broke the challenges into four primary categories:

  • minimizing round trips (the challenge is combining steps to optimize vs. keeping the pieces flexible and simple),
  • caching (storing copies of user data for efficiency vs. always having a fresh copy),
  • pull vs. push (the difficulty of scaling mass-polling and the opportunities presented by XMPP and Gnip to decrease both latency and load), and
  • integrating third-party content (proxying vs. client-side fetching, iframes vs. inline integration, etc.).

In each of these cases, there are fundamental trade-offs to make, so there’s no “easy, right answer”. But by understanding the issues involved, you can make trade-offs that are tailored to the situation at hand. Some of the students in that class will probably be writing the next generation of social apps, so I’m glad they can start thinking about these important issues today.

Web 2.0/Web 3.0 Mashup (EmTech08)

Web 2.0/Web 3.0 Mashup
Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT (EmTech08)
Boston, MA
September 24, 2008

Attribution: ValleywagI was invited to speak on a panel at EmTech, the annual conference on emerging technologies put on by MIT’s TechnologyReview Magazine, on the future of the web. The conference spans many disciplines (alternative energy, cloud computing, biotech, mobile, etc.) and we were the representatives of the consumer internet, which was quite a humbling task! Robert Scoble moderated the panel, which featured me, David Recordon, Dave Morin, and Nova Spivak.

It was a loose and lively back-and-forth discussion of the major trends we see on the web today: it’s going social, it’s going open, it’s going real-time, and it’s going ubiquitous. These trends are all working together: it’s now common (at least in silicon valley) to use your iPhone on the go to see what articles/restaurants/etc your friends have recommended from a variety of distributed tools, aggregated via FriendFeed, Plaxo Pulse, or Facebook. A lot of the vision behind the Semantic Web (structured data enabling machine-to-machine communication on a user’s behalf) is now happening, but it’s doing so bottoms-up, with open standards that let users easily create content online and share it with people they know. As the audience could clearly tell from our passionate and rapid-fire remarks, this is an exciting and important time for the web.

We got lots of positive feedback on our panel from attendees (and also via twitter, of course), as well as from the TR staff. We even received the distinct honor of attracting snarky posts from both Valleywag and Fake Steve Jobs (if you don’t know the valley, trust me: that’s a good thing). You can watch a video of the entire panel on TechnologyReview’s website.

I must say I’m quite impressed with TechnologyReview and EmTech. They do a good job of pulling together interesting people and research from a variety of technical frontiers and making it generally accessible but not dumbed-down. The piece they wrote recently on opening up the social web (which featured a full page photo of yours-truly diving into a large bean bag) was perhaps the most insightful mainstream coverage to date of our space. They gave me a free one-year subscription to TR for speaking at EmTech, and I’ll definitely enjoy reading it. Here’s looking forward to EmTech09!

Tying it All Together: Implementing the Open Web (Web 2.0 Expo New York)

Tying it All Together: Implementing the Open Web
Web 2.0 Expo New York
New York, NY
September 19, 2008

Download PPT (7.2 MB)

I gave the latest rev of my talk on how the social web is opening up and how the various building blocks (OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, PortableContacts, XRDS-Simple, Microformats, etc.) fit together to create a new social web ecosystem. Thanks to Kris Jordan, Mark Scrimshire, and Steve Kuhn for writing up detailed notes of what I said. Given that my talk was scheduled for the last time slot on the last day of the conference, it was well attended and the audience was enthusiastic and engaged, which I always take as a good sign.

I think the reason that people are reacting so positively to this message (besides the fact that I’m getting better with practice at explaining these often complex technologies in a coherent way!) is that it’s becoming more real and more important every day. It’s amazing to me how much has happened in this space even since my last talk on this subject at Google I/O in May (I know because I had to update my slides considerably since then!). Yahoo has staked its future on going radically open with Y!OS, and it’s using the “open stack” to do it. MySpace hosted our Portable Contacts Summit (an important new building block), and is using OpenID, OAuth, and OpenSocial for it’s “data availability” platform. Google now uses OAuth for all of its GData APIs. These are three of the biggest, most mainstream consumer web businesses around, and they’re all going social and open in a big way.

At the same time, the proliferation of new socially-enabled services continues unabated. This is why users and developers are increasingly receptive to an Open Web in which the need to constantly re-create and maintain accounts, profiles, friends-lists, and activity streams is reduced. And even though some large sites like Facebook continue to push a proprietary stack, they too see the value of letting their users take their data with them across the social web (which is precisely what Facebook Connect does). Thus all the major players are aligned in their view of the emerging “social web ecosystem” in which Identity Providers, Social Graph Providers, and Content Aggregators will help users interact with the myriad social tools we all want to use.

So basically: everyone agrees on the architecture, most also agree on the open building blocks, and nothing prevents the holdouts from going open if/when they decide it’s beneficial or inevitable. This is why I’m so optimistic and excited to be a part of this movement, and it’s why audiences are so glad to hear the good news.

PS: Another positive development since my last talk is that we’re making great progress on actually implementing the “open stack” end-to-end. One of the most compelling demos I’ve seen is by Brian Ellin of JanRain, which shows how a user can sign up for a new site and provide access to their private address book, all in a seamless and vendor-neutral way!

OpenSocial, OpenID, and OAuth! Oh, My! (Google I/O)

OpenSocial, OpenID, and OAuth! Oh, My!
Google I/O
San Francisco, CA
May 29, 2008

Download PPT (7.3 MB)

Update: Google has posted a full-length video of my talk, along with a web-friendly copy of my slides.

Giving my talk: I was one of only a few non-Google employees who was invited to give a talk at Google’s big developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco. This was a huge event, and Google clearly went all-out on design and production. Not only were there a ton of talks and an amazing reception party, the open spaces were filled with colorful balls, beanbags, drink and snack stations (including made-to-order giant pretzels with salt), pool tables, demo areas, and more. This definitely felt like being inside the Googleplex.

Chilling in Google's beanbag chairsMost of the talks focused on a particular Google API, product, or service, and they were organized into tracks like “Maps & Geo”, “Mobile”, and of course “Social”, where my talk lived. Not surprisingly, most of the Social talks focused on OpenSocial, and originally I was asked to present as an OpenSocial container (on behalf of Plaxo). When I suggested that I could probably add even more value by talking about all the other building blocks of the open social web and how they complement OpenSocial, they were enthusiastic, and so my talk was born. I got to do a first version of a talk on this theme at Web 2.0 Expo in April, but enough things had changed in the world since last month that I had to do quite a bit of revising and adding to that talk for Google I/O (a sign of how quickly things are moving in this space!)

Open Social Web pool classicI gave my talk on Thursday morning and the room was literally packed to the walls. Several people came up to me afterwards and lamented that they’d tried to get in but were turned away because the room was already over capacity. Wow, I guess people really do want to understand how the social web is opening up! I was very pleased with how the talk went, judging both by the positive feedback I received (in person and in tweets) and by the long and engaged Q&A session that followed for more than half an hour after the talk officially ended. Interestingly, 100% of the questions were about the details of how these technologies work and how to best apply them, rather than whether opening up the social web is a good idea in the first place or whether it’s feasible. Granted, this was a developer conference, but it’s still a strong indication to me of the momentum that our movement has generated, and the increasing extent to which people view it as both inevitable and good. We’re definitely making progress, and I couldn’t be more excited to keep pushing forward!

Update: My partner-in-crime John McCrea has coverage of my talk, including photos and a video clip he shot towards the end of my talk.

Data Portability, Privacy, and the Emergence of the Social Web (Web 2.0 Expo)

Data Portability, Privacy, and the Emergence of the Social Web
Web 2.0 Expo
San Francisco, CA
April 23, 2008

Download PPT (5.3 MB)

cover-slideI’ve been talking about opening up the social web for some time, but the world keeps changing around me, so I can never use an old talk for very long. Since Web 2.0 Expo is such a big venue (probably the biggest conference I’ve ever spoken at), and since at Plaxo we’ve recently come to a new degree of clarity on how we see the emerging social web ecosystem emerging, I decided to make a totally fresh talk that answers “what is all this stuff going on right now, and where is it all headed”. After doing a dry-run for Plaxo employees yesterday, it was suggested that the visual impact of my slides could use some “polishing” (hey, I’m an engineer!), so our creative director Michael jumped in and worked with me into the night to help pretty things up. He’s amazing and this is easily the most beautiful set of slides I’ve ever had the privledge to deliver. :)

The room was packed, and I think the talk went very well. In fact, the Q&A was so lively and went on for so long that I actually got “played off the stage” with music to make room for the next speaker! And the huddle around the stage lasted considerably longer. So I guess I at least I got people thinking and talking. ūüėȬ†I was also pleasantly surprised to see a torrent of positive real-time reviews in the twitter-sphere (archived screenshot). My talk was live-blogged by Andrew Mager and Mark Scrimshire (thanks, guys!), and John McCrea even shot some video.

SocialWebDiagram-5It’s very exciting to be in the middle of such a transformative period in the Web. I firmly believe we’re on the cusp of the next major phase of the Web–the social web–and that a new layer of service providers are emerging to empower users to interact with the thousands of socially-enabled sites and services: identity providers, content aggregators, and social graph providers. There are examples of companies today that fulfill one or more of these rolls, and Plaxo is certainly going to participate in all of them, but we’re all just getting started, and–as I find myself saying more and more–you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Open Social Web roadshow continues

I mentioned earlier that the opening up of the social web has become a hot topic that’s taking center stage at many recent conferences and community events–and it seems to keep getting hotter every day. As a passionate advocate and early adopter / implementor of many of the building-block technologies (OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, microformats, Social Graph API, friends-list portability, etc.) working for a startup that’s helping define the new consumer and business ecosystem that’s emerging (both inside Plaxo Pulse and by helping users connect up the different tools and services they use), I’ve been speaking and otherwise participating in a lot of these events. Here’s an updated list of events I’ll be at in the next few weeks (including events today, tomorrow, and next week, heh). If you’re around at one or more of them, I hope you’ll come find me and say hi! :)

ReMIX08: Mountain View, Apr 17
Panel: “The Future of Social Networking” (3-4pm)

Data Sharing Workshop: San Francisco, Apr 18-19
Opening speaker: “What’s the problem?” (9am)

Web 2.0 Expo: San Francisco, Apr 22-25
Talk: Data Portability, Privacy, and the Emergence of the Social Web (Apr 23, 10:50am)

Web 2.0 Expo: San Francisco, Apr 22-25
Panel: OpenID, OAuth, Data Portability, and the Enterprise (Apr 23, 2:40pm)

OAuth Hackathon: San Francisco, Apr 26 (2-8pm)
Trying to help increase adoption of OAuth

Internet Identity Workshop: Mountain View, May 12-14
User-generated conference; I’m sure I’ll be running a few sessions

Data Sharing Summit: Mountain View, May 15
Directly following IIW

Google I/O: San Francisco, May 28-29
Talk: OpenSocial, OpenID, and OAuth: Oh, My! (exact time TBD)

Whoa, that’s a lot of events, considering they’re all in the next 6 weeks or so. :) What can I say? The next major phase of the web is being formed as we speak, and it seems like every day another piece of the puzzle is being added. And between the technical, privacy, business, and user experience issues to debate, there’s always plenty to talk about.

If you can only make it to one of these events, I recommend trying to attend the Internet Identity Workshop. Everyone you’d want to meet in this community will be there, it’s incredibly accessible (both in terms of price to attend and ease of talking with key people), and it’s a good mix of explaining where we’re at today and getting down to real work pushing the envelope of where things go next. I always learn a ton at every IIW, I always have a great time, and I always leave with a bunch of great new ideas I can’t wait to work on. I’m sure if you come, you’ll have the same experience.

Social Networks: Where are they taking us? (MIX 08)

Social Networks: Where are they taking us?
MIX 08 (panel)
Las Vegas, NV (Venetian)
March 6, 2008

Download audio (WMV 43.9 MB, MP4 38.6 MB)

My panel on social networks at MIXJoshua Allen from Microsoft contacted me and asked if I’d like to be on a panel at MIX 08, Microsoft’s big web-focused conference, about the future of social networks. I’d never been to a Microsoft conference before (most of the events I go to are full of fellow valley startup people), so I was curious for the “anthropological value”, and when he told me the panel would be moderated by Guy Kawasaki and feature a cast of heavy hitters (Dave Morin from Facebook, Garret Camp from StumbleUpon, Marc Canter, and John Richards from Microsoft Live Platform), I knew I couldn’t possibly pass up this chance. Good thing too, because it was a remarkable event and certainly quite memorable.

The panel itself went very well–it was right after the amazing, boisterous keynote conversation between Steve Ballmer and Guy Kawasaki, so the fact that Guy was also running our panel brought in an extra large crowd. The discussion was heated and productive: how quickly will/should social networks open up, when will OpenID be ready for mass adoption, what about privacy issues, and so on. Guy was his usual awesome self: light-hearted but pointed, and always cutting to the chase. There were lots of questions from the audience, and they came up to talk for quite a while after the panel ended, so they were clearly engaged and interested, which is the best thing I could hope for.

Another thrill for me was getting to spend a lot of time with the IE team. The first IE 8 beta had just been released, and it was clear the team was fired up to really make a leap forward in standards support, performance, and features. Along with dojo creator Alex Russell, PPK of QuirksMode fame,¬†JavaScript guru Doug Crockford, and a few others, the IE team invited us to a VIP party with them that started in TAO (a ridiculously large night club in the Venetian, complete with a roof-top beach) and ended up in the “Kingpin Suite” at the Palms, complete with in-room bowling alleys. Man, these guys know how to party! And they were genuinely interested in hearing our feedback about how to make IE better, how to provide better tools, and so on. As a long-time web developer, I normally assume I have no visibility into or control over the actual browser, how it works, or where it’s going, and my job is just to work around its issues as I find them. So it’s an amazing feeling to actually know the people writing the code for the next version of IE, and to know that my feedback might actually have a real impact. That coupled with the passion of the new IE team members gives me great optimism that the web platform will indeed get a lot better soon.

Oh yeah, and they lost my suitcase :(It was an odd feeling going to such a large conference where I knew so few people, and where there were so few startups represented (most of the developers seemed to be from large companies, IT organizations, and so on). But I learned a ton, had a great time, and even managed to shoot some photos in the process. The only downside was that upon leaving the hotel to go to the airport, the hotel realized they couldn’t find my suitcase which I’d checked earlier that day. Turns out some bellhop put it in the trunk of another car by mistake, and it ended up with a family in LA. The hotel said they’d pay to have it shipped up to me, but I still don’t have it. Since I was leaving the next day for SXSW, I had to quickly scrounge together a fresh set of toiletries, clothes, and so on. Luckily nothing too irreplaceable was in my suitcase, and hopefully it will show up on my doorstep any day now, but yeesh, what a way to end a trip!

The Future of Social Networks (Future of Web Apps Miami)

The Future of Social Networks
Future of Web Apps Miami (with Tantek Çelik and Brian Oberkirch)
Miami, FL
February 29, 2008

View Slides (slideshare)
Download MP3 Audio (37.3 MB)

In addition to the¬†half-day workshop I presented at FOWA Miami, I also gave a talk as part of the main event with Tantek and Brian Orberkirch¬†(who also has a great write-up of our talk)¬†on The Future of Social Networks. I summarized my remarks in my previous FOWA post, but I wanted to add a separate post for this talk so I could link to the slides and audio (and video should be available soon as well). FOWA was a great event, and I’m eager for the next one!

Implementing Open Social Web support on your site (Future of Web Apps Miami)

Implementing Open Social Web support on your site
Future of Web Apps Miami (workshop)
Miami, FL
February 28, 2008

Download PPT (3.8 MB)

I was invited to give a workshop and be on a panel at the Future of Web Apps in Miami. I attended the first FOWA in SF in 2006, and I really enjoyed it, so it was fun to get to be on stage this time. I’d never done a long workshop before, but I love talking about Open Social Web technologies, so I basically went through all of the various building blocks (OpenID, OAuth, microformats, OpenSocial, Social Graph API, friends-list portability, URLs as identifiers, etc.) and wrapped it in some high-level context about the emergence of a Social Web. The audience was very lively and engaged, and they asked a ton of great questions. So I was very happy with how it all worked out. These are the slides from my workshop; they’re a bit light since I was mainly using them as a reference to talk over. But hopefully they provide some useful jumping-off points to learn more.

I also gave a presentation on the main stage about the future of social networks with Tantek and Brian Oberkirch. Brian made the slides, which hopefully he’ll post too. My piece of the talk was called “Open for business” and it was about how being open can be good for your company, because it lowers friction to signing up and sharing, and it makes you a more relevant part of the online ecosystem. I showed demos of how you can sign up for Plaxo with an OpenID and pre-fill your registration info, discover and auto-suggest sites to add to Pulse using Google’s Social Graph API, and express yourself in new ways using OpenSocial gadgets. I think it helped the audience see that these open technologies aren’t just a cool idea, you can actually implement them today, as we have, and they work well enough to benefit mainstream users.

After the conference, there was a beach party at Nikki beach, and on Saturday, a bunch of us went with Leah Culver and Kevin Rose to attend the first Pownce Brunch to meet fellow users. We even managed to sneak in a little shopping and some beach volleyball. But of course we were talking about code and startups the entire time, since we all tend to lack that so-called “work-life balance”. :) Another highlight for me was meeting Gary Vaynerchuk, the star of Wine Library TV. I’m surprised I’d never heard of him (since I’m into both wine and disruptive technologies), and he was super cool and friendly and is clearly having a major impact. He taped an episode of his show live at FOWA, and he and Kevin and I even came up with an idea for a side project that we may try to spin up sometime…

I returned home late Saturday night (thanks to Pete for picking me up!) and tomorrow I’m back on the road: GSP, MIX, and SXSW. Gotta keep spreading the good word!

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