Because they can – Democamp Toronto 10

MaRS entranceIf there was a theme in yesterday’s Democamp 10, it was people building stuff just because they could. Most demos were of software that doesn’t really fulfill a need, but their developers felt it would be cool to do it.

The first demo was an exception to this, and one of the high points of the night. Sana Tapal and Andrey Petrov, from the University of Toronto, presented their Online Marking tool, which allows Profs and Teaching Assistants to mark students’ code through a browser. You can highlight a piece of code and add comments to it, which really has more applications than just assignment grading – code reviews, for instance, could really benefit from this. Jason Doucette apparently liked it too.

We then heard the people from 3 terra present, a website to find famous quotes, select your favourites, and vote for them a la Nicely done. Part of the functionality they built is frankly strange for a quotes website: you can subscribe to other people’s favourite quotes RSS channel and see what pearls of wisdom they’ve been thinking about. Why would someone want to do this is beyond me, but if this is just what you always dreamed to use, the website is already fully functional and you can give it a go.

Unfortunately, the third presenter, from Broken Tomb (“the world’s first commercial Smalltalk host”), had plenty of problems connecting to his server, and had to face the uphill battle of convincing 100+ people, with no real working demo and no slides, that they can use Smalltalk with Seaside for web development just as easily as they can use Turbogears or Rails. I did not envy him.

Jonathan Lung, again from U of T, was next presenting PBJ, some sort of Javascript framework he built as a side project over a couple of weekends. He pulled of something I wouldn’t dream to do: programming live in front of all of us, while presenting. Very cool performance, but other than the demo he’s not promoting or polishing his framework anymore -he seems to have done it for the sake of it.

Finally, the naturally-caffeinated Sacha Chua dazzled everyone with her Livin’ la Vida Emacs demo. She’s a great speaker and it was nice to see the fireworks of her using Emacs (a very extensible text editor) as a therapist, a text-to-voice converter, a powerpoint-substitute, a life organizer, and a Towers of Hanoi solver. Why would anyone go through the trouble of extending Emacs to do all of this? I don’t know – because they can, perhaps. When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail, but if you use the hammer as well as Sacha, that probably doesn’t matter so much.


About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
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1 Response to Because they can – Democamp Toronto 10

  1. Sacha Chua says:

    Awwww! =) Glad you enjoyed my talk…

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