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ETech 2006 Review

I spent much of last week down in San Diego for ETech, O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference. I’ve been to a number of O’Reilly shows, but this was my first time at ETech.

I really enjoyed the show. Lots of interesting people there. One nice thing about ETech is that there was a little more emphasis on the social instead of the technical. Technology is always fun, but you need to remember why you’re deploying it, and how its design affects the people and groups who interact with it, both positively and negatively.

To that end, I was a little disappointed in the lack of diversity. Delyn guestimated the crowd at only 10% female. Christine backs that up with a slightly more accurate 11.62%. This was even lower than OSBC! I would have thought that ETech would have had more women than the norm.

Besides, after last year’s conversation, I was hoping for more. I just did a rough count of the speaker ratio, and it actually grades out at an improved 15%. (I removed all the paid sponsor slots, since Rael has no control over that.)

As someone who works on my own conference, and has also picked papers for a track at another O’Reilly Convention, I know it’s tough. Frankly, you just don’t get enough submissions by women. And I know Rael’s working on it.

But the show would be far more interesting to me if it had a more diverse set of speakers and attendees. However, that does remind me to review the eBay Developers Conference speaker list before we go final with it.

How do Open Source Communities Best Flourish?

I was on an interesting panel at the OSBC West yesterday titled “The Open Source Community Imperative: Methodologies, Mechanics, and Metrics

Things began on a good note when, earlier in the day, I read that Oracle bought Sleepycat. Since Sleepycat CEO Mike Olson was scheduled to be on my panel, that was bound lead to some informative exchanges. Ultimately, I think Mike did a great job talking about the sale. I agree with him: at the end of the day, the best way to make sure Sleepycat continues to do the right thing for the community is to watch them closely and make sure they’re walking the walk. Then again, it’s not like he was facing a hostile crowd.

From the eBay perspective, I focused more on the platform we open up using Web services than the straight-up traditional open source software we distribute (or are working on distributing). I think open platforms and data will be as important in the next decade as open source software was in the past one.

Rather than hear what I thought about the talk, check out Ross Mayfield (of Socialtext) and Christine Herron (of the Omidyar Network) had to say.

eBay Plugin for Google Desktop

My man Alan Lewis evangelised Google to use eBay Web services to write a plug-in for their Google Desktop application.

It’s quite nice and takes advantage of a not-well-announced new rate limiting feature that you should expect to learn more about later this month. :) No particular reason for the suspense, except that I’ve been too busy to give it the proper attention it needs.

If you’re the type of person that runs Google Desktop and uses eBay, you should pick it up.

OSCON + NYPHPCon Call For Papers

I just submitted by proposals for OSCON and NYPHPCon. I hope they get accepted, as I’m quite excited about both shows.

OSCON is my favorite conference of the year. There’s nothing else that provides such a wide range of interesting speakers and topics. I love learning about PHP, but I find it even more fascinating to see what the Perl and Python and Ruby guys are hacking on, or pick up JavaScript and AJAX tips, or heckle the Java programmers. :)

The past two years, I’ve been on the OSCON PHP track conference committee, so it was my job to write friendly reminders in my blog. I’m not doing that this year, so you can count on this as a unbiased plug for the show.

There are lots of topic areas beyond PHP, such as Web applications and Security, so you don’t need to be a PHP guru to submit. You just need to be doing something that other people will find interesting that you can share in an interesting way. The key is that when a conference attendee reads the description of your talk in the program that they say: “Cool! That sounds neat. I think I’ll go hear this talk.”

Last year, I wrote a short post about getting your conference proposal accepted. That’s just my personal philosophy, but I think it holds mostly true for all good conferences. There’s always the “I want the biggest names I can get” philosophy, but if that’s the case, then there’s nothing you can do about that anyway.

Proposals are due Monday, so hurry up and submit.

It’s the first year for NYPHPCon, but Hans and the whole NYPHP crew are great guys, so I know they’ll put on a teriffic show. When I still lived in NYC, I attended NYPHP user group meetings on a semi-regular basis, and they were even kind enough to let me present once or twice.

In fact, I gave my very first Web services presentation to NYPHP back in February of 2003. I don’t know if eBay would have hired me as a Web service evangelist if I hadn’t started down the path of learning about Web services for NYPHP. So, I owe them a big debt of thanks.

Besides, New York City is the best city in the world. Sorry Bay Area neighbors. Although, I certainly don’t miss the 22.8 26.9 inches, or .58 .68 meters for my non-US readers, of snow that got dumped on the city last night. Have I mentioned it’s 65 degrees (18 celcius) today in San Francisco?

Oh, I almost forgot to mention what talks I submitted. All of them will have an eBay theme, but none of them are 100% eBay advertisements:

  • Consuming Web Services Using PHP 5
  • Dirty secrets of PHP 5’s ext/soap extension
  • Abracadabra and hocus pocus: Magical methods and PHP 5

I really like my abstract for the that last talk:

PHP 5 provides a number of so-called “magical methods,” methods that are automagically invoked to secretly manipulate objects. These __methods() are cool, but when, if ever, are they actually useful? Using an eBay Web services SOAP client as my example, I’ll demonstrate how a little slight-of-hand and misdirection leads to shorter and more intuitive code.

Right now, my eBaySOAP code uses __construct(), __set()/__get(), __call(), __isset(), __toString(), and the IteratorAggregate and ArrayAccess interfaces. If I can get Dmitry to add the hook he promised to ext/soap, I’ll also add __wakeup(). I’m sure there are a few more things I can do, but the trick is to only implement useful and intuitive methods, so we’ll see.

Auctioning Autographed “Upgrading to PHP 5” for the EFF

Every since I started at eBay, I’ve been looking to sell more on the site. I’ve also been looking to donate more money to charity. So I decided to combine the two: I’m selling a copy of Upgrading to PHP 5 on eBay and donating everything to the EFF.

The EFF, short for Electronic Frontier Foundation, describes themselves as:

[A] group of passionate people — lawyers, technologists, volunteers, and visionaries — working in the trenches, battling to protect your rights and the rights of web surfers everywhere. The dedicated people of EFF challenge legislation that threatens to put a price on what is invaluable; to control what must remain boundless.

List priced at $29.99, the auction starts at $0.01, so you’re guaranteed to get a good value. As an extra special bonus, I will custom autograph the book to the winning bidder or a friend. Or, for an additional $5, I will not sully up your clean new book with my autograph. Your choice. Okay, just kidding about the $5.

If you’ve been looking to get up to speed on PHP 5, now’s the perfect chance to buy a book and give money to a great cause. Check out my listing and bid today.

Another eBay Blog

Lots of new eBay blogs popping up in the past few months. I just discovered “Tsunami Alert in the Great Salt Lake“, written by Cindy Purvance, my favorite person in eBay customer support. Go Cindy!

I killed trackbacks

I was getting bombarded with fake porno trackbacks, and I couldn’t find a way to get WordPress to shove them in my moderation queue, so I turned them off.

Let me know if you have any problems. I don’t know how to bulk edit existing posts to do this inside WordPress, so I fired up MySQL and manually disabled them via a SQL query. Hopefully, I didn’t break anything.

My eBay Motors Maps Mashup

In my copious free time, I have been writing a little mashup using eBay Motors and Google Maps. This is equal parts eBay Web services marking, a learning exercize, and an excuse to code.

Like all Web 2.0 concepts, it’s in perpetual beta. (Why does “perpetual beta” seem like the Web 2.0 phrase for Web 1.0’s “Under Construction” image?) Thanks to a helpful prod, I sat down this morning and fixed the outstanding IE bugs, so now it works in IE, Firefox, and Safari. That means I can officially blog about it.

For those of you interested in the technical details, the backend code is written in PHP 5. I’m using the ext/soap extension to talk with eBay Web services and PEAR’s HTML_QuickForm, HTML_Javascript, and Date packages. I tried to use HTML_AJAX, but it was buggy when I first tried it; I see there have been many recent updates, so I should look again.

Not surprisingly, writing the PHP part was pretty easy. It was the JavaScript code that took forever and a day to write and debug. Many thanks to the QuirksMode Web site for documenting cross-browser woes.

Please check out the site and let me know what you think.