StixCampNewstead – Zach Miller’s talk on separation of data and presentation using the MVC model

Zach Miller is based in Chicago and works as a developer. His presentation was on the separation of model, view and controller layers in application design – otherwise known as MVC architecture. He introduced the topic by explaining that programmers and designers have different skillbases – which often conflict. MVC architecture is a method of separating the control logic of an application from the presentation layer so that the developer can be coding and the graphics guru designing the interface without their work conflicting.

Zach provided an overview of MVC architecture and then articulated a little known technology that can be used with MVC – Template Attribute Language or TAL for short. This was originally written for the Zope Content Management System in Python, but is now being more widely applied. A document type definition has not yet been written for TAL, but this is on the development roadmap.

Using TAL means that you can easily prototype the interface of an application to get design approval, before doing the bulk of the work in writing the functionality.

Zach provided examples of TAL.

Personally, I’ve seen MVC work very well in PHP using Smarty.

StixCampNewstead – Paul Fenwick on ‘Hacking other peoples’ brains’

Paul Fenwick, a consummate and hilarious presenter at past BarCampMelbourne events, lived up to his reputation and had the audience in stitches with his talk on ‘Hacking other peoples’ brains’. The entire premise of his talk is that as geeks, we need to translate inter human communications to some form of protocol – like TCP for Humanz 🙂

Using The Sims as an example, he explained how to get better outcomes when communicating with people, we need to understand how they think and feel – what their ‘status bars’ are and how people are motiviated. As Paul explains – happy people are more likely to give us what we want. This is why people are more likely to say ‘yes’ when you buy then a coffee or bring them chocolate 🙂 A lot of the content in Paul’s presentation boils down to common sense – such as trying to create a win-win situation – if you are helping people fulfill their goals and desires, then they are more likely to assist you in return.

A key point of the presentation was that people are more willing to help if they are made to feel that what they’re doing – and hence themselves – are important and valued – which is why recognition should never be overlooked. If this means telling their manager’s manager about what a great job they’ve done – then do it!

Paul recommended as a great tool for collaborative to do lists.

StixCampNewstead – Brianna Laugher’s talk on Wikipedia

Brianna Laugher, the President of WikiMedia Australia – a not for profit organisation dedicated to promoting access to and participation in free cultural networks, presented on ‘So we ruined the encyclopaedia – now what?’.  Her talk first posed the question of whether the encyclopaedia really was dead, and concluded that printed forms of this media are not dead, but are now a niche market rather than a mainstream method of accessing information. The Wikimedia model of user-submitted and user-reviewed content had caused a paradigm shift in the industry – with encyclopadia manufacturers such as Brittanica now moving to a model of reader contributed content. Brianna questioned how long the current business model of enclyclopaedia producers such as Brittanica and Funk & Wagnall would be sustainable given that their product now has only a niche market.

Brianna then explored what had really been ruined with the introduction of Wikipedia and user-contributed content. In short, the quality of content had been diminished – the ‘brilliant prose’ of thick tomes replaced with brief, to the point articles on a much wider range of topics. But, Laugher posed, “is that enough”? Do people still need (or even want) the long-winded entries of Brittanica? In our just-in-time, instant gratification society, a two paragraph overview may be enough to answer somebody’s question.

Brianna went on to outline how the quality control standards at Wikipedia are tightening over time – with the marking of articles as requiring citations, introducing cross-linking so that articles are hyperlinked, and the introduction of ‘featured articles‘ which provide exemplars of the content standard that should be aspired to by budding Wiki-authors.

Challenges with the editing community that supports Wikipedia were also addressed in Brianna’s presentation – such as the high turnover of good editors, and the need to train and attract high calibre volunteers to the project. These are hurdles faced not just in the open source community, but also in the corporate and government sectors.

Brianna’s talk is available online.