Wuthering Bytes 2013 – a tech conference in Hebden Bridge

Last weekend, I managed to secure a last-minute ticket to Wuthering Bytes, a weekend tech conference in Hebden Bridge. If you don’t know it, Hebden Bridge is a beautiful market town that happens to be almost equidistant between our Manchester and York offices. The conference was held at Hebden Bridge town hall, a great venue where you could hear ducks quacking in the river right outside one of the rooms!

The event was split into two days. The first day featured a series of talks from the maker community and more traditional Internet/Open Source technology talks. The second was hands-on workshops, though I wasn’t able to get a ticket for those. I’d like to highlight some of the most interesting/relevant talks I managed to attend.

Orta Therox gave a talk about managing a growing open-source project (CocoaPods) on Github, describing how the project grew rapidly with a small “nomadic” core of developers overseeing the direction of the project, accepting hundreds of pull requests per month from thousands of contributors.

Mike Little, co-founder of WordPress and Manchester local gave an interesting talk on the incredible growth of the WordPress blogging platform since its early foundations as a fork by Matt Mullenweg and Mike of an earlier piece of blogging software, b2/cafelog. WordPress is in use on more than 70 million sites today (according to wordpress.com), and is something we manage every week for our hosting customers.

Tim Panton described the current state of the WebRTC API in the Chrome and Firefox browsers, a way of achieving plugin-less encrypted peer-to-peer video conferencing between a pair of sufficiently modern browsers. This was something I was aware of, however I’d not realised how mature it was – it’s now possible to have a functional video conference and share files over it, as long as all participants are running a reasonably modern version of Chrome or Firefox. This is something that we may be looking to use for video conferences between our two offices, as it could run entirely over our own network using open source software.

Paul Downey spoke about the various iterations of design and thinking that the Government Digital Service went through when transitioning dozens of government websites to the aggregated www.gov.uk platform. It’s always interesting to hear about web projects of this scale, which included collaboration between dozens of government departments.

The final full talk of the day that I attended was from Aral Balkan, about Digital Serfdom (and how to avoid it). Aral is passionate about great design and has started an organisation to bring experience-led, non-democratic design to an open source project. Namely, to design and produce an open source smartphone with the connected top-to-bottom design that you get from an Apple or Google (Nexus) device. It’s a project I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on in the future. It’s also worth checking out his “Schnail Mail” blog post.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to snag a ticket for the workshops on the sunday, but the tweets that came out of it made it sound like a great day.

I’ll definitely be back next year.

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