I’m just on my way back from another BarCamp, this time in Leipzig, Saxonia. Somehow I have the impression, that there is a family of BarCampers that you meet everywhere, like Till form Sonntagmorgen.com, Peter from brainr.de, just to mention some. The nice effect is, that you already know lots of people. On the other hand, i have the impression that many topics repeat without a significant amount of new information. This makes the BarCamps less interesting, regarding the sessions.
However, two sessions stuck out:
Tom introduced a very interesting project, called AntMe.net. This is a new development environment for newbies to learn programming on a playful way. The environment is a game whose goal is to program a bunch of ants that are running around and should collect food and fight their enemies, the bugs. Using very easy to learn commands, kids can describe behaviour for the ants. Due to the fact, that the same program is used on each individual ant, they learn object-orientation without the need to study the theory nor read boring books.
A community has already been established that write incredible programs with AntMe. Some have transformed the given information of the direction and distance into coordinates. Others have written a ticket based system to distribute the different tasks to the ants. And the bonus was a program that made the ants dance on the playground. I’m really impressed by this system. For kids this is definitively a funny way to learn the basics about programming. If i have some time, i’m going to write my own AntMe program next week.
The other session I want to mention here was about Silverlight. Well, in fact it was declared to be on Usability and Silverlight. The presentation provided a good overview of Silverlight and the stuff around. However, to me Silverlight is just another Flash with some slight improvements and similar drawbacks (=> Plugin). I have not jet seen the big advantage. In addition, i do not know why Microsoft makes you think with Silverlight you will improve the usability of your software. I had this impression already last summer, when I attended “Express yourself”.
What you can do with Silverlight is improve the user experience. But this is, although related, a different thing than usability. What you definitively can do with Silverlight is build applications that are less usable, because the developers played too much around. Just think about tooltips that include a movie (as shown in the presentation)? I’m not yet sure what to think about Silverlight…
Maybe, I should do a presentation myself on my next BarCamp, that increases the diversity of sessions. Could be something about discount usability, a live prototyping session, or something more technical about SVG and / or ExtJS. Let’s see.