In association with heise online

18 August 2008, 08:15

Community Live - Osmosoft's TiddlyWiki Hackathon and Pizza on Rails

Dj Walker-Morgan

Hard at work at the TiddlyWiki Hackathon
Hard at work at the TiddlyWiki Hackathon
Osmosoft is a name that not too many people have heard of. It is an unconventional part of BT, working as a hot house open source lab and focussing its development on TiddlyWiki. TiddlyWiki, a creation of Jeremy Ruston, started as a way of creating and editing a Wiki-like document as a single HTML page which can be saved locally; no server configuration required, just take a copy of a TiddlyWiki page and start editing it, and keep saving it locally to preserve changes.

Ruston created Osmosoft in 2005 to manage TiddlyWiki development as a small open source developer. In 2007, BT acquired Osmosoft and Ruston became BT's Head of Open Source Innovation. TiddlyWiki's copyright was transferred to UnaMesa, a non profit foundation, protecting its open source status. One year on, TiddlyWiki is benefiting from Osmosoft's development work.

The TiddlyWiki Hackathon is an experiment in public development, getting as many developers and users as possible together to sit down, plan, code and show each other what they've been doing. Held at Kettners restaurant in Soho, a stone's throw from Osmosoft's offices, a small but enthusiastic group got together to work on TiddlyWiki code. Along with other BT people and some from other well known companies, the event was quite focussed on pushing forward TiddlyWiki in new directions. Heise online UK met with Ruston whose enthusiasm for exploring the synergies between open source and corporations like BT is obvious.

Oddly, some of the most interesting work with TiddlyWiki is coming from the server-oriented side of things with TiddlyWeb and ccTiddly. TiddlyWeb is a variant of TiddlyWiki with a RESTian server behind it, a setup which would make it easy for other web applications to publish or query Tiddlers, the colloquial name for the building blocks of text and tags which go to make up a TiddlyWiki. We got to see a version of TiddlyWeb which runs on Google's AppEngine. CcTiddly is also a server based TiddlyWiki system, but is built around providing multiple wiki workspaces to groups of users allowing for collabrative projects.

Heise online UK was shown both projects and found the atmosphere of the Hackathon very conducive to ideas being bounced around between developers and users. It may only be an occasional event – Osmosoft organise “Show and Tells” on a more regular basis than Hackathons – but it's a style of event which is potentially very useful for an open source project, and part of Osmosoft's mission is to work out new open source processes for businesses.

Pizza on Rails is a busy social event
Pizza on Rails is a busy social event
Pizza On Rails was a very different event. It describes itself as “a social gathering for like-minded people already into Ruby on Rails and those just intrigued by all the hoopla” and does attract a wider range of people. Each meeting is hosted by different sponsors and this month it was Sun Microsystems' turn with the event being held at the Sun Customer Centre near London Bridge. The room was packed with people, with attendee's backgrounds ranging from graphic designers and developers to Web 2.0 entrepreneurs, all socialising with business cards exchanged and contacts made. There's no formal structure to the event, apart from the locating of beer and the arrival of rapidly vanishing pizza, but that doesn't get in the way of a lot of mingling. Any implication that the event may leave you more informed on technical elements of Ruby On Rails development though should be laid to rest though; unless you had cornered a Rails coder with a slice of pizza, the discussions tended to be quite open ended with only a tangential relationship to Rails. If you are looking for the technical side of things then London Ruby User Group LRUG is probably a better bet. That said, Pizza on Rails is great for meeting a good range of people involved in the Web 2.0 business. If you want to attend a Pizza on Rails event, join the mailing list to be alerted to when the next meeting is being held.

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