Monthly Archives: September 2009

SuperMondays – the oxymoron of face to face geek social networking

So this evening I went to my first SuperMondays event.  What is SuperMondays you ask?  Well it’s a social networking event for geeks in the North East.

One of the things I’ve always been vaguely jealous of is the amount of these kinds of events that seem to exist in the USA – there’s a meetup for everything whether you’re interested in tech, science, hacking, or publishing.  People get together, talks are given, people interact over food or a coffee (or a beer if you’re lucky).

I used to go to 2600 and alt.ph.uk meetings back in my impressionable younger days, so outside of scientific conferences this is the first opportunity I’ve taken to sit in a room with a bunch of like minded people outside of my day to day work  to chew the fat on tech for an awfully long time.  This months theme (for the meetings are most definitely monthly) was databases.  Now I can’t get terribly excited about databases per se – SQL is fugly, I prefer MySQL over PostgreSQL for ease of use rather than functionality and these days if I could do it in SQLite I probably would, but nevertheless there was a really nice series of three talks in this themed session.

Ross Cooney (SuperMondays organiser extraordinaire and @rosscooney on Twitter) gave a speedy history of the database world, and a quick reminder of the things I have already forgotten about databases after not doing a lot of db development recently (like what ACID stands for – no it’s not an HTML compliance test, or a drug (you crazy Berkeley hippies)) and introduced the other two speakers for the evening.

David Lavery followed next (@dlavery62) with a review of both SimpleDB from Amazon Web Services and Google BigTable two cloud offerings for the post-RDBMS database world.  I particularly enjoyed the SimpleDB part of the talk, anything delivered via a RESTful interface (don’t bother trying to convince me it’s not really RESTful, I could not care less) looks like a good thing to me after trying to deal with the SOAP webservices world last year.

The final talk was of a far more academic slant with David Livingstone of Northumbria University who presented RAQUEL which is an open source implementation of some of the ideas in The Third Manifesto, which appears at first glance to be an ‘RDBMS done right’ according to modern relational theory (and not affected by legacy cruft from current popular SQL implementations).  Part middleware, part programming language, part educational tool I would like to have heard a little more about the implementation here.  We were treated to a lot of syntactical details (which had me in mind of a cross of SQL, Perl and R and therefore maybe not something you would want to necessarily spend all day doing), but they’ve only just released this to the world and are looking for people to engage and interact with their foray into OSS development.  It certainly generated the most questions from the gathered geeks!

After these a roadmap for the future SuperMondays was presented.  Although this was my first SuperMonday event, it was in fact their 12th.  It may have started in a (very nice!) restaurant in Newcastle a year ago around a table, but there were maybe 80 people in the theatre tonight which suggests it is going from strength to strength.  Newly incorporated as a Community Interest Company (saving buckets of paperwork over being a charitable organisation) the future for SuperMondays looks very bright indeed.  Very much looking forward to the next one!

Yeah, there’s no oxymoron of a face to face geek event, but if you only saw the tagline in your RSS reader maybe you read a little further because of it ;)  I should also say cheers to the Newcastle ARCSOC students who I had a couple of drinks with afterwards too (depriving myself of further SuperMondays sandwiches in the process), it was nice to see you all again!

You can also find SuperMondays on Twitter (@supermondays) and on Facebook too!