iPhone, Co-Housing (With Wife-Swapping Jokes), Next Bus Info on Facebook, and Spying on Your Readers at DemoCamp Vancouver

After some initial confusion about the location of tonight's DemoCamp Vancouver, we all made it to the Irish Heather to hear about the iPhone, co-housing, a Facebook application for bus schedules, and tracking the movements of people while they visit a site. And then networking ensued, at least presumably, since I left after the demonstrations.

First a demonstration by a self-described fan-boy of Apple's iPhone, the latest status symbol among geeks and affiliated. I happen to think the iPhone is pretty awesome, so after someone said "it's just a phone!" I yelled towards the presenter, "what else can it do?", knowing full well it's a better looking but smaller (in disk space terms) version of the iPod than the current non-nano non-Shuffle versions. It was cool, and dude answered all the questions reasonably without going into hype overdrive.

Next up was a "presentation" about co-housing, which I think left people wondering why we should care about it. He started off with a joke about how people hear it's about wife-swapping and that yes, it's about wife-swapping. Stupidly thinking that this was a bombed joke that needed resuscitating, I blurted out something like "so tell us about wife-swapping". Yeah, real smooth, seeing as how my girlfriend was sitting across the table from me, among other women in the audience (though they were a distinct minority in the crowd). I know what my girlfriend thinks already, but Megan and Ariane, you were there, what did you think? Was it just an attempt to get a cheap laugh that failed, or is it negatively indicative of the type of events that have the word "Camp" in their title?

The co-housing presentation itself seemed to lead to more questions than answers. Usually, if I don't come out with more questions than answers, I give the presenter a lot of credit for raising them in my brain. In this case, however, I knew there would be a presenter on the subject, and came for that reason, but came away with two questions that a lot of audience members might have also come away with. I for one would have started right away attempting to answer 1) what is an intentional community and what are some examples and 2) how is co-housing really different than a strata, or is it? I came in with those questions, and left without an answer.

I'm no doubt getting the order wrong, but John Boxall presented on MyBus Vancouver, a Facebook application that shows you (and only you) bus schedules on your Facebook profile. I'm more interested in next bus information via SMS, since I'm not bringing my Facebook profile with me to the bus stop, but we were assured that the developers are making progress in re-igniting the service that does that. If TransLink would only open their data to an API...well, that's an argument that deserves its own series of blog posts.

Finally, Andre Charland got up to demonstrate RobotReplay, which tracks the movements of person visiting a website and records them for playback later by the website administrator. The goal is to figure out what people are clicking on and what they are typing in in order to make the experience better for current and future users. Or, it's a tool to spy on your readers, but I don't see how different that is than what Google Analytics or the various statistics packages many people unproblematically (and rightly so) use already. The demonstration itself could have had better examples or people navigating a site for a period longer than 10 seconds, but it's cool, lightweight tech and Andre knew his shit and addressed the concerns people had about privacy and future features.

This was a very well-documented event (with multiple video and still photographers), so I don't regret not bringing my camera.