Stranger in a strange land (1)

I've travelled to Nottingham, to the East Midlands Conference Centre, to attend the UK e-Science All Hands Meeting 2007. With my academic background being rooted predominately in the humanities, I'm looking forward to immersing myself for the next 4 days in a very different set of disciplines. I'm also wondering what chance I have of getting the conference dinner, scheduled for Wednesday evening, moved to a bar showing the England v Russia match....

They work you hard here - we started at 17:00 and went on to 20:00. I attended the OMII-UK session - a series of shortish presentations about OMII-UK work and sponsored projects. A fair amount of this was devoted to the AccessGrid. Much of the current work with this technology is focussed on trying to make it easier to install and use, as well as addressing stability and performance issues. It seems that a major barrier to take-up and use of this technology is the relatively complex installation. Nonetheless, the speakers were enthusiastic about the technology, especially with it's extensible architecture. Later on, I asked a few people if they used the AccessGrid and, if so, why they used it instead of something simple to install and use like Skype. It seemed to me, based on what I had heard, that one might choose to use the AccessGrid because of its richer functionality. In fact, the unanimous response was that the extra functionality was not particularly attractive, and that the AccessGrid was preferred to Skype only because it can currently support a larger group in a conference 'call' than Skype. A couple of delegates agreed that if Skype could support, say, 20 users in a group call then they would use this in preference.

Much of the OMII-UK session concerned portals, portlets and delivering AccessGrid and other services through portals. I was on safer ground here, having done my share of portal development. I was interested to see that this technology has not really advanced greatly in the year since I stopped working in this area. It was also curious to note how several demonstrations used Java Web Start - this seems to be alive and kicking in the e-Science world, where it has been largely ignored in enterprise IT.

Ann Borda from JISC kindly invited me a little later and I joined some JISC people and some visiting Australians for dinner in Nottingham, which was a very pleasant affair. When I mentioned OSS Watch to the Australians, they misheard me and thought I had said something like 'OzWatch'. We agreed that JISC should probably fund a new service for keeping an eye on the activities of the Australians ;-)

I could see no sign in the conference literature about an 'official' tag to use for blogging about or bookmarking the conference, so I have decided to invent one here - who knows, it might be picked up by other bloggers. The tag I've come up with is: escience-ahm-2007.

Update: I just realised that Peter Murray-Rust did the same and coined a different tag, 'ahm2007'. I will use his tag as well as mine.