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Titanium London User Group: Nov 2011 Meetup Review

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As readers who saw our previous post will know, to reflect our increasing activities in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, Appcelerator hosted an exhibition stand at the AppsWorld Europe 2011 Conference in London last week. During those days, to simply say we were “busy” would not really give a true impression of the amount of interest that Titanium received. It was totally and utterly exhausting! london-meetup-trevor-sleeping1.jpg There’s no time for a nap, though, Trevor; Titanium is serious business, but it’s also seriously fun, as we would see! As luck would have it, day one of AppsWorld fell on the last Tuesday of the month; the same day that the Titanium London User Group holds its monthly social. Ketan Majmudar, one of the group’s co-organizers, had left the conference slightly before doors closed, in order to set up the venue and prepare his presentation, and Trevor Ward and I followed later. Titanium London is an event that has been running since May 2011, and boasts over 130 registered members. There are others just like it around the world and many more are being started all the time, as our Titanium Meetup Map shows. It’s lead by Liz Myers, and co-organized by Ketan and Betty Tran. As Ketan is both a member of our Titans Program and an organizer, the group is eligible for financial assistance from Appcelerator to cover costs. In this case, food and several rounds of drinks were provided, to celebrate this last meeting of the year. On the way, we met up with Doug Norton-Bilsby, Appcelerator’s new GM/VP of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) beginning in January, who was very keen to get to know our local developer community, not least for the reasons he explained later in the evening. We had arrived! The top room of the centrally-situated London pub (details after you register) was packed; a typical example of the demand that a well-run Titanium meetup can receive. Guests completely filled the many rows of chairs, and there were even people using the standing area at the back. Fortunately, no-one else had noticed the vacant spot at the back end of the room, which had a clear view of the projector screen at the front with the added benefit of being right at the bar! We were quickly beginning to appreciate the charm of this place! 😉 london-meetup-audience2.jpg Aside from the Titanium knowledge and business opportunities that are shared, the chances to see the apps other people are working on and the relaxed and friendly atmosphere, a main draw of a meetup is often the talks. This is where any member may give a short, prepared presentation on absolutely anything related to Titanium or mobile development, as long as there is expected to be group interest in the topic. The effort and diligence involved in the night’s presentations were was apparent, as both were highly informative and professional.

Ketan Majmudar: SQLite + Titanium (what, where & how?)

Prior to the meet-up, Ketan had prepared by meeting with Richard Hipp, who was coincidentally in London at the time. Hipp created SQLite in 2000 for the US Navy, which needed a SQL database that was self-contained and serverless. It has since gone on to be the most widely-deployed SQL database system in the world, being used in familiar products such as Mozilla Firefox, Apple OSX and Skype as well as, as we know, mobile platforms such as iOS and Android. Thanks to this meeting, Ketan gained some vital insights into SQLite to report back to the group but, in turn, Hipp was intrigued by how Titanium worked and the way it allowed developers to more-easily work with his software. Everyone enjoyed Ketan’s delivery, and he went on to answer several audience questions. Some of the key, often overlooked, facts he mentioned about SQLite included:
  • with all features enabled, SQLite is a miniscule 350KB in size
  • SQLite is almost religiously true to the SQL-92 standard
  • in SQLite, every INSERT is a transaction. Thus, BLOB fields inherently have ROLLBACK protection
  • for best performance, table column order is important: use INTEGER fields, TEXT fields followed by BLOB fields

There was much more that was covered. See Ketan’s full set of slides.

We had a break, where everyone took advantage of the refreshments, and devoured the delicious food that Liz had organized. Joe was up next.

Joe Maffia: SQLite as an API cache

SQLite

Joe Maffia had been working on projects that make use of online webservices, from the likes of facebook, foursquare, twitter and Google. He had encountered a problem that, no doubt, will increasingly affect developers in the coming years. To cope with demand or to monetize their services, companies will begin to place boundaries on API requests. For example, twitter is already taking the following action:
  • authenticated request limit lowered from 350/hour to 175
  • unauthenticated requests set to 150/hour

Google has warned that rate limits and coverage fees are being considered, i.e. a cap of 25000 map loads per day.

Working with Guilherme Chapiewski, Senior Engineering Manager at Yahoo! Inc., Joe devised a solution to cache webservice results to ensure that the same queries are not repeated. Not only does this reduce API calls, and thus allow applications to remain within the free tier, it improves the performance of an app by reducing the use of the network, which is a major bottleneck.

JSON DB

In a bid to provide a balanced picture, Joe also proposed an alternative to using SQLite for this solution. He found a project, developed by IRLGaming, that utilizes JSONDB and NoSQL. These reduce the size of JSON object collections by removing key name duplication and rearranging them into a database paradigm, with “column” and “row” arrays, and storing them to the filesystem for persistence. Development time is reduced, compared with SQL, because the data structures are native to JavaScript, and updates to the app are simpler, as NoSQL does not have SQL’s uncompromisingly rigid schemas. Although there are only anecdotal performance comparisons, it surpasses SQLite in at least some situations. Joe proved that he was ahead of the curve, as IRLGaming published the JSONDB module for iOS to our Marketplace in the days that followed, and it is proving extremely popular. He finished his talk (slides available), and Doug Norton-Bilsby addressed the crowd.

Appcelerator UK Headquarters and Job Vacancies

Doug explained that, with his appointment as head of the EMEA region in January, Appcelerator will be opening its UK headquarters in Reading, Berkshire, and he intends to rapidly build a core team for sales and engineering. Jobs are already being advertized, and it goes without saying that applicants who are active Titans, community members and regular meetup attendees are looked on favorably. Please apply if you are available. He went on to say that the raised awareness about Titanium makes it crucial to ensure that the supply of experienced developers in the region can fulfill the anticipated demand. The Reading office will be a hub for this, allowing us to work closer with our community and help to enrich its skills and knowledge.

User Group Collaboration

Next there was a presentation from Nigel Underwood calling on members to suggest a project that could be created by the group, hacked between meetups, and a progress update given at each event. Although its specific purpose has not yet been decided, members intend it to be useful to the whole community when it’s launched.

App Show & Tell

To end the evening, there was an “App Show & Tell” session, which is where attendees are asked to demonstrate their apps to the audience in only 5 to 10 minutes. People always seem to look forward to this part in particular, because of the way it inspires and drives the group. This time, there were four impressive apps on show, but the most left-field was one that was being used in the scientific research project, yourbrainondrugs.net, that aims to provide insight into the effect of alcohol consumption on the mind and body. It’s fun, and all data collected is sent anonymously. If you would like to help a good cause, try it out. I offered to take questions and feedback from anyone who was having major issues, but fortunately everyone was very agreeable. Maybe the festive spirit is kicking in early. I wonder if I’ll be let off so leniently next time! It was a fantastic night, and thanks again to Liz, Ketan and Betty for all your obvious effort and hard work, and to everyone who attended. For anyone who is inspired to start their own meetup in their region, see this page. Exclusive: stay tuned next week, when we have a special feature from the creators of the JSONDB module!
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2 Comments

  1. I did a write up about the London group in Oct, take a peek here:
    http://www.learningtitanium.com/feature/getting-involved-with-titanium-meetups-around-the-world.html

  2. JeffAtStepup

    With the Appcelerator UK HQ announcement it’s about time we set up a Reading group too – who’s up for it ?

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