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Innovate 2011 Highlights

November 9, 2011

I was recently privileged to attend both the O’Reilly Android Open and X.commerce Innovate conferences back-to-back in San Francisco. Both were mind and network expanding events, and I’d highly recommend either to developers and business colleagues considering attending next year.

I hope to write more about my key takeaways from Android Open at some point in the future. For this article, let’s focus on Innovate.

So much transpired in a few short days that it would be impossible to capture everything in one short article. I’ll do my best to give you the overall flavor and major highlights, then I’ll dive a bit deeper to discuss some of the particular technical “breakout” sessions I attended.

Ready? Let’s go!

Keynotes and major announcements

The conference began each morning with a series of general session keynotes. You can access the conference schedule to see a full list of speakers, or better still, watch the keynotes (as well as breakout sessions) from the Innovate 2011 video site (click here to access).

Watch the Day 1 keynotes for yourself below (click here if the embed doesn’t work below):

Naveed Anwar, head of X.commerce community, discussed many of the key Day 1 developments in his blog post here. Some of the big ticket items for developers and merchants included:

  • Launch of the “X.commerce Fabric“, a message-broker based system allowing developers to integrate and use various commerce capabilities. The Fabric ties together various components from eBay, PayPal, Magento, and other eBay companies with capabilities built by third parties, large and small. Much more on this to come.
  • PayPal debuted “PayPal Access“, a new online “commerce identity” comparable to social identity, but for making commerce transactions faster and easier for the consumer. Read more about PayPal Access from the Janrain blog; I’ll also have much more to say about PayPal Access in coming months.
  • Magento launched much tighter integration with eBay, allowing merchants to push products from Magento into eBay with just a few short clicks. You can read a third party take on the many and central Magento-related announcements via AuctionBytes (click here).
  • Facebook announced Open Graph integration with Magento and GSI Commerce enabling, among other things, “Want” and “Own” buttons analogous to the already ubiquitous “Like” button. You can read much more about the eBay-Facebook partnership in this ZDNet article.

With the major announcements out of the way, the Day 1 afternoon and Day 2 morning keynotes could focus on inspirational higher ordered bits. These sessions were great motivation for attendees to take advantage of all of the technical tools at their disposal to make the world a better place. Whether by building corporate giving into their fundamental commercial business model, or by thinking about the effects of the current recession and the innovation that could get us out of it, or by imbuing everything we do with thoughtful design, these sessions were all meant to light the creative spark.

I particularly enjoyed seeing Steven Cooper (@developersteve), whom I featured in an interview article for the X.com site last year, receive a community award at the beginning of the day 2 morning keynotes. You can watch the awards presentation and all of the Day 2 keynotes here:

If the embed fails to load, you can alternatively click here for the Day 2 morning general session.

Other things I found striking during the second morning’s general session:

  • Marshal Cohen spoke at length about the current recession and what might need doing, especially in the United States, to innovate our way out of it. One item in particular stuck with me: He pointed out that while the current recession is not the longest in US history (yet), it is the deepest by job losses. I have to agree with his conclusion that a fundamental shift is underway and many of the lost jobs aren’t coming back, so it’s more important than ever to focus on new commerce opportunities. Build your business to take advantage of inevitable innovations and the sky’s the limit.
  • X.commerce developer evangelist Praveen Alavilli (@ppalavilli) showed some live X.commerce code in front of thousands. Always a gutsy move! Access his demo code yourself from GitHub here. By the way, Praveen has written a great blog post about getting started with the Fabric since Innovate completed; click here to check it out.
  • Hip-hop artist Chamillionaire (@chamillionaire) stole the show discussing how he used community and tech skills to build his fan base from the streets of Houston to the Grammys and beyond. What an amazing innovator! I’d highly recommend watching at least his portion of the day 2 keynote; prepare to be impressed and inspired.

I could write several more articles about the various keynote speakers and their stories. Instead, I’ll encourage you again to watch the videos for yourself.

Partner pavilion and a free O’Reilly book for you

There was a wide range of X.commerce partners showing their wares in the Partner Pavilion during and in between sessions. Somtimes I wondered just how they were packing so many thousands of attendees in such a small space! (The secret, of course, was lots of free coffee, snacks, and soda.)

Here’s a shot I took the first day of the X.commerce booth to give you a feel for the foot traffic:

One other cool thing going on in the Partner Pavilion, in my not so humble opinion, was that O’Reilly Media was giving away printed copies of the new book “Building eCommerce Applications”. This book is a collection of some of the most interesting and varied articles written by contributors to the X.commerce DevZone.

Even if you weren’t able to attend the conference, you can still download a free e-book copy from O’Reilly (click here to get your copy).

And yes, yours truly does have four articles included in the book, so I am a bit biased. Still, you can’t beat free, right?

Session highlights

I attended a number of interesting sessions at the conference. Rather than try to list them all, I thought I’d focus on the key points from the most interesting and useful for me.

  • Two related sessions, “Introducing the X.commerce platform” and “From Code to Capability“, showed developers how to get started with the dive deep into the new X.commerce Fabric. I’d highly recommend clicking on the session titles and watching the sessions to get up to speed asap. You should also download the X.commerce Developer Package and the X.commerce Innovate demo code so you can try it out for yourself. Fabric will be a very important piece of the commerce development puzzle in the months to come.
  • We all know mobile commerce is a BIG opportunity, right? What you might or might not know is how to take advantage of the various social, local, and mobile development strategies to capitalize upon it. “Commerce goes SoLoMo: Social, Local, Mobile” discusses what’s possible, focusing on Milo and Where.com (both eBay companies) in particular. I’d also recommend watching the “Mobile face-off: HTML5 vs. native apps vs. mobile platforms” panel to get a grip on the realities of native, HTML, and hybrid mobile development. I enjoyed both sessions and took away the point that we can do almost anything with today’s mobile technologies (boy have we come a long way since WAP and J2ME!).

Things to watch in the coming year

In summary, Innovate was crammed full of technologies to watch and good information on getting started with them. I’d recommend trying out Fabric and Access as soon as possible and paying attention to both as they roll out in the months ahead. There are also some very nice Magento and Facebook commerce opportunities coming; pay attention, and profit!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the conference, the news coming out of it, and the new commerce possibilities available as a result of those announcements. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think. And happy commerce hacking!

Click here to access the full article on X.com.

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