Mark Kirby - mobile, cloud, voice and IoT

Silverlight UK User Group 4 review

Tonight, (the 5th of November) rather than watch the fireworks, myself and the Ribot team headed up to Microsoft’s London offices for the 4th Silverlight UK User Group meetup, one of a series of meetups organised by London based consultancy Conchango. I thought I’d present my thoughts on tonight’s proceedings.

Image by clry2, some rights reserved

As well as free pizza and beer, sponsored by Microsoft and Conchango, we heard from 2 speakers focusing on design oriented issues, with an obvious leaning towards Silverlight. I must add a few words about the venue though, Cardinal Place, a huge glass structure which now dominates nearby Westminster Cathedral and even Victoria Station on the other side. As well as a shopping centre there are a plenty of open airy offices, and glass dominates inside as well as out. As you can see from the photo, its a very fitting place for an evening with a design focus.

First up tonight we had the unusually named Tricky of TrickyBusiness speaking about design. Like Ribot, TrickyBusiness focus on the user experience, specifically experience design. Also like us, they go through a design process, from sketches through to the visual materials which are passed on to the developers.

One of the issues we have encountered with Silverlight was the poor integration with Blend and Adobe products. It was refreshing to hear they had the exact same issues, and useful to know that they have begun to design directly in Expression Design, bypassing Photoshop/Illustrator for more UI related areas of the design.

As well the SilverLight discussions, Tricky had some great insights into the world of branding. The main point he made was that whilst designers obviously focus on branding for clients, its also very important to focus on ones own brand, be that as an individual or a company. This rings true for me, and its areas such as personal blogs, the Ribot site, face to face contact with individuals, even I would suggest the office or other space that clients meet us in which all combine to work on both the company brand and our own personal brands. Its a fascinating area and one that deserves further exploration, and experimentation.

Next up Mark McDonald of full-service digital agency Graphico spoke about some of the projects they have worked on which incorporated Silverlight and PhotoSynth. Graphico are very different to ourselves and TrickyBusiness, rather than focus on one small area, they are a larger agency who provide a full service from concept to design, through to development, marketing and everything in-between.

After introducing the company, Mark took us through some of the Silverlight projects they had worked on such as the Barcardi mobilise at festivals project which saw them incorporating video and a live stream of a concert featuring multiple camera angles, all embedded in the player. An interesting issue they encountered was that of security. They didn’t want people to be able to download the xap files which can then be decompiled and the code inside accessed. As the project was sensitive (the performers were kept a secret) they had to get around this, an unusual issue and one I had never even considered.

The evening came to a close with an in-depth look at PhotoSynth, Microsofts labs technology for combining groups of photos into an immersive experience. You basically take several overlapping images of a location or object and send them to the system which can then produce a large image that can be navigated and zoomed on without the fisheye effect, as well as a 3D rendering of the scene. Unfortunately its only available on PC and requires you to download and install a plugin. Although Graphico have created some great material on the London Eye site already, I feel this technology has a way to go yet before it even begins to be used to its full extent. Microsoft should certainly consider including it in their OS photo apps though, as it would offer a great feature for people to discover, perhaps when uploading their attempts at taking a panorama.

The event closed with some more beers and conversation, and as it was in Victoria, a short hop onto the train back to Brighton. On the way home we agreed tonight had been a fascinating evening, some food for thought and plenty of new ideas. If you’re a Silverlight developer in the South, pop along to the next meetup, they happen around every month.

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