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Mozilla Drumbeat Festival and Popcorn.js 1.0

November 14, 2011

First and foremost, just over a week ago the Popcorn.js team and I released our 1.0 milestone, so congratulations to everyone who was a part of it.  It was an amazing feeling for me in particular ( and I’m sure everyone else as well ) as this was my first 1.0 release. It signified ( to me at least ) that we did something right, that what we were building meant something to someone other than the immediate Popcorn team.  In the pasts months I found it awesome when just one person would come on IRC asking questions about Popcorn and now after 1.0 and the attention we got at the Mozilla Festival there seem to be a ton of people on both the mailing list and IRC, its awesome.

The last few weeks have been crazy as ever; I spoke at FSOSS on Popcorn.js and Popcorn-Maker ( which deserves a blog post on its own ), we had 4 articles written by wired magazine, we travelled to London, England to attend the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival, which I even had the honor to speak at.  I don’t think I have had time to really take in what we have done and just how awesome it really is.  When I began on the project back in February as a student in David Humphrey’s Open Source Development class, I had no idea I would ever be working on the project, let alone seeing it to 1.0.  Yet here we are, 10 months later and we did it. We released the 1.0 version of Popcorn.js and the alpha version of Popcorn-Maker.  Its crazy what can happen in a year.

So more on the Festival!  Last week on November 2nd Jon Buckley, Christopher DeCairos, Scott Downe, David Humphrey and myself flew out to the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival in London, England.  The funny thing about all of this is that Chris and I only found out we were going about a month ago.  It was originally only supposed to be Jon, Scott and Dave going, but some additional funding came up and Chris and I were invited along.  I remember getting the news and feeling like a child on Christmas eve, I had a perminant smirk on my face for the next 48 hours or so.  But back to the festival.  When we arrived we still had some work to do on the release so we got to it.  Jon and I tackled some issues with WordPress and the documentation while Chris finished off the amazing build tool that he created.  After about 4 hours of hacking we had officially finished everything that needed to be in 1.0, we had released.  A few hours later we attended what was called a science fair.

The science fair is essentially a ton of booths for all of the amazing projects that are apart of the festival.  Its very laid back and everyone is encouraged to go walk around and see what everyone has to offer ( not to mention pick up a ton of cool swag :) ).  Im not the most social guy, so I mostly ended up walking around listening to people explain there projects.  I remember standing at the Twillio booth when the guy asked if I was a technical person before he gave a demo, I said yes and he asked what project I was apart of.  I said I worked on Popcorn.js and the next thing I know I get a “WHAT I LOVE POPCORN!, YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME” followed up by a high five. It was small things like this that reassured me that we built something amazing.  I had a similar experience when I went to the RAMP booth, where they were giving me a brief intro to what RAMP did when Jon and I mentioned we worked on Popcorn.  The conversation went from explaining what they did, to thanking us on building something awesome and how much of a pleasure it was to use the software.  I can’t thank the RAMP guys enough for everything they did.  They took our software really to the next level for a major commercial application, creating new plugins and giving us feedback on what type of things would be nice to have and such. They also took the Popcorn team out for an amazing dinner, so thanks again for that!  The rest of the science fair was filled with wine and talking with a ton of crazy smart people, followed by an unexpected hike across london with Jon, Bobby Richter and Alan Kligman.  I don’t regret following Jon on his crazy way back to the hotel for a second, I mean how often is it that you get to walk through a construction site in London, England!

The next two days were filled with hacking on various things and helping people create their own Popcorn experiences.  One of the major things that stuck with me was what Jon and I created.  Simon Klose, the director of the upcoming Pirate Bay documentary had an idea of creating a dual screen Popcorn experience, where the video would be played full screen on lets say your computer, and all of the popcorn events would come to a mobile device.  At the time we had nothing like this, and we sort of put the idea aside.  This idea intrigued the hell out of me ( and obviously Jon as well ) because after our brainstorming session with Simon, Jon and I started talking and said something to the extent of “we can do that, lets make it later tonight”.  For those of you who have never worked with Jon before, he is one of the smartest people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, he somehow has an answer for everything.  Working with Jon is always an amazing experience and I learn a ton from that man each time I work with him, so props to Jon for being awesome.  Later that night over some beers Jon and I hacked together the first version of Popcorn remote using Peerbind.  The problem with this initial demo was that both devices had to connect to the exact same page, which sort of defeated the purpose ( at least in my eyes ) of what we were trying to create.  It was an awesome first demo, but we could take it further.  Over the next 24 hours or so Jon and I hacked our hearts out in order to get two pages speaking with each, having the video on one screen, and a play/pause button on another.  After 6 hours or so  working as fast as we could, Jon finally figured out where we went wrong and we had it working.  Later that night Brett Gaylor, the project lead for Popcorn, presented it infront of the Mozfest crowd and asked us to stand up as well.  We had a video of Atul fullscreen on a projector and the play/pause button on Jons phone.  We asked someone in the audience to press the button and voila, it worked. It was an awesome feeling getting this to work, and really shows how awesome Popcorn is and what kind of crazy stuff can come out of a small idea.  Once we got back to Canada Jon and I actually took this a step further and built the demo that Simon originally wanted, which was pretty awesome.

Following are links to videos of the first and second demo Jon and I created, as well as a picture of Jon and I at the festival hacking away.

http://yfrog.com/5onzwz

There is so much more to mention about the festival, but I have already ranted for a 1000+ words, so I’m going to wrap it up.  All in all it was the most amazing trip I have ever been on and I can’t thank David Humphrey, Brett Gaylor, Mozilla, and Seneca’s Centre for Development of Open Technology enough, I never would have had this amazing opportunity without you, so thank you x10000.  I met so many amazing people ( Jonathon McIntosh, Simon Klose, Henrik Moltke, all of the guys from RAMP, Cole Gillespie, Alan Kligman ) and so many more as well as hacking with the rest of the amazing Popcorn.js team, Bobby Richter, Brian Chirls, Ben MoskowitzJon, Scott, Chris, Dave, and Brett.  It will be a trip I wont soon forget!

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