International Conference on Web Engineering

August 2, 2016 Tomasz Pluskiewicz

In the beginning of June, I attended the sixteenth International Conference on Web Engineering. It was organized by USI – Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano and chaired by professor Cesare Pautasso. A great event at a beautiful location. Unfortunately you can image what it was like financially. Fortunately, with some support from PGS Software, I decided to attend the entire 4-day conference.

But why ICWE?

This was the first time I fully attended a scientific conference. So far I have only presented at the Semantic Web Developers Workshop, a satellite event to the Extended Semantic Web Conference. I regret missing the main event, which I did for financial reasons. This year my main interest was in the WS-REST workshop but I couldn’t miss the actual conference again. I was not disappointed.

The conference

Initially, I feared that a scientific conference will be too academic. In fact, most of the presenters were PhD students showcasing their research results or presenting ideas and visions for their upcoming or unfinished work. Most of the people I spoke to would ask me what university I study at. There were just a handful of people coming from outside of academia – maybe excluding some of the more prominent guests.

I was quite relieved to learn that much of the presented research has much potential and great value for the industry:

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Natural language processing, data analysis, Web APIs, the Semantic Web. The research tracks featured a bit of everything. And there were also Posters and Demos, Workshops and Tutorials. It was just not possible to attend everything. I don’t know how much I missed, but judging by the descriptions there was a lot of good stuff: Docker, Liquid Web, Design Science and the InterPlanetary File System, to name a few. Interestingly, I’ve only just learned about the last and apparently it is a big thing. Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon anyone?

The workshop

As I wrote above, my interest was in the WS-REST workshop. Traditionally it would be hosted at the WWW conference. This year both the form and organizing committee were different, for the first time, the WS-REST workshop conference would be held in an open conference, or ‘unconference’, format. It means that there was no rigid agenda. Anyone could speak up any time and add their presentation to the workshop wiki. The schedule also shifted a number of times as subsequent talks took more time that planned. And no one was upset! Agile planning at it’s best. And all thanks to Erik Wilde and Mike Amundsen of API Academy. Yes, the authors of a number of well respected books and tools. It was also a great opportunity to meet them in person for the first time.

I had enough time to actually stand up before the small crowd twice. In my first, longer talk I discussed the many missing aspects of aspiring RESTful design. I tried to encourage the listeners to promote REST as it was specified thus promoting decoupled design and evolutionary nature of APIs. I dare say I’m quite happy with that performance. Having had this similar talk before it was appreciated and sparked some very interesting discussions.

In my second talk I briefly presented some libraries I am working on. Together, they will form a complete RESTful stack for building applications with Hydra/JSON-LD, .NET, JavaScript and Web Components. Much like the code itself, this second talk wasn’t as polished and there is still room for improvement. It matters to me especially because I intend to present my work in the near future.

You should go too!

The week I spent in Lugano was definitely a great experience. I didn’t even mention the additional activities: ice-breaking lunch on the first evening, elegant dinner atop a nearby mountain and a lengthy boat tour. Even more time to meet other people and talk about their work, interests and unsolicited Game of Throne spoilers.

I cannot stress that enough – scientific conferences are not what most of you likely think they are. Sure, a lot of the presented work is still in progress but my general impression is that most of it is very practical and an evidence of what the future holds. Recently I’ve been somewhat disappointed with the technical conferences, which in my opinion feature too much self-promotion and corporate marketing. The ICWE conference did not disappoint in that regard. Of course, one has to sieve out topics they are most interested in, but sure enough each and every presenter deeply cares about they work. Work, which either pushes the boundaries or tries to solve some important problems like deforestation of the Amazon.

I know that the price of such trip is high but nevertheless I encourage everyone to go once in a while, it is worth seeing what people are working on, share knowledge and ideas. You may discover surprising solutions to your own problems and gather a lot of inspiration for future projects.

And the views…

IMG_20160607_183008

Read more

I didn’t describe the proceedings in detail. If you are interested in what researchers presented head to my blog, where I gather my impressions under the ICWE category. More posts coming soon.

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