Help! There's a Giant Penguin at LinuxWorld Expo.

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Adam Trachtenberg

Adam Trachtenberg
Jan. 22, 2004 10:19 AM

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The first booth I see as I walk in has man dressed in a giant penguin costume. Good God! Now the penguin is dancing around in pantomime to music and a mysterious voice is droning on about Computer Associates's commitment to Linux.

I've only been at LinuxWorld Expo for 5 minutes and I'm already scared. (Or trapped inside of Billy Madison.)

Luckily, I'm supposed to be at the O'Reilly booth in 20 minutes, so I'm able to tear myself away and head across the floor to set up for my presentation on "A Sneak Preview of XML in PHP 5." (PowerPoint)

This year's O'Reilly booth is much larger than last year's. In addition to the print division, the Safari folks are here and they've arranged to set up a giant computer monitor attached to the side of the booth and a "I work at the Gap" headphone microphone to talk into. I feel somewhat like a carnival sideshow barker as I load up my slides and begin my half hour talk, but as the crowd gathers the whole experience starts to be quite enjoyable.

After I'm done I get to chat with some of the audience. One guy brings up a well-worn copy of PHP Cookbook, which is awesome. Another person keeps asking me if "PHP 5 supports REST." Hum... I thought I just spent 30 minutes talking about four different ways to parse XML in PHP 5. Maybe this presentation didn't go as well as I thought. (But in answer the question, check out my SimpleXML article from

With my responsibilities out of the way, I'm free to wander around the show. David and I start by walking six feet to the MySQL booth to chat with Brian Aker and Monty. Brian was showing off the new MySQL toy, an embedded Java VM. Since David's spent some time on an PHP UDF for MySQL, the three of them talked shop while I just nodded along. (And to answer the second best question someone asked me at the show, yes, that is Brian's real hair.)

Next stop was the NYPHP booth at the .Org Pavilion. I say hi to Hans and Chris who are staffing the booth and pushing clew, NYPHP's "knowledge discussion package." Looks like Google is trying hard to hire engineers. Their booth has four people: three technical recruiters based in the NY office and one (gasp!) actual engineer. I guess when the entire world is already using your product, there's really no reason to send a marketing team.

As the day winds down, I head with David to the eBay Web services developer BOF. Gary gives a nice talk showing the history of eBay's relationship with third party developers. It began with "Er... no you can't screen scrape our site since we can almost guarantee we'll update the site in two weeks and your script will break."

That was a few years ago. Today, eBay has a Microsoft SDK, a pseduo-REST XML interface, and they're working on a SOAP toolkit. Big change, but now that 40% of eBay listings come through third-party applications using the API, you can see why they're interested in growing this area. (Although as David points out, they still have a little ways to go before their lawyers let them offer a TOS that's open source friendly.)

Adam Trachtenberg is the manager of technical evangelism for eBay and is the author of two O'Reilly books, "Upgrading to PHP 5" and "PHP Cookbook." In February he will be speaking at Web Services Edge 2005 on "Developing E-Commerce Applications with Web Services" and at the O'Reilly booth at LinuxWorld on "Writing eBay Web Services Applications with PHP 5."