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Hypermedia and State Machines: RESTFest 2014

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Hypermedia and State Machines: RESTFest 2014

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[This article was written by Lorinda Brandon.]

The thing about an Unconference is that it can go in unexpected directions - as an organizer, you have to be ready for fluidity and spontaneity. At RESTFest, the format of the Unconference lends itself well to an emergent theme because, in addition to voluntary extended talks, each attendee has a #FiveInFive slot (5 slides in 5 minutes). That means you get to hear from all the voices in the room, not just the most familiar voices in the API world. RESTFest has a distinct reputation for being a hypermedia-focused event (partially because one of the organizer's is Mike Amundsen), so we all arrived expecting lots of juicy hypermedia goodness.

We weren't disappointed. Of course, there was a dominance of hypermedia discussion even from the opening Hack Day where participants were asked to bring their "best Hypermedia skills" and compete in an app bake-off. After Hack Day came Stack Day, where we started the day with some tool demos and discussions, most of which centered on tools in the hypermedia space, including a cool new open source IoT platform from Apigee called Zetta.

By the time we got to Friday afternoon, the tone was set - this wasn't just about hypermedia... this was about innovation, change, AND hypermedia. After lunch, we started the #FiveInFive talks, many of which focused on hypermedia. For those of you who missed these amazing brain dumps, the RESTFest Video project captures all of the action. 

Probably one of the most creative explorations of hypermedia was @CameronByTheWay's demo of hyper-JSON with two brain-dead robots competing in a game of chess.

But in both the hypermedia-focused talks and some of the other topics, one thread kept weaving in and out. this year's surprise reverberation was state machines. It's not far afield from the expected hypermedia discussion but the dominance of the thread from one talk to another surprised many of us. We got a mind-exploding keynote on the topic from @SeanCribbs, which left many of us wondering if we'd had enough coffee to comprehend his talk.

On Saturday, we picked up the discussion and got a chance to hear more about some of the concepts from Friday. Kevin Swiber shared more details about Zetta about how they handle reactive programming on the platform. His talk brought forward the specific concerns about the IoT and having to manage state transitions for devices reactively.

It all really came together, though, when Erik Morgensen stood up to present state charts for designing UI, in which we got to watch the construction and evolution of Moooogle, @mogsie's search engine, and learn how to inform your UI through a finite state machine.

But don't think for a minute that this was all work, no play. While we never stopped debating the use of hypermedia and its implications, sometimes we did so while drinking beer and wearing swag hats.

Like many of the attendees, I still carry elements of RESTFest around in my head. If you have the opportunity to attend it, don't hesitate. Warm and friendly, but at the same time smart and challenging, RESTFest will change the way you look at conferences (and maybe the world).

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