All those ambent background movie clips and adverts in Children of Men. There's a lot of attention to detail here.
Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
This is funny in a very, very geeky way.
Sunday, February 25th, 2007
I used to think that Mike Arrington was a dick. Now I know he is.
Saturday, February 24th, 2007
Gavin Bell has posted the slides from his excellent talk at BarCamp London 2.
The diversity division
After the Future of Web Apps 2006 conference in San Francisco, a post by Chris Messina lamenting the lack of women in the line-up prompted heated debate and high emotions.
Tempers are still getting frayed and the discourse is generally pretty unhelpful.
Let me say from the start that I do think there is a problem with having so many conferences with such unbalanced line-ups and I firmly believe that a lot of the responsibility lies with the organisers to change things. That said, I also understand just how hard it is to put on any kind of conference at all.
To the people accusing conference organisers of being some kind of cabalistic old boy’s network: you’re really not helping. You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
To the people organising conferences who throw up their hands and say “it’s not our job, we’re just reflecting the sad reality”: you’re being equally unhelpful.
So, all of you: try walking a mile in the other person’s shoes. That way, if you still don’t agree, you’ll be a mile away from the other person and you’ve made off with their shoes.
Eric came out with a provacative post that’s just aching to be quoted out of context:
So, here it is: as a conference organizer, I don’t care about diversity.
I admire and respect Eric but I think in this instance that he is wrong. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Eric makes the very persuasive argument that to put on a successful conference, the line-up needs to be filled with well-known, established speakers. (This prompted the obvious question from a few people in the comments; just how does one become well-known or established? As Jen says,
Eric, it is becoming a circle jerk.)
Success doesn’t just mean financial success, though I readily admit that the economics of organising a conference are fiendish. A successful conference is about more than just getting bums on seats.
Yes, if you fill a line-up with “A-listers” then you’ll sell all your tickets and the attendees will learn from the best and everyone will be happy… in the short term. In the long term, it’s unsustainable. It leads to a closed loop, a neverending cycle of the same names talking about the same subjects. Diversity isn’t just a means to an end (that end being a better conference), it is in and of itself, A Good Thing.
Conferences, especially well-established conferences (and I would put An Event Apart into that category) can and should take some chances. Yes, it’s risky. No, you can’t guarantee ticket sales. But it will be a better conference if the line-up has some wild cards.
I firmly believe that conferences shouldn’t simply be mirrors for the Web business, reflecting whatever is current and accepted. A good conference can act as a force on the industry. Conference organisers have a great opportunity here and I think it’s a shame to see it wasted.
Alright… enough talking about conference organisers as if they were some kind of separate caste of people. It’s time to point the finger at myself.
My company, Clearleft, organises the dConstruct conference in Brighton every year. It’s really Andy’s baby but he very kindly asks for my opinions in putting the conference together. I personally feel very strongly that this year’s dConstruct needs to change from last year’s homogenous line-up (I’m pretty sure Andy agrees).
Even if we sell every ticket, even if everybody blogs about having a great time, if the line-up consists of a bunch of white male speakers (“A-list” or otherwise), I will consider the conference a failure.
But what to do? The perceived wisdom is that there are simply far more kick-ass men speakers than women. I don’t believe that’s true. I think there are far more visible men in our industry, but with just a bit effort it’s entirely possible to find a wealth of women speakers who can truthfully be described as well and truly kick-ass.
I’m not sure if I’m supposed to blog about this, but for months now, we at Clearleft have had a BaseCamp project set up with the specific intention of finding new blood for dConstruct. We’ve invited people from outside our circle of expertise and interests and asked them to suggest speakers. The idea is to deliberately introduce diversity, to stir things up a bit and ultimately, to put together the most kick-ass line-up of speakers we can.
Is this tokenism? Absolutely not. I fully concur with Eric when he says:
What’s important is technical expertise, speaking skills, professional stature, brand appropriateness, and marketability.
But I don’t believe that this attitude conflicts in any way with the desire to increase diversity. It’s entirely possible to put together a superb line-up of diverse speakers.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at Web Directions North (or South for that matter), one of the best, most stimulating conferences I’ve ever attended. They didn’t make a big deal about the mixture of topics and presenters, they just put together the best line-up they could.
I’m not saying it’s easy. I know for a fact that it’s a lot of hard work. But it’s achievable; Web Directions is a testament to that.
I’m also going to have to agree to disagree with Tantek, another person I admire and respect greatly. He is of the opinion the kind of thing I’m suggesting would indeed fall under the category of tokenism:
Why is it that gender (and less often race, nay, skin-color, see below) are the only physical characteristics that lots of otherwise smart people appear to chime in support for diversity of?
Where are all the green-eyed folks? Where are all the folks with facial tattoos? Where are all the redheads? Where are the speakers with non-ear facial piercings?
Actually, I would agree with Tantek if I were talking about diversity of sexes, but I’m not. I’m talking about diversity of gender. There’s a difference. Sex means male or female. Gender means masculine or feminine.
I fully agree that a speaker’s sex makes about as much difference as their eye-colour or hairstyle but a speaker’s gender can and does affect their outlook and experience. As someone who has a (primarily) masculine gender, I know that I can learn a lot more from being in a mixed masculine/feminine environment. That’s one of the reasons why I’m glad my band isn’t an all-male affair.
I’m not just arguing semantics here. I’m trying to point out why I think Tantek’s argument is reducto ad absurdum. Gender isn’t like eye-colour. Introducing more gender diversity into a conference is productive in the same way as introducing someone with a background in product design or some other non-Web field that can offer a new perspective on our industry (this isn’t just an off-hand comparison).
I hope I’ve made my point clear. Let me reiterate that I can see both sides of this debate but I do come down firmly on the side of increasing diversity. I just hope that I can work towards this goal in a constructive way.
Frankly, I find Jason Kottke’s reductionist statistical approach to be counter-productive. It’s not just about numbers, Jason. I’m also not so sure that Anil’s abrasive style is particularly constructive but his clever riposte to the Future of Web Apps line-up is illuminating.
I do feel bad for Ryan. He always seems to bear the brunt of the blame even though plenty of other conferences are equally lacking in diversity.
However… I do take issue with Ryan’s attempt to wash his hands by pointing out just how many of the speaker slots were bought by sponsors. I’m sorry, but selling time slots to the highest bidder is no way to put a conference together. I’m well aware of the economic realities of putting on a conference and I know that selling slots to sponsors is established practice in certain circles but it won’t cut it with the geek crowd.
Again, Web Directions North managed to get this just right by allowing companies to sponsor speakers. So the speakers were all chosen for their expertise, knowledge and perhaps even diversity, and then Adobe or Microsoft were given the opportunity to introduce the speakers. It sure beats product pitches.
I want to finish with an observation on this whole issue of gender diversity at Web conferences.
This debate isn’t going to go away. It looks like it’s going to flare up every few months. Clearly, plenty of bloggers—who are also probably the target audience for a lot of these conferences—really care about this issue and want to see some changes. Yet every time the issue is raised, conference organisers fall back on the argument that they need to fill the auditorium and that the best way of doing that is to give people the same “A-list” speakers that have always worked in the past. In other words, give the people what they want.
Well, we want diversity.
It’s kind of like the whole brouhaha with Adobe and their crappy new icons. The majority of Adobe’s potential customers disliked the icons and wrote good, well-reasoned blog posts explaining why. As Aral so excellently noted, Adobe deliberately chose to ignore this wealth of valuable feedback. I see conferences falling into the same trap. The very fact that this debate is taking place (and continues to take place ever more frequently) should be sending a message that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
It reminds me of the old joke. A guy walks into a shop and asks for some product or other. The shopkeeper says, “We don’t stock that. There’s no demand for it.” The shopkeeper then adds, “It’s funny: you’re the tenth person to ask for that today.”
Paul Boag—of Boagworld, um… “fame”—has started up a podcast for dot net magazine (a magazine which has nothing to do with Microsoft’s .NET thingymajiggy). It’s like a less polished and more nerdy version of This Week in Tech: a bunch of geeks shooting the breeze and chewing the fat.
I joined in for episode two of the podcast, wherein I called Jakob Nielsen “a dick”. For some reason I was invited back for episode three and I proceeded to use the word “bollocks” to describe Web 2.0.
See what happens when remarks are quoted out of context?
I’m really not all that curmudgeonly, honest. Subscribe to the podcast if you don’t believe me.
Friday, February 23rd, 2007
The Future of Web Apps gets a write-up on the BBC site.
I stuck around afterwards to sit in on Stefan Magdalinski’s workshop. Each workshop lasted just three hours—three and a half hours really, but there was coffee break in the middle. While I was frantically trying to cram my material into what seemed like a short space of time, Stefan was worried about having enough material to fill the alloted time. He needn’t have worried. He had plenty of stories from the trenches of They Work For You, Up My Street and the latest venture, Moo.com.
It was particularly enlightening to hear about the challenges of producing a physical product. It’s pretty clear from the success of great sites like Moo, JPEG Magazine and Threadless that there’s something special about holding a created object in your hands.
I had the pleasure of holding my own printed object in my hands when I got home from the day of workshops. New Riders—having inadvertently sent the original package to Dori’s house—sent an express delivery of two shiny copies of my brand new book, Bulletproof Ajax.
Can you tell that I’m quite pleased with it?
Worst. Error message. Ever.
Derek points to a new piece of assistive technology and wonders where the next innovation will come from.
Type a message into a textarea. It will be printed, placed in a bottle and thrown off Brighton Pier. You can even choose the bottle.
Jason Kottke on the still-ludicrous imbalance at most tech conferences. This issue isn't going to go away. Conference organisers need to stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.
Motionographer | Motion graphics, design, animation, filmmaking, vfx and bombastic banter» Blog Archive » Say What Again
Check out the beautiful use of Rockwell in this typographical interpretation of a scene from Pulp Fiction.
Thursday, February 22nd, 2007
Semantics in HTML Part II - standardizing vocabularies at microformatique - a blog about microformats and “data at the edges”
The second part of John Allsopp's superb series on semantics, philosophy and markup. Don't miss it! And be sure to go back and read the first part, too.
Wednesday, February 21st, 2007
The Future of Web Apps, day two
I’m feeling quite refreshed and ready for another day of geekery. There weren’t too many drinking shenanigans going on last night.
The official watering hole for the FOWA drinkipoos turned out to be a yuppie nightmare. The entrance hallway was filled with gaudy images that were probably intended to recall 1950s pin-ups but actually just looked like page 3 pages torn from a tatty copy of The Sun. The drinks were ludicrously overpriced and getting out of the toilets required a significant toll charge. All of this would have been mitigated if there were some ancillary benefits such as watching young nubile bodies gyrating on a dancefloor but a sign at the entrance made it very clear that dancing was forbidden. This being England, the sign added, “we apologise for the inconvenience.”
Before long, a rebellion was organised and a gaggle of geeks made a mass exodus to a lovely cosy pub across the street. Happiness and chattiness emerged. After that, there was time for one civilised nightcap in the hotel bar with the dynamic duo of Tara and Chris, Google’s Jonathan Rochelle (a scholar and a gentleman) and Natalie—free from Simon’s clutches while he worked frantically on his slides.
It’s day two of FOWA now and there’s still no sign of free WiFi. Khoi has kindly given me a BT Openzone scratch’n’sniff WiFi card he got yesterday so I’ll use that to dip in and out of the river of connectivity and expand on this running commentary throughout the day.
Adobe kicked off the day with a Flex demo. Having attended Flash on the Beach, there wasn’t anything new for me here but it was interesting to watch other people’s reactions to the speed of Actionscript 3 and the ease of downloading an Apollo app.
Microsoft’s Chris Wilson is on stage giving a state of the Web address. He talked about the origins of Ajax, gave a nice shout out to microformats and he mentioned the power of tagging (Hi, Chris!). There’s plenty of talk about security which isn’t that enthralling to me personally but its probably the most important aspect of IE7 for most people on the planet. Alpha transparency in PNGs; now that’s more like it.
Khoi is talking about The Future (capitalisation intentional) which will, as he says, be awesome. But first, let’s hear about some of the design challenges at The New York Times. He’s showing some nice examples of what art direction is. You’ll see art direction in the print version of the paper all the time, but the online counterparts are just templated. There are exceptions like the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the infographics for the November elections, but of course these are events that are predictable and can be planned for. For breaking news, real-time design just isn’t possible… yet.
Khoi makes an interesting point about the schizophrenia in new technology. At the same time that we’re getting into hi-def television and DVDs, we’re also flocking to YouTube even though the video quality is really lo-fi. And while SLR cameras are getting more and more powerful, we’re using crappy little camera phones more and more. This schizophrenia throws up some design challenges for a media outlet like The New York Times.
There’s no such thing as a free feature, says Khoi. And remember, the more expressive a designer gets, the more the user has to pay for it (download times and such). So for any new feature, there must be a really valid reason for it to exist. Oh, and options are obstructions. Too many prefs are a sign of unresolved design issues that couldn’t be squeezed into the main interface.
Thank you, Khoi. And now it’s Simon’s turn. Hmmmm… I wonder what he’ll be talking about: OpenID, perhaps?
Oh man, Simon’s on a roll. Talking a mile a minute, getting jibes in at Microsoft, cracking jokes about Ben and Mena Trott… he’s got the audience in the palm of his twirling, whizzing hand.
Long story, short: OpenID rocks. If you’re creating any kind of membership-based site, you need to check this out. If you’re member of a lot of different sites, you need to check this out. Oh, and in case you missed it, both AOL and Digg announced support for OpenID over the past few days. The momentum looks unstoppable at this stage.
I love the fact that the evangelism for OpenID is coming from passionate developers like Simon, not from some corporate representative. Like the microformats movement, it’s bottom-up rather than top-down. Other companies are buying slots at this conference to pitch their products but Simon gets to talk about OpenID because it’s so freakin’ cool and can’t simply be ignored.
Ah, OpenID and microformats: now there’s a cool combo. Simon has won my heart and the hearts of everyone else in the audience, I suspect. He’s talking about portable social networks and everything. Bravo, Mr. Willison!
After a pleasant lunch with some of the Last.fm posse, I’m back in the auditorium to hear what Jonathan from Google has to say about Google Docs and Spreadsheets (killer name, indeed). These aren’t the kind of Web apps I’m likely to use myself but I’m interesting in the technology behind them. I’m assuming that, given the complexity of the applications, the Ajax used will be of the non-Hijax variety.
Time to break out into something a little unusual. This, as Ryan puts it, is the user-generated part of the conference. Over the past few weeks, delegates have been able to log on to the FOWA site and vote for some short presentations they’d like to see at this point. The three highest-scoring subjects will now present.
The virtual office. Okay, that works.
A documentation technique called Jedi — Just Enough Documentation for Interactions. Great backronym!
The topic with the most votes is… which apps will succeed and which will fail in 2007? Who knows?
And now it’s time for a talk on mobile. Let’s hear from Daniel Appelquist from Vodaphone. I’m not entirely sure that a provider is necessarily going to be the most subjective voice on this but we’ll see.
Actually, there’s something interesting stuff here, especially around the intersection of mobile and Ajax. There’s plenty of talk about standards, so that’s all good. I’ll have to corner him later for a chat.
Now let’s hear from the creator of PHP, Rasmus Lerdorf. He’s taking us on a trip down memory lane, looking at Mosaic and early versions of HTML and PHP. Rasmus basically wrote PHP to scratch his own itch—it’s the typical open source story.
Here’s a reassuring confession from someone who has written a programming language:
I hate programming. It’s tedious. It’s no fun. It’s like flying: sitting in a smelly metal tube with other people. But I love problem-solving.
Looking at PHP today, it’s a lot more verbose. The Computer Science geeks like it now but it sure has moved far away from being a quick and dirty tool for getting something done. Ironically, there are students today that only have a background in object-oriented programming and have to be taught what procedural programming is.
Here’s an interesting idea on why people join an open-source community: oxytocin, a neuropeptide otherwise known as nature’s trust hormone. That’s in addition to the usual incentives like self-interest and self-expression. It’s the same motivation that drives people to play World of Warcraft in a big way. Open source projects like PHP are like Web 2.0 community sites: Flickr, Digg and Wikipedia would be nothing without the user-contributed content. The same goes for any open-source project.
In addressing the issue of performance, Rasmus has lost me but that’s due to my own mental deficiency rather than any fault with his presentation style.
Security is even tougher. As he says, “basically, you can never click on a link.” He has two browsers: one for browsing and one for sites that have personal data. It’s kind of paranoid, it’s kind of sad but, when you understand the consequences of cross-site scripting, it’s entirely justified.
PHP5 makes it trivially easy to take XML from Web services and do stuff with it. I can vouch for that.
Time for a quick announcement.
There’s a big announcement coming right now. Here it is… a Universal Widget API or UWA if you prefer a TLA.
If you care, you heard it here first folks.
Wait, here’s another announcement: support for OpenID. Yay! All the cool kids are doing it.
Right. Make way for the guys from Moo.
Richard Moross and Stefan Magdalinski
Print is dead? Bollocks says Richard. And of course he’s right. Derek Powazek would agree, I’m sure.
Moo cards are cool. I’ve got some: little cards with my Flickr food pictures and the URL of Principia Gastronomica. A significant proportion of this audience also have Moo cards. Best of all, anybody here can get free Moo cards if they give these guys a business card in return.
Business cards don’t have to be boring. They can tell a story.
With Moo cards,
the difference makes all the difference. Y’know, Qoop launched much the same product—business cards made with the Flickr API—a week before Moo cards launched. But Moo could compete on the differences: unusual size and high-quality recycled card. Everybody talked about Moo cards; nobody talked about Qoop’s cards.
Partnership is everything for Moo. Without Flickr, they’d be nothing.
Marketing is a four letter word: free. Giving away free cards is great marketing. I concur: the free cards I got from Moo clinched the decision to buy cards from them.
The attention to detail in Moo’s physical package really seals the deal. There are little Easter eggs in there and the luggage-tag card that comes with every pack gets everyone talking. There’s an incredible amount that has to be done by hand but that’s what guarantees the right level of quality.
Now Stefan is giving a peak behind the curtain at the technical side of Moo. If you want to know what he’s saying, well, you should have come to the conference then, shouldn’t you? You can’t expect me to do everything now, can you?
The Future of Web Apps, day one
Like last year, the event is being held in the salubrious surroundings of Kensington; normally the home turf of Sloane Rangers, now overrun by geeks. But the geeks here are generally of a different variety to those at BarCamp (although I’m seeing a lot of familiar faces from the weekend).
The emphasis of the conference this time is more on the business, rather than the techy side of things. It makes sense to focus the event this way, especially now that there’s a separate Future of Web Design conference in a few months. The thing is… I don’t have much of a head for business (to put it mildy) so a lot of the material isn’t really the kind of thing I’m interested in. That’s not to say that it isn’t objectively interesting but from my subjective viewpoint, words like “venture”, “investment” and “business model” tend to put me to sleep.
That said, the presentations today have been less soporific than I feared. There was some good geeky stuff from Werner Vogels of Amazon and Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo, as well as some plain-talkin’ community advice from Tara Hunt.
The big disappointment of the day has been WiFi. Despite the fact that Ryan paid £6,000—remember, he’s not afraid of announcing figures in public—nothin’s doin’. For all the kudos that BT deserve for hosting the second London BarCamp, they lose some karma points for this snafu.
The day ended with Kevin Rose giving the Digg annual report. He left time for some questions so I put this to him:
I see Digg as a technological success and a business success but I think it’s a social failure. That’s because when I read the comments attached to a story, people are behaving like assholes.
At this point, people started applauding. I was mortified! I wasn’t trying get in a cheap shot at Digg; I had a point to make. So after informing the crowd that there was nothing to applaud, I continued:
This is probably because of the sheer size of the community on Digg. Contrast this to something like Flickr where there are lots and lots of separate groups. My question is; should you be trying to deliberately fragment Digg?
The answer was a resounding “Yes!” and it’s something that he touched on his talk. Afterwards, I was talking to Daniel Burka and he reckoned that Digg could take a leaf out of Last.fm’s book. The guys from Last.fm had previously talked about all the great features they were able to roll out by mining the wealth of attention data that users are submitting every day. Digg has an equally rich vein of data; they just need to mine it.
Anyway, it was a good day all in all but I feel kind of bad for putting a sour note on the Digg presentation. Plenty of people told me “great question!” but I felt a bit ashamed for putting Kevin on the spot that way.
Still, it’s far preferable to make these points in meatspace. If I had just blogged my concerns, it would have been open to even more misinterpretation. That’s the great thing about conferences: regardless of whether the subject matter is my cup of tea or not, the opportunity to meet and chat with fellow geeks is worth the price of entry.
Ben's thoughts on RDF and microformats, prompted by last weekend's BarCamp shenanigans.
YUI Version 2.2.0 Released: Browser History Manager, DataTable, and Button Components, New Versioning, and More » Yahoo! User Interface Blog
Roll up and get it: hot off the presses; the new version of the Yahoo User Interface library. Happy birthday, YUI.
Monday, February 19th, 2007
I got roped into this face-off at BarCamp London 2. Here's a video of the ensuing confrontation. This was a lot of fun.
Sunday, February 18th, 2007
Wrapping up BarCamp London 2
After many hours of Werewolf and a bit of late-night semantic geekery, I grabbed an hour or two of fitful sleep in the BT Centre in London.
This morning the BarCamp shenanigans kicked off with Simon doing some cheerleading for OpenID. I don’t think many people needed convincing; there’s a real momentum behind OpenID right now and it shows no sign of slowing.
Round two of the match was fought after lunch. I moderated a microformats panel discussion with Brian Suda, Ben Ward and Chris Messina. We spread the good word on microformats and threw in a few demos for ilustrative purposes. It was fun.
Before long, it was all over except for the clean-up. Many geeks make light work, it seems.
All in all, it’s been a great BarCamp. I’ve had a wonderful time meeting a heck of a lot of really smart and talented developers. I managed to make it back down to Brighton which is where I am now recuperating.
Roll on the next geek gathering… as soon as I’ve had some sleep.
Night of the werewolf
It’s been a good day at BarCamp. I’ve seen some great presentations.
Gavin Bell gave a great presentation called History, Time and the Internet. He packed in a ton of ideas and I’d love to follow some of them up some time. Marvelous stuff!
Jim Purbrick from Linden Lab gave a good in-depth look at some of the neat things you can do in Second Life with a bit of code. There’s definitely some cool stuff to be done using Web Services to tie items in Second Life to things in the real world.
Oh, and Jim announced the official location of the next Linden Lab office: Brighton.
Tom compressed his talk from The Future of Web Apps in San Francisco into a whirlwind of ideas around social software.
I left Tom’s talk to hear Aral talk about how he’s hacked together some extensions to the API for Twitter. Of course I twittered that I was going to the presentation and that notification appeared on-screen so it was all very meta.
There was a whole bunch of other good stuff including a well-prepared presentation from Andy. But eventually the talks had to stop and the pizza and beer had to begin.
Right now the BT Centre has become Werewolf Central. There are two or three concurrent games running at any one time. It’s three in the morning now and the games show no sign of stopping.
I must go now. A game is starting.
I am not a werewolf.
Saturday, February 17th, 2007
Aral just posted his extensions to the Twitter API.
BarCamp London 2: The Schedule
Here’s the schedule for BarCamp in yummy hCalendar format.
Download the schedule in iCal and you can sync it up with your mobile phone, iPod, whatever.
- 13:00 – 13:30 : How To Scale , Informal 2
- 13:00 – 13:30 : Do we want to change the world? , The Level 1
- 13:00 – 13:30 : Blackhat SEO , The Basement
- 13:00 – 13:30 : The Next Web: Pipelines , Auditorium
- 13:00 – 13:00 : Paid Learning , The Bridge
- 13:30 – 14:00 : GeoRSS can save you from giant holes in the ground , Informal 1
- 13:00 – 14:00 : Sex and the investor , Informal 2
- 13:30 – 14:00 : Where the hell did the day go? , The Basement
- 13:00 – 14:00 : RDF, Sematic Web and microformats , Auditorium
- 13:00 – 14:00 : Arduino , The Bridge
- 14:00 – 14:30 : Open Source, Incremental Backup in Windows, yes it is possible! , Informal 1
- 14:00 – 14:30 : Socially Oriented Multipedia projects based on 3media , Informal 2
- 14:00 – 14:30 : A Jabber Wonderland , The Basement
- 14:00 – 14:30 : Neighbourhood Fix-it , Auditorium
- 14:40 – 15:10 : Curiosity Collective Techno Art , Informal 2
- 14:40 – 15:10 : Making Rails elastic , The Level 1
- 14:40 – 15:10 : Multi-disciplinary teams and agile , The Level 2
- 14:40 – 15:10 : Live travel information , The Basement
- 14:40 – 15:10 : Project management basics for busy geeks , Auditorium
- 14:40 – 15:10 : Interactive LEDs , The Bridge
- 15:10 – 15:40 : Design consequences , Informal 1
- 15:10 – 15:40 : Destroying walled gardens , Informal 2
- 15:10 – 15:40 : Usergroup 101 , The Level 1
- 15:10 – 15:40 : Profit maximisation , The Basement
- 15:10 – 15:40 : Ask us anything , Auditorium
- 16:00 – 16:30 : Virtual care team , Informal 1
- 16:00 – 16:30 : Flirting with APIs , Informal 2
- 16:00 – 16:30 : Phishing: conning the unwary , The Level 1
- 16:00 – 16:30 : Education 2.0 , The Level 2
- 16:00 – 16:30 : History, time and the internet , The Basement
- 16:00 – 16:30 : Over-engineering is fun , The Bridge
- 16:30 – 17:00 : Make web apps work offline , Informal 1
- 16:30 – 17:00 : Being understood , Informal 2
- 16:30 – 17:00 : Web application framework , The Level 1
- 16:30 – 17:00 : Livebus.org: screen-scraping and the dirty API , The Level 2
- 16:30 – 17:00 : Offshore outsourcing and the value of test-driven development , The Basement
- 16:30 – 17:00 : Improving online experiences , Auditorium
- 17:10 – 17:40 : Digital comics , Informal 1
- 17:10 – 17:40 : MyPages: Social BT , Informal 2
- 17:10 – 17:40 : Need for speed! , The Level 2
- 17:10 – 17:40 : Improvisation 101 workshop , The Basement
- 17:10 – 17:40 : Corporate communication and new media , Auditorium
- 17:40 – 18:00 : Always-on brainstorming , Informal 1
- 17:40 – 18:00 : Don’t be scared (of code reviews) , Informal 2
- 17:40 – 18:10 : Prototyping the future with Second Life , Auditorium
- 17:40 – 18:10 : Learning and teaching , The Bridge
- 18:30 – 19:00 : Taking better pictures , Informal 1
- 18:30 – 19:00 : Papervision 3D , Informal 2
- 18:30 – 19:00 : In ur DVDz catalogin ur moviz , The Level 2
- 18:30 – 19:00 : The perfect Ruby on Rails development with cheese , The Basement
- 18:30 – 19:00 : Lightning talks , Auditorium
- 18:30 – 19:00 : XSLT and ANT blogging , The Bridge
- 19:00 – 19:30 : Free schmee API , Informal 1
- 19:00 – 19:30 : Cool data visualisations I have found , Informal 2
- 19:00 – 19:30 : Extending the Twitter API , The Level 1
- 19:00 – 19:30 : Software development as a service , The Level 2
- 19:00 – 19:30 : Lightning demos , Auditorium
- 20:30 – 21:00 : Enterprise engineering communities , Informal 1
- 20:30 – 21:00 : Geeks on a train , The Level 2
- 20:30 – 21:00 : State of accessibility , The Basement
- 20:30 – 21:00 : Sauce for the goose: design for people who code , Auditorium
- 11:00 – 11:30 : Open ID explained , Informal 1
- 11:00 – 11:30 : P2P 4 Middle East , The Level 1
- 11:00 – 11:30 : Multipart forms in Django , The Level 2
- 11:00 – 11:30 : Skillcard: recruitment 2.0 and the death of the CV , The Basement
- 11:00 – 11:30 : E-voting: world domination is ours! , Auditorium
- 11:00 – 11:30 : Web hosting , The Bridge
- 11:30 – 12:00 : Good design through mocking , Informal 1
- 11:30 – 12:00 : Future of music , Informal 2
- 11:30 – 12:00 : Nothing to 1st client + angel + funding , The Level 1
- 11:30 – 12:00 : Optimise the everday , The Level 2
- 11:30 – 12:00 : ORG: The British EFF , Auditorium
- 11:30 – 12:00 : Flashr: Flash + Flickr , The Bridge
- 13:30 – 14:00 : How do we deliver web standards in the classroom? , Informal 1
- 13:30 – 14:00 : Web apps for photographers , Informal 2
- 13:30 – 14:00 : More than copyright , The Level 2
- 13:30 – 14:00 : Integrating mobile messaging with your web app , The Basement
- 13:30 – 14:00 : Microformats panel , Auditorium
- 13:30 – 14:00 : Talk is cheap (with Python) , The Bridge
- 14:00 – 14:30 : Cake PHP , Informal 1
- 14:00 – 14:30 : Beef it up: scaling your app , Informal 2
- 14:00 – 14:30 : Just plain DOM: assorted parsing oddities in IE , The Level 1
- 14:00 – 14:30 : Django panel , The Level 2
- 14:00 – 14:30 : ASP.NET Active Standards Pages , The Basement
- 14:00 – 14:30 : AI: Syntax of emotion , Auditorium
- 14:40 – 15:15 : End talk , Auditorium
Ian opened up proceedings this morning and everyone introduced themselves. There’s quite a diverse and surprisingly international crowd of geeks here.
The presentation line-up seems to have self-organised nicely. If all goes to plan, I’ll be doing two talks today. I haven’t prepared much. Well, to be honest, I haven’t prepared anything but that won’t stop me blabbing on and on (it’s never stopped me before).
The talks are about to get started so I’d better go and decide what I want to check out. I’m looking forward to a good day of geekery followed by a long night of Werewolf.
we’ve scheduled a panel for 17:10 local time (update: ) so pop into the IRC channel if you want to participate remotely.
Friday, February 16th, 2007
Thursday, February 15th, 2007
Tired of Helvetica? The FontFeed lists some alternatives you can try.
Personally, I’ve never outgrown the honeymoon period with the world’s most versatile typeface. That’s why I’m so excited about Helvetica: the movie. There just aren’t enough films about Swiss type design.
Now I’m really excited since I found out that the Helvetica film will have its premiere at this year’s South by SouthWest. Whaddya say, fellow type-geeks; shall we organise an outing to the cinema?
My favourite is a portrait of my fellow bunny slopers. They all thought I was taking a picture. I started filming and counted the seconds until they realised. It’s a shame that the video quality on YouTube is so crap: you can’t really spot the subtle changes as their smiles transition from genuine to faltering to strained. I’d like to make a whole series of videos like this; what a wonderful way to break the social contract.
Update: David Swallow points me to Long Awkward Pose, a site dedicated to this technique. Wonderful!
My timid little foray into posting videos on YouTube pales in comparison to my fellow Clearleftist, “nice” Paul Annett. Paul is a magician, you see. I don’t just mean that he’s a really good designer; I mean he does honest-to-goodness magic. It always makes for fun Friday evening drinks.
Anyway, Paul posted one of his card tricks on YouTube. It appears to have a struck a chord. The video has over 2,000,000 views and 5,000 comments, making it one of the most popular videos on YouTube ever. It’s weird to think that Paul’s homemade video has been viewed more often than many television programs.
Tuesday, February 13th, 2007
I’d twit that
He’s not the only one with something to say about Twitter. At Web Directions North, the subject came up at least once every evening and usually resulted in an hour-long conversation/discussion/argument about its merits and failings. I can’t remember the last time that a service prompted such strong feelings.
Personally, I found my emotional connection to Twitter deepening while I was in Vancouver. I didn’t have much opportunity to Twitter myself because my phone didn’t want to play nice with Canadian networks but Jessica was twittering. Being able to catch up with the minutiae of her activity during the day was just wonderful. Of course there’s always emails, chats, phone calls, blog posts and Flickr pics but they all require a certain level of effort.
If you want to see some real Twitter addiction, Patrick Haney has it bad, man. He paid the price for his addiction when a Twitter drinking game was decreed at the Media Temple closing party. The rules are simple:
- If you receive a Twitter, you must take a drink.
- If you send a Twitter, you must take a drink.
- If you say the word Twitter, you must take a drink.
I hadn’t seen Tantek in an inebriated state until that night.
Gillian McKeith is not a doctor
I don’t like contributing something as simple as “me too!” but I just had to +1 Tom’s post on Ben Goldacre on Gillian McKeith. As he puts it:
There are times when I feel that Ben Goldacre—author of the Guardian’s Bad Science column—should be knighted.
I couldn’t agree more. Be sure to visit his website, Bad Science. As a fan of popular science—by which I mean fascinating subjects made accessible to plebs like me—I applaud Ben Goldacre’s sysyphian work in calling the British press on their over-reliance on pseudo-science. His tireless work on exposing the junk science behind the anti-MMR stories alone deserves everyone’s respect and gratitude.
His latest column, A menace to science quite rightly exposes Gillian McKeith—the TV presenter with a surname worryingly similar to my own—as the crackpot that she is. The article concentrates on her ludicrous “scientific” claims rather than focusing on the side-issue that she is completely unqualified, but I’ve decided to title this post Gillian McKeith is not a doctor for the benefit of future Googlers. It’s official:
A regular from my website badscience.net — I can barely contain my pride — took McKeith to the Advertising Standards Authority, complaining about her using the title “doctor” on the basis of a qualification gained by correspondence course from a non-accredited American college. He won.
With any luck, I’ll receive one of McKeith’s famous cease-and-desist threats.
In other news from Tom, he’s feeling mightily jetlagged, the poor bastard. Having just flown back from Vancouver—a time zone difference of eight hours—I should be in a position to commiserate. But, touch wood, I seem to have mercifully escaped the ravages of jetlag.
Monday, February 12th, 2007
Après Web Directions North
All I can say is, “Wow!” Web Directions North was one superb conference. The speakers were great, the organisation was slick and the social events were out of this world.
Every conference has its own vibe and this was one of excitement and fun. I was reminded of the atmosphere at a rock concert; when there’s energy coming from the stage, the audience responds in kind.
I’ve already described the presentations I was fortunate enough to attend, but I haven’t yet mentioned how well-put together the whole thing was. Maxine and John have plenty of experience under their respective belts while Dave and Derek have the benefit of being seasoned presenters themselves. Together they put a lot of thought into planning and executing a kick-ass conference.
Oh, and if you happen to be in the conference-organising business and you want some of that same success, here’s a tip: hire Cindy Li. She made sure that everything went like clockwork, mananging both the speakers and the attendees like they were play-doh in her hands.
At Web Directions North, I felt like I had the chance to connect with a lot of people; old friends and new. The end of any conference is often a bittersweet and frustrating time. All the people who have gathered together to share inspiration and knowledge scatter back to their respective homes. The size of this event combined with social events such as the infamous Media Temple closing party ensured that missed opportunities were kept to a minimum. Most of all though, I’ve enjoyed the best post-conference wind-down ever.
What better way to follow two days of wonderfully geeky talks than with two days of outdoor activity at Whistler? I rented a snowboard and all the associated paraphernalia. Even if I couldn’t actually do anything much, at least I could look the part. I had fun in the snow with my fellow bunny slopers but snowboarding is clearly not the sport for me. Racing down the mountainside in a rubber tube, on the other hand, is clearly my forté. The appeal of rubber tubing lies in the almost complete lack of skill required—apart from keeping your bum in the air for the bumpy bits.
And what better way to follow a day of outdoor activity than an après-ski extravaganza courtesy of Microsoft? The Redmond giant thinks that we’re so shallow that our affections can be bought with an endless supply of free food and booze for two days straight. Well, they’re right. I have a new-found soft spot in my heart for Microsoft.
Seriously though, It was really great that Adobe and Microsoft weren’t just faceless sponsors; they also had plenty of delegates in attendance. It felt really good to be able to put faces and names to the software that plays such an important part in the life of a Web developer. I enjoyed some very productive conversations with the Adobe gang and I was humbled to meet some of the developers working on IE7. I’m less likely to pour a vitriolic rant into an anonymous textarea now that I know some of the faces and names at the receiving end of the blogosphere’s ire.
Now I’m on my way back to England. While I am of course sad to be leaving Vancouver, I don’t have the usual post-conference ennui. I feel satisfied. I’m looking forward to getting home where I hope I’ll have some time to reflect on some of the things I discussed with the intelligent and passionate people at Web Directions North.
Friday, February 9th, 2007
Web Directions North, day two
Day two of Web Directions North went just as smoothly and wonderfully as day one. Kelly kick-started the day in typically inspiring style. After that, delegates were faced with the geek equivalent of Sophie’s choice: to attend a double bill of Adrian Holovaty and Craig Saila or a double bill of George Oates and Paul Hammond?
In the end I opted for Paul and Oates over journalism. No doubt the Adrian/Craig set-up was just as impressive but the Flickr talk blew me away. Then again, I can’t be objective about this stuff: the subject matter interests me so much that I could listen to it for days.
After lunch, I had the great pleasure of introducing Steffen Meschkat and Ducky Sherwood. Their presentations made me realise just how much of a map geek I really am.
The conference was wrapped up by Jared Spool and really, it doesn’t get much better than that. What an outstanding speaker!
And just like that… it’s over.
I’ve been to a fair few conferences by now and this one ranks amongst the best. The organisation was superb, the speakers were great and most of all, the people were smart and fun. May this be the first of many WDNs.
Thursday, February 8th, 2007
Web Directions North, day one
The first day of Web Directions North just wrapped up and what a day it was.
Everything went super-smoothly right from the get-go with some opening remarks from the ever-sauve Dave Shea followed by some very entertaining audience participation led by Molly. Her Crimes Against Web Standards presentation was punctuated with hilarious video cliplets from Eric Meyer and others.
After that, I did my talk which went pretty well. As I said at the outset, I was covering the basic Ajax stuff to set the scene for Derek. I was John The Baptist to his Jesus Christ.
Once that was done, I had a long lunch in the rotating restaurant on the nineteenth floor of the hotel… if only the damn fog would lift a little bit more.
The afternoon was spent luxuriating in the microfromats presentation from John, Dan and Tantek followed by Joe Clark in scintillating form. He conducted a fireside chat and had the audience in the palm of his supple hand. He gave us a scoop by unveiling his call to Tim Berners-Lee to scrap WCAG 2. Quelle surprise.
Now I’m kicking back with a beer courtesy of Adobe and meeting some great people. All in all, a great day. May tomorrow go equally smoothly.
Tuesday, February 6th, 2007
Web Directions North, day zero
I’m in Vancouver… at least, I think I’m in Vancouver. It’s so foggy that none of the distinctive landmarks are visible. I’ve been told that there are glorious mountains around here but I haven’t seen them yet.
The flight was fine. It was long but punctuated with a decent selection of movies. I’m always in a quandary when it comes to movies on airplanes. I don’t want to watch anything too good because it’s not exactly the best viewing environment. At the same time, I don’t want to watch any old crap. So on this flight, I watched Flags of Our Fathers, which was too good for airplane viewing, Marie Antoinette which was just crap, and The Illusionist which was just right for in-flight entertainment.
I went to bed at a reasonable hour but of course I was up ludicrously early this morning. I’ll probably need to take a nap later today. In the meantime, I’ll be imbibing some of the local coffee.
There are workshops going on today. I was thinking of flitting in and out of them all day but I fear that a jetlag-induced nap might be misconstrued as boredom.
If the fog clears, I’ll head out and take pictures. I’d probably be tempted to spend the day re-agonising over my slides but that isn’t an option. Andy is using my iBook for his presentation because his Macbook is on the fritz (I’ve borrowed Cindy’s laptop to write this). Combined with the fact that my mobile phone doesn’t seem to work here, I’m feeling distinctly disconnected.
Sunday, February 4th, 2007
My bags are packed with winter clothing in preparation for some post-conference skiing or possibly snowboarding in Whistler. The conference is of course Web Directons North, the Canadian counterpart to the superb Australian event.
The line-up looks amazing. I feel very honoured to be speaking at the conference. I’ll be talking about Ajax once again, but this time I won’t be alone. Derek and I will be teaming up to give a double-whammy of Ajax and accessibility in a two-hour long session.
Originally we were planning to do lots of rapid-fire segments, switching between speakers regularly. That turned out to be a little tricky to organize so we decided to do two separate but interconnected talks instead. I’ll be laying the groundwork, explaining Ajax and flogging my Hijax hobbyhorse. Derek will take over from there and do the real hard work: making Ajax applications work with assistive technology.
As usual, I’ve been fretting about the presentation and agonising over my slides but I think I’ve got things in a more-or-less finished state now. I’m just glad I’m on early on the first day—I’ll be able to relax afterwards and enjoy the rest of the conference. The only difficulty will be deciding which sessions to attend when there are two tracks of talks.
I’ll get the bus to Heathrow tomorrow and then I’ll spend nine and a half hours on the flight to Vancouver. I won’t be alone. Veerle will be on the same flight. She was supposed to fly out today—Andy and Molly were able to make the flight—but a fog-bound London prevented her making her connection. At least now we can keep each other company on the flight out and agonise about our respective slides together.
If you’re going to be at Web Directions North, I’ll see you there. If you can’t make it, expect plenty of Twittering and Flickring from Vancouver over the next few days.
Saturday, February 3rd, 2007
Fun with type
The Clearleft office is a nice place to work. It’s a nice place to hang out generally. That’s by design. We’ve had interior decorators work their magic to come up with a cool set-up.
The decorators mentioned something about getting giant letters made for us. Splendid idea, I thought, as did fellow type-fiend, Richard. So we ordered a batch of letters to spell out the company name.
Of course five minutes later we re-arranged them into some more interesting combinations:
Friday, February 2nd, 2007