London to Boston

When I bump into someone I haven’t seen for a while, I am often greeted with a remark along the lines “Oh, I’m surprised you’re actually in the country.” Har-dee-har-har. That’s my cue to point out that because going to foreign climes is different and exciting, that’s when I’m more likely to write something here on But I spend most of my time in Brighton, going to the office and building websites; writing about that would be the equivalent of Dog Bites Man. Still, if you keep an eye on my Pownce page and my my Magnolia links, it would become clear that I’m publishing plenty …it just happens to be in short form.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Working, eating, sleeping, punctuated with the occasional trip out of Brighton up to London.

Last Friday, myself and Andy spent the afternoon in the Big Smoke meeting up with the good people from, School of Everything, Moo and Dopplr. It made a change to see my colleagues in their natural habitats rather than the usual meeting place of a conference.

That said, meeting people at a conference is pretty damn great. It’s by far the biggest reason for going to a conference in a first place. That’s why I had a good time on Thursday at The Future of Web Apps. I spent more time chatting to people than I did attending talks. I had lunch with SXSWers Hugh and Shawn, drank beer from YDN, loitered around the Headshift stand and played with a Microsoft Surface. Just occasionally, I popped my head into a presention.

The technical talks were a bit too technical for me—though Blaine and Matt did a great job of talking about some pretty hardcore server-side technology in such way that even a n00b like me could grasp some of it—while the business talks tended to walk a line uncomfortably close to product pitching. But that probably says more about my low tolerance for product pitches than it does about the quality of the speakers, who I’m sure were perfectly good if you’re into that businessy stuff. Still, there’s just no redeeming the guy from BT who, with a straight face, pitched a browser-based telephony service—whilst never once mentioning Asterisk—under the banner of it being all about communification. At first I thought it was simply a slip of the tongue but once he kept repeating it, it became clear that he honestly thought it was a perfectly cromulent word.

The day finished with a thoroughly entertaining Dragon’s Den style panel accepting the desperate pitches of hopeful startups. Most of the startups were pretty awful but the winner, Erepublik, looks genuinely brilliant. They had me at “massively multiplayer online text-based social strategy game.”

It was fun watching the interaction of the panelists as they dissected each startup. Ryan was playing Columbo—So let me get this straight…Mike played the part of the likeable cheeky chappy that he is (honestly, why such a nice guy associates himself with the seedy Techc*nt brand is beyond me), and Jason Calacanis was a consummate dickhead. If the guy from BT was channelling George Bush with his communification shtick, then Jason Calacanis was channelling Sarah Palin with his never-ending series of irrelevant, pre-prepared anecdotes that he trotted out at every available opportunity. Watching him rip the brave entrepreneurs to shreds was a thoroughly entertaining slice of schadenfreude.

A Media Temple afterparty and a curry in Brick Lane finished off the day nicely but I decided against going back for a second day of FOWA. Instead, I’ve been preparing for my next trip.

I’m off to Boston for the User Interface 13 Conference which starts on Monday. This time, I won’t be able to spend all my time shooting the breeze with my fellow geeks because I’m speaking. I’ll be giving a talk on Ajax design challenges as well as a full-day Ajax workshop. I’m pretty nervous about the workshop. I’ve given Ajax workshops before and they’ve always gone well but the audience was generally developers whereas I think the audience in Boston will be somewhat different. I’ll need to adopt, adapt and improve my workshop mojo. Perhaps paper, sharpies and post-it notes will help.

Before that, I intend to spend at least a day being a tourist in the capital of Massachusetts, maybe taking in one of the legendary sessions. If you’re going to be in Boston this weekend, get in touch.

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Previously on this day

12 years ago I wrote The password anti-pattern

It’s time we took a stand: let’s stop teaching people how to be phished.

17 years ago I wrote Wired News: A Site for Your Eyes

Wired News has switched over to an all-out XHTML/CSS layout.

18 years ago I wrote Dan Brown

All that talk of Baltimore has prompted me to do something I’ve meaning to do for a while. I want to direct your attention to the website of my best buddy in Baltimore, Daniel Brown.

18 years ago I wrote The Science Behind the Song Stuck in Your Head

A bouzouki playing researcher (the best kind) is investigating the phenomenon of "cognitive itch". You know: when a song gets completely stuck in your head.

18 years ago I wrote New skin for an old ceremony

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a brand new skin to wrap around the Adactio website. I give you: