Tags: alexandria

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August in America, day four

Today was day two of An Event Apart DC and I opened up the show. I was very nervous because this was a brand new talk. I wasn’t sure whether I would come in way under time, or way over time, or whether anybody would be interested in the subject matter.

As it turned out, the timing was okay. I got through a lot of stuff faster than I was expecting, so that left me time for a good ol’ rant towards the end of the talk. I ranted about progressive enhancement. I ranted about digital preservation. I ranted about “the cloud”. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people think I’m an angry person (I’m really not; honest).

It seemed like people really enjoyed the talk. There were lots of positive tweets and lots of people came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the “big picture” nature of my talk. But I’m not going to be complacent about it: a few years ago at An Event Apart in Boston I gave a less technical talk than usual and it seemed like people really liked it (positive tweets, kind words, etc.) …but then when the feedback surveys were totted up, I ended up getting the lowest rank I had ever received. So time will tell what the audience really thought of my talk today.

In any case, I enjoyed it. As usual, I just got up on stage and geeked out for an hour to a captive audience about stuff that really excites me. How cool is that?

I was glad to have the talk done. Afterwards I could relax and enjoy all the other talks, and have a bit of a chat with some of the smart and friendly attendees.

Now that the conference is over, it’s time for me to depart Alexandria. Next stop: Philadelphia.

August in America, day three

It was a beautiful day today but I spent most of it indoors. Today was the first day of An Event Apart DC here in Alexandria. As usual, the standard of talks was ludicrously high.

An Event Apart often feels like getting a snapshot of the current state of web technologies and best practices. I really like it when themes emerge from multiple talks—those emergent themes are usually the hot topics of modern web design and development. Today I felt like there were two prominent themes:

  1. process and
  2. devices.

Both Samantha and Jason talked about process and workflow from different perspectives. I had seen Jason’s talk at New Adventures in Nottingham but he’s such a joy to listen to, I gladly soaked it up again. Listening to Samantha reinforced my opinion that she’s one of the smartest designers working today. I found myself nodding my head enthusiastically during both talks.

Luke and Grigs both showed us what an amazingly diverse set of devices we have to deal with these days. I know that some people find this situation depressing, but I find it quite energising. Let’s face it, the web was getting pretty boring there for a while a few years back. You certainly can’t say that about the current browser/device landscape.

Rounded out with Jeffrey and Karen’s content-focused calls-to-arms—one at the start of the day and the other at the end—it was a great day one.

I’m speaking first thing tomorrow. That’s right; I’ve got the hangover slot.

This is a brand new untested talk. I had planned to give a run-through to the guys at Clearleft but somehow that never happened, so tomorrow will literally be the very first time I’m giving this talk. That gives it a certain frisson and adds an air of excitement and tension. It also means I’m very, very nervous.

I think it’s a good talk …but I’m not sure how it’s going to go down with this crowd. While it will have some practical tips scattered throughout, it’s mostly going to be a fairly personal talk about a personal project that I’m using as a lens to look at long-term web design and development. That might put some people off, who would rightly argue that it isn’t directly applicable to their day-to-day work, but I’m just going to have to accept that. It’s going to be interesting to see what people make of it.

I’m excited and nervous. I probably won’t get much sleep tonight.

August in America, day one

It’s Pride weekend in Brighton but alas, I wasn’t able to stick around for the festivities. I made my way to Heathrow for the flight to Washington to kick off my American trip.

The flight from Heathrow to Dulles takes just about eight hours. The average in-flight film is just under two hours, so you might think that this would be a four-film flight. But when you factor in the take-off and landing phases, it’s actually more like three films with a little bit of TV to top it off.

I have some ideas about what makes a good airplane movie. You don’t want to watch anything that’s too good; you’ll just be annoyed that you saw it on a little screen on an airplane seat instead of on a big screen in a cinema. But you don’t want to watch anything that’s too crap because, well, it’s crap. So what you want is a down-the-middle three-star pleasingly mediocre movie.

I watched Oblivion, Iron Man Three, and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Pretty good airplane films, all around. Actually, I ended up enjoying Oblivion far more than I was expecting (probably because my expectations had been quite low).

With the flight time whiled away nicely, Jessica and I arrived into Dulles at six in the evening, and what a nice warm evening it was too.

The lovely people running An Event Apart really know how to take care of their speakers and that includes a car service to pick us up at the airport and take us to the hotel. That makes such a big difference after a long transatlantic flight.

In this case, the ride from the airport to the hotel was a fairly lengthy one: Dulles is a good forty minutes away from Alexandria. So we settled in and enjoyed the scenery …what there was of it. The route was mostly filled with “nothing to see here” buildings. I’m guessing that Virginia has more than its fair share of windowless bunker-like buildings—this is, after all, the Lothlorien of the internet in America, where the backbone meets the server farms. Looking for “The Cloud”? It’s probably somewhere in Virginia.

As we’re being driven to our destination, I turn to Jessica and I say:

Chicken wings.

You have to understand, I have this weird travel-triggered craving. Whenever I fly to the United States of America, I get the urge to have my first meal on American soil be …yes, you guessed it, chicken wings. I have no idea why this is or when it started. And it’s not like I usually crave chicken wings all that often (not that I’d be able to get proper Buffalo style wings in the UK anyway).

Once we’re settled into our hotel room, we do a little bit of research and start walking the streets of Old Town Alexandria in search of the Hard Times Cafe. We find it. We get a table. We get some beers. I get my wings. They taste good. They taste really, really good.

I should have just left it at chicken wings, but they specialise in chili. I couldn’t resist.

So now I’m back at the hotel, and I’m stuffed full of beer, chicken wings, and chili. This strikes me as an eminently suitable way to begin my American sojourn.